I'm Sam Litzinger with Dr. Gary Weitzman of the San Diego Humane Society. We are interested in your animal-related questions and your stories. 877-610-3647. You could email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's take a telephone call from Marjorie. Marjorie, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Yeah. I got a young cat a few months ago, back in March. I already had a couple cats at the house, so I got one that was young. I thought, you know, he looked like he was less than a year, and I thought it'd be easier to introduce him to the house having...
And what's his name and age?
I don't know exactly his age, but he goes by Van Gogh. I think he's a little over a year.
And so when I brought him home, I didn't have a problem with the -- I have another young cat. He seems to really like him a lot, and they get along really well.
But I have another cat that really doesn't like him.
Of course. That never fails, okay.
She doesn't like any other cat really. She's a tortoise shell.
Okay. Well, that's very consistent with tortoise shells, so I think you've got everything working the way it's supposed to. But what's happening? Is there a lot of stress in the household?
Well, yeah. The problem is, is that the tortoise shell used to sleep on my bed all the time, and now she doesn't like this new cat at all and sometimes she'll -- she's not always mean to him. Sometimes she can be fine, but then sometimes I hear this really loud meow come out of her, and her name's Cheyenne, by the way.
And then Van Gogh, what he does is he -- well, she's really gone after him and terrified him, and I thought he was going to run away at one point because, you know, he just is totally scare of her, and...
And rightly so, actually.
Yeah. And I've noticed Booty, the other cat that's like his age, a few years older, he's so happy we have another cat that's -- that plays.
Right. Well, he doesn't have to deal with Cheyenne by himself anymore. It sounds like, Marjorie, that you're doing really good by Booty. It's Cheyenne that's the problem, and she's stressed, and that's why she's acting like this, and it doesn't matter the size of Van Gogh, it's just the fact that it's another cat. It's one that she just isn't really warmed up to. I'm assuming that she doesn't really bully your other cat -- she doesn't bully Boots at all.
No. We -- well, she -- actually, we have another cat that both of them -- both Cheyenne and this other cat, a long-haired black cat, Sammy, we've had them for...
Oh, the plot thickens. Okay.
Yeah. And she's been really mean to him. I mean, he's much bigger than she...
...and I remember seeing her attacking him.
Really attacking him and getting him up on the...
She's just not -- she's not really into other cats. I'd say here, you have two choices. One is live with it if it's not that big a problem, because you're probably gonna have to, and two, if you don't want to do that, then make sure that you give everybody the out that they need, so that you can actually have humanly done everything possible to make peace. And that out is of course everybody having a safe time-out zone.
So for Cheyenne, I'd say make sure she has a place that nobody else can get to, or a wonderful new cat tree that's hers. You know, feed her away from the other cats. Just give her a safe place to go to because this is all about stress when they're acting like this. Now, she could just be a devil, and she wants to bully Van Gogh, but chances are it's stress that makes her react like this, and for whatever reason she doesn’t like the new kid on the block.
And then the second choice of courses of action would be to talk to your vet about getting something to bring the stress level down in Cheyenne. You know, often we'll just use a very mild sedative or we'll use Prozac, just very low doses, and don't be afraid of doing it. It won't be for long, just for the, you know, trying to get things stable at the beginning. But I'd say for now, I would just find them safe places to go and make sure that they've all got a way to have a time out, and make sure that you give Cheyenne as much attention as she had before.
It is the case, I believe, that some cats just don't like other cats, is that correct, Gary?
Absolutely. It happens in every species.
It does, doesn't it? Let's take a telephone call from Briggs. Briggs, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Garry?
Yes. It's regarding my miniature Schnauzer.
Okay. Good dogs. What do you call him?
He's really sweet. His name is Mika.
I did not like the dog at first because he was, you know, yippy and I don't -- but he's so cute.
Yes. But he's great. So he is extremely anxious, and he's almost completely blind.
He -- I think he was about two when I got him, two or three, so he's not that old to be having this eyesight issue.
So he's about five or six years old now?
And about six months after I got the dog, I was going out of town and I called the people who had given him to me to see if they would house -- you know, dog sit for me, and they did, but then they decided they weren't going to give him back to us.
So he -- then they kept him for about three months, and then one day I get a phone call saying if I wanted him back, I had to come right away and get him. And he wasn't actually living with them, he was living with a whole 'nother family.
But I have no idea what happened.
We need to have a graph and a chart here.
Something -- yeah, that's very odd. Well, let's -- all right. Which problem do you want to start with first, the -- the going blind problem? Is that something you can talk about?
