Brother Wolf’s expert animal behaviorists have curated a comprehensive list of online resources about the most common cat behavior issues, assembled here in this convenient format for folks to use and share. Early intervention is the best way to prevent behaviors from getting out of control, and for helping keep pets healthy, happy and in their homes — and out of the local shelter system.
ELIMINATING OUTSIDE OF THE LITTER BOX
Eliminating outside of the litter box is a common issue with cats. Fortunately, there are effective techniques to address this problem. In many cases, this problem can be resolved with some relatively simple environmental changes. Following are resources to help you identify the cause of your cat’s undesirable elimination, tips for setting up the house so this problem is less likely to occur, and also advice for how to proceed if your cat’s behavior problem is complicated by stress or anxiety.
This SFSPCA article clearly identifies the two main feline elimination problems and gives recommendations for how to manage each: Cat Litter Box Problems (PDF)
Best Friends also provides a good summary, including links to additional resources: Cats Who Stop Using the Litter Box
Cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett has a very informative website with articles about cat behavior, including this one about litterbox use, which you can also listen to as a recording: Some Common Reasons Why Cats Stop Using the Litter Box
Dr. Sophia Yin has an article specifically about what to do if your cat poops outside of the letter box, What to Do When Your Cat Poops Outside the Box, or sprays, Tips for Dealing with Urine Spraying in Cats
Scratching objects is normal cat behavior, but there are effective ways to teach your cat what’s ok to scratch and what is off-limits.
The SFSPCA gives practical tips for creating scratching posts cats will actually use, Scratching Posts, and provides excellent information about declawing cats, as well as effective alternatives, Declawing (PDFs)
The ASPCA has more on Destructive Scratching
Additional useful information from Dumb Friends League Destructive Scratching
VIDEO from Cornell University gives excellent information about managing destructive scratching, including how to trim your cat’s claws: Scratching
ANXIETY (Fear of)
FEARFUL OF PEOPLE
Many cats are fearful of people they don’t know, and some cats even remain fearful of people they live with. While you can’t change your cat’s personality, there are things you can do to help her be a more comfortable and relaxed companion.
Cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett gives concise, practical tips, along with links to lots of additional information on her website: Helping a Fearful Cat
The ASPCA has a good summary of how to help cats who are primarily fearful of strangers: Fear of Visitors
Best Friends outlines a more detailed training plan for cats who are afraid of visitors, which could also be adapted to help a cat who is afraid of family members: Fear of Strangers
FEARFUL OF OTHER PETS
In many cases, undesirable behavior in cats is caused by stress, and a common stressor is fear or anxiety associated with other animals in the house. Helping your cat feel more comfortable and confident around your other pets may be the necessary foundation for resolving another problem.
Best Friends outlines clearly and concisely the steps to take to help your cat feel less afraid of another pet in the house: Fear of Other Pets
In many cases, fear or aggression toward other pets can be prevented by introducing your cat properly in the first place. If your cat already is showing discomfort around your other pet, you may need to separate them and gradually reintroduce them. The ASPCA has good, detailed instructions for introducing your cat to another cat, Introducing Your Cat to a New Cat, or dog, Introducing Your Cat to a New Dog
AGGRESSIVE TOWARDS PEOPLE
If your cat is aggressive toward people, the first step is to identify the type and cause of the aggression. Aggression toward strangers or visitors is most often fear-based, so see the links for helping your cat feel more comfortable around people. If your cat attacks you when you move him away from another cat (or a window where he can see another cat), this redirected aggression is really a symptom of stress around other cats, so see the links on aggression between cats. If your cat sometimes scratches or bites you when you are petting or playing with him, this usually responds well to some relatively simple management and training techniques.
Cornell University provides an excellent overview of the various types of cat aggression (toward both people and other animals) and brief recommendations for how to proceed in each case: Aggression
Best Friends has some more detailed tips for staying safe if your cat is aggressive toward you, as well as how to start changing this behavior: Aggression toward people
Pam Johnson-Bennett has a good, simple program for correcting petting-induced aggression. You can also listen to this article as a recording: Five Steps for Correcting Petting-Induced Aggression in Cats
The SFSPCA has a good article about what to do if your cat scratches or bites when you are playing with her: Play Aggression (PDF)
The ASPCA offers the following overview of aggression that occurs when attempting to give affection: Petting-Induced Aggression
AGGRESSIVE TOWARDS OTHER PETS
Cats are highly territorial, and some of them really do not like to share their homes with other cats. If conflict between your cats has progressed to aggression, they may still be able to learn to live together in peace.
Pam Johnson-Bennett incorporates both environmental changes and training to help resolve aggression between cats who live together: Cat Fights: What to do When Your Cats Turn on Each Other
The ASPCA outlines a similar plan, including some separate recommendations depending on whether the problem is recent or long-standing: Aggression Between Cats in Your Household
Best Friends offers another similar program, with a few additional helpful tips: Aggression toward other cats