Saturday, May 30, 2009

Does Your Pet Have Allergies?

By Ruthie Bently

Did you know that dogs and cats can have allergies? Many people don’t realize that, just like people, their pets can be allergic to numerous things. Does your dog scratch at its ears a lot, even after you’ve ascertained they don’t have ear mites? Does it look like your dog has developed a case of acne or blackheads? This may not just be a dirty face; they could be allergic to their food bowl, or the food it contains. Allergies can also cause hot spots, skin rashes and hair loss. Your dog could actually have a case of irritable bowel syndrome, which can be attributed to a food allergy.

Most food allergies are caused by corn, soy and wheat products used in pet foods. By eliminating these items from your pet’s diet you can often relieve the symptoms of the allergies you are seeing. Even if you have been feeding the same food for several years, your pet can still develop an intolerance to what they are eating. CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods makes two grain free formulas for dogs, which are formulated with a ratio of 80% meat proteins to 20% fruits and vegetables. None of the CANIDAE dog and cat formulas are made with any corn, wheat or soy products, and can help animals that may be allergic to what they are eating.

Signs of allergies to plastic can be manifested in a case of “dog or kitty acne,” which looks like pimples or blackheads on your pet’s chin or lower face. If your pet is allergic to their plastic food bowl, change to a ceramic or stainless steel one, which has less chance of causing an allergy. I prefer the stainless steel bowls myself, as they are easy to keep clean, and they are usually unbreakable. If you choose to use a ceramic bowl, remember that they will break if dropped, so if your kids are helping fill the food or water dish, you may want to get one they can handle easily.

Another thing many people may not realize is that our pets are coming down with more environmental allergies than they used to. I had a client with two Labrador Retrievers, and after putting cedar closets in their house, they found out their Labs were allergic to them. Cedar is great for keeping insects away from clothing, and cedar shavings have been used for years in dog beds. However, if your dog begins sneezing or snorting and doesn’t want to use their bed, they may have developed an allergy to the cedar shavings inside if that is what you use to fill it with. What may smell pleasing to us may not be so pleasing to our pets, as their noses are so much closer to the source of the odor.

By considering our environment and how it affects our pet’s way of life, we can make it a more pleasant experience for us all. After all, as members of our families, don’t they deserve the best we can provide for them?

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Friday, May 29, 2009

Advice on Raising Your Pet: Take It, or Leave It?

By Julia Williams

People who wouldn’t dream of giving parents advice on how to raise their children often think nothing of doling out plentiful bits of their (apparent) pet-rearing wisdom to cat and dog owners. I’m not sure how this double standard came to be, but it does exist because I’ve seen it play out more times than I can count.

From my own experience, I believe that most of the time the advice is given with good intentions. The advice givers truly think they know how to solve a pet owner’s problem or help them with raising their cat or dog. In reality, sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.

The challenge pet owners face is knowing when to listen to the advice and act upon it, and when to just tune it out. It can be hard for pet owners to know which advice is the “right” advice. Often, the advice comes from family members, which further complicates the matter. We may want to please or placate the advice giver, so we take their advice to heart even though our own intuition is telling us it’s not the right course of action.

I firmly believe that if every person listened to their intuition every time they were faced with a decision –not just with how to raise our pets but every life choice – we would never make a wrong decision, because our intuition is always right.

Human beings are always second guessing their intuition, which is something that animals never do. Animals trust their instincts because their survival depends upon it. Humans could really learn a lot by living as an animal for just one day. I imagine that we’d come back from the experience knowing a lot more about how to trust that gut feeling, and we’d know a lot more about when (and when not) to take advice on raising our pets.

One thing I know for certain is that you should never take someone’s advice just to humor them. This will never turn out good, and I offer my own recent experience as proof.

I moved myself and my three cats back to my home town so I could help out my elderly parents. They are not “pet people,” and although they don’t dislike animals, they’ve never shared their home with one. Consequently, they know next to nothing about how to raise pets or what to do in various circumstances.

Yet for some inexplicable reason, my mother thought she knew how to help my cats recover from the shock of being driven 1,000 miles to a strange new home. She told me they would hide in the closet less if I locked them in the garage and let them explore it. (I’m still laughing about that one). Next, she said they would be less fearful of the cars driving by if I forced them to spend time outdoors. But the “pièce de résistance” was when she said that if I made them walk around the yard on a leash and harness, they would enjoy it.

One day I decided to humor her, knowing full well this advice was pure hogwash (sorry Mom!). I had a made-for-cats leash and harness that I’d bought (and used) for my trip out, so I put it on Annabelle and carried my quivering cat outside. Almost as soon as I set Belle down on the ground in the garden, she bolted. I didn't have a good grip on the leash, and as Belle scurried across the yard to the door, I zigged and zagged along behind her, desperately trying not to fall on my face. When we reached the patio Belle darted under a lawn chair and I had to let go of the leash to keep from crashing into the chair. My foot kicked over the plastic tub of Felidae cat food I’d brought out to the patio to use as a treat for Belle. Naturally the lid was off, and kibble spilled everywhere. Meanwhile, my mother was laughing hysterically.

I told her, "Stop laughing and pick up all this kibble!" I went in to remove the harness and leash from Belle so she wouldn't hurt herself. When I came back, my mother hadn't picked up a single piece of cat food because she was still too busy laughing. Apparently the sight of Belle dragging me across the yard and the subsequent "kibble mishap" was a lot funnier from her end, because every time she tells the story to someone (which is often) she goes into fits of laughter! Suffice it to say, that was the first and last time I tried to take Belle outside on a leash. It was also the last time I let my well-meaning mother give me advice on how to raise my cats.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Does Your Dog Need a Raincoat?

By Ruthie Bently

We are now well into the spring season, and Skye hates to go outside when it is raining. She will go out in the middle of a blizzard, but won’t put a whisker outside when it’s raining. Is your dog the same way? Did you know you can purchase a raincoat for your dog along with booties if they are fussy about getting their feet wet?

Most pet shops carry raincoats and boots year round, and they are available for most sized dogs. If your dog needs a raincoat, it’s a good idea to take them into the store to try on their raincoats to see which one will fit the best. Some of the deeper chested breeds may be a bit hard to fit, but it can be done. Most raincoats are made of plastic and have a hole for your dog’s head along with a chest protector and a belt for around their middle to hold it in place around their body.

The raincoat should fit well but not too snugly, the dog should have room to move comfortably. If you can’t bring the dog into the store, ask the store personnel if you can bring it back if it doesn’t fit. Usually they will say to be sure to keep your receipt and try not to remove the tags from the coat. If this is the case and your dog is at home, you can still get a good idea of what size they will need.

The best way to fit a coat on your dog is to have the dog stand up while you are trying it on them; this will give you a truer picture of how the coat fits. Get your dog to stand and use a tape measure to measure down their back from the neck where their collar lies, and measure down to where their tail comes out of their rump. Most coats run in even sizes from 8 inch to about 36 inch. If your dog measures say 19 inches, buy an 18 inch coat. You would rather buy a bit smaller than too large, this will keep your dog from soiling the coat if he is a male and lifts his leg, or hanging too far off the back when they need to defecate. The chest piece should not be too binding and the belt should fit snugly around the dog’s middle.

Rain boots are just as easy to fit. Boots come in many kinds of materials, but the best for rain is either rubber or cordura nylon. I used to sell two good rain boots; one was cordura nylon with a Velcro® closure and the other was made of cordura nylon with an elastic closure. When fitting boots you also want to have your dog standing up. If you cannot take your dog with you, get the dog to stand up and take tracings of each foot. Make sure to include their toenails, as they will be on the inside of the boot and while these boots are tough, you don’t want them too tight, as your dog’s toenails may be tougher. Get the closest size to your tracing, and if you need to, go up a size to get the correct fit.

When fitting your dog for a coat, they may be uncomfortable for a bit because they are not used to having something on their back. Fitting your dog for boots may take a bit longer as you are buying them in sets of four, and you will probably be tempted to laugh the first time you see your dog with boots on their feet, but try not to. They may not understand that you are laughing at their perceived misery, but don’t let on because believe it or not your dog can get embarrassed. What I do when fitting a dog for a coat or boots, is have a Snap-Bit dog treat ready. They feel better if they know there is a cookie waiting at the end of their “ordeal.”

