Frequently Asked Questions

House soiling (urinating and/or defecating)

There are many reasons why cats urinate inappropriately indoors. The first step to take is to discuss this with your vet. You will probably need to take your cat to see the vet so that a urine sample can be taken to rule out any urinary tract problems.

If your cat gets the all clear, then you need to do a little detective work! Have you changed the cat litter brand or type recently? If the answer is "yes" then return to your original brand as soon as possible! Has she had a bad experience that she may associate with the tray? If you think so, then provide another litter tray elsewhere (see below). Is the tray positioned in an area where she may feel vulnerable on occasions? If the answer is "yes" then the second tray may be the answer.

It's sometimes very difficult to work out why your cat's habits suddenly change like this. I would suggest that, as an experiment, you introduce a second litter tray. Ensure it is positioned well away from the original tray in an area that is secure and private. You also want to position it away from regular feeding areas and big windows. Fill it to a depth of 2-3cm with a fine sand-like litter and leave out any polythene liners or litter deodorants.

Clean the soiled area with Urine-Off Urine Stain and Odour Remover or a similar product that your vet may recommend to prevent her from returning there in response to the residual odour.

If this doesn't resolve the problem quickly then you will need to ask your vet for a referral to a cat behaviour counsellor.

Sorry but I think you may have to put up with a tray! Unfortunately we can't make all cats brave and going to the toilet in the garden, in the presence of other strange cats nearby, can be very daunting. Your little cat may have had a fright!

Position a large open tray well away from the cat flap (or your cats' normal entry and exit point) and I am sure she will use it. Check out where she is choosing to toilet at the moment; that should give you some idea of the sort of place where she feels safe.

The down side to this is that if you have more than one cat, all your cats may be excited about the introduction of an indoor toilet! You could first try digging a large area of soil in your garden (nice and near to the house), digging down approximately 18 inches. Line the bottom of the hole with gravel or hard core to provide drainage and fill the rest of the space with a 50/50 mix of peat and sandpit-quality sand. If this is near enough to the house and your cat feels safe it may be a sufficient measure to get him back on track!

Tin foil, pepper, pine cones and citrus peel or any other smelly or noisy objects may deter a cat from soiling in one specific location but this doesn't address the underlying cause of the problem and merely directs the soiling elsewhere. Some well-meaning people still recommend that you rub your cat's nose in any urine or faeces that he or she may have passed on the floor. PLEASE DON'T DO THIS! It will make your cat even unhappier, he or she will not have a clue why you did it and you may never be trusted again.

Firstly, are her faeces normal? Some cats will soil when they have a bowel problem so a check with the vet is required.

This may have resulted from a bad experience or negative association between defecating and that tray. The possible solution is to provide an additional tray elsewhere, with the fine sand-like substrate I love to talk about, and see if she starts to use this.

Clean the area where she has soiled with Urine-Off or similar urine stain and odour remover and hope that the second tray will tempt her back to more acceptable behaviour. This should represent a fairly instant fix so, if she isn't back to normal straight away, you would probably benefit from a referral from your vet to a pet behaviour counsellor.

It's important to establish whether your cat is urinating (squatting and passing urine on a horizontal surface) or spraying (passing a small amount of urine from a standing position to mark vertical surfaces). Spraying is a form of marking cats occasionally do indoors if they feel insecure or under threat. The arrival of your new baby may have caused an escalation in the behaviour as he has started to feel more vulnerable with all the changes to routine that a new baby represents.

Just to complicate matters, some cats will urinate inappropriately for a thousand different reasons; even stress can cause the problem. He may be suffering from a stress-related cystitis, often the only sign you will see is urinating in strange places.

This may have resulted from a bad experience or negative association between defecating and that tray. The possible solution is to provide an additional tray elsewhere, with the fine sand-like substrate I love to talk about, and see if she starts to use this.

Clean the area where she has soiled with Urine-Off or similar urine stain and odour remover and hope that the second tray will tempt her back to more acceptable behaviour. This should represent a fairly instant fix so, if she isn't back to normal straight away, you would probably benefit from a referral from your vet to a pet behaviour counsellor.

Here are the steps to take from here:

  • Contact your vet and get him checked out for cystitis or any other problems
  • Provide him with two litter trays in separate private locations, filled with a sand-like substrate
  • Some cats are nervous about using covered trays so remove the cover from one of the trays and see if he votes with his bottom!
  • Don't shout at him; this will just make him feel worse about life
  • Set a few minutes aside every day to play with him, groom him and generally have the sort of quality time together that you are missing now baby has arrived
  • Don't reassure his nervous behaviour, this will just reinforce it. Give him attention when he is being calm and relaxed and ignore him when he is cowering if there's nothing actually dangerous going on.

