Category Archives: Cat Behavior

How Does Catnip Affect Cat Behavior?

Does your cat go bonkers on catnip…or not? Read on…

Catnip comes in varying strengths, and different cats have different reactions to it; here are the positive and negative aspects of this herb.

Nepetalactone. You might not be familiar with the word, but you’re familiar with the effects it has on cats. It’s an oil found in the leaves, blossoms, and stems of catnip. Its scent causes felines to deliriously roll around and to sometimes exhibit erratic behaviors. Kitties who ingest it often become calm and appear sedated. Not all cats respond to the herb; many couldn’t care less about it.

Catnip can be a good thing, and it’s not addicting — felines enjoy the effects and it can modify behaviors. Although there are many perks to catnip, there are also downsides.

Catnip doesn’t inspire all cats

Not all cats are affected by catnip. Genetics dictate which felines act goofy when exposed to it. It’s estimated that around one-third of them are apathetic about the herb. These kitties aren’t genetically predisposed to party with catnip. Age is also a factor. Kittens have no reaction to it until they are between three months and six months of age. Typically, elderly cats aren’t inspired very much by the plant either.

There are different qualities of catnip

A couple of pinches of good quality catnip can be enough to cause intoxication. Fresh, high quality leaves and blossoms elicit the strongest response. Catnip that’s old loses its potency — cats ignore it or take a whiff and walk away.

How catnip works

When cats ingest, roll on, or rub catnip leaves, blossoms or stems with their heads or cheeks, the herb is bruised and nepetalactone is released. Inhaling the oil is stimulating and euphoric — cats often act goofy when high on catnip. Typical behaviors include sniffing, chewing, drooling, head shaking, head and cheek rubbing, rolling, and self-licking. One theory states that smelling the oil elicits reactions similar to those of queens in heat.

Chewing and ingesting catnip has the opposite effect — felines become sedated and calm.

The effects don’t last long: on average, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cats don’t react when repeatedly exposed to the herb. It usually takes one to two hours to reset the response. If exposed to the plant too often, kitties become immune and won’t react at all. Ideally, they shouldn’t be allowed to party with it more than one or two times a week.

Virtues of catnip

In addition to cats enjoying the herb, it has other benefits, including:

  • It’s enriching and entertaining — it helps keep cats from becoming bored.
  • Catnip inspires obese and sedentary cats to move, exercise, and burn calories.
  • Old toys that have been rejected by cats become novel again after they are rubbed with the herb or immersed in it for a few days.
  • It’s a mood booster. Catnip can help cats through depression by focusing them on activities and encouraging them to interact with their environment.
  • Chewing catnip can temporarily calm and relax kitties.
  • Fearful and shy cats may act braver and become a bit more willing to socialize with people when under the influence of the plant.
  • A couple of pinches of fresh catnip can also be used to encourage cats to hang out in specific areas and scratch posts and horizontal scratchers instead of sofas and carpets.

The dark side of catnip

Catnip has a potential downside. Some kitties become overstimulated and aggressive when partying with the herb — this is especially problematic in multi-cat homes where relationships are less than stellar. These little ones need to be separated from each other and monitored during their first few encounters with the herb. If they’re overly rambunctious, they should party alone. Because the effect is short-lived, these cats can be reunited with their friends after about 30 minutes.

Other residents aren’t exempt. Cats who are high on catnip can become uninhibited and often will play rough, sometimes biting and scratching their favorite people.

The benefits of catnip far outweigh the negatives. It’s stimulating, fun, enriching, and can change cats’ behavior. At the same time it is safe for cats and doesn’t have harmful side effects.

Marilyn Krieger

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny
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Why Does My Cat Keep Meowing?


