Feline Aggression

ButtersHiRes 2 WebGot a feisty kitty that plays a little too rough (with your feet, perhaps)? Here are some tips on getting better behavior.


  • Increase the amount of interaction playtime you have with your cat. (These type of toys can be purchased at Tri-County Humane Society’s store; all the proceeds go back to the animals.) Interactive toys should always be kept out of the animal’s reach if it’s unsupervised.
  • Always use a toy to distract the animal. If you can predict the cat’s attacks, toss a toy in front of you to attract the cat’s attention away from your feet.
  • All family members should avoid rough play with the cat.
  • Consider a young feline companion to help give your older cat some exercise. Two is better than one!


Have you ever been petting a cat, enjoying the interaction, then all of a sudden the animal nips (or worse) at you? This isn’t uncommon, and usually the cat gives you a warning that he or she is about to strike:

  • The look. Most cats stiffen a bit, twitch their tails or turn their heads quickly as you’re petting them. Their pupils are often dilated.
  • Good with the bad. If your cat’s threshold for petting is low, try combining a meal or treat with the petting. If your cat can handle very little attention, only pet him or her once or twice before offering the snack.

Physical Pain

Cats can lash out when they’re in physical pain, which is why some veterinarians take special measures to ensure their safety.

  • If you need to medicate an infected ear or change a bandage, you may choose to use a towel restraint or similar tool.
  • Ask an expert. If your cat is acting unnaturally aggressive, schedule a vet’s visit right away.

Anxiety Around Strangers

  • If your cat is nervous around strangers, have the guests slowly enter a room – maybe they can poke their head in first. Ask them not to look directly at the cat. If the cat doesn’t appear stressed, offer a treat. Then the strangers (aka your guests) can move closer into the room, and you can repeat the process.
  • If your pet continues to be anxious, consult your veterinarian. An anti-anxiety medication or product may be necessary.

Redirected Aggression

  • A cat may become intensely aroused by a loud, startling noise, the sight, smell or sounds of another animal, or unfamiliar people or places. That could lead to yowling, growls, stares and more unpleasantness. After one of these incidents, it’s best to put the cat in a dark, quiet room. If handling the animal is impossible, the owners may need to leave the home for a few hours. The cat needs time to calm down.
  • If the cat has multiple episodes of redirected aggression, the owner may need to consult a behaviorist or vet for information. Or call Tri-County Humane Society at 320-252-0896.

Momma on Edge

  • Momma cat can be particularly protective of her new litter, especially against unaltered males. Maternal aggression is most problematic the first three to four weeks after birth.
  • Manage the aggression by leaving Momma Cat and her kittens mostly alone for the first few weeks if all are healthy. Later on, Momma Cat can be lured out of the nursery to be entertained with food or play while others socialize with the kittens.
  • Don’t forget to spay Momma Cat after the kittens are weaned.

Guarding One's Territory

  • If your cat gets aggressive when other people visit, consider asking your guests to wear freshly laundered clothes so the cat doesn’t smell the other person’s animals on his or her clothes.
  • If the cat still gets upset when visitors come, he or she may need to be confined during the visit.

Source: Adapted from information by Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT

Crate Training Benefits

Crates can be training and safety devices and can benefit dog and owner alike. Crating on a humane schedule teaches puppies bladder and bowel control and limits the amount of destruction a chewing puppy can do to a home. Also dogs that are crated in a car are more likely to survive an auto accident and less likely to cause one.

What Type, Size of Crate

  • The most common types are molded plastic airline shipping crates and the open-wire types that usually come with a metal tray on the bottom. For owners who plan on doing a lot of air travel with their dogs, the molded plastic variety is best. Wire crates are preferred in most other instances.
  • The size of the crate is based on the size of your dog. There should be enough room for him to stand up, turn around in a small circle and lie down comfortably. The crate serves as a place where the dog can rest and chew on safe, appropriate toys. It is not an exercise pen.
  • If you plan to use the crate as a housebreaking aid, size is key. If there is room for the animal to soil and then live away from the mess, the crate doesn’t serve its purpose. If you’re buying a crate for a puppy, keep the adult dog’s size in mind, but excess room should be cordoned off with Plexiglas or another type of barrier.

How Long Should You Crate

  • The rule of thumb for crating is no longer than one hour per each month of age up to nine to 10 hours maximum (the average work day). Each session should be preceded and succeeded by an hour of aerobic exercise. If this is too long for your dog, hire a dog walker to exercise him mid-day.
  • Before you leave your dog for a long stretch, make sure you have him used to the crate. A dog who panics when left alone in the crate could damage it or himself. Never crate your dog while he is wearing any sort of correction collar: It could easily get caught on something in the crate and choke the animal.
  • Crating is recommended as part of the workday routine until the dog grows out of adolescence (at approximately 18 months of age), for dogs who are heavy chewers or are otherwise destructive. Proceed slowly when it’s time to wean your dog off the crate; leave him alone for just a few hours at a time. And thick twice before leaving a curious adolescent alone in your home, even if it’s behaving well during the day.

