Ask The Vet

In this fortnightly column, veterinarians from the National Parks Board answer questions about pet health and behaviour

Cat meows constantly
Cat meows constantlyPHOTO: JOSEPHINE TAN

Cat meows constantly

My family and I adopted Juno, a four-year-old mixed Siamese, from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals last year. She has brought us much joy, but we are concerned that she may have separation anxiety. She follows me around almost everywhere, which is heartwarming, but meows incessantly when I am not with her. Also, when I go to bed, she will meow loudly and continuously for me to accompany her. When I take her to my room, she will want to go outside, but will again meow loudly for me to follow her. This usually keeps my other family members awake. How can we minimise this?

Josephine Tan

A plan for environmental and behavioural modification can be developed to tackle such behavioural issues. This usually requires detailed history-taking of the home environment and the interactions of your cat with household members first.

A detailed understanding of the circumstances surrounding the behaviour - including the environment, what happens before and after the behaviour, potential motivations for her vocalising behaviour, and what reinforces the behaviour - is important when confirming if the issue is truly separation anxiety and helping to identify what can be done to modify it.

Some questions to consider include: Does Juno direct this behaviour only at you or does she also react in the same way to other household members? Does it happen only when you are at home or does it also happen when you leave your home?

In some cases, the meowing behaviour could have been reinforced by what happens after she vocalises.

For example, she might have "meowed" to seek attention or play.

When she does so, perhaps to enter a room and you open the room door, this may inadvertently reinforce the behaviour. This means that she may repeat the behaviour when seeking attention in the future.

If this is indeed a contributing factor, you can schedule predictable social interactions - including play and social time - into Juno's daily routine, and reward her exhibiting relaxed and independent behaviour, such as spending time chilling out on a mat away from you, instead of seeking attention or food.

The attention-seeking behaviour should no longer be rewarded with attention. Instead, the cat can be directed to desirable behaviour, such as sitting on the mat, before getting rewarded.

If her behaviour is causing problems, you should seek help from an animal behaviour consultant.

To diagnose separation anxiety, it is important to first examine the animal and watch its behaviour.


Should female brindle Frenchie be spayed?

We own a female brindle Frenchie. She is around 11 months old and has had her first heat a month ago. There was just one instance of dripping of blood, but it stopped. Is this normal? She was lethargic for a day after that, but is now back to normal. If her menses is so light, should we still spay her? At what age should we do so? Also, she tends to eat her poop if we do not stop her in time. Why is this so?

Natasha Lee Xuan Lynn

The oestrus cycle in dogs differs from the menstrual cycle, so technically, it is not called menstruation. Instead, vaginal bleeding typically occurs on the first day of heat, but the amount varies and the onset may be missed. Spaying your dog can sometimes help with this.

Besides helping with vaginal bleeding, it is also important to spay your dog to reduce the risk of her developing certain diseases, such as mammary tumours, and prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Do discuss with your veterinarian when you spay your dog as he can provide a more informed recommendation based on your pet's history and lifestyle.

Eating poop, or coprophagia, can be normal behaviour in nursing dogs or young puppies. However, coprophagia has been linked to medical issues too, such as malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies. Hence it is important for you to take your dog to the vet for an examination.

Coprophagia is also associated with a lack of stimulation or enrichment, hunger, stress or anxiety, so it is important to discuss with your vet to determine if these issues could have contributed to the behaviour.

In the meantime, an easy way to avoid dealing with coprophagia is to be alert and promptly clean up after your pet has defecated.

  • Write in

    Have a query about your pet? E-mail it with clear, high-resolution pictures of at least 1MB, if any, and your full name to stlife@sph.com.sg. We reserve the right to edit and reject questions.

• Answers by Dr Denyse Khor, who cares for domestic pets as well as wildlife. Dr Khor, who graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2015, is a veterinarian in the Animal & Veterinary Service under the National Parks Board.

The story has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2020, with the headline 'Ask The Vet'. Print Edition | Subscribe