Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tips From A Dog On Living Your Life

I spent some time sorting old papers this morning.  I came across this snippet that we cut out of one of our professional journals back in 2005.  I thought it was quite good advise!

Tips From A Dog On Living Your Life

When loved ones come home, always run to great them.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
Take naps. Stretch before rising.
Run, romp, and play daily.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and right back and make friends.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.  Stop when you've had enough.
Be loyal.
Never pretend to be something you're not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Box Under Cover?

So, let’s discuss the covered litter box.  Obviously, it’s one of the greatest inventions in the housecat world, right?  Well, let’s look at the covered box from some cat perspectives.
     First, we’ll consider Maude.  Maude is, to put it gently, pleasantly plump.  The door to her litter box is made for the average cat.  As an overachiever in the eating department, Maude has trouble even fitting through the door, not to mention turning around inside to find the ideal digging spot.  From Maude’s perspective, this is not the best option.
     How about Prince?  I may not have mentioned it, but Prince likes a CLEAN litter box.  When he eliminates, he sniffs, digs, turns around, sniffs, digs, turns around, digs, eliminates, than covers very enthusiastically.  To Prince (unless it’s is kept very, very clean), a covered litter box is like a port-a-potty.
     Violet actually likes the privacy afforded by a covered litter box. The only problem is that, while the other cats can’t see her in the litter box, she can’t see what they’re doing either.  Sparky the kitten has a lot of self-invented games.  One of them is playfully pouncing on Violet as she comes out of the litter box. Sparky enjoys these ambushes a lot more than Violet. 
     Finally, we have Sparky.  He doesn’t care.  Covered, uncovered, clean, dirty, the litter box is where he goes.  It’s a great part of his personality.
     Now at this point, some of you are probably protesting because your cats have no problem with their covered litter boxes.  This is great!  However, if any of the above scenarios sound familiar, try a simple experiment.  Place one uncovered litter box next to your covered box.  See which one they use.  Our cats tell us what they want; we just have to learn how to ‘listen’.

Kelley Wagner, CVT

Next Week:  All The Way Home

Saturday, March 19, 2011

To Pet or Not to Pet

Our cat this week is Prince.  Now, we all know Prince leads a busy life.  He has to patrol the edges of his territory (the house),  keep an eye on his fellow housecats while lounging conspicuously on his high perches, and allow every human visitor to admire his natural feline beauty as he rubs around their legs.  Every once in a while, he’s kind enough to jump up onto his owner Nikki’s lap for a little petting session.  Now, these sessions always start out well.  Nikki firmly strokes Prince from his head all the way down to his tail.  He arches his back, and then he rolls and curls up while purring loudly.  Suddenly, out of the blue, his ears flatten slightly, the tip of his tail twitches, and he whips around to bite Nikki!  Nikki is confused and hurt (hopefully not bleeding).  Everything was going so well!

We call this kind of aggression ‘petting aggression’.  It’s a very difficult type of aggression to combat because it seems so happen randomly and without warning.  Luckily, there are some things we can do to recognize and head off these episodes.

Our first strategy is, in my opinion, the hardest.  Some cats will rub against your legs, purr, and then snap when you naturally lean down to pet them.  We have to recognize that, just as some people are not huggers, some cats are not petting cats.  While they like to show us affection (or claim ownership), they’re not that fond of the way we respond.  We have to pay attention to the way we interact with these family friends.  This, actually, is the key.  If you have a cat who snaps at you, you need to be aware of your interaction with your cat.  If Prince wanders past your chair as you’re watching T.V., don’t absently reach down to pet him.  He might not be in the mood. 

When it comes to lap petting sessions, these cats are very challenging.  They genuinely seem to enjoy the attention, but at some point they pass a threshold, and (seemingly without warning) they bite.  Luckily, they do usually give warning, but it’s fast, subtle warning.  When asked, a lot of owners agree that the hairs on the back of their neck seem to stand up just before kitty bites.  Subconsciously, we’re already picking up on our cats’ signals.  We just need to recognize what we’re sensing. 

Here’s a testy-kitty petting strategy:  First, when petting, stick to kitty’s head – along the cheeks and around the ears and neck.  For a cat, these petting areas are like shaking hands.  Rubbing all the way down the back is a bit more intimate for a cat – sort of like a big bear hug.  While it’s stimulating, it may be over stimulating your kitty.  Also, when you’re stroking the length of your cat, you’re not paying as much attention to his face and your hands (his potential targets).  When your cat is starting to reach the point of over stimulation, he’ll probably give you one or more of these subtle warnings:  the tip of his tail will twitch every so slightly, his ears will flatten to the sides, he’ll become very still, he may growl softly, and/or his eyes will seem to cross.  This means he’s just about had enough.  It’s time for you to, without touching him with your hands, stand up.  Your lap disappears, petting time is over, and nobody got hurt.  (If you don’t know you’re seeing these signs, trust your instincts.  If you start to get nervous, stand up.)

