Pet Advice

How to Minimize Hairballs in Our Cats

We love how our cats keep themselves clean on a daily basis by grooming themselves.  There is nothing better than a clean cat and their self-grooming helps us from having to bathe them (which most cats hate!). However, one side effect of grooming is that our cat can and do develop hairballs. Some cats are more prone to it than others, especially those with a lot of long fur, and it’s uncomfortable for them and yucky for us owners.

What causes Hairballs to develop in our cats?

When your cat grooms himself, tiny hook-like structures on his tongue catch loose and dead hair, which is then swallowed. The majority of this hair passes all the way through the digestive tract with no problems. But if some hair stays in the stomach, it can form a hairball. Ultimately, your cat will vomit the hairball to get rid of it. Because hairballs pass through the narrow esophagus on the way out, they often appear thin, rather than round.

Hairballs are much more common in long-haired cats

Hairballs in cats are more likely to appear in long-haired breeds, such as Persians and Maine Coons. Cats that shed a lot or who groom themselves compulsively are also more likely to have hairballs, because they tend to swallow a lot of fur. You may have noticed that your cat didn’t have hairballs as a kitten, but developed them as she grew. As cats get older they become more adept groomers and therefore more proficient at removing fur from their coats with their tongues, which means more hairballs for you to clean up.  And, of course, their hair is longer and fully grown after kittenhood.

 

What Causes Hairballs In Cats

Yuck.. hairball coming!

Symptoms of Hairballs in Cats

We hate and feel so sorry for our cats when we see or hear them eliminating a hairball. Some common hairball symptoms include hacking, gagging, and retching. Usually, your cat will then vomit the hairball shortly after and leave you a little not-so-lovely gift on your carpet.

If you notice the following hairball symptoms, be sure to contact your veterinarian, as they could indicate that a hairball has caused a potentially life-threatening blockage:

1. Ongoing vomiting, gagging, retching, or hacking without producing a hairball

2. Lack of appetite

3. Lethargy

4. Constipation or conversely diarrhea.

Below are some recommendations to help minimize the frequency of hairballs:

Groom your cat regularly

The more fur you remove from your kitty, the less fur that will end up as hairballs in her stomach. Combing or brushing your cat on a daily basis can be an effective way to minimize hairballs, and it can also provide a fun way for you to bond with your cat. If you can’t get your cat accustomed to brushing, think about taking her to a professional groomer for a grooming and hair cut (especially for long-haired cats) every six months or so.

Give your cat a specialized “hairball formula” cat food.

Many pet food manufacturers now make hairball-reduction cat foods. These high-fiber formulas are designed to improve the health of your cat’s coat, minimize the amount of shedding, and encourage hairballs in cats to pass through the digestive system.

Use a hairball product

There are a number of different hairball products on the market today, most of which are mild laxatives that help hairballs pass through the digestive tract.  Your veterinarian can always recommend one for you.

Discourage excessive grooming

If you think that your cat’s hairballs are a result of compulsive grooming, try to train your cat to do another enjoyable activity instead of licking his coat. This might include teaching him to play with a new toy on his own or finding a fun toy you can play with together.

Healthy, home remedies

Try adding a little canned pumpkin to a cat’s meals once or twice a week. If hair has been ingested, the fiber in the pumpkin can help move any hairballs through the cat’s system.

Or if your cat does not like the taste of pumpkin, try apple cider vinegar which is a natural lubricant.  You can put a tablespoon each day in your cat’s food and it helps promote digestion.

Stay active and healthy

Many of our cats are considered obese or overweight by their veterinarians. Play and interactive toys encourage cats to leap, stretch and stay active. Keeping a cat active helps him maintain a healthy skin and coat and increases balance and coordination.

While some cats are simply prone to hairballs, if you follow the above tips, the hairballs will at least be minimized.  And, as always, if your cat does not spit up the hairball, call your vet immediately.

