With the holidays right around the corner, let’s discuss pets as gifts yet again. Giving pets as gifts prompts discussions every time the subject comes up. Most recently, we got our “gift puppy” and “gift kitten” when they adopted us, and we’re so glad Karma-Kat and Shadow-Pup are part of our holidays. But for many folks, this year means a new puppy or new kitten for Christmas. Learn how to gift pets—and please share your experiences in the comments!
The professionals used to say that the holidays were a TERRIBLE time to get a new pet–that impulse adoptions could leave the cat or dog without a home after the cute-holiday-thrills wore off. More recently, though, the ASPCA conducted some surveys and discovered that when done properly, these adoptions can be lasting, loving adoptions. So I had to re-think my advice.
Holidays tend to be hectic times when normal routines go out the window. Whether a baby, adult, or senior rescue cat or dog, new animals need the stability of knowing what to expect. In fact, some holiday schedules may allow you to be home more during this time to help the new kitty or pooch adjust.
Holiday pets take more work, true. But just think: you’re not only giving the pet to a person—you’re giving a special human to a waiting cat or dog, a fur-kid hungry for a loving, permanent home. Happy holidays, indeed!
Everyone who adores puppies and kittens wants to share the furry love affair, but not everyone is ready to receive puppies as gifts. Maybe the recipient will appreciate your thoughtfulness. But don’t gamble with a pet’s life.
Sure, Grandma is lonely and needs a wagging lap-warmer to keep her company. But she may have other plans, such as visits to the grandkids. Will the new kitten climb the Christmas tree and land in kitty jail? A puppy that eats Aunt Ethel’s hat collection will cost you favorite nephew status. A busy new parent may want a pup or kitten for their kids, but have other demands that take priority.
Giving Puppies and Kittens As Gifts
Before you put a bow around his neck, ask yourself these questions. Will the new owner have the time, ability, and funds to care for the dog or cat over the next 10 to 20 years? Is their space better suited for a Chihuahua, Persian or Great Dane? Do they already have a fenced yard? Will Uncle Jim’s knees keep up when hunting with that Pointer pup? Does your mom really want to chase Junior Cat off the mantel every day?
Children delight in pets as gifts but living things can’t be shoved under the bed and forgotten when the latest must-have-kid-gadget has more appeal. Remember—even if Fluffy is for the kids, the ADULT ultimately holds responsibility for the well-being of the pet. Will the child’s parents have the time to spend on one-on-one attention a new pet needs, and deserves? Be sure that the recipient truly wants and is ready for a puppy or kitten.
Be sure to PET PROOF your decorations for the new baby!
I Want A Puppy/Kitten!
What if the kids, your spouse, Aunt Ethel, or a best friend have made it clear they want a furry wonder, are prepared for the responsibility and feel ready RIGHT NOW for a furry loved one in their life? You’re sure, and so are they. What can you do?
The time, the place, the person, and the pet must be right for love to bloom into a lifetime commitment. The selection should be made by the person who will live with, care for, and hopefully fall in love with the baby for the next decade or more. You still want the recipient to make this important choice, so give them that gift. Here’s 6 tips for giving pets as gifts.
6 Steps for Giving Pets As Gifts
Plot With Professionals. Contact the professional breeder, shelter, and/or rescue organization and explain the situation. Ask them to conspire with you—arrange to pay a deposit, or fund the purchase FOR the recipient, with the puppy or kitten to be chosen later. Perhaps also pre-pay puppy clicker training classes for the new family member, or fund the cost of the kitten’s first veterinary visit.
Avoid Puppy Mills. Those cute babies sold in some retail environments are born and raised in horrendous conditions. The ASPCA urges you to know what you’re getting, and pledge to avoid supporting that awful system.
Go Shopping. Create a “puppy or kitty care package” for the big day. Fill a puppy bed with treats, food, training and grooming equipment and lots—lots!—of appropriate toys. Don’t forget to include a book or twoabout the pet’s breed, training or behavior tips, or other fun information.
Get Creative. Why not make a “gift certificate” that details this special surprise, and have that ready to present on the big day. Perhaps it could be packaged inside a pet carrier, or in an envelope attached to the collar of a stuffed St. Bernard or Siamese Cat toy.
Take Your Time. Holidays can be hectic when normal routines go out the window. New puppies and kittens–even newbie adult pets–need the stability of knowing what to expect. But you can “gift” with the certificate on the special day, and the recipient can choose the best time to bring the pet home. Hopefully you also have the fun of accompanying the person later, when they choose their own furry wonder.
Have you decked the halls yet with your howl-iday decor or a pet safe tree? What do the pets think? Have they joined in the spirit of ho-ho-ho and wreaked havoc? Or do they ignore the festivities? ‘Tis the season to share this annual advice. Here’s how to protect your Christmas tree, and the pets.
The Christmas tree might as well be an early holiday gift to your cats and dogs. You need indoor Christmas trees safe for pets and pet-proof the holidays. Cats and dogs can’t resist the urge to sniff, claw, water—and scale the branches to reach the highest possible perch. Don’t blame your cat or dog. It’s normal for cats to compete for the top spot (literally and figuratively) to secure their place in kitty society, and dogs may want to “mark” the convenient indoor doggy signpost.
CLUELESS PUPS & ACROBAT CATS
Magical-Dawg was born in July, and he came to live with us in early October. So when it came time to put up that year’s tree, I weenied out. We didn’t put up a tree until he was three years old and had sorta-kinda-in-a-way learned to control himself. I already had practice from dealing with the Seren-kitty’s tree love affair.
For puppies, the Christmas season can be a challenge for owners. Your puppy may believe the Christmas tree is a special gift just for his entertainment. The attraction is natural, with puppies wanting to chew branches, pull off decorations, or worse. The result is a holiday that’s anything but merry.
Youngsters won’t care about social standing, but high energy kitten play turns the holiday tree into a jungle gym. Tree encounters of the furry kind not only risk breaking your heirloom ornaments, your pets get injured by chewing or swallowing dangerous items.
Puppies turn everything into a toy. The branches beneath the tree create a great puppy hideout. Tree ornaments that move or make noises lure puppies to grab and chase, garland offers a great game of tug-o’-war, and the twinkling lights draw them to investigate or even chew. That can lead to electrical shock (check out The First-Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats for tips that can save your pets’ lives). Trees end up toppled, presents and decorations damaged, and sometimes pets get hurt.
Holidays mean memories and damage to “things” may matter more at this time of year than others. My grandmother always displayed a gorgeous white porcelain nativity each year. That nativity symbolized for me all-good-things about Grandma’s house and Christmas–good food, happy reunions, presents, and love shared by our close-nit family. So when Grandma died, I felt blessed to keep her Nativity and continue to display it in my own home.
When Seren-kitty arrived, I was nervous about her rambunctious behavior around the Holy Family. You can read about that in this Christmas Sparkles story. But it wasn’t until later that the worst happened while my husband played his nightly fetch game with Magical-Dawg. It could have been me, so there’s no blame here. The ball ricocheted off of the delicate nativity and beheaded Joseph and lopped off Mary’s hand. Sounds funny, right?
I had a meltdown. You probably could hear my scream for miles and the sobs lasted days. It wasn’t just china, a THING damaged. It was my personal Christmas, my Grandma, childhood happy times–shattered.
Fully restored…and now placed out of reach on the mantel.
Eventually, I stopped crying. There was no question of replacing the pieces–they’re hard to find and besides, it was THAT nativity that meant everything to me. We eventually found a restoration expert able to give Mary back her hand and re-attach Joseph’s head. I’m just grateful Grandma’s Nativity continues to be a part of our personal traditions and holiday happiness.
Since that time, we’ve curtailed pet games of fetch, especially around the holidays delicate decorations. Hey, it wasn’t the dog’s fault. But it’s up to us humans to protect what’s important to us–not just our pets but our memories.
HOW TO PET PROOF THE TREE
Place “tacky mats” under the tree to shoo away pets. We can find these at pet products stores used to keep throw rugs from slipping, and pets don’t like to walk on the sticky surface. Alternatively, get some Sticky Paws (double-sided tap) and apply to place mats or other moveable surfaces and place in strategic locations.
Put small trees inside a baby playpen to keep small pets out. Or use baby gates to keep the pets out of the tree room. Keep breakable or dangerous ornaments out of paw-reach (or better, don’t use at all!). Put only pet safe décor within sniffing range on lower branches.
Ditch the lights, and any “fake-snow” flocking that pets might chew or swallow. Instead, decorate with cotton balls or pillow-stuffing fleece for that snowy look on branches or around the base. If you’ve chosen a real tree, water with plain water and no additives in case the pet drinks from the container.
Strings and garland look great on the tree, but prove deadly inside a cat or dog when swallowed. Dried flowers like baby’s breath look lovely and are nontoxic even if clueless pets nibble.
CREATE A PET-SAFE TREE!
Rather than fight a losing battle to keep them at bay, create a second pet-safe tree with these tips. That way the fur-kids can enjoy the holidays as much as you do.
Put yourself in your pet’s “paws.” Satisfy her desire to claw, lounge on (or under) the branches, and trust that it won’t tip over under her assault. Match the tree size, sturdiness, base (perhaps add guy-wires for steadiness) to the activity level and number of pets.
To increase the fun factor, insert a few sprigs of dried catnip—but be prepared for the cats to dismantle the tree! Offer some doggy treats under the pet tree for legal dog chewing enjoyment.
Catnip toys make great kitty tree decorations pets won’t destroy during feline assaults. Use “orphan” socks (singletons without a mate), fill with the ‘nip, and knot the open end.
Don’t forget the “cheap thrills.” Empty boxes, wads of holiday paper, and even paper shopping bags thrill cats and dogs. Remove bag handles so it won’t get hung around her neck.
Toss a few special treats in the boxes or bags. The smellier the treat, the better pets like them.
Be prepared to re-decorate the tree after the cats and dogs have fun. But a “Pet-mas” tree not only answers your pets’ Santa Paws prayers, it means she’ll be more likely to leave your formal tree and decorations alone. That promotes a merry Christmas for the whole family, furry and otherwise.
So how do you handle doggy interest in your yule plans? Are your puppies ho-hum or holiday happy over the change in scenery? What do you do to keep your Christmas memories safe from kitty and doggy damage? Does the baby-gate-of-despair keep the tree and poochie free from harm? Have you ever “lost your head” over holiday damage? Do tell!
Pet Veteran Love: 8 Reasons to Adopt Senior Cats & Dogs
Yes, I’ve got a whole series of blogs about the benefits of senior citizen pets. After all, November is Adopt A Senior Pet Month. If you’ve never considered an old dog or old cat to adopt, read on! There’s nothing more endearing than a kitten or a puppy. But they also can be nonstop dynamos, frustrating to predict and a magnet for trouble. Although kittens and puppies can be wonderful fun, nothing matches the deep bond we have developed with our old cat or senior dog buddies over a period of years. Some of the benefits may surprise you. Here’s an excerpt from my “aging pet” books.
BENEFITS OF SENIOR PETS
Mature cats and dogs have many advantages over babies. Probably the biggest advantage is that together you have created a partnership, and already know each other and have adjusted to individual needs and foibles. All the hard work is done. She knows to scratch the scratching post and use the litter box. You trust her not to swing from the drapes or empty the potted palm while you’re away. The dog’s been house trained and tells you when she needs to “go”—and you know just how many hours you can be away from home before she’s in dire straits. She’s learned not to chew the TV remote control or your shoes, except for the old house slipper she’s carried around like a teddy bear since you brought her home 10 years ago. She’s learned to wake you promptly at 6:45 for work, and meets you at the door each evening.
Kitty no longer climbs the Christmas tree, unrolls the toilet paper, and only rearranges your sock drawer if you’re gone overnight and she’s lonely. She reminds you when it’s time for a pill and afternoon nap—for both of you. And she acts like the new grandbaby is her own kitten or puppy, and showers the infant with attention, gentle play, and protective care—dropping favorite toys in the crib, and even putting up with toddler tail tugs with a patient feline purr or doggy wag. Countless children have learned to walk while reaching for the furry shoulder or tempting tail of a cat or dog friend.
Old Pets Are Great for Kids
In fact, one of the best ways to introduce young children to the positive aspects of dogs and cats is with a calm, patient adult animal. Parents already have their hands full dealing with infants and toddlers, and don’t need the added stress of an in-your-face kitten. Children can share birthdays with the aging pet and still be relatively young when she enters her golden years.
Growing Up Together
It’s not unusual for young people to say that one special cat or dog has always been a part of their life—and in times of family crises or emotional upset, the pet can ease the tension and help heal the pain simply by being there to pet and talk to. The mere presence of a cat or dog that the child loves can help a broken heart, disagreements with siblings or parents, even physical or emotional trauma.
An older pet can be a stabilizing influence on children, teach responsibility and empathy for other living creatures, and even act as a social bridge toward making friends with their peers. For example, a child shy of interacting with other children because of a perceived disability often comes out of her shell when accompanied by a furry friend–the dog or cat remains the focus of interaction rather than the child’s “different” look or behavior. Older cats and dogs often are ideal for such relationships, because they aren’t as active as younger pets, may be more patient and have learned what to expect. There’s a benefit to the old pet, too—playing and interacting with children keeps the pet’s brain and body active and youthful.
Couples whose children have left for college and are recent empty nesters can receive great comfort from the presence of a furry companion. People of any age who lose a spouse from divorce or death—but particularly older owners—benefit greatly from a pet’s nonjudgmental love. For instance, petting lowers the blood pressure; and caring for a pet gives owners a purpose to concentrate on beyond the hurt and pain. Playing with and grooming the pet, shopping for litter and food, giving medicine to an old kitty or doggy friend, keeps people connected to the world and other people around them.
Senior Dogs & Cats for Seniors
Old pets are often the companions of aging owners because that old pet has the same problems they’ve got, says William Tranquilli, DVM, a professor and pain specialist at the University of Illinois. “They don’t necessarily want a young pet, they want to do what they can to help their old buddy.” They’re willing to spend the money and often have more time to treat chronic disease to try to make the old animal more comfortable. And because the pets that we love are good for human health, just having a cat or dog around can reduce the trips owners take to their own doctors. Some physicians recommend that heart attack survivors keep a pet, because it increases their survival.
People of all ages, whose human family members live far away, become even more emotionally dependent on the cat. “I’ve met many elderly people whose cat has become the most important thing in their life. It’s a family member, and it may be the only remaining family member,” says Susan Little, DVM, a feline specialist in Ottawa, Canada. Of those pet owners who have a will, 27 percent have included provisions for their pets. Prolonging the pet’s life touches on a host of social and emotional issues.
Old Dogs & Cats Share History
Pets who have spent a decade or more with us have learned what we like and expect—and we’ve learned to anticipate the senior cat’s needs, likes, and dislikes. Over the span of years, we build and then enjoy a comfortable companionship together. Our aging pets share with us our life experiences, successes and failures, joys and sorrows, and they represent milestones in our lives, says Signe Beebe, DVM, a veterinary acupuncturist and herbologist practicing in Sacramento. They may have celebrated with us when we graduated school, married, and had children or grandchildren—or comforted us when we divorced, retired, or lost a spouse. They have been there for us, through everything. The more time we spend together, the greater our affection grows. Our compassion, love, and empathy for each other reach a depth that has no parallel in human existence.
“We share our secret souls with our pets in ways we wouldn’t dare with another human being,” says Dr. Wallace Sife, a psychologist and president of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement. “We’re human beings, and love is love. Love for a pet is no different than love for another human being.”
