So what makes a Professional a Professional?

So what makes a Professional a Professional?

 From my perspective, and I will not hide any biases – from my perspective as a Professional Pet Sitter, the difference lays inherently in the experience and education. I’m not saying that X amount of years caring for pets means that you are a professional pet sitter – you can have 5 years experience in 5 weeks if you visit enough pets, it’s the experience you have been exposed to and if you have taken the time to always learn how to be the best. I would consider my staff professional pet sitters – while some of them have only been with me for 3 months, they have gone through extensive training and learned just about everything I know from the past 22 years of running Little Paws Pet Sitting. They have been educated and have been equipped with the tools to handle every situation, from human to pet. Having that access to that amount and quality of information, the brand, the direct connection to the person that makes the decisions or being that person that makes the final decision is what for me, denotes a professional. Who cares if a sit gets missed, an accident occurs or an emergency happens? An owner of a pet sitting company, whether solo or staffed to the 9’s does – it’s their life! How they have trained to handle the issue that occurred or put procedures in place for their staff to follow to make certain the number one priority is the client’s pet – makes that person a professional pet sitter in my book.

For now, no regulatory authority exists to determine if a person providing care for your pets is professional or not. Until then – as a pet owner, ask the right questions. Ask what experience that person has, ask what is their backup plan, ask what their emergency plan is, ask what education they have completed to make certain your pet is their number 1? They should be educated, possess current business licensure/permits, use a contract, provide background checks, and provide insurance.

A professional should go the extra mile, they should have every tool available in their tool box and they should have the experience of how to use them. AND they should physically be able to care for and help your pets!

An Open Letter to the Judge Who Told a Pet Sitter to Get a Real Job

Beth Stultz, Pet Sitters International

As I read the post, I simultaneously felt my heart sink and my blood pressure begin to rise. Over the weekend, in PSI’s private chat group, a pet sitter recounted a shocking and demoralizing experience she’d had in court the previous week. While at an alimony hearing, she was asked by the judge about her job and she explained that she was a professional pet sitter—to which the judge replied, “No, what do you really do?” As she tried to explain, the pet sitter said the judge waved her hand dismissively, said pet sitting is something high schoolers do and that she needs to get a real job.

While I don’t know the full details of the hearing, if the pet sitter’s job factored into the judge’s ruling or if the judge was a pet owner herself, there is one thing that I do know—without question—and that is that professional pet sitting IS a real job.

The pet industry in the U.S. alone is a $60 billion industry—and reports indicate that the pet services segment, which includes professional pet sitting, garners more than $5 billion each year. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of animal care and service workers is projected to grow 15 percent by 2022, faster than average for all occupations.

PSI’s most recent State of the Industry Survey shows that its pet-sitting member businesses earn an average income of $49,138 (USD) and collectively, PSI pet sitters service more than 700,000 pet-owning households each year.

Since 1994, PSI has worked with tens of thousands of professional pet sitters who parlayed their love of pets and entrepreneurial spirits into viable, profitable career paths. Professional pet sitting is not the work of high schoolers—or family members or friends.

Professional pet sitters are small-business owners—vital contributors to their communities and the local economy. (According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, since 1995 small businesses have generated 64 percent of new jobs, and paid 44 percent of the total U.S. private payroll.)

These professional pet sitters have a business license, pay taxes, are insured, bonded, and trained in pet care and pet first aid. They work 24-7 year round to ensure pet owners can have the peace of mind offered by quality, reliable pet care when long work hours or travel keep them from their beloved pets.

Ask any professional pet sitter who has worked a twelve-hour day dashing between pet-care assignments, only to come home and spend additional hours on bookkeeping, payroll and marketing efforts—this is not the work of a high schooler, this is a REAL job.

Ask any professional pet sitter who has missed holidays with her family, extended pet-sitting visits to ensure an ailing pet was comforted or felt the loss of a client’s pet passing—this is not the work of a high schooler, this is a REAL job.

Or, better yet—ask one of the hundreds of thousands of pet owners who benefit from the services of a PSI professional pet sitter each year.

Ask the pet owner who was alerted by his professional pet sitter that his dog’s behavior at the pet-sitting assignment was unusual and recommended an emergency veterinary visit—which saved the dog from dying from canine bloat.

Ask the pet owner who was able to call her professional pet sitter at 2 a.m. when she learns that her mother—on the other side of the country—had been admitted to the hospital in critical condition and is able to secure pet care as she rushes to the airport.

Ask the family whose professional pet sitter has graciously agreed to sit with them as their 15 year-old cat with late-stage chronic renal failure has to be euthanized.

This is not the work of a high schooler—and professional pet sitting is certainly a REAL job.

Unfortunately, it’s not only this one judge who holds these misconceptions.

I’ve been at PSI for more than a decade now. I’ve heard from well-meaning pet lovers who want to know more about becoming a pet sitter because they would “just love to play with cats and dogs all day.” I’ve spoken with established pet-sitting business owners discouraged by pet owners who want the fee lowered because all they need the pet sitter to do is “check in on the pets.”

I’ve heard pet owners—and even news outlets—use the term “pet sitter” carelessly, referring to anyone—from a family friend to the neighborhood teenager asked to walk the dog—as a “pet sitter.”

But, I’ve also heard from the pet sitters—these professional pet sitters who spend countless hours researching to ensure they are following all local laws and ordinances, these professional pet sitters who consult with attorneys and accountants to ensure their businesses have a strong foundation, these professional pet sitters who join Pet Sitters International to ensure they have access to insurance, bonding and educational resources to best serve their clients.

