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House-soiling behaviour in a multi-cat household

Posted: Monday, June 8, 2015 at 12:49:30 PM EST by Cam Day

Litter management and spraying in a multi-cat household

Sandra from Broadbeach Waters on the Gold Coast in Queensland asks a common question about her cats’ behaviour.

I have three cats and continue to struggle to keep my house smelling clean. They tend to disregard the litter tray and I have tried so many things and just feel like giving up! Any miracle cures?

The failure of one or more cats to use a litter tray that’s provided for them can be caused by several underlying issues.

We always like putting problems like this through a ‘behaviour sieve’ to help better define the underlying malady.

The first sieve is to separate the soiling behaviour into three groups.

1. Is your cat ‘standing and spraying’ – usually on vertical surfaces?
2. Or is he or she ‘squatting and urinating’ but in areas other than the litter tray
3. Or is he or she ‘squatting and defecating’ but in areas other than the litter tray.

Is there a medical cause?

With that in mind, the next sieve is to ask ‘is your cat medically fit’.

It is so common that cats which urinate in the wrong areas have a lower urinary tract disease.

For those cats that defecate in the wrong areas – if the produce is at all loose in consistency there could be a medical cause.

All soiling cats should be checked by your medical veterinarian before being referred to a veterinary behaviourist.

More information

Solutions for ‘standing and spraying’

In the absence of medical causes, let’s look at the ‘first sieve’ – spraying.Cat Spraying

Spraying is often caused by an anxiety disorder and the commonest cause of that is inter-cat conflict.

Sandra, you have three cats. Are they getting on well? If not that could be the cause.

Are there local cats in your garden that are upsetting your cats? That’s a VERY common cause of spraying.

Or is there some form of conflict within the family that may be making your cat or cats anxious?

Eliminating that anxiety is vital and that can mean:-

1. Assimilating the cats so they get on better with each other
2. Trying to humanely repel local cats
3. Implementing enrichment and game-play which will often reduce anxiety
4. Using Feliway to resolve the anxiety
5. And some cases anti-anxiety medication is needed

More information

Solutions for squatting and urinating and squatting and defecatingCat soiling

Now let’s look at the last two ‘sieves’.

For those cats that are not spraying and that fail to use the litter tray (the ‘squatters’) there are usually for five reasons.

1. Firstly the tray may not be clean enough
2. Secondly you may not be using the correct litter. With three cats, each may have a different preference.
3. Thirdly you may have the trays in the wrong location
4. Fourthly the litter trays themselves may not be the correct design for your cats.
5. And lastly, there may be conflict between the cats where one is not wanting to use the other cat’s trays.

This can be complex to work through but we have developed a step-wise program which has more than a 90% success rate with litter issues. Often we can resolve that with a simple telephone consultation.

More information

Cleaning up the mess

As a last note, you need to be quite wise when cleaning up after your cats.Smellgone Rapid. Odour Control Spray. 500ml.
Dr Cam's recommended product for the science-based removal of animal odours. Select delivery options at check out.

Cats are very sensitive to smells and odours, including the perfumes of commonly-used cleaning agents.

Enzymatic laundry detergents such as Bio Attack are quite effective for cleaning animal waste but there is a wonderful product called Smellgone which is my favourite.

More information

Halloween, Australia, and our pets

Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 12:10:01 PM EST by Cam Day

Halloween, Australia, and our pets


Halloween, the 31st of October, is a time bound deep in American history. Traditionally, it is the time when Americans remember those who have passed, and ‘laugh’ in the face of death. Although it has long been an American holiday, it is becoming bigger and more popular in Australia with each passing year.

Today, Halloween has lost most of its original meaning, and the day is instead a time to delve in to the humorously macabre by watching scary movies, telling scary stories, and dressing up in all manner of ghouls and ghosts.

While that may be fun and exciting for us humans, it can be a completely different story for our beloved pets.

Pets and Superstitions

Take superstitions for example – we’re happily told from a young age not to walk under a ladder, crack a mirror, or even to let an innocent black cat cross your path.

