Category Archives: Pet Tips – Cats

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

 

Kittens born in April and May are reaching the age when they can be adopted at this time of year, giving us “kitten season.” The influx of kittens into shelters puts pressure on rescues to find room for all the cats. Thus June is Adopt-a-Cat Month.

adopt a catA few things to think about when you adopt:

  1. If you’re thinking about adopting a cat, consider taking home two.
  2. Find a cat whose personality compliments yours.
  3. Pick out a veterinarian ahead of time and schedule a visit within the first few days following the adoption.
  4. Make sure everyone in the house is prepared to have a cat before it comes home.
  5. Budget for the short- and long-term costs of a cat.
  6. Stock up on supplies before the cat arrives.
  7. Cat-proof your home.
  8. Go slowly when introducing your cat to new friends and family.
  9. Be sure to include your new pet in your family’s emergency plan.

 

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Feline Diabetes Part II: Treat, Manage, Control

How The Sugar Cat Got His Mojo Back!

In part one of our article on feline diabetes, we examined the types of diabetes, symptoms to watch for, and what to expect during a vet visit. Now we are ready to discuss the treatment options, the various types of insulin, and how you can do your own home monitoring of your cat’s blood glucose levels–saving you time, trips to the vet,  and money, not to mention less stress for your cat!

1: Proper Diet without question is the first order of business in management of diabetes. Cats are “obligate carnivores.” Obligate carnivores may eat other foods, such as vegetables, grains, or fruit, but they must eat meat as the main source of their nutrients. Cats who regularly consume a diet of poor-quality, highly processed, carbohydrate-rich food are on the fast track to becoming diabetic. The appropriate diet for a diabetic cat is a diet that is very low in carbs, low to moderate in fat, and high in proteins. (Sort of an “Atkins” diet for cats–the “Catkins” diet!)

Veterinarians usually prescribe a veterinary diet such as Purina DM, or Hills W/D or M/D. Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM, a veterinarian who has done extensive research on feline diabetes, also suggests that several very good commercially-made wet foods that will meet a diabetic cat’s needs. Many varieties of Fancy Feastcanned food meet the high protein/low carb requirements–plus the cat enjoys eating the food as it is very tasty. Blue Buffalo also produces an excellent food called “Blue Wilderness” that is mostly meat, high in protein, and low in carbs.

Sometimes merely putting the cat on the recommended diet is enough to “kick-start” the cat’s pancreas  into producing insulin, and thus avoid having to inject insulin. However, this is not always the case with cats in a more acute stage such as cats with Type I diabetes.

2: Proper Insulin is essential in managing blood glucose levels. There are several types of insulin currently in use by veterinarians. Protamine zinc insulin (PZI, or Pro-Zinc) is a very effective insulin primarily due to the fact that it is animal-based, comprised of beef and pork insulin molecules which more closely resemble natural feline insulin. It can be given at 6-12 hour intervals, allowing for good control of the diabetic cat. Other insulins currently in use include Humulin insulin, Lantus (glargine), or Levemir. Although these are all products geared for use in humans, studies have shown them to be effective in veterinary use. Your veterinarian will choose an insulin that is appropriate for your particular cat. Proper insulin syringes are important as well as they come in many different sizes and gauges. Your veterinarian will determine the appropriate size for the type of insulin for your cat.

Insulin syringes have a very thin, tiny needle and it is really very easy to inject into your cat. The insulin must be refrigerated, and it must always be mixed prior to giving an injection. This is not done by shaking the bottle, as insulin is fragile and you can damage the insulin that way. “Mix” insulin by taking the bottle, placing it between the palms of our two hands, and very gently rolling the bottle between our palms. Then we can draw the insulin from the bottle with the syringe and inject. Your veterinarian will show you how and where to give the injections. Typically it’s done further back around the hips or flank or, ideally, on the sides of the stomach. Try to rotate sites also, because repeated injections in the same site can cause a “granuloma” or knot of tissue that has poor blood supply.

3: Tight Management of Blood Glucose is the third component in managing your cat’s diabetes-and this is why home blood glucose testing has become so effective, and essential. For around $20, a blood glucose meter–just like people use–can be purchased at your local pharmacy. The most expensive part of home monitoring is the test strips for the meter. Each different meter manufacturer requires their own test strips to be used, they are not interchangeable. It pays to shop around, and some of the best pricing can be found on diabetic supply websites such as AmericanDiabetesWholesale.com.

