Cats, Carriers and Travel

Many cats are fearful of car rides and veterinary visits. Cats can be trained to be much more comfortable with their carriers, cars, and the veterinary clinic. It takes a little preparation and patience, but will greatly improve your cat’s comfort level and our ability to care for your pet. Here are some tips and links that will help you to help your cat! Of course, if you have additional questions, just call us anytime!

The steps to improved carrier behavior:

1. Start carrier training as young as possible. Starting as kittens teaches your pet that the carrier is just another fun hiding place, or play area, rather than a confined punishment space. Carriers that load from the top or especially those that come apart in the middle are helpful, as veterinarians can then take the top off and start their examination with the cat comfortably sitting in the bottom. Put the carrier in a room that the cat likes to be in, perhaps in a sunny location, with a soft piece of bedding to encourage exploration and voluntary use.

2. Encourage daily entry. Every day, put a piece of kibble or a treat in the carrier. When the cat eats it, calmly praise/pet it and give it a few more treats. If the cat doesn’t take the treat right away, just walk away; if you try to persuade the cat, they will become suspicious! It may take a few days, but the cat should start to eat the treats, although maybe when you are not watching.

3. Gradually close the door. Once the cat happily goes into the carrier when you are around, gently close the door, give a treat, and open the door so that the cat does not feel trapped.

4. Extend the door‐closure period. After several days of this, leave the door closed and walk out of the room for a few seconds before returning and giving another treat. Gradually work up to carrying the carrier to a different place in the house.

5. Begin car rides. Over days to weeks, move on to placing the carrier in the car, then short car rides, then a ride to our veterinary clinic for a treat (and petting from our staff if your cat is comfortable with it). If at any point your cat becomes nervous (crouching, ears back, etc.), go back a step and give treats until your cat is more comfortable with that level.

6. Cover the carrier when traveling. When you start taking the carrier in the car, place a towel over it; cats usually feel safer this way.

7. Add toys, treats or bedding into the carrier. If your cat has favorite toys, treats, bedding, or brushes, please bring them to the clinic when you visit (for training visits and the actual exam). This will give your cat more familiar things that he/she associates with good feelings.

8. Consider using Feliway® (pheromonal anti‐anxiety spray) just before traveling. Medications such as Gabapentin can also be helpful.

9. Pick your carrier carefully. If it is from the Reagan administration, and has rusty bolts holding it together, time for a new one. The newer carriers have quick-release sides that come apart in a jiffy, and allows us to do exams with the cat still in the bottom of the carrier with just the top removed.

Heartworm Disease in February??

Skiing, sledding, snowboarding, drinking hot chocolate by a roaring open fire – all wonderful things to do in the winter.  Unless you live in the Triangle….  Yes, we have once again had a warm ‘winter’ as we tend to have seemingly every other year.  This also brings out the inevitable question with my clients – should I continue heartworm prevention year-round?  Can it be stopped in the winter?

 My first answer is to ask a question – when is winter in North Carolina?  I truly don’t know!  Looking at the high temperatures in February for the last few years in Durham (81o, 81o, 73o, 72o), I certainly have no clue.  We just can’t predict when it will get cold, and stay cold.  The temperature must be below 57 o F to stop mosquito activity (yes, heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes).  All it takes is a few warm days for them to come back out!

 My second answer to the original question is not based on science, but based on human nature.  And by that, I mean my behavior.  I remember to do things when I do them consistently and usually with a few reminders to boot.  If I stop for a few months, I have a high tendency to forget to restart.   I know my clients are the same way, as I get several dozen folks every summer (yes, several months into mosquito season) that come in with a pale look on their faces and tell me they forgot to restart their heartworm prevention. 

 So what do I recommend?  Monthly heartworm prevention, every month, no question.  It is always easier to prevent disease than to treat it. 