I’ve met pet sitters who have left successful careers as business analysts, teachers, marketers and lawyers, to start their own pet-sitting businesses. I’ve met pet sitters who have devoted time and money to attend pet-sitter conferences, complete the certificate program and take advantage of ongoing pet behavior and health classes to stay current in a growing and evolving industry. I’ve watched as pet sitters mourned and comforted one another as they honored their clients’ pets that had passed away, finding solace in a group that understood that pet sitters love their clients’ pets as their own.

I invite the judge—or anyone still doubting the validity of professional pet sitting as a career—to spend one day with a professional pet sitter…to come to one pet-sitter conference…to ask one pet owner what her professional pet sitter means to her and her pet.

And, then you will know what those of us at Pet Sitters International know without question:

This is not the work of a high schooler—in fact, professional pet sitting is even more than a REAL job.

It’s a career, it’s a lifestyle, it’s a passion. And thanks to REAL pet sitters who seriously pursue this REAL vocation, it’s a better world for pets and the people who love them!

Preparing your home for pet sitting

Preparing your home for pet sitting

Getting To Know You

Your pet sitter needs to know you, your pets and your household routines in order to do the best possible job in caring for your pets while you are away.  You can help out by providing detailed information to your pet sitter prior to the pet-sitting assignment.

__  Provide verification that your pet is up-to-date on its shots. Have your pet wear current vaccination tags on its collar.

__  If your pet is prone to chew, please leave “chew toys” and take proper precautions to guard your personal items and home furnishings from his teeth while you are away.

__  Make a list of your pet’s favorite hiding places. This will prevent the pet sitter from worrying if your pet is not where expected.

__  Be sure to tell your pet sitter about any unusual habits your pet has; i.e., destructive behavior when left alone, change in bowel or eating habits, etc.

__  During the initial consultation, please try not to “force” your pet to like the pet sitter. Some pets are shy and can’t be expected to warm up to a stranger immediately. With time and patience, trust will build and a friendly relationship will be established.

__  If you own both dogs and cats, please do not ask the sitter to “ignore” the cats (i.e., not charge) during the visits. It is impossible because the sitter’s conscience would not allow the oversight of a cat in need of food, medical care or human attention.

 Preparation is Key

Be prepared with all the information your pet sitter needs; gather this information in advance so you won’t overlook any important details.

__  Schedules are important! Make your reservations for a pet sitter as far in advance as possible and remember to call the company if you are coming home later or earlier than expected. This will allow the pet sitter to plan for extra visits or serve additional clients.

__  Have everything necessary to care for your pet in one general and visible area. This includes food, treats, utensils, food and water bowls, medications, leash, can opener, toys, paper towels, cleaning supplies, garbage bags, litter and scoop, broom and dustpan and/or vacuum cleaner, towels (for rainy walks), newspapers (if paper training), watering can for plants, etc.

__  Provide extra food, litter and supplies just in case you are not able to return when anticipated.

__  Be sure to leave plastic bags for sanitary disposal of feces. Pet sitters are happy to perform this task while you’re away, but shouldn’t be expected to clean up accumulation prior to your absence!

__  Clean out the refrigerator before leaving to avoid smelly food spoilage, and wash any dishes in the sink to prevent ants or other pests.

__  For the comfort of your pet, adjust your thermostat before leaving on your trip and advise your pet sitter within what range to keep it. A closed-up home can get uncomfortably hot in a short time.

__  Tell the pet sitter if bathrooms or any other household areas are off limits to your pet and/or sitter. Secure access to these areas before leaving home. Also, make the pet sitter aware if your cat happens to love shredding the contents of the bathroom trashcan or if the toilet is prone to run or become clogged.

__  If you’re leaving anything specifically for your pet sitter; e.g., homegrown tomatoes on the counter, candies, a monetary tip, be sure to leave a note. Otherwise, most pet sitters are so honest and trustworthy you may arrive home to find rotting tomatoes!

__  Will other people be checking on your pet? If so, help avoid confusion by making it clear what the pet sitter is responsible for and what other visitors will be entrusted to do.

__  Notify your veterinarian in writing that a pet sitter will be caring for your pet and authorize the vet to extend medical care during your absence if it becomes necessary.

 Securing Your Home

In addition to keeping your beloved pets safe, happy and well cared for, a professional pet sitter also attends to the safety and security of your home while you are away. Here are some tips you can do to help.

__  Make sure your pet sitter is aware of anyone who may be on your premises or entering your home during the pet-sitting assignment.

__  Use timers on interior lights to go on at dusk and off at bedtime as well as motion sensors on exterior lights. If evening visits are scheduled to your home, the pet sitter will really appreciate this safety precaution!

__  Make sure doors and windows are securely locked before leaving. This should include garage doors, sliding glass doors and basement doors and windows. If outside doors have panes of glass near a push-button lock, consider installing a dead bolt lock as well.

__  Advise gate security that a pet sitter will be visiting your home and authorize entry.

__  Inform your neighbors of your absence and use of a pet sitter.

__  Mow the lawn before you leave and arrange for exterior maintenance as necessary during your absences from home.

__  Make sure any fences are secure and gates are locked.

Pet Proofing Your Home

Your pet’s health and safety are at stake and these important checkpoints need to be in place whether you are getting ready for the pet sitter or not

__Household cleansers, furniture polishes, disinfectants, insecticides, antifreeze, fertilizers, perfumes and make-up can be dangerous to dogs. Make sure cupboards and storage areas (garage) containing these items are secured. A bored or determined dog can go “where they’ve never gone before.”

