All posts by: Waggy Walkys

Where do you go to feel safe?

When you’ve had a bad day at work, where is it you go to relax and recover? Perhaps it’s stretched out on the sofa or hiding under a duvet, but we all have a place we go when things get on top of us.

Actually, this is the idea behind crate training a puppy. A crate is the puppy’s den, a safe nest. Whilst superficially the bars may look like a cage, your pup doesn’t see things that way. What he sees is a warm, cozy cave where he feels able to sleep in safety.

From the pet parent’s perspective, a crate offers a means of keeping a pup safe from household hazards and it’s an aid to potty training. So what’s not to like? OK, when crates are abused by using it to punish the dog or leaving the dog inside for way too long, then it is undoubtedly a bad thing. However, when you know how to crate train a puppy in the right way, everyone is happy.

Plan Ahead for the Pooch

Before bringing pup home from the shelter or breeder, make some preparations.

First, choose the right sized crate for the pup. Just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the crate should not be too big or too small, but just right (which can also mean buying a second, bigger crate for the adult dog). Ideally the puppy should have room for a super-comfy bed and a water bowl, whilst being able to stand up without banging his head, turn around, and lie down with his legs stretched out.

Secondly, get hold of a blanket that smells of the mother dog, and place it ready and waiting inside the crate. The familiar smell will be a huge source of comfort when the newbie arrives in his new fur-ever home.

Location! Location! Location!

Where you put the crate is also important. Remember, your pup wants to feel connected to the family (rather than isolated) but in a place where it’s quiet enough to rest undisturbed. A great spot is the corner of a lounge room, where he can see the family watching TV but has his own space.

For this reason, whilst a laundry room is OK, it’s not an ideal location. Your pup may feel isolated and cut off from the rest of the house, which may cause him to bark. Also, a washer may suddenly go into spin cycle, which is alarming and may frighten the youngster.

Crate Training Do’s and Don’ts

OK, here are a few basic ground rules about crate training.

  • DO: Encourage the pup to explore the crate. This means hiding tasty treats and special toys inside for him to discover.
  • DON’T: Force the puppy inside
  • DO: Praise him when he sits inside without crying
  • DON’T: Let him out when he’s crying, as this rewards the noise and makes him more likely to cry in future
  • DO: Take things slowly and very slowly extend the amount of time pup is left inside the crate
  • DON’T: Use the crate as a place of punishment or leave him in for hours on end

Getting Started with Crate Training

You bring a new puppy home.

TOP TIP: The first thing to do is take him to the toilet spot, so he knows where he’s supposed to relieve himself. Now take him into the house.

You’ve already placed a few tasty treats inside the crate, so show him where it is. When he’s not looking, hide more treats in the crate. The idea is to have him link the crate to discovering tasty snacks. That way every now and again he’ll break off from play, to run over and see if any more treats have appeared as if by magic.

Also try putting a favorite toy in the crate. Then sit with him and play with the toy whilst he’s inside the crate (with the door open.) Change the toys around so there’s always something new to discover.

Anytime he happens to pop into the crate, be sure to praise him and tell him he’s a clever boy. He’ll lap up the praise and consider popping in just to get attention –  exactly what you want.

Try feeding him in the crate. And this is where things pick up pace, because whilst he’s distracted by eating, briefly shut the door. Leave it closed a few seconds and then open it immediately. Gradually extend the amount of time you leave the door shut.

Initially, he will be distracted by eating and not even notice the closed door. If he looks up and is quiet, then praise him. If he whimpers, ignore him. As soon as the whimpers stop, praise him and open the door. He is learning that good, quiet behavior is rewarded whilst crying gets him nothing.

As he becomes more relaxed and accepting of the closed door, move a little away from the crate. In the same way, praise his good behavior, and let him out once he’s calm. As training progresses, start to leave the room…but only return when he’s quiet.

 

A Word about How Long to Leave Puppy in the Crate

During training, keep his crate confinement short and sweet at a few minutes, gradually building up the time.

Once he’s happy to settle down and sleep, be careful not to overstep the mark by leaving him in the crate too long. As a rule of thumb, a puppy can only hold his toilet for the number of hours that he is old in months – plus one. Confused? OK, a two-month old pup can hold on for a max of three hours, whilst a four month pup can hold a max of five hours.

But…and it’s a big but…puppies need plenty of love, attention, and stimulation. Avoid leaving even older pups unattended in a crate for more than four hours at a time. It just isn’t fair to your best buddy, who may start to resent the crate rather than love it.

Crate training done right is makes for a happy, safe puppy. So keep those tails wagging by making his crate an interesting and comfortable place to be.

The post How to Crate Train a Puppy appeared first on Love That Pet.

Dog skin is surprising stuff. For example, canine skin is thinner and more fragile than human skin. Who’d have thought!

 

 

Think of skin like a brick wall, with the bricks representing skin cells. Not only do dogs have fewer layers of bricks (their skin is literally thinner) but the bricks are basic and the mortar weak, which makes canine skin less resilient to damage.

Of course, the advantage dogs do have over people is a thick layer of fur. This acts as a protective barrier, the equivalent of clothes on top of the skin. But if this shield is breached by scratches, cuts, or bugs and parasites set up home in the fur, and then the result is often irritated, infected, or inflamed skin.

 

What Kind of Dog Skin Conditions Are There?

 

There are a myriad of skin conditions that affect dogs. Confusingly when skin is damaged it has limited ways to respond and tends to either ulcerate, redden, or become infected. This means many conditions look similar, and it’s tricky reaching a diagnosis on physical appearance alone. This is why it’s important to seek veterinary attention if your dog has bad skin. Delaying seeking help often results in complications, when the damaged dermis allows bacteria or yeast to breed and create a secondary infection.

From parasites to cancer, infections to autoimmune disorders, there’s a surprising range of dog skin conditions which can look deceptively similar.

 

Pesky Parasites

 

Fleas, lice, and ticks: Some bugs are guaranteed to have us scratching just at the mention of their name. But there are plenty of others that are less well known that also make our canine companions itchy and scratchy; for example fox mange mites, ear mites, waking dandruff mites, and demodex.

What these bugs all have in common is they irritate the surface of the skin. Some also cause allergic reactions to their saliva, when they bite and feed. But aside from raised red lumps and rashes, your fur-friend is going to scratch and chew, which means damaged skin that is ripe for bacteria to invade, leading to skin infections.

 

Irritating Infections

 

Skin is a shield, but a relatively weak one. It has its own immune system that’s designed to fight off infection, but it doesn’t take much to over-whelm it. When a dog’s general health is low or the skin is weakened by inflammation, then so-called ‘secondary invaders’ (think of them as squatters) take advantage. These could be bacteria, yeasts, or even fungi that colonize the skin. Whilst they can’t be diagnosed on appearance alone, they do tend to show tell-tale signs such as:

  • Bacterial infections: Tend to be moist and exudative, with a sticky discharge. Think ‘hot spots’ for a small scale infection and moist pyoderma on a large scale.
  • Yeast infections: Often the skin and coat takes on a greasy feel. When yeast infections run unchecked then the skin often thickens and has a blackened cobble-stone appearance.
  • Fungal infections: Such as ringworm cause hairs to fall out, leading to patches of exposed skin that may be scaly.

