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DID YOU KNOW? – Cats are Complex Creatures

DID YOU KNOW? – Cats are Complex Creatures

Cats have always been mysterious and even mystical as well as the first defense against rodents. Here are some cat facts to help you understand your feline companion.

It’s in the genes! You know a lot about your cat except, for many cat owners, you don’t know what type of cat you have. Basepaws, an animal health company specializing in genetics, can analyze your cat’s DNA for breed type, health markers, and its wild heritage. (You may have a cute kitten that is descended from a lynx!)

How it works: you purchase their kit, send them a cheek swab, and wait for your cat’s genetic report. You’ll discover what breeds and breed groups your cat descended from and what health issues can affect your cat’s life.

Personality
Is your cat social, confident, and easy going or timid, shy and unfriendly? Studies have confirmed that not only is personality inherited from the mother, but that friendliness specifically is, in part, inherited from the father. The best time to begin gently handling a cat is before 8 weeks old. Feral cats may become adjusted to humans who regularly feed them, but they generally don’t like to be handled.

Foraging
Cats in the wild eat numerous small meals each day and spend a lot of time hunting. This is why food puzzles instead of food bowls are so enriching. They mimic the cat’s natural choice.

Senses, habits, and interesting facts:

  • Each cat has its own signature scent. They spread their scent over their fur through grooming. Friendly cats rub up against each other to transfer their scent. This friendly behavior is called allorubbing.
  • Cat’s ears can be rotated at 180 degrees. The average cat’s hearing is at least five times keener than a humans.
  • Domestic cats spend about 70% of the day sleeping and 15% grooming.
  • Most cats don’t have eyelashes.
  • Cats can jump up to six times their length.
  • Cats use their whiskers to feel the world around them and to determine if they can fit into small spaces. A malady called whisker fatigue is caused by too much stimulation. For this reason many cat owners prefer to feed their cat on a plate instead of a small bowl.
  • Cats were first brought to America during Colonial Times to hunt rats.
  • Two hundred feral cats prowl the park at Disneyland on rat patrol.
  • Cats have also contributed to the extinction of 33 different species. Placing bird feeders in safe areas will save a lot of feathered beings.
  • Kittens often seek warmth in car engines. Always thump on your hood before starting your car to scare them off to a safer space.

Happy Pet! Happy Home!


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Happy Pets = Happy Home

Happy Pets = Happy Home

Are you dogs and cats happy? Here are some great ways to keep your pet’s mind and body occupied this winter and reduce his stress levels.

Keep That Tail wagging!

If you have a puppy or adult dog with lots of energy, you know how much work it is to keep your pet entertained. The colder weather and COVID has kept a lot of us indoors which adds another challenge.
Lack of exercise and mental stimulation can raise the frustration and stress level for both pet and their people. You’ve probably noticed how your dog’s stress level—and yours—goes up when he’s not getting enough exercise. High-energy dogs can develop behavior problems if they don’t get enough exercise and stimulation. Here’s how to keep your canine happy:

  • Play dates. If your dog likes the company of other dogs, invite one or more of his furry friends and their owners to join you in a group walk. Be certain that the canine companions know each other and have proven that they get along. Double check that your equipment fits properly. There are many local parks in New Bern to enjoy.
  • Hidden Treats. Gather a handful of treats and show them to your dog. Place your dog in a sit/stay (or have someone hold him on a leash) and let him watch you hide the treats in front of him in safe places like under a pillow or behind a door.
  • Let him go and encourage him to search. When he discovers a treat, praise him. After a few of these sessions, he will get the idea. You can then start hiding treats in other rooms, and he will stay busy hunting them down. We call this the “Find It” game at my house. Your can graduate from treats to toys or even hiding yourself and calling your dog to search for you.
  • Winter walks. Be on the lookout for a break in the cold and seize the moment. Even a short walk can give your pet some exercise and mental stimulation. A good ten-minute “sniffari” is fun and fulling for your pet. Or add some novelty to your dog’s walks by discovering a new place or adding some games to the outing.
  • Puzzle toys. Invest in a puzzle toy or two to keep your dog’s mind occupied and provide an opportunity to challenge your dog’s problem-solving skills. The toy rewards the dog with a treat when he figures out the puzzle. There are a lot of choices. One of my favorites are the puzzles that replace the food bowl. This gives your dog a chance to hunt for his meals on a daily basis. I also use a snuffle mat with dry treats or kibble tucked inside or a licky mat smeared with peanut butter to engage my dog’s culinary senses.
  • Kong toy. This is a long-time favorite at my house and is great for keeping dogs from being bored or for encouraging them to settle in their crate or on their “go to” place. This tough rubber concoction can be filled with peanut butter, soft cheese or Kong Stuff’N, and keeps dogs busy as they work on removing the food with their tongue. I put a few treats inside a peanut-butter filled the Kong that I let freeze in the fridge. This keeps my pets busy longer.
  • Tug and ball. These are good indoor or outdoor games. If you have some space, you can toss the ball down a long hallway or down a staircase for a game of fetch. If your dog likes to tug, get him a new tug toy and play with him until he gets tired. I like to keep some tugs and balls just for indoor use.
  • Trick training. This is something my dogs, Davy and Ginger, had fun with during the pandemic. I printed out the AKC Trick Dog List and started crossing new tricks off as we learned them. We added roll-over, crawl, and give me your paw to our repertoire. Now we are working on closing open drawers. There is a long list of fun activities to learn.