__Are the toilet lids down in any accessible bathrooms?

__See that medications are locked up. The sound of pills rattling in a plastic bottle may entice the pet to chew the bottle open.

__Remove candy and nuts from coffee tables or locations where a pet can reach them. Chocolate is toxic to dogs and nuts can be dangerous as well.

__Check to see that any hobby supplies; i.e., paints, glue, needles and thread, etc., have been placed away from an inquisitive pet’s reach.

Mysterious dog behaviors

Mysterious dog behaviors

Telling Tails: Since dogs rarely wag their tails when they are alone, they must be using this gesture to communicate to others. For example, when a dog’s tail wags as it is given food, it is expressing pleasure to its owner. When dogs eat and play alone, they rarely wag their tails because there is no one to see them.

When a dog wags its tail, surrounding muscles press on scent glands, releasing pheromones that signal the pooch’s age, sex, and social status. Submissive dogs may not wag their tails when frightened because they do not want to draw attention to themselves.

A high, quickly wagging tail is often a sign of playfulness and intense joy, but can also signal an aggressive dog. A horizontal, steadily moving tail suggests that your dog is closely studying something. If a dog tucks its tail between its legs, it is afraid, and attempting to communicate that it is submissive and does not pose a threat.

Just One Lick: Licking is a very natural activity for dogs. Puppies lick their littermates to groom one another and to strengthen family bonds. In the wild, puppies will even lick their mothers to stimulate her to give them partially digested food. Adult dogs lick each others faces to show submission, and also affection and friendliness. If a dog licks you, it may be showing that it acknowledges you as dominant, showing its affection, begging for food, and, of course, grooming you.

Some believe that dogs eat grass because it makes them vomit. If they feel nauseous or have eaten some food that doesn’t agree with them, eating grass will help them clear their stomachs.Grass Eaters: Eating grass is a normal behavior for dogs, and scientists have several theories as to why:

Other scientists believe that, like wolves and foxes, grass is a natural part of a dog’s diet… Maybe dogs just like the taste?

Stop, Droppings, and Roll: Scientists believe that rolling in strong smelling stuff, including feces and dead animals, gives predators a huge advantage: their scents are masked from the animals they are hunting. While most pet dogs do not hunt for their supper, their old, smell-loving instincts remain, and they are happy to roll in smelly stuff regardless of what their owners think.

Leg Lifts: Have you ever noticed that male dogs prefer to pee on a standing object, like a fire hydrant or tree? They are placing their scents at nose level, so other dogs can smell it, and the wind can spread it, more easily than if the scent were on the ground. To place their scent at nose-level, small dogs must lift their legs quite high to send their pee to the right spot. Large dogs don’t have to try so hard, and rarely lift their legs as high as their smaller cousins.

Dreaming Dogs: Have you ever seen a dog twitching, moving its legs, or making noises while sleeping? These are typically signals that a dog is dreaming!

Dogs tend to dream for shorter periods of time than humans, but they also tend to move more as they dream. Dogs often make chewing motions, lick, move their feet as though they’re running, and even bark while in the throws of R.E.M sleep.

Salivating Over Socks: Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not capable of complex emotions like spite and revenge. Instead, when we are away from home, dogs probably play with our favorite possessions because they remember seeing us hold them, and they carry our scents. If a dog misses its owner, it will often do things that remind them of their favorite human… like chew on a favorite pair of sneakers or pillow because they associate them with their owner.

Mind Readers: Through several experiments, scientists have discovered that dogs can read human gestures and sounds far better than chimpanzees and wolves. Even young puppies are tuned in to human cues, suggesting that canine social skills are inherited, not learned. Scientists believe that these social skills evolved as humans domesticated dogs. Over time, humans bred dogs that were most able to understand directions and express their physical needs.

The submissive dog

The submissive dog

 When you see a dog cower before you when you are going to pat it or if it rolls on it back urinating, it is showing signs of submissive behavior or avoidance.

Submissive behavior is common is all breeds. Even ordinarily submissive dogs can become extremely submissive if its owner misunderstands and unintentionally forces it to increase its submissiveness. Signs of submission is a dog with its tail between its legs and a dog that licks its lips during any contact or even one that licks you in the face upon greetings. Mistreated dogs may also become excessively submissive. A harsh voice may turn the submissive animal into a quivering mess.

There are many ways of treating submissive behavior, mainly be nice and friendly to your dog and never re-assure the canine with praise when it is going through its attack of anxiety. You should not be too hard on your dog at any time. If you have a submissive dog be calm and ignore submissive behavior. Allow the dog to settle before reassuring the dog otherwise the condition may worsen. Never use punishment on a submissive dog, even if the dog has done bad. A submissive dog is more likely to bite out of fear so keep this in mind when the dog is around different people and children.

Tone down your aversive behavior, with a submissive dog there is no real need to consciously dominate it. Examples of dominating behavior include:

  • Direct eye contact
  • Standing over the dog
  • Walking towards the dog while looking at it.
  • Never praise or reassure a doing being submissive, only praise when it is quiet and not being submissive.

When you arrive home say “Hi” and be verbally friendly, but don’t touch or pat it for about 5 minutes. When you greet it, get down on its level. This is a less dominant position, and is less likely to trigger a submissive posture. If the dog shows submission, stand up and walk away, come back again a few minutes later. Use food rewards to get the dog confident and sitting up straight, but don’t reward the dog with food if the dog is being submissive. Dogs are very loyal animals and they love to please their handler.

In general distract it with something else when this behavior occurs and don’t reward the dog for being submissive.

