Why Does my Cat Claw my Sofa?

156-1-cat_clawsAny of our readers that have cats as pets know that their claws can shred most anything, but you may wonder why it seems they particularly like to shred your upholstered furniture?

A cat’s claws are not fingernails, they are attached and protrude from the end of the bone. Most cats have five clawed digits on each of their front paws and four on each of their rear paws. Their claws are tools and are used by the cat for climbing, scratching, catching prey and defense. There is a sheath that can grow over the claw inhibiting their effectiveness and so cats regularly try to remove that sheath by scratching their claws against a rough surface. It is part of their regular grooming to keep their claws sharp.

If your sofa is the only available surface for them to scratch their claws, then that is where they will scratch.

Some owners think that the best remedy is to have their cats declawed. That is seen by most veterinarians as a drastic as well as an unnecessary and potentially harmful procedure. Declawing removes muscle, ligaments and bone in addition to the claw and may negatively impact your cat’s behavior and psyche. Common thought is that it’s overkill for a misbehavior that can be redirected with proper training.

Your cat needs their claws, not only for the uses mentioned above, but because cats are digitigrade which mean they walk on their toes. (Humans are plantigrade and we walk on the soles of our feet.) Removing their claws will distort their equilibrium and they may have trouble keeping their balance. They surely will have difficulties in doing many of the things cats enjoy like jumping and climbing.

Most vets recommend training to deter cats from clawing at furniture. A few ideas:

  • Scratching posts: most cat owners have scratching posts or cat trees for their cats. You can encourage them to use the post rather than the sofa by rubbing some catnip in and around the post to encourage them to use it. It’s probably wise to have several of these around your home.
  • You can also temporarily cover your sofa with plastic or strategically placed contact paper so that the surface is slippery and not conducive to the shedding process.
  • Your cat’s claws are curved at the end and come to a fairly sharp point. This sharp point is the cause of all the damage to your furniture when it gets caught in fabric and pulls threads loose. You can try trimming the ends of their claws to reduce the amount of shredding they are capable of, or you can try a product called Soft Claws that are little caps the you put on their nails to reduce the damage they cause.

Just remember, a cats clawing at carpets or furniture is a natural behavior and part of their grooming, so don’t punish them for doing something that comes naturally, redirect them to an acceptable outlet for the behavior.






Healthy Ingredients for Your Pet: Pomegranates

155-1-pomegranateThe next ingredient in our ongoing series on Healthy Ingredients for Your Pet are pomegranates. Pomegranates are classified as a super fruit and are super healthy to eat!

What is a pomegranate?
Pomegranates are in the Lythraceae family and are small fruit bearing shrub or tree that grows to 20-30 feet. Each pomegranate holds around 600 seeds which is the part that is eaten. Pomegranates are categorized as a berry and is typically eaten raw or the seeds made into juice.

Why would pomegranates be in pet food?
Pomegranates are said to be one of the healthiest fruits available. They are packed with antioxidant, antiviral and anti-tumor properties and good amounts of Vitamin A, E & C. They are also a good source of folic acid, potassium, fiber and protein.

Pomegranates also contain two unusual substances, punicalagins and punicic acid. These unique substances are extremely powerful antioxidants.
The pomegranates anti-inflammatory properties are thought to help with arthritis, joint pain and may help fight certain types of cancer.
They contain no cholesterol or saturated fats and make a super healthy snack for humans.

Are there any risks to feeding your pet pomegranates?
There is some thought that the tannins found in these berries can cause a stomach upset in some pets. Since the science behind this isn’t conclusive, to be safe, it’s best not to feed them raw pomegranates directly. But your pets don’t have to miss out on the health benefits or flavor found in pomegranates as many pet treats or pet foods contain small amounts of pomegranate seeds or pomegranate juice.

Pomegranate Factoids:

  • Pomegranate juice has been found to have three times the antioxidant activity and benefits of red wine and green tea.
  • Pomegranate seeds can be sweet or tart depending on their level of ripeness.
  • The word pomegranate means apple with many seeds.

