Behavioral Modification

The better we understand life from our cats’ point of view, the more endearing they become to us, and the less chance of behavior problems. During routine examinations we can discuss how to prevent behavior problems and provide information about litter boxes, scratching and much more. Please let us know at any time if you have questions about your cat’s behavior.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my cat urinating outside of his little box? I keep it so clean!

There are many reasons a cat may begin “inappropriate urination”.  First, we must make sure there is no medical cause for this.  It is very common for cats to have bladder inflammation, urine abnormalities such as crystals or infections, bladder stones, or even bladder tumors that can cause pain and irritation. Cats alert us to pain when they urinate outside the box.  A thorough exam and general tests are needed to check for these.  Often a x-ray or ultrasound are needed to screen for problems.  If medical reasons for urinating outside of the box are proven not the case, then thorough discussion of your cat’s environment, routine, family, changes, and more is done.  Environmental changes may be necessary (some easier than others).  If all else fails, some cats do ultimately need medicinal prescriptions to alleviate overwhelming stress they may have and this will be discussed in depth as well.

How do I schedule a behavior consult with Dr.Rodan?

Not sure how healthy your cat’s behavior is? Find out by taking the quiz:

How Healthy is My Cat’s Behavior?
My cat uses the litter box 100% of the time for urine and stool.
My cat never sprays on walls or furniture.
My cat never scratches on furniture or other things he’s not supposed to.
My cat never scratches or bites people.
My cat gets along with the other animals in the house.
My cat plays nicely with people without becoming rough.
My cat is affectionate, without being clingy or annoying.
My cat does not wake me during the night.
My cat does not howl or meow excessively.
My cat is not fearful of normal events, including thunderstorms.
My cat travels well, and adapts well to changes.
My cat behaves well at the veterinary clinic.
My cat is relaxed almost always.
If you answered no to any of these, please contact the Cat Care Clinic to make sure that your cat doesn’t have a medical problem causing the behavior, and to see if a behavior consultation would be beneficial for you and your kitty.

What are common behavior problems you can help?

Common Problems that Cat Care Clinic Works With:
Urine or stool not always in the litter box
Scratching or other furniture destruction
Cats not getting along
Biting or scratching people
Fear (thunder storms, certain people or other animals)
Anxiety
Separation anxiety
Meowing or yowling excessively
Overeating
Irritable or aggressive with other cats or people
Difficulty with changes in the household (e.g., a new baby, loss of a favorite person, merging human and cat families)
Excessive licking or chewing at fur
Chewing on fabrics or other unusual things
Getting on counters, stealing food

When should you call? As soon as you notice a behavior problem. This allows for early treatment and the best chance for cure. Even if a behavior problem has gone on for a long period of time, there are often solutions that can result. You may also call to learn how to prevent behavior problems if you desire more information than you receive from your primary veterinarian.

How can I prevent behavior problems?

Prevention is the best medicine, and this goes for behavior problems too. Each appointment at the Cat Care Clinic focuses on both medical and behavior concerns. We spend time at wellness appointments to prevent behavior problems.

Here are just a few tips to prevent behavior problems in your cat:
Never punish your cat – cats don’t understand punishment, and may become fearful of you. And they may continue the behavior you dislike to continue to get your attention. Best is to ignore the behavior you don’t like and reward the behavior you do like.
Rewards can be verbal praise, treats, toys – and attention.
If you cannot ignore the behavior you don’t like, distract or redirect your kitty to a behavior you like. For example, throw a ball in another direction.
Have places to scratch where you prefer that your cat scratch, such as scratching posts.
Cats love high places so that they can see their environment – cat trees and cat perches are favorites for cats.
Make sure litter boxes are cleaned at least once daily, and have at least one litter box per cat plus one.
Play with your cat at least 10-15 minutes once or twice daily so that being bored doesn’t lead to getting into places or things that you don’t want.

THE BEST TIME TO TREAT A BEHAVIOR PROBLEM IS EARLY ON. IF YOU SEE A BEHAVIOR YOU DON’T LIKE, PLEASE CALL.

DO YOU EVER WONDER WHY YOUR CATS DO WHAT THEY DO? PLEASE ASK!

Can a cat really be trained?

Cats Can Be Trained! Train your cat for both your cat’s enjoyment and your entertainment. It’s easy for almost any cat, regardless of age, if you follow these few simple tips. The easiest trick you can train your cat to do is to “sit”, but training can also be used for training to scratch on the scratching post instead of the carpet, teeth brushing, or other things that you’d like. Start by training for fun, and then try for other routines. Training can also help your cat adjust more easily to new situations.

