Tag Archives: behaviour

Common Behavioural Problems: Spraying (cats)


Behaviour Banner

Spraying – a form of communication, territorial marking, to signal mating status, indicator of health, and to show dominance. Spraying is a naturalnormal behaviour. It becomes a problem when it becomes excessive, and often in inappropriate places.

Cats will back up to a vertical surface (wall, table/chair leg, couch, door, bed, television…) twitch tail, and spray urine against the vertical surface.

Potential Causes:-
(a) Territorial Behaviour:
– another cat brought into a single-cat household
– a multi-cat household
– moving house/ getting an extension
– redecorating
– new cat(s) in the neighbourhood/territory

(b) Anxiety
– lack of owner attention (for attention)
– jealousy of other pet(s)/children/etc.
– change in routine
– social stressors
– environmental stressors
– new/unusual, (fairly) consistent smells (even as simple as new air freshener)
– negative encounters
– not enough litter trays for amount of cats

(c) Underlying Medical Problem
– consult vet ASAP
– urine crystals
– cystitis
– urolithiasis; struvites (urinary tract stones)
– other…

Cat Zoe
Happy Cat

Treatment Options:
Firstly, determine whether or not this is being caused by a medical issue, and your vet will be able to determine the best course of treatment. If there is no medical issue, then it is likely to be a behavioural issue. Successful treatment of this requires identification of the cause, and fixing of the cause or acceptance (from the animal) of the cause.

If you have a multi-cat household, to reduce the likelihood of unwanted spraying behaviour (and unwanted defecation), ensure that every cat has its own litter tray, and that there is a spare litter tray (or multiple spares for a larger group of cats). Ensure litter trays are in quiet places, not busy or open places; cats like privacy when going to the toilet.

Neutering is a big help, but will not eliminate the problem. Spraying is less common in neutered cats, but it will not prevent spraying. Males also spray more than females, but females do spray.

Feliway pheromone diffuser plug ins and sprays are also available. The release of pheromones helps to calm and reassure, especially in multi-cat households; it can relieve tension between cats.  The pheromone release relieves stress and can help stop your cat spraying; stop the behavioural issue.

Acceptance of the cause; teaching your cat(s) to accept a new addition – whether this is another cat, a dog, a rabbit (i.e. another pet), or a new baby or even just a new couch. You can help this by not comforting your cat when it initially freaks out. Do not berate your cat for this either. Just act normal, like the new addition is completely normal. If you comfort your cat, (s)he will believe (s)he’s being comforted because there is a reason to be freaked out and anxious about this new addition. Normal behaviour on your part will help your cat realise (s)he can behave normally despite this new addition too.

Multi-cat household
Multi-cat household

Cats that get along are less competitive, and far less likely to spray. You can encourage cats to get along by playing with your cats together; giving each one equal attention. Feed them together, and try to encourage them to sleep near to each other – not necessarily sharing the same bed, but within the same room. Provide differently levels for your cats within the home; the more dominant cat will sit higher up than the subordinate(s) – being able to show dominance/ hierarchy in this way is likely to reduce other dominant displays.

Try to keep routine, at least for your cat even if not for yourself – because, let’s face it, we quite often need to mix up our routine; but cats, no, cats like routine. They will patrol the same bit of their territory at (roughly) the same time, daily.  They will sleep, hunt, etc. at (roughly) the same times each day. Feeding, grooming/brushing, and other activities your cat requires you for should be kept in some kind of routine for your cat too.

Although spraying is a very obvious behaviour; know your cat(s) and learn to tell when (s)he is acting out of the ordinary so as to pick up on behavioural issues early.


If you have any questions or comments, or would like any more information regarding this post; or if you have anything specific you would like me to cover in a future post, then either leave a comment below, or contact me via one of my social media pages:-
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Common Behavioural Problems: Feather Plucking


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Birds range from the little songbirds in your garden, to the powerful birds of prey, and various kinds of flightless birds – they certainly vary a lot between various species. They have been popular as pets as early as the 1700’s. Christopher Columbus brought 2 Cuban Amazon Parrots back from his travels in the 1490’s.

We all love our pets, no matter how they became introduced into our history, and our individual lives. The sad things about domestic life for our pets, is that sometimes it can result in behavioural problems; without always knowing the cause.

Grooming is a normal, natural behaviour – in birds known as ‘preening’. Feather plucking is when this normal, natural behaviour becomes obsessive, and done to excess. Birds may do this to themselves, or to others in their group.

