Breaking Up Dog Fights and Identifying Healthy Dog Play.

What are you suppose to do if your dog gets into a serious dog fight? When dogs fight, our response may be, first, to scream and yell at them, thinking this will stop them. Then, even though it goes against common sense, people do get injured when they try to use their hands to break the dogs apart. Find out why yelling is useless, and what you CAN do to try and break up the fight without risking your life and limbs.  All here, in the Raising Your Paws podcast episode below. Then in the following blog article, you’ll find a list of the 8 signs that indicate the dogs that are roughhousing, are actually playing happily.

Raising Your Paws Podcast Episode 48 – Finding Lost Pets, Stories from an Animal Communicator & How to Break Up Dog Fights.

Full Show Notes for Episode 48.

When your dog catches sight of that rabbit and runs off for the chase does your pet ignore you as you call for them to come back and act like they don’t hear you? I’ll explain this phenomenon.

Then, has your pet ever suddenly started acting differently, you can’t understand why or what to do to help and you just wished they could just tell you what’s wrong? Many people have gotten their answers through animal communicators. My guest is Tim Link, an animal communicator, who specializes in missing or lost pet cases. Hear his stories of how together with the dogs and cats, behavioral issues were solved and lost animals returned back home.

What can you do to stop a dog fight? There are a few physical interventions that are recommended, but more practical and useful are a number of tools you can carry with you that dogs will find aversive or offensive to their senses and are strong enough to stop the behavior. In this episode, I’ll list what they are.

Regarding animal communication if you have any stories of times your dog or cat understood things you’ve said that seem impossible and/or felt your pet actually communicated messages and talked back to you, I’d love to hear them. Write me at or leave a comment in the space below after the blog article.

Additional Resources for the Show:

Source for the story about why your dog ignores you at times – “Why Does My DOG Do that? By Sophie Collins.

Tim Link

Tim Link’s website.

Amazon link to order Tim’s book, “Talking with Dogs and Cats: Joining the Conversation to Improve Behavior and Bond with Your Animals”.

Amazon link to order “Wagging Tails, Every Animal has a Tale” by Tim Link.

Source for the story about how to stop a dog fight – “Play with Your Dog, by Pat Miller, CPDT, CDBC.

Source for the citronella dog spray, Direct Stop Spray Shield.

(Correction: I had the name of the company wrong in the podcast  – not

Blog Article – What Healthy and Happy Dog Play Looks Like.

Perhaps you’ve seen two dogs at play and all seems well, but then, the play turns aggressive and all of a sudden they’re fighting. Do you know what healthy one-on-one dog play should look like?  Here are the signs that tell you the two dogs are playing happily together and also how to know if it’s time to stop the play session and move the dogs along.

1. There are play-bows.  Play bowing is the body language dogs use to communicate their intention and what will happen next. A dog that play bows to another dog means, let’s play and what I do next, is meant only as play.

2. There will be frequent, short breaks in the activity. If the play becomes frenetic, and continuous, this can be a sign that the playtime is ramping up out of control.

3. The vocalizations of the dogs, such as grunting or growl sounds, will stay in a middle range of tone and pitch. “If one dog’s vocalizations begin to get lower and lower or higher and higher in pitch and more frantic in tone, a fight is in the making.”  (from “Through a Dog’s Eyes” by Jennifer Arnold.)

4. The dogs will exhibit open mouths, loose tails and the force of the bites they give each other, are inhibited and do not cause any damage or yelping.

5. The play is fair and the dogs take turns – reversing their roles. One dog is the chaser and then becomes the one chased – one dog does the biting first and then is the one bitten or being mouthed, etc. The roles do not have to be a perfect balance of 50 -50%, as long as both dogs seem be happy in their roles.

6. Each dog is respecting the body language signals of the other. If one dog is constantly trying to run or get away and the other dog is not allowing it, this situation is becoming unhealthy and you’d want to end the interaction. Time to distract the dogs.

7. If one dog is clearly stronger or bigger than the other, the stronger dog will handicap itself. For example, if a older, stronger  dog plays with a young fragile puppy, it is polite and correct for the older dog to use less power while playing with the youngster. If a stronger dog, needs to control itself around a weaker one, but fails to do so, this is indicative of unfair play and you’ll want to stop it.

8. Play does not become overly vertical. In normal dog play, they often rise up on their back legs and wrestle chest to chest with each other. However if this type of vertical play keeps increasing in intensity and duration, this can quickly turn into a fight, so keep your eye out for too much of it.

We’d LOVE to know what you think about the podcast and or this blog. Please leave your comments below. Or you can always write me at

How to Become Your Dog’s Leader.


047. Being Your Dog’s Leader: A Technique for Out-of-Control Behavior & Is Eating Grass Good or Bad for Dogs?


Full show notes for Raising Your Paws Podcast – Episode 47. 


First, is it good or bad for your dog to eat that wild grass and why do they do it?

Does your dog want to eat the wild grasses that sprout during the spring and summer? Do you let them? There are mixed opinions between dog owners about this. Why do dogs want to eat grass anyway and is it okay for them to eat? We start this episode by asking dog trainer, Katie-K-9 for her opinion.

Then, the leadership technique that will stop your dog from rushing out the front door.

Is your dog in control – rather than you?  For a dog to listen to you, you don’t have to be the Alpha or dominant – you do need to be a good leader. I’ll describe an effective way to handle some of your dogs out of control behavior that uses your body, not the leash, to stop certain movements and that establishes you as the leader in your dog’s eyes.

Plus, a fun kitchen game to play that gets your cat moving.

Want an easy way to give your cat some more exercise in the house? Grab two chairs, some treats and get your cat jumping – I’ll explain how.


Have additional questions about the tips and techniques in the show or would like to share some of your own stories and solutions you’ve found with your pets?  Please write me at


Resources for the episode. 


Katie K-9’s website

Listen to Katie-K-9’s podcasts.

Katie -K-9

Resource for obtaining green tripe for dogs:

Source for story about dog leadership and body blocking: “How to be the Leader of the Pack… and have your dog love you for it” by Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D.




What to Do for Pet’s Insect Bites.

The summer season can bring out the bugs and bees as you well know, if you’ve been picnicking or dining outside. Where we tend to jump away from the stinging bees, hornets and wasps and shy away from holes and hills of ants or spiders, dogs and cats love to investigate and sniff around the areas these critters tend to congregate and can get bit or stung. Spider bites and bee stings often occur on the faces and front lower legs of our pets because of their inquisitive nature as they stick their noses and paws into all sorts of places they shouldn’t. Spiders tend to bite the softer, less furry areas of your pet, such as their noses and feet.

Don’t worry too much about insect bites on your pets, they are usually not life threatening, UNLESS……, your pet has a severe allergic reaction to the insect or your cat gets bit by a black widow spider. More about that later in the blog.

My dog, Rosy, is HIGHLY allergic to bees. Listen to her story on Episode 46, of the Raising Your Paws podcast.


