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It’s National Holistic Pet Day! But What Is Holistic Pet Care?

It’s National Holistic Pet Day! But What Is Holistic Pet Care?

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.

PupInGreen-D-Garding

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.

You can even get the audio version for FREE with a trial membership to Audible at this link.

holistic pet

NATURAL HEALING FOR DOGS & CATS

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.

Evaluating Claims

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!


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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

How to Leash Train Cats

How to Leash Train Cats

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.

cat leash

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.

cat leash training

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.

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.

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:

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.

cat leash training

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.

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.

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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

Cats and Mirrors: Stranger Danger or Twin Fun?

Cats and Mirrors: Stranger Danger or Twin Fun?

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!

cats and coronavirus cat looking in mirror and seeing lion

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.

cat scratching at mirror

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.

cats and mirrors

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.

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.

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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Adopting An Easter Bunny? Make Mine Chocolate!

Adopting An Easter Bunny? Make Mine Chocolate!

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.

Easter Bunnies baby rabbit

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!

Easter bunny

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.

easter bunny

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.

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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

Easter Candy Caution for Pets

Easter Candy Caution for Pets

Easter candy fills the aisles at grocery stores these days. There are plenty of toys, too, including stuffed bunnies–a far better gift than real live rabbits that need special care. Here’s my yearly caution about Easter candy and other goodies around pets. Refer to this post about other Easter dangers for pets.

easter candy chocolate

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

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 Pen

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.

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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

 

Dog Taste Buds: What Flavor Do Dogs Love?

Dog Taste Buds: What Flavor Do Dogs Love?

Dog Taste Buds: What Flavor Do Dogs Love?

Do dogs have taste buds? Yes! But do dogs care about taste? Again, they clearly have flavor preferences. Of course, we know some of the odd and nasty weird stuff dogs eat—I really do need to record an Ask Amy about why dogs drink out of the toilet—but do they actually taste such things? How dogs taste remains a mystery, but also impacts dental health and how to keep teeth clean..

dog taste buds

Dogs taste sense mirrors that of humans, one reason your dogs beg for yummies from the table. For young dogs, smell of the food seems to trump taste. With some dogs, dirty socks might be a flavor enhancer . . .

We don’t know everything about the dog’s sense of taste. We know that a facial nerve is “wired” to the taste buds on the front two-thirds of the tongue only. That leaves the rest somewhat of a mystery. Most of the dog’s taste buds are circular structures on the upper forward surface of the tongue, and in four to six large cup-shaped bumpy papillae at the rear of the tongue. Interestingly, the dog’s taste receptors don’t stop in the mouth, but extend down into the larynx.

dog taste buds

Most canine taste buds respond to sugar. This reflects their omnivorous evolution. Dogs needed to eat seasonal fruits and vegetables to survive, so they evolved a sweet tooth because sweetness is a mechanism in plants that signals optimum ripeness. And like people, dogs can detect a kind of “fruity-sweet” flavor that attracts us — and them — to the calorie-rich ripeness of fruits and vegetables.

dog sense of taste

WHAT FLAVORS DOGS HATE: SOUR & BITTER

The second greatest number of canine taste buds responds to acidic tastes, which correspond to sour and bitter in people. These flavors may cause your dog to reject spoiled foods that don’t taste fresh, or medications that taste nasty.

dog taste

As you’d suspect, the dog’s sense of smell plays a big part in what dogs taste. If it smells good or intriguing, dogs more readily take a taste. Then they remember, and in future beg for more apple slides, or look disgusted when presented with a lemon.

dog taste buds

Dog sense of hearing, site, and taste fade with age. Sour perception and bitter tastes are more sensitive to aging changes. That could account for senior canine behavior changes, like acting more picky about what they eat. Many dogs have only a quarter of the active taste buds as when younger.

Chemical irritations and “mouth feel” influence how well the dog likes or dislikes a flavor, too. That explains some of the odd kibble shapes that commercial food companies create. Changes in saliva production also influence taste, so for aging dogs with dehydration problems, this may impact the dog’s sudden “snubbing the food” that he adored before. Even the odors or tastes produced by dental disease can make a dog refuse a favorite food.

What about your dogs? Are they garbage gluttons that gobble food without sniffing first? Or do they need a whiff before ready to gulp? Learn more about how dogs eat in this post.

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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Cold Weather Pet Protection Tips

Cold Weather Pet Protection Tips

fcc

Cold weather pet protection becomes more in winter weather. Here in North Texas we’re bracing for temps to drop. Wind chill makes it even more uncomfortable or even dangerous for our dogs and cats. Refer to these blizzard tips from the ASPCA for additional help.

Outside animals, like feral cats or stray dogs, suffer greatly from hypothermia or frostbite. House pets used to warm indoor temps need extra help, too. It seemed like a good time to remind everyone about cold weather pet protection.

COLD WINTER WEATHER PET PROTECTION

Here in Texas, the weather often stays HOT HOT HOT well into November and December. But not this year–it’s the end of December, and it’s become the coldest part of the year. For cats and dogs that will spend a lot of time outside during the cold winter months, it’s important to get ’em ready now.

It takes time for that winter coat to grow. And it’s not fair to the dog to expect him to “get hairy” overnight when the first frost freezes.

furry chow chow prone to hot spots

How do you get your dogs ready? Slow, incremental exposure to cold weather. That helps build up the pet’s adaptive ability, including fur growth. And if your pet has little furry protection, provide a warm sweater or coat for insulation.

Magical-Dawg always loved cold weather, and would stay out in the wind and wet if we’d let him. Karma-Kat, on the other paw, has a very good idea about how to stay comfy and already has the warmest spots staked out for snoozing in sunny puddles on the carpet. Or under the stained-glass lampshades.

Shadow-Pup also has some undercoat for insulation. But his short fur risks frostbite or worse, if exposed to wind and cold for more than ten minutes.

COLD WEATHER PET PROTECTION FOR CATS

Feral cats and community cats (those who roam neighborhoods without one special family) don’t have that luxury. They need extra help. Frostbite can damage ears and toes, and hypothermia can kill. Many of the tips, below, work equally well to create safe outdoor spots for your dogs, too.

cold weather cat dangers

My colleague Louise Holton of Alley Cat Rescue shared some PAW-some tips with our Cat Writers Association group and gave me permission to also share it here. What are some other ways to help keep kitty safe? Many of these also apply to keeping outside dogs winterized and safe. Here’s Louise’s suggestions.

OUTDOOR PET SHELTERS

A feeding station will help to keep food and water dry and will help with freezing weather. For Bedding you should use straw or a synthetic fleece material such as that used to make horse saddle covers. Blankets, sheets and towels retain moisture and remain damp and should not be used during winter.
outdoor cat house

DogCatSnow_58674693_original

9 TIPS FOR WINTERIZING FERAL CAT COLONIES & COMMUNITY CATS

  • You should insulate the shelter with thick plastic or other material such as Mylar mentioned above to keep out wind and cold.
  • You could buy a doghouse and modify it, blocking off part of the larger opening to make it smaller and therefore warmer inside for the cats.
  • Size should be approximately 3’ x 3 ’ and 2′ high.
  • Cats will cuddle together inside for warmth.
  • Build enough shelters so that around 6 cats can stay in each one.
  • Use straw for the bedding NOT HAY or blankets or towels.
  • It is safer to have 2 small openings for the cats to enter and be able to get away if danger presents itself. Put the openings on the side of the shelter that is protected from the wind. Two openings will give a chance at escape should a pesky raccoon, for instance, or any other animal try to enter the shelter.
  • Raise the shelter off the ground by placing it securely on bricks or on a wooden pallet. If left on the ground, it will retain moisture and will rot.
  • Clean shelters each spring and autumn by replacing the bedding with fresh straw.

first aid

This is an AUDIO FILE ONLY, an excerpt from my audiobook THE FIRST-AID COMPANION FOR DOGS AND CATS, now available. I figured folks could sure use the tips now–so feel free to share this with anyone who needs the help. The advice comes from veterinary emergency experts.

