Below is a great guest article addressing these very needs.
Overcoming Pet Winter Woes
by Paul Mann
Like humans, pets can experience winder doldrums. Even those living in warmer weather regions are still affected by seasonal changes, which can be especially tough on dogs and cats–particularly those that are used to spending time outdoors.
Beyond the obvious challenge of pets getting less exercise during the winter months, dogs and cats often experience less emotional stimulation during this period and can suffer a variety of adversities, including excessive weight gain, irritability, anxiety and even clinical depression. This can lead to a variety of unsavory behaviors and dissatisfaction for all involved. The more outdoor-oriented the pet, the higher probability that these and other problems will present and persist through the season.
Fortunately, there are a few simple things pet owners can do to physically engage and psychologically stimulate their pets and make everyone happier during the long, cold winter months:
Most dog breeds need to go outside 2-3 times a day, not only to relieve themselves, but also to get some form of exercise and sensory stimulation. Dogs are more likely to go outside in nearly any kind of weather and often love a romp in the snow. Taking your dog outdoors will trigger its natural play instincts. Running, jumping and chasing are natural ways to energize your pet, burn calories and boost metabolism. If you’re not up to the task amid Mother Nature, consider hiring a professional dog walker to happily take on the duty. Indoors, tried-and-true games like fetch, tug-of-war and wrestling can also serve as a great workout that also stimulates a pet’s appetite.
Cats also love to pounce and play, and if they’re stuck in the house you can easily brighten their day with 10-15 minutes of play each day. String, laser pointers, objects on strings and other enticing toys dragged around get your cat into chase mode, keep her busy and burning energy. Find or install a perch by a window where your cat can watch the birds. For those cats that pine to be outdoors, the marketplace has an abundance of outdoor enclosures that also allows cats to run, roam and prance freely in the invigorating fresh air. Of course, moderate the time spent in these enclosures based on the winter weather conditions.
For both dogs and cats, keep a set of toys and laser pointer handy for an energized and sustained play session, either indoors or out, at least once daily. When outdoor play just isn’t an option, there are a number of motorized animal treadmills on the market today that are entirely enjoyable and effective for exercising both Fido and Felix.
If your dog or cat doesn’t get outdoors as much in the winter as they normally do, it likely doesn’t need to eat as much food. Reducing food and calorie intake generally means less weight gain and more energy. If you often give your pets treats, consider hiding them inside toys, such as freezing kibble inside a “Kong,” to give them prolonged busy work.
As with humans, weight maintenance is all about portion control. Feed your pet using a designated measuring cup so that you know exactly how much food they’re consuming each day. If you still aren’t getting the desired results, call the pet food company for dietary recommendations to ensure you aren’t over-feeding—especially as seasonal dietary requirements change when a pet becomes less active. Automated pet feeding systems are also helpful. These tech tools utilize a wireless tag attached to a pet’s collar to regulate and monitor one or more pet’s food intake to ensure the pet isn’t eating too much or too little at once or throughout the day—also keeping multiple pets away from each other’s food.
Let There Be Light
Pets react to illumination just like humans do. Their energy level increases when the light is brighter. According to Animal Behavior College, “The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals found that approximately 40 percent of dog owners saw a considerable downturn in their pet’s moods during the winter months” and that related symptoms in pets “typically manifest as behavioral changes such as inappropriate soiling, aggression, lethargy and separation anxiety.” The report notes that “Light is intimately tied to the functioning of the pituitary and endocrine glands, and can stimulate the body to release hormones that have an uplifting effect on mood.” If it’s too cold to go out, simply open the drapes and let the natural light in, turn up your indoor lights, and consider replacing bulbs with the full spectrum or daylight variety to better simulate a daytime environment. A company called Pawsitive Lighting, has even developed a light box to help conquer those wintertime blues.
Scented toys can really engage an animal’s interests and natural stalking instincts, also keeping them occupied and mentally focused as they try to find the source of the smell. Luckily dogs respond to a variety of smells and there are seemingly infinite availability of toys that engage canine olfaction—alone and in combination with other senses that can be concurrently engaged. A game of hide and seek can go a log way with your pooch!
For cats that respond well to catnip, there are catnip and other “play sprays” that can be squirted onto indoor climbing structures, cardboard boxes, and scratching posts. A multi-story cat climber or “tree” with strategically placed low-cal treats or scented play toys can readily get kitty jumping from level to level and its heart pumping in kind.
With just a little planning, you can help ensure your pet’s winter season remains happy and healthy, with a great quality of life for everyone in the household.
Paul Mann is the Founder and CEO of Fetch! Pet Care—the nation’s largest and most trusted franchisor for professional pet sitting, dog walking, and pet fitness/exercise services—serving thousands of pets and pet parents throughout the United States from coast to coast. He may be reached online at: www.FetchPetCare.com.
Like all kids, cats love the holidays. One of the highlights each year for me is seeing the reactions of our cats when the Christmas tree, ornaments, lights, and all the other decorations come out. Their eyes light up as they insist on getting right in the middle of everything!
While cats make the holidays even sweeter, it’s a time when we have to pay close attention to potential dangers for our little ones. Many of the following definitely fall under the heading “common sense,” but we all get so busy this time of year, sometimes we need a few reminders. Our cats lives are definitely worth the extra time it takes to read over cat safety tips, so let’s have at it.