Make Your Cat Purr!

There are a lot of things that you can do to support your cat’s mental and physical well-being while keeping him safely inside.  Cats love to climb, play, eat, observe, explore, hide, perch, scratch, groom, and hang out with their favorite human.  Here are activities that fulfill these needs. 

  • Environmental Enrichment. Provide cat trees, window perches, and hiding places from a simple paper bag, empty box, or tunnel to shelving, walkways and catios. Scratching posts give cats an acceptable place to scratch and trim their nails. There are many varieties of scratching posts, but the best ones are sturdy and steady. Keep in mind that cats like to extend their full body for a good scratch.
  • Social Interactions. Cats are social animals and like to interact with you when they are in the right mood. Don’t push yourself on them, but do be ready when they are asking for your attention. They prefer to be touched around the cheeks and head and most enjoy being brushed on a regular basis. We find some cats love to be read to or given a gentle massage, and quality lap time.
  • Visual Enrichment. An interesting view of the yard enhanced with a bird feeder can keep them entertained all year. Laser pointers, blowing bubbles, pinwheels, and interactive toys are great boredom busters.
  • Auditory Enrichment through calming music. – Yes, there is music especially for cats that will reduce stress, boost moods, and improve physical and emotional well-being. Through a Cat’s Ear is an example of cat specific music that is popular with veterinary practices and pet sitters. The tones of cat-specific music are best played softly as cats hear much better than we do. The pet cube that I use for my pet sitting clients play sounds in a lower register (matches a cat’s resting pulse rate) and are slower (not great to hum along to, but cats like it!).
  • Pheromone Spray. If you have a cat that is nervous or anxious, you can add Feliway pheromone to help them calm down. It comes in sprays, collars, and plug-ins. I particularly like the sprays on bedding for car travel or veterinary visits. The spray lasts about four hours. Plug-ins are great for the house used in the room where the cat spends most of its time.
  • Food Foraging. There are interactive toys that you can stuff with kibble giving your cat an opportunity to hunt. Place or hide these toys around your house. Many behaviorists are suggesting we stop feeding our pets out of food bowls.
  • Training your Cat. Yes, cats can learn many tricks – fetch, high-five, rollover. They are very smart… after all, they train us! To teach the tricks have some good treats handy, a clicker for training, and have fun with your feline.

Our pets have preferences too. Get to know your pet and find out what they like or don’t like. It’s a great way to build the bond you have between you and add to the quality of their lives. After all, don’t we all want our pets to be happy?


For Fear Free professional pet sitting and dog walking, contact Jeanne Crockett, owner of Crockett’s Critter Care.

Happy Pet! Happy Home!

Get more pro tips to take care of your pets by subscribing to our newsletter and blog.

DID YOU KNOW? – Furry Pets Still get Cold!

DID YOU KNOW? – Furry Pets Still get Cold!

A coat for your pet is not just a fashion statement, it is a safety measure. Even with shaggy fur coats your pets can still suffer the impacts of cold weather.

Just like people, your pets all react to cold differently depending on age, breed, and size. Like most seniors, older cats and dogs have a hard time maintaining body heat. Meanwhile, puppies and kittens shouldn’t be outside in the frigid air even when well-dressed because they don’t have the fat, metabolism, or the full fur coat they need to stay warm when temperatures plunge.

Of course, it’s not a good idea to shave your dog’s coat during colder seasons. The fur helps keep your pet comfortable so just wait until spring to give Fifi a new do.

Winston in red sweater
Winston in red sweater

A fabric coat or knit sweater for your pet can be fashionable and warm. Add a reflective collar or some reflective accents on the covering to make it easier to spot you and your dog on the dawn and dusk patrols. Take the coat off as soon as your pet comes inside and never leave a wet coat on your pet otherwise they will get chilled from the damp material and you’ll have defeated the purpose of the protective garment.

When it’s cold or wet out, veterinarians say it’s vital to keep young, old, and sick pets indoors. If the temp is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s too cold for pets to be left outside for extended periods and below 32 degrees is when frostbite occurs. It’s up to you to watch the thermometer and keep your pet warm and snug.

