Why cats scratch and how to safely stop it
Ever since the day the first feline became a house cat, destructive cat scratching has plagued owners. All the affection and loving care owners shower upon their cats can feel like wasted energy when the thanks they get looks more like hatred: shredded furniture, carpet and curtains.
It’s a normal human response to be angry or frustrated about damage inflicted by cats’ scratching, but equally normal is a cat’s need to scratch. Cat scratching is a behavior that fulfills both physical and emotional needs. Cats scratch to stretch their bodies, maintain their hunting and climbing skills, groom their claws and mark their territory, showing they’re in a safe space.
However, these behaviors cats exhibit to establish a safe living space can be anything but pleasant for their human companions. This can lead frustrated owners to take drastic measures to modify behavior, but those decisions can be risky, especially when it comes to a permanent and potentially harmful practice like declawing.
Many pet owners believe that declawing their cats is a harmless and quick fix for unwanted scratching, similar to trimming one’s nails. However, if a declawing procedure were performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.
“Not only does the practice cause pain, it removes an important self-defense tool and the surgery itself poses risks related to anesthesia and infection,” said Dr. Valarie V. Tynes, president of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, licensed veterinarian and veterinary services specialist at Ceva Animal Health. “All of this can lead to behavioral issues that may be worse than a shredded couch.”
Declawing is an irreversible measure to address a normal behavioral issue in cats. Declawed cats may be less likely to use a litter box, more likely to bite and the disruption of the natural scratching behavior can cause lasting physiological problems.
That sentiment is echoed by national organizations such as the American Association for Feline Practitioners, which deems the practice of declawing an ethically controversial procedure that is not medically necessary in most instances. In fact, declawing cats is now illegal in several U.S. cities.
Find alternatives to declawing, and cat-scratching solutions, at savethecouches.com.
5 Humane Alternatives to Declawing
There are numerous safe and painless alternatives to declawing, including these ideas from the pet behavior experts at Ceva Animal Health:
1. Routinely trim nails. Regular nail care is an important part of general care and hygiene for your cat, but it can also help prevent scratching damage by eliminating the sharp, destructive claw tips. Properly trimmed nails are less likely to snag or split, and cats with well-trimmed nails are less likely to resort to scratching as part of their own self-grooming rituals.
2. Create scratch-friendly zones. Keeping cats from scratching areas you don’t want them to bother is far more likely if you provide areas where they can scratch at will, such as scratching pads and posts. Pair these scratching areas with a product such as Feliscratch by Feliway, which is clinically proven to prevent destructive scratching by redirecting cats to scratch in the right place. Cats are attracted to the drug-free, naturally derived product and will feel compelled to scratch where it’s applied, leaving that chair or couch alone.
“Cat owners can now have damage-free home decor without putting their cats through the stress and potential physical harm of the painful declawing procedure,” Tynes said.
3. Reinforce off-limits areas. Cats are highly tactile, so applying textured materials like double-sided sticky tape or rough, crinkly aluminum foil to areas you don’t want scratched can be an effective deterrent.
4. Consult a behaviorist. Not all cases have easy answers, but an expert with experience in animal behavior can provide guidance based specifically on your cat’s personality and circumstances to help create a custom solution.
5. Eliminate negative reinforcements. Avoid punishing your cat for undesirable behavior. This includes shouting, spraying with water or swatting your cat. Punishment can increase stress and anxiety. It can make the problem worse and may even make your cat afraid of you.
DIY Scratching Post
Designating a spot for your cat to safely scratch is one of the most effective ways to minimize damage to your possessions. A homemade scratching post is a quick and easy project.
1. Cut foot-long length of 4-by-4-inch wood and a 1-foot square piece of plywood. The exact sizes can vary, but these are good starting points that you can adjust up or down, depending on your space.
2. Sand away splinters and rough edges.
3. Add a sturdy fabric wrap or paint to lend aesthetic appeal to the plywood base.
4. Wrap the post tightly with heavy-gauge rope or carpet scraps (or both), securing tightly with glue and reinforcing with a staple gun.
