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Blog posts tagged with ‘behaviour’

We found 20 results tagged with 'behaviour'.

Cat doors

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This is an image of a cat coming through a cat door.

Benefits

Cat doors, also known as cat flaps, provide a means for your cat to come and go between the indoors and outdoors.  A basic cat door is generally inexpensive and easy to install.  Learn about the various types of lockable cat doors that are available, as well as how to help your kitty get used to using one.

 

Benefits

Cat doors, also known as cat flaps, provide a means for your cat to come and go between the indoors and outdoors.  A basic cat door is generally inexpensive and easy to install.

Cat doors offer designs with a wide range of features, such as to be able to adjust the access available.  For example, you might only want the cat door open during the day and locked at night.  Or, you might want the cat door to only operate in one direction at a certain time. 

Types of lockable cat doors

• Simple locking cat door – you operate the lock yourself, choosing when to let your kitten in or out.  This type of cat door doesn't discriminate between who can use it.  That means the neighbour's cat might also pay your home a visit!

• Electro-magnetic cat door – activated automatically by a special magnet on your kitten’s collar.  This type of cat door does rely on your cat not losing their collar.  

• Micro-chip cat door – activated automatically by your kitten’s unique micro-chip.  This has the advantage of not relying on a special tag on your cat's collar as their microchip is under their skin. 

Early wariness

Some kittens can be a little suspicious of the cat door at first, and might need your help to gain confidence when using it.  The noise the door makes as it shuts can be scary, as can the feel of the door as it touches the cat’s back on the way through. 

Tips to help

• Fit the cat door at the right height for your kitten to step through – this is usually about 6cm above the bottom of the door

• Let your kitten have a good sniff and explore around the area

• To begin with, prop open the cat door slightly and tempt your kitten through it with treats and food

• Try gently lifting your kitten up towards the cat door to demonstrate what you expect them to do

With a little practice, and lots of positive reinforcement, your kitten will soon be using their cat door.  A whole new world of feline adventures await!

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Indoor or outdoor cat?

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Lifestyle choice

Will your kitten be an indoor cat, outdoor cat or perhaps a mixture of the two?  Here we take a look at the various pros and cons of each living arrangement.

Lifestyle choice

Will your kitten be an indoor cat, outdoor cat or perhaps a mixture of the two? 

Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons for indoor and outdoor living.

Territory

Firstly, let’s define what is meant by a cat’s 'territory'. 

In the wild, a cat's territory is usually divided into a home range, and then extending beyond that, a hunting range. 

For domestic cats, a kitten's home range is your home.  So for indoor cats, their largest range extends to the boundary of where you will let them venture.  For outdoor cats, their territory is determined by a number of things such as the territories of other cats and the availability of resources such as food.  Your cat's territory can sometimes be surprisingly large!

Outdoor living

Pros:

• Plenty of ways to exercise such as climbing, scratching and hunting

• Lots of mental stimulation such as exploring and watching the world go by

• Opportunity to establish their own territory and patrol it

Cons:

• Hazards and dangers in the outside world such as other cats, dogs, cars etc

• May get into fights with other cats and be at risk of injury, as well as disease such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

• May be frightened by weather events such as thunderstorms and become lost

If you’re going to let your cat roam outside, make sure they’ve been microchipped and are equipped with identification such as an elasticated collar with a name tag.  Check with your council to see if there are cat curfews in place.

Thunderstorms, fireworks and loud parties can all be scary for a little kitten.  If you know events like these are happening in your area, keep your feline friend safe and secure inside. 

Indoor living

Pros:

• You are more able to control the environment, which technically should mean it's safer

However, the home harbours its own hazards for curious kittens such as fireplaces and chimneys, unsecured windows and household appliances such as washing machines and tumble driers.  Make sure you check such places regularly and keep them closed when not in use. 

Cons:

• Harder to get exercise, so indoor cats are at risk of obesity and are less mentally stimulated - so you'll need to provide the entertainment! 

Ensure your kitten has plenty of toys (rotated regularly) a scratching post and climbing equipment.  The general rule for the number of litter trays you’ll need is one extra to the number of cats in the house.  So for a single cat home, you’ll need 2 litter trays.

Best of both worlds

If you’d like your kitten to experience a mix of indoor and outdoor living, consider installing a cat enclosure at home.  That way your cat gets some exposure to the outside world, while staying safe.

You can also train your kitten to walk on a harness.

