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Cat Training – Owners

“Most cats have trained their owners. When the cat meows before the refrigerator, the owner obediently opens the door and feeds the cat. When it meows at the back door, the owner is trained to let the cat out.”

-Leon F. Whitney


Do Not Feed Cats a Vegetarian Diet

I was browsing some blogs, and I came across an article that talked about a cat on a diet. As I read it, I wholeheartedly disagreed with one aspect of it. I tried to leave a comment, but had issues and could not comment. So, I had to write about it quickly.

It’s something I have written about before. If you clicked the link above and read the article, you would have noticed the first bullet point that says, “Vegetarian diet – as many people embraced a vegetarian lifestyle, they would want their cats to eat a plant-based diet too. By nature, cats are not herbivores but they may readily accept a vegetarian meal if it was prepared properly. With no concrete studies to the benefits of a plant-based diet on pets, this will simply be a matter of the owner’s personal preference.”

The only thing I agree with about this paragraph is that cats are not herbivores. Sure, they may accept a vegetarian diet, if forced upon them, but the author goes on to say that this will be a matter of the owner’s preference.

Now, I have written about this before. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they must eat meat to get the nutrients they need to survive and live a healthy life. Read what I have written about why to make sure your cat gets meat.

If you want your cat to be healthy, they need to eat meat. I just had to write about this again because I still find articles like the one I just found that may lead people to feed their cats a vegetarian diet. I want to do my part to make sure all cat owners feed their cats meat. All dry kibble cat food will have meat in the diet.


Asthma in Dogs and Cats

Many times, our furry companions can suffer health problems that are very similar to human illnesses. Take for example, asthma. Asthma, a respiratory condition that makes it difficult to breathe, is quite common among people.

Things that can trigger an attack include allergens such as smoke, dust, fragrances, pollen, mold/mildew and pollution in the air. The irritant will cause airways to become inflamed and constricted, and even cause excessive mucus to form. The result is difficulty breathing and inability to take in enough oxygen.

Asthma sufferers are typically children, and medication can be prescribed to control the symptoms. Just like us, our dogs and cats can suffer asthma and they can have the same triggers that humans have. And just like for us, medication can be used to control the effects of asthma. Typically, cats suffer more often from asthma than dogs.

Asthma Symptoms

Symptoms of asthma in dogs and cats can include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Difficult/labored breathing
  • Breathing with mouth open
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite/ Loss of weight

Sometimes, if your pet is having an asthma attack, he may take up a strange posture to ease his breathing. He may be hunched, low to the ground, with his neck extended forward and down, or up.

With cats, an asthma attack can be easily mistaken for them trying to cough up a hairball because the action and sounds may be very similar. The difference is, of course, that there is no resulting hairball being thrown up. (Just a note: A cat may not throw up a hairball each time they try either. Just watch them to see if a hairball does or does not come up after several tries.) Also, look for the other symptoms as well. If you have concerns, contact your vet.)

If the attack is severe enough, you may notice that your pet’s gums and tongue has a bluish tinge. This means he is not getting enough oxygen and should be seen by your veterinarian immediately.

What to Do for Your Dog or Cat With Asthma

If you suspect that your dog or cat suffers from asthma, make a note of when/where/how long your pet has an attack. Take your pet to the veterinarian and have him thoroughly examined. Other illnesses, such as respiratory infection, heartworm, lungworm, heart disease, and leukemia, should be ruled out because symptoms of these illnesses may be similar to asthma.

If you suspect that your dog or cat suffers from asthma, make a note of when/where/how long your pet has an attack. Take your pet to the veterinarian and have him thoroughlyexamined. Other illnesses, such as respiratory infection, heartworm, lungworm, heart disease, and leukemia, should be ruled out because symptoms of these illnesses may be similar to asthma.

Your vet may take chest x-rays, do blood, urine, and/or fecal tests, heartworm tests, and maybe even take a sampling of cells from the your pet’s airway.

