How to Deal With Cat Behaviour Problems

A black and white cat meowing at the camera

Most pet owners will experience bad cat behaviour at some point or another, but sometimes what we view as “bad” behaviour can come from a lack of understanding as to why cats do what they do. There are many different ways to remedy cat behaviour problems, but the key is to try to understand your cat better. Read on for some training tips to help solve some cat behaviour problems. Keep in mind that some training techniques that work for dogs aren’t always the most effective on cats.


First, it’s important to understand that cats often bite when they are afraid or angry. It’s important to take a step back and see if any of your behaviour, such as teasing or agitating your cat, is making her bite. Cats often give warning signs before they bite. If your cat is hissing, flattens her ears or starts to growl, it’s time to back away. It’s especially important never to tease your cat, which can be frustrating and threatening to her. Otherwise, cats may bite if they have a medical condition and are experiencing pain when touched.

If your cat is not acting out because of an injury, an illness or teasing – it’s time to start some training. Here are some tips:

  • Stop play-fighting. Play fighting with your cat encourages aggressive behaviour with you.
  • Encourage play with toys. Instead of playing rough with your hands, encourage your cat to play rough with or chase her toys.
  • Cease interaction when biting occurs. If you find that you’re attempting to pet your cat, and she responds with a bite, stop and walk away. Respect her personal space and this should help the biting stop.

If your cat continues to exhibit aggressive behaviour, consult with your veterinarian.

Rejecting the litter box

If your cat starts to use an area other than the litter box as an indoor bathroom, here are some ways to correct and redirect this behaviour:

  • Remove soiled litter once a day and wash the box weekly. Some cats refuse to use the litter box if it’s not up to their cleanliness standards. Make sure to routinely clean the litter box and use a mild soap when washing it instead of bleach.
  • Provide extra litter boxes. A good rule of thumb is to have one more litter box than you have cats. Make sure they are in an out-of-the-way spot to ensure your cat’s privacy.
  • Don’t punish your cat. Punishing your cat can increase her stress and can even make the problem worse.
  • Use an enzymatic cleaner. If your cat does go outside of the litter box, use a cleaning product with enzymes that work to break down the smell and stain. Avoid using ammonia-based cleaners, the smell is similar to cat urine and can encourage her to return to the places it’s been used.

Litter box problems and health issues

It is also possible that health issues may be causing problems with litter box behaviour. Older cats may not be able to climb into the litterbox. In this case, try switching to a shallower pan. A shallower pan may mean that you need to change the litter more frequently, but it’s a small trade-off for good litter box behaviour.

If you find that your cat is straining to urinate, or is urinating more frequently, she may have a urinary tract infection. Cats with kidney, thyroid or liver conditions typically produce increased amounts of urine. By refusing to use the litter box, your cat can be telling you that she doesn’t feel well. Consult your veterinarian.

Aggression and fighting

Cats love to hide and pounce on anything that moves – and that can include you! Although your cat is only practicing capturing prey, she may become overexcited, using her teeth and claws. You can stop this behaviour by providing activity that will allow the cat to focus on appropriate objects, like her own toys. Learn how to make your own homemade cat wand toy.

Make sure to never play aggressively with your cat. Also make sure to never punish her for this behaviour, as it will only serve to encourage it more. Instead, provide her with engaging and interactive toys that she can bat at and chase.

Aggression in multi-cat homes

If you have multiple cats living in the same home, cat on cat aggression is one of the most common cat behaviour problems. Here are some steps to take to alleviate aggression amongst your cats:

  • Make sure to provide each cat with her own personal space.
  • Provide one-on-one attention with cats in their particular favourite resting spot in the house.
  • Separate your cats’ litter pans and feeding areas, as necessary.

If you find that territorial disputes are becoming fairly common and aggressive, your cats may need to be kept in separate rooms with closed doors and then slowly reintroduced to one another. Follow these steps:

  • Keep your cats completely separate for a period of weeks.
  • Make sure to switch the cats’ rooms several times during this period so that they can become used to one another’s scent. Switch their bedding and food bowls as well.
  • A favourite toy placed beneath the door can encourage your cats to play together.
  • After the period is over, keep the door slightly opened so that your cats can investigate each other.
  • Be patient, this can be a very slow process and it can take time for your cats to learn to live together peacefully. 

Scratching furniture

Scratching is a normal and necessary behaviour for your cat to keep her claws in good condition. If you haven’t provided her with an alternative for scratching, like a scratching post, you can’t really blame her when she starts to claw your furniture!

If your cat has already started scratching a piece of furniture, cover it in plastic and she will likely return to her scratching post instead. When you catch your cat scratching furniture, try squirting her with water from a squirt bottle and saying “no” in a firm voice. When you see her scratching her scratching post, reward her with praise.


Both males and females spray urine to mark their territory, but this behaviour is more common in males. One way to address this is by spaying or neutering your cat. Generally, cats exhibit this type of behaviour when they feel that their territory is threatened, such as when a new cat is brought into the house. Talk to your veterinarian about possible health problems that could be causing this behaviour problem.

We hope that you found some insight in how to remedy some common cat behaviour problems. Remember to be patient and look at the context of the situation to understand why you cat may be behaving “badly.” If you find that your cat’s behaviour does not improve, please consult your veterinarian.

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