Most important steps to training
Immediately reward your cat if your cat does or even starts to do what you have asked your cat to do. Ignore any movements, without saying or doing anything, if your cat makes movements that are not what you asked.
Be patient and keep training sessions to 5 minutes or less.
Start training your cat by choosing things that your cat naturally does (for example, sit or scratch on).

How do I reward my cat?
Choose something that your cat really likes for rewards. It can be as simple as a kibble or other food treat, telling your cat how good or smart he or she is, or petting your cat.
Rewards must be immediate (within 3 seconds) of the desired behavior; otherwise, another behavior may have occurred in between and your cat will think the reward is for that instead.
For the first few weeks, reward your cat each time the behavior is performed when you ask.
Once the behavior is learned, reward intermittently.

Ignore or redirect negative behavior:
NEVER punish or yell at your cat!! Don’t even say “no”. This will not teach and often leads to fear, which usually result in unwanted behavior.
If your cat is not following the directions, ignore your cat or redirect his or her behavior to get the cat back on track. To ignore, either look or walk away for a few seconds.

Here are some great examples:
“Sit”
Hold a treat in front of the nose. When your cat is interested in the treat, slowly raise the treat to above the head. As the head goes up, the hind end will go down. Say “sit” in a soft and encouraging tone as soon as the hind end goes down. Reward.

“Come”
Only good things should happen when your cat comes to your voice. A good time to encourage your cat to come is when it’s hungry. Your cat already is trained to some degree – most cats come as soon as they hear a food bag rustle or a can of food opened. Coupling the word with the action, and giving an immediate reward will reinforce the behavior.

“Give Me Five”
First ask the cat to sit. Then put the treat to one side so that the cat raises a paw to reach for the food treat. Reward as you say “give me five”. Start with your cat’s natural tendency to reach up and touch something with his or her paw. Reinforce the behavior at the same time the verbal cue is given.

“Other”
If you’ve ever seen a cat perform, you know that they can do anything, from jumping through hula hoops to running an agility course (a maze). The trick is persistence and patience on your part. The rewards are boundless, with your cat being better behaved, interested in more things, and comfortable in different situations where the tricks can be used to distract.

Please call if any questions. Thanks for helping to enrich your cat’s life!

How do I schedule a behavior consult with Dr.Rodan?

Behavior consultations can be scheduled for clients of other veterinary hospitals as well as for our own clients. In fact, the behavior service can include clients and patients from out of state. Consultations are done either at the Cat Care Clinic or by phone consultation.

For clients and patients of other clinics:
Please have your veterinarian send a copy of your cat’s medical records for review.
A recent examination and testing to make sure that the behavior isn’t caused by an underlying medical problem (for example, a cat with bladder stones may stop using the litter box) should be done by your veterinarian.
Dr. Rodan will follow up with your veterinarian and provide a copy of the behavior consultation to your veterinarian.
As a referral from another veterinary hospital, all other care will be done at that hospital, unless otherwise requested by your veterinarian.
Please fill out the behavior consultation form ( we will provide for you), listing all concerns about your cat’s behavior, and e-mail or FAX, attention Dr. Ilona Rodan, at least 48-72 working hours prior to the consultation.
Additional tests may be necessary based on the review of the behavior questionnaire if there is a concern that a medical problem could be an underlying cause of the behavior(s) of concern.

For Cat Care Clinic clients and patients:
Please fill out the behavior consultation form, listing all concerns about your cat’s behavior, and e-mail, drop off or FAX, attention Dr. Ilona Rodan, at least 48 working hours prior to the consultation.

Phone Consultations:
Telephone consultations will be paid via credit card (PayPal for Canadian residents) the day of the scheduled appointment. Clients are responsible for long-distance charges.

General consultation information:
For telephone consultations, please provide a simple drawing of your floor plan, marking where the behaviors you dislike occurs. This should be sent attached to the behavior consultations questionnaire.

Videos are always helpful to best evaluate what your cat is doing, and to try to figure out why. Especially helpful are videos of cat interactions if your cats are not getting along well.

Within 48 hours of the behavior consultation, you will receive a summary discharge sheet, along with case-specific handouts and follow-up instructions.

Consultation fee includes 60 minutes of follow-up communications. Clients needing further communication may schedule a follow-up consultation.