Jun 8 2015

Calling All Cat Lovers!

Felinecarevol_hero

Who would not love to start their day with kittens, upon kittens, upon kittens? We are looking for a special group of volunteers to help us with this crucial shelter role. Keeping the shelter clean and our animals healthy is a big responsibility. Support is needed each day of the week from 8- 11am. We know it is early in the morning, but you will have other smiling and happy faces to work with while you are here. Do you know anyone else who loves cats? Volunteering with cats and friends is doubly rewarding.

Here are the details about what you would be doing. Keep in mind this is a short term commitment and your care will help these felines in their journey to finding a forever home!

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Volunteers will be asked to commit to a once a weekly schedule. All days of the week are available, even weekends. Shifts are 8am – 11am. Anyone interested in volunteering, but not interested in this specific opportunity, should sign up for our general program at waysidewaifs.org

To get started helping our kitties, sign up for one of these classes be emailing AnnMarie Thomas, athomas@waysidewaifs.org. Please note in your email which shift you are interested in filling or if you are interested in volunteering for more than one day.

*These classes are ONLY for the Feline Comfort Support volunteer position.

June 13th 8am – 11am

OR

June 15th 8am – 11am

Feline Comfort Support Volunteers support the Feline Care Techs (FCT) with a variety of tasks. These include cleaning and sanitizing kennels, picking up and distributing blankets/toys, and providing food and water. Volunteers will be provided with general volunteer training and one on one mentoring to ensure success in this position!

Purpose:

  • This is a partnership of volunteers and staff working to provide the best quality of life for the cats at Wayside.
  • Support feline socialization and the importance of touch.
  • Decrease shelter stress and the spread of disease.
  • Apply consistent deep cleaning techniques for kennels once they are vacated.
  • Provide cats with basic necessities, clean surroundings, and toys for mental stimulation.
  • Overall – Increase the adoptability, health, and welfare of cats at Wayside Waifs.

Have questions? Contact AnnMarie Thomas, athomas@waysidewaifs.org.

Abner

 


Apr 24 2015

Dog Training Tips: Excessive Chewing

How to help your little chewer 

It’s not uncommon for dogs to enjoy chewing on different objects, regardless of whether or not it’s something they should or shouldn’t be chewing on, all dogs have the natural instinct to chew.  Dogs chew on things for different reasons, some of these include: they’re bored, they’re panicking due to separation anxiety, they’re teething, they’re exploring the world around them, they’re hungry, or they just naturally enjoy chewing as a daily activity.  It’s our responsibility as their owners to try to figure out why they’re chewing and ensure they have appropriate items for them to chew on.  Below is some additional information about how to manage a dog that likes to chew a lot.

