What is it with cats and cardboard boxes?

Cats have a strange affinity for cardboard boxes. But, what is it about a box that’s so fun? Why do they love sitting in boxes, and sleeping in boxes?

A study conducted at Utrecht University in the Netherlands points towards boxes providing relief from stress – they’re likely to feel safe and be left alone when hiding in a box. In the wild, a hiding place like this would be perfect to relax safe from predators.

Another theory is that boxes helps keep cats warm. Cardboard boxes are generally layered and become great insulators that keep cats safe from drafts.

 

Image linked from cutestcatpics.com

Be careful with antifreeze

At this time a year pet owners need to watch out for antifreeze spills. Antifreeze for cars is based on ethylene glycol, which is quite toxic and leads to many pet deaths every year. If a pet laps it up and isn’t treated immediately, severe damage to kidneys and nervous system will follow.

In the past all antifreeze solutions had a sweet smell and taste, nowadays some manufacturers have changed the formula to make them less appealing to pets, and some manufacturers make “pet safe” antifreeze. Using the pet safe products helps – they are less toxic than traditional products, but can still be dangerous.

If you see a puddle on the ground when you’re walking your dog, don’t let your pet drink from it or walk through it. If it gets on the paws, odds are the pet will lick it off later to clean itself.

Keep this type of product off the ground and out of reach for pets. If there’s a spill, clean it immediately and rinse the area with lots of water.

If you think your pet has ingested antifreeze – even a small amount – call your veterinarian or the closest pet ER at once.

Subtle signs of illness in cats

Cats are masters at disguising any illness. This seems counterproductive to us – we can only help the cat if we know something is wrong – but to the cat, showing illness equals showing weakness. 

The sooner a problem is detected the better and faster it can be treated, and it is important for cat owners to keep an eye for any subtle changes in behavior. And, if your cat suddenly starts acting “weird” it’s time for a trip to the vet.

Here are some of the most common – but subtle – signs of illness in cats:

Unexplained weight loss or gain

Since you see your cat every day it can be hard to notice weight loss or weight gain. It’s a good idea to weigh your cat once a month, or take monthly photos to compare.

Many cats are finicky eaters, and it can be difficult to keep track of consumption of food and water. Measuring the cat’s food helps. You also want to keep an eye on how your furry friend eats – if your cat has always been neat and suddenly starts eating in a messy fashion there might be a problem with their teeth.

Changes in behavior with others

If your cat has enjoyed playing with other cats regularly and starts avoiding them, something is most likely wrong. It can be a health problem, or stress. The other way around can also be true – if your cat has always been private and a loner and suddenly starts seeking attention, something might be wrong.

If your cat suddenly slows down from being energetic, or drastically increases activity, it’s a good idea to visit the vet. Sudden increases in activity in older cat can be a result of a thyroid problem.

Altered habits

If your cat suddenly changes their sleeping pattern or grooming habits, it’s time to see the vet. Also watch for a change in the cat’s voice and smell. Be particularly alert for foul breath.

Kittens

Why do cats meow at humans?

Black catCats in the wild have a wide range of vocal expressions; they hiss, growl, spit, and scream. The regular “meow” a cat gives a human is different, and some cat experts believe the sound developed partly to communicate with people. We associate it with the cry of an infant, and meowing gives results.

Cats are good at varying their meows, and the cat owner learns to distinguish a meow saying “I want to go outside” from a content cuddle meow. Cats can vary the frequency, pitch, volume, tone, and length of their meows, and no two cats sound exactly the same.

If your cat starts meowing obsessively or exhibits other sudden changes in behavior, you need to take him or her to a vet, just to be on the safe side. Other than that, enjoy learning the language of your cat. It’s possible to learn to communicate well with them, and knowing what your furry friend wants opens a new dimension to your relation.

2014 kitten names

KittensYesterday we talked about the most popular puppy names during 2014, and today it’s time for the kittens. The list is compiled by the website vetstreet.com.

Bella has been the most popular name for female puppies since 2006, and the most popular name for female kittens since 2007. Media absolutely has an effect on how we choose names for our furry friends; Elsa wasn’t even on the top 50 last year, and this year the name of the main character in Frozen sits at number 5.

The number one choice for male kittens has been Oliver for a few years, and Oliver stays in the lead.

