Pet Advice

Tips for Feeding Your Adult Cat – The Do’s and Don’ts!

As our cats reach adulthood, from the ages of two to eight, their needs change from when they were mere kittens.  Each cat has his or her own set of quirks and preferences and as your cat gets older, you will get to know what makes them well ‘meow’ and fit.  As they graduate from kitty-hood, so does their energy level and it is important to cater your cat’s feeding accordingly.

The below are some general tips to help your cat thrive during adulthood.

Make sure to feed your adult cat a high- quality cat food

Adult cats should eat enough of a high-quality, nutritious food to meet their energy needs and to maintain and repair body tissues. The amount you feed your adult cat should be based on his or her size and energy output. Cats vary widely in their activity levels. A cat with a relatively normal activity level should eat enough to maintain his energy level. Most food labels are accurate in feeding amounts and you can adjust accordingly depending on the activity level of your cat.

 

no milk for an adult cat

No milk for an adult cat!

 

Milk is hard for your adult cat to digest

Contrary to popular belief, milk should not be fed to cats as a treat or a substitute for water. Cats do not possess significant amounts of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk. Feeding milk and milk-based products to cats can actually cause them to vomit or have diarrhea, especially upon reaching adulthood.

A happy cat is an active cat

Since we don’t take our cats for outdoor walks (although some people do), it is important to make sure they stay active during the day.  If you are gone all day, leave interactive toys, or something to keep your cat stimulated. When you get home, play with your kitty and get him up and off the couch!  We don’t want our kitties to become overweight and have the health issues that accompany an overweight cat such as diabetes.

Cats Are Carnivores

All cats require taurine, an amino acid that is important for normal heart function, vision and reproduction. Although most mammals can make taurine from other amino acids in the body, cats cannot. Since taurine is found only in animal-based protein, all cats need meat-based diets to meet their nutritional requirements.

Water, water, water

Unless advised otherwise by your vet, your cat should always have free access to fresh, clean water. Water bowls should be cleaned every day to keep it appealing to your furry kitties. 

Cats in extreme weather might need more food

As with people, extreme hot or cold weather can increase a kitty’s energy needs. Both keeping warm and keeping cool use up extra energy, so you may wish to consult with your vet about what to do when the temperatures become very hot or very cold.  Indoor cats are still affected by extreme weather.

Cats, if possible, should have two meals a day

Cat owners should always consult with their veterinarians to determine the best feeding schedule and types of food for their cats. However, as a general rule, it is recommended that all cats be fed twice a day using the portion control feeding method. Simply divide the amount suggested on the label of your cat’s food into two meals, spaced eight to twelve hours apart. You may need to adjust portions as you learn your cat’s ideal daily “maintenance” amount.

There are different feeding methods you can try for your cat

It isn’t always easy for some cat owners to accommodate normal two-meal-a-day feeding regimens. There are other ways to meet both you and your cat’s needs and circumstances. The different types of feeding methods are as follows:

1. Portion-control feeding which entails measuring your cat's food and offering it as a meal, thereby controlling the amount of food that can be consumed. This method is used for weight control programs and for cats who might overeat if fed free-choice. Food can be provided in one or more meals daily.

2. Free-choice feeding is also known as free feeding when you have dry food available at all times, as much and whenever your kitty wants it. This method is more appropriate when feeding dry food, which will not spoil if left out. However, some cats will overeat when fed free-choice, which can result in obesity so keep an eye of your kitty’s weight if you decide to use this method.

Cat treats should be given in moderation

We all love to give our cats treats. However, treats should be given in moderation and should represent less than five percent of a cat’s daily food intake. The rest should come from a nutritionally complete cat food.  And the same goes for ‘human’ food.  Make sure to give your kitty protein pieces in moderation, if at all, to see how your cat reacts to it and that your cat can digest it fully.

If you feed your cat a healthy diet with a high quality cat food, give your kitty plenty of water, and make sure your adult cat is stimulated with play and/or toys, your adult cat will thrive.

 

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How to Make Dog Training More Enjoyable

Guest Blog by Jordan Walker

Anyone who takes care of a dog will want his or her dog to be well behaved and obedient. To achieve these important qualities, a dog needs to undergo training. When a human mentions training, the brain immediately associates it with serious demeanor where the person focuses intently on learning what is being taught.

