Adopting “Other-Abled” and Less Adoptable Pets

PetFinder.com provides resources for Less-Adoptable-Pets. 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.

I wrote this post many years ago but now have drastically updated it. While I’d shared my life with senior pets before, now I’ve the added experience of 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?

disabled cat

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.

My Seren-Kitty nearly made it to her 22nd birthday. Magical-Dawg lived until age twelve. That means adopting an old dog or cat could still mean years of furry love. Here are some things common to aging dogs, and what you can do to help.

less adoptable pets

Old dogs make great friends.

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.

disabled dog

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.

other abled pets

A favorite picture of Bravo after he lost his leg. It never slowed him down! He taught Shadow-Pup all the important dog stuff.

Mobility Issues

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.

less adoptable pets other abled pets

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?

Furry Inspiration

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.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Scared Cat? Teaching Shrinking Violet Shy Cats

scared cat

Is your kitty shy? How do you bring her out of her Shrinking Violet shell? (Image copr. Missi Hostrup via Flickr, a picture of Tiger Lily)

Working with fearful and scared cats can be a challenge. Does Sheba hiss at strangers? Does Tom dive under the bed when the doorbell rings? Do your kitties attack other pets (or humans)? What can you do to stop bad behavior if even a mild correction sends the cat into fearful meltdown? Alexa posted her Ask Amy question to my Facebook page, and the answer is in today’s video.

Helping Shy & Scared Cats

We often feel that our fur-kids must have been abused and feel bad to make THEM feel bad. But they still need to know limits. One of my favorite ways to train is using positive rewards. Instead of waiting for kitty to scratch the wrong object and then interrupting the behavior–why not REWARD her when she scratches the RIGHT object?

Using kitty clicker training can also build confidence in shy cats by teaching them what happens is in their paws. Here are more tips for dealing with scared cats.

Stranger Danger & Fearful Felines

While a normal dose of caution keeps cats from becoming coyote kibble, extreme fear makes cats miserable and disrupts your happy home. A hiding cat may not bother you, constant anxiety increases stress that can make cats sick. For instance, stress can aggravate bladder inflammation (cystitis), which prompts hit-or-miss bathroom behaviors. Even when the bladder doesn’t hurt, anxious cats use potty deposits or will increase scratching behavior to calm themselves—sort of the way nervous humans bite their fingernails. Noises can scare cats, and this post about dog noise fear may help kitties, too.

scared catMore Tips for Helping Shy Cats or Stressed Out Kitties

Do you have a shy cat? How does s/he react to strangers or new situations? What tips have you used to bolster confidence? You can use scent enrichment to help reduce your cats’ stress. Are you concerned (like Alexa, below) about damaging your pet relationship during training? How do you avoid that?

Of course you can find lots more fur-kid care tips in the pet books. Many of the tips in MY CAT HATES MY VET! will also help. But I hope anyone with a burning furry question (or heck, ANY question! *s*) will share in the comments and perhaps it’ll be a future Ask Amy feature!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Furry Prescription: Health Benefits of Pets

health benefits of pets

Pets help children learn empathy and serve as a social bridge between peers.

Anyone who has ever lived with a cat or dog knows they increase our happiness quotient. But did you know that they actually improve our health? Multiple studies have proven what pet lovers intuitively have known forever. Pets are good for what ails you! The health benefits of pets keep us active, engaged, and happy, stress-free, and so much more.

So do you know all the benefits of pets for human health? Read on!

There are Multiple Health Benefits of Pets: Stress Busters & Heart Attack Recovery

The health benefits of owning pets, especially the ability to calm us down, help enormously during these stressful times. We’re obsessing over the economy, cost of gas, health care, natural disasters, the pandemic, missing family and friends, and so much more. We need all the stress-busting help we can find.

In fact, health insurance companies should give pet owners a cost break on premiums. Studies show that people with pets get sick less often, and recover more quickly than those without animal friends. Infants and children who grow up with furry companions are less likely to develop allergies as they mature.