 

Annoying Allergies

 

A real biggie in dogs is allergic skin disease. This common condition causes intense irritation that leads to chewing, licking, and scratching. It comes about when the immune system overreacts to pollens or other substances in the environment. This is the doggy equivalent of hay fever, except the pollens irritate the skin rather than the nose and eyes.

 

Scaly Seborrhea

 

Our next set of dog skin conditions is internally driven. Seborrheic conditions are those when the skin turnover time is too fast. If this has you scratching your head, it simply means that skin cells are born, mature, and die too quickly. Thus the dog tends to have dry flaky skin, as that new skin cells catapult towards the surface too fast.

A related condition can also affect the grease glands in the skin, making them over active. As you might suspect, this causes a greasy coat as it’s constantly bathed in too much oil. And heck…that grease then attracts certain bacteria, so secondary infections are common.

 

Concerning Cancers

 

The skin is an organ, and like any body part it can succumb to cancer. This may be a form of skin cancer caused by excessive exposure to the sun, or spontaneously arising cancers such as malignant melanoma.

Those dogs most at risk of sun-related cancers lack protective pigment in their skin. Thus dogs with pink noses, pink eyelids, or white patches in the coat should be protected from sun burn. And yes, this does mean keeping the dog in the shade in high summer and using doggy sunscreen.

 

Immune-mediated

 

In conditions such as lupus or pemphigus the immune system attacks the skin. For some bizarre reason it tends to attack where moist mucus membranes (such as the gums, lining of the rectum, or eyelids) meet haired skin.

The signs include ulcers, crusting, and redness. Be especially suspicious if this happens around the eyes, lips, or anal ring.

 

Side Effects on the Skin

 

Last but not least in our romp through dog skin conditions are those down to general ill health which is reflected in the skin. In a similar way to when you’re sick your skin may break out or look dull, so the health of canine skin dips when a dog is unwell.

Common conditions such as Cushing’s disease or underactive thyroid glands can have a knock on effect on the coat. For Cushing’s disease this can mean thinning skin, blackheads, and bruising, whilst for hypothyroidism the coat is poor quality and bald patches develop.

 

Keep your Dog’s Skin Healthy

 

Whilst you may not be able to prevent disease, you can go a long way to keeping your dog’s skin healthy. Simple things, like a monthly bath helps to wash away bacteria and rebalance the skin. Feed a healthy diet rich in vitamins and antioxidants, gives the skin the perfect building blocks for good health. And don’t forget parasite control, since preventing the itch goes a long way to preventing damage.

And last but not least, seek treatment early if your dog’s skin takes a down turn. Postponing that vet visit could mean complications develop, which mean that pesky problem takes longer to bring under control. Let’s hear it for glossy coats and itch-free canines!

The post Dog Skin Conditions appeared first on Love That Pet.

Do you have what it takes to be a gerbil guardian?

If you’re looking for a small, caged pet that’s awake when you are and loads of fun to boot, then gerbils are ideal for you! Intelligent, sociable, and with an in-built love of tunneling, gerbils are jolly little rodents that give you plenty to smile about.

Gerbil Biology Basics

 

Let’s get up close and personal by looking at gerbil biology. Gerbils have a lifespan of 3 – 4 years (sometimes longer), which compares favorably with 2 – 2 ½ years for hamster. Indeed, gerbils are almost the inverse of hamsters, because they love to live in groups (rather than singly) and mostly active during the day (rather than night.)

Gerbils hate being alone and love company, and do best when kept in same-sex groups. However, be warned! Mixing gerbil genders leads to a population explosion, since gerbils start to breed from around three months of age and produce a new litter of 4 – 10 babies every 24 days. Ooops!

Another nice-to-know fact is that gerbils are clean animals. This is on account of their desert heritage, which gifted them with kidneys that are very efficient at conserving water. Although they should always have access to fresh drinking water, they may not drink much and produce dry waste as a result – which is good news when it comes to cleaning out.

 

Gerbil Fun Facts

• Gerbils are great tunnellers, and love nothing better than a good dig
• Male gerbils make excellent fathers, and play a role in raising their young
• Unlike hamsters, gerbils don’t have cheek pouches
• Gerbils are the kangaroo of the rodent world, with back legs that a way longer than their front ones
• Wild gerbils hoard food in stores weighing up to 1.5kg

 

The Gerbilarium: Home Sweet Home

 

The tank gerbils are kept in is called a gerbilarium, but despite the fancy name it’s basically a large tank or aquarium with a a cage on top. However, make sure it has a secure wire lid as gerbils are great jumpers (those long back legs!) and will escape. Indeed, make sure they have plenty of room to play and dig. A basic recommendation size of gerbilarium for a pair of gerbils is 40 – 75cm by a height of 30 cm.

 

Wire cages are less suitable than glass, mainly because there’s nothing to stop a snow drift of bedding being kicked out when your gerbil starts digging. However, the drawback with a glass tank is the lack of ventilation, which is where that wire lid comes in. But also be ultra-careful to keep the tank out of direct sunlight as the temperature inside soon soars to dangerous levels.

 

Bedding and Tunneling

 

In the wild, gerbils escape the desert and scrubland heat by burrowing. They are veritable moles when it comes to underground excavations, digging long tunnels around 3 meters long, complete with lots of side chambers, entrances and exits.

It’s difficult to mimic this in a gerbilarium, but a good deep layer of bedding goes some way. Think along the lines of organic soil or peat, or a deep layer of Timothy hay. Also provide a nesting area, with super-cozy shredded paper inside. It’s best to avoid fluffy materials, since also this look and feel great, they can get tangled around limbs and cause serious harm.

As for a nest box, be aware gerbils love to chew! This means a plastic or wood box will be destroyed in short order. However a great alternative is a small clay flower pot, which is indestructible and secure.

Along with other desert dwelling species, gerbils are used to keeping themselves clean with dust baths. Offer a wide flat container filled with chinchilla sand (widely available from pet stores) so your gerbil can roll around and keep their coat clean and conditioned.

 

Food and Feeding

 

Going back to their roots, wild gerbils dine on a diet of grasses, seeds, bulbs, leaves, and herbage. To mimic this, most owners feed part of the diet as a commercial pelleted mix, with part as fresh fruit and veggies.
Variety is great but some foods are off the menu as they make gerbils unwell. Those foods NOT to feed include potatoes, tomato leaves, rhubarb, and grapes or raisins.

However, gerbils can cheerfully chomp on a selection of apples, broccoli, cucumber, carrots, cauliflower, fennel, melon, oranges, and pumpkin. Nom nom.

Heavy ceramic feeding bowls work best, as they are more difficult to tip over. That said, sometimes feeding time can get quite competitive, so to avoid fights it’s as well to scatter food over the bedding and allow the gerbils to forage. And oh yes, don’t worry if they bury their food…this is normal behavior. However, you may need to get rid of moldy foods for them…

Gerbil Healthcare

When provided with the right conditions gerbils are generally healthy creatures. There biggest weakness is their teeth, which grow all the time. To keep them the correct length provide wooden chew toys or orchard wood (from pesticide free trees) so they can gnaw those incisors down.

