Dear Cathy: A Mounting Problem and Dog Language

May 13th, 2021

A dog on the receiving end, a cat with control issues, and a yowler

Two dogs playing, illustrating a mounting problem and dog language

Animal expert Cathy M. Rosenthal fields three pet questions: a mounting problem and dog language, an old cat that has been avoiding the litter box when he poops, and a nighttime yowler.

Dear Cathy: Reo is an 8-year-old, 75-pound, non-aggressive boxer/pit mix. Whether we are at the dog-park or doggie day care, other dogs try to mount him. He pays no attention to it. Any thoughts as to why?

– Elaine, Long Beach, New York

Dear Elaine: Mounting is a common behavior for dogs, and the one behavior that pet owners get most embarrassed about. While this is considered a reproductive behavior, it’s not that in all cases. Any dog, male or female, can mount any other dog, male or female, to express dominance over the other dog. So, a female dog could mount another female dog to let her know she’s the boss.

You also will see dogs “play mounting” each other as part of their canine communication. As long as the dog being mounted is not upset by the behavior, it’s acceptable playtime behavior between dogs. If one dog does get upset though, then the pet parents need to push the mounting dog off the other dog to prevent a fight between them. The good news is people can train their dogs to understand what “off” means and then how to “come” when called. At that point, you would simply let the dogs resume play or redirect the behavior with an activity or a toy.

What age dog should I adopt?

Dear Cathy: I have two 17-year-old brother and sister cats. The male, Gato, was diagnosed with IBD and diabetes four years ago and is doing well with treatments. He is being treated for probable joint pain. The problem is, Gato pees in the litter boxes, but poops elsewhere 90% of the time. Because of his IBD, his normal pooping is every other day, which the vet said is OK. I have tried Nature’s Miracle, orange peel, litter box enhancement, and closing the door to one room each night. We have multiple boxes all over the house, and each box is cleaned multiple times daily. He is checked regularly by our vet. This has been going on for a few months now. We are flummoxed.

– T.S, Greater Hartford, Connecticut

Dear T.S.: Trying to understand why a cat doesn’t use a litterbox can be a complex issue. There are usually many variables, such as the number of cats in the home, the placement of the boxes, the substrate used in the litter boxes, and the cat’s overall health. It sounds like Gato has several heath issues. Even though he is being treated for them, there may be some physical discomfort when he poops that he somehow has linked to the litter box, so now he is avoiding it.

I am not sure how you are using orange peel, but cats hate citrus smells. I would continue your cleaning routine and using the litter box attractant but would put a pheromone collar on him or add some pheromone plug-ins around the house to see if that improves the situation.

Dear Amy: Our cat pumpkin has been sneaking through our neighbor’s cat door and picking fights with their cat in their house!

Cat looking wistfully outside at nightDear Cathy: We have an 18-year-old neutered male cat, who was adopted 18 years ago from a cat rescue with the agreement that he would remain strictly a house cat. For the last several months, we’ve allowed him to spend 30 minutes or so outside under strict supervision. He seems to like this very much and meows to go out. Within the last three weeks or so, he has taken to yowling repeatedly after he wakes up as he walks around the house. He doesn’t seem to be in any discomfort. He is otherwise fine, eating, drinking, eliminating, and making his normal rounds around the house per his schedule. This is roughly an every-two-hour occurrence and it’s made sleeping tough. You’ve recommended pheromones before. Do you think that would help here?

– Mary, Tucson, Arizona

Dear Mary: Cats are especially good at hiding health problems and may only have one symptom during the onset. Sudden yowling is a symptom, so please rule out a health problem with your veterinarian first.

If your cat gets a clean bill of health, then yes, please try a pheromone collar, spray, plug-in, or wipes. If cats are feeling stressed, there also are non-prescription calming chews and tablets especially for felines that can help in some circumstances.

Since your cat meows to tell you he wants to go outside, this sudden meowing every few hours also could mean he wants to go out again. From this point forward, do not take him outside when he meows as that only reinforces the behavior. Wait until he is quiet before giving him that “treat.”

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