Q: My grandmother and I got my cat, Remus, in September. In the last few months he has been causing major problems by tearing up our toilet paper. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can break him of this bad habit?
Dr. Nichol: Toilet paper???!!! Remus is a naughty cat. Have you tried scolding or spanking? I hope not. Punishment would damage your friendship with him and it wouldn’t change his behavior anyway. Remus is a normal cat (I was joking about him being naughty) whose claws must be maintained and put to use.
Kitties make excellent companions but they have behavioral requirements beyond snuggling and batting catnip toys around the house. Beneath Remus’s fuzzy exterior beats the heart of a ruthless predator. He has adapted to life with humans, but he is still a wild animal with an essential need to stalk, hunt, maim, kill and consume helpless rodents. A toilet paper roll moves when he whacks it. He’s doing the best he can in a home without frolicking and cavorting mice.
Remus’s claws and the specialized nerve receptors in his paws desperately need to be stimulated, so he has substituted your pristine toilet paper for a tree trunk. You’re lucky; some indoor cats shred books, leather furniture and expensive clothing.
Set Remus up for success. Keep the bathroom door closed and park a fireplace log on the floor in each of a couple of rooms. A floor-to-ceiling cat tree with platforms or, even better, hide boxes can be located against a window. The posts supporting these structures should be wrapped with sisal rope, made more attractive with a pheromone-based product called Feliscratch. With the greatest scratching surface this side of the great outdoors Remus can rip and pull and sharpen his claws to his heart’s content. What a beast he’ll be!
You really want to make the inside of your house a wonderland of healthy feline amusements. Check out the list of Feline Environmental Enrichments on my website, drjeffnichol.com. Remus will satisfy his feline proclivities while you and your grandmother enjoy toilet paper that’s in good condition and ready when you need it.
Dr. Jeff Nichol, a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist, provides consultations in-person and by telephone and Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.