If your yard is “mud central” like ours has been, having boots for your dog isn’t such a crazy idea. I have a white tile kitchen floor and while I love the color, I don’t love the mud that Skye can bring in on her feet. Skye knows that she has to stop in the mudroom on the rug to have her leash and whatever else she has on removed. But if she comes in barefoot, even with the rug in the mudroom, my floors are still muddy. So on rainy days, Skye has to wait while I put her boots on before she goes out. She knows she gets a Snap-Bit at the end of it all, and she does love her cookie.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

About the CANIDAE Customer Support Team

By Diane Matsuura and Beth Morgan

We’re not “JUST” Customer Service here at CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods, we’re more than that. At CANIDAE, Customer Service has always been a top priority for us. We have a small staff of caring individuals, real people, who are passionate about pet food and pets. Among us, we have a wealth of pet care and nutrition experience to draw upon, and we are nice people too (maybe we’re biased, but it’s true).

At CANIDAE, we aren’t an answering service or receptionist who answers the phones and transfers calls to someone more qualified, as many companies do. We are a small, personable and caring company, and we make every effort to talk to every client in person, by email and via the new online chat feature. Yes, sometimes you will have to leave a message on our phone system, but that just means that we are on the line helping another valued customer and we will call you back as soon as possible.

A customer service representative at CANIDAE wears many hats. We have to know our entire product line from top to bottom and be able to answer any nutrition and ingredient questions you may have about our products. We can assist you with coupon requests, frequent buyer and breeder program information, store locations and send you a free sample. We can also connect you with your local CANIDAE Sales staff and wholesale order department or distributor. We also offer retail sales support. Sometimes we have to be detectives and help you figure out what formula would be best for your pet. Occasionally the answer may be CANIDAE is not the right food for your pet, and we will be honest and tell you so. But what we try to be the most is a friend, someone to listen to your problems with your pets, share happy memories and experiences with, share your excitement of adopting a new pet, or sharing your sorrow over one who has passed away, and someone who really understands how important your pet is to you and your family.

There are a few things that you can do to make your experience with CANIDAE more productive and helpful. If you have a concern about one of our products, please make sure you have all the date and batch code information handy when you call. All products come marked with this information either on the bag or box, either front or back, or on the bottom of the can. We also love to hear from our customers who love our products, too. Send us a photo of your pet and a testimonial letter about why you and your pets love CANIDAE and we’ll post it on our website. We welcome helpful suggestions about our products and how they might be improved. It was customer suggestions that led us to offer an improved bag design that uses a Velcro closure, and encouraged us to formulate pet foods made without any grain.

What our jobs at CANIDAE Customer Service mean to us is the chance to talk to so many diverse people about their pets, from not only the United States and Canada, but many other countries as well, whereever CANIDAE is sold. Each of our callers is a new opportunity for us to grow as a Customer Service representative and as a person. You introduce us to new breeds, interesting questions and descriptions about where you live, your families and the pets that share your life. Our job is rewarding, sometimes frustrating, but always fascinating and never boring. Call us anytime 8:00am to 4:30pm PST. We love to hear from you, and thank you for choosing CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods for your pets.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Norwegian Forest Cat: Ancient Breed Has Mythological Origins

By Lexiann Grant

The Norwegian Forest cat is, as its name indicates, a cat of Scandinavian descent. A breed believed to be between 1,000 and 2,000 years old, the "Wegie" was the cat of the Vikings, living as a ratter on both farm and ship.

Breeders from Finland describe the cat as the "mystic wildcat of the fairy tales." Norse mythology tells that these cats were the favorites of Freyja (also spelled Freya, Freja, or Frejya), goddess of love, fertility and the hearth. Freyja traveled in a chariot drawn by either two white or gray Wegies.

Legend says that the goddess' presence passing through the countryside caused seeds to sprout and grow. Farmers that left out pans of milk for her divine cats were blessed with bountiful harvests.

Freyja also symbolized domesticity and was often portrayed with Norwegian Forest cats playing around her feet. Lovers wanting to marry asked the blessing of Freyja and her cats. Because of this custom, many superstitions about weddings and cats began. Some of these were:

* Girls who value cats will definitely marry
* Giving newlyweds a black cat as a gift represents good luck
* If someone steps on a cat's tail, that person will not marry for a year
* If a woman feeds a cat before she goes to her wedding, she will have a happy marriage
* Scandinavians believed that feeding a cat well would guarantee sunshine on the day of a wedding.

Besides the Norwegian Forest cat's role in transporting Freyja about the countryside, they drove her into battle against the Aesirs (or Asers), the gods of the dark side. They also pulled her chariot to the funeral of Balder, the god of beauty and kindness.

Called Norsk Skogkatts or Skaukatts in their native Norway, these cats were originally thought of as fairy cats. A naturally large breed, Forest cats were said to be so huge that not even the gods could lift them. One tale relates how Thor, the strongest of the gods, lost a contest of strength to Jormungand, who was disguised as a Forest cat. (Jormungand was the serpent son of Loki, god of mischief and deceit.)

Old though the breed is, their mythology continues into the present. Stories as recent as the 1930s spin mythological narratives about Wegies turning into trolls, and trolls turning into Wegies. Today's breeders still name their catteries after ancient Norse myths.

For more information about Norwegian Forest cats, visit the websites of The Cat Fancier’s Association or The International Cat Association.

Read more articles by Lexiann Grant

Monday, May 25, 2009

Separation Anxiety: Theirs, not Yours

By Ruthie Bently

I just got back from a vacation shortened by weather. But I was pining even the week before I left – I was already missing Skye and she hadn’t gone anywhere yet. You see, she was going to spend her time at the breeders, as I could not take her with me. I was having separation anxiety before the fact. Did you know that animals can also have issues with separation anxiety? Not only that, I discovered after this recent trip, that there can be separation anxiety issues between animal species.

I had a client, “Mrs. Jones,” whose daughter went away to college, and their Golden Retriever began to misbehave. Mrs. Jones came in and asked what she should do because she was baffled. This was a dog that had gone through obedience classes and was a wonderfully behaved dog. So what was going on, why was her superbly trained dog misbehaving? Any time anyone comes in to see me about a specific issue, whatever it is related to, I always ask what has changed in the pet’s environment. We don’t necessarily see changes in our households as major changes, but our pets can and often may. Any changes we make in our lives can affect our pet’s lives as well.

Mrs. Jones mentioned that her daughter had gone off to college, but was home recently for the Thanksgiving break and to do laundry. The dog followed her daughter all around the house and would not stop. If they crated the dog, she whined the whole time. It took me a bit of time to figure it out but I did; the dog loved the whole family, but had apparently bonded to the daughter. Her owner asked me what I thought she should do. “Laundry” was the key word for me. I asked Mrs. Jones if her daughter came home with laundry on a regular basis. “No” was the answer, so I suggested she give the dog a pair of her daughter’s dirty socks and see what happened. That solved the problem, because since the dog had grown up with their daughter and she went away to school, the dog was pining for her. All pets can suffer from separation anxiety, though some may have more issues with it than others.

Some obvious signs of separation anxiety are pets following you around the house or yard and not wanting to let you out of their sight. Our animals are smart enough to know that something is going on; they just don’t have the particulars yet. Your pets may want to go outside and then want to come right back in, because of their fear that you might leave and not let them in again. Sometimes the same pet will stay outside so you can’t leave, because they realize that if they delay your time of leaving that gives them more time to spend with you. (These issues can arise either before or after you actually take your trip.) Your pet may start pacing around the house or yard; they may start whining and crying for no apparent reason.

I explained to Skye before I left why she could not go with me, and told her when I would be back to get her. The last time Skye went to the breeders, one of her cousins was an agitator and would get Skye going. But Skye did fine – I was the basket case!

Some things you can do if you are leaving your dog in a kennel while you are gone are to take a few of their favorite toys or a favorite blanket from home to help them settle in better. Some kennels offer extra exercise for a fee, which can help keep your dog’s mind off your absence. You could also speak with a homeopath about using an herbal remedy for calming your pet while you are away.

I even learned something new after I got home – the cats missed Skye as well. How do I know? They wouldn’t let Skye out of their sight, and followed her around the house whether she was inside or outside. Two of them, Munchkin and Mouse, actually put their front paws around her neck and began kneading her fur, and then they began giving her love bites. Munchkin even spent the first night we were all home together sleeping on Skye’s back with her front paws wrapped around Skye’s neck to prevent her from moving without Munchkin knowing. Skye being the long suffering dog she is, took it all in stride.

The most important thing to remember is that your pets love you and can’t always understand why they can’t go along. Have patience when dealing with their “acting out” and try to be a bit more understanding of their possibly odd behavior after you get home; it will pass in time.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cats are at Risk for Heartworm Disease, Too

By Lexiann Grant

Mosquito season is beginning, and it's time to protect your cat from heartworm disease. Yes, cats get heartworms too – even indoor cats are at risk since mosquitoes can enter a home when a door is open.

