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Pet Fix Case Study:- Nocturnal attention seeking in a young house cat

Posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 10:34:10 AM EST by Cam Day

Pet Fix Case Study:- Nocturnal attention seeking in a young house cat

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Annie from Carina writes about Peanut an 11 month-old domestic shorthair cat. Peanut is a male, neutered rescue cat that Annie adopted from a shelter at 6 months of age.Annie and Peanut

Peanut has recently lost his appetite in association with a house move and with Annie being away for a while and she is concerned about that.

However Annie’s main worry is that Peanut practices nocturnal attention-seeking behaviour.

He will wake Annie in the early hours, typically 3am – 4am. At that time he is active and cheerfully playful, chewing power cords, jumping over furniture and the kitchen counter, scattering and wrecking valuables in his wake and generally being an early morning nuisance creating more devastation that a super-charged hurricane on a bad hair day.

He has also started humping some of his plush toys which Annie finds unusual considering he is neutered.

The three identified issues with Peanut are:-

  1. Decreased appetite
  2. Nocturnal attention seeking
  3. Humping of toys.

It’s unlikely his reduced appetite relates to the other two behavioural issues albeit the association with Annie’s move may indicate he is overly anxious and ‘worried’ about changes to his routine and territory.

Being a rescued cat, most refuges are very good at ensuring the optimum health of their adoptees but if he was a hunter before Annie took over his care, there’s a chance he may have a specific tapeworm called a spirometra which is a little more difficult to eliminate than normal tapeworms.

There are many other causes of a reduced appetite and the scope of that is beyond this Pet Fix but a visit to the veterinarian is warranted. Because Peanut uses a litter tray, taking a sample of his faeces for examination will speed the process so that worms and other parasites can be confirmed or denied at that time. A full examination by Annie’s vet will also determine any other medical malady causing Peanut’s reduced appetite.

Nocturnal attention seeking is a common behaviour with cats. Cats are nocturnal predators and humans are not! We prefer to sleep at night but cats prefer to boogie at night.

Being the breeding season at present (it extends from spring through most of summer), cats are more active after dark right now. Although Peanut is desexed, the romantic misdemeanours of the few non-desexed cats in Annie’s neighbourhood are likely to cause Peanut to wonder ‘what’s that all about’. Thus the roaming activity of local cats, with their yowling, fighting and urine-spraying, may be stimulating Peanut to be active at night.

Annie may not see these cats but Peanut will be well-aware of their presence due to sounds they make and the smells they leave behind as they roam.

Installing a Feliway Diffuser may make Peanut less worried about territorial challenges from other cats and thus make him more content, creating a restful state at night. Sometimes a few drops of a homeopathic preparation specifically designed for pets can be effective.Playing creates a calmer state

Annie could implement a simple trilogy of tired-making tricks just before bedtime to create a soporific effect:-

  1. Vigorous play to create tiredness
  2. Follow that by providing a ‘gut full’ of food
  3. And complete the task by using the massaging, calming effect of gentle grooming with a (flea) comb or brush

His humping behaviour is not a sex-based behaviour. It’s a common-enough behaviour of desexed cats and mostly indicates boredom as a consequence of being house-confined. Enriching his lifestyle with game play routines are likely to help with that, along with the removal of items targeted by his wayward ways. That should get him over the hump of the problem.

If the behaviours persist and Peanut’s problems are proven to be an anxiety disorder, a medication approach could be implemented.

Queensland government abandons mandatory cat registration

Posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 10:35:26 AM EST by Cam Day

Queensland government abandons mandatory cat registration

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bigstock-cat-8153699The Queensland Government repealed state-wide mandatory cat registration requirements on 23 September 2013.Instead, it now allows local councils the discretion to continue with, or to drop, compulsory cat registration.

In response, Brisbane City Council has suspended cat registration and will make a final decision in that regard on 21 October 2013.  Ipswich City Council is likely to follow suit.

Brisbane City Council lifestyle chairman Krista Adams, says that 16,122 of about 111,000 domestic cats in the limits are registered.

So, it seems that cat registration is an exercise in futility but why was cat registration implemented and what does that mean for cat ownership and cat control?

Why was cat registration implemented?

Cat registration is a subset of cat identification which itself is a needed part of cat control.

We humans need to control nuisance behaviours of many animal species including other pets such as dogs, feral animals (horses, pigs, deer, camels and yes, dogs and cats) and pest species (rabbits, rats, mice) and sometimes even native animals such as kangaroos and bats.

So cat registration is aimed at reducing the ‘nuisances’ cats cause in the community, but there are other methods of achieving the same result. In essence it's likely that's the reason cat registration hasn't worked.

