Expert advice to deal with your pet’s disgusting habit
Pets are not humans and therefore display behaviours not only foreign to us but at times, annoying or even disgusting.
While our instinctive response can be to feel repulsed or angry, Dr Magdoline Awad, chief veterinarian officer at Greencross The Pet Company, says they could be trying to tell us something.
Here, she answers readers' pet questions.
CAT'S MESSY MESSAGES
I have a Birman who, since moving house, started spraying on wooden doors. She was fine the first few months but now if I leave, she waits until I come in, sprays wee everywhere then runs away. I let her outside in the day and bring her in when I'm inside. I have three litter trays around home regularly cleaned. I've been told it's possibly stress but she has the best life.
This is urine spraying. Cats usually are standing, tail in the air and spray urine back onto a surface such as walls, shoes or in your case, a door. All cats spray, usually outdoors as normal communication.
Spraying indoors tends to be a sign your cat is feeling stressed and trying to feel more secure. They are not being defiant, they are feeling threatened. There are many reasons why your cat may spray. Moving house is a big source of stress as are any changes to the environment or routine, new family members or new pets. Your cat may be encountering other neighbourhood cats when she is outside or can see them when indoors.
You need to break the habit by making sure you clean the area appropriately to reduce the motivation to respray. There are many products but don't use ones with chlorine or ammonia. Identify the triggers which may not be easy. Your vet can give her a check-up to ensure there are no medical reasons.
They will also advise how to manage it and may prescribe medication to reduce anxiety to help break the habit. The use of pheromone diffusers can provide a sense of safety and security. Whatever you do, never use punishment.
HOLE LOT OF DIGGING
We are dog-sitting a two-year-old golden retriever. Lovely dog but digs holes in the garden. We also have a 16-year-old Tenterfield terrier and 10-month-old mixed breed pup. The pup and retriever get on well and now pup is learning to dig. We take them for walks. How do we stop the digging?
It is lovely that you are helping out your daughter by looking after her dog-and it is great the dogs get along well. Digging is a very natural, instinctive behaviour for dogs. They can dig for various reasons including playing, burying things such as bones for later, trying to escape, to relieve boredom or because they are anxious.
Some dogs also dig and lie in the soil to keep cool, so identifying the underlying reason is important in being able to manage the situation. Exercise and long walks, having enough play and training time, environmental enrichment by providing chew toys to occupy them helps keep them mentally stimulated.
The great thing is you are home a lot so you can supervise your dogs and when they start digging, distract them with a loud noise such as by clapping (enough to disrupt but not to frighten them) and then redirect by playing fetch with a ball or using treats.
If that doesn't work, and their instinct to dig is too great, you may need to fence off an area for digging, hide nice items for them to dig and reward them when they do. If they are digging near a fence to escape, there may be an underlying anxiety condition. It is important you ensure their safety and seek veterinary advice. Never ever use negative reinforcement as punishment as it can make the situation worse.
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Originally published as Expert advice to deal with your pet's disgusting habit