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Breaking Bad Habits

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It’s often the highly intelligent behavior and fierce independence that people love most about their cats. But, that wild nature can often translate into destructive behavior that has the potential to frustrate even the most committed feline fancier.

Corporations have invested years of research in identifying the behavioral motivation of cats and have developed entire product lines focused on correcting these behaviors.

“Our Pet Links line of products enables cat owners to easily select the best products for their cats by educating the retailer on their complex needs,” Shannon McWilliams, vice president of product development at WorldWise, said. “Our SmartyKat product line includes simple packaging designed to identify a cat’s basic needs and help consumers understand how to best resolve problem behaviors.”

Inappropriate elimination is one of the most common problems reported by pet owners, and retailers should know what steps to take to help address the questions when asked.

While it’s tempting to conclude that a cat is simply marking territory, there are actually many problems that can contribute to this behavior.

“Medical issues such as urinary tract infections, inflammation of the colon or rectum, intestinal parasites and kidney, liver or thyroid diseases are some of the most common reasons felines refuse to use the litter box,” Lori Couglin, DVM and owner of The Cat Practice in Chicago, Ill., said. “The cat begins to associate the litter box with pain, which then leads to behavioral issues. The first thing any pet retailer should recommend is a full physical examination by a veterinarian.”

Once any physical problems are ruled out, there are many recommendations that can be made to customers.

By introducing consumers to automated litter boxes and easy-clean solutions, many inappropriate elimination problems can be resolved. In multi-cat households, it’s important that each cat have its own box.  Larger boxes that are enclosed or offer higher walls can eliminate litter being kicked from the box.

“Using the Litter Genie Litter Disposal System ensures that cleaning a box becomes a simple task that can be done at any time,” Chikako Harada, brand manager for Litter Genie, said. “The Litter Genie can hold up to two weeks of waste before emptying, eliminating the daily need to go to the outside trash and making it a convenient way to keep litter boxes clean.”

Making Changes

Behavior changes can also be accomplished through the use of pheromone-based sprays and diffusers.

The Sentry HC Good Behavior Pheromone Collar is the newest product to utilize this technology.

“This natural approach is a good alternative to the powerful prescription medicines typically used to control anxious behavior. It can be used in conjunction with behavior modification training or in cases where training does not help the pet overcome the anxiety or stress causing the problem,” Bob Scharf, president and CEO of Sergeant’s Pet Care, said.

Herbal supplements such as Bach’s Rescue Remedy, which can be added to a pet’s water supply, can also be highly effective, and catnip blends are also gaining in popularity.

Occasionally it’s necessary to interrupt the behavior – particularly when breaking up a cat fight.  Jarden Consumer Solutions recently  launched Quit It!, a behavioral correction for cats that mimics the “hissing” sound that cats make as a warning to other cats.

Scratching is an instinctual need that often goes unaddressed. The first step in resolving this problem is to redirect the behavior.

“SuperCat has developed patented catnip-delivery systems to attract cats to a new area, such as an appropriate scratching post,” Cristen Underwood, director of marketing for Quaker Pet Group, said. “SuperCat products are ‘printed’ with small bubbles of catnip that burst when cats rub, scratch or buff the material. This Nano-Burst Technology constantly releases scent when the bubbles are broken and will last approximately six weeks, making for a long-lasting catnip experience.”

Environmental changes should also be explored.

“SmartyKat’s successful approach to toys is to take a cue from a cat’s own natural desires and impulses,” Christina Gray, marketing communications manager at Worldwise, said. “SmartyKat has a line of products designed to resist scratching – from ScratchNot Tape and ScratchNot Spray – to help protect home furnishings by establishing a scratching barrier, making it less appealing to the cat.”

If customers are seeking ways to keep cats from their gardens or off counters, motion-activated systems, such as Contech’s Stay Away Automatic Pet Deterrent, sound a high-pitched alarm or burst of air to patrol areas when humans are not around.

- Stacy Mantle

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