Archive | August, 2016

Cat Grooming

Benefits of Grooming Your Cat

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Cats are great self-cleaners, so many of us overlook providing them with additional coat care. But whether you do it yourself or you bring your cat to a professional, there are many benefits to grooming your cat.

Grooming helps remove dirt, grime, dead fur and dead skin. This makes for a healthier coat and a healthier cat. Regular grooming helps cut down on allergens that come from your cat, so if you or anyone in your life has a cat allergy, regular grooming can help reduce the allergic response. Regular brushing also helps cut down on the amount of fur that accumulates in your house and the number of hairballs your cat throws up. If you have a long-haired cat, daily brushing is necessary to help them maintain their coat and prevent issues from ingesting too much fur. Older cats cannot groom as effectively as they could when they were younger, so require more help to get the job done. Professional groomers are more than equipped to help you with your cat. Many opt to go through special training so if your cat scoffs at the idea of a bath, consult a professional groomer.

 

Cat Care

Top Seven Categories for Caring for Your Cat

 

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Nutrition
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need to eat animal protein and a lot of it. When choosing a food for your cat, make sure it is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Brands such as Natural Balance, By Nature, and Taste of the Wild have excellent food options for cats.

Cats do not have the same thirst drive as dogs, therefore it is extremely important to incorporate moisture into their diet to keep them properly hydrated and prevent kidney issues. Some vets even say that ANY wet food is better than ANY dry food, regardless of quality. Some cat owners opt for an all wet or raw diet, while others chose to give wet food for one meal and dry food the other.

It is recommended to feed cats meals rather than free feed them. This helps you monitor how much your cat is eating, encourages activity, and can help with training your cat (yes, cats can be trained!). If you have a cat who likes to pick at food throughout the day, only leave out one to two meal’s worth. You can also provide the food in a puzzle feeder to help mentally and physically stimulate your cat. Trixie Pet Products on Amazon has great cat puzzle feeders!

 

Vet Visits
Many cat owners do not bring their cats for regular vet visits. It is highly recommended to bring your cat to the vet annually, even if they stay indoors. Cats are great at hiding illness, so having a veterinarian look at them at least once a year can help you identify problems early on. Senior cats should get blood work done annually to help monitor things like kidney function.

If you have an outdoor cat, it is especially important to bring them to the vet. Outdoor cats are exposed to many life-threatening diseases. Having them checked annually can help identify and resolve health problems, and prevent spread of disease to other cats.

 

Exercise
Indoor only cats can be prone to weight gain due to lack of exercise. There are plenty of ways to encourage your cat to exercise. Tall scratching posts and cat trees encourage vertical scratching and stretching, two behaviors cats are highly motivated to perform. They also encourage cats to jump and climb. Finding the right toys and setting aside daily play sessions can help get your cat active. Cats do not often play on their own, but they do love playing with you! So find toys they love and start playing. You could also leash train your cat and bring them for walks. Sounds crazy, but some cats love it!

 

Litter Boxes
One of the most common behavior issues in cats is inappropriate elimination, so here are some general guidelines to keep your cat happy with their litter box.

The golden rule is one litter box per cat, plus one. So if you have 2 cats, you should have 3 litter boxes. Spread the litter boxes around the house. Cats sharing a space will subtly block resources from each other, so if you have all your litter boxes in the same room that only has one door in and out, this could create a problem. Do not keep litter boxes near loud areas of the house, such as next to washing machines or water heaters. If cats are using the litter box and are suddenly startled, this could scare them from ever using that litter box again. If you have littermates or cats who get along really well, it can be OK to break some of these rules (you should still always at least have one litter box per cat), but if your cats are having problems using the litter box you might want to think about the number and location of your boxes.

Cats can also be picky about type of litter and litter boxes. When given a choice, cats prefer large, open boxes with plenty of litter. You could even get a large Tupperware bin and fill it with litter and your cat would be happy. Closed litter boxes can gross some cats out (think about using a porta-potty). If you want to switch to a new litter, gradually mix it into the old type of litter and monitor your cat to make sure they aren’t rejecting the litter and going outside the box.

Most importantly, KEEP THE BOX CLEAN! Understandably, cats do not enjoy using dirty litter boxes. Some cats are more forgiving than others. Litter boxes should be scooped at least once daily. Boxes should be fully cleaned (empty out all litter, wash, and disinfect the box) at least once a month.

 

Toxic Items
Here is a list of items that are toxic to your cat:

Human medications (antidepressants, cold medicines, pain relievers), alcohol, caffeine, onions, chives, garlic, chocolate, grapes, raisins, yeast, aloe, lilies, poinsettia, tulips, antifreeze, dog flea and tick medication.

There are plenty of other items that are poisonous or potentially harmful to your cat. This was just a small list of common items. It is important to monitor your cat, and to keep chemicals and other toxic items in a safe place.