5. Securely attach the post to the base using a long bolt.
6. Place the post in an area your cat enjoys spending time, and consider adding a pheromone therapy spray to attract your cat to the post.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (Women on the sofa with black cat)
Sources: Family Features | Ceva Animal Health
By Karen Thomas
Losing a pet is never easy, no matter how much we think we’re prepared. Our faithful companions give us so much unconditional love and joy, and it’s comforting to know that there are many ways we can support them during the last phase of their lives.
My partner, Daashia, and I recently lost our beloved nine-year-old Mastiff/American Bulldog mix, Phoenix, two months after he was diagnosed with oral cancer. As painful as it was to let go, I can now reflect on how very beautiful the end of his life was.
For years I would volunteer at local animal shelters and find myself gravitating to the senior, sick or otherwise ‘difficult to adopt’ animals. In one way or another they were nearing the end of their lives, and I wanted to contribute to giving them the love, respect and gratitude they deserved.
During my Healing Touch for Animals (HTA) training, I learned techniques to utilize during a euthanasia procedure. These techniques serve to bridge this lifetime to the next realm using love and compassion. I had the honor of supporting several animal clients through this process of crossing over the rainbow bridge.
Around the end of my formal training I attended the American Animal Hospital Association conference and listened to a presentation by Dr. Kathleen Cooney, DVM, president of The International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC). This concept of animal hospice resonated with the very core of my being, and I knew I needed to pursue this area of study. As a registered nurse for over twenty-three years I’ve had much experience with hospice for humans, and always thought the philosophy should apply to our animal companions as well. I began utilizing the concepts in my private practice and saw how bonding was enhanced and spirits were lifted.
In September, 2015 Daashia and I decided, rather spur of the moment, to pack up our RV and take our three dogs - Phoenix, Libby and Skylar, on a road trip to Arizona. Our schedules somehow opened up in such a way that we had more than three weeks to enjoy time with our dogs camping, hiking and exploring new places. We found something exciting in every place we stopped to enjoy as a family.
One evening a few weeks after we arrived home, near the end of October, Daashia and I noticed Phoenix was having trouble swallowing. Upon closer inspection we found a walnut-size mass on the back part of the roof of his mouth, which seemed to have come out of nowhere. When our skilled and accomplished vet, Dr. Dunn, said the mass appeared too deep for him to remove and referred us to specialists in Miami, my heart sank. I knew this wasn’t good.
The next day we drove to Miami where two different specialists examined Phoenix. They both concluded that this tumor was indeed cancerous and could not be successfully removed due to its size and location. The oncologist discussed radiation to try to shrink it. The thought of putting Phoenix through that did not resonate with us at all. At that moment we decided to skip the suggested biopsy, take him home and treat him palliatively.
After a few days of letting this reality sink in and witnessing this tumor grow before our eyes, Daashia and I made peace with the fact that we could not ‘fix’ this. We surrendered and then embraced the idea that Phoenix was now an official hospice patient, and we were going to make the very best of his days left on Earth.
Over the next two months our lives shifted rapidly as our daily routine focused on Phoenix. Collaborating with our amazing vet we put together a holistic plan of care. In addition to his already healthy lifestyle I added Raindrop Therapy (using all organic, therapeutic-grade essential oils) with massage almost daily to support his immune system. He was taking Frankincense oil internally along with a mushroom complex, CBD hemp oil and supportive herbs. I also gave Phoenix HTA treatments daily and alternated sound and vibrational therapy.
Within the first couple days of this new routine Phoenix caught on quickly. He would joyfully saunter into the healing room around the same time each day to happily receive his therapy. I also prepared home cooked meals for him and pureed them for ease of swallowing. Phoenix was enjoying organic chicken, beef, eggs and freshly caught fish, along with a variety of veggies and complex starches. To say he was over the moon about all of this is quite an understatement. Our other two dogs, Libby and Skylar, truly understood and accepted what was happening. They gave Phoenix plenty of space to rest and offered a beautiful calm healing presence when I was working with him.
Phoenix loved swimming at the beach, shredding coconuts and most of all riding on a paddle board with Daashia. She would take him out on calm days, and he would be willing to stay on the board for hours. Jumping off the board for a short swim then climbing back on quickly became a favorite activity. When he wasn’t resting, swimming or receiving treatments, Phoenix enjoyed frequent car rides, trips to Home Depot and pet friendly restaurants. Many friends and family were praying for him and the energy was palpable. Our entire household felt protected by a legion of angels.
