Saturday, 27 January 2018

Feline Aggression – Identifying The Causes And Dealing With Problems

Aggression is a broad term ranging from hissing and growling right up to a full blown attack. However this description doesn’t tell us anything about what is motivating the cat to show aggression. In most cases cats prefer to avoid conflict but if aroused sufficiently, things can escalate and they can cause some very nasty injuries.

Causes of Aggression

1.Fear - This is the most common motivator in all species. This is a natural defensive behaviour, directed at a real or perceived threat. 
2.Territorial aggression – Because cats are solitary species they do not tolerate sharing their territory with cats outside their social group. This can include cats that share the same home especially those that they have not grown up with.
3.Re-directed aggression – This type of aggression can be directed to owners. It occurs when a cat cannot reach the target of its aggression and instead turns on to the closest, most accessible target. A good example is if a resident cat sees an unfamiliar cat in its garden and begins to feel angry, it may turn on its housemate. These types of attack can be very unsettling for well bonded cats.
4.Play aggression – This can be more common in poorly socialised cats, particularly if they have not interacted with litter mates. These cats use lots of predatory behaviours and pounce on moving targets – usually owners’ legs!
5.Low threshold for petting – Many cats dislike too much petting especially in sensitive areas such as the belly. Some individuals seem to have a low threshold for physical attention so a hands off approach is best. Most cats prefer petting to be of a short duration and focused around the head.
6.Predatory aggression – This is similar to play aggression – the predatory drive is high in these individuals.
7.Maternal aggression – This natural behaviour is motivated by a queen protecting her off-spring.

What are the Signs of Aggression?

Body stiffening
Dilated pupils (a wide staring pupil)
Vocalisation – hissing, spitting and growling
Tail twitching/swishing
Changes to the positon of the ears

What Should I do if my Cat is Showing Aggression?
                                                                                                                                                                Do not handle your cat - No matter what the cause of aggression, it is important not to handle your cat whilst it is showing signs of feeling angry or stress.

Never try and physically break up a cat fight – you run the risk of getting some very nasty injuries

Know what the signs of aggression are to avoid injuries and prevent escalation

Do not use punishment – This is counter-productive. Cats will only get more emotionally aroused and bonds can be broken.
                                                                                                                                                                  If safe to do so, use mild distraction techniques. For example rolling a ball with a bell across the room can divert a cat from pouncing on your legs before you move

Identify the underlying motivation for the aggression

Avoid triggers for aggression – e.g. separate squabbling cats, use blinds and curtains to block your cat seeing intruders

Avoid using hands for any physical play

Provide ample environmental enrichment as this has been shown to help reduce stress and re-directs certain types of aggression

Be sympathetic and try to understand what is causing the behaviour – cats really don’t like conflict

Seek the help of a suitably qualified feline behaviour counsellor

If you would like to learn more about feline behaviour I run feline behaviour seminars throughout the year. For more information look at my programme of events
I have a special interest in feline behaviour and can offer counselling services in your home or through skype consultations

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Test Your Cat/Dog 'Human' Food Safety Knowledge Out Here!

Ever noticed how the internet seems to be awash with articles about which 'human foods' are safe to share with our pets?

Advances in the study of pet nutrition has shown us that some of the things people have traditionally shared with their canine or feline friends may not be so good for them.

In 2016 I published a different quiz on canine nutrition and was surprised to 'only' score 7 out of 10 myself, and this from someone who spends a lot of time researching it! The average score was only 4 out of 10 which highlighted the fact that we can all increase our knowledge and be potentially better 'pet parents'. That 2016 canine quiz can be found here

Onto the point of this post....I wanted to share a test I found that may highlight gaps in knowledge for the average cat or dog owner when it comes to sharing their 'human food'. It's pitched at a reasonable level and gives some handy information after each answer is submitted.

Please feel free to share this post after completing the quiz as the aim of my site is to help people become more informed pet owners and if you could help me do this I would be very greatful.

Try the 'sharing your treats with your cat or dog' quiz out here

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Tuesday, 9 January 2018

How Your Dog Can Help You Beat The January Blues!

This year, Blue Monday falls on 15/01/18. The most depressing day of the year gets people down for different reasons but there’s also reason to be optimistic! Read on to find out how your dog can help keep life rosy!

1.So it’s January and you promised yourself you’d get fit but, frankly, you don’t want to. No worries! Get your trainers on before your dog walk and see if you fancy a short sprint while you’re out - no pressure! If you take your dog to the park for a race this could also be a great game. Even if you don’t become a marathon runner, a little bit of cardio each day releases endorphin's or “happy hormones”.

