Saturday, 24 March 2018

Can The Moon Affect Your Cat Or Dog's Behaviour?

I was recently interested to come across a study that showed that after reviewing the records of twelve thousand cats and dogs over a ten year period a strange pattern emerged.

The study carried out at Colorado State University's Veterinary Medical Center showed that cats and dogs suffering heart attacks, seizures and general trauma turned up in greater numbers around a full moon!

The fullest phase of the moon occurring over twelve days in the moon's twenty-eight day cycle lead to an increase in emergency visits of twenty-three percent for cats and twenty-eight percent for dogs.

Whilst the study threw up no conclusive answers to why this spike had occurred, it did interest me enough to do a little delving of my own.

Regarding cats it was suggested that a possible answer could be that cats spend more time engaging in more risky hunting behaviour during a full moon phase as there is more light available to hunt by.

Whilst this isn't an unreasonable theory, it is known that cats already possess incredible night vision and use nerve receptors in their whiskers to locate potential prey which suggests darker phases of the moon might suit them better when hunting but again, that's just a theory too.

I have read that birds possibly become disorientated during a full-moon phase which leads me to think that perhaps cats have picked up on this and upscale their hunting efforts which leads to more accidents. Again, just a theory.

Dogs are often said to howl during a full moon and, like cats, become more restless. Whilst I have no conclusive answer to this it is interesting to note from a human study here that "it has been scientifically proven that the moon affects the activities and behaviour of the humans in an evident and significant degree"

The study above also went on to mention that, as with the seas and the oceans, the moon also affects the liquids of the bodies of animals and as (like us) cats and dog's bodies are highly composed of water this could well be a significant factor in them feeling a bit different during varying lunar stages.

What we do know is that the moon phases have been shown to interact with the earth's electromagnetic field and as dogs have been shown to have a strong alignment with electromagnetism and there is anecdotal evidence linking cats to it too then it comes as no surprise that this may well affect our pet's behaviour.

There's a fun article here that talks more about how lunar phases could affect your pet.

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Saturday, 10 March 2018

Top Tips For Keeping Old Dogs Mentally Fit

Just like humans, as dogs age, they benefit from being mentally stimulated.  In a recent study, researchers in Vienna taught elderly dogs to play computer games and found that they can help slow down mental deterioration. The scientists used touch-screen tasks on a computer, combined with rewards, to motivate them to perform.

The study compared computer games for elderly dogs to elderly people doing Sudoku puzzles and proposed that this could also be an alternative to more physically demanding activities.

Physical limitations often mean that elderly dogs do not get walked and many spend a great deal of their time sleeping. Inactivity can make joints cease up and the resulting pain and general lack of stimulation can lead to a general sense of apathy.

The researchers are hoping that the computer-game study might kick-start the production of a living-room friendly alternative.

But until then, try some of these simple alternatives:

1. Re-visit some basic commands – Use a puppy training manual and teach some simple commands. Target training is another great way of engaging them too.
2. The prospect of getting a reward helps release feel-good hormones. So make sure you use their favourite treat to motivate them to perform
3. Engage all their senses to stimulate different areas of the brain – For example snuffle mats encourage them to use their sense of smell and touch to find hidden food
4. Ditch the food bowl. Present some of their daily food ration in a Kong or Treat Ball so they have to work at finding it
5. Hydrotherapy can be mentally and physically stimulating for dogs that love water. The buoyancy of the water prevents concussion on the joints and helps build muscle. Make sure you find a pool with qualified hydro-therapists. Also check with your vet beforehand as there are some conditions for which swimming is not appropriate.

Applying these simple activities into an elderly dog's routine will help create positive emotions, slow down mental deterioration and improve quality of life.

Caroline Clark is a consultant in animal behaviour counselling and you can find more information at www.peteducationandtraining.co.uk

Friday, 2 March 2018

Why Does My Cat…….?

All cats are individuals and have their own personality types. However there are a number of common behaviours that most cats exhibit. Knowing what some of these are and what they mean helps us understand and appreciate them just that bit more.

As a feline behaviour counsellor, here are some of the most common questions I get asked:

Why does my cat lift his tail upright, in the shape of a question mark when he meets me?
This is a greeting and is usually shown to members of cat that belong to the same social group. It’s their way of saying hello to you!

Why does my cat prefer to drink from the bird bath than his water bowl?
Cats have particular preferences to the way water is presented. However most prefer the bowl to be made out of ceramic or glass rather than plastic as that material taints the water. Wide openings to prevent their whiskers from being crushed seem to be favoured too. They also prefer to drink away from their food so dual bowls are not a good idea. Some like running water so using water fountains can help encourage drinking. Because cats are prone to kidney problems as they age, it makes sense to give them water in the most acceptable source possible.

Why does my cat knead me when I am stroking him/her?
This is a sign of security and shows that they feel safe with you. It has associations with being with their mother. When kittens suckle, they pad alternately on either side of the teats to help express milk. Certain textures can trigger this pleasant memory too which explains why some cats exhibit the behaviour when they are on a fluffy material. Some cats will even salivate excessively when being cuddled and this is thought to be linked to the emotion of anticipating the milk feed.

Why does my cat rub around my legs?
Scent profile is very important to cats. They have numerous scent glands around the face, body and tail that distribute pheromones. These pheromones are unique to each cat. Sharing this scent between other cats shows that they are part of the same social group and is only done if they are affiliated. So you should feel quite honoured that your cat is anointing you with their scent!
Cats will also rub on objects in the home. This is because being able to smell themselves gives them a sense of security. That explains why some cats can show signs of distress when there have been renovations or new decorations in the house.

Why does my cat like to scratch with his/her claws?
Cats are highly driven to scratch and this innate behaviour is believed to serve the following purposes:

• Visual territorial marking – this informs other cats about their presence in a given area
 Claw conditioning and exercising the fore limbs (important for predation).
 Marking – glands in between the toes help to distribute their scent.

Why does my cat like catnip?
Cat nip is a plant (Nepeta cataria). The active chemical in the plant is called nepetalactone which is harmless and has been likened to LSD without any of the side-effects.
Around 80% of cats seem to be attracted to its scent and act in an excited manner when they smell it. This includes rolling around on top of it and vocalising. Catnip toys can be used as environmental enrichment or to mentally stimulate in-door cats.

Why does my cat always go towards visitors who are non-cat people?

For most cats - Less is more! They tend to feel threatened by the stranger that makes a direct move towards them, puts out their hands or stares at them. The person who is non-catty therefore is more likely to attract them!

Caroline Clark is a consultant in animal behaviour counselling and you can find more information at www.peteducationandtraining.co.uk