 

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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 recommend nothing 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!


How to Prepare If Cats & Dogs Outlive You

How to Prepare If Cats & Dogs Outlive You

We adore our aging dogs and cats but often lament the fact that dogs and cats don’t live as long as we do. Sometimes, we get a ghostly visit from a dearly departed pet. But what about the reverse—what if your pets live longer than you do? Cats often live into their late teens or early twenties. Are there legal protections you can take in planning for when your cats outlive you? We loved dogs and cats dearly while alive, and must also care for them when we’re gone with proper plans. And yes, it can happen totally out of the blue.

pet outlives me

The unthinkable happens, even to animal professionals. Back in 2014, in the same week, our pet community felt rocked by the tragic and sudden deaths of two heroes, animal behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin and Cat Writers Association president Dr. Lorie Huston. Dr. Yin left behind her beloved dog Jonesy, while my friend Lorie left six special needs rescue cats. CWA members networked to re-home Lorie’s cats. More recently, the Cat Writers’ Association again lost a beloved leader when president Paula Gregg passed away suddenly. She had time to make plans for her beloved Persian cats, Truffle and Brulee.

None of these wonderful pet lovers expected to have their pets outlive them. Do you have plans for your special pets? Here are tips for planning for when your pets outlive you.

What to Do If Your Cats or Dogs Outlive You

In the past, elderly readers have contacted me to ask about setting up care options for pets should they die before them. Although healthy and with every intention to stick around for the foreseeable future, people should prepare for the unexpected. But as we’ve seen, even younger people can have the worst happen.

Sadly, orphaned cats and dogs often end up in shelters. Cats get destroyed by the surviving family members, when nobody feels able or willing to care for the left-behind fur-kid. The adult dog or cat hasn’t a clue why she’s suddenly gone from a loving home and lap to a scary metal cage.

how to prepare if pet outlives you

How to Prepare For Cats and Dogs After Your Death

What can caring owners do to prepare for the worst, if death, disability or age takes away a pet’s home? Will family and friends rally to find loving homes for all the orphaned animals?

Your family and friends, veterinarian contacts and church relationships may be eager and willing to offer a place for your pet should you die before them. Many of us share our lives (and pillows) with multiple cats or a few dogs. Do you have folks able or willing to take the whole furry crew? Maybe you have brother-dogs that would pine away if separated, or special needs cats that require extra medical care. Often, a simple promise among friends will be sufficient. Ideally, the animals already know and get along with the new owner—because missing you will be as tough for them as for your human family. If they don’t, make arrangements now to introduce them. While dogs may more easily take to strangers, cats typically take time to accept new people into their lives. You wouldn’t want to live with a stranger, and neither would your cats–so make sure they already know your friends or family.

In today’s changing world, though, good intentions and a promise made years before may go out the window should the person’s own situation change. For instance, maybe your friend has a new cat that won’t accept yours, or living arrangements/finances have changed. Maybe they’ve moved into a small apartment and can take one cat but not a large dog. For peace of mind, it’s best to make formal arrangements in your will and try to address every eventuality.

what to do if pet outlives you

Legal restrictions won’t allow a beloved pet to inherit from your estate because cats and dogs are themselves defined as property. But you certainly can set up trusts for the care of the pet, and name a specific person who will receive those funds so that they can take the critter into their care for the rest of its life. Once you find persons willing to take your cats and dogs, consult with an attorney about the proper paperwork necessary to make a legal and binding arrangement.

There also are “pet retirement homes” or “sanctuaries” that might take your pets. Organizations that give pets a home for life, though, have limited openings. A fee pays for the care that you set up in your will or other legal document.

Also ensure your neighbors know how many cats and dogs you have and how to contact emergency care givers. Carry a wallet “alert card” with this information and post “in case of emergency” notices on your doors or windows.

More Resources for Preparing for Your Pets’ Care

David Congalton and Charlotte Alexander wrote the book, “When Your Pet Outlives You.” It contains sample legal forms, names of pet law specialists, addresses of pet retirement homes and sanctuaries throughout the U.S., a report on all relevant state statutes, important court decisions affecting people and their pets, and precise details on how to set up a pet trust.

Petfinder offers information on Providing For Your Pet’s Future Without You. It suggests you find at least two responsible friends or relatives and provide them with emergency information for short-term care. Also, refer to this resource for estate planning for pets.

Once these emergency issues are in place, you’ll have peace of mind. That allows you to relax and enjoy making the most of the time you have with your special animal companions.

May you have many more loving years with your special companions. Meanwhile, I’m making my own emergency arrangements — just in case — for my Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat, while my heart breaks for all the  furry wonders left behind.

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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Pet Veteran Love: 8 Reasons to Adopt Senior Cats & Dogs

Pet Veteran Love: 8 Reasons to Adopt Senior Cats & Dogs

old cat

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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 dog

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.

Old Cats & Dogs Are Great for All Ages!

Studies have shown that contact with cats and dogs offers great physical and emotional health benefits to people, from children and adolescents, to adults and senior citizens.

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.

old dog with senior citizens

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.

old cat with old woman

Old dog pug

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.

old cat with young girl

adopting old pets

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.

adopting old pets

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.

Predictable Health.

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.

adopt senior pets

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.

Already Trained.

Older dogs often have already been trained basic obedience. They know how to “sit” and walk nicely on leash, for example.

old dog cocker

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.

adopt old cats

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 dog with senior citizen

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!

Your Turn!

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!

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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Pudgy Pooches & Tubby Tabbies: How to Slim Down Fat Pets

Pudgy Pooches & Tubby Tabbies: How to Slim Down Fat Pets

Pudgy Pooches & Tubby Tabbies: How to Slim Down Fat Pets

fat dog obesity

It’s not that I don’t know how to eat right, I do. It just takes more thought and planning, and I’ve let a lot of that slide as I tried to meet deadlines. It’s a whole lot easier to stay on top of the pet’s nutrition and waistline than my own.

fat pets

Fat Pets & What To Do

Is your pooch pudgy or fat? Are your cats slim athletes or fat cats? Does your dog or cat gobble food? Obesity is defined as exceeding ideal body weight by 20 percent, and today about forty percent of pets are considered overweight. If you can’t feel the pet’s ribs, and/or she has a pendulous or bulging tummy, your pet is too plump. Obesity increases risk for diabetes, and is an aggravating factor in heart problems, arthritis, and skin problems. Puppies are cute when chubby but that puts them at risk as well.

I was fortunate that Magic was a canine athlete. An active canine companion helps humans stay active, too, so now that he’s gone, it’s an extra effort to get exercise. Seren also was always petite and active, even though she ate anything and everything.

