Pet sitting - A little love goes a long way while you are away!
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Mommies take care

http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/11-major-dos-and-donts-for-visiting-a-new-mom/

Photo from blogs.babycenter.com

As a pet sitter sometimes I forget to share the quick updates and insights from my friends and clients.  Here’s one you probably know about, but just in case you didn’t, Mommies take care when cleaning the litter box!

As long ago as 1997, a connection was made between birth defects, still births, and miscarriages with cleaning the cat litter.  It isn’t the kitty cat that is the issue, though, it is the feces from some infected cats, especially outdoor cats. Why Shouldn’t Pregnant Women Clean the Cat Box was written in the Lansing State Journal in 1997.  The article talks about Toxoplasma gondii, a single-celled organism that invades the intestinal tracts of cats.  The parasite becomes activated and transmittable to humans from cat feces.  Most cases the parasite is harmless and our immune system can take care of it.  However, in pregnant women, the parasite can cross over into the baby. The baby’s immune system is not like mom’s system and the result can be serious health issues, sometimes still births and also miscarriages.  Many doctors and noteworthy online web sites also advise to avoid cleaning the cat box while pregnant.

So, Mommies take care and ask your family or your husband to clean the litter box when you are pregnant.

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Feline Food Allergies

 Most of us do not think of cats having allergies or food intolerance. In  Cat Fancy, “A Sensitive Issue, does your cat need a hypoallergenic diet?”,  Ramona D Marek, MS ED, discusses your cat’s diet as it relates to allergies and intolerance. The good news is that your cat’s need for certain medications may be eliminated through diet.

To make it simple, a food allergy is an immune system response to food. These may appear as early as 2 years old.  Blood and skin tests do not reveal food allergies or intolerance. You’ll see vomiting, diarrhea and frequent defecation. The skin may have small bumps, itching irritation and redness near the head and neck but may appear elsewhere on your pet. You may find your cat scratching often in these itchy areas and the areas are crusty. You may also see hair loss.

A food intolerance is likely a reaction to protein, carbohydrates or additives, or a combination of ingredients. Symptoms may show up as quickly as 15 minutes after eating. You’ll see GI upset, vomiting, diarrhea and/or gas.

The most commonly identified food allergies and intolerance are beef, fish and chicken. Sometimes pork, dairy products and eggs may have a response. Looking at your cat food ingredients, this pretty much can sum up the food contents!  Sometimes our cat may tell us what is good for it and what is not. My cat, Moola, won’t eat eggs.

The treatment is to identify and eliminate the food causing the condition. Maybe a hypoallergenic diet is the answer. This diet limits ingredient to one carbohydrate, one protein, a fat source and micro-nutrients. Fiber elements may vary or be modified. Omega-3 fatty acids may be added along with antioxidants. It may take several attempts to find the right diet because you are testing and eliminating foods. A limited-ingredient diet is usually fed for 12 weeks. When the symptoms disappear, you return your cat to the original diet. If the symptoms reappear, a food allergy is confirmed. It is also important to know that no one-size-fits-all hypoallergenic diet exists. You must determine the diet through test and elimination.

Your cat may be itching while you are seeking a hypoallergenic diet.  A Cat World article discusses many cause of miliary dermatitis in cats.  Don’t expect that the diet is the only cause of your cat’s itching and scratching. I recommend reading this Cat World article and consulting you veterinarian.

If you cat is allergic to fish, poultry or beef, you may want to use novel protein sources. These novel protein sources include duck, venison and rabbit. Some pet food companies are making food lines with these novel proteins. My friend Lunakatz, who breeds Bengals, feeds her cats a raw diet of mixed novel proteins including venison. They grind their own food and store it. Her cats sometimes lick the grinding machine after she is finished with processing her food. In addition the cats are given a super-premium kibble food diet as well.

In addition to the novel protein you’ll need one carbohydrate of green pea, potato or rice. My cat, Moola, loves rice so it is an easy menu item for me. You may find your pet enjoying one of these simple carb menu items, too.

Moolah

I recommend reading the Cat Fancy and Cat World articles and further consulting your veterinarian.

 

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Charlie the cat meet Moolah the kitten

A couple folks have asked me about introducing new cats to their cat family, or even getting a kitten to keep a senior cat company. So I did a little homework because there are lots of myths and incomplete information when it concerns bringing a friend home for your senior cat. An article in Cat Fancy, Company’s Coming did an excellent job and I’ve summarized that article’s pointers in this article.