By considering each type of living arrangement, you can make the choice that will best suit you and your cat.

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Hunting behaviour in cats

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This is an image of a cat stalking.

Capable hunter

Your cute and adorable kitten was born to be a formidable hunter.  Stalking and catching prey is a big part of your kitten's natural behaviour.  If your kitten has access to the outside world, there’s a good chance that your feline friend will sometimes bring prey items home.

Capable hunter

Your cute and adorable kitten was born to be a formidable hunter. 

Stalking and catching prey is a big part of your kitten's natural behaviour, and kittens start to perfect these skills early on when playing with their littermates.

In the wild, mothers bring their kittens dead prey to eat.  As their kittens start to get a bit older, mum starts bringing home live prey instead.  This helps the kittens learn how to hunt and kill, setting them up with the survival skills they'll need when they're on their own.

Why is my cat leaving 'presents' on the door step? 

While your kitten can rely on you for their next meal, their instincts run deep.

If your kitten has access to the outside world, there’s a good chance that your feline friend will sometimes bring prey items home.  You might find these on the door step and be tempted to think you're being offered little 'presents'.

However, the main reason your kitten brings prey back home is actually to finish off the hunt.  When a cat first catches their prey, they grab it anywhere on its body they can.  However, to kill it, they need to bite its neck.  Your kitten can’t let go of their prey to do this, because there's no pack to stand guard.

So rather than adjusting their grip in the place where they caught their prey, your kitten carries it back home instead.  That way, if the prey should happen to escape, your kitten has a home ground advantage, and will be much more confident about catching it again.

If your kitten turns up on the doorstep carrying something they've caught, remember that your little hunter is simply following their natural instincts.  They're finishing off their hunt in a place where they feel safe, and won’t be disturbed by other predators. 

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Urine marking in cats

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This is an image of a cat relaxing.

Communication

In the wild, cats are mostly solitary, they rarely meet with other cats.  However, they still need ways to communicate effectively with each other.  Urine marking, or spraying, is one clever they can exchange information.

Communication

In the wild, cats are mostly solitary, they rarely meet with other cats.  However, they still need ways to communicate effectively with each other, such as to establish territory or indicate a willingness to mate.  Cats also try to avoid conflict. 

One communication method they use is via a system of scent-based ‘signposts’ using urine marking or spraying.  

Your kitten or cat may display urine marking behaviour too, and what's more, these signposts are continually refreshed to keep them up to date.

Spraying or a litter tray problem?

It’s important to work out if your cat is urine marking or having an issue with using their litter tray.  Remember that cats who urine mark will also urinate in their litter trays.  However, there are some clues to look for to help you work out what’s going on.

Vertical surfaces

Urine marking usually occurs on vertical surfaces.  A cat about to spray tends to back up to a vertical object such as a wall and displays an erect body posture with tail pointing straight up in the air.  Urine is then sprayed onto the vertical surface.  It’s not uncommon to see the cat’s tail and even their whole body twitch while they’re spraying.

Volume

The amount of urine that a cat releases for marking purposes is usually less than the amount they void when urinating in their litter tray.

Smell

As marking is a form of communication for cats, sprayed urine is particularly strong smelling.  This is because it contains chemicals including pheromones that help to convey additional information.

What should I do if my cat is spraying?

In some cases, urine marking can be a sign that your kitten or cat is feeling insecure, perhaps believing their territory is under threat.  If you’re having to deal with unwanted wee, don’t worry – there are lots of things you can do to help prevent it:

• Have your cat desexed to reduce their desire to urine mark.  Desexed cats of either gender can still spray, but entire male cats tend to do it the most

• Avoid using ammonia and chlorine cleaners as these smell similar to cat urine and may actually encourage marking behaviour

• Try not to clean up the wee while your cat is around as disrupting the scent might make them more stressed

• Clean the affected area with a 10% solution of biological washing powder, and spray it with an alcohol such as surgical spirit

• Soon after you’ve cleaned the area, encourage your cat to play there as this will help them feel more secure

If the problem continues, talk to your veterinarian for further advice.

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What your cat's tail is telling you

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This is an image of a cat walking.

Tail Talk

Would you like to know what your kitten is really thinking?  Well, there's a way to get inside your kitten's head and that's by becoming aware of their body language.  Here we'll take a look at what your kitten's tail movements can tell you about how they're feeling. 

Tail Talk

Would you like to know what your kitten is really thinking? 