  • Puppies go through two teething phases, one when their puppy teeth or “milk teeth” start to come in at about 3 weeks old and the second when their adult teeth start to come in at about 3 months old.  It’s not uncommon for young dogs up to two years of age to continue to want to chew a lot into their teenage phase even though they are no longer teething.
  • Generally speaking, younger dogs have a lot more energy than older dogs so as a result they are much more active and need to be given constructive outlets to burn off all that energy.  If they’re not given the appropriate exercise and mental stimulation for their age and breed, young dogs can become very destructive in your home.  It’s imperative that you make the time to exercise your young dog, train basic obedience behaviors to your young dog so that they learn some manners, and give them appropriate chew bones and toys.  A tired dog is a good dog.
  • Always supervise young dogs to ensure they are not chewing on inappropriate objects and to ensure they are not choking and/or ingesting parts of the toys you’ve given them to play with and chew on.  Baby gates, crates, or keeping your dog on a leash tied to your belt are all good tools for total supervision until you get to know your dog and his or her chewing habits.  Not all dogs can play with the same toys safely so it’s imperative that you monitor your dog when you give them a new toy for the first time.  Ingested toys can cause serious life threatening intestinal blockages and the surgery alone to remove the blockage can cost a few thousand dollars at a veterinary office.
  • You can ensure that your dog is not chewing on inappropriate objects by keeping your personal items picked up and put away.  Also make sure that rooms are safe for your dog and that things like plugged in power cords are out of your dog’s reach.  Closing doors to extra rooms like bedrooms and bathrooms will ensure that your dog is not sneaking off and chewing on your things or harming herself.  Remind your children that it is their responsibility to keep their items like toys and shoes put away if they don’t want them chewed on by the dog.  It’s not uncommon for dogs of any age to want to chew things that smell strongly of their owners like dirty socks, underwear, shoes, etc. so make sure they are out of your dog’s reach.
  • If your dog is chewing on an inappropriate item, always redirect their chewing to their dog toys and bones instead of scolding them.  Scolding them will not diminish their need to chew and do something mentally stimulating; it will just teach your dog to fear you.  Instead teach them what they should be doing by offering them toys or chews that they should chew on.  See the list below of toys recommended for excessive chewers.
  • If your dog is chewing on larger items that you can’t put away like furniture, you may want to try a taste deterrent spray like bitter apple spray.  However, the best option is always going to be supervising your dog when you’re home and then redirecting them to an appropriate toy when they feel the need to chew.  If you’re not home to supervise then you may need to crate train your dog or baby gate them in a dog proof room like a kitchen or bathroom.  Some people can safely give their dogs toys to chew on while they are away while others cannot because their dog may have a history of ingesting or choking on toys.
  • If your dog is excessively chewing when you are not home and is doing things like escaping out of its metal or plastic crate and then chewing up carpets, doors, or the molding around your doors or windows, you most like have a dog that is suffering from separation anxiety and should seek immediate help from your veterinarian and a behaviorist.  Please see our separation anxiety handout.  Your dog is experiencing extreme mental and emotional distress, akin to a panic attack. Do not continue to try to crate your dog; she may severely injure her body or teeth while trying to escape out of a crate.
  • Recommended dog toys for excessive chewers*:
    • Kongs stuffed with peanut butter or wet dog food and then frozen
    • Himalayan Chews
    • Goughnuts
    • Nylabones
    • Wholesome rolled rawhide bones
    • Deer, moose, or elk antlers
    • Bull horns
    • Bully sticks
    • Rope toys
    • Tuffy plush toys
    • Leather toys
    • Red Barn or Merrick marrow bones

*Items above are generally safer if they are made in the USA compared to products shipped in from overseas, particularly animal products such as rawhides and marrow bones.  Wayside Waifs does not receive any financial reimbursement for endorsing these products.  Wayside Waifs can also not be held liable should your dog have problems while interacting with these toys.

 


Mar 31 2015

Introducing Your Cat to the Litter Box

The first step with any behavioral issue is to take your cat to the veterinarian for a full evaluation.  Cats are very stoic animals and will hide illness and injury.  Sometimes our only clue that something is physically wrong is a behavioral symptom.  Many behavioral modification programs can begin in conjunction with or shortly after your trip to the veterinarian.

Some cats can be quite particular when it comes to where they eliminate.   Some guardians expect cats to just “know” what to do and where to go, when in fact, they don’t always.  If a kitten has been separated from its Mother or littermates too soon, it might not learn on its own.   Someone has to help them, and that someone just might be you.

When you first bring your new cat or kitten home, they should be given their own room for at least a couple of days.  They need time to acclimate to their environment, to you, and this will help them to understand where they are to potty as well.  Give the cat time to investigate the room, and they will find the litter box on their own.  Do not place food and water bowls beside the litter box, put those in an area away from the litter box.  If you don’t see your cat investigating anywhere near the litter box, you can place the cat in the litter box, but only if they are comfortable with you doing so.  Don’t force them, and do not help move their paws in the litter box either.  This has to be a positive experience for them.  It is best to give them time to investigate on their own.

Which litter box do you need?  Start with a basic litter box, without a cover.  Buy a standard sized litter box or a large clear Sterilite container that is 1.5 times an adult cat’s length.  Cats need room to move around! They should have enough space to be able to turn around comfortably.  If you do buy a covered litter box, it must be tall enough so the cat can comfortably stand up.  Most cats don’t like having a cover.  Imagine walking into a small space, going potty, cleaning up (covering up), and then exiting.  The litter box needs to be a positive experience for a cat and spending several minutes inside a dirty litter box is an unpleasant experience.  Also, if there are other cats in the home, some might use this as a chance to pounce on the unassuming cat when it exits the litter box.  Some guardians will purchase a litter liner, and this is something you might have to try out to see what your cat thinks of it.  If the cat doesn’t like that sound or feel of it, stop using it.

