Territorial Marking in Cats

December 04, 2014

Territorial marking is a natural feline instinct. Even with domestication, the instinct is still very strong, that’s why you may have seen your kitty marking his territory by spraying urine or by leaving his scent as he scratches or rubs his face and body against people or objects in an apparent attempt to stake out his claim.

In cats, scent is used as an important avenue for communicating with other felines. These creatures have a very keen sense of smell. Even when your resident cat is not home when a new kitty arrives, the new arrival will know that there is a cat living in the household because of the distinct scent markings it has left behind.

Marking as an Innate Behavior

Cats have scent glands on their cheeks and flanks. As your cat rubs against you or an object, he leaves his scent. This is a distinct olfactory message that tells another cat that he has been there and that he has already claimed the object or the territory. When your cat rubs against you, he also leaves a message for other cats to back off.

When you have two or more pet cats in the household, expect battles for territory while they are still getting to know each other and establishing hierarchy. However, as they start to know their place in the household, your feline pets will be able to create stronger social bonds among themselves. Thus, you will find them sniffing and rubbing against each other, and even grooming other cats in the house.

Scratching is Primarily a Marking Behavior

You may think that cats engage in scratching primarily to keep their nails trimmed and sharpened. However, this is just a minor reason for the behavior. Scratching is first and foremost a cat’s way of marking and claiming territory. As your kitty scratches on a post or furniture, he is also leaving his distinct scent to warn other cats and prevent them from staking their claim.

There are also scent glands on the cat’s feet pads that release pheromones that can help the animal leave a mark on claimed territory. When your pet has been destroying your carpet or furniture with his behavior, try putting up some scratching posts so he will have a legitimate surface to scratch on.

Spray Marking

Spray marking is not only exhibited by dogs. The behavior is also common among cats. A cat that engages in spray marking usually pees on a horizontal surface; or he may back up against a vertical surface and spray it with urine. Both male and female cats can exhibit spraying and urinating on different surfaces.

For many animal behaviorists, urine marking may also be a cat’s way of dealing with stress. Marking his boundaries is a way to relieve his anxiety.

Strange Cat Cravings

December 04, 2014

Some cats have the urge to eat items that are otherwise considered inedible, a behavior problem called “pica”. Animal behaviorists view this as a compulsive disorder where affected cats seem to have an unquenchable urge to chew and sometimes swallow anything—clothing, wood, plastic, leather, etc.

There is no real threat to your pet’s health if he only sucks or chews on objects. However, there are cases when the behavior develops into an obsessive-compulsive disorder, which can certainly affect your pet cat’s quality of life. Swallowing things that they chew on can increase the risk of life-threatening problems such as the object getting stuck and causing obstruction along any part of the digestive tract, requiring expensive emergency surgery.

The specific cause of pica is unclear however there are various factors which have been identified as potential causes of this eating disorder. One important predisposing factor is premature weaning of kittens. Although most cats outgrow this behavior as they mature, it can become a lifelong habit for some. The behavior has also been linked to several health problems ranging from nutritional deficiencies, endocrine disorders, and brain tumors. Genetics, stress, and the cat’s temperament may also be important predisposing factors. Pica has been observed to be more prevalent among oriental breeds of cats.

When a cat suffering from pica is brought to the vet, there is a need to rule out any underlying medical problem with a thorough physical exam. You should be prepared to answer questions about your pet’s medical history.

If the problem has been traced to specific behavioral factors rather than an underlying medical condition, certain modifications and interventions may help address the behavior. These interventions usually include removing the objects that your kitty likes to chew on, making his favorite items unpalatable, while providing acceptable items as suitable alternatives to indulge your cat’s chewing habit.

You can also schedule a structured playtime, at least 10-15 minutes, twice a day, where your pet can engage in physical and mental activities. This is a good way to vent out excess energy. Extended play sessions in the morning and afternoon can tire him out making him less likely to chew. Cat trees and window perches also provide excellent diversions.

When your pet is engrossed with something else, he won’t have time to engage in his undesirable behavior. Even when you are around, make sure your kitty has plenty of motivational toys to keep him busy.

Since stress has been found to trigger the behavior, you should try to pinpoint the stressor and get rid of it. Cats may engage in pica in an effort to calm themselves. Any changes in the household such as the arrival of a new baby, a new pet, or moving to a new home, may pave the way for strange behaviors to set in.