Karma-Kat, though, is a picky eater but packs on the pudge. It would take very little for him to become a fat pet. I’ve written about how to slim a fat cat here, but the information works for dogs, too. If you have an overweight fat pet, here are some tips for helping to slim down tubby tabbies and pudgy pooches. Heck, I’m using some of these tips on myself!

fat pets

How to Slim Your Fat Pets

Curb Snacks. Eliminating or reducing treats easily cuts calories. Instead, reserve part of the pet’s regular diet—a handful of kibble, for instance. Keep it handy to dispense as “treats” when your dog pesters, or reward with attention, not treats. In my case, I’ve got some fresh cut veggies prepared ahead. Now, if celery came with chocolate chips, I’d be happier. You can still use treats to enrich your relationship and make cats like you.

Meal Feed. Rather than keeping the bowl full for all day nibbling, switch to meal feeding measured amounts. Divide the daily food allotment into four or even five small meals keep her from feeling deprived. Multiple small meals increase the body’s metabolic rate, so she burns more calories faster. (Hey, this works for me, too, when I can manage to do it.) Karma-Kat now is fed 5 times a day, and must HUNT for his meals. Read all about this hunting feeding system here.

Offer Diet Foods. Reducing diets typically replace fat in the food with indigestible fiber, dilute calories with water, or “puff up” the product with air. “Senior” diets typically have fewer calories, so switching older pets to an age-appropriate formula helps. “Lite” diets aren’t magical and only mean the food has less calories than the same brand’s “regular” food—it might have more calories than another company’s food. Some pets eat more of the diet food to make up for lost calories, so you still have to measure the meals. Be sure to check with your vet before deciding to make major nutrition changes, though. Cats don’t do “crash diets” well and can get very sick with a liver condition (hepatic lipidosis) that can kill.

leash train cats

Create A Treasure Hunt. Put food at the top or bottom of the staircase, or on a cat tree so kitty has to get off her pudgy nether regions to eat. If she can’t manage stairs or leaps, put the bowl on a chair and provide a ramp up so he’s burning a few calories. That’s what we do now with Karma’s “mousie meals.” Setting the bowl across the house from the dog or cat’s bed also forces them to move. Use commercial treat balls, puzzle toys like Kongs or interactive feeders and place meals inside so the pet has to work to get out the food. For pets that eat canned foods, there are also refrigerated feeders or insulated bowls that help keep it fresh.

Here are more tips on how to slim a tubby tabby. Pet Obesity Prevention also has a great breakdown of Body Condition Scores (plus ideal weight ranges & pet weight loss tools!) here.

How do you handle your pudgy fat pets? Pets impact our lives in so many positive ways, it’s important to return the favor. Does he or she eat a special diet, or do you try to increase exercise in some way? What tricks work for your clowder, please share! Obesity impacts more than looks. It’s also a longevity issue. Slim dogs and cats live up to two years longer than overweight pets.

I wonder if they make “puzzle toy feeders” for humans?

 

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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

Halloween & Black Cats: Kitty Myth-Teries Explained

Halloween & Black Cats: Kitty Myth-Teries Explained

It’s one of my favorite times of year. My book CAT LIFE includes fun Halloween and black cat myths. These are fun spooky stories to shiver over, but loving cats and dispelling kitty myth-teries should happen all year long.

black cat myths

Take a look and keep a tally of just how many of these spooky cat tails—and tales—from around the world sound familiar even today. Of course, you want to keep all your pets safe over Halloween. But it’s sure fun to read about ghosties and goblins, especially of the feline kind.

NOTE: Due to the #$%^! pandemic, shipping of physical books come with delays so order NOW for holiday gift-giving. Shoot me an email if you’d like me to send you a paw-tograph to insert into a special gift. *s* In fact, the hardcover version is on sale here.

Cats As Gods (Even Black Cats!)

Egyptians loved and revered all animals, and considered many to be emissaries of gods. The large wild cats including leopards and lions represented virility and power, but the common housecat came to be worshiped as a god of pleasure and happiness. Called alternately Bast, Bastet and Pasht, this human-shaped goddess (with a cat head) rose to prominence in the ancient city of Bubastis, and her temple cats (much like the one sleeping in your lap) were considered emissaries of the goddess.

The name “Bast” can be translated as “the tearer” or “the render” which referred to the goddess’s nightly battle with the sun’s mortal enemy, the Serpent of Darkness. Bast was symbolized by the moon—which waxed and waned like the cat’s eye—and each day when the battle was won, the sun rose again.

Egypt’s cats were protected and cherished by the priests, and each whisker-twitch and tail-dance was carefully interpreted as messages from the goddess. Because they were so sacred, other countries took advantage of the fact. The Persian King Cambyses II had his soldiers use kitties as shields, and because the Egyptians refused to risk hurting a sacred cat, they offered no resistance and the battle was lost.

Black kitten on red cat tree.

Cats Revered Around The World

Buddhist, Burmese and Siamese cultures had similar beliefs as the ancient Babylonians that cats served as sacred vessels for human souls to attain paradise. When a holy person died, the cat hosted the spirit for as long as the cat lived, and then carried the human soul into Paradise when the cat died. Wow, maybe that’s why my Siamese wannabe Seren-dipity has such a high-and-mighty c’attitude.

Cats in Japan were greatly honored and in AD 600 served as guards to precious manuscripts housed in pagodas. They believed a cat crossing the path was good luck. Cats were valued so highly in the 10th century that common folks weren’t allowed to keep cats. Only noble families were granted that privilege.

In early Ireland, a cat-headed god was worshipped during the 1st century AD. Black cats crossing your path was considered good luck during the Middle Ages in Britain, and a black cat was also supposed to be able to cure epilepsy. Scandinavia also celebrated animals in religion. Freya, the Viking goddess of love and beauty, rode in a chariot drawn by “the most affectionate of all domestic animals, the cat.”

Some folks believe this

Cats As Demons

The gods and angels of earlier religions become the demons of later ones. So since cats had been celebrated by early civilizations, they became the scapegoats of ‘modern’ religions.

A Medieval legend recounts that the Devil tried to copy God and create man, but only managed to produce a sorry, skinless animal—the cat. St. Peter felt sorry for the pitiful creature, though, and generously gave it a fur coat—its one and only valuable possession.

Hebrew folklore prompted the legend that cats steal an infant’s breath. The story may have stemmed from tales of Adam’s hated first wife, the vampire Lilith. She assumed the form of a gigantic ebony cat called El Broosha, and newborns were her favorite prey.

Cats became associated with witchcraft and the devil during the Middle Ages in Europe and suffered greatly. Tales of feline familiars were common. In Europe and early America, black cats became linked to the devil and evil and were feared, because black was the color of the night and darkness—hence the devil.

Many religions include cats (and dogs) in their history. Do pets go to heaven? This post considers the question. 

black cat under bed

Why Cats Get Blamed?

Because of the cat’s unique sensory capabilities, feline behavior foibles have given cats a bad reputation. Cats were thought to influence the weather, especially storms at sea. Today we know that felines can detect changes in barometric pressure, silent earth tremors that announce future earthquakes, or yowling just before a loved one dies.

Superstitious people found it easy to blame the cat as a cause of disasters, rather than celebrate kitty’s unique detection skills at predicting such things. But that doesn’t make the cat’s mysterious abilities any less extraordinary.

Today, some cat haters continue to point fingers particularly at feral cats. It’s up to responsible cat parents to take proper care of their feline family members (including community cats!).

cat-smile

Do you share your life with a black cat? Have your cats ever seemed “other-worldly” or acted in a spooky way? What kinds of ghostly Halloween-like antics have you and your cats (and dogs!) experienced? Will they dress up this Halloween, or prefer to go “au naturelle?” Do tell!