The special needs of a senior cat

The special needs of a senior cat

Just as people are living longer than they did in the past, cats are living longer too. In fact, the percentage of cats over six years of age has nearly doubled in just over a decade, and there is every reason to expect that the “graying” cat population will continue to grow.

So how old is my cat, really?
Cats are individuals and, like people, they experience advancing years in their own unique ways. Many cats begin to encounter age-related physical changes between seven and ten years of age, and most do so by the time they are 12. The commonly held belief that every “cat year” is worth seven “human years” is not entirely accurate. In reality, a one-year-old cat is physiologically similar to a 16-year-old human, and a two-year-old cat is like a person of 21. For every year thereafter, each cat year is worth about four human years. Using this formula, a ten-year-old cat is similar age wise to a 53-year-old person, a 12-year-old cat to a 61-year-old person, and a 15-year-old cat to a person of 73.

Advancing age is not a disease
Aging is a natural process. Although many complex physical changes accompany advancing years, age in and of itself is not a disease. Even though many conditions that affect older cats are not correctable, they can often be controlled. The key to making sure your senior cat has the healthiest and highest quality of life possible is to recognize and reduce factors that may be health risks, detect disease as early as possible, correct or delay the progression of disease, and improve or maintain the health of the body’s systems.

What happens as my cat ages?
The aging process is accompanied by many physical and behavioral changes:

  • Compared to younger cats, the immune system of older cats is less able to fend off foreign invaders. Chronic diseases often associated with aging can impair immune function even further.
  • Dehydration, a consequence of many diseases common to older cats, further diminishes blood circulation and immunity.
  • The skin of an older cat is thinner and less elastic, has reduced blood circulation, and is more prone to infection.
  • Older cats groom themselves less effectively than do younger cats, sometimes resulting in hair matting, skin odor, and inflammation.
  • The claws of aging felines are often overgrown, thick, and brittle.
  • In humans, aging changes in the brain contribute to a loss of memory and alterations in personality commonly referred to as senility. Similar symptoms are seen in elderly cats: wandering, excessive meowing, apparent disorientation, and avoidance of social interaction.
  • For various reasons, hearing loss is common in cats of advanced age.
  • Aging is also accompanied by many changes in the eyes. A slight haziness of the lens and a lacy appearance to the iris (the colored part of the eye) are both common age-related changes, but neither seems to decrease a cat’s vision to any appreciable extent. However, several diseases-especially those associated with high blood pressure-can seriously and irreversibly impair a cat’s ability to see.
  • Dental disease is extremely common in older cats and can hinder eating and cause significant pain.
  • Although many different diseases can cause a loss of appetite, in healthy senior cats, a decreased sense of smell may be partially responsible for a loss of interest in eating. However, the discomfort associated with dental disease is a more likely cause of reluctance to eat.
  • Feline kidneys undergo a number of age-related changes that may ultimately lead to impaired function; kidney failure is a common disease in older cats, and its symptoms are extremely varied.
  • Degenerative joint disease, or arthritis, is common in older cats. Although most arthritic cats don’t become overtly lame, they may have difficulty gaining access to litter boxes and food and water dishes, particularly if they have to jump or climb stairs to get to them.
  • Hyperthyroidism (often resulting in overactivity); hypertension (high blood pressure, usually a result of either kidney failure or hyperthyroidism), diabetes mellitus; inflammatory bowel disease; and cancer are all examples of conditions that, though sometimes seen in younger cats, become more prevalent in cats as they age.

Is my cat sick, or is it just old age?
Owners of older cats often notice changes in their cat’s behavior, but consider these changes an inevitable and untreatable result of aging, and fail to report them to their veterinarian. Failure to use the litter box, changes in activity levels, and alterations in eating, drinking, or sleeping habits are examples. While veterinarians believe that some behavior problems are due to the diminishing mental abilities of aging cats, it is a mistake to automatically attribute all such changes to old age. In fact, the possibility of some underlying medical condition should always be the first consideration. Disease of virtually any organ system, or any condition that causes pain or impairs mobility can contribute to changes in behavior. For example:

  • A fearful cat may not become aggressive until it is in pain (e.g., from dental disease) or less mobile (e.g., from arthritis).
  • The increased urine production that often results from diseases common to aging cats (e.g., kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, or hyperthyroidism) may cause the litter box to become soiled more quickly than expected. The increased soil and odor may cause cats to find a bathroom more to their liking.
  • Many cats that do not mark their territory with urine, even if exposed to intruding cats, may begin to do so if a condition like hyperthyroidism develops.
  • Cats with painful arthritis may have difficulty gaining access to a litter box, especially if negotiating stairs is required. Even climbing into the box may be painful for such cats; urinating or defecating in an inappropriate location is the natural result.
  • Older cats may be more sensitive to changes in the household since their ability to adapt to unfamiliar situations diminishes with age.

The take-home message? Never assume that changes you see in your older cat are simply due to old age, and therefore untreatable. Any alteration in your cat’s behavior or physical condition should alert you to contact your veterinarian.

How can I help keep my senior cat healthy?
Close observation is one of the most important tools you have to help keep your senior cat healthy. You may wish to perform a mini-physical examination on a weekly basis. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to do it and what to look for. You will find it easier if you just make the examination an extension of the way you normally interact with your cat. For example, while you are rubbing your cat’s head or scratching its chin, gently raise the upper lips with your thumb or forefinger so you can examine the teeth and gums. In the same way, you can lift the ear flaps and examine the ear canals. While you are stroking your cat’s fur, you can check for abnormal lumps or bumps, and evaluate the health of the skin and coat.