If your pet has been “gotten” by a bug, you may see him or her paw, lick or scratch at the injury site. Unless you actually witness the bite or sting happening, it can be hard to know exactly why your pet is in discomfort or locate exactly where the bite occurred if it is covered with fur. You can start checking the skin under the fur to look for redness and/or swelling at the bite or sting site and the spot may be painful for your pet.

Extreme swelling, breathing problems, such as gasping, wheezing or gulping for air, excessive salivation, vomiting, and seizures are indications that your pet is having an severe allergic reaction, called anaphylactic shock and this is very serious and must be treated immediately. Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life threatening allergic reaction to a substance where the body’s immune system overacts and floods the body with inflammatory compounds and antibodies that cause the above listed conditions. The reactions can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to the allergen and future reactions can be more severe than the first time. Big time scary, I know.

What to do.

Mild Symptoms – First of all, watch for and treat symptoms as they occur. If your pet was stung, and you can see the stinger, you’ll want to remove it, but use the edge of a credit card or key to lift the stinger up and flick it out. You don’t want to grab the stinger with your fingers or a tweezer as this can inject more of the poison into your dog or cat. Where there is some redness, swelling or apparent discomfort from your pet, you can apply calamine or antihistamine cream that you purchase over the counter at drug stores, to the affected area. You can also administer the oral antihistamine, diphenhydramine, to dogs. You may know this by one of its trade brands names, Benadryl. For cats, chlorpheniramine is often the recommended antihistamine. Call your vet to confirm which one to use for your particular pet and also prior to giving any medication, you’ll need to ask your vet for the correct dosage that will be based on your pet’s weight.

I recommend you always have some of the medication in the house, so you are prepared in case you ever need it. Go to the drug store and buy the generic version to save money. Get the liquid gel caps, pin a safety pin to the back of the box and then when you need the medicine, you can poke a hole in the gel cap and squirt the liquid in your pet’s mouth. Easy and quick way to get the drug into your pet.  Also write your pet’s weight and dosage on the box so you won’t forget this information.

Severe Symptoms – anaphylactic shock.

Call your vet or an emergency clinic right away for what to do while you’re at home (probably you’ll be told to give the oral antihistamine) and then get going- take your pet to an emergency animal clinic as fast as possible.   With my dog, Rosy, who is allergic to bees and wasps, for example, I immediately give her a shot of liquid diphenhydramine (that I got from my vet) followed by a shot of steroids and then I transport her to the emergency vet clinic closest to me, in case there is something else going on. This is the protocol advised by my vet, that I learned to do over the past few years, after a number of increasingly severe reactions by Rosy. It’s a huge relief to know that I can quickly restore her normal breathing, before driving to the emergency clinic. If your pet ever experiences severe reactions –be assured – there are things you’ll learn to do to protect your pet’s life.

Let’s talk about spiders. There is only one species, the black widow spider that is particularly dangerous for cats because felines are very sensitive to their bite. Cats can lose 30% of their body weight in the first 24 hours of a black widow bite and the loss of body fluid can put them into a downward metabolic spiral. You’ll need to get to a vet right away if your cat does get bit by this type of spider. Black widows are found worldwide, in North and South America, Southern Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In the United States, they are more common in the southern states, preferring the warmer temperatures throughout the year but they have been spotted as far north as Canada. But don’t freak out, they tend to live in more secluded areas, not urban cities, they are recognizable, where they tend to inhabit is identifiable, and there are ways you can manage keeping your cats away from them.  Here is a link for more information about black widow spiders. Check to see if they are common where you live.


Last thing about the bees and Rosy. I’m going to start teaching her to wear a muzzle this summer. I’d rather have to explain when people see her on walks, that “no, she’s not a threat for biting you” than worrying ever time something flies by, that she’ll snap up another bee, she’s back in crisis and I’ve got to get to the vet – again. Stay tuned for how muzzle training goes.

Full Show Notes for Raising Your Paws Episode 46.

Title: The Meaning behind a Cat’s Twitching & Thrashing Tail & Handling the Puppy with the Kids.

Did you know that a cat’s tail is an extension of its spine? The tail can tell you much about their mood. In this episode, I’ll explain what twitching and thrashing can mean about how your cat is feeling.

Then, dog trainer Katie K-9 is back on the show, answering listener’s questions about what to do when the new puppy won’t leave the human kids alone – roughhousing and chewing on them.

Plus, I tell you the story of my dog Rosy, who has a very dangerous habit of eating bees and the first aid I must enlist to keep her safe and breathing.

 Additional Resources for the Show.

Katie K-9 and her dog, Lucee

Katie K-9’s website and how to listen to her radio show and podcast.

Source for the story about cat’s tails. “How to Speak Cat: A Guide to Decoding Cat Language” by Aline Alexander Newman and Gary Weitzman, D.V.M.





Vacationing with Your Dog? Prevent Separation Anxiety.

Planning on traveling with your dog – where your dog will have to get used to a new place to stay? Perhaps it is a vacation or you’re going to visit someone for an extended stay. Make sure the experience is a positive, happy one for both humans and canines alike.  I  recently traveled across the country to California with Rosy to stay in a townhouse for a month that we had never been to before. Here are some photos of her enjoying the new sights and smells of being at the ocean.

Rosy at ocean.
Rosy running – first time at ocean. She drank the ocean water. FYI- salt water gives dogs bad diarrhea. She learned not to.

A change of location can be exciting for a dog but also anxiety producing – especially if they experience being left alone by you, too fast and too long in a strange place –  like a hotel room or if you’re staying in the home of a friend or family member. When you leave them there alone, your dog does not know initially, that they are not being abandoned in this unfamiliar place – even if there are other people around. By the way, hotel’s complain and have policies against guests that leave their dogs alone in the rooms barking non-stop. When you hear that, it’s a dog experiencing separation anxiety. I never left Rosy alone in the hotel rooms we stayed in as we drove across the country.

When traveling with your dog, you’ll want to take steps to make sure you do not create separation anxiety where there was none before.

Speaking of the topic in general, in the last episode of Raising Your Paws Podcast, number 45, I spoke with Nicole Wilde, professional dog trainer, behavior specialist, and author of the book, Don’t Leave Me! Step by Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety. We talked about separation anxiety – what it is and what you can do if your dog has a problem with this. Listen to the episode here.

When moving into a new place temporarily, (or permanently) prevent it from occurring.

1. At first your dog may follow you around everywhere you go in the new location needing to keep you in sight. This is fine. Let them. Rosy does not do this at home as she is not the kind of dog that has to be near me every second. However, last summer when we moved into the new house in Illinois,  she did this the first day as I was unpacking and then recently, in the California townhouse, the first few days, as I was getting settled she was like velcro – she would follow me up and down the stairs and even peek to see where I had gone when I visited the bathroom. I did shut the door and she soon learned I’d reappear.

(For moving into a new home – to hear everything to do to ensure an easy transition for your pets, listen to podcast episode #22.)

