Pet Podcast

Cat problems – Interview with animal behaviorist Sherry Bedard – Pet podcast #10 on

Pet podcast #10 features an interview with animal behaviorist Sherry Bedard. Sherry consults with clients privately when they have pet behavior issues, she teaches animal behavior courses at Vanier College and volunteers her services as a professional dog trainer at the SPCA. For this interview we talk about cats and the issues cat owners have. If you ever need Sherry’s services, you can contact her by email maggie357(at)hotmail(dot)com. Products spoken about during this interview include the repellent ssscat.

You can download this pet podcast directly by clicking the preceding link or listen to it almost immediately, with the embedded player below.


Please note that this is an audio transcription. grammar and punctuation may not be perfect.

::Intro Music::

Marko Kulik: Hi there everyone and welcome to the Pet Podcast on My name is Marko. We are coming to you from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and today is February 6, 2007. For today”s show, we are going to talk with Sherry Bedard, who is an animal behaviorist and she is going to tell us a little bit about cats, give us some info and some good tips and some trivia, all on cats, but before we get into that, I would like very much to thank a couple of people that left comments. So, Danielle and Peter, they left some nice comments about our last podcast and I really appreciate it and as always, I encourage more people to leave more comments. You can do so directly on the blog, You can do so in the bulletin board, just go to and make your way to the bulletin board or you can send me a direct email at and it will be my pleasure to respond. You can suggest further topics, comment on something we have spoken about and it is very much appreciated. So, our interview with Sherry is about 20 minutes long. Let us just get into it right now.

So, I would like to welcome Sherry Bedard, who is our special guest today. Sherry is an animal behaviorist. She knows an incredible amount about dogs and cats. Today, we are going to rack her brain about cats. She teaches privately and she also is an excellent volunteer at the SPCA. She has been doing this for many, many years. So, we are going to pick Sherry”s brain today and we are going to welcome her. Hi, Sherry.

Sherry Bedard: Hi.

Marko Kulik: Nice to have you on the line.

Sherry Bedard: Thank you.

Marko Kulik: Okay. So, we are going to get right into it. We are just going to start asking you a bunch of questions about cats and you can give us the knowledge that you have gained throughout the years and help a lot of people in the process. So, I guess like first off, a lot of people will get new houses and new apartments and then they get cats and they bring their animals into that apartment, what should they notice? What should they be aware of when they bring their cat into their house or apartment for the first time?

Sherry Bedard: Well, with any animal, cat or dog, I would recommend that they try to keep their cat to a confined area at first and slowly give the cat time to look over its new domicile. If by chance the cat, you notice he is smelling in a certain area and he does not seem to be moving on too much, I would pay more attention to that area and maybe go into a special cleaning agent that might get off that particular enzyme that might be in that area that the cat might be smelling. The reason why this is important to get first is because if not, your cat will start marking that area, too, in which case it will just add to the smell in the house.

Marko Kulik: So, the cat can easily pick up other pets that have been there before.

Sherry Bedard: Yes, yes, most definitely.

Marko Kulik: The cat is going to react to that smell right away.

Sherry Bedard: Yes. Most likely not in a sense that he is going to go and start spraying the walls and stuff like that right way, however, later on in the future, he may start.

Marko Kulik: The common products to use to get that stuff out, people can find things like this in any pet shop?

Sherry Bedard: Yes, any pet shop. If you are looking for something in particular for that enzyme, you would be looking at products like SOX or Sergeant stain remover or any kind of odor remover specifically for cats. You have one that is for both cats and dogs, but a cat has a special enzyme that is different from dogs, which create such a strong smell compared to dog”s urine and that is the one that you want to get if it is for cats.

Marko Kulik: Okay. Okay. So, if you have one lying around for dogs, spend the extra bucks, get it for cats because the dog one, it is just not good enough for the cat”s special scent.

Sherry Bedard: That is right.