There are five ways to introduce a younger female cat (Moolah) to your older, senior male cat (Charlie). Take some time to carefully consider how you do the introduction or you may have more cat fights than cat friendliness going on in your home. You want your older cat to be able to tolerate a new kitten’s antics!

You’ll want to look your home over from Moolah’s curious newcomer’s point of view. Have a child gate or cat carrier to help gradually introduce our two cats. Make sure you or another adult is home during the first few weeks. Be ready for Moolah to be different; her own personality and habits. And, don’t forget the extra food, water dish, and pet litter!

A checkup with the vet is a good idea for your senior cat, Charlie. For example, if Charlie has feline leukema or feline immunodeficiency virus, then you’ll want to consider Moolah. These two diseases are contagious and can be fatal. If Charlie has endocrine problems, he may have a more aggressive behavior. What if Charlie has arthritis or hearing loss? Moolah may scare or annoy Charlie; an older female cat may be a better fit for Charlie.

Test Charlie to see if he is up for some companionship. Assuming Charlie is healthy, borrow a friend or neighbor’s healthy cat and let them see each other through a crack in the door. What does Charlie do? Does he hiss and act aggressively or run and hide? If can’t bring a cat in, then try bring another cat’s scent in on a towel or piece of clothing. Again, how does Charlie react? Experts agree that mixing the genders to avoid territory disputes is a good idea. Getting the opposite sex often works well to avoid these disputes.Also, check for more information from your vet or a cat rescue center.

When you bring Moolah home, keep her separated in a comfortable room. Have the family go in to visit and get to know Moolah. Bring in Charlie’s toys and some of his blankets for his scent. After a few days, let them meet through a gate or crack in the door. Be patient. It could take a week or so, or several months for the cats to feel comfortable with each other.

Moolah, the kitten, is naturally going to demand more attention, so you want to reach out and give Charlie some time, too. Keep the harmony in your home. Feed your cats at the same time, the same way. Play with Moolah but allow Charlie some space. Give Charlie uninterrupted rest and a private place, like a closet or a room.

Watch for signs of discontent. Signs could include litterbox issues without medical reasons, over-licking, withdrawn, changes in appetite to the point of loosing fur. One of my client’s has just this situation and she consulted her vet for the right procedures, which are working very well. Having patience and being prepared, Moolah has a chance of being happy in her new home with Charlie.

Don’t confuse hyperthyroidism or hypertension in Charlie as discontent! These conditions should be revealed during Charlie’s visit to the vet. Hyperthyroidism symptons include weight loss, increased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and hyperactivity. Hyperactivity in Charlie may explain his restlessness, more vocal, and sudden blindness. Taking Moolah and Charlie to the vet once a year can identify health issues and treatment before they become a problem.

Source: Cat Fancy, Company’s Coming, by Debbie Swanson, page 30, Sept 2011  http://www.catchannel.com/magazines/catfancy/september-2011/introduce-younger-cat-to-senior.aspx

 

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Music to Relax By (for your pet)

Havanese

As a pet sitter in Colorado Springs, pet owners recently asked me how to calm an anxious pet when they are away. A lot has to do with the sitter watching a pet’s behavior and then helping to calm the pet. Music is a good alternative technique to use when you are gone for a few hours. Music and good handling can help you to improve your pet’s overall ‘happiness’.

For instance, a Havanese dog I recently cared for needed human contact. It was in a familiar environment but not so familiar with me. I personally gave it care that gave it comfort and built trust. So, I pet it like I was playing with my hair, and I left the TV on for a while when I was not there. I cleared its eyes of goobers using a wet paper towel to soften them and to work them free. I then brushed him like I might brush a child’s hair.

These little touches helped the dog to calm down tremendously. So much so the owner asked if I was a Pet Guru! Flattering!

Bengal cat

I also work with cats. Many cats are finiky about petting and handling. It is again about watching your cat’s behavior and figuring out what it likes and doesn’t like. For example I watched some Bengal cats for a local breeder, Lunakatz. One is an F-3, three generations from the original pair, so it still has a touch of the wild. This cat runs from a person to save its life, but purrs immediately upon touching her. She responded to my voice and non-threatening approach. Her big deal was never to pet her head. Imagine that! A cat that doesn’t want its head scratched and petted!

Music or voices help pets calm down when people are absent. Some local kennels also use music in their program for the pets they care for. Exercise also is important, but we are talking about music and sound in this article.