Adopting Old Dogs and Rescuing Old Cats: 8 Reasons to Adopt Senior Cats & Dogs
This time of year, the holidays can prompt yearnings to adopt a new furry wonder. Nothing beats puppies and kittens for fun. But senior citizen pets offer many advantages. Remember that small dogs and cats often live into their mid- to late-teens or early twenties, while larger dogs remain happy and vital at least a decade. Old fogey pets often have lots of love to share, so think about it.
I even wrote my two “aging dog” and “aging cat” care books (now also in hardcover formats!) in honor of senior citizen pets with detailed health and nursing care information. You can also learn about DIY tips for aging pets. Here are 8 benefits I hope will convince you to take a chance on a golden oldie.
Less Initial Cost.
A mature dog or cat has already been spayed or neutered, and had routine vaccinations. Puppies and kittens are magnets for trouble, and suffer more injuries through nonstop play and exploration than sedate older pets.
By the time a dog or cat reaches mature status, health or behavior problems will be apparent. That helps adopters plan and provide ways to keep seniors happy and comfortable rather than being surprised by an unexpected issue. For instance, a Dachshund with a history of back problems can be offered steps and ramps to reach the sofa and a beloved owner’s lap. Even with a health challenge, old fogey pets make wonderful companions.
Puppies and kittens are works-in-progress and hard to predict adult personality. For instance, lap-snugglers as babies may snub cuddles once they grow up. But what you see is what you get with an adult pet. The senior dog or cat personality has been established, making it easier to match your perfect pet requirements. You can choose a dog-loving feline, an active, rugged dog, or a pet willing to lap sit.
Older dogs often have already been trained basic obedience. They know how to “sit” and walk nicely on leash, for example.
The mature dog has fewer urges to act like a juvenile delinquent. They may still have bursts of energy and enjoy playtime. But older dogs won’t be as likely to jump up, “hump” your leg, or knock down the kids trying to race them out the door. Mature felines won’t be as interested in using your head as a launch pad, or your pant leg as a moveable scratch post.
Fewer Behavior Problems.
Puppies and kittens only learn by making mistakes. But a mature pet already knows the rules of the house. An older dog knows not to chew the TV remote or your shoes. She’s been house trained and tells you when she needs to “go.” The mature kitty understands litter box etiquette, no longer climbs the Christmas tree, or swings from the drapes. He knows not to excavate the potted palm or play ping-pong with the parakeet.
Older pets that have been around babies, toddlers and young children already know how to interact. They can be a wonderful choice for a child’s first pet. Dogs especially may “adopt” your human baby, and shower the infant with attention, gentle play, and protective care. They put up with toddler tail tugs with a patient purr or doggy grin. Countless children have learned to walk while grasping the furry shoulder of a canine friend, or reaching out for that tempting feline tail. A mature pet can offer the child a special friend who listens but never tells secrets, a sympathetic purring or wagging presence that acts as a stabilizing influence. Older pets are less fragile than puppies and kittens and can teach responsibility and empathy for other living creatures.
Senior Citizen Friendly.
Many older people have loved and lived with pets all their lives. But they may worry what might happen should they outlive a newly adopted puppy or kitten. A mature dog or cat offers just as much love but a more manageable number of years that can be more attractive to older owners. Mature cats and dogs have fewer energy needs—they won’t need owners to take them jogging when rolling a ball down the hallway will suffice. Older owners who have fragile skin can also choose mature pets already trained to be careful with claws and play bites. And the older dog—even if not leash trained—isn’t as able to drag the owner around.
Dogs and cats don’t know they’re old. They only know they are loved. There are many advantages to adopting an “old fogey pet” and these special animal companions return your love in unexpected and glorious ways. Refer to these adoption tips to help choose your perfect companion!
Do you have a “golden oldie?” Did you adopt them when they were seniors, or did they grow up and grow old in your home? Karma-Kat is now 9 year’s young. Even my thrillers include older pets–there’s something extra special about these lovely old timers. Why did you choose a mature dog or cat? Do tell!
Cancer. We whisper the word, fear the consequences, and our hearts break when cancer touches loved ones, including furry family members. But according to veterinary specialists, cancer is the most treatable—and curable!—of any chronic pet disease.
A new nonprofit organization, supported by top researchers and organizations, recently launched to offer information and guidance to pet parents about hemangiosarcoma. The amazing folks at Morris Animal Foundation address many kinds of cancer and have funded numerous studies and even trained researchers to continue the search for the cure. They’ve also provided a wonderful talk on the horrible disease here, for folks to learn more:
According to Dr. David Haworth, president and CEO of Morris, “One in 2 dogs will develop cancer, and 1 in 4 dogs will die of the disease. The Foundation leverages the best minds in veterinary medicine and science to work on understanding the cause (funding over 40 studies on cancer in dogs at any given time…).”
Sadly, Golden Retrievers have a high incidence of canine cancer.
WHAT PETS ARE AFFECTED BY CANCER?
Cancer strikes cats and dogs at any age, but is the #1 cause of disease and death in old pets. Dogs suffer from more kinds of cancer than any other domestic animal. One of my dear friends recently had her 13-year-old Border Collie/Lab dog diagnosed with brain cancer when Beauty developed neurological signs and trouble making her rear legs work properly. My childhood Sheltie, Lady–the dog that helped me learn about dog training–died of bladder cancer.
Cats have their own share of cancers. When I still worked as a vet tech, we treated a number of feline patients suffering from breast tumors. The chance for breast cancer in cats can be drastically reduced or even eliminated by spaying prior to sexual maturity. Protecting cats from contracting FeLV (feline leukemia virus) also can prevent certain kinds of cancers.
COMMON CANINE CANCER AND CAT CANCER
Skin cancer is the most common canine tumor, followed by breast cancer, lymphoma, mouth tumors and bone cancers.The most common feline cancers include lymph gland cancer, skin cancer, and fibrosarcoma. While an estimated 50 percent of all pets die from this disease, the causes are rarely known.
It’s very common for older dogs to develop harmless cysts and warts (yes, I’m watching Magic since he’ll soon turn 7), but 80 percent of lumps and bumps found in cats are malignant. That’s a great reason to pet-pet-pet your cat (and dog) from head to tail on a daily basis to find anything new that needs attention. Seren loves getting this kitty massage and at age 16 and with her Siamese heritage, she’s at increased risk. The key to cure and successful treatment is early, accurate diagnosis. Have a veterinarian check any new wart, lump or slow-to-heal sore you find.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATING PET CANCER
An ultrasound, X-ray or other imaging technique can find tumors on the inside of the body. Different treatments work best on specific kinds of cancer. Surgery can disrupt protective barriers that keep the cancer from spreading, says Dr. Nichole Ehrhart, a cancer specialist at University of Illinois. “What could have been a perfectly curable cancer can be compromised,” she says. Rather than removing and sending the whole lump off for diagnosis, she recommends a needle biopsy be done first. That removes cells from the growth for screening to see what type of cancer it may be.
Your regular veterinarian can easily treat some cancers with surgery. However, a veterinary oncologist offers advanced options and provides the best chance of successful treatment. Surgery, radiation, and the same kinds of chemotherapy drugs used in people are also effective in pets. There’s a major difference—cats and dogs don’t lose their hair, and rarely feel sick during treatment.
Every single pet is different, so the treatments are designed to suit specific individuals and the type of cancer involved. For instance, radiation therapy cures up to 80 percent of some types of tumors. When diagnosed early, chemotherapy shrinks and eliminates some tumors. Because most pets are much smaller than people, cancer drug doses tend to be much smaller and can be inexpensive. Cancer drugs are typically developed and approved for use in humans. Pets also tolerate surgeries more readily than humans. For example, bone cancers are so very painful that just removing the diseased area can make your dog feel happy and playful again.
INNOVATIVE CANCER TREATMENTS
Besides the standard three treatments, some cancers respond better to therapies like cryosurgery (freezing the tumor). That’s effective for skin cancers on the face, which can be caused by sun exposure in white-faced pets. Other innovative treatments include heat therapy (hyperthermia) that “cooks” the cancer to kill it, using sound waves. Gene therapy is promising. For example, genetically engineered tumor vaccines are designed to target mouth cancers in dogs.
There are therapeutic “cancer” diets for dogs that prove helpful. A number of complementary therapies including herbs and other supplements can help cats and dogs better deal with the stress of cancer. To help with research to find more effective treatments and cures, please consider making a donation to the Morris Animal Foundation cancer initiative, perhaps in the name of a beloved pet or to honor a special animal lover in your life. Find out more about donation options here.
QUALITY OF LIFE, NOT “QUANTITY” OF LIFE
Sometimes cure isn’t possible. But a remission that gives you more time to spend with your pet is a gift beyond measure. After all, pet lovers agree that quality of life is more important than a prolonged life that’s painful. You may need to decide whether to treat his illness—and/or when to help him leave this world for the next.
It was hard learning the news about my friend’s dog Beauty. I remember when they got Beauty as a puppy for their 7-year-old (now-20) daughter….and she’s taking it the hardest of all, of course. I gave her a copy of my aging dog book to answer some questions about options and what to expect, including contact info about some of the movers and shakers in cancer research. And I shared this biggest, most important point:
Pets don’t know they have cancer. They don’t anticipate and so have no fear of what’s to come. All Beauty knows is how she feels this moment. As long as she feels good, and is with you, she’s happy. Any decision you make, with love in your heart, cannot be wrong.
Have you ever lost a beloved dog or cat to cancer? What type was it and how old were they? How did you know–my folks took Lady to the vet when she urinated blood on the fresh snow. What treatment did you choose (or decline) and why? What is your best advice and tips for pet parents facing the cancer challenge with their pets? Thanks for sharing!
Karma-Kat recently has “urped” up more cat hairballs, and I know why. I bet you didn’t know that in hot weather, cats lick and groom themselves to cool off. Of course, that can lead to a cat furball, so in hot weather or shedding season, you may see an uptick in these problems. Yes, hairballs can become as scary as any Halloween goblin! Here’s what to do.
Longhair cats like this Persian require extra grooming help to prevent cat hairballs.
Cat Hairballs: What You Need to Know
It’s shedding season, and cat hairballs (sometimes even dog hairballs, URK!) can be a problem at this time of year. Many cat owners discover wads of wet fur—hairballs—late at night when they step on them with bare feet. Cats seem to instinctively choose to decorate the most stainable portions of the carpet. Refer to this post about cleaning accidents on the carpet.
It’s normal for cats—especially those with long fur—to experience hairballs once in a while. Cats spend up to 50 percent of their awake time grooming and swallow fur in the process. What doesn’t end up in the litter box comes out the other end as nasty cigar-shaped cat hairballs.
But swallowing lots of fur isn’t healthy, and hairballs are more than a nasty nuisance. Kitties that produce three or more hairballs a month should be checked by the vet to rule out other health issues.
Hairballs cause diarrhea, appetite loss, coughing, retching, constipation—or even deadly intestinal blockage. Cats have had hairballs as big as baseballs that require surgery to be removed! Most cases won’t need surgery, though, and most hairballs can be easily eliminated. Refer to these tips to untangle your cat hairballs problems.
Grooming cats reduces the chance for hairballs.
7 CAT HAIRBALLS TIPS
Groom the cat. The cheapest, easiest hairball cure for cat hairballs is to regularly comb and brush your cat. Any hair you remove won’t be swallowed to end up staining your upholstery. The Furminator eliminates up to 90 percent of shed fur. Seren-kitty LOVES her Furminator (Magic loves his dog version, too).
Feed a hairball diet. A variety of commercial products are designed to prevent cat hairballs. They include extra nondigestible fiber. That helps push swallowed hair through the digestive tract, so it is eliminated naturally with each bowel movement. Most of these are dry diets, though, and cats do much better on wet foods.
Add some fiber. If you’d rather not switch foods, just add fiber to kitty’s regular diet. Cats love and need lots of protein but that sometimes promotes constipation and doesn’t help move the swallowed hairs. Mix in a teaspoon of plain bran or Metamucil to canned meals. Flaxseeds or psyllium husks, available in health food stores, also act as natural laxatives and work well. Add ¼ teaspoon of flaxseeds or psyllium for every meal.
Offer pumpkin. Canned pumpkin—the plain type, not for pies—is very rich in fiber and cats often love the taste. Get a jumbo-size can, and divide into teaspoon-size servings and freeze in an ice cube tray. Thaw one serving at a time, mixing into the regular food or offer as a treat once or twice a week. Some cats actually love fresh green beans or cat grass, so offer for extra treats and bowel health.
Give a bit of honey. If your cat doesn’t appreciate canned pumpkin, you can offer a natural laxative, two or three times a week. Combine raw oatmeal, honey, and olive oil into a paste. Offer one to two tablespoons as a treat when hairballs are a problem.
Lubricate the gut. Butter will make your cat purr, but it won’t help hairballs. Digestible fats like butter can cause diarrhea and usually get absorbed before they can move the problem out. Instead, offer non-medicated petroleum jelly. It looks nasty but many pets like the taste. It will coat the hairball to make it slide more easily out of the system. If kitty refuses to accept a finger-full scraped into his mouth, just spread the jelly on his paw so he has to lick it off as he grooms. We’ve been using Vetoquinol Laxatone for Karma (maple flavoring, who knew?!). Commercial hairball remedies often add salmon or malt flavoring to similar petrolatum products. Take care to follow label instructions or your veterinarian’s advice, though. Overuse of these products can interfere with the pet’s use of fat-soluble vitamins.
Do your cats suffer from hairballs? How do you manage the problem? Do tell!
A couple of years ago when Karma-Kat started sneezing I worried. When cats have the sniffles, you worry about curing kitty congestion. Cat colds are one of the most common health problems of kittens and adult cats. Feline upper respiratory diseases, sometimes called cat flu, often affect shelter and rescue cats. My cat Seren-Kitty also had a couple of severe bouts with kitty snorkles. And the new baby Trinity doesn’t sneeze but does cough now and then.
This time, we attributed Karma’s “achoo” to the work done in the house. We changed our carpet for hardwood, and they sanded the entire downstairs area. Once the dust settled, he no longer sneezed. Karma-Kat has only had sneeze-attacks one other time. I’m always alert to any change in behavior, so even a normal amount of A-CHOO makes me pay attention.
While there are preventive vaccinations available to help protect your cats, many kittens and cats become infected very early before they receive vaccines. Once infected, a cat may develop sniffles any time they become stressed. These tips can help relieve the sniffles and cat cold problems.
Cat Colds & Curing Kitty Congestion
Has the annual outbreak of flu, sinus infections, and general creeping-crud attacked you this season? Hopefully, you’re safe from the COVID-19 virus that causes similar symptoms in people. Thankfully, the COVID virus and variants don’t routinely cause cat flu symptoms.
I’m washing my hands constantly and staying home with the fur-kids as much as possible. That’s one more positive about working alone at home–less contact with contagious folks. I’ve been told that the flu vaccination (always a good thing!) works well when given in advance, but of course, that depends on the type of flu. The dang bug keeps changing. *sigh*
A stopped-up nose and crusty eyes are not only miserable for humans, these signs in cats also cause a wide range of health problems in cats. Discharge that’s runny and clear usually goes away in a couple of days by itself. But any time it continues longer than that, or the discharge is cloudy or thick and clogs up the eyes or nose, a virus could be the culprit. Upper respiratory infections in cats (URI) also cause mouth and eye sores.
