Fixes for Your Biggest Dog & Cat Behavioral Issues

Old habits die hard, but your pet’s bad habits don’t have to. Vet Katy Nelson offers fast fixes for your biggest complaints. 

pets behaving badly

Illustration by The Elllaphant in the Room

Illustration by The Elllaphant in the Room

“Even though they have their own scratchers, my cats claw away at our furniture.” —Angela M. Stewart

Scratching allows cats to sharpen their claws, but your couch may pay the price. Offer them a customized alternative. Choose a material (sisal, cardboard, rope)that resembles what they seem to like. If they gravitate toward tall as opposed to flat surfaces, they may prefer a vertical scratcher. Position it near where your cats scratch and rub it with catnip as an enticement. You can apply a no-scratch spray or double-sided tape to certain items too. It’s also a good idea to trim your cats’ nails regularly.

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“I’d like to walk my 10-pound cockapoo, but she pulls the leash the whole time.” —Debbie Gilham

Pulling is commonly due to overstimulation. Try tiring her out a bit before going on a walk. Throw her favorite toy around the house, run with her in the yard and then head out for a stroll. Also consider switching to the Freedom No Pull Harness or the Gentle Leader. They both discourage pulling and give you more control: the first by moving the pressure point from the front of the neck to the chest, and the other by placing pressure on the back of the neck. Pulling on the leash is a difficult behavior to fix, so you may need to get advice from a professional trainer. 

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“My dog licks everything—the floor, his bed, his feet. What gives?” —Whitney Walker Aquilio

Excessive licking might mean anything from allergies to anxiety to dental disease. Allergic skin disease can be addressed
with antihistamines, diet changes or even immunotherapy. Anxiety issues can be treated with natural calming agents
and pharmaceuticals. Oral pain can be taken care of with a professional dental cleaning, x-rays or extractions.

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“Our cat bites our legs when she wants our attention—it really hurts!” —Kathy Maxey Sarpolis

Cats harmlessly swat, stalk, pounce, bite and scratch with their feline friends as part of play. When that energy is directed at humans, however, it can be painful. Letting your cat play with plenty of toys, boxes, paper bags and cubbies will help keep your feline ninja fully engaged. You can also try redirecting the behavior or distracting her by carrying treats and throwing them ahead of you when you walk in areas where the stalking behavior occurs. And never physically punish your cat as this may encourage further excitation or aggression or make her afraid of you.