Marko Kulik: Okay. I was wondering also if you could tell us, a lot of people get cats and dogs actually, too, but a lot of people get pets without thinking about them, about thinking about the decision rather of getting a pet. What would be the biggest mistake that people make when they get cats in particular?

Sherry Bedard: I would say the biggest mistake that they get is not realizing changes in their schedule, the time that they actually have to spend with their cats. If for example, they are students in school, they go to school from September to June. Their schedule is pretty hectic because in order to make ends meet, they also have to work evenings. Well, that does not leave very much time for the cat. The cat can adjust, however, not like a dog, but the problem arises when all of a sudden the student is out of school for summer vacation for a couple of months. This totally offsets the cat”s routine. By offsetting the cat”s routine, the cat becomes very confused and the poor little kitty can all of a sudden decide that he is going to defecate next to his litter box or start urinating in a certain area. Normally, this would happen on someone”s bed. The cat will start urinating on the person”s bed because the cat does not know what he is doing. He is a little bit confused. At the same time, if the person is home often like for example a stay-at-home mom and then all of a sudden after about a year, everyone is leaving and they are gone for long periods of time, the cat can then become a little bit angry and start urinating all over the house, not just on the person”s bed.

Marko Kulik: Okay. So, I am just wondering is it the fact that the cat is confused or is it a retaliatory behavior on the part of the cat?

Sherry Bedard: It depends on the situation. Cats like dogs, like people, they have many different emotions and they can experience these through confusion, anger, sadness, joy. Just the sense of territorial marking can actually set them off to this, too, which is what I had previously mentioned in what to look for when you first move in to your new house. The cat, do not get me wrong, could also be experiencing medical problems. The cat, for example, has stones or has a bladder infection, urinary infection. This could actually cause the cat to be urinating all over the house, too, to get your attention to the fact that he has a medical problem. So, it does not necessarily mean that a cat that is urinating all over the house has a character or behavioral problem. It could actually mean that the cat has a medical problem in which case I would recommend to anyone who has a cat and is experiencing problems with the cat urinating all over the house or defecating in the house to maybe seek a veterinarian attention to see if the cat has a medical problem before diagnosing any kind of behavioral problems.

Marko Kulik: I suspect that would be a good rule of thumb just anyhow. If ever your cat is acting abnormally, seek a vet. Consult first before thinking of behavioral reasons for it.

Sherry Bedard: That is right. That is right. Animal behaviorist or cat trainers or dog trainers, we all have a certain knowledge about the animal anatomy, but we are not veterinarians. So, if the animal does have a medical problem, we are not equipped to help people out with this, it would be best for anyone to first seek medical attention to see if that is the problem. Once that is ruled out then that is when my job comes in and we help out people who are having behavioral problems with their animals.

Marko Kulik: Very sound advice. Very sound advice. On to the next question, I would guess. What would be the biggest problem that people have with their cats and how would you solve it? What is one way to solve one or two of the biggest problems that people commonly have with their cats?

Sherry Bedard: Well, if we have time I would like to talk about two of the biggest problems.

Marko Kulik: Okay.

Sherry Bedard: The first biggest problem is actually cats urinating all over the house as I mentioned. That is the single biggest problem that people are having. Now, we have gone over a little bit what it could be. Now, to correct the problem, if it is not a medical problem, if it is actually a behavioral problem, you may need to retrain the cat to go in the litter box. Now, to retrain the cat to go in the litter box, a lot like a dog, you have to keep the cat confined to a small area with just the litter box, a couple of toys, so the cat can play around and have some fun and it kind of teaches the cat to go back into the litter box. Every time the cat goes in the litter box, you have to praise the cat and give the cat little salmon treats or little fish treats, whatever the cat happens to like if it is a liver treat or a chicken treat. Then slowly giving the cat supervised free time like we like to call it around the house, so that the cat will understand that it is not acceptable to be peeing all over the house, but to actually urinate in his box.

