Behavioral issues in cats can be a significant issue and disrupt your life. Most of our cats are domesticated, unlike other countries, where you may see dozens of stray cats roaming the streets and alleyways, hunting for food (mostly in trash cans) and carrying diseases. Many of us treat our cats as members of the family. We feed them very well and give them lots of attention. I may even consider coming back as a cat in my next life if I could be treated as well as some of my kitty patients.
Cats are simple animals; they either like affection or not and know when they want it. They will let you know when they are hungry, when they want attention and when they want to be left alone. We all know some cats that behave more like dogs, and we all know some cats that behave like snobby, independent animals. Cats usually own your home and get used to the normal, daily routines.
So what happens when a cat's world is disrupted for any reason at all? Do you think that most cats ignore the change and go on with their daily routines? What happens if you bring home a new date (human of course)? And what happens when this new person in your life starts spending the night in your room (where your cat sleeps)? What if you are getting divorced and your mate leaves? What if you adopt a new puppy or, even worse, bring a new cat home? What if you go away on a vacation and leave your cat with a stranger or, worse yet, leave your cat in a strange boarding facility? What if you have a human baby in the house that requires most of your attention? Some cats (very few) are used to some changes because they were raised with constant change in their environment. For instance, my cat moved from home to home with me as a college student and then to vet school with me. My cat would go on small trips with me all the time in the car, and nothing seemed to bother his changing life. We also lived in California, where the window was always open so that he could wander outdoors as often as he pleased. In Vail, most cats are strictly indoor cats; therefore, the house is their home where they spend all of their time, and change is not always accepted peacefully.
Many of you know how disruptive these life changes can be on a pet cat. Dogs seem to adapt better to change than cats do. Dogs tend to go more places and are exposed to different things outside of the home. Cats can get mad and seek revenge on you. They do not like the changes and will let you know. They can manifest their disapproval in various ways, but the most common one is urinating in inappropriate places, such as your bed, your shoes or any other place other than the litter box. Sometimes, they may hide for a while or even display aggressive behavior. And when matters get really out of hand, it is time to seek professional help.
When a cat needs behavior therapy and the client is seeking professional help, there are people to contact. The first person would be your veterinarian, and if matters are out of their capability, then there are cat shrinks. But in the animal world, cat shrinks are called animal behaviorists. Most of the time, your veterinarian can handle the problems and suggest the appropriate treatment, but you must reveal all the possible changes that have occurred in the household to determine the reason for the behavior change. Sometimes, your cat might benefit from some antianxiety drugs (similar to human drugs). Of course, the first course of action would be to rule out any pre-existing medical conditions that might cause discomfort for your cat. Cats are very special animals and require special attention.
Veterinarian Nadine Lober can be reached at 970-949-79792.