Cold Weather Compassion

IMG_3545.jpgAs days grow shorter and the coldest part of the year approaches, understand that your furry friends’ furriness will not always suffice to keep them safe and comfortable.

Hypothermia and frostbite are just as dangerous to dogs and cats as they are to humans, and perhaps harder to detect because we can’t always know what they’re feeling or thinking. Certainly some dogs are better suited to cold weather—those with thicker fur coats, and larger dogs in general—but no dog should ever be left outside when temperatures near the freezing point. Chihuahuas and pit bull terriers, two of the nation’s most popular breeds, are usually quite shorthaired and therefore especially susceptible to cold.

Sweaters, sweatshirts, and raincoats for dogs, therefore, are not just endearing, but sensible things to have on hand. While some dogs have no tolerance for foot coverings, many can grow accustomed to them—and dogs who will be walking in cold or wet weather may walk longer and happier with booties snug on their paws.

Most importantly, bring your animal friends inside when the weather gets cold. How cold is too cold? If you wouldn’t enjoy being outside without a coat or a campfire for hours, chances are good that your dog wouldn’t either.

Our cultural awareness of the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars has improved significantly, to the point where many jurisdictions have made it legal for civilians to rescue dogs at risk of overheating. But because of the widely held assumption that their “fur coats” or a car’s enclosed space will protect them, we still too often leave dogs in uncomfortably cold cars.

Leaving a dog alone in a car for any length of time is never ideal, but if you do, remember that your dog won’t be able to tell you how cold they got while you were gone. You could be putting more than just her comfort at risk.

Cats present a different cars-and-cold-weather consideration. Because automobile engines can be a source of warmth well after a car is parked, outdoor cats and other creatures have been known to climb in under the hood. Obviously the spinning fans and whizzing belts in a car’s engine compartment with a cat resting too close would be significant health hazards, and many cats have been severely injured or killed in this way. A thump on the hood or quick honk of the horn before starting the engine could save a cat’s life.

Keep your animal companions cozy and comfortable this winter. They will surely return the favor.

Why is My Cat Urinating Outside the Litter Box?

There a number of reasons why your cat may urinate outside the litter box. Below are five of the most frequent causes, as well as some tips to help remedy the situation.

1. ILLNESS. The single most common symptom of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is urinating outside the litter box. If you notice a sudden change in your cat’s litter box behavior, this may indicate illness. Don’t delay; take him or her to the veterinarian to rule out a potentially serious disease.

2. YOUR CAT HAS BEEN DECLAWED. If you haven’t already read our post about why you should not declaw your cat, this is just one reason. Declawing is very painful, and that pain often lasts a long time after the procedure. Getting into the litter box after declaw surgery may be a painful and distressing experience for your cat. Some cats associate the litter box with pain, and simply choose to urinate elsewhere. If you do have a declawed cat, experiment with some of the softer cat litters that are available.

3. YOUR CAT DOES NOT LIKE HIS/HER LITTER BOX. Many cats are sensitive to the manner in which their litter box is set up. Sometimes the problem is as simple as the box being too small. The problem could also be the type of cat litter being used. Litters have different textures and scents. Consider an unscented litter, and experiment with different textures. Litter boxes with hoods are popular; however, many cats do not like being enclosed. Try removing the hood. If you use a plastic liner on the inside of your litter box, this could also be distressing to your cat. In addition to being crinkly and noisy, liners –particularly when coupled with a hooded litter box– can create a build-up of static electricity. This static can result in an electric shock when your cat enters the litter box, especially if you have a long haired cat. So, ditch the litter box liners as well as the hood of the box, and experiment with different types of litter.

4. THE LITTER BOX IS TOO DIRTY. Can you really blame your cat for this one? How would you feel if you had to navigate a small space which was covered with poop and pee? The remedy for this problem is simple; keep the litter box cleaned out, and change the litter often. Also, consider adding an additional litter box; most veterinarians and behaviorists recommend one litter box per cat, plus one additional litter box.

5. YOUR CAT HAS NOT BEEN NEUTERED OR SPAYED. Here is another reason to neuter or spay your cat. Once unaltered males reach maturity, they will mark their territory with urine. Unaltered females may also urinate outside the box when they are in heat, in order to attract a male suitor.

Do Not Declaw Your Cat: Here’s Why

Some people want to have their cat’s claws surgically removed. This controversial practice is harmful to the cat, and may cause the cat to develop unwanted behaviors to compensate for the loss of his/her claws. Here is a summary of the top reasons why you should not tamper with your cat’s claws.

1. DECLAWING IS PAINFUL. Many people believe that declawing is a simple cosmetic procedure and that cats recover from it quickly. In reality, a claw is not a toenail, it is connected to the bone; in order to remove the claw a portion of the bone must be removed. It is analogous to removing the tip of your finger at the first knuckle. Essentially, the cat is enduring 10 separate amputations! That hurts a lot!

2. CATS NEED THEIR CLAWS FOR SELF-DEFENSE. Some people think that if their cat is kept indoors, the cat does not need her claws. While it is a good idea to keep cats indoors, too often, they get out of the house and without their claws, they are truly defenseless. Further, declawed cats can lose their ability to climb trees, fences, and other avenues of escape if they are chased by another domestic or wild animal.

3. CATS WHO HAVE BEEN DECLAWED MAY BECOME PRONE TO BITING. Without those front claws for self-defense and protection, many cats become insecure, and resort to biting.

4. MANY DECLAWED CATS WILL BEGIN URINATING AND DEFECATING OUTSIDE THE LITTERBOX. Often times after being declawed, using the litter box can be extremely painful. Even after the pain has subsided, some cats will associate use of the litter box with that post-operative pain, and will refuse to use the litter box.

5. DECLAWING SERVES NO BENEFIT TO THE CAT. Declaw surgeries are almost never for the benefit of the cat. They are performed because the cat’s owner doesn’t want his/her furniture scratched, or is afraid of the cat scratching human beings or other animals. Cats can be trained to use a scratching post quite easily. Similarly, it is the rare cat who will lash out at another animal or a human being, without good reason. Sometimes, certain cancers of the paw or toes necessitate declawing. The only justification for declawing is when it is medically necessary for the benefit of the cat.

6. LEGAL BANS ON DECLAWING ARE ON THE RISE. For all of the reasons described thus far, declawing is an unnecessary battery on an animal. Most European countries prohibit declawing for the simple reason that it is inhumane. Some cities in the United States have outlawed the practice, absent medically necessary reasons. Similarly, many veterinarians in the U.S. refuse to perform declaw surgeries, citing humane reasons.

7. THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES TO DECLAWING. In addition to using scratching posts, a cat’s claws can be trimmed. Also, there are now products on the market (claw covers) that slide over a cat’s claws and remain in place for weeks at a time. These products are soft and safe.

Lastly, if you want to adopt a cat, but desire to have your cat declawed, consider that a cat may not be the ideal companion for you.