What to do when cat’s stalking behavior goes wild.
Is your cat a stalker, lying in wait for someone to go past and then pouncing to initiate interaction and play? It can be cute; however, it can also be painful if the cat’s attacks include outstretched claws and attempts to climb up your leg. Most behaviorists suggest that it is best not to encourage such games as they can quickly get out of control.
The best way to stop this behavior is to give your cat a time-out at the first sign of an attempt to stalk and attack you by turning around and leaving the room, and not interacting with her. Time-outs need only be about 10 to 15 seconds. Repeating this will help break the behavior pattern.
In addition, you can introduce games that both you and your cat can enjoy together, such as playing with wand-styled toys. Always wave them away from you so that the cat won’t inadvertently come forward and scratch you. Lots of cats enjoy playing fetch with wand toys, too. After a play session, throw the wand and encourage her to fetch it and bring it back to you for another round.
When it comes to multi-cat households, cats will stalk one another too. You will know when it’s playful even if it’s accompanied by some growly noises. However, it can also be aggressive and a territorial issue. It’s unrealistic to assume that all cats in a household automatically get on well together and that if they don’t get on, that ultimately they will work it out. Not so. In reality, some conflicts are often never resolved and the cats live in a permanent state of stress.
“Household cats, and especially those that are brought together as adults, may not form affiliative relationships despite years of living together,” said feline behaviorist Margaret M. Duxbury, DVM, DACVB. “And often cat owners miss signs of covert or passive aggression that include staring and blocking physical space without more obvious contact. Both types of conflict can be exacerbated or diminished depending on the spatial arrangements in the house and availability and location of resources,” she added.
Cats have a harder time avoiding each other in homes with narrow hallways, lots of corners and small rooms. Placing resources such as food, water and litterboxes in single locations can cause ambush or blockade situations. The solution is to place these items in different areas of the house, making it easier for each cat to get what they need while avoiding other felines in the home.
You should also avoid using covered litterboxes or placing them in closets and under staircases. The situation will improve if all cats have a 360-degree view of who is coming and going so they know in advance that whether or not they are about to be ambushed.
Another solution is to divide up the home so that cats have restricted access to areas that another cat occupies. You could also increase the amount of space available to a cat by adding perches, and runways to allow the cats to separate vertically. Ceiling high walkways and elevated hiding and refuge sites can help, too.
About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Catster, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats