Cats + Behavior & Training

  • Dogs and cats use aggressive signals to communicate and can often do this without causing injury. It is important to learn to recognize subtle signals to prevent an escalation of aggression. Some aggression reflects underlying medical and behavioral illness. Any aggressive behavior in dogs and cats should be assessed to determine the cause and establish a safety protocol. Aggressive behavior in dogs and cats can lead to serious injury to people and other pets.

  • Many behavioral concerns reflect normal behavior and can be resolved with simple training. Other behaviors reflect behavioral abnormalities or may have underlying medical or physical causes. A veterinary behaviorist is trained to assess and treat both normal and abnormal behaviors and can identify medical conditions that can affect behavior. An accurate assessment from the start can improve the outcome.

  • 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.

  • Dogs and cats that experience frustration may exhibit displacement behaviors or may redirect aggression toward another target. Conflict can also trigger repetitive behaviors that appear to have no function, known as stereotypic behaviors. A compulsive disorder is diagnosed when a repetitive behavior occurs frequently enough to interfere with a pet's quality of life.

  • 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.

  • As pets age, they may experience changes in their physical and behavioral health. When treating pets with behavioral concerns, is important to identify and treat both the behavioral illness and any underlying medical conditions that may cause or exacerbate the behavior. It is a misconception that pets lose interest in participating in activities just because of their age. Addressing behavioral health can improve the quality of life for seniors for many years.

  • As pets age, they may lose some of their cognitive abilities. Age-related brain changes are not reversible, but there are medications, supplements, and environmental enrichment opportunities that may slow the decline. Underlying medical conditions should be treated to keep senior pets comfortable.

  • 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.

  • Behavioral problems can develop for many reasons. Genetics and the environment both contribute to behavior. When problematic behaviors arise, particularly if they develop suddenly or occur in older pets, it is important to screen for underlying medical conditions. The behavioral history provides valuable information to assist in determining the root cause for any behavioral concern.

  • Foraging toys are designed to provide mental and physical exercise and enjoyment by simulating hunting and seeking for food. Both dogs and cats are natural hunters and scavengers. They benefit from exercising this part of their brain on a regular basis. Providing enrichment in the form of foraging toys can decrease boredom, improve enjoyment, and encourage dogs and cats to engage in species-specific behaviors in a desirable way.