And finally, as with any pet, check on them several times a day. Get used to what is normal for your gerbils, and if they seem more withdrawn, stop eating, or otherwise seem unwell then get them checked by a vet.

The post Gerbil Care appeared first on Love That Pet.

 

Is your older cat drinking lots and leaving big puddles in the litter box? One possible explanation is kidney disease. As the saying goes: ‘Common things are common,’ and this is certainly true of kidney trouble in cats.

 

 

Think of kidney disease as a: Good news, bad news diagnosis.

The good news is in the early stages treatment slows its progression, whilst the bad news is it can’t be cured.

Far from being all doom and gloom, there are ways of supporting ailing kidneys, especially with an early diagnosis. When treatment starts when the problem is mild it protects the kidney and makes a real difference to your four-legger’s life expectancy. And when the condition is more advanced, you can help your fur-friend by keeping her comfortable and monitoring quality of life.

 

Why Do Kidneys Matter?

 

Kidneys work all day, every day and never take a rest, but often we don’t appreciate their hard work until it’s too late.

Kidneys have many vital roles in the body including:

  • Cleaning natural toxins from the blood
  • Getting rid of waste products in urine
  • Recycling water by reclaiming it from blood
  • Controlling levels of vital electrolytes (salts)
  • Producing hormones that control blood pressure and red blood cell production

Fascinating things, kidneys! We’re born with two, but get along fine with one (which is why we can donate a kidney without ill effects to ourselves). Those clever kidneys are efficient at their job, and we’re born with a spare!

So how does kidney damage happen?

 

Causes of Kidney Disease

 

After years of hard work, the kidneys start to wear out. Active nephrons (filtering units) become damaged and are replaced by scar tissue. Over the course of a cat’s lifetime the amount of active working kidney tissue dwindles, leading to symptoms such as thirst, weight loss, and a poor appetite.

 

Old age degeneration (often referred to as chronic kidney disease or CKD) is common, but damage also happens for other reasons, including:

 

  • Kidney infections
  • Trauma
  • Congenital problems such as cysts in the kidney
  • Damage by toxins or drugs
  • Kidney inflammation
  • Cancer

 

What are the Signs of Kidney Disease?

 

Without the kidneys working at full capacity, carefully controlled salt and water levels start to go cock-eyed. Toxins levels rise and anemia develops. But this doesn’t happen overnight because kidney disease is a slowly progressive disease. The body does it’s best to cope and this is where the symptoms creep in.

For example, a leaky kidney is not great at recycling water and the cat produces dilute urine. The body needs to replace this lost water, so the cat drinks more. Get the idea?

 

Other signs to be alert for include:

 

  • Increased thirst: You may spot this indirectly by noticing larger puddles in the litter box
  • Weight loss: The kidney tends to leak protein which is lost in urine, leading to a general loss of body condition.
  • Poor appetite: Levels of naturally occurring toxins rise. These are linked to feelings of nausea which puts the cat off her food.
  • Vomiting: The stomach lining becomes inflamed and the cat struggles to keep food down
  • Lack of energy: The cat sleeps more
  • Poor coat: The fur tends to lose its gleam and luster, as the cat’s grooming habit falters
  • Bad breath: Those toxins make for smelly breath and inflamed gums

 

There are other effects which may not be obvious to a pet parent, including high blood pressure and anemia.

However, all these signs are quite general so what’s most important is to recognize there’s a problem and get the cat checked by a vet.

 

How is Kidney Disease Diagnosed?

 

The vet takes a history and performs a physical exam. This is to rule out certain problems and guide the vet as to the best tests to run. Typically these start with general blood tests, to get the big picture. One complication is that older cats may have more than one problem, so the vet will want to know what’s what before starting therapy.

But kidney disease isn’t an all-or-nothing condition, and ranges from mild to severe. In fact, the vet may well want to run additional tests to work out how far along the line the kidneys are. This may then influence the choice of treatment and how the case is managed.

 

Your vet may want to run one or all of the following tests:

 

  • SDMA: This test is the new kid on the block. It’s a super sensitive way of detecting the earliest hint of kidney disease and acts as a warning the cat needs monitoring
  • Screening Blood Tests: These check general organ function, along with red cells and white cells. This important information tells the vet if it’s kidney disease alone or if other problems are present.
  • BUN, Creatinine, Phosphate: Often used as a monitoring test once the problem has been diagnosed.
  • Urine Analysis: Measuring how dilute or concentrated urine is an important measure of kidney function
  • UPC Ratio: This stands for Urine Protein: Creatinine ratio, and is a measure of how much protein leaks through the kidney.
  • Urine Culture: Low grade infection is common but often the cat doesn’t show signs. Culturing the urine lets the vet know if antibiotics would be beneficial
  • Blood Pressure Measurement: A common complication of kidney disease is high blood pressure. This can cause further damage, along with strokes, so monitoring blood pressure is a wise precaution.
  • Ultrasound Scan: If a cystic kidneys or cancer is suspected, imaging helps complete the picture.

 

 The vet puts the piece together like a jigsaw puzzle, to decide what stage the renal disease is at. This allows the vet to suggest the most appropriate treatment for your cat.

 

Managing Kidney Disease

 

Chronic kidney disease is controlled rather than cured. This sounds gloomy, but as mentioned earlier, a problem caught early can be well managed and the cat lead a normal life.

The backbone of treatment is diet, so let’s look at this first.

Renal Diets

One of the kidney’s most important jobs is getting rid of toxins from the body. Therefore it makes sense to give an ailing kidney as little work as possible. This is where renal foods come in.

These prescription diets contain reduced levels of high quality protein. In practical terms this means the food is ‘purer’ and once digested, there are less waste products to be excreted in urine. Thus, the kidney has less detoxing to do.

But renal diets don’t stop there. They are also low in minerals, such as phosphate, which are difficult to filter and known to encourage scar tissue. They are rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids, to reduce inflammation and ongoing damage, plus are rich in potassium (which is lost through leaky kidneys) and B vitamins (to help appetite.)

Switching to a renal diet is the first step, but there are plenty of other therapeutic options to explore.

Phosphate Binders

For the cat that steadfastly refuses to eat a renal diet, adding a phosphate binder to their regular food is beneficial. These supplements cling onto the phosphate in food, keeping it within the gut, rather than letting it pass into the blood stream.

Phosphate binders are simply mixed with each meal to reduce the amount of phosphate reaching the kidney.

 

Encourage Drinking

 

Water cleans the blood and flushes out the kidneys, therefore encouraging the cat to drink is a good thing. Strategies include giving wet food, providing lots of water bowls, or even a pet drinking fountain.

In the later stages of kidney disease, your vet may even teach you how to inject saline solution under the cat’s skin, to boost her hydration.

 

ACE inhibitors

 

An exciting treatment that is an investment in the long term health of the kidney is drugs called ACE inhibitors. These change the blood pressure gradient across the kidney, to help it work more efficiently.

