For nearly my whole career, I have used and recommended Feliway® for situations involving feline anxiety and stress. These might be urine spraying, inter-cat aggression, or even trips to the vet and cattery.
I have always been reassured that there is strong scientific evidence for its effectiveness. So it took until 2021 for me to do a thorough literature review of my own. I was shocked by what I found.
It’s not that Feliway doesn’t work at all. It’s just that it probably doesn’t work for most of the things it’s been promoted for.
Try any online search about canine anxiety and you will quickly come across Dog Appeasing Pheromone. Whether as DAP or by its brand name Adaptil®, you find many recommendations, quite a few articles and of course a lot of ads.
It sounds too good to be true. Can a harmless treatment undetectable to you or I really work to ease anxiety?
More and more Australians are building an outdoor enclosure, or catio for their cat. Some make it themselves, others pay specialist companies to do it. Either way, there are two things that often get overlooked.
The first, assuming you plan on using them, is choosing plants that are safe for cats. I cover that later with an Australian perspective. The second is designing the space from a cat point of view.
We all know that cats like to sharpen their claws, but it amazes me how little we actually know about it. Yet scratching in cats is extremely important.
a genuine need of cats
a significant source of concern for cat owners
a leading cause of surrender to shelters
the excuse used for surgical declawing of cats
What you see here is typical of veterinary science. Pick a rare disease like arterial thromboembolism and you’ll find lots of good science. Pick a common, everyday, practical problem and it just doesn’t get the same attention.
Finally, I have something to tell you. For the first time, two recent studies have looked at scratcher preferences in kittens and adult cats. They offered cats choices and measured which ones they chose to use more often.
Not long ago I saw two adult dogs in a row that had just been adopted from their breeder. The first one was not perfectly normal, but he would be OK. However, the second one, Jethro was in real trouble.
Right now, he is frightened of many things in an unpredictable way. He is frequently frozen and unwilling to move, difficult to walk, wary of strangers and not interested in food. At night he wanders the house unsettled. But we can also see signs of the lovely dog within.
Try looking for answers when your dog eats their own stool and you’ll quickly see the problem. All the advice is the same.
Some top sites have literally cut and pasted the content from others, and those that haven’t appear to be just rewriting what everyone else says. The reason is simple: because no-one has all the answers.
A recent study (and the only good one) found that success rates with the sort of methods they discuss are only 1-4%. And it’s even worse if you try one of the many products being sold: 0-2%!
This fits exactly with my experience over 25 years. But it’s not hopeless! I’m going to use what I’ve learnt plus the evidence to give you practical, realistic advice. There’ll be a lot less promises, but also a lot less wasted effort.
Everyone has an opinion about what makes a great obedience class. I’ve got a lot to say on the subject, but I’ll start here: obedience has nothing to do with it!
The evidence is clear and consistent. When measured by results, reward-based training outperforms more ‘traditional’ methods. It’s also much less likely to cause pain or anxiety.
That’s why this article is going to help you tell the difference. By the end, you should be able to choose the right class for your dog. I will go through some clues you can use, and then use an example of two very real classes.
One night my own dog started shaking and shivering uncontrollably. Several frantic minutes went by. Was it a poison, was he unwell? The reasons why dogs tremble and shake go from simple to serious.
A minute later he squatted, passed a huge puddle of urine on the floor and the shaking stopped. He was busting to go to the toilet, and no-one realised. We all felt a bit silly, but that’s how hard it is.
It’s 6:30am. There’d still be another 30 minutes before your alarm if another sort of alarm wasn’t already going off. Incessantly.
It’s hard to ignore a cat when they want something. It’s what makes them a great first-time pet. However, being woken up too early is no laughing matter. So welcome to my new support group: Friends & Family Of Pushy Cats.
I wonder how many people have regretted those fateful words: “I’m going to get a kitten to keep my cat company”.
You see, cats aren’t like us. As a highly social species, we tend to assume all the others are the same. But while cats can learn to be friends, it isn’t natural and it almost never happens in the wild.
Yesterday: a dog who panics whenever someone touches her feet. The day before: a dog with anxiety about her ears being touched. These dogs are everywhere, but what happened to them?
The answer is something I’ve held back a long time from writing about. It contains criticism of my own profession as well as others. God knows, I’m no saint, and like most vets, I’ve made all these mistakes too. But we’re going to keep making them, so you need to know how to stop them.
Sadly, the treatment of mental health problems in dogs is taken much more seriously than in cats. An anxious dog will often get help quickly due to destruction or noise issues. An anxious cat, by contrast, tends to suffer in silence. Even worse, when they do show signs they’re often blamed for it.
No one wants to drug their pets. I get that. But we need to talk about mental health.
Let’s start by throwing out all the weasel words that stop us seeing it for what it is. It isn’t a ‘behaviour problem’ except to us. All these concerns like destruction, whining, howling, barking, biting or escaping. They’re only symptoms of a much greater problem.
As a grumpy cat lover, I’m embarrassed to say what gets under my skin. It’s when a cat is so much fun to be around that someone says, “he’s like a dog.” Although it’s meant as high praise, to me it says a lot about how we risk seeing cats.
Update 1 year later: read to the end for the good news!
Out of the box came a beautiful and regal young male Ragdoll cat. He was quite a sight; in the prime of life and nearly perfect in health and temperament. But not to his owners, who said, “he’s a monster, we’re going to have to get rid of him.”
It’s not what you think. Once I tell you you’ll wonder why you didn’t see the problem straight away, and I bet you’ll never take the risk again. In fact, even after my mother pointed it out, I nearly made the same mistake as you’ll see later.
25 years ago, in my very first week as a vet, a lovely bouncy Cocker Spaniel puppy taught me a hard lesson. Innocently enough, I asked his owner “so, how’s everything going?”
Right in front of me, without another word, his owner burst into tears. Back then I really didn’t know what was going on. I sure do now.
Toilet training, house training or potty training. Call it what you will, but it’s the greatest challenge most puppy owners will face. As vets, we might consider ourselves masters of keeping puppies healthy, but we often look on helplessly at training problems.
The truth is that all dog breeds are not the same around kids. You know it, I know it, but it’s hard to talk about without offending dog owners. However, if I don’t create a list of good dogs with kids, where will responsible parents in Adelaide find that information?