- Even though it’s tempting to give our cats “special treats” such as ham, turkey, whipping cream, icing, etc during the holidays, come up with a better plan. Buy special Cat Treats and dole them out instead. Cat’s insides are very, very special and they simply can’t process the food that we’re able to process. Why take chances, right?
- Make certain your Christmas tree is VERY secure and stable. Many cats like to climb them (Prissy always did!) and the last thing you want is the tree toppling down on top of your cat.
- If you have a live tree, be sure your cat doesn’t drink from the water. Cover it in some fashion. Stagnate water is a health hazard, for one thing, and for another who knows what kind of chemicals or fertilizers could transfer from the tree into the water. This water could make your cat very sick at best and could prove poisonous at worst.
- If you have cats (or dogs or small children for that matter) in your house, you’d be better off avoiding tinsel altogether. Cats find tinsel completely irresistible – so shiny and easy to play with! However, tinsel easily gets into their digestive tract and can cause obstruction (which requires surgery and a great amount of pain for your cat).
- Tissue paper, popular for putting in gift bags, is something else that cats can get into their digestive system, which would then wreak havoc. If you use tissue paper, make certain it’s closed up tightly within the bag and be sure to throw it all away immediately upon opening.
- Beware of long ribbons as well. Cats can get them wrapped around their necks, creating a choking risk. They’ve also been known to get these ribbons stuck in their throats.
- Never leave burning candles unattended, for obvious reasons.
- Anything that involves burning oil, melted wax, or flames is simply too risky. Potpourri pots can EASILY be pulled down by a cat who is either attacking the cord or simply running from one place to another. Again, it’s just not worth the risk.
- Cats LOVE gift bags – the bright, fun, “crinkly” bags spell GOOD TIMES to an inquisitive little girl or boy! I always leave a few lying around for Alexa, much to her delight. However, I make certain that the strings are unattached – the larger bags are especially dangerous (the ribbon loops look like little nooses!).
- I already mentioned “treats,” but this one merits its own mention: Chocolate is a huge NO NO for cats (dogs too). Chocolate can poison a cat, plain and simple. Also, make certain your cats never eat anything containing xylitol. Again, what’s the best way to make sure your cat doesn’t digest food that’ll harm her? Feed her only cat treats and cat food. Also, remember that just because you don’t hand it to your cat doesn’t mean she can’t get to it! Keep candy and all other foods out of your cat’s reach.
- No doubt you (like me) fill your cat’s stocking with toys and special treats. Make sure the toys, themselves, are safe. It’s always best to buy specially made cat toys because you pretty much know for certain they won’t contain poisonous paint or harmful parts. Cat toy manufacturers have a lot of codes they have to live up to and that always makes me feel safer. Remember that long, stringy toys can cause a lot of nightmares, as can small parts that can come off and lodge in your cat’s throat or intestines.
- Make sure no turkey or ham bones are given to your cat and be sure they’re disposed of properly.
- Keep Holly (the plant, not a relative!) out of the home. Holly can cause pets to suffer needlessly with nausea and diarrhea.
- Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset as well as cardiovascular problems.
- Many lilies lead to kidney failure and death for cats. Why take any chances? Buy artificial plants and keep your cat safe and healthy.
- If there’s a lot of commotion, noise, and guests, some cats may want to retreat to another room for some much needed peace and relaxation. If this is the case, be certain they have their essentials nearby: Litter box, water, food, and a comfortable place to sleep. If your cat does seek refuge, don’t try to coax her out – she’ll come out when she feels ready.
Finally, remember three facts that are essential for cat health and safety:
- Cats are small children in fur coats. Everything is a toy and everything is a game. Like children, they cannot discern what is safe and what isn’t. It’s up to us. To keep them safe, we have to think like they do and look at the world from their viewpoint. Seek out anything that poses a threat to your cat and remove the danger.
- Cats are perhaps the most emotionally in-tuned animal in the world. They’re like emotional sponges, as one vet put it. They pick up on our moods as well as the excitement going on around them. Sometimes the chaos and excitement will cause them to act differently than normal. They may sleep more, may be cranky, or may need more of your attention and reassurance.
- Cats aren’t wild about change. They crave consistency and want their little world to pretty much stay the same. Same feeding schedule, same play time, same “couch time,” and same television routine! Cats feel stress and nothing causes them to stress out quite like change, so keep things as normal as you possibly can during the holidays. Also, cats HATE sharing their parents with other people or situations. They want their mom and dad’s attention and feel distress when they feel that someone or something else is taking any of this attention away from them. If children (or Heaven forbid other pets!) come into your home during the holidays, be sure to reassure your cat(s) and involve them in everything you possibly can.
I hope you and your cats have a fun, safe, and wonderful Christmas and holiday season! I’ll be adding more cat lovers gift ideas, cat toys, and cat ornaments – so watch for them.
Good on you! There you are, reading a cat blog article about keeping your cat healthy and extending his/her life. As a cat lover, myself, I applaud your love for your cat(s). We all want our precious little furry babies to live as long and as well as possible. Fortunately, there are lots of things we can do to help make that happen.
If you’re a regular reader, you probably already know that we had a much (much much much, much…) loved cat named Prissy, who I named after my favorite Gone With the Wind character, who lived for over 20 years. Within those years… 20, wow, that’s a lot of years…. she only had to go to the vet once, when she was 3 – for a sinus infection of all things. Prissy was a house cat, which certainly helped her achieve such an impressive lifespan. In fact Keep your cat safe and secure inside your home at all times was listed number 1 on Real Age.com’s Cat Health Tips for Helping Your Cat Have a Younger Real Age.