 Here are a few tools and information to help:

 Email reminders (works for any medication, not just heartworm prevention):

www.Remindmypet.com

 Information on heartworm disease:

www.heartwormsociety.org

 iPhone app:

Remindmypet (free)

 Android phone app:

Med Minder (free)

Brushing your pet’s teeth… Who does that?

I grew up in a time when veterinary care for your dog meant getting a rabies “shot” and that was about it!  We didn’t give heartworm prevention or flea/ tick prevention.  We certainly didn’t spay or neuter our pets and if someone had mentioned brushing our dog’s teeth, they would have been laughed out of the neighborhood.  Veterinary care has come a long way since then and so have my ideas about what is best for a long, healthy and happy life for my pets and dental care is way at the top.

 I never realized just how connected oral care, or your pet’s oral care, is to the entire health of the body.  Who would ever link kidney disease or heart disease to how clean your teeth are?  And let’s face it, most of us would never know our pet had tooth pain if it depended on whether or not they would eat that tasty biscuit you were giving them.  They mask pain so well, a defense mechanism ingrained in their DNA.  The health of a pet’s mouth is just as important as their heart, liver, or anything else vital in a pet’s body.

 It isn’t just clean teeth either!  Pet teeth are a lot like ice bergs, you only see the tip and there is so much more hidden below the gum line.  That is why I am a big advocate for dental radiographs.  It is the only way to see if there are hidden problems that need to be addressed.  Teeth can degrade under the gum line while the part you see looks normal.  Little pockets of infection can sit deep in the mandible.  Bone erosion, cancer, and so many other life threatening problems can be found with a few simple radiographs.  So why would you not do them?

 And of course there is the “dog breath” issue.  Nothing like coming face to face with a pet whose mouth smells like they have been eating out of the local dump for the past few years.  That smell is bacteria.  Nasty bacteria that will go straight down the throat and into the blood stream and into places like the pet’s heart and kidneys.  Not the best place to have bacteria.  So that bad breath is not just part of the pet, it mean something significant!

 So when your pet’s Veterinarian suggests dental care for your pet, please take it very seriously, because we do, and your pet would too.

cat mouth.jpeg

Xylitol and Your Dog: Danger, Paws Off

Xylitol is a danger to all pets and seems to be hidden in the oddest of places. The newest hiding place is in some PEANUT BUTTERS! Below is a great article from the FDA on just why this sugary substitute is such a danger.

Xylitol and Your Dog: Danger, Paws Off

Your six-month-old puppy, Hoover, will eat anything that isn’t tied down. Like many dog owners, you know chocolate can be dangerous to your pooch. But you may not know that if Hoover sticks his nose in your handbag and eats a pack of sugarless chewing gum, the consequences could be deadly.

Sugarless gum may contain xylitol, a class of sweetener known as sugar alcohol. Xylitol is present in many products and foods for human use, but can have devastating effects on your pet.

Over the past several years, the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received several reports—many of which pertained to chewing gum—of dogs being poisoned by xylitol, according to Martine Hartogensis, a veterinarian at FDA.

And you may have heard or read news stories about dogs that have died or become very ill after eating products containing xylitol.

Other Foods Containing Xylitol

But gum isn’t the only product containing xylitol. Slightly lower in calories than sugar, this sugar substitute is also often used to sweeten sugar-free candy, such as mints and chocolate bars, as well as sugar-free chewing gum. Other products that may contain xylitol include:

·         breath mints

·         baked goods

·         cough syrup

·         children’s and adult chewable vitamins

·         mouthwash

·         toothpaste

·         some peanut and nut butters

·         over-the-counter medicines

·         dietary supplements

·         sugar-free desserts 

Why is Xylitol Dangerous to Dogs, but Not People?

In both people and dogs, the level of blood sugar is controlled by the release of insulin from the pancreas. In people, xylitol does not stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas. However, it’s different in canines: When dogs eat something containing xylitol, the xylitol is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, and may result in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas.