Here’s a fun post about ghost pets, including a visitation from my beloved Bravo-Dawg. Check out the Howl-oween pet safety and costume tips in this TV segment, too.

 

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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

Do Pets See In Color?

Do Pets See In Color?

I love this question. What do you think? Today’s Ask Amy topic is Do dogs see in color? What about cats and dogs, do they see things differently?

Do pets see color

How do you know? What colors can dogs see? What about your pets, do they have favorites or can you tell?

 

do dogs see color

Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat also don’t seem to care about color, but they do have their favorite toys. I tend to choose halters and leash color based on what looks good on them, but I choose toys based on what I believe THEY can see best.

Do you have color preferences for your pets’ toys? Does it matter to them? What have I missed in the video, 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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Potty Training Puppies? Here’s the Best Ways To House Train a Puppy

Potty Training Puppies? Here’s the Best Ways To House Train a Puppy

Potty Training Puppies? Here’s the Best Ways To House Train a Puppy

Do you have a dog or puppy with potty woes? Whether you have a tiny puppy, like when Shadow-Pup arrived, or a big old dawg — my Bravo (below) at one time tipped the scales at 120 pounds — potty training puppies keep your house hygienic and offers discipline and routine to our dog. Puppy pooping in crate? Here are my tips for the best ways to house train a puppy.

A new puppy brings great joy, but potty training puppies can lead to frustration. Puppy potty accidents start your relationship off on the wrong paw. Without the right training, he won’t know how to please you. He may not even know how to go potty on grass. Even older dogs can benefit from refresher training if they’ve had potty training lapses.

house training puppies

House Train Dogs—Listen to Their Needs

When Magic came to live with us at 8 weeks, he already knew a potty word — “take-a-break” — and never had an accident in the house. His breeder did all the prep work for us, but of course, we still had to follow up. However, our Bravo-Boy had spent his whole 12-weeks of life outside on a ranch. He got to “go” when (and wherever) the urge struck. Oy.

Think of potty training from your puppy’s point of view. When he has to go, he won’t wait–he simply squats in place. He won’t understand why you’re always mad when you come home. If he’s punished but not shown what you want, he’ll think you don’t want him to potty at all. Rubbing his nose in it makes him wonder, “She want me to eat that stuff?” Punishing teaches puppies to potty when you’re not watching, or to hide deposits more carefully.

potty train puppies

Potty Train Puppies by Catching Him In The Act

Timing is key when teaching cause-and-effect. He won’t understand your anger has anything to do with the deposit he created five minutes ago. Unless caught in the act, or pointed out within 30-90 seconds, correcting the baby won’t work.

Instead, catch the pup in the act…of doing something right. Then throw a happy-dance praise party to tell him how smart he is! People work more eagerly for a bonus than a reprimand, and dogs are no different. Once he learns he gets paid to go in the right spot—positive reinforcement—he’ll virtually cross his legs to please you. 

Oh, and be sure to clean up the mess so the smell won’t draw him back to the scene of the crime. Here are some tips for cleaning up potty accidents.

house training puppies

How to House Train Puppies: How Long Can He “Hold It?”

Pups need a bathroom break after every meal, nap, and playtime. Depending on his age and breed, feed him two to four or more times a day. Prevent potty accidents and puppy pooping in crate by anticipating when the puppy needs a break. Your pup has a baby-size bladder and limited capacity to “hold it” no matter his best intentions.

If you have puppy-friendly adult dogs, your puppy often will copy the adult dog’s behavior. So if your adult dog has good potty etiquette, that can speed up the process. Bravo helped me teach Shadow his cue-word to go to the bathroom: “Take A Break.” You’ll love having a cue word especially late at night, or during inclement weather! Learn about puppy intros to other pets here.

It can vary a bit between breeds with large and giant breeds having a bit more “storage” capacity and Toy breeds a bit less. Learn more about puppy development here. In general, here’s what to expect:

  • Two-month-old pups need a break about every two hours
  • Three-month-old pups can hold it for four hours.
  • Four-month-old pups can wait five hours
  • Five-month-olds can wait about six hours
  • Seven-month-old pups should be able to wait about eight hours.

8 Steps to Potty Training Puppies

  • Create a schedule. Base potty breaks on the pup’s age, activity level, and mealtimes.
  • Choose a location. Dogs rely on scent cues to remind them what’s expected. Whether you create an indoor toilet spot with newspaper, pee-pads or a doggy litter box, or select an outdoor potty, take him to the same place each time.
  • Concentrate on business. Keep him on leash until he’s productive, or he’ll only play and then have an accident inside. Take off the leash for a playtime as part of his reward for eliminating.
  • Name the deed. When he squats, say a cue word that identifies the action. I’m teaching Bravo the same “take-a-break” command that means to get down to business. It’s a bit less off-putting than saying “poop & pee” if your dog is in public. *s* Make sure your entire family uses the selected cue consistently. Once the puppy has been productive, reward with lots of praise, play or a tiny treat that doesn’t upset his regular nutrition.
  • Confine and supervise. Puppies don’t want to live up close and personal to their own waste, so confinement can be a great tool. A small room won’t work-he can poop in one corner and sleep in the other–and be sure you’ve puppy proofed the area to avoid danger. If the pup isn’t productive after fifteen minutes during a potty break, confine in a crate for fifteen minutes and then try again. If he potties in the crate, that confines the mess to an easily cleaned area. He’ll have to live with his mistake for a short time. The next time he’ll be more likely to empty when offered the opportunity. Alternatively, hook his leash to your belt so he can’t sneak away and do the dirty deed.
  • Watch for warnings. Puppies sniff the ground and walk in circles before they pose. If he squats inside, pick him up so he stops the process, and move him to the designated legal toilet area. Give your cue word, and praise when he’s successful in the right spot.
  • Clean accidents. Use an odor neutralizer to eliminate the smells that lure your puppy back to the scene of the crime. We also confine the new pet to an easily cleaned area of the house, using baby gates.
  • Roll up newspaper. When you find an accident, it means you’ve not paid attention to his needs. If you’re feeling really aggravated, don’t hold back. Roll up that newspaper—and hit yourself over the head with it, and resolve to do better next time. Just like puppies, owners take time and patience to learn important lessons.

Oh, and you can also trick train cats! Here’s how.

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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Is Your Puppy Chewing? Here’s 8 Tips How To Stop Dog Chewing

Is Your Puppy Chewing? Here’s 8 Tips How To Stop Dog Chewing

FCC notice

Chewing is normal behavior for dogs—and for some cats. You can’t stop dog chewing, and shouldn’t try. Puppies and kittens test their world the same way human infants do. Everything goes into the mouth. Teething youngsters chew objects to relieve the discomfort, but adult dogs rarely outgrow the habit the way (we hope!) people do.

dog chewing

I last wrote about canine chewing when Bravo came to live with us as a new pup. He chewed everything within reach (Oh, my poor coffee table!), including chew toys. We still have Magic-markers on the baseboard and plaster from our last beloved dog. Now we have to re-do flooring in the laundry room, courtesy of Bravo-Dawg.

These days, we THINK we have a handle on Shadow-Pup. We have to really watch him, though, because Shadow likes to chew sticks–yikes!–and has already got one piece caught across the roof of his mouth. When you have a baby-dawg, or even adult canines, it can be a constant struggle to monitor them for safe chewing.

dog chewing

Dog chewing is a fact of life and learning how to stop puppy chewing can save your relationship, and sanity. If you have a new puppy, or even an adult dog with a chew -aholic habit, a primer on chewing basics may be welcome about now!