As an individual pet owner, you may be seeking other ways than human interaction (like a pet sitter, dog walker or kennel) to help calm your pet while you are away for a few hours. Thank heaven for modern technology. You can download music or purchase CDs specifically to help calm your pet. Soon I will be offering a line of CDs to do much the same thing. Of course, I will test the music before offering it for sale. Frankly, anyone can sell anything. You want what will work.

The general idea is that the music operates at frequencies your pet can hear in addition to the frequency humans can hear. That is the trick, are you just buying a normal CD or one that really has these other frequencies on it? AND, do these frequencies actually calm your pet? Keep in mind, too, we like different types of music and the same may be true for your pet.

I haven’t listened to it, but “Calming Music for Pets” is available for download on Napster. If you’ve used this specific music, let me know and tell me if it worked for your pet!

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Disaster Preparedness Tips For Pet Owners

Your pets are very vulnerable and depend on you for their safety. Even if you live in an area that is not prone to natural disasters,  tragedy can happen without warning. To provide care for your pets during an emergency situation, it is important to have a disaster plan in place.

So what constitutes a disaster? Quite a few events:
avalanche or mud slide, blizzard, broken gas main, building collapse, chemical spill, earthquake, explosion, fire/wildfire, flood, tornado, lightning strike, long term power or water loss are possible disasters in Colorado. In May 2011, a train wreck in Monument, Colorado, forced over 150 people out of their homes  for 4 days while crews cleaned up a chemical spill.

Before a disaster strikes there are three things to be aware  of: 1) many emergency shelters, including most American Red Cross facilities, do not allow pets due to sanitation regulations. 2) contact local veterinarians, pet sitters and kennels to see if they will admit your pet should there be an  emergency, and 3) check local hotels, and motels to see if they would allow you to stay there with a pet during an emergency.

You may have an emergency disaster plan and kit for your
family and not have added things you pets will need. So add these items to your disaster kit.

  • A week’s supply of food for each pet
  • Can opener
  • 1 gallon of fresh water per pet
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Favorite toys or treats
  • Spare collar with ID tags
  • Grooming items
  • Secure change and leash
  • Crate or carrier
  • Pet first aid kit

You may want to have an electronic chip for each cat or dog in your household. An alternative would be a collar and your pet registration info. Register your pets at the El Paso County Humane Society and have the  collar on your pet in case you become separated. Also keep a current photo of your pet with your pet kit.  You may want to keep your pet in its crate or on a leash to limit your pets’ exposure to danger. For smaller crated animals, place information somewhere on the crate as a tag or label that can be seen by an emergency worker.

What should be in your pet first aid kit, you ask? It may have many of the items you have in your family’s first aid kit. It takes a few minutes to add more of the items you have and to add things for your pet. So, here is a list of suggested items:

  • Sterile gauze pads and bandages
  • Adhesive tape
  • Bandage scissors and tweezers
  • Triangular bandage (for a sling and also a
    temporary muzzle)
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Hydrogen peroxide 3%
  • Triple antibiotic ointment
  • Sterile saline solution
  • Cotton swabs
  • Activated charcoal tabs and Maalox ®
  • Thermometer
  • Plastic gloves and disposable plastic bags
  • Penlight with fresh batteries
  • Large towel or blanket
  • Shampoo and antibacterial soap
  • Temporary muzzle
  • Name, address, phone number and hours of your
    veterinarian and the nearest emergency veterinarian clinic.

To get further assistance for your pet emergency plans, contact The American Humane Association, http://www.americanhumane.org/animals/professional-resources/for-emergency-management-professionals/disaster-preparedness.html ,  63 Inverness Drive East, Englewood, CO 80112-5117, (303) 792-9900, or contact Aunt Kit Pet Nanny for assistance.

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Door Darting Cat

Do you have a cat that just can’t wait till the door is open! Pet sitters are often asked, how do I stop my cat from darting out the door?  Your cat may be patient, almost stalking, when the door will open. We all understand that door darting can be dangerous. Your cat may end up being hit by a car or disappearing forever. The best solution is to teach your cat to stay in one place when the door is open.

 You’ll also want your cat to be much happier with the alternative activities than with the door. Start with changing your home so it is more appealing and exciting than the outside. You may adjust your furniture locations and bring in cat furnishings that are more cat-centric. Place a sofa or chair next to the window.  Use cat trees to allow your door darter to look outside, about 5 feet tall and near windows. One family created a series of shelves and a high-placed shelf next to the door so their Savannah-breed cat could perch on and sees out when the door was open.