Testing a diabetic cat

Cats can grow accustomed to having their blood sugar monitored.

Now, how exactly do you test your cat? We use the outer portion of their ear. The outer edge of a cat’s ear has very thin skin; it’s very easy to “lance” that spot of their ear. You do not need much blood, only about a drop the size of a pinhead. Once you have a droplet, then you take the meter with the test strip, dip the test strip in the droplet, and you will get a reading in about 5 seconds. Your veterinarian should be able to have one of their technicians demonstrate this for you as most veterinarians keep blood glucose meters in their offices. There is also an excellent video demonstration on YouTube.

By monitoring your cat’s blood glucose levels on a regular basis, you can see the gradual change in their daily levels, enter the readings into a log book or setup a spreadsheet in Excel, and review the readings with your vet. We followed this protocol with Miss Garfield, the diabetic cat I am fostering. When she was initially diagnosed with diabetes in October of 2010, her glucose levels were literally off the chart. When I first began testing her, her readings were over 600. Our veterinarian began with a regimen of 5 units of PZI insulin 2x per day. I was then testing her daily, and as our readings began to drop, we were able to adjust her insulin appropriately.

As of April 1, 2011 her readings were consistently in the 75-150 range so we took her off insulin–and she has been off ever since. I test her now about once a week just to make sure she’s maintaining normal levels. We are managing her with diet alone, she does not get stressed at all about doing the readings as she is used to it, and we save countless trips to the vet!

Editor’s Note added 7/20/11: Even though PZI and Humulin are very popular insulin protocols, we’d like to make note of the fact that not every insulin has to be mixed, in particular Lantus or Levemir insulin. When using either Lantus or Levemir, do not roll, shake or mix the insulin in any way. They are gentle, long lasting insulins that work great, in fact Lantus is one of the mostly widely prescribed insulins right now for feline diabetes, but if you roll or shake the vial, you will degrade the insulin and render it ineffective.
And thanks to Jennifer from FelineDiabetes.com for the reminder!

 

Acknowledgement to the following websites for valuable information:Feline Diabetes, Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkin’s website, Your Diabetic Cat, and Dr. Lisa Pierson’s website, Cat Info.

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Older is Wiser

Frida is a well-mannered adult.

My friend the primatologist once told me that young mammals appear cute to humans so that we’ll take care of them. (We evolved to appreciate the “cute” characteristics rather than the other way around.) Who doesn’t want to cuddle a kitten or rub the belly of a new puppy?

This is part of what makes older animals so hard to adopt. They no longer possess the attributes (big heads, playfulness, clumsy maneuvers, etc) that pull on our heartstrings. When kittens fill up the shelters, older cats are often sacrificed to make room for the “more adoptable” kittens, and by older, we mean cats sometimes as young as one—those who’ve lost their kitten-appeal.

But there are many good reasons to adopt older cats:

  • Adult cats are neutered and have had their shots; they are generally trained to use a litter box
  • What you see is what you get—you know what the cat will look like, what her size will be, and what her personality is.
  • Whether teething or just exploring, kittens can be very destructive chewers. Adult cats typically chew less, if at all.
  • Kittens tend to get into much more trouble. They climb you or your curtains, fall from high places, and knock over collectibles like your mother’s Belleek (ask me how I know). Adult cats have manners.
  • Older cats require less time and energy. Give them some quality time each day, but not your entire day. They are usually content to curl with you and snuggle in for a long nap.
  • While adult cats groom, kittens are just too busy exploring to clean themselves properly.
  • Adult cats may sleep with you or in their own cosy spot but they are generally happy to sleep when you do. Kittens often run around through the night, doing anything possible to wake you up for fun and games.

Relinquished cats aren’t “defective” There are lots of reasons cats ends up in shelters: family members developed allergies, or the owner is moving to assisted living, or the landlord said the cat has to go. They weren’t bad cats; they were just with the wrong people. But an adult cat might be the right cat for your family:

  • For homes with small children: a young adult. Little kids are often much too rough with kittens. Adult cats are better equipped to deal with kids. The wily cats can generally escape from children and hide.
  • For working people: young adult cat. Kittens become bored and mischievous when left home alone, but older cats know how to entertain themselves.
  • For senior human: senior cat. Older cats often end up in shelters because their human companions have died, and no relatives or friends wanted to take them in.  Senior cats are perfect for senior citizens who might pre-decease a younger cat.
  • For a household with a senior cat mourning a companion: another senior cat. A natural choice because older cats don’t tolerate the stress of a new kitten. With careful introduction, you can find companionship for your aging cats.

