Behavior Management Products for Cats
Several products on the market can help with behavior management. The products listed below are helpful suggestions, but please note that we are not affiliated with or endorse any particular brand or product. In addition, although we attempt to keep the names of products as current as possible, product availability changes, and we apologize if an item is no longer available.
What types of toys are recommended?
Every cat has different preferences and play styles. The most important requirement for play is that it must be fun—honor your cat’s preferences. Your cat should appear interested in interacting with the toy and remain engaged for more than a brief moment. Watch for signs of frustration, such as searching even after the toy is gone or redirecting by pouncing or exhibiting aggression toward nearby items, people, or pets.
For example, though many cats appear to enjoy chasing a laser beam, laser toys may contribute to frustration as your cat cannot catch the target. This frustration may contribute to the development of compulsive light and shadow chasing.
"...though many cats appear to enjoy chasing a laser beam, laser toys may contribute to frustration as your cat cannot catch the target."
When it comes to satisfying toys, there are several options. Select a variety of toys to help your cat exercise physically and mentally. All toys do not need to come from the store—cats readily play with simple objects such as hair scrunchies, empty cardboard boxes, or paper bags. Remove any handles or ropes that could wrap around your cat’s neck or body, as cats can panic and be injured when trapped.
A note on safety: be sure to choose toys and objects that are not so small that they can be easily swallowed. Do not offer string-like materials unless you supervise very carefully—cats risk intestinal obstruction when they swallow strings.
Interactive toys such as wands provide an opportunity for social play—you become part of the fun. Examples include the Feline Flyer®, Cat Dancer®, and Da Bird®.
There are also many battery-operated toys on the market, with targets that can move around, move away, and even move in and out of a container while your cat is in pursuit. Similarly, there are tablet games designed just for cats. Choose toys that secure batteries well.
Food puzzles are another way to keep your cat entertained when you are not available. Food puzzles provide important cognitive enrichment and food-filled toys that are batted about will help your cat stay active; examples include Petstages Buggin’ Out®, KONG Cat Wobbler™, PetSafe Slim Cat™, and Trixie Mad Scientist®. These toys have small openings that deliver food as they are manipulated. You can even provide all your cat’s meals in toys if you check that he finishes his daily ration.
What products can help with training?
Cats are intelligent and highly trainable! Positive reinforcement-based training techniques work for all species, including dogs, cats, and humans. You can use food lures to create behaviors. For instance, holding a treat in one hand can easily lure your cat into a sitting or lying position. See the handout “Using Reinforcement and Rewards to Train Your Pet” for more information.
Many cats respond well to clicker training. If you are unfamiliar, a typical clicker is a small handheld object that makes a quiet click when pressed. First, you need to pair the click with a treat so that your cat positively associates with the sound. Next, you can click and toss a treat when your cat does a behavior you like—a movement that can become a named cue or ‘trick’. Clicker training is terrific for teaching skills like touching or following a target, going into and out of a cat carrier, coming when called, walking on a leash, and various other tricks. Use your imagination!
"Many cats respond well to clicker training."
Another helpful training tool is a remote-controlled feeder. The feeder releases a treat for your cat when you push the button on the handheld remote control device. Examples of remote-controlled feeders include the PetStages Treat &Train® and Pawbo® Treat Dispenser. You can use a remote-controlled feeder to teach your cat to go to a specific location, to stay on her bed when you are eating, or to move away from doors when visitors come and go. Remote treat systems can also help you deliver rewards while teaching your cat to remain relaxed for grooming or veterinary exams.
What products can be used to take cats outside safely?
As long as there are no scary animals or overwhelming noises in your outdoor space, your cat may appreciate a chance to experience the outdoor scents and sights, spend time relaxing with you, and even take a short walk.
A barrier will be needed to avoid the risk of injury from predators or vehicles and to protect wildlife, such as birds and small mammals. One option is to fasten a leash and harness and walk with your cat. There are various secure products, such as the Come With Me Kitty™ Harness and Bungee Leash. If the neighborhood is not safe for walking, another option is to create an outdoor “catio” enclosure, either by using your own screened porch or by creating a safe yard using a fence product such as Purrfect Fence®.
What products are helpful for house soiling problems?
Always consult your veterinarian first if your cat is urinating or defecating outside the litter box.