Now, I have a big soft spot for black cats. I have two of my own and I love them to bits – my family calls them black panthers. They’re gorgeous. However, black cats are popular targets for sick ‘celebrations’ of Halloween traditions. A lot of black cats are abused, tortured and even killed on Halloween. In America, it has become common for people to adopt a black cat a few days prior to Halloween, only to return it a few days later, once the day has passed – these are considered the ‘lucky’ cats. Some American shelters have even banned black cat adoption during the entire month of October to prevent this from happening.

What do I do?

If you’re worried that your pet may be targeted, keep your pet out of harm’s reach.

  • Temporarily restrict your dog’s access to boundary fences
  • Keep your cat inside until the frivolity of the day has passed

Celebrating Halloween – Australian style

Australians love to have a good time, whether it’s a simple barbecue at the park, a beer with a friend, or dressing up in crazy costumes just because you can. Halloween in Australia is no exception.

6842-101413-gs6842With multiple parties at various entertainment and private venues celebrating everything Halloween, people are going to be acting and dressing differently. For instance, we already know that the family barbecue is a trigger for serious Resource-Guarding Aggression problems. So combine the barbecue with people in crazy costumes, people acting differently, and people under the effect of alcohol, and it’s a recipe for disaster for the family pet.

There may even be noisy celebrations such as fireworks and firecrackers. For anxious pets, this can all be cause for concern. Pets don’t understand that it’s just a bit of fun and games for us humans and that everything will be back to normal the next day. Pets don’t understand that fireworks aren’t going to hurt you, that they’ll be gone in just a few minutes. Pets don’t know that people are deliberately walking weird (as zombies), hissing (vampires, witches), or howling (ghosts, ghouls, werewolves). To pets, these loud noises are catastrophic and these people really are the monsters they are imitating, and it’s all very scary.

Scared and fearful pets are unpredictable. This is where the age-old notion of “fight/flight” comes in to play. If pets can’t run away, which they likely can’t if they’re confined in an area that has easy access to these “monsters”, they can become aggressive and that’s when disaster strikes.

What do I do?

If you’re having a get-together, have a plan in place to ensure your pet’s happiness and your visitors’ safety.

This can include:

  • Creating a sound-proof den if fireworks are going to be used nearby
  • Using a calmative if needed, such as Adaptil or Homeopet Storm Stress
  • Restricting your pet’s access to food preparation and eating areas
  • Keeping your pet away from the activity and ‘scary’ people
  • Ensuring your pet’s identification is up to date, in case they do escape your home

Trick or Treating

The most well-known part of celebrating Halloween is Trick-or-Treating. Kids of all ages dress up in their spookiest garb and travel their Puppy on cushion sad.jpgneighbourhood in packs, targeting their friendly neighbours with the cry “trick or treat!”

While this is great fun for humans, the constant traffic to and from the front door and the repetitive ringing of the doorbell may cause increasing levels of mood arousal, stress or anxiety in some pets. Combine this with the known factors of young children in costumes and crazy get-up and you could be in for a tough night.

And while we’re on the topic of Trick or Treating, just be mindful of the types of treats that could be within reaching distance of your pet.

What do I do?

While not every neighbourhood will be brimming with costumed kids wanting treats, it’s best to again have a plan in place.

  • Make the entrance area to your home a “no-go” zone for the night by closing doors or using baby gates
  • Place your pet in another part of the house where the sounds of the front door are muffled
  • Keep chocolates and other human treats away from your pets

Further reading:

The Denning Principle

Noise Fear Pet Pick

Resource-Guarding Aggression

Changing Moods

Human Foods that Poison Pets

Household Poisons That Can Kill Your Cat

Posted: Monday, June 9, 2014 at 9:58:53 PM EST by Cam Day

Household Poisons That Can Kill Your Cat

Curiosity killed the cat they say!

We all know that cats are very curious creatures. But when their curiosity turns towards some common household items that you and I have lurking in our cupboards or even on our shelves, that's when a cat's curiosity can be dangerous.

Cats are much more susceptible to poisons than are dogs so this article contains some timely warnings about cats and poisons that affect them.