Marko Kulik: It sounds very similar in a way to the way people train dogs.

Sherry Bedard: It is.

Marko Kulik: Is it? Yeah.

Sherry Bedard: It is actually. It is. It is almost exactly the same.

Marko Kulik: I would suspect that most people think that cats cannot even be trained and yet you are suggesting that the way they are trained is similar to dogs.

Sherry Bedard: Yes. Yes, it is. The difference is, however, that dogs learn much more quickly because they have a pack instinct whereas cats are often solitary animals and do not have that pack instinct. They learn, however, but it does take a little bit more time.

Marko Kulik: Okay. So, with enough repetition, they will learn in a very similar way to how a dog would learn.

Sherry Bedard: Yes, they would. The second, I do not know, do we have enough time for the second?

Marko Kulik: Yeah. Yeah, let us do a second.

Sherry Bedard: Okay. Great. The second one would be cat scratching. People do not like it when cats are constantly scratching their furniture and this happens quite often. The reason why cats are scratching the furniture is usually because their claws are too long, so a possible solution will be to cut the claws, keep the claws cut short. I know a lot of people enjoy having their cats declawed. This is not really a good answer. I mean the animal is suffering. They were not made to have their claws taken out. So, there are measures that you can take to ensure that the cat uses proper scratching material rather than your sofa or your speaker system do this. You have to make sure that the scratching post is high enough. If it is not over three feet high, chances are the cat will not want to scratch on it and the cat will find something else.

Marko Kulik: Like your sofa or the speaker.

Sherry Bedard: That is right. Exactly.

Marko Kulik: So, they definitely have preferences with regard to the type of scratching post that they like, if it is too short, they are not interested in it?

Sherry Bedard: That is right. Normally, if it is too short, they are not interested in it. It is very rare that I have actually seen a cat interested in a short post. So, little tiny posts that you can find in a pet store where they are, I would say, about $5-$6. I would spend a little bit more money, spend the $20 and go out for a good one. It comes out more economical in the end because the cat will actually use it.

Marko Kulik: Right and he will not wreck your couch or your speakers. Everyone will live in better harmony that way.

Sherry Bedard: That is right. At the same time, you also have to look at not only the size of the scratching post, but the material of the scratching post as well. Some cats and it is not every cat, but some cats like the cardboard feeling when they are scratching a cardboard. Some cats like better the carpet and they will actually go for more carpet. Some cats like the long carpet. Some cats like the bushy, short carpet. Depending on the cat, you have to find out and it is everyone”s job individually to find out what their cat”s preferences are for that particular scratching post.

Marko Kulik: I have even seen some posts made out of a like a rope material.

Sherry Bedard: Yes. Yes. Some cats like that.

Marko Kulik: Can that also be a preference for cats I guess?

Sherry Bedard: Yes.

Marko Kulik: Some of them will just way prefer the rope.

Sherry Bedard: Yes. There are many different kinds. There are a few other different kinds of materials, too. A lot of new material has come out and it is really up to each person individually to find out what each individual cat enjoys most. If for example someone is adopting a cat and it is a little bit older, the cat is over six months old, you can always help the cat to enjoy that particular scratching post by using catnip. Catnip is a harmless herb used to stimulate the cat”s curiosity. It is used to stimulate all kinds of their salivary glands and their movement, it kind of makes like a little soothing drug for them.

Marko Kulik: Okay.

Sherry Bedard: They enjoy it very much. This will actually make them scratch and bite at the post.

Marko Kulik: Then I guess that gets their scent on the post, then they are more likely to use it in the future?

Sherry Bedard: Exactly.

Marko Kulik: Okay.

Sherry Bedard: Exactly, but remember it does not work on all cats. It works on about 80% of cats over six months old. So, there is still that 20% that it will not work on.

Marko Kulik: Okay. So, if yours is of the 20% and mine was for a long time also, it does not mean you have a defective cat. It just means they are in that 20%.