Other practices which have gained some positive results include supplementing a cat’s diet with lanolin or adding some fiber in the daily ration.

This may seem strange to you, but it works :) Thanks for stopping by!

Some cats are fearful or become nervous around a strange person or people in general. Perhaps your kitty is friendly with members of the household but may become shy or even hostile when meeting new people.

In some cases, this may be attributed to a lack of socialization. Although shy behavior can be corrected, there are cats that may never get over their feelings of trepidation when encountering strangers, animals, or objects.

Socialization is an important part of shaping a cat’s behavior and temperament. They need to undergo the process of exposure as early as possible to prepare them to deal with their environment properly as they grow into adulthood. Spending considerable time with their mother before weaning helps them get ready for anything they will encounter later in life. Once they are brought to their forever homes, it is now the responsibility of the pet owner to continue the kitty’s socialization by exposing him to different people, animals, objects, vehicles, buildings, and everything in their environment.

Give your kitten lots of opportunities to meet people of different ages, genders, shapes, races; people wearing hats, glasses, with beards, and even a person in a wheelchair. Be sure to make each encounter a positive experience for your pet. Be quick to offer lavish praise and reward your kitty with play sessions or his favorite treat.

If your new kitten is displaying signs of anti-social behavior, you should make an extra effort to expose your pet to situations where he can interact with people, other pets, animals, and things. If your adult cat is shy around people, encourage him to approach a visitor and be quick to offer positive reinforcement if he does. You can also ask your visitors to slowly approach your kitty to prevent intimidating your pet. Sitting down or squatting makes a person more or less at level with the cat, making him appear less threatening.

Here are other ways to address fearful behavior in pet cats:

  • If you have a visitor, ask him to remain quiet and avoid eye contact with your kitty.
  • If your pet cat hides every time visitors are around, encourage him to come out by offering his favorite treats. You can also try rattling his treat bag or opening his favorite canned pet food.
  • If ever he comes out from his hiding place, ask your visitor to call him out gently while tossing some treats and toys near your kitty.
  • If your pet walks away after being with your guest for a few minutes, just let him be and try to coax him to come again later.
  • In extreme cases, your kitty may be given anti-anxiety medication to help calm him down and ease his fears. You will need to ask for advice from your veterinarian concerning this matter.

Remember not to get disheartened if you don't see results immediately, these things take time but your patience is worth it.

Scratching is a basic feline behavior. Cats engage in the behavior for many reasons, including marking of their territory, keeping their nails trimmed, to stretch out the muscles of the shoulder and the back, and as an outlet to express their frustrations, anxiety, and even relief.

For some cat owners, having their pet cat declawed is an easy and convenient solution to the problem. However, before following in their footsteps, you should know what declawing entails. It is actually a surgical procedure which, when performed will have irreversible results. It is similar to having the last joint of all the fingers and toes removed. Declawing is a truly painful experience for a cat, even weeks after the procedure. Without claws, a cat is deprived of his first and major line of defense. Since a cat normally walks on the tip of his toes, losing his claws can mean a loss of sense of balance.

These are just some of the important reasons why veterinarians usually recommend declawing as a last resort for scratching problems in cats. To make it less traumatic for you and your pet, it is best to know how to manage the behavior and deal with the problem in a less drastic way.

The right scratching post

When you are looking for a scratching post for your kitty, make sure to consider the following factors—height, material, and sturdiness.

The scratching post should be high enough to allow a cat to stretch its back muscles. Since they like to scratch on surfaces with a rough-texture, look for one that is wrapped in sisal. A sturdy and well-constructed post has lesser chances of tipping over.

Introduce the post to your kitty

If your pet has been scratching on your carpet or furniture, try enticing him away from these “illegal” scratching areas to his scratching post. Place the new post in the middle of the room where your kitty usually spends time playing and engaging in the behavior. You can hold his paws and gently run his claws over the surface. If he continues to ignore his scratching post and goes back to scratching the carpet or furniture, rub some catnip on the post to get his attention and lure him back to his “legal” scratching surface. You can also dangle his favorite toy near or over the post. Once he comes close or sniffs at the post, be quick to offer positive reinforcement such as a bite of his favorite treat.

Discourage the behavior

There are various ways to make the furniture unappealing to your kitty. Try covering it with a sheet while placing the new scratching post nearby. A water-soluble adhesive can be applied on areas where your kitty loves to scratch frequently.

Other ways to deal with the behavior include placing plastic caps over the cat’s nails, and regular claw trimming.

