Behaviour Manager Nicky answers questions such as why cats seem to like licking carrier bags and whether cats can feel grief when a feline member of the household passes away.
Not sure why your cat behaves the way it does? Behaviourist Nicky Trevorrow took to our national Facebook page last week in order to answer live questions from cat owners.
Note: If your cat starts to display any behaviours that are unusual or they develop a change in personality or demeanour, the first person to speak to must always be your vet. Many changes in behaviour are due to illness or pain and so you should arrange an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.
Other seemingly ‘odd’ behaviours that do not have roots in a medical condition can be explained by understanding the natural behaviour that makes a cat a cat. For these types of behaviour issues we would recommend a referral to a qualified behaviourist from the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC).
Here are just some of the questions in our Q&A:
Please could you give me a few tips on how to stop my youngest cat (18 months) doing rough play with my older cat (nearly nine)?
We have tried Feliway and Feliway Friends, and we have separate eating areas and litter trays. We introduced them slowly, but she still gets the urge to chase and bop him! He’s very passive. Any tips are appreciated.
As a young cat, they will have loads of energy! The steps you've taken so far are great, but I would also recommend making sure you have lots of interactive play sessions with your 18-month old cat to give her an outlet for all that excess energy.
Give your older cat a quiet place to retreat to that's away from her. If necessary, you could even consider putting a microchip cat flap on the door to his retreat room so that only he can get in.
Why does my cat like to lick carrier bags?
You’re not the first to mention this as interestingly several people in the past have commented that their cats like to do the same. We think it's something to do with a compound found in the plastic that some cats seem to like.
That said, plastic bags are a health and safety risk (particularly for suffocation) so it's best to keep the plastic bags safely out of your cat's reach. If your cat likes to hide in them, there are commercially available crinkle bags and tunnels that make a noise as the cat dives into them! Alternatively, a plain paper bag with the handles removed is a safer, cheaper option.
Why is my cat is obsessed with food?
She will steal everything and anything edible. We have dealt with the issue at home by not leaving any food out anywhere and shutting her in a different room while we eat. Unfortunately, she has taken to going into neighbours' kitchens and stealing their food. Last night she took and ate a raw rib eye steak from my neighbour's kitchen counter. She gets very aggressive when you try and take anything she's stolen away from her. We adopted her last year – she had been neglected we think. Any ideas?
The first thing you need to do is take her to the vets to rule out medical reasons as there are quite a few conditions that can cause this behaviour. The measures you've taken so far are sensible. Do you know how she is getting into the neighbour's house? If they have an ordinary cat flap, it would be worth them getting a microchip cat flap to stop her getting in, or perhaps getting fly screens fitted if she's getting in through open windows in the hot weather. A steak would be very tempting to any cat and some cats do get very excited about high-value food (especially if it's stolen!) and can growl to avoid people taking the food off them. Feed her little and often throughout the day as well as leaving food down just before bed to keep her blood sugar levels stable. Introduce her to feeding enrichment such as a cardboard egg box with dry food placed where the eggs would normally sit to make mealtimes more interesting.
My cats only let me feed them and I have to be in the kitchen with them when they are eating. Why is this?
If there are other people in the household I would suggest letting them share the care of your cat, perhaps start with some interactive play so that they form positive associations with that person. Then over time you can gradually introduce that person at feeding time, just to be present initially, and then gradually introduce them to the cats and to start being more involved with feeding. This should hopefully take the pressure off you to be the sole care giver and the specific routine that you're currently in.
One of my three cats (Jack) has died this week.
My girl keeps to herself but Spyder and Jack always hung out together (being mostly outdoor cats through choice). What signs should I look out for that might cause worry? I know grief affects animals too. Is there anything to be concerned about?
So sorry to hear that Jack has passed away. It's a very difficult time and yes, we think that cats (and other animals) can grieve too. The signs to look out for would be a change in eating habits (under or over eating), pacing, appearing to 'search' around the house for the missing cat, crying, becoming clingy with the owner, less playful etc. Keep an eye on the interactions and use of space in the house to see how Spyder and your girl behave following the loss of Jack.
Cat relationships can be quite complicated. Give both cats their own set of resources (food bowl, litter tray, water bowl, scratch post, toys, beds etc), split out around the house so that there's no competition for resources. If you think Spyder is grieving, try to keep the routines the same as well as the usual level of attention. It can be very tempting to lavish cats with extra love especially when owners are grieving themselves, but cats can find this change in behaviour confusing and unsettling. Wishing you all the best.
Veterinary note: Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For more behaviour advice, please visit www.cats.org.uk/cat-care/cat-behaviour-hub where you’ll also find The Behaviour Guide which discusses a variety of topics on cat behaviour. Consult your vet if you have a specific concern about your cat.
Would you like to ask one of Cats Protection's feline experts a question?
Don't miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: vet Dr Sarah Elliott will be taking questions on 13 July; you can get support with pet-related grief on 25 July; or speak to Behaviour Manager Nicky again on 10 August. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2pm. See you there!