And those unfortunate individuals who have suffered a heart attack—and own pets—will recover more quickly and survive longer than heart attack survivors without pets. There actually are a few enlightened physicians who prescribe a pet for their heart attack patients.

the benefits of pets for human health

Karma reduces my stress simply by being near me.

Pets Lower Blood Pressure Without Medication

People with a dog or cat experience only half as much blood pressure increase when stressed, as those without a pet. Half! Could you benefit from that kind of stress relief? The research shows that your pet doesn’t even have to be present for this “pet effect” to work. It’s simply enough to know he’s waiting at home.

Petting and stroking any friendly dog or cat also lowers blood pressure, so if you’re pet-less, you could volunteer at the shelter or get your fur-fix at a neighbor’s home. Petting is especially effective, though, when it’s your own animals.

Sometimes pets even lower blood presser more effectively than medication. That’s because the act of speaking dramatically increases blood pressure, and drugs don’t block this effect. The only thing that counters elevated blood pressure that results from talking is focusing on something outside yourself–like a pet. Simply sitting quietly with your dog or cat each day can soothe your soul.

the benefits of pets for human health

Dogs love us back–and the benefits work both ways!

Pets Increase Our Exercise

Part of the pet effect has to do with increased exercise. I know that my exercise increased when I have a dog to walk. Magical-Dawg demanded a game of fetch outside several times each day, and that got me up and moving. After he died, my outside activity decreased and weight went up. But even a kitty can get us exercising more–after all, trips to the store to tote cat litter and food home requires me to leave the house.

Our best intentions to sign up for a class at the gym may come to naught. But dogs like Shadow-Pup won’t take “no” for an answer. And cats like Karma-Kittywon’t let me sleep late, if the food bowl is empty.

Exercise relieves anxiety, boredom, and depression. While others may look askance at goofy-acting humans, it’s “legal” to play and have fun with your pets–which is as good for our own mental health as it is for the cats and dogs. Set aside time every day to play like a cat or dog–and you’ll feel better for it. That’s probably why, when the pandemic kept us apart, many folks adopted pets to snuggle and interact with.

health benefits of pets

A cat’s purring presence lowers blood pressure.

Pets Are A Social Lubricant

Pets keep us connected socially, too. Walking the dog or talking “cats” at the pet food aisle at the grocery encourages contact that keeps us interested in life and other people. That’s great for people of any age, but especially helpful for seniors who might otherwise become reclusive. They have to get out to care for the dog or cat (or bird or hamster) even if they might neglect their own needs. And if worried about outliving a pet, seniors can adopt senior pets to mutual benefit.

Just to show that I’m not making this stuff up, here’s a “hard science” example. Positron emission tomography (PET scan) is an imaging test that helps physicians to detect biochemical changes used to diagnose and monitor various health conditions. These tests show that touching a pet shuts down the pain-processing centers of the brain. Petting your dog or cat relieves your own pain and also buffers anxiety, all without the side effects of Valium. A cat or dog on your lap can ease the pain in your ass-ets.

The Bond of Love Makes A Positive Furry Difference

People talk about “the bond” all the time when referring to the pets we love. It’s nothing magical, although it may seem so. But science can actually measure this pet effect as well. There are many health and psychological benefits of bonding with a pet dog or cat.

In fact, changes in brain chemicals influence our thought and attitudes. These chemicals prompt feelings of elation, safety, tranquility, happiness, satisfaction, even love. Blood tests that measure these chemicals reveal the levels increase for people–AND for the pets!–when bonding takes place. There’s a reciprocal benefit to bonding with your fur-kid.

Don’t discount the pet effect in your life. I’ve lost weight since the Shadow-Pup arrived, chasing after him and walking the 13+ acres of our place. (Karma cat has also lost weight since playing with the pup. Learn more about fighting obesity in pets here.)

The Karma-Kat always seems to know when I have a headache and helps purr it away. A furry prescription costs only a handful of kibbles. There’s no insurance premium to pay, and everyone qualifies for the benefits. And that’s a wagging, purring blessing for everyone.