Once your vet rules out any other illnesses and if they diagnose asthma, there are several different medications that can be prescribed to treat the asthma, including corticosteroids, antihistamines and bronchodilators.

Sometimes, the use of inhalers (like humans use) or oxygen therapy may be needed. If you can pinpoint the source of asthma attacks, such as dust from kitty litter, you can try to eliminate the source.

You can also ask your vet about possible natural or homeopathic treatments for asthma. Asthma can cause you and your pet distress, but with correct diagnosis and treatment, he can live a long, healthy, comfortable life.


Cat Litter Box Mess: Reader Feedback

In one of my newsletter stories, I addressed the subject of cat litter mess. To read the story, click the link.

One of our readers, J. Di Giacomo, wrote in with a couple of tips on how to contain the litter mess and odor. She also had a question about why a cat would poop outside the box.

“They [make] special mats to track or retain the loose litter so it doesn’t get everywhere [when the cat walks out of the litter box]. I myself have a small tray just outside the litter box that they step onto after using it and that seems to catch about 95% of the litter. The rest, I sweep up.”

Soft-Touch Track Mat

“As for the odor, I tried many litters and found Ever Clean Extra Strength Carbon Plus formula to work the
best. I have four cats. I [also use] a special formulated baking powder [from] Target for cat litter. I sprinkle that in the litter and that seems to do the trick.”

Ever Clean EverFresh Unscented Clumping Cat Litter with Activated Charcoal

“However, she doesn’t always use the litter box. Sometimes she poops [outside the box] on the floor. Do you know why she does this? Thanks!”

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Prozac Medication for Pets?

Many of us tend to see our pets as people, but what about treating behavioral problems in cats or dogs? I suppose it’s only natural that in some instances, people turn to medication for an answer.

When some people have difficulty with their pet’s behavior, such as obsessive compulsive behavior and aggression, they will have their veterinarian prescribe an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety drug like Prozac or Valium to control the unwanted behavior.

Behavioral Problems

In animals, obsessive compulsive behavior can manifest as constant licking or chewing, even ingesting non-edible materials, such as carpeting. Birds often exhibit obsessive compulsive behavior through plucking out their own feathers. This behavior can be destructive to homes and can endanger the health and well-being of the pet.

A well-known behavioral problem in dogs is separation anxiety, where the dog becomes extremely distressed when his owner leaves him alone. Some dogs are known to constantly pace, whine and/or bark, chew up and destroy anything and everything within reach, and even urinate and defecate inappropriately.

I have to admit that I am not in favor of prescribing pharmaceuticals to cats and dogs. I feel that just about every behavioral problem can be traced the need of proper training and exercise, even with cats. But then again, I haven’t owned an animal that has had extreme behavioral problems, and I realize that there may be situations where medication may temporarily be helpful.

I have seen cases where behavioral medications do work. One of my clients used anti-depressants for her cats and it worked wonders for one of her cats. Before being on the medication, her one cat was extremely
timid and very easily spooked. Not an easy behavior to work on, especially since there are other cats in the household.

She gave the cat a small dose of anti-depressants for a few months and the cat became more confident and outgoing. That effect continued to last even after she stopped the medication. Today, the cat is still medication-free and continues to be less skittish and more friendly and affectionate.

Unfortunately, the same medications didn’t have much effect on another one of her cats, who was a bit too hyper and wouldn’t stop chasing and tormenting the shy and timid cat. His behavior didn’t really change, so she stopped the medication and had to be satisfied that at least one of her cats had changed for the better.

If you’re having to deal with a pet’s destructive and unhealthy behavioral problems, first take him to the vet to get a thorough physical check-up. Sometimes behavioral problems are just a symptom of a physical illness. After eliminating any physical reasons for your pet’s problems, talk to your vet about your options, which should first include behavioral modification.