 

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Thanksgiving Dinner – What You Can Feed Your Pets

With the holidays approaching, your dog or cat will want to join you and parkake in the big turkey dinner (or the leftovers). While this can be a way to add a little protein and fresh veggies to your cat or dog’s diet, there are also hidden dangers in most the traditional Thanksgiving meal.  Make sure to keep an eye on your pets and what you feed them for Thanksgiving to ensure a healthy healthful holiday for your dog or cat.

Below are some tips of the good and bad foods that are typically offered in a Thanksgiving meal and all the left overs! 

Pumpkin is good your dogs and cats

Pumpkin is good for dogs and cats to eat not only because it’s low in calories and bursting with vitamins, beta carotene and fiber, but also because it helps with digestion. If your dog or cat is suffering from an upset tummy, diarrhea or constipation, a little bit of pumpkin may be just what the veterinarian ordered. If you’re using canned pumpkin for your pie, though, it’s better not to share it. The processed stuff isn’t healthy for dogs like fresh pumpkin is.

Thanksgiving Dinner With Your Pets

 

Turkey can be healthy for your pets in small doses

Turkey can be a wonderful lean protein to share with your cat or dog. You will just want to be sure to remove any excess skin or fat, stick with white meat, and make sure there are no bones.  But, don’t feed your cat or dog raw or undercooked turkey.  It can then produce salmonella which is very hard for your dog to digest.  And, of course, don’t even attempt the skin.  It’s fatty, hard to digest and can become inflamed in your cat or dog’s stomach.

Sweet potatoes

If you want to give your dog or cat a little sweet potato, make sure it is just cooked and plain.  If you are making a dish and adding brown sugar or sweeteners, it will be hard for your pets to digest.  Just give your dog or cat a little treat before preparing your dish and similar to pumpkin, it’s very easy to digest. (Note below that pets should not eat nutmeg)

Dough and cake batter

No one would ever feed their dog dough or cake batter, we hope.  But, be mindful when cooking or baking as the combination of raw dough and your dog’s body heat can actually cause the dough to rise inside his stomach. This will make your dog vomit while suffering severe abdominal pain and bloating. Not to mention that the batter used in cakes and pies has raw eggs, which could contain salmonella bacteria. If you’re making a cake or pie, make sure your dog is not in the kitchen, and clean up any scraps or droppings that hit the floor right away.

Nuts

Walnuts and nuts are very dangerous for your dogs.  They can cause ‘macadamia nut toxicosis’ if ingested.  Within twelve hours of eating them, your dog can go into shock and have tremors. They will usually go away, but don’t ever let your dog eat either of these nuts.

Mushrooms and Carrots

Fungi are good for you, but bad for your dog. Should your dog or cat ingest mushrooms, you can expect a slew of unwelcome symptoms that could become quite severe, including vomiting, seizures, coma and possibly death.  Carrots, raw and chopped up are actually good for your pets. 

Onions and garlic

Onions and garlic are always on the list of foods your dog should not eat, and for very good reason: they can make your dog very sick. Both onions and garlic contain sulfides, which are toxic to dogs and can cause the destruction of red blood cells, leading to anemia.  This is the same for cats. Garlic does not digest well.

Sage

This multi-purpose herb is used in countless recipes and for cleansing a new home, but for dogs, sage is bad. It contains essential oils and resins that can upset a dog’s stomach and do a number on his central nervous system.  When cooking with sage, make sure your dog and/or cat are not in the kitchen. Cats are especially sensitive to the effects of certain essential oils.

Nutmeg

Found in sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin pie and most desserts, nutmeg has mild hallucinogenic properties that, when ingested by your dog, can cause seizures, tremors and central nervous system problems. Note that both pumpkin and sweet potatoes are good for your dog and cats as mentioned above; just make sure no nutmeg is on them before you share them.

Chocolate

As most dog owners know, chocolate is also very, very bad for dogs. Never feed your dog chocolate on Thanksgiving or any other occasion.