  If, after all the previous improvements are made and your cat still wants to bolt out the door, consider more formal behavior and clicker training. Using clicker training, you can train your cat to ‘stay’ when the door is opened.

 Your cat needs to be rewarded “where” she is being trained to stay. If it is a stool, shelf, or pet furniture, place the treat on the stool in front of her after the click. When helping her to stay on a tree or on the furniture, do not toss the treat off the stool or tree because you want her to learn to stay in one spot on request.

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Stop that Doggy Digging!

Terriers naturally dig

Pet sitters are often asked how to solve some pet problems. Pet sitters are not behaviorists, but we do learn a few tricks in the trade. So, how many times have you had to reinforce your fence or just look at the moonscape of your backyard? Have you said ‘enough already’?

There are lots of reasons dogs dig. Your dog may be bored, wants to escape, chasing critters (like mice, voles, groundhogs), cooling pits, unearth buried treasure, or they just are made to dig. For example, terriers and dachshunds were born to dig.  Clear your yard of these pesky pests they seek and your dog will stop digging.

One item that draws a dog to dig is the earth is freshly turned. Maybe you just installed a sprinkler system, you just put in your garden,  or replaced a portion of the fence.  In all these situations, your dog probably just loves the loosen soil compared to the hard-packed areas of the yard.  The solution may be to choose an out of the way area of the yard to create a digging pit. It doesn’t have to be big, about the size of your dog. Mix soil with some sand and turn it so the soil is loose. Enclose it with rock landscaping or some border.  To get them started, throw in some dog biscuits in the soil and have your dog dig them out.  Always encourage your dog to dig in its designated area.

Some dogs dig to create cooling pits. During hot summer months most dogs, and especially the heavily coated dogs, will dig pits in shady areas to unearth moisture in the ground.  Plastic kid wading pools can serve to eliminate this sort of digging.

So, what about digging under the fence? Aside from the loose soils, your dog may be patroling or protecting your yard. Create openings with chicken wire or simlar fencing or even install a bubble window that allows your dog to see on the other side of the fence. Reinforce the soil around your fence with rock or other landscaping that discourages digging.

Some dogs want to escape because they love to run or a female bitch is in season. For the dogs that need to run, take them regularly to the dog park. I often seen people taking their big dogs daily to eliminate this urge.

As for the female dogs, you can certainly tell if it is your dog. for male dogs, you can only tell by the way your male dog behaves. In both instances, dogs should be kept inside with limited outdoor activity to limit the effect of the urge. If you do not plan to breed your dog, consider having it spayed or neutered.

Well, there you have several ideas on how to stop that doggy from digging up the back yard and making you both happy!

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Yes! You can train your cat!

Age and where you got your kitten or cat plays a role in training your cat. So some simple questions. Where did you get your cat? How old was your feline when you brought it home?

Most kittens and cats bond to humans between 7 and 14 weeks old. A cat adopted from the Humane Society, may or may not be attached to humans, much less you, and may make training a little more challenging. The age will be very helpful in training and you want to have reasonable expectations in order to train your cat. A good time to begin training is when the kitten is 8 to 10 weeks of age. As expected for kittens, the attention span is very short. Space your training sessions about 5 to 10 minutes apart.

The most successful training is done using a clicker. The click lets her know when she is doing an approved behavior. You need two things for the training: the clicker and a favorite treat.

The first step is to pair the clicker sound with the treat. It’s simple – click for good behavior and immediately give the treat. Let her finish her treat, look up at you again, and give another click and another treat. Eye contact is extremely important. This first step ties the click with a treat and catches attention to look at you. The association takes from 5 to as many as 20 repetitions until the kitten has a strong positive association with the clicker.

If your cat is not motivated by the treat, you may need to wait until she is hungry to do the training.

The clicker simply lets the cat know she is doing the approved behavior. Clicker training encourages kittens to scratch the post and not your furniture.

Clicker training is a life-long process and cats of any age can be clicker trained.

For more information about cat training visit Marilyn Krieger’s site http://www.thecatcoach.com/ .

Source: Kittens USA, 2012 Annual, “Bonding Time,” by Debbie Swanson (pg 44) and “The Power of a Simple Click,” by Marilyn Krieger, CCBC (pg 70-73)

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Stay!