A sampling of pet foods that contain pomegranates:
Nutram , T23 Grain Free Turkey, Chicken & Duck
Farmina, Chicken & Ancestral Grain Neutered
Nutrience, Adult Turkey, Chicken & Herring






Getting to Know Your Exotic Cat

154-1-exotic_catThis week in our series on Getting to Know Your Cat Breed we are featuring the Exotic Cat. The Exotic has taken the honor of being the most popular cat for four years in a row according to the Cat Fancier’s Association. Exotics are identical to Persians but with short, fluffy coat that gives them a soft, rounded, teddy bear look.

Life expectancy: Exotic’s lifespan it typically 8-15 years.

Size: They are a medium sized cat, weighing between 7 – 12 pounds.

Color: The Exotic’s look very much like Persians but are bred to have short dense fur. They can be found in many colors and patterns, including tabby, tortoiseshell, black and white, and chinchilla silver.

Origins: The Exotic has an interesting origin story. Initial breeders in the US bred their American Shorthairs to Persians to get the silver coloring and green eyes. They liked the look of these crossbreeds so much they added Burmese and Russian Blues to get the gene for shorthair. These cats were in turn bred back to Persians and formed the basis for this new breed, the Exotic or Exotic Shorthair.

Personality: The Exotic is a calm and easy-going breed that is not fazed by much. They get along with children and are respectful of dogs. They are very affectionate and will politely ask for a scratch or pet with their soulful eyes. They are family pets and love to follow family members around, patiently waiting for attention. It’s been said that male Exotics are more affectionate than females who can be somewhat aloof. Overall, Exotics are the quintessential lap cat.

Health Issues:
Exotics are susceptible to several potential health problems. Many of these are related to their flat facial structure which may cause breathing difficulty or noisy breathing caused by constricted nostrils. They may also have alignment issue with their teeth and excessive tearing or other eye conditions.
In addition, Exotics are genetically predisposed to Polycystic kidney disease. This is a hereditary condition which causes enlarged kidneys and kidney dysfunction. This can be diagnosed at an early age and treated. Responsible breeders screen for it and breed it out of their programs.

Their flat faces and short noses limit their ability to cool themselves and so they are quite susceptible to heat. Their thick double-coated fur also makes staying cool difficult. Make sure they have a cool place to lay when the weather is warm.

Fitness/energy level: Exotics aren’t just pretty. They can be active and really enjoy playing with toys or with anything really. They are also smart and trainable, so find some challenging treat toys or try and teach them to high-five.

Native foods for the Exotic Cat:

  • Rabbit
  • Deer
  • Salmon
  • Pomegranate

Good foods to feed your Exotic Cat:
Fromm, Hasenduckenpfeffer
Fussie Cat, Salmon & Chicken
Blue Buffalo, Healthy Aging Chicken & Brown Rice Mature

Fun facts about the Exotic Cat:

  • Exotics are a new breed of cat and have only been recognized for about 50 years.
  • The cartoon character Garfield is thought to be an Exotic based on his looks.
  • Exotic’s are known as the “Lazy man’s Persian” due to their look and easy to care for shorthair.






Take Your Pet to Work Week

153-1-pet_to_workTake Your Pet to Work Week kicks off the week of June 18-22 with Take Your Cat to Work Day on Monday the 18th and closes out with the original celebration of Take Your Dog to Work Day on Friday June 22nd.

This fun pet holiday was started in 1999 by Pet Sitters International, originally as Take Your Dog to Work Day and recently expanded to include cats and other pets. The original mission remains a day to celebrate what great companions our pets are and to promote adoptions.

A recent study sponsored by Banfield Hospital (a division of Mars Petcare) demonstrated the positive affect dogs in the office can bring to stress levels, morale and even overall productivity.