2. Plan to stay home at the new place with your dog for a number of days. You want to try NOT to leave your dog alone for long periods of time in an unfamiliar place. This may mean ordering in food at the hotel, taking your dog with you, or arranging fun things to do so you’ll be at the house for a few days. In my case, when I moved into my new home last summer, I took a week’s vacation – it wasn’t only for Rosy – I also needed the week to unpack and attend to other business, but it greatly benefited her. Here in the townhouse, during the first few weeks, when I needed to leave to run some errands, I took her with me. In places she could not accompany me, since it was the summer, I left her in the locked, air-conditioned car. The car is a safe, familiar place for her and she is very used to being in it for short periods of time, alone.

3. Get your dog used to you leaving the residence in small little steps.

a. On the first day – practice going out the door you’ll use the most and then immediately come right back in. Do this a number of times. In California, when I arrived, I had to unpack the car and so I went in and out of the door into the garage at least 20 times. At first, I left the door hinged open so Rosy could see me. By the end of the day, after going in and out so many times, I was able to shut the door in between my trips and she would be in the family room, waiting, but relaxed. I also got her used to my raising the electric garage door – moving the car out, and then coming right back in.

b. With any other doors of the house – practice going out and coming right back in . You will start increasing the length of time you spend outside of the house. 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes. If there is a screen door they can look out and see you when you start this process, it is helpful. Rosy would watch me as I wheeled the garbage cans out to the end of the driveway or visit with some of the new neighbors. Then I started shutting the outer door, so she could not see me when I was outside for 15 minutes. After the first week, she no longer would be waiting at the door, but lying down in the living room, secure I was coming back.

c. When your dog seems at ease, then you can extend the time and leave for an hour or two. Give your dog a Kong toy stuffed with frozen canned food, pumpkin or plain yogurt for a lovely distracting treat while you are gone for longer periods. And, when you leave, act normal – not guilty or anxious yourself. Don’t make a big deal out of saying goodbye to them – just a casual “see you later,” and when you return, keep it calm – offer the same routine greeting you normally would.

Full Show Notes for Raising Your Paws Episode 45.

Title: Cure Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety & How Dogs Detect Arson and Save Bees.

Does your dog have a separation anxiety problem? Not quite sure what it is or what to do about it? Nicole Wilde, professional dog trainer, behavior specialist and author of the book, Don’t Leave Me! Step by Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety, explains that there is hope and help for you and your dog to alleviate the numerous challenges that result from a pup who becomes severely anxious when left alone.

Then, I’ll share a few more unique ways in which dogs apply their noses to assist fire and termite inspectors as well as beekeepers.

Resources for the episode.

Nicole Wilde and Sierra.

Link to order Nicole Wilde’s book, Don’t Leave Me! Step by Step Help for your Dog’s Separation Anxiety.


Nicole Wilde’s Website.

Nicole Wilde’s Facebook Page.

Nicole Wilde on Twitter.

Sierra on Coyote Hill








Sierra with a look of love.

Here are links to the organizations, Nicole mentioned to find a behavior specialist if you would like help dealing with your dog’s severe separation anxiety.

Association of Professional Dog Trainers. (APDT)

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. (IAABC)

Pet Professional Guild

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. (ACVB)

Malena DeMartini – separation anxiety specialist.

Source for the story about dog’s smelling arson and insects: “How Dogs Think” By Stanley Coren.




What To Do if Dog Noisily Greets Guests At Front Door.

When the doorbell rings, does your dog stand at the front door barking his head off and crowding visitors as they try to enter your house? Why do dogs go nuts when there is a knock on the door ? And what can you do about this behavior? Find out on Raising Your Paws Podcast, episode 44.

Here are some details about one of the options mentioned. It’s a practical solution – give your dog something else to do instead– train them to go to a mat!

The mat will provide a special place for your dog to go and lie down until you release your dog from it. The mat can be a small rug, (I purchased an inexpensive one just for Rosy) a bath mat,  or a dog mat. It’s good to reserve it just for this purpose and be able to roll it up if you want to  take it with you for travel.

When I used to live in a condo on the second floor, to stop Rosy from wanting to run out the door and onto the landing to greet my visitors as they climbed up the last few steps, I placed the mat in the front foyer against the wall about 10 feet back from the door. Anytime the doorbell rang, instead of twirling in excitement, and barking and barging in front of me, I instructed her to go to her mat. There she would lie, waiting in anticipation, barely containing her excitement, but still contained until the visitor entered and I released her to “go meet”.

Here are a few videos that teaches you how to do mat training.

From Vet

Here is another one – talking through some of the steps.

For detailed written instructions about the steps, here is the link to a good article.

In the videos the trainer is using a clicker to mark the correct behavior. You can also use a word, like “yes” instead of a clicker.

Having your dog be able to go to a mat helps anytime you would like your dog to get out from under foot, like, while working in the kitchen, or when repair people are at the house. For teaching your dog how to “down–stay,”having this defined space can assist some dogs to understand the training better. When you and your dog are away from home, taking the mat with and laying it down, gives your dog a safe and familiar place to be. When Rosy would accompany me to dog food demos at pet food stores, I always took her mat. I didn’t even have to tell her to go there, once I laid it on the floor, she’d plop down on it. I’m sure you’ll start thinking of many times and situations in which having your dog go settle in one spot and stay there, will be very handy.

Full Show Notes for Raising Your Paws podcast Episode 44.

Title: Use Your Voice So Your Dog Listens & The Key Difference Between Training Cats and Dogs.

Did you know that the pitch of your voice and how you say words, can affect if your dog ignores or obeys you? I’ll explain how to use your words in the most effective way so your dog will be more apt to listen to what you are asking.

Where ever did we get the idea that you can’t train a cat? In part two of my conversation with, feline behavior specialist, Sarah Ellis, from International Cat Care, and co-author of the book, The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat, we talk about what you can do to prepare felines for major changes in the home and when training cats, if punishment is a good or bad way to stop problem behavior.

Does your dog start barking every time the doorbell rings and scare visitors with their noisy greeting? Since dogs are aware that the front door is the entrance to the home territory and a place that everyone in the family treats as important, many dogs take on the role of being the sentry. Hear what you can do to manage or change this behavior.

Please subscribe to the podcast for free at iTunes and at Stitcher.

Resources for the Episode.

Source for the story about how you use your voice. “The Other End of the Leash,” By Patricia McConnell.

International Cat Care Website.

Dr. Sarah Ellis.


Dr. Sarah Ellis, Facebook page.

Amazon link to order “The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat” by John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis.










Using a Squirt Bottle on a Cat for Discipline – Good Idea or Bad One?

In this week’s podcast episode, I spoke to feline behavior specialist, Dr. Sarah Ellis,  about how to train a cat. You read that right. Cats CAN be trained – and they learn much more than you might believe – they can be taught things that will make your life easier and increase your cat’s welfare, such as how to make sure your feline likes his cat carrier and how to ease their fears about going to the vet. Listen to the episode here.

