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Animal Behavior 101

Why do they do that? Why do some cats pee right next to their litter box? What does it mean when a dog licks your hand during his grooming session? With behaviorist Patricia Simonet, Ph.D., we’ll take a close look at what makes our animal companions tick.

You can send your questions and comments now through Thursday evening to And please include your first name when you write in, so that credit can be given if your submission--which may be edited for brevity or clarity--is posted! Please note that any emails will go directly to the forum moderator to be considered for posting, rather than to the forum in general.

Related transcripts from previous forum weeks, including Dog Behavior ( and Cat Behavior (, can be viewed at

There is also a section of the Best Friends website, You & Your Pets, available to explore at

Introduction from Dr Patricia Simonet:
Regardless of the species, I am always observing behavior. Some days I watch squirrel TV with my dogs and cats. We sit at the big windows in the living room and watch the squirrels leap from tree to tree. However, while I watch the show outside the window, I also watch the show inside the window. My dogs and cats fascinate me. I am fascinated by their "viewing" choices, by their behavior toward one another, and by their behavior toward my husband and me.

Understanding our companion animals’ behavior is easier than it may first seem. The hard part is divorcing one's self from those thoughts of bad and good behavior. All behavior is behavior. Some behaviors we don't like and some we do. When we are able to observe and then examine a behavior, we are able to correct the undesirable ones. With this powerful tool – understanding – you can regard behavior as a natural part of your relationship with your companion animal.

I am anxious to share answers to your questions about everything from litter-box blues to understanding (and fixing) fractious behavior in fearful dogs. I also hope to share with you my enthusiasm for animal behavior and the joy of learning why our companion animals do what they do so well.

Dr Patricia Simonet Bio:

Patricia is an applied animal behaviorist and research scientist. She splits her time between counseling pets and their humans, and researching the amazing behaviors of non-human animals. She began her graduate studies with Washoe, the first great ape to learn American Sign Language. Although that is where she began, she soon studied culture in golden hamsters, self-recognition in elephants, reconciliation in chimps, dog laughter, dog rules during play and, most recently, reducing stress in shelter dogs by broadcasting a recording of dog laughter.

Her research has garnered worldwide attention. Newspapers and magazines from Russia to Australia, from Japan to Germany, and from the U.S. to the U.K. have published stories on her original research. She has talked about her research on Good Morning America, NPR and BBC World Service. Patricia's research interests are in cognitive ethology, problem solving, and communication.

Her interest in animals and behavior began when she was very young, bringing home lost and injured animals. She has worked for the San Diego Zoological Society at the Wild Animal Park, training exotic animals such as a tiger cub, a pot-bellied pig, a kangaroo, a great horned owl, and a binturong, among others

Although Patricia has studied elephants and chimps, and has trained tigers and kangaroos, she holds a special place in her heart for domestic cats and dogs.