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Cat Behaviors - Play, Climbing, & Scratching

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

How do I deal with inappropriate behavior?

Cats can be demanding creatures so it’s important to instill good manners early on. We do not want to encourage inappropriate behavior such as swatting, excessive vocalization, and biting. If your kitten begins to exhibit these behaviors, quickly and quietly leave the area and cease all interactions. Once the kitten is calm and quiet, resume interactions. The goal is for the kitten to learn that calm, quiet behavior warrants attention while aggressive actions do not. Make time daily for appropriate interactions with your cat that include play and petting.

Disciplining a young kitten should be handled with care. A sharp, “No!” may be all that is needed to stop your kitty in his tracks for most inappropriate behaviors; however, remote punishment that associates the consequences with the action instead of the person is preferred. For most kittens, hand clapping or rattling a can of beans can divert attention and be intimidating enough to inhibit undesirable behavior when you are present.

Never physically punish your cat by holding them down, swatting them, etc as cats are very sensitive and will learn to be afraid which can hurt your bond.

Preventing problems before they start

The real key to preventing behavior problems in kittens is to identify and provide appropriate outlets for all of their needs. This is especially important for indoor kittens since all of their play, hunting, exploring, climbing, scratching, eliminating, and socializing will need to be channeled into acceptable indoor options. The following sections can help you and your cat both enjoy your home together!


Encouraging safe and appropriate play activities from the first day in your home will make life much more pleasant for you and your cat. Most of the physical activity of an outdoor cat is focused on the hunt. Indoor cats do not have to hunt for food, so interactive play that satisfies the hunting instinct makes for a happy cat. In fact, stalking and pouncing are important play behaviors in kittens that facilitate proper muscular development, so these activities should be encouraged within reason.

Provide predatory play sessions by playing together with wands, movable toys, or small lights.

You do not want to ‘rough house’ with your cat and always avoid play that involved the hands and fingers as this can lead to them thinking it’s acceptable to bite or attack the hand as a form of play.

Chasing a toy attached to a wand or batting around a soft ball gives the kitten a needed outlet for their hunting instinct. The best toys are lightweight and movable. Avoid toys that are small enough to be swallowed and keep string and ribbon out of reach. These items can cause serious intestinal problems if they are swallowed.

Serving food inside foraging toys and hiding treats inside boxes or paper bags also piques a cat’s interest in exploration!

In addition to play sessions with owners, highly social and playful cats may also benefit from having a second social and playful cat in the home provided a safe hierarchy has been established. In other words, all cats involved recognize the “top cat”.


Cats climb trees in nature and lounge on the branches, so this instinct must be satisfied, too. Comfortable, accessible bedding in a quiet location will encourage the cat to sleep in his own quarters, but cats do like to sun themselves on the back of the best chair in the house.

Safe climbing alternatives and scratching posts will help deter destruction of furniture. One important rule of thumb is that each cat is different; you must choose the types of play and toys that are most appealing to your cat and most appropriate for your household. Try cat trees and scratching toys and posts with different types of materials and surfaces so you learn what your cat likes to climb and scratch.

By providing a surface he likes and teaching him where it is appropriate to scratch, you can prevent inappropriate scratching before it begins.


The fact is that cats scratch objects in their environment for many perfectly normal reasons, for


· To remove the dead outer layer of their claws.

· To mark their territory by leaving a visual mark and a scent – they have scent glands on their paws.

· To stretch their bodies and flex their feet and claws.

· To work off energy.

Because scratching is a normal behavior, and one that cats are highly motivated to display, it’s

unrealistic to try to prevent them from scratching.

Instead, the goal in resolving scratching

problems is to redirect the scratching onto acceptable objects.

Training Your Cat to Scratch Acceptable Objects

Your new cat or kitten is already trained to use scratching posts instead of furniture, but it would not take long for the cat to unlearn this.

It's important for you to think for your cat on this score - the easier you make it for an animal to be a good pet, the better pet the animal will be.

If your kitten or cat shows any interest in using a piece of furniture instead of a scratching post, there are steps you can take to change that behavior.

You must provide objects for scratching that are appealing, attractive, and convenient from your

cat’s point of view. Observe the physical features of the objects your cat is scratching.

The answers to the following questions will help you understand your cat’s scratching preferences:

· Where are they located?

o Prominent objects, objects close to sleeping areas, and objects near the entrance to a room are often chosen.

· What texture do they have – are they soft or coarse?

· What shape do they have – are they horizontal or vertical?

· How tall are they? At what height does your cat scratch?

Once you are able to answer these questions, try covering the inappropriate object (with a sheet, foil, double side tape, etc) and placing a replacement nearby. When kitty in consistently using the new appropriate object, it can gradually be moved to your desired location- but kitty might also prefer it where it already was!

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