However, a serious, unsmiling approach seldom works when it comes to training dogs (even with humans, for that matter). To be able to train effectively, a dog owner will need to sustain the dog’s interest in the activity. Although prompt responses to commands are expected of a well-trained dog, getting all serious and stern will not be very effective training. The best way to get a dog to respond eagerly to anything is to retain its attention using food and fun.

Dog Training More Enjoyable

Understand How Dogs Learn

In order to train a dog effectively, an owner needs to understand how a dog learns its tricks. A dog learns primarily by association. Dogs are eager to please. They love to receive praise and strive to do the things that bring rewards. Conversely, they feel bad when they do something that does not please their masters. An owner can take advantage of these canine traits by associating the behaviors they want their dogs to learn with reward, like a treat (food or toy), affection, or both. On the other hand, if an owner does not want to encourage certain behaviors in a dog, they simply take away the reward and/or ignore a dog. An owner should never get into the habit of physically punishing the dog. First of all, physical punishment hurts. Second, pain is unnecessary for a dog to learn its lessons. Third of all, pain takes away the fun in the learning exercise.

Apply Consequences

Apply Consequences Immediately

Unlike humans, dogs cannot make connections between events that are separated by time. They keep their attention to the now, in the present. So that a dog may learn the approved behaviors quicker, an owner must train the dog by applying the consequences of its actions, that is, getting a reward or not, immediately. If it does something good, the reward should be implemented right away to enable the dog to associate the reward with the behavior. The opposite holds true: when a dog does wrong, the consequence (no reward or getting ignored) should be immediately demonstrated.

Consistency is Key

It is important that the consequence should immediately follow the act. Otherwise, the lesson is lost on the dog. Say a dog sits when told then pees behind the couch right after. If the owner gives the reward for sitting only after the dog pees, the dog will associate the reward with the peeing, not with the sitting. In addition, consequences should be consistently applied. A dog learns by repetitive association. If the owner cannot establish a consistent action-consequence approach, the dog won’t be able to learn what is expected of it effectively. When a dog meets other people, the owner should advise them on how to interact with the dog consistent with its training.

Keep Sessions Short But Sweet

Dogs have short attention spans. Training times should be kept short but sweet and in a location free of potential and ongoing distractions. They can also become bored or inattentive if the session goes on too long. The length of training depends on the dog but should probably not go beyond 15 minutes. So that a dog enjoys training and looks forward to it, an owner should know what treats, toys, and games to employ that will hold the dog’s interest.

All’s Well That Starts and Ends Well

Training time should be approached with a lighthearted attitude. Although the lessons are important, the dog will learn best if it has fun doing so. A dog can sense its master’s mood even before the session begins. On this note, an owner should probably not undertake dog training when stressed, troubled, or tense. When the training does go well, it’s better to quit while ahead. The session should end on a pleasant note, before either owner or dog gets tired, bored, or frustrated.

Take Baby Steps

Dogs will learn better if tasks are broken into small steps. When an owner is just beginning to teach a skill, he/she can start by instructing the dog in short intervals and gradually increase the time with repetition. Sometimes, an owner will require a dog to learn a more complex skill. It is better to divide it into parts, then teaching each part one at a time until the time comes when the parts can be put together. As the dog learns, the difficulty can be gradually increased.

Tips on Treats

Treats form an important component of effective and fun training. When looking for a dog treat, an owner should choose what most appeals to his/her dog’s palate while making sure that it is appropriate to give a dog. When shopping for treats at the supermarket, it’s best to read the label to ensure the treat is free of harmful ingredients. Treats that are made from whole foods and free of preservatives are best.

As well, some foods like organ meats can be very palatable to a dog. Humans may not love these meats, but dogs will. Another important note to keep in mind, many human foods are toxic to dogs. When deciding to use human-grade foods as treats, an owner should know whether it is safe for a dog to consume to prevent poisoning. Finally, for treats to be effective in training, they should be given sparingly and should not be a regular component of a dog’s meals. Trainings are thus probably best scheduled in between feedings.