Daily Brushing
Daily brushing or combing removes loose hairs, preventing them from being swallowed and forming hair balls. Brushing also stimulates blood circulation and sebaceous gland secretions, resulting in a healthier skin and coat. Older cats may not use scratching posts as frequently as they did when they were younger; therefore, nails should be checked weekly and trimmed if necessary.

Proper Nutrition
Many cats tend towards obesity as they age. If your cat is overweight, you should ask your veterinarian to help you modify the diet so that a normal body condition can be restored. Other cats actually become too thin as they get older, apparently as part of the normal aging process. But progressive weight loss can also be caused by serious medical problems such as kidney failure, cancer, diabetes mellitus, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, hyperthyroidism, or some other condition. Subtle changes in weight are often the first sign of disease; ideally you should weigh your cat every month on a scale sensitive enough to detect such small changes. Keep a record of the weight, and notify your veterinarian of any significant changes. To ensure proper nutrition, select a nutritionally balanced and complete diet for your cat’s stage of life, and one that is formulated according to guidelines established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Specific dietary changes may be necessary for cats with certain medical conditions. Your veterinarian can be of invaluable assistance in helping you select the most appropriate diet for your senior cat.

Exercise
Exercise is important, not only for weight control but overall health. Older cats frequently become less agile as arthritis develops and muscles begin to atrophy. Regularly engaging your cat in moderate play can promote muscle tone and suppleness, increase blood circulation, and help reduce weight in cats that are too heavy. During times of exercise, be alert to labored breathing or rapid tiring that may suggest the cat has a disease. It may also be necessary to relocate litter boxes to more accessible locations to prevent elderly cats from eliminating in inappropriate locations. Purchasing a litter box with low sides, cutting down high sides, or constructing a ramp around the box may help older cats gain entry more easily.

Reducing Stress
Reducing environmental stress whenever possible is very important since older cats are usually less adaptable to change. Special provisions should be made for older cats that must be boarded for a period of time. Having a familiar object, such as a blanket or toy, may prevent the cat from becoming too distraught in a strange environment. A better alternative is to have the older cat cared for at home by a neighbor, friend, or relative. Introducing a new pet may be a traumatic experience for older cats, and should be avoided whenever possible. Moving to a new home can be equally stressful. However, some stress can be alleviated by giving the older cat more affection and attention during times of emotional upheaval.

Cats are experts at hiding illness, and elderly cats are no exception. It is common for a cat to have a serious medical problem, yet not show any sign of it until the condition is quite advanced. Since most diseases can be managed more successfully when detected and treated early in their course, it is important for owners of senior cats to carefully monitor their behavior and health.

Why felines mark their territory

Why felines mark their territory

 Felines are truly amazing creatures!!  We are frequently asked how difficult it is to litter box-train a young kitten.  Our answer is that kittens really litter box train themselves!!  When raised in a secure, loving home environment, kittens learn by watching their mother use her litter box, and she also encourages her young kittens to use a litter box once they have started the weaning process and are beginning to eat solid foods.  Up until that time, the mother cat takes care of keeping her kittens clean.  When starting young kittens off with a litter box, be sure the first box is small enough for the kittens to easily climb in and out, and use only a small amount of plain clay litter (non clumping, as most young kittens go through a stage of eating and munching on their litter) at first. It is a natural instinct for cats to bury and be extremely clean in all their elimination habits — in fact, cats in the wild will bury their feces and urine to help ensure their survival by not leaving their scent which might attract predators.  Wild cats will also sometimes leave their feces purposefully to define the perimeters of their territory and as a warning to potential intruders.  The point is, felines always have a reason for what they do with their urine and fecal eliminations, and they also have several other ways to “mark” their territory – “marking territory ” is one of the most important ways in which cats communicate with other cats and with humans.

For house cats who suddenly start eliminating inappropriately in the home, the very first thing to rule out is any medical cause.   FUS (Feline Urological Syndrome), which can include such conditions as cystitis, blockage of the urethra, and urethritis, can all cause your kitty great pain when urinating or trying to urinate.  This can lead to your kitty associating that pain with the litter box, and simply refusing to use it.  Taking your kitty in to your vet for a checkup and testing for FUS is a must before looking any further for the sudden change in your kitty’s litter box habits.

It is also important to realize that cats can use their urine, feces and their scratching marks as a means of “marking” what they consider to be “their” territory.   Cats “mark” in a variety of interesting ways, and it is thought that felines have developed their communication system by marking as a means to greatly reduce the amount of actual face-to-face confrontation between cats and thereby increase their chances for survival.   There is also another form of communicating by marking from cats – marking by head rubbing.

 MARKING BY HEAD RUBBING  

Have you ever noticed that your kitty may enjoy rubbing his face onto your leg or face??   Or, how your kitty may rub his face against your furniture, table legs, or cabinets??   Normally, this type of marking is done by a feline to express contentment, and mimics the friendly, comforting type of marking that cats will do in their nest in the wild.  People are usually marked by cats with their forehead, while furniture and other inanimate objects are marked by the sides of their cheeks and their chins.  Cats are most likely to rub someone that they know, and if a cat is not quite comfortable coming up to someone, they may end up rubbing against a nearby table, slowly working their way up to actually head rubbing the newcomer.  This type of communication by marking is usually enjoyed by both the feline and their human family.

