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Feisty Felines

Posted: Friday, April 13, 2012 at 10:04:12 AM EST by Cam Day

Living with the nightmare of brawling cats

intercat_aggression-home200Why are cats aggressive to each other? Often its because you have brought a new kitten into the household and the status quo has been unsettled. Sometimes it occurs when a young cat matures and feels the need to declare its territory inside the house.

A behaviour known as transferred aggression often occurs too. A house cat can be angered by sensing another invading cat travelling through its garden. The resident cat becomes over-aroused and will take out its anger on its house mate - or even its owners!

Kittens can also cause problems for themselves. Some are too active for their own good. It is common for a super-active playful kitten to push a serene, established house-cat too far. The peaceful, older puss-cat may not want to play all day long and most of the night too. The kitten's playful prowling and challenging may greatly offend the resident cat and can make it very nervous and anxious.

Aggression between cats can sometimes start instantaneously. However, having been 'released', can then take a long time to resolve. Sometimes it doesn't resolve at all.

Three levels of assimilation with cats.

Level 1 Assimilation

In level 1, the feuding felines shake paws and become bosom buddies again, playing and sleeping together in puss-cat harmony for life.

Level 2 Assimilation

The second is that the pair agree to disagree and share the house without sharing affection. They sleep in separate areas and lead separate but parallel lifestyles. There may be an occasional hiss and spit, but mostly things are tolerable. Indeed, one cat couldn't give a hoot if the other fell of the face of the earth! This is the most common level of assimilation with cats.

Level 3 Assimilation

The third scenario is puss-cat purgatory. The cats hate each other and cannot be in the same room or house or even the garden together. They will aggressively fight and brawl and injuries are common. The best way to manage such cats, at least initially, is to keep them separate from each other.

Aggression between cats in a household can be dangerous. Injuries can occur, including cat fight abscesses, claw and bite wounds, and the stress can result in spraying behaviour too.

So what can you do to resolve such a problem?

The first step is to separate the cats for a few days. This will prevent any further aggression and thereby stop what is called self-reinforcement of this unwanted behaviour. It gives the cats a chance to calm down, to become peaceful, and to forget the animosity they have for each other.

When they are re-introduced the aggression may not show again. Sometimes this is enough to solve the problem. Often it's not. Cat looking out window

If aggression is still a problem, then the re-introduction should be done progressively over a few days or even a few weeks. For this you should use a process called successive approximation. The introduction of the cats is broken down into small, manageable parcels. This can be tediously slow so you need to be patient.

Firstly, you should allow the cats to see each other but not to smell or touch each other. This is best done through a window or glass partition.

Observe the progress and if the cats settle down and don't show any fear, anxiety or aggression then you are making progress.

Then second step is to allow the cats to smell each other but not to see each other.

This is easily done using the Feline Facial Towelling Technique. Heat a slightly damp towel, such as a hand towel, in the microwave until it is a comfortable warmth.

Rub this warm towel over the body and especially around the face and cheeks of the least aggressive cat first. Then immediately take the towel to the more aggressive cat and do the same. This should be done in a soothing, gentle and caressing manner.

It is often useful to create a happy mood in the aggressive cat before you do this by feeding it a special 'therapy only' food treat. Select a glorious food treat that the cat will walk over water to receive but that it gets at no other time.

The last step is to take the towel back to the least aggressive cat and finish by giving it a rub once more. In this manner you are sharing the scents of the two cats and especially their personal 'pheromones'. Pheromones are personal chemicals of communication. They have a very powerful effect on the behaviour of many animals. (They are very important in the insect world.)

The Feline Facial Towelling Technique is a gentle method of getting the cats used to each others' smell without them needing to cope with the added complications of seeing each other.

Now for the third step. Try introducing the cats to each other through a mesh security door, a fly screen window or by placing each beastie in a cat cage.

This allows the cats to see, smell and hear each other but, if there are fireworks, no danger is involved.

Cat cages are a useful way of doing this. The cages can gradually be brought closer and closer to each other while the cats' happy moods are maintained.

If the cats are happy to sniff each other through the mesh without friction, then you are progressing well. Allow them to sniff each other for a few minutes each day and if they appear happy you are ready for the big step - putting them together.