I still don’t feel that medication should necessarily be the first answer. Talk to a behavioral modification trainer
first and see if training can modify your pet’s behavior. Proper exercise and mental stimulation can do wonders too. This may take a bit of work on your part, and you must stay consistent and persistent. But, don’t your pets deserve it?

If Medication is Necessary

If you and your trainer decide that medication might help your pet, you should still pair training with any possible pharmaceutical solution.

Also be aware that medicating your pet might have unintended negative effects. Each animal is different and one might respond favorably to medication, while another on the same dosage might become more anxious or aggressive.

The medication may also have unwanted physical side effects. Talk to your vet and consult an animal behaviorist. Don’t be afraid to get second opinions on this subject to find out as much as you can.


About Rabbit as a Pet

When you hear the word “pet,” you probably think “dog” or “cat” automatically. But today, there are numerous other choices people make when it comes to animal companionship. One choice many people make is the cute, furry, and quiet rabbit.

Now, although rabbits may look cute and don’t make noise, they are very different from keeping a dog or cat. They have very specific needs and in some ways take more maintenance and care than dogs or cats. It’s important to learn as much as you can about rabbits before you take one in as a pet.

Rabbits as pets

Rabbits as pets

What’s a rabbit?

A rabbit is a mammal in the Laporidae family, of which there are about 50 different species. Rabbit breeds can vary in size (from dwarf to giant), color, and temperament. Research the different breeds available to determine which type is the best fit for you.

What do they eat?

Rabbits are herbivores. Their diet should consist of fresh hay, greens, and fruit. You can also purchase commercially available pellets, but they tend to be high in fat and starch, so you may want to limit the amount of pellets you give the rabbit.

Fresh hay is very important for the rabbit and should be available all the time. Grass hays, such as Timothy, Oat, Brome, Orchard, or Bermuda is preferable to legume hays, such as Alfalfa or Clover. The hay will help wear down a rabbit’s constantly growing teeth and aid in digestion.

It can also be used to help keep the rabbit entertained because they love to pick through hay, looking for the most tasty parts. It can also promote good litter box habits. If you put a pile of hay at one end of a litter box, the rabbit will root around, finding the best pieces to eat while finding comfort in a cozy box, and be able to eliminate in the other end of the box.

Rabbits will tend to curl up in their litter box more often than not. The best type of litter for rabbits is some type of organic litter or paper. Keep in mind rabbits will nibble on litter, so don’t get anything that would be harmful to the rabbit if ingested.

Be sure to purchase good, quality hay that is fresh. Avoid brown, dusty, moldy hay. You can purchase hay at pet stores, feed stores, horse farms, or even online stores. You should offer your rabbit a small amount of fresh hay about twice a day instead of just a big batch of hay once in a while.

Other elements to a rabbit’s diet should include fresh greens, such as broccoli, celery, green peppers, brussels sprouts, and bok choy. You can also feed the rabbit fruits such as peaches, apples, pears, blueberries, plums, pineapples, and strawberries. More sugary fruits such as grapes and bananas should be given more sparingly.

Another essential part of a rabbit’s diet is something the rabbit takes care of itself. Rabbits excrete two types of  substances. One type is ordinary fecal matter and the other type is the cecotrope, which is produced in a different part of the rabbit’s digestive tract called the cecum. The cecotropes provide the rabbit with essential nutrients for optimum health.

Keep in mind that rabbits’ digestive systems are fairly sensitive, so care should be taken with proper

Where should I keep the rabbit?

Ideally, rabbits should have a large space to roam, as well as a cage that contains fresh water, hay, a litter box, and straw or paper for bedding. Rabbits can be litter box-trained, but it might take a bit more time and patience than a cat.

You can have their litter box in their cage to to start and keep them confined to monitor their habits. Once they are consistently going potty in the box, you can let them out more and place litter boxes in other areas of your home for them to use. If you see them use a spot where you don’t have a box, place a box there for them.