Puppies begin chewing very early in life. It helps those baby teeth come in, and later, feels good when the permanent teeth erupt. But even adult dogs chew for recreation. It just feels good! Learn more about puppy development here.

dog chewing

What’s the worst thing your dog ever chewed up and destroyed? Some items may seem funny–like stealing socks–until Monster Pup eats it and it takes emergency surgery to get it out. Our first dog chewed my husband’s brand new steel toed work boots that had cost a mint–not funny. And Magic  left teeth marks on the windowsills. I call them Magical-Markers! Urk.

chewing

How To Stop Puppy & Dog Chewing Behavior

You can’t stop puppy chewing because it’s normal dog behavior. Puppies don’t chew your prized possessions because they’re mad at you. They instinctively use teeth the way human babies reach out with tiny fists. Your puppy chews to explore the world, to manipulate objects, to relieve boredom, and because it feels good.

dog chewing

He also chomped my husband’s favorite property—the TV remote. He targeted items that smelled like us to feel closer to us, and soothe puppy loneliness, but we still didn’t appreciate the compliment!

dog chewing

Dog Chewing Dangers

Chewing gets pups in trouble when they aren’t provided with legal chewing opportunities, and forbidden objects are left within reach. Puppy chewing can break teeth, result in dangerous swallowed objects, or burns and electrocution if Junior bites an electrical cord or eats a poisonous plant. If your dog swallows something he shouldn’t, hopefully, he’ll vomit. Teething increases the urge to gnaw because it relieves sore gums, but dogs usually continue the habit into adulthood.

Don’t try to stop it. Instead, prevent puppy chewing problems by removing temptation, and offering lots of better (legal) opportunities. Refer to these 8 tips to manage your puppy’s gnawing habit.

dog chewing

      • Puppy Proof the House: Getting a new puppy forces us to become better housekeepers. Keep tempting objects like shoes, handbags, tissues, and your child’s favorite stuffed toy safely out of reach.
      • Confine the Pup: When you can’t supervise, provide a “safe” room that has no dangerous or forbidden temptations. Baby gates work well to control puppy access and can block off a hallway, stair, or room.
      • Use Repellants: Products that taste nasty can keep puppy teeth at bay. Bitter Apple applied to electrical cords helps train pups to leave dangerous items alone. Many dogs find the scent of Vicks Vapo-Rub offensive. Paint Vicks on wooden baseboards or apply to cloth draped over other forbidden targets to keep puppy teeth at bay.
      • Don’t Confuse Him: Puppies can’t always tell the difference between your new designer sandals and the “legal” old slipper. It’s best to offer chew toys he won’t confuse with forbidden objects. Nylabone makes some popular puppy teething toys.

        dog chewing
      • Make A Trade: Chasing a pup to retrieve your stolen wallet becomes a great game of keep-away, and can teach your smart-aleck pup to swipe things to invite a tag marathon. Instead, when you catch your pup chewing a forbidden object, tell her “no.” Offer an irresistible legal chew toy (maybe filled with liverwurst?) as a trade. Make the chew good for the teeth, to help with dental health.
      • Offer Puzzle Toys: Rubber chew toys with openings stuffed with healthy treats keep puppies interested and on target. Some are mint or peanut butter scented to be more appealing. Fill up puzzle toys like Buster Cube, and Kong products with soft food, peanut butter or commercial treats designed just for puppies.
      • Provide Chewies: Healthy chews or edible “dental” chews come in all shapes and sizes, complete with a variety of powerful scents and flavors. Soak rawhide in warm water and zap in the microwave for ten seconds to soften the leather and make it more pungent for tiny puppies. Monitor rawhide fun, though. Larger pups gnaw off and swallow pieces, and eating too much rawhide spoils appetites and may prompt constipation or even blockage. My Shadow-Pup loves dehydrated fish skins–pungent, tasty, and digestible. Bully Sticks are usually a good option.

  • Rotate Toys: Puppies get bored with the same-old every day. Provide at least three to five “legal” options for your chew-happy baby and rotate a couple of times a week. That keeps puppy happy, your precious belongings undamaged, and your fur-kid safe despite himself.
Dog chewing is normal, so don’t blame the dog! And today’s Ask Amy has advice, too. How have you managed your chew-aholic dog?

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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

World Spay Day and Pros & Cons of Dog Neutering

World Spay Day and Pros & Cons of Dog Neutering

It’s World Spay Day! Yes, actually, there really are both pros and cons to dog neutering and puppy sterilization that may surprise you. It did me. After all, we’ve heard from animal welfare advocates for years preaching the gospel of spay/neuter. Heck, I preached this myself and for the majority of dogs and cats (ESPECIALLY cats!), “the big fix” is the best thing that ever happens to them.

There’s evidence, though, that the pros and cons of dog neutering are not so black and white. While the University of Georgia’s sample of 40,139 canine death records from the Veterinary Medical Database from 1984 to 2004 concluded that neutered dogs live a year and a half longer (on average) than intact dogs, other studies point out potential increase in hip dysplasia or cancer. Oy.

Chihuahua

Dog Neutering & Puppy Sterilization

So what’s a responsible pet parent to do? Most pet lovers recognize that neutering boy puppies they don’t plan to breed or show in performance venues can be the responsible choice. Sterilization reduces several potential behavior problems, such as roaming, marking, mounting, and fighting.

Animal welfare organizations provide statistics that show over 80 percent of owned dogs in the United States are sterilized. Hurray! but what about the other 20 percent? And what about in other countries?

Veterinarian sterilization operation on dog

Objections to Dog Sterilization?

Is there any good reason to NOT neuter your puppy? Surgical castration permanently removes 100 percent of the dog’s testosterone, and that can cause consequences some new studies indicate may pose problems, depending on the timing and the breed.

People with puppies they hope to develop into performance dogs—hunting, herding or other athletic-intensive activities—may be reluctant to castrate their male dogs. The sexual hormones generated by the male dog’s testis give him that “male” look, and impact bone, joint and musculature development important for performance. Also, some cancers–like prostate cancer–once thought to be preventable through neutering may in fact increase in incidence. Studies indicate that large breed dogs that are neutered are at increased risk for bone and spleen cancers.

Another study of 759 Golden Retrievers at the University of California/Davis showed a doubling in the incidence of hip dysplasia in male dogs neutered before their first birthday. This early neutering also showed an increase in the occurrence of cranial cruciate ligament tear and lymphosarcoma in males and of cranial cruciate ligament tear in females. Older age sterilization was associated with the later development of mast cell tumors and hemangiosarcoma in females. Different breeds may have different results, but this information may be helpful in choosing when to time neutering your puppy.

JAVMA (the AVMA publication) shared this insightful discussion about sterilization of dogs–when it should be done, and what should be considered. The bottom line turns out–IT DEPENDS. 

But...PUPPIES are so CUTE! (sorry, not a good reason..)

Myths About Dog Neutering

Other objections are less founded in actual science and are more myths or opinions that are hard to change. There continues to be a perception that “fixed” boy dogs lose their ability to do protection work, get fat and lazy, and are less “macho.” None of these is accurate. Maturity and removal of sex hormones affect metabolism. If you don’t adjust food intake as the puppy matures, he will pack on too much “table muscle.”

Finally, in some areas around the world (including the southern states in the US), the stray or feral population can account for a significant number of unwanted dog pregnancies. Surgical sterilization of stray and feral populations is both labor and cost-prohibitive. Currently, many veterinarians say they perform pet dog and cat sterilizations at a loss, simply as a service to owners, yet the economic climate makes even these opportunities out of financial range for many people.