Complications of Cat Colds
Cats have more problems with congestion than dogs. The bugs that cause kitty congestion usually aren’t lethal in adult cats. But cats won’t eat unless they can smell their food, so they starve if they get a stopped-up nose. Home care not only keeps pets more comfortable, it often decides whether they recover or not. Learn how to encourage sick pets to eat in this post.
While we often fall in love with that poor little sick shelter kitten, an upper respiratory infection (cat cold) as a baby could mean relapses for the rest of the cat’s life. Just be sure you’re aware of all the facts when you adopt your kitten.
Curing Kitty Congestion from Cat Colds
Just like with people, there’s no real “cure” for colds, but supportive treatment can help speed up recovery. It’s important for the comfort of your cat, too.
Use a vaporizer to help unclog the nose. Put your cat in a fairly small room with a cool-mist humidifier and use it just the same as you would for a child a couple of times a day. That not only helps break up the congestion, it moistens inflamed or tender eyes and nostrils and make them feel better.
If you don’t have a vaporizer or humidifier, a hot shower can work. Take the pet into the bathroom with you and run the hot shower so that the air becomes filled with steam. A 10-minute session several times a day works great. Don’t go for longer than that, though, because heated air for too long can be hard for some pets to breathe, especially short-faced Persians.
If the nose is crusting over, or the eyes are sealing shut, use warm wet cloths or cotton balls to soak and soften the secretions and clean them off. Don’t peel dried matter off, because that can hurt or even form scabs.
To soothe sore tissue after you’ve cleaned off the mucus, dab on a bit of plain saline solution, or some baby oil. That can also make it easier to clean away any more crusts that might form. I’ve also used Udderbalm (for cows).
When thick secretions fill up the lungs it can be hard for pets to breathe even when their nostrils are clear. A technique called coupage helps break up the clogged matter so the pet can clear his lungs. It’s a French word meaning “thumping on the chest” and is often used to help children with Cystic Fibrosis breathe more easily. Hold your hand in a cupped position, and gently thump on either side of the cat or dog’s rib cage to break loose the mucus. Use coupage two or three times a day along with humidified air to ease the pet’s congestion.
FOLLOW-UP CARE FOR CAT COLDS
For more on cat health and care from A-to-Z, check out the discounted paperback of CAT FACTS!
Refusing to eat can make cats sicker or even threaten their life. Wiping away the crusts and mucus to keep the nasal passages open helps, but offering pungent and more tempting foods can cut through congestion and spark the sick cat’s appetite.
Warm the food for five seconds in the microwave to just below cat body temperature—about 95 to 98 degrees. That not only makes the treat more alluring, it also unlocks the aroma, so the food smells more pungent and penetrates even a stopped-up kitty nose. Moisture also helps enhance aroma, so try adding a bit of warm water, chicken broth, or tuna juice from the can to the cat’s regular food. Run it through the blender to make a mush, and there’s a good chance that will tempt his appetite.
In the past, many veterinarians recommended supplements with L-Lysine to help reduce the chance of URI flare-ups. More recent studies argue these supplements offer only marginal benefits and may even make symptoms from feline herpesvirus worse. Ask your veterinarian for the latest recommendations. You can ask your vet about an off-label drug Famciclovir that’s shown promise in treating the condition. Meanwhile, supplementing your cat’s diet with a probiotic like Fortiflora can help by keeping digestion healthy.
Have your cats suffered from upper respiratory issues? How did you manage them? When vaccinated early as a baby, some of these bugs can be prevented but once they’re in the cat’s system, stress can cause an outbreak. Cats also are tough customers when it comes to “pilling” and medicating (although compounded medicine can help with that). What are your tips for nursing a sick cat? Please share!
Puppy Diarrhea, Home Remedies & When to Call The Vet
We love snuggling baby dogs with sweet puppy breath, Frito-smelling toes, lap snuggles, and then–OH NO, puppy diarrhea! What’s a pet parent to do about dog loose motion or explosive diarrhea? We’ve already had this issue with our new pup, Shadow, and had to deal with it. And one time Magical-Dawg suffered explosive diarrhea–not fun for any of us!
Of course, adult dogs also suffer from the occasional loose stool as well or they pass gas (flatulence). At any age, dog diarrhea can be a sign of something serious that needs immediate attention to prevent pet dehydration. This is not about puppy accidents during house training, but an illness your dog can’t control. Knowing home remedies, dog first aid, and when to call the vet about puppy diarrhea could save your pet’s life.
Puppy diarrhea ranks near the top as a common puppy problem, and being familiar with dog diarrhea treatment is important. Mild cases may be treated at home and get better but diarrhea can be deadly especially for puppies.
When you have a dog, poop happens. Knowing what to do is key, and it’s vital to recognize the difference between an aggravation and an emergency, and what to do with both.
Diarrhea can be associated with viruses such as parvovirus and distemper. It also can be caused by intestinal parasites like whipworms, hookworms; protozoan such as giardia, bacterium like salmonella and E. coli. Some types of intestinal parasites can be very difficult for veterinary tests to detect and it can take many tests over weeks to obtain a diagnosis.
Puppies also may develop diarrhea from a sudden change of diet, or even swallowed foreign objects. The stress of coming to a new home could prompt loose stools or vomiting. Overfeeding or eating out of the garbage also causes tummy upsets. Without knowing the cause, the right treatment can’t be suggested.
Kinds of Puppy Diarrhea to See The Vet Immediately!
Diarrhea can point to conditions that could kill your puppy. Don’t wait—the resulting dehydration can make puppies even sicker.
A couple of years ago, Magic suffered from a bout of explosive diarrhea. I’d been called for jury duty, so I was gone–and discovered his illness when I returned home after the first day of service. Yikes! Magic had been drinking from the water-filled tank (aka man-made pond) on our property, and we suspected the run-off infected him with some type of parasite. It required a couple of weeks of medication for him to feel better. Had he been a baby, the situation could have been life-threatening. Learn more about what normal poop and poop problems look like. See the veterinarian immediately if your puppy’s diarrhea:
Looks black with a tar-like consistency
Smells extremely foul
Contains large amounts of red blood
Diarrhea is accompanied by vomiting, severe pain, fever, appetite loss or lethargy.
How to Treat Dog & Puppy Diarrhea At Home
It’s always best to get a vet check first. But your vet may recommend milder forms of diarrhea be treated at home. For instance, if it’s been less than three days, the dog or puppy still feels and acts well, and the diarrhea has a pudding-like appearance, home care may help.
Make sure that water remains always available. It’s very easy for puppies to quickly become dehydrated. Ask your vet about electrolyte replacement solutions like Petralyte. A sudden watery diarrhea can spill large amounts of fluid and important minerals out of the body.
Withhold food for 24 hours to let his tummy rest
Then offer bland meals (one-part boiled egg with two parts rice or cooked macaroni) in four to six servings for several days
Gradually transition the meals to regular food. Mix half/half, gradually increasing to regular food by end of the week.
It often takes a couple of days for your puppy’s tummy to calm down, and a bland diet can help. You’ll find all the must-know puppy-licious info in the book COMPLETE PUPPY CARE (paperback copy discounted! and much of it applies to adult dogs, too!).
Are you also dealing with vomiting? Learn more about dog vomiting and what you can do in this post about puppy and doggy vomiting. Or click below to get the quick tips list for treating vomiting at home (or making your dog vomit, in case of poisoning!).
Has your dog ever suffered from diarrhea? Seems like it always happens on a holiday or weekend, too! What did you do? Although dealing with diarrhea stinks, knowing what to do can ensure that everything comes out all right. Literally.
It’s NATIONAL ADOPT A DOG MONTH! How will you spend your celebration? Wait, your dog didn’t tell you? Well, for Shadow, it’s “dog week” every week of the year, but the “official” celebration takes place the 4th week of September every year — and has been celebrated since the first event in 1928. But October celebrates dog adoptions all month long.
Captain William Judy, a WWI veteran (Silver Star recipient) and dog lover, launched the first week-long celebration to honor the loyalty and service of our canine companions. He purchased and continued to publish Dog World magazine, and advocated for dogs his entire life. National Dog Week every year offers a focus for doggy fundraising activities, adoption ops, volunteer assistance programs, and canine education for everyone who shares their life (and maybe a pillow) with a dog.
I’ve offered puppy proofing tips for National Puppy Day and posted a popular roundup back in 2012 from my puppies.about.com features. But the popularity ranking has changed. So now I’m celebrating National Dog Week with this roundup of my latest top 6 puppy posts on the blog. Some of the popular (or is that pup-ular?) content may surprise you.
Yes, the top performing post on my blog these days is all about puppy diarrhea, home remedies, and when to call the vet. This post explains the various reasons behind the problem, with some home remedies. It also offers guidelines how long you can safely wait before you must call the veterinarian. Puppies are fragile little critters and diarrhea and/or puppy vomiting can turn deadly very quickly.
Oh my, this is a real concern at my house! Bravo-Pup always had to have something in his mouth, it seems, pretty much all the time. We’d go outside for a potty break, and he had to find a stick or rock to carry around. In the house, I have to supervise Shadow’s chew toys and keep the cat toys out of reach so he doesn’t eat them. This post details the dangers of swallowed inedibles, the signs of problems, and what you can do if you see your pooch gulp the wrong thing.
This topic ranking so high in popularity surprises me. There must be a LOT of happy tail-waggers out there! If your Labrador or other tail-injury-prone pooch needs trauma attention, this post offers some tips for treating your pup’s injured ass-ets.
When you’re looking for that next pup-of-your-dreams, how can you predict personality? The answer — you can’t, not with any guarantees. That said, there are well-known breed tendencies, and temperament tests performed correctly also offers insights. Read this post to learn what puppy temperament tests can (and cannot) predict, before your next furry wonder adoption day.
Yep, lots of folks acquire youngsters while they have resident pets. Proper intros can make the transition go smoother. At our house, we had to introduce Shadow to Karma-Kat and more recently to teen-tiny Trinity-Kitten to teach him that kitty is the boss and can whip your furry tail into shape (he still does that, even though Shadow now outweighs Karma more than 3-to-one).
Well, there are a lot of new owners out there who want to know what to expect. Did you know that different breeds mature at slightly different rates? Or that newborns can’t regulate body temperature–in most cases that means they can die from hypothermia (the cold) but in this heat wave I suspect newborn pups might also be at risk for heatstroke.
It follows, I suppose, that folks want to know what to expect AFTER the adoption. How old was your pup when he came to live with you? Magic was 8 weeks old, but our first shepherd came to live with us at five months, and Bravo arrived at 12 weeks. And when does junior-dog become an adult? When can you expect juvenile delinquent behavior to kick in?
Okay, it’s your turn. What do YOU have planned for National Dog Week? Why do you think these subjects top the popularity list? Have you had issues or interest with any of them? What are other subjects that deserve more attention? I’m scheduling my puppy-licious writing calendar for the future months, so please send me suggestions!
Some of my earliest bylines as a “pet journalist” appeared in Cat Fancy magazine. I got my first book contracts because a NYC editor read and liked a couple of my Cat Fancy articles. But the magazine sold in 2013, and published a final issue in 2015. Much of the content remains important and share-able. The last article I wrote for Cat Fancy (updated below) covered feral cats and TNR.
Feral Cats, Community Cats, TNR & New Research
There are an estimated 60 to 100 million free-roaming feral and community cats in the United States. They caterwaul from alleyways, give birth in woodpiles, and slink beneath dumpsters, eking out a meager existence on the scraps of civilization. Nobody knows how many live homeless and unloved, but wherever cats gather, controversy soon follows.
Caring cat lovers tried many “solutions” and opinions abound regarding the best way to deal with un-owned and feral felines. In the last decade, a small army of dedicated and caring cat advocates, including Riverfront Cats, and the Feral Cat Project (which lists several success stories!) believes that TNR is a viable and ethical answer. But it’s expensive, and labor intensive. What about other answers?
Research Helping Ferals
Clearly, we need new strategies beyond trap/neuter/release (TNR) programs. “The importance of finding viable, safe, humane and cost-effective techniques for nonsurgical sterilization in community cats cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Kathy Tietje, Vice President of Scientific Operations at Morris Animal Foundation. Two studies recently approved by Morris Animal Foundation addresses this issue with nonsurgical methods to control reproductive capacity. “We’re excited about these innovative projects and their impact on population control of this specific group of cats.” The projects begin in 2023 and should last 12-24 months.
Reducing the number of cats entering the shelter system and improving overall feline health outcomes are the primary drivers behind these new studies. This also reduces the environmental impact of free-roaming community cats through humane population control. The University of Georgia project aims to developing an oral vaccine to decrease male cat fertility by reducing reproductive hormone levels. The Tufts University project focuses on decreasing hormone levels in female cats through an injectable medication. Until then, TNR continues to lead the charge for feral cat welfare.
What is TNR?
TNR stands for “trap-neuter-return,” a program designed to control and decrease the numbers of roaming felines. Trapped cats receive a health exam to identify very sick cats, which are euthanized. Sterilizing healthy kitties and vaccinating prevents reproduction or contagious illnesses such as rabies.
Friendly adult cats and tame-able kittens are adopted while the feral (wild) adults live out their lives—sometimes a decade or longer—in the managed colony. The removal of one ear tip identifies these cats as managed. The caregiver(s) monitor the colony and provide food and shelter.
TNR In The Beginning…
TNR first appeared in Europe and became better known once animal welfare societies in Great Britain began advocating the approach more than 40 years ago. Louise Holton, an early proponent, first learned of TNR in the mid-1970s while living in South Africa. “I fed colonies of cats in Johannesburg,” she says. “As soon as they started talking about TNR, it just made sense to me, and I trapped my colonies and fixed them through the Johannesburg SPCA.”
It took longer for the idea to reach America. While working in animal protection, Becky Robinson noticed feral cats in downtown Washington, DC, at around the same time that Holton moved to the area. Animal welfare organizations offered no help. “I was pretty shocked when they said I should bring cats in for euthanasia,” says Holton. Believing education was the key, Holton founded Alley Cat Allies (ACA) in 1990 as an educational resource for humane methods of feral cat control. Today, ACA staff and directors continue the work.
The TNR concept gained national attention in 1995 when Joan Miller of the Cat Fanciers Association presented a talk on cat lifestyle diversity at the AVMA Animal Welfare Forum. The next year she and Dr. Patricia Olson (then affiliated with the American Humane Association) co-coordinated the first National Conference On Feral Cats in Denver. Presenters offered a variety of views, and concluded that national coordination was necessary. “Alley Cat Allies grew more rapidly after that,” says Miller.
The most common objections focus on protecting the cats themselves. People argue that as a domestic species, it’s our responsibility to keep cats safely confined. People dislike stray cats pestering their own pets or messing in their garden. But feral cats rarely tame or adapt to confinement.
The Vacuum Effect
Moving them becomes difficult when sanctuaries fill up. An area cleared of cats that offers hot or cold weather feral cat shelter and food quickly attracts more cats—a “vacuum effect” that argues for maintaining the colony in its original location. Even if trap and kill programs weren’t expensive and ineffective, most Americans dislike treating cats as vermin.
As an introduced or “exotic” species, critics such as the American Bird Conservancy argue we should remove cats from the environment to protect native wildlife, particularly endangered species. Cats cause the most problems where ecosystems are already in the most trouble, such as on island ecosystems where any predator is a problem. TNR is not a good choice in these fragile environments.
But proponents argue that mostly, cats hunt more rodents than birds, and usually only catch sick, old, or very young birds. “Cats get blamed for a lot of things, but it’s almost never just cats,” says Dr. Slater. For instance, rats also are an introduced species, and quite good predators of many birds. Robinson adds, “A bulldozer on a spring day probably does more damage to the ecosystem than a feral cat in his entire life.” Even critics of TNR often support the programs in situations such as barn cat relocation or city cat colonies, since they risk no endangered species.