How do YOUR pets help you? Does the dog get you up-and-at-’em in the morning? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Ghost Cats, Ghost Dogs, and Visitations From Beyond

Has a ghost dog or ghost cat visited you? They have blessed me that way more than once, but never when I wish for it and always unexpectedly. Far from scary, the visitation from beyond brought me great comfort. I know my furry wonders live on–somewhere, somehow, and that I’ll see them again. It wouldn’t be heaven without them. In fact, one of my Pet Peeves radio programs discussed whether pets go to heaven.

ghost dog

Bravo appeared to me after his death.

When Bravo-Dawg died March 2021, our hearts ached. We second-guessed every decision made during his cancer journey. This gentle giant who never had a bad day (even in the aftermath of amputation), always made us smile during awful times. Our three-year-old baby-dog fought and defeated osteosarcoma, so how could another cancer take him from us? Not our Bravo!

The day after his death, when his slurpy-kiss across my face woke me, I reflexively reached out my hand to smooth his sweet face. He leaned against my palm. Warm. Real. His tail thumped and shook the bed. He had all four legs, and a happy satisfied grin–and then he disappeared. I like to think he knew I needed his reassurance.

I cherish his effort to once again comfort us. What do you think? Does pet death mean the end or will they come back to comfort us?

ghost cat

Seren became increasingly frail and confused. I wonder if that’s why she never visited after her passing.

Cats and Ghosts

Cats have long been thought to have a link with the “other world” or even to have feline ESP. In fact, popular urban legends hold that cats see ghosts—and their behavior certainly seems to support that notion. My cat Seren often plays “track the spook” games, maybe just to mess with my head. You’ll understand more when you read the last paragraph.

We built our house 25 years ago but maybe the site used to be an ancient burial ground that remains haunted by spirits of the departed. That would explain Seren-Kitty’s behavior when she used to fix her gaze on “something” and follow the motion up the wall, around the ceiling, and out the door. *shiver*

It’s not just my own vivid imagination, either. A letter to the “Occult Review” magazine of April 1924 tells of a ghost that appeared in a chair, also apparent to the humans present. A cat in the room seemed to recognize the spirit and immediately leaped into the spirit’s lap—and was dismayed when the insubstantial lap would not hold it. The popular movie Ghost featured a cat able to see the spirit of the murdered victim, played by actor Patrick Swayze.

ghost

Karma knew his best friend would die long before we did.

Can Cats Sense Death?

There also are many stories of cats wailing at the exact instant of a beloved owner’s death, even when separated by miles. How do the cats know? Do they “see” the spirit, or feel the psychic change at the sudden absence of their special human?

Cats (and dogs) have the physical ability to see certain wavelengths and color spectrums that people cannot. Perhaps this “remnant” of the dearly departed remains behind—or in fact the spirit portion remains visible for felines as well as ultrasonic sound communication.

Oscar the cat, a resident of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in Providence, Rhode Island, had an uncanny ability to predict which patient will soon die. Adopted as a kitten, he remained standoffish as an adult cat—until an individual neared the end of life. Then he’d scratch at the door and demand to be in the room, hop up on the bed beside the patient to sit vigil with them until they die.

Oscar’s prediction rate has been better than the nurses or physicians who care for the residents, who suffer with severe dementia. Experts speculate the dying simply smell different, and that alerts Oscar. Yet he is the only one of several resident cats that seems to care. Relatives have said they feel comforted Oscar spends time with their loved ones when they can’t be there.

ghost cats ghost dogs

Magical-Dawg died in September, and Seren-Kitty died in December. I don’t recall any visitation from either of them. Perhaps they’re too busy continuing to pester each other.

Do Cats Haunt Us? Will Pets Visit Us After Death?

When cats die, owners recount experiences of the kitty returning to comfort remaining pet friends and people that they’re okay. Sometimes the delicate paw-print tracks of never seen mourning “ghost cats” appear where the owner can find them. Very often one can feel the jarring “thump” of the ghost pet leaping onto the bed at night, snuggling across your ankles, or being seen out of the corner of your eyes.