Older cats are grateful for a second chance at a loving home, and when you adopt them that gratitude is showered on you. If a senior cat is right for you, please check out Maggie; if a young adult will complete your home, consider FridaBlaze, or Marcus.

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Bringing Home Kitty

June is National Adopt a Cat Month. The Animal Coalition of Delaware County, American Humane Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, CATalyst Council, and Petfinder have collaborated to create a Top Ten Checklist to help navigate the decisions that come with the responsibilities of pet adoption. They have also created an online resource center to ensure the well-being of cats.

TOP TEN CHECKLIST FOR ADOPTING A CAT
1. If you’re thinking about adopting a cat, consider taking home two. Cats require exercise, mental stimulation and social interaction. Two cats can provide this for each other. Plus they’ll provide more benefits to you. Cats’ purring has been shown to soothe humans as well as themselves – and they have an uncanny ability to just make you smile.
2. Find a cat whose personality meshes with yours. Just as we each have our own personality, so do cats. In general, cats with long hair and round heads and bodies are more easygoing than lean cats with narrow heads and short hair, who are typically more active. Adoption counselors can offer advice to help you match the individual cat’s personality with your own.
3. Pick out a veterinarian ahead of time and schedule a visit within the first few days following the adoption. You’ll want to take any medical records you received from the adoption center on your first visit. “Regular veterinary care is critically important to the health and well-being of your cat,” says Dr. Larry Kornegay, president of the AVMA. “Getting your new cat to a veterinarian early will help make sure there are no underlying illnesses or injuries, and your veterinarian can work with you to develop a plan to help your new pet live the happiest, healthiest, longest life possible.”
4. Make sure everyone in the house is prepared to have a cat before your new pet comes home. Visiting the shelter or animal control facility should be a family affair. When adopting a new cat with existing pets at home, discuss with the adoption facility how to make a proper introduction.
5. Budget for the short- and long-term costs of a cat. Understand any pet is a responsibility and there’s a cost associated with that. A cat adopted from a shelter is a bargain; many facilities will have already provided spaying or neutering, initial vaccines, and a microchip for permanent identification. Plus, shelters and rescue groups are there to offer guidance and assistance as you acclimate your new family member.
6. Stock up on supplies before the cat arrives. Be prepared so your new cat can start feeling at home right away. Your cat will need a litter box, cat litter, food and water bowls, food, scratching posts, safe and stimulating toys, a cushy bed, a brush for grooming, a toothbrush, and nail clippers.
7. Cat-proof your home. A new cat will quickly teach you not to leave things lying out. Food left on the kitchen counter will serve to teach your new friend to jump on counters for a possible lunch. Get rid of loose items your cat might chew on, watch to ensure the kitten isn’t chewing on electric cords, and pick up random items like paper clips (which kittens may swallow).
8. Go slowly when introducing your cat to new friends and family. It can take several weeks for a cat to relax in a new environment. It’s a great idea to keep the new addition secluded in a single room (with a litter box, food and water, toys and the cat carrier left out and open with bedding inside) until the cat is used to the new surroundings; this is particularly important if you have other pets. If you’ve adopted a kitten, socialization is very important. But remember – take it slow.
9. Be sure to include your new pet in your family’s emergency plan. You probably have a plan in place for getting your family to safety in case of an emergency. Adjust this plan to include your pets. Add phone numbers for your veterinarian and closest 24-hour animal hospital to your “incase- of-emergency” call list, and be sure to have a several-day supply of your pet’s food and medications on hand.
10. If you’re considering giving a cat as a gift, make sure the recipient is an active participant in the adoption process. Though well-meaning, the surprise kitty gift doesn’t allow for a “get-to know-one-another” period. Remember, adopting a cat isn’t like purchasing a household appliance or a piece of jewelry–this is a living being.

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Uh Oh, My Cat Has Diabetes-Now What?