Making A Difference for Feral Cats & TNR
Holton, now with Alley Cat Rescue, says they conducted a national survey of feral cats groups (in 2013). “This survey proves that Trap Neuter Return (TNR) works and that many groups and individuals volunteer their own time and their own money to control and stabilize the nation’s feral cat population.”
Most feral cat groups provide spay/neuter services to “owned” cats, as well as offering TNR services for ferals. This, of course, PREVENTS future colonies from forming.
Most (96%) of the TNR groups practice neuter-before-adoption for the stray cats they place in homes.
One quarter of the groups report that their colony cats are 6 to 8 years old. Thirty-five percent report their cats are between 9 and 12 years old, and over 14% report feral cats 13 years old and some even older!
96% of the groups provide rabies vaccinations to feral cats; 64% provide distemper; 11.76% provide feline leukemia shots; 62.18% deworm feral cats; 63.87% provide flea treatment.
One third reported that there were 26 to 30 kittens in each colony before TNR; 42.86% said there were 0-5 kittens in colonies after TNR.
71.42% said they had relocated some cats in their colonies — this means an immediate drop in numbers of cats in colonies, something that Alley Cat Rescue has experienced many times with our own colonies.
Sadly, 61.34% said their local animal control agencies do NOT offer TNR and 36% said animal control agencies had trapped and killed whole colonies in their areas. And as expected with trying total eradication, 27.73% said cats moved back into these areas where they were all trapped and killed, most within 2 to 3 months after the cats were removed.
Nearly all the groups (82.35%) educate the public about feral cats and TNR—65% say this has been “somewhat” effective, with 17.65% reporting their outreach programs to be extremely successful.
In response to “working with animal control,” this answer was split between most saying this was “difficult,” a little less reporting “somewhat successful” and 21% reporting “positively.”
Working on TNR with local city/government: Although only 15% found this easy to do, I think that is a positive indicator that we are moving in the right direction.
Sadly 57% reported that it was “difficult” trying to work with their local wildlife groups.
“We have come a long way since I started on this mission to promote TNR in 1990. Back then, there was only a handful of forward-thinking groups and individuals working on implementing TNR in America. [This survey by ACR] found nearly 700 groups and we will work on identifying more in the future.”
Looking for Common Ground for Feral Cat Control
There is common ground. People on both sides of the TNR fence agree we should sterilize community cats and feral felines, and safely confine them. “Rather than fighting over TNR, we need to think about how to turn off the source of cats,” says Dr. Slater. “There’s always going to be more cats if we can’t turn that faucet off.”
Feral cat programs have impacted our world in an intangible but perhaps even more important way. TNR demonstrates that all cats have a value, even those that can’t be touched. We as human beings now recognized our ethical responsibility toward these community cats and that they should be cared for and treated humanely.
“TNR changes public attitudes about the value of cats,” says Miller. “That message is enormous.”
If you know of an organization successfully using TNR, please drop the name and link in the comments section–let’s show ’em some purr-fect love!
September 19-25 is National Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week, founded by PetFinder.com. The organization encourages shelters and rescues to create special week-long events devoted to giving overlooked pets like those with disabilities a better chance at finding homes. There are many things to consider when adopting a pet.
This struck a chord with me, especially after living with a tri-pawd dog when Bravo lost his leg. He didn’t act disabled, though. Have you ever adopted an other-abled pet or less adoptable pet?
She doesn’t know she’s blind or think she’s disabled, and would make someone a loving, wonderful companion!
What Is A Less Adoptable Pet
Why less adoptable? They’re the wrong breed or have special needs. Overlooked pets include deaf dogs or deaf cats, blind pets, or those missing a limb. Many folks prefer the ‘perfect’ cute puppy or kitten and don’t want a crippled pet, or just don’t like the color of the dog or cat. Of course, we know black dogs and cats, and those with only one eye, or three legs, still love us with all their furry hearts!
Old Pets Rock!
Y’all know how I feel about golden oldie pets, after writing two award-winning books that help folks care with the needs of aging cats as well as aging dogs. Senior citizen pets have just as much love to give and often fit very well into families unable or unwilling to manage the hijinks of in-your-face puppies and kittens. Learn more about the old cat conditions here.
Adult cats and dogs grown out of the “cute” phase also can have a hard time being chosen. But remember that healthy cats and small dogs can live well into their mid to late teens or longer, and you can expect to enjoy at least another half-dozen years by adopting a four-year-old pet. And usually you save costs because they’ve already been “fixed” and have their shots, as well as basic training.
Dogs adapt quickly to wheelchairs, and continue to enjoy life.
What Is Other-Abled Pets?
“Other-abled” pets don’t know what they’re missing. Despite loss of limbs, mobility, sight or hearing, they live and enjoy life regardless of the challenges they face. Often, the pet has less difficulty coming to terms with such changes than do owners. Cats and dogs accept conditions that devastate people. Learn about how to help deaf pets here.
A favorite picture of Bravo after he lost his leg. It never slowed him down! He taught Shadow-Pup all the important dog stuff.
Pets can suffer paralysis through accidents, degenerative back diseases or other health conditions. Nobody knows what happened to Willy the rescue Chihuahua, who lived with rear-limb paralysis. He wouldn’t stop dragging himself from place to place, determined to stay in the thick of things. Once owner Deborah Turner got him strapped into his K9-cart (wheelchair for dogs), he was literally off and running. Willy became the mascot for his local branch of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, had his own website, and two children’s books written about his exploits.
Our Bravo-Dawg never complained when his cancer diagnosis stole his leg. The day after his amputation surgery, Bravo walked out of the veterinary hospital, tail wagging. Oh, we felt devastated and wept many tears during his treatment, but Bravo lived every day with joy and taught us even a brief, condensed life makes a difference.
Blind Dogs and Deaf Cats
I interviewed Dr. Paul Gerding, a veterinary ophthalmologist, for one of my books. He never considered that his Labrador couldn’t still enjoy life when Katie began losing her sight. He wasn’t able to correct the progressive disease medically, but took steps to ensure the blind dog could still navigate her home and yard by memory. She continued to hunt—in safe clover fields with no ditches or holes—and at home Katie relied on the younger dog Grace to be her personal guide dog pal.
The clinic cat for many years at our local veterinarian’s office had only one eye.
My colleague, Lynette George, shared about a special blind doggy she adopted. “Her name is CeeCee and she’s a miniature, long-hair, double-dapple dachshund.” She went from the breeder to three different owners, and then ultimately they surrendered CeeCee to the Oklahoma Spay Network because nobody really wanted to handle a blind dog. “Four months old and thinks she owns the world. She has absolutely no clue that she’s supposed to be “handicapped.” Anyway, she’s absolutely adorable. Everybody who sees her falls in love immediately. She took over Petco when she went in – kind of like she does everywhere she goes. She’s just a hoot every day. We LOVE her!”
One of my local vet offices adopted a one-eyed clinic cat (in the picture). And another local vet clinic has Captain Dan, the three-legged tuxedo kitty. What better ambassadors for adopting disabled–or other-abled–pets?
Pets inspire us with their stoic attitudes. They don’t know how to feel sorry for themselves, and may not recognize they’re any “different” than other cats and dogs. Fluffy and Prince simply want to get on with the important business of eating, playing, and loving their family. As readers know, furry love comes in all shapes, sizes, and packages.
Do you share your home with a “less adoptable” pet? How did you find each other? Has living with an “other-abled” pet affected your life in positive ways? Please share! I’d love to hear your stories and see pictures of your special fur-kids.
September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, so I wanted to share this vital information again. We know pain hurts, but pain in pets and treating pet pain when pets hurt confuses us. They can’t tell us they feel pain, or where it hurts. Not like humans.
Because I get to work at home, there are certain perks I enjoy–such as going barefoot to work. But one afternoon last fall I moved too fast and kicked the whey outta my big toe. This wasn’t just a stubbed toe, either—it lifted and peeled the nail back to the quick, bled everywhere and hurt like the devil! Yes, I said a few choice words as I hobbled down the stairs from my office (trying not to leave a bloody trail) to get bandage material. Ooooooh, that puppy throbbed and made me whimper and howl, let me tell you.
Magic was always ready for a treat!
Pet Pain Matters, Too
I understand how Magical-Dawg felt several years ago. After a run in the field playing fetch, he started shivering when he came inside. The ninety-degree weather argued that he was not chilled. I checked him head-to-tail, and found nothing wrong. But later in the week, he again started shivering, and even growled at me when I asked him to move—very uncharacteristic.
Dr. Harvey noted that the gold standard for assessing human pain is self reporting. We’re asked, how bad is your pain on a scale of one-to-ten? Animals can’t do that, so veterinarians need to determine discomfort in other ways.
SIGNS OF PAIN IN DOGS & CATS
The onset of pain can be sudden (acute) or chronic (ongoing). Pet parents may not notice discomfort when it progresses. You might attribute your dogs’ behavior changes to old age. Today, veterinarians consider the presence (or absence) of pain as a vital sign, and keep track of it. Pet parents can (and should!) do the same. Watch for changes in:
Severe and dramatic behavior changes
What does that mean? Dogs in pain might whimper, whine, cry, or yelp when touched. They may hold up an injured leg, limp, hunch their backs, and beg for attention. Friendly pets shun attention or hide, while shy animals become more demanding. Feline pain symptoms look like fearful behavior, with the cat staying still and quiet, or trembling. Cats often hide; when you touch them they nail you. In addition, pain increases arterial blood pressure and heart rate, increases stress, and affects neurological activity.
PET PAIN BEHAVIORS
Pets in pain display a suite of signs. Dog pain signs include any one or combination of the following.
Hunched or prayer position
Glazed facial expression
Attention-seeking and whining (the bond with you may influence that)
Licking the painful area
Usually won’t hide the painful body part
Appetite rarely affected
Cats are not small dogs, and display their own pain signs:
Poor or lack of grooming
Hissing or aggression upon manipulation of painful part
If you love cats but haven’t heard of The Feline Grimace Scale you MUST check it out and become familiar with this. Dogs have very expressive faces–cats not so much. So providing pictures for comparison helps enormously when trying to figure out if (and how much) discomfort cats feel. You can download the fact sheet (below) plus a four-page detailed training help at https://www.felinegrimacescale.com/
Pain Varies from Pet to Pet
Pain tolerances vary from pet to pet just as in people. A one-size-fits-all program won’t work. Experts say there is a five-fold variation in pain tolerance for the same surgical procedure in humans. So if a condition would be painful in a person, assume it’s also painful in your pet.
Dang, I had no idea! My toe-throb injury kept me awake the first night despite multiple doses of Advil, and only subsided to a dull roar three days later. I waited a week before I got up the courage to look under the BandAid…Ew. Not pretty. I retired my sparkly sandals early and hoped socks and bandages would keep the loose nail from tearing away. About six weeks later, the dead nail lifted off. I said “ouch” many-several-times. And increased the dose of Advil.
What Is Pain? The Technical Version…
How does pain work? Damaged tissue releases chemicals that sensitize nerve endings. Aggravated nerves send pain signals up the spinal cord to the brain. The brain recognizes the sensation and shouts, “Dang, that smarts!” and triggers a protective reflex. This “learned avoidance” teaches Kitty to pull back her nose from the candle flame, for instance, and urges Poochie to hold up his hurt paw so it heals.
Not all pain is severe or sudden, or requires pain drugs. For instance, antibiotics relieve pain by curing a sore throat. Heat lamps relieve chronic arthritis pain. Water is a natural anesthetic for your pet’s burning skin allergy pain.
Extreme pain, though, causes a more complicated natural response that depresses immune function, interferes with blood clotting and wound healing, and negatively affects the cardiovascular system. Extreme pain can also permanently rewire neural pathways to create a “pain memory” that keeps pets feeling pain long after the injury has healed. It’s as if the normal highway nerve impulse travels must repeatedly “detour” from the safe path and instead leap off the same painful cliff.
How to Treat Dog Pain and Ways to Relieve Cat Pain
But pets require specific dosages and metabolize drugs differently than people—human pain medicines may be dangerous to pets. For example, dogs can develop ulcers from human-type aspirin products. Cats can DIE if given people- or dog-specific pain medicines. Pain control options from your veterinarian are always the best and safest choice for cats and dogs.
Narcotic pain relievers for severe pain, such as morphine, codeine and Demerol, are available only by prescription. Veterinarians can compound some medicines into peanut butter or fish paste so your pet willingly accepts it. After surgery, drains can deliver continued pain relief into the chest and abdominal cavity, the joint, or even into the bloodstream. Chemotherapy and radiation relieves certain kinds of cancer pain. A “pain patch” delivers an opioid drug transdermally (through the skin). After we had to amputate Bravo-Dawg’s leg due to bone cancer, pain medication kept him comfortable. In most cases, your veterinarian prescribes the drugs for your pet. Once approved by the doctor, you can order them at online sources such as Chewy.
There are quite a few products for chronic arthritis pain in dogs. Not so much for cats. However, recently the FDA approved injectable Solensia (frunevetmab) specifically for cat arthritis pain. It’s the first monoclonal antibody drug approved for animals. Hurray for cats! If you have a senior feline friend, chances are the cat could benefit from arthritis pain relief. Ask your vet if this treatment is right for your cat.
Ask For Pain Relief–Advocate for Your Pets!
Depending on the condition being treated, pain medication may—or may not—be included. Ask your veterinarian about pain policies and procedures, and if there might be an extra cost or if it’s part of the fee. Any time your pet has a sudden change in behavior, please have him checked by the doctor. Treating a health issue that prompts behavior change usually solves the problem.
Some animal hospitals cut costs by eliminating pain medicine. Be aware that while anesthetics and tranquilizers keep pets asleep during a treatment, they do not relieve pain once your pet wakes up. If your veterinarian doesn’t mention it, ask about pain relief options for your cat and dog.
Over the Counter Pain Pills for Pets?
Yes, there are OTC pain treatment options for pets. Since every dog and cat needs different things, always run things by your veterinarian first.
CBD products offer a popular and effective way to address chronic pain for such things as arthritis. I recently learned about products from ElleVet, available only from veterinarians or direct from their store (click the link, below). Cornell University has clinically tested these for dose effectiveness. Even better, one product ElleVet’s Feline Complete Paste has been developed specifically for cats, in a chicken liver flavored paste that cats love. It’s suggested for joint discomfort, stress, and neuro support.
What About Magical-Dawg (and my) Toes?
We took Magic to get his boo-boo fixed. The veterinarian sedated him, clipped off the torn nail, bandaged his paw, and prescribed dog-safe pain meds with antibiotics while he healed. And the pain in my big toe also went away, and after six months, a new nail grew to replace the damage (yay!). Whether human or furred, no creature should suffer pain. Providing proper pain medicine helps pets recover more quickly and completely.
Learn about other home remedies that safely help relieve pet pain!
It’s also the right thing to do.
Have your pets ever needed pain medication–after surgery or an injury? How do you know when your pet hurts? And have you ever had an injury similar to your pets, like me?
I’m keeping my fingers (and toes!) crossed that Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat never need pain meds! Or that a heating pad or cold compress does the trick for minor whoopsies (as discussed in the natural healing book).
Happy cat, happy life, right? Happy Cat Month should be every month! We celebrate Happy Cat Month in September, and nothing makes a cat happier than hearing his or her special cat name.