It’s important to learn all the facts, and figure out the best options for your individual puppy. Different breeds and lifestyles may impact your decision. So do your research, consult with your veterinarian, and ask questions. Your puppy is counting on you!

What do you think? Go ahead and comment–let ‘er rip! *s*


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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Celebrating Valentines Day the Furry Way: Gifts for Pets and Pet Lovers

Celebrating Valentines Day the Furry Way: Gifts for Pets and Pet Lovers

FTC disclosure

Happy (early) Valentines Day! Do you have anything special planned–for the cats and dogs, that is? What do they have planned for you? 🙂 You’ll want to avoid the Valentine’s day pet dangers, of course. How do your pets show love?

I get a boatload of pet products at various events, conferences and through the mail from folks who ask me to try them out. I’m very grateful, even if I’m not always able to review them–it’s best NOT to send unless you ask first. At times, it looks like a pet toy box exploded at our house.

Sort of embarrassing, but past dogs sometimes prefer dirty socks to high dollar toys, and Karma thinks the 15-year-old peacock feather is da bomb. Cheap thrills, right? Pets don’t care what you spend, as long as it’s TIME with them! But here are some of my favorites and maybe your cats and dogs will enjoy them, too.

Valentines Gifts for Dogs

PLUSH KISSING BOOTH TOY: Shadow LOVES hide-and-seek toys. He inherited a squirrel-treehouse one from Bravo-Dawg but I think this Frisco Valentine Kissing Booth Plush dog toy from Chewy has his name all over it. Measuring about 10″ x 8″ it works well for medium to large dogs at $16.98. And hey, it squeaks! ‘Nuff said.

COATS & SWEATERS FOR DOGS:  Ruffwear for Dogs makes some of the most stylish and useful outdoor equipment for dogs. If you love to go camping, play dog sports, or just hang out with your dog in the great outdoors, check out the offerings. They sent Shadow-Pup a couple of coats. Our Texas weather rarely requires extra coats, but for those who must deal with extra ice, snow, or rain, check them out. They’re also available from Amazon.

Dog Treat Dispenser for Dog Valentine Gifts

Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Snoop Treat Dispenser: Oh my doG, just rediscovered these! I love the Planet Dog products–made in the US out of recycled materials. Many years ago, I got a bunch to review with Magic as a puppy, and they lasted forever. Now, I need to get a fresh supply, because Shadow-Pup would adore them. They come in all kinds of fun shapes and sizes (fruit and veggies, for instance). This one’s new to me, but has nearly 500 great reviews at Chewy.

KONG WOBBLER: I’m a big fan of the Kong line of products. Shadow-Pup inherited Bravo’s Kong Wobbler, the same one that Magical-Dawg used. It’s like the kid’s toys that “wobble but they don’t fall down.” The weighted bottom holds it upright, while you fill the screw-on top with treats or regular dog food. And the dog “wobbles” the feeder to knock yummies out the small hole. Some genius dogs (like Magic) learn to unscrew the top and get everything out at once. So far, Shadow hasn’t managed that. And here’s a bonus: It sorta-kinda looks like a football…and the Superbowl (and puppybowl) are the day before Valentine’s this year!

Valentines Gifts for Cats

STRAWBERRY CATNIP DELIGHT: Here’s a basket filled with catnip-infused strawberries (four of them) that looks good enough to eat. Don’t worry, it’s fake chocolate, and crinkles with Kitty grabs and rolls on the toys. Another cute plush toy from Frisco, is the Valentine Strawberry Basket. Karma-Kitty loves catnip, so this would get his purrs rumbling.

GREENIES TREATS FOR CATS: Karma-Kat’s favorite treat helps keep his teeth nice and clean. The last time he had his vet checkup, Dr. Clay couldn’t believe his age and said Karma’s teeth looked like a one or two-year-old cat. I love Greenies (for dogs, too!)

leash train cats

But I now have a wish-list for the future to make sure our fenced back area is cat-proof. If you haven’t seen this Oscillot Cat-Proof Fence Kits, it’s worth taking a look! These are rollers that attach to the top of your existing fence to keep kitty from jumping out (or other animals from jumping in. The video below gives you a taste.

Pet Bed: The Furhaven Bed (below) currently ranks #1 for both dogs and cats on the amazon store, with 72,793 reviews averaging 4.5/5 stars. I’d say there’s enough room there for Shadow and Karma to share … aww, who am I kidding? They’d argue over who got dibs on it, the same as they do for prime sofa spots! It comes in 12 colors and 5 sizes with cost from about $36 to $105 (depending on size of the bed). Some reviewers note that the foam can collapse with use, especially for heavy dogs. Shadow would probably chew up the bed, but for older, more sedate dogs and cats, this could be a lovely Valentine’s gift.

Valentine’s for Pet Lovers

If you want to please the pet lover in your life, get ’em something for the dog or cat. And what if your cat or dog HATES your date? Well, there are some things you can do to woo their furry love. But you might also want to package up something in a red bow (or red bottle?) for the pet-loving human to soothe bruised feelings. Here are a couple of fun suggestions.

dog life cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What About The Pets’ Valentine’s Gifts?

We don’t wait around each year to have a special day to gift Shadow-Pup or Karma-Kat.  And they gift us every single day with their presence. I dare ya to argue that’s not so! I’ve written before about how pets show love. But how do you return the favor? It goes beyond a Valentine gift for pets.

For the furry-centric folks, I suspect every day is Valentines Day, with pets returning the love with snuggles, wags, and purrs. In no particular order, here are some ways that the Shojai’s show Valentine’s Love all year long to the pets, and how Shadow and Karma reciprocate.

AMY’S (incomplete…) LIST

  • Nutritious food for Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat (and puzzle feeders from Doc & Phoebe’s Indoor Hunting system to keep Karma’s table muscle in check).
  • Yummy treats cuz they’re both such good boyz.
  • Grooming for good health and feel-good scritches
  • Vet care for routine, preventative and even ER visits. I love the Chewy Online Pet Pharmacy, makes auto-ship easy.
  • Exercise, aka PLAYTIME with stuffed squeakies, catnip, feather wands, paper bags, Ping Pong balls and more
  • Schmooze time…the best of all!

SHADOW’S LIST OF LOVE

  • Barking–at strangers, strange noises, the new cat, for treats, during vet visits–all to protect his people
  • Sniffing–to protect his people from dangerous squirrels, rats, bunnies, cats and dirty socks
  • Peeing & poop marking–to warn away dangerous coyotes, rats, bunnies, cats and dirty socks
  • Playing fetch and tug–to teach his people how to have fun by sharing joy with slimy balls and tattered stuffed toys
  • Killing squeakies–to demonstrate a good-dog’s ferocious ability to protect
  • Sleeping with his people

KARMA’S LIST OF LOVE

  • Teeny-soft-mews, to get attention and admiring glances
  • Scratching cat trees–to tell the world he’s home
  • Playing with Shadow–to declare his trust and affection
  • Chasing–toys, feet, dog tails, anything, to show what joy looks like
  • Snuggling with purrs & paw-neck-hugs

Now, it’s your turn. Add YOUR list in the comments! What are YOUR cats and dogs getting for Valentine’s Day this year?

 

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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Why Do Dogs Roll on Poop and Like Stinky Nasty Schtuff

why dogs roll in poop

Why Dogs Roll On Their Backs

I’ve written about why dogs roll on their backs before. This behavior signal can be used during play, or as way to diffuse a perceived danger. Rolling on their back to expose the tummy and genitals, with submissive urinating, signals “no threat” like a canine version of crying uncle. Here’s a fun Ask Amy video covering the topic.