Which type of litter do you need?  Kittens should not be given clumping litter.  Kittens are curious, and may actually play or try to eat it.  Unscented is best.  Scented litter may actually cause your cat to not use the litter box.  Two inches of litter in the litter box is recommended.  Adults prefer unscented, clumping litter at a depth of 3-4 inches.

Where should the litter box be kept?  It should continue to stay in the room your cat started out in.  The general rule for litter boxes is to have 1 litter box per cat plus 1 more.  So, the 2nd litter box should be kept on another level in the home or another area for easy access whenever the cat has to “go”.  The litter boxes must be in a quiet, stress-free area, and where the cat can have easy access to it at any time.  If there are young children or other pets in the home, it is very important that they do not try to prevent the cat from getting to the litter box.

How often does the litter box need to be cleaned?  Litter boxes should be scooped at least on a daily basis.  Depending on the number of cats in the home, this may need to be done more than once each day.  Change the litter at least on a weekly basis.  This is also a great time to clean the litter box.  Soap & water is usually good enough for removing any stains or odor.   You can use an enzyme-based cleaner if the urine odor is very strong, but it’s usually a good rule to allow a little odor, because your cat is familiar with it. Also, sometimes a chemical smell will turn off the cat from using the litter box.  If the litter box is cleaned entirely of the cat’s scent, they may not use it.  Remember, you probably won’t smell anything once it’s been cleaned with soap & water, but your cat probably can.

What if the cat refuses to use the litter box?  Please contact your Veterinarian if your cat stops using the litter box and using other areas.  If your cat is not eliminating at all, contact your Veterinarian immediately to rule out any serious health issue.

If after trying these suggestions you are still experiencing undesirable behaviors in your cat, SUBMIT QUESTIONS by clicking the link under Ask A Trainer on the Behavior and Training page of our website.


Mar 31 2015

Dealing with Destructive Cat Scratching

The first step with any behavioral issue is to take your cat to the veterinarian for a full evaluation.  Cats are very stoic animals and will hide illness and injury.  Sometimes our only clue that something is physically wrong is a behavioral symptom.  Many behavioral modification programs can begin in conjunction with or shortly after your trip to the veterinarian.

Scratching is a normal behavior for cats!  It serves many purposes, such as marking territory, relieving stress and excess energy, stretching, and removing the dead outer layer of their claws.  Cats need to scratch and this should not be taken away from them.  Cats that scratch on undesirable objects just need a little guidance as to what is acceptable and beneficial.

Choosing a scratching post

Every cat must have at least one good scratching post; preferably more than one, especially in multi-cat homes.  Figuring out which type of scratching post your feline will prefer might take a little bit of trial and error.  Most cats like to stretch upwards, so providing a tall cat tower that is at least 3 feet tall with a stable base is always a good idea.  Even if the cat doesn’t use it to scratch on, it provides a nice perch to survey their surroundings, look out windows, or to provide some solitude when needed.

A proper vertical scratching post needs to suit the needs of an adult-sized cat.  A kitten is going to grow quickly, so it’s best to get the proper height right from the beginning.  The taller the better, but ideally it should be tall enough for an adult cat to stand on the hind legs, and stretch all the way up as far as they can reach.  This gives the cat plenty of surface area to work on and a proper stretch.  The scratching post needs to be sturdy as well.  If it tips or falls over, it may scare the cat, and the cat may never approach it or use it again.

Some cats prefer to scratch horizontally.  There are scratch posts that provide this option as well.  Again, finding one that won’t slide around or tip is very important.  Place the scratch board on a carpeted surface or purchase a gripper mat to prevent movement. Texture is important as well.  Some cats prefer carpeted posts, some prefer sisal, and some prefer corrugated cardboard.  Sisal is the most preferred as it is durable and helps the claws to lose the dead outer layer.  Corrugated cardboard will need to be replaced periodically as the scratcher deteriorates from use.

