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Cat Behavioral Counseling - Diagnosing and Treating Cat Behavior Issues


What is the most important thing to know about cat behavior?

Cats are creatures of habit. So the most significant thing to know with them is any behavior change can indicate a problem. Cats are good at hiding illnesses, especially until they're quite sick. So it's essential to know what their normal is, so if there is any change to their normal behavior, you can identify it and address it right away.


Dr. Young
Countryside Veterinary Clinic

Is it possible to fix behavior issues in a cat?

It depends on the problem and the commitment to the cat from the owner's standpoint, and also what the problem is itself. Suppose it's due to an underlying medical problem. In that case, it’s certainly easier to fix than a problem with inter-cat aggression in a household or sometimes inappropriate marking if they're spraying for behavioral reasons rather than medical issues. We can address and solve many cat behavior issues, but it depends on what the cause is.

What are some signs and symptoms of cat behavior problems?

Any change in the norm can be a sign of behavior problems. Again, these behaviors can be consistent with medical issues—changes in appetite, eating more, eating less, crying for food, or not wanting to eat food. You should also note inappropriate urination, defecation, not using the litter box at all, or going outside of the box. Any changes like that can indicate problems. Becoming very aggressive suddenly, with no other apparent causes, can also be an indication of pain. Sleeping more than usual or being very restless or anxious when they usually aren't can also be indicative of problems. Those would be the most common things that we tend to see that can be signs and symptoms of an issue.

When should I bring my cat in to see a veterinarian to discuss behavior?

I would bring them in any time that you notice a change that's persistent for more than a day, especially anything with the appetite or inappropriate urination or not peeing. The faster that you address something, the better and easier it is to fix it for them. And some things can become problems very quickly if they're not addressed in a short period, especially if they have a urinary blockage or there's a reason why they're not eating. So any change in a cat’s behavior that’s persistent for more than 24 hours means you should bring them to the veterinarian.

How would a veterinarian diagnose behavior problems in my cat?

Much of it is based on history and physical exams. If the physical exam's completely normal and any blood work or anything that we do is normal, then we would say, "Well, have there been any changes recently? Any new animals in the house, new people, any changes with where the litter box is?" We would address the historical part of that and distinguish between that versus deciding if it is a medical problem. If we're concerned that a cat’s behavior is a problem, we usually get an answer with diagnostics—exams, blood work, urinalyses, and X-rays.

What are some possible health concerns that can arise from cat behavior problems?

If you have very stressed cats in the house, either from other cats or their environment, some cats do better in certain households than other households. This stress can lead to inappropriate urination, expressly stress cystitis, which is inflammation of the bladder. That's a widespread problem that we see. Aggression issues like attacking the owner if they're stressed can cause a problem. If they stop eating because of being stressed or something, that can lead to a liver problem quickly if we don't get that addressed. So it's very vital, again, for you to get your cat in and get them checked out if you see any behavior changes so we can determine the best course of action to make sure they don't continue to get sicker down the road.

Why is early detection and diagnosis so crucial for cats with behavior issues?

The same thing that I just said there. They can hide things, and they can be a lot sicker than what they seem, even when the behavior changes start, so we don't want them to end up with persistent urinary issues or inappetence issues. Again, if they're not addressed quickly, behavior issues can be more challenging to get rid of. We don't want people having to re-home their cats because of aggression issues or inappropriate urination.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (410) 461-2400, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Behavior - FAQs


Dr. Young
Countryside Veterinary Clinic

What should I do if I notice a sudden change in my cat's behavior?

I would make an appointment with the vet or at least call them because there are a lot of things that cats can do that might not seem like a problem, and that might not seem serious at home that can be an indication of an extremely serious issue, so it's best to talk to the vet right away.

What does my veterinarian need to know about my cat's behavior?

We want to know if things are normal—if the cat's behavior, schedule, and everything are all the same, there are no changes. If the cat is coming in for a problem, we want to know what has changed and if any environmental changes have occurred, such as changes in the litter, diet, people moving in or out of the house, or other animals coming into the house. Many of those changes can cause behavior problems in cats.

How do I know if a sudden change in my cat's behavior is a problem?

Sometimes it's difficult to know if it is a problem. That's why I recommend checking with the veterinarian because, again, you could see a cat straining to urinate that you might not think is a problem that could mean that the cat is blocked, which is a serious medical issue. Again, these issues can be caused by stress, so I would say any time a cat has a change in normal behavior lasting for more than 12 to 24 hours, it's imperative to contact your vet.

How do I know if things like kneading and hunting are normal behaviors in my cat?

Those are normal behaviors in cats. And again, I would say if they're otherwise bright and happy, eating normally, using the litter box normally, not being overly aggressive towards other animals or people, those are normal behaviors. You should be looking for deviations in different behaviors, such as changes in appetite, aggression, or litter box use.

How do I assess whether a change in my cat's behavior means they're sick?

Well, certainly, if they're not eating or not drinking, if they're vomiting, having diarrhea, or if they're not urinating or not pooping, those would indicate a medical problem. If the cat is not interacting with you the way they usually do or sleeping all the time, those would be the things you would be looking for to indicate a problem.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (410) 461-2400, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

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