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How to Correct Pet Behavior Issues with Positive Reinforcement

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Nationwide, nearly 3 million cats and dogs are killed in American animal shelters annually. In fact, shelter euthanasia is the number one cause of death in cats and dogs- more than any disease or illness. Our local Animal Control killed upwards of 80% of all healthy, adoptable felines and 60% of healthy, adoptable canines who entered their doors in 2013 alone. By keeping cats and dogs from ever entering the shelter, we can change the numbers. By spaying/neutering our pets and working to TNR (spay/neuter, release) feral cats, we can make an enormous impact on our community. If you are considering rehoming your cat/dog, please take a moment to filter through the questions and solutions presented, below. It is likely that you will find a viable solution, allowing you to keep the pet with you until a permanent home can be found, or allowing you to keep your pet with you for the duration of their natural life span. This is good information to know, too, if you are an animal advocate wanting to share resources and information (solutions) with pet guardians who may be facing the situations outlined below.

Animal shelters/pounds often prove to be incredibly stressful environments for pets. In addition, pets often suffer extreme depression, anxiety and lethargy when left behind by their guardians. Instead of surrendering your pet to a shelter/pound, find alternative solutions to helping your pet (see below). Together, we can change the world, one positive action at a time. Together, we can change animal shelter/pound statistics by lessening the number of animals being taken there each day.

Find the most common questions, reasons and complaints heard by animal rescue professionals on a daily basis (see below) and solutions that accompany each issue.  The Q&A pet behavior issues/solutions presented below are helpful to know so that you can pass along this information to pet guardians should they mention one or more of these issues with their pets. By sharing this information you can save lives from ever entering the shelter system and you can help pets stay in their forever homes where they are safe and comfortable.



Is my cat bored?
Provide your cat with a variety of toys and access to climb in a window(s) to look outside. Place a bird feeder outside of the window for your cat to view during the day. In addition, it is recommended that you spend 20 minutes playing with/interacting with or petting your cat each day. However, don’t think that because your cat is bored you need to rehome him/her. This problem can easily be fixed! And you don’t have to purchase expensive toys either. Provide boxes, milk caps and other free items- they will love playing with them. Also, consider adopting a second cat as a playmate for your current cat. Click here to find 10 signs that your cat is happy.

How can I stop my cat from biting/nibbling? 

My cat can be talkative. Why does he/she meow? Always be sure to eliminate any health issues that may be prevelent. For example, if your cat is meowing a lot and typically is quiet, schedule a visit to the veterinarian. Check the litter box. How frequently is he/she going to the bathroom? Is there blood in his/her urine or stool? Etc. A veterinarian can help determine if there is a medical issue at hand. If your cat just happens to be chatty (many are!) and this is normal behavior for him/her, click the question for a link to more info on this topic.

I caught my cat spraying in the house, how can I stop this from happening?
1. Unneutered/unspayed cats are more likely to spray than altered cats. The first step is to spay/neuter your pets. Click here for affordable/low-cost spay/neuter options for cats and dogs (clinics are listed by county, throughout the state of Ohio). Once your cats are spayed/neutered, any spraying should cease. Be sure to clean any impacted areas in your home (i.e. with a vinegar/water mix).

2) If, the spraying continues, try Feliway (a household spray and/or plug-in).

3) If spaying persists, consider the source. Is the cat who is spraying upset about something (i.e. has a new human or pet recently moved into your home?), consider what might be stressing your cat and correct the issue.

4) Try placing a food bowl near the regularly impacted area to associate that area with something positive.

5) Spend time interacting with your cat daily to reduce their stress level.

catdog 1My cat is clawing the furniture, how can I kindly teach him/her to use a scratching post instead?
This is an easy fix and there is no need to declaw (learn the truth about declawing cats, click here). 1) Supply scratching posts throughout the house. If your cat is scratching the edge of the house, place a scratching post very close to this area AND place cat nip on the scratching post to encourage usage. Click here to learn how to make your own DIY scratching posts.  2) Keep cats nails properly trimmed. 3) Use Sticky Paws (product to be placed on furniture where the cat(s) is scratching. This is an AMAZING product- easy to use, affordable and it works! Read more about experiences with Sticky Paws, click here. 4)If you still need extra help to stop the scratching, try SoftPaws soft nail caps for cats from nails.

Why is my cat acting aggressive toward others?