As the days went on, Phoenix became increasingly tired and was losing weight (despite an excellent appetite) while slowly adjusting to the rapidly growing mass in his mouth. We thanked him every day for the gift of his beautiful spirit, and he returned the sentiment through his soulful eyes filled with gratitude. Every couple weeks we checked in with Dr. Dunn who was quite impressed with Phoenix’s good spirits despite the advancement of cancer. We continued with our routine and counted each day that Phoenix chose to stay with us a blessing.
On December 30 Phoenix awoke with swelling around his eye, as the tumor had grown so large and was causing pressure. When, for the first time in two months, he didn’t finish his gourmet breakfast, we knew by the look in his eyes that he was ready to leave his tired body. We made an appointment with Dr. Dunn for that afternoon with a knowing that this would be his day.
Daashia and I took him to the beach for a final time and walked together along the shoreline, our hearts and steps in sync. The water was rough and he had no interest in swimming. We then gave him a good bath which not only felt good to him, but honored his desire to always be clean and handsome as ever. For the next hour we laid with him on the floor under the dining room table - one of his favorite places. We fed him his favorite snack of cheese while sharing stories of our adventures together. Our hearts were overflowing with love yet felt so heavy at the same time.
When we arrived at our appointment Phoenix put his nose in the corner of the exam room avoiding looking at Dr. Dunn, as if to say, ‘let’s not discuss this, let’s just do it’. Knowing Phoenix for so long Dr. Dunn agreed that yes, he was ready. We sat on the floor with him for the procedure and cocooned him in love and light. Within seconds Phoenix passed peacefully in Daashia’s arms.
Though we miss Phoenix terribly and his magnificent presence, we know his spirit remains with us. Looking back I know everything was in divine and perfect order, and we wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Realizing that healing isn't always about curing, but providing a safe, soft place for our pets during the last chapter of their lives is very consoling. Seeing dying as a normal process, as animals do, is an opportunity for growth. Allowing our deserving companions to live as fully and comfortably as possible is one of the most compassionate ways we can give back to them.
For more information about The International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative care, or to find hospice service providers in your area, please visit www.iaahpc.org
Karen Thomas, R.N., is a Healing Touch for Animals (HTA) Practitioner in the Florida Keys. Healing Touch for Animals is a holistic approach influencing the health and well-being of animals through energy and intention. HTA techniques restore harmony and balance to the energy system while providing physical, emotional, mental and instinctual stability, thus supporting the body to self-heal. This work can be done in person or distantly. Karen can be contacted through her website www.pawsitivetouch.org or email her directly at email@example.com
The holidays mean different things to different people. Every family seems to have its own set of traditions, but one thing seems to be common among Americans during this time of year, and that's traveling.
Like "Santa Claus" making that long journey from the North Pole, it's estimated that more than 90 million Americans (36 percent) will travel this holiday season, according to a recent survey conducted by Extended Stay America hotels and Kelton Global. Santa and his reindeer will hit the road during the 2017 holiday season - and he's not alone, as nearly three-quarters of Americans (69 percent) will do the same with their pets.
"Pet parents are increasingly including their furry family members in their travel plans, especially during the holidays," says pet expert Andrea Arden, who has over 20 years of experience in the industry. "In fact, our companion animals can be such a great source of comfort while we're away from home, that some people can't even conceive of a vacation without their dog or cat by their side."
To ensure you and your animal companion bring cheer wherever you go, Arden has provided three essential tips for traveling with a pet this holiday season.
1. Prepare your pet
Like finding the perfect gift for your loved ones, the earlier you start to plan and prepare, the easier it will be. A great holiday vacation begins with a trip to the veterinarian to make sure your animal is in good health, has all the medications they might need (and perhaps some extras) and is up-to-date on vaccines. Along with their physical health, you want to make sure your dog or cat is mentally prepared for a journey that may involve new places, new smells and new people.
To get your four-legged friends ready for the adventure, bring your pet to unfamiliar places like a local park and have them interact with new faces. When you do this, be sure to bring plenty of treats to praise your pet and reinforce that these new experiences are positive and fun.
