Ask the Cat Behaviorist with Mikel Delgado

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We’re super excited to introduce a new regular feature on The Conscious Cat: Ask the Cat Behaviorist with Mikel Delgado! We introduced you to Mikel last week. She is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant at Feline Minds, offering on-site consultations for cat guardians, shelters, and pet-related businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area, and remote consultations around the world. She is currently completing her PhD in Psychology at UC Berkeley, where she studies animal behavior and human-pet relationships.

“I’ve been obsessed with cats for as long as I can remember,” Mikel told me. After she began volunteering at her local animal shelter (the San Francisco SPCA,) she was particularly attracted to working with shy cats and cats who were having difficulty coping with the stress of being in a shelter. After she had been volunteering for about a year, the SPCA had an opening for a Cat Behavior Specialist. “I’d been volunteering so many hours that they offered me the job,” says Mikel. She quit her other job (in Human Resources at a health food co-op) to follow her passion to work with cats. “I haven’t looked back since,” she says.

Leave your questions for Mikel in a comment

Once a month, we’ll post a reminder for you to post your questions for Mikel. She’ll answer as many of them as she can, and I’ll publish her answers in a subsequent post. We’re kicking this new feature off today – so go ahead and leave your questions!

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25 Comments on Ask the Cat Behaviorist with Mikel Delgado

  1. Robin
    April 15, 2017 at 5:56 am (2 weeks ago)

    Just wondering when we might expect answers to our questions.

    Reply
    • Mikel
      April 20, 2017 at 8:15 am (5 days ago)

      Robin,
      I’m working on them now!

      Reply
      • Robin
        April 20, 2017 at 11:28 am (5 days ago)

        Thank you Mikel!

        Reply
  2. Serbella McGee
    April 12, 2017 at 2:27 pm (2 weeks ago)

    I recently adopted a part Maine Coon cat. Loki throws a fit whenever I pick him up. He also hates having his feet touched. This is a problem because he needs his claws clipped and also his ears need to be cleaned twice a month. At 13 pounds 2 ounces he is way too big to fight.

    I don’t know his background but I suspect he was adopted out and then returned because of this. The shelter was rather tight-tipped about his history. All they said was that cats don’t like to be picked up. Well, duh. Then how do they expect me to clip his claws and clean his ears at home?

    At first I used to wrap him up in a blanket. I didn’t like manhandling him and pretty soon he started to avoid me, so I stopped that. I used Calm Down, but it zoned him out too much. I like gradual and gentle methods of changing his behavior. I want him to know that being held is not something he should fear. Do you have any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Patti Zentara
      April 12, 2017 at 3:37 pm (2 weeks ago)

      Take your cat to the vet for nail
      clippings. Cats in general, don’t like it.
      Ears? Let a vet do that, as well. We are not to dig in our own ears, let
      alone theirs,
      My cat won’t let me brush or comb
      her unless I want to be bitten.
      You can have a cat lover friend chip
      her nails, while you have her firmly
      on a heavy pillow with a collar on
      her neck…it must be the kind that
      won’t pop open. They do growl and
      you have to keep their head in control.
      Cat bites are so painful. I posted earlier that I was in ER from them.
      Their teeth are like razors.
      How can a rescue shelter know what a cat’s history is! They do not, mostly. But they gave you a stupid response.
      I have had cats who loved being picked up. One wrapped her paws
      around my neck like a baby, he was a Norwegian Forest cat.
      My one pedigreed Maine Ccon was the worst. I was so disappointed. She was anything but a gentle giant.
      Save yourself and your cat stress.
      Let your vet handle nails and ears.
      Cats are not what they want them to be..they are who they are. Accept that, and work with cat as she is.
      Your cat doesn’t expect you to be other than who you are. Love her.
      The best thing you can do. Thank you for saving her.

      Reply
  3. hebe martorella
    April 12, 2017 at 11:02 am (2 weeks ago)

    Dear Ms. Delgado

    I live in Argentina where there is very few information about cats behaviours. I receive every day The Conscious
    Cat so I was lucky to meet you virtually.-

    All my life I have had cats since I adore them. Now I have a beautiful and sweet 4 year old callico, and I really need your wise assistance. She likes to bite wire of any kind and every night we have to disconnect all our wires and keep them out of her reach. Even so we are very scared that at any moment when we are distracted she might bite a wire and die. We love her very, very much. To loose her would be the most painful situation and of course that why I address to you.

    i have made other consultations without finding a solution, so imagine how important it is for us to receive your advice.