Well, yeah. We want to -- we should ask about that. Briggs, is that something that you've talked to your vet about? I would assume you have.
Yeah. Yeah. They have. I mean, they said that I could -- he could have surgery -- it's cataracts.
Cataracts, okay. All right.
Right. But I can't -- I can't afford that.
I would like to, and -- but I know it's gonna keep coming back, and he seems to be fine with it, you know. He runs -- he can see about six inches in front of him.
So occasionally he'll run into something, but the blindness does not seem to have affected him, because he's always had this anxiety issue...
...ever since he came back after being separated from us.
So that's the problem is that he is extremely anxious, and when we leave him alone, he howls and howls and howls and howls.
Oh, okay. All right.
He's miserable without us.
Well, it sounds -- yeah. It sounds like separation anxiety is the biggest issue.
But I'll tell you, I mean, honestly, the blindness is not helping because...
Right. I figured.
...part of -- yeah. As I'm sure you'd expect. So I would say first of all, for people that are wondering about their animals with cataracts, it is, you know, very much like us. We treat it with a laser. It's a pretty non-invasive procedure. The problem is, you know, and I think this is the case with us as well, it's a very costly procedure to do, so it does kind of decrease the number of takers on the surgery. Let's put it that way. But we have some wonderful ophthalmologists out there, and a lot -- there's a lot of them that really specialize in this.
So if it's something that you could do, obviously that would be the best thing for this guy. If he's only five or six years old, it'd be great to take care of the cataracts. But that aside, the separation anxiety is something you absolutely have to deal with, and I'd say, first of all, keep him safe. If he's more comfortable, you know, in a crate, you know, when you're gone, and I didn't hear that from you necessarily, but you want to make sure he's got a safe place to be that he feels secure. You've gotta make sure that he has all the enrichment, we always talk -- Sam and I, on this show about enrichment and makings sure dogs are as physically and spiritually exhausted as we can possibly humanly make them.
So even, you know, with him having, you know, at this point in his life -- oh, he's only six, you know, you want to make sure he's got all the exercise and the toys and all of that.
And on -- and if that isn't enough right now, and he's starting to vocalize, I would say you need a trip back to your vet because this guy needs some help medically, and by medically I mean pharmacologically. So we use a lot, we use Prozac, we use Xanax, we use a lot of things that, you know, they're in the human pharmacopeia vernacular too, and I think this guy's got some stress going on that's going to make it very hard for you to work with him without decreasing that threshold before you start to do some training.
And then honestly, not to defer to our professional colleagues out there, but you really do need to have somebody come into your home and honestly you're not gonna have to get a second mortgage to do it, but get a trainer that does positive training or a behaviorist, come and at least give you a consult about what you can do to start down the path of getting Mika a little bit more comfortable being home alone. But I do think you need to go back to your vet and get something to help with his level of stress first. I mean, he's had quite a colored past, and...
...whatever happened in those three or four months that he was gone, you know, it may have nothing to do with the separation anxiety now, but I'm sure it didn't help, because he's been from home to home.
And everything is difficult for him anyway because his vision is so limited.
So I'd say first for you, go to a vet, let's get some drugs for this guy. You know, maybe some for you too, but that's a different doctor's appointment, and then we need to start down that, you know, working on separation anxiety, and it's really just to make this guy as secure as you can at home.
I think we have time for one more quick telephone call, so let's do that. Here's George. George, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Yes. Dr. Weitzman, Mr. Litzinger, thank for the opportunity to talk to you about our pet problem. Our pet cat, Harriet, doesn't get along with our other two cats.
For my wife, Mary Julie, and I, when we play with Harriet, she's a wonderful, warm, sweet cat, and even when she puts her claws out, she keeps them in and doesn't bite, so she's obviously very friendly.
Good girl. Mm-hmm.
She likes laser tag, she likes things to play, but she doesn't seem to get along well with the other two cats.
We brought Harriet into our house nine months ago when the cats were about three-and-a-half years old.
Oh, so the other cats were there first, and then Harriet came in third?
Yes. We got the other two cats from the Washington Rescue League.
Oh, good. Good.
And so what we were doing was we had older cats and we brought the two kittens in, and they've been in the house alone now for about two years, and when Harriet showed up who's, you know, was almost four years old at the time, she's a little larger and she's more inclined to be an alpha-type cat. So we'd like to figure out what possibly -- what we could do to help...
And she is wreaking havoc. What does she -- how does she torment the other two cats?
Well, she's very territorial. She's very strategic. She places herself at the top of the stairs and when the cats get by she likes to chase them...
