Litter Box Problems

It’s estimated that at least 10 percent of all cats develop elimination problems. These problems include not using the litter box, sometimes using the litter box, and using the litter box for either urinating or defecating, but not both. In all instances, this proves a problem for cat owners and it’s something you’ll want to tend to right away—once your cat has developed a particular non-litter-box surface or location preference for eliminating, it can be hard to address.

According to the ASPCA, the following common litter box problems might cause your cat to eliminate outside of her box:

  • You haven’t cleaned your cat’s litter box often or thoroughly enough. Virtually all cats like clean litter boxes, so scoop and change your cat’s litter at least once a day. Rinse the litter box out completely with baking soda or unscented soap once a week.
  • You haven’t provided enough litter boxes for your household. Be sure to have a litter box for each of your cats, as well as one extra. If your home is multi-story, you’ll need a litter box on each floor.
  • Your cat’s litter box is too small for her or she can’t enter it easily.
  • Your cat can’t easily get to her litter box at all times.
  • Your cat’s litter box has a hood or liner that makes her uncomfortable.
  • The litter in your cat’s box is too deep. Cats usually prefer one to two inches of litter.
  • You’ve placed your cat’s food and water bowls beside her litter box. Generally, cats do not like to eliminate where they eat.

Other problems
Multi-cat household conflict and medical problems can also cause litter box aversion. Even if you don’t actively see one of your cats blocking access to the litter box, this doesn’t mean conflict isn’t behind the reluctance to use the box. Similarly, if your cat had a medical problem that caused pain during urination or defecation, this could create negative associations with the box even if the medical problem is now resolved.

Location
Most cats prefer a quiet litter box location with sight lines—so they can see people and animals approaching—and multiple escape routes so they don’t feel cornered when using the litter box.

Litter Type
Most cats prefer unscented, clumping litter OR they could be attached to the litter they used as a kitten—some cats adapt to litter changes no problem but some may feel wary of a litter they didn’t use when young. If you think your cat may dislike her litter type, try offering a few different types of litter in litter boxes placed side by side. Your cat will use the one she likes best.

Accidents
Clean all accidents immediately and thoroughly with an enzymatic cleanser, available at most pet stores, designed to neutralize pet odors. Do not use an ammonia-based cleaner (urine is also ammonia), which can actually cause your cat to want to soil this area again.
If your cat has developed a non-litter-box location or surface preference for eliminating, you’ll need to make that surface or area less appealing. Try installing a bright light, or better yet, a motion-activated light, and covering the surface with tin foil, double-sided sticky tape, or the spiky underside of a carpet runner.

A Note on Urine Marking
Urine marking often gets lumped in with litter box problems but it is a whole different beast with different causes and solutions. Generally, a cat who is urine marking still uses the litter box but is also spraying other surfaces, usually vertical, with smaller amounts of urine. You may see your cat, tail held high and perhaps quivering, back up to a surface and spray it with urine.

5 Tips for Polite Leash Walking Like a Pro

Has walking your dog become a battle of wills over who will be dragging who in what direction?

1. Walking outside with all the new sights and smells can be highly distracting for dogs who are working on their polite leash walking. To help your dog focus on what you are trying to teach them, try working in a more neutral environment where there are fewer distractions such as in the backyard or even in your house.

2. Dogs need to be motivated to have good manners and that means you need to plan ahead by bringing high-value treats along. A treat pouch offers a great way to easily be able to reward good choices. When choosing a treat make sure that you pick something that will be motivating for your dog even when distractions are present. Typically moist treats are your best bet and they can be cut to a small size (fingernail size) so that you can reward a lot without overdoing how much food your dog is getting.

3. If getting the leash put on sends your dog into an excitable frenzy, the likelihood that you will then be able to go for a calm and well-mannered walk drops. Often times the best way to start preparing for a polite walk is by practicing “getting dressed” (putting your dogs walking leash and or collar on). The key here is to not continue to go for the walk until your dog has calmed down sufficiently and can listen to instructions. So if you have put the leash on and your dog is acting wild, simply ignore them and wait for that behavior to stop before starting your walk. At first, this may take some time while your dog tries to understand these new rules but in no time they will learn that the only way they get to go on their walk is if they keep their cool.