This rapid release of insulin may result in a rapid and profound decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), an effect that can occur within 10 to 60 minutes of eating the xylitol. Untreated, this hypoglycemia can quickly be life-threatening, Hartogensis says.

Symptoms to Look For in Your Dog

Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar, such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse and seizures.

If you think your dog has eaten xylitol, take him to your vet or an emergency animal hospital immediately, Hartogensis advises. Because hypoglycemia and other serious adverse effects may not occur in some cases for up to 12 to 24 hours, your dog may need to be monitored.

(A note to cat owners: The toxicity of xylitol for cats has not been documented. They appear to be spared, at least in part, by their disdain for sweets.)

What Can You Do to Avoid Xylitol Poisoning in Your Dog?

“If you’re concerned about your dog eating a food or product with xylitol in it, check the label of ingredients. If it does, indeed, say that it contains xylitol, make sure your pet can’t get to it.” Hartogensis says. In addition:

·         Keep products that contain xylitol (including those you don’t think of as food, such as toothpaste) well out of your dog’s reach. Remember that some dogs are adept at counter surfing.

·         Only use pet toothpaste for pets, never human toothpaste.

·         If you give your dog nut butter as a treat or as a vehicle for pills, check the label first to make sure it doesn’t contain xylitol. 

You Can Help FDA by Reporting Safety Issues

FDA wants to know if your pet encounters safety issues with a product, and/or unanticipated harmful effects that you believe are related to a product.

“Timely reporting of problems enables FDA to take prompt action,” Hartogensis says. Each report is evaluated to determine how serious the problem is and, if necessary, additional information may be requested from the person who filed the report.

You can report problems related to both human and pet foods and treats at the Safety Reporting Portal.

October 25, 2018

Article source from the FDA Website

Peanut Butter.jpeg

National Train Your Dog Month

All Paws Up!!  It is National Train Your Dog Month.  Dogs and humans get a month to celebrate their bond through training.  Yippee – train, earn treats, and more couch cuddle time.  Who could want for more?

Why train with your dog? 

We’ll live longer because we’ll be off the couch.  We’ll drink more water – which we know is important.  Not enough?  Our dogs will love us.  Want more?  Training enhances communication with our dog, helping them be a better family member in our homes.  Still need an excuse?  A tired dog is a happy dog (and a happy human).  Tired dogs rarely get into trouble which makes their humans even happier.   

What can you train when the weather is yucky outside (rainy, snowy, insert any descriptor you find unpleasant)? 

Nearly everything!   Come when called is always a favorite.  Sit, down, on, off, crawl, back-up, find it, find Mom (or Dad, or baby brother) just to name a few.  What about High 5, Leave It, Stay, Wait, Shake (the whole dog), Shake a paw, Play ball……the list is nearly limitless!  What about loose leash walking?  That is another important one.  Training outside can be fun as well; however, teaching some basics first before you go on long walks outside can be very helpful.  There are also important life skills:  wait at the door, bathing, nail trims, being still for the Veterinary examination, and too many to list!  So, regardless of whether you’re inside or outside, let’s leash our pup (have them sit quietly while we put on the leash & open the door first), and have Some Fun!!

There is no reason to only train in January because many dogs love it so much, they keep trying to get their humans to play/train even when the school time lesson is over.  Equally important, the environment is always training – so be sure that your dog is learning what you want them to know/do.  So much to do & so little time? 

Remember a few things:           

1)  short training sessions (3-5 minutes) are best 

2)  reward what you like & with-hold rewards for behavior you don’t like.  You’ll get more of what you like & less of what you don’t!   

Start out on the right paw by contacting Southpoint Animal Hospital (919-226-0043) & scheduling a private or group lesson with our resident trainer, Lynn Rives.  Your dog will love you for it!

For more tips on training, the APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers) encourages everyone to enjoy the following links to learn more  about dog training: apdt.com and www.TrainYourDogMonth.com.