The Stinky Cat Chronicles Returns With A Twist!

Miss Garfield sits pretty after her treatment for diabetes

Yes, the Tidy Cat Whisperer  is back, and is pleased to announce that The Stinky Cat has a new friend, “The Sugar Cat”. It’s not easy finding a friend when the word “stinky” is part of one’s name, but Sugar Cat is willing to overlook Stinky’s obvious faults. Of course, Sugar Cat has his own baggage:  you see, The Sugar Cat is diabetic.

Cats (and dogs) can often suffer from many of the same ailments that plague humans, including thyroid issues, hypertension, renal issues, and diabetes. “Just how does a cat get diabetes?” one might ask. Certainly a poor diet, stress and other factors may play a role in your cat developing diabetes. The similarities between human and cat diabetes make it easy to diagnose, and fortunately there are treatments. In humans, diabetes is classified into types.  And so now we come to the “tech-talk” part of the article-but we’ll try to be as “user-friendly” as possible!

In people, Type I diabetes is considered insulin-dependent (IDDM), and is often termed juvenile onset because it usually develops in young people. Approximately 50-75% of cats with diabetes mellitus have  IDDM, or Type I. With this type of diabetes, the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, and the cat must be given supplemental insulin, usually by injection. Cats with this type of diabetes are often thin, and can develop serious, life-threatening conditions (ketoacidosis) as a result of the body’s inability to use fat instead of glucose for energy. In these cats, insulin therapy is absolutely necessary for life.

Type II diabetes in humans is called non-insulin-dependent (NIDDM), or mature-onset because it usually develops in older people. Approximately 25-50% of cats with diabetes mellitus have NIDDM, or Type II. In this type of diabetes, the pancreas is still capable of producing insulin, although the cells of the body do not react to the insulin as they normally would. In this form of diabetes, the cat can continue to survive without additional insulin, however, a managed diet is essential to alleviate the signs of diabetes and maintain weight control, as cats with this type of diabetes tend to be overweight. An oral   medication may also be necessary such as glipizide. It is possible later on for the disease to progress to Type I/insulin-dependent.

It is also possible for another disease to cause “secondary” diabetes, i.e. hyperthyroidism, pancreatitis and Cushing’s disease. In secondary diabetes, the other disease (Cushing’s, pancreatitis, etc) causes the body’s cells to not react adequately to insulin. These cats may or may not need insulin. Secondary diabetes may or may not be reversible, depending on what caused it.

So How Do I Know If My Cat Has Diabetes?

An observant cat owner will notice certain changes in their cat’s appearance, behavior, eating, drinking and litterbox habits. And, the symptoms that cats display have similarities with the human symptoms as well.

  • Does your cat appear to be drinking more water than usual?
  • Does your cat appear to have lost weight (a sign of the cat’s inability to process or handle glucose)?
  • Is your cat urinating excessively? The increased urination may result in the cat not always urinating in the litter box-which may be one of the first signs of diabetes in cats. With my foster cat Miss Garfield, I immediately noticed that she was urinating an extreme amount-and that she would have accidents outside the litterbox.  Cats with diabetes can often develop urinary tract infections, which may also result in inappropriate elimination.
  • Other symptoms that may be a sign of feline diabetes include vomiting, loss of appetite and general weakness.
  • Diabetic cats may also have poor skin and coat condition as well as breathing abnormalities.
  • Some cats with diabetes mellitus develop diabetic neuropathy, an abnormality of their nervous systems which results in them walking with their hocks touching the ground.

If you notice these symptoms, a trip to the vet is warranted.

Since these symptoms can also occur with other diseases, it is essential to have your cat’s blood and urine checked to accurately diagnose the cause. A diagnosis of diabetes is made when persistent high sugar levels are found in the blood and glucose is found in the urine. In addition to high blood glucose levels, increased liver enzymes, and high levels of cholesterol may be seen. Potassium, sodium, and phosphorous levels may be below normal.

If ketones are also found in the urine, then the diagnosis of ketoacidosis is also made. “Okay, so what is a ‘ketone’?”, the Stinky Cat wants to know. A new instrument?  “Mom, I want to join the marching band and play the Ketone…”

Although it has a musical-sounding name, a Ketone is a dangerous thing. Ketones are break down products of fat. When cells don’t get the glucose they need for energy, the body begins to burn fat for energy, which produces ketones. They are a warning sign that the diabetes is out of control. High levels of ketones can poison the body. When levels get too high, one can develop diabetic ketoacidosis. This is true for people as well as animals.