A. Cat parents often wish they could better understand what their favorite feline friends want or desire. A cat’s meow can be interpreted in many different ways and can indicate an array of feelings and needs. Here are some of the most common reasons for your cat’s vocalizations:
1. Greeting- Many cats will meow as a greeting when you enter your home or walk into a room. Cats will also meow at another cat or animal in the household to extend a hello and acknowledge the other animal’s presence.
2. Attention – An exuberant meow followed by leg rubbing or another attention seeking behavior may indicate your cat is looking for some quality time spent together. Some petting or rubbing behind the ears may be in order.
3. Hunger – A meowing cat is often a hungry cat. This is one of the most common reasons for a cat to vocalize to their owners. A cat will meow to get your attention at feeding times or even when they want extra food.
4. Sickness – A sick or hurt cat may begin to meow excessively, warranting a visit to the veterinarian. There are numerous reasons for a cat in distress to meow—whether it is related to an upset stomach, an injured leg or a urinary blockage. These meows should be carefully investigated.
5. Entering or leaving – Most cats will vocalize when they want to be let in or out of a room. You may notice when you are in the bathroom or behind the closed door of a room that your cat begins to meow, scratches at the door, and often reaches its paw under the door. This is a clear indication that the cat wants to be where you are.
6. Angry – An agitated cat may meow to warn their owner or another household pet that they are upset and would like to be left alone. This angry meow may increase in sound volume as the cat becomes more stressed or agitated. Often a cat will exhibit this type of meow at the veterinary office when they are unhappy with their examination or restraint.
Each feline is different and so are their vocalizations. Learn to understand the variety of meows your cat uses on a daily basis. This will help you develop a better relationship with your cat and help them live a more trusting and happier life.


Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
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Cat Licking Means Your Cat Loves You


This article is not about safety, but about a fun topic:  our kitties licking us.  I have an Abyssianian and Isabel is always licking me.  Yeah, her tongue is a bit grainey, but I still love it.

This is from Jane A Kelley, Catster

Today’s weird science question comes from Kendraw:

“My cat is obsessed with licking me. She will tolerate pets, but what she really wants to do when she needs attention is to lick me anywhere she can get skin. She won’t lick my face, thank goodness, but my arm, elbow, and hand are fair game! She will literally hold me down in her paws and clean me. And it’s not just a few licks; she gets quite thorough about it. I’ve tried bitter spray. No luck. I know it’s a sign of affection, but is there any way I can gently get her to stop?”

Love You,” (CC-BY-SA) by Doryana02

Well, Kendraw, you’ve got a question and I’ve got some answers. First I’ll talk about why cats lick, and then I’ll give you some tips on how to persuade your cat that there are much more awesome options than grooming you until your skin is raw.

1. Licking is a means of social bonding

Kittens groom each other, and older cats who aren’t related but get along well also spend time grooming one another. Often they’ll get the spots that are hard for a cat to reach by themselves, such as the top of the head and inside the ears. Exchanging scents through grooming also increases the bond between a pair of cats. (One Catster writer documented her attempt atlicking her cat back.)

My cats, Thomas and Dahlia, loved to groom each other.

2. When your cat licks you, she’s paying you a huge compliment

A tongue bath from your cat is an indication that she feels totally safe in your presence. You are truly a member of her family, and she reinforces that by cleaning you like her mother cleaned her when she was a kitten.

3. Your cat’s tongue is covered with barbs

Your kitty’s tongue feels like sandpaper because it’s covered with papillae — backward-facing hooks made of keratin, the same material that makes your kitty’s claws. The papillae help cats rasp meat off bones, and they also assist in grooming by acting like a comb to pull out loose fur and dirt.

Cat tongue, (CC-BY) by Jennifer Leigh

4. Your cat might be licking you because of anxiety

Some cats get so stressed that they begin licking compulsively. (One mysterious condition is called feline hyperesthesia.) Cats who lick themselves bald are often trying to comfort themselves because they’re stressed. Other compulsive kitties might lick and suck on fabric,plastic, or even your skin.

5. To stop your cat from licking you, distract her

Learn the signs that your cat is about to start licking. Before she starts washing your arm raw, redirect her attention with a toy. If your cat likes catnip, slip a catnip-filled kicker toy in front of her when she’s about to lick you. If she’s not a catnip fan, try a treat-dispensing toy instead.

Playing kitten, (CC-BY-SA) by Stephan Czuratis

6. De-stress your cat with interactive play

Play is always good. It keeps your cat fit and trim, and it strengthens the bond between you. Not only that, but the chemicals released during exercise help your cat to relax and feel content.

7. Be patient

It’s not easy to retrain a cat who has gotten used to performing a habitual behavior such as licking. Remember to stay gentle and avoid yelling or intense physical reactions like shoving your cat, tossing her off your lap, or (heaven forbid) hitting her.

