Welcome back to "The Animal House." I'm Sam Litzinger with Dr. Gary Weitzman of the San Diego Humane Society. You can call us at 1-877-610-3647 if you have an animal-related question. You could send your question via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, the telephone number is 1-877-610-3647. You could email email@example.com if that is your preference. Don't forget to visit our "Animal House" Facebook page to see animal news, videos, and our Animal of the Day.
You can also follow "The Animal House" on Twitter. We try to be connected around here. Well, I think we're connected, Dr. Gary. How are you? You all right?
I'm very good.
All right. Here's Joan. Let's see how Joan is doing, and maybe she has a problem that you can help solve, Gary. Hi Joan. Glad to have you with us. Question for Dr. Gary?
Yeah. I have kind of a weird situation at my house. I have two cats...
That's our specialty, excellent.
I have two rescue cats, one is seven and one is two.
And the issue involves the little one who is two years old. Her name is Isabella. She has this really weird habit of whenever she goes to the litter box, she does not cover up her waste, her poop or anything.
Oh, her work. Okay.
Yeah, her work. She jumps on top of the box and straddles the box with her four, you know, her four little legs, and paws away at the top of the box, and it's not a covered box.
The top of you box -- you mean -- do you have a covered -- oh, not a covered box.
No. No. No, it's an open box. She just jumps on top of it and she just paws at the edges of the box. It's like she never got the memo she had to cover up her litter.
I noticed that she was in the litter when I picked her out, she was kind of doing the same thing only not, I mean, when she was in the litter of kitties, you know, her brothers and sisters, she was kind of doing the same thing not in the litter box, but...
...just sort of doing this sort of weird pawing thing but kind of, you know, all straddled out pawing.
For her, it almost sounds as though she doesn't want to touch the litter. I mean, that's -- and she doesn't like that substrate.
And that's a big challenge for us, and it's the first thing that we tell people when they're expressing problems with litter training their cats. You know, find a kitty litter that they actually will accept better, and that may be the case with Isabella. You know, actually describing behavior that went beyond litter box like when she was young was doing this kind of...
...a stance and all of that. But, you know, okay. So two things. One, it could be her, and that's simply going to be her little idiosyncrasy.
But you want to make sure you don't contribute to it. And the ways to do that with cats whenever there's a litter box issue are one, give them more than one litter box if there's two cats, and secondly, make sure you do a different litter size -- oh, actually there's three things then. And then the third thing is getting the litter that she will be willing to use. So for the litter box, I would say absolutely no covered litter for her, because that's probably going to...
...not even work unless she's with Cirque du Soleil....
...and can contort herself through there and stand and go to the bathroom. So that's the first thing. But maybe get something with a shorter ledge to it. We like to, you know, use the commercial litter boxes that you can...
...buy, you know, in a lot of cases they're the wrong size and shape. So if you were to get something that's bigger and shallower and change the litter and see if you can get her to use that a little more happily. And clay litter, simpler are the best honestly to start. And then you can move on from there. But it may be her. So I would just say at least make sure that it's not your contribution to what she's already doing.
Okay. So get a box that doesn't have a little ledge on it that she kind of make perches on.
Right. Okay. And then...
Yeah. We talk about this frequently. I think they're cement mixing pans. You know, I mean, I don't really like to go with the big metal things...
...because that's a pain. Who wants to pick that up?
Get something -- a nice, you know, plastic container that has a small ledge to it and fill that with the most basic litter, just clay, no scent, and see if you can get her to use that.
And you know what, if you can stand to put a glove on and show her what you want her to do.
You know, when we send cats home for the first time, we tell people, you know, get the litter there, put them in a smaller room to get them used to the litter box. If they use it, but they don't cover, cover things up for them. If they miss the litter box, and this is getting graphic, hopefully nobody's having lunch while we're talking. But take what they've made a mistake with, if you know what I mean...
Oh, very good.
Yeah. Sure. Sure.
...and pick it up and drop it in the litter box. So that gets the idea. And thank heaven, 99.9 percent of the time, cats pick it up pretty quickly.
I mean, how do they learn that, Dr. Gary?
But make sure you provide all the tools.
How do they learn to do that?
