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.

The Benefits of Spaying/Neutering Your Companion Animal

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Deciding to spay/neuter your companion animal is one of the most important decisions you can make. Many people are reluctant to spay/neuter based on misconceptions about the benefits of the procedure. The following is a list of reasons to spay/neuter your companion animal:

  1. Increasing the life expectancy of your companion animal. According to a recent 2013 report by USA Today neutered male dogs live on average 18% longer than non-neutered male dogs and spayed female dogs live on average 23% longer than non-spayed female dogs. One reason that spayed/neutered dogs live longer is that they are less prone to develop certain types of cancers of their reproductive organs.
  2. Reducing the Pet Population. In the United States alone, between 6-8 million animals are up for adoption each year. About half of these dogs and cats are adopted, but sadly the rest never leave the shelter alive. Some of these animals are strays found on the street, but many others are surrendered family pets. Spay/neuter helps reduce the population and is the only 100% effective method of birth control.
  3. Reducing Bad Behavior. Neuter/spay reduces assertive behavior in males and urine marking in both male and female dogs. For both dogs and cats the longer you wait to spay/neuter, the harder it will be to rid your companion animal of these behaviors as it becomes more ingrained. Spay/neuter also helps ameliorate roaming (especially when females are in heat), aggression, excessive barking, mounting and dominance-related behavior. Studies have shown that more frequently dog bites involve unaltered dogs and that unsterilized dogs have more behavioral problems than dogs who have been spayed/neutered.
  4. Saving the Community Money. Millions of dollars are spent each year controlling unwanted animals. Animal shelters are loaded with millions of dogs, cats and other animals and cannot afford to care for all the animals they take in.
  5. Low Cost Spay Neuter Options. If cost is an issue, check with your local humane society or shelter about low cost spay/neuter options in your community.

Why Microchip Your Companion Animal?

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Every 2 seconds a companion animal is lost. About the size of a grain of rice, a microchip provides identification information that can provide invaluable information if your dog or cat is lost. The chip is inserted between the animal’s shoulder blades in a quick and easy procedure. Each animal receives an individual bar code that is associated with the owner in a national registration database. Veterinary offices, shelters and animal control have scanners that can read the microchip specific to your animal. You may update the contact information associated with your dog or cat if your address or phone number change.

Don’t forget that your companion animal should be licensed with the City/County and should always wear  a collar with license and address tags, so if found he or she can be returned to you quickly and safely. Microchipping is a reliable back-up just in case a collar’s tags fall off or are illegible.

Top 10 Reasons to Adopt (Rather Than Buy) A Companion Animal

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  1. An estimated 6-8 million dogs and cats are in shelters every year, waiting for their forever home. Tragically, half of those healthy, loveable animals will not be adopted and will die in the shelter. You can change that!
  2. Your companion animal will be healthy. Shelters often microchip, spay/neuter and vaccinate dogs before adoption. This relieves prospective owners of the heavy financial costs of caring for a dog purchased from a pet shop. Shelters also try to match an animals’ temperament with a suitable home, ensuring a perfect match!
  3. Many shelter dogs are already house-trained. Teaching puppies to be house-broken can be a lot of work and mature, trained dogs are often available for adoption.
  4. Adoption costs are usually a fraction of the price at a pet shop. Pet shops prices often exceed $1000. Adoption costs are generally a fraction of that, and adoption fees go toward the vaccination and spay/neuter costs of caring for your new family member.
  5. Shelter pets are just as lovable! Most animals are surrendered to shelters because their owner can no longer care for them. It is a common misconception that animals end up in shelters because they are “bad” or misbehave. Reasons relating to the owner (such as financial concerns, moving, death, and/or a lack of time) are common reasons pets are surrendered, not because of anything to do with the animal.
  6. Mixed breeds are often the healthiest. Known as the “hybrid vigor” principle, mixed breed dogs avoid common health conditions associated with a purebred bloodlines. Mixed breeds are likely to live longer and have less health issues than their purebred counterparts. 
  7. Shelter Support. Animal shelters frequently provide counseling or training for new owners during the initial adjustment period to teach owners how to best care for their animal.
  8. When you adopt an adult animal you know their size, personality and energy level. Puppies are cute, but it is often hard to gauge how big they will grow or how high energy they will be when they mature. Adopting an adult animal of any species provides information about the animal’s personality, size and energy up front so you know exactly what to expect.
  9. Buying dogs and cats supports puppy mills. Puppy mills supply animals to pet shops for purchase. Puppy mill kennels are run like factories and are notorious for cruel and inhumane treatment of animals: dogs are often kept in wire cages, denied veterinary care and healthful, appropriate nutrition, and are auctioned off or killed once they no longer productive. In puppy mills, the dogs often live in crowded outdoor cages, which do not provide shelter from cold or hot weather. In an effort to maximize profits, dogs are inbred, resulting in personality and health problems for the puppies sold to pet shops. By adopting at a shelter you can be sure your money is not supporting these cruel puppy factories. Until people stop purchasing from pet shops, puppy mills will continue to exist.
  10. Knowing you saved a life! What can be more rewarding than that? Sadly, an estimated 2.7 million dogs and cats are killed every year because of insufficient space at shelters. Additionally, having a dog or cat is good for your health: studies show that living with an animal is psychologically, emotionally and physically beneficial to humans of all age groups. Adopting and caring for an animal can combat loneliness and isolation and is an incredibly rewarding experience for everyone in the family.