2. Avoid guilty faux paws
Forty percent of traveling pet parents feel guilty about leaving their pets home during the holidays. That's because pets are considered part of the family, and nearly one-third of Americans (27 percent) say pets should be included in all holiday festivities. Places like Extended Stay America can help alleviate some of the stress (and guilt) pet parents might feel during this time of year; the hotel's more than 600 properties nationwide welcome pets year-round, so families don't need to make the difficult decision of leaving their animal companion behind. To make things even easier this season, if you book before Dec. 31 at esa.com/holiday, your pets stay free. Consider it a retreat from the holiday madness for you and your four-legged friend.
In addition to helping pet owners stay connected with their animals, Extended Stay America offers all the comforts of home for guests. That's important, since nearly half (47 percent) of travelers this holiday season plan to be away from home for five days or more. With fully equipped kitchens in each room so guests can still contribute a dish to their family gathering; on-site laundry facilities to keep guests looking their holiday best; and free, in-room Wi-Fi, it's easy to feel at home at Extended Stay America.
3. Practice good petiquette
We know, sometimes it's hard to believe that your lovable, furry friend could misbehave. When traveling to unfamiliar places, a calm, happy animal makes everyone else calm and happy, too.
Here are some pointers to ensure your pets stay on the nice list this holiday:
By Angela J. Willard (Richards)
When Hazel Smith decided to bring a friendly special needs Chihuahua into her home, she never imagined how he would change her life.
A retired police officer, Hazel suffered from agoraphobia where even going outside to cut her grass was challenging. She was on several medications to help manage the symptoms of agoraphobia. She was a prisoner in her own home.
During this season of her life, her elderly Dalmatian "Binky” crossed over the rainbow bridge. The loss sent Hazel in search for a new companion. Hazel checked ads, visited humane societies and SPCAs in search for a new dog.
“One day when my husband and I were out looking we came across ‘Gunny’ a Dogue de Bordeaux. and we adopted him for my husband.”
Then finally Hazel came across an ad on Craigslist. A military family was being relocated and needed to rehome their 1½ year-old Chihuahua, “Hercules”.
“I called immediately,” explained Hazel. “I told the lady I would be out to get him when my husband got home from work. She said if he was still there I could come get him. Worried someone else might get him I told her to hold him for me and that I was on the way. I called my best friend and told her I needed her to take me to get him. When we arrived I fell in love with him right off.”
Hazel claimed the five-pound Chihuahua as her own and renamed him “Hooch”. “I thought it would be funny since we had a Dogue De Bordeaux”.
Hazel soon learned the meaning of the term “Velcro dog” but Hooch had very good reason to not want to leave Hazel’s side. Hooch is deaf.
Because Hooch wanted to be carried all the time, this made it difficult for Hazel to get things done around the house. “I tried carriers on the market for pets and babies, nothing worked for both of us.”
In her desperation to be able to be hands-free and still care for Hooch with his special needs, she decided to create a solution to her problem. “One day I picked up a canvas [remnant] that I had left over, and the Dog-On Bag hands-free pet carrier was born.”
With her new invention, Hazel and Hooch were able to not only get things done around the house, but leave the house as well. “When I had Hooch with me I discovered I could venture outside, away from home and even on short trips to a friend’s beach cottage, ALONE.”
This was a huge accomplishment for Hazel who could barely be in her own yard without anxiety setting in.
Every day Hooch and Hazel would go out for a bike rides and people would ask about her homemade Hooch carrier. She decided to venture out even more and make more carriers in different designs and then set up a table at a local Bark in the Park event. By the end of the day she had nearly sold out of her Dog-On Bags. A business was born.
Now, Hazel and Hooch have an in-home business, a website, and several retailers carry the Dog-On Bag. She has even expanded the reach of the Dog-On Bag as far as Italy. Her new-found strength and courage even set her on stage to audition for Shark Tank in seeking help for her business.
“Because of Hooch, I went from being medicated and scared to leave home, to no more medication for agoraphobia and panic attacks, and standing up at pet expos in crowds, and even auditioning for Shark Tank. Hooch saved me, gave me my life back, and more.”
By Karen Thomas for Paradise Pets Magazine
Aromatherapy and essential oils have been used for thousands of years for healing and anointing. Records dating back to 4500 BC describe the use of balsamic substances with aromatic properties for personal, medicinal and spiritual use. The rediscovery of essential oils into modern medicine began during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rene-Maurice Gattefosse PhD, a French cosmetic chemist known as the father of aromatherapy, began studying oils in 1907. Gattefosse discovered lavender oil’s ability to assist in the healing of burns after immersing his own burned hand into a vat of lavender oil following a laboratory explosion in 1910.
Essential oils are the volatile liquids and aromatic compounds distilled from flowers, trees, roots, bushes, shrubs and seeds. An essential oil contains the true essence of the plant it was derived from and is highly concentrated. These oils have regenerating, oxygenating and immune supporting properties which can assist our animals in the healing process. Essential oils provide energetic balance and help in healing through the sense of smell. As the olfactory system is stimulated, physiologic functions are supported which allows the body to self-heal. They also have antiseptic, antimicrobial and detoxifying properties and can help with emotional issues such as anxiety and stress. In addition to direct inhalation another excellent way to get these benefits is by diffusing the oils in a cold air diffuser. Essential oils may also be used topically or ingested.
As a rule when working with animals, LESS is MORE, as sense of smell is highly developed in many animals due to their instinctual nature. For example, a human has 5-6 million olfactory receptors while the dog as 220 million.
Domestic and wild animals will naturally seek out plants that bring their bodies into a state of balance. Rubbing against a pine tree picking up the oils from the bark will help soothe sore muscles and joints. Burying their nose deep into an herb or flower, inhaling the aroma of the entire plant can help the animal keep calm. Or eating a plant and allowing the properties of the plant to be absorbed will assist with overcoming digestive upset.
Whether working with humans or animals be sure that the essential oils used are therapeutic grade. Therapeutic grade oils are pure. They are grown, harvested and packaged with minimal harm to the plant. These plants are wild crafted, meaning the soil has never been exposed to chemicals and wind patterns are studied to see that nothing harmful can blow onto the soil. The plants are distilled with a low heat, low steam and low pressure process to maintain the integrity and therapeutic benefits of the plant.
Synthetic oils are mostly made from petrochemicals, try to duplicate the smell of a certain plant and are created for a specific purpose, such as perfume. Fragrance grade oils used in perfumes do not assist with healing and can actually cause more harm than good because of their ingredients. Inexpensive oils are most likely not therapeutic quality.
Caution should be exercised with cats when using essential oils with a high phenol content. Cats do not have some of the liver enzymes needed to help metabolize the phenol constituents of certain oils.
Melaleuca oil (Tea Tree) should never be used on birds. Melaleuca can cause an adverse reaction in birds which may result in death.
In maintaining the health and well-being of our animal companions just remember the LESS is MORE rule. When in doubt consult your veterinarian or a holistic animal practitioner who is experienced with the use of essential oils.
--Young, G.D. et al (2011). Essential oils desk reference - Special fifth edition. Orem, UT: Life Science Publishing.
--Shelton, M. DVM (2012). The animal desk reference - Essential oils for animals. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. DBA On-Demand Publishing, LLC.
--Komitor, C. CMT, HTCP/I, CHBMT, HTACP, ESMT (2013). Healing touch for animals level 3 workbook (6th ed.). Highlands Ranch, CO: Komitor Healing Method, Inc.
Karen Thomas, R.N. is a Healing Touch for Animals (HTA) Practitioner in the Florida Keys. Healing Touch for Animals is a holistic approach influencing the health and well-being of animals through energy and intention. HTA techniques restore harmony and balance to the energy system while providing physical, emotional, mental and instinctual stability, thus supporting the body to self heal. This work can be done in person or distantly. Karen can be contacted through her website www.pawsitivetouch.org
Karen is also a distributor of, and highly recommends, Young Living’s therapeutic grade essential oils for humans and animals. More information can be found on her Young Living website at www.youngliving.org/karenthomasfl
This article was originally published in Paradise Pets Magazine, Key West, FL Apr-June 2015 issue. You can read the entire issue free by clicking the cover image.
This issue is also available in print (and free digital) at MagCloud--see below...
By: Cherese Cobb, for Paradise Pets Magazine
Meet Oliver, the pit bull who is punching his timecard for the greater good. As the CCO (Chief Canine Officer) for Bzees — a women’s shoe company— he attends photo shoots and an annual brainstorm meeting (sans tie, of course). He’s also fetching hope by raising funds for U.S.-based animal rescue and advocacy groups, like I’m Not a Monster and Pets Across America. On top of all that, he’s turning the tide for pittys through Oliver’s Clubhouse: a Facebook page that encourages the fostering and adopting of the pit bull breed.
You may have seen this former shelter pooch, grinning with a tennie tucked between his teeth, on the Home Shopping Network, where he soared as the number one pin of the day. Lori McDermid, Bzees’ Vice President, adopted the white and black pup at six months old from the St. Louis Humane Society.
“I went there to drop off some Christmas stuff,” she remembers. Oliver was pressed against the glass, “looking pathetic, sad, and forlorn”. He’d been abandoned in a warehouse. “He’d been in isolation [because of Parvo] for two months. Then, when he came out, he got pneumonia, so he had to go back into isolation,” she said. “He was starved for attention. I couldn’t leave him there.”
Lori brought him home on December 22, 2010, just one day before her family’s annual Christmas trip. Oliver refused to leave the house. He thought that budging from his bed meant he’d have to go back to the shelter, says McDermid. The family shoved his bed into the car. Once he got to the lake house and met Akita-mix Polly and Coonhound-mix Monte, he bloomed into a “love bomb”.
“I never feel alone. He is just 24/7 affection,” McDermid told Paradise Pets Magazine. “He’ll actually puts his paws on my shoulder, and gives me a hug and a kiss every day.”
Even after enduring chemotherapy and surgery for the mast cell tumor in his arm, he’s a “court jester”. Case-in-point: when Lori was tossing her dogs’ bedcovers into the wash, Oliver was shredding the beds’ foam. It was floating down everywhere just like a Christmas movie, and he plopped himself right in the middle of it.
“He [also] has killed many a sneaker,” Lori laughed. “He takes [my husband’s] shoes by the laces, and swings them around his head like a cowboy with a lasso. It's a full-on show.”
From a work perspective, Lori explains that Oliver gives “a purpose to what we do”. “We love making shoes, and it's important. We innovate products to help people live their lives better,” McDermid said. Fetching Hope and Oliver’s Clubhouse —which McDermid hopes to make into a physical pit bull rescue once she retires— adds another layer to making people's lives better. While Bzees never runs sales online, they run a promotional for a couple of weeks every quarter, donating $5 from each purchase. They raised $550 for WoofTrax and $1,000 for the Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center. “[In the next quarter,] we’re looking to support a group that is educating dogs to help others [in] need,” she said.
Oliver, with his tongue-in-cheek personality, is shattering the vicious, mobster-sidekick stereotype — literally one step at a time. Ninety percent of the time when someone meets Oliver, it’s their first encounter with a pit bull, says McDermid. “They’re loving, funny, completely opposite. But, if no one shows you, it's like anything, you don't know. The term ‘pit bull’ is scary. Once you're exposed, though, it's amazing how opposite the breed is from stereotypes.”
I'm Not a Monster
Pet Shelters Across America
The CSU Flint Animal Cancer Center
Cherese Cobb was raised in Maryville, Tennessee. A bibliophile, she considers herself a professional student, as she has an insatiable curiosity. When she's not writing, she splits her time between family, photography, and cat-worship, and uses coffee to survive all three. cheresecobb.wixsite.com/freelancewriter.
This article was originally published in Paradise Pets Magazine April 2017.
You can read the entire issue free now!
It is also available in print from MagCloud (and free digital) below:
By Karen Thomas for
Paradise Pets Magazine, Key West, FL
There is nothing more gratifying than adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue organization. You will be saving a life. Even if you adopt from an organization that has a no-kill policy, you will be helping to rescue another animal by making space available at the shelter. By adopting rather than buying a new companion animal, you will reduce the demand that drives the commercial breeding of puppies and kittens. Each year millions of healthy and well-behaved animals are destroyed in shelters simply because there are not enough homes for all of them.
