Ask Marc: Pet Behavior
From growling to biting to clawing, Marc Morrone answers questions about pet behavioral issues.
When our 3-year-old Pomeranian, Dolly, is in bed with our mother, she growls and tries to nip at us when we try to pick her up. How can we stop this behavior?
Positive reinforcement works best in these situations. When you approach Dolly in the bed, instead of just confronting her, show her a bit of cheese or some other favorite treat. Lure Dolly off the bed with the cheese and then give her the treat and pick her up and carry her out of the bedroom. If you are consistent about this, Dolly will quickly learn to jump right off the bed when you enter the room.
How can I stop my 3-year-old cat, Nato, from play biting?
Nato is play biting with you because he is using you as a cat substitute. When cats play with each other, they play bite -- but our hands are a lot more sensitive than a cat's paw. You really should not encourage Nato to think of you as a cat toy. Get a large sock and fill it with crumpled paper and catnip. When Nato does treat you like a toy, just distract him with the sock and encourage him to play with that instead of you.
What can I do to keep my chinchilla, Louie, from escaping from his cage?
Most rodents are natural-born escape artists and it is impossible to explain to Louie that opening his cage to explore his world is bad. Just go to a hardware store and get some C-clips or spring locks and put them on the door of his cage. Louie will just have to imagine his outside world from now on.
How can I train my kitten, Loca, not to claw the furniture?
You have to make the furniture unattractive to Loca by using cat repellent and double-sided tape. This will only work if Loca has a strong scratching post available to her that is scented with catnip and otherwise made attractive to her. You have to trick her into thinking that the scratching post is more fun to claw at then the furniture.
I have a ferret named Lillith. I see you have ferrets and rabbits walking around in one area on your show. Will the ferrets hurt the rabbits?
Rabbits do not have many friends in the world, and most any animal can hurt them if they want to: dogs, cats, large birds, and ferrets, too. However, animals are individuals -- Splash is an extremely gentle ferret and never hurts any animal. However, do not assume that Lillith will be as gentle as Splash. Be sure to keep them separated when they are out of their appropriate cages.
How can I stop my parakeet from biting me when I take it out of the cage?
Parakeets love millet sprays. You can use their favorite food to stop the biting with positive reinforcement. Offer your parakeet millet sprays in its cage every day until it learns to really enjoy it. Then, stop putting it in the cage and offer it to the bird only when it comes out of the cage and is sitting on your finger.