The life cycle of heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) starts when a mosquito bites an infected animal. As the mosquito feeds on the animal's blood, it ingests the microfilariae which are the immature form of the heartworm. Inside the mosquito the microfilariae develop into larvae. Then, when the mosquito bites an uninfected pet, the larvae are transmitted into that animal's bloodstream.

The larvae migrate through the pet's body to the heart where they develop into mature worms and reproduce. Heartworms commonly live in the right side of a pet's heart and can grow up to 12 inches in length. Infestation with heartworm causes cardiovascular disease in dogs and cats.

Although the parasite is more common in dogs, heartworm infection in a feline can be just as deadly. Research indicates that cats may have the potential for a more severe reaction to heartworms than dogs.

Occasionally an affected cat will show no signs of disease but others experience acute respiratory distress and can even die suddenly. The usual symptoms shown by an infected cat include coughing, difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance, fainting, lethargy, weight loss or vomiting.

Since these symptoms also can be caused by other diseases, a heartworm-infected cat can often be misdiagnosed. Cats may have 25 or fewer worms present when infected. Because of this, heartworms may be difficult to detect in a cat. Testing for both antigens and antibodies to heartworms is advised in felines.

Veterinarians may recommend chest x-rays for cats suspected of having heartworms. A positive radiograph shows enlargement of the right side of the heart as well as possible damage to portions of the lungs. Blood tests may show slightly elevated levels of eosinophiles (a type of white blood cell that is normally present when the body fights infestation by parasites).

For cats that do have heartworm disease, there is currently no approved treatment. However, because of the lower numbers for worms typically present in cats, a spontaneous cure can occur so that no treatment is necessary.

Some cats may experience ''crises'' such as elevated blood pressure, allergic-type reactions or even shock, when a worm dies. These symptoms can respond to the use of corticosteroids. Affected cats should also have their physical activity restricted.

A monthly preventative for feline heartworm is available through veterinarians. In endemic areas, such prevention may be the best remedy. Because indoor cats can have less resistance to such pests, a preventive may be more important for them.

There are currently four different preventatives available for cats. Two of these products are oral and two for topical application. All are administered once monthly. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends asking your veterinarian to help you decide if your cat should be placed on heartworm preventative.

Additional information on Feline Heartworm Disease can be found on the American Heartworm Society website.

Read more articles by Lexiann Grant

Friday, May 22, 2009

Coping With the Emotions of a Sick Pet

Over two years ago my son and I were driving home from work. In the middle of a busy 4 way stop intersection was a little silver patch of hair limping across the street nearly being struck by careless drivers. I immediately pulled into the intersection and yelled at my son to grab that dog before she gets hit. My son opened the passenger door and a frail little Shitzu came to the door and lifted up her little paw. My son grabbed her and she immediately fell asleep on his lap for the 5 minute ride home.

We arrived home to be greeted by my wife who took one look at the dog and said, "Oh my gosh, what are we going to do with her?" The little dog was flea ridden, lost most of her hair, could barely walk and had a toe nail so long it curled all the way around and was imbedded into her tiny paw. I should also mention the smell was so tremendous we could hardly hold her. We bathed her in the bath tub to wash off some of the grime and started the long road of recovery including vet visits, medication, and the introduction of dog food which she apparently had never received before.

We put up signs and an ad in the paper trying to find the owners, but after several days re-thought that idea as anybody who neglected a dog this badly doesn't deserve one, so I went and took the signs down. I called my parents, who hadn't owned a dog in years, and told them I had the perfect little companion for them. They were excited over the idea however I wanted to get her healthy before I turned her over to them. My parents didn't need the emotional burden of dealing with a sick dog as they hadn't owned for years due to the pain of losing our family Dachshund Duke to cancer many years ago.

We named the little dog Lady because she reminded us of a little bag lady wandering the streets. She later received the nick name Lady Bird. The road to recovery was a little longer than expected and those big black eyes took a toll on me. I fell in love with a little tiny homeless dog like no other love I have had for any other pet. She went everywhere with me including going to work every day. Needless to say my parents never got the dog. I later made up for it by giving them a tiny puppy to raise and love on their own. 

I write this story as tears roll down my face as my little Lady Bird clings on to life in an emergency vet hospital. Just over a week ago she was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and valve that is no longer working properly. She has been in and out of the vet 4 times trying to control her heart with medication. Last night she started having troubles breathing so my wife and I once again rushed her to emergency. She has fluid around her enlarged heart and I am terrified awaiting the results.

I understand the pain and emotion of dealing with a sick pet we fall so deeply in love with. I also understand the desire to find fault or blame to help with the pain. However I am also a realist. The facts are Lady is approximately 14 years old and has an enlarged heart. There's no one to blame. I have done everything I can for that little dog and I only pray she pulls through this.

Looking for help on how to deal with my emotions I started surfing the web. To my surprise "blame" is a normal human emotion in a situation like this. Here are a few sites I found that might help you out as well.

by Scott Whipple – CANIDAE Pet Foods

Thursday, May 21, 2009

How to Teach Your Cat to Perform Tricks

By Julia Williams

In yesterday’s post I explained that, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to train your cat to do tricks. Yes, you really can teach your cat to sit, shake, give you a "high five," and fetch on command. You can even train your cat to use a regular bathroom toilet, although I'm not sure this qualifies as a "trick."

I’m not saying it won’t take a lot of patience and determination to train your cat – it definitely will, and anyone who’s familiar with the independent nature of cats knows why. Then again, if it was too easy the thrill of victory wouldn’t be half as sweet! But let’s move on to the “how.”

One of the keys to success in training a cat to perform tricks is understanding what motivates them. Cats typically don’t possess a strong desire to please, unless there is something in it for them. For most felines, a food reward is highly motivating, so stock up on cat treats if you want to try teaching your cat to do tricks.

For the greatest chance of success, use the cat treats they find most enticing. My normally docile housecats turn into ferocious jungle beasts when given a piece of cooked chicken or turkey, but any cat treat your kitty loves will work. If you let them “free feed” dry food, consider switching to two feedings a day and remove the 24-hour kibble buffet. Then, you can try training your cat to do tricks before their scheduled meal time, which makes the food reward even more motivational.

Another important aspect of the trick training is that you have to coax the cat to do what you want it to do, such as “sit” or “shake.” When they do, say the command loudly and clearly, and immediately give them their food reward. You can also praise them lavishly and pet them, although this is not nearly as effective as the cat treat.

If you don’t succeed in training your cat to do tricks after a few days (and it’s almost a given that you won’t), don’t get discouraged. Remember the old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The same applies to teaching a cat to do tricks. Simply keep trying. Trust me, it can be done.

How to teach your cat to sit

Step One: call your cat over to you, luring them with the treats if needed.
Step Two: when your cat approaches and stands before you, say “Sit.”
Step Three: put light pressure on their rump to naturally induce the sit position.
Step Four: when the cat sits, give them the treat immediately.
Step Five: repeat steps one through four as often as necessary to get your cat to sit on command.

After you’ve mastered the “sit” command, you can move on to the next trick.

How to teach your cat to shake

Step One: get your cat to sit, and reward them with a treat
Step Two: put your hand behind their right front leg and touch their paw.
Step Three: say “Shake.” A cat will often lift its foot when you touch it. If they do, take their paw in your hand and give it a gentle shake.
Step Four: Immediately give them a treat and a pet.
Step Five: repeat as needed.

The process of training your cat to use a toilet is a bit more complicated. Difficult but not impossible, as evidenced by the photo of Panther above, photographed by Robert Ward. According to Robert, Panther has been using the toilet to do his business since he was six months old. If you’d like to train your cat to use the toilet, you might want to get a copy of Trisha Yeager Menke’s humorous book, Potty Talk by Toast, which is available on

I hope you find these tips for training your cat useful. Let me know if you succeed!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Can You Train a Cat to Do Tricks?

By Julia Williams

The short answer to the question is yes, you can. But (and this is a BIG but) it won’t be easy. If you want to teach your cat to do tricks, then you must have a wealth of four things: patience, determination, time, and cat treats.

Although many people believe it’s impossible to train a cat to perform on command, this simply isn’t true. I have not done it myself, largely because patience is not one of my virtues. I have, however, watched my friend train his cat, and have seen the cat perform a few different tricks. I’ve also seen countless other performing cats. For instance, at a cat show I watched in awe as a whole troupe of cats put on a mesmerizing performance of circus-type acts for more than fifteen minutes. The level of training and the complexity of the tricks were remarkable, particularly since it wasn’t just one or two cats performing the tricks, but dozens of them.