Nail Jail! Do Not Pass Go!

By Deborah Jones, Ph.D.

In the game of Monopoly you sometimes get a “go to jail” card.  This card tells you “Do not pass go. Do not collect $200”. You are simply stuck in jail until you get released.  While you are in jail nothing good happens, you are just in limbo. In the All About Nails class I’m teaching right now I have purposely put my students in “nail jail”.  The students in my class are there for a variety of reasons, but they all have one thing in common. Their dogs will not cooperate when they want to trim their toenails. They have all tried a wide range of solutions and approaches, but have not yet been successful.  My approach is to put a stop to all of these unsuccessful attempts, tell them to avoid doing anything with nails unless absolutely necessary, and take them back to the beginning to build a solid foundation. This is not a quick fix because there is no such thing. This is the beginning of a lasting fix.  

I am deeply dedicated to the process of teaching others how to find ways to shorten their dog’s nails without stress or frustration.  Doing nails is by far the #1 husbandry issue for most people. The main problem is that nails keep growing and throughout your dog’s lifetime and you will need to do them over and over and over and over again.  

No matter why your dog dislikes having his nails done, the way to begin solving the problem is the same: back to baby steps.  The only way to make forward progress is to go back and strengthen your foundation work first. You may not even realize that you skipped over some crucial foundation work; but my educated guess is that you did.  That’s what got you to this place.

The really good news is that it’s possible to make positive changes, no matter how unpleasant things are right now.  However, in order to make that progress you must be willing to take a step or two or ten or one hundred backwards before you can move ahead.  

When you think about trimming your dog’s toenails you likely think about the end result and not all the little steps necessary to get there.  That’s perfectly normal! You know what you want but you don’t realize that there are a large number of small nearly invisible steps that are necessary first.  That’s where you need a good trainer! We think like that. We are constantly considering how to break things down to make them clearer and easier for our animals to understand.  

The first hard truth that you’ll need to accept is that you MUST go much further back in the training process than you want, or think you need.  This is the “go to jail” card in the Monopoly game. You are now at the point where you are being told “do not pass go, do not collect $200”, meaning you have no choice here if you want things to get better eventually.  Trying to patch up a behavior that has a shaky foundation, or even gaping holes in the foundation, is not ever going to get you where you want to go. Go backwards in order to move forwards again! Going backwards isn’t failure; it’s the first step towards success.

Below are a series of videos showing some of the initial steps that you should master long before you even consider bringing out the nail clippers or dremel.  These are not suggestions; they are a necessary foundation for success.

*I do realize that my camera angle was too low and I apologize for being headless in these videos.  But the actual training steps themselves don’t suffer from that.  

Step 1: Table Conditioning:

Determine where you are going to do your nail trimming work and make it a comfortable and enjoyable place for your dog to be.  Set up a dedicated space for this. I’m demonstrating in this video with two Klimb tables covered with a thin non-skid bath mat.  Your table or grooming area can be on the floor using play tiles to delineate the space or even on your sofa with your dog in a specific position.  The important thing is to determine where it will be and work on making your dog really really really want to be there. See video here.

Step 2: Zen bowl:

A zen bowl serves a number of purposes in this type of training.  First, it teaches your dog that stillness is desired. It also teaches him that waiting for permission to get what he wants pays off while trying to take it himself does not.  And it’s a very convenient tool to be able to leave out an open bowl of food while doing your husbandry work. I teach 2 verbal cues for the zen bowl. One, the calm marker (good) tells my dog that I will bring the cookie to him.  Two, the active release (get it) tells my dog to go ahead and take the cookie. Once I have trained these then I combine them with the table. See video here.

Step 3: Touching legs & feet:

Before you can cut your dog’s nails you need to be able to handle his legs and feet without issue.  If your dog is not comfortable with this then he is definitely not going to be comfortable with an even more invasive procedure.  Most people with problems cutting nails actually have problems handling legs and feet. That needs to be addressed before moving ahead. See video here.

