Buddy & Porky’s Pet Health: Talking Cats, Chasing Dogs

By Buddy & Porky and the Oswego County Humane Society

Dear Porky,

My new kitten that I adopted is a “talker” and a loud one.  I like her to have her say, but not at the top of her lungs.  Any suggestions?

Sue

Dear Sue,

Cats often try  to communicate with us, and it’s up to us to figure out what they are saying. Some cats “talk” more than others, but most cats do make noise some of the time.  We all know  the meaning of hissing and growling, but there are many other sounds that cats make and a variety of reasons for them.

Oriental breeds, such as the Siamese, are known to be very vocal. If your cat has a pointed face and a long, lean body, chances are she has some oriental heritage, so “talking” may be a part of her character. If your cat’s chatter bothers you, then avoid giving her any attention when she is vocal because this will only encourage the vocal behavior. Instead, give her attention when she is quiet.

In fact, some cats “talk” because they know they’ll get a reaction. People may talk back, put out some food, pick up and soothe the cat, or even pick the animal up and temporarily “lock” her in another room. All of these responses will encourage an attention-seeking cat. To discourage this behavior, simply ignore your cat when she does this, and when she is quiet, pour on the love, feed her, or give her some treats. This will teach your cat which behaviors you would like her to continue.

Since  your cat is new to your home and  has just gone through a huge change, be patient. It may be happening due to the huge change in her life and will stop on its own if the behavior is not encouraged. Remember, even scolding can be perceived by your cat as attention, and will encourage the behavior.

It’s sort of like positive reinforcement of a noisy toddler if you think about, but you don’t have to worry about college tuition eighteen years from now.  So enjoy your new friend, and maybe talk back a little.  There’s nothing like a good conversation with a cat.

Dear Buddy,

My new puppy chases after everything that moves, including cars that come into my driveway. It’s wearing me out.  Why does he do this and what should I do?

Joe

Dear Joe,

Dogs chase cars for the same reasons they chase kids on bikes, cats, small animals and other dogs: They are either playing a game or they are hunting.  Chasing involves a dog’s natural prey drive.

In most socialized, well-adjusted dogs, prey drive expresses itself as a canine tag game, in which the dogs take turns being “it.” The object isn’t necessarily to catch the other dog; the real fun is just running around. Chasing balls or Frisbees is another outlet for dogs’ prey drive. Dogs may play-fight as part of the game of tag, lunging or even snapping playfully at one another during the chase. This form of play may extend to include cats, joggers, people riding on bicycles or skateboards, or cars.  The intent is not to hurt or kill, but to engage the other creature (or thing) in a game.

A more serious form of chasing is the hunt. Some dogs have a higher prey drive than others. Sporting, herding dogs, terriers and hounds have enhanced prey drive; they have the potential to chase and kill their prey. The sequence involves searching, stalking, chasing, catching, biting, killing and eating. Such dangerous behavior is called predatory aggression, but it’s not a disorder or and is not engaged in out of anger. It’s a natural behavior that’s triggered by movement.

If your dog shows a heightened prey drive, he should be under your control at all times for his own safety and for the safety of the general public. He may eventually need to undergo rigorous training as well.

But don’t panic yet.  He’s still a puppy and he is still capable of learning the commands that will allow you to keep him and others out of danger.  The basic command that he must know and respond to is plain old “Come!”  Remember that you can’t start to teach “come” to a puppy who is frolicking merrily after the car in your driveway (or the road).  You have to teach it in small controlled increments when he is not distracted and you have to always reward him for coming and never never never scold him when he doesn’t.  Invest in a good training manual or sign him up for lessons as soon as he is ready, and spend some time making sure that he learns this command.  It is much more important than any fancy trick that may be more fun to teach.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. Our office is located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Phone (315) 207-1070. Email: [email protected] Website: www.oswegohumane.org.