Sure, cats lick us all they want, but do they dig it when we try to lick them? Uh, not so much.

Have you been able to rehabilitate a compulsive licker? Please tell us in the comments how you did it. And, as always, if you have any other weird science questions, ask me by leaving a comment!

by JaneA Kelley

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
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How and Why is Cat Purring?


Source: Library of Congress

No one knows for sure why a domestic cat purrs, but many people interpret the sound as one of contentment. Our understanding of how a domestic cat purrs is becoming more complete; most scientists agree that the larynx (voice box), laryngeal muscles, and a neural oscillator are involved.

Kittens learn how to purr when they are a couple of days old. Veterinarians suggest that this purring tells ‘Mom’ that “I am okay” and that “I am here.” It also indicates a bonding mechanism between kitten and mother.

As the kitten grows into adulthood, purring continues. Many suggest a cat purrs from contentment and pleasure. But a cat also purrs when it is injured and in pain. Dr. Elizabeth Von Muggenthaler has suggested that the purr, with its low frequency vibrations, is a “natural healing mechanism.” Purring may be linked to the strengthening and repairing of bones, relief of pain, and wound healing

This is a link to that paper:

Purring is a unique vocal feature in the domestic cat. However, other species in the Felidae family also purr: Bobcat, Cheetah, Eurasian Lynx, Puma, and Wild Cat (Complete list in Peters, 2002). Although some big cats like lions exhibit a purr-like sound, studies show that the Patherinae subfamily: Lion, Leopard, Jaguar, Tiger, Snow Leopard, and Clouded Leopard do not exhibit true purring (Peters, 2002).”

What makes the purr distinctive from other cat vocalizations is that it is produced during the entire respiratory cycle (inhaling and exhaling). Other vocalizations such as the “meow” are limited to the expiration of the breath.

It was once thought that the purr was produced from blood surging through the inferior vena cava, but as research continues it seems that the intrinsic (internal) laryngeal muscles are the likely source for the purr. Moreover, there is an absence of purring in a cat with laryngeal paralysis. The laryngeal muscles are responsible for the opening and closing of the glottis (space between the vocal chords), which results in a separation of the vocal chords, and thus the purr sound. Studies have shown, that the movement of the laryngeal muscles is signaled from a unique “neural oscillator” (Frazer-Sisson, Rice, and Peters, 1991 & Remmers and Gautier, 1972) in the cat’s brain.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
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Ask a Vet: Why is Cat Peeing Outside Litter Box?

Two feline veterinary groups issue a report on diagnosis and treatment of “house soiling,” and they’re backed by common sense.

Cats certainly are soft, cuddly, loveable creatures. They provide joy and companionship for millions of people. They make wonderful family pets, and cat ownership offers many psychological and health benefits for people.

Sadly, there there is nothing that can destroy the relationship between a cat and its owner more rapidly and thoroughly than house soiling — peeing outside the litter box and on things such as carpets, beds, and other furniture.

I have been a veterinarian for more 14 years. I have been writing about cats on the Internet for nearly a decade. During my career I have interacted with tens of thousands of cat owners online and in person. A very significant number of them have had the same question — a question that I have been asked countless times on Catster and in practice. It boils down to this:

“Why do cats pee outside of the box?”

I understand the question. Cat urine is very special, and not in a good way. Its odor is unique, and house soiling can destroy a home — and the bond between cat and owner — in very short order.

Photo of Dr. Eric Barchas by Liz Acosta

I have written about house soiling before, and I have several pages on my website dedicated to the urinary foibles of cats (here, here, here, and here for starters). But the subject is ever poignant, and information about it is always in demand. I therefore am always on the lookout for the most up-to-date recommendations on the subject.

Enter the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the International Society of Feline Medicine. The two groups recently released the 2014 AAFP and ISFM Guidelines for Diagnosing and Solving House-Soiling Behavior in Cats. From the overview of the guidelines:

The AAFP/ISFM Guidelines for Diagnosing and Solving House-Soiling Behavior in Cats contain scientifically documented information when available and provide practical insight that reflects the accumulated clinical experiences of the authors. The document emphasizes that this unwanted behavior is not due to spite or anger toward the owner, but because the cat’s physical, social, or medical needs are not being met.