Dr. Sarah Ellis doing some initial training to teach a kitten named Batman to be comfortable in and around the cat carrier. (photo credit: Peter Baumber)

Cats learn best using the positive reinforcement method – this is where you reward the desirable behavior you are seeking with a delicious treat, toy or praise. They do not respond well to punishment.

If you have a cat, you know there are times that your cat does things that are less than desirable, such as jumping up on the dining room table that is set for company, waking you up in the morning by rattling papers, or scratching and chewing on furniture. (Oh, yes, my cat Willie did that. Chewed the corners right off of my bedroom dresser drawers that had been left a bit pulled out, in order to get my attention and wake me up while sleeping. )

A method that has become popular among cat owners when their cat is doing unwanted behaviors is to use a squirt bottle to shoot water at the cat to stop or deter them from the negative behaviors – like jumping up on counters and meowing in the morning to get attention.

Because this method is common, the perception is that this is an acceptable way to fix a problem and a good way to train a cat not to do certain things. Actually it is not.

What this technique does do –  is create frustration in the cat, cause them to be afraid of you which can affect your bond with your cat, (she needs to be able to trust you, not run from you out of fear,) and most counterproductive is that punishing teaches the cat to engage in the behavior when you’re not around.

What you need to know is no matter how troublesome a behavior is to you, it has a purpose for the cat. They do not do what they do to make you mad – yes, they may want your attention but they are not trying to piss you off. Take for instance if you squirt them for scratching on your furniture. Scratching is a normal and natural need for a cat, it can’t and should not be trained out of them. If your cat gets punished every time she does a normal behavior that is bred into her, she will continue to do it covertly.

What to do instead? First you’ll want to think about why and when your cat is exhibiting a particular behavior – then you can plan how to manage it.   The best way to preserve your sanity and your cat’s best welfare, is to manage, not punish a situation.

Wrecking your furniture? Do your homework and make sure you have the right kind and placement of a scratching post for your cat. There is much information about this online. You may need to use double-sided sticky tape on the furniture to save the arms of your favorite chair until your cat is happily using the scratching post.

In my case with Willie, his chewing on drawers was a way to wake me up before the alarm clock, which worked for him.  He got my attention, I would wake up to get him to stop. What I had to do, to break this habit, was make sure all the drawers were pushed completely in before going to sleep and then when he attempted the new thing, to bat at papers on the dresser which made a lovely, annoying sound, I had to remove and put any and all papers away,  and leave nothing out that made noise.

Dr. Sarah Ellis’s cat Cosmos, using a home-made puzzle feeder. (photo credit: Peter Baumber)

And most important, I had to start COMPLETELY ignoring him when he made any noise. Listen up, if you have a cat that meows relentlessly to wake you up. You cannot give in at all. Don’t open your eyes, don’t move a muscle, and don’t yell at your cat. This is all a form of attention –it’s negative, yet still attention for the cat. Any response on your part is reinforcing the behavior and they’ll keep doing it.

I had to think about, was Willie too hungry to wait one more hour to eat? I added a bit more food to his diet by leaving some kibble out in a puzzle feeder he could play with in the wee hours and finally, Willie realized I was not going to get up before 7:00 a.m. – waiting one more hour would not kill him, and he finally cut it out. Final REM sleep and dreams restored.

Regarding the cat who jumps up on the kitchen counters, listen to what Sarah Ellis, feline behavior specialist and co-author of the book, “The Trainable Cat,” suggests you do about this. It’s in Episode 43, Segment 2. Raising Your Paws podcast.  

Show Notes for Raising Your Paws Podcast, Episode 43.

Title: The Reasons Dogs Investigate Our Private Parts & Why You’ll Want to Train Your Cat.

Do you get embarrassed when you meet a new dog and the first thing they want to do is bury their nose in your crotch? Why do they have to do that? In this episode, I’ll tell you what the dog is doing – and it’s no different than what they do with other dogs – they’re simply finding out information about you – but not in the way you probably think.

Whoever hears about cat trainers? – And the common belief is that cats can’t be trained. But it’s not true. They can – and the benefits for an owner’s sanity and the cat’s welfare are plenty. Feline behavior specialist, Sarah Ellis, from International Cat Care, and co-author of the book, The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat, talks about why and how to train cats. Find out what to do so that your cat likes its carrier and how to make going to the vet easier.

When you’ve had too much to drink and wake up with a hangover, someone may suggest the “hair of the dog” – meaning take another drink! How did dog hair get associated with curing a hangover?   I’ll explain where this expression comes from.

Please rate and review the podcast. It really helps! Easy links to iTunes and Stitcher at:

Resources for the Episode.

Source for the Story about dog’s investigating our bodies. “How Dogs Think” by Stanley Coren.

Dr. Sarah Ellis.

Guest Speaker: Dr. Sarah Ellis, feline behavior specialist at International Cat Care.

International Cat Care Website.
Here are some links to the various things talked about in the show as resources from International Cat Care.

The handling videos can be found here on the link below:

Their YouTube channel

The advice section of their website can be found at wwww./

In terms of veterinary clinics being more cat friendly – the scheme in the US is run by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and is called Cat Friendly Practice. Here is the link:

Dr. Sarah Ellis Facebook page.

How to order “The Trainable Cat.” By John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis.

Source for story about the expression, “hair of the dog, “A Fine Kettle of Fish and 150 other Animal Expressions”. By Michael Macrone.




What To Do if Your Cat Overgrooms.

Is your cat licking and chewing themselves so much that there are bald spots?

Are you worried that your cat is grooming too much? Spending a few hours a day cleaning and washing themselves is a normal and beneficial activity for your cat but if you have noticed that patches of fur are missing from your cat’s arms or legs, there is a large bald spot on their tummy or your cat constantly bites or chews on a paw, this indicates that something is wrong.

A cat exhibiting excessive grooming (psychogenic alopecia.) Resulting baldness is noticeable around the abdomen, flank and legs. (photo by Steve Browne and John Verkleir)

What could be the cause?

First, it could be a medical issue. Take your cat to the vet.

You want to make sure there is no underlying medical condition that is causing this. For instance, if your cat has fleas or other parasites, it can cause your kitty to chew themselves raw. Hyperthyroidism (a glandular disorder caused by an excess of the thyroid hormone that causes weight loss, hyperactivity, and increased appetite) is another common reason for over grooming. A cat in pain may repeatedly lick or chew one particular area of the body in an attempt to relieve the discomfort. For example, if the bladder is causing pain, a cat can lick their belly stark naked. Excessive grooming can start as a response to fleas, an allergy, a food sensitivity or other skin condition. If your cat is licking itself all over, quite often, this is typical if the cat is feeling itchy. The licking that starts off as a way to relieve itching can become a habit which you don’t want your cat to develop. Because there could be other possible medical reasons, not listed here, don’t delay – get your cat checked out medically.

