Your Cat Would Like Food Puzzle Toys

Food puzzles will help satisfy your cat’s hunting instinct, but most cats are missing out. Here's what they are and how to get (and keep) your cat interested in them.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

A new paper on food puzzles for cats has plenty of ideas to get everyone started on these wonderful enrichment items. The research, led by Mikel Delgado (University of California, Berkeley; Feline Minds), combines a review of the scientific literature on food toys as feline enrichment with practical tips gained from the authors’ work as feline behaviour practitioners.

Food puzzles are toys that make your cat do some work to get the food out of them. Maybe they have to stick their paw in and pick pieces of food out, or maybe they roll it around with their nose or paw to make food fall out of the holes. There are many different types of food toys, some of which stay in one place and others that the cat has to move around.

“It's a great way to give your cat something to do to keep them busy and get…

Behaviour Problems in Guide Dogs

The behavioural reasons why guide dogs sometimes end their working lives early, and what it means for pet dogs.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

A study by Geoffrey Caron-Lormier (University of Nottingham) et al looks at twenty years of data from Guide Dogs (UK). During this time, 7,770 working guide dogs, who had worked with blind or partially sighted people, were withdrawn from service. By far the most common reason was retirement, which applied to 6,465 dogs (83%). The authors looked at the reasons why other dogs were withdrawn from working.

Most of the dogs are bred specifically to be guide dogs, although some came from breeders. The most common breeds are Labrador and Golden Retriever x Labrador. They go through a five-stage training process before being matched with a blind or partially sighted person when they are about 2 years old.

There were three main behavioural reasons why guide dogs were withdrawn from service: environmental anxiety, training issues (a lack of willingness to work or co…

Educating Children Reduces Risky Behaviour Around Dogs

Dog safety education for children works, according to a systematic review of existing research.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

The CDC estimates that 4.5 million Americans are bitten by a dog every year. Children are at high risk, and bites to children are often more severe than those to adults. Bites to the head and neck are more common than for adults because children are smaller.

The CDC says “Among children, the rate of dog-bite–related injuries is highest for those 5 to 9 years old. Children are more likely than adults to receive medical attention for dog bites.”   When young children are bitten by a dog, it is typically indoors and by a dog they know or live with, often when the child approaches a dog that is lying down or stationary.

The best ways to teach children about dogs are investigated in a systematic review of the literature by Jiabin Shen (University of Alabama at Birmingham) et al.

The review focussed on cognitive and behavioural interventions aimed at children (such as how to beh…

Summer Reading

If you’re looking for some summer reading, here are some favourite stories, photos, and even a short film - plus the chance for your pet's photo to appear on Companion Animal Psychology.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

“Volunteering to build fences can help deliver dogs (and their owners) from chains.” Freeing dogs with fences by Bronwen Dickey.

Julie Hecht on pointing: “this one little gesture, in all its complexity, could be a core feature of the intimate bond we share with dogs.”

I was saddened to learn of the imminent demise of the science blogging site The news led me to revisit one of my favourite posts in which Prof. Malcolm Campbell writes about what the dog really saw. “If ever you need to be reminded that we each have our own way of looking at the world, take a dog for a walk at night.” (If you don’t already, follow him on twitter for six incredible things before breakfast and links to all the best science writing).

“Those of us with dogs who will do a rocket recall have s…

Reward-Based Training is for All Our Pets

And it can teach us about ourselves too. Highlights from the first Train for Rewards blog party.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Recently, I invited fellow bloggers to join me in writing about reward-based training of our companion animals. I did not know how many (if any) would want to join in. So when the big day came and 25 other bloggers joined me in sharing posts on this topic, I was delighted.

I was especially pleased that dogs, cats and horses were all represented, because dogs aren’t the only animals that need training.

Reward-based training for dogs, cats, horses...
“Nobody bats an eye if you talk about dog training, but mention cat training one time and the couch delivery guys give you a look and refuse your offer of a glass of water (obviously spiked with a crazy cat training potion). The perception that cats are untrainable is false, and it can hinder happy unions between cats and their people. Dogs and cats learn every day, and through training, we can harness the associations they mak…

How Many Cats Are Stressed at the Vet?

New research shows just how stressed cats are at the vet, but there’s a lot we can do to help.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

A recent study found 30% of dogs are very stressed in the waiting room at the vet, and it turns out things are even worse for cats.

It comes as no surprise to learn many cats are stressed by visits to the veterinarian. A new study by Chiara Mariti (University of Pisa) et al explores the scale of the problem, and has important suggestions for both cat guardians and vets on how to make things better.

The survey found some cats are so stressed the vet is not able to examine them properly. 789 of the 1,111 cats in the study were reported to have been aggressive to a vet at some point. 24% had bitten or scratched their guardian at the vet.

Many cats had areas that were off-limits for being touched by the vet, including the tummy, tail and genital area. Only 32% of the cats let the vet touch them anywhere.

When it came to vet procedures, cats were none too happy about these eithe…

The Train for Rewards Blog Party is now on

There is a fantastic set of posts by some brilliant bloggers in the Train for Rewards blog party. Check it out now!

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. She is the founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, where she writes about everything from training methods to the human-canine relationship. She also writes a column for Psychology Today and has received the prestigious Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Article in 2017. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband, one dog, and two cats.

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