Well, there's a way to get inside your kitten's head and that's by becoming aware of their body language.  In fact, your kitten's busy little tail is one of their most effective ways to communicate their mood.

Here’s our guide to what your kitten’s tail is telling you:

• Tail held high – your kitten is feeling happy and confident

• Wiggling at the base or tip – your kitten is saying a friendly “hello”

• Curled under their body – your kitten is feeling submissive

• Curled around another cat's tail or human legs - your kitten is being friendly

• Fluffed to more than twice its size – your kitten is scared, threatened and defensive  (if your kitten is also displaying an arched back, hair standing on end and unfurled claws then you should give them some space!)

• Rapid flicking – your kitten is agitated

• Wagging – your kitten is irritated (note that this is the opposite of a dog’s wagging tail!)

• Thumping – your kitten is highly frustrated, and may even attack

• Slowly twitching tail tip – your kitten is curious or excited (you’ll often see this when they're crouching)

So keep your eye on your kitten's tail.  You'll start to notice a wide repertoire of tail movements, and get to know you're kitten on a whole new level!

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Scratching behaviour in cats

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Scratching

Scratching is a normal feline behaviour that serves a range of important functions for a cat.  However, in the interest of a happy co-existence with your kitty, it’s important that this behaviour is directed onto appropriate surfaces.  Training is best started early on in kittenhood.  Read on for tips to help save your furniture.

Why do cats scratch?

Scratching is a normal feline behaviour. 

It’s used to groom nails, for marking territory (both visual as well as scent signals) and to help cats stretch and condition their muscles.  Most cats have 5 claws on each front leg and 4 claws on each hind leg, for a grand total of 18 claws.

Given that scratching serves a range of functions for a cat, it’s not a behaviour that can be stopped.  It is however a behaviour that needs to be directed onto appropriate surfaces.  Your kitten needs you to help them understand what is okay to scratch and what isn’t.  The effort you put in will be a life saver for your furniture and other valuables.

What do cats like to scratch?

In general, cats are attracted to textured surfaces and items they can sink their claws into.  However, different cats prefer different scratching surfaces, so initially you might like to offer a range of surfaces and see what your kitty is fond of.  Common materials to try are sisal rope, cardboard, carpet, rough fabrics and wood. 

Cats will often have a scratch after they wake from a nap and when they want to mark their territory.  They also like to scratch when they’re excited about something.

How do I prevent my cat scratching the furniture?

Ideally begin training to use the scratching post while your cat is young.  Supply both vertical and horizontal surfaces covered with your cat’s preferred material.  Make the scratching surfaces desirable by placing catnip or treats on them and train your cat by encouraging them with a toy held part way up, and reward the cat for using it.

If the cat prefers another material, such as the couch, attempt to get an appropriate item covered in a similar material.

Never punish your kitten or cat if you see them scratching an item they shouldn’t, as this will only teach them that scratching the item while you are around is scary.  Your cat will likely continue to scratch it when you are gone.

A better method is to cover the inappropriate item in double sided sticky tape or another material such as plastic which makes the item aversive at all times.  Meanwhile, positively reinforce the cat with praise and treats when they scratch the appropriate item.

Nail care can also help reduce inappropriate scratching.  Pair nail trims with positive reinforcement eg treats to create a positive association for your cat.

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Socialising your kitten

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This is an image of two kittens playing.

Positive socialisation practices are critical for your kitten                                                              

What your kitten experiences in their first few months will influence the rest of their life.  In fact, their early experiences shape their future character.  Cats that are under socialised may become shy and fearful.  In contrast, kittens that have been well socialised generally grow into happy, confident adults.   

Positive socialisation practices are critical for your kitten                                                              

What your kitten experiences in their first few months will influence the rest of their life.  In fact, their early experiences shape their future character.  Cats that have been well socialised generally grow into happy, confident adults.  

Socialising your kitten involves introducing them to a whole range of new experiences including meeting different types of people, other animals, places, smells and noises. 

Positive socialisation

Be sure to present socialisation experiences in a gentle way that helps your kitten become accustomed to them.  Reward your kitten for calm behaviour and move only at a pace your kitten can handle.  If your kitten seems nervous or fearful, that's your cue to slow things down.  The aim is for new experiences to be presented in a positive way so that your kitten can develop into a relaxed, confident cat.  

Remember that it's still important that socialisation continues throughout your cat's life. 