Puppies and Crates

  • Avoid relying too heavily on the crate for a puppy’s early months. Most puppies three and a half to four months old can be crated overnight for about six hours, even though they probably cannot yet display that kind of bladder control during the daytime. Younger dogs crated at bedtime will need to be brought to their papers or outdoors at least once in the middle of the night.

Source: Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT

Microchipping: What You Need to Know


*All cats and dogs adopted from TCHS are microchipped.

Microchips have been particularly useful in the return of lost pets.  They can also assist where the ownership of an animal is in dispute.

How Microchips Work:

A microchip with a unique ID number is inserted into the animal.  It is very small, about the size of a piece of rice, and is inserted under the skin with a syringe just like a vaccination. It is not a tracking device but a source of identification.

All lost pets that are found and taken to animal control facilities, animal shelters or veterinary clinics are scanned to see if a chip exists.  If one is detected, a code appears and the microchip recovery service may provide the owner's name and contact information to reunite the lost pet with their owner.

Cat Socialization

MickeyHiRes for webDoes your cat go into hiding whenever guests arrive? There are steps you can take to help boost their comfort with socialization. Remember: All socialization should be based on one principle: Reinforce social behavior; ignore asocial behavior. Here are some tips:

  • Consider a cattery cage. Cats learn by watching, and they feel secure in a large cage in which they can view the world without people getting in their space.
  • Keep it calm. Put the cattery in a room with moderate traffic. If the animal is super stressed, put it in a quiet room.
  • Get the cattery set up. Place a covered cat bed or a cardboard box with a hole for a door in the cattery along with a small litter pan. No room for a bed? Drape half the cage with a towel so the cat can hide.
  • Everything in its place. Put the cat’s water opposite the litter plan. Feed regularly, at least three times a day. Leave the food in the cage for 15 minutes, and then remove leftovers. Don’t interact with the cat during the feedings.
  • Act natural. Go about your day like normal; if you live alone, talk to yourself so the cat gets used to your voice.
  • Attract the cat. Do “cat-enticing behaviors” in front of the cattery such as folding laundry. Pique their interest, but keep the activities low key.
  • Feeding, bonding. Once the cat is comfortable eating, try leaving your hand a few feet from the dish. Move it closer, slowly with each feeding, until the cat eats comfortably with your hand nearby. Or try putting a small amount of tasty food such as tuna oil or anchovy paste on your hand and place it near the cat nonchalantly. If the cat licks you, softly praise him or her; don’t blurt out, “Good kitty!”
  • Treat trade. When the cat consistently comes to your hand for a treat, try putting your hand in the cattery without a treat. If the cat comes, give him or her a treat with your other hand.
  • Exploring the home. Once the cat is comfortable taking treats in the cattery, the door to the cattery can be opened. Make sure the door to the room is closed. The cat should explore one room at a time.
  • Always remember patience. Socialization can take a while. Just remember to reinforce good behaviors - with a treat!

Source: Adapted from information by Elizabeth Teal, former ASPCA animal behavior counselor

Prevent Dog Bites in Children

Millions of people every year in the U.S. are victims of dog bites. Sixty percent of these victims are children. Dog bites are one of the most common reason children visit the emergency room, and the majority of the dog bites to children are from dogs the child knows.

Dog safety tips for children

  • Always ask permission from an adult owner before petting an unknown dog.
  • If the owner says you can pet the dog, walk to the side of the dog and face the same direction as the dog. Stand up or squat down if the dog is small. Never bend at the waist. Gently extend your hand with the fingers curled up for the dog to sniff. If the dog backs away, he does not want to be petted. If he doesn’t back away, then open your hand and pet him over the shoulders.
  • Never try to pet a dog through a fence or care window.
  • Never pet a dog that is tied up.
  • Never pet a dog that is eating, or playing with a toy.
  • Never pet a mother dog that is nursing her puppies.
  • If a dog runs up to you, stand like a tree, with your hands at your side. Don’t run. Be quiet. If the dog knocks you down, lie like a log. Don’t move and protect your neck with your hands.

Safety tips for parents

  • Supervise your dog with your children, particularly toddlers. Dogs can behave differently with children than adults.
  • Train your dog. All dogs should attend at least one obedience class.

Source: Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association/University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine

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