Angie (coiro) Mon 4 Feb 08 10:35
(No problem with the food/nutrition conversation continuing, as I follow up on some earlier stuff too.) Arden, thanks for the links! I'm hoping for some of your own perspective, too. What have been some of the more challenging cat behavior jobs you've taken on? Some of the earliest, and how you worked your way through them? Surprising elements of cat psychology some of us lay people wouldn't know?
(martyb) Mon 4 Feb 08 12:39
(Just one more nutrition comment: Arden, when you do your next dog food book, maybe you could have a section with low carb menus (ranging from low, say 15% carbs (DM or kcal%) to carb-free) in addition to the more carby recipes.)
Arden Moore (arden-moore) Mon 4 Feb 08 13:17
Hi all: I am writing you during a break in Palm Springs where I am attending two cat conferences: the latest in medical news is being presented at the American Association of Feline Practitioners' meeting AND a new North American plan to promote wellness in cats is being hosted by a group of people who represent the "who's who of cats" at the Catalyst Summit. Marty - I will definitely address - and enlighten the dog lovers of the world about the real truth about carbs (plus plan to do the same with cats - who as you may know - need very little carbs). Some of my most challenging cat behavior cases usually share one common clue: the litter box. Specifically, boycotting the box. I've had owners come to me totally frustrated - and some angry - that their cats are suddenly skipping the box and urinating (and defecating) on rugs, against walls and bed pillows. The knee-jerk reaction is always, "I travel now more... or I have a new boyfriend... or we just adopted a puppy... and now my cat is being spiteful!" Well, cats are not spiteful. They don't sit up at night plotting revenge tactics. But what they are is feeling stress. Cats, more so than dogs, are impacted by stress due to changes in their environment (new person, new pet, home alone more, etc.). They can't write you a "Dear Jane" letter or email you why the changes in the house are upsetting to them. So, they rely on their own form of communication: spraying/marking. People are often surprised to learn that these acts performed by a cat are designed to help them calm down. Scent is a big deal in the world of cats. Especially when that scent belongs to them. Think of it as feline graffiti - kitty was here. So, after ruling out a possible medical cause (book the appointment with the vet), then I try to play cat detective and help the owners go through changes in the household routine that may have triggered this unwanted behavior. Sometimes, the culprit is another animal - like a stray cat or raccoon who "taunts" the indoor cat through the window or sliding glass door. The indoor cat can't shoo the trespasser and so pees or poops in his "castle" as a way to declare, "hey, this is my place - scram!" Another possible reason is because the litter box is dirty and hasn't been cleaned daily - or, it has been relocated next to a noisy appliance like a washer or dryer. One nice client sought my help when I was on the national book tour last summer for their cat, Emma, who was not using the litter box any more. Turns out that Emma is 17 and has some arthritis. The couple has moved the litter box down stairs in the unfinished basement from its original location in a guest bathroom on the main floor. Poor Emma's eye sight - and reduced mobility - were no match for mastering the rickety, narrow steps and the dark basement to try to locate the litterbox now stashed in a corner. Once the couple offered Emma a clean box on the main floor, the problem was solved. As for cat psychology, I often gently remind people that cats are not "little dogs in feline fur." What works for a lovable lab does not always work for a bossy Aby. To outfox a feline, you need to present a better option than the current one. For example, adding a sturdy cat tree in the house and sprinkling organic catnip is far more appealing for a cat than walking on the kitchen counters (especially if you keep food stored). Or giving the cat a window perch (ones are available that are fleece-lined and extend the width of the window sill) to be a nosey Nelly and watch the neighborhood activities often curtains a cat from howling or clawing the curtains. Each situation needs to be thoroughly addressed before solutions can be offered. Hope this helps.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 5 Feb 08 14:22
Oh, I love those fleece-lined window perches for kitties. Unfortunately, the configuration of the windows in my house preclude that, so my cats must suffer the indignity of climbing up on chairs or onto the back of the couch if they want to look out the window. Arden, do you have any advice for the following situation? I have two cats that I acquired four years apart. Both were adopted as kittens from my local pound. When I brought in the second cat in 2000, I was thinking it could be a nice companion for my first cat. NOT! They have never gotten along. Initially I thought it was just that the kitten energy of the new one was exhausting for the older one. By the time it was clear they weren't going to reach any kind of accord, it wasn't possible [emotionally, for me] to get rid of either one. They would each like the other to drop dead, thank you very much. Their dislike of having to share living quarters has put both of them in a permanent bad mood. That bad mood extends to the way they interact with me and my husband. They're irritable, they're quick to scratch and bite, sometimes with no tail-flick warning or growl or anything. The younger of the two is so aggressively hostile that the vet can't even give her an annual exam without knocking her unconscious. We've tried extra attention. We've brought in numerous toys -- catnip mice, cat dancers, laser lights -- to try to exercise them and burn off some of that aggressive energy. I've had many cats in my life. I've never had a pair like this. Is there anything else we could try to get them to mellow out? "cat d
Carol (carolw) Tue 5 Feb 08 14:46
And also Arden, do you work with Dr. Nicolas Dodman at Tufts? I read "The Cat Who Cried for Help" and he has had success with prozac-type drugs in these kinds of cases. And Cynthia, are they both females?