Next Blog Post Will Discuss How We Treat Feline Diabetes, Including Home Blood Glucose Testing, Insulin Injections, Types of Food, Diet-And How It Is Possible To Get Your Cat Off Insulin!

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Oh Mickey You’re So Fine!

By Mandy Buhle

It has been said that cats have an innate ability to always land on their feet when they fall, no matter the height or angle. Here at Animal Coalition of Delaware County, we can proudly say that we have proven that to be a true statement! Don’t worry, we haven’t gone crazy and and started tossing cats out the window. We like to think that all cats will find a furever home, regardless of the circumstances. Mickey, a Himalayan rescued by ACDC, is such a cat. He came from a great home where he was well cared for by a woman who, due to illness, sadly became unable to care for herself or Mickey very well. As much as we all would hate to give up our own pets, sometimes misfortune happens and we are forced to make hard choices. The wonderful upside to Mickey’s story is that his owner loved him so much that she called ACDC and asked us to place him in a new home.   There are many options for rehoming a cat-some less savory than others, but by calling us, Mickey’s owner knew that Mickey would be cared for and loved until he found his next furever home, no matter how long it took. We are delighted she chose to share her adorable, beloved Mickey with us. Continue reading

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My Cat Has What?

By Betsey Cichoracki

Herpes. Ever since high school health class that word has prompted “ewws” and “gross!” in the minds of many. So when our vet informed me that our cat Coal has herpes, I thought “ewww” before even learning what feline herpes really is. Turns out a herpes virus means many things among many species. Continue reading

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New Year’s Resolution: Keep My Family Together!

By The Tidy Cat Whisperer:

2011. It is a new year. Oh yes “whoopee”. So many people are now out celebrating the passage of time and the ritualistic saying goodbye to the year just completed and the eagerly anticipated year to be. The year we’ve just left behind-although flawed and fraught with inequities- is at least familiar territory. Some people are anxious to leave that with which they are familiar. You know, the old “change” thing. Even if we are in a bad situation, we HATE change. The new year ahead?  Unknown territory, and therefore subject to much speculation-and not just where people are concerned.

The Stinky Cat and the Tidy Cat Whisperer (TCW) don’t always agree on everything: but one thing we DO see eye to eye on is the fact that, in the year just completed more pets have been turned into animal shelters and rescues than the aforementioned shelters have room for. Which means that some of these pets never find a second chance for love and a forever home. It is the sad, yet inevitable result of life in a post-economic-meltdown world.

One of the prime reasons that cats and dogs are turned into shelters is due to dreaded “inappropriate elimination”: in other words, failure to use the litterbox (cats) or poor housetraining habits (dogs).  Many rescues and shelters are overwhelmed by more strays than in previous years, coupled with more animals turned in due to financial considerations than usual. Today’s new “economic reality” has been a disaster for animal rescues and shelters, not to mention most human welfare resources. That is why TCW and Stinky  Cat are here: to help.

According to TCW, “often all too often litterbox issues could have been avoided if a little more thought and planning had been in place.” In other words, if you already have a cat and you are not sure how your cat would react to another cat in your home, then before you decide to bring a new cat in do some research. Ask your vet how to integrate a new cat into an environment with an existing cat. Ask friends who have multiple cats how they were able to integrate the cats. And for pete’s sake, ask all these questions BEFORE you make the decision to bring another animal into your house. And, although declawing a cat makes life convenient for people, it quite often makes life for your cat very inconvenient and in many cases can lead to inappropriate urination.

The Stinky Cat adds that “inconsistent housebreaking or lack of any sort of training at all can contribute to a dog’s poor housetraining habits. A dog without proper housebreaking is not the fault of the dog; it is the fault of the people who did not spend the time to train.” Typical life situation: Cute puppy, family loves the puppy, brings the puppy home. All is right with the world. Then reality sets in. Mom & dad work 8 hours a day, kids are in school, no one has time to house train the dog. Yet, the dog is the one who pays the price by being turned into the local shelter, where an uncertain future awaits. Note to dog owners: no matter how old the dog is, it is never too late to house train a dog. It CAN be done-and often is very successfully.