Pain Killers - A Feline's Foe

The common painkillers Paracetamol and Aspirin are wonderful drugs for your own pain and discomfort,  but when it comes your cat, they are extremely dangerous.

Kitten_BurmeseThese drugs are all too commonly given to cats by their owners.  They are incorrectly used as a home remedy for many feline illnesses. This is an extremely dangerous practice and can result in the death of the pet.

Paracetamol causes extreme breathlessness by dangerously altering the red blood cells. It changes the red pigment of the blood (haemoglobin) into a compound known as methaemoglobin. This substance does not carry oxygen and results in the animal's gums and lips turning blue. Fluid-like swelling occurs around the face and the cat is lethargic and gasping for breath.

Aspirin is also a danger. It causes intense irritation of the intestines and a loss of appetite, vomiting and depression. The cat is not able to balance or stand. Its head may be wobbling or swaying from side to side.

These drugs are dangerous and you should not give them to your cat - unless your veterinarian advises that you do so.  

Other human medications that you should keep away from your cat include any containing phenylbutazone, indomethacin, ibuprofen, naproxen, acetominophen and codeine

Household Horrors

Many household substances can seriously affect cats too.

Any tar derivatives such as Creosote and some tar-based shampoos are dangerous.  Creosote is extremely corrosive and is toxic to cats. By  being absorbed through its skin, a cat easily takes creosote into its body. A cat may also try to lick creosote from its body, thus ingesting the tar through its mouth.

Tar derivatives cause a violent gastroenteritis in cats, with severe abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.  Tar is a therapeutic agent used in some dog shampoos.

Ensure any shampoo used on your cat is 'feline friendly' - read the label!

Household chemicals such as turpentine, kerosene and petrol can make a cat very ill.  These products are still sometimes incorrectly  used as a bushie's remedy for ticks and fleas. This is dangerous and you should keep these products away from your cat.woman_with_cat_200

Even if you wash it off, your cat will still readily absorb turpentine through its skin. It causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea and nervous signs, such as restlessness and hyperexcitability.

Use Insecticides with Caution

Be careful when washing cats in insecticide. 

Many insecticides on the market that are designed to kill fleas and ticks are quite safe when used on dogs but are deadly to cats. Insecticides containing organo-phosphate chemicals such as dichlorvos, diazinon and coumaphos are still available as dog washes but they are lethal for cats. The labels contain warnings against their use in cats, but many people forget to read the instructions!

Thankfully, the use of these types of insecticides is reducing in favour of the newer and kinder insecticides that are now commonly available through your veterinarian and pet shop.

Chlorinated hydrocarbons such as aldrin, DDT, dieldrin and lindane are especially dangerous in cats. These compounds are seldom used nowadays, but, while they are well controlled, some rural properties still have such preparations in storage.

Accidental poisoning with any of these insecticides can produce vomiting, diarrhoea, salivation, muscle   tremors and convulsions.

Caution When Renovating

With many glorious Colonial and Queenslander houses being restored nowadays, poisoning from lead-based paint is still a problem. The main difficulty occurs when you sand the lead paint. The lead dust on the ground is picked up on your cat's feet or fur and your cat could ingest enough to make it sick.

Lead causes extreme hyperexcitability. Your cat will hysterically rush around the house in an uncoordinated fashion. It will show paralysis or muscle weakness and convulsions are common. You may also notice gastrointestinal signs such as  loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea or constipation.

The lead content of paints can be tested with kits that are now readily available from hardware stores.

What to do if your cat is poisoned

If you suspect your cat has been poisoned, your best remedy is an emergency visit to your veterinarian.

Be careful because a cat that is in convulsions or that is fitting is very dangerous and difficult to handle. It will not recognize you as its owner and you are likely to get bitten or scratched severely. Place your cat in a cardboard box or cat carry cage, ring your veterinarian and proceed with cautious haste.

If you know what substance poisoned your cat, take a sample of it to your veterinarian.

Related information:-

Talking Scents - an animal's sense of smell

Posted: Friday, March 7, 2014 at 6:19:54 PM EST by Cam Day

Talking Sense about Cat Scents

Why cats spray and scratch furniture

You have all seen it. 