They interviewed over 1,000 employees regarding their perceptions of pet-friendly workplaces and identified these improvements resulting from a pet-friendly work environment:

  • employee morale (93 percent)
  • reduced stress among employees (93 percent)
  • work-life balance (91 percent)
  • greater loyalty to the company (91 percent)
  • reduced guilt among pet owners about leaving their pets at home (91 percent)

While bringing your dog to work does have some great benefits, there needs to be an awareness that not everyone might be thrilled to see Rocco snoozing under your desk. Some people are fearful of dogs, they may have allergies or other aversions, so it’s wise to have some rules in place for the workplace:

  • Only consider bringing in your pet if they are well-socialized and well-behaved.
  • Get written consent from your boss or Human Resources.
  • Alert your co-workers that you are bringing in your pet.
  • Bring proper supplies, leash, water, treats, bedding.
  • Keep your dog leashed and contained, don’t let them wander unattended, especially at lunchtime.
  • Be sure and get them out regularly for walks.
  • Be ready to remove them and take them home if they become a nuisance or a distraction.
  • If everyone in your workplace follows these simple guidelines, you and your colleagues can all benefit from the positive effects of having your pet there for the Friday Morning Meeting.

    If your employer is willing to participate, remember that one of the goals of the week is to promote adoptions, so be sure and make that a prominent message in the promotion of the event. Some companies sponsor fundraiser events that day or ask employees to donate goods that can be used by local rescues or shelters.

    If you are interested in participating or getting your company to participate, Pet Sitters International has a helpful Toolkit for getting started in the celebration. Check it out.






Not So Healthy Ingredients for Your Pet: Grapes

152-1-grapesThe next ingredient we’re examining in our ongoing series on Not so Healthy Ingredients for Your Pet are grapes. It is well documented that grapes and raisins are toxic for dogs. Toxicity for cats is not fully known, but it’s best to play it safe and keep the grapes away from your cat.

What is a Grape?
We’re all familiar with grapes. They are an edible, pulpy, smooth-skinned berry or fruit that grows in clusters on vines of the genus Vitis. They come in many varieties and are a good snack – for humans. Raisins are simply dried grapes.

Why would grape be in pet food?
They wouldn’t. We found zero instances of grapes in any of the dog or cat foods in our pet food ingredient database which is good because while they may be a great snack for humans they are taboo for your pets.

Are there any risks to feeding your pet grapes?
YES. As we said, grapes and raisins are highly toxic to dogs (and might be for cats). Scientists have yet to determine the exact toxin in the fruit or the amount of grapes eaten to produce toxicity, so it’s best to avoid them completely. Accidents do happen, so watch your pet closely for any signs and get to your vet immediately if they exhibit any of the following signs:

Signs of grape poisoning:

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea – within a few hours of ingestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy, weakness, unusual quietness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Diminished urination

The toxin in grapes affect the kidney and can even lead to complete kidney failure, so early treatment is critical.

If you are certain your pet has ingested grapes, the best course of action is to induce vomiting. This is only helpful if the ingestion occurred within the last few hours. You can call the Pet Poison Helpline (http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/contact/ ) or your local veterinarian for instructions on caring for your pet.

Grape Factoids:
There are more than 8,000 varieties of grapes – which is why there are so many different types of wine!

Napa Valley, California has the highest concentration of vineyards with over 200.

Grapes come in multiple colors, white, red, black, blue, green, purple and golden.





Getting to Know Your French Bulldog

151-1-french_bulldogThis week in our series on Getting to Know Your Dog Breed we are featuring the French Bulldog. The French Bulldog (or “Frenchie”) is part of the Non-Sporting group of the AKC. The French Bulldog has gained rapidly in popularity over the last few years rising to #4 in 2017, up from #11 in 2013.

Life expectancy: Life expectancy for Frenchies is on the shorter side with a lifespan of 10-12 years.

Size: Frenchies are small but solid dogs, typically weighing under 28 lbs and standing about a foot tall.

Color: Frenchies come in a variety of colors and various combinations of brindle, fawn and white. According to the breed standard, combinations of black and white or fawn and white are acceptable as long as there is some presence of brindle.

Origins: Contrary to their name, the French Bulldog isn’t really French in origin. Their ancestry can be traced to Nottingham, England where they were a favorite of lace makers, the main industry in that region. When the industrial revolution drove the lace makers to France, they took their dogs with them, and they became “French Bulldogs”.