So much to do with your puppy that the ‘stay’ command doesn’t seem like a  priority, but it is. This single command can keep your pet from jumping on visitors, disappearing in a crowd, or running into a busy street.

Remember, dogs are pack animals and You are the leader. Accept that role for starters. Also, puppies have very short attention spans. Don’t plan on hours and hours of training. Set aside frequent five to 10 minute sessions. The ‘stay’ command must be taught in baby steps.

First and foremost dogs are easily distracted, just like children. Find a place where it is quiet and you can command your dog’s fullest attention. When you are ready to begin, say your dog’s name and wait for the eyes to meet yours. Use a small treat and move it up next to your eyes. When your dog looks you in the eyes, you hand over the treat. This is a great way to get your dog to look at you when you say their name.

Start small. Have your dog in a lying or sitting position. You may have to put your hand on his chest initially to get him to stay. It won’t happen right away, just be patient and persistent. Dog looking you in the eye, sitting or lying on the floor, and you say stay. After 10 seconds, give the dog the treat. Keep this up and add time as the dog gets the idea to stay. If your dog gets up too early, withhold the treat. Your goal is for your puppy or dog to sit quietly up to 30 seconds in your home or backyard.

Arden Moore, in his book, Come, Sit, Stay, plus Training Tips (2004, BowTie Press), has simple games to training your puppy. You’ll find Arden Moore’s book at local pet stores.

One game is Step on That Leash and rewards your dog for doing what it is naturally doing.

Put your dog on a leash while doing something sedentary. Stash some treats nearby. As your dog sits quiet for 10 or 20 seconds, bring a treat down by his nose and vocally reward for a good stay. If he gets up and jumps, ignore him and withhold the treat. Only reward if he stays put for at least 10 seconds. If your dog is bouncy, use your foot on the leash so he cannot move about. Wait till he lies down for 10 seconds and bring the treat down again. Only give the treat when he remains quiet for 10 seconds or longer.

At 30 seconds, you want to start to increase the space between you and your dog. If your dog gets up, say ‘uh uh’ and do not treat. As you increase the distance to where you are across the room, you can now release him using the ‘come’ cue. When there, praise and treat your dog.

As you practice and your dog becomes more proficient, you will want to gradually increase the distractions. Maybe you start in your quiet backyard, next have someone walk into the yard, next advance to the front yard and street traffic, and finally onto a park. You want your dog to heed your stay and come cues in all situations and settings and this is done by introducing these cues in new and varied settings.

Sources: Come, Sit, Stay, plus Training Tips, Arden Moore, 2004, BowTie Press

Training Your Puppy, “Teaching Puppies the Basics,” by Christina Cox-Evick, A Popular Pets Megabook, BowTie Press  (pg 24-32)

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Discus Need their Own Tank

As an old aquarium owner, fish owners make a common mistake putting a variety of fish in their new tanks. You certainly can do that, but it is not the natural habitat of fish like the discus. With a few pointers, you can have a tank full of flourishing discus.

These beautiful fish form shoals. Fish schools are where the fish stay together for protection. Fish shoals are a loosely formed group of fish and with discus there is usually an alpha male. The largest shoal you want is 5 or 6 fish. Discus grow quickly and each fish will need at least 10 gallons, which is a big tank. For 5 fish that is a 50 gallon tank. Colorful fish, you can create a shoal of different color varieties of discus.

These fish need to own their own tank or be the largest group of fish in the tank. There are other fish that can share their habitat and add variety to the tank. Examples of other fish that can successfully live with discus are cardinal tetras and rummy nose tetras, shown here.

The tank should have 82 to 84 degree F temperature, around neutral pH and low to moderate hardness. The discus can survive in the 70s but the 80s are the best and a major element to successful discus-keeping. By the way, the tetras share the same water environment.

Discus do best in water that has a hardness well below 10 and acidic (pH 6.5 or lower) water. If you cannot match this with local water or treatment, you will find your fish short-lived.

Discus are bottom feeding fish. They will ‘puff’ at the food and when it floats up, grab it. They should not have to compete with other fish for food. The tetras do not compete with the discus.

Discus do well with a variety of dry and frozen foods and an occasional treat of live black worms. The fish thrive on frozen blood worms, any cichlid diet along with dry pellets.

That’s a start for your discus tank. These fish make a showy, beautiful serene display. Taking good care of them ensures years of enjoyment.

Source: Aquarium USA, 2011 Annual, “Discus for Beginners,” by David A. Lass (pg 6-16)

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