4. Sniffing is an incredibly important part of being a dog and dog owners who attempt to prevent their dog from sniffing are really setting themselves up to fall short. This doesn’t mean however that your dog should be dragging you to go check out exciting smells. Instead, have your dog earn sniff breaks by responding to a command like a sit or come. When your dog performs the command successfully, give them a cue like, “go sniff” and allow them to get their nose on their ground to investigate. By utilizing sniff breaks you can allow your dog to be a dog while also developing a relationship where they don’t just pull you all over the place to check out their surroundings.

5. The last tip is easily the most important. make sure pulling doesn’t work! If your dog has learned that by pulling towards things, they get access to them you have inadvertently taught them to pull. Whether it’s to greet a person, dog, go through a door or whatever your dog wants to pull you towards, make sure that you don’t allow them to drag you where they want to go. Instead, turn and go the other way or simply stop until your dog gives up and then you can practice walking towards the thing that they want with a loose leash. Each time your dog pulls, you show them that pulling is not effective by stopping or turning around. Yes, this requires some patience and consistency early on in training but that dedication will be rewarded during the lifetime of your dog through relaxing walks. As Spring brings sunshine and nicer weather, it’s definitely the time of year to get outside and start walking our dogs! Keep these tips in mind to ensure your walk can go smoothly and that your dog is practicing good manners with you rewarding their positive choices as you go!

Is Your Dog Anxious? Look for These Signs

Wouldn’t life be so much easier if your dog could just talk to you and tell you how they’re feeling? Yes, of course, it would! You’d never have to ask yourself, “is my dog anxious?” But the truth is, your dog is giving you clues as to whether they’re feeling anxious, happy, or bored.

There’s just one problem: they’re communicating in a foreign language.

Most humans can only identify the most obvious signs of a dog’s feeling state. This is especially troublesome when a dog is feeling anxious—they may silently scream at the top of their lungs with their actions, but if their owners aren’t “fluent” in body language, their attempts to communicate will fail.

Brush up on your “dog speak” to figure out whether your dog is anxious, in particular, with this dog body language dictionary.

Signs of dog anxiety, decoded

Flattened ears

  • Ears pinned back against the head. Can occur when a dog is anxious, scared or excited.

Tucked tail

  • Tail curled up under the tummy. Occurs when a dog lacks confidence or is scared. How tightly the tail is tucked might indicate just how anxious or frightened your dog is.

Hunched body

  • Think of this one as a dog trying to curl in on themselves to seem smaller, or even to disappear. It often occurs in combination with a tucked tail.

Shivering

  • Shivering can indicate fear or discomfort, such as when a dog is cold.

Lip or nose licking

  • Also referred to as “tongue flicking,” this action often occurs two or three times in quick succession. Generally, you’ll see lip licking when something in the environment has changed or a new trigger has emerged. If you see your dog lip lick as you’re preparing a meal, they’re probably just hopefully anticipating food.

Yawning

  • In many contexts, yawning is a stress release. If you’re on a walk, at the dog park, or in an unfamiliar place and you see your dog yawning, their anxiety is up. If you’re at home getting ready for a nap or waking up in the morning and you see your dog yawn, they may just be tired.

Sweaty paws

  • Dogs only have the ability to sweat through their paws. Sweaty paws (which you may notice from the paw prints left as your dog moves around) are a good indication that your dog is anxious or, alternatively, that they’re too hot and need to cool down.

Whale eye

  • Whale eye is the term for when the whites of your dog’s eye show, often when they’re attempting to look at or look away from something without wanting to move their entire head (i.e., look without looking). This is a good indication that your dog is experiencing fear or high anxiety—but don’t confuse whale eye with the appearance of your dog’s third eyelid, which is often light in color.

“Fear” grimace

  • A fear grimace is easy to confuse with a dog “smiling” out of happiness or excitement. When your dog is experiencing fear, they may pull back the muscles of their lips to expose clenched teeth as far back as the molars, looking like a forced smile. Because of the tension in the face during a fear grimace, you may also see creasing of the skin around the eyes, corners of the mouth and forehead.