If you have an older cat you might also like to download our free guide 'Toilet Indiscretions in the Elderly Cat' available on the Feline FAQs page.


This sounds like territorial marking called 'spraying'. A cat will back up to a vertical surface and lift their tail. A small jet of urine will then be squirted onto the surface. This seems to act as a reassuring gesture for the sprayer and a signal to others to enable a number of cats to utilise the same territory without bumping into each other all the time. Cats can tell a great deal about the sprayer from urine, including how recently that cat was in the vicinity.

There are a number of reasons why this may have started. Cats mature socially between 18 months and 4 years of age and some get very sensitive about territory. Your cat may feel threatened by one or both of the other cats or a strange cat may have come into your house and made him feel unsafe.

You can use any proprietary urine odour remover to remove the smell, or make your own solution of one part biological washing powder to nine parts warm water. Wash the area thoroughly, rinse with water afterwards and then spray with surgical spirit to finally remove all traces of the substances that create the smell.

Ask your vet to make sure your cat is well with a thorough examination and then request a referral to a pet behaviour counsellor. These problems can be complicated and the sooner you tackle it, the better..

I would imagine that, without knowing further details, your cat is responding to something that is challenging her in her cat world. Is there a cat outside that is bothering her? Has a strange cat come inside the house?

You have a very close relationship but there will still be things that bother her outside her life with you. Please don't think this is symbolic of her displeasure with you; there are times when being extremely compliant is not in anyone's best interests but I doubt that this is the primary cause for her spraying.

I would suggest you put your mind at rest and contact your vet for a referral to a pet behaviour counsellor. Your vet will of course check first that she is well physically. When you see the behaviour counsellor you may want to ask about that nocturnal feeding too!

Cat Introductions

Probably the best solution for the cats would be to find a nice home for the newcomer. Cats form social groups and it's very difficult to introduce a new cat to an existing group without their being some friction. Sadly, some groups never work and it's always better for all the split them up.

There are techniques for gradual introductions but, if you have got to this stage and you don't want to give up just yet, you should consult a cat behaviour counsellor.

A little bit of extra effort at the beginning can make the difference between good and a bad cat relationships in the future. Your cat is not necessarily going to welcome the new kitten with open paws! Start by placing a kitten pen* in a room that your existing cat doesn't particularly favour but allow the kitten to exercise within the room when the other cat is not around. A couple of times a day, open the door to the room whilst the kitten is eating in his pen and place a bowl of tasty food as near to the pen as you can for your existing cat to eat comfortably. Once this has happened comfortably, reduce the distance between the two cats when they are feeding by small amounts daily. It would also be useful to exchange bedding between the two to allow them to become familiar with the other's scent. After a week start to place the kitten pen in other rooms of increasing importance so that your existing cat will understand that the kitten has rights of access to all areas. Allow several weeks before opening the pen and letting the cats get to know each other. Keep a cushion or pillow handy to place between them just in case things do not go according to plan.

*A kitten pen is a large metal cage with a solid floor that is normally used for kittening queens. It is big enough for a bed, toys, food, water and a litter tray. They are often available for hire from veterinary practices or you can purchase one from any good pet shop.

Confinement in a kitten pen can be quite distressing for an adult cat. I would recommend that the new cat is kept in a single room first rather than a cage. The existing cat should then be introduced gradually by scent, sight and touch in that order! Your cat's natural facial pheromones can be collected by stroking your cat around the head, cheeks and chin whilst wearing a pair of fine cotton gloves. Scent glands in these areas produce a pheromone that signals a positive message of security and familiarity. The gloves can then be scraped around the house at cat height against doorways and furniture. The new cat's scent can be collected and deposited in areas where the existing cat is housed and vice versa. Your cat should then be able to see the new cat before he is able to have physical contact. A wire frame to fit within the door surround can be useful for this purpose. Physical contact can then be established after a reasonable period of time and it may be useful to feed or play with both cats to distract them. It is often tempting to interfere in their initial cat interactions but, unless they risk injuring each other, it is usually best to let them sort it out in their own language.
Cat to Cat Aggression

Oh dear. Not all cats can cohabit with others when they grow up. The most likely compatible groups are members of the same family so you did the right thing getting siblings. Unfortunately some of these mature (the timing is right in this case) and, literally, find themselves unable to be in the same room just as you have described.

This is probably worth pursuing with a detailed behaviour consultation in your home, as some cats can fall out after a single 'unfortunate' incident that they need a little help to forget! Either way, I would suggest that you contact your vet to discuss a referral to a behaviour counsellor.