The local Mutt wanders down the street, the king of all he surveys and at each post, he lifts his leg and leaves a small quantity of urine. 

It's the normal way that dogs mark their territory but dogs are certainly not the only animals that use their scent to mark territory. Cats, rhinos, bees and even humans mark their territory in many different ways.

Animals don't need email, Facebook and Twitter.

Such base forms of communication are for primitive species like humans. After all, humans don't know how to communicate using the refined messages contained in bodily scents. That is, all except the members of a special tribe in New Guinea who won't shake hands until they hCat Sprayingave rubbed their hands under their armpits to exchange smells with their friends.

I'm glad I have a primitive email address.

A cat marks its territory by spraying urine in much the same way as dogs but also by scratching its claws on various trees around its territory.  The visible scratch marks and the scent from its feet are strong messages to other cats.

Solutions to furniture scratching

How Powerful is an Animal's Sense of Smell?

honeynoseA dog's ability to detect scents is legendary. Humans are olfactory dunces compared to dogs. The difference is in the anatomy of a dog's nose. We have two sheets of membranes in our  noses that contain roughly five million olfactory (smell) receptors whereas the dogs have intricately folded sheets of membranes with a surface area fifty times larger than that of humans and with more than 220 million sensory cells.

Thus, a dog's sense of smell is at least one hundred times and possibly one hundred thousand times more sensitive than a human's. For instance, your Pooch can detect the odour of your fingerprint six weeks after you placed it onto a piece of glass.

Further dogs used to detect chemical residues such as chlordane and dieldrin in soil can detect these chemicals in parts of less than one per million - better than most scientific measuring equipment!!  Doesn't that make you feel like a dunce?

Territorial Marking Behaviour

It is for this reason that a dog is so fascinated with the urine deposits of others. A wolf will urine-mark the boundaries of its territory twice as much as it marks the centre. It will also mark its territory with its faeces, with the scent from its anal glands, and by scratching vertical objects.dogcockedlegweeingoncorner

The 'last post' routine of a male dog descends from its wolf ancestry. Wolves also mark territory by smearing vertical surfaces with faeces and even this is seen in high ranking dogs.

You are likely to see leg-lifting behaviour in your back yard Pooch more commonly along your boundary fence line and much more commonly when another dog is going past. Some very territorial dogs will also scent-mark their territories by smearing their faeces onto vertical surfaces. This is more often seen when a dog is walking along the street or is in a local park. In hot climates such as ours, faecal marking scents last longer than urine scents whereas, interestingly, the opposite is true in colder climates. I have noticed that dogs which mark their territories with their faeces are usually very independent dogs and are often quite aggressive to other dogs.

The ability of an animal to scent mark is very important to its survival. It is the only way an animal can leave a message for others without having to stay around to deliver it.

Many species scent mark. European rabbits deposit hundreds of faecal pellets daily to mark their territory. Hippos distribute their dung in rivers by using their tails as egg-beaters in the water. Rhinos place dung pats in strategic locations along their trails and will also trample in their dung to carry the smell with them on their feet as they travel.

Some monkeys and other primates urinate on their feet so that they leave their scent on trees as they travel, and the dwarf mongoose stands on its head to rub essential scents from its anal glands up as high as it can manage on bushes and rocks.

The Lure of Pheromones

Many of the scents that are important to animals contain pheromones. Pheromones are powerful molecules that, when released from one animal, have a big affect on the behaviour of otherFeliway and Boyps animals, just like the hormones within an animal's own body have a big affect on its own

In the world of science we have even reached the stage where we can manufacture pheromones and place it in bottles.Adaptil complete - includes diffuser and pheromone bottle.

For cats, the pheromone Feliway is readily available and is used to stop cats spraying, as well as in assisting cats to become comfortable when moving into a new residence.

For dogs, the Dog Appeasing Pheromone (Adaptil)  is available and is used for the treatment of separation anxiety, noise fears and other anxieties and also helps to assimilate a puppy or even an adult do into a new home.