    I thank you in advance for all you could do, and let me express my admiration for all you do and have done for our nicest friends.

    I would be eagerly awaiting your kind advice.

    Reply
  4. JD
    April 12, 2017 at 5:04 am (2 weeks ago)

    I have four male cats, all indoor-only, aged 1 year, 3 years, 8 years and 10 years old. They all get along very well with each other and they all get along well with me and my wife.

    Our second youngest one, Little Bill, is extremely affectionate and loving and playful and silly and very easy going. But he also has this extremely obnoxious habit of spraying – he will back up to a wall or a door or a cabinet or a piece of furniture – and for no reason, stand there and with back end right up against whatever it is and spray, all the while looking like he’s in a trance-like state, with his eyes staring out blankly, until I scold him or shoo him away to get him to stop if I catch him in the act.

    He uses his litter box regularly and normally, and is in every other way a wonderful, sweet, adorable and well-behaved cat. I’ve taken him to our vet, and have had tests run on him to see if there was anything wrong, but as far as the tests have revealed and the vets can tell, he’s perfectly healthy.

    What could be causing him to do this – on a pretty regular basis?

    Reply
  5. Louie Andrade
    April 11, 2017 at 7:37 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Dear MD. We share a cat called Kitty Kitty with a neighbor, so half of it is ours. Our half likes to play ruff and bite and scratch my wife who is brave enough to pick him up. I just stare at him and once in a while pet him with a leather glove on. Why is he so mean? We feed him and buy him jerky by the pound, but still he act’s like a cop dog attacking a man in a training camp. What can trankquilize this T-REX in fur? Thank’s for any advice. Your Uncle Louie and Nanci down in Mexico.

    Reply
    • Mikel
      April 12, 2017 at 10:14 am (2 weeks ago)

      Hi Louie!! Answers to come <3

      Reply
    • Patti Zentara
      April 12, 2017 at 9:11 pm (2 weeks ago)

      Hi Unncle Louie and Nancy in Mexico! Love your sense of humor. I am good to my cat, Sedona, too who turns
      into Godzilla around 9pm on the dot. Having owned
      nine cats, I can say they all vary in temperaments.
      I don my carpal tunnel syndrome thing, since Sedona
      thinks my right arm is a leg of lamb with mint sauce!
      I have only had her four months…She comes to me
      when she feels like it. She is a near-by cat. Sedona
      wants to be in any room I am in. Just don’t pick her
      up!
      She is declawed in front. But those teeth really did a
      number on me. No, I did not declaw her, her previous
      owners did.
      Your neighbor and you might consider taking TRex to
      a vet. If she is outdoors..what about her getting rabies? If she does, you can get infected, She should be checked out, including for fleas, or whatever.
      You don’t want rabies shots. Why? They cost 1,010$
      a pop. And there are four of them. And no, they are
      not painful, except to the wallet. Ouch!
      Be safe, Louie and Nanci…)))

      Best wishes from California.

      Reply
      • Louie Andrade
        April 14, 2017 at 1:40 pm (2 weeks ago)

        Little Miss Missy, Thank you for the advice, Kitty Kitty is fixed but still spray’s in the house once in a while. He is not a street cat so He get flea spray or collared. We both us and other half owner’s take good care of Mr KK. When will he slow down and be niece? Your picture looks very good, I am proud that you found something that you like to do. We love you take care, Uncle Louie and Nanci.

        Reply
  6. Ligia Caldwell
    April 11, 2017 at 6:53 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Hello.
    I would like to ask about alternatives to keep my cats out of the kitchen counter.
    Thanks.