While you can throw them into the same room and run away, there are more sensitive ways of proceeding. The easiest is to place the more subordinate cat in a cat cage and allow the other cat to roam free in the same room. If all goes well, the roles can be reversed with the tough guy in the cage and the other free. Again you may need to test the water like this for a few days.

At some stage you are going to have to allow the cats to be free in the same room together. Do this in a 'neutral' room - one that has no special significance for either cat. Be ready with a large towel or net and a water pistol. If either cat goes to attack the other, spray it briefly with the water pistol.

Foreign Territories

For complicated cases of aggression between cats, it is often useful to get the cats out of the home territory and put them in a foreign location where neither has territorial rights. This is usually done in a cattery or a veterinary surgery. The cats can be placed in separate cages, visible to each other, for a while. The next step is for the cattery manager to place the cats into the same cage. As they are in neutral territory, this is often successful. For safety, one can be placed into a transport cage for a while until their reactions are assessed.

Synthetic Feline Pheromones

Feliway and BoypsThe spray Feliway is sometimes helpful to reduce cat aggression. Feliway is a synthetic equivalent of the pheromones that cats have in their facial glands. They are 'happy pheromones' and often have an effect similar to that attributed to catnip. To help make the cats more accepting of the cages in the cattery or of each other in the home, Feliway can be sprayed onto prominent surfaces in each location.

Feliway is also available now in a plug-in diffuser that is even easier to use. For supplies of this product, please contact my office.

Further information on pheromones is linked through the menu of this site or use the search function.

Medications for Monstrous Moggies

Processes such as the above are often effective, but in some cases, the feuding felines will not accept each other, no matter what us mere humans throw at them. However there is one trick we haven't used - medication.

There are new anti-anxiety medications on the market which are often effective for these types of problems. The goal is to use such medications for a month or more to make the cat more tranquil and relaxed and to allow them to accept each other's presence. When the medication is stopped, the peace and serenity is often maintained. Please contact me for further advice on such medication or for other relevant techniques.


For more information on how to solve inter-cat aggression, have a look at the Aggressive Cat Pet Pick.

Cat Attacks

Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 10:46:32 AM EST by Cam Day

Cat Attacks - Play or Prey Behaviour?

The behaviour of cats is sometimes a wonder. Why would a peaceful, purring puss suddenly turn on its owner, biting, clawing and raking the very hand that pats it?
Aggro_Cat_Grey_200-smlContented one moment - demented the next is a good description of such behaviours. Jekyll and Hydecats is another descriptive term given to the cats that employ this deviant 'good guy-bad guy' routine. If your cat attacks you in this manner, solving the behaviour calls for a bit of cunning.


Take a close look at your cat the next time this happens. While patting him or her, watch the eyes and ears and the tail. Usually a dilation of the pupils or a 'black eyed' look heralds the change in mood when aggression is on the way.

The ears will sometimes flatten onto the back of its head, although not always, and the telltale tail will usually start swishing. You may not see all of these signs. Chances are they will happen so quickly that you're more intent on removing the embedded claws and teeth from your flesh than worrying about a detailed analysis of the cat's stereotypic communication cues!

However, if you do see these behaviours, move away from your cat or tip it off your lap if you can.


When a cat attacks when you are cuddling it, it will often wrap its front feet around your forearm, and then embed its claws and its teeth into your flesh. It may then rKIttens Playing_200Smlake your skin with its back claws, thus causing quite an injury.

While this attack may appear vicious and may be damaging, I am not convinced that this behaviour is always an aggressive behaviour. I believe that it is often an aberrant form of play behaviour as it closely resembles the way in which kittens play with each other. You will often see this 'wrap and rake' technique when kittens play, but it is not so common when adult cats attack each other.

For these Jekyll and Hyde behaviours, I usually advise my clients to use a program of  'progressive patting'. Your aim when using this therapy is to reinforce the cats friendly behaviour and to not allow the aggressive behaviour to develop.

Before we go any further, consider that aggression is damaging and dangerous. If you are unsure of your cat's behaviour then take no risks and seek professional advice first.

READ MORE HERE

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

Pheromones

Cat Assimilation

 

 

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!


Cam

Halloween, Australia, and our pets

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

Halloween, Australia, and our pets

6836-101413-gs6836

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

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