Archives for posts with tag: critter sitters

Courtesy of Ingrid KingImage

“Cats have a reputation for being low maintenance, which is probably one of the many reasons why they have surpassed dogs as the most popular pet in America. Unfortunately, because of this reputation, many people think cats don’t need as much attention as dogs do. They couldn’t be more wrong. 

Play is vitally important to a cat’s mental and physical health, and it’s especially important for indoor cats. Even though cats may sleep up to 16 hours a day, when they’re awake, they need stimulation, and the best way to accomplish this is with play. In the wild, when lions, tigers and other wild cats aren’t sleeping, they’re either hunting, or teaching their young to hunt. And play is nothing more than channelling your domestic tiger’s hunting instinct into play.

Benefits of Play

  • Exercise. Obesity is the number one health problem in cats. According to a recent survey, 55% of America’s cats are overweight or obese. In addition to feeding a species-appropriate raw or canned diet, exercise is the best way to keep your feline charges fit and trim.
  • Relief of boredom. Cats who don’t get challenged or entertained get bored, which can lead to depression. This can be a problem especially for single cats. I learned this the hard way when Amber died shortly after I adopted Allegra as a 7-month-old kitten. We both learned together what it takes to keep a single cat happy.
  • Stress relief. You may wonder what our pampered house cats could possibly be stressed about. Feline stressors range from changes in their environment to picking up on stress from their humans. One of the best ways to counteract stress in cats is through regular playtime.
  • Help with behavioral challenges. If you watch Jackson Galaxy on My Cat from Hell, you will have noticed that “play therapy” is part of Jackson’s recommendations in almost every case he tackles.
  • Increase of the bond between cat and human, and between cats in the same household. Cats chasing each other and playing with each other is a great way to build a bond between cats in the same household. Playing with interactive toys is a wonderful way to increase the bond between you and your cat.

Creative Playtime for Cats

Toys that simulate play and satisfy a cat’s innate hunting drive will be most effective for creating a fun play experience for your cat that also helps her burn off excess energy. Even though there are lots of cute little catnip filled toys on the market, simply placing one in front of your cat and hoping that she’ll play with it doesn’t work with most cats. Interactive, fishing pole type toys such as theNeko Flies or DaBird are the best way to get your cat playing with you, and to satisfy her hunt/prey instinct. 

Certified Cat Behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett provides wonderful advice on how to make all the right moves with interactive toys in her article on Interactive Play Therapy:

How you move the interactive toy is important. Don’t wave it around frantically just to give your cat an aerobic workout. That’s not how cats naturally hunt. Stick to what’s natural for your cat. In the wild, a cat would stalk her prey while staying as quiet and invisible as possible. She would inch closer and closer and then, when she gets within striking distance, she would pounce. Cats don’t have the lung capacity to chase to exhaustion so don’t conduct marathons throughout the house. Move the toy like prey, alternating between fast and slow motions so it gives your cat time to plan her next move. Here’s a tip: movements that go away from or across your cat’s visual field will trigger her prey drive. Don’t dangle the toy in her face or move it toward her.

 

Interactive puzzle toys can be a great way to keep your cats entertained and mentally stimulated when you can’t play with them. The toys are designed to be filled with treats, and they challenge kitty to retrieve the treats through varied openings in the toys. 

Rotate toys in and out. Don’t keep the same toys out in the same spot all the time – this will almost guarantee that your cats will get bored with them. Put some toys away for a week or two, and then bring them out again. Your cats will think they got a brand new toy. Of course, you don’t want to do this if your cat has a favorite toy that she plays with all the time. I’ve turned my family room into a giant kitty playroom. There’s is no human furniture in the room, only cat trees, scratchers, and a ton of cat toys. Every once in a while, I’ll take some things away, bring out others, and rearrange everything to keep Allegra and Ruby interested. 

Cat toys don’t need to be expensive. To a cat, almost everything can become a toy: grocery bags with the handles cut off, boxes, toilet paper rolls, milk carton tops, tissue paper – in a cat’s mind, these were all just made to be played with. Some cats enjoy chasing bubbles, or batting Q-tips around the bathtub. Think like a cat, and you may be surprised at the things you already have in your home that make the purr-fect cat toy. 

Make time for one or two play sessions, 10-20 minutes in length, each day. You and your kitties will find that you’ll look forward to these session every day.   

 

©Ingrid King 2014. All Rights Reserved. 

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One of my weekly dog visits is with an adorable six month old German Shepard Chow rescue mix.  Her name is Addy and she is very bright.  Her “mom and dad” are first time adult puppy owners.  Recently they brought home a smart squirrel toy for their dog.  http://www.ihelppets.com/Products/Hideasquirrel.html.  Addy has taken to this game with amazing enthusiasm and concentration.  The game has three adorable squirrel toys that are hiding in a plush “squirrel tree”.  Addy’s job is to get the squirrels and remove them from the tree.  It is so much fun to play with her when I visit her for her daily pet sitting walks.  The puzzle solving dog game helps develop intelligence and keeps her young mind busy. She is challenged to focus on the task at hand and in the process fun, entertainment and bonding take place between humans and canines.