Of course, there are times when your cat has to live outside the house rather than inside the house. They’re still much beloved family, of course, their section of the house simply doesn’t have a roof. If your cat has to live without a roof, as some of our cats do, read How to Help Your Outdoor Cats Live Longer.
A few safety precautions all cat lovers will want to take include:
- Make certain your houseplants are safe. Some houseplants are poisonous and shouldn’t be allowed in a cat’s vicinity EVER. I wouldn’t even keep one on the highest shelf in a room my cat never visits. Can you say not worth it? No plant is worth making a cat sick and it certainly isn’t worth the risk of killing a cat! Please see Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants for Cats. Needless to say, if you have dogs, be sure to check the same website for poisonous plants for dogs.
- If you have an indoor cat, be certain that all guests to your home know that the cat is not allowed outdoors. Some people have cats that come and go and may automatically assume that your cat does so as well.
- Please don’t allow your cat to lie on or play near ironing boards. I see a lot of precious pictures online of cats lying on ironing boards (horrifyingly enough, sometimes the iron’s plugged in and is next to the cat) online. I used to keep our ironing board up most of the time (with a blanket on top) because Alexa loved to lie on it and look out the window. One day, she had a terrible accident, though, and somehow managed to pull the ironing board down on her when she quickly jumped off. One of the metal legs landed on one of her tiny back legs, breaking her leg in two places. I’ll NEVER forget the pain she was in or the helpless, sick feeling I had. She had to have a cast and had to spend months in a large cage. It was absolute hell for me and her. When we first brought her home from the animal hospital with a cast on her leg, I had trouble getting her to agree to the cage. At one point, she backed into a corner as tears, literally ran from her eyes (as well as mine!). It’s an image that will stay with me forever and will prompt me to beg cat lovers to keep their ironing boards put up at all times. PLEASE. If you have a cat blog, a facebook page, or a Twitter account, help me spread the word about the dangers of ironing boards for cats.
- Always remember how inquisitive and nosy cats are! Be certain to always double check the dryer before closing the door – even if you’re almost certain your cat never came into the room.
Click HERE to read the Real Age.com article about adding years to your cat’s life. Great stuff!
We all know that the safest place for a cat to live is inside your home. However, sometimes that simply isn’t possible. There are times when circumstances dictate that, no matter how much you love your cat(s), they must spend all or most of the their time outside.
For us, our inside cat (Alexa) simply could not and would not tolerate other cats coming inside. When our current outside babies came along, Alexa already had complete and total run of the house. To bring any inside would surely incite a riot. I honestly just don’t trust any of them not to fight and it would break my heart if any harm came to any of them.
Fortunately, Hannah, Jelly Bean, and Queen Fatima seem perfectly content with the arrangement. After all, their outdoor crib is the only one they know. We’re very lucky to live in a remote area with a garage they have access to 24/7 – as well as two abandoned barns they LOVE to hang out in. The garage and the barns have lofts that Jelly Bean and Fatima love to sleep in. Hannah prefers to sleep on the carport, so I keep a warm, elaborate tent for her during the cold months. When it gets super cold, she joins the others in the loft.
If your cat or cats also have to live outside, realize that there are steps you can take to protect them, keep them safe, and even help them live longer. Below are my own tricks and tips of the trade that I’ve adhered to through many years of being a cat mom:
- Like inside cats, make sure your outside cats eat primarily cat food. People tend to think of outside cats, often, like dogs. They’ll throw them scraps as they would a German Shepherd. Cats have very dainty, complex digestive tracts and cat food products are designed especially for them. It’s the food they should be given the majority of the time.
- I’ve never put collars of any sort on my outside cats. Some people do, and swear by it, but I’m scared by the thought of the collar getting caught on something. Again, we live in a remote area, so I don’t have to worry about name tags, dog catchers, or anything like that. If I did, I’d find a “break away” collar.
- Give your outside cat LOTS of escape opportunities. Not only is our yard full of trees, but my husband keeps the garage door open just large enough for our cats to slink into. Nothing larger can follow them into the garage.
- On the carport, I have tall black shelves that our cats can also jump onto if a skunk, possum, or raccoon spooks them.
- Keep all motor oil, weed killers, car wash, etc. put far away from nosy cats. Also, be sure to spray (with a hose) any residue left behind. These products can be poisonous to inquisitive cats.
- Outside cats need love and attention as much as indoor cats. Make sure to set aside certain times each day to visit with your outside babies – even during the winter. Bundle up and cuddle up!
- Outside cats generally get some exercise on most days – often by chasing feathered or furry prey! However, they need physical activity and play just like our inside cats do. We tend to think they get all of the entertainment and exercise they need by living outdoors, but think about it: They pretty much see and do the same things over and over again. Mix things up for them by buying special cat toys, cat nip, scratching posts, and so on. Give them new things to see, smell, and do.
- I’ve always given our cats a combination of dry and wet cat food. I also give them food/treats that are good for their teeth.
- Always, always, always provide fresh, clean water and lots of it. In the winter, be sure to check on their water throughout the day.