Panting

  • Panting helps a dog to cool down and it often occurs during or after exercise or in extreme heat. It can also occur, however, when a dog is stressed. If you haven’t recently exercised and it’s not a hot day, a panting dog is likely to be an anxious one.

Drooling

  • Drooling, an extreme fear reaction can occur in combination with panting or on its own from a slightly opened mouth. A dog may also drool if they’re anticipating food coming their way. My dog drools so much when we eat breakfast that he forms big bubbles of spit!

Turning or walking away

  • A dog that turns away from an approaching human or dog is likely trying to communicate that they are no threat. This suggests that, for whatever reason, the approaching dog or human is making them anxious. Never force your dog to interact with someone or something. If they’re anxious, they may feel as though they have to “defend” themselves from the offending dog/human by biting.

Rolling onto the back

  • Rolling over doesn’t necessarily indicate “submission” as most people think, but your dog may be trying to communicate that they’re no threat. Rolling over can occur in times of stress but it is also a natural, healthy part of play behavior and can be a cue that they want a belly rub.

10 Things to Consider Before Bringing a New Pet Home

Some of the greatest moments in life include the day we met our pets for the first time, and the day we adopted them and they came home with us. Here are 10 things to consider before bringing a new dog or cat home.

 

#1 Can You Commit?

Will you have the time to walk your dog three times a day? Will you remember to exercise your cat every evening? If the answer is no, and you have no one who can perform those essential tasks, you should stop right here and consider a fish or a parakeet as a low-demand animal companion.

 

#2 Will Your Pet Fit Your Lifestyle?

Choosing a pet based on how popular or cute it is, is probably one of the worst decisions people make. Too often these pets are unceremoniously dropped at an animal shelter when they show themselves to be too high energy, too needy, too intolerant … the list is endless.

Get to know the breed you are interested in and be open to changing your mind if it doesn’t fit your ability to provide for its temperament. Ask lots of questions from the people adopting the animal out, maybe even find a breed specific group to ask questions of some of the members. A great example is the recent Chihuahua craze. Sure, they’re adorable and can live in any size home, and they’re very low maintenance. The catch is that they are not usually very tolerant of children and are one of the breeds that are known for biting children without much provocation. A pet cat should also match your personality. Some cats, for instance, require a lot of attention and interaction while others are mostly independent. Do your research and choose wisely.

 

#3 Interview Veterinarians Before the Adoption

Before you have settled on the type of pet that will suit you, ask your friends for their veterinary recommendations. A veterinarian can be an excellent source of information to help you choose the best pet to suit your lifestyle and needs. Not all vets are the same, and you want a veterinarian that best matches your needs. This will be a lifelong relationship and as such, the choice is very important. Again, do your research. Read online reviews of the vets in your community (with a grain of salt), ask groomers in your area who they recommend, and make interview appointments with them.

Our tip: Don’t rely entirely on a vet’s friendliness toward humans (i.e., you). A good veterinarian often has better skills relating to animals than to people. It is also your prerogative to ask the vet if she/he can provide a few references.

 

#4 Make Your Home Pet-Friendly

Did you know that something as simple as chewing gum can be deadly for dogs, or that ibuprofen is toxic to cats? It is highly important to go through your home now, before you bring a new pet home, to search out hazards and get them out of the way or out of the house. This includes cabinets at pet level, counter tops, bottles of chemical on the floor, small toys, electric cords and curtain cords.

 

#5 Choose an Age and Breed Appropriate Food

Not all pet foods are alike. Some are better than others, and some make claims that are not always backed by facts. It would be easy to just grab the pet food bag or can with the nicest design on the cover, but that is not what is going to guarantee our pets’ long-term health. Choose the best food for your dog or cat and always look for a diet labeled complete and balanced. From the time they are young until the time they are seniors, your pet food choices should be guided by the pet’s specific needs, life stage, and lifestyle. You can do some cursory research to get a good idea of why it is important and what to look for, but for the best advice, consult your veterinarian.