If you adopt a young adult or senior pet, you can avoid much of the diligent work related to house-training and teething. Puppies and kittens are cute, but they require lots of attention, training and patience. An older dog might fit in better with your laid back adult Labrador than a rambunctious puppy. Kittens are easier than puppies, but you may also want to consider the benefits of an adult cat who has already gone through the high-spirited kitten stage.
Before bringing home your new pet (whether a puppy, kitten, dog or cat), do your best to make sure they are as healthy as possible. Obtain copies of all medical records from the rescue organization for yourself and your veterinarian. If your new companion hasn’t been examined recently, make an appointment with your vet for a complete physical exam. You’ll want to make sure your newcomer has a clean bill of health before exposing other animals in the home to any risk.
Keep in mind that any change, even a positive thing like moving to a home, can be stressful for animals. Stress, travel and transport can aggravate underlying disease and may even cause physical ailments. Ask what food your new companion has been eating. If you’ll be feeding the animal something different, you’ll want to make a gradual transition to the new diet to avoid gastrointestinal upset. So, the goal is to minimize stress as much as possible.
Cat or dog proof the home
Along with the basic medical needs being assessed, take some time to inspect your surroundings. Are your home and yard appropriately dog and cat proof? Some common safety concerns include toilet seats, electrical cords and outlets, house plants (some are toxic to pets), garbage cans, and unsecured kitchen food storage. You may want to move valuable or fragile items from common areas. We use baby gates in our home to help keep curious puppies out of trouble.
How can we help our new pet feel safe and loved in their new environment?
I find it’s so important to designate a safe place where your pet can be away from the action — by his choice or by yours. He should be able to access the place himself whenever he feels he needs a “time-out”. You can also put him in there and close the door. It might be a crate, or even an entire room. This safe place should feel like a safe haven at all times.
We use our ‘healing room’ as our safe place for the dogs. I like to diffuse essential oils to promote relaxation such as lavender or a favorite blend called ‘Peace and Calming’. I also created an organic essential oil spray blend called ‘Serenity’ which contains lavender, ylang ylang and frankincense. I always keep a bottle handy to spray inside crates, bedding, inside the car or directly on their coats to promote a feeling of relaxation.
If there are existing animals in the home, communication is very important during this entire process. From the moment you’ve made the decision to adopt a new pack member, start letting the other animals in the house know this so that there are no surprises. Since they read our thoughts, I would show them mental pictures of the animal and how they can help ‘show him the ropes’ while interacting harmoniously. Since animals love to have ‘jobs’ I would assign each one a different job for the integration process to go smoothly. For example, I would assign the role of ‘peace ambassador’ to one and to another the job of being in charge of ‘toy sharing’. Spending lots of quality bonding time with each animal individually and collectively is very important during the first weeks that a pet is in a new home as well.
Routines and Rules
Dogs, especially, crave routines, boundaries and rules. Cats like to know what to expect too. When pets don’t understand, they feel uncertain and may hide out under a bed or behind a chair until they feel a little more comfortable. Sensible rules and structure help pets feel secure in their environment. Being consistent with training, helping pets understand what behavior you want and providing a solid routine is very appreciated from a pet’s point of view. They become more confident when they know their role and what you want them to do. All too often animals are told ‘no’ as in what not to do, but then not shown an acceptable alternative behavior.
When we first adopted Merlin, our Catahoula mix puppy, we established a daily routine which included pack walks and short training sessions a few times per day. He was eager to learn, and the other dogs loved the opportunity to model appropriate behaviors during the training sessions. ‘Group training’ is a great way to keep everyone involved in the integration process.
The most important thing to remember when integrating a new pet into the household is to practice patience and enjoy the process. Things won’t be perfect overnight as it takes time to learn each other. Having high expectations can turn into feelings of disappointment quickly if the expectations are not met. Any negative emotion (fear, anger, anxiety) will be sensed by your new companion and may delay the learning curve. This would be a great time to start a spiritual or mindful meditation practice if you don’t already have one. Within a few weeks everyone will be more balanced. Feeling the unconditional love of a pet fill our home and heart is a gift, and giving them the love and respect they deserve is true compassion. May your hearts and homes always be filled with such love!