- Make sure your cats have a safe, dry, warm, and comfortable bed. Cats love their beds as much as we humans do! Their beds are very important to them. Make certain that your cats have soft beds that are always dry. Place the cat bed where your cat likes to sleep or hang out. Realize that cats, generally, don’t want their bed in high-traffic areas. The thing a cat hates more than anything is feeling vulnerable. Put the bed in a safe, out of the way spot – preferable off the ground – or under a table or tent! See Cat Beds.
There’s no reason your outside cat can’t live a long and wonderful life. Our outside cats are beautifully healthy and happy and always live for many years. We’ve always had at least one inside diva cat (Prissy, and then Alexa) who refuses to allow feline company – so we’ve always had outside babies as well as the inside “spoiled” girls!
Love your cats, whether they’re inside cats or outside, with all you have and think about them and their happiness throughout the day – not just when it’s time to feed them. Remember, they need attention and affection as much as they need water and food.
Finally, I wanted to make sure you knew about Pet Health Insurance. This is a UK based business and can be a great, great service to cat parents.
This is too cute. The FDA-approved PetSafe SlimCat Food Distributor Ball, Blue is ideal for cats! They are such inquisitive little beings – this will delight and amuse them again and again. Cats love to play, hunt, and eat and this food distributor ball allows them to do all three. The interactive “toy” provides exercise, which for most indoor cats, is a much needed and welcomed provision!
You simply fill the SlimCat with .67 cup of dry cat food. Adjust the hole in the SlimCat to let one piece of food pass through easily. As your cat chases and bats the SlimCat around the room, one piece of food at a time will exit the ball. This allows you to control how fast your pet eats and provide him with hours of stimulating play. Small portions several times a day will improve his digestion. The SlimCat also satisfies your cat’s inherent need to hunt.
To clean, simply wash the plastic SlimCat in your dishwasher or with hot soapy water.
- Improve your kitty’s eating and exercise habits simultaneously
- Builds muscle and burns fat, while fighting obesity and lethargy
- Perfect for all breeds of cat
- Made from FDA-approved plastic
- Safe for dishwashers
Can you imagine a day spent doing absolutely nothing? No television, no internet, no trips to the store, no reading… zip, nada. What if a couple of these days were strung together? Not only would we be bored out of our minds, our minds would, literally, begin to degenerate; followed closely by our bodies. We’d probably ask ourselves, “Is life really even worth living?!”
When you think about it in these jolting terms, you realize JUST how important it is to provide your cat(s) with plenty of entertainment, amusement, and activity (mental and physical).
Outside cats get a pretty regular stream of different activities. They don’t always peruse them, of course, but they ARE there! My Hannah is a little bit older, and extremely laid back, so she watches the activities go on around her. Jelly Bean and Queen Fatima (when you’ve had as many cats as we’ve had over the years, you get pretty creative with the names!) explore most noises and activities, unless it’s a really lazy day – then they memo the activity to go ahead without them.
However, make no mistake about it, outside cats still enjoy playtime with their “parents.” Hannah LOVES playing something we call “Sliding Stick” – okay, I call it that, she just calls it “Mew.” I slide it horizontally back and forth in front of her, while she picks the perfect time to pounce. When playing with cats, they love it when you vary the speed of a game like this – fast at times, slow at times. You’ll be able to tell by your cat’s reaction which he/she prefers. When Prissy was younger, she loved for toys to move as fast as they possibly could (the way Alexa prefers them now), but when she got older (like Hannah), I had to make sure the toys knew we were dealing with a “special” baby.
I still buy cat toys for my outside cats, as I do for my inside cat (Alexa) and as I did for my inside girl, Prissy. However, I’ve found that their tastes in toys differ from inside cats. They prefer the natural-looking toys. A favorite (in addition to sticks!) is anything with feathers on it, for obvious reasons, I guess. They appreciate toys that squeak and chirp, but bells seem to leave them puzzled. I guess they never heard an animal that chimed!
Scratching posts don’t really fascinate my outside cats either, but they do LOVE the inexpensive cardboard scratching pads that are treated with catnip. Like Alexa, they think it’s party time when I bring home a new one. Their reaction reminds me of myself when I have something chocolate…. anything chocolate.
If you have outside cats, be sure to spend plenty of time in playtime with them. Yes, the world is their playground, but they’d rather enjoy it with you than by themselves.
While outside cats need the extra stimulation and entertainment, I have to admit, when I think of how critical playtime is for cats, I tend to think primarily of the inside cat. Especially for cats that spend a lot of time alone during the day – without the ever entertaining human to watch. I work from home full time and my daughters (and one of their boyfriends) are normally home, offering Miss Alexa endless amusement. However, if I know we’re all going to be out of the house for a while, I often leave the television on for her. I put it on a channel that’s frequently on (like the Food Network, ESPN, or The Cooking Channel), so she can watch her favorite shows!
A few days ago, she was in the kitchen when my youngest daughter and I stepped out, leaving Alexa home alone for a few hours. This wouldn’t be a huge deal for most cats, but like I said, Alexa’s used to at least one or two people being here pretty much 24/7. So I turned on the tv in the home office for her, since it’s the room she’s in the most often anyway (workaholic cat). I put it on the Food Network and when I came home later, she was on the love seat in front of the television watching Rachael Ray, a personal favorite.
Apparently a favorite of Alexa’s as well.
Inside cats love a wide variety of toys – you pretty much just have to test some out to find your cat’s favorite type of toy. Never overlook what’s right in front of you, though. A paper sack and the plastic lid to a milk jug provide hours and hours of enjoyment!
