Practical feline behaviour understanding cat behaviour and improving welfare

(Axel Boer) #1
80 Chapter 6

Reduced activity

Cats in pain may spend more time sleeping and less time exploring, hunting or play-
ing. If they have outdoor access they may spend less time outside. This might be due
to physical difficulty in getting through cat flaps or open windows, or because of an
increased fear and reduced ability to escape from potential threats that may be
encountered outside, such as dogs, predatory wildlife and rival cats.

Reduced mobility

Pain can make it more difficult for a cat to jump up onto furniture or other elevated spaces,
causing increased hesitancy when the cat attempts to jump up or resulting in the cat chang-
ing its preferred resting or hiding areas to places that are more easily accessible. Pain may
also cause a cat to avoid using stairs or use them less often.

House-training issues

A cat in pain might be more likely to toilet indoors if he experiences difficulty in
getting outside or is reluctant to go out because of potential threats.
Climbing in and out of a high-sided litter tray, digging into cat litter or walking
on the uneven surface of cat litter can also become more difficult, especially for a cat
with any form of musculoskeletal pain.
Pain experienced during elimination (urinating or defecating) is another factor to
be aware of because the cat can associate the pain with the location, surface or sub-
strate on which it is attempting to eliminate. A learned aversion of the litter tray may
then develop, resulting in active litter tray avoidance and inappropriate indoor

Changes in grooming behaviour

Self-grooming and other maintenance behaviours such as scratching to help condition
the claws can decrease due to pain or discomfort, resulting in long brittle nails and
poor coat condition. However, over-grooming, especially of one particular area, can
also occur and be a sign that the cat may be experiencing pain or discomfort in, or
close to, that area.

Temperament changes

Pain can increase irritability and significantly lower the threshold for aggression,
especially if being touched causes pain, or if the cat anticipates pain when touched or
when about to be touched (Fig. 6.1). Cats in pain might also become generally less
tolerant with people and with other household pets and may actively avoid interac-
tions by spending more time hiding or retreating to areas well away from other
household members.

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