"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Possessive Cat

– Posted in: Columns

A fluffy catHello there!!

I hope you can help me with a behavioral issue that I have with my 9 year old male cat. I got him when he was barely six weeks old from a pet store. He is very loving and affectionate. The problem is with him being territorial. If he smells another cat or dog on my person he takes it upon himself to urinate on those clothes or on my bed while I am sleeping in it or not. He won’t do it on either of my children s beds or any other furniture. Just my bed or clothes. Short of showing him the way to the pearly gates ( which would upset me terribly), I don’t know if there is a way to treat him or not. I’m at my wits end with this.

Please help!!

Thank You for your time,

T.S.

There’s a story about the difference between cats and dogs. “A dog thinks, “Hey, those people I live with feed me, love me, provide me with a nice, warm, dry house, pet me and take good care of me…. They must be gods!” A cat thinks, “Hey, those people I live with feed me, love me, provide me with a nice, warm, dry house, pet me and take good care of me…. I must be a god!”” You are receiving what in the cat world is called a “pee-mail” from god.

This is a lot easier to fix with a dog then it is a cat. Often in my work with dogs I’ll get a call from someone with a dog that “follows them everywhere”, places themselves in between the person and another etc. and I’m told, “I think he or she is just protecting me.” Sometimes yes, but many times the dog is protecting his or her “property” and that is a different kettle of fish. With a dog we can just tune them up as to who’s hanging on to which end of the leash and things straighten out but Henry Kissinger and Condoleeza Rice together couldn’t negotiate a similar settlement with a cat.

You didn’t say but I’m going to assume that your cat’s attempts to keep you in your place are a relatively new development and as you’ve obviously been around other dogs and cats before this started then my first stop would be to the veterinarian’s for a complete work up. At nine years of age that may very well be a medical condition. Let your veterinarian know the reason for your visit. It’s not a regular check up it’s an investigation.

Another possibility worth consideration is that animals older then three years of age that have a significant change in behaviour often also have had a coinciding change in routine and/or lifestyle Pets to one degree or another are sensitive to changes in their owners. They can get a little wacky too if their owner has some sort of relationship change, a new four legged or two legged addition to the household, different work schedule etc. The more sensitive and affectionate nature of the animal the more likely the change in behaviour. If the cat has dealt with your extracurricular social life with other pets in the past something on top of the other animals must be compromising his stress threshold.

First let’s assume that there is a medical issue that is identified and it has been resolved. Don’t be surprised if you continue to receive intruder alerts. These behaviours often carry over as the behaviour itself becomes part of the animal’s routine. Here’s what I would try to break the cycle. If there is a cat scratch post in the area you’re having problems, put it somewhere else. Cats use these as another way to mark their territory. If you don’t have one, try one, just set it up away from the problem areas to see if this sort of marking satisfies your cat’s yearning to stake it’s claim to you. Keep an eye peeled for cats coming near your property. Particularly territorial cats hate this and it can be the cause of a lot of grief for the cat and subsequently the cat’s owner. Getting rid of these intruders will be tough but there are non-toxic deterrents but as well block visual access if at all possible.

Exhausting your cat is an additional strategy. There are a lot of neat interactive cat toys these days to engage your cat physically and mentally. Sometimes just a paper bag will do it or a ping-pong ball in the bath tub, or a laser pointer to play cat and mouse with.

You might also want to have a chat with your veterinarian about a product which plugs into the wall and sends out a calming pheromone. Some people have found this helps take the edge off a stressed cat. There are also cat versions of Prozac that sometimes work. If you were to go this route though I recommend seeking out the expertise of a feline behaviour specialist who will hopefully be able to take advantage of the reestablishment of your cat’s equilibrium to teach it the error of its ways and learn better ways to express itself.

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