Not all cats are suitable for ACE inhibitors, so your vet is best placed to make a judgement call on an individual basis.

Managing Blood Pressure

Cats with high blood pressure often benefit from taking medication, such as amlodipine, to bring it back to normal. Again, this call is made on an individual basis, but could help protect the cat against heart muscle damage or even a stroke.

Potassium Supplements

Potassium leaks through the kidney and can leave the cat deficient. Potassium is important for muscular strength, and a deficiency leaves the cat weak or even struggling to hold her head up.

Supplements need to be carefully monitored, as too much can cause heart complications, but your vet can advise you on the dose.

Ant-acids Medications

Kidney cats are prone to stomach ulcers, which are painful and reduce appetite. There are liquid medications available which coat the stomach lining and improve appetite, or an excellent once daily antacid tablet.

Appetite Stimulants

An ailing appetite is sadly all too common as things progress. However, your vet may be able to prescribe medications such as cyproheptadine or mirtazapine to pep up their eating. Injections of B vitamins can also help improve a faltering appetite.

 

When Things Get Serious

 

The kidneys work 24/7 and eventually, be it weeks, months or year later, all that work means the cat enters a more worrying stage where her kidneys seriously struggle. This is when her appetite is poor; she can’t keep food down, and becomes dehydrated.

Your vet may suggest intravenous fluids, to flush her body of toxins and give temporary relief. Sadly, how beneficial this is can vary hugely depending on how sick the cat is.

Whilst no-one wants to say a final goodbye, it is vitally important to keep your cat’s best interests as the focus of attention. Be realistic about her quality of life, and keep talking to friends and family about how they perceive her.

Share any concerns with your vet, who can give you the medical perspective on her condition. However, only you know how she is at home, and the weight of the ultimate decision rests on your shoulders. But let’s hope that’s many months and years in the future.

Take heart if your cat is diagnosed with renal disease. Whilst the problem can’t be cured, there are ways of managing the condition which keep those purrs coming!

The post Kidney Disease in Cats appeared first on Love That Pet.

If your dog has always been, for lack of better words, a ‘licky dog’ then it may just be a normal behavior for your dog. If it is a new behaviour, there can be underlying medical or behavioural issues to address.

Behavioral

Some dogs just tend to lick more than others, and this usually includes licking the air, their lips, objects around the house and quite often your face! As with any behavior, if it is undesirable to you then remember the golden rule of ‘IGNORE unwanted behavior, REWARD wanted behavior’.   You can find more info on training your dog here.

It is also worth mentioning that while behavioral causes are possible, one study found them to be a less likely cause than a GI abnormality. Anxiety can lead to obsessive compulsive disorders and air licking can be a symptom.

Abdominal or Gastro-intestinal pain

One possibility, is pain from a gastro-intestinal/abdominal abnormality. Such abnormalities can include pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, gastric foreign body, ulcer, or other cause of abdominal or gastro-intestinal pain. If your dog also has diarrhea and/or is vomiting, this increases the likelihood of abdominal or gastro-intestinal pain being the cause.

Oral issues

Oral Issues can also lead to air licking, such as dental disease (usually severe) or something stuck in the mouth, for example a stick (check the roof of your dogs mouth if they are amenable to this as this is a common place of stick lodgement).

Neurological problems

Air licking can also be part of a seizure complex and may indicate an underlying neurological problem, for example epilepsy, other disorders affecting the brain.

What should I do if it is a new behavior?

If you are noticing this new behavior and are unsure about the cause, it may warrant a trip to the vet.  Before going to the vet, it is a good idea to take a video recording of the behavior and note down anything that might be causing the behavior.  For example if it is right after the dog eats, and recording a short video of the behavior.  This could be helpful to find the underlying cause and it is often difficult to show the behavior to the vet in the exam room.

The post Why Does My Dog Lick the Air? appeared first on Love That Pet.

The causes for your dog peeing on the bed, can be broken down into medical and behavioural causes. We run through what you need to know about both.

Signs that it may be a medical one include sudden onset of the problem, dribbling urine without your dog realizing, or any problems with urination such as straining or increased frequency. There is more information on the possible medical causes below.

BEHAVIORAL

General lack of house training can be a cause of your dog peeing indoors. This is obviously more common in puppies. With any training, follow the golden rule of ‘reward the behavior you want, ignore the behavior you don’t’. Punishing the behavior of peeing inside can confuse your puppy into thinking you don’t want it to urinate or defecate, and can increase the anxiety around the act making the problem worse.

If they do toilet inside, remove them and place them where you would like them to toilet, then give a gentle pat. In conjunction with this, take your puppy outside regularly, and especially after a meal. When they toilet outside, quietly reward them with a treat or pat. Try not to get too over-ex  cited about it.

If your dog is easily excited/anxious (the two can go hand in hand) then this can cause temporary loss of bladder control. This is common in puppies who are learning how to control their bladder and they can sometimes pee without knowing when they are especially excited.

If jumping on the bed is associated with anxiety or excitement for your pet, then it is best to ignore them if they get onto the bed. As with most behaviors, punishing your pet is fruitless, and can make the problem worse by increasing anxiety associated with being ‘caught’ on the bed.

If there is something else that is causing your pet to become anxious and they jump on the bed as a comfort mechanism, then this may be the underlying cause of the peeing (as opposed to the bed itself). In this situation, it may be best to create an area your dog feels comfortable that is not a bed! But you also need to treat whatever is leading to the underlying anxiety eg. Thunderstorms, separation from you, other noise, other fear of something etc.

Sticking to a daily schedule and good training can help to reduce anxiety. There are also anti-anxiety medications that can be very helpful and can be prescribed by your vet. A veterinary behaviourist is worth a visit if the problem is bothering you or is associated with other anxious behaviours. Any dog with even a hint of aggression should see a Veterinary behaviourist asap.

Marking behavior is more common in cats, but certainly can occur with dogs. It is important with these dogs to establish a heirachy with you at the top! Then they feel less need to mark the territory and protect you and themselves, as you are top dog so the job is yours. Again it is important not to punish the behavior, but certainly try to keep your dog out of the area where they are marking, then look to work with a Veterinary behaviorist on the underlying anxiety or territorial behavior.

MEDICAL

Especially if the behavior is new, it may be related to a medical problem. If you find urine on the bed after your dog has been sleeping, or your dog dribbles urine without knowing, it may be due to a condition known as hormone-responsive urinary incontinence.

This kind of urinary incontinence is more common in desexed animals (regardless of what age they are desexed). It generally responds to medications that work on the bladder sphincter. It is a good idea to treat as urinary incontinence can predispose dogs to increased water intake and urinary tract infections.

There are other causes of urinary incontinence other than the hormone-responsive type such as a congenital abnormality (in which case you would usually see dribbling urine from a young age), increased water intake from any cause, bladder stones, spinal injury, certain medications , cancer (rare) or a prostate condition.

Urinary tract infections are also a medical cause of inappropriate urination. Urinary tract infections can lead to inflammation of the bladder and a subsequent sudden urge to pee. Your dog may then simply need to pee wherever they are, and this may be the bed! Other possible symptoms of a urinary tract infection are more frequent urinations, straining to urinate, smelly urine or blood in the urine.