Rather than chilly hours in the yard unattended, keep those outdoor breaks short, just 10-15 minutes for a romp 3 or 4 times a day is a better option. When it is cold, watch your pet closely for signs of distress which may include shivering, lethargy, disorientation, and whining. If you think your pet is hypothermic, call your vet to determine the best way to warm them up.

While you can’t bundle up your outdoor pets, expect to add 10-15% more food in the winter. Birds (and squirrels) love to get peanut butter and suet when it is cold outside and those extra calories may help maintain their body heat.

Thankfully, we in NC don’t have to contend with severe and lengthy bitter cold seasons like other parts of the country. Our cold snaps may be brief but our concern for every pet’s well-being is for all seasons.

Happy Pet! Happy Home!


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TRUE TALES: Duke

I have owned more than a handful of dogs and have prepared many foster dogs for adoption.  Along the way, I have met some interesting and challenging canines.  One such dog was Duke, The Found Hound.   I was buying groceries at the Food Lion in Bridgeton.  Every time the door opened, this large, bony tick-ridden hound walked in sweeping his tail from side to side.  He entered the store three times and each time he was forced back outside.  After the third time, the store employees were ready to call Animal Control.  It was Thanksgiving week, and I figured the fate of this dog in the hands of Animal Control would not have a good outcome. 

In the parking lot, the dog was going up to everyone in the same friendly manner that he showed as he entered the Food Lion.  Everyone brushed him off –that is, everyone but me.  I saw something in him that I liked.  No one knew anything about this dog so I considered him abandoned.  It was clear by looking at him that he hadn’t been well cared for.  He was severely underweight and his coat was in poor condition.   

My Found Hound: Duke

I asked some people to help me get him into the backseat of my car.  They asked me what I was going to do with him, and I said I’d adopt him out or keep him.  They looked at me like I was crazy.  My intentions were to get him fully vetted, neutered, trained in some basic obedience, and then adopt him out through the humane society.  After I got home, I named him Duke, and started his rehabilitation.  He impressed me with his intelligence, athleticism, and willingness to learn.  I worked on calming his reactiveness to other dogs, eliminating his food aggressive issues, and taught him basic skills and house manners.  When he was ready, I took him to an adoptathon.  To my dismay, he was ignored because he was too big. Everyone passed us to view the little dogs.  I decided that no one would ever do that to him again and took him “home.”  He was mine!

This dog that no one wanted went on to receive a Canine Good Citizenship certificate, had a blast learning agility, and excelled at obedience.  He remained my faithful companion for eight years.  To this day, he holds the title of being the most frustrating and challenging dog I’ve owned.  But he also taught me the most and took me to places I never would have gone.  For that, I am forever grateful.     

If you have a dog that is a challenge, we may be able to help.  We’d love to improve the outcome of your story.  Contact us so we can all hear it.

TRUE TALES: Consult with a Cat Behaviorist

TRUE TALES: Consult with a Cat Behaviorist

I was a lucky winner of a raffle drawing at the Pet Sitters International Conference this year.  My prize was a forty-five-minute consult with Marci Kosti, PHD, a well-known cat behaviorist.  I prepared ahead and asked my Facebook friends and colleagues what their most pressing cat concerns were.  Some of the concerns went beyond the scope of an introductory consult but other issues fit easily into a Q & A format.

Here is a summary of the answers to my questions with Dr. Marci:

