Dear Joan: I have an unusual question. It’s not a matter of life or death, just of curiosity.
Most of my life I’ve had cats and I know all about their bathroom habits. They do their business and then they cover it up, sometimes throwing litter all over my bathroom floor.
Recently, though, I adopted a little dog. He’s the cutest thing in the world and he gets along with the two cats. I really have no problems with him at all, but I wonder about something that he does.
When we go for a potty walk, he does his business and then tries to cover it up. He kicks leaves and dirt with his back feet.
Has he learned this from watching the cats? I’ve only had him a few months, but it sure seems like he’s trying to be a good cat.
– Laura L., San Jose, California
Dear Laura: No need to worry that your cats are influencing your dog, at least not in that department.
Cats cover their poop – well, most of them do, some don’t – to disguise the fact that they’ve been in the box or the neighbour’s yard. This behaviour goes back generations, to a time when wild cats stalked the lands.
Cats developed the practice of doing their business far from their dens, and of covering it up so that predators wouldn’t be attracted by the scent and follow it to the cats’ lairs. It’s the same reason wandering cats use the neighbour’s flower beds and not their own.
Dogs, however, aren’t trying to disguise anything, nor are they trying to cover their poop or urine. Dogs use their bodily functions as a way of marking their territory.
Once they’ve left a little pile or a lot of pee here and some more over there, they dig at the ground to further highlight their deposits. They are sending a signal to all who wander that this is their territory and it’s been plainly marked.
Dogs might be more inclined to do this in a new neighbourhood where they haven’t established their territory. However, I moved about a year ago and my dog, Bailey, still kicks the bark mulch everywhere when he’s done.
Dear Joan: I love my dog but I don’t like taking him for a walk. He has to stop and pee on everything and sniff all the bushes, and what should be a 10 minute walk turns into an hour.
What can I do to speed things up?
– Gary M., San Diego, California
Dear Gary: I understand your frustration, especially if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, but walking your dog is not just about the peeing and pooping.
Dogs have these amazing noses, able to detect the tiniest fraction of a scent among a million others. They learn about their surroundings, what other animals are out and about, and who’s been going where.
Sniffing all those odours is a treat for dogs, especially those that might be stuck in the house all day. To make them rush through it just isn’t right.
I know you’re in a hurry, but try giving the dog as much time as you can. Pick different routes so he can experience new scents and mark his territory with his urine. He will be a happier dog, and maybe you can learn to appreciate the relaxed pace, too.
If you do need to rush, try luring him back home with treats and a promise of a longer walk next time. – Tribune News Service/The Mercury News/Joan Morris