The guidelines themselves, predictably because they were created by not one but two major academically inclined organizations, are 21 pages long and replete with political correctness. (Here’s a quote: “The guidelines replace the term ‘inappropriate urination’ with the term ‘house soiling’ because ‘house soiling’ implies no misconduct by the cat.”) What follows is a summary of the guidelines.


The authors report four main causes of feline house soiling. The first consists of medical problems such as bladder infections, bladder stones, urinary incontinence, bladder tumors, and conditions that cause increased thirst and urine production. Furthermore, any sick cat may begin to soil the house even if the primary problem is not related to the urinary tract.

Feline Idiopathic Cystitis or FIC (formerly known as FLUTD and FUS) is the second cause. Although many consider it to be a medical problem, it is sufficiently common and serious to warrant its own category.

Marking behavior is another common cause of cats peeing outside the box. The final cause is listed as “elimination related to primary environmental or social factors” such as “overcrowding, social competition, and adverse human interventions.” Adverse human interventions are those that cause cats to develop an aversion to the litter box — examples include placing the box near noisy appliances, medicating cats in the box, or ambushing cats while they are using the box.

The authors go on to describe ways to address the problem of cats peeing where they shouldn’t. Vets should manage medical problems if applicable, not assuming that house soiling is a behavioral problem; diagnostic tests should be run on cats that exhibit the behavior.

Once a behavioral cause for the behavior (or behavioral contribution to the behavior) has been identified, the authors recommend two steps: litter box optimization, and fulfillment of the five pillars of a healthy feline environment.

Litter box optimization involves use of the appropriate number (the rule of thumb is that the number of litter boxes should equal the number of cats plus one) and types of boxes. They should be placed in appropriate locations away from food and water. Litter boxes should not be placed close to each other, and they should be distributed in such a way that cats feel safe and are unlikely to suffer ambushes from other cats or people while using them. Bigger boxes are generally better than small ones. Some cats prefer covered boxes, and others prefer open ones. Cats prefer clean boxes. Cats vary in their preferences for different types of litter.

When you think about it, much about litter box optimization is common sense. If the only bathroom available to me were small, filthy, not private, and prone to having strangers kick open the door, I would dread using it. The goal is to make the litter box experience pleasant for cats.

I must confess that I had not previously heard of the five pillars of a healthy feline environment. Upon investigation, it turns out that they were released by (surprise!) the AAFP and ISFM in 2013. After reading them, I agree that they make sense.

The five pillars are:

  • Provide a safe place.
  • Provide multiple and separated key environmental resources (such as food, water, bedding, litter boxes, and scratching areas).
  • Provide opportunity for normal play and predation behaviors.
  • Provide positive and consistent human-feline interactions.
  • Respect the importance of a cat’s sense of smell.

The authors emphasize that house soiling is uncommon for healthy cats that have their social, environmental, and emotional needs met. Meeting those needs is the first step in eliminating house soiling.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
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Cat Behavior Problems?


Does My Cat Have a Behavior Issue or Something More?

While most cat owners are tuned in to the little details and quirks of their cat’s personality — like their ability to open a door or proclivity for attacking feet at night — it can be difficult to determine when behaviors that seem unusual are signs of a deeper health concern. Here’s a look at some of the ways cats hide their pain, common conditions they suffer from, and how to get your cat the care he needs.

How Cats Hide Discomfort

“Whether or not cats hide their pain all depends on the problem,” says Susan O’Bell, DVM at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, Mass. One common problem that brings cats to the veterinarian or emergency room is signs of a lower urinary tract infection that have gone undiagnosed.

“Cats with this affliction can be impacted in a variety of ways, from mild discomfort to a life threatening inability to pass urine,” Dr. O’Bell says. “This manifests from a few unnoticed extra trips to the litter box, some mild malaise for a day or two or the ever-frustrating urination occurring outside of the litter box.”

More obvious signs of a urinary tract infection include licking at the genital area, vomiting or extreme lethargy. It is possible, however, to see no outward signs of pain or illness in cats until they’ve begun losing weight or have a decreased appetite — something that’s difficult to monitor if you have multiple cats or if your cat doesn’t eat voraciously when healthy.