Unfortunately people all too often choose the “easy” way out, either by medication (Xanax, Buspar) or by simply deciding that they can no longer “deal with the situation” and the only alternative is to rehome the pet. This blogpost is a plea to ALL pet owners to please consider every option before making the decision to rehome your pet.

Many vets, rescue groups, dog trainers and shelters will spend time working with you and your pet to try and help resolve the issues that might prevent you and your pet from enjoying your “furrever time” together. In a world that has morphed into moment-to-moment, day-by-day, we remind you that one way to ensure the stability of your own household is to make sure the needs of all the members of your household-including your pets- are properly attended to.

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Thinking “Inside” The Box…Which Litter box Is Right For Your Cat?

 By Kim Butler and her cat….

“Hey folks, Stinky Cat here: The Tidy Cat Whisperer (TCW) is exhausted from scooping and is taking a nap right now, so I’m going to write this blog post for her. I know the topic very well since I’m the one who uses the stinkin’ thing. I just wish people would ask us cats first before they start messing with our stuff.  I mean, let’s get real: I’m the cat and I’m the one who has to sit in it, so in the future could ya just ask us for OUR opinion first before you design these things?”

In a previous post, TCW mentioned the fact that there are more litter box designs now than Imelda Marcos had shoes (or was it Michelle Obama’s sleeveless dresses? Whatever). Anyway, let’s start at the beginning. Litter boxes have come a long way in the past 50-60 years. Back in the “day” (circa 1930-1940 era), many cats were indoor/outdoor cats, and simply did their “business” outside. Along the way, some kind soul thought that providing a container for cats to relieve themselves indoors was a great idea-especially when living in Minnesota where the temperature is below freezing more often than not. Many of these containers were homemade, certainly not fancy, and filled with sand or ash from recently burnt wood so that cats could “cover up the evidence,” as is their natural instinct. Cleaning a litter box filled with sand or ash however was quite a messy adventure, and as a result not many cats were strictly indoor cats-until the advent of “kitty litter” in 1947.

With the invention of “kitty litter,” cats moved indoors and their popularity soared. And, as a result, a whole new opportunity opened up for entrepreneurs: the design and manufacturing of litter boxes. Nowadays, it’s just not enough to present your cat with a plastic rectangular tray filled with litter-no sirree, we now have an entire section of the store devoted to nothing but litter boxes. It’s like ordering take out from a Chinese restaurant: there are just too many items to pick from. Well, TCW has done some of the legwork for you, and once she wakes up-ooh, well there she is, “well Good Morning Tidy Cat Whisperer, do you have any words of wisdom on litter box choices for us? While you were napping I took the liberty of filling the masses in on the history of the litter box as we know it….”

“Thanks, Stinky Cat I think I can take it from here.”

 Yes, we have an enormous selection of boxes in so many shapes and sizes. Some boxes look like furniture. Some look like plastic igloos (“Nanook of the Litter Scoop”). Some boxes look like a Rube Goldberg invention with so many twists and turns you wonder how the cat will ever extricate itself. I do have a few I can recommend, having personal experience with them.  The most important factor is: if the cat is happy and is using it. All the other factors (is the owner happy) are secondary.

The most basic litterbox may be the one my cats are the most happiest with. It is made by Rubbermaid, is not covered, and has a high back and sidewalls to keep litter from flying everywhere. And it’s inexpensive, at around $17. My 3-legged cat especially loves it, as it has a scooped out entry way making it easy for her to get in and out of. I have six of these currently in use. They are easy to clean and manage and worth every penny.

I have also tried the “Booda Clean-Step” (The one that looks like the Igloo). At $34, it’s getting up there in price. While the concept is nice (keeping the litter from being tracked/kicked all over), the reality is that it is difficult to clean and manage, especially the “stairway”.  The lid is especially hard to clean, and when the urine gets in the crevices, it will smell no matter what you clean it with. Unless you like to work extra hard, I would stay away from this one.