Canine cognitive disorder can be a problem in older dogs and is also known as ‘doggie dementia’. One of the symptoms of doggie dementia is inappropriate toileting.

Increased water intake will inevitably lead to increased need to urinate and your dog may not be able to hold on for as long. There are multiple medical conditions that can cause a dog to increase water intake. Some of the more common ones are kidney disease, diabetes, incontinence as discussed above, cushings disease, cancer and liver disease.
If you are suspicious of a medical condition, the best thing you can do is take your pet to the vet with a urine sample in hand. Collect this sample in a clean container (or pick one up from your clinic beforehand) and ideally take the first urination of the day. Your vet will then usually be able to do at least a basic analysis inhouse that very day, which will give clues as to what the next step is.

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Interested in a pet iguana or wondering how to care for it properly?  This guide will help you get started with the basics of taking care of this prehistoric pet.

 

What many potential iguana keepers don’t realize is their handful of a baby iguana is destined to grow into something approaching a 20lb dinosaur lookalike. The only reason an iguana wouldn’t reach this size is if they aren’t properly cared for and die young. Since neglecting an iguana is a not an option, this means that pint-sized hatchling soon needs their own room – literally!

 

Iguana Basic Biology

An adult Iguana measures 5 – 7 ft. (the females are shorter) from nose to tail tip, and weigh in at around 20 lbs. They can also live up to 20 years and are therefore a considered commitment for any pet parent.

Your scaly-friend needs plenty of space, such as an enclosure measuring 12 by 6 by 6 feet. Plus they are cold-blooded and require the area to be heated (which can work out expensive in winter) and UV lighting for strong bones.

As for food, iguanas are vegetarian and require a diet of fresh fruit and veg. This should be sprinkled with calcium powder to reduce the risk of metabolic bone disease.

OK, you have a spare room and embrace the prospect of a large scaly friend. Are iguanas easy to care for? Yes and no.

 

Iguana Temperament and Handling

Apart from those amazing prehistoric looks, iguanas are known for their engaging personalities. When handled from a youngster, they grow to know their carer and seek out their company. Iguanas even have a reputation for following their pet parent around like a dog.

However, friendly iguanas don’t happen by chance, and you do need to start handling them from a young age. A lot like socializing a puppy, regular one-to-one time with people helps the baby iguana get used to people and enjoy their company. The end result is a friendly reptile that doesn’t bite (which is important as an iguana bite can do real damage.)

A final factor to consider when handling an iguana is the risk of salmonellosis. Like many reptiles, iguanas may carry the salmonella bug. The reptile isn’t unwell but excretes the bacteria which then pose a risk to people. Good hygiene is essential, which includes washing your hands after contact with the iguana. If those living with you have weak immune systems (such as children, the elderly, or that on chemotherapy) then an iguana is best avoided as a pet.

 

Home Sweet Home

Iguanas grow big but start out small, and a small reptile in a large enclosure is liable not to find their food. Therefore, be prepared to provide a smaller space for junior and expand the enclosure as they grow.

Starting out a 20 gallon aquarium is fine for a young iguana up to 18-inches in length. But know that same iguana as an adult needs a space that’s at least twice their length (nose to tail tip) and as wide as the lizard is long. And this is the minimum requirement.

Remember, iguana are arboreal (tree dwelling) and also need vertical space, hence the advice for an enclosure 12 x 6 x 6 foot. In reality, this is the size of a large cupboard or small bedroom, so make sure you have enough space.

The choice of floor covering is controversial. Small iguana has a habit of eating things they shouldn’t so be careful their ‘carpet’ if swallowed won’t cause a bowel blockage. Popular options include newspaper, butchers’ paper, or paper towels. Alternatively invest in some reptile carpet, which is thickly woven and difficult to tear apart. Have at least two pieces, so one is in use whilst the other is in the wash. Some people come up with other solutions such as AstroTurf, linoleum, or carpet tiles.

And last but not least, make sure the enclosure provides for the iguanas need to climb. Criss cross the cage it with sturdy branches, so your scaly friend can get watch from on high.

 

Crucial Climate Control

A cold iguana is soon a sick iguana. To stay well an iguana needs constant heat, a basking spot, and UV lights. Work on providing a background temperature of 80 – 88 F during the day and 75 – 80 F at night (warmer for youngsters). In addition they need a basking spot, which is a hotspot they can sit under to warm up, of around 120 F.

UVB lighting is important for calcium metabolism and strong bones. Given the size of an iguana you may need two UVB tubes to cover the length of their body. These lights need replacing every six months, as the amount of UV they push out drops off dramatically after this time.

Oh, and know they like to have a distinct day and night photoperiod. This means the indoor iguana needs their lights turning out when it goes dark outside, and a curtain dropped over the front of the enclosure so they can get their beauty sleep.

 

All Important Humidity and Water

The popular green iguana comes from the rainforests of South America, which are warm and humid. To mimic this, the iguana’s enclosure need to reach a sticky 80% humidity. This can be tricky, and most keepers opt for a combo of a large water bowl to provide the surface area for evaporation, and misting the lizard several times a day.

Provide two water sources. A bowl with a large surface area (for increased water evaporation and higher humidity) and a smaller bowl for drinking from. This said, don’t worry if you don’t see the iguana drink, they get most of their moisture from food, but need the option to drink regardless.

Also, be aware that iguana are fond of bathing and defecating in water, so expect to freshen both water bowls regularly.

 

Feeding an Iguana

These gentle giants are vegetarian. Some keepers make the mistake of thinking their large size means they’ll benefit from a supplement of cat food. But this is disastrous, because meat-based foods are too high in protein and strain the iguana’s kidney, leading to renal failure.

For the ideal iguana diet think raw vegetables, with fruit as a once a week treat. Those best suited to iguanas include collard greens, dandelions, turnip greens, green beans, and yellow squash.

In addition there are commercial foods available from reputable reptile companies such as Zoo Med and Rep-Cal. Just be sure to read the ingredients and if they include animal protein put the box back on the shelf. Adult iguanas cope better than juveniles with dry diets; even then it is wise to dampen the food. This is because iguanas get most of the water from their food, and too much dry food may lead to dehydration.

Calcium is important for a healthy iguana. However, some veggies contain phytates and oxalates which interfere with the digestion of calcium. Carefully research any new food you give the iguana, and only give limited amounts of veg such as spinach, carrot tops, and rhubarb which rob the body of calcium. A good safety measure is to sprinkle calcium powder on the iguana’s daily salad as a precaution.

Also, be aware of a quirk of juvenile iguanas is that they can’t chew their food, so be sure to cut it up. If they swallow a piece that is too big it could cause a serious blockage, which is easily avoided by offering diced veg.

 

Iguana Health Problems

Poor care is the biggest cause of premature death in iguanas. Sadly, the most common health problems are also man-made.

Burns:

Iguana mainly sense heat through the parietal eye in their head. When a heat source, such as a hot rock, is provided the iguana’s belly doesn’t register the heat. Many an iguana has suffered serious burns from sleeping on a heat mat that was too hot.