A word of caution when using playthings with your cat, always make sure its safe. Think through any and all possible outcomes before giving your cat a particular object or toy. Most commercial cat toys have been tested and tested some more, so they’re usually safe. However, always make sure there’s nothing that could come off and choke your cat. Also, beware of these potential hazards:
- Ribbons on gifts, shoestrings, and yarn: If they’re very long, they could become wrapped around your cat’s neck (just as dangerous as cords on mini blinds). Also, some cats have gotten choked on ribbons they’ve gotten into their throats. Never leave them lying around where your cat could “play” with one without your supervision.
- Gift bags with handles: Again, the handles can be a choking hazard. Cats can get their heads/necks stuck and panic. Alexa loves the feel of gift bags, so we get FULL use out of using gift bags. Long after the gift has been given, she loves to sit on and “rough up” the bag. However, I always remove the handles. As accident-prone as she is, she’d find a way to hurt herself.
- Be very, very cautious of ironing boards or anything else that isn’t perfectly steady. Make sure cat towers, scratching posts, etc are steady and won’t tip over on your cat. Alexa broke her little leg in two separate places when she ran, jumped on an ironing board, and pulled it down on top of her. It broke my heart so completely, I’m not sure it’ll ever heal completely! Her leg did, but my heart’s another matter. I learned then that you can never be too careful – you can’t predict what a cat’s going to do, so never take any chances.
The video at the top of this article is a good example of cat parents entertaining their adorable cat WITHOUT FRUSTRATING her/him. I despise cat videos where it appears that the cat is being scared or frustrated. When the video is just pure clean fun, and the cat is obviously having the time of his/her life, it’s a beautiful and wonderful thing. This video’s a perfect example of cat lovers taking delight in their beautiful cat and sharing it with other cat lovers. THAT’S what funny cat videos are supposed to be. It’s also a perfect example of amusing and entertaining a curious cat.
That’s the beauty of cats, they’re so curious and inquisitive, it doesn’t take much to fascinate them. JUST LIKE CHILDREN.
Just be sure you never frustrate, aggravate, or annoy your cat. If they’re agitated, they may look cute but they aren’t enjoying it any more than a human would if someone pinched their ear or tapped their nose. Be sure to always amuse, not annoy.
A few personal tips for playing with your cat:
- Pick your moments. Be sure that playtime is a time when your cat will enjoy it most. Never wake her up to play and don’t think for a moment that she’ll be interested in play if eating is on her mind. Also, don’t play right after she eats… can you say upset stomach?
- When playing with your cat, give her your full attention. Don’t “go through the motions” while distracted by a ballgame, book, or television show. Cats are extremely perceptive and they’ll get more enjoyment from it if their human is having at least as much fun.
- Mix things up. Your cat… and you!… will understandably have a favorite game you return to often (like Hannah’s “Sliding Stick”) but try to mix things up to keep it interesting. Think of it as “nurturing” different aspects of your cat’s skills. One game may keep her sharp and fast, while another feeds her instinct to “stalk.” A favorite game of Alexa’s is to chase my hand as it moves underneath covers. She’ll slink around the bed, keeping low, until she thinks she has the perfect angle – then she’ll pounce on my poor hand! Even underneath comforters and quilts, the “prey” sometimes feels it.
- Never confuse your cat. Add this one to the MUSTN’T ANNOY THE CAT OR FRUSTRATE THE CAT rule. If you’re playing with your cat and he/she gets all worked up to the point of hissing or you accidentally get scratched, realize that YOU took it too far. Don’t get onto or yell at the cat. She’ll only be confused and certain that you’re a poor sport.
- Keep it Fresh! Every now and then I share information that gives away JUST how pampered my cats are, and this is one of those times. I keep a little “toy box” of toys for Alexa and pull out different ones weekly. This keeps them fresh for her and it sometimes seems like she thinks she just got a whole new batch of toys. Saturday is her designated day for the switcheroo. However, she does have one favorite toy that stays out all the time. It’s a little bird that makes a bird sound when tapped. Sometimes she pounces on it and other times I’ll watch as she just walks by and pops it with a paw to make it tweet.
- Get a little exercise while you’re at it! If you “go all out,” you can actually get some exercise while playing with your cats! When I get on the floor for yoga, Alexa automatically thinks it’s playtime, so we usually combine the two. Sometimes she just likes to watch, probably wondering if I’ve completely lost my mind. I catch her expression sometimes and it’s like she’s thinking, “Why, mom, why?”
From The Complete Cat’s Meow: Everything You Need to Know about Caring for Your Cat by Darlene Arden, a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant:
The declawing procedure is painful for your cat. Even if a veterinarian uses a laser and the cat can walk sooner, your cat can’t really be comfortable with part of its toes missing, especially since cats walk on their toes first. This means that your cat is in pain and has to walk differently, rather than in its normal manner.
Most cat parents have their cats declawed for the same reason: Cats scratch furniture (and very often anything else they can handle!). There are far better solutions to this problem – solutions that won’t hurt the cat or affect the way she enjoys the rest of her life.
When our precious Prissy was alive (all 20+ years!), buying new furniture was completely out of the question. That girl never met a couch or chair she didn’t like. She was convinced each and every piece of furniture was an elaborate scratching post for her! My daughter Stephany would help the situation by keeping Prissy’s nails clipped – a procedure that the ever laid-back cat actually enjoyed. Prissy never scratched walls or woodwork, but furniture was in constant danger.
