Animal expert, Ashley Flores, CPDT-KA, is the Senior Director of Animal Behavior and Training at Great Plains SPCA. Ashley has more than 16 years of experience in animal training and behavior. Email email@example.com for a chance to have your pet question answered in KC Parent magazine.
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I just adopted a seven-week-old kitten and would love some tips/resources on introducing her to our eight-year-old cat. Our older kitty has been an “only child” for about a year and a half since her big sister passed. – Kristin Kushtorey
I recommend slow introductions and introducing your cats by smell first. Switch the blankets that they sleep on or play on with each other’s so they get used to their scents prior to meeting. Let them see each other and reward calm behavior with plenty of treats. If they are nervous or hissy, take the introduction a little slower. Wait and observe. They will let you know how comfortable they are with moving forward or if they need more time. If they are not meeting well and are nervous, put them on a meeting routine so they can take breaks from their meetings, then start again. For more detailed information, check out the many resources online about how to introduce kittens to an older cat. – Ashley Flores, CPDT-KA
How can I help my mini poodle with anxiety attacks when we leave? I hate seeing her whine and spin when she senses we are leaving. – Kathie Robertson
I recommend working on desensitization and counter-conditioning training. Start by leaving her for a short amount of time and reward her for good behavior. Slowly increase the length of time she is alone. Give her an extra special treat that she doesn’t get for anything else to make it more alluring for her. The higher value the treat, the more she will want to work for it. Next step is exercise. Just like people with anxiety, exercise helps dogs tremendously. “A tired dog is a good dog” is a quote I have heard for years and absolutely rings true. Combining exercise and mental stimulation (brain games and puzzle feeders) will help your pet’s anxiety decrease. I also recommend acting like it’s no big deal when you leave or come home. I know a lot of people get very excited to come home, see their pet, and love on them like they haven’t seen them in a week. Make goodbyes and hellos a non-event. When you come home, ignore the overly excited behavior until your dog calms down. Once she is calm, give all the attention and love you want. If your dog is suffering from severe anxiety, I recommend getting in touch with your veterinarian to discuss antianxiety medications while working on a training plan to set your dog up for the best success. – Ashley Flores, CPDT-KA
I adopted a three-year old cat, Jonah, from Great Plains SPCA in January a year ago. He and I live alone in my house. He is a wonderful pet and sits on my lap at every opportunity. The problem is, he is so shy of anyone who comes to the house. My teenage grandson loves cats and would so like to make friends with Jonah, but Jonah hides under the bed whenever my grandson, or anyone else, comes to the house. I would love for him to come out of hiding and get to know other members of my family and friends when they visit. Do you have any suggestions for making Jonah less shy? – Elaine Rhodes
I recommend giving your feline friend some special treats a few minutes before your grandson comes over to associate his visits with positive experiences. Having your grandson or visitors come over more frequently to create a routine of visits can also set expectations for Jonah. Ask your visitors to be quiet, ignore Jonah, and not stare at him, as staring can be threatening. I do not recommend forcing your cat out of his hiding place or to be pet as that can cause more problems. Allow your grandson to sit on the floor in the room where he is hiding and have him give Jonah high value treats. It will take time, but making the interactions positive and frequent will help Jonah build some confidence. – Ashley Flores, CPDT-KA