The cage should be viewed as a “nest,” and not as the place they spend the bulk of their time. Rabbits are social, inquisitive creatures, and they’ll need your attention and companionship. The cage should be closed only if it’s bedtime, or if you are away and need to keep your rabbit confined to that space for a short time.

If you’re at home, you should rabbit-proof your home or part of your home and leave the cage door open so the rabbit can roam and play at will. The cage should be cleaned regularly and your rabbit should always have a nice fresh batch of hay to nibble on.

A big part of making your home rabbit-proof is putting away anything the rabbit might chew on. They love to chew and they won’t know the difference between the nice chew toy you bought them and your new pair of expensive shoes.

Even if you clean off the floor, rabbits might target your carpet to nibble on, so make sure your rabbit’s play area is suitably clean and free of anything you wouldn’t want chewed up.

Rabbits need exercise just like any animal and the best way for them to get it is just to be able to get out and explore. If you have a backyard, you can build an enclosure and let your rabbit roam outside. You do need to be cautious, however, since rabbits love to dig holes and can possibly escape an inadequate and unmonitored outdoor enclosure.

Where can I get a rabbit?

Just like with dogs and cats, you can get a rabbit from reputable breeders, pet stores, animal shelters, and rescue organizations. Before you adopt a rabbit, be sure to check the person or organization offering the rabbit to make sure they provide proper care for the rabbits they are offering.

A few other notes:

  • Rabbits are fragile. Be gentle with him and never pick him up by his ears! Don’t let children play unsupervised with rabbits as they can be too rough and may also provoke the rabbit into biting or scratching.
  • Rabbits need regular veterinary care just like your dog or cat. Find a vet that is knowledgeable about rabbits. Healthy and happy rabbits can live up to 10 years.
  • Rabbits should be neutered or spayed when about 4 to 6 months of age. Neutering will make the rabbit easier to litter train, less aggressive, and less destructive.
  • Rabbits will bite or scratch. Not all rabbits (like with dogs and cats) will be friendly, affectionate or cuddly. Every rabbit will have a different and distinctive personality and temperament.

Be sure you find out as much as you can about rabbits and their needs before picking one as your animal companion. You and the rabbit will be glad you did.


Dog Training: Use Voice Commands Before a Correction

I’m pet sitting for a couple dogs right now who are both very well trained. I know this because they perform the ‘Sit’ voice command really well when I feed them, give them treats, or put their leashes on. They have had dog obedience training and they know them well.

Walking Dog with Voice Commands

Using Voice Commands to Walk Dog

Now, speaking of putting their leashes on, when I take them for their walk, it’s a different story. The female, named Sora, is pretty good on the leash. She is older and calmer. The male Labrodoodle, named Lucky, is still young and easily distracted. Very easily.

He snaps his neck back and forth quickly looking at the next thing he sees or hears. He really has a hard time keeping his attention on any one thing. When he walks, he walks calmly for a few steps, then he lunges a bit. When he reaches the point where the leash stops him, he repeats this. He will also turn in front of me when he lunges forward and reaches the tension point of his leash.

In the beginning, I found myself giving him a correction each time he would lunge forward with a quick snap of the leash. This was getting me nowhere fast, and it did not stop the behavior. Then, I gave myself a correction and took my own advice from my own post of “Dog Training is not Yanking the Leash, it’s Commands.” 

How I Used the Voice Commands

I know that they are both well trained, so here are the steps I took to make my life easier.

  1. I stopped with the dogs and settled them down into a sit.
  2. We proceeded slowly, and when Lucky started to try to get ahead of me, I gave him a loud ‘Ah Ah’. He responded right away and kept by my side.
  3. He still didn’t respond quite as I wanted, and I was walking them both on my left side. So, I switched Sora to my right, and kept Lucky on my left. This made a world of difference. Part of his distraction was having Sora walking right next to him.
  4. I stopped them at all instances before crossing the street.