“I suspect the will to hide weakness originates from their ‘big cat’ ancestors, who would have been last to eat, find a mate, or be left behind if unable to keep up with their pride,” Dr. O’Bell says. “One of my own cats ended up being diagnosed with a seriousgastrointestinal ailment having had no initial outward symptoms.”

“In addition to a decreased appetite and inappropriate elimination (of both urine and feces), cats may hide symptoms of an illness with clingy behavior or hiding, increased vocalization, aggression, vomiting and a change in their attitude or demeanor,” Dr. O’Bell says. Whether one, all or a combination of these behaviors is prevalent, your veterinarian will need a thorough history of your cat’s personality and normal behavior, medical records and additional diagnostics like lab work to get a better idea of the problem.

Common Cat Ailments

According to Dr. O’Bell, changes in weight and signs of periodontal disease are the top two health concerns to recognize and look out for when it comes to cats. Brushing your cat’s teeth or even taking a peek in their mouth on a weekly basis will help you spot signs of infection or areas of concern before they become life-threatening. “Unfortunately, obesity has become an epidemic among domestic cats because many owners don’t recognize their cat’s weight being a health concern,” Dr. O’Bell says. Obesity poses a risk for diabetes in your cat, and puts strain on their joints, liver and kidneys. Conversely, drastic weight loss is something to lookout for and will prompt your veterinarian to screen your cat for health concerns with blood work, a biochemistry panel and a urine test.

Additional under-recognized health concerns include arthritis andhyperthyroidism. While it’s easier to recognize arthritis or orthopedic abnormalities in dogs, cats may hide signs of discomfort. If your cat hesitates before making a jump or their coat has lost some of its luster, it may be because they are having difficulty moving or grooming themselves. Cats with arthritis may also eliminate outside of the litter box because they’re unable to jump inside of it.

“Hyperthyroidism is often diagnosed in advanced stages because early symptoms may seem like signs of good health like a good appetite, high energy and slight weight loss,” Dr, O’Bell says. “Kidney disease in cats is also common, and its presence may be masked by hyperthyroidism.”

“Many cats can compensate for their chronic kidney disease by simply increasing their water intake to keep themselves hydrated,” Dr. O’Bell adds. “This could go on for months or even years, and may only have overtly detected symptoms when the disease is already quite advanced.”

How to Help Your Cat Cope

As with most health conditions, early detection is key to achieving better outcomes with your cat. Diagnosing kidney disease in cats early and making the appropriate changes in their diet with specialized food can help manage their condition and lead to a longer survival rate. Understanding your cat’s kidney disease will also help you to recognize signs of dehydration, a common complication, earlier on that if the disease was left undiagnosed.

By either hiding their symptoms completely or refusing medicine, cats are particularly difficult patients to treat. “Fortunately,” says Dr. O’Bell, “there are a variety of diagnostic aids and advanced treatments available to cats that can help their owners keep them healthy.”

Ask your veterinarian about the different forms of medication available to you (liquid, tablet, gel, injection) and find the best fit for your cat. You’ll also want to ask about the different types of food available to help your cat manage their condition, and experiment with different brands until you find one that they like. Changes in helping your cat cope may be quick and easy or take a bit more time, but with patience, you’ll be able to find something that works.

“For some cats, simply the addition of a second litter box is enough to please them,” Dr. O’Bell says. “For others, a short or long-term prescription of mood-stabilizing drugs can be life saving.”

Preventive care that includes annual visits to your veterinarian, feeding your cat a nutritionally balanced diet to maintain their weight, maintaining an easily accessible and clean litter box and providing your cat multiple sources of fresh water are also essential in keeping your cat healthy and will help curb any major behavioral or medical issues.

 By Jessica Remitz

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
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Dog Chasing Cat? How to Stop Dog From Chasing Cat

I have a German Shepherd Dog puppy and two Abyssinian cats.  This article was of particular interest to me.  When I had Logan, my dear GSD who crossed over the Rainbow Bridge April, 2013, I got Isabel [my Abby cat] at 3 months old.  She thought Logan was her Dad. And Logan had been raised with cats since puppyhood.   So, they got along marvelously.  Diana Davidson

Q. Any time my cat makes a sudden move, my dog chases her. The dog thinks he’s playing, but the cat doesn’t like being chased. How can I put a stop to this?