When my first dog died, a day later I felt him jump up on the bed. He suffered from hip dysplasia and couldn’t jump while alive, so I knew he’d become whole in his new afterlife.

These invisible visitors may still cheek rub and head butt ankles, so that people can feel the brush of fur against their skin. Wishful thinking? Perhaps the mourning human so desperately wants one last contact that imagination takes over.

What About Ghost Pets Proof?

But what of the other pets who also detect the invisible cat’s or chase a transparent cat as she runs through a room only to disappear into a wall? Sometimes there’s also photographic proof that points to a kitty haunting a residence or person.

One early famous example is a 1925 family portrait taken by Major Allistone in Clarens, Switzerland that documented a woman restraining an infant from climbing out of a baby carriage, with an older boy standing in front holding a stuffed bunny in his left hand. But in the boy’s right hand appears the face of a white kitten—except that white kitten had died several weeks earlier.

More recent examples abound and can be including pictures and videos posted on the Internet. For example, one family admired and took pictures of a neighbor’s flowers and captured the image of a cat in the window—only the family doesn’t have a cat, so just who was the ghostly feline and (perhaps more importantly) did the cat allow him/herself to be photographed?

Do Spirit Cats Return?

On October 29, 1993 at 8:30 p.m. my first beloved dog passed away at age 12 years 5 months. At the time we lived in a tiny apartment and had to place his body outside in the entryway, to await burial the next morning. Shortly thereafter, we heard a strangely haunting sound at the door.

I found a cat crouching over my poor dog’s body, muttering and crying. The cat was a stranger, one I’d never seen before or since. I like to think that this eerie cat visitor arrived to pay feline respects at his passing. He’d always loved cats. It certainly couldn’t be my beloved dog’s spirit being hosted within this feline visitor. Or could it?

I never saw the cat again, although I heard the yowls each year on October 29th at about 8:30 p.m. Maybe I imagined it? All I know is the spectral cat cries stopped after my Seren-kitty adopted us.

Have you ever had a “visit” from a dearly departed pet? Have your cats (or dogs) “detected” an otherworldly presence? What did they do? If you had the chance to see a pet ghost, would you want to? Have you ever visited certain locations (or even people) that you’re sure had an animal ghost in residence? Please share!

Read these tips to prepare for your pet in case you pass away before they do.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Pets Car Ride Safe Travel with Pet Safety Harnesses

Pets car ride safe travel provides vital protection for dogs and cats. This post, originally written several years ago, needed an update about pet car ride safety. With Magical-Dawg, we used a pet gate to keep him safely in the back seat, and later a halter that buckled into the seatbelt. And because he suffered from car sickness, we also used a great seat cover to protect the car seat. Learn tips for teaching dogs to love car rides here.

Bravo never cared much for car rides. At 120+ pounds, we couldn’t keep him safely contained, so thankfully, he rested nicely on the Kurgo seat cover we still use (see below). These days, I have a smaller safety harness for Shadow-Pup that secures with the seat belt for safe rides.pet car safety

Why Pets Car Ride Safe Travel Matters?

After the long “stay-cation” because of the pandemic, many folks now choose road trips and perhaps take their dog for a car ride as well. So I’m revisiting the subject of pets car ride safe travels.

Pets loose in cars can interfere with the driver, cause distractions and potentially cause accidents. During an accident, they may turn into furry projectiles that injure other human passengers as well as themselves. During accidents, pets get seriously injured, paralyzed, lost, or killed.

pet car safety

Dogs love to ride!

Currently, the United States has no standards or any tests at all for pet travel products, yet many manufacturers advertise claims of successful testing. Distraction protection differs from crash protection. Some pet products companies take this responsibility seriously.

pet car safety

Shadow-Pup wears a harness that’s attached to the seat belt. That keeps him out of the driver’s way, and protects him from sudden stops (or accidents!).

Crash Tests & Pet Car Safety

A few years ago I met Linsey Wolko, founder and CEO of the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) at the BlogPaws event, and later interviewed her after Subaru partnered with them in 2013 to study the effectiveness of pet safety harnesses. There were mixed results among some of the most popular pet products on the market touted to provide pet car safety. NOTE: they used no living dogs in these tests, they conducted all with “doggy test dummies.”

