We can also assist with any behavioral issues you may be having with your pet. We understand the toll a behavioral problem can take on the special relationship you share with your pet. We also believe that the emotional well-being of your pet is an important part of its overall health. For these reasons, the staff at the Folly Road Animal Hospital finds it particularly satisfying helping you solve any behavioral problems you might be experiencing. Because some behavioral problems might be exacerbated by pain or a medical condition, and because behavioral medicines may be prescribed, a veterinary exam is required. Set up a behavioral consultation with Dr. Sheridan and download and print the following behavioral history form to assist in an accurate diagnosis.
Patient History Forms
Print and fill out the related patient history form before your appointment to assist your veterinarian in recognizing and improving your pet’s problem.
Many of our clients have expressed concerns with thunderstorm anxiety. Pet anxiety in times of bad weather can vary from the mild (hiding under furniture, refusal to go outside) to the extreme (destructive behavior). This is a difficult disorder to treat. One solution frequently offered by veterinarians is to sedate the animal. Although sedation might decrease the destructive drive of the dog, it may not reduce the fear that drove it to be destructive. We feel the best solution is a behavioral modification approach. Though this approach may be complicated and time consuming, utilizing desensitization to the sounds of a thunderstorm, it results in a more lasting “cure” and a more comfortable animal. For more tools to aid in behavioral modifications, download the Thunderstorm Aversion History to bring in for your next appointment. Also, a “Thundershirt” might help in the meantime! And by all means, keep an eye on your local weather!
Going Outside of “The Box”
Luckily for most cat owners the problem of house training is, in most cases, not a problem at all. Cats have a natural instinct to eliminate in substances resembling soil, sand and leaf litter. However, even older litter trained cats may occasionally have an accident. If this occurs there is generally an underlying cause to your cats “mistake”. Cats are creatures of habit and the slightest changes in routine may upset them to the point of house soiling or other destructive behaviors. Seemingly small changes, such as using a different brand of litter or a new scent may cause your cat to eliminate outside of their litter box. In order to avoid this problem when changing litter, begin by mixing both your old and new litter for a few weeks so that your cat becomes accustomed to the new scent and feel. FRAH recommends Feline Pine or Yesterday’s News litter due to their environmentally friendly manufacture and hypo-allergy formulas. You may also want to try using the additive, Cat Attract, to entice your cat into eliminating in the proper place. Many cats will also refuse to use an unclean litter box for elimination. It is important to make sure to clean your cat’s litter box at least once per week, possibly more depending on your cat’s elimination habits.
Once you have chosen a location in your home for you cat’s litter box do not make sudden changes in its location. If your cat’s litter box needs to be relocated, move the litter box gradually to its new location, perhaps only a few feet per day, in order to avoid upsetting your cat’s routine. When choosing a location try to place the litter box in a place that is away from loud noises and distractions. Some cats may refuse to eliminate near their food and water, so you may want to place the litter box in a separate room or area of your home. You may also try increasing the size of the litter box. Cat’s mark their territory by scratching; the larger the scratch, the bigger the cat. Territorial cats may not use a litter box if it does not provide adequate space to demonstrate how big they are because they are embarrassed of being perceived as “small”. To help achieve litter box success with these cats, you might need to use a larger box, such as a concrete mixing tray, or sweater storage box. If your cat continues to eliminate outside of their litter box, your cat may have a medical condition needing your veterinarian’s attention. Be sure to visit our section on Feline Idiopathic Cystitis for additional information on this subject.
Scratching is a natural cat behavior, which allows your cat to stretch, mark its territory and sharpen its nails. In a way, the cat is acting a bit like a graffiti artist and ‘tagging’ its territory. Unfortunately, this natural behavior can wreak havoc on the owner’s furniture and carpet! To prevent destructive scratching, try to keep your cat away from tempting areas. Hide corners of expensive furniture behind less expensive or more durable furnishings. Place expensive or delicate furnishings in out of the way places, that cats might not be tempted to “tag” while under-going corrective training. Many people choose to purchase or create a “scratching post” for their cats in an attempt to lure their cats’ attention away from scratching unacceptable places. Although this sounds like a good idea in theory, it really only encourages your cat to scratch more!
Some suggestions to curb destructive scratching are: punishing (correcting) by squirt guns, water pistols, loud noises and harmless “booby traps”; trimming nails often to reduce their damaging effect on furnishings; applying Soft Paws; or declawing. Corrective behavior works well when the owner is present, but “booby traps” that do not injure the animal, can be used to deliver consistent punishment in the owner’s absence. Some examples of these might include laser-eye triggered alarms, ScatMats and motion detector, scarecrow-type devices. Low tech devices might include light duty mouse traps with fly swatters or cardboard squares duct taped to the metal snap bow (snapping part) to decrease its velocity and prevent harm when it is triggered. Precariously stacked empty coke cans and other tricks might startle the cat away from a favorite scratching area. Regularly trimming your cat’s nails will eliminate the problem of sharp pointed tips which easily catch and snag furniture, carpet or skin. Your veterinarian can assist you in nail trims if you are unable to cut them yourself.
Soft Paws are an alternative to declawing and consist of soft plastic caps that go over the cat’s nails. (Plastic beads can be used as a generic alternative.) They are applied with the use of an adhesive and generally last for three to four weeks. If your cats destructive scratching continues, despite your best efforts to discourage the behavior, you may want to consider declawing. While some believe that declawing is an unnecessary and painful procedure, this is a common misconception and should not deter you from opting to declaw your cat. In fact, a declaw procedure is less invasive than spaying your cat, and in most instances the cat is alert and behaving normally within hours of recovering from anesthesia.
Cats are extremely intelligent animals and require an environment that is fun and stimulating. Play attack is a normal behavior that prepares cats to become hunters and develops social skills. In single cat homes, the cat may direct its attacks on the owner or other family members. While it may seem cute to watch your kitten stalk and pounce your foot or hand, these actions can quickly turn into a nuisance and painful experience as the cat gets older and bites or scratches harder. Never use your fingers or toes to play or encourage attacks from your cat; this only reinforces the idea that you are a target for play attacks. You can avoid this behavior by providing your cat with appropriate outlets for play and actively engaging with your cat during playtime. There is an array of suitable toys available to satisfy your cat’s playful nature. Small craft or ping pong balls provide solo entertainment for when your cat is left alone. You can also use “cat wands” or laser toys to stimulate play with your cat. Be careful not to shine the laser directly in your cat’s eyes while playing. Paper bags or balled-up paper also make cheap, fun toys for your cat. Increase your cat’s enjoyment of toy balls by throwing or batting the toys along with your cat. Cats are pack animals and enjoy the socialization playtime with their owner provides.
Physical punishment of your cat, such as swatting or thumping, should be avoided as they may cause your cat to fear you or encourage rough play. A suitable alternative to physical punishment is the use of a water gun or bottle to squirt your cat in order to deter them from unacceptable behavior. Loud or startling noises, such as clapping your hands, may also help deter your cat from inappropriate behaviors. Excessive punishment of any kind can lead to increased stress hormones in felines. Chronic elevations of stress in cats can eventually lead to serious medical disorders.