Ask Dr. Anna

What’s The Attraction With Cats and Kitchen Counters?

cat and kitchen countersWhat is the attraction between cats and kitchen counters? No matter how many times we tell them no, they insist we said yes. We tell them to get down; they come back up. If you constantly battle with your cats and kitchen counters, the first thing you need to do is understand why they are up there, and it may not be why you think.

As with any behavior changes you should always consider your cat’s health as a potential issue. For example, if your cat is getting on the counter and peeing it may have a urinary problem. Always start with an exam with your veterinarian.


Why cats and kitchen counters?

Often, your cat being on the counter is food related, attention seeking, or-sorry- normal cat behavior. If you routinely leave food out on the counter, it is only a matter of time before your cat decides it is fair game. The first thing to address is to remove temptations and targets. The food needs to be put away, but also consider items that may stimulate your cat’s interest. Plants, wooden spoons, straws, almost anything can be a toy to your cat. Paying attention to what they are doing on the counter before you run them off may give you the answer to preventing them from getting up there in the first place.

If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, your cat may be getting on the counter just to interact with you. There are many cat owners that still buy into the idea that cats are aloof, solitary creatures that don’t want attention. Because of that belief, they don’t interact with their cats as much as they do with their dogs and they end up with exactly what they predicted- a cat that is used to being alone and therefore doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable with much human interaction. But some cats try and initiate that human interaction on their own. Have you been on the phone and suddenly had the cat on your lap rubbing around your face, or weaving in and out of your legs and pawing for you to pick them up? Ever wonder why? How many cats do you know that understand what a phone is? All they know is that you are in a room talking and no one else is there so obviously you must be talking to them! When you are working in the kitchen you are in the same space where their food comes from, you are doing interesting things with interesting items, and the counter seems like a good space to interact with you.

The most basic reason why your cat might be getting on your counter is that cats like heights. They want to be up where they can survey their domain. They want to be elevated above any potential prey.

Preventing cats and kitchen counters:

If you know your cat at all, you know that getting the behavior you want is more about compromise than control. If you want your cat to get off the counter, try giving your cat a better alternative. Give them a perch or a tower from which they can watch you work. Pull up a stool let them watch from there (a snack on the stool will help them learn that it is their place.)  Some people will try and use a squirt bottle to deter the counter surfing, but that comes with the risk of the cat developing a fear of the person rather than a dislike for the counter. The solution to this can be found in the many products that deter cats from jumping up that don’t rely on the owner activating them, such as the air canisters that hiss or the flip/snap devices that look like mild-mannered mouse traps. Homemade solutions can be found in laying out aluminum foil (cats don’t generally like the feel) or using double-sided tape. Hint: put double sided tape on placemats for easy use and removal! Whatever you try, remember that patience is your greatest tool. Good luck!

How To Find The Perfect Pet Questionnaire

perfect petWhether you are deciding to get your very first pet or adding another pet to your household, it is imperative to choose wisely.  Approximately thirty percent of dogs and cats are relinquished between seven months and one year of age.  Relinquishment is partially due to poor planning on the owner’s part, and the other factor is behavioral pet problems.  This week’s article will give you some tools that will help you and your veterinarian or pet counselor find the perfect pet. Continue…

Otitis Externa: Hear All About The Most Common Ear Condition

otitis externaOtitis externa which is inflammation of the inner ear canal is a very common problem of dogs.  The most common primary cause is environmental allergies.  Unlike people who develop watery eyes and sneeze, dogs tend to itch.  Their ears itch turn red and are usually painful.  A discharge usually develops, malodorous and either brownish or yellowish.  Additionally, surface bacteria and yeast take advantage of the inflamed skin and cause a secondary infection. Continue…

National Answer Your Cat’s Question Day

January 22nd is National Answer Your Cat’s Question Day  (who knew?), so it seemed like a good time to check in with the clowder (that’s what you call a group of cats) and see what was burning in their brain cells.

Problem. Have you ever tried to get a consensus from a batch of cats? The only thing they can agree on is there should be more food in the bowl and whatever you put in the bowl should have more gravy. It was time to pick a spokes cat. Continue…

Train to Walk Your Dog, Walk to Train

walk your dogJanuary is Train Your Dog Month and Walk Your Dog Month! Even though that may sound like a bit much to fit all into one month, you can combine both activities to make each more fun than they would be on their own. I’ve decided to combine the two for myself and my dogs by putting a twist on the idea of a “fitness trail.” I’m going to add “obedience stations” to my usual dog-walking route. That way, my dog gets mental exercise along with our usual physical exercise.





How to train while you walk your dog:

The Loose-Leash Transit

This will be what we practice as we walk your dog from one station to the next. I’ll use change-of-direction and stop-and-go exercises, along with verbal communication and lots of food rewards. I won’t be asking for a strict “heel” position—just no pulling on the leash.