It's innate. It's innate.
It's innate? Yeah.
It's the -- yeah. It's using the ground that they're on, and we just have to limit it to a litter pan, unfortunately, because most of our cats are inside.
Right. Okay. Well, thanks a lot.
But let us know what happens. Do those two things...
...shallow, larger litter box, basic substrate clay litter, and show her what to do and let's see if it might help for her to have her own place to do it.
Okay, great. Thanks for the advice.
Report back to us, Joan.
Okay. Take care.
By the way, Gary, now, you may have heard this. I was told that cats are emulating sort of wild animals when they're covering up their stuff.
Because the idea is they don't want to leave a trail where predators might be able to trail them.
I think that's absolutely true. And there are -- we know the house is full of predators. So thank heaven they're covering it up.
Fill with predators everywhere.
Our telephone number is 877-610-3647. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's take a telephone call from Melissa. Melissa, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Hi. Thanks for taking my call.
Hi there. Sure.
I -- my husband and I have been take of an alley cat named Tanksley for about the last eight-and-a-half years, and I really have a two-part question about him. The first is, am I being totally unrealistic and kidding myself to think that given the progress we've made we might ever be able to actually have him move inside with us.
And the second part of my question is, even if we can't get him fully to move in, I'd like to continue making progress, and we've kind of hit a road block that I was wondering if you could help us get behind?
Okay. Well, tell me a little more. So when you say alley cat, what are you actually describing? What is he like? Is he a feral cat that you can't touch, or is he outside cat?
He's a completely outside cat. He was around for probably six to nine months being fed by my neighbor before we trapped him, had him fixed...
...and starting taking over.
Oh, good. I was going to ask you -- great work. Okay.
And at that time, we would feed him actually outside of our yard. He would never come near us or near the food when we were doing that.
And we've just been slowly trying to gain his trust.
So now when we go out with the food and crouch down, he will approach us and we can pet him, rub his belly. He's actually very affectionate under the right circumstances.
Oh, okay. All right.
And then we've started feeding him just inside the door. If we open our door, put the food inside and walk to the other side of the room, he will come in and eat there. He started sniffing around. We have catnip toys, and he'll play with them, and he can actually seem quite content and happy and comfortable inside...
Mm-hmm. Yeah. Okay.
...as long as we don't approach him. The problem really is that we have a housecat who doesn't like the situation.
Oh, you have another cat. Okay.
And she will chase him out when he does that, and he's very skittish, so she really doesn't need to do anything but look at him the wrong way and he takes off running.
And he takes off. And what does she do?
Then she's happy. She doesn't pursue it.
Oh, okay. She doesn't take off after him or anything like that?
Okay. That's good. Well, a couple things. First of all, I'm -- I think you've got a hybrid of a feral cat who's not quite a feral cat, and an outdoor cat who's not quite a docile outdoor cat, but that's not so uncommon. But the fact that you can actually pet him means he's really not a wild animal. But getting him inside, the first thing I was going to say to you is if you really want to do that, and that's commendable, is to just open the door. That's as simple as that.
I didn't realize you had another cat, so I am going to caution you, be careful of doing that. If your other cat isn't really that thrilled about her own species in general, you really don't want to be inviting this guy in, and honestly, you don't need to, and I'd caution you. Your girl's not going to be very happy about it, and you've already, you know, said that. And the second thing is, you have to be careful of a lot of the things that this outside cat can bring in, not the least of which is feline leukemia virus. You know, I really wouldn't feel like -- I wouldn't feel too guilty about it. That's what I'm saying, Melissa.
I would let him -- keep doing what you're doing, which you're doing with a wonderfully, you know, open heart. Keep giving him food and take care of him if for heaven's sakes if he does get sick, but provide him shelter, but not necessarily opening that door. Maybe play with him on the porch or deck or wherever you've been able to do it, but I wouldn't mix him with your other cat. Honestly, I wouldn't do that if you can help it.
Okay. Great. Well, thank you for your advice.
Thank you very much, Melissa. Let's take a telephone call from Katerina. Katerina, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Yes. I actually recently took in a Sun Conure, and he has grown very protective of me over the past few weeks. He won't even let my mother come near either of us.