There are also many amazing videos on YouTube about the Moscow Cats Theatre, a famous, long-running show that features agile felines walking a tightrope, rolling on top of a ball, jumping through hoops, twirling batons with their feet, doing handstands and other impressive feats. And on Animal Planet’s Pet Star television show, I’ve seen a few people who were able to get their cats to do tricks. They had to dole out cat treats every step of the way, but still.

And finally, the very funny movie Meet the Parents featured a toilet-trained cat named Jinxy who nearly upstaged his co-stars (Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller) with his flawless performance on the loo. I’ve also watched other videos on the internet of ordinary housecats (i.e., not film star felines) that were trained to use the toilet – although apparently you can’t teach them to flush, which would certainly make this “trick” more appealing.

So if you really can train a cat to perform tricks, why is it far more common to see dogs doing them? It’s because dogs are far easier to train than cats, and many people simply don’t have the patience it takes to get cats to do tricks on command. Contrary to what some people believe, this has nothing to do with intelligence. Dogs by nature are much more eager to please their owners, who they regard as the pack leader. Although cats might love their human companions very much, their independent nature means that this leadership role doesn’t have much power. Cats have no masters, and they tend to listen to humans on their own terms.

If you’re intrigued by the thought of training your cat to do tricks, and think you have the perseverance and patience to succeed, I’ll give you some tips and step-by-step directions in tomorrow’s post.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Animals as Healers

By Julia Williams

Dogs are often called “man’s best friend,” but given the proven healing power of pets, I think all animals qualify for the title. Any human who’s ever shared a close bond with an animal has undoubtedly witnessed their natural healing abilities firsthand. Be it physical, mental or emotional healing, our pets can greatly improve our lives.

There have been many reports in recent years of these remarkable healing agents — of dogs who can “smell” cancer before any medical diagnosis has been made; dogs who can alert their owners to seizures before they happen; horses who help handicapped riders develop balance, strength, and confidence.

Cats and dogs are frequently used as “therapy animals” for seniors in nursing homes because they provide love and attention to those who might be feeling lonely, sad or forgotten. Many prisons now have dog training programs, which gives the inmates a sense of purpose, and helps them deal with the depression, anxiety and tension caused by their incarceration.

The Many Health Benefits of Pets

These natural healers with wagging tails and furry coats enhance our lives in so many ways, whether we are conscious of it or not. The peaceful purring of a cat or the friendly nuzzle from a canine can calm our frazzled nerves. Stroking their soft fur is therapeutic for both body and soul; it can lower blood pressure and reduce stress, while helping us to open our hearts to love. Walking the dog and playing games with our pets provides beneficial exercise for our bodies; it also lifts our spirits, and provides a much-needed respite from the stress and strain of busy lives.

Pets can improve the quality of our life and positively influence us in so many ways. They inspire optimistic thoughts in those who are disheartened, and gently remind us how important it is to nurture not only ourselves, but others. In his book, The Healing Power of Pets, Dr. Marty Becker writes, "Our beloved pets are life vitamins fortifying us against invisible threats: like seat belts cradling against life's crashes; like alarm systems giving us a sense of security. Taken together, the healing power of pets is powerful medicine indeed."

Our pets also seem to have an uncanny ability to recognize when we are suffering, whether it’s with a physical ailment or emotional distress. They also seem able to know exactly where we hurt and may concentrate their healing attention to that part of the body.

I’ll never forget one particular healing experience I had with my own three cats. I was incapacitated by a stomach flu so brutal that at times I almost wanted death to release me from my pain. I somehow managed to fall asleep, and when I awoke the first thing I saw was Annabelle. She wasn’t lying down nor was she asleep; she was sitting on my pillow, gazing at me intently. Mickey and Rocky were lying close to my body, one on each side. Now, these cats almost never sleep on my bed during the day, yet here they were, and I keenly felt that they were keeping watch over me. I smiled at Bella weakly through my pain; I knew then that I would fight to live, if for no other reason than to be with these earth-bound angels for one more day.

It’s not just our family pets who have this innate healing ability, either –virtually any animal can serve as a healer to human beings. Both wild and domesticated animals can sense changes in the human body and the mind. People who have encounters with wild animals –such as dolphins and manatees –have experienced amazing, life-changing healing. Watching the silly antics of a wild squirrel in the park can provide gentle healing through laughter. Observing the industrious nature of ants and bees can heal through inspiration. And seeing a butterfly or hummingbird float gracefully through the garden can remind us to slow down, relax and enjoy the simple pleasures life brings.

Animals truly are the most remarkable healers, and they ask so little of us in return. I am honored by their presence in my world, because I know they make it a much better place to be.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Monday, May 18, 2009

Which Cat Litter is the Best?

By Julia Williams

While there are many pleasurable aspects of feline companionship, dealing with the litter box is not one of them. Thankfully, there have been vast improvements in kitty litter in the last decade or so. These new types of cat litter are infinitely better at odor control and absorbency than the original non-clumping clay litter developed in the late 40s. Frankly, you couldn’t pay me to use the non-clumping clay litter, which requires dumping the entire litter box contents every week unless you want your house to have that “eau de cat” smell.

Clumping litter, in my opinion, was the best pet invention ever. This type of litter forms solid “clumps” when wet, which can be easily scooped out of the cat box while the rest of the litter stays relatively fresh. You just add more kitty litter to the box a few times a week, and clean the entire litter box once a month or so. The first clumping cat litter came on the market in the 80s; it was made from granulated bentonite clay, and is still used many cat owners today. If you like the clumping aspect but prefer a more natural alternative, there are now clumping cat litters made from corn, wheat, sawdust, newspaper and pine pellets.

So which type of cat litter is the best then? For cat owners, there is no definitive answer to the question. The best cat litter for one person may not be the right choice for another. Cost, absorbency, odor control, biodegradability, tracking and texture all factor into the equation. But the ultimate thing that determines which type of cat litter is the best for your household, is that your cat likes it. Some cats will use virtually any kind of kitty litter you put in the box. Others have definite preferences and will very clearly let you they don’t like their litter, by having “accidents” outside the cat box. If you have a finicky feline, then your choices are a bit more limited. Trust me, if your cat doesn’t like a particular litter, nothing else matters.

I used the clumping clay cat litter for many, many years and was quite happy with it. I switched to a natural cat litter made from finely ground corn, for several reasons. There have been claims that clumping clay cat litter can be harmful to cats if ingested, because it swells up and might cause intestinal blockages. Although there is no confirmed scientific evidence of that happening, I decided to err on the safe side. Clumping clay cat litters also typically contain silica dust, which asthmatic cats (and their human caretakers) should avoid. After I replaced my cats’ open litter box with a covered style (which I absolutely love), I didn’t think it would be good for them to breathe in the dust that’s kicked up when they scratch in the litter.

On the plus side, natural cat litter is safer, biodegradable, chemical free, and better for the environment. However, it does tend to be more expensive than clumping clay litter. The manufacturers of natural cat litter claim that the same size bag lasts longer than clay-based litters, but I haven’t found this to be true with the types I have tried. I personally think the corn-based natural cat litter I’m using offers enough advantages to compensate for the increased cost, but it’s an individual decision that every pet owner needs to make for themselves.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Can You Get Swine Flu From Your Dog or Cat?

By Stacy Mantle

There are a few things to worry about getting from your pets these days, but according to the CDC, Swine flu (H1N1) is not one of them. Dogs are susceptible to the “canine influenza virus” - a specific Type A influenza virus known as the H3N8 influenza virus. This is NOT something that humans can come down with as it is a species-specific virus.

Cats Flu is a name used to identify a group of viruses, which affect the upper respiratory tract in cats. Felines are known to obtain Upper Respiratory Infections (URI’s), which is most commonly caused by the Feline Herpes Virus-1 (FHV-1), or Feline Calicivirus (FCV).

Most diseases and viruses are “species-specific,” with only a few exceptions. Visit the CDC website to see a complete list of “diseases that people and pets can transmit.”

Dr. Michael Watts says it best, “The current ‘swine’ flu outbreak is not technically a “pig virus.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has determined that the new influenza A (H1N1) strain contains genetic material from four different viruses. One is a swine influenza commonly found in North America. The others are a human influenza virus, a North American avian influenza virus, and another pig influenza more typically found in Europe and Asia.”

Bird Flu
As far as the Bird Flu goes, the CDC has this to say on the subject, “Influenza A viruses are divided into subtypes based on two proteins on the surface of the virus: the hemagglutinin (H) and the neuraminidase (N). There are 16 different hemagglutinin subtypes and 9 different neuraminidase subtypes, all of which have been found among influenza A viruses in wild birds. Wild birds are the primary natural reservoir for all subtypes of influenza A viruses and are thought to be the source of influenza A viruses in all other animals. Most influenza viruses cause asymptomatic or mild infection in birds; however, the range of symptoms in birds varies greatly depending on the strain of virus. Infection with certain avian influenza A viruses (for example, some strains of H5 and H7 viruses) can cause widespread disease and death among some species of wild and especially domestic birds such as chickens and turkeys.”