Wow, this is a little like commanding the tides of the sea to go back. King Canute will tell you how impossible that is - I think the same about Bengals!! They can be extraordinarily motivated creatures: very intelligent, strong and territorial. When you get highly competitive Bengals like yours I would always recommend they be kept as single cats. I know this sounds harsh but they can make the lives of other cats in the same household a misery.

Some Bengals respond to clicker training (a form of training using positive reinforcement - usually food treats) so that you can train them to do other things on command that conflict with terrorising the other cats. It's a tough job for you and very time consuming.

You would probably be better off discussing your particular case with a cat behaviour counsellor visiting your home.

Cat Vocalisation

This is often the first sign of a condition called hyperthyroidism. This refers to the development of a tumour on the thyroid gland causing an increase in metabolism and, ultimately, this can affect the heart. Other signs include increased appetite, weight loss, unkempt coat, intermittent diarrhoea and even the onset of aggressive behaviour. This condition, once diagnosed, is easily treated.

Night-time vocalisation can also be a symptom of the general ageing process, indicating many things, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Senility
  • Age-related insecurity
  • A trip to the vet and a thorough health check will help your cat feel more comfortable
Problems with neighbouring cats

Burmese have got a bit of a reputation for doing this sort of thing!

I would suggest you change your cat flap to an exclusive entry model. Systems such as Sureflap read your cat's microchip number to avoid having to put a big magnet key on his cat collar. This should deter all but the most determined. Unfortunately it's your responsibility to protect your house from invaders, even if your cats can't.

Night-time activity

We really do let these little angels run our lives!! You will not read in any manual advice that says "you must always acknowledge and give in to your cat's demands, irrespective of the time, day or night". You are perfectly entitled to sleep and the only reason your cat is waking you is because he knows you will entertain him. Cats are often more active at dawn and dusk (and even in the middle of the night) and if you set a precedent of being there for him when he wants attention, he will demand it more and more.

I would be brave; shut your cat out at night and wear earplugs to help you ignore his demands. Perseverance at this stage will mean he will, eventually, give up.

Vicky recommends the small sized heated pet bed with leopard print design and the medium sized heated pet bed with leopard print design

Holiday time - cattery vs. home care

This depends on the nature of your cat. If he is an independent cat that spends a great deal of time patrolling his territory and generally using the house as a hotel then it would be perfectly acceptable to ask a friend or neighbour to look after him in your absence. Professional cat-sitters can also be employed but it's important to take references and use a company that has been personally recommended. If your cat is your baby and he follows you everywhere and prefers to go outside only when you are there you may have a problem. These cats often get a sense of being "home alone" when you are away and this may be very distressing. Under these circumstances I would suggest a reputable local cattery, preferably one that is recommended by International Cat Care (formerly the Feline Advisory Bureau). Visit the cattery beforehand and have a look at the facilities. The units should be secure and clean and the resident cats should appear lively and inquisitive. It is always a good idea to get your cat used to cattery visits from a young age.

Suitable sleeping spots

There are a number of cat diseases and parasites that can transfer to humans. If you worm your cat regularly and apply monthly flea control treatment to his fur then you should remain perfectly healthy. However I doubt whether you will get a good night's sleep because your cat will take up more of the bed than you do and get you up at 4am for a game!

Unfortunately we know it's a cat bed but she doesn't! Your cat has very specific ideas about what constitutes a comfy bed and it is probably your duvet - after all if it's good enough for you...... We tend to place cat beds on the floor and this may not be the location where your cat feels safe. Cat beds can be placed on higher surfaces or located in private areas behind the sofa, inside the wardrobe or under the bed. Then it's important not to draw your cat's attention to it because cats prefer to find safe resting areas themselves. Re-locate your cat bed and place a little catnip or dry food treat inside. Alternatively invest in a radiator hammock for the winter; these make warm beds in the cold weather and many cats find them irresistible.

Vicky recommends Radiator Cat Bed and SAFE 12 V Petnap Electric Cat Dog heat pad mat

Cat flaps - the pros and cons

Cat flaps are rather a mixed blessing! They certainly provide access to outdoors when owners are out at work but they also represent an "open house" to all the other cats in the neighbourhood. A cat's home represents its den and invasion by strange cats is extremely distressing for most cats. If you live in an area with many cats within the territory it may be advisable to think twice before fitting a catflap or invest in an exclusive entry microchip catflap. If you do fit one it's important to make sure that it gives access to an area outside where your cat is not easily ambushed. Narrow side passages can be a problem if next-door's cat is waiting to pounce!

