My Cat Tears Up My House While I'm Gone, and Spraying Him With Water Doesn't Help

CatChannel and CAT FANCY cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, advises an owner on how to stop cats from destroying houses, without punishing them.

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Q: I have a 3-year-old cat named Odie who needs to lose weight. (He weighs 32 pounds.) Odie and I moved out on our own this past year and he gets very mad at me when I leave. He tries to knock my pictures off the walls and he opens all my cabinets and pulls things out. When I get home, he is still mad and by bedtime he is soaked because I've squirted him to try and get him to calm down. He went from being a total inside cat to me letting him outside with my supervision.

A: Odie isn't engaging in destructive behaviors because he is mad at you. Your cat is bored and most likely experiencing separation anxiety. Your cat is attached to you and when you leave him alone, your cat becomes anxious. Instead of squirting your cat with water and causing him to feel more stressed, change your cat's unwanted behavior by addressing the reasons behind it.

Give your cat mental stimulation to prevent cat boredom. Interactive toys, more activities and possibly adopting another cat can help keep your cat away from destructive behaviors. Interactive toys that Odie might enjoy include puzzle boxes, ball and tract toys, ping pong balls and safe dental health chew toys. Tall cat trees placed in front of secure windows can also keep him entertained.     

Additionally, help your cat feel less stressed when alone by interacting with him through specific activities. Before leaving for the day, engage your cat in treasure hunts. Hide either treats or his regular food throughout your home, on his cat trees, window perches, puzzle boxes and in on other creative places. Daily multiple play sessions will help stop the behavior. Playing with your cat in a way that imitates the hunt will tire out Odie. An added bonus is that play will help burn calories.

Place clothing that has your scent in Odie's sleeping areas to help your cat feel secure, and that you haven't abandoned him. Classical music can also help relax your cat. In addition to keeping Odie entertained, another cat may help ease Odie's anxieties when you are gone. If you decide to adopt a buddy, introduce them to each other gradually.
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My Cat Tears Up My House While I'm Gone, and Spraying Him With Water Doesn't Help

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Reader Comments

Tammy    Bloomington, IN

8/24/2012 6:10:31 PM

I recently bought a cat toy at Pet Smart that has 2 different attachments for it. I hold the stick part and drag the feathers with a bell around. The littlest kittens really like to chase this one. But the older cats just don't get a chance to play! I think it would help Odie for you to play with him more. It will burn calories and remind him you still love him.

Cat With Kits    Kingston, ON

8/13/2012 9:46:38 PM

Why would you EVER think that negative attention towards your cat will work. It will just make him act out more. So uinless you want a very aggressive cat, or one who is afraid of everything, only use positive reinforcement.

The best thing to do in your situation is to lavish love and play with him as he is needy after being separated from a person or pet when you moved. You could try getting him a kitten to play with. Poor kitty just wants to be given extra pampering and lots of love until he adjusts. PLEASE,treat him kindly. Also try diet kibble introduced slowly.

Iris    Dallas, TX

8/11/2012 7:42:53 AM

I have watched the TV show 'My Cat From Hell'. These cats were doing things not acceptable in a normal household. Two things most households had in common. These cats had no way to look out the window, the windows were blocked with blinds and most didn't have any 'cat'toys. No cat tree to climb up and get away for some privacy. One of the best toys is the fishing pole type, there is one that runs on batteries, has a short pole and a feather attachment that every cat would want and is for times when the cat owner doesn't want to play.

Rita    Catonsville, MD

8/11/2012 7:37:53 AM

I agree with the advise. Cats get bored when left to themselves. I tire mine out with hunting games (socks across the floor, and fingers under the comforter) to engage them before leaving the house. And on returning, grooming, stroking, and soft murmurs reasure them that you are back and love them.

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