Most popular names for girl kittens in 2014:

  1. Bella
  2. Luna
  3. Lucy
  4. Kitty
  5. Elsa
  6. Daisy
  7. Lily
  8. Callie
  9. Lilly
  10. Gracie

Most popular names for boy kittens in 2014:

  1. Oliver
  2. Milo
  3. Leo
  4. Charlie
  5. Max
  6. Simba
  7. Tiger
  8. Smokey
  9. Jack
  10. Kitty

Holiday decoration safety tips for pets

Puppy santaHoliday decorations are a big part of the season, and lights and cheerful colors spread joy in the winter darkness. Everything new in the house brings new dangers to pets as well, and here are some safety tips for little things that can make a big difference.

The tree

Whether you use an artificial tree or a reason, make sure it’s securely anchored so your pets can’t knock it over. Especially cats are tempted to climb into the tree. Also clean up any tree needles regularly – they’re sharp and can get stuck in your pet’s throat or paws.

Tinsel

Pets love to play with and eat tinsel and ribbons. These can cause a lot of damage if swallowed, and even require surgery. Keep tinsel and ribbons off the floor.

Baubles

Many pets, particularly cats, see baubles as irresistible play things. Try to use decorations that won’t shatter if they hit the floor, and that aren’t too small. You don’t want your pet to accidentally swallow a decoration.

Power cords

Protect cords so your pet can’t play with them or chew on them.

New house plants

Many of the season’s house plants are poisonous. Most people think the poinsettia is very dangerous, but it is only mildly toxic to cats and dogs. Pets shouldn’t be encouraged to eat it of course, but the poinsettia’s reputation is quite exaggerated. Mistletoe, rosemary, and holly can be dangerous to cats and dogs. Keep them out of reach, and contact a veterinarian if you think your pet has ingested any type of holly.

What pet owners really want to do for the holidays

The holiday season is great for visiting with friends and family, but vetiq.com made a survey to find out what pet owners really want to do for the holidays. The results are both thought-worthy and amusing.

A vast majority – 96 percent – answer that they would prefer to spend the holidays at home alone with their pet instead of leaving their pet at home to celebrate with in-laws.

85 percent of pet owners think a kiss under the mistletoe is okay for pets too. 85 percent also think their pets have been nice during the year. The survey doesn’t report whether the 15 percent of naughty pets are the same 15 percent that won’t get kisses…

Only 24 percent of pet owners plan to travel with their pets during the holiday, and 97 percent of those who do will go by car.

54 percent say Santa Claus best describes their pet’s holiday personality. 32 percent say Frosty, and 14 percent The Grinch.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

The big eating holiday is finally here, and odds are tempting smells are pulling both humans and pets towards the kitchen. Yesterday we shared some tips of Thanksgiving foods that are okay for dogs and cats to eat, and some they shouldn’t have.

If you really want to share the holiday spirit and make your furry friends something special, we have a couple of ideas.

Pumpkin Smoothie for dogs

This is really easy to make, and most dogs love it. Mix equal parts plain nonfat yogurt and canned pumpkin puree. (Make sure it’s not pie filling – the cans look quiet similar.) Serve as  a liquid, or freeze for handy, cool treats.

Turkey Meatballs for dogs

  • 6 ounces ground turkey
  • 0.5 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 0.5 cup quinoa or oatmeal
  • A pinch of kelp powder

Place the carrots and turkey in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add quinoa/oatmeal and the kelp powder and blend some more. Roll into meatballs (it’s easier if you wet your hands with cold water) and bake in 400 F on a non-stick cookie sheet. They need around 15 minutes in the oven.

Happy Thanksgiving for dogs and cats

Pet feeding tips for Thanksgiving

contestThis is a great season for family get-togethers, and everyone enjoys the Thanksgiving dinner table. Make sure the holiday flows smoothly and safely for the pets too with our handy tips.

Dogs and cats can nibble on some boneless and well cooked turkey. They shouldn’t have raw turkey, undercooked turkey, skin, or bones. It is also okay to share some unsalted and unbuttered vegetables.

Dogs and cats cannot eat onions, garlic, leeks, or scallions. They also shouldn’t have grapes or raisins.

A taste of mashed potatoes is fine. Just consider that mashed potatoes can contain other ingredients than just potatoes. If your pet is lactose intolerant, cheese, butter, and milk in mashed potatoes can cause problems.

A taste of macaroni and cheese is also fine, if your pet can handle dairy.

Cranberry sauce is fine for pets, but there can be a lot of sugar in it, so limit the amount.