Step 4:  Touching nails

Once your dog is comfortable with the previous steps then you can working on touching nails, isolating them, squeezing them, and so on.  Think about how you will need to hold the nail in order to cut it and simulate those actions. See video here.

Conclusions

Once you have worked through all 4 of these foundation steps then it’s time to consider bringing out the tools.  If this has been your starting point (approaching your dog with tools) then I hope you can now see why this is an issue, and also now have an idea of where to actually begin your work.  If you’d like some guidance through this and the rest of the process here are a couple of options you might consider.

See full article here.

Paws and Ice Melt Don't Mix!

Ice melt, or salt, that is commonly used to clear ice from sidewalks and other icy surfaces can be harmful to pets.

The main ingredient in most ice melt products is either sodium chloride or calcium chloride. Both sodium and calcium chloride can irritate a dog's paws or be harmful to the animal if ingested.

A dog's paws should be cleaned after walking outside on snowy days. Even if you don't see the ice melt, it may still be on surfaces. A dog that licks its feet after coming inside could experience vomiting or diarrhea.

To keep your dog from ingesting large amounts of ice melt products, keep him from eating snow or drinking from puddles.

A dog that ingests 4g (less than 1 oz.) of sodium chloride per 1kg (2.3 lbs.) of body weight could die. That would mean a dog that weighs only 4 lbs. would only need to eat about 2 ounces of ice melt containing sodium chloride before resulting in death.

When using ice-melting products around your pet, consider using non-toxic brands, such as Safe Paws or Morton Safe-T-Pet. These products do not contain salt or chloride.

Another alternative for pet owners are dog socks or boots. Simply put the socks or boots on your dog's paws before going out. The dog's paws will be protected from any salt that is on the sidewalks. Most dog socks and boots can be machine-washed after use.

Most people will have to use some sort of ice-melting product this winter. As a pet owner, it is not difficult to protect your animals. Use a non-toxic ice melt product, clean your dogs paws or use dog socks or boots this winter.

Article from Accuweather

Thanksgiving Pet Safety (from AVMA)

Thanksgiving is a special holiday that brings together family and friends, but it also can carry some hazards for pets. Holiday food needs to be kept away from pets, and pet owners who travel need to either transport their pets safely or find safe accommodations for them at home. Follow these tips to keep your pets healthy and safe during the holiday.

Poison Risks

Overindulging in the family feast can be unhealthy for humans, but even worse for pets: Fatty foods are hard for animals to digest. Poultry bones can damage your pet’s digestive tract. And holiday sweets can contain ingredients that are poisonous to pets.

  • Keep the feast on the table—not under it.  Eating turkey or turkey skin – sometimes even a small amount – can cause a life-threatening condition in pets known as pancreatitis. Fatty foods are hard for animals to digest, and many foods that are healthy for people are poisonous to pets – including onions, raisins and grapes. If you want to share a Thanksgiving treat with your pet, make or buy a treat that is made just for them.

  • No pie or other desserts for your pooch. Chocolate can be harmful for pets, even though many dogs find it tempting and will sniff it out and eat it. The artificial sweetener called xylitol – commonly used in gum and sugar-free baked goods – also can be deadly if consumed by dogs or cats.

  • Yeast dough can cause problems for pets, including painful gas and potentially dangerous bloating.

  • Put the trash away where your pets can’t find it.  A turkey carcass sitting out on he carving table, or left in a trash container that is open or easily opened, could be deadly to your family pet. Dispose of turkey carcasses and bones – and anything used to wrap or tie the meat, such as strings, bags and packaging – in a covered, tightly secured trash bag placed in a closed trash container outdoors (or behind a closed, locked door).

  • Be careful with decorative plants. Don’t forget that some flowers and festive plants can be toxic to pets. These include amaryllis, Baby’s Breath, Sweet William, some ferns, hydrangeas and more. The ASPCA offers lists of plants that are toxic to both dogs and cats, but the safest route is simply to keep your pets away from all plants and table decorations.