Most of the food prepared for Thanksgiving is OK for your pets.  But, everything in moderation and the simpler and plainer the food, the easier it is for your pet to digest.

 

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How to Stop Your Dog from Sitting Down on Walks

Most of our dogs can’t wait for us to take them on a walk each day.  It’s their time for to get some fresh air, exercise and release all that pent up energy.  And you enjoy being with your dog and getting some exercise.  However, if you have a dog who is tired, bored or just not up for the walk, he might sit (or even lie) down and not get up.  Once your dog starts sitting down on his or her walks, it could become the new normal. 

Below are some reasons as to why your dog(s) might be sitting down on walks and how to stop it.

Your dog is simply bored of the same old walks

While dogs thrive on routine, too much of a good thing can bore your pooch and cause your dog to sit down.  Taking the same walk at the same pace every time you go out can make the whole ritual too familiar.  Your dog becomes bored and then sits down in protest. Try mixing it up and take your dog on different routes, walking at varying paces and introducing some unpredictability.  Pick up into a jog for a few blocks if your dog is starting to sit down.  Surprise your pup.

 

Dog Sitting Down On Walks

I’m not walking!

Get off your phone and pay attention to your dog!

If you are busy texting or chatting on the phone, your dog will notice and might sit in protest.  If your dog feels like he isn't getting the attention he wants and deserves, he's smart enough to find a way to get it, like sitting down and not moving. Keep your focus on your dog throughout your walk by talking to him, engaging him with toys and stopping periodically to give commands and praise.

Bring treats along on your walks for good behavior

Take some treats along with you when walk your dog. Treats are a great way to reward your dogs for good behavior and keep their focus.  However, use them sparingly. Dogs are smart and they will quickly learn to manipulate you if you give them the chance. Do not offer the dog treats in order to encourage them to get up when they are sitting. If you do, you will find that your dog will never get up unless you give him a treat. Only give out treats when your dog is walking along the way you want him to and not sitting down.   Reward the good behavior.

Dogs can remember traumatic events and get nervous

Your dog might be sitting down on his walk because something unpleasant happened to him.  It could be as simple as a dog scaring him or car on his daily walk.  Or if your dog is approached by a big mean dog on a certain street, he might sit down before getting there.  It’s simple. Change your course. Or avoid that particular street.

Your dog could be simply tired or need a break

Not all dogs are built to be long-distance walkers, so if yours sits down in the middle of a walk, he may just be tired or hurt. Elderly dogs or those suffering from conditions like arthritis, may experience pain and discomfort during walks that make them want to sit. Overweight dogs or those who overheat easily, like pugs, may sit down because they are experiencing difficulty breathing. Learn your own dog's limits as far as temperature and distance go and respect those limits on your walks.  If your dog is not a long distance runner, go running on your own.

Make sure your dog knows that you are steering the walk

When walking your dog, be confident, firm and strident in your steps.  Dogs are very adept at reading our body language. If you carry yourself in a weak or submissive way, your dog will pick up on that and get the idea that he is the boss. When your dog sits down, use a confident, commanding voice to tell your dog to get up. There should be no question in your mind about whether your dog will get up. You know he will, because you told him to and you are moving onward.

If none of the above works with your dog, take your dog to your vet.

If your dog has just started sitting on his or her walks, take your dog to your vet to examine your dog's legs and hips and to assess if your dog is the correct weight.  One reason that some dogs sit down during walks is that they are in pain. Knee problems, hip dysplasia, obesity, and arthritis can all cause this behavior. If there is a problem, follow your vet's recommendations regarding treatment. If there is not a problem, then you may confidently go forward with training, knowing that you are not hurting your dog and the issue is behavioral.

If you shake up your routine, bring some treats along and make the walks fun, your dog will most likely avoid sitting down on the walk because he is stimulated and wants to keep moving!   Take a look at our other article on how to stop your dog from sitting or lying down on walks! 

 

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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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