Understanding Your Pet's Behavior

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We just wanted to honor our favorite pal who passed away this summer.
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Jason K. Ervin
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Why do pets eat grass? Why do cats rub against people? The Almanac helps you understand (and love) your pet's behavior!

Why do cats and dogs eat grass?

Most do at some point and then vomit. While no one is certain why, some say it purges unpleasant toxins from their systems. Others say they just like the taste of grass. Whatever the reason, vets agree it causes no harm unless the grass of choice has been treated with chemicals.

Pets at Home Alone

Believe it or not, vets recommend putting on a video or the television to keep housebound dogs and cats from getting totally bored if they're home alone all day. Other loneliness or boredom cures include playing music or calling home to talk to the answering machine. A bird-feeder outside a strategically placed window can provide entertainment for cats. An aquarium with a few fish (and the top on!) will also keep a kitty occupied. And dogs always love their chew toys.

When Pets Get the Blues

Pets get depressed for some of the same reasons humans do. Illness, loneliness, lack of exercise, or a major change of lifestyle such as moving to a new home can all lead to a pets depression. It is difficult to distinguish depression from symptoms of physical illness, so a careful watch is necessary. If a mopey cat goes without eating for 36 hours, or a dog for 48 hours, it's time to call a vet. In the meantime, here are some things to try with your pet that will be healthy, even if it's not depression:

  • Lots of playing and vigorous walks outdoors.
  • Put up a mirror where a pet can see his reflection. This might reduce feelings of loneliness, if that's the depression trigger.
  • Make sure your pet is included when you have visitors or a new baby in the house.
  • Playing music, particularly classical, seems to have a positive effect on many pets.
  • Dogs may be jolted out of the blues with a new friend. Visit a park or doggy day-care center or class.
  • A cat will love more stimulation outside her window, so attract birds to your yard and make sure she has plenty of scenic vistas.

Why Cats Do the Things They Do

Catnip Behavior

Why does one cat like catnip, while the next one ignores it? Cats under three months old probably won't respond at all. Males are more likely to respond than females, and unneutered males respond the most because catnip mimics the chemical found in female cat urine. The cat-active ingredient in catnip is nepatalactone.

​Is it me or the food?

Cats rub against people and objects to mark and claim their territory.

​Up But Not Down

If cats are natural-born climbers, why are they notorious for getting stuck in trees? Cats may be afraid of falling, or nervous about the commotion on the ground below them. Usually a cat will come down within a day if left alone, but a cat who's been stuck for much longer may need to be rescued.

Why Dogs Do the Things They Do

A Bark is Not Just a Bark

You can learn to recognize what your dog is trying to say with his barks and whines. Whining between barks generally means he is frightened or doesn't want you to leave (separation anxiety). Barking a long time, with brief pauses between similar barks, means he is probably bored. An exuberant bark means it's playtime.

'Fraidy Dog

Many dogs are afraid of loud noises. You can make yours feel safer by giving him his own small space to crawl into, like a crate or cage. You may want to cover it with a blanket, but leave the door open. As with humans, relaxing music may calm a dog during a thunderstorm.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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