The study chose eleven commonly available dog harness products to test that came in Small, Medium and Large sizes and advertised the product as tested for crash protection. Stuffed dogs served as the test dummies in the three size ranges, which a small 25-pound terrier conformation, a medium 45-pound Border Collie and a large 75-pound Golden Retriever, chosen to best mirror the conformation and weight of living dogs.

MGA Research Corporation, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) contracted test facility in Virginia, performed independent, third party testing of the harness products. A minimum standard of performance was first tested, and the seven dog harnesses that passed went on to the “crash” phase of the test with the stuff dog dummies.

How the Pet Crash Tests Worked

The tests were created to result in a worst-case potential for injury. For instance, positioning the test dog dummy in a sit position increased the rotation/force in the crash. “The primary goal was to see if we can keep the dog on the seat,” says Wolko.

The “crash test” considers the potential “launch” of the dog from his perch on the car seat, rotation force, as well as how well (or not) the harness prevents doggy injury. Some tests not only resulted in catastrophic failure of fasteners and caused severe harness deformation/stitching failure, but also launched the test-dummy dog, stripped off the harness, or hung/strangled the test dummy. Shedding of the harness/leash also leaves the dog open to escape/becoming lost immediately after the accident.

Only ONE of the eleven company’s products passed the test with a five-paws-up ranking. See the results of the tests here. The Sleepypod ClickIt Utility Harness received Top Performer of those products tested. It controlled both launch and rotation of the test dummy dog in all three Small, Medium and Large product sizes. Note: Sleepypod also makes safety-tested carriers for cats and small pets.

pet car safety

Image courtesy of Kurgo

I am not being compensated for writing this post. Kurgo provided me with a free harness and seat cover in exchange for an honest review. Kurgo is not responsible for the content of this article.

What About Pet Car Safety for Big Dogs? 

I wanted to find a safety harness for Magic–but the Sleepypod product didn’t come in a large enough size. The one that seemed the best fit, Kurgo harness, initially failed the 2013 test, but the company was one of several that improved the design and enhanced quality control. I accepted a free Kurgo harness to review.

The materials and workmanship impressed me. The company really takes safety seriously. Unlike some other products, this isn’t simply a converted walking harness. Kurgo uses the same type of engineering design used by rock climbers who rely on buckles and tethers to keep them safe.

That said, because it has a ring on the front chest plate, the Kurgo Enhanced Strength Tru-Fit Harness works like a no-pull harness and turns your pup around if he does try to tug you along. For the all-important fit, you simply measure the dog’s neck and chest girth.

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Image courtesy of Kurgo.

Fit for a Jumbo-size Magical- or Bravo-Dawg

I enjoyed having five places to adjust fit on Magic. However, the neck band at its smallest girth still ran loose on my GSD, but the company offers instructions how to make a DIY adjustment that worked like a charm. It’s also machine washable–kewl! Price ranges according to size, starting at $22 for the little guys and going up to $32 for the largest harness.

The chest pad reduces stress on the trachea and sternum and in the case of dangerous crashes, this spreads the force across the dog’s chest to reduce injury due to localized impact. The harness comes with a carabiner to attach the harness to your car seatbelt system. There’s also a 10-inch dog seat belt tether to allow more range of movement. Bravo inherited the harness and it also fit him (with adjustments).

pet car safety

Magic was a car-riding maniac. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

How Pet Car Safety Crash Tests Worked

The Kurgo Enhanced Strength Tru-Fit Smart Harness and its steel Nesting Buckles has been tested in both tensile strength, static line test, and finally in a crash test using a sled test (see video, below).

Dog Harness Crash test videos show a 50-lb dog (dummy) traveling at 30 miles per hour. They conducted and recorded the tests at the University of Michigan, an accredited National Highway and Transportation Administration lab, using Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 213 for child restraint systems.