Or it could be a behavioral – emotional issue. If no medical cause can be found, the overgrooming is probably a behavioral issue and has become obsessive in nature. Constant licking and chewing is an anxiety – relieving mechanism – much like nail biting can be self-soothing for people. Excessive grooming is often a reaction to stress or trauma and the stress builds up so much that the cat must do something to relieve his anxiety – hence the constant washing.

You’ll want to identify what the trigger is for your cat because whatever is causing the cat to feel that anxious is the real problem.

What changes in your life or at home have there been lately? It could be a change in your work schedule, the addition of another pet to the house, the death in the family, other cats in the household or perceived threats from cats outside. It  doesn’t matter if strange cats don’t come inside the house, as long as your cat can smell and see the neighbor cat that keeps coming around, that is enough for yours truly to see the outsider as a threat. Other triggers can be if you recently moved to a new home – or made renovations to the house or the arrival of the new infant.

Think about if changes were made to your cat’s routine or environment because of a move or home construction or the arrival of additional pets or a new baby. Is there anything that has caused you to: feed your cat at different times than before, move the litter box or feeding station, change your cats usual sleeping place. All of these little things can cause stress.  Or…..on the flip side, your indoor cat could be extremely bored – with no activity or stimulation and this itself can trigger overgrooming.

What to do.

Minimize any of the above described adjustments that may have occurred to your cat’s routine or restore them as much as you can.

Provide as much stability and consistency and make his environment as stress–free,  as you can. If the dog barks at and relentlessly chases your cat, make sure the cat has access to safe areas where he can get away from the dog. A cat tree is perfect for this as dogs don’t tend to climb them. Does another cat in the house, torment him? Provide an area to eat and eliminate that is free from possible ambush. To determine if your cat feels anxious while eating, do this: when you place his food bowl on the floor, watch to see if your cat is constantly looking around, frequently stopping to check out her surroundings. If she does, then she is feeling insecure – move the feeding station to an area that is safe, perhaps on top of the cat tree or in a quieter, closed off room.

You may be tempted to try and comfort your cat through more holding and cuddling, but to effectively relieve your cats stress, a cat needs to feel in control of his environment.

Provide a lot more positive activity for your cat than before. Add more interactive playtime as part of his daily schedule. Two or three sessions of play together will help dispel his anxiety as well as building up his positive associations with his environment that might have been soured. And when you leave the house – make sure your cat has opportunities to find rewards and engage in healthy, anxiety relieving behaviors – so put activity toys – boxes or bags to play in and puzzle feeders with tiny yummy treats or kibble to extract,  around the house. Provide plenty of distractions to help your kitty pass the time when you are not home. Move the cat tree in front of a window so your cat can watch the birds.

When home, try to prevent your cat from indulging in the overgrooming habit as much as possible. Pay attention to when she demonstrates the give-away sign that she is beginning to lick herself and redirect her right then, into a short playtime with you. Grab that wand toy and engage your cat’s natural hunting abilities. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, this often can head off an obsessive grooming session before it begins. Bottom line – your cat needs a lot more stimulation from toys and lots of attention and play from you.

What about Medication? The medical term for the behavioral condition we’re talking about is called psychogenic alopecia. In certain cases calming medications along with behavior modification can help mitigate the behaviors. Your vet will advise you if anti-anxiety medication is required. Your vet may also refer you to a veterinary behaviorist, or certified animal behavior consultant (you can seek out their opinion yourself – see links below) in order to establish the most effective behavior modification plan for your cat’s specific circumstances.

To find a professional:

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviorists (AVSAB)

Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists.

Raising Your Paws Podcast – Episode Number 42.

Title: How a Cat Shows it’s Feeling Uncertain & Stories of Dogs that Apprehend and Detain criminals.

Full Show Notes for the episode.

Dogs lick their lips as a sign they are feeling uncomfortable, but what does it mean when a cat flicks its tongue out when there is no food around? I’ll explain what this gesture can indicate about a cat’s mood.

Then, in part two of my conversation with, Steve Pearson, a former police officer, SWAT commander and owner and trainer at Performance Kennels Inc. he tells stories about the police K-9 dogs that chase down, apprehend and detain criminals. Hear trade talk about how they learn their special skills and what it’s like to work with these special dogs.

What is the secret to dogs being able to sniff out explosives and narcotics even when smugglers commonly hide them in stronger smelling things to mask their odor? The answer has to do with another remarkable difference between canine and human noses. I’ll explain using the example of a pot of stew cooking on the stove.

Additional Resources.
Steve Pearson, Owner, Trainer at Perfornance Kennels, Inc.

Performance Kennels, Inc. Website.

Performance Kennels, Inc. Facebook page.

Source for story about dogs smelling narcotics. “How Dogs Think,” By Stanley Coren.





When Dogs Bark: Pet’s Speaking their Minds and Police K-9’s Alerting to Finds.

During a number of the Raising Your Paws podcast episodes, I’ve been talking about the different types of barking dogs do – how they sound, their meanings and solutions for dealing with the barking. In this last episode, Number 41, I was talking about frustration or boredom barking. (segment 3)  Listen to this episode here. Title: Training And Working with K-9 Police Dogs & Recognizing and Quieting Frustration Barking.

In the podcast, I promised that I’d let you know which episodes you can find the descriptions of the other kinds of barking. You’ll find that list to the episodes, in the resources section below.

But first, as a follow up to last week’s blog, about what dogs hear, one reader wrote in and told me about her dog, Baxter.

Bobbi writes,

“I read your article about noise and how dogs hear more high pitched sounds than humans. This must be why my puppy can’t hear me call him loudly, but can hear the sound of his NutriSource dog food bag being opened from several rooms away and comes running as fast as he can.”

Ah, full tummy, a good morning of playing hard, comfy couch. Time to relax…life is good.
Bobbi sent this photo of Baxter eating his NutriSource dog food. Must be tired after playing with all these toys- both paws and jaws in the food.  Yep, don’t be shy – get right in that bowl.  Why not?

For writing in and sending the photo of Baxter, Bobbi won a few free bags of our new Jerky dog treats. Congrats, Bobbi and thanks for sharing.

You could also be selected to receive some free treats. Let me know what you think of the podcast or the blog. You can leave a comment on any blog article and for sending a photo of your pet, dog or cat,  write me at




Do you know about the working Dogs – the K-9’s that help our police officers?


In episode 41, I also had a really cool guest, a former police officer and SWAT team commander who worked with K-9 ‘s (the name for patrol, narcotic and explosive, detector dogs ) as his partners over the years. Steve Pearson, now owns Performance Kennels, Inc. a company that selects and trains patrol narcotic and explosive detector dogs for law enforcement.  You’ve got to hear his stories about dogs that search for drugs and explosives, and apprehend people targeted by the police. He also talks about what it takes for a dog to be a K-9 and what its like to work with these special dogs.

Here are some photos of the K-9’s.