  1. When pet owners consult with you, what are the topics they want to discuss most often?
    The top concern is from pet owners who have cats that are not getting along and are looking for ways to create cat harmony in their household. The second most frequent topic is house soiling.
  2. How important is early interaction between kittens and humans regarding their friendliness toward their owner and other people throughout their lifetime?
    The sensitive socialization period for kittens is 2 to 8 weeks. Studies have shown that kittens that have been gently handled (even just 15 minutes a day) are more likely to be friendly, more willing to explore, and more able to handle stress as they develop. Exposure to more than one person, other pets, environments, and situations provide kittens with positive associations that will last a lifetime.
  3. As a pet sitter, we often administer medications to cats. What are some of the best methods that you have found for cats to accept this process?
    Less handling is better when giving medicine to a cat. For pilling, the best treat that Dr. Kosti has found is whipped cream cheese because it is sticky and yummy. Place a pea size portion with the medicine tucked inside on the very end of a knife or spoon. When the cat goes to lick it, it sort of sticks to the cat’s tongue and then goes into the mouth to be swallowed. To get the cat to accept this, start with a few portions of the cheese without the pill and then the one with the pill followed by one more lick without the pill. This way the cat doesn’t suspect the medicine each time. Some other good choices are Churu’s, Albacore tuna, marsh mellows, Easy Cheese cheddar and bacon, canned salmon, baby shrimp, Bonita fish flakes, anchovy paste, and Fancy Feast foil packets of any flavor. We also talked about adding medicine to a liquid paste in a syringe and letting the cat lick it off the tip of the syringe. Both of these methods can be completed without any hand holds so the cats aren’t stressed and look forward to medicine time. Dr. Kosti shared a great video by Feline Fundamentals that shows positive ways to medicate your cat which I thoroughly enjoyed watching. You can view it on Youtube.
  4. What are the best ways to deter a cat from scratching the furniture?
    Scratching posts placed near the furniture that the cat is scratching. Make sure it is the right size and is sturdy. If the cat is reaching up then the post should be one that matches the cat’s height preference. The same applies for cats that scratch the carpet. These cats prefer scratchers that lie on the floor. There is a variety of scratchers to chose from. Consider buying several. Initially, you can sprinkle cat nip on the scratcher to get the cat’s attention.
  5. What are your thoughts about cats exploring outdoors in a stroller?
    Dr. Kosti loves it and has tried it with all of her cats. However, only one of them took to it after training. It needs to be properly introduced with gentle training. If a cat doesn’t like it and growls, hisses, trembles, freezes, snaps or swats – then stop. This is not going to be a pleasant experience for that cat.
  6. Feeding stations vary a lot from one house to another. Sometimes food bowls are close together near the litter box and other times they are spread out. What do you advise your clients to do?
    Cats are very fussy about this. They don’t like their food bowl near the water or the litter box. They also don’t have a drive for thirst even though they need water. I have found that the best feeding station is one that has the food apart from the litter box and away from the water bowl. It’s also a good idea to have several water bowls in areas that the cat is near because they may drink more water that way. This is especially important for senior cats.
Dr. Marci Koski with white cat
Dr. Marci Koski

Litter box issues are complex issues that can’t be addressed in this format. Dr. Kosti gave a ninety-minute presentation which I found valuable on litter box issues and house soiling at the Pet Sitters International conference. The first step in resolving these issues is a veterinary check- up to determine that the problem isn’t medical. Then a review of litter box basics (location, design, type of litter, and maintenance) and some simple adjustments may be all that is required for your cat to behave appropriately. As a pet sitter, I have a lot of experience in this area and may be able to help.

When it comes to cats that don’t get along in their multi-cat household – it may be time for you to reach out to a cat behaviorist. Dr. Marci Koski, a Certified Feline Behavior & Training consultant, successfully helps cat owners restore harmony in their homes. The testimonials on her website are from satisfied customers who wish they would have contacted her sooner. I am very impressed with her understanding of cats and her willingness to share her knowledge with me. I highly recommend her to you. She is amazing and will be happy to talk with you.

What is your proud pet story? Contact us so we can all hear it.

DID YOU KNOW? You Need Hurricane Prep for Your Pets

DID YOU KNOW? You Need Hurricane Prep for Your Pets

How prepared are you?  A little, a lot, gone overboard, never crossed your mind?  North Carolina is no stranger to hurricanes so that will be my focus today.

Here are some things to think about:  the internet and tv may go down; power may go out; rain may cause floods; wind may cause damage; evacuations may be ordered.  Everyone is under a lot of stress scrambling to get what they need to survive and protect their belongings.

Make a plan for your pet ahead of time:  decide where they will go, how they will get there, what supplies and records you will take, and know what you can do to help keep them calm.

Prepare an emergency kit for each animal.  Take water, food, can opener, carriers or crates, litter box and litter, puppy pads, plastic bags, pickup bags, medicine, medical records, leash, collar, harness, pet photo, ID tags.  Suggestion:  take paper records and a photo.  While you may have excellent records and pictures on your smartphone, you may not be able to access them.  Store paper reports in a waterproof container (zip lock bags are handy) and take them with you.  You may also scan records and photos to a file and email the file to a friend or family member who lives in a safe area. 

Before the bad weather approaches, bring your pets inside.  Keep them safe.  You don’t want to search for a terrified pet that has escaped from the yard.

Stay calm – your pets are sensitive to your feelings.  You can help them stay relaxed by packing their favorite blanket or toy, bringing a long-lasting chew toy, spraying Feliway (cats) or Adaptil (dogs) on bedding or towels that can be put into their carriers or crates. 

If your pet is not familiar with going into carriers or crates – teach them to love them.  Leave them up in the house, toss treats in them, feed them next to them and gradually move the food inside.  If they have to spend time confined in one, they will be more comfortable if they have a good association with them. 

Stay tuned in to the weather reports and, if you have to leave – don’t dilly dally.  You are your pet’s best guardian so plan to take them with you. 

Good luck and stay safe.

For Fear Free professional pet sitting and dog walking, contact Jeanne Crockett, owner of Crockett’s Critter Care.

Happy Pet! Happy Home!

Get more pro tips to take care of your pets by subscribing to our newsletter and blog.