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Feline Friday: Solving Behavior Problems in Your MultiCat Household

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It’s HERE! The latest Kindle-ized book ComPETability: Solving Behavior Problems in Your MultiCat Household has been released and it’s all about explaining why cats do what they do (aka DRIVE YOU CRAZY) and how you can solve those peevish problems.

Did you know that the United States is home to 86.4 million owned cats, and 52 percent of owners own more than one cat? That means more furry love for owners, but also can put your cats’ tails in a twist over that (HISSS!) new feline friend. From conflicts over favorite sleep spots to sharing potty facilities, adding new pets rubs fur the wrong way and creates hairy situations for everyone—including you.

I’ve written this new guide to save owners from hair-pulling angst. It helps explain the kitty aggravation, and how to soothe the growls and turn your household into a peaceable kingdom. You’ll find detailed how-to advice focused on the most common problems found in the multi-cat household. Use these fun techniques to calm fears, explain cat body language, and strengthen the bond you share with your cats. Step by step tips explain how to:

  • Recognize and diffuse cat-to-cat aggression
  • Settle disputes over territory, potty problems and mealtime woes
  • Choose an appropriate furry friend that resident cats welcome with open “paws”
  • Introduce the new arrival (including babies and kids) to the current cats
  • Solve common pet peeves: meowing, clawing, countertop cruising, door dashing and more!
  • Understand weird behaviors: phone attraction, mirror fear, “elevator butt” and toilet pests

Below I’ve included an excerpt from Chapter 2: How Cats Think and hope you’ll enjoy. If you’re having kitty cat-astrophes or would just like to better understand what’s going on between your cats’ pointy ears, I hope you’ll consider checking out the new book. By the way, the “dog version” should be available sometime next month. 🙂

Together with Mom!! (Copr. KrazyBoutCats/Flickr)

The “Whoops” Effect

A “whoops” experience can be happy accident or create behavior problems down the road. Kittens and cats continue to learn an incredible amount through observation, even after the prime socialization period ends. A friendly, trusting cat needs only a few positive interactions with a strange person to show positive behavior toward them, and it takes significant negative experiences to override this initial response. On the contrary, a shy cat needs LOTS of positive experiences with a stranger to overcome lack of socialization during the sensitive phase, and will react adversely toward even minor negative encounters.

In other words, the socialized cat generalizes positive experiences quickly, but the unsocialized cat must learn gradually to trust the individual person or family and does NOT generalize later positive experiences. Instead she expects that one negative experience will apply to all new situations.

When your current cat(s) know good manners, they serve as wonderful role models to new pets. By observing your interaction with a resident cat that meows at a certain time each day to get fed, Sheba more quickly makes that connection. Think of this as a positive “copycat” behavior. New cats also learn bad habits from a resident feline and vice versa. If you allow Sheba to get away with wild antics, the older cat also may start pushing your buttons. Adult cats learn by watching you, too. After seeing you open a door, they learn to jump up and hang on the door ‘lever’ to open it.

Cats are experts at getting their way. They are so good at training owners, that we often don’t recognize we are being manipulated. Sheba easily trains you to fill the food bowl when she paw-pats you awake you at 5:30 a.m. It only takes one or two repetitions of this cause-and-effect for cats to remember what works in each situation. If rattling the wooden window blinds makes you let her out the door, she’ll remember and use that ploy again and again. Therefore, pay attention to not only what Sheba does, but your own resulting behavior, to get a clue how she’s training you.

There are times when our patience runs out, and owners may be tempted to react with anger. To be blunt, corporeal punishment doesn’t work. Hitting, yelling, or using force not only is inhumane, it almost always makes the bad behavior worse. Dr. Lansberg explains that any strong arousal interferes with Sheba’s ability to learn because that portion of the brain must deal with the emotional fallout instead. Instead of thinking, these cats react out of instinct (the fight-or-flight response) and typically either attack, or hide. You’ll teach a lesson you don’t want Sheba to learn—to fear or dislike you.

*****

So then–have your cats ever learned a lesson you didn’t expect or appreciate? What did you do? Have your cats taught each other positive behavior or have the juvenile delinquent cats been a bad influence? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Poop-alicious Remedies

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kitten climbing into litter

When you have pets, shitake happens. (Hey, I figured the word “crappiocca” might have been over-used lately, so…)

One of the most common cat behavior complaints I get has to do with hit-or-miss litter box behavior. And it’s one of the most misunderstood. There are so dang many reasons for Cutey-Cat to snub the litter box and even the felines who are faithful to potty training can get their tails in a twist over “sctuff” and–(ahem)–let their opinion be known.