What do you call your feline friend? How did you come up with your cat’s name? I’ve got a theme going with my kitty friends. Seren (short for Serendipity) came to me at just the right time. And so did Karma-Kat, when our Magical-Dawg found him. Cats seem to name themselves and there are many popular ones these days. But you don’t have to go with the crowd.
The American Curl cat has ears that curl backwards.
Pedigree kitties are christened with a string of unique and entertaining names to designate the cattery, sometimes the breed or even the appearance. I still remember one of my all-time-fave cat names, “Celticurl’s Sinead O’Curler” for an American Curl feline.
THE HISTORICAL “CAT”
Did you know the words for “cat” seem surprisingly similar throughout the world? Historically, there appear to be three basic origins for the naming. The word for “cat” seems derived from sounds he makes, based on the actions of the animal, or associated with ancient cat-gods of the past.
Egyptians named the cat mau, which means “the seer” (from the word mau, “to see”). Perhaps these ancient people associated the cat’s unique eyes with an ability to view more than meets the eye.
Other historians speculate that the cat’s mewing vocalization inspired her to be called mau. In fact, China’s word for cat is miu–quite similar to the ancient Egyptian’s mau.
The powerful cat-headed gods of the times were alternately referred to as Bast, Bastet, Posht, or Pasht. Some people speculate puss is a natural derivation of Posht or Pasht. Others believe “puss” evolved from the Latin words pusus and pusa, which mean “little boy” and “little girl.” Admit it–you sometimes call your cats by these endearments, don’t you?
Another version connects the French le puss to the Latin lepus, which means “hare.” In fact, well into the eighteenth century, England used the word “puss” to refer to both cats and hares well into the eighteenth century.
Romans called the cat felis from the root word felix, meaning “a good and auspicious omen” linked to magical divination. Later, they used catta, the same name as the weasel, because both cats and weasels were used to catch rodents. Other words may come from the root word ghad, which means “to grasp or catch.” Seems a perfect fit for our felines. Learn more about the history of the cat in CAT LIFE.
“CAT” AROUND THE WORLD
For fun, here are a few more words for “cat” from around the world:
katti or ket
Greek, kata or catta
Polish, kot or gatto
Russian, kots or koshka
Karma loves to “read” the funnies.
SHARE YOUR MONIKER!
So what do you call your cat? Coat color inspires names like Rusty, Pumpkin or Ginger, Snowball, Cotton, Tabby and Midnight. If a cat is called Suede, Fluffy or Big Foot, what image does that conjure?
Attitude often prompts telling names as well. But don’t name him “Demon-Seed” or “Stupid” unless you want him to fulfill that prediction! Cats given positive names tend to have more positive relationships with their people.
Picking a great cat name can be fun. My little Siamese wannabe is Seren—short for Serendipity because it was such a happy accident we found each other. But I suspect cats also have a “secret name” we humans can’t pronounce.
Have you ever considered holistic medicine for your pets? There are many questions about what is holistic pet care. Is it the same thing as what your regular vet offers? There are many names for offering traditional medicine for pets. Some call it alternative medicine or natural healing. But are there specific definitions, and is holistic pet care a good choice for your cats and dogs? August 30 is National Holistic Pet Day, so it’s a good time to revisit asking these questions.
This gorgeous pup has fun in the “natural” undergrowth…but poison mushrooms are natural, too! Image Copr. D. Garding/Flickr
WHAT IS HOLISTIC PET CARE?
Is natural veterinary medicine that different than a conventional approach? Many pet products companies have joined the “natural” revolution including offering herbs for pets, but is this because they truly feel that’s better for our cats and dogs–or is it simply a marketing ploy? And how can pet parents decide what’s best for their cats and dogs, and see through all the hand-waving hype?
I write about holistic care in both of my CAT FACTS and DOG FACTS books but never would have done so before researching a much earlier work. New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats is available in all print & Ebook formats, including hardcover.
Before researching the book New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats, I really didn’t know a lot–or think very much of–the “natural” wave of pet care since I’m a prove-it-to-me-with-science kind of person. But after interviewing dozens and dozens of scientific-type researchers and veterinarians who embraced some or all of these new-but-old-fashioned modalities (more than 70 for the book!), I not only learned a lot but began to respect the alternative viewpoint.
As with any trend, though, there are those who take advantage and dish up quackery alongside the quality options, so it’s still very much up to us to “vet” our pet care. The same is true for conventional medicine, too. There’s a reason they call it the PRACTICE of medicine–it is as much an art as a science, and what’s the best choice for my animal companions may be the wrong one for yours.
Conventional vs Holistic Pet Care: What’s the Difference?
Veterinarians provide the latest in terms of advanced diagnostic technology, cutting-edge drugs and surgery but many pet parents—and veterinarians—also embrace holistic medicine they feel is more natural. While traditional “western” medicine can’t be beat for addressing first aid and emergencies like broken legs and acute or critical health issues, holistic approaches may work better to prevent and treat chronic health challenges.
Here’s a broad example that compares “conventional” treatment to a holistic medicine approach. In mainstream western medicine, a drug can be given to stop the puppy’s diarrhea. But that’s like putting a cork in a bottle and may stop the symptoms without getting rid of the cause, so when the drug wears off the diarrhea returns. Instead, holistic practitioners seek to treat the patient as well as the symptom. Mainstream veterinary medicine does that, too, of course, but the approach is a bit different.
What Is Alternative Medicine?
The word holistic refers to a whole-body approach that addresses the health of the pet’s physical and emotional being. Alternative simply means “in addition to” and not specifically “instead of” other modalities. Learn about homeopathy in this post.
Rather than treating the “symptom” of disease, the holistic practitioner looks at the entire animal: diet, exercise, behavior, emotions, and even the environment. Conventional “western” medicine tends to focus on the disease, while holistic medicine focuses on the patient.
Other terms are used to describe holistic medicine, including “natural” and “alternative.” My favorite term, though, is “integrated medicine” because that means the best of all worlds—a combined approach of conventional partnered with holistic for the ideal help for your dog and cat.
Why A Natural Medicine Approach?
Holistic veterinarians would rather try to prevent problems like hip dysplasia and to support the body’s immune system to fight allergies rather than scramble to fix problems after they happen. They believe once chronic problems develop they continue to get worse even with ongoing conventional treatment.
This frustration with conventional western veterinary care inspired them to look for other options. Holistic or “natural” alternatives for many became the answer. Once they started to look, veterinarians found and began experimenting with therapies like herbal remedies, as well as flower essences and homeopathy. They looked at natural medicines and treatments that had been used in human medicine for decades or even centuries.
They found out treatments like massage and acupuncture not only worked in people but equally well in pets. Some of these treatments raise eyebrows, such as sticking needles into your puppy to help relieve pain until scientists proved acupuncture can relieve pain and nausea and even help boost the immune system. Holistic vets have found that garden herbs and Grandma’s home remedies work as well or better than many modern drugs. They often contain the exact same ingredients, but don’t cause the side effects.
You Don’t Have to Choose: Use Integrative Veterinary Medicine
An integrated approach offers your pets the ideal care specific to his needs. Alternative/holistic veterinary medicine works great alongside much of mainstream medicine.
Conventional medicine can’t be beat when it comes to diagnosing problems, so X-rays or blood analysis can reveal a tumor or fracture before the veterinary chiropractor provides a treatment. If your puppy chews through an electrical cord and stops breathing, acupuncture resuscitation can start his heartbeat again until you can reach conventional trauma medicine help. Homeopathy can’t perform surgery, but may help a traumatized pet survive surgery and heal more quickly afterward.
Be sure to evaluate the claims of different holistic treatments before rushing into therapy. Sadly, when the term “natural” became very popular, some companies simply slapped on the label to increase sales. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe or effective—poisonous mushrooms and venomous snake bite is natural, too.
It’s difficult sometimes to figure out odd-sounding therapies that work from quackery, so ask questions and do your research. Look for studies that back up the claims of a treatment’s effectiveness. Your holistic vet will provide proven science when it’s available. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies alternative care options for people and many of these apply to pets as well. Veterinary journals also publish studies and measure the effects of different techniques.
When a technique or product is very new there may not be scientific studies available. Because some of these therapies are “natural” there’s not much money to be made and so costly evaluations may not be embraced by drug companies. In these cases, testimonials from other pet owners and veterinarians may provide convincing “anecdotal” evidence. Just take some claims with a grain of salt depending on who makes the claims—someone with a monetary gain could be suspect. But other puppy owners and animal health professionals able to recognize true health improvements are more credible.
Choosing A Credible Holistic Veterinarian
When choosing a holistic veterinarian, look for doctors that have training in natural and alternative treatments. Professional veterinary associations or holistic organizations offer study and accreditation. Some of these organizations include:
Do you use natural, holistic or otherwise “alternative” veterinary options with your pets? Heck, I used herbal remedies for myself now, as well as herbs specifically for my pets. Do tell! And if you decide to get the newly released NATURAL HEALING pet care book, please post a review and let me know what you think!
Do Cats Suffer Separation Anxiety? Your Guide to Signs & Tips to Relieve the Angst
Yes, cat separation anxiety affects many felines. When school restarts, and the kids go back to class, your cats may suffer from separation anxiety. The signs of distress are very different in cats. I encourage you to read on to learn about tips for helping your furry family members adjust. Any change in your routine makes them more prone to developing cat separation behaviors when you go back to work or kids return to school and leave them alone.
We very often hear about doggy angst during a beloved human’s absence, but what about cats? Yep, it’s exactly the same—only different. Here’s how.
Back to school can change schedules and put kitty’s tail in a twist.
How to Deal With Cat Separation Anxiety
Cat separation anxiety requires behavior modification and desensitization to soothe upset kitty feelings and reverse problem behaviors. Cats may go for years without issues, and then suddenly act out when your work schedule changes and keeps you away for long hours. Vacations also tend to trigger feline separation anxiety.
Think of separation anxiety as a form of grief. Cats don’t mean to “act bad,” they just miss you so much they can’t help themselves. And the way cats make themselves feel better can cause even more stress and upset feelings to their humans.
Cats KNOW when you’re supposed to come home…don’t disappoint the kitty!
Cat Separation Anxiety Symptoms & Scented Comfort
Cats may cry and become upset as you prepare to leave. More often, they don’t react to your departure. They wait to “act out” once left alone, and urinate, spray urine, and defecate on owner-scented objects—most typically the bed. Learn more about litter box problems here.
The familiar scent of kitty’s bathroom deposits actually comforts her and reduces feelings of stress. Of course, these unwelcome “gifts” increase owner stress levels. And while an angry reaction is understandable, your upset feelings increase the cat’s anxiety even more.
Don’t consider cat separation anxiety and pottying on the bed vindictive because you left. Think of the cat’s behavior as a backhanded compliment. Kitty wouldn’t do this if she didn’t love you so much!
Missing you adds stress that can even lead to illness.
4 Ways How to Desensitize and Counter-Condition for Cat Separation Anxiety
Cats pay exquisite attention to the details of their lives. They’ll often recognize subtle clues that you’re preparing to leave long before you realize. A cat may figure out that you always freshen your lipstick just before you leave. Repeating these cues takes away their power.
Desensitize your cats to the presence of the overnight bag by leaving it out all the time. Put clothes in and out of the bag every day, but without leaving the house, so your cat no longer gets upset when she sees you pack.
Toss a catnip mouse inside the suitcase, and turn it into a kitty playground. That conditions her to identify the suitcase as a happy place, rather than associating it with your absence.
Use behavior modification techniques so the triggers lose their power. Pick up the car keys 50 times a day, and then set them down. Carry your purse over your arm for an hour or more. When you repeat cues often enough, your cat stops caring about them and will remain calm when you do leave.
Fake your departure by opening the door and going in and out twenty or more times in a row until the cat ignores you altogether. Then extend your “outside” time to one minute, three minutes, five minutes, and so on before returning inside. This gradual increase in absence helps build the cat’s tolerance and desensitizes her to departures. It also teaches her that no matter how long you’re gone, you always return.
5 More Tips for Reducing Angst from Cat Separation Anxiety
Most problem behaviors take place within twenty minutes after you leave. The length of time you’re absent doesn’t seem to matter. Find ways to distract the cat during this critical twenty minutes so she won’t dirty your bed.
Ask another family member to interact with the cat during this time. A fishing-pole lure toy or chasing the beam of a flashlight can take the cat’s mind off her troubles. If she enjoys petting or grooming, indulge her in a touchy-feely marathon.
About 1/3rd of cats react strongly, another 1/3rd react mildly, and the last 1/3rd don’t react at all to catnip. If your feline goes bonkers for this harmless herb, leave a catnip treat to keep her happy when you leave. Using catnip every day can reduce its effects, though, so use this judiciously.
Food oriented cats can be distracted with a food-puzzle toy stuffed with a favorite treat. Make it extra smelly, irresistible, and something totally different than her usual fare to be sure the treat makes the proper impression.
Cats that have been outside and seen the real thing often don’t react, but homebody indoor-only cats enjoy watching videos of fluttering birds, squirrels and other critters. There are a number of these videos available, including the original called “Video Catnip.” Alternately, find a nature television show such as on Animal Planet, and tune in for your cat’s viewing pleasure.
Playing familiar music that they associate with your presence can help ease the pain of you being gone. In addition, research has shown harp music works as a natural sedative and actually puts cats to sleep. Learn about music therapy for pets in this post. Harp music CDs designed for this purpose can be found at petpause2000.com.
Do you know the signs of a cat urinary blockage? Do you know about FLUTD? Maybe you’re puzzled why your cat suddenly pees outside the box? Or maybe he strains and strains but can’t eliminate. Is it constipation? Or does he have a cat urinary blockage? How can I stop my cat from peeing on the carpet?
If you’re asking these questions, you’ve come to the right place. Feline lower urinary tract disorders (FLUTD) can cause deadly cat urinary blockage. It frustrates cat owners—and also the cats! A cat urinary blockage can be deadly, so it’s vital to recognize the signs of a feline urinary tract disorder. This post is dedicated to my friend Susan Richardson-Cripps and the memory of Heathcliff, a fun-loving orange boy.
Susan with Heathcliff, the early days…
Cat Urinary Blockage & Disorders
Your cat has always been faithful to the litter box. After all, you trained your kitten to use the litter box from the beginning. But suddenly your adult cat, Tom, leaves damp messages on the carpet, Sheba cries and squats right in front of you, and bloody urine puddles in the bathtub. This is different from urine spraying, and is a cry for help.
My dear friend Susan messaged me on a Friday evening, concerned her cat Heathcliff had constipation. Although he managed to defecate, he still seemed to have a lot of pain. He walked “funny” and meowed a lot. She’d called her vet but couldn’t get an appointment until Monday afternoon. I suggested the local emergency hospital, and the next morning, she took her orange boy there for an exam.
Some litter box problems can be easily solved with these tips. When your well-trained cat suddenly begins missing the mark, that can be a sign of a health problem. Any health issue requires veterinary help.
Cats with urinary tract disorders often spend lots of time just sitting in the box.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorders (FLUTD)
Cats are known to suffer from a group of disorders, including stones, as a part of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease or FLUTD. Male and female cats are affected equally. Urinary bladder stones occur in only about 20 percent of cats suffering from LUTD.
Actual “stones” of pebble-size and larger can develop. More commonly the tiny mineral deposits (called urolithiasis) are microscopic to sand-size. A mucous-crystal matrix can plug the urethra and prevent the bladder from emptying and cause cat urinary blockage. Just think back to your childhood, remember a never-ending car trip with no bathroom access. Multiply that discomfort tenfold to understand how the blocked cat feels.