Some other things to watch out for are xylitol, sage (common in stuffing), and raw bread dough. The bread dough seems harmless, but it will continue to expand when eaten, and this can be very dangerous

Lost New Mexico cat found in Maine

Spice is a cat from New Mexico who bolted from her home when her human opened the door for trick-or-treaters on Halloween. The kitty didn’t return home, and she was nowhere to be found. That is, until she showed in in Maine a few days later – 2,500 miles away.

Spice was found in a duffle bag with food and kitty litter, and when she was turned in to an animal refuge they tracked her owner down through the microchip.

Spice is currently being treated for a mild respiratory infection, and a Maine businessman has promised to pay the cat’s transportation cost back to New Mexico. Hopes are, she’ll be home for the holidays.

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The Bengal – a big cat in small format

Bengal catMany people are attracted to big cats, and their beauty, strength, and independence holds an irresistible allure. Lions, tigers, cheetahs, and bobcats don’t make good pets, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying, and the Bengal was developed to create a cat with the wild look in a safe and domestic package. The first Bengals were bred in the 1960s, and come from small Asian Leopard Cats and domestic shorthairs. 

The typical Bengal is extremely intelligent, active, and curious, and these cats want a lot of interaction and attention. Translated to dog people, a Bengal cat is like a Border Collie in cat shape – if not properly stimulated the Bengal will get bored, and they’re quite able to open drawers and cabinets to see what’s inside, or dismantle things to see how they work.

Bengals love to climb – the higher the better – and they love playing with water. Don’t be surprised if your Bengal wants to join you in the shower. Unlike many other cat breeds, Bengals like to learn tricks and games, and enjoy puzzle games.

Each cat is an individual, but the average Bengal gets along fine with dogs. They are affectionate, energetic, and overall healthy.

Like cats and dogs?

catanddogMany believe that dogs and cats are natural enemies. That’s not true – whether a cat and a dog will get along or not depends on the individuals, but also on the socialization they’ve received earlier in life. Many cats and dogs are great friends.

Whether your cat and dog will get along or not usually depends on the dog. Many dogs will chase small animals that run, and this is particularly a problem amongst herding breeds and those with strong prey instinct. Of course, the cat won’t appreciate being chased, and the more kitty runs, the more the dog will give chase.

  • Make sure the cat can get away and hide if it wants to. It’s great to give kitty access to an elevated resting place the dog can’t reach.
  • Keep your dog restrained during introductions. He or she shouldn’t be able to chase, even if the cat runs.
  • Baby gates are a great way to gradually introduce dogs and cats.
  • Let them take their time.

Don’t force physical closeness. If you pick up the cat and hold it in the dog’s face to introduce them, odds are the cat will scratch the dog, and the dog won’t like the cat. Let introductions be slow and supervised, and watch for any potential problems.

It can take weeks for a cat and dog to get used to each other, and to learn to communicate.  If they don’t seem to tolerate each other even after a few weeks, consider seeking help from a professional trainer.

Keep your cat safe today

Black catHalloween is a favorite holiday for many humans, but it also brings a number of dangers for pets. Here are five tips for keeping your cats safe:

1. Keep black cats indoors.

This is a time of the year when superstition runs high. Some people are outright cruel to black cats, and others are just thoughtless. This has escalated to a point where some shelters won’t adopt out black cats during the month of October. It also happens that people take black cats indoors as a neat decoration, not giving a second thought to the cat’s wellbeing or home. Keep your black cat indoors until the holiday is over.

It is also wise to confine cats. Ringing doorbells, people shouting “trick or treat” and the front door repeatedly opening and closing can be scary to a cat. It’s better to keep kitty locked in a back room than a panicked cat rushing through the door.

2. Hang decorations high

Candy wrappers, tinsel, and decoration are irresistible to cats. Keep decorations out of reach and throw all candy wrappers away at once. Cats might not immediately want to eat wrappers, but if they play with them they might accidentally ingest one anyway. Wrappers and tinsel can cause intestinal blockage and require surgery.

3. Keep human candy out of reach

Human candy is bad for cats and dogs. Chocolate, xylitol, and other substances that we enjoy are highly toxic to pets. Also watch out with the carved pumpkin. Unsweetened canned pumpkin is great for pets, but the carved pumpkin that’s been on the porch for days can be rife with bacteria.

4. Be careful with candles

There are many fun and cute Halloween candles. Don’t keep lit candles in the same room as the cat – cats and fire make a recipe for disaster.