What ‘nuisances’ do cats cause in the community

The nuisance behaviours of cats in the suburbs involve roaming, soiling (particularly urine spraying), vocalising and predation on wildlife and aggression to other free-roaming cats.

Many state that because we have dog registration, we should therefore have cat registration.

Dog nuisance behaviours are different. The big issues with dogs are dog attacks, excess vocalising (barking) and while roaming and soiling are still important , they are much less of an issue compared with cats.

Predation of free-roaming dogs occurs (and is problematic when directed towards livestock) but is less common.

Registration works for dogs because dogs are easier to catch, easier to identify by appearance, easier to confine to a garden and easier to identify when a dog owner is being interviewed.  The dog is usually present and obvious if a Council officer visits.

All of that means it’s easier to trace a dog back to its owner.

Registration doesn’t work for cats because cats are very difficult to catch, very difficult to identify by appearance, impossible to ‘trace back’ to the owner’s dwelling and if a Council officer visit a home, the cat is usually not visible.

It’s also easier to keep a cat fully-house confined compared with a dog.

Cat registration is a form of identification but so is microchipping

Cat registration is a form of identification but microchip implantation does the same task and does it more easily and more economically.

It’s also compulsory in most areas of Australia.

Currently in Australia, microchip identification is compulsory in ACT, NSW, QLD and VIC. Microchipping for dogs only is compulsory in TAS and microchipping for cats only is compulsory in WA. 

The maximum penalty for failing to have a cat or dog microchipped in Queensland is $2000.

Cat registration provides identification only within the Council area in which the cat is registered whereas microchipping provides national identification and is independent of Council boundaries.

Considering the complexity and proven failure of maintaining a cat registration system and that microchipping is already a compulsory form of identification, it really seems that cat registration is an exercise in futility and provides no significant benefits over microchipping.

Microchipping still has its weak points, the most common of which is the failure of pet owners to notify the microchip registries of their change of ownership or address details. Another weak point is that some irresponsible breeders and sellers of cats don’t have their cats microchipped before sale.

However it is still a system which provides many benefits particularly when combined with neutering.

Microchipping of cats should be done before they are sold but a fall-back position is that most veterinarians will microchip a cat at the time it is presented for desexing if it is not already microchipped.

Solving cat ‘nuisance’ behaviourscats_window-predation_on-bird190

The nuisance behaviours of cats including soiling (particularly urine spraying), vocalising and predation on wildlife and aggression between cats are all caused by one thing – the cat’s ability to roam.

So most, if not all, cat nuisance behaviours are prevented by just one thing – keeping a cat within the bounds of the owner’s property.

That can be done by making a cat fully house-confined or by having a garden enclosure to allow the cat outside but not to roam free.

You can make a garden enclosure yourself or there are many commercial organisations doing just that.

Click here for more details on cat confinement and lifestyle enrichment strategies


What is your view? Leave your comments below.


Clawed Claude strikes again!

Posted: Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 9:35:49 AM EST by Cam Day

Scratching the Surface

Why do cats sharpen their claws on furniture?

Nothing riles a cat owner more than when their manic moggie uses the family lounge suite as a claw-honing tool. Furniture scratching tatters the very fabric of cat ownership.  But - the solutions are as sneaky as the behaviour of the culprit cat itself.

catoncouch200Cats practice claw sharpening for many reasons.

Partly it is a manicuring behaviour. By drawing their claws across fabric they are stripping away the dead and damaged claw tips just like we humans clip our long nails when they are annoying us.

However, cats also claw trees and, similarly, household furniture, to mark their territory. The marking occurs in two ways. The obvious tattiness of a tree trunk after being scratched by a cat is a visual marker, analogous to a news headline in the morning paper. The headline-scratching attracts other cats that approach the area to determine the fine print details left by the animal author.

The second territorial marker then comes into play by way of the scents released from the cat's paws as it scratches. This scent provides a territorial marking function and identifies the cat that made its mark.

Lastly, some house cats claw furniture because they relish the effect their errant ways have on their owners whose rantings and ravings are just the stimulation a bored puss-cat needs.

Solving the Problem
The solutions to claw sharpening are borne from the reasons it occurs in the first place.

Contents of Next Page (membership required)

The Following Magic Methods Include :

1. Trim your cat's claws

2. Transfer the Behaviour

3. Cover the Tattiness.

4. Remove the Scent.

5. Moving the Scratching Post

6. Make the Furniture 'Unpleasant'

7. A Garden Play Gym 

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Spray it again, Sam

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 12:50:06 PM EST by Cam Day

Mrs. Humphries arrived home and knew immediately what Spikey had been up too. It was the smell that told the story. Cat urine - somewhere in the house - but where?

Spikey was a perplexed puss cat. He was upset, anxious and agitated and as a result he was spraying urine around the house regularly during the day.