Signs of Cat Urinary Blockage
Signs of urinary stones may include any one or combination of a break in housetraining, dribbling urine, straining in the litter box or spending lots of time “posing” with little result–this can look like constipation. When urine does pass it may contain blood, and/or have a strong ammonia smell. Affected cats may cry during urination, or excessively licking the genitals.
Diagnosis is based on these symptoms, urinalysis, and/or X-rays to reveal stones in the urinary tract. Without prompt medical attention, the blocked cat will die when toxins build up in the bloodstream, the kidneys stop working, or the bladder ruptures.
I love Heathcliff’s single freckle on his nose! He apparently loved to hunt and fetch snakes into the house, yikes!
Heathcliff’s Sad Experience
The veterinary emergency clinic examined Heathcliff and explained to Susan that his bladder had enlarged to softball size, filled with bloody urine and crystals. They anesthetized him to place a urinary catheter to help him pass the urine, and planned to prescribe pain medication and antibiotics to address possible infection. Tragically, five-year-old Heathcliff’s heart stopped after he came out of anesthesia, and didn’t survive despite attempts to save him.
“Our sweet boy was only five years old. How does this happen so fast to a beautiful and energetic cat? He went downhill so fast.” She hadn’t seen any bloody urine at all until at the clinic, and Heathcliff had acted like his normal, rambunctious self only a few hours earlier. “They did all they could to revive him, but our little guy just didn’t have the fight in him. I do want to say thank you to Christian and the staff at Grayson County Animal Emergency Clinic for the kindness they showed me and the gentleness they showed to Heathcliff.”
FLUTD & Creating Kitty Urinary Crystals
Not all stones are the same. Crystals and/or stones form when specific minerals and organic substances are present in the urine in the right concentrations. In addition, the urine must be the right pH (acid/base balance). It also must stay in the bladder long enough for crystals to form. Consider pancake syrup in a pan–if it sits still long enough, crystals form. Therefore, formation of stones depends on volume of urine, concentration and type of minerals, frequency of urination, and genetics.
Cats evolved as desert creatures, and consequently conserve water extremely well. They may urinate only once every 24 to 48 hours. That means urine sits in the bladder for long periods and becomes more and more concentrated. Cats also drink sparingly, and seem to prefer to get water from their diet rather than lapping from a bowl. These instinctive tendencies predispose felines to develop bladder stones. Some kinds of crystals like struvite can be managed easily with diet. Others like calcium oxalate stones are a challenge–and diets that prevent one actually promote the other kind. Yikes!
The cause of feline crystals often can’t be identified. Diet can play a role in the formation of certain types of feline stones. And because up to 70 percent of cats have repeated episodes of stones, a therapeutic diet has become the standard way to treat and in some cases prevent them.
Cat Urinary Crystals
Twenty-plus years ago, 80 percent of feline bladder stones identified as struvite and developed in part due to alkaline urine. Pet food manufacturers learned to counter this by creating acidic urine (and therefore prevent struvite formation) by adjusting the formulation of cat diets. Bless their furry lil’ hearts! Nearly every commercial cat food on the market today has been designed to reduce the chance of struvite formation, by increasing the acidity of the urine.
When the diet has undergone expensive tests to prove this effect, the label may say, “for urinary tract health.” Honestly, though, all of the major cat food brands do pretty much the same thing. They just haven’t spent extra money on these tests and so legally can’t place a claim on the label.
A percentage of cats still develop struvite stones despite eating good foods. Special therapeutic veterinary diets can dissolve existing stones and/or prevent formation of new ones, and most of the major pet food manufacturers offer therapeutic options. Therefore, if your cat hates the first food offered, ask about another therapeutic alternative. Diets only work if the cat eats them.
Cats that become blocked from urethral plugs–crystals mixed with mucus that get stuck in the urinary track–typically are unblocked with catheters to reestablish flow from the bladder. But repeated catheter use may cause scar tissue in the urethra that makes the problem even worse. Perianal urethrostomy surgery may be an option for these cats. The procedure shortens the male cat’s urethra—removes the penis—which creates a wider conduit for release of urine so the urethra doesn’t block as easily even if crystals continue to form.
More Urinary Crystals & Calcium Oxalate Conundrum
Today calcium oxalate stones are becoming most common. Struvite seems to affect younger cats while calcium oxalate more often impacts aging felines. In fact, some calcium oxalate uroliths, especially those in the kidneys, may not cause obvious health problems for months to years. As the cat ages, the bladder becomes less elastic and may not empty totally each time the cat urinates. Over time, this may lead to increased susceptibility to infections and large bladder or kidney stones.
The change in commercial diets to reduce struvite actually promoted a rise in calcium oxalate stones. These struvite-prevention diets increase blood-acid levels, which also tend to leech calcium from the bones. Calcium spilled into the urine can form calcium oxalate stones. Calcium oxalate stones most typically block the ureters–the conduits leading from the kidneys to the bladder–and if too big to pass, require surgery to remove.
FLUTD & Stopping the Stones
So, what can a cat lover do? Be alert for signs of distress.Consider a blocked cat a life-threatening emergency and see your veterinarian immediately. Do your best to reduce cat stress, since that can predispose kitties to repeated episodes.
If your cat has been diagnosed with FLUTD, your doctor likely will analyze the crystals (if present); determine if an infection is involved and prescribe medication and recommend an appropriate diet. Remember that an old cat with calcium oxalate crystals should NOT eat a food designed to prevent struvite, or vice versa. In addition to diet change, avoid giving any kind of mineral or vitamin C and D supplementation to cats, which can predispose to calcium oxalate formation. The veterinarian has the information to prescribe and recommend the most appropriate treatment for your individual cat.
Heathcliff (in the chair) with best kitty buddy Monty.
Dilute With Water
Increase your cat’s water intake by feeding canned diets, which typically feature 70 percent water. There’s some argument whether or not cats drink more when the water remains fresh or running. It won’t hurt to provide a feline drinking fountain, available from pet products stores. More water helps dilute the urine and encourages the cat to use the litter box more often. That way the bladder doesn’t remain full for long periods of time.
While filtered or bottled water isn’t routinely recommended, it probably won’t hurt and might help especially if it encourages your cats to drink more. Try flavoring the water with liquid drained from water-packed tuna or a bit of no-salt chicken broth. All’s fair in keeping cats healthy–sometimes despite themselves.
Susan gave me permission to share Heathcliff’s story, in the hopes it might warn other cat lovers and save them the pain her family feels. “Monty misses his baby brother, Heathcliff. He has wandered all over the house today looking for him and can’t understand where his wrestling buddy has gone. I’m afraid Monty is going to find this difficult to deal with because they were inseparable.” I’ve written about helping yourself, and pets, through the grieving process.
Karma-Kat has always remarkably healthy and (knock wood!). He never misses the litter box and this tragic story reminds us all how quickly a vibrant, health pet can suffer a life-threatening health crises. We’re fortunate to have a veterinary ER available in our community. What about your cats? Have they had problems missing the box? Crystal issues? What has been your kitty experience with regard to lower urinary tract issues?
Why would you want to leash train cats and confine kitties from stalking and pouncing? Isn’t that mean? Actually, it’s not cruel, but without proper introduction, it can be a wee bit scary. In my Complete Kitten Care book, I call this LIBERATION TRAINING. Teaching your new cat to walk on a leash is a safety issue, but also means they get to venture beyond the confines of your house and into the yard and beyond.
During a cat consult, a pet parent asked about training her cat to walk on a leash. It’s always a good time to revisit the notion. I just added some pictures of Karma to this post, since today’s gorgeous weather tempted us to go for a walk. So I’m reposting.
An adult cat won’t automatically understand the concept, though, so this blog not only explains the benefits of leash training to YOU, it also helps you purr-suade your cats to get a new leash on life. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
How To Leash Train Cats—Choose The Best Halter & Leash
I like the figure-8 harnesses because when the cat tugs (as nearly all will); the design tightens so they can’t wriggle out and escape. These often come already attached to a leash. The smallest size H-harnesses made for Toy-size dogs may also work. The jacket-style harnesses also work well for cats, particularly for big kitties. These fasten with Velcro and are adjustable for the best comfort fit.
Choose a lightweight leash for cats.
When the harness and leash come separate, I recommend a lightweight fabric leash that won’t weigh down the cat. A six-foot or shorter leash works well. You don’t need the kitty ranging too far from you for safety reasons, so I don’t recommend the retractable spooled leashes for that reason.
Whatever the style, it’s vital that you fit the harness correctly for two reasons—first, a cat not used to the outside easily becomes frightened and lost if she gets away.
And second, even if she escapes the harness while inside the house, it teaches the cat that she CAN escape, so she’ll continue to fight the harness. You want the cat to accept the harness and leash so she can fully enjoy the benefits.
I’m not a fan of clipping the leash to the collar–cats can slip out of collars, and their fragile nects are easily injuried. But DO start training INSIDE the house before venturing outside.
Training Cats—Really?! Yes!
Kittens are incredibly easy to leash train. I’ve had shelter kittens walk happily on leash within five to ten minutes of meeting them. It takes a bit longer with adult cats, but the technique for leash training your cat is the same whether she’s a kitten or a senior citizen cat.
Seren learned to walk on a leash when she was about five months old. At less that 7 pounds, I got her one of those tiny dog H-harness contraptions and had to adjust it down even farther. That, of course, was over 20 years ago, and times have changed. Today there are new options for kitty harnesses that are much more comfortable for the cat, and less likely for the pet to wriggle out.
Karma-Kat Walking Vest & Why Leash Train Cats
So I took a look around when Karma came to stay. Although Seren only rarely went outside on walks and never without her harness and leash, Karma gets more and more interested in an occasional ramble. Why do this? Well, for a couple of reasons.
First, I want Karma to be comfy wearing the equipment—and it actually seems to calm him down somewhat, so that’s a plus! Also, wearing a harness gives me added grab-icity (something to hang on to) if he decides to wriggle around. I found this to be very helpful with Seren during vet visits, as she was never a happy patient.
Finally, because of the way Karma came to us—wandering up onto the back patio—there’s a chance he got away from someone. Yes, he’s now microchipped just in case that ever happens again. But ultimately, I want Karma to be very familiar with the immediate area surrounding our house, so he knows and can recognize HOME.
Lost cats rarely run far away from their house even if they get out, but they may hide–and if chased by a strange dog or (gulp!) coyote, they might race far away from familiar territory. This actually was part of the plot in my second thriller HIDE AND SEEK, where the main character hung up a variety of wind chimes around the house that also served as audio signposts to the pets.
For Karma, I chose a small dog harness that also works well for cats. Pupia comes in a variety of colors and sizes and there are many other options that may also work well for your cat. You can check it out here:
Cats often act “paralyzed” and refuse to move when they first wear the harness or vest.
How to Leash Train Cats, Step-By-Step
Make It Part of the Furniture. Leave the halter and leash on the floor for your kitty to find.
Smell It Up. Make the halter smell like him by petting him with it, so it’s less frightening. Remember, cats communicate with smell, so if it has a familiar scent, the cat will be more accepting of the halter. If he really likes catnip, spike it with this cat-friendly herb.
The harness should fit snug to the cat’s body–this one’s a little too loose!
Turn It Into A Game. Drag the leash around like a toy, and praise Kitty when he catches it, to associate the leash with fun times. Make the leash-chase-game part of his routine, always beginning the process with the halter-petting. Do this for at least a week before you ever attempt to put the halter on your cat. Once the leash and halter have become part of his normal routine, sit on the floor to play with the cat put the halter on him.
Lure Him to Move. If he tolerates wearing the halter and immediately moves around or licks it—BRAVO! You have a genius cat ahead of the game. But if he turns into a furry lump and refuses to move (typical of many cats), use the end of the leash to get him engaged in that familiar chase game.
The key is to get them moving, because once he does get up and discovers he’s not “tied down” he’ll be willing to explore—and that’s the whole purpose of the halter and leash training. If he’s not interested in the leash, try using a feather lure or a treat—anything to convince the cat he’s able to move is legal. After five minutes, take off the halter.
Baby Paw Steps. Gradually increase the time that he wears the halter.
Bribes Are Legal. Be sure to offer a special treat or toy/game after each session, so he recognizes there is a lovely payday to be earned.
Let the Cat Lead. After several days, when he’s no longer protesting, clip on the leash and hold it while following him around. Let him direct where you go, rather than pulling or tugging to direct him. At least initially you want him to believe he calls the shots—use the feather lure to get him moving the direction you like.
Success At Last!
Eventually, when both you and Kitty feel secure on the leash, you can explore the porch, smell the roses, or even mall walk together. Be one of those fashionistas who visit the pet products stores and allow Kitty to choose his own toys! And if you wish to make a really bold fashion statement, I know for a fact that kitty halters and leashes come with sequins.
Once a cat accepts the halter and leash, Kitty can go on safe walks with you.
By the way, the first two times I put on his vest, Karma pulled the old OMG I’M PARALYZED!routine and fell over on his side and lay there. Even my standard technique of teasing him to move with cat wand toys failed to get him up and moving more than two or three wobbly steps. So I took off the leash, and walked into the other room for something and….IT’S A MIRACLE! he raced in after me, stopped as if caught in his act, and sauntered on into the room. Now he’s rocking his kitty vest!
Do your cats ever go outside on leash (or otherwise?). How do you ensure they stay safe? Have you created scented or audible or special visual signposts to aid a new pet to know that THIS is home? Does allowing them outdoor access “create a monster” so they beg to go out? I found that happens with some cats, but never has been a problem with Seren. We’ll find out about Karma.
Years ago, when I was the spokesperson for the Purina Cat Chow Way of Life Tour, we’d arrive in town the evening before and visit the shelter to choose a kitty for the next morning’s TV appearance. The “stars” almost always received lots of attention from viewers and got adopted. Understandably, shelter staff had their favorites and often urged us to choose a special feline that had less chance for a forever home. I had the delight of spending the night in the hotel room with the lucky kitty. Believe me, it was tough not to bring a whole clowder home!
One memorable kitty hated mirrors. Oy!
Why Cats Hate Mirrors
The shelter volunteers urged us to take a “lifer” onto the TV show. This kitty had been there for several years, and probably couldn’t remember ever being on the “outside.” She’d had reconstructive eye surgery for a birth defect (problems with the eyelids) and had poor vision. But she was sweet and adored by the whole staff–so we chose her to make a television appearance.
That evening, when I opened the carrier door in the hotel room to allow her to stretch her legs, she got as far as the closet door, and FREAKED! The mirror reflection terrified her—that strange cat in the glass hissed at her, screamed at her, threatened to attack—and this poor cat hadn’t a clue what to do. Why do cats get freaked out by mirrors? It’s likely the eyesight issue made it worse, but many cats react to mirrors poorly. Cats often act scared of strange new things. Many of us smile at the picture of a cat looking in mirror and seeing lion—or in the above, a tiger. In a way, that’s exactly what cats may perceive.
CATS & MIRRORS
Why cats hate mirrors? Maybe you see a cat scratching at a mirror over and over again, or the cat’s tail “yelling” at that reflection. Yet we wonder why do cats ignore mirrors other times? Cat face conformation—eyes at the front for binocular vision—lends itself to seeing reflections. But most times, a reflection doesn’t also have a strange odor or unique sounds attached, so for experienced cats, the reflection isn’t important or “real” without a signature odor or noises.