5. Watch out for electric cords

Many halloween decorations come with lights, and electric cords can seem like a lot of fun to a cat. Chewing on cords can cause electrocution and burns. Also keep batteries out of reach and sight. Cats love to swat batteries around, but that game can get really dangerous if they bite they battery.

Stay safe, and Happy Halloween!

Will you celebrate cat day?

Cats have personalities just like peopleToday is cat day – a day dedicated to the celebration, worship, and adoration of cats. If you have a cat, today is a great day to spend some extra time with your feline friends. If you don’t have a cat, there are many waiting for adoption in shelters and rescues around the country, and cat day might be a good excuse to welcome a kitty home.

The Cat Fancier’s Association has made a list of most popular cat breeds. The number one spot has been held by the Persian cat for over 30 years! Here is the top five:

1. Persian

This breed is named after its home country – Persia. (Today’s Iran.) They are known for being friendly and calm, and make great indoor cats.

2. Exotic Shorthair

These cats almost look like teddy bears. They are easy-going, affectionate, and generally get along well with other pets.

3. Maine Coon

This is one of the oldest breeds from the USA and it is known for its fantastic hunting abilities. It was bred as a working cat able to withstand harsh wether. Main Coons are generally friendly, love children, and love water.

4. Ragdoll

The Ragdoll was developed to be a companion, and these cats love being near their humans. They are large, sturdy, and have bright blue eyes.

5. British Shorthair

The British Shorthair are calm and affectionate. They generally go along well with other pets, but they dislike being carried.

Are there hypoallergenic cats?

Russian Blue
The Russian Blue produces little allergens

Many believe that a cat or dog breed being hypoallergenic means they can’t cause allergies. That’s not entirely accurate – hypoallergenic means that something has a smaller risk of causing allergies, but it can still happen. There are no non-allergenic cats or dogs, but there are hypoallergenic cats breeds.

Many also believe that allergies are connected to the cat’s coat, but that’s not always the case either. Most people are allergic against proteins from the cat’s skin oils and saliva. These proteins are in turn distributed on shed fur. This means that some cat breeds – with fur – are gentler for persons with allergies than others.

The Balinese is a good example. These cats are sometimes called the “longhaired Siamese,” but despite their coat they produce little of the protein that causes allergies. This is also true for the Russian Blue and the heavily coated Siberian.

Bengals certainly aren’t hairless, and they produce just as much of the protein as many other breeds, but their coat is so fine that they don’t have to groom themselves as much as other cats. That means their hair carries less of the protein. Another upside of the Bengal is that they shed little, so what allergens are present won’t be spread around as much as with other breeds.

Cornish Rex is another breed that works well for many with allergies. They’re not entirely hairless, but they only have an undercoat. Since they’re less hairy than other breeds they also shed less, and cause less allergies.

The Sphynx cat is completely hairless. They have no fur that can trap allergens and shed around the house, and the allergy-causing substances stick to the cat.

Maintain the litter box

maine coon catCats are naturally clean and hate dirty, stinky litter boxes. If the box isn’t squeaky clean, your kitty might search for a substitute, and whether that’s a corner of the carpet or a basket of clean clothes, you don’t want it to happen.

If the litter box is squeaky clean and your cat still avoids it, consider seeing a vet – it might be a sign of a physical problem.

The box itself

Some cats are picky about the box itself. It needs to be large enough to scratch, dig, and turn around in – and it has to be easy to get in and out. Many cats don’t like covered litter boxes, because they trap the smell. Cats have 14 times the sense of scent we do, and they don’t want to smell their own waste any more than we do.

Many cats get along fine with automatic litter boxes, but others don’t like them at all. In that case, a large plastic box scooped manually a couple of days is the best choice, even though it requires work.

A box for each cat

Many multi-cat households only have one box, and this can also lead to problems. A rule of thumb is one box for each cat, and maybe one extra. It’s okay to have the boxes side by side.

The litter

Some people like to use a liner in the box. That’s a personal preference – the cats usually don’t care. Most litter manufacturers recommend using 2″ to 3″ of litter, but if you have a deep scratcher you might want to use up to 4″. It’s easiest to use clumping litter, because it’s easy to scoop.

Pick a scoop that fits your litter – large particle litter requires larger holes to sift the clean litter out, while fine-grained litter needs smaller holes.

The box should be scooped at least twice a day.

Clean the box

Regular scooping and replacing the litter will keep the box clean and smelling fresh for quite a while, but eventually you’ll need to empty it and clean it. Depending on the type of litter you use this might need to be done weekly, or monthly. If you don’t like the smell, you cats won’t like it either.

