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THE FELINE BEHAVIOR SERIES
Paul D. Pion DVM, DipACVIM (Cardiology) and Gina Spadafori
VeterinaryPartner.com

Why does your cat do the things he does? Why does he scratch the furniture, urinate outside the litter box, fight with another cat, cruise counters, destroy the trash? And perhaps more importantly, what can you do change and shape your feline family member's behavior when needed?

Authors Gina Spadafori and Paul D. Pion, DVM, DACVIM, share the secrets of feline behavior from their best-selling book Cats for Dummies, recipient of the Cat Writers' Association awards for Best Work on Feline Behavior, Best Work on Feline Nutrition and Best Work on Responsible Cat Care, in VeterinaryPartner.com's Feline Behavior Series!

Cats are among the easiest of animals to live with as pets, which in part accounts for their massive and ever-growing appeal. Cats are naturally quiet, clean, affectionate, and largely self-sufficient, capable of adapting to any kind of dwelling, any definition of family. But when things go wrong . . . they go very, very wrong from the human point of view.
You need to do a little detective work and figure out what's causing your cat to bite or claw you. Aggression takes many forms, and the solution depends on the cause.
Some people point to the dog's ability to learn obedience commands and tricks as proof that dogs are smarter than cats. Others point to the same as proof that cats are smarter than dogs.
Cats For Dummies is the second pet book in the best-selling "... For Dummies" series of computer and general interest books. Following the lead of the award-winning Dogs For Dummies, Cats for Dummies won three prestigous awards in the Cat Writers Association's annual media competion: Best Work on Feline Behavior, Best Work on Feline Nutrition, and Best Work on Responsible Cat Care.
Unlike dogs, cats don't have a built-in mechanism for working with a family. Your cat loves you and enjoys your company, but if you want to convince him to do things your way, you must answer the quintessential cat question: What's in it for me?
A good scratching post or cat tree is a good place to start, but there are lots of other tips and tricks to deal with cat clawing problems!
Cats are fastidious animals, and if the litter box is dirty, they look elsewhere for a place to go. So how clean is the litter box? Is it something you "get around to" every few days, or maybe just on the weekend?
Use your squirt bottle, air horn, or other deterrent to discipline your cat if you see him on countertops and tables. As much as possible, try to stay out of sight so that your cat associates the annoyance with the table or counter.
If any one topic is sure to produce a discussion among cat- lovers, it's declawing. The procedure is widely performed to end scratching and is just as widely vilified. Some breeders and humane societies refuse to place a cat or kitten with any adopter who doesn't promise not to declaw. Even Paul and Gina don't agree on the subject.
Many times people see inappropriate elimination as one problem, when in fact it's potentially several problems, some of which may be related - or not. The most basic behaviors are those intended to mark territory and those that express dissatisfaction or discomfort with using a litter box. Your must first observe, exactly ,what your cat is doing - marking territory or avoiding the box - before you can figure out what to do about it.
The trick to keeping your cat away from inappropriate elimination spots is to make those areas smell unappealing and even revolting. How do you do that? Through the use of smell, touch, and even some basic cat knowledge.
You need to make sure that what you're expecting from your cat is fair in two ways: Are you being reasonable? Are you being consistent?
Many people are reluctant to seek help if faced with a pet-behavior problem, either because they think the idea of a "pet shrink" is crazy or because they don't think the money would be well spent.
House-training problems - called inappropriate elimination - are the number one cause of behavior-related complaints from cat lovers - and with good reason.
Purring is one of the most special elements of a cat, as far as most humans are concerned. But careful observers of the cat know that purring isn't just a sound of contentment. Cats also purr if they're injured, while giving birth - even when dying.
Some cats are chattier than others; indeed, "talkativeness" is an adored breed trait in the Siamese and other Orientals.
Urine-marking is called spraying, and the strategies for addressing it are different from those that you use in getting a cat to use a litter box.
The cat's sense of smell is many times more powerful than a human's (and a dog's is more powerful still). Are you surprised now that the litter box you think is "tolerable" is offensive to your cat?
You're asking a lot of a cat whenever you bring her into your home, and the fact that, in most cases, the situation works as well as it does says a lot about the strength of the love between cats and people.
You can foil the cat who gets into wastebaskets by using a single, marvelous innovation - a can with a lid.
Here's an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon and learn a lot about your cat at the same time: Go to your video store and rent a documentary on tigers. You're certain to be astonished at how much the cat purring in your lap reminds you of this stunning wild cat.
We feel you must never forget that the combination of agility, climbing acumen, sharp claws and teeth, and a stubborn streak larger than any one person could ever possess combine to make most any cat someone you don't want to get on the wrong side of.