Dogs are very intelligent and are willing to work for what a master wants from them. They may not understand language, but can associate those bits of language with the behaviors expected of them. By taking advantage of a dog’s natural learning method and combining it with food and fun, any owner can produce obedient, well-behaved dogs.

Coop and CagesAuthor: Jordan Walker

Jordan is the lead content curator for Coops And Cages, as well as a couple of other pet related blogs. His passion for animals is only matched by his love for 'attempting' to play the guitar. If you would like to catch him, you can via Google+ or Twitter: @CoopsAndCages.

 

 

 

  

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Can Our Cats Be Stressed Out?

Our cats are very fun, sweet sensitive pets that warm up our household and give us so much joy.  We know when our cats are happy or frightened, but sometimes we can’t read how they are feeling.  In fact, cats can have stress issues just as we humans do.  But, since cats are independent creatures and don’t complain verbally (unless they are incessantly meowing), we need to watch out for some of the signs.

What causes stress in your cat?

Even the smallest change in your home can cause a cat to be stressed.  Some cats will feel stressed for an hour while others might sulk for a week.  Your cat could be stressed for a number of small or big things.  Did you just have your home painted? Change the carpet?  Is the litter box dirty?   Did you change your cat’s food?  Or your cat’s bed?

There are also big factors or triggers that would increase your cat’s stress level.  If you add another cat?  Baby?  Move to a new home or any other big environmental changes?

Cat Stress Out

How can you tell if your cat is stressed?

Cats don’t all show the same signs when it comes to stress and they can be easy to overlook. You might attribute your cat’s change in behavior to something else or the stress effects might happen so gradually that you aren’t even aware that there is a change in how your cat behaves. If your cat tends to hide on a regular basis, it can be easy to miss that her stress level has increased if he or she is hiding under the couch for longer than usual.

Signs of stress may include: loss of appetite, over grooming, hiding out, sulking, eliminating outside of the litter box and hissing.  Or your cat might act differently towards you or another household member or pet.

How to reduce the stress in your cat’s life

The first step is to take your cat to your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical problem. This would be the most obvious reason that your cat is acting up.  If your veterinarian says that all is well with your kitty and gives your cat a clean ‘bill of health’, than you know that something behavioral or a change is causing your cat stress.

Try to identify what is causing the stress

When it comes to trying to figure out what is causing your cat stress, it is important to understand that your cat hears much better than you and has senses – hearing, smell, taste that are heightened.  Only you know your cat well, so you could think about what has changed, what your cat like or doesn’t like to figure out why your kitty is stressed.  Maybe your neighbor has a barking dog that makes your cat nervous?  Or your TV is suddenly on a louder volume.

Look around your home, keep an eye of your cat to see if there is anything you can sense that has changed.  It shouldn’t be that difficult to know what triggers your cat’s fear or what the cause might be. 

To minimize stress levels for your kitty, below are some recommendations to help:

  1. If you have something that will change in your cat’s environment, try to prepare your cat for known upcoming changes so she won’t get too scared or confused. 
  2. Make sure your cat has safe hideaways and safe retreats for when she doesn’t want to be bothered.
  3. Always keep your cat’s litter box clean and make sure the set-up is appealing (type of litter, type of box, location, number of boxes). Don’t move it or change it unless there is an issue.
  4. Make sure your cat has a place to run to and away from unwanted attention from children, dogs or other family members. Be sure all family members (and guests) know that when kitty is in her safe spot she is to be left alone.
  5. Engage in daily interactive playtime sessions with your kitty to build confidence and help your cat develop a positive association with you or with certain areas of the home.
  6. Cats don’t like change so try to keep changes to a minimum. This applies to even the simplest things such as brands of litter, food or even the food bowl itself. If a change must take place, do a gradual transition, especially food and/or litter.
  7. Have toys, treats, and interactive games for your kitty to keep your cat happy and entertained.  The happier your cat is, the less stressed he or she will be.
  8. Although cats are very independent, if you decide to go away, even for a day, have a neighbor or friend come by to take care of your cat, especially if you have only one cat.  If you leave your cat alone for a few days, he will be sad and stressed out.