Possible Causes:
– Nutritional deficiencies/ unbalanced nutrition
– Poor Diet
– Food sensitivity/ intolerances/ allergies
– Disease
– Itchy skin/ skin problems
– Frayed feathers
– Boredom (insufficient stimulation)
– Dirty environment
– Wrong environment

Moluccan Cockatoo
Moluccan Cockatoo

Possible Solutions:
–  Change in diet
–  Allergy tests (steering clear of the allergen)
– Food supplements
– Regular vet checks
– Stimulation: toys, interaction, treats/fruit/veg
– Plenty of light; not left in the dark
– Clean environment
– Sufficient space (but not too much) per bird
– Suitable type of environment; cage (tall or wide), paddock, by water, dirt bath, places to perch (at different levels)

Geese
Geese

Toys:

Ensure these are appropriate for your bird; for the species. Stimulating toys with bells and pieces that move are good for birds such as parrot types.
Mop/ rope toys (without loops!) are good for occupying birds with a pulling/ preening activity – keeping feather preening to a normal and safe amount.
Some birds like toys that look like birds, and this can be beneficial; others will be stressed by this kind of toy – know your bird and what they like, so as to best care for your pet.


If you have any questions or comments, or would like more information regarding this post; or if you have anything specific you would like me to cover in a future post, then either leave a comment below, or contact me via one of my social media pages:-
. Google+ (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Twitter (@AnimalFreak24)
. LinkedIn (Ali Holloway)

Loose the Leash!


We get dogs as companions; as pets.  Our pets rely on us to live – they trust us with their lives, trust us to take care of them. We love our pets, and we take pride in training them and teaching them things. We like to show off the fun tricks we have taught our new puppy or even our older dog! But we often neglect to keep up with, or even do, basic training – we all toilet train, and at least attempt sit, stay, and recall.

Teaching your dog not to pull on the lead is often not done, and not kept on top of. This training not only to make things easier on us, especially with larger breeds, but is good for your dog’s health. I go nuts when I see people yanking their dog back on the lead – especially an extender/ retractable lead, because they are designed for your pet to roam – don’t want him to roam, don’t use the extension or use a normal lead! Unfortunately this seems to happen more with small breeds, because we are strong enough to lift them of their feet via their neck… doesn’t mean we ought to.

Harness

If you do this, you may seriously damage your pet’s neck – and surely that’s not why you got a companion animal, to cause harm?! If the dog is pulled up sharply to a hard stop, just one jerk can cause lasting damage – permanent damage that will stay with your pet for the rest of his life.

Extender/ retractable leads are more likely to cause this reaction from us – they are harder to get your dog back with, without jerking the lead. Teach your dog simple commands, to walk to heel and come back when called.

If you still have issues with your dog pulling on a lead, then for both your benefit and your dog’s, try a gentle leader or a harness – not a “check” or “choke” chain.

Gentle Leader
Gentle Leader

Take into account the breed of dog you have – for instance, a harness will cause a dog breed such as a Husky to pull more, as their instinct to “mush” and pull will kick in. If you choose to use a lead and collar, as I do personally, ensure that you train your dog to come back when called and walk to heel on command to avoid any (accidental) jerking of the lead – remember that just one jerk can cause permanent damage to your furry friend.

Collar & Lead
Collar & Lead

“Catty” Cats (and Aggression)


I was lying in bed last night listening to some resident cats somewhere on my road have a “catty” show-down! This is a fairly regular occurrence, more so when a new cat moves in close by. This time, it did not escalate into a fight (fortunately) – the aggressive displays were enough to solve whatever this dispute was between these cats.

This got me thinking about the different types of aggression shown by animals, and why they do it. So here are my brief thoughts on animal aggression…

Firstly, there are two types of aggression:

  • Inter-species aggression – aggression between two or more individuals of the same species (i.e. cat on cat)
  • Re-directed aggression – aggression caused by one factor, being ‘taken out’ on a neutral thing (such as your brand new shoes, your lovely curtains, or your expensive dining room chairs!)

Secondly there are 3 reasons for the aggression

  • Fear – being aggressive due to feeling threatened or scared
  • Status-related – for dominance over another individual
  • Territorial – defending their area

I figured that what I was listening to last night could be one, or all, of those reasons!

Fear Aggression is the most common, and the most likely to occur – and it can also be the most dangerous to a person. A fearful animal will often panic and attack as they are unsure what else to do, and instincts kick in, in the form of the “fight or flight” reflex – stay and fight or run away. If the latter is not an option (e.g. an animal backed into a corner) then the first is the only option the animal can perceive.

Dominant or status-related aggression, which is what most people think of when thinking of aggression, is displaying aggressive behaviour to intimidate and make whoever the display is being done at, back off or put up a fight. This can occur in multi-pet households (to establish a hierarchy), not just with adult animals but even between litter-mates  growing up. Dominant aggressive behaviour is to state “I am the boss, and will accept a fight with any who challenge me!”

Territorial aggression is often seen by guard dogs displaying this behaviour in defence of their territory. It is also common when cats cross-over into someone else’s territory at the wrong time…
The display is a warning to say “if you come into my territory, I will be aggressive, so keep out!”, however the likelihood of attack from this is minimal if the distance is kept!

It is quite likely this “cat-fight” going on outside my bedroom window was territorial – however, whichever way aggression is displayed, it is not a nice behaviour; one to be avoided if and when possible! It was safe to be in bed whilst this “catty” dispute was taking place for me, I only hope the cats involved got away unscathed too!