I hope this has helped you out :)

Litter Box Problems in Cats

December 04, 2014

Cats are known for being finicky thus they want their immediate environment to be as clean as possible. This attitude also makes them fastidious groomers. Even their litter box habits are certainly remarkable.

However, there are cases when cats develop elimination problems. These are litter-trained cats that suddenly start doing their thing somewhere else other than their litter box.

Here are some possible explanations why your cat suddenly stops using his litter box:

Health Problems

Bringing your kitty to the vet can help determine the underlying medical problem or rule out health issues. Some health problems associated with inappropriate elimination among cats include having a heavy parasite overload, arthritis and other joint problems, a nutritional disorder, disease of the digestive tract, or bacterial infection.

Behavioral Causes

A cat may avoid using the litter box because of various reasons—it is not clean enough; it is too cramped; it has a cover; a plastic liner; it does not like the litter being used; some cats don’t like a box with a self-cleaning motor.

Your kitty may also associate the litter box with a negative experience such as having been startled while using the box.

The location of the litter box is also an important factor to consider. It should be placed in an area with less household traffic. It should not be placed near the washing machine, dishwasher, or other household machines. Other potential reasons related to box location include placing near food or water bowls, or in an area which requires the cat to pass by other pets in order to get to the box.

Emotional Stress

Cats can easily suffer from stress overload. Most tend to shy away from their litter box when undergoing emotional stress that give rise to feelings of anxiety and frustration.

Some common triggers of emotional stress include:

  • A change in routine
  • Too much traffic going inside and outside of the house
  • Noise overload
  • Something new in the household (a pet, a baby, a visitor, furniture, etc.)
  • Boredom as a result of a lack of physical and mental stimulation

Solving Litter Box Problems

If your pet cat has been issued a clean bill of health by your veterinarian, you can try carrying out any of the following measures to deal with your cat’s litter box problems:

  • Clean the litter box thoroughly to remove all traces of feces and urine. Use a product specifically formulated for the purpose.
  • Transfer the litter box to a new location.
  • Spray some commercial pheromone preparation that mimics specific scents that a cat can associates with his body pheromones.
  • Get a new litter box.
  • Spot clean the litter twice a day and thoroughly clean the entire litter box at least once a week.
  • Switch to another type of litter.
  • Apply a thinner layer of litter or just line the litter box with newspapers.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope the information helps you out!

Crate Training for Puppies

December 04, 2014

Crate training involves confining your puppy temporarily to a small area that he will treat as a “den”; where he will spend time sleeping, resting, playing, and eating. It is a basic and significant component of many puppy training programs.

By nature, canines don’t like soiling their dens. When placing your puppy in a crate, make sure you understand his body clock especially when it comes to attending to the call of nature. You should know when to take him out of the crate and bring him to his designated potty area. Be quick to offer positive reinforcement when he does his thing in the right place.

The ultimate goal of short-term confinement inside his crate is to help your puppy develop bladder and bowel control. Your puppy won’t like his den soiled, so instead of peeing or pooping whenever he feels like it, he will try his best not to eliminate inside the crate until such time that he will be brought to the potty area.

Your puppy should not be allowed to run free inside the house while he is under housetraining. Until your pet is completely housetrained, allowing him to gain access anywhere in the house will have you dealing with piles and puddles everywhere.

Crate training is best undertaken when you are at home to supervise your pet and take him out to the potty area during specific times to attend to the call of nature. One secret of successful training is establishing a routine that is consistently followed, to help reduce your puppy’s chances of having accidents inside the house or in other places other than the designated potty area.

By keeping a journal of your puppy’s toilet habits, you will be able to map out a routine which is very useful in avoiding accidents. However, just like any training regimens for puppies, you should arm yourself with lots of patience to deal with mistakes and accidents properly and avoid instilling fear and confusion in your pet.

Pet owners should be aware that crate training should never be taken for granted. You should never look at the crate as a place to confine your pet for extended periods of time. Leaving your puppy inside his crate for too long will only force him to eliminate inside, setting back your housetraining process almost back to square one. It should be noted though that confinement is different from crate training.

One of the best inputs that complement a training regimen is positive reinforcement. Your puppy will always look forward to training sessions if you are quick to offer rewards and lavish praise for expected behavior. Positive reinforcement can make the training easier and help hasten the process of learning.