 MARKING BY SCRATCHING  

 Many people do not realize that cats also can use scratching as a method of marking, or communicating.   Felines actually have sweat glands in their paw pads, and when they scratch against furniture, fences, and other vertical objects, they are actually rubbing their own scent from those glands onto the object to mark their territory.  The vertical scratch marks also leave a visible mark for other cats to see as well as smell, and the cat will reach up and scratch downward as an indication of how big he is.  The higher the markings, the bigger the animal (translates to tougher the competition!) will seem to another cat.  Where a cat chooses to scratch is going to be determined in part by whether the cat is a vertical or a horizontal scratcher.  Horizontal scratchers will tend to prefer chair cushions, carpets, rugs, and other flat surfaces. Felines usually scratch in rather predictable places – favorites are commonly used entrances and exits to the home; the main front door entrance; favorite sleeping areas; and any boundary that they feel is being “challenged” in some way.

Cats also scratch to groom their claws, and remove old skin and claw sheaths.   Usually, cats who scratch primarily for this reason will scratch in the same spot, vs. cats who scratch in numerous locations, and especially near doors and windows.   This latter behavior is much more likely to be that of a feline marking territory.   One of the best solutions for cats who scratch in the home is to provide them with a good, sturdy, tall piece of cat furniture, preferably one that provides a variety of vertical scratching surfaces such as carpet, wood and sisal rope.   You will want to be sure that the posts of the cat furniture do allow your cat to stretch fully for scratching. You may also want to provide some cat toys with horizontal scratching surfaces.  By observing your feline carefully for several days, you can probably determine the best locations in your home for placing the cat furniture and the special horizontal scratching toys.

 URINE MARKING AND SPRAYING 

Okay, here is one of the most troublesome forms of marking that cats can do.  Remember, if your kitty should suddenly stop using his litter box, the first thing to do is take him in to your vet for a checkup to rule out FUS (Feline Urological Syndrome).  FUS is an extremely common cause of inappropriate litter box behavior in cats.

T here is a major difference between urine “marking” and urine “spraying” in cats.   Both are done deliberately by a cat, and are used to deliver a specific message, usually a message intended for other cats long after the sender is gone.  Urine spraying is done by a cat backing up against a vertical surface such as a wall or curtain drapes, and spraying their urine against the surface while in a standing position.  Urine marking is done with a cat in a squatting position, causing the urine to squirt onto a horizontal surface.  The reason cat urine has such a powerful odor is that there is a fatty ingredient in the cat’s urine which allows it to cling to surfaces and objects, and also causes the strong smell.  Un-neutered male tom cats have urine that is especially pungent and unpleasant.  Contrary to popular belief, BOTH male and female cats can spray and mark with their urine.

W hen dealing with a cat who is spraying or marking by urine, and you’ve ruled out any medical reason for this behavior, your next step is to try to figure out the cause of the behavior.  Stress is one of the leading causes for naturally fastidiously clean cats to start marking or spraying with their urine.  By marking their home/territory with their own scent, this creates a sense of comfort and security to the cat.  Some very common causes of stress for a cat may include smelling or seeing outdoor animals such as other visiting cats, or even birds, skunks, squirrels, dogs, or any other outdoor and/or unfamiliar animals.  Moving to a new house, or changes with the home such as redecorating, home renovations or construction, the addition or loss of new family members (including babies and other pets) – even changes in your work schedule or daily habits can all be extremely stressful to a cat.  Felines like their world to be very consistent, and changes within their world may cause them to feel their territory is being challenged or is in jeopardy.

U rine marking is frequently done by whole males and whole females to attract a mate.   Having your male kitty neutered or your female kitty spayed should take care of this problem.  If your cat sees a visiting outdoor cat through the window, he may spray on the window sills or even on the curtains to the window.  Sometimes, a cat will urinate on anything new that comes in to the home, such as suitcases, shopping bags, etc., that have a new smell.  Cats who are highly territorial may feel the need to mark this new smell with their own smell.  Cats can also mark or spray in hostility or defiance over a stranger coming in to the home and “over-staying” (in the cat’s opinion).  The cat may jump onto the bed after a visitor has been there to mark over that person’s smell.

If you have a cat that is already fixed yet is still spraying, this may be a sign of the cat feeling overcrowded (especially in a multi-cat home), and/or having an aggressive behavior towards other cats.  Even if all your cats seemingly get along well together, it is important to remember that spraying and marking are done very deliberately by cats, and ALWAYS for a very specific reason – they are trying to communicate that something is wrong (from THEIR perspective).


 FECAL MARKING  

This is a much less common form of marking than urine marking.  Sometimes, if a cat feels a need to be noticed, it might leave a pile of feces exposed to try to achieve that.  There is a strong odor associated with the feces, which the cat identifies as its own smell.  If the feces are left next to a litter box, it is probably a signal to you that something is wrong with the litter box itself … from the cat’s point of view … (i.e., box isn’t clean enough; location is wrong; litter type is not to the cat’s liking; litter box type is not to the cat’s liking).  If the cat is using fecal marking to express displeasure (such as protesting a new boyfriend that the cat doesn’t like, etc.), it will usually leave the feces close to the area of protest (such as the bed in which the boyfriend last slept, etc.).  Fecal marking is more likely to occur with cats that spend all or part of their time outdoors, and with cats who have previously lived as strays.