Wash the empty box thoroughly with hot water and detergent. Rinse well and spray with a mild bleach solution. Make sure you don’t use a cleaner with ammonia, because this smells a little like a cat’s pee, and might make them avoid the box.

What would it be like to be a cat?

Black catHave you ever wondered why it would be like to be a cat?

While no one can truly experience the world like another species does, here are some highlights of the differences between humans and cats.

A cat’s vision is quite different from a human’s. Cats see colors, but not in the same way we do, and the muted colors make it easier for them to see movement. They also see well in light conditions that would render a human virtually blind.

On the other hand they can’t focus on anything that’s closer than a foot away, and they use their whiskers for detecting objects close the their bodies.

Cats also move quite differently from humans. They have a unique skeletal structure that lets them scale vertical walls, balance on the top of fences, and land on their feet. Their posture allows them to move quietly as well as absorbing the shock of falling from heights many time their size. In addition to all this, their back legs work almost like springs and can propel them upwards and forwards at great speed.

The cats’ ears are also different from a human’s. They can rotate their ears independently up to 180 degrees, and they can hear a wider range of sounds than we can. A cat with normal hearing can detect 11 octaves, which is two more than a human and even more than a dog. They also have a much larger number of neurons between the ear and the brain than most other mammals, so they can decipher all this information quickly.

So, what about the sense of smell? A cat has a sense of smell at least 100 times better than a human, and it can distinguish between thousands of smells. They also have a secondary scent organ above the roof of their mouths to help them detect odors when they breathe.

Pop up cat cafe in Los Angeles

Black catCat cafes originated in Asia and offer tea, coffee, food, and cat cuddling. They are extremely popular in cultures where people might not be able to have a pet themselves, and today there are cat cafes in Europe and Canada as well. Thus far, the US has lagged behind.

New York City saw a pop-up cat cafe earlier this year, but it might be Los Angeles that gets the first permanent installation. The first try starts today and will be open through October 5th 2014.

The cafe partners with no-kill shelter Best Friends Animal Society Los Angeles, and with the Chinatown Business Improvement District. There will be cats available for petting and adoption, costumed butlers, and entertainment.

Hopes are the cat cafe can become a permanent installation, and the plans include space to house homeless cats as well as showing visiting shelter cats seeking new homes. There are also plans to open cat cafes in Portland, San Francisco, and Oakland.

The dreams of a permanent NYC cat cafe might also come to fruition soon – there is currently a crowd funding campaign attempting to raise startup funding.

Read more about the pop up cat cafe here.

Pet shelters step up efforts on keeping pets in their homes

According to the humane society, between three and four million pets are euthanized in shelters each year. It is a mind boggling number, but still an improvement – in the past the number was 20 million. The really sad part is that many of these cats and dogs aren’t strays; they are surrendered by their owners. These pets used to have a home, and for different reasons their owners can’t or won’t keep them.

Every person’s life is more complicated than it appears at first glance. Some things are easy or self evident to one person, and difficult to someone else. Situations change – many pets are given up because their owners can’t afford their vet bills, or even become homeless.

Shelters around the country are stepping up to the challenge, and many now try to work with owners to help them keep their pets. Some need education – they might honestly believe that their dog is happier on a chain in the back yard than in the house – others need practical help, financial support for vet care, help with a pet deposit on a rental, or help with boarding a pet for a shorter period of time.

If the pet is surrendered to the shelter, one of two things can happen: either the pet is killed, or the shelter pays for medical care, food, toys, and the effort to find it a new home. Helping the original owner keep the pet is a win for everyone.

If your pet presses its head against the wall, it might be time to see the vet

Sometimes, not often, a cat or dog starts pressing its head against the wall or another object. The pet might even walk into a corner and seemingly not know how to get out. The head pressing is often the most notable behavior, but the pet might also show compulsive pacing, circling, changes in trained behavior, and even have seizures. If you note some or all of these symptoms, it’s time to see the vet. 

These strange behaviors indicate damage to the nervous system, or a toxic poisoning. There can be a number of underlying causes, and the sooner the pet gets to the vet, the better.

Amongst the possible causes are cancers, stroke, metabolic problems, an infection, lead poisoning, head trauma, and parasites. Treatment is imperative for the future health of your pet.

Compulsively pressing the head against a wall or other object shouldn’t be confused with playfully “head butting” their human. Head pressing is hard to miss – the behavior doesn’t look normal.