No Reason to Worry
Bottom line is that with the current outbreak of H1N1, neither your dogs or cats can get it or be carriers of the virus. Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t ever worry. Part of the panic with the H1N1 virus is that it appears to have the ability to mutate. It still could. It probably won’t, but really you’re far more likely to get hit by a meteorite than to pick up the H1N1 virus from your pet.

Read more articles by Stacy Mantle

Friday, May 15, 2009

Why do we love our dogs? Because…

By Lexiann Grant

Although we started out as work partners, thousands of years ago, dogs first loved us. In return we fed them, then grew to love them. There are more reasons than can be named why we love our dogs. What’s not to love?

To celebrate this loving relationship, here’s a list of some of the top reasons why. We love them because they...

...Fill our hearts and homes with laughter.
...Do something remarkable every day.
...Greet us enthusiastically even when we’ve only been gone for one minute.
...Show us how to give and receive unconditional love.
...Share our sorrows and our joys with us.
...Introduce us to their fascinating, simple world.
...Play funny jokes on us.
...Reduce our stress.
...Howl songs of delight to us.
...Are cuddly, huggable and love to be touched.
...Want to go with us everywhere we go and do whatever we do.
...Clean up the food we spill on the floor.
...Depend on us to care for them and teach them.
...Live with mindfulness of the present.
...Keep us on our toes.
...Do disgusting things that bewilder and amuse us.
...Change a bad day into a good one with a wag of their tail.
...Allow our inner child to come out and play.
...Relieve our boredom.
...Offer us an excuse to tell unexpected visitors why the house isn’t spotless.
...Lick our tears away.
...Watch over us when we are sick and guard us from peril.
...Make us proud of their achievements.
...Express themselves and their emotions honestly.
...Usually understand us, even when we don’t know what we mean ourselves.
...Quickly forgive us our wrongs.
...Teach us valuable life lessons, like patience, acceptance and devotion.
...Don’t criticize or judge us.
...Make us feel secure after we have a nightmare.
...Never let us sleep by ourselves when we are lonely.
...Don’t care how we look or what we wear.
...Are always beautiful regardless of their appearance.
...Give us a reason to get up in the mornings.
...Eat the same food each day but relish every meal.
...Are poetry in motion.
...Provide us a piece of heaven on earth.
...Are our family members and best friends.
...Live in our hearts and memories forever, even after they’re gone.
...Are our soul mates.

Read more articles by Lexiann Grant

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Helping Your Overweight Dog Lose Weight

By Ruthie Bently

When you have an overweight dog, this can affect their health in many ways. They can become diabetic, have heart issues, as well as develop arthritis or joint issues in later years. So as our pets’ care givers, we need to be aware of their weight and help them lose weight if they need to. When you have a dog that needs to lose weight, how do you go about it without making everybody’s life miserable?

When I first adopted Skye I thought she was too thin, unfortunately I needn’t have worried. Because of the medication Skye is on she is ravenous all the time, and I do mean all the time. I never thought I would be living with an animal that is food driven, and it was difficult in the beginning. You see, I had never lived with a “counter surfer” before and now have first hand knowledge of how crafty they can actually be.

Skye is a master at the art of “counter surfing,” and may have perfected things that I was too dense in the beginning to figure out on my own. After all, I assumed that “counter surfing” meant just that; stupid human. Skye has climbed on her crate to get to the cats’ food; she has climbed over gates to get to food in unopened bags and to get to the new bag of cat litter (I use wheat-based); all because of her hunger issues. The only saving grace in my house is that Skye hasn’t figured out how to get into either the refrigerator or the microwave yet. Don’t laugh; I have a friend with Labrador Retrievers who have learned how to open the refrigerator for their favorite pizza leftovers.

Not only that, how can we help our dogs to feel fuller and not feel the hunger that is driving them in the first place? This sounded tough to me until I began doing my homework, and I found lots of healthy things to add to Skye’s food that will not compromise the value of the food she was eating at the time, which was not CANIDAE®. I found a document on the USDA’s website, titled Nutrient Value of Foods, Home and Garden Bulletin #72. It has been an invaluable source of information. It shows caloric values for many kinds of foods: raw and cooked, as well as many commercially produced human foods. These caloric values will be the same for your dog as they would be for you.

I started experimenting with different vegetables, because Skye didn’t need any carbohydrates or sugars added to her diet. Vegetables were a good choice, because the body usually has to work harder to digest them, and Skye could actually lose weight having veggies added to her diet. Skye loves asparagus, green beans, peas, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, pumpkin, zucchini, summer, acorn and butternut squashes. We give her the rind of the squashes after we have scooped them out and she (and the cats) love them. We use butter on our squash, but don’t add anything to what we give Skye. I stay away from foods like corn or noodles, or anything that can add extra carbohydrates or sugars.

As an extra treat after I have exercised Skye sometimes I will give her fruit. While they do have sugars they are natural sugars, and I don’t give her enough to add too many calories to her diet. Skye’s favorite fruits are strawberries, bananas, watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe. Those are the only ones I’ve tried so far, but Skye continues to surprise me with her likes. I am happy to report that now that Skye is on the CANIDAE Grain Free All Life Stages, she is losing weight and we don’t seem to have the counter surfing issues that we had before.

Those of us who live with dogs that need to lose weight live with another quandary; how do we provide our dogs with a treat without adding to their weight, especially if they need to lose weight to start with? As to the treat, see my article on CANIDAE Snap Bits, a wonderful smaller treat, which is just fine to give your dog whether they are large or small, and doesn’t add much to their daily calorie count.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bringing Home a New Kitten or Cat

By Julia Williams

If I followed my heart, I would have a whole house full of cats. But as a responsible pet owner, I must follow my head which says three is my current limit. Now, many people would say three cats IS a house full, but never mind. If you are lucky enough to be adopting a new kitten or cat (or “angel with fur,” as I like to call them), there are some things you’ll need to do before you bring them home. Planning ahead for the fluffy new arrival will ensure that this transition goes smoothly, for you and your household as well as your new kitty.

The first thing on your agenda is shopping for all the essential supplies. You don’t want to bring the new kitty home and then run all over town looking for the things you’ll need to make them comfortable in their new surroundings. Essential supplies include a sturdy cat carrier, litter box, kitty litter, scooper, cat food and water dishes, grooming brush, cat bed or cat blanket, high quality cat food, scratching post and some toys. You might also way to pick up a book or two on cat care and behavior.

If you’re adopting a kitten, be aware that they are very fond of climbing and jumping, and they play enthusiastically with no consideration for your valuables. Therefore, kitten proofing your home is advised if you wish to keep your precious Ming vase in one piece. You’ll enjoy your rambunctious kitten’s antics a lot more if you move your breakables to a safe place for the time being.

You might also want to move any houseplants that are situated at floor level. Kittens (and even adult cats) are very attracted to plants, and they might chew on the leaves, sit on top of the plant or dig in the dirt. Moving your plants to less accessible areas, like the top of a bookshelf or outdoors in nice weather, will ensure that they don’t become a plaything for your kitty. Many common houseplants are actually poisonous for cats and should be removed from your home entirely. The Cat Fanciers’ Association has a detailed list of all the plants to avoid.

When it’s time for your kitty to come to their new home, it’s imperative that you transport them in a pet carrier. A loose cat riding in the car is a surefire recipe for disaster, as is carrying them from car to house in your arms. If possible, bring a towel for your new kitten or cat to sleep on for a few days before “moving day,” so it will have something familiar in the new surroundings. This will comfort the kitty and help it feel more secure with this big change.

Arrange to situate the new kitten or cat in a quiet place in your home, like a spare bedroom. It should be someplace where the kitty can be away from the hustle and bustle of your home, particularly if you have children or other pets. It’s also a good idea to limit introductions to family members (both two and four legged) for the first few days, which allows kitty to settle in, and minimizes the stress of being in a new environment. Put all of the new kitty’s essential supplies in this room for the time being.

Don’t force the kitty to come out of the carrier, just open the door and let them come out when they’re ready to explore. Leave the open carrier in the room so the kitty can go back into it if they get frightened by something and want a safe place to hide. But don’t be surprised, though, if they take up residence under your bed or in the back of your closet for those first few days. Eventually your new kitten or cat will become braver and venture out to explore their room.