K-9, Diesel.

A bit about Diesel. 

After over 8 years of service to the Brooklyn Park Police Department, K-9 Diesel is pulling the pin after his last shift tonight. Diesel and his handler, we’ll call him “Jason” did an outstanding job serving the citizens and visitors of Brooklyn Park, MN. Diesel was a certified narcotics detector dog, a certified PD-1 (Patrol) dog, and was one of a few who earned a tracking Exceptional certification through the U.S.P.C.A. Diesel will live out his retired years with his family in their plush gated community that he is so used to. Outstanding job boys. Nothing else that can be said.


A Belgian Malinois. (not a K-9)
Here is one of the dogs from Performance Kennel’s Facebook page, a Shepherd/Malinois mix.

The two breeds of dogs that Steve Pearson, most commonly  utilizes are German Shepherds and a Belgian Malinois/German Shepherd cross.

To the right, is a Belgian Malinois, one of the Dutch shepherd dogs.






The dogs and the people who become their handlers go through extensive training to learn their craft.








Here are a few patrol K-9’s and the jobs they did.

Stearns Co. S.O. (MN) K-9 Gordo had a nice find the other day. “Routine” traffic stop and good police work lead officers to believe that illegal narcotics were concealed inside the vehicle. Gordo was deployed on a sniff and he alerted on the passenger door. Subsequent search yielded over 2 pounds of meth & a bunch of ecstasy. $1,100 of cash & a 2004 Audi were seized. 3 depressed occupants went to jail. Sad. Way to go Gordo.
K-9 Deekon (AKA Prancer) with the Clay Co. (MN) S.O. conducted a vehicle sniff a couple nights ago on I-94. The State Patrol had a vehicle stopped with a couple “dudes” in it from the left coast. (That’s California) Deekon alerted on the vehicle. Deekon then went into the vehicle and alerted to a bag containing clothing. The clothing had a heavy odor of marijunana however no marijuana or other narcotics were found. What the officers did find was $14,643 in cash, a pistol, and ammo. The cash was wrapped in foil. Deekon later alerted on the cash during a sniff back at the office. The cash, gun, and ammo were seized. It seems as though these dudes sold all of their dope in the Fargo – Moorhead area and were on their way home for more product when the State Patrol and K-9 Deekon interrupted their journey. Take THAT Stalker!
Moorhead P.D.’s K-9 Milo had a nice find the other day. Narcotics officers in the Fargo – Moorhead area developed a lead that suspected narcotics dealers were setting up shop in area hotels. K-9 Milo alerted to the presence of illegal narcotics in a particular hotel room. The subsequent search of the room lead to the recovery of $17,000 in cash, 13 pounds of meth, and 3 suspects going to jail. Excellent police work and fantastic utilization of a well trained K-9.







You can see many more photos of the dogs and handlers and the results of the finds the K-9’s made on Performance Kennels, Inc. Facebook page.  Enjoy!  I have. Please leave me a comment below, about the podcast and/or the blog. Thank you.

Resources for this Show:

Here’s where you can learn about the different kinds of barking I’ve covered so far.

Listen to the Raising Your Paws episode to hear the story about:

The Excitement bark – Episode # 11

The Fear bark – Episode # 19

Guard Barking – Episode # 27

The Warning bark – Episode # 12

The Growl – why you don’t want to stop your dog if it feels the needs to do this. – Episode # 15

Easy way to get to these episodes (and subscribe for free if you haven’t already) – scroll back up to top of blog page, see box with links to iTunes or Stitcher or google play.

Full show notes for Episode 41. Title: Training and Working with K-9 Police dogs & Recognizing and Quieting Frustration Barking.

When you take your dog’s photograph or bend over to pet him you might notice that your dog turns its head away from you. Your dog also does this at times when other dogs approach. This is not a random meaningless motion, it’s a signal. I’ll explain what your dog is saying through this gesture.

K-9 Police dogs and their handlers, assist law enforcement by searching for drugs and explosives, locating missing people, finding crime scene evidence, and apprehending people targeted by the police. What does it takes for a dog to become police dog and what is it like to work with a K-9? My guest today, is Steve Pearson, a former police officer and SWAT commander and owner and trainer at Performance Kennels Inc. a company that selects, and trains patrol, narcotic and explosive detector dogs for law enforcement. He tells on-the-job stories, and describes why German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois make such good detection dogs.

Then, how do you identify if your dog’s barking is about boredom or frustration? What can you do to address the problem and stop the barking? I’ll explain this and tell you the story of how my family inadvertently caused my beagle to bark continually.

Additional Resources for the Episode.

Resource for the story about a dog’s head turning: “On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals” by Turid Rugaas.

Steve Pearson, owner and trainer, Performance Kennels, Inc.

Performance Kennels, Inc. Website.

Performance Kennels, Inc. Facebook page.

Resource for the story about frustration barking: “Barking, The Sound of a Language” by Turid Rugaas.




Why Your Dog Dislikes the Vacuum Cleaner.

Your dog hears things that you do not. Regarding some sounds, their hearing is hundreds of times better than yours, other sounds, you hear similarly. Where they excel is in the high-frequency range of sound. Dogs inherited this ability from their wild ancestors. Wolves, for instance add to their diet, by often preying on small rodents, like mice, voles and rats. They all make high-pitched squeaks and as they move around in their world of leaves and grasses on the ground, all that rustling also makes high-frequency sounds that alerts canines to their presence.

Our ears are tuned to sounds that are significant in our lives – the frequencies that correlate to hearing and decoding human speech, they fall in measurements of between 500 – 4,000 Hz and the peak sensitivity of your ear is adapted for a frequency right in the middle of the speech range – about 2,000 Hz. The maximum sensitivity for a dog is tuned much higher, at about 8,000 Hz. You are most likely well aware that your dog hears things you do not, when all of a sudden, they get up and go to the door or window looking for who is approaching the house, minutes before the doorbell is rung or the mail is dropped in the box.

In the book, “How Dogs Think,” by Stanley Coren, he makes a nice comparison of the difference in humans and dogs hearing abilities using a piano as an analogy.  If you wanted to get an idea of the highest notes a young person might be able to hear, you would add 28 more keys to the right–hand side of the piano, (the higher note side) however the majority of people would not hear those highest keys.  “As we age, the pounding of sound waves against the mechanism in our ears, cause mechanical damage and we lose the ability to hear higher-pitched sounds first.” (from “How Dogs Think”)

Hearing much higher pitched sounds than people, dogs ranges are between around 47,000 and 65,000 Hz. depending upon the dog. Getting back to that imaginary piano, that means you’d add 48 more keys to the right side of the piano to reach the top note a dog can hear.