Here are some typical situations in which kittens should be socialised:

Environment

  • Drive in the car
  • Trips to the vet.  Have your kitten weighed, handled and restrained for a health check
  • Using a cat carrier
  • At home, exposure to different floor surfaces, steps, tools, cleaning, working, music, pram
  • Outside (while on a harness) exposure to bicycles, gardening

Other animals

  • Other cats and kittens (all well-socialised and fully vaccinated)
  • Dogs (only cat-friendly ones)
  • Farm animals
  • Birds (in a manner where the bird is safely able to get away)
  • Any other animal they may come in contact with during their lifetime

Situations

  • Visitors in the home,
  • Being groomed
  • Having a picture taken
  • Being held (in a manner where they are never afraid and never dropped)
  • Tooth brushing
  • Nails clipped
  • Playing with a variety of toys

People

  • Children
  • People wearing glasses, hats
  • People with beards
  • Loud and timid people 

By providing your kitten with a wide range of positive socialisation experiences, you'll help them develop into a sociable and well-adjusted cat.

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Preventing boredom in dogs

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This is an image of a dog with a ball

Home alone

Many dogs are left alone for hours every day.  This can lead to boredom which is often the root of many behavioural problems.  Let’s take a look at how you can keep your dog occupied when you’re not there.

Home alone

Many dogs are left alone for hours every day.  This can lead to boredom which is often the root of many behavioural problems. 

Dogs are intelligent creatures and therefore require mental stimulation.  Left alone with nothing to do, a dog will create its own entertainment.  This could include such behaviours as barking at birds and clouds, running in circles, pulling clothes off the line or digging holes in the garden.  In extreme cases, some dogs will even resort to self-mutilation.

How can I keep my dog occupied when I'm not there?

The key lies in 'environmental enrichment'.  This means to make your dog's environment more interesting and complex, and is a strategy used in zoos and wildlife parks around the world.

Exercise

Dogs need daily exercise and ideally they should leave your property every day.  Taking your dog on a walk has many health benefits for both of you.  Try to vary your walks so that your dog gets to experience new sights, smells and interactions.

Find a safe off-leash area where your dog can let off some steam.  For high energy dogs consider dog sports such as Agility or Flyball.

A happily tired out dog is more likely to rest when you’re not home, rather than seek out mischief.

Toys

Have a collection of safe and fun dog toys and rotate them daily (yes, every day!) so they maintain their novelty factor and stay interesting for your dog.  Select toys that are appropriate for your dog’s level of destructiveness.  Always supervise your dog when first playing with a new toy to see if there is any potential risk of the toy becoming dangerous.  Inspect toys regularly for signs of wear, and replace any that are damaged. 

Make feeding time last longer

In the wild, an animal spends a significant proportion of their time seeking out their next meal.  When your pet can rely on you to meet their nutritional needs, they’re left with a fair bit of time on their paws.  So rather than feeding your dog from a bowl, scatter their dry kibble around the backyard.  It will take them ages to sniff out every piece.

Stuff a ‘Kong’ toy with yummy treats or put some kibble in a treat ball or ‘Buster Cube’.  Your dog will need to use their brain to work out how to get those treats.

Provide your dog with a raw bone and smoked pigs ears a couple of times each week to chew on.                            

You could also

Create a digging pit using a child’s sand pit.  Try hiding toys and treats in it for your dog to find as buried treasure.

Play hide and seek by hiding treats around the garden for your pooch to find.

If you don’t have time to walk your dog, consider employing a professional dog walker.

Investigate local doggy day care centres, where your dog can spend some quality time playing and socialising.

 

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Ouch! Puppy mouthing and biting behaviour

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This is an image of a puppy with a toy.

Sharp puppy teeth

Spend a few minutes with a young puppy and you’ll soon become aware of just how sharp those puppy teeth are.  Puppy play can quickly turn rough, but it’s important to remember that your puppy isn’t trying to hurt you.  Puppies are learning about the world, and they use their mouths to explore.  You need to help your puppy learn appropriate behaviour, so that play time is a fun and bonding experience for you both.  Let’s take a look at what you can do.

Sharp puppy teeth

Spend a few minutes with a young puppy and you’ll soon become aware of just how sharp those puppy teeth are.  Puppy play can quickly turn rough, but it’s important to remember that your puppy isn’t trying to hurt you.  Puppies are learning about the world, and they use their mouths to explore.  You need to help your puppy learn appropriate behaviour, so that play time is a fun and bonding experience for you both.  Let’s take a look at what you can do.