Why Do Dogs Roll In Poop and Other Nasty Smells?

Dogs live through their noses, and certain pungent scents prompt rolling behavior in some dogs. This scent ecstasy is like what cats experience when exposed to catnip. Doggy indulgence is a good bit more noxious and tends toward offal.

So, do your dogs roll in (ahem) crappiocca? How do you manage the situation? Please share your tips in the comments section. Oh, and for more doggy MUST KNOWS with a deeper dive into the information, get the Dog Facts book.

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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Pets Home Alone? Relieve Back to School Angst

Are your pets home alone, now that the kids have gone back to school? How can you ease the transition?

pets home alone

What do you do when the kiddos return to school? Breathe a sigh of relief? Miss them desperately? All of the above? My in-box is FILLED with all kinds of back-to-school offers for kid clothing, electronics, cameras, and more.

Back to School & Home Alone Pets

What about the pets? For many cats and dogs, the summer vacation (or recent “virtual learning”) means more time spent with their beloved “human-pups” playing and training, and having a wonderful time together. If you got a NEW baby dog or kitty this past summer, the 24/7 time together may be all they’ve ever known.

So what happens when school starts? And if you have a child leaving for college, that can REALLY put the pet’s tail in a twist. Several years ago, when I quit writing (for a while) and taught school for a little over a semester, Magical-Dawg and I both suffered separation anxiety!

Separation Anxiety in Dogs & Cats

Separation behaviors are not unusual when routine changes. These affect dogs more readily than cats. Cats with separation anxiety may end up pooping on your bed…but dogs may try to go through doors, walls or even windows and really hurt themselves. You can find a detailed article on dealing with doggy separation behaviors here.

Providing good alternative behaviors helps enormously. If you know the routine will change, start transitioning pets now. Use products like Adaptil for dogs or Feliway to soothe dog and cat angst, and provide some puzzle toys or cat trees to keep claws and teeth occupied. You can also teach your cats and dogs tricks to help keep them occupied, using clicker training. Check out the newest ASK AMY (below) for more ideas.

What have I missed? Do your dogs and cats get all stressed when school starts? How do you manage? Please share!

For more recommended pet products, visit my Amazon list recommendations here!

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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Why Cats Sleep So Much? Do Your Cats Sleep Under the Bed?

Why Cats Sleep So Much? Do Your Cats Sleep Under the Bed?

Do your cats sleep under the bed? Cats sleep a lot, often in unusual places. In fact, kitties sleep two-thirds-of their life away, up to 16 hours each day. That’s more than any other mammal, except for the opossum and some bats.

We don’t know why cats sleep so much. We theorize that predators with few natural enemies (like cats) sleep for longer periods of time. Some experts believe a cat’s need for sleep increases in direct proportion to the amount of energy kitty requires for hunting. Cat hunting behavior requires a lot of energy.

HidingCat

How Cats Sleep

While humans sleep in marathon eight-hour (or longer) sessions, cat sleep combines short and long naps throughout the day. Habits vary between cats but very old and very young kittens sleep more than robust adults. Sleep time increases on cold, rainy or cloudy days.

Two patterns of brain activity characterized the sleep activity of cats, like that of people and many other mammals. Scientists measured this activity with an electroencephalograph (EEG) that records waves or pulses of activity on a graph.

Kitty brains broadcast little bunched-together irregular peaks while awake. But when dozing, the cat’s brain produces long, irregular waves called slow-wave sleep and lasts fifteen to thirty minutes. He lies with his head raised and paws tucked beneath him as he dozes. Sometimes he actually sleeps sitting up, in which case his muscles stiffen to hold him upright. This way he’s ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.

why cats sleep so much

Cat Sleep Positions

You’ll know when kitty moves from light into deep sleep: his body relaxes; he stretches out and rolls to one side. His brain patterns change and become smaller and closer together, and are very similar to his waking patterns.

During deep sleep (also called “rapid sleep” because of the quick brain wave movement) cats remain fully relaxed and hard to awaken. This phase only lasts about five minutes, and the cat then returns to slow-wave sleep. Thereafter, rapid- and slow-wave sleep alternates until he finally wakes up.

Interestingly, kittens fall directly into deep rapid sleep without this alternating pattern until they’re about a month old. Cat dreams are born during rapid sleep–twitching whiskers and paws chase dream mice, perhaps.

shelter cat

The cat’s senses continue to record sounds and scents during up to 70 percent of sleep. That means cats awaken quickly at the squeak of a mouse or smell of a rat. A predictable pattern of blinking, yawning and stretching characterizes slower awakening. First the forelegs, then back, and finally rear legs flex and stretch in turn. Most cats also groom themselves briefly upon first awakening.

Cats are crepuscular creatures, and most active at daybreak and sundown. But they typically adapt to the humans they love, sleeping on the owner’s schedule. So they sleep when you are gone and spend more awake time when you are home.

Why Cats Sleep On You

…Because they can! For many of us, cats that sleep ON the bed with us…and on the pillow, on your head, on your chest, and pretty much in any position they want. Sleeping with us shows incredible trust and love. But today’s Ask Amy addresses those felines that prefer the company of dust bunnies to humans. What’s up with that?

Do your cats have weird sleeping spots? What’s the oddest place your cat likes to nap? Seren-Kitty used to cuddled up in her blue bed on the table beneath the stained glass lampshade. In her youth Seren hung out on damp towels on the tile tub surround in the bathroom. Karma-Kat stretches out on the carpet in the middle of the room and sleeps on his back. At night, he sleeps in the crook behind my knees. Oh, and do your kitties argue over prime sleep spots? And what about pet insomnia? Oy, it never ends!

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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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Dog Allergies & Soothing Itchy Dogs

Dog Allergies & Soothing Itchy Dogs

Spring is the SNEEZE season for humans, complete with runny eyes and sinus issues.(Learn about dealing with pet allergies here).  For dog allergies, itchy skin is the more common sign of discomfort. And it can hit in the fall, too. Just ask my Bravo-Dawg, now trying to balance with only three legs to scratch his itchies.

Bravo (and the other furries) get monthly parasite preventive meds, so it surprised us when he began incessantly scratching and chewing last week. We live on 13 acres, and we speculated the long grass in the field led to irritations and bug bites. But even after mowing, his itchiness continued with head and back scabs, and foot licking. Benadryl helped, but after Bravo’s cancer journey and chemo treatments, we wanted to be careful with giving him anything.

Yesterday, the vet diagnosed allergies–as if Bravo didn’t have enough challenges! Dr. Clay noted he’s at the age when allergies can develop (about 1 in 3 dogs suffer). He also noted that Benadryl is one of the safest and effective meds, and recommended we up the dose (dogs get a much higher dose than people). He weighs 101 lbs, so Bravo gets up to 100 mgs three times a day–and the itch has abated. But what about other kinds of allergies?

dog allergies

dog allergies

It’s less common, but runny eyes also may develop–and of course, my Magical-Dawg had to be one of these unusual cases. His eyes began watering back in January, and combined with his acral lick foot itchies, he was miserable. Thankfully, he didn’t suffer from the all-over itchy skin, hair loss, and worse that our first shepherd suffered. But here in North Texas (and other parts of the country), it’s helpful to understand dog allergies and how to soothe our itchy dogs.