Karen Thomas, R.N., is a certified Healing Touch for Animals (HTA) Practitioner in the Florida Keys. Healing Touch for Animals is a holistic approach influencing the health and well-being of animals through energy medicine and intention. HTA techniques restore harmony and balance to the energy system while providing physical, emotional, mental and instinctual stability, thus supporting the body to self-heal. This work can be done in person or distantly.
Karen can be contacted through her website www.pawsitivetouch.org or email her directly at karen @pawsitivetouch.org Karen’s organic, therapeutic-grade essential oil sprays can be purchased through squareup.com/market/pawsitivetouch
This article was originally published in the April-June 2016 issue of Paradise Pets Magazine, Key West, FL
You can read the entire issue free by clicking the cover photo or order a printed copy below...
By Angela J. Willard (Richards)
for Paradise Pets Magazine, Key West, FL
Many pet owners are not pet “owners” at all, we are pet parents and our pets tend to own us. When my children were teenagers, I saw less and less of them and became increasingly attached to our family pets, Joey (a Chihuahua mix) and DJ (our long haired Dachshund). As a mom, I wasn’t ready for my children to need me less and I became a “mom” to our dogs. Laugh all you want, but I know I am not the only one who loves our pets like children.
Several years ago our family moved to Florida, and during the planning I could not bear the thought of leaving our fur babies behind. So, we paid astronomical fees to prepare them for travel and flew them across the country with us. Sometimes I wonder if we did the right thing by taking them out of their environment in Ketchikan, Alaska and moving them to unknown territory in Key West, Florida.
While in Florida, Joey and DJ enjoyed fun in the sun, playing at the beaches, and chasing iguanas. We had to protect their nosey noses from trouble with snakes and scorpions—and other things we don’t have to worry about in Alaska. At one time, DJ had gotten stuck under our deck in the back yard, and my son, Chris, had to climb under and drag him out because he was unable to move—he had been paralyzed by a Cane Toad (of all things). With many prayers and healing touches, DJ escaped death by the toad and lived on to run around enjoying fun in the Florida sun. We, being Alaskans, were unprepared for the dangers that our beloved fur babies would be faced with in such a different climate.
Within a year of moving to Florida, we were faced with housing challenges, like many in Key West are, and had to make the difficult decision to adopt our pets out to new pet parents who were able to provide a stable home for DJ and Joey. That decision was a painful one, but also an inescapable one. We had no other choice.
The people who graciously accepted our fur babies into their lives, made it very clear that at any time we were able to have them again, they were more than willing to foster them for us. But that time did not come. It has been a couple years now since we had to say goodbye to our beloved pets, and now we are back in Alaska. As I look back, I see that I should have left them in their home environment in Ketchikan, rather than selfishly taking them across the country where DJ almost lost his life, and where we ended up losing them completely.
If we had adopted them out before we moved, they would have been well cared for in a loving home with no snakes, scorpions or poisonous frogs to deal with. And they would have most likely still been in our home town of Ketchikan when we returned and we would be able to see them once again.
Even though a piece of my heart went with DJ, and most especially Joey (my baby), I always have the peace in knowing that the people who adopted them were a perfect fit.
I will never forget seeing DJ run and play with his new Dachshund siblings, having the time of his life at the home of his new “Dad”, or seeing Joey in the arms of his new loving mama at the Kmart in Key West. I could see on her face that, like me, she couldn’t bear the thought of losing him, and I had to completely let him go. It was the best thing for us all.
In the past year I have traveled through many states, from Florida to Montana and then back home to Alaska. This was not planned, like many things in life, and I would have had a very difficult time traveling with even just Joey in my arms. Adopting him out to a stable home was the best thing for him, even though for me it was heart wrenching.
I may have been late in making the difficult decision to adopt out our family pets, my beloved fur babies, but in all things, God works all things out for the good.
This article was originally published in the Jan-March issue of Paradise Pets Magazine, Key West, FL
You can read the entire issue free now by clicking the cover image.
You can buy a printed copy below...
Paradise Pets Magazine