Okaw Veterinary Clinic

140 W. Sale
Tuscola, IL 61953

(217)253-3221

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Felines Fighting? Peace is Possible

 

Contents:

Feline Friends - How to Help your Cats get Along
Can a food help your dog calm down? Yes!

Fear of Fireworks

 

Feline Friends - How to Help your Cats get Along

As I give talks, and write articles about pet health and behavior, I am learning more about what really concerns loving pet owners. One problem that is kind of hidden from the veterinarian, is how well the  housemate cats are getting along. Cats rarely fight so bad that they need to come in for stitching up or other care due to the fight.  In dogs that is a different story. But cats do a lot of hissing, yowling, chasing and running with loads of threats but fortunately few actual nasty attacks. So, until we ask or the client asks us what to do, cat fights and "grouchiness" is a hidden problem for your veterinarian.

So, why do cats dislike each other? Really they do like each other. The problem is that the needs they have for space, food, water, and play are very different that dogs or humans. When these needs are not met in the way the cat needs them to be met, trouble flares. It is not difficult to change the home around to help your cats, but it does need to happen. You will likely have to move a few collectables off the top shelf of a cabinet, or get a nice cat tree near the window for the cats. If you do not follow the suggestions - the fur will keep on flying and it may go into an all out brawl. 

Cats are normally solo creatures out in the wild. Only lions really live in social groups and depend on each other for hunting and such. So our pet cats want to have their own beds, perching places, food dishes, and litter boxes. Every time you add a cat, you need to add each of these things. All of these extra items (resources) need to be placed a distance apart or not in view of the cats when in use. So all of these items need to be about 6 feet apart from each other to have the cats feel like it is separate. 

Using the space along the walls will greatly expand the space for the cats. Put shelves staggered along the walls going up so the cats can hop up and perch at different levels. This is like increasing the space by 2 or 3 times for the cats. A cat tree should have at least 3 shelves and one box or cubbie area for the cats. Some cats like to be hidden  and low, others like to be out and up high. Watch and see where you cat is going - top of the fridge? Get a cat tower that is that high. Under the end table?  Get a box or tube for the cat to hide and see out. This fills the need for a cat to have places to investigate, to rest solo and climb.

Cats want to play, but with something that is moving and looks like a bird or mouse to kill. Cats don't really "play" with each other much. They do some, but usually not until they have had time to swat, jump and try to kill a moving toy - usually one that a human is tossing or moving. So get a feather toy or real fur toy on a wand and tease your cat to try to catch and kill it. You are now filling this cat's need to kill something. Once that need is filled, they are often more calm and want to interact with another cat.

Separate feeding areas are also important. Cats rarely outwardly fight over food. If they are swatting or hissing, then they are really stressed over the sharing. Get a bowl per cat and position them so no one is looking at each other. It is best to feed the cats about 1/8 cup of food twice daily. Don't leave the food out. This can lead to fighting over the food, or over eating. Cat obesity is the leading reason for diabetes in the cat and other health problems.

If you have a new cat that has recently entered the home - within the past 4 months - you may need to re introduce the cats. I have an article on my website to help you. Write or call me if you want me to go over the right way to introduce a new cat to your present cat.

Some cats have pain in the back or other places and use aggression to keep other cats away from them. Other cats bumping up to them, grooming them or rubbing up to them may hurt so the painful cat uses aggression to keep the others away. This is why it is so important if your cats that used to get along, are grouchy now to have a very complete and detailed exam for pain. Cats hide pain, and x-rays and other tests may be needed to check for common problems especially in our older cats.

 


 

Can a Food Help your Dog Calm Down? Yes!

Royal Canin diets recently released a new dry food for dogs and cats called CALM. We had a presentation about it at our office about 3 weeks ago. It certainly looked promising so I thought I would try it on my dog Bella since she still goes crazy barking at times. I have posted about Bella in the past, and she has made a lot of progress over her 3 years, but I thought I would see if this food could help her focus better and be a bit less reactive at times.