    Reply
  7. Patti Zentara
    April 11, 2017 at 3:57 pm (2 weeks ago)

    I have a one year old rescued calico who
    had been declawed. Poor Sedona!
    Cat is not a lap cat but sleeps at the
    foot of my bed. She follows me around the house.
    But touching her is dangerous. I tried to
    brush her in December and ended up in ER.
    She likes to grab my lower forearm and chew on it.
    She seems very bored as she cannot play
    with toys in her paws. My arm is her toy.
    Being elderly with thin skin, wow, it tears
    easily.
    She has a few toys but does not like them.
    She likes bendable straws the most. I gave her two balance bracelets that she carried
    around. She lobes carrying things.
    Anyway, she destroyed both bracelets with
    her teeth.
    I have no clue what type toy she likes.
    Dangling things frustrate her,,she cannot grab them.
    I always have had sweet, loving cats. She is
    loving in her own way. Just very unhappy.
    She has windows to look out of…and things
    to jump on. 7-9 pm..she gets super restless.
    Help! She wants me to be her fellow cat..
    I miss my lap cats very much. They were
    older. I hope she mellows out. I think I am
    doing something wrong. Thank you.

    Reply
  8. Patricia
    April 11, 2017 at 3:35 pm (2 weeks ago)

    Hi Mikel, is a weepy eye on a cat something to be concerned about? Like teary, not colored discharge.

    Reply
  9. Tami
    April 11, 2017 at 11:56 am (2 weeks ago)

    Hi Mikel. We have 2 rescue cats, 1 male, 1 female, both approx 3 yrs old. We got our female 3 wks before our male. They get along well. She is the dominant one, though not overly. We have been thinking about getting a third rescue and wondering if the sex of the third could/would matter. If our female is the more dominant one, should we lean towards getting a male? Does it even matter? Is it more about ‘how’ everyone is slowly introduced? We really have enough love for another but are a little trepidacious as our family has a great balance currently.

    Reply
  10. Lynne Wyre
    April 11, 2017 at 11:54 am (2 weeks ago)

    HI MIkel. I have a male cat, Kitty Cat, and he is about 8 years old. He has been spraying. I have had many cats and have been through this before but always so perplexing. I think it is behavioral and have tried the phermone wall plug ins and feliway sprays. He is an indoor cat although we have a screened in patio which basically allows him outside as well. Nothing new has changed in home. We do have a dog and another cat but they have been together for years. I have made a vet appt but usually find out there is nothing wrong with him.

    Reply
  11. Amy Allen
    April 11, 2017 at 10:42 am (2 weeks ago)

    My sister adopted a male feral kitten named Seri. Seri is in his own room and has been reaching out to the two adult resident cats, who want nothing to do with him. My sister has tried to feed all the cats by Seri’s door (two gates, one on top of the other), but the two residents won’t have any part of it, even if their favorite foods are served. Seri is still too skittish to be held, so my sister wouldn’t be able to get him back into his room if she let him out. Seri is not happy being cooped up in one room all the time. How can my sister help Seri? Thank you.

    Reply
  12. Katie
    April 11, 2017 at 10:28 am (2 weeks ago)

    I have a 4 cats, all male ages 2, 5, 11 and 18. The issues is with the 5 year old, we adopted him 2.5 years ago. He likes to attack and annoy the 18 year old. If the 18 year old, Bailey, is waiting by the door to go out on the deck, Finn the 5 year old, will go over and swat at him and sometimes jump on him. Finn is large and strong and Bailey is getting frail and I’m worried that he will get hurt one of these times. We try to play with Finn to wear him out, he also plays with the 2 year old. We will also squirt him with water when he’s bothering Bailey but that doesn’t affect him much. We are now trying to use Feliway diffusers. What else can you recommend to help? I don’t know what else to do and it’s very frustrating. Finn is a nice guy most of the time, except with Bailey. Thank you

    Reply
  13. Sharon
    April 11, 2017 at 9:56 am (2 weeks ago)

    Hello! One of my cats, Monsta, may have hanger-management issues . Late in the evening, he knocks everything off the coffee and end tables. Everything!! He’s broken several wine glasses, practically ruining a fav rug with my glass of Cabernet, and also broken several ceramic and glass items. He will stare at my husband and literally swipe at whatever is available, knowing he is being watched. I now have practically bare tables except for magazines, which I pick up every morning! Interestingly, he doesn’t do it when David is out of town, maybe because I go to bed earlier and am not in the living room to see his antics?! His obnoxious behavior typically stops once David feeds him, but not always as sometimes he will do it after eating his late night snack. He was a tiny, hypothermic kitten that a good citizen dropped off at work (at 3 weeks old, estimated) and I bottle fed him for weeks, he is now 10. Can you offer any insight and advice on how to stop his bad habit? Thanks!!