The Sit Station

At the first curve of the walking trail, I’ll stop and ask my dog to sit. Because there’s a yard with a barking dog nearby, I’ll make sure to make myself more interesting by offering more tasty food rewards.

The Down Station

At the second curve, we’ll stop, and I’ll ask my dog for a down. He isn’t a fan of lying down on hard surfaces, so we’ll take it nice and slow… and use more food rewards.

The Settle Station

On the bench along the path, I’ll have a seat and ask my dog to settle. All this means is that he needs to sit nicely while watching the world go by. Because that world is full of things that move quickly and smell interesting, I’ll keep using more food rewards to encourage him to hang out calmly for a bit.

The Focus Station

By the pond, we’ll take a moment to work on focus. There are ducks and geese that can be loud, so I’ll use my handy-dandy food rewards and keep up a stream of verbal communication to help my dog maintain his focus on me.

The Stay Station

When we get back to the car, we’ll work on a sit-stay before getting back in and going home. I wait until the end to practice this, so my dog is already a little tired. I won’t ask him to hold the stay for too long since I want to end our training walk on a positive note. I’ll give him food rewards during his stay, as well as at the end of it. I’ll maintain my focus on him and not increase my distance from him since there are still plenty of distractions around.

What are your favorite training games to play while you walk your dog? What other stations do you think would be beneficial to your pup along with his training walks?  Did you know that Guthrie Pet Hospital offers obedience classes and can help with any behavioral problems your dog might be having?  Contact us today for your appointment.

7 Steps To Litter Box Success

litter boxUrination or defecation outside of the litter box is the most common behavior problem of cat owners.  While occasionally these problems are related to health issues most of these problems are simple problems with the litter box that can be prevented. Continue…

Five Ways To Curb Feline Play Aggression

feline play aggressionI’ve seen several clients lately that are having problems with feline play aggression with their young kittens.  Feline play aggression can be a serious problem that destroys the human-animal bond and can lead to relinquishment later.




It helps to understand normal kitten play development to understand why feline play aggression occurs. 

  • From birth to weaning (8 weeks) kittens engage in social play where they interact with their mom and littermates.
  • From 8-10 weeks of age, kittens engage object play where they become interested in objects in their environment. They will pounce, chase, stalk, batt, swipe, bite and claw at objects which is an integral part of a kitten’s eye-paw coordination and hunting skills.
  • From 10-12 weeks of age, kittens engage in locomotion play where they develop their agility and balance skills.

Most kittens are acquired around 7-8 weeks of age; therefore, it is important to help and encourage them with object and locomotion play.  Unfortunately, I believe that indoor only kittens have less environmental stimulation than outdoor cats which is usually why feline play aggression occurs.   Most kittens that I see with feline play aggression problems are either bored or the owner is using their hands to play with the kitten.

Five ways to curb feline play aggression:

  1. Avoid using your hands while playing with kittens. Part of object play involves biting and clawing which can lead to injury to yourself.  Playing with your hands encourages the kitten to continue feline play aggression with your hands.
  2. Provide plenty of toys. Ideal toys for kittens include smaller objects that can be batted around or picked up with their mouth.  Avoid toys that are small enough to be ingested.  Wand toys that contain feathers or mice at the end are excellent toys to dangle in front of your kitten or drag along the floor to help them develop their predatory skills.
  3. Encourage your cat to explore and investigate their new environment without destroying your property by providing appropriate perches, scratching posts and lounging areas. Most cat towers supply all three of these things.
  4. If your kitten happens to bite or scratch you, yell “ouch” loudly and clearly. Slowly remove your hand.  If you move your hand too fast, your kitten may think it’s a toy and go after you again.
  5. Anytime your kitten is playing inappropriately, redirect their attention to something more appropriate. Engage in five to ten minutes of active play.

It all boils down to providing an enriched environment for your kitten, so they don’t get bored.  I recommend rotating toys and giving your kitten three different toys daily.

Dante and Me: A Dog Trainer’s Adventure With One Angry Parrot


parrotHere at Guthrie Pet Hospital, most folks are aware that we have two clinic cats—Sylvie and Felicia. Some people don’t know that there’s one other animal member of our clinic family. His name is Dante, and he’s a twenty-year-old Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot. Our clients are used to hearing him scream “hello,” “okay,” and “bye” as they move through the hospital. If you’ve ever met him, you’ve also probably been warned to keep your distance from his cage. You see, like many birds, Dante can be less than friendly with people he doesn’t know and trust. He’s also not opposed to biting people who get too close to his cage without his permission. This includes those of us who work at Guthrie Pet Hospital. Continue…

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