...but she doesn't necessarily like to catch them, you know. She just...
…to the point and then she backs off, and same sort of thing about playing with the laser pointer and things, she just likes to play, I think, but unfortunately, the other cats become incredibly anxious.
Yeah. And actually are they getting stressed?
I think the female cat, Tallulah, is very stressed. (unintelligible)
Okay. Is she hiding? Is she hiding from Harriet?
She does hide.
She has her couple of places that she likes to go to. Petey is -- the guy is just confused that somebody would actually run at him, so he's just constantly interested.
Right. Oh, well, that's good. Okay. That's a more positive response to Harriet. Well, okay. You've done it now. You've brought in a terrorist to upset the cart of your other cats. But it happens all the time.
The little kitty insurgent, I see. Mm-hmm.
Yeah. An insurgent, absolutely. And it's not so covert. We see this all the time, and it's really tough. We have people that will adopt cats and actually, I ran into a few of these recently at the Washington Animal Rescue League, and we have our behavior department work with those people to try to ease that cat into the family, and it can often take two to three months to really get, you know, the Maginot line up and get everybody calmed down.
But sometimes it doesn't work. And now, you've said you've had Harriet for nine months, and I think that means that the prognosis is pretty poor for her to be a different cat, and for your other cats to unfortunately be calm around her. Now, it sounds like your boy is okay, but your girl's gonna need help. So I'm not suggesting that you can't keep Harriet, of course, and hopefully you're in love with her, and you said she's a great cat, but I think what you're gonna need to do is to probably help your little girl, the one that's hiding and is very stressed, to deal with this stress, and the first thing, of course, is absolutely make sure you have a place for her to retreat to.
So some place that Harriet hopefully can't get. That's hard to find because cats are cats and they can get in everywhere, but try to give her a room that you won't let Harriet in, or, you know, somewhere that she can be safe. That's the first thing.
Yes. But she doesn't get into her face, you know, directly to attack, she stays, you know, a foot away, but unfortunately that's too close for Tallulah.
Oh, okay. All right. Well, then the second thing too, of course, if Tallulah gets too really wrought out about this is to get her some help with your veterinarian and get her level of anxiety down a little bit with some Fluoxetine or Prozac or something like that, just for a little while, and then what we hope that happens is that that shifts the dynamic over maybe about six months, so that she's not as terrified by Harriet and she can stand up to her a little bit better, or is just not as affected by her, so she's not as much fun of a toy as she is right now, and then you can wean her off of it.
But I really would say, start with just a safe place for her, and the real sad truth here is, there's no solution. There really isn't. It's tincture of time or nothing, and you're almost at nine months, almost, you know, you're beyond nine months now. I think the only thing that you should do is make sure that you have a safety, you know, retreat for your little girl, and that's about all you can do. But just to make -- continue to make sure that she's safe. But this is gonna be the dynamic, and unfortunately, this is their personality.
They are cats.
They are cats.
Said every cat owner in America at this point.
So and all that sums up to, they are cats.
They are cats, yes.
George, thank you very much. Thank you, Dr. Gary.
You're welcome, Sam. This is Dr. Gary Weitzman with an "Animal House" pet care tip. How do you get your dog to stop barking? A very good question, and one of the most common discussions we have. Hopefully you don't have a situation where your landlord or neighbor is leaving you nasty or desperate messages, but if you do, you need a private trainer or behaviorist to stop by and give you a hand. Simply put, when your dog just bark reactively a few times a day, or sits by the door barking nonstop, and they never get hoarse, believe me, you need to work on this with your canine pal.
Figure out what those triggers are to start. For example, other kids or dogs playing outside. Two, redirect the anxiety or excitement, such as using stuffed Kongs or other treats, and three, do some trial runs for a few weeks, and never forget the number one mantra of a good dog, exercise, lots of it, and enrichment when you can't exercise them. Always be a responsible pet owner, and be sensitive to what others experience from your dog. You never want to be surprised by that. For "The Animal House," I'm Dr. Gary Weitzman.
This edition of "The Animal House" is near completion. First, here's the answer to our Animal of the Day quiz. Earlier, we asked if you knew at least one of three extinct subspecies of tiger. If you said Bali Tiger, Caspian Tiger, or Java Tiger, you are absolutely correct, sadly. Thanks to Jackson Galaxy and Professor Ellen Wohl of Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University for their contributions to day.
We also thank Bob James, Acoustic Alchemy, and Uakti for their music today. Also, special thanks to Dr. Gary Weitzman for his work. Thanks to you for joining us in "The Animal House." I'm Sam Litzinger.
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