I did, finally, find a way to throw salt in her game: I placed throws over the sides of the sofa – her favorite spots. I also started buying her scratching posts and placed them near her favorite spots.
With Alexa, it’s a little different. She seems to understand that furniture is for sitting on. She enjoys few things more than curling up on the sofa with her mom and dad as we all enjoy a game of baseball (or whatever it is we’re watching at the time). Alexa’s weakness is door frames. I’m having trouble convincing her that these weren’t placed in the house solely for her enjoyment.
She’s not buying it.
I’ve found a way to outsmart the little smarty pants, though, and it’s AGAIN with scratching posts. I’ve placed one near her favorite place to scratch and, now, when she’s in the vicinity, she uses the scratching post instead.
If you’re trying to lure your cat away from scratching furniture or wood, use a good, sturdy scratching post – preferably one treated with catnip. If the scratching post doesn’t come with its own catnip, buy a package and make the scratching post more enticing for your cat yourself.
Also, it probably goes without saying but Alexa, Hannah, Jelly Bean, and Queen Fatima want me to say it anyway: Cats cannot be treated as dogs or children when it comes to discipline. Remember their ancestors are lions, tigers, cheetahs, etc… how responsive do you think this DNA is to “NO!” or, worse yet, swats to the backside?!?! They’ll simply think you’re mean and will perceive you as a threat. Cats don’t even like yelling. They simply aren’t wired to be disciplined in this manner.
However, many cat parents have had success with spritzing a tiny bit of water (something cats detest) on their cats when they’re involving themselves in unsuitable behavior. I’ve never done it, myself, but many say that their cat comes to associate scratching on furniture with the unpleasantness of spritzed water.
Personally? I’d be afraid that, yet again, my cat would come to perceive me as a threat or as a meanie! Maybe if you were somehow able to do it without them seeing you? I’m not really sure. I do know this, though: Cats are very, very bright and it wouldn’t take them long to realize when scratching was safe and when it wasn’t. After all, what they’re doing is as natural to them as scratching an itch is to us. I’m convinced that the best solution for all is simply to give the cat an alternative: A sturdy, safe, scratching post.
Click the following link to read more about The Complete Cat’s Meow: Everything You Need to Know about Caring for Your Cat by Darlene Arden.
We do everything in our power to care for, nurture, and protect our cats. We buy the best cat food available, we provide our cats and kittens with engaging cat toys and can often be found on the ground playing with them – having at least as much fun as they are. We know that playtime for cats isn’t just fun, it’s healthy and provides physical activity and mental stimulation that are very, very good for them. In fact, when it comes to cat health, playtime is vital.
But, as mindful and lovingly careful as we are, there are still areas we need to improve in. There are plenty of hazards in our home and yard that pose potential harm (often fatal) to our cats.
So, to promote better cat safety and care, we’ve rounded up what we believe to be a comprehensive list of tips, advice, and information for keeping our cats safe from harm and illness. Like children with skin, there’s only so much we can do to protect children with fur! However, since they mean the world to us, we will do everything and anything within our power.
Personally, I firmly believe that a home with cats (or dogs, for that matter) should be treated the same as a home with small children. When children are small, we can’t count on them to reason what might or might not be harmful, so we remove all perceived harm and danger. Animals aren’t capable of always recognizing harm either. They’re very childlike in many ways and one of the most obvious ways is that they live in the moment. They see something that looks like a good time, and off they go!
They’re also like children in this way: Almost everything goes to the mouth!
Alexa reminded me of this truth a few nights ago. I was fixing an Asian-inspired meal and apparently, somehow, a crispy Asian noodle hit the floor. I hear a little crunching from a few feet behind me and I turn to see her with the noodle half-in, half-out of her mouth! She’s nothing if not accident-prone, so I distracted her with her favorite cat treats and threw what was left of the noodle away. Alexa, being Alexa, would have probably choked on the noodle (or stuck it in her ear, or broke a couple of teeth, or poked herself in the eye…).
As I was giving her a couple of treats, I told her that she was “Just like a 2 year old baby.” And it hit me that, yes, in fact, cats are very much like 2 year olds – which is why we need to do periodic “child-proofing” inspections around our home, garage, and yard.
Keep Your Cat Safe Tips
- Ironing Boards. First of all, the iron is an obvious danger. Be certain that you never leave an iron plugged in if you aren’t right beside it. Also, when you unplug the iron and leave it to cool down, be certain that it’s completely out of your cat’s reach. Even the ironing board, itself can be a safety hazard. Although it’s actually the only time I’ve ever heard of the incident (again, it’s Alexa we’re talking about!), a few years ago, our beautiful little baby (shown above, looking for something to get into) broke one of her legs in two places when she ran to jump on an ironing board. She somehow managed to pull it down on herself. One of the metal legs fell on one of her tiny legs and broke it. Needless to say, she was in a great deal of pain.. which probably took a couple decades off of my life…. and had to have multiple veterinarian visits, surgery, a leg cast, and cage confinement for nearly two months. I will give my husband this, he found the biggest cage known to exist! It was agonizing and could have been completely prevented if the ironing board had not been left standing. Yes, it’s a one in a million type of scenario – but if you’d seen how much pain this beautiful little cat was in, you’d know that one in a million is well-worth preventing.
