Tips for calming your #cat’s aggressive behavior

Dealing with feline aggression can be a challenge for any cat owner and one that can be painful as well as frustrating. Aggression can be caused by seizures or illness, including heart disease, so be sure to talk with your veterinarian first to see if your cat’s behavior could be managed with medication and/or additional training.

 

According to the Pet Behavior Clinic, there are various types of feline aggressions, including:

 

Aggression while playing: Kittens normally replace most of their social behavior with aggressive play at about 12 weeks of age and again around 8 months. Aggression at these ages is believed to be a part of learning to hunt and defend territory.

To prevent this problem, don’t encourage kittens to play with your hands or feet. Instead, direct their attempts to play to appropriate toys (such as balls on a string, crinkly tunnels, motorized toys, climbing posts and so on). If your pet insists on playing with you and ignores the toys, get up and walk away so that the behavior is not rewarded with your attention.

(Note: Laser beam toys are not appropriate. Kittens and cats need to be successful at some point in catching their “prey,” so these types of toys only result in frustrated, unhappy cats that may take it out on you.

 

Hormonal aggression: Un-neutered male cats and female cats in heat may exhibit aggressive behavior due to hormonal triggers. Having your cat spayed or neutered not only reduces the overpopulation of unwanted kittens who statistically have a low chance for long-term survival, but also reduces the cat’s tendency to have aggressive episodes.

 

Aggressive exercise: Your domestic cat is not that much different from large cats in the wild in that they are predators and their natural activities are suited for catching the food they need to survive. In homes, food is provided and cats sleep a good part of the day. If your cat does not go outside where they can catch mice and climb trees to work off their energy, they may need you to help provide ways for them to burn off that energy through play.

A climbing post near a window where they can watch birds and squirrels is excellent stimulation for a cat. Also, catnip toys can provide hours of great fun. Placing a ping pong ball in a dry bathtub or an empty medium-sized box on the floor, hanging things from a scratching post or even teaching your cat to fetch are all good ideas.

If your cat is stalking or chasing your feet, keep a spray bottle of water handy and spray when they attack (avoid the eyes). This also works well if they are attacking other cats in the home. Tossing a small bean bag at your cat right before they pounce can also be an effective distraction.

 

Over-stimulation: If your cat’s aggressions comes on suddenly while they are being petted, it may be caused by an abnormal sensitivity, especially noticeable a the base of the tail. If stroking your cat leads to them kneading with front paws and even drooling, they could be getting over-stimulated causing a sudden burst of aggression. Try just scratching behind the ears or under the chin.

Aggressive while restrained: If your cat is aggressive to you when you are giving medication or clipping nails, you should wrap them in a towel to do these things. To prevent your cat from fearing the towel, you can wrap them in a towel for about 10 seconds a few times each week. If necessary, a professional groomer or veterinary technician can trim nails for you. read more…

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How Diet Affects #Horse Behavior

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Do you struggle with a horse that’s “feeling his oats”? You’re not alone. Equine nutritionist and Rutgers University equine extension specialist Carey Williams, PhD, says the question she most frequently hears involves a horse that’s hyper-reactive or hyperexcitable. “Is there anything I can do with his feed to calm him down?” they typically ask.

As it turns out, there’s a lot you can do with your horse’s feed to calm him, combat behavioral problems and stereotypies, and more. Much of it involves what you feed; some involves how you feed (management); and some involves what you do in conjunction with feeding (socialization, medical management, exercise).

Many factors contribute to your horse’s behavior: his instinct, genetics, environment, health, and comfort are chief among them. So what’s the basis for your particular horse’s problem? “You really need to know the horse’s natural behavior first to find out if anything else (besides diet changes) will work,” says Williams. read more…

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Contrary to conventional wisdom, cats are more trainable than many people assume

8749912331_d0b6ceff1f_k_custom-e06482aab29a064abb1cc9b480a4306141858d7d-s800-c85It’s 3 a.m. and Whiskers has decided it’s time for breakfast. He jumps up on your bed, gently paws at your eyelids and meows to be fed. Annoyed? Cat behavior specialist Sarah Ellis says you have only yourself to blame.

Ellis says that cat owners reinforce negative behaviors when they give in to them. “Cats are not necessarily born meowing and screaming at us for food, it’s a behavior that they learned,” Ellis tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross.

Sarah Ellis is a feline behavior specialist at the British charity group International Cat Care, which collaborates with organizations around the world involved with cat welfare. She has trained her cats to come when she calls, voluntarily walk into the cat carrier to go to the vet, take medicine and become acclimated to her dog and her baby.

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Instead of indulging Whiskers’ request for an early morning snack, Ellis recommends adopting an “extinction schedule,” whereby you ignore the behavior entirely until it stops. If cat owners “can be really strong with that extinction schedule and just make sure at every occurrence of that behavior they do not reward it … it will stop,” Ellis says.

In her book, The Trainable Cat, Ellis and her co-author, John Bradshaw, describe how humans who understand basic feline nature can get their cats to come on command, take medicine and, yes, wait until morning for breakfast. read more…