There are many reasons why your cat might be stressed.  If you really can’t figure out the trigger, there are many professionals who deal with behavioral issues in cats.  They might be able to figure out something obvious that you missed or what the trigger is that caused your cat’s undue stress.

 

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How to Stop Your Dog from Licking or Biting His Paws

Our pups love to be cheerful, bark, lick your face and just be a fun furry member of our families.  Similar to cats, dogs will lick their paws if they are itching or maybe take a bite to get something out of it.  However, if your dog bites or licks his paws constantly, there is a bigger issue at hand (or paw!), either medical or behavioral.  First you need to figure out why your dog is licking or biting his paws to know how to stop it.

Dogs bite or lick their paws for a number of reasons, including anxiety and several medical conditions.

Your dog will bite or lick his paws if he has allergies

Your dog will bite or lick his paws if he is having an allergic reaction. Dogs can get dermatitis which is like a rash in humans. This is an irritation on the skin that results from contact with chemicals, such as soap or pesticides.

Itchy Itchy Itchy Itchjy

I’m itchy!

Although more unlikely, dogs can also have allergic reactions from ingredients in their food. Environmental allergens, like mold or mildew, can also cause an allergic reaction that could affect your dog’s skin. When the skin becomes irritated due to an allergen, your dog will lick and bite the skin; because his paws are easily accessible, these are the most commonly chewed on area of his or her body.

Your dog might lick or nibble at his paws if he has dry skin

Dry skin can be as uncomfortable for a dog as it is for a human.  The dry air that comes with winter can cause your dog’s skin to dry out. If your dog’s diet does not contain enough fatty acids, which help to moisturize and protect his skin, that could be a cause of dryness.

When your dog’s skin is dry, it becomes itchy or irritated, and your dog may bite or lick his paws due to it being itchy! And when your dog is biting and licking at his skin, this can cause the dry skin to become chapped, making him more uncomfortable.

Your dog may bite or lick his paw due to a wound or injury

Your dog may also bite or lick his paw if he is in pain. A cut, a thorn or splinter, or rocks stuck in the pads of his foot are among the common causes of pain in a dog’s foot. Your dog could be trying to remove something from his or her paw to alleviate the pain of a wound.

Your dog could simply be biting or licking his paw due to boredom

Paw biting or licking is not always a reaction to an allergy or pain. A dog may simply bite or lick his paw as a result of boredom and it then becomes a habit.

Your dog may also bite of lick his or her paw when he is anxious about external factors in his environment, such as a move to a new area or the addition of a new family member or pet! Dogs can also come down with conditions similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder in humans; paw biting and licking is a manifestation of this disorder, which is often caused by stress or anxiety.  It is similar to a human biting his nails when he gets nervous or stressed.

How to stop your dog from licking or biting his paws

Depending on the cause of the biting, there are some things you can do to help your dog stop this habit.

1. The first thing you should do is examine his paws for signs of injury; if your dog has a wound that has gotten infected, you may need to take him to see the vet for treatment. If he has a foreign object embedded in his pads or his paw, remove the object and put an antiseptic on the wound.

2. Make sure to securely lock areas that your dog has access to which might have anything that can cause an allergy such as cleaning detergents.  Try to have your dog stay out of your garden or other areas where you may use fertilizer or any other chemicals. Use only a shampoo that is made for dogs so that his skin won’t become overly dry. You can also buy shampoo for your dog that contain moisturizing ingredients to hydrate his skin.

3. Feed your dog a high-quality pet food that contains a well-balanced formula of vitamins and minerals, including fatty acids. Don’t let your dog have table scraps or human food that his body could be sensitive to.  Add some apple cider vinegar to his food to see if that can help with an allergy.  It can do wonders for your dog.

4. If you think your dog is biting or licking his paws out of fear or boredom, try giving your dog a chew toy or interactive toy to divert his or attention.  Of course, you can only do that when you are at home, but if you have a lot of toys and keep emphasizing the benefits of playing with toys with treats and/or positive reinforcement, it should do the trick.

If none of the above work and your dog is still licking or biting his paws, make sure to take your dog to your veterinarian for a thorough examination.  And, if your vet can’t find anything, then it is definitely a behavioral issue and you might want to consult a dog behavioral expert.