 

Symptoms of Illness in Cats
Cats are better at hiding illness than dogs so if you are a cat owner, it is important to know the symptoms to look for to tell when your cat isn’t feeling well. To start, have a general idea of what is normal for your cat such as how they normally behave, how much they eat or drink, how often they use the litter box, etc. Knowing what is normal for your cat will help you detect when something is wrong. Sudden changes in a cat’s behavior can be the first sign that something is wrong. Cats who do not feel well tend to hide away, so if your cat is suddenly hiding in new places, you may want to monitor them more closely. If your cat is suddenly eating or drinking more or less than normal, that may be cause for concern. Cats who do not feel well may groom themselves less, so oily fur or flaky skin might be an indicator. Vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation can all be serious signs of illness. Sneezing, coughing, drooling, runny eyes, and runny nose are some additional signs that your cat may be sick. Finally, suddenly going to the bathroom outside of the litter box is usually a major sign of illness, indicating a urinary or kidney infection.

 

Declawing Cats
TGDS does not recommend declawing your cat. Declawing can cause permanent, painful damage to your cat’s paws, and has been outlawed in many countries. Cats who are declawed tend to bite and eliminate outside the litter box more than non-declawed cats. Taking away their main mode of defense makes them more nervous and causes them to bite when scared rather than giving other warning signs. This can be a serious problem for cat owners and any guests they have over. Digging through litter with their paws causes pain to the cat, this leads them to begin going to the bathroom elsewhere. If you have a declawed cat, it’s best to use a soft, light litter that is easy for them to dig through. Cats who are declawed essentially have to relearn to walk after the procedure. It changes their gait, and can cause early arthritis. Cats are easily trained not to scratch furniture, so there is no need to put them through this painful procedure. Keeping your cat’s claws trimmed is easy and helps minimize any damage if your cat were to scratch furniture. There are also options like nail caps that prevent your cat from scratching furniture without the surgery.

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Cat Training

Three Steps to Training Your Cat

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Who says cats can’t be trained? Cat owners often let their cats exhibit bad behaviors because they believe it is in the cat’s nature. Cats are capable of much more and they absolutely CAN be trained. Using the same techniques you use with your dog, you can help pull your cat out of his shell and give him more confidence. The mental and physical stimulation will make for a very happy and well-behaved cat.

Step One: Stop free feeding. Cats do not need constant access to food. Free feeding can lead to cats who overeat. Ever eat just because you are bored? Cats will do that all day long if you let them. Cats who have free access to food are much less motivated. Why should they do anything for you? Everything they need is already provided. Start feeding your cat meals at least twice a day. Your cat will become food motivated. He will begin paying more attention to you and be more willing to work.

Step Two: Start small. First, provide your cat a placemat to sit on at meal times. The first thing you will train is called stationing, which will be asking your cat to sit on a mat (his “station”) before meals. Put the mat down. This part can be pretty easy since cats love sitting on things. Typically you will be standing there with a food bowl as well, so as your cat looks up to you, his bum should land on the mat. When your cat is sitting on the mat, give him his food! Cats will learn this pretty quickly. If you have a vocal cat, we recommend waiting for your cat to be quiet or you’ll create a meowing monster. Once your cat is reliably sitting on the mat for meal times, you can start adding more behaviors to your cat’s repertoire.

Step Three: Get creative! Cats are most easily trained with luring and capturing. Luring is using a food item and getting your cat to follow the food item so you can get them to perform the behavior you want. For example, luring them to spin in place, or to lie down. If you have a dog, you probably lured them into a down when you first trained them. It is the same process for your cat. Capturing is waiting for your cat to perform a behavior and rewarding them for it. Cats can be clicker trained. Some cats are afraid of the sound of the clicker though, so using a marker word, like ‘YES!,’ or something like a whistle could be another option. If you are training something new or using a clicker, get some yummy treats. Some cats can be really picky, but we find soft, stinky treats are the most appealing. Cheese or different types of meat can also work in small amounts.

You can teach your cat all kinds of things, just like with your dog. As we all know, there are tons of cat videos on the internet, and plenty about cat training (only use positive-training with your cat). Some other ways to mentally and physically stimulate your cat are to buy puzzle feeders to feed their kibble in. Once your cat is sitting on a mat you can roll kibble across the floor. Many cats love the opportunity to ‘hunt’ their food and will jump and chase the kibble. It helps them work on those excellent reflexes. A great resource for cat behavior is the cat behaviorist, Jackson Galaxy (www.jacksongalaxy.com).

Weird Cat Behaviors

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If you own a cat, you know how strange they can be. They certainly are bizarre little creatures that keep us on our toes. Here are some common weird cat behaviors, and why they happen.