 SOLUTIONS TO INAPPROPRIATE MARKING BEHAVIORS  

If your kitty is marking by urine or feces, here are some things to consider and try.  First of all, rule out any medical problems.  Next, be sure your cat is fixed.  Keep things as simple and stress-free as possible in your home for your kitty.  Try to ensure that your cat feels that he can predict what will happen each day.  When you must make changes at home, be sure to do them gradually, and provide a lot of time and support to your cat while going through these changes.  In serious cases, there are anti-anxiety medications that can be prescribed for cats.  We prefer the use of the natural pheromone spray called “Feliway” which you can get from your vet, or from local pet and feed stores, which can be very calming to cats and reduce their urge to spray and mark.   The newer plug-in version (see the “Comfort Zone” picture and link at bottom of page) is even easier and more effective; one plug-in lasts 30 days.

Do NOT declaw your kitty!!   De-clawing can lead to other behavior problems such as inappropriate marking and emotional insecurities.  Make sure you clean all urine-sprayed areas with an odor neutralizer, and/or a chemical enzyme product which naturally breaks down the urine molecules completely.  If you don’t do this, the problem will never be solved because the odor from that area will trigger the cat to spray there again each time he passes by.  Do NOT use cleaning products with ammonia – ammonia will only intensify the urine odor and encourage your cat to return to that area and mark again.  Take a good honest look at the facilities you have to ensure that you do not have an overcrowded environment for your cat.  You can increase the amount of “territory” for your cats by adding additional tall cat stands.  Cats definitely consider vertical space part of their territory, and several tall cat stands can greatly increase the amount of territory for cats in a small apartment or home.  Another way to increase “territory” for your cats is to build some add-on protected enclosures, extension windows, etc.

You may want to take a good look at your litter box.  The box needs to be as attractive as possible TO THE CAT.  For large cats, do not use a litter box with a swinging lid – large cats will often prefer to keep their heads and shoulders outside the door of a hooded litter box while using the box.  Some cats prefer open boxes; some prefer the privacy of a box with a lid.   Do not use a huge litter box for a small kitten or cat; and do not use a small box for a large cat!!  Common sense will go a long way – try to think from your cat’s point of view.  If you have a multi-level home, there should be a box on each level.  Remember too that some cats prefer to defecate in one box, and urinate in another.  The litter box should be cleaned daily, and the entire contents should be replaced once a week or more frequently.  You should not have more than two cats per box, and if you are having litter box behavior problems, switch immediately to one box per cat. Plastic litter liners can make your job easier, and help keep odors from penetrating into the plastic litter box.

The location of the litterbox is important – your cat will want some privacy, yet will not want to feel vulnerable when he is inside the box.   Especially in a multi-cat household, this is very important to consider, as a dominant cat may take the opportunity to threaten or attack a submissive cat when she is trying to use the litterbox.   And remember to make all changes gradually — cats are creatures of habit!!   If you have recently changed the litter material itself, the inappropriate elimination behavior could be your cat resisting the new litter.  Try reintroducing the material formerly used to see if this helps.   Often, just providing a variety of types and sizes of litter boxes, in a variety of locations throughout your home, with a variety of litter materials, will stop the negative behavior.  Once you find out which boxes/locations/litter material your cat prefers, you can gradually remove the others.

For serious offenders, you may need to isolate them in a small area for awhile, such as a bathroom.   Since cats naturally dislike urinating or defecating near their food and water dishes, your kitty will most likely use her litter box in this small area simply to avoid contaminating her food and water.   Be sure to keep the box extremely clean and praise her when she does use her litter box.  After she has gotten used to using her box again, you can gradually increase the amount of area you give her.

NEVER punish your cat!!   Speaking in harsh tones or using physical punishment can cause your cat to avoid you, which will not solve the problem.  For sensitive cats, make sure that you also provide some quality time for the cat to be alone just with you.   This is especially important in overcrowded situations.  This special time together can include grooming and/or maybe taking a nap together or having your cat sleep on your lap and be close. Consistently providing this intimate one-on-one time and show of affection on your part, you can greatly reduce your cat’s level of stress and sense of competitiveness with other members of the family.

 SOME FINAL THOUGHTS  

It’s important to remember that cats ALWAYS have a reason that makes sense to them for their behaviors.  The difficult part for we mere humans is sometimes to discover what those reasons are.  In our own many years of experience as a Bengal and Savannah cat breeder with a multiple-cat household, we’ve discovered some truly amazing products that sometimes can be exactly what may be needed to provide a good solution.

There is a special kind of litter called “Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract” litter, which comes with the creator’s own system of steps for re-training a cat back to consistent good litterbox habits.  We’re not sure exactly why it works; the litter contains some special herbs which do seem to attract the cat to want to use the litter.  

Tricks dog and cat food brands use:

Tricks dog and cat food brands use:

It’s easy to get swamped by all of the choices of dog and cat foods when walking down an aisle in the supermarket. The list of brand names as well as store brands of pet foods is enormous, and they all claim that they will offer dogs and cats that unique blend of ingredients to promote things like a healthy coat, clean teeth, or added energy. The thing that isn’t always clear though, is what the brand is using as filler in order to take up space in the food selection, and exactly what some of those fillers actually mean. This is where knowledge about the products becomes very important.