The fact that dogs have a greater sensitivity to sound than humans do, especially in the higher frequencies explains why your dog may leave the room when you turn on the vacuum cleaner.  Common appliances, such as vacuum cleaners, motorized lawn mowers, and many power tools, cause distress for your dog.  Many of these machines, have rapidly rotating shafts on motors that run the fans, blades and bits which produce high frequency, “shrieks,” which can be painfully loud for your dog. With our less sensitive human ears, we remain blissfully ignorant of these shrieking sounds, not being able to hear the high pitched noise.

Another example of their sensitive hearing, I’m sure you are familiar with is, if you rip open a new bag of treats or food, no matter where your dog is in the house, they come running to the kitchen  to see what you’ve got.

Speaking of which, NutriSource Pet Foods, has a brand new treat available now – Jerky treats for dogs.

In the NutriSource line, it comes in four flavors with over 95% of meat with multiple proteins for yummy variety.

Lamb, Beef, & Kangaroo
Beef, Salmon & Turkey
Quail, Duck & Chicken
Wild Boar, Turkey & Salmon







And in the Pure Vita line, which is a single ingredient protein, it also comes in four flavors.

Salmon Jerky
Venison Jerky
Turkey Jerky
Beef Jerky






All of the jerky treats, have pumpkin in them which is naturally rich in fiber, and vitamin C and contain organic apple cider vinegar which naturally preserves and keeps the treats moist. Best yet, there are no added sugar ingredients in the treats.

If you’d like a free bag of the new jerky treats, write me at,and send a photo of your dog.


Listen to Raising Your Paws Podcast Episode 40.

Title: Reasons to See the Vet if your Dog Suffers Nighttime Anxiety & Why Cats Suck on Clothing.

Full Show Notes for the Episode.

In this episode, I’ll look at three instances where looks can be deceiving – the theme for this week’s show.

Does your cat pad her feet up and down on your chest or stomach which is called kneading? And/or ever suck on you or your clothing? Even though you know you are not a cat, and couldn’t deceive anyone, you don’t fool your cat. To them, you resemble its mother well enough that they engage in those behaviors with you. In this episode, I explain why and how.

Anxiety in a dog at night, can be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease and often by the look of your dog, it results in this diagnosis – but it can also be something else. Don’t be fooled by appearances. My guest for this show, is veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Nicolas Dodman, author of two books spoken about during the show, Good Old Dog” and “Pets on the Couch.” He explains other reasons for your dog’s night time jitters and impresses on you why it’s so important to take your dog to see the vet.

Have you heard people say the dog attacked totally out of the blue – for no reason? Mostly, there are three very distinct reasons – the causes for dog aggression. Although most of us, don’t recognize the signs nor understand the triggers. In this episode, I tell the circumstances in which dogs actually do attack with no provocation at all. It does come from out of no-where that we can see – but not being visible is the clue for what is happening to cause a dog to go berserk. I’ll relate the experiences of Dr. Nicolas Dodman, from his book, Pets on the Couch.

 Please tell your friends about the podcast and subscribe for free on i-Tunes, or your favorite podcast app. Subscribe on Stitcher, for android phones here.

Additional Resources for this Episode:

Amazon link to: Good Old Dog: Expert advice for Keeping Your Aging Dog Happy, Healthy and Comfortable, Book by the Faculty of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Edited by Dr. Nickolas Dodman with Lawrence Lindner.

Source for the story about seizures in dogs: Pets on the Couch: Neurotic Dogs, Compulsive Cats, Anxious Birds, and the New Science of Animal Psychiatry. By Nicholas Dodman, DVM.

For more about Dr. Dodman. – Center for Canine Behavior Studies –





Title: Reasons to See the Vet if your Dog Suffers Nighttime Anxiety & Why Cats Suck on Clothing.

Do Humans and Pets Share the Same Emotions?

Yes, according to world renowned, primate behavior researcher, Frans de Waal, who I spoke to in this week’s Raising Your Paws podcast episode, number 39.  Dr. de Waal talks about many animals that experience empathy and that make up with one another after a fight.

During the conversation with Dr. de Waal, he talked about a video about an ape and a man that gave rise to the title of his latest book, Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves.

Here is the famous video of the Chimpanzee named, Mama, close to the end of her life, greeting a man, Jan van Hooff, that she knew  throughout her life – for the last time.

Full Show Notes for Raising Your Paws Podcast Episode 39.

Title: Do Humans and Pets Share All The Same Emotions? & How to Tell When Cats Are Anxious.

When your dog raises its hackles does it always mean they are angry and upset? No, it does not. In this episode, find out what else your dog may be feeling when you see that distinctive sign.

Then, as a pet owner, you know your dog or cat has emotions such as fear, anger and happiness. But what about anxiety, shame, empathy, gratitude? Do dogs and cats feel all these? World renowned primatologist, Frans de Waal, author of, “Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves” talks about the creatures that experience and act on the same emotions that you and I do.

Next, could your cat’s unusual behavior be due to an emotional problem? Regarding their emotions, cats can be surprisingly anxious. Here are some of the symptoms and signs to watch for.

Plus, have you ever wondered where certain animal expressions, such as “it’s raining cats and dogs”? come from? In this new feature, you’ll find out – and I’ll start with that one.

Additional Resources for the Episode.

Source for the story about raised hackles: Why Does My Dog do that? By Sophie Collins.

Amazon link to Fran De Waal’s book, Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves”.


Dr. Frans de Waal.









For more information about Frans de Waal: Living Links: Center for the Advanced Study of Ape and Human Evolution.

Fran de Waal’s facebook page.

Blog Article: What Are Cats Saying?

Since we were talking about animal emotions, let’s explore what cats are saying through their numerous vocalizations.

A feline’s vocal apparatus differs from our own and is not designed for actual speech which is obvious, or your cat would certainly tell you the exact kind of litter he prefers to dip his paws into.   However cats do communicate with other cats, other animals and with us, their human companions. Cats “speak”  through body language, communicating feelings and intentions through their body postures and facial expressions as well as the sounds they make.

In 1944, American psychologist and cat lover , Mildred Moelk, wanting to better understand the cat’s vocal language, made a detailed study of cat vocabulary and found sixteen meaningful sounds, which included consonants and vowels. She produced a definitive list of 16 sound patterns made between cats and between cats and people.  She divided cat-sounds into three groups:

  1. murmurs made with the mouth closed
  2. vowel sounds made with the mouth closing as in “iao”
  3. sounds made with the mouth held open.

Moelk organized the vocalizations based on how cats formed the sounds and what she believed they most often expressed, which loosely translates to: “hello,” “pay attention to me,” “give me,” “please give me,” and “I like” or “I don’t like.”  Yep, that about sounds right to me from my experience with my late cat, Willie. And regarding the “Meow”, sound an adult cat uses pretty much for our sake, Moelk, identified, 6 different basic ones that convey: friendliness, confidence, anger, fear, pain and annoyance. I’ve heard that one!

Although emphasizing that these sounds are not words, Moelk said cats routinely change the duration, intensity, tone, pitch, speed and repetition to communicate their goals, desires and emotions:

Here are some interpretations of the various noises and vocalizations cats use: See which ones you recognize.