You can find some of the basics for solving litter box problems in my cats.About.com article on the subject.  And the updated and expanded book ComPETability: Solving Behavior Problems In Your Cat-Dog Household has explanations and step-by-step how-to-solve advice, as well (kewl new cover, too, eh? :))  This week’s Woof Wednesday advice about dogs snacking from litter boxes is covered in the book, with more details of course.

Thanks to one of my fav SweetTweet & bloggicity friends for sending me the Ask Amy question, below. It can be a challenge to offer advice in 3 minutes or less, so I hope the info helps.

So what other advice would y’all offer? Do you have kitties that baptize walls? Dig-dig-dig forever and then “get productive” behind the piano? How do you manage? I’ll be adding two NEW books to the ComPETability series (for cat-to-cat and dog-to-dog behavior problems) so who knows? Your specific comments might make it into the book. Please share!

Gotta run, I have someone calling to interview me about–(wait for it) litter box problems! Like I said, it’s been a week filled with crappiocca.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Big Hairy Deal & Stop Litter Box Snacking

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On Monday Mentions you saw my Hairball Celebrity Creature, and a number of folks had terrific guesses. Today you can find out just WHO that was supposed to be–featured on PeoplePets.com, a gallery of 9 of the hairy hopefuls are profiled.

To see the whole gallery plus the five finalists, and vote for your choice of winner, click on the logo, above.

In the spirit of Woof Wednesday, but with a nod to the cats, today’s Ask Amy has a cross-species problem to address. Does your dog (urk!) snack from the litter box? Learn why dogs eat dung in this article. How do you keep Poochie away from the poo?

I’m in the process of completely revising my ComPETability book to be even more prescriptive, and some of the tips from the book are presented in the video, below. What are some other ways you handle the problem? Do tell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Free Book & What About Pet Vacations?

pup with ball

Leave a special toy or something that smells like you when he's left behind!

Cats and dogs deal with our absences in different ways. Of course they’re very different creatures with different languages, and want different things out of life. In fact, I wrote a book about this–and ComPETability has just gone FREE for 5 days only on Kindle. I hope you’ll share the link with other folks who love both cats and dogs.

I know we’ve just come off of the holidays. Many of y’all got a new puppy for Christmas, though, and aren’t thinking about the next vacation. What will you do with the new little one? It’s always best to plan ahead.

Vacations rate right up there with winning the lottery. Okay, maybe not quite that high, but “time off” from the daily rush makes me feel like a seven year old at Christmas. For pets, though, an owner’s vacation can be anything but fun.

You have several choices: stay home with Sheba and Rex; take the fur-kids along for the ride; find a pet motel willing to board your critter cotillion; or, engage the services of a pet sitter.  Each option has benefits and drawbacks, and the best choice depends mostly on your individual pets—and your holiday destination.

Boarding offers good options particularly for well-adjusted canines. You’ll find a number of facilities in our area listed in the yellow pages. A pet sitter comes to your house at predetermined times.

De-Tails Needed

Provide details about the dog’s routine and individual foibles. For instance, Rex may NEED to have a Frisbee session every day at 4 pm, while Sheba MUST have her Kitty Kaviar treat before she’ll eat. Other services may also be available, such as watering plants, picking up the newspaper, or turning lights on and off while you’re gone.

Be sure the pet sitter has the phone numbers to contact you during your trip. Leave emergency information and authorization for veterinary care, if the need should arise.

Finding the Pros

There are two professional “pet sitter” organizations. Other pet sitter professionals may also be available, if you ask around. Check with pet owning friends and your veterinarian or groomer for suggestions. Give one or more of these folks a call to match your particular pet needs. You’ll find more details about vacationing with–or without–your dog in this article. Then, enjoy your vacation in peace!

Do you take your dogs with you on vacation? Or do you engage the services of a pet sitter? Magical-dawg stays with his breeder (oh joy!) and gets to play with the cousins and aunts. What are some tips that help your dog when you must leave him/her behind? Does the dog act upset and snub you when you return, or is the reunion a par-teeeee?! Please share!

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting.  Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!