Behavioral Consultation Services
Behavioral problems in cats can hinder the development of a fulfilling relationship between pets and their owners. These problems can be frustrating and disheartening and can be complex issues to address. Our well-qualified and knowledgeable veterinarians and staff are experienced in identifying and addressing the causes of a variety of behavioral problems including:
- Aggression toward people and other animals
- Inappropriate biting behavior
- Inappropriate urination or defecation
At Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, we appreciate the opportunity to help you with this very challenging situation. With your help, we will attempt to identify a cause in hopes of eliminating the unwanted behavior. It may take a lot of work and persistence on both of our parts.
What can you expect from a behavioral consultation?
The process starts with some information gathering on your part prior to your consultation. The doctor will review the history with you during your visit, as well as examining your cat and performing a urinalysis (in the case of inappropriate urination) or other diagnostics to rule out a medical problem. What you will leave with is a detailed plan towards the goal of eliminating the problem behavior. This usually involves making changes to your cat's environment.
Prior to your visit, please review the following guidelines and spend some time making notes on the history of your cat's problem. The more in-depth and complete the history we have at the time of your visit, the better able the doctor will be to help.
If possible, e-mail your notes to us prior to your appointment. We find that making your cat's history available to the doctor before your visit makes everything go more smoothly. We will also want to keep in touch in the months that follow to monitor how things are going, and being able to do it via e-mail simplifies matters. Our doctors can be reached by e-mail at ECVH@exclusivelycats.com.
Prior to your appointment, please do not make any changes to the current situation other than discontinuing any punishment, keeping the litter box immaculately clean, and observing your cat closely for its behavior.
Prior to your visit:
- Observe your cat's behavior
- Observe your cat's interactions with the people or animals within the house with whom he or she is experiencing conflict. Note time of day, activity at the time of conflict, other people or animals that are in the vicinity of the conflict, location within the home and within the room of the home in which the conflict took place, etc.
For inappropriate elimination issues, observe the following, as well:
- Observe the cat as often as possible for several days before, during, and after the act of elimination. Do not attempt to discourage or punish during this observation period.
- Monitor the cat's actions beforehand and the activity in the litter box, such as posture, sniffing, and burying of urine or stool.
- Observe the volume and consistency of urine or stool eliminated both in and out of the box.
- Observe actions afterwards. How much time does the cat spend before, during and after elimination in its routine?
- Record the time of day or night the inappropriate elimination usually occurs. Identify any associated, even seemingly unrelated, activities.
- Does your cat eliminate in isolation or in the presence of other people or animals?
- When and how much does your cat eat and drink?
Establish a timeline
- Make a record of when and where the problem first began. Be as specific as possible, and note how the situation has changed over time.
- Recall the comings and goings of household members (human, cat, dog, other), when they occurred, and how it seemed to affect your cat.
- Try to determine general dates of behavior changes (month or season).
- Find out how old your cat was at the time he/she was castrated or spayed.
- Where did your cat come from and at what age?
- Indicate any veterinary care that has been provided or diagnostics performed up to this point.
For Consultations regarding inappropriate urination or defecation, document litter types and changes
- Make a list of types and specific brands of litter used. This is important, so if you have to go to the store and investigate, do so.
- Indicate when and where each litter was used. Attempt to tie any changes in the litter used into your timeline. Be as specific as you can with dates (month/year) or seasons.
- What litter did the cat use before moving in with you?
- List any changes made with respect to the litter box style (covered, lipped, uncovered) or location and when the changes occurred.
Document litter maintenance
- Indicate how frequently the litter is changed (partially or totally, solids removed vs. total change), methods of cleaning boxes (detergents, plain water, soap, nothing), and how much litter is used (depth). Again, please do not make any changes with the litter box at this time.
- Has the frequency of changing or cleaning the litter box changed since inappropriate elimination began?
- Have any deodorizers been used in or near the litter box?
Prepare a diagram
- Sketch the layout of the house and indicate locations of all litter boxes and areas where inappropriate elimination has occurred. Please note locations of windows and exterior doors.
- Note locations of all food and water dishes and their spatial relationships to the litters and inappropriate areas of elimination.
- If your cat has had elimination problems in other households, please provide sketches of those households as well.
Record history of punishment
- Note any methods of corrections implemented, such as aversion devices or punishment, when they were implemented, and whether the actions helped.
What to expect during your visit
Please plan on spending at least an hour here the day of your appointment. We find it is best if all of the adults in the household are present, since everyone may have input, but generally, children should be left with another caregiver, since they tend to get restless. We find we are most successful if we can devote our full attention to the problem at hand. Your history and participation are the key ingredients to solving behaviorally based elimination problems.
Plan on a morning appointment so the cat may stay for urine collection, blood sampling and possibly radiography, depending on the nature of the behavioral problem. As a rule, for cases of inappropriate urination, we will be evaluating your cat for evidence of local bladder disease as well as systemic illness. If there is evidence of local bladder disease (inflammation, abnormal urine constituents: cells, protein, etc.), further radiographic studies of the bladder might be indicated. We may request a full blood profile on older cats and cats whose history suggests possible underlying systemic disease. Many times the evidence of a medical problem (in this case) is considered good news! Most of these medical issues are treatable.
There is a lower rate of success if the inappropriate behavior has been going on for more than 6 months. We understand that if the unwanted behavior continues, you may need to make arrangements to place your cat in a new home environment or, worse yet, euthanize your cat. Please let us know how much time we have to work with.
We will do everything we can to help solve the problem, and we expect you to follow through with our suggestions in a timely manner. We request that you call and update us about successes and/or problems. We can never offer you any guarantees other than to do our best. We can only do our best if we have your help, and for that we thank you in advance.