Because he can fly, and whenever me and my mother hug, he even comes over and tries to attack her.
Okay. This is getting a little serious. Now, I don't know how much you know about Sun Conures, Gary.
Probably something, but do you want to bring in an expert here?
I'm hoping you were going to offer that. Thank you, Sam.
All right. Good. Let's bring in Sally Blanchard of companionparrotonline.com. Sally, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House."
Any suggestion for Katerina? What can she do?
Well, I think first of all, she said the bird flies, and sometimes they become really independent. While I like for birds to be flighted in the house, there are some times when they might need a little gentle attitude correction. And when you trim a bird's wings, they become more dependent on us, and consequently they listen to us a little bit more, and of course trimming a bird's wings mean that they will grow out. So sometimes -- and Sun Conures, this is not unusual behavior for a Sun Conure.
They do have a tendency to develop this kind of one-person bond, and very exclusive bond. It can be because they perceive the favored person as a mate. It can be just because they can be very territorial of nesting. So I would kind of recommend maybe not, you know, whacking all the flight feathers off, but taking a few of the flight feathers off to make the bird just a little bit more dependent for a period of time. Teaching him some behavioral, you know, teaching him to be a better bird by establishing things like making sure he steps on your hand with the word up, you know.
Teaching him that, you know, and teaching a parrot is not really that difficult because they're pretty smart birds, and Sun Conures are no exception. And then as his wings grow back, he might be more apt -- he probably would be more apt to follow, you know, the behavioral guidance has been established.
Katerina, quick question from me to you. What's the bird's name, by the way?
Well, so Sally, it sounds like as you suggested, Rojo has picked Katerina as the buddy there, and...
...and maybe everybody else needs to keep a little distance?
Right. Well, and I think the thing is also that would be really important -- I've had this question actually many times in regards to aggression towards other birds and other people, and it seems to be a prevalent problem with Sun Conures that fly, is that if you know your mother's coming over, or if you know your mother is going to be, you know, in the room and interacting with you, I mean, that's when Rojo should probably be in his cage.
Because otherwise he will take that as an opportunity, and the only way to train that out of him is to really work with him. But I think, again, sometimes trimming those wings will take a little bit of the macho, I guess you might call it, out of him. But, you know, I'm not saying to keep the wings trimmed forever. I'm saying to sort of kind of get a little bit better control of him when, you know, when the wings are trimmed. Does he ever regurgitate for you, like, you know, when he's on your shoulder?
If they actually regurgitate for you, it's what they would naturally do for their mate in the wild. And so consequently, it probably means there's a little bit of a, you know, a mate bond there.
Wow. Well, Katerina, so if you don't mind, as Sally suggested, there may be a little wing trimming in your future, and then please report back if that changes his behavior. And if it doesn't we'll get Sally back on the line and try something else. Sally, thank you very much for being with us. Excellent advice.
Sally Blanchard of companionparrotonline.com. Dr. Gary Weitzman will return with answers to more questions later in the program. Our telephone number is 877-610-3647.
I'm Karen Munson, and this is "The Animal House" Dateline. When a hundred pound shipment of lobsters arrived at a Maine restaurant last month, it contained a surprise. Six orange crustaceans that have been said to be a one in 10 million oddity. In Maine, the lobster catch has grown four fold in the past 20 years to nearly 105 million pounds last year. And when Nanotech researcher Luke Lee is looking for inspiration for the next generation of optical gadgets, he ponders the lobster and the housefly and the octopus.
Lee and other bioengineers are borrowing ideas from all corners of the animal kingdom to design artificial vision systems that could be used for high-tech cameras, motion detectors, navigation devices, or perhaps even synthetic retinal implants. You may barely notice when a raindrop lands on your head, but if you were a mosquito, you'd definitely notice. It would be like a bus falling on you in midair. But a falling raindrop doesn't spell doom for the plucky mosquito, says scientists behind a new study, and when a raindrop lands directly on the bug's back, the mosquito gets taken for a wild ride, but not a fatal one. You can find out more information about these stories at wamuanimalhouse.org.
Coming up, the story of an organization that uses airplanes to deliver shelter pets to new homes in "The Animal House."
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