Home & Leisure

My Pet World: Cranky cat’ won’t use the litter box, and owner may know why

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Melissa,

Just like people, cats may develop arthritis or joint issues as they age that make getting in and out of a litter box difficult.

As for drinking water up on higher ground, it’s true that cats sometimes feel safer eating and drinking on higher ground. It’s the reason some people feed their cats on shelves or tall scratching trees. They like to see who is headed their way.

Thank you for sharing your tips.

Dear Cathy,

I have a two-year old female Coton de Tulear. She is very social with both dogs and people and does not bark at anyone when out for her walks except for one dog. She’s met him up close and once he put his paw on her playfully, but it must have scared her or hurt a little. After that, she was scared to pass him during a walk. Now when she sees him, she barks, pulls, growls uncontrollably, regardless of whether on a walk or inside seeing him through the window. I've tried making her sit but she is quite determined to keep barking. What do I do?

–Linda, Mount Sinai, New York


Dear Linda,

If your dog has access to a window, she will likely always bark at other dogs or people outside. You can close the blinds, or you can interrupt your dog’s behavior, so she doesn’t continue barking. When she starts barking, shake a can of coins or use a Pet Corrector (compressed air) to get her attention, then call her to you. Ask her to sit. When she does, give her a reward word like “bingo” (always use the same reward word) and a treat. Then give her something to do, like play with a food-stuffed toy. Distraction is the best medicine for a barking dog.

As for barking at a dog during a walk, use one of the disruption techniques described above to get her attention, then, as you walk to the other side of the street, give her treats to keep her distracted. Keep walking and keep doing this until the other dog passes. Over time, she will learn she is going to get treats when she sees that dog and will start looking at you for that reward instead of barking.


(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 Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)




Daddy's Home Mike Du Jour Herb and Jamaal Caption It Diamond Lil The Other Coast