The smell was atrocious and Mrs. Humphries was getting to the end of her tether. How could she invite visitors to her home when the whole house smelt like a freshly-endorsed cat litter tray?

She needed help and so did Spikey - he was not only agitated but quite unwell too.

Why Was Spikey Spraying?

male-cat-behavior268Spikey was spraying because he was offended and affronted by  the neighbourhood cats that were roaming through his backyard. A big  non-desexed Tom Cat was a regular visitor. This brazen Tom considered Spikey's backyard was part of his territory. The Tom was spraying as he prowled through the backyard. So were the other visiting cats, and some had even come in through Spikey's cat door and had sprayed inside Spikey's home.

Spikey was not happy at this insult and, of course, Spikey's owner was not that content either.

But there was another matter. Spikey also had a lower urinary tract disease. He was forming crystals in his bladder and also had a few nasty bacteria that were causing a bladder infection. This was another engine that was driving him to spray more that he would do otherwise.

Spraying is one of the commonest behavioural problems about which cat owners will complain to their veterinarian. I treat spraying cats regularly in my behaviour clinics and would see at least one a week.

I am surprised to find that the more I look at this problem, the more I see the link between marauding neighborhood moggies causing a resident cat to spray, and a bladder infection in the same, spraying cat. I estimate that about 60% of the spraying cases I deal with have the bladder condition commonly called Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD).

Spraying is a normal marking behaviour of entire (non-desexed) male cats and also of female cats when they are in season.

 It is a form of communication. Desexing a male or female cat is likely to improve the behaviour but spraying is often seen in desexed cats, males and females, too.  This often occurs when the cat is anxious, upset or 'territorially stressed'. I have seen spraying behaviour in cats never let out of their house but where, through a window,  they can see other cats prowling through the garden or around the house. Many house-confined cats will station themselves on an elevated platform where they can peer through a window to the ground below and observe roaming cats.  I have Cat soilingseveral cases where the resident cat lived in a unit three to four stories above the ground. Although it never came in contact with local marauding cats, it still sprayed because of the perceived threat.

Sometimes these roaming cats are devilish. I have seen cases where they will spray through a fly screened door to upset the resident cat within. I know of a case where a roaming cat entered through a cat door, chased the resident cat of its sleeping owner's bed and then sprayed on the owner's face as she was waking up to the melee!

Other cats will spray on new items that have been brought into the house because of the new smell and some will spray because they are constantly bickering with cats that they live with.

What are the Remedies? Is There a Medical Cause?

Firstly, look for a medical cause. A urine test is essential to look for the disease known as FLUTD. If your feline felon has this disease, it can be treated.

Generally treatment involves a course of antibiotics and often a long course too. Diet change will be needed and your vet is likely to advise a specialised diet to control your cat's urinary pH levels and to ensure bladder health in other ways.

Contents of Next Page (membership required)

The following Magic Methods Include :

1. Remedies for spraying cats

2. Is there a medical cause?

3. Cleaning up the mess the right way

4. Pheromones and medications

... and more!

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Cat question solved!

Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 1:13:39 PM EST by Cam Day

Q  Hello Dr Cam,

I haveFree to roam moved from a leafy large residence where my cat was able to spend her days investigating the creek that ran behind my house to a busy suburban residence that has a lot of foot and road traffic.

So now, she is really restricted to the areas that she can go to ‘investigate’. She has since become very ‘cuddly’ and will follow me around and talk to me continually while I am at home.

I try to play with her and provide her with toys around the house but she isn’t interested in the toys and as I work so much I don’t go and play with her outside during the week.

Can you suggest any solutions?

Kelly, NSW.


A  Hi Kelly,

With cats, it’s hard to compete with the wonders of the outside world.  Cats that are allowed to roam benefit from the broad tapestry of challenges life gives them – a rich lifestyle maybe - but usually very short and risk-laden.

Cats kept indoors are much safer and live longer and suffer less disease – but the downside if that is, yes, boredom can be a problem.

So, there's a sensible balance that's needed.

Indoors funThe answer is to give the cat the largest territory possible but the safest and the environmentally richest one you can manage.

Cagey Cats

There are various cat enclosure systems that will allow your cat outside access with safety.

Catmax and Cat Nip are two well-established brands but there are others.  Many cat owners will make their own by, for instance, enclosing a deck, veranda or pagoda.

If an enclosure is not possible then you need to work hard to provide a rich lifestyle for your cat where things change on a regular basis.

Feline Frolics

Playing with your cat is important when you are home and a bamboo garden stake with a bootlace attached makes a good ‘fly-fishing rod’  where you can flick the boot lace back and forth to stimulate your cat's predatory instincts.

When you are not at home, look at various ways in which you can provide change during a cat’s boring day.