- Human Medications. Unfortunately, for several years now, human medications have been number one on the ASPCA’s list of common hazards. The ASPCA manages thousands upon thousands of calls each year involving prescription and over-the-counter drugs such as painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements. Again, approach safety measures as you would if you had a small child in the home. They can and they will find a way to get into anything that peaks their curiosity. Be sure to lock up all medicine and never leave any pills, vitamins, herbs, or supplements lying around in the open.
- Certain People Food. Grapes, raisins, avocado and products containing xylitol, like gum, can seriously harm cats and dogs. Thousands of pets die each year from the type of poisoning you’d never expect: food. What many cat and dog parents think of as “treats” are anything but. Onions are another food that should not be given to pets. One of the worst offenders – chocolate – is particularly dangerous. Chocolate contains large amounts of methylxanthines, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, hyperactivity, and in severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizures. Not only should we all keep these foods out of reach of our pets, we should make certain that anyone who is around our pets also knows that people food is off limits. You don’t have to be nasty about it, of course. Simply approach the conversation matter-of-factly… “Did you know that many human foods can actually poison cats? That’s why we make sure (Fluffy, Scratch, Mayor Tom…) only eats cat food.”
- Safety for Outdoor Cats in Extreme Weather. For those of us who have outside cats AND inside cats, we know that some simply can’t come in – our babies are destined to live just outside of the walls. When it’s extremely hot or extremely cold, we have to do everything in our power to keep them safe and as comfortable as possible. Please read Keeping Your Cat Safe in Hot Weather for tips on dealing with summer. As for winter safety, you might want to consider the KatKabin! It’s a beautiful and cozy cat house that stays warm and dry inside. Click the link to read my review. Bullet is actually cuddled up inside the KatKabin now. I have it up off the ground, on a sturdy wide shelf under the carport. He doesn’t seem to mind one little bit that it’s hot pink either! I went out earlier (it’s the dead of winter now and we have several inches of snow on the ground) and stuck my hand inside the KatKabin. It felt as warm as it does in our house! Always be sure to keep your cat’s water bowl filled and unfrozen. Jelly Bean drinks more than any cat I’ve ever seen, so (in addition to the fact that there are four of them out there) I actually have to refill their water bowl many times during the day. During winter I go out even more often, to replace the frozen water with fresh water. Jelly Bean’s always the first one in line!
- House Plants. Azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, lilies, kalanchoe and schefflera can be harmful to pets. Lilies are especially toxic to cats, and can cause life-threatening kidney failure even in small amounts. I don’t allow lilies in the house OR in the yard. Poinsettias are also known to be toxic. When it comes to house plants, I actually allow very few in. Not only do I not want to take any chances with little Miss If There’s A Way to Cause Drama, I’ll Do It – I know she’ll just make a spectacular mess! As for flowers I add to my flower beds and pots outdoors, I always research them online to make sure they’re safe.
- Pet Medications and Tick and Flea Products. Many well-intending pet parents mismanage and misuse pet medications and products. Please ere on the side of extreme caution. In 2009, the ASPCA managed 7,680 cases involving animal-related preparations such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, heartworm preventatives, de-wormers, antibiotics, vaccines and nutritional supplements. Also, if you have an elderly cat or dog – I honestly wouldn’t apply or use anything without my veterinarian’s advice. The last summer Prissy was alive, she and Alexa had a little bit of a flea problem. I got some “over the counter” flea medication to use. It was the type that you place a few drops between their shoulder blades. I used it on Alexa, without incident. However, given the fact that Prissy was 20 years old – and not in the greatest shape – I didn’t use it on her at all. Somehow, it just didn’t seem safe. I simply combed over her little body and removed fleas monkey-style. Not long ago, I read that applying medicine like this to older pets can be very dangerous and cause them to have seizures and suffer greatly. It was a clear case of allowing intuition to guide the way. Always, always, always treat older pets with extreme caution, love, and tenderness.
- Garden Products, Chemical Hazards, and Automobile Products. Each of these can pose great harm, often fatal, to pets. Again, ere on the side of caution and keep all of these products UP off of the ground in your garage, home, or carport. Keep lids screwed on VERY tightly and immediately wash up any spills or leaks. My husband not only keeps all of these products up, off the ground, most of them are even in buckets or other containers.
- Plastic bags and other plastic products. Cats can suffocate in plastic bags, so be sure they’re always completely out of reach. Again, treat it as you would if there were children in your home. Also, keep dry cleaning bags out of the way. Throw them away as soon as you bring the garment in the house. (There are few things I hate more than dry cleaning bags!)
- Ribbon, thread, and even dental floss. All of these look like nothing but a good time to a cat but they can easily get choked on them. The long, “curly” ribbon so popular at Christmastime is a potential nightmare to cats. Many cat parents use it as a toy, but a cat’s claws can shred it to tiny fibers that they can then ingest – either intentionally or unintentionally. They’re also a choking hazard.
- Wobbly tables and plant stands. Double-check the tables and, in particular, plant stands in your home. Some tend to be wobbly, especially on carpet. It’s the ideal situation for a cat to either run past (and topple over) or take a running dive at and come crashing down with it. The latter was Alexa’s ironing board maneuver. So graceful.
- Mini Blinds. If your cat is anything like Alexa (Heaven help you both), she’s fascinated with mini blinds. When they’re closed, she loves to shove her head between the rungs and look out. When they’re open, she loves to attack the cord. I have to keep a constant eye on this little girl! I’ve learned that I have to keep the cords folded up out of the way and, during the day, we raise the blinds at the windows she frequents. Cats can hang themselves in mini blinds, so take great precautions.
