Cats are not like dogs. If you have a dog, it will be perfectly obvious to you what he is feeling as they have ways of making this very clear. However it can be very difficult to read a cat’s mind and know exactly what she is feeling. Cats are by nature solitary and independent creatures, unlike the dog which is a pack animal (as are humans!), so the psychology of the cat remains a mystery to us.
If your cat has suddenly developed a problem behavior, a little understanding of cat psychology could help you to resolve it. Here are a few pointers;
The main thing you should understand is that cats do not develop problem behaviors to spite their owners. If she suddenly starts to attack you, refuses to use her litter tray or shreds your furniture, she is not doing this out of malice so any problem behavior should not be taken personally. There will be an underlying reason for the behavior, and it is up to you to figure this out!
Also, a lot of the cat behaviors we don’t like are perfectly natural to your cat, such as scratching her claws. They won’t have any comprehension that this is ‘bad’ behavior so you are highly unlikely to be able to train them out of it. It’s a bit like someone telling you that you are no longer allowed to cut or file your nails! You will have to resign yourself to persuading your cat that it is much more preferable to sharpen her claws on that new scratching post instead.
An understanding of cat psychology will help you understand why physical punishment won’t work on cats. They do not have the same thought processes humans do. If you catch your cat urinating on your new rug and hit her, she will not associate urinating on the rug with being punished; she will associate the punishment with you. In her mind you have suddenly attacked and physically hurt her for no reason and she will be wary of you in case you do it again. Cats have long memories and will not forget any mistreatment. If you hurt your cat, you will need to work very hard to regain her trust.
A far better way of stopping this type of unwanted behavior would be to make a loud noise when you catch your cat urinating where you don’t want her to, such as clapping your hands or firmly shouting ‘no!’ If she learns that every time she urinates on the rug she gets a fright, she should decide not to do it.
Cats thrive on routines and if there is the smallest break in this routine they can easily succumb to stress. If you have made changes in your house recently, even something as relatively minor in having a change around of your furniture, your cat may be finding it difficult to adjust and this is when problem behavior can develop. Cats also suddenly stop doing something which has been routine for them for years, such as eating a previously preferred food or refusing to use the litter tray. There could be any reason for this; for example she may have been startled by a sudden loud noise when using her tray. You will need to think like your cat to try to identify a solution, such as moving the tray to a safer location and providing plenty of reassurance.
Sometimes you may never get to the bottom of your cat’s changes of routine and may just need to adapt to it, for example changing her food to one she will eat.
If you are having real problems with your cat’s behavior, it may be worth seeking advice from a trained Cat Psychologist.