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Cats + Pet Services

  • With mild or minor behavioral problems, clients are often able to correct the problem by means of reward-based training, as is outlined in the other handouts in this series. However, when problems are more serious, it is easy to make the problem worse rather than improving it.

  • There is a wide range of non-pharmaceutical products designed to improve a pet's behavior. There is little oversight for many of these products which means that any given product may not work for your pet. Ask your veterinarian before using any over-the-counter product for your pet. The label “natural” does not guarantee a product is safe to use in dogs and cats.

  • Displacement behaviors are usually normal behaviors that are performed at an inappropriate time, appearing out of context for the occasion. Displacement behaviors arise from situations of either conflict or frustration. Conflict refers to the situation in which an animal is motivated to perform two or more competing behaviors (e.g., approach or withdraw, greeting but fear of being punished).

  • Behavior problems can be due to medical or behavioral causes, or both. A clinical history, physical examination, and diagnostic testing will help determine if there are underlying medical conditions contributing to the problem.

  • Many behaviors are normal but problematic for a particular person or household. Some behaviors are not normal and may be unsafe for the pet or for others. The first step is to ask your veterinarian to examine your pet for signs of physical illness. Then, a behavior consultation can be scheduled to assess the behavior and design an appropriate treatment strategy.

  • It is not unusual for behavior problems to develop in older pets, and often there may be multiple concurrent problems. Some of the changes associated with aging may not seem significant, but even a minor change in behavior might be indicative of underlying medical problems or a decline in cognitive function.

  • It is generally believed that a dog or cat's cognitive function tends to decline with age, much as it does in people. If your dog or cat has one or more of the signs below and all potential physical or medical causes have been ruled out, it may be due to cognitive dysfunction.

  • Aggression is defined as threats or harmful actions directed toward another individual and can include threat displays, lunging, growling, snarling, snapping and biting. In animals, aggressive behaviors are a means of communication.

  • Behavioral treatment plans almost always include behavior medication. Many dogs and cats can also benefit from medication that helps them learn more efficiently. When pets are very anxious, they may not be able to learn well. Drugs can help speed up the learning process. Many safe medications are available and fortunately, side effects are not common. It is important to have a behavioral and physical health assessment before giving medication.

  • Dogs are natural scavengers and hunters so the use of food based activity toys is natural and stimulating. Activity toys have a variety of uses in behavior modification programs. Cats are natural hunters, so their toys will be most interesting if they are the size and texture of prey, if they can be moved around in such a way as to represent small prey (mice, insects, lizards, birds), or if they contain tasty food or treats.