My cat is over-grooming and going bald in some areas, what can I do?

How can I stop my cat/kitten from chewing on cords in the house?

How can I train my cat not to jump up on the kitchen counter?

How can I help my cat not to have so many hairballs?

My cat has ear mites (scratches his ears all of the time), what are they and what can I do?

Cats1Help! My cat is having litter box issues. What can I do?
After you have eliminated any possible health issues with your trusted veterinarian (ex: urinary tract infections/UTI’s commonly cause litter box problems and can and should be treated by a veterinarian ASAP), be sure that your litter box is the right litter box for the cat. In addition, are you using the right litter? Where is your litter box located? Do you scoop the box daily? Find litter box tips and tricks, click here. In addition, Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Litter and Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract (additive to the litter) are proven to solve 99% of all litter box issues– be sure to try this litter and additive right away!

My cat is being bullied by the other cat in my house, what can I do?

My cat doesn’t like the newly adopted cat/kitten, what can I do?
This is totally normal! When you bring a new cat into your household, the resident cat will be upset for the first several weeks. Hissing, growling, swatting– this is all normal behavior and will subside over time. NEVER place the cats faces together. Do not force interaction, this should instead, happen naturally, over time. Every household is different. Some cats begin playing together/getting along after just 2 weeks, others may take several months. Patience is the key. Always follow proper introduction procedures. Click here for more information on this topic.

My cat doesn’t like our newly adopted dog, what can we do?
If you share your home with a cat, make sure the dog you’re adopting does well and is safe around cats, prior to making the adoption official. In addition, it is crucial that you follow proper introduction tips when introducing any pets. For example, cats should always have a “safe” room where the dog is not allowed to enter. They should also have high areas (i.e. cat climber) to escape being chased by the dog, etc. Teach the dog to be respectful around the cat and to give the cat space. Never allow the dog to chase or terrorize the cat in anyway. A natural bond will form over time, but cannot be forced. Always follow proper introduction steps and during the first several weeks of introduction, always supervise interactions. NEVER place the dog and cat face to face.

cats4My cat breaks open the bag of cat food when her food bowl is empty, what can I do?
Keep a full bowl of food available for your cat(s) at all times. Most likely your cat is opening the bag of food because he/she is hungry. In addition, keep a supply of toys (i.e. cardboard boxes, cat toys) and other items to entertain your cat while you are away from the house. Consider keeping the food in a plastic storage bin to avoid a mess.

Can I train my cat to come when I call his/her name?

Is it ever okay to bathe a kitten? I am raising an orphaned kitten and she/he can’t bathe him/herself yet.

My cat gets incredibly stressed when it’s time for a veterinary visit. What can I do?

My cat tested positive for FIV, what can I do?

My cat tested positive for FeLv, what can I do?cats3

Help! My cat pulled up my vent cover and climbed in our air duct. What can I do?

I suspect my cat has been poisoned, what can I do? Contact your trusted veterinarian or rush to the emergency veterinarian ASAP. Call Pet Poison Control for additional assistance.

We have stray cats in our neighborhood and they seem to knock over garbage cans looking for food, what can I do? Keep a cat food bowl and water bowl outside in a discrete area for the stray cat(s), in addition to a feral/stray cat hut. These items will help cats know safe places to go in inclement weather and they will have a source of food and water to keep them from going through garbage cans as a source of survival. In nearly all cases, this will stop the issue and allow the cats to live peacefully among you. In addition, it is crucial that the cats are spayed/neutered to prevent a booming population of stray/feral cats. Find low-cost, affordable spay/neuter options listed by county throughout Ohio, click here.

I am helping stray/feral cats in our community through spay/neuter. Do we need to be testing them for FIV and FeLv?

Can I relocate a feral cat(s)?

Help! I found a stray cat, what do I do?

I want to help homeless animals in my community, but I don’t know where to start. What can I do?


My dog seems bored, what can I do?

My dog has aggressive tendencies around food, what can I do?

My dog is not getting along with our newly adopted pet (cat/dog), what can I do?

How do I potty train my dog?dogs2

Help! My dog/puppy is chewing everything in the house, what can I do?

My dog barks a lot when I am not home, what can I do?

My dog always jumps the fence and runs away, what can I do?

My dog doesn’t walk well on a leash, what can I do?

For additional tips and information, check out our P.A.S.S. program links HERE.

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