Magic weighs nearly 90 pounds so I wouldn’t expect the test dog at this weight to be the same result. And nope, I NEVER had a crash with Magic (or Bravo) in the car. However, it’s the best option I’ve found for big dogs while on the road.

What About Pet Travel Safety for Cats?

For pet owners of smaller cats and dogs, the absolutely best safety tip I can offer is to secure your small pet inside a carrier and seat belt the carrier into the back seat. Wolko recommends placing the carrier on the floor in the back seat, which works well for the smallest carriers.

As with harnesses, there are no required tests or standards that define “safe pet carriers.” Plastic can shatter, metal can buckle, so conduct due diligence in choosing your carrier. Remember that air bags that go off have enough power to crush and severely injure or kill a small pet.

For big dogs like my Magical-Dawg that won’t fit in a carrier, I have him secured behind a dog gate so he doesn’t try to drive. Now I can also secure him with his Kurgo harness. That keeps him out of my hair and from trying to push the gas pedal, too.

pet car safety

Images courtesy of CPS

Center for Pet Safety Studies: Update

“After our findings in 2013 [on harness safety], we were eager to continue working to bring accountability to the pet products industry, while highlighting the products that will help improve safety for the entire family during their travels together,” said Lindsey Wolko, Founder and CEO of Center for Pet Safety.

The 2015 Crate and Carrier Crashworthiness Studies evaluated leading crates and carriers advertised as crash tested and/or recommended for a vehicle. They used no live animals during these tests. Instead, the tests employed specially designed crash test fake dogs that approximated the size and weight of real dogs.
pet car safety testMany manufacturers claim their products are crash-tested, safe and even protective for your pet, but today there are no substantiating tests or standards in the U.S. The data gathered from these studies will assist CPS in formulating crate and carrier testing and performance standards. Learn to train pets to accept crates in this blog post. They evaluated four crates and eight carriers, and on July 24, 2015 CPS announced that three top products emerged in the tests:CPS-Subaru-5-300x200

Winners Of the Tests

TOP CRATE: Gunner Kennels G1 Intermediate with 8’ Tie Down Straps

TOP CARRIERS: PetEgo Forma Frame Jet Set Carrier with ISOFIX-Latch Connection and Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed with PPRS Handilock

The full product performance report studies can be found at CenterforPetSafety.org. You can also now look for the logo (on the left) for products that have been certified safe by the Center for Pet Safety.

Kurgo Seat Cover

I am not being compensated for writing this post. Kurgo provided me with a free seat cover in exchange for an honest review. Kurgo is not responsible for the content of this article. Image courtesy of Kurgo.

Seat Cover to Protect Cars

I received the Universal Fit Kurgo Bench Seat Cover for my Toyota Camry, list price $45. My first impressions were the material is soil resistant canvas with a plastic backing to make it waterproof. It comes in either charcoal or tan, and looks very nice.

There’s a Velcro-close pocket in the seat back and front bottom of the seat, supposedly for doggy storage items. There also are Velcro openings for seatbelts to come through, important when using the Kurgo Harness or another crash-tested product to keep your pet safe. It’s recommended to hand wash with cold water and mild detergent or on “gentle” with front load washing machines, and to hang dry.

This is a great product for keeping hair, mud, or other bodily insults like diarrhea or vomit from car sick dogs off the car upholstery. Because it is a “universal” size, for my car the fit is loose and slides around a bit. There are elastic tie-downs for each bottom/side of the seat, and elastic loops to hook over each headrest. Essentially, the cover hangs from the headrests and drapes over the seat. An exuberant pooch could get it scrunched up.

That said, for cars with back seats that fold down, the additional back-of-seat attachment would augment security. The Kurgo Bench Seat Cover is a solid and quality option for toting your dog around. Be cognizant of size differences and read the reviews on the site, since different car “benches” may not fit as well as others.

Do you use a harness, crate or carrier in your car when traveling with your pets? What about dealing with the mess, do you have a seat cover? How often do you take your cats and dogs for car rides? Shadow-Pup channels his Magical-Dawg predecessor and loves car rides. How about your pets? Do tell!

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