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Pets: Littermates not created equal

Q: Several months ago, I adopted two 2-year-old Havana Brown cats from a breeder, who’s also a veterinarian. From Day One, one cat was very friendly, and the other was just the opposite, even urinating on my bed and on my clothes. She spends most of her day hiding. Any advice? – K.B., Illinois

A: Have this cat checked out medically to rule out a physical explanation. Also, call that breeder back. It’s possible the “unfriendly” cat has always been shy and/or anxious, and has a history of soiling outside the box.

While littermates generally get along well, as many readers will attest, siblings aren’t always best pals. Not only is this cat tentative around you, but might also be worried about her sister. Cat relationships can be complex and surprisingly difficult for mere humans to figure out.

Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Debra Horwitz, of St. Louis, Mo., recommends keeping the shy cat in an extra bedroom, den or office. Place a litter box there and put the cat’s food and water on the opposite side of the room. Provide a scratching post, some toys, empty boxes and other places for the cat to hide. If there’s anything in the room you think she might piddle on, such as a bed or sofa, cover it with plastic.

Plug in Feliway MultiCat in this room (and in places where the other cat hangs out). These devices diffuse a copy of a calming pheromone, which will help lower tension between the cats.

If the shy cat begins to venture out of her hiding places when you enter the room to feed her, stay awhile. Watch TV or a read a children’s book to the cat (the soft, singsong way we read children’s books can relax cats). Wait for her to come to you. Bribery is accepted; use treats for encouragement. Playing with an interactive toy is a great stressbuster.

Without your other cat or you around to intimidate her, hopefully she’ll become retrained to the litter box.


Q: We adopted a 3-year-old Beagle/Bassett Hound mix about a year ago. She suffers from separation anxiety and is on Prozac. I tried crating her, but she nearly destroyed her teeth and the crate trying to get out. She slowly has become comfortable in the crate, as I’ve found that leaving a worn shirt inside helps quiet her, but she still barks when I depart. How can I help her? – D.C., Cyberspace

A: “I assume a veterinarian has diagnosed the problem as separation anxiety,” says veterinary behaviorist Dr. Valarie Tynes, of Sweetwater, Texas, a contributing author of “Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Behaviors” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York 2014). “And Prozac may be very appropriate, but I wonder if you’ve also been given a behavior-modification plan, which is equally as important as the drug to achieve maximum success.”

Treatment for separation anxiety is best when geared for an individual dog. Contact a positive reinforcement dog trainer, certified dog behavior consultant (, veterinarian with a special interest in animal behavior ( or a veterinary behaviorist (

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