MY PET WORLD: Cats can be distracted and redirected toward better behavior too
Tuesday, May 1, 2018

 By Cathy M. Rosenthal

Tribune Content Agency
Dear Cathy,
  I have a four-year-old American short-hair female cat. I got her at 8 weeks old from a friend. The problem is, she scratches my upholstered furniture and rugs. She only does it when I am in the room. I have tried sprays, tape and correcting with a spritz of water. I have various scratching posts, which she is not interested in, even when I put catnip on them. Putting towels over things helps a bit, but she usually finds a way around them. Any other ideas? - Carol, via email
  Dear Carol,
  Scratching and clawing are natural instincts for a cat or kitten, and with indoor cats, our furniture and rugs become their items of choice for sharpening their claws and leaving their scent behind. The fact that she only does it when you're in the room makes it a little easier for you to correct.
  Get some foam or pom-pom cat balls or crumple paper or aluminum foil into balls and have them ready to toss across the room when you enter. Her first reaction should be to chase the ball and not scratch in response to your arrival in the room. She still may eventually scratch, but now you can correct her quicker with a verbal "eh-eh" or a Pet Corrector, which emits a compressed air sound, to discourage her from scratching in inappropriate areas. It's important to not just correct her but show her alternative places to scratch. Put treats, food pieces, cat nip, or cat grass she can eat, near or on scratching posts and cat trees to attract her to her furniture.
  Be consistent with your distraction/attraction techniques, and over time, she will learn what is expected of her.
Dear Cathy,
  My 15-week-old silver Labrador is our pride and joy, but she just won't stop biting. What do you suggest? - Frank, Oro Valley, AZ
  Dear Frank,
  Puppies teethe around 4 months old and need teething toys and lessons from you on what's acceptable to put in their mouths.
  Don't use your hands or arms to play with her, and never punish her for this normal behavior. Instead, correct her and offer her toys to teeth on instead.
  When she sinks her teeth into you, give a short "yelp" to interrupt the behavior and then say, "let go." Praise her and give her a treat if she let's go. Some training experts say you should go "quiet" because prey also yelps when you bite. But, I have found this usually does not work for a puppy who is wired at this age to listen.
  If she doesn't let go, shake a can of coins or purchase a Pet Corrector, which emits a compressed air sound, to get her attention. If this still doesn't break her grip, squeeze very gently just behind her nose/mouth area to unlatch her grip. Then give her a toy she can chew on. Over time, she should learn to play with her toys, and not your arms or hands.
Dear Cathy,
  I have a 3-year-old female cat. She was a rescue cat and is fixed. Ever since I took her in, she has been residing under my couch for eight days. She only comes out in the middle of the night to eat and use the litter box. I purchased the calming spray because she is shedding terribly. I think she is stressed, but she does eat well. I really want to keep her and not set her free when the weather warms but is breaking my heart that I cannot coax her out during the day. My other cat was 2 when I rescued him, and he adjusted just great. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. - Joni, via email
  Dear Joni,
  Eight days is not long enough for a previously outdoor cat to adjust to living in a new home. She needs several weeks or months to adjust - and may take even more time than that before she comes near you to be petted.
  Use plug-in feline pheromones around the home and play with her twice a day using a fishing pole-type toy with a feather on the end. At some point, she won't be able to resist the feather toy - and will bolt out from under the couch to play. The more she does this, the more confidence and security she will feel in her new home.
  The fact that she is not fighting with your other cat and is eating at night bodes well for her success. Be patient, and you will eventually have many wonderful years with this feline.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to  Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.
April 29, 2018 - May 12, 2018

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