Q. We recently moved into a new home, and our German shepherd seems to be adjusting well, except for his scratching at the back windows or doors, which he never did before. We try not to pay any attention, but he keeps it up until we let him in. Later we let him out and he is OK for a short time then starts again. He has ruined one screen so far and is leaving marks on the door. Yelling at him seems to have some temporary effect, but he comes right back.
What do you suggest we do? Do we need to put him on tranquilizers until he settles down?
A. Such behavior changes may indicate some insecurity on your dog's part and a lack of attention on yours. A new home is obviously strange to him until he realizes that it is permanent. Once your family scent and his become part of the yard, he might start to relax and demand less attention.
By yelling at him or opening the door when he scratches, you are giving him the attention he wants. You may have to stop his scratching by using a whistle or sharp-sounding horn when he does it, then tell him "no." Don't let him in until after he has settled down and you call him inside. You may also have to close the windows and blinds so that he doesn't see or hear you until you are ready to pay attention to him.
You will have to make a greater effort to spend more time with him by going on walks in the new neighborhood or sitting with him in the back yard or playing for a while. Hitting him, tying him up or using sedatives is not the answer for this problem. Be patient and work with him.
Q. My 3-year-old spayed female, Tripod, has recently started to nibble on litter. She and her companion cat, Mitts, are both crippled and therefore not as active as average 3- and 5-year-old cats. They are otherwise in excellent health, as their vets will testify. The only change in their environment was that they were on half rations for about 2 weeks for weight reduction. I do not believe that before coming to this home in March, 1987, Tripod had ever seen canned food.
Although she enjoys it now, she still prefers dry, so the dry ration was severely reduced because she needed to lose weight more than Mitts and I knew she would pig out on dry food, given the chance. The amount of litter that she eats seems to be minimal, but I am concerned about ingestion of contaminated materials.
Both cats are strictly indoor pets, and their pans are not used by any other cats.
I understand that this is a fairly common problem, but my vet had never heard of it and could offer no suggestions.
A. Most cats and dogs will pick up and chew almost anything as a means of exploring their environment. This situation of eating abnormal items on a regular basis may have some nutritional basis. Since you recently put your pet on a diet, this may be the source of your problem. Weight control in pets is the same as in humans; it should be done gradually and still meet the requirements of the individual. I would recommend that you talk to your veterinarian and put both cats on Feline R/D or W/D diet, based on the expected weight that you wish to achieve with your cats. This would be the safest method for them. If you decide to continue the restricted method, you should supplement them with vitamins and sufficient calories to meet their needs. Occasionally, a cat may be attracted to the stools of another cat and will dig through the litter box to satisfy its needs. Be sure to keep the litter cleaned, and change it frequently.