Sherry Bedard: That is right.

Marko Kulik: Okay.

Sherry Bedard: That is right.

Marko Kulik: Okay. It is actually funny because our cat, he is now 14, one of the two of them and he actually just started getting into catnip like in year 12-1/2 or year 13. He just started getting into it now. He never reacted to it.

Sherry Bedard: Yeah.

Marko Kulik: Is that something that you would counter? Have you heard about that before?

Sherry Bedard: Yes. It does not matter what age the cat. Sometimes they can only develop their attractiveness, their liking towards this catnip in later years because this is actually used on older cats, as I have mentioned, over six months old. It could be any age. They may not like it until age 5, 6 and up, but usually they do end up liking it. It is just a little, short 20% that will never like it.

Marko Kulik: As we are just talking about it now, if you start using it at some point in their lives and they do not respond to it, you could try a few years later and perhaps they will like it at that time, obviously.

Sherry Bedard: That is right.

Marko Kulik: Okay.

Sherry Bedard: That is right. In the meantime, you can always use a special training method as in a water spray bottle. They have actually come out and you can find these in J.E. Mondou or any kind of pet shop, it is called the Ssscat.

Marko Kulik: What does that do?

Sherry Bedard: The Ssscat is a motion detector with a spray bottle on top of it. It does not harm the cat in any way and all it does is it sprays some water on the cat and as you know, most cats, I should not say all cats, most cats do not like water. So, when it sprays at them, they have that element of surprise. They are surprised first of all and they are getting wet. So, they will tend to stay away from the area where you planted the Ssscat, so they will not scratch in that area nor will they even go in that area.

Marko Kulik: I bet it does not take very long. One spray, two sprays, three sprays…

Sherry Bedard: Three.

Marko Kulik: Yeah.

Sherry Bedard: Three sprays and they will not go back.

Marko Kulik: Okay. Well, that is a very good training tip as a last resort or as a medium resort for sure. It is not free, but I am sure it is not a fortune either.

Sherry Bedard: Well, the machine actually goes for about $50 and each refill is about $11.99.

Marko Kulik: If you are protecting something far more valuable than that, it is I guess a reasonable investment for sure.

Sherry Bedard: Yes. Yes, it is.

Marko Kulik: I guess for our last question, we do not want to take up too much of your time, being an expert about animals and animal behavior, we were wondering if maybe you could tell us something that a lot of people do not know about cats. Give us some element of trivia or knowledge that we may not be aware of.

Sherry Bedard: Okay. Here is the fun one.

Marko Kulik: Good.

Sherry Bedard: When a cat is on its back, it is actually a common myth that people believe that the cat is being submissive. Actually, a cat on its back is showing aggression.

Marko Kulik: Aggression.

Sherry Bedard: Aggression. It is the opposite of dogs. So, that is why and I am sure a lot of you can actually relate to this, when you are petting your cat and your cat goes on its back, he is more likely to scratch you than if he is not on his back.

Marko Kulik: That is very interesting. I would have, like you said at the beginning, thought it was the opposite. Not necessarily a cat being submissive, but if a cat is on its back, aren”t its internal organs more vulnerable?

Sherry Bedard: Oh, but you have to remember also that the feet are in the air, that is where its claws are, that is where his defenses…

Marko Kulik: Okay.

Sherry Bedard: So, because he has all four feet in the air, he has all four weapons ready to go.

Marko Kulik: Okay. So, he is enticing you with the end organs, but he is going to scratch the heck out of you if you will approach.

Sherry Bedard: That is right. That is right. So, any chance you are petting your cat”s tummy while your cat is lying down, your cat is going to be more likely to show aggression towards you and try to either scratch you or bite you. Even if he is really friendly, he may do it in a light way, but just to let you know that he is not happy, he does not like you touching there.

Marko Kulik: Okay. I would suspect it is more of an instinctual thing anyhow.

Sherry Bedard: That is right.

