What is cat behavior therapy?


Cats have long held a special place in our hearts, but their mysterious and sometimes perplexing behavior can leave even the most devoted cat owners scratching their heads. Have you ever wondered why your feline friends behave the way they do? Do they frequently exhibit problematic behaviors that disrupt your life and their own?

Mieshelle Nagelschneider The Cat Whisperer holding a Grey and White Cat | Cat Behaviorist

Cat behavior therapy, also known as cat behavior modification or cat behavior training, is a specialized approach to addressing and modifying problematic or undesirable behaviors in cats. It involves working with a cat’s behavior in a systematic way to achieve desired changes in its actions and reactions. This type of therapy is typically carried out by professional animal behaviorists, veterinarians, or experienced cat trainers.

As a Certified Cat Behavorist™ for more than 25 years, join me in this blog as we discuss cat behavior therapy, covering essential subtopics such as understanding feline behavior, addressing common behavior problems, and providing actionable solutions to improve your cat’s well-being.

Q: What is cat behavior therapy?

A: Cat behavior therapy is a systematic way to achieve desired changes in cat action and reactions. Read this blog for more information on cat behavior therapy and for insights into addressing common behavior issues.

Section 1: Understanding Feline Behavior Fundamentals

Understanding the fundamentals of feline behavior is the first step in effectively addressing any behavior issues in your cat. Cats have their unique instincts and social structures. It’s crucial to grasp these aspects to provide a fulfilling environment for your cat.

In this section, we will delve into the key elements of cat behavior, such as territorial instincts, communication through body language, and the significance of play and hunting. We’ll also explore how a cat’s past experiences and genetics can influence their behavior.

  • Territorial Instincts: Cats are territorial animals, and understanding their need for space is vital for a happy coexistence.
  • Communication: Cats communicate through body language, vocalizations, and scent marking. Knowing how to interpret these signals can enhance your understanding of their emotions.
  • Play and Hunting: Play serves as an outlet for a cat’s hunting instincts. We’ll discuss the importance of playtime in maintaining your cat’s mental and physical health.

Understanding the complexities of feline behavior lays the foundation for effective behavior therapy. With this knowledge, you’ll be better equipped to address and prevent behavior issues in your cat.

Section 2: Common Cat Behavior Problems and Solutions

Cats can develop various behavior problems that range from mild annoyances to serious concerns. Identifying these issues and their underlying causes is essential for implementing the right solutions. In this section, we will explore some common cat behavior problems and offer practical solutions:

  • Litter Box Issues: Litter box issues can be frustrating.Discover the causes, from medical conditions to behavioral triggers, and learn how to tailor your approach accordingly. With a combination of patience, understanding, and strategic changes, you can create an environment that encourages your cat to use the litter box consistently. <For more information, please read my blog about litter box problems. Also link to schedule call.>
  • Aggression: Cat aggression can be perplexing for pet owners. By implementing strategies like providing a safe space, behavior modification, and consulting professionals, when necessary, you can help your cat overcome aggression and enjoy a happier, more peaceful life together. <For more information, please read my blog about the causes and solutions to cat aggression. Also link to schedule calls.>
  • Scratching Furniture: Cats scratch furniture and other surfaces for several reasons, and it’s a natural behavior for them. Understanding why cats scratch can help you address this behavior more effectively. For common reasons why cats scratch furniture and what you can do it about it, please read my blog <Why do cats scratch furniture?>.
  • Anxiety and Stress: Recognizing signs of anxiety and stress in cats and implementing stress-reduction techniques is important. For more information on helping your cat, read my blog <How do I know if my cat has anxiety?>

By addressing these common behavior issues, you can create a more comfortable and harmonious environment for both you and your cat.

Section 3: Cat Behavior Therapy: Practical Tips and Actionable Advice

Cat behavior therapy involves a systematic approach to identifying, understanding, and modifying your cat’s behavior to improve their overall well-being. In this section, we will provide practical tips and actionable advice for cat owners seeking to implement effective behavior therapy.

Image of a Playful White Kitten with Blue Eyes | the Cat Behavior Clinic | Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist
  • Positive Reinforcement: Explore the power of positive reinforcement in encouraging desired behaviors and discouraging unwanted ones. Positive reinforcement involves the use of rewards or positive stimuli to encourage and strengthen a desired behavior or response. The core idea behind positive reinforcement is that when a behavior is followed by a positive outcome or reward, the likelihood of that behavior being repeated or increased in frequency in the future is heightened.
  • Environmental Enrichment: Create a stimulating and enriching environment to prevent behavior problems. A living environment that stimulates a cat’s physical and mental abilities, encourages natural behaviors, and provides opportunities for exercise and mental engagement can prevent boredom, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. Here are some common strategies for environmental enrichment for cats: interactive toys; scratching posts; vertical space; hideaways; window views; and rotation of toys. It’s essential to tailor the enrichment activities to your cat’s individual preferences and needs. Some cats are more active, while others are more laid back, so it’s crucial to observe your cat’s behavior and adjust the enrichment accordingly. Environmental enrichment can help prevent behavioral issues and ensure a happy and mentally stimulated cat.
  • Training Techniques: Exploreclicker training or target training for cats. Clicker training is a positive reinforcement-based training technique that uses a small handheld device called a clicker, which makes a distinct clicking sound when pressed. The clicker is used to mark and communicate to the cat when it’s performed a desired behavior correctly. Target training for cats is also a form of positive reinforcement training that involves teaching a cat to touch a specific target with a part of its body, typically its nose or paw. The target can be an object like a stick with a small ball or a colored spot at the end, or it can simply be your hand. Target training is often used in cat training and enrichment to teach cats various behaviors or tricks.
  • Consulting a Professional: If in doubt about your cat’s behavior and feel your concerns need professional support, please see your veterinarian or a cat behaviorist such as myself. 

Cat behavior therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and it often requires patience and consistency.


In this blog, we’ve explored cat behavior therapy. Understanding feline behavior, addressing common problems, and implementing practical solutions are essential steps in fostering a positive relationship with your cat. Remember that every cat is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Patience and empathy are key when implementing behavior therapy. By investing time and effort in understanding and improving your cat’s behavior, you can create a stronger bond and a more fulfilling life for both you and your feline companion.

Cartoon Image of Mieshelle Nagelschneider | Cat Behaviorist