Your Cat Questions Answered by a Pro

Class Act Cats is a feline behavior consultation service run by Joey Lusvardi based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He services the Twin Cities metro area including Minneapolis, St. Paul, and surrounding suburbs, but is available for virtual consultations wherever you are located, too! See our previous interview with him here:

Below are Joey’s answers to previously submitted questions by a variety of cat owners from our website. If you have your own question, submit it here:

Question: Braveheart has a tendency to hang her head over an object until she begins to choke. Trashcan, boxes, planters… she seems to lay there until she starts coughing. Any thoughts? 

Joey: This definitely sounds concerning as you don’t want the sweet girl to get hurt! My first thought would be making sure she has had a veterinary exam in case there’s something physically wrong with her that may be contributing to that problem. A vet visit is always a good place to start if you’re unsure about behavior concerns as they can make sure there’s not a medical reason for it. If your vet gives her the clear, you could try modifying the environment so she doesn’t have access to places she tends to hang her head over and provide her with an alternative place that may be safe. C cozy cat bed with a soft rim that’s less likely to press into her throat seems like a great option. You could even cover the edges of some of those places with some soft foam to make it easier to rest on to see if that helps. Places like the trashcan sound like she’d be safer not hanging out in there regardless so putting a lid it may be the easier solution anyway.

Question: My ex and I are fighting over my cat Gulo, I rescued him at 5 weeks and I’m fairly certain he’s imprinted to me but she claiming her cat will get sick from separation anxiety because it happened once before but I think that’s just familiarity bias because she has a habit over over reacting

Joey: If I’m interpreting the situation correctly, there is a second cat that your ex has that she’s claiming your cat is attached to, but sounds like your cat is also attached to you, too. Regardless of where the cat ends up, it sounds like he’s going to be separated from an attachment figure. You’re not causing your cat any extra distress by keeping and he may actually be more distressed if he’s separated from you. You have nothing to feel guilty about by taking him with you and you won’t be causing him any extra stress other than what is inevitable for the situation.

Question: Why is my cat obsessed with going under things? He goes under blankets, under throw rugs, etc? It’s cute and funny, but I’m just curious! 

Joey: Your cat likely finds those locations to be safe places! Many cats like hiding in cozy nooks or under things as it helps them feel secure. Cats are predators, but they’re also prey so he likely feels more comfortable being hidden away under something. If he ever pounces as you walk by, he may be trying to engage you in play, too! You could try harnessing this by getting a towel and moving a wand toy around under it to get him to play with it. Just be sure not to use your hands or feet when playing with him even if there is a towel there. You never want a cat to associate your hands or feet with play time or you’re asking to get bitten!

Question: My cat  Callie is very overweight (she is 15lb, but should be closer to 8lb), and she gained most of it right after being spayed. I’ve tried wet food, dry food, prescription food, raw food, feeders with a timer, chip based feeders and she just keeps getting bigger. She’s OBSESSED with food. She’s quite active (has a cat wheel even), and the vet tells me the blood work looks normal. What can I do to make her less food motivated? If I try to cut down her calories to 1/4 cup a day like the vet tells me she drives me NUTS begging and begging and begging, even becoming destructive. What can I do to help her be healthier without losing my sanity or having a destroyed house? Do I just need to tough out her dieting rebellion phase? (When we received her she was extremely underweight of that helps.) Please help, any guidance would be super appreciated! 🙁

Joey: Those behaviors sound like she’s genuinely really, really hungry and that the weight loss plan is too aggressive. According to “Canine and Feline Nutrition” by Linda Case and colleagues, an 8.8 pound cat would need somewhere around 240 calories per day. She could be getting as little as half that amount if she’s getting about 1/4 cup of food per day (thought that varies greatly depending on the actual calorie content of the food, but that was an estimate I was able to find for that amount of food) It would be the equivalent of a human being restricted to 1000 calories per day. I know I’d probably break a few things if that’s all I was allowed to eat! Also according to “Canine and Feline Nutrition,” too aggressive weight loss plans can come with some very serious risks to your cat’s health, too. It would be worth talking to your vet about a different plan. You could also try to locate a veterinary nutritionist to do a consultation with who has more specific training in nutrition and may be able to help you come up with a more successful plan. You can find more information here:

Question: Our Kyra is just over 2 years old. As a kitten (apl adoption at 10 1/2 weeks, litter abandoned too young). she was so sweet & cuddly. Now she’s NOT! She got along great with the then 2 1/2 yr old I nannied. , he’s never been nasty or teased her. I’d pull him in a box “train” & she’d jump in and ride with him. She’d nap cuddled up to him. He’s now 4 & has a 1 1/2 year old sister. Kyra wants to be right next to the kids while they’re having quiet play (hotwheels, legos ect). Doesn’t bat them or engage. But then, out of nowhere. They’ll be walking . Not even close to her. And she’ll run up & lash out. Using her claws.
They are terrified of her. The 4 year old cry’s & says “I remember when we used to be friends.” It’s heartbreaking I don’t let the 1 1/2 yr old near her. We are all constantly on edge. She does occasionally run up to me & bop my legs. But not with claws.
If you try to pet her. You take your life into your own hands. She’ll bite & claw.
I play fetch with her & have active playtime several times daily. She has her own cat tree for clawing. She has motorized toys. She has an outside catio. I’m at whits end. I worry about the kids safety. Husband wants her declawed. I do not want to do that

Kyra: This is a very tough spot to be in. I’m going to make two very clear recommendations: The first is that I unequivocally recommend against declawing your cat as you are going to be putting your children and your family in MORE danger. I totally understand the logic that removing the claws would be safer. That’s not how it usually plays out, however. Cats who get declawed lose a set of weapons, but they still have their teeth and often end up biting more. Claws are the less dangerous set of weapons compared to teeth. Cat bites can very easily become seriously infected. You are forcing your cat to jump right to the most dangerous weapon. Your cat will be likely to bite as well as the underlying problem causing her to scratch currently isn’t being addressed. It will not solve to problem to declaw her and I can guarantee the results will be more stress for you and your family.

That said, this is an extremely risky situation. My second suggestion is that I absolutely think you need an individual consultation with a feline specialized behavior consultant, your regular veterinarian, or a veterinary behaviorist as it sounds too dangerous to address with anything less than a full assessment with all information about the situation. Whoever you work with will be able to go into much more detail and give you an individualized plan that will keep everyone safe and will address whatever it is that is bothering your cat. They’ll also be able to work with you over time to really address the behavior and modify things based on how your cat reacts which I can’t do here, unfortunately. Some things you can do to prepare would be trying to capture the behavior on video and keep a log of when it is happening, what was happening beforehand, where it happened, and what happened after. The more information you can track the better as it will help them help you. You can find a local behavior consultant through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants or Pet Professional Guild very easily. If there isn’t anyone local, many behavior consultants, myself included, offer virtual consultations which are just as effective as an in person session. If you need help finding local resources as well feel free to reach out to me and I’m happy to see if I can recommend anyone in your area.