My cat has a sensitivity to two specific sounds. One is the sound of packing tape being ripped from the roll. The other is the ratcheting noise made by a plastic wind-up cat toy. He hunkers down when he hears these noises and retches like he needs to throw up (but he has never actually vomited). None of my other cats have ever had such a reaction to noise. Why is he doing this?
— Carol, Valley Stream, New York
Like people who can be sensitive to different sounds, every cat will react to sounds differently. But cats also have more sensitive hearing than humans. Cats can hear what we hear at around 20,000 hertz, but they top us by hearing sounds as high as 64,000 hertz. So, the truth is, we don’t know what they hear over and above the sounds we hear. Packing tape is a sharp, irritating sound. I can’t imagine what it must sound like to a creature with better hearing.
If the wind-up toy is a plaything for him, try winding it slower – or in another room to see if that helps. As for packing tape, place him in a bedroom and put a sound machine on when using it, especially during repetitive usage, like when moving. We may not know why your cat reacts to these sounds, but we know he has a visceral reaction to them, and you can easily accommodate his sensitivity by not using these objects around him.
I have a sister who adopted a six-year-old dog several years ago. Now 13, he urinates at the same place in her house regularly even though she lives in a warm climate and can go outside. She says, "He's a male, and that's to be expected, and he's too old to train." What are your thoughts?
— Sign me, “Just wondering if this is true,” in Essex, Maryland
Dear “Just wondering,”
A dog urinates in the house because of a physical condition that prevents him from making it outside or because it’s a bad habit. What you describe falls into the latter category, and rather than take the time to correct the behavior, she has accepted it.
I am not sure you will be able to convince her to work with him, but if she wants to change the behavior, she should get an enzymatic cleaner to clean the areas where he repeatedly relieves himself inside the house. Enzymatic cleaners eat up the biological materials that contribute to the odor and that cause a dog to repeatedly go back to the spot.
Next, she needs to note the time of these accepted “accidents” and anticipate his needs by letting him outside to relieve himself beforehand. It helps if a dog can learn what “go potty” means. She can teach it by saying the words when her dog relieves himself and then praising and giving him treats afterward. Training requires a commitment from the owner – and the more committed, the better the results.
Our dog suddenly refused to walk on shiny wooden floors after wearing a cone for days after a procedure. We noticed him bumping into things. Since removing the cone, he stays on the carpet or rugs and whines and cries as he wants to join the family. Heartbreaking as this is, he is the sweetest pup who loves to be in the middle of the family. Any suggestions?
— MaryAnn, Roslyn, New York
Dogs use their toes and nails to grip the ground or carpet. Floors make that problematic, and it’s not uncommon for dogs to develop a fear of slick floors. If he slipped or fell while wearing the cone, he may have hurt himself (or scared himself), and he remembers that feeling. Unfortunately, dogs can develop fears from such encounters.
Rebuild his confidence by getting a few carpet runners to help him transition surfaces. Make sure his nails are kept trim and consider getting nail grips for him to wear to improve his traction on the floor.
He can also be led around the house on a leash while wearing the nail grips. Gently encourage him to transition from rug to floor to rug again by spraying small dollops of whipped cream (from a can) across the floor for him to follow and lick up. Licking is a self-soothing behavior that can help relax and distract him. Praise him as he licks up the whipped cream and goes from one surface to the next. Try this for a few weeks, and let me know if he improves.
(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)