Kidney Problems:

Foods containing animal protein, such as insects or pet foods, put a huge strain on the iguana kidney. They simply aren’t designed to process and detox all these rich protein sources, which leads to kidney damage and renal failure.

Metabolic Bone Disease:

Be sure to hit that sweet spot of feeding healthy veggies loaded with calcium, and strong UVB lighting. If either of these factors is out of kilter, the result is poor calcium metabolism, weak bones, and fractures.

 

And finally,

The iguana is truly a magnificent animal but to care properly for such a creature takes commitment, attention to detail, and space. Much as you desire to keep one of these beautiful reptiles, put their best interests first. If you can’t meet all their requirements stretching 20 years into the future, then it’s best to admire them from afar.

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Hedgehogs: Think of them as an out-sized, meat-eating hamster covered in spikes!

This may sound the stuff of nightmares, but actually hedgehogs share several traits in common with a hamster. For example they are both nocturnal, prefer to live alone, run long distances at night…oh…and are incredibly cute.

But in truth, the analogy ends there because hedgehogs have a different set of needs to live a long and happy life (But heck, the idea of a giant, carnivorous, spiky hamster is too good not to share!)

Introducing Hedgehogs

Those glossy brown eyes, tapered nose, and coat of quills, make them a photogenic pet, possibly one reason for their recent rise in popularity. But before rushing out to buy one, you should be familiar with their needs and be certain you can provide a happy hog home.

For starters, do some research and find out if hedgehogs are legal in your state. Since the African pygmy hedgehog is not a native species, some states have banned keeping them as pets in order to protect native wildlife and the local ecosystem.

Those states in which hedgehog keeping is illegal include:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington DC
  • New York City (5 boroughs)

Hedgehog Basic Biology

Let’s get up close and personal with your new prickly pet pal.

The African pygmy hedgehog is a tropical species, with an average lifespan of 3 – 5 years. They mature at the relatively young age of five months, which is when they can start breeding (Be sure to separate brothers and sisters before this age!)  A hedgehog pregnancy lasts from 32 – 50 days, and she gives birth to an average litter size of three to four hoglets.

In the wild in their native Africa, these cutesy critters dine mostly on insects. This officially makes them carnivorous, enjoying a diet of things crunchy creepy-crawlies, with a little herbage thrown in as a side salad.

Hedgehogs (like hamsters) are nocturnal. They are active once the sun goes down, and boy are they active. It’s not unknown for wild hedgehogs to travel 8 kms in one night, so providing an exercise wheel is a must. Of course, this also risks disturbing your sleep, so be sure a pet that’s active when you aren’t, fits in with your plans.

And last but not least, these hedgehogs hail from a tropical environment and need keep warm. Whilst they hibernate in the wild, in captivity it’s generally considered better to provide artificial heating and keep them awake year round.

Housing and Homing a Hedgehog

What do you need to care for a hedgehog? A basic hog shopping list includes:

  • A suitable secure cage
  • Safe bedding
  • A hide or shelter
  • A heat mat or lamp
  • Ceramic food and water bowls
  • Appropriate food
  • Toys

 

1: A Secure Cage or Container

Hedgehogs are solitary creatures and prefer living alone. Males in pairs, or even paired females tend to fight, whilst mixed gender pairs will mate, with all that this implies.

Like all creatures, hedgehogs require sufficient space to exhibit a wide range of natural behaviors. This boils down to the “Bigger the better” in terms of a cage. Ideally, the hog should have at least four foot in length to potter in, with a wheel for serious exercise.

Look for a cage with a solid floor and keep the hedgehog deep bedded. (Avoid mesh floors as these are damaging to delicate paws.) There are a variety of enclosures suitable for hedgehogs from purpose-made cages to indoor rabbit systems or even a vivarium. Factors to bear in mind are:

  • Space: There needs to be enough room for the hog to trundle around and have separate areas to sleep, eat, drink, exercise, and toilet
  • Warm but Well-Ventilated: Vivariums excel at holding onto heat, but are often poorly ventilated. You may need to drill extra ventilation holes if using a viv.
  • Low Level: Hedgehog may think they can climb, but in truth they are clumsy and often fall. Low levels tumbles are fine, but avoid cages with a mezzanine level or the hog might mistakenly try to climb and injure themself.
  • Flat floor: Be kind to those paws and avoid mesh flooring

2: Safe Bedding

The best options for bedding include aspen, shredded newspaper, or untreated wood chips. Every bedding has its good and bad points, so it’s a matter of working out what works best for you and your hog. Indeed, you can try litter-training your hog (using wood-based cat litter in a pan) and then use a fleece as a sort of hedgehog carpet.

Remember to spot clean bedding every day, scooping out the soiled areas and replacing it with clean, and then do a complete clean at least once a week.

3: A Hide or Shelter

Like all creatures hedgehogs like to be safe and private while they sleep. The hog idea of a luxury bedroom is a shelter, box, or igloo lined with bedding. They will curl up inside and slumber the day away.

Another nice alternative is a hedgehog pouch. These are the equivalent of a hog sleeping bag, except the creature goes all the way inside to curl up and sleep. A hedgehog pouch has the advantage that you can lift the hog out of their cage in it when it’s time to clean. Also, some people find their hog will trot back into the pouch at the end of playtime once they’ve had enough.

4: A Heat Lamp or Mat

Your hedgehog needs a steady temperature of 23 – 24 C day and night. A useful rule of thumb is that if you feel cold then your hedgehog needs extra heat. If your centrally heated house is snug all year round, fine. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature, and if it dips at night then give your hog a black lamp or heat mat. However, be careful the hog can’t lie directly on top of the mat (make sure there’s a fleece or cover) to avoid thermal burns.

For sure avoid the temperature going below 20 C as this could trigger hibernation.

5: Ceramic Food and Water Bowls

Ceramic bowls are heavy which makes them difficult to tip over. They also have the advantage of being easy to clean and scratch proof. Avoid sipper bottles as the hedgehog’s surprisingly long tongue can become tapped by the ball bearing in the spout. Ouch!

6: Appropriate Food

Variety, as the saying goes, is the spice of life. Where hedgehog food is concerned, variety helps ensure balanced diet. In the wild hedgehogs eat insects and snaffle up whatever hops, wriggles, or flies past. To mimic this you should include wigglies such as crickets, mealworms, silkworms, and wax worms into their menu. These are easily obtainable through reptile shops.

The core of the captive hedgehog’s diet should be a good quality dry cat food, about and a half tablespoon’s per day. But add in variety by offering a supplement of:

  • Boiled or scrambled egg
  • Lean cooked chicken, lamb, or turkey
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables

Remove any uneaten food each morning, so that it doesn’t go moldy. Oh, and don’t give hedgehogs milk. They struggle to digest the milk sugar, lactose, and develop diarrhea as a result.

7: Toys

Wild hedgehogs do a lot of pottering and investigating. Mimic this by providing cardboard tunnels to explore. Don’t forget an exercise wheel (one designed for ferrets is ideal) is mandatory, but make sure it’s big enough that the hog’s back doesn’t curve into a ‘U’ when inside,

You should also have a secure room or space where you can let the hog out to run around and stretch his legs. This is also a good time to fuss and pet him, so that he becomes used to your company. However, eventually you’ll yawn and need your bed, whilst the hog still wants to play. Give him some cat-sized toys (play around to see what he prefers) to keep him amused during the night.