Vicky recommends Sureflap Microchip Cat Flap

PICA (eating inedible objects)

Yes, it is the same sort of problem but much more likely to cause a house fire than wool eating!

Some cats, particularly pedigrees such as Siamese and Burmese, can develop a habit of eating inedible things (referred to as PICA) such as wool, plastic, rubber etc. This is a dangerous habit as chewing cables could electrocute your cat or cause a fire and the consumption of other indigestible material can cause a blockage in the intestines that requires emergency surgery.

This is definitely a job for a cat behaviour counsellor. In the meantime cover all your cables with hard sheaths (recommended for households with indoor rabbits!) and any other cables that cannot be protected in this way should be kept in enclosed cabinets out of reach.

She may grow out of it but I wouldn't take the risk.

Vicky recommends (under supervision) CritterCord citrus cord

Feeding feral and stray cats


Sorry to shout but this could be a recipe for disaster. I think it's a lovely idea for him to have a good home but I'm not convinced it's yours. You have five cats already that, I presume, all get on well. This little cat may look all sweet and lonely but once he trusts you and gains strength he may attempt to take over the house and drive your other cats away, particularly if he is as you suspect a feral tom cat.

Speak to your local Cats Protection shelter and they may be able to offer you a humane trap (baited with food) where you can catch him for general health care and neutering. If he is unsuitable for re-homing as he is too wild then they will probably return him to your area. He will, however, be suspicious of your involvement in his capture and probably move on. Do make sure however that he isn't an owned cat before you take matters into your own hands.

It's always worth remembering that feral tomcats can carry dangerous viral diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and could potentially transmit it to one of your cats through fighting.

Encouraging your cat to drink

Most owners tend to place a bowl of water beside the food in the kitchen presuming that cats like to have a drink with their meal. This is a human preference rather than a feline one! If cats are hungry in the wild they will hunt for prey. If they are thirsty they will search for water. They will never find them in the same place. It is extremely important that cats drink water to promote a healthy urinary system. You can encourage your cat to drink by placing short plastic tumblers on tables around the house or providing an indoor water feature. Cats love to drink from dripping taps and sources of moving water.

Vicky recommends: Cat Mate Fresh Water Drinking Fountain and Dog bowl with paw prints

Moving home with your cat

There are no rules about this, it depends on the individual. If you have moved some distance away from your previous home and your cat used to spend most of his time outside he will probably be desperate to explore within the first forty-eight hours. In this case you could try and allow him outside just before a mealtime to ensure he will soon be hungry and return home. If you are near your previous home it is quite common for cats to return and get very confused so it would be advisable to keep him in a little longer. If your cat is nervous then he should dictate when he wants to explore outside. His first excursion should be supervised until he feels relaxed. His new garden will probably be another cat's territory so he may find it hard to establish his own patch. You can help by chasing away other cats from the garden. Always make sure you provide a private litter tray for your cat during any enforced confinement indoors.

Taking your cat to the vet

The best way to tackle this problem is to plan ahead. The cat basket, often a trigger for a disappearing act, should be left out at all times. It should contain a warm and cozy bed and the occasional dry food treat to encourage use. Instead of a portent of doom, the basket then becomes a friendly little resting place to curl up in after a hard day. When the day comes to visit the vet it is important not to get distressed yourself. You may think you look normal as you approach your cat to attempt his capture but you probably look very threatening. Try and relax. Spraying Feliway (synthetic facial pheromone spray) in the basket half an hour before you make the journey will be comforting for your cat. If he or she cries during the trip it is best to ignore the cacophony. If you spend the whole journey reassuring your cat he or she will definitely get the impression that there is danger ahead!

Vicky recommends: Feliway Spray 60ml and Options Deluxe Open Top Plastic Carrier

Why are high places important?

Cats have evolved to climb and use high perches as safe places to survey their territory. It's perfectly natural to climb and if cats are not provided with suitable places indoors they will find unsuitable ones!

I would suggest you keep your breakable ornaments in glass cabinets and consider providing a tall cat scratching post with high platforms where he can sit and watch the world.

Vicky recommends: FoxHunter Deluxe Multi Level Cat Scratcher and Trixie Francesco scratching post

Scratching furniture

Cats need to scratch to maintain their claws and mark their territory. They tend to prefer a textured resistant surface so furniture is often very attractive. You should provide your cat with a commercially available cat scratching post that is constructed of sisal twine and heavy-duty carpet. Place it adjacent to the site where your cat is currently scratching. Do not try and place your cat on the post because this will probably result in avoidance in the future. Play instead with a piece of string around the base to encourage your cat to claw at the post; this will often be sufficient to attract further approaches. Cover the area of furniture that has been scratched with a low tack double-sided adhesive tape. The stickiness will be unpleasant for your cat if he or she returns to the area and therefore discourage further use.