Purchase Pheromones Here

Solutions for Scent Marking Behaviour

If scent marking is a problem with your pets, try the following: -

  1. Desexing male dogs and cats greatly reduces the need to urine mark. Urine scent marks can be removed with Bac To Nature and similar animal odour eliminators and with the laundry detergent Bio Zet.

  2. For cats that scratch furniture, try covering the furniture with plastic - the black plastic used in landscaping works well. Then place a scratching post near to the scratched furniture. Scent the scratching post with the pheromone spray Feliway to create interest in the scratching post.

  3. Change the perception of your cat's favourite spraying area by feeding it in that spot or by gluing dry cat biscuits to an old dish and leaving them in the sprayed area.

  4. Keep other dogs and cats away from your pet's territory so your pets will not feel the need to mark their own territory to keep these interlopers away.

For interesting reading on animals and how they communicate, look for the Reader's Digest book Intelligence in Animals.

Links to other information:

What are pheromones?

Making scents

Dog Appeasing Pheromone (Adaptil)


Killer Lilies

Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 7:33:41 PM EST by Cam Day

Killer Lilies

Cat owners should be cautious about the danger of the common lily, a plant that many of us have in our homes and gardens.

Lilies are commonly used in floral decorations, as indoor plants and are grown in gardens.

However, when eaten by cats, lily plants can cause severe and often fatal kidney disease.

What Lilies Cause Problems?

lilliesMany lily species can cause the malady including the Tiger, Easter, Day, Glory and Stargazer lilies, as well as the Japanese show lily, the Asian lily and the Rubrum lily.

The Peace and Calla lily also cause kidney disease but through a different mechanism and the Lily-of-the-valley is also dangerous but is different again as it causes heart disease.

All parts of the lily plant are dangerous, including the flowers, stamens, stems, leaves and roots. As little as two leaves or part of a single flower have caused toxicity.

How Dangerous are Lilies?

Only small quantities of the plants need to be eaten to cause disease.

While outdoor cats can be affected, house-confined cats are more likely to be victims to Lily plants especially.

This is because lily plants brought into the home present a novel feature for house-confined cats. Young, curious kittens are especially likely to investigate such plants.

Cats also seem to be unique in their susceptibility to the toxin in lilies. Dogs can eat large quantities of the plants and only develop mild gastroenteritis while rats and rabbits show no effect at all.

What Effects do Lilies Have? catoncouch200

Cats affected by lily intoxication will initially show gastritis which will be manifest as vomiting, a lack of interest in food and as lethargy. These initial signs appear within two hours of ingestion and disappear after 12 hours, and then the cats may improve briefly before the condition progresses to serious acute renal failure within 24 to 72 hours.

Cats at this time will show a variety of effects ranging from increased thirst to the production of large amounts or urine or, alternatively, to the cessation of all urine production. Affected cats are likely to be dehydrated and they will appear dull and inactive.

This is certainly a serious condition because death occurred in all affected cats in cases from 1989 to 1990 when this condition was first reported. In six later cases, three died of renal failure despite expert management. Of those that survived, all had permanent kidney damage.

If lily intoxication affects your cat, the quicker you seek treatment, the better your cat's chances of survival. The outcome is much better if the condition is treated early, before the kidneys are irreversibly damaged.

What Should I Do if My Cat is Affected?

If you see your cat chewing a lily plant or if your cat develops sudden-onset vomiting then get to your veterinarian quickly, especially if your cat has access to lily plants. Be sure you tell your veterinarian that you have lily plants present, so that he or she can determine if that is a possible cause of any disease your cat is showing.

If your veterinarian suspects that lily intoxication caused your cat's illness, he or she is likely to give medications to make your cat vomit so that any remaining plant material in your cat's stomach is removed. Your vet is then likely to place your cat onto a drip to support its circulation and to flush toxins from the kidneys. Your veterinarian may choose to flush your cat's stomach to remove any remaining plant material and may give other medications by mouth or stomach-tube to inactivate any toxins.

If you have a house-confined cat, you should not select Lilies as indoor plants and homeowners who have lilies in their gardens need to be cautious to ensure their cats will not chew on the plants.

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