   
About the author(s)
Paul D. Pion DVM, DipACVIM (Cardiology)

Paul is co-founder, president and CEO of the Veterinary Information Network, Inc., and a board-certified veterinary cardiologist. Paul's company is a pioneer in the field of information technology, providing veterinary professionals with online access to top consultants, searchable databases, continuing education in a variety of specialities, and the opportunity to share views and ideas with others in the profession. Paul has been awarded a Physician's Scientist Award by the National Institutes for Health, a Small Animal Research Award by Ralston Purina, National Phi Zeta Award for the one of the two most outstanding manuscripts in 1989, and a Special Recognition Award by the American Animal Hospital Association for innovations in the field of veterinary medicine.

Paul was graduated from the veterinary college at Cornell University, and has taught in the veterinary school at the University of California, Davis. While at UCD, he made an important research discovery that has touched the lives of every cat in the world: He proved that the deficiency of taurine in commercial cat food was causing heart disease in cats. His discovery was published as a cover article in SCIENCE, one of the most competitive and respected research journals, and more importantly lead to the reformulation of the world's cat foods and virtual eradication of a fatal heart disease that afflicted tens of thousands of cats annually in the late '80s.

Paul lives in Davis, Calif., with his wife, Carla, also a veterinarian, sons Luca and Joel, and a menagerie of pets, including his personal favorite, PC (for Prayer Cat), an uncommon tabby who sits up and prays for what she wants, a trait so endearing Paul says his wife fell in love with the cat first.

Gina Spadafori

Gina has two loves in her life -- animals and writing. As former director of the VIN Pet Care Forum on America Online, the world's largest online area for animals, and with her award-winning columns and books, she has finally accomplished one of her life's goals -- a career writing about animals.

Pet Connection is an award-winning column on pets and their care written by Gina and Dr. Marty Becker that appears in newspapers across the United States through the Universal Press Syndicate.

Gina is the author of Dogs for Dummies and co-author (with VIN owner/founder Paul D. Pion, DVM, DACVIM) of Cats For Dummies, both from IDG Books Worldwide. Dogs for Dummies was named the Best General Reference book by the Dog Writers Association of America as well as the most outstanding writing on dogs in 1996. Cats For Dummies was named "Best Work on Feline Behavior," "Best Work on Feline Nutrition" and "Best Work on Responsible Cat Care" by the Cat Writers Association. Both books are top-sellers, offering nearly 400 pages of advice on choosing, raising, training, caring for and living with a pet. They've been translated into several languages.

Gina has also been a columnist and regular contributor to the AKC Gazette, the official magazine of the American Kennel Club, and she has written on pets for other magazines, including Modern Maturity. She has also been quoted in scores of newspaper and magazine articles, and appeared on TV and radio.

She has taught basic dog-obedience classes and competed in obedience trials with her own dogs. Gina has earned the esteem of trainers and other top-selling pet writers, all of whom have praised her breezy writing style and dogged pursuit of the facts. She also counts among her readers scores of veterinarians, many of whom use her articles in their practices to help educate their clients.

Gina has been active in efforts to help homeless pets, organizing and running a breed-rescue program in her community. She has served on the board of directors for both the Cat Writers Association and the Dog Writers Association of America, and served as contest chair of the DWAA writing contest in 1993. The DWAA has three times awarded her its Maxwell Medallion for Best Newspaper Column, and Pedigree dog food presented her with its Outstanding Journalist Pet Care Award in 1993. In 1995, she was honored with the Geraldine R. Dodge Award for an article promoting cooperation between shelters and breed-rescue groups. The Cat Writers Association has twice awarded her column a Certificate of Excellence.


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