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 5 Feb 08 15:39
No, the older one's male, the younger is female.
Angie (coiro) Tue 5 Feb 08 16:04
Arden, once you've tackled these - what are the toughest cat behavioral issues to crack? And since you're well-versed in dogs, too - how do the stubborn cat behaviors compare to those of dogs? I'm imagining they spring from their very different natures, so might be quite opposite.
Arden Moore (arden-moore) Wed 6 Feb 08 17:59
Yes, I do work with Dr. Dodman from Tufts. He is a top vet/behaviorist who did significant studies on the benefits of using Prozac and other meds in toning down feuds between felines in the same house. Please work with your vet when using this med or other meds designed to calm cats down or address anxiety. Yes, cats are not invincible from stress. Cynthia, sorry to hear that your two cats will never exchange Christmas cards or civil greetings. Just like people, some cats just don't like particular other cats - even if they happen to be roommates. A couple solutions: plug in Feliway into outlets - it mimics feline facial phermones and is designed to bring an "air of calm" into the home. We can't smell the odor, but cats can. Also, you probably need to offer separate places for these two cats in your home and stop, for now, attempts to force them into playing or eating together. Well intentions only cement their mutual disgust for one another. Cat behavior that ranks as the trickiest to combat is boycotting the litter box. Stress triggers can range from taunting by the other cat in the home, wrong location for the litterbox, dirty litter box and more. This is the no. 1 reason why cats are surrendered to shelters and unfortunately, it often means a death sentence for the cat. That's why it is very important to work with a vet or behaviorist at the onset of bathroom boycotting to "nip it in the bud" before it becomes a hard-to-break habit. As for dogs, a big behavior issue is aggression - toward other dogs in the home and even people. When there is no perceived human leader in the household - from the dog's perspective - some canines step up and try to assume the leadership - resulting in aggressive behavior (growling by food bowl, failure to give up toys or heeding come commands). Each behavior problem needs different approaches to counter. With cats, it is all about pinpointing the cause of the stress that is promoting the cat to go elsewhere. With aggressive dogs, it is about employing the "Nothing in Life is Free" program in which they must earn all privileges. They must sit before getting their food bowl or before going outside on walks. The people in the house must be clear and consistent on the commands so that their status becomes that of benevolent, confident leader and the dog gets to relax and enjoy being a dog. This NILIF program is outlined at many consumer education sites from shelters as well as Tufts University's Animal Behavior Hotline and in my book, The Dog Behavior Answer Book.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 6 Feb 08 18:17
About my fueding felines: they're fed at the same time, but in separate rooms, we've been doing that for 3-4 years now. All of our efforts to get the cats to play are one-on-one (one human, one cat) kind of activities. They're not even interested in the same kinds of toys. The female responds to laser lights and fake mousies. The male sneers at these, but goes crazy for catnip-laced balls and curling ribbon dangled before him. I've not heard of Feliway before. Thanks so much for the recommendation, Arden. I'll check it out!
David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Thu 7 Feb 08 14:39
We're turning out Inkwell spotlight to another topic, which means that it's time to thank Arden and Angie for a delightful conversation about the creatures my wife calls "the little fuzzy masters." Thanks for joining us in Inkwell, Arden!
Teleological dyslexic (ceder) Thu 7 Feb 08 17:06
Arden Moore (arden-moore) Thu 7 Feb 08 21:31
Thank you all for sharing your feelings, frustrations and fascinations about all things feline. It has been an honor to chat with you and I hope that you take the time each day to spend a little one-on-one time with a favorite purr machine. Remember, cats can do a body (and mind) good! Paws Up! Arden
Angie (coiro) Thu 7 Feb 08 21:43
With Miss Violet Divine perched upon my hip even as I type - thank you so much, Arden, it's been a pleasure. Continued good luck with your book!
Idea Hamster On Speed (randomize27) Thu 7 Feb 08 21:51
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Thu 7 Feb 08 22:02
Assuming room temperature....never heard that one. That's a goodie.
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