  • Kneading: This behavior is retained from kittenhood. Kittens knead their mothers to stimulate milk production. Domesticated animals tend to retain juvenile behaviors, and this is one behavior domesticated cats have retained into adulthood. Don’t worry; they aren’t trying to get milk from you. When they knead on us it is a sign they are relaxed. Their paws also have scent glands on them, so they are also doing this to mark you with their scent.

 

  • Purring: No one is entirely sure what purring means. It is thought to be a way to communicate, as kittens will start purring when only a couple days old. But purring does not always mean a cat is happy. Some cats purr when they are anxious or sick. Just like a wagging tail on a dog, do not always assume it is a happy behavior.

 

  • Head-butt: Cats who live in a colony tend to share a communal scent. They rub on each other to say hi and to share the scent. If your cat is head-butting you, that means you are part of their colony.

 

  • Bringing you dead things: Has your cat ever dropped a dead mouse or fly by you with such a proud look on their face? They are sharing their triumph with you! Or they are worried about your eating habits and trying to feed you. Either way, it’s a sign of love and friendship, so be flattered.

 

  • Boxes: There are hours and hours of videos on YouTube showing cats getting into boxes. Why do cats love boxes? Well, our cats are prey animals. This may surprise you because cats are typically at the top of the food chain (think lions), but domestic cats came from much smaller felines who were preyed upon by larger carnivores. Cats enjoy small, enclosed spaces because it makes them feel safe. This is also why cats are quick to run under beds when they are scared.

 

  • Catnip: Why do cats go CRAZY for catnip? Catnip stimulates sensory neurons and acts like a pheromone. The behavioral response you see in your cat is similar to how female cats while in heat, even if your cat is fixed. The effects only last about 10 minutes.

School Picture Time!

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Chicopee: Sept. 28, 29 | Northampton: Sept. 30

All reservations must be made in person at our Chicopee location! Payment will be required in full along with the completed order form (download below) at the time of scheduling to secure a spot for your dog!

* note this event is for daycare dogs only. if spots are still available as the event gets closer we will open it up to interested grooming and boarding clients.*

 

 Download Picture Form Here

Dog Cognition

What are your dog’s cognitive strengths?

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Having lived along humans for thousands of years, and been bred for a wide variety of purposes, our dogs are some of the most intelligent animals out there. They naturally possess many skills and can be taught many more. Many say dogs have the abilities of 2-3 year old human children, intellectually and emotionally. Dogs can understand human body language, reading our moods instantly, and picking up on social interactions between people (and they show preference for strangers who are nice to their owners). They can also follow pointing gestures and eye gaze from humans, a skill that our closest primate relatives cannot do. Dogs can count and understand basic math. They also have exceptional spatial intelligence, being able to make mental maps of their environments. Dogs are capable of jealousy, deceit, and much more.

Cognition is the ability to understand one’s environment and acquire knowledge. Individual dogs have different cognitive strengths. A group of scientists developed Dognition, a series of games you can play with your dog to better understand their cognitive abilities. The areas of cognition they are tested on include empathy, communication, cunning, memory, and reasoning. If you are curious about learning more about your dog’s cognitive strengths, check out this great website.

Dogs can lose their cognitive abilities as they age, just like humans. They may appear to become listless, confused, or anxious. One way to help prevent cognitive decline with your dog is to give them an active lifestyle, both physically and mentally. Regular exercise helps maintain a normally functioning brain, which in turn controls the rest of the body. You can incorporate positive training into their daily routine, even if your dog is already well trained. Old dogs can and learn new tricks! You can also give your dog a job to do, such as a sport like agility or rally. You can also make mealtime a cognitive experience by feeding your dog in a puzzle feeder, or hiding their food around the house or yard to get them to use their senses.

How did the domestic dog come to be?

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This is a question people have been asking for centuries. Dogs are an integral part of human life, working along side us in many trades, keeping us company, protecting us, and entertaining us. There have been many theories about how we domesticated dogs, or who their ancestors are. With technological advances in the field of genetics, scientists are able to get closer to the answer. It has long been thought that humans domesticated dogs from gray wolves and that this occurred somewhere in Europe around the time humans began to cultivate crops. New evidence suggests that domestic dogs and modern gray wolves shared a common ancestor, much like we do with chimpanzees. New evidence also suggests that dog domestication may have happened twice, once in Europe and once in Asia. The two lines of dogs may have since been interbred, which is why it took scientists so long to solve the riddle. It is also becoming increasingly evident that dogs and humans co-evolved, rather than humans actively domesticating the dogs. It is theorized that friendly members of the ancestral wolf species stayed close to human hunter-gatherer populations, feeding off scraps. The presence of the dogs would have given the hunter-gatherers an advantage over groups that did not have dogs present, and thus our mutualistic relationship began!

Sources:
Seeder el-Showk. 2014. Dogs are not Domesticated Wolves.

Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods. 2013. Opinion: We Didn’t Domesticate Dogs. They Domesticated Us.