 

#6 Be Prepared for an Adjustment Period

If it’s a puppy you’ll be adopting into your home, be prepared for crying. Yes, just as with human babies, baby dogs cry during the night in their first days in their new home. But unlike human babies, it is not a good idea to take your puppy to your bed to soothe him. The best thing you can do before bringing the puppy home is set up a quiet, enclosed space with a comfortable bed, or a kennel that can be closed, keeping your puppy secure from wandering. Choose the spot that will be your dog’s permanent spot. During the day, let your puppy have free, supervised privileges to roam around the house to smell everything. This will also be a good way to spot any hazards you might have missed on the first go ‘round.

Bedtime for cats is a bit easier. Arrange the kitten’s sleeping area in a secure area close to his litter box so that he doesn’t get lost looking for it, and then leave him to romp around in his area until he drops off to sleep.

Things get a little bit trickier when you are bringing a new pet into a home with pets. You will need to make sure that your resident pet does not feel threatened enough to strike out at the newcomer.

 

#7 Train Your Pet

If your happy home is going to remain a happy home, the housetraining will need to start immediately after bringing your pet home. If you are adopting a kitten, introduce him to his litterbox as soon as you get him inside. If it is a puppy, leash him up and take him outside to start getting to know his neighborhood. Most puppies will be intimidated by their new surrounding, and you don’t want to put a fright into your puppy. A very short walk on the first outing is all that is needed. Begin training on that first outing. When the puppy relieves himself outside, while he is doing it say, “Go now.” Repetition of this command will eventually make it so that you will be able to take your dog out in any kind of weather without worrying about how long your dog will take to relieve himself.

 

#8 Select Appropriate Pet Treats and Toys

The right treats are essential, especially for puppies. Treats are one of the best tools for behavior training when used sensibly. Experiment with a few different dog treats and stick with the one that has the highest value for your puppy. That will be the treat he will do anything for, including staying by your side even when a clowder of cats goes by. Stay practical when giving treats. It is tempting to be liberal when it comes to treating our “little babies,” and just like giving candy to a human child, too many snacks can lead to an unhealthy body; even healthy snacks can add up in excess weight. Do always keep a back of treats in your pocket for training opportunities. Be careful with rawhide; it can be torn into pieces and swallowed in large chunks, potentially leading to choking or intestinal blockages. Toys should be free of buttons, strings, and anything that can be bitten off and swallowed.  Stick with rubber balls made for dogs (the harder to tear apart), nylon-bones, non-toxic stuffed toys, and ask other dog “parents” for advice on toys that hold up under puppy pressure.

For cats, feather wands are always popular, and a lot of cats are responsive to laser light devices. And don’t forget the old standbys: the catnip stuffed mouse toy and the old boxes. Cats love treats too, so go with the same advices as above and treat sensibly.

 

#9 Consider Spaying and Neutering

Neutering, a term that can refer to spay or castration surgery, can typically be done as early as eight weeks of age. Generally, the neutering procedure is performed around four to six months, plenty of time before the animal has reached the age of reproduction. Some people choose not to based on the feeling that the animal will lose its sense of identity (male), that the animal will be missing out on the life milestone of giving birth (female), or that the animal will lose its ability to be protective. None of these reasons are based in fact.

The best thing you can do for your pet’s health is to have him or her neutered. Yes, neutering does decrease aggression in most instances, but it does not make a dog any less protective of his or her human family. And your female animal will not feel less-than for not giving birth. It would be worse for her to have her babies taken from her than to have never given birth at all. She will not know the difference. She will also be less prone to cancer of the mammaries and ovaries. Ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.

 

#10 Outfit Your Pet with Proper ID

Finally, ensure that your puppy or kitten is properly outfitted with ID so that if he should ever get loose — and it does happen to most everyone eventually — you will have him returned safely to you. Have your contact information on your pet’s collar, either on a tag or printed directly onto the collar (the latter can be custom ordered or made by you). Also, keep photos on hand. This is a good reason to track your pet’s growth, but you may need those images when it comes time to post them around town or to leave with the local shelter in case your pet is delivered to them. A GPS device that attaches to the collar is a clever way to track your pet, but it loses its efficacy when the collar gets lost.

Microchips are the best assurance for identification and need to be used in combination with a collar for the best chance of finding a lost pet. Make a point now of remembering to update your contact information with the company that keeps records for the microchip every time there is a change in your contact information. It can make the difference between your pet being returned to you or staying lost to you forever.