FACT: Be sure your home accommodates your cat’s needs, by creating an environment that provides a natural lifestyle for your cat. This involves learning to read your cat’s “body language” and requires consistency, lots of love and plenty of patience. For most cats, training is well worth the effort and helps prevent many behavioral problems from developing later in life.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
* If you are lucky enough to start out with a kitten teaching her good habits from day one is your best bet. The minute she walks through your door, by giving her a toy to play with, a post to scratch and a litter box to use, you are teaching her what is appropriate to play with and scratch and where it’s acceptable for her to do her business.
* Using positive reinforcement helps achieve the best results. Observe your cat’s natural behaviors; figure out what she likes the most; a toy, treat, or love and use that to reward correct behavior. If you see your kitten doing something dangerous use negative reinforcement to stop her right away so she doesn’t hurt herself. For example, if she’s chewing on a toxic plant immediately redirect her attention to an appropriate toy or activity. Your kitten must not associate you with the unpleasant stimulus or she might blame you or become afraid of you. This way, she’ll blame the item used i.e. the whistle or water.
* Despite our best efforts problems arise that can not be prevented and require treatment. Medical conditions that may be responsible must be eliminated first by your vet. Generally a thorough physical exam with or without laboratory tests is required. Referral to a Behavioral Specialist is the next step. A written, detailed history is essential. An at home visit is best, but telephone consults are an option. Behavioral specialists try to pinpoint the exact problem and the stimulus (what triggers the bad behavior) then make recommendations accordingly.
* Methods used for behavioral modification vary according to the specific problem. A variety are available but a combination of physical (termed behavioral redirection) and medical intervention work best to resolve most problems. Physical methods, used include positive (toy, treat, love) and negative (loud noise, bell, whistle) reinforcements and obnoxious stimuli. Obnoxious stimuli are strong odors, like perfume that cats dislike. They are used to get cats to avoid certain items, furniture and areas by making them smell bad.
Four types of medications may be prescribed depending on the specific problem.
1. Antianxiety i.e. Valium
2. Mood Altering i.e. Buspar
3. Antidepressants i.e. Clomicalm
4. Mood Elevators i.e. Prozac, Paxil
It is important to try to prevent the cause of the stress as much as possible; this is not always possible. If your cat is injured in a fight, then Amica Montana 6c (leopard’s bane) can bring relief.
BACH FLOWER REMEDIES
Use the Bach Flower Rescue Remedy which is made of flowers: cherry plum, clematis, impatiens, rock rose and star of Bethlehem to help calm down a stressed cat. Dose: 2-3 drops in mouth or food two to three times a day or 4 drops in the water if you are not going to be home.