A cat scratching a chair

Some cat owners hit the lottery with their cats. They are peaceful, loving, and agreeable when it comes to demanding the perfect balance of food and attention. Other cat owners wonder what they’re doing wrong when they see messes outside the litter box, shredded toilet paper, and couch cushions with claw marks all over them. The differences between certain feline behaviors can hinge on ensuring that all of their environmental needs are met.

Expressing Themselves

Contrary to popular belief, cats are incredibly social animals. Although they may prefer living with littermates, most cats are capable of coexisting with other pets and enjoy the company of their human family members.

Cats are also quite territorial, which can cause problems in some homes. With their highly developed senses of hearing and smell, cats can anticipate threats, and will fight tooth and claw to defend their territories. While it can sometimes be difficult to determine signs of stress or pain in cats, they do employ obvious responses to territorial threats, like hissing, yowling, puffing up, and tail thrashing.


Over-exposure to stressful stimuli can create and exacerbate unwanted feline behaviors, like soiling outside the litter box. Because behavioral issues are the leading cause of surrender and euthanasia, it’s essential to address their needs for interaction with others and to express their natural tendencies in the following ways:

  • Examine what a cat really wants and needs at home
  • Avoid environmental stressors that prevent unwanted feline behaviors and increase quality of life.
  • Rule out possible medical conditions that cause changes in behavior.

Physical and Emotional Factors

According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, there are five “cat-egories” that address feline environmental needs:

  1. Safe Space – All cats benefit from having a place of refuge just for them. This can be a special crate or kennel, cardboard box, or a spot in the coat closet. In order to feel safe, secure, and protected from harm, cats require their own special place. Check out how to crate train your cat.
  2. Key Environmental Resources – These areas refer to unique feeding spots, grooming areas, sleeping spaces, and litter location. All of these should be separated from one another, away from household traffic, and other stressors.
  3. Play and Predatory – Interactive toys that mimic prey stimulate intrinsic feline hunting skills. To keep them interested, cats need to conquer prey occasionally. Avoid using your hands or feet, and rotate toys to keep them fresh. Food puzzle toys are great for boredom and reward cats for their hard work.
  4. Human-Cat Interaction – Petting, snuggling, grooming, and playing are important aspects of cat ownership, and the associated happiness affects both cats and owners alike. Positive socialization is key to a strong, healthy relationship at home and helps with visitors and other family members.
  5. Respecting the Senses – Cats have powerful pheromones used to stake out their territory and favorite people. Repeated cleaning of these areas can stress out a cat in need of mapping out (and controlling) their territory. Feliway can be used to mimic feline pheromones and can keep them calm. It should be noted that overpowering household scents (like detergent, soap, cleaning products, or candles) can result in problematic feline behaviors, such as scratching, soiling, and more.

Positive Feline Behaviors

June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, and we’ve got the answers you need to support peaceful co-existence.The bottom line is that when a cat is entertained, physically active, and respected in all ways, they are much happier and easier to live with.

Our Fear-Free and Certified Feline Friendly Practice is committed to helping your find solutions to unwanted feline behaviors. Together, we can help your cat live the healthiest and happiest life.