Other times, cats, like my little shelter waif, develop problem behaviors from mis-recognizing their own reflection as a threat or playmate. Kittens that have less life experience are most likely to react to reflections before they realize they can’t reach that “cat behind the glass.” Some cats react to the reflections in pictures, oven doors, fireplace screens, or even tile. Mirrors and other reflecting surfaces like windows can confuse inexperienced cats.
Cats often attempt to reach the other cat by pawing underneath or at the side of the mirror to “get around” the barrier, preventing contact. They also do this after watching TV images of birds or other critters, mistaking the screen for a window. Cats that fear other cats, or that want to chase away the “intruder” act out with aggression.
Cats can become obsessed with mirrors and scratch at mirrors over and over.
EVIL CAT TWINS
The lurking outdoor cat presence primes the mirror-gazing kitty to become suspicious, so his fearful reflection also triggers defensive body language. When the cat displays “friendly” body language, the reflection does the same and such interactions are less likely to cause problems. But a fearful or aggressive body posture in the reflection, the cat perceives as a threat, raising the actual cat’s arousal. This becomes a vicious cycle. When cats become highly aroused, they react rather than think, and it matters little that the reflection offers no scent or sound. Some cats learn to associate shiny surfaces/locations with feeling upset and these can trigger acting out behavior.
The interaction with the reflection runs the range from curious and playful to head-thumping and screaming attacks. This could also feed into cases of redirected aggression. In other words, the cat becomes hissed off by that “threatening cat” seen in the mirror, but can’t reach the interloper, and so instead nails a passing cat friend.
Are mirrors bad for cats? Even windows offer reflections, and cats get freaked out by mirrors reflecting themselves.
Reducing Cats & Mirrors Fears
Each time a cat sees an upsetting reflection he practices being upset. Each repeat of a behavior predicts more to come, and makes it more likely for it to continue. So what can a caring owner do?
Remove mirrors if possible.
Move mirrors or problem reflective surfaces. A new location may not have the same associations.
Cover reflective surfaces you can’t move. Tape paper or cling-plastic over cat-level mirrors, or spray-paint with temporary opaque color.
When you have one confident cat that ignores the mirror, play games and offer treats in the mirror-area while the upset cat watches. This can teach the upset cat that another feline has no fear, and can encourage copy-cat calm behavior. More tips for dealing with mirror angst or redirected aggression are in the ComPETability: Cats book.
Have your cats ever reacted to the mirror or their reflection in windows or other surfaces? How old were they? Did they outgrow the behavior or did it become a problem? How did you manage it? Cats also react to images such as high-definition screens like TVs and iPads as well. That can offer fun games if cats enjoy chasing the image.
How Pets Play, Why Cats Play, and What Dog Play Means
Happy national pet day! Nothing is more fun that watching how pets play. But do you know why cats play? or what dog play means? Or how to play with puppy or kitty? Turns out, it’s more than just fun and games.
How pets play and why dogs and cats play games fascinates the people who love them. Cat play, dog play and kitten games are exactly the same–only different–with identical purposes but variation in styles. 😛 These days, I have a front-row seat with the “old lady” Seren-Kitty doing her best to keep order, while Magical-Dawg and Karma-Kitten wreak havoc.You can’t help but smile or laugh out loud when the fur-kids throw a play-party.
Oh, and that picture (above) of the kitten vaulting over another? That’s Karma’s latest favorite hiss-inspiring activity. I call it his “drive by” when he races across the room, and LEAPS over top of Seren, creating feline angst and prompting her to chase-to-chastise the furry miscreant. Of course, that’s what Karma wants, to get the old girl to chase him. When she catches the big guy, he immediately flops on the floor while she yells cat curses at him, and paw-swats his face.
When that doesn’t work, Karma simply tackles Seren, using his 13 pounds to pancake her petite 6-pound frame to the carpet. You can almost see him smile as she yodels her outrage.
Karma is in kitty heaven.
He does something similar with Magic. Karma saunters up to my 90+ pound German Shepherd, crouches for a moment, makes sure the Magical-Dawg is watching, and then SPRINGS away to duck under furniture. Magic takes the bait and invitation, and sprints after him. It makes me tired to watch.
Kitten play can be relentless.
HOW PETS PLAY…IS IT PLAY, OR AGGRESSION?
It can be hard to tell sometimes what’s “real” and what kind of play is “just fooling around.” In fact, both dog play and cat play can tip over into dangerous aggression if the pets get too wound up.
Dog and cat play use the same behaviors as hunting, attack, and aggressive behavior, but the pets use “meta signals” to let the other party know it’s all in good fun. For instance, dogs use the “play bow” with butt-end up and forepaws down to signal that everything that comes after this signal is not serious. Cats also can use a play bow, or roll on their back to solicit attention or a game.
Here’s a BIG clue. Doggy play includes growls, whines and barks. Cat play typically is silent. If your cats become vocal during play, it’s time to stop the games. And if both of the pets keep coming back for more, they’re likely just having a good time.
Dogs use a “play bow” to tell others they want to play and mean no harm.
WHY CATS PLAY & WHAT DOG PLAY MEANS
In years’ past, the experts often ascribed play to be only the means by which juvenile animals practiced skills they’d need later as adults. Kittens played to hone hunting ability, while puppies played to strengthen muscles and practice various doggy techniques.
They neglected to mention that play, quite simply, is FUN! Cats stalk toy mice and kittens attack ankles for the pure joy, as an outlet for energy, stress reliever, and potent relaxation technique. Dogs steal socks and dance away out of reach, and play “tag” with owners, other animals, and even the reluctant cat. If you believe cats and dogs don’t laugh, just look more closely at your furry companion in the throws of blissful play.
Now 13 pounds and a year old, the play has slowed down, and 17-year-old Seren is grateful!
By four weeks of age, kittens practice four basic play techniques: play fighting, mouse pounce, bird swat, and fish scoop. The first play displayed by kittens is on the back, belly-up, with paws waving. Feints at the back of a sibling’s neck mimic the prey-bite used to dispatch mice (toy or real). Kittens also practice the simpering sideways shuffle, back arched high, almost tiptoeing around other kittens or objects. Soon, the eye-paw coordination improves to execute the pounce, the boxer stance, chase and pursuit, horizontal leaps, and the face-off where kittens bat each other about the head.
Karma has decided “riding” a towel dragged across the floor is great fun. Kitty sledding, anyone? Keep in mind the high energy level of kittens when you decide to adopt.
Puppy play can be similar, but while kittens use paws to tap-tap-tap objects and manipulate/test their surroundings, pups mouth–everything. By five weeks, puppies often carry things around. This ensures owners must be good housekeepers or risk losing wallets, underwear, and other important valuables. About the same age, pups begin playing tug-of-war with your pant leg, each others’ tails, and anything within reach.
Magic still loves to play keep-away. Thank goodness he only targets doggy toys and human socks these days, rather than (urk!) puppy poop.
Puppy and kitten play offers endless entertainment to them as well as watching humans. The awkwardness, intensity, and abandon of these antics give way to greater finesse and dexterity as the pet matures. Learn more about puppy development in the Complete Puppy Care book.
HOW PETS PLAY…AS ADULTS
While adult pets play less than rambunctious babies, all dogs and cats play to some extent through their entire life. It’s not only fun for you both, but healthy as well. Keeping dogs and cats active and moving ensures they stay lean, and interested in the world around them.
At age 17, Seren still raced laps around the living room and up and down the stairs. While she’d deny it, chasing the Karma-Kat brought back a gleam back to her eyes. The pair really enjoy edthe tag-team matches they play.
Now, Karma-Kat plays nonstop with his buddy Shadow-Pup. He loves fetch and tug games, and of course, rolling on his back with a squeaky-chew in his mouth is right up there with treats. His most favorite game of all, though, is sniffing cat butt. Ahem.
Play is serious business for our dogs and cats. Take a lesson from them and find time to play every day. In a stress-filled world, we all benefit from a daily dose of giggles. Play with your pets–and watch them smile from both ends.
So what special games do your cats and dogs play? Seren used to love to play “chase the feather” as it disappeared underneath a pillow. Are doggy (or kitty) games learned from each other? Do tell!
Dog crates and cat carriers—love ’em, or hate ’em, they’re a necessity to keep pets safe. With vacation time just around the corner (do you take pets with you to visit family on holidays like Easter?), consider updating your pet-safety accomodations. I recently received a Passenger Travel Carrier from DIGGS, known for their innovative and high-quality dog products—and now the Passenger option for smaller dogs and CATS.
Vet Visits Don’t Have to Be Stressful with DIGGS Passenger Carrier
Mee-wow! So much to love about this carrier, especially the fact it received a five-star crash test rating (highest score possible) from the Center for Pet Safety. In fact, the Passenger Travel Carrier passed on the first try. For cats and small dogs, the best and safest option for car travel means riding inside a carrier that you seat-belt into the back seat–or, if small enough, fits on the floor behind the front seats. The Passenger Travel Carrier fits both requirements.
The Diggs Passenger Travel Pet Carrier comes in three stylish colors: navy, blush, and slate (pictured above). It accommodates small pets up to 18 pounds in weight, but that upper limit may prove crowded for some pets that want to move around. I love the design allows you to attach it securely with your car’s seat belts. You also can slip it over a rolling suitcase for convenient travel to and from the car.
A soft bed on the floor attaches with Velcro, for easy removal for cleaning. We know that cats visiting the veterinarian prefer getting in and out of the carrier on their own. The AAFP recommends carriers with a top, front, and side opening: check, check, and check! The Passenger has a zipper opening on the top, the front, and also the side. It has multiple pockets for all the pet necessities: leash, treats, wipes, and your wallet to purchase more treats. Did I mention TREATS? (Karma-Kat made me write that).
Passenger’s Pet Carrier Pee Pad System
Shadow’s very interested…but he doesn’t fit! This carrier works for your little dogs, though.
For extra long trips with young pets that might have “accidents” in the carrier, the Passenger has you covered. The innovative pee pad system probably applies more to puppies and dogs than to cats.
The bottom of the carrier holds a plastic board in the bed’s base, to which you can attach a Diggs pee pad to help keep your pet clean. You can swap out the soiled one for a fresh pad using the side panel, without disrupting your pet too much. Be sure to clip the inside tether to the pet’s halter to the interior D-ring to prevent an escape, though!
It weights 4.5 pounds, and won’t collapse for storage–but after all, you want to leave this out ALL THE TIME so it doubles as a cat bed. That way, your cat already accepts the carrier as a safe, happy place. I pulled mine out of the box, unzipped the top, and dropped in a couple of treats, and Karma-Kat jumped inside within 10 seconds. Yes, that’s why Shadow wanted inside, too!
This cat carrier has the look and feeling of luxury, and the price reflects that at $186 on Amazon and a bit higher on Walmart and the DIGGS site.
Reducing Cat Carrier Fears
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) provided the nifty infographic, below, as well as a great article YOU CAN SHARE on your blogs, tweets, facebook and anywhere else. Please read and share 5 De-Stressing Tips for Cats.
Now…have you called your vet for an appointment? Ready–set–CALL!
Easter bunny, anyone? Awwww…nothing sweeter than baby bunnies. Well, baby anything, right? Our “Cottontail Mountain” home already has rabbits everywhere, especially in our garden. Shadow-Pup, sadly, wants to hunt them so we must monitor him as the babies appear Easter bunnies appear.
‘Tis the season of Easter bunnies…real ones need lots of love, attention and proper care, and are not stuffed toys! Image Copr. Audrey/Flickr Creative Commons
Karma-Kat loves watching “bunny TV” out the back patio windows. I think he’d love to have one come inside to *ahem* cuddle and play. NOT! Just like other animal companions, it takes more than admiration to make bunny love positive for everyone.
Easter is not the time for a spur of the moment furry gift. People purchased chicks and ducklings and baby bunnies by the score each year, some dyed in ridiculous colors, almost as gag gifts although they are living creatures with very specific care needs. A rabbit is more than an Easter bunny joke. For more about Easter safety issues for pets, read this post.
Easter Bunny, More Than A Toy
The House Rabbit Society has lots of great information about caring for a bunny. They make wonderful pets—but you have to want them for more than a couple of weeks, or until the “cute” wears off.
Did you know bunnies mark territory? Chew all kinds of stuff? (even more than dogs!). And unless you “fix” your bunny friend, aggression can become a problem. Read on!
Bunnies need love and proper care–they are not an impulse! Photo from House Rabbit Society
Bunnies are intelligent, social animals who need affection and get along well with cats and well-behaved dogs. You can train them to use the litter box (emphasis on the trained)–it doesn’t happen with the wave of a wand. Rabbits eat and poop at the same time—the original multitasking pet–so standard clay cat litters won’t work and can be dangerous to bunnies. You’ll find tips on rabbit care and training at the House Rabbit Society, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping educate the public.
EASTER BUNNY MARKING
Similarly to cats and dogs, intact rabbits use bodily functions to mark territory. You’ll need to spay or neuter your bunny friend to curtail the hormones that prompt marking behavior. This also decreases destructive chewing and territorial aggression. An attack rabbit is no laughing matter! House rabbits should be “fixed” between the ages of 3-1/2 to six months, depending on sexual maturity, by an experienced rabbit veterinarian.
EASTER BUNNY: A GNAWING HABIT
Once de-sexed and litter box trained, bunnies can freely roam your home and interact with the whole family. But first, rabbit proof the house. It’s natural for rabbits to chew on just about anything: furniture, rugs, drapes, and even deadly electrical cords.
Use the same tips for preventing canine teething to safeguard rabbits and provide safe chewable alternatives and toys to keep the bunny happy and distracted. Rabbit experts recommend cut, dried branches from apple, willow or aspen, or pine firewood; cotton towels; baskets or cardboard boxes filled with hay; and compressed alfalfa cubes. Juvenile delinquent bunnies under a year of age are more mischievous, and require more safe confinement and bunny proofing than older rabbits.
PROPER EASTER BUNNY CARE
Your pet bunny requires the same good veterinary care you provide for your cats and dogs, and rabbits are prone to specific health issues you’ll need to address. For instance, bunnies are naturally clean and groom themselves constantly–but that makes them prone to fur balls like Kitty. But rabbits can’t vomit. If the excess fur can’t pass into the litter box, a blockage can kill the pet.
Therefore, you’ll need to groom your rabbit on a regular schedule, provide at least 30 hours exercise a week to keep bunny moving on both the outside and inside, and provide fresh vegetables to help keep her regular. Special bunny hairball laxatives can help during molting season.
If you don’t have time for a live Easter bunny, there are plenty of “stuffies” to adopt!
WHY NOT ADOPT A RESCUE EASTER BUNNY?
The days and weeks following Easter finds many adoptable bunnies in shelters. If you really want a furry friend, you could also save a life by rescuing one of these sweet babies.
This year prepare ahead of time for your new Easter bunny surprise. You know your situation best. Bunnies can be rewarding pets but they require time, training, and appropriate care. In the months following Easter, local humane societies and rabbit rescues get flooded with rabbits, former Easter gifts whose owners no longer want them. The unlucky ones get dumped outside, where they usually become victims of predators, cars, illness, and injury.
Easter is a joyous time of rebirth and hope. Enjoy the egg hunts, the Easter candy, dinners with family and friends, safe plants (BEWARE of Easter lilies!)–and if you’re ready, welcome a living creature into your home and heart. If not ready for the breathing/chewing/pooping version, celebrate the wonderful world of bunnies with a stuffed toy, or a chocolate rabbit. They won’t mind being tossed aside.
