THE WASHINGTON POST – Dogs and cats often act funny and disconcerting. Sometimes science can explain their behaviors.
Other times, driving them may require a trip to the vet. And, sometimes, there’s no logic to what they’re doing, or why they’re doing it.
The Washington Post invited readers to submit photos and videos of their pets doing funny, wacky, or inexplicable things, then asked for feedback from animal behavior experts.
They are director of the Thinking Dog Center at CUNY Hunter College Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere; Director of the Arizona Canine Cognition Center at the University of Arizona Evan MacLean; Monique Udell, director of the Human-Animal Interaction Laboratory at Oregon State University; founder of Feline Minds Mikel Delgado; assistant professor of animal health and behavior at Unity College Kristyn Vitale; and canine researcher and PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast Clara Wilson.
The photos and videos lack context, so the ideas expressed by the researchers should be considered anecdotal and speculative.
“Many experts and non-experts will vary in what they think is going on here,” Byosiere said. “There may be more explanations. Only with more footage and insight can we begin to refine our thoughts.
GHOST, THE female dog WHO JUST DISCOVERED THAT SHE HAS FEET
Ghost, a one-year-old Australian cattle dog, decided to go after his own leg, says his human, Joan Houston.
MacLean: “It could be playful, but sometimes this kind of behavior actually reflects a problem. Sometimes it’s the result of trauma and stereotypical behavior associated with ‘floating limb syndrome’, which also occurs with the tail.
“Or the dog could be reacting to an unpleasant sensation on the leg, which could reflect an underlying physical condition. Cute if it happens once or twice playfully, but if it’s a regular behavior, it’s good behavior to share with the vet.
Udel: “There are several reasons why a dog may appear to attack or bite parts of its own body, such as a paw or leg. If this is a new behavior, the first thing to rule out is a medical condition. such as allergies or an injury that could bring attention to the area.
“Dogs sometimes chew or lick themselves in unusual or excessive ways when under-stimulated or stressed. Some dogs may also react compulsively to the movement of their own body parts as prey. Although the behavior does not not always cause a problem, this behavior can often signal an underlying condition that is causing the dog distress and should be discussed with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.
EVIE, THE CAT WHO LOVES TO PLAY WITH RABBITS
“Evie is a very eccentric cat,” said her human, Lucy Kershen. “She is very talkative and still has a kitten voice, even though she is over a year old. She is a very sweet cat and she loves to play with our other pets, including our rabbits. Her most distinctive is perhaps her third eyelid, which is often visible at the corner of her eye.The eyelid does not hinder her ability to see, but it does make her unique.
Vital : “This cat has struck up a friendship. Despite common stereotypes that cats are socially distant, given the right life experiences, cats can develop loving relationships with many different animals.
“I’ve heard other stories of cats being unexpected friends with potential prey like birds and rodents.”
Delgado: “I would check with a vet as it is my understanding that the appearance of the third eyelid is usually related to a medical issue. It’s not a behavioral oddity.
“Cats and rabbits can be great friends and playmates, when introduced and supervised properly.”
MILO, THE CAT WHO EATS BASKETS
“Milo likes to chew on his beds,” said Chris Lindeman, the animal’s parent. “He did this with his basket and made such a mess, I took it out, now he does it with a cardboard box. He doesn’t eat it, he chews it and spits it out. He’s a cat from We got him when he was two years old in January 2018.
“He is missing a canine, which was rotten and had to be removed when we adopted him. He is tall and healthy and very happy, does not scratch or chew anything else. We’ve never seen a cat do this particular weird thing before.
Vital : “Playing involves natural behaviors, like chasing, chasing or even tearing baskets. Domestic cats generally do not find prey in the house. For this reason, cats sometimes treat household items as prey.
“This cat is probably exploiting its natural predatory behavior to dissect something, but it is playfully directed towards a basket rather than a bird or mouse.”
Delgado: “Cats can chew non-food items for a variety of reasons, including digestive issues, dental ailments, boredom, or just because they like it.
“When the cat ingests non-food items, it’s a condition called pica. It looks like we just chew and don’t swallow.