 

 

Biting Behavior in Puppies

December 04, 2014

Biting and nipping are common behaviors among puppies, usually exhibited when they are playing or while they’re going through teething. These are not really threatening behaviors in puppies. They are traces of their ancestors’ behavior in the wild that continue to exist even with domestication. It is your responsibility to teach your puppy what behavior is acceptable so you will have a well-behaved pooch in the household.

While the behavior is quite common in puppies, they should learn that the behavior is undesirable and should stop engaging in the behavior before they are four or five months of age. In the wild, it is the responsibility of the puppies’ mother and other adult members of the pack to help discipline and control the behavior. With domestication, it is now the responsibility of the pet owner to teach and train the puppy to stop biting or nipping even if it is only part of playing.

Socialization in Puppies

During a puppy’s period of socialization, he should be allowed to interact with other puppies. As they engage in rough play, biting, nipping, and pulling at each other, they soon learn to control their negative behavior.

A puppy that keeps on biting and nipping others in the pack will soon find himself being disciplined by older dogs in the pack. Spending time with their mother and the rest of the litter is also an excellent learning experience before they are weaned and brought to their forever homes. It will also help puppies develop confidence while using up their energy in a positive way.

Adequate socialization also results in a well-adjusted pet that is not hostile and destructive. Without adequate exposure, a puppy can cultivate a fearful attitude and aggressive behavior. When a dog is afraid of a person, another animal, or an object, he either acts aggressively in an attempt to protect himself, or just cower in fear. Many cases of dog bites in people are usually linked to dogs which have not received proper socialization.

Having a well-discipline and well-adjusted pet is just one of the benefits of proper socialization. This phase in a puppy’s life should never be taken for granted. It should start as early as possible, especially for large dog breeds which can be a challenge to control if they are not disciplined.

Dominate as a Pack Leader

A dog needs an alpha leader who is able to play an active role in training a puppy. When your pooch trusts and respects you as the leader of the pack, the learning process will be easier.

Positive Reinforcement…always

Dogs live to satisfy their alpha leader. By offering treats and lavish praise, you are showing your pet that you are happy with his behavior.

Have you ever noticed your housetrained puppy leaving puddles or urine dribbles on the floor when greeting you? This behavior displays submission to you as the alpha leader. It also reflects the excitement that your puppy feels upon seeing you.

Submissive Urination

Many dog behaviorists relate submissive urination as a gesture of respect for those members of the pack which are higher in rank. Apart from being a sign of deference, the behavior is also commonly seen in puppies that have not yet been fully socialized or those dogs which have been abused or mistreated. When the behavior is exhibited by adult dogs, it is often associated with insecurity.

Submissive urination can also be displayed when a puppy is subjected to excessive or delayed punishment during training. When a puppy is punished for an accident that took place a few hours back, your actions will only confuse your pet, forcing him to instinctively show his respect and fear by urinating.

If your puppy is displaying submissive urination, it is best to ignore the action. Reassuring your pet will only make him think you are praising him and this will certainly encourage the behavior. On the other hand, negative reinforcement such as reprimanding will frighten him and create the need to apologize by exhibiting a submissive gesture, which is by urinating.

By making the effort to determine the underlying cause of your puppy’s behavior, you will be able to address the problem properly. One way of dealing with it is to help your puppy build self-confidence and teach him other ways of showing respect to the alpha leader. A few basic obedience exercises accompanied by positive reinforcement can help your pup develop confidence and self-esteem.

 

Excitement Urination

For some puppies, urinating when they are happy about something is apparently normal behavior. This action is often associated with a lack of bladder control in puppies. When your pet engages in the behavior, punishment will only confuse him. In fact, this can only help cultivate the habit, which can eventually develop into submissive urination, a behavior which is your puppy’s attempt to appease you.

You should be aware that as your puppy matures, he will be able to develop bladder control and this undesirable behavior will eventually stop.

For the time being, know the potential causes that can make your pet overexcited. Once you are able to pinpoint the reason, expose your puppy frequently to the stimulus until it will no longer excite him. If the trigger factor is your arrival, simply ignore your puppy for several minutes even if he greets you enthusiastically. Always remember to be patient and keep a tight rein on your temper while you are training your puppy to behave appropriately.

The stench of pet urine is definitely annoying to everyone in the household. Oftentimes, you don’t know where to find it, but your nose keeps telling you “it’s around here somewhere”. In an effort to pinpoint the spot/s, you get down on your hands and knees, crawl around, feeling and looking for telltale spots. If it hasn’t dried up yet, there would be no problem, but once it does, you need every help you can get to spot the stains on your floor.