Personality: Frenchies are full of spunk make and great companions. They aren’t athletic dogs, so they are not suitable for hikes or running, but they are friendly, fun-loving and just want to be part of your life. They also make great watchdogs.

They do require patience when training as they can be a bit stubborn or hard-headed.

Health Issues: French Bulldogs, like their distant cousin the Bulldog, are brachycephalic. This is defined as having a “shortened head” with a short nose and flat face. This conformation strains their abilities to breath normally, which is why Frenchies are Olympic snorers. This condition is something to be aware of and requires monitoring, especially when the temperature is warm or when they are exercising. Their short nose and flat face predisposes the Frenchie to other respiratory issues as well.

Frenchies are also susceptible to hereditary deafness, hip dysplasia or other spine/disk related issues.

Fitness/energy level: Frenchies don’t require a lot of exercise and their body type is not meant for long durations of exercise, like the bigger Bulldogs, they don’t tolerate heat well and their shorter snout makes breathing difficult sometimes. They make great apartment dwellers as they are on the smaller side and content with a couple of short walks a day.

They can be tough on their dog toys as they like to shred them, so be prepared to buy a lot of replacements.

Native foods for the French Bulldog:

  • Venison
  • Rabbit
  • Salmon
  • Cherries

Good foods to feed your French Bulldog:
Infinia™ Venison Potato & Quail
American Journey™ Large Breed Salmon & Sweet Potato
Grandma Lucy’s™ Pureformance Rabbit Sample

Fun facts about the French Bulldog:
Toto, of the Wizard of Oz fame, was originally a French Bulldog in the written version of the story by Frank L. Baum. Hollywood gossip has it that a Frenchie was originally cast in the movie but was “reluctant” to take direction and was replaced with a Cairn Terrier.

Keep them away from water as their short, squat body types tend to sink rather than float. They don’t make great swimmers.

Reproduction can be a challenge for the Frenchie due to their body proportions. Most pups are created through artificial insemination and delivered via cesarean.







Tips for Choosing Your Pet’s Name

149-1-pet_nameAs a dog or cat owner, one of your critical responsibilities, beyond food & shelter is naming your pet. It can be quite a challenge to agree upon a name and to ensure it’s a suitable name for your new family addition. But their name is as important as choosing the size, sex and breed of your pet as it’s the most important cue for proper training.

A few tips when thinking about your pet’s name:

  • Choose a name that is 1 or 2 syllables long and easy to say. Research shows that dogs and cats respond best to names that are one-two syllables and contain a hard consonant like b, k, d, t and hard vowels like a, e, i. These sounds are easier for your pet to hear and distinguish than soft consonants or vowels like f, s, m, o. Names like Tika or Buddy have more impact on your pet than Molly or Ralphie.
  • Avoid a name that sounds similar to common commands like sit, stay, down or no. Call your dog Ray and they may confuse it with “Stay” and your training will be impacted.
  • Avoid names of family members or names similar to family. Calling “Jack” to dinner may get your dog Zack dog as well as your son. No need for that confusion.
  • Be sure you like the name and that it is suitable for the dog, their breed and their size. “Puppy” may be cute at first but will seem silly for a full grown Rottweiler and “Tiny” certainly isn’t right for a Great Dane.
  • If you have multiple pets or both dogs and cats, consider pairing the names like Bert & Ernie. Be sure they sound different enough that they can distinguish between them.

Pet Sitters International published results from a recent study on names and naming practices in the United States that provide an interesting breakdown in the categories of names used by most pet owners:

47.1 percent of pet owners chose names like Molly, Sam, Annie or Max.
32.8 percent of pet owners gave their pets names that described its actions or personality, such as Twister, Sweetie and Trouble.
23 percent of pet owners gave their pets names that resembled their physical appearance, such as Brownie, Snowball, and Spot.
18.5 percent named their pets after a famous person, such as Cher or Sylvester.