Timer activated food bowls are readily available. Some cat owners use our DIY Sneaky Leaky Milk Carton Timer to deliver toys, food items and, yes, Kong toys, to their cats.

We often advise cat owners to use a process called Fan Fare Fun. Place a pedestal fan on a timer plug so it turns on and off during the day. Place the fan at table height and make it ‘blow’ interesting items such as ping pong balls and feathers off the table during your absence. Crazy!

The Phun of Pheromones

To make your cat more content in its new home, also consider the use of Feliway Pheromones

More information on boredom relief for cats can be found on this link

Thanks Kelly!


Why desexing your cat is important

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 12:34:28 PM EST by Cam Day

The Importance Of Desexing Cats

Cat owners beware! There are clandestine meetings being held in darkened back streets. Impetuous romantic liaisons are occurring with no thought of the consequences. Testosterone charged Toms will brawl viciously with each other while competing for the proffered favours of female cats. The result of this biological ball game is that thousands of kittens will are born in the cat breeding season in cities around the world.

Sadly, far too many of those kittens are born to die. Animal refuges around the globe are unable to cope with the huge number of irresponsibly bred kittens they receive.

The Breeding Season for Cats

Cats snugglingIn warmer climates, cats, unlike dogs, are seasonal breeders. This means that they have a relatively short breeding season. In Queensland, Australia, it starts in August as the day length increases and extends through the Spring and Summer months. Dogs, by comparison, don't have a breeding season and can be sexually active anytime in the year.

There is another major difference between the breeding habit of cats and dogs too. Cats, in the breeding season, have continual breeding cycles throughout the summer months. These cycles repeat every three weeks or so unless the cat is mated, or until the breeding season finished.

Dogs are not like that. They come into 'season' usually every six months, and they have just one cycle lasts for only three weeks and then stops, whether they are mated or not.

Cats are breeding machines. There is nothing accidental in their mating rituals. When the hormones hit, the Queens (female cats) actively seek males and they keep seeking them until mated. The males are more than willing, and they will brawl with each other to get their 'gal'.

A Cat's Behaviour when it is in Season

Your female cat is likely to show some unusual behaviour when her hormones start. She will yowl at the door to get out at night. She will roll on the Bengal_Green_eyes-200w-SMLground, become agitated and act most unusually. You are likely to think her need is a brief sojourn outside to go to the toilet and that's your mistake as she will stay out all night, to return in the morning with a happy, contented smile on her face. Nine weeks later there will be a surprise in the laundry basket when she has given birth to a litter of kittens.

What happens with male cats? These boys are going to have a hard time. Their fights over the females are bitter and vicious. Several consequences are likely. The first is an injury such as a ruptured eye ball from a claw wound. Bite wounds over the body or head are also likely. Many of these bite wounds will turn into painful abscesses which are caused by some horrible bacteria that are forcefully injected under the victim's skin by the aggressor's needle sharp teeth. There is a very good chance that the deadly disease, Feline AIDS, will be contracted. Unlike human AIDS, Feline AIDS is spread by saliva passed from one cat to another by a bite wound. AIDS is much more common in entire male cats than any other.

Because male cats roam for kilometres when looking for ladies, they also suffer a variety of accidents. They become lost, fall victim to car wheels or to cat consuming canines.

Humans are Affected by the Behaviour of Breeding Cats

 There is also the human component. Most people do not like their sleep disturbed by caterwauling felines and some can be quite cruel. Shooting and poisoning of cats often occurs at this time of year and many cats just mysteriously disappear. What happens to them? You can guess.

The answer is obvious and simple. All cats should be desexed.

Responsible breeders who know what they are doing and who don't allow their non desexed cats to roam are an obvious exception.

The Myths Relating to Cats and their Neutering

Some of you may be thinking; - 'Is it really necessary?' 'Can't I let her have just one litter?' 'She'll be so much more content after having a litter' 'They need to have one season before being desexed, don't they?'

Owners of male cats may also state, 'I can't desexed him - it's a blow to his masculinity.' 'A male cat's go to do what a male cat's supposed to do.' 'I'm not castrated, so why should I do that to my cat?'

The answer to all the above is 'poppycock'! Desexing is essential. There is no advantage in allowing Queens to have a season or a litter and Toms that are not desexed suffer continual wounds and abscesses and usually die early and often tragically.

If your cat is not desexed at this very moment, you should be nervous!!

Ring your vet immediately and make an appointment.

The surgery is routine and the cat will be away from you for only about 24 hours. It costs less to desex a female cat than to raise a litter of kittens and the cost of neutering a male cat is even less.

After surgery your cat will be back on its feet and normal again the next day (whereas wimpy humans take weeks to recover!!) and you will be a certified SNAPO (Sensitive New Age Pet Owner)!


Further information:

Spraying Behaviour


Cat Assimilation



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