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FIRST AID BEHAVIOUR ADVICE FOR CAT OWNERS

OBJECTIVE

For all forms of behaviour problem

For behaviours that are resulting in damage to owner property

Waking owners up for food

Bringing prey home

Begging owners for food

Play related aggression problems

Reducing social aggression

Scratching furniture and carpets

Urine marking and problems associated with toileting in inappropriate areas of the home

Self-mutilation and repetitive behaviours

METHOD

Stop all forms of punishment - verbal and physical. Ignore the unwanted activity but reinforce acceptable activity with gentle attention or small tasty treats

E.g. Cover scratched or urine marked areas with protective material. Cover electrical sockets that are being urine marked with plastic

Cats prefer to predate at dusk and dawn when rodents are most active - providing a cat flap (specific to the cat's micro-chip) will allow the cat to control access to outdoors at these times without disturbing owners

Cats predate as and when the opportunity arises. As they may not be hungry at the time, they take the prey to a safe place - often home. If owners don't like this, they can reduce their cat's likely success at predation by not allowing it out at dusk or dawn

Cats naturally eat multiple small meals per day - provide these via puzzle feeding rather than providing 1 or 2 large meals per day. However, cats also greet social companions by rubbing and vocalising - the cat may be merely saying 'hello'!

Never allow play with hands or other body parts - always use a toy. Aim for short bursts of play with a toy and try to end the game with the toy landing on a small treat to reduce any residual behavioural frustration.

Avoid interactions between the cat and the victim - if this can't be avoided for care-givers, thick protective clothing should be worn. Provide environmental enrichment and puzzle feeding games to teach problem solving and to reduce the expectation of immediate satiation of needs. Use such games to pre-empt likely attacks.

Wash scratched areas in enzymatic cleaner and consider using Feliway or the cat's facial pheromones on the scratched items and Feliscratch on the preferred scratch surface. Consider covering the previously scratched surface in a protective layer. Ensure suitable scratching items are made available beside the previously scratched areas and gradually move them from beside the previous scratching area and place them near doors to outdoors and by windows.

Clean soiled areas with a specifically designed enzymatic cleaner and dispose of any cloths etc outdoors. Block the sight of outdoor cats. Stop access to social stimuli that may be in conflict with the cat (this may be a family member). Prevent indoor cats from observing outdoor cats by making windows opaque. Ensure that no outdoor cats are entering the home - particularly via the cat-flap. 

Owners should keep a detailed diary of environmental changes just prior to events. If specific environments or social stimuli are involved, the cat should be kept away from these. Predictive changes should also be pre-empted with puzzle- feeding, games or other environmental enrichment. Seek further advice from a CAB.

(taken from Hargrave C (2019): Behavioural first aid advice for feline patients. The Veterinary Nurse. November 2019, Volume 10 No 9)

Basic first aid behavioural advice for owners that should supplement environmental and enrichment advice

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