No matter what direction you go in when choosing your pet’s name, teaching it to them is the most important. Our best tip on that front is to repeat it often and whenever they turn and look to you when you say it, reward them with a treat! They will learn it in no time.

Finally, some suggestions. Each year, Rover.com prepares a list of the most popular dog names and Chewy.com has published a list of popular cat names.

Top 10 Male Dog Names   Top Male Cat Names
1. Max   1. Oliver
2. Charlie   2. Leo
3. Cooper   3. Charlie
4. Buddy   4. Milo
5. Jack   5. Max
6. Rocky   6. Jack
7. Oliver   7. George
8. Bear   8. Simon
9. Duke   9. Loki
10. Tucker   10. Simba
Top 10 Female Dog Names   Top Female Cat Names
1. Bella   1. Luna
2. Lucy   2. Chloe
3. Daisy   3. Bella
4. Luna   4. Lucy
5. Lola   5. Lily
6. Sadie   6. Sophie
7. Molly   7. Lola
8. Maggie   8. Zoe
9. Bailey   9. Cleo
10. Sophie   10. Nala






Exercising Your New Puppy

150-1-puppy_exerciseWhat’s not to love about puppies? They are cute, cuddly, funny and full of energy. Their energy level is typically one of the most challenging behaviors for new dog owners. Puppies are like the energizer bunny, they go and go and go…and then crash for a quick nap and then they are up and at it again.

Smart owners channel that energy into productive outlets. Many owners learn that lesson the hard way because if you don’t channel it, your pup will find their own ways to channel it and it may be at the expense of your new running shoes, or the sofa pillows. Under-exercised dogs can be destructive, and this is particularly true for puppies because they have yet to learn good behavior from bad, so everything within reach is fair game.

Puppies exercise needs differ from adult dogs, so don’t think you can take them out for a 3-mile run or a 60-minute walk each morning and be set. A puppy’s growth plates are not fully formed until about 18 months and during that time strenuous or lengthy exercise could in fact be harmful to them.

Growth plates are the softer tissue found near the ends of their bones that calcify and form bone as they age. Because these plates are softer than bone, they can be injured more easily. You must be mindful of these limitations when seeking to exercise your puppy.

Here’s a few tips on effective and productive exercises for puppies (age 14 weeks – 1 year):

  • Short duration walks or swims.
  • Tug of War – remember they only have puppy teeth, so not too rough.
  • Fetch – this game will serve them well for a lifetime, teach it early.
  • Follow the Leader.

As your puppy ages, you can add more strenuous exercises to their routine:

  • Extend duration of walks and swims and increase the speed.
  • Obedience work, sit, stay, high five, rollover and other basic commands.
  • Low jumps and other simple obstacles.

You should keep these exercise sessions to 10-20 minutes two or three times a day at first and build their endurance as they age. A good rule of thumb offered by The Kennel Club of the UK regarding how much exercise your pup needs is 5 minutes of exercise for every 1 month of age, so if your pup is 3 months old then 15 minutes of exercise is suitable, 4 months of age – 20 minutes of exercise, etc.

Remember, all dogs, even puppies need mental stimulation too, so “find-it” games or treat toys are very effective for puppies. And don’t neglect their socialization during this time. Puppy classes where they can interact with other pups and learn some basic commands are a great outlet both mentally and physically for your pup.

Once their growth plates close and your vet approves, probably at around 12-18 months, you can begin more consistent and longer walks, hikes, swims and even short runs on a flat surface and slowly build up their stamina and strength.

You will have to be the one to put the brakes on as puppies, like kids, think they are indestructible and will run hard and fast and jump and twist and tumble. Just keep in mind what we said about their growth plates and try to exercise them safely.






Healthy Ingredients for Your Pet: Quinoa

147-1-quinoaThe next ingredient we’re introducing in our ongoing series on Healthy Ingredients for Your Pet is Quinoa. Quinoa has stormed the human health food scene in recent years as a healthy alternative to carb-rich pasta and rice. There are hundreds of varieties of quinoa, but it is typically found in white, tan or red forms.