It’s a good idea to arrange to bring your new kitten or cat home on the weekend or at a time when someone can be there with it for a few days. It’s frightening for an animal to be taken to some strange new place and then left all alone. Being there for this transition will help the new kitty bond with you and feel safe in their new forever home. And, it will go a long way toward creating a well-adjusted, happy cat.

I hope these tips on bringing home a new kitten or cat will help you to take good care of them. I only wish I could be there to give your new kitty a “welcome home” kiss.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pets and Pests: How to Combat Fleas and Ticks

By Stacy Mantle

There is nothing more terrifying to a pet owner than happening across a flea or tick on their pet. The first thought that runs through their head is that they must do something immediately. While you do need to take action, you should always be thinking of ways to prevent pests in the first place.

Prevention is the key when it comes to pests such as fleas and ticks. While you may not have them in your home now, there is always a distinct possibility that they are on the way. The best way to prevent pests is to have your home treated with an environmentally friendly, yet effective pest control service. Treating the outside of a home is optimal, and will help in eliminating anything that may show up indoors.

If you do find fleas or ticks in your home, there are a number of steps to follow:

1. Vacuum: Studies show that merely vacuuming the home regularly can eliminate 50% of fleas and ticks. Don’t let waste be stored in a bag. Wrap it in a plastic bag and dispose outside or empty and clean canister after a quick spray of frontline.

2. Laundry: Do lots and lots of laundry. This will help eliminate any current pupae (flea larvae) and help prevent future problems.

3. Treat your pet: Using a nontoxic spray or monthly treatment, be sure to have your pet treated. Be very cautious when choosing a treatment and do your homework. If you’re treating cats or kittens, be careful. They have a tendency to react poorly to these treatments and it’s important to choose one that is nontoxic and approved for use on cats. Read the instructions and never try to use a dog treatment on a cat.

4. Treat bedding: Be sure to vacuum and clean the areas where your pet spends most of their time. Wash bedding, treat with a nontoxic spray or powder, and vacuum often.

With these guidelines, you should be able to prevent and eliminate any future infestations. If you already have fleas, remember that you will need to do this often. Fleas have a 15-day life cycle.

Read more articles by Stacy Mantle

Monday, May 11, 2009

Doc, How Long Will My Dog or Cat Live?

By Dr. Melissa Brookshire, DVM

This is a common question asked in veterinary practices every day. We all know that most pets don’t live as long as humans, but we want to know if we will have 10 good years, 15 good years or even longer with our special pet.

A 34-year old cat? Wow! While this number may sound extreme, the average life span of 15 years for a cat far exceeds the 4-6 years that was typical just 30 years ago. Dogs also are living longer now too, with significant variability in the average lifespan based on breed size.

In the Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice – Geriatrics, an article by Dr. Dottie LaFlamme says that 40% of dogs and 30% of cats in the United States are 6 years or older. Thirty years ago, we would not even be talking about this population because dogs and cats were simply not living that long.

So why are our pets living longer than ever before? Dr. Johnny Hoskins, in Geriatrics & Gerontology of the Dog and Cat, attributes the increased lifespan of our pet dogs and cats to veterinary research and care, and improvement in diet.

Did you know that the feline requirement for dietary taurine was not even identified until the 1980s? Research into the ideal diet for dogs and cats has identified beneficial nutrients that many premium pet foods now contain. Antioxidants, joint care supplements, probiotics, prebiotics and many others, are new ingredients that improve your pet’s well-being.

So, what can you do to help your pet live a longer, healthier life? Besides regular check-ups and preventive care at your veterinarian, your pet’s diet and body condition are two of the most important factors for longevity. A 14-year study done with a group of Labrador Retrievers showed a 1.8 year advantage for dogs that were maintained in lean body condition over dogs that were slightly overweight. The Labs were not allowed to be obese, as many pets are. Obesity has an even more detrimental impact on overall health and longevity, leading to chronic diseases that are difficult to manage.

Feeding your pet a premium food with high quality beneficial nutrients and keeping him in lean body condition will provide him with the nutritional advantage he needs to be happy and stay healthy.

Read more articles by Dr. Melissa Brookshire

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother’s Day to all “Pet Moms!”

By Julia Williams

I have been told that because I have no human children, I am not a Mom. I beg to differ, and my dictionary agrees with me. It mentions maternal affection and protective care; nowhere does it stipulate that this pertains exclusively to human beings. Whether we choose to act with motherly devotion to a cat, dog, horse, rabbit, hamster or human baby, the emotion is the same. Love is universal.

As a caretaker of cats, I have felt all of the emotions that other mothers feel – fear, tenderness, love, heartbreak, joy, anxiety, anger, impatience, exasperation, affection, protectiveness – the list is endless. I have an overwhelming desire to keep my cats safe and free from harm. When they are sick or injured, I fuss over them endlessly. When they are in pain, my heart aches for them. When they are happy and playful, my spirits soar too.

I'm not saying there aren't major differences between pets and human children. Of course there are. For starters, my cats never buy me a Mother’s Day gift or bring me breakfast in bed. They don’t send me a card or take me out to lunch on my birthday, and they don’t demand that I throw them a party on their own birthday. Heck, they don’t even acknowledge any of the days that humans have designated as “special”; to them, these days are just like all the others.

Yet, when I hold my cats or pet them I never think, “If only you were human, you’d know how much I love you.” They do know. What’s more, the love I give to them is returned to me tenfold. They can’t tell me how they feel with human words, but they tell me by their countenance. They tell me by the way they lie on my chest and nuzzle me with their head when we go to bed at night. They tell me with kitty head butts and gentle licks on my nose. They tell me by the way they curl up in my arms. And I can see it in their eyes, can feel it in their purrs.

I’ve never understood why some people try so hard to convince others that loving a pet is somehow “less than” loving another human being. Maybe I am just not hard-wired like other humans, but I don’t see it that way, and I never have. How can one kind of love ever be "better" than another? How can love for any creature, be they two-legged or four-legged, be anything less than a wonderful, amazing thing? The world is a much kinder, gentler place when there is an abundance of love flowing freely, whether it’s to an animal or to a human being.

To all the Pet Moms in the world, I wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Do Dogs Understand Time?

By Lexiann Grant

Humans often dwell on the past and worry about the future. We envy dogs their ability to live in the moment, unfettered by their past, unconcerned about tomorrow. Although our perception of what dogs think about “living in the moment” may seem anthropomorphic, there’s a sound basis for the idea.

A dog probably doesn’t reflect, “what a bad day I’ve had” after visiting the vet. They focus on what they’re doing “now.” A dog in a threatening situation wouldn’t survive long if he were thinking instead about what toy to chew next. Marc Bekoff, PhD, an animal behavior professor at the University of Colorado, thinks dogs live in the moment. “When they’re actively engaged it’s hard to distract them. They’re attentive, mindful. And mindful means being in the present.”

But dogs use past experience to plan for the future. A dog who becomes agitated when he sees the vet hospital is basing his behavior on his previous painful or frightening experience there.

“When a dog experiences anxiety, it’s because of that moment. When they’re repeatedly exposed to the same situation, like aversion to the vet’s, there’s no reason to believe they’re not thinking about what’s coming,” Bekoff said. “They’re able to combine what’s happening now with what they think will happen.”

By considering a dog’s ability to react to the present, then plan immediate, future behavior based on the past, that implies dogs have a concept of time. Their concept isn’t the same as humans, but the dogs who live with us, have a sense of time and are tuned into our schedules.

This affects the way they make decisions. Dogs look for options. Different behaviors lead to different outcomes: which will be most satisfactory? Past experience, human schedules, conditioning and individual preferences all relate. Bekoff believes dogs are adaptable and intelligent, with much of their behavior based not on instinct, but on thought.

If dogs reason this way, are they also self-aware? The educational trend is moving away from strict behaviorism to careful cognitivism. New research aims to discover what animals might understand about themselves because not all animal behavior can easily be explained by instinct.

The idea of “self” in humans has broad meaning, but it’s unknown if dogs think this way or not. “There’s no evidence that dogs need to know who they are in order to function as humans do,” Bekoff said, “but animals appear to have a sense of ‘my body, my tail, not yours — mine-ness’.”

Owners, particularly those with multiple dogs, tend to believe their dog knows “their” crate, toy, food or name: who they are. And people like to know their dogs have emotion. But Ellen Lindell, VMD, and board certified veterinary behaviorist advises not focusing too much on the emotional part, “Maybe it’s simpler than that.”

Bottom line: enjoy the moment — now — with your dog.

Read more articles by Lexiann Grant

Friday, May 8, 2009

I Found the Perfect Dog Biscuits!