A. Dogs and cats can get along fabulously — until the cat bolts and the dog takes up the chase. Even though most dogs will not follow through and injure the cat, the scenario can cause some serious emotional stress for the cat. To maintain safety and sanity in your home, there are a few important training steps to take to end this behavior.

I spoke with Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, Veterinarian and Applied Animal Behaviorist, about ways to create a chase-free home. “It’s important to teach a dog impulse control, or the ability to think before they act,” says Dr. Yin. “You teach them they can get what they want, but they have to go to you first.” She recommends starting with impulse control exercises.

“Start by teaching the dog to automatically sit for something they want,” Dr. Yin suggests. “Reinforce the sit position by asking the dog to sit and doling out food rewards for remaining in a sit.”

Teach Your Dog to Resist the Chase

Once your dog has mastered the sit, Dr. Yin suggests that you teach him to resist chasing the cat by mimicking her movements. “You’ll start by standing stationary, then suddenly moving backward in a straight line fast enough for your dog to trot quickly after you,” she says. “Then you’ll suddenly stop and reward your dog when he automatically sits in front of you. Moving back and away from the dog lets the canine understand the required behavior is to follow, and it makes the scenario interesting and fun for the dog.” This is high-energy work; in order for the training to be successful, it’s essential that you be as exciting and engaging as the running cat.

“Begin by rewarding the dog for sitting automatically. Treat for the initial sit and then randomly treat one or two more times while the dog is still sitting and looking at you before swiftly moving off in another direction — either backward or to the side.” Your dog should follow you as you move away; as soon as you stop, he should sit. Immediately reward the sit with a treat. “The game becomes ‘follow me, then hurry up and sit,’” says Dr. Yin. “It’s like a game of red light, green light.”

Add the Cat to the Training

“Once the dog understands the game and thinks focusing on you is fun,” says Dr. Yin, “the distraction of a cat can be added.” She recommends starting with the cat close enough to be noticed, but far enough away that the dog remains engaged with you. Dr. Yin says to keep in mind, too, that a cat who is playing will be much more distracting than a cat who is lying still.

She also warns that you will need to keep moving quickly to hold your dog’s attention. “Avoid being slow and predictable or the dog will start to divide attention between the cat and you,” says Dr. Yin.

Dr. Yin recommends that owners also teach “leave it” and a down stay with the cat as the distraction. Leave it should only be added to your dog’s training after he is able to stay focused on you with the cat around. “Otherwise,” says Dr. Yin, “a dog standing stationary with a moving cat will have a difficult time staying focused.” When your dog remains calm around the cat, even when she is moving, he can also be rewarded for a relaxed down stay.

The dog should come to understand that the cat’s presence means treats and fun. “When the cat goes away, the treats and human-focused games taper off, making the cat a highly desired part of the environment,” says Dr. Yin.

Teaching your cat to touch a target will give you more control over her movement, which can help keep the cat’s behavior under control during a training session.“Training also helps the feline associate good things happening with having the dog around, building confidence and decreasing fear,” says Dr. Yin.



Cat Behavior Problems

For a lonely kitty at home, the best remedy is a companion, right? But instead of getting along like siblings or civil playmates, your frisky felines are at each others throats. What’s the deal?!

There are a number of reasons why your feline friends might not be getting along. Cats, much like people, will definitely be a little reclusive and territorial once there’s a new kid in town if they’re not used to company.

Kitties that have had no socialization with other feline friends make a routine of its own. Any change or funk in its groove may upset them.  This may cause them to not be as welcoming to new additions as you hoped they would be.

Sometimes it may be hard for two unrelated males or two unrelated females to get along well, but it’s also highly dependent upon personality. Just like being assigned a roommate in college, cats don’t necessarily get to choose their housemates, and it may mean that your cats can have a negative nature towards each other.

However, there are a few factors that may cause your cats’ relationship to grow backwards too. Negative and scary situations, such as loud noises or unpleasant smells that are associated with one cat, may cause fear or stress in the other cat. Maturity levels are also an important dynamic in the relationship.