Vicky recommends: FoxHunter Deluxe Multi Level Cat Scratcher and Trixie Francesco scratching post, Kerbl Lounge Cat Scratching Post, Ancol Acticat Fat Boy Scratch Post, Catit Scratching Board and Classic Sisal Scratch Mat

Wandering Cats

Some cats are more 'natural' than others and to go on hunting trips for prolonged periods is not unusual. Admittedly neutered cats tend to roam less but the density of the cat population in the area and the character of your cat will dictate how far he roams and for what period.

Sometimes this is in response to other cats in the household (or even a particularly unpleasant one next-door) and the cat is question is attempting to locate new and safer territory.

I would ensure he is microchipped and be glad that he only goes away for a couple of days. If the problem gets worse and he leaves for longer periods or you have to physically seek him out to get him back it is possible he may be establishing himself as a resident in another person's home.


Over-grooming is a fairly common problem and it can cause fur loss and skin damage to the affected areas. Most cases have a dermatological cause for this, the most common being an allergy to flea saliva. I would suggest you return to your vet for further investigation; you may need a referral to a dermatologist. Some over-grooming cases have a stress component attached to them so it's possible that your vet may refer you to a cat behaviour counsellor to establish further details regarding your cat's lifestyle and relationship to the other cat in the household.

Cat to Human Aggression

Your kitten may have learnt to play rough at some time in her past. Every time you try to pick her up or stroke her she things you are up for a fighting game. It could also be that her early experiences didn't include the right quality of contact with humans so she doesn't really understand the benefits of cuddles.

I would suggest you concentrate on play that involves inanimate objects rather than your body parts! Only approach her for stroking and picking up when she is tired and finished with play; try not to put your hand out and come towards her from the front - this can look threatening. Keep the contact brief to start with, to get her used to this sort of interaction. You can even end with a positive treat like her favourite food.

If you accustom her to the delights of this sort of contact at this age she may well reward you and become more affectionate later in life!

Cats have many different motivations for aggression so it's very difficult to be accurate in 'diagnosing' your cat's behaviour without coming to visit. Giving advice on cat aggression cases can be tricky as you and your family (and other people who come into contact with him) are potentially in danger if you are given the wrong advice.

With that in mind I would suggest an immediate call to your vet for a check up and a referral to a cat behaviour counsellor. Never underestimate the damage that a small cat can do.

In the meantime, to keep you safe:

  • Wear protective clothing
  • Shut your cat out of your bedroom at night
  • Do not make eye, verbal or physical contact with your cat
  • Try not to approach or pass your cat in narrow passageways or on the stairs

This is a common problem that is referred to as the "petting and biting syndrome". Many cats enjoy the sensation of being stroked since it is like being groomed by their mothers when they were tiny kittens. However the adult cat has a strong instinctive survival mechanism and they can feel vulnerable to attack if they allow themselves to become too relaxed and comfortable. They develop a sense of conflict between pleasure and potential danger and this can result in a sudden aggressive cat gesture to "escape" from the situation. Cats can often be seen running away a few steps and then stopping to groom their paw quickly as if they are rather embarrassed by the incident! Some cats will tolerate more stroking than others and this can be influenced by their experiences with humans when they were young kittens. Any cat that displays this behaviour will provide strong signals beforehand to give you plenty of warning. For example, he or she will stop purring, visibly stiffen and start to thrash the tail from side to side. If you stop stroking at the first sign you will not get bitten.

Should I get another cat?

I always say that cats would probably prefer another human to play with rather than another cat! Is she hasn't been brought up with another cat it may be difficult for her to accept a stranger; why would she want to share you?

You will probably find she sleeps most of the time when you are not there anyway. I would suggest that you and your husband concentrate on spending quality time with her when you are home. You can set aside time to play with her, groom her and stroke her.

You should also make sure that she has plenty to occupy herself when you aren't there, for those moments when she isn't asleep. You should read Cat Confidential and the section on indoor cats for a few tips.

Your cat is probably grieving for the loss of a familiar companion and this often subsides with time as she adjusts to having the house to herself. Cats don't need the company of other cats as much as we think and you may find that she settles down after a while. Bear in mind that she is missing the cat that has died and bringing in another will not replace him. If you do decide to introduce another cat then I would suggest you try a kitten. Avoid any that are particularly bold or nervous since any extremes of personality can be difficult in multi-cat households.