Kitten sounds:

  • Mew (high pitched and thin) – a polite plea for help
  • MEW! (loud and frantic) – an urgent plea for help

Adult cat sounds:

  • mew – plea for attention
  • mew (soundless) – a very polite plea for attention which is often a sound pitched too high for human ears and barely heard
  • meow – a plea for attention
  • MEOW! – a command!
  • mee-o-ow (with falling cadence) – protest or whine
  • MEE-o-ow (shrill whine) – stronger protest
  • MYUP! (short, sharp, single note) – righteous indignation
  • MEOW! Meow! (repeated) – panicky call for help
  • mier-r-r-ow (chirrup with lifting cadence) – friendly greeting
  • silent meow. Cat opens mouth and produces a sound so high pitched that you cant hear it. The guess is it could be a sign of affection.

Cats on the Prowl:

  • RR-YOWWW-EEOW-RR-YOW-OR – caterwaul – a yowl uttered by the male or a female in heat calling out to the tomcats.
  • merrow – challenge from one male to another male
  • meriow – courting call to a female

Mom cats:

  • MEE-OW – come and get it!
  • meOW – follow me!
  • ME R-R-R-ROW – take cover!
  • mer ROW! – No! or Stop It!
  • mreeeep (burbled) – hello greeting to kittens and disarming greeting to adult cats (also used between adult cats and humans)

Seventy years later, since the work of Mildred Moelk, experts agree that cats are communicating something to us –  although what,  is somewhat unclear. The most widely-held theory, developed over a decade ago by Michael J. Owren, PhD, is that cats use vocalization to influence or manipulate humans, not to deliver specific information.

“Cats produce meows to get attention and rely on the owner to infer what the cat wants,” explained Owren, a psychologist and professor who studied animal vocalizations until his death in January 2014.

“A person can pretty readily figure out what’s going on from the cat’s body posture — whether staring or other behaviors — so the cat doesn’t need to have a particular acoustic meow” for each situation, Owren said. “This is communication because it is using a non-linguistic signal to affect the behavior of others. The human response gets the cat what it’s seeking,” although it’s unknown whether the cat plans for specific reactions.

Loud, repetitive meows resemble general distress cries and do not convey emotions, Owren believed. “Cats are not producing distinct sounds that stand for individual emotions, but these sounds are triggered by the cat’s level of arousal. Like a child’s cries, it’s crude and sometimes counter-productive. It depends on the parent having an inherent level of caring,” he said.

Cats succeed with their vocalizations, whether the sounds are pleasant or unpleasant, Owren added. When cats purr, “which is very appealing to humans, [cats] want the humans to continue doing whatever they’re doing. When cats get excited, their loud meows are so annoying that people will do whatever they think the cat wants,” just to stop the noise.

Besides the meow that a mother cat uses to communicate with her kittens or the meow your cat makes as a  general all purpose attention seeking sound, here are some of the sounds cats make to communicate their state of mind. As cats all have individual personalities and will make up their own sounds as needed, you can probably add to this list.

  • Caterwaul – the cat wants sex!
  • Chatter – excitement, frustration e.g. when prey is out of reach or escapes (involves rapid teeth-chattering jaw movements). There are also other theories for this sound. The jury is still out on this one.
  • Chirrup – friendly greeting sound, a cross between a meow and a purr! (friendly greeting sound with rising inflection; familiar to most cat owners)
  • Cough-bark – alarm signal (rare in pet cats); like us, cats can cough both voluntarily and involuntarily)
  • Growl – threat, challenge, warns others to go away
  • Hiss (with or without spit) – threat, fear, warns others to back off
  • Mew (of kittens) – distress, hunger, cold (to attract mother’s attention)
  • Purr –   Purring is caused by vibration of structures in the throat. Although not strictly a vocalization, the purr is an important means of communication, and depending upon the cat’s situation, it can convey contentment, relaxation, pleasure or be placating  behavior (i.e. “I am not a threat to you”).  A loud purr invites close contact or attention. As well as purring when happy, cats also purr when severely injured, in pain, frightened or giving birth. A cat may even purr when close to death. At the vet, when cats purr, and are being restrained for procedures such as blood samples or X-rays, the cat may be indicating that he is easy to control, co-operative and does not need to be forcibly handled. This purr is likened to the behavior of a submissive cat attempting to avoid conflict with a larger, more powerful animal or human.
  • Scream – fear, pain, anger, distress
  • Squawk – surprise, shock (somewhat strangled sound)
  • Yowl – a threat, offensive or defensive, but also used in a modified form by some cats seeking attention when owner is out of sight
  • Squabble – a series of short and long meows and grunts made in a complaining tone that occur when a cat is moved or made to do something it would rather not do

The exact meanings of all of these sounds may be modified or emphasized by facial expression, tone/volume, frequency and body language depending on the current situation. Cats will use these sounds in different ways when communicating with humans and only your familiarity with your own pet will tell us for instance that a certain type of growl is a playful noise and not warning of an imminent attack.

One feature common to both cats and people is the use of a slightly raised tone of voice to indicate friendliness and a lowered tone of voice to indicate displeasure, aggression etc. Friendly chirrup and food-seeking miaow are usually uttered in a raised tone of voice while the low-pitched growl of a cross cat is undeniably unfriendly.

Volume is sometimes used for added emphasis (e.g. a strident miaow for urgency, a gentle “burp” for contentment). Cats which simply feel compelled to add their personal point-of-view to a conversation often do so in a neutral tone of voice to indicate that they are not being particularly hostile, nor unduly friendly, and that there is no great urgency about the subject matter.

Is your cat very talkative?

Oriental breeds, such as Siamese and Burmese cats are well known for being quite vocal and more talkative than others.  Siamese vocabulary includes “a very long mew of medium pitch” which is often emitted soon after the cat is let into a room. This is possibly purely conversational, serving to inform those in the room that it has arrived and is passing the time of day. A far more plaintive sound is made when cats wish to be let in or out, or to attract attention to themselves if they feel they have been unjustly ignored.

One Siamese cat I knew, named Shalom, could sustain his meow from the top of the stairs he had just climbed all the way down the long hall to my boyfriend, Steve’s bedroom. All without taking a single breath. It was one continuous, loud, monotone, plaintive  sounding merowwwwwwowwwowwwwwwwwowwwwwwowwwww lasting endless minutes. I think he was announcing to Steve – Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh, I”ve had a rough day……all the mice got away………….where are you, need to lie dooooooooooooown, hope there is foooood in there……..I’m tired. You better open the door and let me in the room by the time I get to the end of this damn hallway, rrrrowwwwwwwwwww.

In cats attempts to communicate with us on our own level – we are quite vocal after all, talking to our cats like they are human, some cats even put together full “sentences” of noises and pauses. They might simply be joining in, encouraging and inviting you to talk back to them as most  domestic felines really enjoy this sort of attention and interaction from their owners.