Here are some steps the ASPCA advises that you can take to make your home a happy place for both your cats.
• Make sure you see the signs before one cat walks all over the other.  A more timid cat may hide, spend more time alone, show signs of sickness, and only access shared resources when the other is not around.  The more assertive cat might intimidate the timid cat from eating, accessing sleeping areas, playing with toys, or even blocking its path.
• Give them a sense of ownership. Individual food, toys, bowls, beds, and even litter boxes in different parts of the house will make them less competitive.
• Don’t let your cats duke it out. Letting them fight will only make them more aggressive and hostile towards each other. If you feel a battle about to erupt, put a stop to it with loud clapping or spraying them with a water gun.
• Neutering or spaying your cat will subside their aggressive behavior.
• Give your cat space when he’s having a fit to let them calm down, so you can avoid being their next victim.
• Make sure to pay equal attention to both your cats to avoid competition.
• Use positive reinforcement and reward your cats when they are interacting with each other in a positive way.

As far as cats who’ve gotten along and are mildly aggressive or cats who’ve never gotten along and are severely aggressive towards each other, it’s may be a good idea to separate them in different rooms. For mildly aggressive cats, it may take a few days and for more aggressive cats a longer period time to reintroduce themselves to each other. But encouraging them to be close to each other, giving them the ability to smell and hear each other, and providing them with daily reintroduction sessions is key.

But if your cats become unruly don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. It may take more than your patience to get your crazy kids to get along. It’s not always easy but it can be done!

 Allison Espiritu


Understanding Cat Behavior: They Should Not Die for Peeing on the Bed

That’s right, cats are brought to veterinarian’s offices and shelters everywhere to be euthanized, or relinquished and consequently euthanized, because they urinate outside of the litter box. This has got to stop. This is most often a treatable problem with a positive outcome.

Let’s get some things straight up front. Cats don’t urinate on the bed because they hate you or because they are spiteful. Your cat would have to know the very first time that he urinated on your bed that it would make you angry and he would have to want to hurt you in order for the urination to be spiteful. Cats simply aren’t able to reason to this level and these types of emotions: spite and hatred. I mean, really, he is a cat, not a devious villain from a superhero movie.

Now that we’ve got that straightened out, why then do cats urinate outside of the litter box?

There are two broad categories of inappropriate urination:

  1. Urine Marking
  2. Toileting

Cats who urine mark are usually depositing small amounts of urine on vertical surfaces, while cats who are toileting are generally depositing large amounts of urine or feces on horizontal surfaces. Both female and male cats urinate outside of the litter box. That’s right, female cats spray, too.

Within those broad categories, there are four general reasons that cats abandon the box:

  1. Social stress
  2. Environmental stress
  3. Medical illnesses
  4. Anxiety/fear

Social stressors include a new boyfriend/girlfriend, new baby, a new dog or cat, and even cats that are outside the home. Environmental stressors include a lack of enrichment, too few litter boxes, inadequate litter boxes, and dirty litter boxes. All kinds of medical illnesses affect the urination habits of cats, such as kidney disease, urinary tract infections, certain medications, and diabetes. Cats can become fearful of the litter box if it is associated with pain or with something frightening like a loud noise.

If your cat is urinating on your bed, don’t waste time. Go see your veterinarian for a medical work up and preliminary advice on what to do. Sometimes the fix will be straightforward, and sometimes your veterinarian may deem the case complex enough to refer you to a board certified veterinary behaviorist. You can find one at the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

There are some things that you can do to affect the problem, regardless of the reason why your cat is urinating outside of the litter box.

    1. Increase the number of boxes to n + 1, with n being the number of cats in the household.
    1. Clean the litter box each day. Come on lazy litter box scoopers, how often do you flush the toilet? Try flushing every other day and then let me know if you don’t start going to the bathroom somewhere else. Now, get out there and clean your cat’s box.
    1. Super size it! Boxes should be about the length of your cat from his nose to his tail. For Manx cats, add 12 inches.
    1. Spread the litter boxes out all over the house so that they are convenient for your cat. Notice that I didn’t say “convenient for you”!
  1. Enrich your cat’s environment. Yes, I know that your cat has lots of toys. I have lots of shoes, but that doesn’t stop me from shopping on the internet for shoes daily.

You can find more information about what to do for this problem here at my Cat Behavior page.

This is the take away: This is a treatable problem; get help now. Don’t wait until your wife is 8 months pregnant or until you hate your cat to call your veterinarian. An unsoiled house and a happier cat are within your reach.

Dr. Lisa Radosta