“I always recommend mentioning this to your vet to make sure there are no behavioral medical issues. I think the cardboard is safer to chew on than the basket because those little bits could be swallowed.
“When I am introduced to a client who has a ‘chewer’, we always look for ways to create a more stimulating environment, such as climbing perches, scratching posts, bird feeders to look out the window and interactive games where the human moves a wand toy for their cat several times a day.
“You can also try some of the ‘safe chew toys’ designed for cats, or ask your vet if your cat can get the bigger kibbles that are bigger and give cats a way to crunch and chew.”
DOUGLAS, THE DOG WITH THE ‘DEATH ROLL’
Douglas, a two-year-old golden retriever, likes to “drop down and play dead halfway through,” said his human, Ethan Lee. “I call it the ‘death roll’ because it rolls and stops moving.”
Wilson: “Dogs learn quickly, and many behaviors that seem random to us often serve a function for your dog. When your dog starts doing something new, you may wonder, ‘What is the outcome for my dog when he behaviour ?
“Adorable Douglas may have learned that rolling onto his back on walks attracts attention, even inadvertently. All eyes are now on him, belly rubs, strangers coming to interact, the walk lasts longer, or maybe even treats offered as an incentive to walk again.
Byosiere: “If you watch the video slowly, you will see the walleye put its nose to the ground for a few seconds before turning around. Once upside down, you see a lot of nose licking. You see this nose licking when dogs are trying to get olfactory sensory information. For example, in dogs with scent detection or dogs that work their noses, you will see them doing this during the search.
“My thought here is that there is something extra delicious and the dog would like to know more! It took a break from the walk to gather all the scent information and there’s a bit of groundwork that dogs sometimes do when they find things fun to smell – for them; we usually don’t like what they ride.
SOPHIE, THE CAT SLEEPING IN A LAMP
“Sophie loves to sit and sleep on one of the arms of my sofa,” said her mother, Ruth Faerber. “There is a table next to this part of the sofa with a large table lamp. Sophie sits on her hind legs on this arm, puts her head under the lampshade, places her paws on either side of the lamp and falls asleep. If that lamp isn’t on, she goes to two other tables with table lamps and takes a nap or sunbathes under her personal heat lamp. I have had cats for 46 years and although she is very sweet, she is definitely the most eccentric.
Wilson: “Although most species of feral cats remain isolated during the day, some feral cats have been recorded to come out of hiding to bathe in patches
“The house cat seems to have retained this attribute, as we often see cats attracted to the light and warmth found where sunlight strikes. Sophie probably realized cleverly that even on a rainy day the lamp provides a source heat and light perfectly suited to relax.
Udel: “Cats have a natural higher body temperature than humans, so what may seem like a comfortable room temperature to us may feel a little cold to them. Many cats also like to rest in enclosed spaces, one of the reasons for which boxes, drawers and other hidden places are among the preferred sleeping places of cats.
“While this cat’s choice to nap standing on a lamp is truly original, it may gain both warmth and a sense of protection from the place.”
LIZZIE, THE female dog WHO TALKS TO GHOSTS
Lizzie is a five year old English Bulldog rescue. Lizzie talks to ghosts in our historic home, said pet parent Joshua Levin. She comes alive and barks enthusiastically for nothing.
She often stops, seems attentive for a while, then barks more as if responding. She only does this before the sun rises in that part of the house.
Wilson: “It’s possible that Lizzie notices the way interior lights are reflecting off the glass. This could be why it only happens when there is little natural light outside, as these reflections are fade as the sun rises.Some dogs, especially herding breeds, have been reported to react similarly to light glare, which can become problematic if the behaviors become obsessive.Further investigation would be necessary to understand the basis of this behavior, but given that it only occurs in a certain place and at a certain time, there is probably something triggering it.
Udel: “Dogs can hear and smell things beyond the range of human perception, so often our dogs may seem to be barking for nothing when there really may be something there.
Watching Lizzie’s video suggests she might be looking at windows that reflect the image of the room and the individuals in it.