Training your cat to use the scratching post

If you have a multi-cat home, you should have 1 scratch post per cat (or more).  Each cat might have a preference of where it is located as well.  If there is any conflict between your cats, if you recognize these conflicts re-occurring in the same areas of the home, place a scratch post in those areas.  Any of the cats feeling stressed can have easy access to an instant stress reliever.  Scratching posts should be placed in common cat traffic areas and near items that the cat has previously used for scratching. If your cat is scratching on your couch, for example, place the scratch post in front of that particular area.

Sprinkling or spraying catnip onto the tower will attract the cat to the tower.  Lure your cat to the scratching post by dangling a favorite toy on the scratcher to encourage exploration and use of the scratcher.  Always praise your cat when the scratcher is used even after the training phase is over! Once your cat is consistently using the tower, you can begin to move it a few inches at a time until it is in the location you would like it to be. Be patient and allow the cat time to consistently use it after each move.

If you see the cat about to scratch on an undesirable area, do not frighten the cat or punish the cat.  Distract the cat by dangling their favorite toy near them and guide them with the toy to the scratching post.  Continue to play with your cat by dangling the toy high up on the scratching post so your cat jumps or stretches to catch it.  This will show the cat that the scratching post is stable and feels good to scratch.  Interrupting a cat who is already scratching can be done with a distracting toy or an aversive sound.  When the cat uses the scratch post, be sure to praise and reward with an extra tasty treat.

Alternatives to Declawing

Declawing is a procedure where a veterinarian amputates the end digit and claw of a cat’s paw.  Declawing should never be an option unless it is for medical reasons (ie:  injury).  Declawed cats are more likely to suffer from painful arthritis and behavior issues. Declawing a cat also takes away one of its first defenses.  This can result in a cat biting more than it might have if it still had its claws.  Declawing can also lead to litter box problems, as it can be painful for a cat to rake its paws through the litter. There is a product called Soft Paws that is a wonderful alternative.  They are plastic caps that fit right over each claw.  A cat can scratch, and there won’t be any damage.  Groomers and veterinarians can help apply these if you need any help putting them on. The caps can stay on for several weeks before needing to be replaced.

Keeping your cats nails trimmed on a regular basis will also help to prevent you from getting scratched, or the cat getting its nails caught on something, possibly causing damage to the item or to the cat.  Clip off the sharp tips every two weeks or so.  Work on desensitizing your cat to make this a tolerable interaction.  Petting her paws or legs and providing treats at the same time will help the cat to associate the touch as a positive interaction.  You can then begin to increase the pressure with gentle squeezes.  Eventually you will need to do this to extend the claw in order to trim them.  When you extend the claw, you should be able to see the pink or “quick” inside the claw.  This is a small blood vessel, and you want to be sure you do NOT cut in that area, or it will bleed and be painful.  This will help to dull the claw and prevent some damage to furniture or to you.

If after trying these suggestions you are still experiencing undesirable behaviors in your cat, SUBMIT QUESTIONS by clicking the link under Ask A Trainer on the Behavior and Training page of our website.


Mar 30 2015

Introducing A New Cat

cat hugs

The purrs and hisses of a successful introduction

Normal Feline Communication and Behavior :

Hissing, growling, staring, swishing tail, ears down.

Redirection is your friend. If you see tension building, redirect your cat with treats/toys. If you are able to break up the tension, the cats will have less animosity towards one another. Never physically break up a cat fight; use a chair, broom, etc. to gently block them from each other.

Quick Tips – Take it one sense at a time – Provide a stress free environment – Allow normal feline communication and behavior – Redirection is your friend

The Introduction: Cats are not similar to dogs in the way that they can make a friend in two seconds. It usually takes time and a lot of patience. 

Step 1—SANCTUARY: Make sure your new cat has a ‘sanctuary’. This is a safe place that the resident cat cannot get to. This room needs to have their litter box, food, bed and toys, as it will be housing them for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Have “hiding spots” in this room for your new cat. Boxes make great hidey holes for cats that are feeling a little shy and intimidated for the first few days. Both cats will be curious– sniffing under the door. See “Normal Feline Communication and Behavior” information above and what to do if it escalates. 