By Ruthie Bently

Finding a healthy biscuit that your dog loves can be hard to do, not because there is a lack of dog biscuits on the market, but I have to be calorie conscious as Skye’s caregiver. Those of us who live with dogs that need to lose weight live with a quandary; how do we provide our dogs with a treat without adding to their weight, especially if they need to lose weight to start with?

I found the perfect dog biscuits to fit the bill. CANIDAE® Snap Bits and Snap-Biscuits. Skye is very intelligent and knows her commands, but she still likes to be bribed to do things better. I actually walk around with a “Bickie” (biscuit) bottle in my pocket, and when I want to get Skye’s attention I will take it out of my pocket and shake it so the biscuits in the bottle rattle and make noise. It doesn’t matter where Skye is, she will come running when she hears the sound.

The Snap-Bits are great for my bottle and they come in three different flavors (Original Chicken, Turkey and Rice; Lamb and Rice; and Platinum), so Skye will never get bored. They are made with all natural ingredients, fruits and herbs, and Skye likes all three flavors. Not only that, their calorie count is very low and ranges from 5.79 calories for the Original and Lamb and Rice to 5.44 calories for the Platinum. Snap-Bits come in little bite-sized pieces, perfect when you just want to give your dog a little treat. This picture is roughly the actual size of the Snap-Bits.

The Snap-Bits are available in 8 ounce and 1 pound boxes in all three varieties. I use the Snap-Biscuits at bedtime or when I need to kennel Skye because I can’t take her with me. They are made of the same all natural ingredients as the Snap-Bits, and Skye loves them as well. The Snap-Biscuits also come in the same three varieties that the Snap-Bits come in, and are scored for easy breaking. They can be broken into four separate biscuits, which is great if you want to treat your dog, but not add lots of calories to their diet. The calorie count for the Snap-Biscuits is very low also and ranges from 32.5 for one “snap” to 130 calories for both the Original and Lamb and Rice varieties; and 31.5 for one “snap” to 126 calories for the Platinum version. Snap-Biscuits are available in three sizes: 1 pound, 4 pounds and 12 pound boxes.

When researching Snap-Bits and Snap-Biscuits on the CANIDAE website, I found out something that is not on the packaging I got, but no less important to me personally. Both varieties of dog biscuits are produced in a plant that uses 100% wind generated electricity. I like doing business with a company that is forward thinking in their use of energy, and that will keep me coming back for more.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Thursday, May 7, 2009

How to Keep the Neighborhood Cats Out of Your Yard

By Stacy Mantle

Having their front door “sprayed” by roaming cats is probably the number one “complaint” of neighbors. There are a number of solutions to this problem.

· Aluminum Foil: Cats do not like the way aluminum foil feels on their paws, or the sound it makes when stepped on. Placing a large piece of foil in front of, or taping against, the door is an inexpensive and simple way of stopping the problem.

· Scat Mats: There are several different types of scat mats. Some have raised points on them that won’t injure the cats, but does deter them from entering the area. These mats can be purchased from pet stores for less than $12.00. Another type of scat mat can be plugged into a nearby outlet and produces a static electricity charge that, when stepped on, will create a small static charge which keeps the cat away. These types of mats can be a bit more expensive, varying between $50-$100.

· Motion-Activated Sprays: Ssscat is a motion-activated sensor that produces a safe spray and a loud noise when activated. They have a range of 3-10 feet, and this can be adjusted for height and range.

· Doublestick tape: Place double stick tape on your doors. Sticky Paws offers a wide selection of sizes and they will not harm your doors or windows. Cats do not like the feel of the tape, and will run away.

These are highly effective methods and quite inexpensive. Often these stop-gaps are only required for a short time period. The goal is to create doubt about a cat entering the yard.

Cats resting in garden areas are probably the number two complaint. So, to keep cats out of your garden, you can try several things.

· Ornamental Pebbles/Gravel: cats do not like to walk on these, and they look nice in yards.

· Water: Keeping an area moist will deter cats from entering the garden.

· Plants: There are several plants that work well for keeping pets out of your garden and/or yard. One of these is Coleus Canina, a newly developed plant that cats (and all types of animals) hate. It releases a stench that animals cannot handle. However, it only smells to the human nose when touched! It's a pretty plant and works in nearly all types of landscaping and climates.

You could also try using the herb, Rue. The blue leaves create a nice garden accent, and cats seem to hate the odor. Cats are not keen on the smell of citrus either, so you could try using orange or lemon peel in your yard as a deterrent. Other things that have been successful are coffee grounds, blood meal, cayenne pepper, lavender oil, lemon grass oil, citronella oil, peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil.

Keeping pets out of your yard entirely requires a little more work and a lot of patience, but here are a few options. Note that these solutions generally only need to be activated at night, when strays are most active.

· Water Bottle: Fill a clear plastic bottle halfway with water. Replace lid and set in the middle of the lawn. If you have a large lawn area, place two or three out. The theory is that cats are frightened away by light that travels through the bottle of water, giving off little “flashes.”

· Blank or Scratched CD's: these work the same way as a water bottle by reflecting light and causing doubt in the cat when he/she enters your yard.

· Motion Activated Sprinkler: When a cat or other pet walks in front of it, they set forth a 3-second burst of water. They run about $50-100.

· UltraSonic Cat Deterrent: These systems operate on a 9-volt battery, and when a cat comes into range, it sets off an ultrasonic sound, undetectable to humans. Often they run about $60.

I hope these suggestions help! Remember that it is always best to start out with a little, and then move into the power tools. It will be much more effective in the long run.

Read more articles by Stacy Mantle

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

CANIDAE Unveils Innovative New Pet Food Bag

By Ruthie Bently

CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods has done it again. This picture is of the newest pet food bag innovation to hit the market in years. CANIDAE’s 30 pound and larger bags of all natural dog food now come with Velcro® closures!

There’s no need to try and roll the bag closed and worry about it coming open when you take it out of the storage bin. I used to feed a food that had a zipper closure, and it always made me crazy; if you got a bit of food in the zipper it would not close properly. Sometimes the glue holding the zipper on the bag would give way so there would be a hole between the bag and the zipper, and I would worry about who was feeding the dog next, in case they picked up the bag the wrong way and half of it spilled out.

The driving force behind the bag change is customer feedback. This new bag helps keep out contaminants, prevents spillage accidents and keeps the food fresher for a longer period of time. These bags are so great, because the seal is going to be usable time and time again. You can open and close the bags numerous times, and it will always seal again and stay sealed because of the Velcro.

I actually got to try out the Velcro closure on an empty sample of the new bag design and I can’t wait for Skye’s CANIDAE Grain Free All Life Stages to run out so I can go get one of my own. I love this bag, when you close it, it stays closed. I even tried to put weight in the bag (from the bottom) and started shaking the bag to try and make the Velcro closure fail, and I wasn’t using kibble. I put rocks from my rock garden in the bag, and started shaking! Poor Skye must have thought I had gone crazy, she thought she was getting a dog food snack in the middle of the day. Imagine her surprise when I poured out the rocks; her face said it all.

Look for the new Velcro closures on the CANIDAE All Life Stages 35 pound and 44 pound “Big Bag” and on the 30 pound bags of the other CANIDAE dog foods. What a wonderful difference it will make for those of us who purchase our CANIDAE in the larger bags!

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Breed Profile: Belgian Malinois

By Ruthie Bently

This handsome dog is the newest member of the Pomona, California Police Department Canine unit. His name is Baco, and he was officially donated by CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods in March of this year, after the unexpected death of their previous dog Buddy. Baco is a three and a half year old Belgian Malinois.

The Belgian Malinois was first developed in the city of Malines, which is where it gets it name, and is one of four of the Belgian herding dogs. They are registered in France and Belgium as the Chien de Berger Belge. The Belgian Malinois is a member of the AKC Working group, which also includes the Belgian Sheepdog and the Belgian Tervuren. The three dogs share their foundations in common, though interestingly enough in its native Belgium of the three dogs, the Malinois is the favorite type of Belgian Shepherd. The Malinois’ original breeders prized it for its working character. Another interesting fact is that the United States is the only country in the world that the three breeds are judged by separate standards. In the rest of the world the judging standards for the three breeds are the same.

The Belgian Malinois was originally recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1959 as a member of the working group, and it was principally used for the herding of sheep. Males usually run from 24 to 26 inches at the withers, with the females being a bit shorter at 22 to 24 inches. The Malinois is sometimes mistaken for the German Shepherd, but the Malinois is lighter-boned and “more elegant in build” according to the AKC. This does not mean, however, that they are lacking in abilities for herding, agility or strength. Many Malinois’ and their owners participate in tracking, sledding, obedience, confirmation and Schutzhund.

