Fur Your Information: Why cats perch

Today's Fur Your Information questions come from

Yahoo! Answers -- and helping us solve a couple of pet mysteries today is Dr. Lori Pasternak, DVM of Richmond, VA. Let's get to it!

Q: My cat frequently climbs on my computer desk; rather than just standing anywhere on the vast space of the desk, he will always go and sit on my thick study book! I noticed cats in general do this a lot; they will sit on the highest point of an area, even if it's only like an inch or something higher. Why do cats do this?

A: Cats like heights because they can get a better view of their surroundings. Being territorial animals, they like to survey their territory once in a while and note the movements of people and other animals in their area. Furthermore, since cats are natural predators, heights give them a good vantage point where they can quietly watch and wait for an opportune time to pounce on their prey. Perching gives cats a feeling of security. They will use every advantage they can get, even a one-inch-thick book.

Q: I'm used to my Pomeranian following me around the house like my own tail…but lately he's getting somewhat over-attached to me, like when I go to the bathroom. He used to just stay on the sofa or wait for me by the door, but now he scratches the door like crazy, enough to make my dad say that if he doesn't stop scratching the doors, he's going to put the dog in a cage…so now I have to bring him to the bathroom whenever I have to use it. There are also times when I go out to buy something, the dog would also scratch the screen door (which has suffered greatly and has multiple holes now).

Last week I had to sleep in the hospital for a full week due to my mom's operation, and during that time the dog wouldn't eat, wouldn't listen to any of my family members, wouldn't even bark. He would just stay by the screen door looking outside. On the third night of my hospital stay, at around 3 AM, I was told that he was howling and crying at the top of his voice, that the neighbors called and asked what we were doing to the dog! And he STARES at me ALL THE TIME…now I even have to sneak out on him to go to school! Is this a serious case of separation anxiety, or he just loves me too much? I searched through Cesar Millan's 'Dog Whisperer' episodes, but nothing really answers it.

A: A serious case of separation anxiety indeed. Dogs, by nature, are pack animals so being away from their "pack" or "pack leader" is very stressful. There are several causes and many solutions. Just like people, every dog is unique and the solution may be as simple as socialization or as complex as needing to get a trainer involved to help solve the problem. The good news is that thanks to people like Cesar Millan and Victoria Stillwell, good dog trainers are easier to find. Check out CCPDT (Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers) for a recommended trainer in your area.

Lori Pasternak, DVM, graduated from Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1998. She worked in a full-service practice in Richmond, VA for 13 years prior to opening Helping Hands Affordable Veterinary Surgery and Dental Care.