One of the biggest scams that some pet food companies use is flavoring. When selling a product, some pet food companies say that their particular blend of food is “chicken”, but if you look closer, there may not actually be any chicken in the food. This is where flavoring comes into play, where when the fine print is examined, it is discovered that the food is actually chicken flavored. This isn’t giving the dog/cat friends everything that they are looking for, and while it may taste good in the moment, it doesn’t promote good health. It’s like feeding your cat or dog junk food. They get the food their bodies need but NO nutrition. So next time you buy dog or cat food, whether it’s canned or dry food educate yourself by reading this:

Unhealthy Dog and Cat Food Ingredients: There are some really bad ingredients that find their way into dog and cat food, and if the consumer isn’t aware of exactly what this means, then it’s going to effect your pets health in the years to come. The problem is that some of them are flat out gross, and could be very bad for a dog or cat to eat:
  • Chicken By-Product Meal — This is the left over parts of the chicken that are ground up to be used as filler. This includes necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines. The bigger problem is that the by-products don’t have to necessarily come from healthy animals.
  • Corn Gluten (Meal) — Corn is often used as a filler to take up space because it is cheap. It however can cause allergies in dogs and cats, and owners may not even realize it. The better dog and cat foods do not contain large amounts of corn.
  • Ash — In a lot of wet dog and cat-foods ash is used as a filler to help fill up a can of food. The ash is exactly what it sounds like; burnt animal remains that wouldn’t be fit for human consumption, which are then mixed in with other ingredients to serve to your pets. Always make sure to check out the ash content in a can of dog and cat food. Don’t buy canned food contained ASH.
  • Wheat – Wheat is another allergen that finds its way into dog and cat foods, but which can cause health problems if it isn’t served up in extreme moderation.

The Worst Dog and Cat Food Ingredient:

Animal Digest is an ingredient that appears in some foods, and which is about as gross as it gets when it comes to a filler. Most pet owners aren’t aware of what animal digest might be, and gloss over it, not thinking how terrible it could be for their pets. Animal digest is best defined as a cooked-down broth of unspecified parts of unspecified animals. The list is extensive as to which animals can be included, but some of them are goats, pigs, rats, horses, euthanized animals from shelters, supermarket waste, and road kill.

How to stop a dog fight

How to stop a dog fight

How to Stop a Scuffle between Two Dogs

Sometimes, despite your best efforts to monitor their interactions, dogs get into fights. Luckily, most fights last less than a few seconds, and you can often interrupt them by simply shouting at the dogs. If the fight continues, however, you should be prepared to physically separate them.

Breaking up a dogfight can be dangerous. To reduce the likelihood of injury to all parties, follow the guidelines below.

General Advice

  • Have a plan. Decide in advance exactly what you’ll do if a fight happens. If you live with multiple dogs and other people, make sure everyone living in your home knows about the plan.
  • Don’t panic. Remember that most dogfights are noisy but harmless. If you stay calm, you’ll be able to separate two fighting dogs more safely and efficiently.
  • DO NOT grab your dog by the collar if she starts to fight with another dog. It seems like the natural thing to do, but it’s a bad idea. Your dog might whip around to bite you. This kind of bite, called redirected aggression, is like a reflex. The dog simply reacts to the feeling of being grabbed and bites without thinking. Many pet parents get bitten this way—even when their dogs haven’t shown any signs of aggression in the past. Another reason to avoid grabbing your dog’s collar is that it puts your hands way too close to the action! You might be on the receiving end of a bite that was intended for your dog.

Plan A: Startle the Dogs or Use a Barrier

Before you physically separate two fighting dogs, try these methods:

  • A sudden, loud sound will often interrupt a fight. Clap, yell and stomp your feet. If you have two metal bowls, bang them together near the dogs’ heads. You can also purchase a small air horn and keep that handy. Put it in your back pocket before taking your dog somewhere to play with other dogs. If you have multiple dogs who get into scuffles, keep your air horn in an easily accessible place. If a startling noise works to stop a fight, the noise is effective almost immediately. If your noisemaking doesn’t stop the fight within about three seconds, try another method.
  • If there’s a hose or water bowl handy, you can try spraying the dogs with water or dumping the bowl of water on their heads.
  • Use a citronella spray, like SprayShield™ or Direct Stop®. Aim for the fighting dogs’ noses. If you walk your dog in an area where you may encounter loose dogs, it’s wise to carry citronella spray with you. If an aggressive dog approaches, spraying the deterrent in his direction may stop him in his tracks and prevent a fight. If he attacks, spraying the deterrent on or near his nose may break up the fight.
  • Try putting something between the fighting dogs. A large, flat, opaque object, like a piece of plywood, is ideal because it both separates the dogs and blocks their view of each other. If such an object isn’t available, you can make do with a baby gate, a trash can or folded lawn chair. Closing a door between the dogs can also break up a fight. Throwing a large blanket over both dogs is another option. The covered dogs may stop fighting if they can no longer see each other.

Plan B: Physically Separate the Dogs

If other methods don’t work or aren’t possible, it’s time for Plan B. If you’re wearing pants and boots or shoes, use your lower body instead of your hands to break up the fight. If they’re covered, your legs and your feet are much more protected than your hands, and your legs are the strongest part of your body.

If you feel that it’s necessary to grab the dogs, use this method:

  1. You and a helper or the other dog’s pet parent should approach the dogs together. Try to separate them at the same time.
  2. Take hold of your dog’s back legs at the very top, just under her hips, right where her legs connect to her body. (Avoid grabbing her lower legs. If grab a dog’s legs at the knees, her ankles or her paws, you can cause serious injury.)
  3. Like you’d lift a wheelbarrow, lift your dog’s back end so that her back legs come off of the ground. Then move backwards, away from the other dog. As soon as you’re a few steps away, do a 180-degree turn, spinning your dog around so that she’s facing the opposite direction and can no longer see other dog.

The Aftermath

After the fight stops, immediately separate the dogs. Don’t give them another chance to fight. It’s important to make sure that they can’t see each other. If necessary, take one or both dogs into another room or area. If the dogs are friends and you’ve interrupted a minor squabble, keep them apart until they calm down.