The temperament for the Belgian Malinois according to the American Kennel Club states: “Correct temperament is essential to the working character of the Belgian Malinois. The breed is confident, exhibiting neither shyness nor aggressiveness in new situations. The dog may be reserved with strangers but is affectionate with his own people. He is naturally protective of his owner’s person and property without being overly aggressive. The Belgian Malinois possesses a strong desire to work and is quick and responsive to commands from his owner.”

Before its acceptance into the AKC in 1959, the Belgian Malinois was in the Miscellaneous class, though it was registered in the AKC Stud Book. The reason for this was that there were not enough dogs to compete for championships. The first Belgian Shepherds registered with the AKC were “Belgian Blackie” and “Belgian Mouche” and were registered in 1911 and up until World War II the Malinois saw an increase in popularity in the United States.

The Belgian Malinois is a dog that needs a strong owner who knows they are the alpha dog. The Malinois is happiest when working, and needs to have an active schedule. So if you want to share your life with an intelligent, very trainable, active dog, the Belgian Malinois may be just the dog for you.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Monday, May 4, 2009

Introducing Julia Williams: RPO Blogger & “Crazy Cat Lady”

By Julia Williams

I started writing for this blog more than a month ago, but neglected to write an introduction because, frankly, writing about myself is my least favorite topic. Nevertheless, it’s only proper that I tell you a little bit about who I am and what I’ll be writing about here, in the future.

Although I do like dogs, bunnies, horses and a host of other creatures great and small, I am primarily a cat person. I don’t mind the stereotypical “Crazy Cat Lady” label either, since it’s mostly true. I’m crazy about cats, and couldn’t imagine a life without them.

I’m not sure where my affinity for felines comes from, because neither of my parents are “pet people.” Yet, as far back as I can remember into my childhood, I’ve felt deeply connected to animals. I vividly recall watching Western movies, not blinking an eye when dozens of men got hurt during the fight scenes, but bawling my eyes out the moment a horse went down. When Bambi’s Mom was shot, I was inconsolable. In my young mind, I didn’t understand that all of this was just “make believe.” As an adult, I still feel this profound connection to the animal world. Forced to choose between people and animals, I would probably choose the animals. If that makes me an oddball in any human’s eyes, so be it; I can’t change the way I’ve felt since birth, nor would I want to.

On an old episode of Sex and the City, Samantha said to Carrie, “Women with candles replaces women with cats as the new sad thing.” It's not the first time I've heard people say how bad they feel for women who love cats. I fail to see what’s so sad about loving, and being loved by, cats. They are affectionate, intelligent and always-amusing creatures. I know many people think cats are incapable of loving, but here’s the thing: you get what you give. Cats are anything BUT aloof to those who really, truly love and respect them.

Over the years, I’ve had many wonderful feline companions. My only regret in loving my cats so much is that their time here with me is so short. Yet, while they are here I feel blessed by their presence, and honored to be their “Mom.” My current cat menagerie includes Mickey, Annabelle and Rocky. The gorgeous long-haired black cat in the photo with me is Rocky.

My friends call Rocky my “problem child” because he is always in trouble for something. Thanks to Rocky, I had to install baby-proof latches on my garbage cabinet. When I eat, I need to guard my dinner like a hawk – I learned the hard way that Rocky can grab a chicken breast and run off with it much faster than I can stop him. He’s also prone to swishing his big fluffy tail in the caramel foam of my homemade version of a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato, and then flicking the foam all over my wall. Rocky has also gotten up into the cupboards where I store the Felidae dry cat food, dragged the bag down to the counter, chewed a hole into it and spilled six pounds of kibble onto the kitchen floor. Talk about a feeding frenzy!

Annabelle is Rocky’s sister, and she’s the belle of my house. If I’m having a hard day, I need only look at her sweet black-and-white face with a little black diamond on her nose, and my spirits are lifted. Belle is a cat who can never, ever get enough brushing. We have a ritual of “brushing time” right after her breakfast, on my bed. If I’m late for this, she will sit on the bed, staring at the door, until I come in to brush her.

Mickey is my ten year old kitty, and he’s the “lap cat” of the house. He’s a very sweet, loving soul, but if breakfast is late because I have the audacity to sleep in, he will run back and forth across my body until I get up. He is also a black cat, but with short fur. I like to joke that “all my cats match,” since I have two black cats and a black-and-white one. I do have minor OCD issues, but I swear I didn’t plan that!

As for me, I have always been a writer. Some people are lucky enough to instinctively know what career path they are meant to take. As early as high school age, that’s how I felt about writing. I earned my Communications Degree, worked in “corporate America” for eight years as a copywriter, and then took the leap into freelance writing. Fifteen years later, I’m still doing freelance work and loving every minute of it. Truthfully, I couldn’t imagine my life any other way. Writing suits me, and it’s an intrinsic part of who I am.

My posts here will primarily be cat related. I hope to inspire, amuse, educate and entertain you with my words. If there is a particular topic you are interested in, please let me know and I’ll do my best to cover it.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Should You Sleep With Your Pets?

By Stacy Mantle

The Mayo Clinic released a study that states sleeping with your pets could, and I quote, “Make You Dog Tired.”

My initial question is: “How long did it take these geniuses to come up with this theory, and how much did it cost us, as consumers, for them to complete a study that really could have been accomplished by just contacting me?” As the owner of fourteen cats, three dogs (one of which is half-coyote) and a plethora of other little creatures that may or may not be visiting at any certain time, I can attest to the fact that, of course sleeping with your pets will make you tired.

For instance, last night in the hot deserts of Arizona, we had a huge lightening storm. Under normal circumstances, the most catastrophic event that occurred for most people during said storm was a temporary loss of power. Not true for our household. In our household, the most catastrophic event that occurred was being bombarded by fourteen half-wild cats as they scrambled under the bed covers, three paranoid dogs as they struggled to climb up on the (thankfully) large bed, and a slightly irate husband. Obviously, this proved to be a serious disruption to an otherwise restful night of sleep.

The study went on to say that, “…when a dog was permitted to sleep in the bedroom, it has only a 57% chance of being allowed to sleep on the bed.” I find this interesting mainly because they neglected to mention the number of cats who shared their bed. This is primarily due to the humiliation of cat owners in admitting that they have a choice in the matter. If these cat owners’ homes are anything like mine, they don’t have, nor will they ever have, a choice on where the cat sleeps. Cats are notorious for simply sleeping where they choose, and God help the person who tries to move them. Therefore, I’m assuming that roughly 100% of the cats slept on the bed in contrast to the 57% of dogs.

But that’s not all! In addition to this already disturbing trend, “Snoring was reported in 21% of dogs and 7% of cats.” (Again, this is more than likely due to the cats’ reluctance to admit that they snore).

The Mayo clinic study also stated that, “…nearly 60 percent of their patients with pets, slept with their pets in the bedroom.” I’ve done the numbers, my friends, and that is a lot of pets who are disrupting the sleep of otherwise normal human beings.

The Census bureau claims that there are currently 106,566,000 households in the US (a figure that I can’t help but think is seriously understated. But, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt). In addition to this large number of people, there are 60 million dogs, and 70 million cats that currently claim “pet” status. Now, if every household in the US has one cat and one dog who own them, then that, in essence, means that 82% of the residents in our beautiful country are being deprived of sleep each and every night. I find this interesting, as the article goes on to say that more deaths occur from falling asleep while driving than from drinking and driving.

While this study does in actuality, exist, it is obvious they have forgotten several important points. First, there is little hope of successfully sharing a bed with your pets, unless of course, you are like my husband, who could sleep through a nuclear attack, without any of the following events occurring:

· Heat exhaustion from the body heat of all the animals accompanied by the average 110-degree desert heat.

· Noise pollution from the hissing, barking, growling, and general irritation resulting from cats and dogs sharing a bed together, not to mention the snoring.

· Bodily injury from the occasional night stalker cat that chooses to use your naked back as a scratching post.

But there is good news among these disturbing figures. First, the Mayo Clinic also did a study some time ago discussing the positive effects that pets have on people. These consist of lowered heart rates, a sense of calmness resulting from petting your animal, and an overall decrease in disease amongst pet owners.

So, while we may run the risk of dying in a car accident from sleep exhaustion, the good news is that you will have a much lower level of stress during the accident.

Ultimately, the risk falls to you. And I, for one, am willing to accept the potentially deadly car accident over not sleeping with my sleep depriving pets. In all, it is just a part of learning to live amongst animals without becoming one – a task unto itself.

Read more articles by Stacy Mantle
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