Play fighting

Puppies aren't able to use their hands, so they use their mouths instead.  It's normal for puppies to bare their teeth, growl, nip and bite their litter mates.  In fact, play fighting begins to develop in puppies from 2 to 3 weeks of age.  Puppies also mouth on things around them which often includes their mum.  It's often mum who is the first one to let a puppy know if a bite is too hard, or play is too rough as she starts to teach her litter 'bite inhibition'.  A puppy's litter mates also help with this too.

Learning bite inhibition

It's important to teach puppies to inhibit their biting when interacting with humans and other pets.  What might seem cute while your puppy is young can become a serious problem as your puppy grows.  You don't want your puppy biting hard or biting children.  Bite inhibition is something that every puppy needs to learn, and they'll need your help.  That way they learn how to control themselves so they can develop into a well behaved, balanced adult dog.

What should I do if my puppy is mouthing and nipping?

Think about how you play with your puppy, and encourage gentle play right from the start.  Remember that your little puppy will grow, and you want them to be well mannered around people of all ages.

A range of safe and appropriately sized chew toys are a must for every puppy.  When play becomes more vigorous, redirect your puppy by placing a chew toy in their mouth.  Your puppy then learns that this is an appropriate item to mouth on.  In the early stages, you'll need to redirect your puppy a lot so be consistent and have plenty of chew toys on hand.  

If your puppy bites you, make a short sharp yelping sound just like a puppy in pain would.  Your puppy is most likely to be startled and stop biting you.  At the same time withdraw your attention from your puppy and ignore it.  This shows your puppy that when they bite, the fun and play stops.  When your puppy is calm, gently praise and reward them. 

Positive reinforcement

Remember not to punish your puppy, as this affects the bond you are trying to develop with them.  It also gives your puppy attention when they are displaying undesirable behaviour which can back-fire on you and actually encourage the behaviour that you don't want to see.  When your puppy engages in well-mannered play, offer food rewards and verbal praise to reinforce the behaviour.  

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Crate training your puppy

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This is an image of a puppy sitting.

Have you considered a crate for your puppy?  

By nature, dogs like cosy, enclosed spaces to rest in, especially if they're feeling unsure about things.  A crate provides this safe refuge for a puppy, who can seek it for some time out.  A crate is also a great way of teaching your puppy the boundaries of the house while keeping them safe and secure.  Crates can be made of various materials such as plastic or collapsible fabric or wire.  A crate should be big enough so that your dog can stand up, turn around and lie down.     

Have you considered a crate for your puppy?  

By nature, dogs like cosy, enclosed spaces to rest in, especially if they're feeling unsure about things.  A crate provides this safe refuge for a puppy, who can seek it for some time out.

A crate is also a great way of teaching your puppy the boundaries of the house while keeping them safe and secure.  Crates can be made of various materials such as plastic or collapsible fabric or wire.  A crate should be big enough so that your dog can stand up, turn around and lie down.                                                                                                                                                               

How do I 'crate train' my puppy?

Initially, your puppy may need to be ‘crate trained’ and this should always be done in a positive way and at a pace that suits the puppy.  Ensure that the crate looks inviting and let your puppy go over and investigate it.  

 

You can place food rewards around the entrance of the crate, as well as place a few inside.  Offer your puppy verbal praise to encourage them to view the crate as a great place to spend time.  Your puppy will soon be keen to explore.

 

Once they enter the crate, don’t close the crate door just yet, let your puppy enter and leave the crate as they would like.

With practice, your puppy will become more comfortable spending time in their crate and you can close the door.  If your puppy whines, ignore this behaviour and let them out as soon as they are quiet.  Slowly build up the amount of time your puppy uses their crate. 

Using the crate at night

When your puppy is happy spending some time in their crate, you can start to use it at night.  Provide your puppy with chew toys to help them self-settle in their crate.  Remember that young puppies will need regular toilet breaks every 2 to 3 hours, so set your alarm clock.  Trips to the toileting area should be done in a quiet and calm manner, so as not to signal to the puppy this is play time.  Once puppy has relieved themselves place them back in their crate to settle. 

With some practice and patience, your puppy will come to view their crate as a wonderful place.  They now have a safe place to go when they need a rest or some time out.  A crate can come in handy for other reasons too such as if your pet needs to be confined, for example, after surgery.  A crate also makes a great portable home, which can help a pet feel settled if you go on holiday together.

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