Marko Kulik: Okay. He is not telling you he does not love you. It is just instinctual.

Sherry Bedard: That is right.

Marko Kulik: All right. Anything else, one last bit of knowledge you could share before we bid you adieu for the day?

Sherry Bedard: There is actually a whole section on cats, it is just it depends on what you want to know.

Marko Kulik: Okay. I believe I have heard you say also, which might be interesting to some others, about dark fur and shedding, there is a relationship with fur and sun and shedding?

Sherry Bedard: Yes, there is.

Marko Kulik: Could you explain a little bit about that?

Sherry Bedard: In the winter, cats grow a very thick layer of fur. It is actually an undercoat underneath the top of their fur and this is done to keep the animal warm. It is a seasonal thing. So, shedding is actually twice a year. You will get shedding in the spring and then you will get shedding once again in the fall. So, the shedding in the spring is actually the act of all the fur from the winter coming off and growing in a summer fur.

Marko Kulik: Okay.

Sherry Bedard: Your cat will never go bald. It is all the winter fur coming off and the summer fur coming through. In the fall, all the summer fur falls off and the winter fur grows in. Now, this cycle is actually interrupted by the fact that your cat sleeps indoors and when the sunlight comes in and the cat lies in the sun on the floor, the body is actually tricked into thinking that it is summertime.

Marko Kulik: Okay.

Sherry Bedard: So, the cat goes into an instinctual shedding period and the more the cat lies in the sun, the more the cat is going to be shedding.

Marko Kulik: The more hair you are going to find all over your house, obviously.

Sherry Bedard: That is right.

Marko Kulik: Perfect, very interesting information. That is good. Okay. So, we thank you very much for your information, Sherry. I know you do private consultations as well, is that correct?

Sherry Bedard: Yes, I do.

Marko Kulik: Okay. So, if people want to get ahold of you, I believe email is the best way, is that correct?

Sherry Bedard: Yes, it is.

Marko Kulik: Okay. For those listening, if you do need help with either your cats or your dogs, Sherry”s email address, I will post it in the show notes as well, but it is They usually answer within a day or a day or two if anyone has issues or problems or questions.

Sherry Bedard: That is right.

Marko Kulik: Okay. So, if you do have your problems, Sherry will be pleased to do some consultation with you. So, I would like to thank you, Sherry. Thanks so much for doing this podcast with us.

Sherry Bedard: Thank you for having me on.

Marko Kulik: We spoke earlier and you will be on again maybe in a few more weeks or something when we have some more topics for you. We will be glad to speak with you again in the near future.

Sherry Bedard: Great. Thank you.

Marko Kulik: Thanks again, Sherry.

Sherry Bedard: All right.

Marko Kulik: So, that was our interview with Sherry Bedard. I very much like to thank her. She really has a ton of knowledge. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I do know Sherry personally. She has given some courses at the SPCA on a volunteer basis where she does a lot of help and good work. She has a ton of knowledge, so if you need her, please give her a shout by email and it will be her pleasure. As always, if you want to listen to these podcasts on a really regular and automatic level, you could just subscribe and subscribing is, of course, free and the best way to do so is possibly through iTunes. You could just click on the link on our blog, first download iTunes, click on the link on our blog to subscribe in iTunes. It is free, it is easy, in that way, you will automatically be updated every time we put one of these podcasts out. So, thanks so much for listening everyone. I really appreciate it as always and please give your pets a little scratchy under the chin for Marko. Bye for now.

::Outro Music::


2 Responses to this Article, So Far

  1. Avatar Peter says:

    Great podcast. It’s outstanding when you trainers get a chance to come on for the podcasts. They give great advice. I had an opportunity to work with Shelly at the SPCA and she is truly great with dogs. Thanks for a great podcast Marco.

  2. Avatar Marko says:

    You’re so welcome Peter. Yup Sherry is great, she is so knowledgeable and super friendly.

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