Expert Answers to Your 5 Biggest Cat Questions from Pam Johnson-Bennett

Catitudes are real! Sometimes our cats’ behavior can be so confusing that we don’t always know what to do. So we asked the cat-mirers in the Kitty Krew Community to share their most head-scratching questions about their felines. Read pro tips from cat behavior expert and best-selling author, Pam Johnson-Bennett, as she answers five of the most purr-plexing cat questions.

1.Question: We have two different scratching posts that my cat uses, but he STILL insists on using our carpet and furniture as well. Why??

scratching posts

Answer: Here's a quick checklist for you to go through to ensure scratching posts meet a cat's needs. Post should be tall, sturdy, covered in a rough material (such as sisal) and, here's the one many people forget about: posts should be placed in convenient locations where a cat likes to scratch. Look at where your cat is currently scratching and add a scratching post there. If it's near the sofa, cover the sofa with something smooth and place the post right next to it. For carpet scratching, it may mean your cat also enjoys horizontal scratching so in that case I would suggest getting a couple corrugated cardboard scratch pads to place over the spots he currently targets.

If you are feeling crafty, you can even make your own cat scratching post or other feline furniture.

2.Question: I've owned two indoor cats and both would try and run out every time someone opened the door. Why if they are well-fed and taken care of, do they try and get out all the time? I don't want outdoor cats.

cat outdoors

Answer: Very interesting sounds, scents and sights are briefly visible when the door is opened and that can be hard for cats to resist. Of course, cats don't understand the dangers associated with outdoor life, so it's up to us to make sure they stay safely inside.

First, make sure the indoor environment holds lots of interest and stimulation for your cats. If you make the indoors just as interesting as the outdoors, your cats will find the stimulation and excitement they need. Make sure there are places to climb and play such as cat trees, cat shelving and/or window perches.

Incorporate twice-daily interactive play sessions with a fishing pole-type toy and also make sure there are challenging and stimulating solo activities available such as puzzle feeders.

Do not greet your cats at the door. Instead, pick a spot in the room away from the door and that is where you say hello and goodbye, as well as offer affection. You can even use clicker training to teach them to go to specific spots in the room. This is called "go to mat" training.

If you are worried about your cats’ happiness, there are a multiple signals that your cat makes to show their contentment.

3.Question: I just adopted two cats last week who are brother and sister. The brother weighs more and eats VERY quickly, and his sister is only 4.4 lbs. and eats slowly, and is always looking around her like she’s worried someone is going to eat her food. We were told before adopting them that they never had other cats eat their food (they were at a cat cafe for a while too). I try to separate them when they eat, but Freya (girl) isn't finishing her food, but then will sometimes go to her brother's bowl when I let her out, and vice versa. It's very confusing!

adopted cats eating

Answer: Congratulations on the new furry family members! Cats aren't social eaters and it can sometimes be stressful when one cat has to eat in close proximity to a companion cat.

If Freya is looking around so much when she eats she may be nervous. Provide security during mealtime by feeding them far enough apart while you sit in the middle to make sure everyone stays at their own bowls. Always place their bowls in the same location so the meal position becomes routine. If that isn't enough then feed them in separate rooms with the door closed so Freya can't run out and nudge into her brother's dish.

If the male kitty eats too quickly, get a slow-feeder bowl that has obstacles built in, so it takes longer to get the food. These bowls are easily found at your local pet product store and online. If you're feeding wet food, you can also press the food into the dish so the cat has to work a little harder to get it.

4. Question: Why do both of my cats seem to only use one litter box when we have three total in the house?

cat using litter box

Answer: Location plays a big part in the appeal of a litter box. The most popular box in your home may be located in an area where the cats feel safer. A litter box should be placed in an open area that allows a cat visual warning time to watch for potential danger. If the other boxes are located in cramped areas or corners, are in noisy places, or they don't allow for adequate escape potential, they may not provide the safety a cat needs. Also, make sure the other boxes are the same type as the one they currently prefer.

5.Question: Why does my cat caterwaul late at night (he loves to go down the stairs to the basement and do it there―like an echo chamber)?


Answer: Some cats start vocalizing more when they experience hearing loss, so a visit to the veterinarian would be wise to rule out any hearing issues. I don't know how old your cat is, but older cats sometimes start vocalizing due to cognitive decline. The older cat becomes disoriented and vocalizes as a way to try to locate his family. If you think that's the case, keep him in a smaller area at night so he doesn't become confused. Cats who vocalize due to cognitive decline often feel more comfortable if confined to a smaller space where you are located so they don't feel so alone and disoriented.

If your cat is merely just in the habit of vocalizing in the evening, he may be seeking activity and stimulation. Leave out some special toys only in the evening for him to discover, such as puzzle feeders, so he can engage in a little impromptu late-night playtime. Leave a few nightlights on in the basement and maybe even leave a radio playing softly down there.

I would also recommend that you engage in a really good interactive play session with him right before you go to bed to work off some of the energy he might be building up. We are winding down in the evening, but cats are usually revving up. Do a good play session with a fishing pole-type toy, and then reward your cat with a treat or reserve a portion of his daily food portion as an after-playtime reward for a job well done. After "hunting" and then feasting on his catch, a cat is more likely to groom and then sleep.

Photo of Pam Johnson-Bennett.

Pam Johnson-Bennett is the best-selling author of 10 books. She starred in the Animal Planet UK series Psycho Kitty, and is one of the most popular and sought-after cat behavior experts in the world. She is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting and has influenced many practicing in the field today. Pam began making house calls to work with clients on cat behavior problems in 1982 and had her first book published in 1990. Since then, she has led the way as an inspiration and mentor to many in the cat behavior profession and her books have been used as texts for professional behavior courses.

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