Wednesday, February 27, 2013

FEB 2013

     (AKA Cats on the Couch)

Dear Readers, The  Wilbourn Way monthly Newsletter has now become THE WILBOURN WAY BLOG. I’m happy to introduce and welcome you to the first one below.

OUT OF THE BOX                                
(Indiscriminate urination, defecation)  
“ My cat Bo leaves random puddles on my bathroom floor” said Alice. "He’s neutered, only a year old, and I’m on point with his litter box,”  was Alice’s message on my voice mail. She requested a phone consult to translate Bo’s message.
 I told Alice that Bo might have some type of worm, parasite or protozoa in his system which makes him uncomfortable and possibly anxious. His chosen behavior to detour from his litter box is to put her on alert. “He needs your help,” I said.
I recommended that she take a stool specimen to the vet to be analyzed. If he was previously treated for worms for any of the above problems, it’s very possible that he now needed another dosage. The medication only kills the mature eggs, and chances are some of the eggs hadn’t matured when the test was done. “Your Bo used good cat judgment to communicate his distress in such a bold way so you would get it” I said.
(Inter-cat domination) 
It’s not uncommon to unwittingly have the wrong dialog with your cat that tends to blow up the behavior you’re trying to stop. This is what happened with Lois and her cat Merlin.   
Several months ago Lois had scheduled a phone consult to help with the introduction of an adopted kitten for Merlin -- after her female companion’s demise. For the most part, Merlin and Ali, the new kitten adjusted very well. But lately Merlin became the bully cat. Lois told me how Merlin chased Ali off of spots she never hung out on. “Whatever Ali chooses Merlin monopolizes,” said Lois.  “I tell Merlin that she’s the big sister, and what a great relationship they have. What’s Merlin’s problem? She’s got to know I love her.”
I told Lois that Merlin felt unappreciated, and Ali had become her tension target. Merlin wanted to feel super special and in charge. Although she didn’t understand Lois’ words, she got their intent through her body language and voice. Merlin felt manipulated -- that she had to be a certain way with Ali. Consequently, this made her bully Ali more. A cat will act the way she feels. Merlin wanted Ali to be there on “Merlin’s” behalf. So, I instructed Lois to say:
“Isn’t it great that Ali’s the ‘sampler of hang out places’, and she makes them comfy and acceptable for you. She’s even front and center when I have company, which is great for you because you prefer to keep a low but cool profile.”
I told Lois that this dialog will let Merlin feel that Ali is there to make her life easier. Merlin will feel very much in control and her interaction with Ali will begin to mirror this change.
“Thanks for the phone consult,” said Lois. “Once again you’ve given me the help I need to make us all happy.”
(Orion, a former rescue, will represent cats and offer nuggets of wisdom regarding Bo, the rescued First Dog -- a Portuguese Water Dog.) 
In 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation so that children will reach adulthood at a healthy weight. Orion is proud of Bo for being the poster pup for this worthy campaign. Visit and learn more. Orion wants Bo to sponsor such a campaign on behalf of cats, dogs and other animal companions. Grants could be provided by food companies to provide educational and other resources. Go Bo!

Litter box problems are a constant refrain in my practice. Amy, one of my clients told me how she was upset for herself and her female cat who had started to do her biz in unacceptable places. It’s happened four times in the last few weeks. She kept the litter box very clean. Her male cat had no problems with it, and the two cats had a made in cat heaven relationship. She mentioned how she noticed that her female was very sound sensitive. “She’ll spook at sudden loud sounds or movements,” Amy said. “I’ve had her checked out by the vet, and she’s health problem free. So, I’ve arranged this phone consult for you to help us.”
I had instructed Amy to turn on speaker phone and to play some of her favorite music in the background. This way her female would sense that she was being doted on. The music would help to relax everyone. It could be played repeatedly and would be a transitional security object that would reinforce the desensitization of the phone session. Amy had laughed and compared it to how she felt good when she heard her favorite music. “Yes, this music will now become your cats’ favorite,” I said.
I explained to Amy how her cat’s sound sensitivity may be the key to her current litter box behavior. She may have been startled by random noise when she was about to “let go” in the litter box and so decided to keep her distance.
I gave Amy some tips to keep her female’s movements within the box:
  • Move the litter box to a quieter spot.
  •  Simulate loud noises as you pet and talk to her so she slowly realizes that she won’t be harmed by the noise.
  •  Announce transitions so you don’t take her by surprise, e.g. I’m sitting down, going out, answering the phone.
  • Check out the Clever Cat Litter Box which has an opening to enter the box, and the rest of the box is covered. She may feel protected and secure with this type of box.
It was important to praise both cats whenever they used the box to reinforce this habit. Time, repetition and patience with the above program would increase her female’s confidence, and they all would benefit.

Many a litter box is kept in the bathroom, and I’m reminded of a cat named Squeaky and a bathroom incident. A new kitten had recently joined Squeaky’s catdom. He was not particularly thrilled with his new kitten companion and kept his distance from her. When his guardian heard a splash from the bathroom, his attention was focused on Facebook, so he didn’t give it a second thought. But the next sound was a plaintive meow which he couldn’t ignore. He reached the bathroom to find Squeaky who held a dripping, wet kitten in his mouth by the scruff of her neck. As he stood speechless, Squeaky released the kitten to the floor and licked her all over. Evidently, the kitten had tumbled into the toilet bowl and Squeaky had come to her rescue. What a hero! From that time on Squeaky was her guardian angel. She copy-catted him endlessly, and the toilet was never again left uncovered when not in use. I’d call this catcentric behavior on Squeaky’s part.
Orion’s neighbor and play-pup, Bug, has positioned herself at his food dish while he hangs out at his water bowl. How generous of him. But it may be that he knows that food warms Bug’s heart. So why not out-source his food to one who helps to make his world rock. 
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