  • Quick action can save lives. If you believe your pet has been poisoned or eaten something it shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately. You may also want to call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 888-426-4435. Signs of pet distress include: sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. Contact your veterinarian immediately.

Precautions for Parties

If you’re hosting a party or overnight visitors, plan ahead to keep your pets safe and make the experience less stressful for everyone.

  • Visitors can upset your pets. Some pets are shy or excitable around new people or in crowds, and Thanksgiving often means many visitors at once and higher-than-usual noise and activity levels. If you know your dog or cat is nervous when people visit your home, put him/her in another room or a crate with a favorite toy. This will reduce the emotional stress on your pet and protect your guests from possible injury. If your pet is particularly upset by houseguests, talk to your veterinarian about possible solutions to this common problem.

  • If any of your guests have compromised immune systems (due to pregnancy, some diseases, or medications or treatments that suppress the immune system), make sure they’re aware of the pets (especially exotic pets) in your home so they can take extra precautions to protect themselves.

  • If you have exotic pets, remember that some people are uncomfortable around them and that these pets may be more easily stressed by the festivities. Keep exotic pets safely away from the hubbub of the holiday.

  • Watch the exits. Even if your pets are comfortable around guests, make sure you watch them closely, especially when people are entering or leaving your home. While you’re welcoming hungry guests and collecting coats, a four-legged family member may make a break for it out the door and become lost.

  • Identification tags and microchips reunite families. Make sure your pet has proper identification with your current contact information – particularly a microchip with up-to-date, registered information. That way, if they do sneak out, they’re more likely to be returned to you. If your pet isn’t already microchipped, talk to your veterinarian about the benefits of this simple procedure.

  • Watch your pets around festive decorations. Special holiday displays or candles are attractive to pets as well as people. Never leave a pet alone in an area with a lit candle; it could result in a fire. And pine cones, needles and other decorations can cause intestinal blockages or even perforate an animal’s intestine if eaten.

Travel Concerns

Whether you take your pets with you or leave them behind, take these precautions to safeguard them when traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday or at any other time of the year.

  • Your pet needs a health certificate from your veterinarian if you’re traveling across state lines or international borders, whether by air or car. Learn the requirements for any states you will visit or pass through, and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to get the needed certificate within the timeframes required by those states.

  • Never leave pets alone in vehicles, even for a short time, regardless of the weather.

  • Pets should always be safely restrained in vehicles. This means using a secure harness or a carrier, placed in a location clear of airbags. This helps protect your pets if you brake or swerve suddenly, or get in an accident; keeps them away from potentially poisonous food or other items you are transporting; prevents them from causing dangerous distractions for the driver; and can prevent small animals from getting trapped in small spaces. Never transport your pet in the bed of a truck.

  • Talk with your veterinarian if you’re traveling by air and considering bringing your pet with you. Air travel can put pets at risk, especially short-nosed dogs. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you regarding your own pet’s ability to travel.

  • Pack for your pet as well as yourself if you’re going to travel together. In addition to your pet’s food and medications, this includes bringing medical records, information to help identify your pet if it becomes lost, first aid supplies, and other items. Refer to our Traveling with Your Pet FAQ for a more complete list. 

  • Are you considering boarding your dog while you travel? Talk with your veterinarian to find out how best to protect your pet from canine flu and other contagious diseases, and to make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines.

Food Safety

Don’t forget to protect your family and loved ones from foodborne illnesses while cooking your Thanksgiving meal. Hand washing, and safe food handling and preparation, are important to make sure your holiday is a happy one. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers tips for handling, thawing and cooking turkey, as well as saving your leftovers.

Happy Holidays from Southpoint Animal Hospital!!! Stay safe!