2.The revelry’s over and you’re feeling lonely. If your dog’s friendly, consider joining a local dog training group. This can do wonders for your social life (who knows, you might even meet someone special) or try approaching other dog walkers in the park. Watching dogs play together is an easy ice breaker and you’ll soon be on first name terms like “Dolly’s Dad” and “Popeye’s Mum”.

3.If your dog isn’t friendly and this is making you feel isolated, make your veterinary nurse your best friend! Book free “Happy Visits” where you take your dog in when the clinic is quiet. Your dog gets a treat and you get a friendly chat. This can help reduce your dog’s stress at the vets, and improve their general social skills.

4.No-one’s bank balance looks great in January and with the dark weather it can feel like there’s nothing to do for fun. Try making dog toys at home - a bit of crafting is good for the soul and you could do it with a friend/friends. Your dog will love you for it and even if they don’t play nice with others, you get to have fun with mates without spending a fortune. For some great home-made dog toy ideas go to or search #BeyondTheBowl

5.Petting your dog for up to 20 minutes can help with blood pressure, depression, anxiety and even heart disease. They give our lives structure, improve our self-esteem and with everything they get into they keep our immune system on its toes! Yet they’re the ones who seem to feel infinitely lucky to be our companions. If you’re feeling low, try listing each day what you’re grateful for. Think of at least 5 things, starting with your dog. They can include the nice view you had on your dog walk, the nice cuddle you had, a tasty meal, your health (maybe you’re over that cold, or “at least it’s just a cold”) - look for the positives. It’s easy to spiral into negativity but there are always silver linings if you look hard enough and one of them is covered in fur.

Marianne Thomas is a registered member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. In 2017 Marianne started Dog First Aid Oxfordshire, Berkshire & Buckinghamshire, teaching life-saving skills to pet parents & canine professionals. The course has been taught to over 3000 people UK wide, and has saved the lives of dogs. You can find out more at

Monday, 1 January 2018

Pay Attention Human - Learn What Your Cat Wants From You

Wondering if your cat is hungry, needs its own space or wants your attention? “But I don’t speak cat? How am I supposed to know? It says, “meow” to everything.” Is that what you are thinking? 

Worry no more, as we bring to you the ultimate guide to knowing what your cat is demanding, so better pay attention human because you don’t want to end up getting scratched or facing that cat-titude. Be the purr-fect human for your cat and earn the love that you desire from this fuzzy creature.

If you are facing some trouble with understanding what your cat might want, don't worry because it's only natural. Focus instead on your cat’s responses to know better of these feline requirements.

Meows And Meanings

Despite the fact that a cat’s only response to everything is “meow”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it always wants food. Every sound of a cat has a different meaning and here is how you can differentiate between them.

Chirps And Trills

This is usually meant for a commandment to follow the animal. If your cat chirps or trills at you, it means it wants you to follow them to their food bowl maybe. If you own more than one cat then you might experience listening to this sound often as cats might use it to converse with each other. A mother cat also uses this sound for her little ones to follow her.


Purring is usually a sign of contentment. Cats mostly purr when they are happy. Sometimes, a cat purring may be reflective of the fact that the animal is sick or in pain and is purring to comfort itself.

Growling, Hissing Or Spitting

This usually conveys that the cat is irritated, frightened, angry or aggressive.

Yowls Or Howls

These sound like prolonged and loud “meows”. Yowls or howls suggest that your cat is in some kind of distress, stuck somewhere or needs you to find something. Find your cat immediately. In case you have an unneutered and unspayed cat, the sounds are referred to mating behaviour. If your cat is elderly, it might be suffering from dementia, which makes them annoyed and results in such sounds.

Chattering Or Twittering

It is a sound that your cat makes when sitting at the window or at play outside the house. The sound is in response to watching other creatures like birds and squirrels.

Body Language Basics
In addition to the sounds, you can understand your cat better by paying attention to these physical displays:

  • ·      Arched back, standing fur: shows anger or fright.
  •         Arched back, flat fur: Demands or welcomes your touch.
  •          Lying on back purring: shows relaxation.
  •          Lying on back growling: shows dissatisfaction or anger.
  •          Erected tail, flat fur: shows happiness, curiosity or attentiveness.
  •          Tail straight up, quivering: shows excitement or signs of mating behavior.
  •          Tail held low and tucked between legs: shows insecurity

Cats display these responses to let you know of their conditions. It's now your job to focus on how your cat is acting and fulfil its needs respectively.

Paul Haines is the author of “My Life With Pets Blog” where he shares his life experiences involving his family and pets.  In addition to his blog, he is the creator and owner of the website is an educational and fun site dedicated to all types of Pets. You can visit the site at