This made all the difference in the world. It worked like a charm. I maybe had to do a few small leash corrections, but for the most part I was just using my voice to control him.

Sure, I had to use voice commands a lot, but it is far easier and less of a strain than physically trying to do a leash correction each and every time. That is a lot of work, and it makes the walk unenjoyable. This way, I simply talked to him a lot.

We even came across some dogs fence fighting as we walked by. I stopped right in front of the fence (the dogs could even look out at us between the planks), and made them sit and stay calm while the dogs behind the fence continued to bark at us. They easily sat with the voice command. Eventually the barking dogs stopped.

We continued our walk, and Lucky kept getting better and better at walking calmly by my side. The lesson? If you train your dog, keep using the commands that they know. Use your voice commands often and you won’t have to do a leash correction all that much. The more you use your voice to control your dog, the more they will listen to you in all situations. It will make your life so much easier.


Cat Scratch Fever

Whenever I hear the phrase “cat scratch fever,” I think of the classic Ted Nugent song from 1977. But if you’re around cats, it’s helpful to remember that cat scratch fever, also known as cat scratch disease, is a type of bacterial infection one can get through the bite or scratch of a cat.
The bacteria, called Bartonella henselae, can enter the human body at the site of a bite or scratch and cause symptoms such as swelling and pain. As the infection worsens, a person can experience headache, fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, or bone, joint, or abdominal pain.
As with any infection, those who have compromised immune systems, like those with HIV/AIDS, or receiving treatment of cancer, can develop serious complications. Most healthy individuals can fight off the infection within a few weeks.
Although it is believed that the bacteria is passed via a scratch if the cat licks its paws, there are still questions about whether this is the only form of transmission. Fleas also carry the bacteria, but so far, there are no studies showing definitively that fleas pass on the bacteria to humans. It’s also not certain if the fleas pass the bacteria to cats.
It’s also possible to get the infection without getting bitten or scratched. For example, if the cat that is carrying the bacteria licks its fur, then rubs against a human friend, somehow transferring the bacteria into the human’s eyes, it can get passed on that way. Children are more likely to contract the disease than adults.
If you’ve been bitten or scratched by a cat, wash and disinfect the wound immediately. If the wound becomes a sore or blister within a few days and you begin experiencing some of the other symptoms mentioned above, check in with your doctor.
Most people won’t need medication to fight off the infection, but some may need a course of antibiotics. A simple blood test can determine if you have cat scratch disease. In some cases, swollen and painful lymph nodes may be drained.
The best way to prevent this disease is to avoid cats, or if you own cats, don’t provoke or play roughly with them. Kittens usually have a higher rate of infection, so be extra careful when playing with kittens.
If you happen to have an open cut or wound, be sure not to let your cat lick it. The cats themselves show no symptoms of carrying the bacteria, so just be cautious. Also, try to keep your cat(s) and home free of fleas.

Helping Pets in Japan

Whenever disaster strikes in any part of the world, the first donation I make is to the Red Cross. Quick and efficient aid is critical and I know the Red Cross can get the job done. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan was horrific, and the people there need all the help they can get.

Helping Pets in Japan

Animal rescue workers save dog after Japan earthquake and tsunami. Photo courtesy of Associated Press.

Pets in Japan

The next thing that comes to my mind is pet rescue. We see it all the time – the many pets in need of aid after a disaster. I recently saw a video on You Tube that was heartbreaking. The video showed one dog refusing to leave the side of its companion after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

There are numerous posts of this video. Here is one of them.

Loyal Dog Won’t Leave Injured Friend Behind

As an animal-lover, I want to do what I can for those pets that survived the disaster, but are lost and hurt without their owners. Here is some information I’ve gathered on the web about how we can help those beloved pets in need.

Japan Animal Rescue Groups

You can donate to these following animal rescue groups working in Japan. They are working hard to rescue as many animals from the tsunami disaster as possible.

The Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support is made up of three groups – HEART-Tokushima, Animal Garden Niigata, and Japan Cat Network. These groups are rescuing, sheltering, and re-homing pets.


Chipin: Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support – The link to their site is no longer live.

—-End Update

World Vets provides veterinary assistance all over the world. They currently have vets on the ground in Japan and are working with Animal Friends of Niigata and Japan Cat Network.


Animal Refuge Kansai is preparing to take in pets and is also accepting donations.


Humane Society International is also working together with Japanese animal organizations to provide assistance.



Emergency Preparedness and Your Pets

With the recent disaster in Japan, I thought it was a good time to talk about emergency preparedness and your pets. Sure, you need to be prepared for your family, but you need to consider your pets as well. The Red Cross shelters do not allow pets, so you will need to have a plan in place that will work for your family, including your pets.

Prepare for an Emergency With Your Pets in Mind

When going through ordinary, everyday life – working, taking care of kids, shopping, and chores – it’s easy to overlook the things we should do to ensure the safety and well-being of our pets in case of emergencies. Here are a few tips to help you be prepared in case of unexpected events or natural disasters.

Keep an Emergency Kit for Yourself as Well as Your Pet

Living in earthquake-prone California, I’m sure you’ve all heard about keeping an emergency kit handy in case of disaster.These kits will typically contain water, food, flashlights, candles, matches, duct tape, a first aid kit, a radio, rope, medications, etc. It’s also a good idea to have one prepared for your pet(s).

You can include a week’s supply of water and food, dishes, leashes and harnesses, towels, medications, a carrier, a pet first aid kit, paper towels, a litter pan, litter, a pillow case, and a blanket. You should keep this kit in an easily accessible location.

You can also include important information, such as the name, location, and phone number of your veterinarian, medical records, including vaccination information. Be sure to rotate out food, water, and medications every few months to keep the supply fresh.

Be sure you have an emergency sticker

Make sure you have an “In case of emergency…” sticker or decal prominently placed on your house, usually on a window at the front entrance of the house. This will aid any rescue workers who might check your home during fires or other disasters.

The sticker should include the following:

  • The number and types of animals in the home
  • Your contact information
  • Your vet’s name and number

If you have left the home with your pets, be sure to write “EVACUATED” across the front of the sticker.

Bring Pets Indoors During Emergencies

If you notice that a severe storm, hurricane, or tornado is approaching, bring all pets indoors. You don’t want them wandering away just as disaster is about to strike.  Coordinate with a trusted neighbor, relative, or friend.

In case you aren’t able to be at home, give a copy of your house key to a trusted neighbor, relative, or friend so they can take care of your pets or even evacuate them for you in case of an emergency. If they have pets, you can do the same for them.

Check other locations to use as safe havens

Find the places near your home where you would be able to take your pet in case you need to evacuate your home. Most emergency evacuation sites will not allow pets. Check local hotels/motels to see if they would accept pets in case of emergencies.

Check veterinary hospitals, boarding facilities, and shelters to see if they would be able to temporarily shelter you animal. It’s always best to know ahead of time where you can go instead of scrambling during a time of stress and uncertainty.

Be sure your pet has a current ID

Make sure your pet has tags that are up-to-date with information such as your phone number and address. The best ID for your pet is a microchip that can be imbedded into the back of their neck. Most shelters can scan for the chip and obtain identification information. Also have on hand a current photo of your pet(s).

Never leave your pet in your home

It’s very dangerous and potentially deadly to leave your pet alone in the home when emergencies strike. But if you absolutely have no choice, be sure they are confined inside. Never leave a dog chained outside. Make sure your pets have food and water.

Display a notice prominently that states that there are animals in your home, your name and number, where you can be located, as well as the name and number of your vet. It’s always difficult to imagine the very worst scenarios when every day life seems calm and predictable, but emergencies do happen, so do your best to be prepared for you and your pets.

They depend on you.

Download an Emergency Preparedness for Your Pets Guide now.