Special thanks to AVMA for this informative article

HELP! MY CAT IS SCRATCHING THE FURNITURE

KEY POINTS

* Scratching is a normal behavior

* Vertical scratching posts that are >3 feet high are preferred

* Scratching posts should be very stable

Scratching is a normal behavior for cats. We won’t stop them from scratching, so how do we manage our households so our feline family members get what they need and we don’t have to cover all of our furniture with tin foil or double stick tape to deter them?

Let’s start with why cats scratch things in the first place.

WHY DO CATS SCRATCH THINGS?

Cats scratch for several primary reasons – to maintain their claws, as a mode of communication and to stretch their limbs. It’s completely normal (and necessary) for cats to scratch to remove the outer covering of their claws as the claws grow. Scratching also exercises the muscles of the front limbs and along the back, keeping the wild cat in good condition for hunting. While we might not allow our indoor cats to hunt, they remain genetically wired to keep in shape for it.

Scratching helps cats to communicate with each other through the physical appearance of the scratch marks as well as scents deposited from scent glands near the footpads. The scratching is done along the routes within a cat’s territory rather than at the boundaries of the territory. (This becomes important when we discuss choosing a location for your cat’s scratching posts.) Some cats will increase their scratching behavior when stressed, especially in situations of inter-cat conflict. If you have a household with multiple cats, make sure there are appropriate resources (e.g., resting places, food, water, litter boxes) in multiple different locations so that the cats can each access what they need without having to interact with cats they may not get along with.

Some cats will scratch as an attention-seeking behavior. Ensure that you’re not inadvertently reinforcing unwanted scratching. If you need to stop the behavior, gently pick up your cat and move her to the appropriate scratching location. When she’s scratching the post you want her to use, you can reward the behavior with a treat.

WHAT IS NORMAL FOR CAT CLAWS?

Cat claws grow continuously. The sheath (outer covering) of the claw must be shed regularly and cats do this by scratching. As cats age, the covering is thicker and they don’t shed it as well. For some cats this is because as they develop arthritis in their front limbs it becomes uncomfortable to scratch.

WHAT KIND OF SCRATCHING POSTS ARE BEST?

Cats typically prefer the following aspects of a scratching surface:

* Vertical and >3 feet in height

* Rope

* Base width <3 feet in width

* Sturdy and stable

* Multilevel options

* If your cat is older than 10-12 years of age, she may prefer horizontal options

While this is typical, not all cats read the books! So ask your cat by offering multiple options to see what she prefers. I have a lot of feline patients (and my own cats) who prefer the scratching surfaces made of corrugated cardboard “edges”.

WHERE SHOULD I PLACE SCRATCHING POSTS?

Cats are most likely to scratch after finishing a nap, so provide an appropriate scratching post near favored resting places. Because the purpose of scratching includes marking the paths within a cat’s territory, it’s a good plan to place scratching posts in areas where your cats are most active. Additionally, if your cat is currently scratching somewhere inappropriate, place a scratching post in front of that location to encourage scratching on an appropriate surface.

ATTRACTANTS

Feliscratch is a product meant to attract your cat to the appropriate scratching surface. Using it with your newly placed posts helps encourage her to investigate and try that surface. Initially the product is applied daily. Once your cat becomes used to using the post the applications are decreased and eventually discontinued. See the link in the resources section to learn more.

DETERRENTS

Trimming your cat’s claws regularly should start at an early age. This might help prevent some degree of scratching behavior, but not all. In some instances we still need to prevent a cat from being interested in the couch or dining room chairs or a particularly appealing portion of the wallpaper. Start with looking at the height and surface that they’re using and try to duplicate that as much as you’re able in what you’re providing. Place the scratching post close to the area you don’t want them to use any longer. Once the new post is being used you can slowly move it to the desired location. Move it just an inch or two a day.

