Have you ever taken a step back and wondered why on Earth your dog or cat does certain things? Most pet owners have a few unsolved pet mysteries that they have found themselves pondering upon…. and maybe we have an answer for your peculiar pet questions.
Why Dogs Can’t Keep Their Tongues Out of Ears
Many dogs enjoy some pretty strange (and often questionable) habits. You probably have seen a dog who, at some point, seems to enjoy ear licking, whether the ear belongs to another dog, a kitty companion, or even you.
As with many mysteries, there is no one, single answer–it can depend on the dog. If only we could ask dogs to explain why they might choose to dine on ear wax.The list below is our best speculations about why dogs may exhibit this peculiar behavior:
- As a sign of affection, ease and comfort among family members
- As a social means of communicating respect or submission within the pack
- As a mutual grooming behavior
- Due to a problem (infection, unusual smell) in the ear of the animal being licked
- Because the dog happens to enjoy the taste of earwax (eww!)
Occasional ear licking is no big deal, but if the behavior becomes excessive it is best to discourage it to avoid excessive moisture in the ear canal. The best way to discourage it is to distract your dog with a walk, toy or attention, but know that it will take time.
Catnip Crazed Cats
Watching a cat enjoying catnip can be quite an entertaining experience. What is in the plant that just makes some cats go bonkers after eating it? This one is easy:
Catnip is an herb that originated in the Mediterranean. It contains a compound responsible for making kitties crazy. The compound mimics natural feline pheromones, resulting in strange behaviors such as licking, head rubbing, and body contortions for up to 15 minutes after exposure.
In true non-conformist cat fashion, about 30% of cats couldn’t care less about catnip and are seemingly unaffected.
The Knead-y Cat
Most cats exhibit the behavior of kneading (alternately pushing in and out with the front paws) at some time or another. Cats, in their constant effort to remain a mystery, like to perform these types of actions for seemingly no reason. We don’t know exactly why kitties seem to like to make biscuits, but we do have a few ideas.
Cats may knead because:
- It is an instinctive comforting need, such as when kittens perform a similar action while nursing
- Or an effort to fluff up that perfect napping spot
- They are trying to mark their territory using the scent glands in the paws
Kneading causes no harm in most cases, so simply smile and watch them be knead-y.
The Greatest of the Pet Mysteries–Poop Eaters
Everyone knows one: a poop eater. Some dogs just can’t help themselves. Certain dogs will eat any feces available, some dine on the delicacy of cat droppings, and a few are only interested in poop-sicles in the dead of winter. Poop eating, referred to in polite circles as coprophagia, is gross no matter which way you slice it.
Pups who eat poop may do so for a variety of reasons. These can include:
- For attention–even negative attention
- To clean up after their young (totally normal for mama dogs)
- As a normal behavior in immature puppies
- Being hungry
- For nutritional value (especially when ingesting feces of other species)
- Due to a compulsive behavior
- As a relic of evolution
- As a response to multiple pet households. Studies show this behavior is more likely to occur when the pet is not an ‘only’ pet.
Coprophagia tends to bother pet owners much more than it does pets, and is relatively harmless. If you have a compulsive poop-eater, be sure to have us take a look at your pet so we can be sure that there is no nutritional or health problem that might be contributing to the behavior.
In lieu of a medical reason for poop-eating, a good defense is often the best offense. Clean up after your pets as soon as possible and train your pet to “leave it” on command. If possible, make sure that you are out in your yard with your dog when he goes to the bathroom so you can clean it up before he gets a chance to eat it.
Ask your vet about a substance to add to your dog’s food that causes the feces to taste bad. While at the vet, ask whether your dog may need some kind of diet change. In the end, eating poop is very gross, but also very natural. The best thing you can do is prevent them from the feces itself and promise to love them anyways!
Pets are a never-ending source of entertainment and wonder. We hope that we answered a few of the great pet mysteries for you. Let the staff at Union Lake Pet Services know if you have another pet mystery that you have always wondered about and we can try to solve the mystery in a future blog.