- Household Cleaners. Treat all household cleaners as you do garden products: Keep them entirely out of the way of your pets. Also, keep the toilet lids down at all times, so the pet doesn’t try to help themselves to a cool drink – not only is this gross (really, really gross), if you use toilet bowl disinfectants or cleansers, it’s potentially poisonous.
- Speaking of Toilet Bowls… Keep the lids down at all times. If a cat were to try to jump on top of the toilet, and the lid isn’t down – catastrophe.
- Candles. Never leave candles burning in a room you aren’t in. Not only is it hazardous for your cat, it’s hazardous for you!
- Hot Scented Oil Devices. Hate these! There are just far too many possibilities for harm. They can be spilled, knocked over, touched… Even if you have one set up high, in a place you’re sure your cat would never go – they could conceivably grab the cord and pour hot oil on top of them. Can you imagine the pain?!?!
- Stove Safety. As with Children, keep all pot handles aimed toward the back of the stove. It’s too easy to knock against one and send a hot pot crashing to the floor.
- Cat Toys. Always double-check your cat’s toys and inspect them for frays, cracks, and so forth. Many chocking incidents can be prevented if you make sure everything is in place when it comes to cat toys – make sure nothing’s spilling out and that there aren’t any splintered pieces that could pose a problem. Also, make sure standing scratching posts are secured in place – be sure they don’t topple over.
- Heavy Metals. No, not music (although if played loud enough, I’m sure a cat wouldn’t appreciate it much!). According to ASPCA, heavy metals such as lead, zinc and mercury, accounted for 3,304 cases of pet poisonings in 2009, alone. Lead is especially dangerous, and pets are exposed to it through many sources, including consumer products, paint chips, linoleum, and lead dust produced when surfaces in older homes are scraped or sanded.
- Pet Food Recalls. Always stay on top of recent cat and dog food recalls. Sadly, this has become a regular part of pet parenting. Would these pet food manufacturers please get their acts together?!?! Make it a point to check cat websites such as this one regularly for pet food recalls. Also, here’s a little tip. Go to Google and set up a Google News Alert (click the link to go directly to the page you need). Enter the term, “Cat Food” (add another for dog food if your cat has a canine brother or sister!) in the field marked Search Terms, then choose the other specifics and enter your e-mail address. Whenever there is “news” involving cat food, you’ll get an alert about it in your e-mail.
- Cat Collars. I, personally, would never put a cat collar on an outside cat. Not only would my own outside cats think I’d completely lost my mind, it’s simply far too dangerous. If a cat is, say, in a tree, the collar could easily catch on a branch. Many well-meaning bird-loving cat parents will even put bells on their cat’s collar to warn the birds. I love birds as much as anyone (we even have 4 bird feeding stations in our yard!), but if a cat is attempting to hide from or get away from a predator, the bell could toll for them in the worst way.
It bears mentioning again, so bear with me while I mention it again: Treat cats in the house or yard just as you would treat children in the house and yard. Treat them like babies because they are babies.
I know there are other tips and safety hazards out there. If you know of any first-hand, please share them with us in the comments. In the meantime, pass the link to this post around to all cat parents you know. What may seem like common advice to one person can cause another to say, “Wow! I never thought of that!” Every time that’s said… another precious cat can be spared a great deal of pain and suffering.
You might even save her life.
Brrrrrr… it has already cooled off considerably and thoughts have turned to keeping our outside cats warm. As you know, we have one inside diva extraordinaire (Alexa). She claims “squatting rights” and insists that our other cats remain outdoors. Truth be told, outdoors is all 3 of them know and they’re just wild enough to flip if we ever did try to bring them indoors.
I remember one year we were having a HORRIBLE storm and I was scared for our outdoor cat (Svenn). He was also what you’d consider pretty “wild,” but I brought him in anyway. After all, he was my wild baby and I wasn’t going to let anything happen to him.
He went NUTS.
He ran into the sliding doors – he screamed and meowed like he were being tortured and no amount of coddling or baby talk would calm him down. I honestly thought he was going to have a heart attack!
My husband keeps our garage door opened just enough for our cats to get inside (and short possums, but they seldom go in for long). Fortunately we don’t use our garage for anything except storing Christmas decorations, yard work supplies, and other seasonal knick knacks – so the cats consider it a large, wonderful winter home.
Pretty soon, my husband will grab a bale or two of straw and put it up in the loft of the garage. I’ve climbed up there before and am amazed at how warm it stays with the straw and old blankets. Of course, when spring rolls around, I have a ton of sweeping and cleaning to do but…. are you kidding me, it’s SO worth it to keep my babies warm and comfortable!
I’ve been looking on Amazon this morning at some items Hannah, Jelly Bean, Queen Fatima, and Bullet would like in their winter home and I found the K&H Outdoor Heated Kitty Pad with Fleece Cover (pictured here) that they will love. Fortunately, they’re affordable, because we’re going to need four!
- Thermostatically controlled to warm to your cat?s normal temperature
- Made of rugged ABS plastic
- Ideal for sheds, garages, barns, or anywhere else your outdoor cats hang out
- Includes 5.5-foot steel wrapped cord and fleece cover
- 1-year limited warranty
Amazon.com Product Description