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Why Does My Pet…

Cat and Dog

Story at-a-glance -

  • No matter how bonded we are to our four-legged companions, let’s face it – they do some pretty weird stuff!
  • This article answers some of the most common questions pet owners have about the behavior of their furry charges.
  • Understanding why your dog or cat does this or that allows you to view the world from the perspective of your pet. This knowledge can improve your interactions with your fuzzy family member.

By Dr. Becker

Have you ever wondered why your pet’s behavior is so different from your own? Wonder no more!

Why Does My Dog…

…drool so much? It’s probably in the genes. Some breeds just seem to slobber more than others. Breeds with floppy jowls and loose skin around the mouth tend to be notorious droolers. (Think Saint Bernard, Newfoundland, and several of the hound breeds.) Dogs produce saliva for the same reason people do – in response to food or when they are emotionally aroused.

…spin in circles chasing his tail? According to animal behaviorists, tail chasing is often just a sign that a dog is bored and isn’t getting enough play time with family members. But if the behavior is happening more and more frequently, it could be an obsessive-compulsive disorder in the making. It’s best to distract a tail chasing dog with another activity – preferably one you can do with him, like playing fetch or taking a walk. Stopping the behavior whenever you see it will help prevent your dog from developing a tail chasing obsession.

…seem color-blind? Apparently nature didn’t see a need for dogs (or cats) to see colors vividly. Your dog sees fewer colors than you do (unless you are also color-blind), but his eyes are designed for much better night vision than yours and he also has an extraordinary ability to spot movement.

…sniff every blade of grass before deciding where to pee? Dogs pick up a great deal of information with their noses. When a dog is sniffing around – especially outdoors – he’s discovering what other dogs have been in the area and a little about each of them. Imagine you receive an email that requires a response. This email is the end of a chain of emails on some relatively important subject. Chances are you’ll read all the other emails in the chain before deciding how to respond. When your dog is outside sniffing, sniffing, sniffing for a potty spot, he’s doing his version of reading the chain of emails before he “responds.”

…pant? Dogs pant as a way to cool off. Panting allows air to cross over your dog’s wet tongue, which cools down her entire body. Your dog may also pant when she’s excited.

Why Does My Cat…

…find string so entertaining? If your kitty seems to stalk anything that trails across the floor, she’s just being her natural predatory self. According to Dr. Michael W. Fox, author of Cat Body, Cat Mind, “This type of play is good for cats; it helps discharge their prey-chasing instinct, and it also keeps them physically active and alleviates boredom.” A safer alternative to string or yarn (since either can interfere with digestion if swallowed) is an inexpensive laser toy. Most cats love to chase the beams.

…bring me small, dead or nearly dead creatures? This is another entirely natural behavior of feline predators. She’s giving you a gift, believe it or not. If the critter is dead, it is purely a gift. If it’s still breathing, she’s bringing it to you so you can learn how to finish what she started.

…hate getting wet? Generally speaking, cats don’t like surprises, and being dunked, soaked or sprayed with water holds an element of surprise. If you want to train a kitten not to fear baths, try the following. Put a nonskid mat (a towel or washcloth will do) on the bottom of a dry sink, grab some cat treats, and place the kitten in the sink on the mat. Offer her treats as she stands there getting the feel of being in the sink. Do this for a few days, then gradually begin to add a bit of water to the sink each day – and don’t forget the treats. With any luck, your kitten will learn to associate bath time with yummy treats, and you’ll end up with an adult cat who doesn’t freak out if you need to bathe her.

…know when it’s meal time? Most animals have an internal body clock that senses the general time of day. And since meals are usually one of the high points of kitty’s day, it makes sense that your cat seems to know when it’s chow time.

…purr? Generally speaking, your cat purrs when he’s happy and content. But even sick or injured kitties sometimes purr as a way to sooth themselves.

Understanding why your dog or cat does this or that allows you to view the world from the perspective of your pet. This knowledge can improve your interactions with your fuzzy family member and deepen the bond you share.

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