Here is a  little back ground about the food. This diet was developed by Royal Canin for dogs and cats that show signs of anxiety. The diet is formulated for dogs under 44 lbs and cats of normal weight. The food supplements vitamin b3, tryptophane and a milk protein calming complex. I was curious to see if the food could make a difference in a dog larger than 44 lbs ( Bella weighs 49 lbs). The levels of the supplements are appropriate for  dogs up to 44 lbs, but as dogs get larger the volume they do not eat that much more food so the supplement level is not likely to be enough to help. So Bella is 5 lbs over the top limit, but I thought it would still be worth a try.

I started Bella at 50% CALM and 50% of her Science Diet k9 adult food for 5 days, then onto CALM 100%. She has been on the CALM for 2 weeks. The company says it may take up to 2 weeks to see a benefit. I have been keeping a chart of how upset she gets - barking, lunging, and can not come when called when she sees other dogs, squirrels, and other triggers.

Within the first few days, Bella would only bark 3-4 times at noises outside and was not as ballistic over the neighborhood cat that hangs around. She would come when called much more readily too. One week at 100% calm I am seeing more improvement. She was able to walk past a home with a barking little dog in the yard and did not bark or pull at the leash wanting to get after that dog.  This morning my neighbor was walking down the alley as Bella played in the yard. She stared barking but after just 2 or 3 barks she came to me when called which normally would have been very difficult. In the mornings, she settles in her bed after eating and going out much more easily.

At times, Bella is still naughty or is still reactive. She got a hold of the empty bag that was left on a counter and shredded it up. Can I blame her? It must have smelled good and of course the shredding of the bag was fun. She also got off her harness when she got tangled up in the bushes the other day. At least her romp through the neighborhood was much shorter and she came to me when I called her much more readily than she has in the past. 

I will have to see how she continues to do on the CALM diet. It is a bit pricey - suggested retail is about $50 for a 9 lb bag. The cost of some supplements with the cost of dog food is about equal to the cost of this food. Feeding a diet that can help your dog be less stressed and learn how to be less anxious in situations is far more convenient than medications. As Bella learns she may not need to stay on this diet. I will definitely keep you posted on her progress!

 


 

Fear of Fireworks

Many dogs are afraid of fireworks. Maybe a dog was left alone during a fireworks and did not know where to go or what to do. It may be genetic, or it may be something that has been increasing over the years. Whatever the cause, firework phobia is very common and can range from mild to severe. There is help for your dog. Help is in the form of a plan to teach them to be calm with the help of anti-anxiety medication as determined by your veterinarian.

When your pet is young do train them to be rewarded for calm, non anxious behavior during fireworks, and other loud noises. Teach them to go to a "safe" spot in the house. Their safe spot may be their bed, your bed room or a bathroom. Command them to the area before the fireworks start and reward them. Give them a bed, crate or in the bath tub to lie on and reward them for going there fast and lying calmly. You can give them a rawhide or kong filled with treats to chew and lick at while the fireworks explode overhead. Heavy beat rock music or Egyptian/Indian music is very helpful also. Print out Butterscotch's play list from our website for suggested songs that have helped many dogs. DAP collars are also helpful to reduce fear.

For the dogs that are pacing, panting, drooling, circling, howling, pawing at their owners, climbing on to furniture, hiding under the bed, in the closet, digging out of doors or windows there is help for them. There are different levels of fear, and each level causes some physical pain. The dog may not be completely fearless during fireworks, but they can be more calm, which is much better for them.

Proper anti anxiety medication (not just tranquilizers) during fireworks are very effective. These medications are not sedatives, although sedatives may be part of combination treatment in severe cases. Your dog will not be constantly drugged out. A check up and blood check are needed before starting treatment.

A plan to help your pet have a better 4th of July season is possible with the help of a veterinarian and staff offering behavioral help. Okaw Veterinary Clinic offers exams and consults to prepare a  plan for your dog. Helping your dog will also help you. Contact Okaw Vet Clinic at 217-253-3221, look at the services we offer or read Dr. Foote's blog for more help.