Urine and poop stains encourage your cat to return to these same spots when they want to go potty. It is their instinct to associate specific scents with certain behaviors. When they feel the urge to pee or poop, they will look for specific spots around the house where they have left their scent and do their thing there.

Many cat owners find it hard to totally get rid of cat urine odor because these fur balls can get into the most unlikely places. Sometimes it can take days to find the exact spot.

How Does the Black Light Work?

The black light is also referred to as ultraviolet or UV light. It is commonly used to examine specific markings on bills and some documents to prevent counterfeiting. However, what you may not have known is that a black light has many other uses such as being used in tanning beds to boost production of vitamin D in the skin. In the medical field, UV light is used for sterilization and disinfection. It is also used to detect body fluids such as semen, blood, and urine thus it is a useful tool in any crime scene investigation. It is also for this reason that UV light is useful in detecting cat urine spots anywhere in the house.

When exposed to the black light, cat urine gives off a distinct glow. Even after it has dried up, the chemicals that are responsible for the characteristic urine scent will still be visible, thus making it easier to find urine stains, even the older ones.

Using the Blacklight

The best time to go “urine hunting” using the black light is during the time when the house is dark. So you can do this before sunrise, after sunset, or on a dark, cloudy day. Start by shining the light on all horizontal surfaces including furniture tops, bookshelves, bed sheets, clothes, bathtubs, and sinks. If your cat is spray-marking, you should also examine vertical surfaces as well, especially near corners, doorways, curtains and hallways.

Urine stains will still glow yellow when subjected to UV light during the day, however, you need to point the light approximately 3 feet away from the surface to be able to notice anything. Some pet owners will have a hard time kneeling on the floor it is best to do this at night when you can direct the light on surfaces while standing. Once you have pinpointed the spots, you can treat and disinfect these locations to get rid of the stain and odor.

Using this flashlight can help you stay on top of your kittens issues and help to encourage them to use the litter box, or directing them outside when they head towards their 'favourite sopt'.

 

Thanks for stopping by, I hope that helps!

Puppy Potty Training Tips

December 02, 2014

If you have just brought home a new puppy, there are specific training programs that you and your pet will have to engage in to make the transition into his new environment easier. One of the first training regimens your puppy should undergo is potty training. Starting as early as possible can help prevent messy accidents inside the house.

Puppies are easier to train than adult dogs when it comes to potty training. However, this does not mean that adult dogs cannot be potty trained. You just need to exert more time, effort, and patience to gain positive results.

An indispensible tool to every dog training activity is positive reinforcement. Dogs under training have been shown to learn at a much faster rate when given rewards for desired behavior.

Treats are often given as rewards during training however this is not advisable when it comes to potty training. Giving food other than the puppy’s scheduled meals can create unpredictability when it comes to peeing or pooping. Instead of giving treats, your puppy will still be happy with lavish praise, extended playtime, and belly rubs.

A puppy or dog usually needs to go to the potty area after eating, after exercise or play, right after waking up, or when it is excited or stressed. Dogs usually exhibit specific signs that indicate they are about to go pee or poop. Once you notice any of these signs, take your pooch outside immediately. It is best to have him on a leash when bringing him to the designated spot in the yard. After he has done his thing, be quick to praise him. Never wait until the time that you’re both back inside the house to offer positive reinforcement, so your pooch will understand that you are rewarding him for doing his thing in the proper place and at the proper time.

When pets are fully housetrained, they will head off to the designated potty area without any assistance. However, some dogs sniff at certain areas around the house where they have had accidents before and pee or poop there again. As a creature of habit, a dog associates specific scents with particular behaviors. So if you fail to clean up thoroughly after a potty accident, or you didn’t notice your puppy urinating in a specific part of the house, you will soon find him returning to the area and doing his thing. With frequent accidents in the house, the household may soon be overwhelmed by traces of dog pee or poop odor.

To pinpoint any dried urine or feces around the house, many pet owners use the black light or UV flashlight. The ultraviolet light causes the chemical in dried urine or feces to glow, making them visible to the human eye. It will be easier to do this when there’s little or no light inside the room. You can do this in the evening or with blinds closed and lights turned off.

When you find the exact spot, you will be able to clean it thoroughly, removing any trace of urine or poop stains so your pet won’t be attracted to the same spot again.