All animals can benefit from smart toys and smart play and you don’t have to spend money.  I know that every pet owner can relate to what I have experienced with my kitten, Jasper.  I buy a toy and bring it home, completely excited…and sadly she wants nothing to do with it.  Instead she wants to hang out on my vanity when I am primping and steal my hair scrunchies.  I have given in and now refer to one of my velour silver hair scrunchies as “her baby”.  I place the scrunchy on faucets, door handles and more and encourage her to find a way to remove it.  Which she does and proudly prances away with the pitifully stretched scrunchy dangling from her mouth.  Purina offers advice on their blog about puzzles and smart play.  http://www.petcentric.com/Read/Articles/Smart-Active-Cats.aspx?articleid=89c401d6-3362-432a-b475-3c3ae00e3f79

“In addition to the usual cat games, where you dangle a cat toy or pull something on a string, try some games that make her think. Dangle a favorite cat toy over a high surface, so she has to figure out how to get up there. Hide treats in places that are a little difficult to get to. Start simple, by placing one under a can or cup. Work your cat’s mind up to solving more complex problems such as getting a treat out of a small box with an easy-to-remove lid. Hide small treats in various places throughout your house.”

If you want to hire a sitter or pet trainer in the greater Atlanta, Georgia area, visit www.yourneighborhoodpetsitter.com

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My male long-haired chihuhua Nitro is constantly battling for Alpha position with my male Toy Poodle Tucker and sometimes with me. Here is some advice from dog breeders info.com regarding corrective techniques and habits.

“If your dog has a growling problem, here are some “rules to live by” that may be of help to you.

Never tolerate growling. This is a threat and it means your dog sees you as a subordinate meant to be dominated by him. Tell him “no!” Let him know it is not acceptable to EVER growl at you or your children. Make it clear that your children are the offspring of his alpha leader (you) and that they are to be treated as alpha “pups.”

2. Do not let your dog walk through the door first. If your dog always goes ahead of you, you need to get your leash and open the door. When he rushes ahead you pull him back and tell him, “no. Wait.” You walk in first and then give him permission to come in. This will be easier and faster if you have someone help you.

3. Do not let a dog that is having alpha issues sleep in the same bed as the humans. This is a definite alpha position. A doggie bed on the floor beside you is your best bet for maintaining alpha position. This rule is for aggressive dogs or dogs showing signs they are forgetting their place. A pet that is well-behaved and obedient can sleep next to you or your child, so long as it was the humans that invited the dog up. The dog should not be the one deciding to jump up on the bed. If you just can’t be without your dog in the bed, at the very least you need to make sure he sleeps at the foot of the bed and not on your pillow.

4. Socialize, socialize, socialize. I cannot stress enough the importance of introducing your dog to different places and people. Find something to do with your dog. Join an agility or obedience class. Take your dog to the park. If you have a laid-back dog or puppy, share your time with the local nursing home. Volunteer with disability groups so children and adults with special needs can enjoy the non-judgmental love a dog or puppy can provide.

5. Do not let your dog ride in your lap in the car; it is unsafe for you and your dog. Some states will give you a ticket for being a distracted driver. Make him sit in his own seat or on the floor. Buy him his own seat belt or safety booster or use a kennel.

6. Do not baby your dog too much. He needs to learn to be a dog. Do not over-protect him. He needs to explore and learn to be independent. You do not want to raise a flighty, paranoid dog. When he acts afraid of something that he should not be afraid of, do not pick him up and ooh and ahh over him. Simply tell him it is okay, and show him the object, person, etc. Your confidence will make him a confident and dependable dog. If you feed his imaginary fears, he will become a snappy and untrustworthy dog. He may develop fear aggression. An example of fear aggression could be a dog that sits in its owner’s lap and growls at people or other animals. If you pet him and tell him, “it’s okay,” you are really telling him this is the type of behavior you expect of him, and he will continue to do it because there is a reward attached to it. Tell him “no” and put him down off your lap. While some owners think it is sweet that their little lap dog is “protecting them,” this is not the case. When a child reaches to pet the dog or hug Grandma it could bite them if it is allowed to get away with this antisocial behavior. This is a dog that has taken on alpha position and you are a subordinate. I have seen so many children chastised when they get bitten, when it’s the owner that is responsible. You will often hear people say “Now, you know Granny’s dog doesn’t like you to go near her. She is jealous, and protective. We have told you over and over not to do that.” What a shame. And it could all be avoided if we would just take the time to learn canine behavior. As much as we would like to believe that they think like us, they do not.

If you have a problem with your dog growling at you or another family member, you may want to try having the person your dog growls at the most be the only one to feed him. You want to make him sit to reinforce your position as the leader. He is learning that he depends on you and he must obey in order to eat. And if he growls after you set down the food, tell him “no” and take the food away. Tell him to sit again. This is how you will reinforce the “no-growling rule.”

You must never tolerate growling because this will usually lead to biting. Not always, but it usually does. So you need to nip it in the bud as soon as possible. I want to make it clear we are not talking about puppy play growling, only growling that is geared towards aggression. Puppies need to be able to be puppies.”

Tucker and Nitro pictured when Nitro first joined the family.

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