For house soiling in cats, it is necessary to eliminate any residual odor to prevent them from being attracted to the odor at the site. Several products are designed to remove the stain or odor of pet urine and are more effective than general household cleaners. Products that use enzymes, bacteria, or a combination of these two, such as Nature’s Miracle® Urine Off® and Urine Erase®, are particularly effective on urine stains that are relatively fresh and have not been pretreated. Some products are species-specific odor counteractants, such as Cat Odor Off®, which can be used to neutralize odors even after applying other stain and cleaning products. For larger areas, a concentrated product will allow you to dilute a sufficient amount to saturate the entire area.
Black lights and moisture detectors can help identify the soiled site.
Feliway® is a synthetic cheek gland pheromone to be sprayed on areas where your might be inclined to spray or mark to reduce marking. See the handouts “Behavior Counseling – Complementary Treatments” and “Cat Behavior Problems – House Soiling” for more guidance.
Are there products to help with noise phobias and anxiety?
Noise-related fears are usually treated using the behavior modification technique known as desensitization and counterconditioning (see handout). For this treatment, the scary sound is recreated but controlled for volume so that it does not generate a fear response. Many sounds can be downloaded, including thunderstorms, fireworks, and gunshots. Some commercially available recordings contain various sounds, including vacuums, trucks, and crying babies, that may be used to familiarize young kittens or non-fearful cats with various sounds they might one day encounter.
Another type of product for treating noise-related fear is a fabric wrap, such as the ThunderShirt® For Cats. These snug wraps may be helpful for cats that seem to relax when swaddled.
If your cat shows significant fear of any events, objects, or situations, consult your veterinarian for guidance, as this can profoundly affect the quality of life for some cats.
How do I decide what products to use to correct undesirable behavior?
Before using any products to deter or punish undesired behaviors, consider the following:
- Are your cat’s needs met in terms of exercise, enrichment, mental stimulation, and social contact?
- Is your cat’s environment free from controllable stressors?
- Is your cat healthy and free from pain?
Next, it is essential to understand the nature of the behavior that is not desirable. Behaviors occur for a reason. Many normal but undesirable behaviors are innately self-rewarding, and your cat needs an outlet for engaging in these behaviors. Cats become frustrated, anxious, and sometimes even physically ill without satisfying outlets for normal behaviors.
Blocking or stopping behaviors without providing a suitable alternative is NOT recommended.
Even more critical, do not try to punish your cat. Punishment may thwart a behavior for the moment, but cats are very sensitive to punishment and can develop a prolonged fear response, which can lead to aggression. Even worse, punishment and fear can damage your relationship with your cat.
"...punishment and fear can damage your relationship with your cat."
A better option is to provide your cat with alternatives. For example, provide an attractive cat herb garden if your cat is chewing your plants.
You may need to temporarily prevent your cat from easily engaging in undesirable behavior while training is underway, but the deterrent should not frighten your cat. Sometimes, a door can be closed, or a tall gate secured when you cannot supervise your cat. Another option is to place a carpet runner on the surface with nubs facing up to keep your cat from resting in forbidden areas.
For unwanted scratching on valuable surfaces, plastic nail coverings, such as Soft Paws®, can be glued onto the toenails to prevent damage while training is underway. While your cat is learning to use a scratching post, double-sided sticky tape can be applied to the surface that is being damaged. Pavlov’s Cat™ is a training product that automatically delivers food treats whenever your cat scratches the post. See the handout “Cat Behaviour Problems – Scratching Behavior” for more guidance.
Are there products to stop a cat that while engaging in undesirable behaviors?
It may be tempting to scold your cat if you catch her red-handed doing something unacceptable. Rather than risk frightening your cat, try to think of something that would be distracting—an unexpected sound such as a knock on the wall or a squeak of a toy may serve the purpose. Now that you have your cat’s attention, guide your cat to a more appropriate behavior. If your cat is scratching your couch, lure your cat to the post using treats. Once the danger is over, you protect the couch and put a scratching post in the vicinity.
Thanks to technology, you can monitor your cat from another room or while you are out of the house with devices such as the Furbo® 360 Pet Camera. Some of them allow you to speak and/or deliver food so that you can easily lure your cat away from the site of the unwanted behavior.
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