This is simply an overview of the kinds of allergies. For more details, you’ll want your veterinarian to diagnose your dog, and explain what’s needed to help your pet. You can also find more details about pet allergies in my DOG FACTS book.

DOG ALLERGIES CAUSES & CURES

Pets suffer from the same kinds of allergies that people do. Food allergies (probably the least common in dogs) happen when dogs react to certain proteins in the food. Major culprits are meats like beef or chicken–and even lamb, if the dog has eaten it before and become “sensitized.” It can be complicated.

Food Allergies

How do you cure dog food allergies? Well, you don’t…but you can manage them. The first step is diagnosing exactly WHAT causes the reaction and only a veterinarian can do that. See, commercial foods contain a smorgasbord of ingredients, some in tiny amounts, and while you MAY find one your dog tolerates more than others, switching around can be hit-or-miss. It also may confuse things when you’ve then exposed the dog to bunches more potential culprits and reduced the “safe” alternatives that he’s never before tasted.

Flea Allergies

Flea allergy is the most common of all. Dogs (and cats) sensitive to the flea saliva can itch all over after a single bite from one of these tiny vampires. Flea allergy also is one of the most easily managed, usually through one of the modern safe flea prevention products. I use Revolution (from the vet) on Magical-Dawg because it takes care of heartworms, fleas and a number of internal parasites, too.

dog allergies

Inhaled Allergies

Atopy–or inhaled allergies–can be due to pollens, molds, and even dander. Hay fever in people that makes us sneeze instead causes itching in pets. That’s what our first shepherd developed. After we moved from the Ohio Valley region (and its airborne fungus and other “schtuff”) and were in Texas, his health drastically improved. Dogs with inhalent allergies often have itchy ears, too, and may develop ear infections.

Could a dog be allergic to himself, or to the cat? Theoretically, that’s possible! But more typically it’s the springtime/summer allergens that drive pets nuts. Wintertime when the furnace comes on for the first time can stir up household dust and set them off again.

Atopy can be the toughest control. It’s seasonal so the signs can lessen during the winter. Dogs absorb grass and dust allergens through the toe webbing in their foot pads, so simply rinsing off poochie feet after the dog’s been outside can help enormously. Also, dogs (and cats) are furry dust mops that collect and carry allergens in their coat–so rinsing ’em off weekly also helps.

Natural Cures for Dog Allergies

There’s a difference between HOLISTIC veterinary medicine and HOMEOPATHY (click this link for some details). For example, omega-3 fatty acids are a holistic/natural treatment that aid skin health and also have some anti-itch properties–so does bathing the pet in an oatmeal-based anti-itch shampoo. A flea comb to get rid of fleas is about as natural as you can get! Homeopathic medications attempt to “wake up” the pet’s own body to deal with and manage the health challenge.

Some dogs benefit from allergy medications like antihistamines. Magic’s runny eyes resolved once we began giving him Benadryl, recommended by our veterinarian. Please check with your pet’s practitioner for proper dosage and what’s safe for your fur kids. And for atopic dogs, simply rinsing them off with water (even just their paws) can help.

Here are some videos that offer some more comments and discussion (yes, they’re a couple year’s old!). There’s also info on OTC treatments for pets. For folks reading the blog, what has worked for your itchy dog? Any further tips you can share? 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? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

Cats In Your Garden? 10 Tips How to Keep Cats Away

Cats In Your Garden? 10 Tips How to Keep Cats Away

Why would you want to keep cats away? Well, if you have indoor felines and strays keep trespassing, that can put your pets’ tails in a twist. Other times, the stray or feral cats abuse your hospitality, poop in your garden, or stalk the birdbath and terrorize the birds. If you have plants that prove dangerous to cats, visiting felines could be poisoned. What’s a responsible cat person to do?

How do you shoo unwanted cats out of your back yard? Maybe you have a dog that likes to dig, too. With spring weather fast approaching, lots of folks now find that community cats, strays or even feral felines have decided to make themselves at home in unwanted places. Here are my 9 tips to keep cats away.

WhiteOutsideCat-MariaMagnus

10 Ways to Keep Cats Away

I’ve read a number of “how-to” articles over the years about ways to shoo cats away. We need kitty kryptonite! Many suggestions resort to what I’d consider inhumane methods. Those who read this blog LOVE cats! We don’t want to shock them with electric fences or poison them with toxic materials (as sometimes suggested). Yikes! Here are my best 10 tips how to keep cats away.

1. Talk to Owners

When your neighbor’s cat roams, have a talk to figure out ways to keep the cat safe and out of your yard. Perhaps explain that your dog may object and injure their pet, or that you want to protect the songbirds in your back yard.

When a friendly cat hasn’t been claimed and just hangs out in the neighborhood, work together to keep these community cats safe and cared for. A well-nourished kitty is less likely to stalk your birds. Perhaps someone can be persuaded to adopt the cat or share the responsibility to work toward a solution. Work with your neighbors to prevent their pets from visiting your yard or hunting birds you want to protect.

cold weather cat dangers

2. Manage Feral Cats

A truly feral cat has no owner or family and must hunt to survive. Learn about ways to humanely manage feral cats. They need shelter and food, so deny them access to forbidden places by boarding up cubbyholes or openings into porches, garages, and outbuildings. Create more appealing cat habitats far away from your living area, and the cats will stay away. Protect feral cats during cold weather with these tips.

3. Check With Animal Control

If you’re unable to find the owner, your local authorities often have resources for safely trapping feral or stray cats. Each community has different regulations and laws, so research what you can do based on your neck of the woods. The scared feline you believe to be feral may turn out to have a microchip that will reunite Kitty with his lost owners.

how to keep cats away

4. Wash Pee-mail Cat Urine Marking Away

Cats mark their territory by spraying urine on prominent (usually vertical) landmarks, like doors and walls. The odor not only tells other cats they own the property but also announces their sexual status. The smell may bring the cat to return to the scene time and again to refresh his Pee-mail message. That also proves arousing to your indoor-only cats and can prompt them to return the aromatic favor, but on the INSIDE of your house. Wash down any places you find to remove the urine, and use an odor neutralizer to eliminate the minuscule traces cats still can detect. Having the cats neutered will reduce their inclination to spray, too.

5. Booby Trap Cat Targets

Cats dislike surprises. While you can’t patrol your yard all the time, there are automated motion detectors that can shoo cats away from forbidden areas. You can set up water sprinklers on timers, or invest in products like the Scarecrow Sprinkler.  These devices are triggered by the cat’s presence and fire a blast of water at it.

There also are repellant devices that employ sound and lights to keep cats away or shoo away other critters. The SsssCat! repellent is an aerosol can that triggers with motion and produces a HISS of air to scare interlopers away. Other devices use ultrasound detectable only to the target animal. Be careful choosing ultrasound products, though, since your indoor pets may also be harassed by the sound.

cat hunt

6. Eliminate the Cat Smorgasbord

Cats looking for a free meal are drawn to prey hangouts. Mice, bunnies, and squirrels love woodpiles and hidy holes filled with leaves and other debris to raise babies. Birds fed on the ground or from birdfeeders and birdbaths within cat pouncing distance prove irresistible to roaming cats.

Clean out the clutter, and keep yards and fields mowed. Tidy up trash bins that attract vermin, so cats won’t follow the rats to your door. If you feed your pets outside, pick it up and clean the area or the leftovers will bring out the cat nibblers. Position birdbaths away from cat perching ops, and place bird feeders out of reach. Include a feeder baffle to keep industrious cats at bay.