Do you share your home with a bunny? My brother’s family has a pet rabbit that gets along well with the cats and dog–it can be done! Please share your bunny-licious experiences.
Each holiday brings sweet candy cautions for pets. Doggy Halloween candy thieves mean you ask, How much chocolate is poisonous to dogs? Easter candy fills the aisles at grocery stores in the spring, and Valentine’s day brings its own hazards.
I’m a sucker for Easter candy, especially those chocolate bunnies. Many folks love to fill the kid’s Easter baskets with sweets. But chocolate indulgence can turn your Easter candy celebration into a pet-astic calamity. Pet poisoning happens with Halloween chocolate, and chocolate on Valentine’s day, too.
Cats aren’t poisoned as often with Easter candy because they are a bit more discriminating about what they munch. But dogs often smell the candy right through the packaging, and eat it wrapper and all. Swallowed objects like foil or paper wrappers or the sticks off of suckers can cause intestinal blockage or damage, too.
EASTER CANDY CHOCOLATE TOXICITY
Any Easter candy indulgence can pose digestive upset with messy diarrhea results and a need for you to invest in a carpet cleaning service for the stains. But chocolate toxicity can actually kill your pet. Chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulant related to caffeine. Eating too much chocolate shifts your pet’s heart into overdrive.
Milk chocolate rarely causes life-threatening problems because it takes nearly two pounds of milk chocolate to poison a seven-pound pet. Baker’s chocolate can be deadly, though. It contains ten times as much theobromine as milk chocolate, which means a seven-pound pet only needs to eat two ounces to be poisoned. Licking chocolate frosting, lapping up cocoa mix, or gulping truffles—a very rich dark chocolate treat—causes vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures, coma, and even death.
Puppy pens keep baby out of trouble! Image Copr. D.Garding/Flicker
MAKE HIM VOMIT!
If you catch your pet snacking on such things, induce vomiting as soon as you can to get rid of the poison. You can make her vomit up to an hour after she’s eaten the chocolate, but sooner is better. After an hour, the toxin has probably moved out of her stomach into the intestines, and vomiting won’t get rid of it.
It’s dangerous to induce vomiting if the dog or cat acts woozy. They can inhale the material on its way up and suffocate. As long as she’s alert, there are several methods you can use to get rid of the chocolate. Call the veterinarian for further instructions after the pet has emptied her stomach. If you can’t induce vomiting after a couple of tries, prompt veterinary care is even more important.
Better yet, don’t bring dangerous treats into your house. Here’s a thought—you could give the extra chocolate to me. I’m willing to make the sacrifice and dispose of the deadly sweet treats to protect your pets.
When the holidays or business travel rolls around, pet sitters can be a big help when you plan vacations with or without your dog or cat. After delaying plans for over two years due to the virus, many of us now will travel to visit family and friends, have folks visit, or spend vacation time away from home. Time off from work and a change of routine offers humans much-needed stress relief. But the same is not always true for furry family members. That’s where pet sitters come in.
29th annual Professional Pet Sitters Week™ to be celebrated March 5-11
Pet Sitters International is highlighting the resiliency of pet sitters during this annual observance that recognizes the importance of professional pet-care services and the viability of pet sitting as a career.
“Professional pet sitters and dog walkers’ businesses were significantly impacted by the pandemic, but they persevered, continuing to tailor their safety measures and their service offerings to meet the needs of their clients,” said PSI President Beth Stultz-Hairston. “We’re thrilled to see business rebounding for so many pet sitters across the globe and are happy to celebrate their dedication and highlight their value this Professional Pet Sitters Week.”
“It is also the perfect time to highlight the viability of professional pet sitting as a career,” said PSI Founder and CEO Patti Moran. “Professional pet sitting has long been a profitable and rewarding career option, and with 70 percent of U.S. households now owning a pet, the need for professional pet sitters will continue to grow.”
VACATIONING WITH & WITHOUT PETS
No pet should be unsupervised for longer than a couple of days. Make arrangements to have a friend, a neighbor, or a professional pet sitter visit at least once a day to clean the toilet facilities, check food and water (and medicate, if needed), and perhaps play or cuddle with the cats.
Leaving dogs at home is also an option. But unless your dog is litter box trained (yes, it can be done!), people visits must be more frequent for potty breaks and meals. Some dogs eat four-days’-worth of food at one time if it’s all left out at once.
PICK A PET SITTER
Pet sitters are the ideal choice. You can search via professional organizations such as National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International or even Rover to find members in your area. You can also learn more and perhaps become a TrustedHousesitters Member! Whatever you chose, check out the pet sitter’s credentials, how long they’ve been in business, if they’re bonded/insured, what services they provide, and be specific about fees. Find out how much time the pet sitter spends on each visit—average is 30 minutes but for dog walking (especially multiple pets) or grooming/medicating it may take more time and require a higher cost.
Ask for references (and check them!) before you decide if the service or individual is a match for you and your pets. It’s also important to see if the candidate interacts well with your cats and dogs. Some pet sitters specialize in special needs animals. For instance, they may be able to medicate your diabetic cat or “pill” your reluctant dog.
Be sure to leave caretakers with detailed information about each pet’s care needs, veterinary contact information, and emergency phone numbers to reach you. Leave your pets’ leash, medications and other “must haves” in an easy access area and show the pet sitter where to find them.
Alert the neighbors about the pet sitter or family friend coming and going from your home so they expect them in the neighborhood, and give the pet sitter your neighbor’s name and phone number. Talk with your veterinarian about signing a “just in case” authorization for medical care (you can designate the dollar amount). That way, emergency care is available and funded even if you are unavailable to give your okay in person.
PREP YOUR PETS!
Of course, you can’t ask your cats and dogs about what THEY want when you’re gone. So do your best to prepare them for the absence. A fractious or fearful pet may not accept even the most dedicated and friendly pet sitter. Gradual introductions are key, and it may be love at first sight (YAY!) or could take some time for especially shy felines to accept that stranger in the home.
Plan for your vacation or absence at least a couple of weeks in advance, especially for cats. Ask the pet sitter to meet with your pets to see how they get along. A savvy pet sitter knows what pets expect and won’t push the fur-kid past limits. For instance, they won’t force petting or close interaction when the dog or cat prefers distance. Over time, though, when the “stranger” visits several times and perhaps plays a favorite game or drops treats for the pet, a more positive association develops. You can find more detailed tips in my short quick tips guides, MY CAT HATES MY DATE as well as MY DOG HATES MY DATE.
Benefits of Planning Ahead
Preparing for your pets’ comfort during your vacations gives you peace of mind so you can enjoy your time free from worries. After all the joy they bring you throughout the year, don’t your cats and dogs deserve happy howl-adays, too?
So…do you contract with a pet sitter, or perhaps a neighbor or family member to care for pets when you’re gone? Or do you board the dog? How does that work for you? How many readers take the dog along for the trip–or even the kitty? What tips and tricks make the travel problem free? Please share!
While I was at a conference some years ago, I attended a special session sponsored by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA.org). Having previously worked as a vet tech, I’m familiar with this organization and learned even more during the presentation by Dr. Heather Loenser. If you’re not familiar with this wonderful organization, here’s what you need to know.
What Is AAHA?
The American Animal Hospital Association, founded 82 years ago, is a voluntary accrediting organization for small animal hospitals in the United States. That’s right…accreditation is VOLUNTARY, and it is not required by law. Only 12-15% of animal hospitals have gone through the rigorous and stringent evaluation process to attain this distinction.
To become AAHA accredited, practices undergo regular, comprehensive onsite evaluations by AAHA veterinary experts who evaluate each practice on more than 900 standards of veterinary care. As of 2023, the organization boasts over 4,500 practice teams (about 15% of veterinary practices in the United States and Canada) are AAHA accredited or pre-accredited.
That’s not to say that animal hospitals without AAHA-accreditation don’t offer great care from talented and dedicated veterinarians. Dr. Loenser noted that to achieve accreditation requires cooperation and dedication from the entire staff, from veterinarians and technicians to front desk staff and everyone who has a “paw” in the practice’s success.
It’s not easy to achieve AAHA accreditation, or to maintain it. So when you see the red logo on your hospital door, website or their educational materials, you know they’ve gone the extra mile. These folks hold themselves to a higher standard.
American Animal Hospital Association Accreditation
Once accredited by AAHA, the animal hospital gets reevaluated every three years, measured against 900 standards. Some of these standards are mandatory, while others have a bit of wiggle room depending on circumstances.
For example, having a single-use surgery and ventilated isolation area is mandatory. Hospital design can vary depending on the location, type of building, size of practice and other parameters that are not so black and white.
A few of the other standards include issues related to medical records and even mentoring new graduates, as well as pain management, dentistry, radiology, infectious diseases, anesthesia and surgery. You can see some of these AAHA-recommended guidelines online, too.
Value Added Information
AAHA also lists 26 position statements covering everything from pain management and dangerous animal legislation to declawing, animals in research, wild animals as pets, and THIS:
The American Animal Hospital Association supports the concept of animals as SENTIENT BEINGS. Sentiency is the ability to feel, perceive, or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences. Biological science, as well as common sense, supports the fact that the animals that share our lives are feeling, sensing beings that deserve thoughtful, high-quality care. The care that is offered should provide for the animal’s physical and behavioral welfare and strive to minimize pain, distress, and suffering for the animal.
My veterinary hospital has a website, and on the “about” page, it includes the AAHA logo and says this:
“We voluntarily sought accreditation by the American Animal Hospital Association. This means that we regularly have our practice evaluated by an expert to ensure that we comply with veterinary care standards. And it means your pet is receiving the best possible care, using the latest procedures and technology. Ask us about our AAHA accreditation and how it affects your pet.”
You can also check the AAHA-Accredited Vet Hospital Locator and do a search to see if your vet–or a clinic in your neck of the woods–is listed. If you’re moving to a new home, this is also a great way to help you find your ideal veterinary clinic, one that’s focused on compassionate care and that puts your pets first, just like you do.
If you don’t see the AAHA logo, why not ask about it? Maybe your hospital IS accredited and will make more of an effort to let clients know, when they know how much we care. Educated pet parents and clients make the best advocates for their companion animals, and your veterinarians want to know how much you care. In fact, your interest may be all that’s needed for your clinic to seek accreditation.
Now then…post in the comments. Is your veterinary hospital AAHA-accredited? Do tell!
But it’s never too late (or too soon) to get your pets’ pearly whites checked out by your veterinarian. Often the doctor has some great tips for keeping cat teeth clean and dog breath at bay, including how to brush doggy teeth.
Does the thought of brushing dog teeth make you cringe, roll your eyes, whimper, slink away–and feel guilty? You’re not alone. But once that puppy-sweet breath morphs into curl-your-eyebrows stench, it’s long past the time to address that stink-icity.
Why Brushing Dog Teeth is Important
By the time dogs (and cats!) reach the age of three, most of them have some amount of dental disease. Pets will benefit from toothy attention all year round. After all, pets don’t brush their teeth, and they tend to gulp—not chew—their food. Just think what your teeth would look like in three years if you never brushed!
Dr. Jan Bellows, a board-certified veterinary dentist, says your veterinarian can use a plant-based gel called Vetigel that stops the bleeding from pulled teeth within seconds. Veterinary dentists also may use professional sealants like Sanos Dental Sealant, that helps prevent plaque from attaching under your pet’s gums for up to 6 months.
You can reduce the number of veterinary dental treatments (and your guilt factor) with easy home care tips. Here are 6 no-guilt tips to freshen up your dog’s breath.
6 Easy Fresh Breath Tips
Dry food won’t “cure” dental disease, but it doesn’t stick to teeth as readily as wet foods. Crunching dry food can reduce dental problems by about 10 percent, though, so offering your dog “crunchies” after moist dinners can help. At my house, Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat love Greenies. You can get tiny fish-shaped Greenies treats for cats, and different treat-sizes Greenies for dogs. At Karma’s last exam, our veterinarian said his teeth looked like a one or two-year-old (he’s actually nearly nine!).
Many dogs relish healthy people foods like raw veggies or fruit, and chewing on these “detergent” foods can help scrub teeth clean. Offer dogs carrots or apple slices for healthy natural dental snacks. Make ’em big pieces, too, so he must gnaw off a piece rather than gulp it whole. Here are some safe people foods for pets.
Eating “detergent” foods like apples is good for dog teeth.
Most veterinary dentists dislike cow bones, pig hooves, and other hard chew objects that may break your puppy’s teeth. Sterilized bones designed for doggy dental care, though, may be just the ticket. Lately, Shadow-Pup has enjoyed these trachea “bone” dog treats, fully digestible and crunchy.
Puppies love to chew. Offer your dog a legal object that also has dental benefits, like the “dental toys” that contain a nubby surface designed to scrub the teeth. Please supervise, though. Too many of the so-called “indestructible” chew toys get eaten, and cause blockage problems.
A wide range of commercial dental chews (rawhide, ropes, treats) available for dogs may also prevent doggy breath. Some are infused with special enzymes that kill bacteria and help prevent plaque. Also, look for dental rinse products from your veterinarian. Ask your vet for a recommendation, as the professional products work best.
How To Brush Kitty or Doggy Teeth (Without Getting Bit!)
Adult dogs often object to tooth brushing. It’s best to start puppies with a dental hygiene program while they’re too little to argue. Brushing cat teeth also works best starting with kittens. Just turn it into a tasty game and your pet will BEG for the attention. Here’s how.
Mess With His Mouth. Over several weeks, get your dog used to having his mouth handled. You can get pups used to having something inserted into their mouth by flavoring your finger with low-salt chicken broth, or peanut butter (yum!).
Treat With Toothpaste. Offer doggy or kitty toothpaste as a treat. Special meat-flavored toothpaste is available that gives pets the incentive to open wide. Never use human toothpaste. Pets can’t spit so they end up swallowing the foam, and swallowed fluoride can be dangerous and damage your dog or cat’s internal organs. Dr. Bellows recommends the PetSmile brands, since they also have the VOHC seal of approval. These pet toothpastes come in London broil, rotisserie chicken, and cheese flavors!
Use Toy Props. Once they accept mouth handling and like the toothpaste, try propping the puppy’s mouth open with a favorite toy. Simply encourage him to bite on a chew object, and wrap your hand around his muzzle to hold it in place. That gives you access to his open mouth and also gives him something to do with his teeth. Use the same toy each time, so he identifies it with tooth attention–and getting a GREAT reward afterward. Practice doing this several times and praising him while giving toothpaste treats before you introduce a toothbrush.
Choose Pet Brushes. Special pet toothbrushes are smaller and may be designed to better fit the dog’s or cat’s mouth. A soft child’s toothbrush works well.
“Finger” The Teeth. Some puppies better accept your finger. Finger toothbrushes are available for brushing pet teeth, or simply wrap a damp cloth over your fingers and use that to scrub the outside of his teeth. Puppy tongues clean the inside surface of teeth so you won’t have to worry about poking too far inside the mouth.
Praise The Performance. Experts recommend you brush after every meal, but two to three times a week is good. Always be sure to praise and throw a happy puppy-kitty party afterwards so your pet finishes with a good taste over the experience—literally!
Keeping breath fresh goes beyond good dental hygiene, too. Pungent breath makes you avoid dog kisses and purring lap snuggles (awww, you hurt his feelings!). It also points to potentially painful, dangerous dental problems that can damage your dog’s and cat’s organs. Yes, it’s THAT important.
So…do you brush your dog’s or cat’s teeth? What about offering “dental-friendly” foods and treats? How do you keep your pooch and kitty kissable fresh? Do tell!