Platt's favorite photograph took three years, some Prozac
and lots of loving patience to create. At first glance,
you see a happy person and her cat sharing a sofa and staring
back at the camera lens. A closer look reveals the true
dynamics: Platt's smile is one of relief. Vera the cat conveys
a look of tolerance as her body leans away from Platt.
marked the first time in nearly three years that Vera allowed
me to get close to her. This photo marks our major breakthrough,"
says Platt, who lives in Meridian, N.H., and had been the
target of Vera's hissing, growling, scratching and biting
attacks since she rescued the cat as a frightened, starving
stray kitten along a rural roadside near her home.
to stop these unprovoked attacks, Platt contacted Myrna
Milani, DVM, an animal behaviorist in nearby Charlestown.
"It was to the point that Vera was clawing me [all
the time]," Platt says. "Yet she adores and worships
my husband, Jim. I never encountered a cat like this."
Milani's solution: put Vera on Prozac temporarily and give
her the cold shoulder. Ignore her. Other than feeding, watering
and cleaning the litter box, the Platts were instructed
to even avoid eye contact with their temperamental feline.
Gradually, they gave Vera small doses of affection as her
Milani taught us leaders initiate and followers react,"
Platt says. "I stopped being a follower and took charge
of the situation. When she growls or hisses now, I don't
yell. I don't say anything. I just walk away. Vera will
never be a perfect little kitty, but each day she shows
you have a problem cat? One you love and adore, despite
its drive-you-batty behavior? Does your cat create more
mayhem, mischief and madness than you care to tolerate?
Are you running out of options?
FANCY solicited the help of leading national cat experts
to resolve the 10 most common feline problems. The challenge,
they said, is to find out what triggers the behavior and
treat the cause, not merely the symptoms. Although each
situation presents its own set of circumstances, our experts
offer these remedies:
Behavior No. 1: Avoiding the Litter Box
your cat suddenly sidesteps the litter box and defecates
on your favorite Persian rug or takes aim at the living
room wall, get it to the veterinarian's office for a medical
checkup. It may he allergic to the litter or have a urinary
no medical problems are detected, your cat may be acting
like a little stinker because the litter box stinks. Scoop
out the contents daily. If the behavior continues, switch
litters and boxes. And, don't overfill the pan. Keep the
litter no more than 2 inches deep.
cats hate those enclosed litter boxes because the urine
smell gets trapped inside and they are vulnerable to other
household pets that stalk them while they are going to the
bathroom," says Roger Valentine, DVM, who specializes
in cats at The Pet Allergy Center Veterinary House Calls
practice in Santa Monica, Calif.
tips: switch locations and for easy scooping, spray the
bottom of the litter pan with a no-stick kitchen spray before
pouring in fresh litter for easy scooping, Dr. Valentine
that spray walls and dampen carpets arc marking their territory.
They may feel threatened by a new cat in the family, a taunting
outdoor feline trespasser or heightened household stress.
If you can't pinpoint the cause, put your cat in a large
crate with enough room for food, water, blanket and a small
litter box while you are away from the house, Dr. Milani
up messes promptly. Stay away from cleaning products that
contain ammonia because urine contains ammonia compounds
that attract cats and encourage them to return and repeat
a mess. Finally, place the cat's food and water bowls near
the targeted spots because cats typically don't like to
eliminate where they eat.
you catch your cat backing up against a wall with a quivering
tail, calmly walk over, push the tail down at the base with
your finger and distract it with a play activity, says John
C. Wright, Ph.D., a certified applied animal behaviorist
in Macon, Ga.
Behavior No. 2: Clawing the Furniture
claw to spread their signature scent, shed dead nail tissues
and to express anxiety, says Larry Lachman, Psy.D., an animal
behavior consultant in Carmel, Calif. They aren't purposely
seeking out your most expensive or treasured
sofa or chair to curb their urge.
and prevention are the keys to resolving this behavior problem.
If you catch your cat in the act, startle it by shouting,
'No scratch!' or by shaking a can with pennies inside,"
Dr. Lachman says. "Wait a couple of hours and then
redirect your cat to a scratching post sprinkled with catnip.
Reward your cat with treats and praise when it begins to
claw. Your cat will soon figure out that it gets rewarded
for working the scratching post."
this transition, heighten your chances for success by applying
double-sided tape to the targeted furniture. Cats hate feeling
anything sticky on their paw pads, Dr. Milani says.
cats want and desire something they can call their own.
Donate an old chair, buy a durable scratching post or give
your cat a thick log with bark for sharpening claws. Place
the log vertically because cats like to stretch upward when
they claw, Dr. Wright says. "Forget about those dangling
scratching pads because they sway too much for the cat to
get a good grip," he says.
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