While you’re working to get the new surface to be more interesting than the old one, deterrents on the inappropriate surfaces may be needed. Double stick tape can work well but it may need to be refreshed periodically as it’s the stickiness that is unpleasant to the cat. In the case of walls or trim, you’ll want to remove the scratches that are there (e.g., sanding wood trim, replacing or covering wallpaper), as the vertical appearance of the scratches attracts the cat back to the location.

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR SENIOR CATS

Older cats may find it more difficult to scratch on their posts because of arthritis. For this group of feline family members, horizontal scratching surfaces might help. Provide multiple styles of scratching surfaces so your cat can choose what she finds easiest. Older cats that don’t shed the sheath of their claws regularly will have thicker and longer claws, which can be uncomfortable for them. Providing appropriate scratching surfaces can help prevent this, though your senior cat will still need frequent nail trims.

SUMMARY

Inappropriate scratching decreases as more different styles of posts are provided in the home. So offer several options, make sure they meet the criteria outlined in this blog and consider Feliscratch to help encourage use of appropriate surfaces.

RESOURCES

Feliscratch

Catfriendly.com – scratching posts

Catfriendly.com – living with clawed cats

There are many styles of scratching posts available, some incorporated into cat perches.

The end-on carboard scratching surface is favored by many cats.

For some cats, scratching on a horizontal “post” is preferred. This may be especially true for senior cats.

Halloween Dangers

Halloween can be a time of peril for dogs and cats, according to the the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control. Most people think of chocolate when they think of dangers for pets at this time of year, but Halloween has many other potential hazards for you dog or cat. Between the excitement of the holiday, the temptation of candy and Halloween decorations, and the stress of seeing loved ones in odd, sometimes scary costumes, dogs and cats can be in some danger. Here are some tips for ensuring their safety this season.

Chocolate, the deadly candy

Chocolate is very toxic to pets. They can’t metabolize the chemicals in chocolate like humans. Unfortunately, many dogs are tempted by chocolate. They like the smell and taste. The amount of chocolate that is toxic varies depending on the type of chocolate (dark is the most dangerous) and the size of the pet. However, it’s best never to take chances. Keep chocolate out of reach from all your pets, and work with your little ones to ensure humans are the only ones who share in the Halloween bounty.

Candy in general

Pets love tasty treats and will eat as much as they can if given the opportunity. Eating large amounts of high sugar or high fat foods like candy can lead to pancreatitis, a potentially fatal and very painful inflammation of the pancreas. Just like chocolate, all candy should be kept out of your pet’s reach.

Grapes & raisins are poisonous, too

Some people offer healthy snacks, like raisins, to trick-or-treaters. These are very poisonous to dogs and to cats as well. They deserve the same caution and care that Halloween candy receives. Keep them out of your pet’s reach.

Candy wrappers

Let’s face it, if pets eat the candy, they’re not going to unwrap it. Even if they don’t get sick from the candy, those wrappers can cause a life-threatening bowel obstruction. Let’s be on the safe side and throw those wrappers away where pets can’t get at them.

Glow sticks and glow jewelry

Pets, cats in particular, love to chew on these items. While not usually life-threatening, their contents can cause pain and irritation in the mouth, as well as profuse drooling and foaming at the mouth.

Candles

Keep candles out of the reach of curious noses and wagging tails. Sometimes pets don’t realize something is hot until they get burned.

Open Doors

As trick-or-treaters come to the door, your pet could be frightened by the costumes or just the people in general. To avoid any pet making a mad dash for the door, consider keeping your pet crated or contained to a room where access to the door is not available. And just in case of emergencies, make sure your pet’s tags are up-to-date and on. 

What to Do if Your Pet Has Eaten Something Dangerous

During this Halloween season, help keep your pet safe. If you think your pet has ingested something poisonous, the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline suggest that you get help sooner than later. It’s always easier, less expensive, and safer for your pet to be treated earlier, versus when he’s showing severe symptoms. Contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control immediately at 1-888-426-4435.

Special Thanks to the Kentucky Humane Society for this information!!!