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Peculiar Animal Behavior Questions

Marc Morrone answers questions about dog anxiety, cat OCD, and other pet quirks.
Martha Stewart Living Television

I have a small dog, and I bought him a sweater for when it gets cold. He doesn't seem to mind when I put it on, but he shakes a lot while wearing it. Is this normal behavior?
Most likely he just isn't comfortable wearing the sweater. If the sweater is wool, keep in mind that many short-haired dogs are more comfortable in fleece.

I recently had to put my favorite cat to sleep. My other cat seems depressed since his passing. Do animals experience depression and how long will it last?
A sense of loss is natural in any living thing -- including cats. Animals in the wild experience the loss of mates and offspring quite frequently, but loss in domestic pets can be worse. When a domestic pet has a routine broken, especially if a companion passes away, it is a double loss. I'd advise adopting another cat as soon as possible.

My Goffin cockatoo is about 12 years old and has started attacking me recently. She never attacks my husband. How can I play and interact with her?
Odd as it may sound, your bird has bonded with your husband and considers him her "mate." You'll have to respect the relationship and make sure the bird doesn't see you as a threat to her relationship with your husband. When your husband and the bird are interacting, you should stay away; once he leaves the room you can begin playing with the bird. When the cockatoo realizes you are no longer a threat, you will most likely have no further problems. You'll be able to play and interact with the bird as long as your husband isn't around.

I have a 1-year-old bearded dragon who lives in a 60-gallon terrarium that I keep at 95 degrees. He stands on his hind legs for hours at a time, leaning on the glass, and appears to be frantically trying to get out. What's the problem?
It sounds as if the temperature may be too high. It's fine for the tank to be at 95 degrees at one end, but the other end should be cooler; 80 degrees would be the optimum temperature. This way your dragon can choose the temperature at which he feels most comfortable. Providing him with some hiding places will also be a significant help.

I have two King Charles cavaliers. They seem to gobble their food down really quickly. What can I do to encourage normal eating behavior?
Most likely they feel as if they're in competition for food. This usually happens when the dogs' bowls are too close together. Try feeding them on separate ends of the room so they no longer feel the need to compete.

I have a lab mix who barks the entire time she's in the car. I try to comfort her and even give her treats to calm her down, but nothing helps. Someone suggested a bark collar; what do you think?
Giving the dog treats is like giving her a reward for her behavior, and she'll keep it up as long as she benefits from it. If you ignore the behavior, it will eventually stop. The best way to desensitize her is to put her in the car every day and drive around for 15 to 30 minutes. Keep it up for a couple weeks and she'll grow used to driving. There are some anti-anxiety drugs your vet can prescribe, but it's best to try behavior modification before resorting to medication.

My 12-year-old cat is doing some strange things. Right after I feed her, she meows for more food. And she licks everything in sight -- the garbage, the sink, packaged food, everything. It's driving us nuts -- please help.
It sounds as if your cat is manifesting obsessive-compulsive disorder. I would talk to your vet to see if he or she thinks your cat would benefit from one of the newly available anti-anxiety medications.

Comments (1)

  • 7 Apr, 2011

    I just got a baby male mini lop rabbit. He's getting a lot of eye boogers. Is this normal? What should I do?