What is Quinoa?
Quinoa is thought of as a grain, but actually it is a seed. It originated thousands of years ago and is considered an “ancient grain” like amaranth, barley and farro.

Why would Quinoa be in pet food?

Quinoa packs a huge nutritional punch and is good for humans as wells as your pets. It is a gluten-free whole grain that contains high levels of protein as well as vitamins B-1, B-2, and B-6 and vitamin E, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also provides minerals such as magnesium, phosphate, iron, calcium and potassium.

Quinoa is a complete protein that also contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and plenty of omega-3 fatty acids.

Are there any risks to feeding your pet Quinoa?
Not really. Their seed coating can be bitter as the contain saponins, a naturally occurring chemical produced by the quinoa plant to repel insects. This coating is typically removed during processing, although trace amounts may cause mild stomach irritation although that is unlikely.

Quinoa factoids:

  • NASA has proposed that quinoa would make an ideal food for long duration space flights.
  • Quinoa was known as “the gold of the Incas” by the Aztecs who discovered it.
  • Quinoa can be used to help control the development kidney stones because of its high levels of potassium.

A sampling of pet foods that contain quinoa:
Nutram, T22 Grain Free Turkey, Chicken & Duck
Holistic Select, Anchovy, Sardine & Salmon
Pronature Holistic, Duck a la Orange






How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

148-1-dog_earsA dog’s ears can come in all shapes and sizes. Some stand at attention, some may flop over and some hang down almost to the ground. The one thing they all have in common is they collect dirt and wax, just like human ears.

It’s easy to check to see if your dog’s ears need cleaning, just lift them up and take a look. You may see a dark waxy build-up or redness inside their ear. Or you may smell an odor emanating from them. You may also see your dog scratching at the ear or rubbing it along the ground. If you see any of those signs, it’s probably time for a good cleaning.

Cleaning your dog’s ears is much easier than clipping their toenails which we covered a few weeks ago. There are plenty of cleaning solutions available over-the-counter or from your veterinarian that are designed to help soften the ear wax, or you can use a home solution of equal parts vinegar and water.

Simple Tips for Cleaning

  • Start by giving your dog a nice massage and a gentle belly rub to relax them. Having a few treats handy to distract them is always a good idea. The only other equipment you need is some cotton swabs or cotton balls. Don’t use q-tips.
  • Hold your dog’s head and tilt them gently downward and to the side as you add a small amount of the solution (5-6 drops) into their ear. Massage the solution in at the bottom of your dog’s ear, working it in to help loosen and dislodge any dirt. You will hear it squish around in the ear canal – perfectly normal.
  • Your dog will probably want to shake their head – let them. This also helps disperse the solution and loosen up some of the dirt.
  • Take a cotton swab you’ve moistened with the cleaning solution and gently clean the inside of your dog’s ear. Begin with the flap which you can easily see and slowly work your way into their ear canal. Continue wiping, changing cotton swabs as needed until you capture all the dirt. You may need to add a little more solution but use it sparingly.
  • Be gentle as you wipe as the insides of their ears are sensitive. Be aware that dog’s ears are shaped differently than humans, so you can swab a little deeper into their ear canal than you would on yourself, just stop when you feel resistance.
  • If your dog’s ears are particularly dirty, you may need to perform this cleaning daily until the dirt and buildup is under control. Once cleared up, a weekly check and cleaning as needed is all that is required.
  • If your dog seems particularly uncomfortable or there is a great deal of discharge or odor coming from their ears, it’s probably worth a trip to the vet to check for any signs of infection. If so, it can usually be treated with a good thorough cleaning and some antibiotics.
  • 148-3-dog_ears
    No dog is immune to developing ear issues. Dogs with pointed ears or dogs with floppy ears are both susceptible to problems. In the first case, they are either open to the air and can get all sorts of things in there or in the second case, they are floppy, moist petri dishes, essentially breeding grounds for bacteria.

    Poor ear care and ear infections can impact your dog’s overall health and certainly their hearing and behavior, so be sure to check them on a regular basis.