    Reply
  14. Lee
    April 11, 2017 at 9:21 am (2 weeks ago)

    I have a inside that that will not let me brush her at all.She never did like it,but now when she sees come w ith the comb she hids.I am very gental with t her and never hurt her.Vet said she is fine,just hates the combing .?

    Reply
  15. Marie
    April 11, 2017 at 9:03 am (2 weeks ago)

    I have a 3 yr male Ocicat, who’s instinct to hunt is very strong. We have a 40 acre farm so the opportunity is there for him, my question is how to discourage this? As I am concerned for his health at 3 mice a day. Any ideas?

    Reply
  16. wendy mourning
    April 11, 2017 at 8:02 am (2 weeks ago)

    How do I deal with a bully? I have 9 cats and one of them likes to pick on other cats. Usually it’s just one cat in particular that he picks on. She is the mom to his best cat friend and she gets so scared, and if I hear them I get very angry. He is a wonderful cat aside from this. Loving, vocal, he says mom but when he starts picking on the other cat I want to just scream.

    Reply
  17. Robin
    April 11, 2017 at 7:27 am (2 weeks ago)

    I have 2 rescue cats, one that is 7 years old that I’ve had for 2 years and one that is a year old that I’ve had for 5 months. After the initial introduction period they were getting along fine. In the last two months, the younger one started attacking the older one. She hides under the bed and waits for the older one to come in the room and then pounces on her back, which really upsets the older one. I’ve had her checked out by the vet and she says there’s no underlying medical issues and thinks it may just be jealousy, playing or domination and suggested I buy the Feliway diffuser to calm things down. That has not helped at all. In very concerned about this and don’t know what else to do. There have been no other changes in our home, schedule or environment. The older cat is already very skittish due to being abused by a previous owner and being put in a shelter 2-3 times before I got her and since this started she seems to be going backwards in her comfortableness and fear. Both cats are fine with me, but afraid of anyone else because of their being in the shelter I’ve been told. So unless we make a trip to the vet, they are only ever around each other and myself. Please help. I really need this behavior to stop so that my older cat is relaxed again and they can go back to being friends. Thank you.

    Reply
  18. Tytti
    April 11, 2017 at 3:23 am (2 weeks ago)

    Dear Mikel,
    we have a 2-year-old castrated male bengal cat. In early January he stated to act as if he was chewing on air. Sometimes it looks as if he’s eating invisible grass (more head movement involved) or then just chewing gum (only jaws move). He does this now almost every morning right after he wakes up, but also quite often in the evening. He is able to stop e.g. if we offer him cat candy. This never occurs when he’s doing something but only when he’s idle. He’s been to vet and animal neurologist. His mouth and throat have been checked, his blood tests (three times) are OK, he performs normally in neurological tests (twice), and his brain MRI was normal. We’ve tried drugs for heartburn and for epilepsy (Levetiracetam). The latter helped for a few days, then no effect. As almost everything else has been ruled out, he was diagnosed with obsessive compulsory disorder and neurologist prescribed Prozac. We haven’t tried Prozac yet because we’ve been slowly quitting giving Levetiracetam as was adviced. He is our only cat but we try to provide him with activities: we take him out on a leash for at least for an hour every day, and play with him inside. He loves toys with Actinidia polygama plant so he has them aplenty. We love him very much and want him to be happy and healthy. I’m not sure if this is a behavioral issue, but he’s physically healthy, thank God. We’d be very grateful for any advice or comments on this situation. There’s a (bad quality) video of the chewing on DropBox and I pasted the link to where website was asked below.

    Editor’s note: Dropbox link moved here https://www.dropbox.com/sh/lbsvi4evw4o4yc3/AABREyqtOj6GKGUTXfnXnbBda?dl=0&preview=video0072.3gp

    Reply

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