It’s a common misconception that veterinarians have all the correct answers, all of the time. Even an experienced veterinarian like me gets stumped occasionally – this happened with one of my pets, Mama Kitty. The story of her medical and behavioral problems is a great example of getting an expert involved quickly, and has made me realize and appreciate the help of others.
Pets come into our lives in many different ways. One day, while working at a veterinary hospital, I found an adult female black cat with two kittens sitting on the front door step in a small suitcase. We checked out this little family, finding them all healthy, and soon the kittens were adopted out to new owners.
Our staff persuaded me to spay the mother cat and, unanimously named Mama Kitty, she remained with us as our official clinic cat. Mama Kitty was a great favorite with our staff and customers, and I grew to love her as well. About a year later, I left the veterinary hospital for another position, and although I was excited about a new opportunity, I was sad to part with Mama Kitty.
Soon afterward, I learned that the hospital was undergoing construction, and Mama Kitty was stressed out due to the changes in her environment and her routine. After discussing the situation with a friend at the hospital, I was excited and very happy to take Mama Kitty into my home.
I introduced Mama Kitty gradually into our household, which already included my dog Babas and my other cat JB. Everything seemed to be going well until I had to go away for a weekend, and had a house sitter stay at the house to take care of the pets. When I came home, the house sitter reported that Mama Kitty had peed in the house sitter’s bed. This behavior was unusual, but I figured the cat missed me – and she does have a bit of an attitude!
Unfortunately, a few days later, I fell victim to the same behavior – Mama Kitty had peed in my bed too. Over the next few weeks, she had four or five more accidents. I tried to accommodate this behavior, buying more litter boxes and experimenting with new types of litter.
However, nothing seemed to work with Mama Kitty. Having exhausted my solution ideas, I decided to reach out for a colleague with significant experience in animal behavior. Dr. Crista Coppola is a certified applied animal behaviorist, and has made frequent guest appearances on my radio show to discuss animal behavior.
Dr. Coppola reviewed Mama Kitty’s behavioral issues with me. I felt that the cat was bored a lot of the time. Mama Kitty also had to rely on me to feed her as soon as I woke up, because of the presence of the other pets. Importantly, we discussed the difficulty of stopping a habit, such as peeing in places other than the litter boxes, once the problem behavior begins.
Together we developed a treatment plan that would work for our household. I set up automatic feeders to give Mama Kitty her food every 12 hours. I also bought a lava lamp to keep her entertained at night. These solutions have begun to work, and although we are not yet back to normal, our situation is improving every day, thanks to Dr. Coppola’s expert advice.
Although I tried my best to solve Mama Kitty’s behavioral problems on my own, I should have gotten Dr. Coppola involved sooner. None of us should hesitate to reach out for help from others who may have a different range of experiences or specialized training. It’s vital for our pet’s health and well-being to get advice from the right expert immediately when problems arise.
You can listen to an interview with Dr. Coppola’s about pet aggression. Just check out our website. If you’d like to find a certified applied animal behaviorist, you can view the directory of behaviorists at the certified applied animal behaviorist’s website.
Dr. Mark Beerenstrauch is a practicing veterinarian in Las Vegas, Nevada and hosts a weekly pet talk radio show called “Pet Talk with Dr. B.” Dr. B enjoys working with pet parents who want to take an active role in their pet’s medical care. He also enjoys college football, hair metal and country music, along with one-eyed dogs and three-legged cats.