Hedgehog Health and Habits

Keeping your hedgehog in clean conditions and providing a balanced diet go a long way to keeping them healthy. However, they are prone to certain health problems:

  • Respiratory Illness: A hedgehog’s delicate lungs are easily damaged by ammonia. If their bedding becomes soiled, high levels of ammonia will predispose them to pneumonia. Signs of this include rapid breathing, poor appetite, and staying in one place
  • Gut obstructions: A hedgehog may eat things that aren’t edible, such as cat litter, which then becomes stuck in their gut. The signs are non-specific and include lack of appetite and extreme malaise
  • Bloat: Certain vegetables, such as those from the cabbage family, encourage gas formation in the bowel causing the hog to swell up. Some hogs ‘deflate’ of their own accord, others need veterinary help.
  • Wobbly Hedgehog syndrome: The condition causes the nervous system to degenerate and affects the hog’s balance. It’s thought to be genetic and may affect around 10% of pet hedgehogs. There is no known cure.
  • Self-anointing: This looks alarming but is actually normal behavior. Certain smells trigger the hog to produce copious amounts of saliva which they then smear over their quills. Normal, but odd. Go figure!

And finally, taking on a hedgehog is a commitment for the next five years. Make sure this is a challenge you are prepared for and can provide for your prickly pals needs for years to come. Only then can your hedgehog have a happy home and lead the healthy life they deserve.

The post Hedgehog Care appeared first on Love That Pet.

Building your own unique cat tree can help save your furniture and provide your cat with some great vantage points. These structures are quite expensive to buy, but easy to make with a few basic tools.

There are many wonderful cat tree designs available and there really are no limits if you use your imagination. They can be made incredibly cheaply using reclaimed furniture, recycled items or wood off-cuts. You an even use a tree branch if you like the natural look.

Your cat, particularly if he is entirely indoors needs somewhere to scratch and climb so he can express his normal behaviours. Cat trees are a wonderful way of providing a nice high perch, and if you make your own, not only will you save money, but you will be able to make one that fits into your decor and floor-space.

The first step is to get a basic idea of what you want and what you have the tools and capabilities to build. Visit this site for some great basic instructions using basic tools, you can then adapt this plan to your own design.

Components of a Cat Tree

Cat trees can be made from natural tree branches, thick wood posts, PVC pipes and thick cardboard tubes (such as found in the centre of carpet rolls or paper rolls. The basic components are a thick and sturdy base, with a post of some kind made of natural wood, or wood/carcboard covered in carpet off-cuts or sissal rope. You can either drill the post in place, or use brackets if the post is hollow.

Your cat will enjoy multiple levels, perhaps one enclosed like a little cubby-house and one platform, and some dangling toys to play with. It must be sturdy enough that your cat can climb it without it swaying, otherwise your cat will be smart enough to stay away.

While in the planning stage, also consider how you will keep the tree clean, you can vacuum carpeted surfaces, but try to avoid other porous materials that will be difficult to clean. Any cushions or beds should be removable for weekly washing on a hot washing cycle and perhaps attached via Velcro tabs to stop them slipping.

Finally, avoid painting the tree (unless you use natural paints) or using smelly adhesives that might upset your cat’s delicate sense of smell.

What Does Your Cat Like?

Before you start, have a think about what your cat likes to scratch on. A cat that likes to scratch on door-frames, might be better off with a post made of natural wood, or perhaps sissal rope, which is quite rough. If you plan on using sissal, it can take a fair bit of time to wind around a long post and can be comparatively expensive to buy new.

A cat that prefers the leather lounge or carpets, might be better off with post covered in carpet. The added bonus of carpet is that you can change it later when it gets too shredded or you want a different look, and it is easy to staple in place. Just avoid carpet that has loops for your cat to get his claws stuck in.

Cats love hiding places, but also vantage points, so consider using height and multiple levels. If your cat can use the cat tree to look out a window, or escape the dog or children, all the better

Where to Find Materials

Check your council website for recycling centres that may have very cheap materials. In Sydney, for example, Reverse Garbage has everything you need to make a cheap and unique piece of cat furniture such as carpet off-cuts, cardboard tubes, pieces of wood and various other pieces.

You can also check here for more places with recycling options for materials, or freecycle. The base is probably the most important part to get right. It needs to be thick and heavy to stabilise the poles coming up from it.

Tools You Might Need

  • Staple gun or hot glue gun
  • Hammer and nails or drill
  • Rivet gun (if you are using PVC piping or a hollow tube for the ‘tree’
  • Utility knife to cut carpet
  • Saw to cut wood
  • Sandpaper
  • Nails or Screws

Basic Scratching Post

If you just need a scratching post, make sure it is tall enough that your cat can fully stretch out. Most are much too short. Measure from nose to tip of the tail and make it at least that length. If your cat is scratching on horizontal surfaces, make a horizontal scratching post, it will make it much easier to redirect your pet to the appropriate place.

Tree Branches

cat tree from branch

Cat Tree Using Branches

Like this stunning structure made from timber and tree branches you can use a large fallen tree branch for this project. Just make sure there are no pests in the wood. The last thing you need are some crawling hitch-hikers and perhaps that tree branch fell for a reason! Martha Stewart has a very stylish example of this too.

Permanent Post

Rather than make a tree, you can make use of existing furniture and structures within your house. A length of carpet or rope covered board  can be fixed to a wall, or to the side of a bookcase. Shelves and platforms can be screwed securely directly into the walls to create a series of platforms.

If you already have tall bookshelves, consider fixing them to the wall to make them stable and secure (think baby-proofing for climbing toddlers), then attach some extra shelves on the outside to allow your cat to access the top. This top shelf is ideal as a cat vantage point, and is often unused space.

Cat furniture from German company Profeline

Cat furniture from German company Profeline

Cat Tree or Condo

One way of building a condo is to use a cardboard cylinder with openings. There are some great plans available here. You can do a similar design with boxes, or even just stack some sturdy cardboard boxes on top of each other. Those thick boxes from the fruit shop would be excellent for making a temporary cat tree, just stack them and cut some holes out to create some nice cubby-holes.

Building a Cat Tree From Found Items

This beautiful cat tree has been made out of an old bookshelf. An old chest of drawers, ladder or parts of a chair could also be reclaimed to make a fabulous tree. For more inspiration on cat trees, condos and amazing cat homes, visit here.

How to Get Your Cat to Scratch on the Post

If your cat doesn’t quite understand how amazing his new post is, show him how to scratch it by making noisy scratches yourself while he watches. You need to make it as attractive as possible, and the place he was using as unattractive as possible.

Some cats are scratching to release pheromones, so if your cat is determined to scratch elsewhere, first try spraying the place he is scratching with Feliway daily, or place aFeliway diffuser nearby. You can also use Feliway to spray the scratching post to hopefully mask any weird smells that may be off-putting for your cat. Cover the area he was scratching until you have him retrained, or restrict his access.