 

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Tips to Cutting Your Cat’s Nails – Timing and Treats Help!

Our cats are inherently scratchers. They love to stretch, stick out those claws and scratch anything they can!  We love to keep our furniture and skin intact, so it’s important to trim your cat’s nails every few weeks.  As our cats get older, their nails thicken and they aren’t at sharp as when they were kittens.  Since we cat owners know that declawing is NOT an option, here are some tips to help you trim your cat’s nails.

We know our kitties hate getting their nails trimmed, but with the correct tools, patience and practice, you can learn how to cut your cat’s nails quickly and efficiently.  The key is to take your time, bring treats, and perhaps even someone to help you.  Obviously, you don’t want to trim your cat if he or she is in ‘hyper mode’.  The best time to trim a cat’s nails is right after he or she has woken up and is groggy. 

Choosing the correct cat trimmers

There are plenty of tools available to trim a cat's claws; use the one that works best for you and your pet.  Some people prefer a special pair of scissors modified to hold a cat's claw in place, others prefer human nail clippers, and still others choose pliers-like clippers or those with a sliding "guillotine" blade. Whatever your tool of choice, be sure the blade remains sharp; the blunt pressure from dull blades may hurt an animal and cause a nail to split or bleed. Keep something to stop bleeding, such as styptic powder, cornstarch, or a dry bar of soap (to rub the bleeding nail across), nearby.

Approach your kitty slowly while ‘hiding’ your trimmers

If you approach your kitty with a sharp object in one hand while trying to grab his or her paw with the other, odds are you'll come up empty-handed. Because cats' temperaments and dispositions vary greatly, there is no "perfect" way to handle your kitty while trimming his claws.  You know best what your kitty prefers.

Cutting Cats Nails

Time for a trim!

Some cats do well with no restraint at all, but most cats need to be held firmly but gently to make sure that no one gets hurt. Try taking your kitty in the crook of one arm while holding one paw with the other hand. Or, you can put your cat on your lap and lift one paw at a time. You may even be able to convince a particularly sociable cat to lie back in your lap.

Trimming your nails sometimes takes two people

If you've got a helper, ask your friend or family member to hold your kitty while you clip his or her nails, or just ask him to scratch your cat's favorite spot or offer up a special treat while you do the trimming. The goal is to keep your kitty in place and still for as long as you can while you go at it!

Take it one paw at a time

Now that you're in position and your kitty is ready to go, it’s time to place your cat’s claw in the right position. Take your cat’s paw in your hand and use your thumb and pointer finger to gently press down on the top and bottom of the paw on the joint just behind the claw. This will cause the claw to extend so you can quickly but carefully snip off the sharp tip and no more.

Don't get too close to the pink part of the nail called "the quick," where blood vessels and nerve endings lie. Just like the pink part of a human fingernail, the quick is very sensitive; cutting into this area will likely cause bleeding and pain.  If this happens, apply a little pressure to the very tip of the claw, dip the claw in a bit of styptic powder or cornstarch, and/or rub your nail across a dry bar of soap. Don't continue if your cat is very angry, but keep an eye on him to be sure the bleeding stops.

You can get away with only cutting the front nails

It's common to only cut the front claws, but take a look at your kitty’s rear claws just in case they've gotten too long or their sharp tips hurt you when your cat leaps on or off your lap. Since most cats fuss more about having their rear claws clipped, start with the front claws. (I have never clipped my Sammy’s back claws and never had an issue with them).

You might need more than one session to cut your cat’s nails

If you aren't able to trim all ten nails at once, don't worry. Few cats can stay still for more than a few minutes, so take what you can get and then be on the lookout for the next opportunity to cut your cat’s nails.  ALWAYS praise your cat with love and/or treats after a cutting session so your kitty can start associating the process as a good thing that gets rewarded.  As always, practice makes perfect and the more you try to cut your kitty’s nails, the easier it becomes for both of you.

If the process it too hard for you, it is advised to have your veterinarian cut your cat’s nails or you can also take your kitty to a professional groomer.  Some cats don’t mind getting their nails cut, while others just won’t tolerate it. Either way, it is very important for your cat’s health and your furniture to keep your cat’s nails short.

 

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