These kinds of cats will probably never sit in your lap for hours.  If they do sit on your lap, they may not want petting (which is very frustrating).  If you really want to pet them, it’s best to have short, planned petting sessions.  Then end on your terms; which is actually great for both of you.  It’s stressful for him to feel he needs to control interaction, and it’s better for you to have trusted control.  In the long run, you’ll see more trust and respect in your relationship with a ‘Prince’ of a cat.

Next Week:  Box Under Cover?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kitty Cat Saturdays are Coming!

We are going to implement Kitty Cat Saturdays!  Each Saturday there will be helpful information from our licensed technician Kelley.  Today, I'm posting the introduction to this fun new segment.

To help visualize all the aspects of feline behavior, I've created a multiple-cat household.  Enter into my imagination and see them!

Our house has four cats.  Their names are Prince, Maude, Violet, and Sparky.  First and foremost is Prince.  Prince, of course, rules.  He spends his days patrolling the house, checking borders, and keeping the other cats in line.  His owner, Nikki, always knows when it's meal time because Prince has a very insistent meow.  When Prince walks through a room, he holds his tail straight up in the air with a little L-shaped curve at the tip.

Maude is our resident senior cat.  She's a little old, a little slow, and, well, a bit overweight.  Maude likes her cat bed, her food, and her peace and quiet.  She's fond of Nikki, loves her sun spots, and tolerates the other cats - except for Sparky, the bane of her existence.

Sparky is six months old, and he is into Everything!  If you hear a crash, it was probably Sparky.  He never walks when he can scamper; he's the first one to stick his nose into new things; and everything to Sparky is a toy.  Sparky loves plastic milk bottle rings, empty boxes, unsuspecting human ankles and, especially, grumpy old lady kitties like Maude!

Last but not least, we have Violet.  Violet lives a very quiet, nervous life.  She's Nikki's 'invisible' cat.  If she comes out when the other cats are around, she slinks around the edges of the room with her tail down and her eyes watching everything - especially Prince. She'd love to have more lap time with Nikki, but you'd never know it because she's always hiding.

Now, this is a pretty functional cat home, but there are a few things we can do to improve it.  Thus, our new Saturday project.  Today, we'll just start with one quick tip for each cat.

Prince has a lot of responsibility.  He has to keep an eye on a all the action.  We can help him out by making sure he has available resting places that are high - a bed on top of the refrigerator or a cat tree with multiple levels.  From here, he can comfortably survey his domain.

Violet needs a safe room.  She is on high alert when she's in a common room because everything about her seems to set off the other cats.  Pick a room like a spare bedroom that holds little interest for the other cats.  We'll give our Violet food, water, and a litter box in or near her safe room, and we'll make sure we visit her on a regular basis.  At first, we can just read a book while sitting in her room.  She'll know we're there, and she'll eventually venture out for that long-needed attention.

Our final tip is technically for Sparky, but it will also help Violet and Maude.  Sparky is a kitten, and Sparky is BORED!  He'd love a few scheduled play sessions with a laser pointer or a feather on a string.  (Prince will probably get in on the action, and Maude might even take a lazy swipe or two at the 'bird'.)  Also remember that toys that are left out all the time get boring.  If they rotate, they're new and exciting every time.

If we can use just one or two of these tips in our multi-cat households, we may have a palpable reduction of stress in our cats' lives.

This Saturday:  To Pet or Not to Pet

Kelley Wagner, CVT


Thursday, March 3, 2011

There is a Reason for Rehab

Physical rehabilitation uses manual manipulation, physical modalities, therapeutic exercise, and functional training to treat neuromusculoskeletal disorders such as hip and elbow dysplasia, nerve injuries and post -operative orthopedic injuries.  A combination of these treatments can improve joint function and range of motion while increasing muscle size and strength.  As a patient uses the affected limbs more, there is a faster return to normal function.  It has been proven that animals receiving physical rehabilitation after knee surgeries such as cruciate ligament tears have a quicker return to normal function compared to pets that don't receive rehabilitation.

Some common treatments used in physical rehabilitation include cold and warm compresses, strength training, passive range of motion, swimming and underwater treadmills, neuromuscular electric stimulation, and pulse signal therapy or electromagnetic fields.  Some of these can be easy for you to perform with help from your veterinarian, while others are best performed by specialists like veterinarians at TOPS Veterinary Rehab.  You can visit their website at

Todd Whitney, DVM