If it is a door frame, stick some tin foil over the spot to deter him, while you encourage him to use the new post. The foil trick can also work with the couch or rugs.

Each time you see him attempting to scratch in the wrong place, redirect him to the new place. You may need to initially start with the post near his old scratching spot. Alternatively, near his sleeping area as cats love to stretch and scratch when they wake up. It can then be moved gradually to a more appropriate place once he has the habit of using it.

Avoid punishment to stop him scratching, it just teaches him not to do it while you are around and doesn’t give him an alternate behaviour. Also keep treats (if your cat is fussy try fishy pastes, like anchovette, pate or vegemite) nearby so you can reward him if he does use the new post.

Good luck and we would love you to post pictures of your cat tree, particularly if it is home made!

The post How to Build a Cat Tree and Scratching Post appeared first on Love That Pet.

Does this mean training a cat is impossible? Our answer is ‘No!’  The secret to success is finding that ‘must have’ treat to convince a cat they want to co-operate and earn that tasty morsel.  With this in mind let’s take a look at how training your cat could save their life, the secrets to success, and also litter box training.

Why Train a Cat?

It is an unfortunate truth that a frightened cat goes to ground.

Why unfortunate?

Imagine it’s a dark night and your cat slipped past you out of the door. You call them. Nothing. Hours pass. You call and call and call…But to no avail.

A cat in an unfamiliar environment is liable to hide. The cat might be hiding only a few feet away under a bush, but is too terrified to move…even when you call their name.

The answer is to teach your cat ‘recall’. Thus, training overrides instinct.

Other examples of situations where training is invaluable include:

  • Door Dashing: Prevent door dashing by training the cat to sit on a stool at some distance from the door.
  • Paws-itive Pedicures: How much easier is it to clip a cat’s claws when they willingly offer you up a paw?
  • Keep Off Counter Tops: Use reward-based training to teach Kitty to stay off the counters.

Cat Training 101

How do you achieve this miracle?

The trick is to motivate your cat to earn a treat. What you’re doing is making the cat think it’s worthwhile to come to their name / stay away from the door / get off the counter because they get a fur-bulous reward.

This is called “reward-based training” and it works…even with cats!

All you need is:

  • A must-have treat
  • A clicker
  • Time and patience

1. Finding that ‘Must-have’ Treat

This treat needs to be super special and something your cat would (metaphorically speaking) walk over hot coals for. Every cat has one. Here are some suggestions:

Cheese, sausage, ham, tuna, chicken, steak, commercial treats, prawns, liver, pate…

We’re talking tiny amounts – the size of a pea – just enough to get a taste but not enough to chew.

If you don’t know what your cat will go bonkers for, then have fun finding out. Simply offer different scraps until you find something that pushes all the right buttons. Bingo!

2. What’s with the Clicker?

A clicker is a small plastic device that makes a ‘click-clack’ sound when your press it. The idea is to get the cat to link the click-clack noise with getting a treat.

Doing this is simple. Throw a treat on the floor. As the cat gobbles it down, press the clicker. Repeat. Pretty soon when your press the clicker the cat will look to the floor in anticipation. Good. Now you’re both ready for the next time.

3. Time and Patience

Each cat learns at their own pace, which means repeating the training regularly (several times a day) for short periods (a few minutes at most.) Consistency and repetition are key.

Leave it too long and the cat forgets previous lessons. Make each session too long and they’ll get bored.

Training Basic Commands

That’s all very well, but how do you go from looking for a treat to a cat that does tricks. Simple!

Get the cat to understand what’s expected and know they get a reward for doing it. Let’s take the example of teaching recall.

Teaching Recall

Keep some treats in a small pouch on your belt. Then use your own feline cunning. When the cat happens to walk towards you, click the clicker. The cat understand this is a down payment on a treat so trots toward you. Repeat this whenever the cat happens to head your way.

Once you’ve done this a few times, add in the cue word “Here”. What this has told the cat is: When I say “Here” you walk towards me and get a treat.

Eventually, the mere sound of “Here” is enough to have the cat trotting over and you can stop clicking.

Stop Door Dashing and Counter Surfing

If your cat went to an assigned spot on the cue word “Away”, this keeps the cat away from the front door. To teach this simply decide on the special spot, a low table or stool is ideal. Place a treat on it. As the cat picks up the scent and walks over. Click and say “Away”.

Regularly put treats on the stool, monitor the cat, and when she seeks out the treat say “Away”.  Pretty soon, “Away” is enough to send the cat scurrying to the stool on the off chance…

Use a similar technique to encourage the cat off the counter. Assign a suitable sitting station where they aren’t in the way, and place a treat there. By making that spot super-attractive all off a sudden the counter-top loses its appeal.

Litter Box Training

Teaching your cat to be clean takes a slightly different approach. This is about the cat understanding where is the right place to go to the toilet, which means getting the conditions purr-fect and having them in the right place at the right time.

Most kittens learn to use the litter box by watching their mother. However, if your Kitty is slow on the uptake you can give her a helping paw. For a start, it helps to understand that cats are creatures of habit. Try and stick with the same litter (substrate) used in the first home. Something as simple as not recognizing the substrate can put a cat off.

Other top tips to get things moving in the right direction include:

  • Litter Box Size: Make sure the tray is large enough for the cat to stand in with plenty of room to spare. Don’t expect the cat to maneuver to hit a small target.
  • Litter Box Numbers: Cats are private creatures and like their own facilities. In a multi-cat household obey the golden rule: One tray for each cat plus one spare box.
  • Litter Box Location: Obeying the privacy rule make sure each box is in a separate spot (not lined up in a row) somewhere than is quiet (so not next to the washer) that is not overlooked (not by the cat flap.)
  • Substrate Selection: If you cat blanks the tray, then set up a few trays, each containing a different litter to find their preference.

What NOT to Do

Never punish the cat for toileting in the wrong spot. Simply clean up the mess and shout at a tree.

Punishing the cat makes them think you have an irrational dislike of their bodily functions. This backfires badly because they’ll still be naughty, but hide it from you…which makes cleaning up much harder.

When All Else Fails…

If medical problems have been ruled out and yet still the cat soils where they shouldn’t then try confining the cat to a small room. The idea here is to keep the cat in a large crate or small bathroom, with their food in one corner, bed in another, and tray in another. This plugs into the cat’s instinct not to soil their living area, and rather than foul their food or bed, they should choose the tray.

In addition, since cats learn by copying, trying mimicking scraping in a clean tray with a finger, to help the ‘penny to drop’ in the cat’s mind.

So there we are. We these training basic principles, you can adapt them to teach your cat just about anything…within reason. You can teach tricks by rewarding the slightest hint of the cat doing what you want. For example, to teach “Shake” you’d click and reward when the cat happened to lift the paw off the ground and labeling the action “Shake”. Once she volunteers the paw on command, you hold off rewarding until she raises it slightly higher than before…and so on.

But remember, never get frustrated and always make sure training is fun for your feline.

The post 3 Vital Tips To Train Your Cat appeared first on Love That Pet.