The other litter box that gets the most use in my house is the Clevercat. I have a couple of cats that like to get in the litter box, then not bother to turn around and urinate towards the back of the box like normal cats do-they prefer to urinate towards the front of the box-which means it sprays out of the box.  With The Clevercat, it’s a top entry box-they climb on top of it then climb down into the box where they can do their business in total privacy-and WITH NO MESS. It’s easy to clean-and the lid doubles as a mat! Everyone in my house loves it-my 17-year-old cat uses it, even my three-legged cat uses it with no trouble at all. It’s around $34, which is up there-but trust me, if your guys like to make a mess, it’s well worth it. I have four of these.

Of all the litter boxes I have tried, the two I most recommend are the Rubbermaid and the Clevercat. In my book, everything else would be a waste of money. And that’s it from The Tidy Cat Whisperer. Happy Scooping!

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Does the Fourth of July cause your pet to panic?

By Nikki Senecal

When I was growing up, we had a 125-pound Doberman Pinscher. Many people were scared of Humphrey, but there was only one thing he was frightened by: thunder. At the first sign of a summer storm, he would huddle under the dining room table shaking pathetically. It made you want to crawl under the table to hug and reassure him.

That, it turns out, is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Animals who are frightened by loud noises—like thunder or 4th of July fireworks–shouldn’t be babied; that can reinforce the fearful behavior. Nor should you punish an animal for his fears.

Finding A Place to Feel Safe
Letting your dog or cat find a place where they feel safe, however, is one of the many things you can do to help ease phonophobia, whether the cause is thunderstorms, fireworks, or the vacuum cleaner. Allow your cat to hide out under the bed or in a small space. Perhaps put a bed in a closet and let them know it is there. Leave your dog’s crate open—and throw a blanket over it to create a more cave-like space. Rabbits and guinea pigs should be given extra bedding, so they can burrow for comfort.  Wherever your pet finds comfort, don’t try to lure them out; it could increase their stress.

When you know loud noises will occur, like the upcoming 4th of July holiday, your pets should be inside. Make sure the doors and windows are closed, in case the stress causes your pet to attempt an escape. To prepare for this possibility, make sure Fluffy and Fido’s tags are attached and up-to-date.

You could try turning on a radio or television loudly to drown out the outdoor sounds. Your pet is used to having strange sounds come from these devices.

Training
Desensitization training may work for your dog. This technique involves exposing your dog to low levels of the anxiety producing noise while performing positive activities, like obedience training or playing games. However, trainers usually recommend starting this training before you need the dog to behave. Dogs who are afraid of fireworks, should be trained during the winter, for example.

Find a recording of the noise that your pet is afraid of. While playing the sounds at a barely audible volume, engage your pet in an activity like obedience or trick training. Give food or other rewards during the activity when the pet accomplishes what he is supposed to. If your dog shows signs of fear, stop and try again later, playing the recording at an even lower level. It is important that you don’t reward your pup while he is fearful or anxious. Sessions should last about five to 10 minutes.

As training progresses, gradually increase the volume for each session. Because dogs aren’t good at generalizing, you should repeat the exercise in various rooms. When your pup does not show fear when the recording is played at a loud volume, you may want to try playing the recording when you are away from the house for a short time. When Fido appears to have lost his fear, the sessions can be reduced to one per week. These sessions may need to be repeated at regular intervals over the course of your time together. Finally, during a storm or the Fourth of July, use the same activities and rewards you used in the training sessions.

Medication

  • Appeasing pheromones are available for both dogs (DAP) and cats (Feliway). These chemicals mimic the pheromones produced by lactating mothers that give puppies and kittens a sense of well-being. The result is a calmer, less stressed animal.
  • Melatonin can be used in both dogs and cats. Several articles published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association show that melatonin has a sedative effect. One trainer I know uses it for her German Shepherds who are afraid of thunderstorms.
  • Other medications, like xanax, can be prescribed by your veterinarian if your pet has more severe anxiety.

Although some of these treatments are available without a prescription, you should discuss all of these options with your vet.

Alternative Therapies
Anxiety Wrap – According to some experts, pressure applied to large areas of the body can be comforting. Although no scientific studies have been done on this therapy, T-Touch and Temple Grandin’s “Hug Machine” are both examples of this theory put in practice. There are a number of “maintained pressure” jackets available on the market.

Whatever you do, project a calm attitude. Your pet looks to you for guidance. If you show no fear, it may be calming for your rabbit, guinea pig, dog, or cat. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

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