Step 2—ONE SENSE AT A TIME: After your new cat starts feeling comfortable in their environment, you can start feeding special treats/meals to each cat on either side of the door. See how close you can get the bowl to the door, but don’t push it. Over the next few days, you’ll gradually decrease the distance be-tween the two cats and the door. The intent is to get each cat eating on either side of the door without any problems. You can also Room Swap; switch one cat out with the other. Allow your resident cat to explore the new cat’s sanctuary, and the new cat to explore your house. This gives them an opportunity to smell the other cat’s food area and litter box. Only do this for an hour at a time maximum and at most twice a day. We also suggest rubbing each cat down with a cloth, and placing the cloth under the other cat’s food dish. This helps them associate the other cats scent with a good thing– food. 

Step 3—INTERACTION: Once both cats are comfortable, and are not exhibiting stress/fear signals you can open the door to the sanctuary and allow them visuals. It’s always a good idea to go slow; open the door a crack, then a little more, then a little more still. If you see tensions mounting be sure to redirect with toys or treats. If this doesn’t help, do not continue and try again tomorrow. If everyone remains calm, allow your new cat to explore the household while keeping a close eye on each feline to ensure safety.

Step 4—HAPPY HOME: Now that both cats get along they should be able to be out and about together happily! It is suggested that you do not leave them out alone together when you are not at home for the first week or two. If something happens, you want to be present! Don’t get rid of the sanctuary right away! Allow your new cat time to become comfortable and slowly start removing items from the room.

If after trying these suggestions you are still experiencing undesirable behaviors in your cat, SUBMIT QUESTIONS by clicking the link under Ask A Trainer on the Behavior and Training page of our website.

 


Mar 30 2015

Reducing Urine Marking in Cats

The first step with any behavioral issue is to take your cat to the veterinarian for a full evaluation.  Cats are very stoic animals and will hide illness and injury.  Sometimes our only clue that something is physically wrong is a behavioral symptom.  Many behavioral modification programs can begin in conjunction with or shortly after your trip to the veterinarian.

Cats will spray for three reasons: marking territory, to help them feel secure, or because they are in conflict with another cat. Is your cat neutered/spayed? 90% of cats reduce spraying within 30 days of being neutered. Was your cat previously an outdoor cat? Are there other cats in the home? See also the article on Cats in Conflict. Are there any cats in your neighborhood that walk around?

Determine if you cat is spraying or urinating outside the box.  A cat who is urine marking will typically back up to a vertical surface.  You will see the tail held upright and quiver and the front paws may knead.  You will find a small amount of urine on the vertical surface and usually running down to the floor.  The areas a cat chooses to mark are typically common paths the cats are walking in the house, the perimeter of the home, or around windows and doors. A cat who is not using the litter box will leave a large puddle on a horizontal surface.

Your first step will be cleaning: Try using an enzyme based cleaner on the area.  If the area is carpet can you pull it back and #1 replace the pad #2 get to the wood underlay.  Once you get to the wood you need to get hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar and soak a rag or towel and place it directly on the affected area and place something heavy on top.  The hydrogen peroxide will pull the urine out of the wood.  You may need to change the rag or towel and reapply.  If you attempt this with a finished hardwood floor the stain may also come up if you aren’t careful about the timing so try vinegar. The vinegar mixture should be 1.5 cups warm water and .5 cups of white vinegar. You can also sprinkle baking soda on top of the area once it has dried to absorb any remaining smell. (You should not use vinegar on marble or stone.) You can actually see and smell the urine on the towel so it is quite remarkable! Don’t forget to clean the walls!  You can purchase a hand held black light to see the urine more clearly so you make sure it is completely gone from that area.  In cases of spraying even removing and cleaning behind base boards might be necessary.

Buy puppy pee pads and place those in areas where he sprays to reduce the chance you will need to clean again.  Remember the spray is going up the wall most likely so you may have to get painters tape and put the pee pad on vertically.  The next step will be to place a tall cat scratcher in front of the areas being sprayed and place either a food dish or a water bowl next to it.  Scratching is another (more acceptable to us humans) way to mark territory.  There should be a scratcher for each cat in your case.  Cats also do not like to pee where they eat or drink so adding the food and water to those areas might also help. It will also help to have multiple feedings and watering stations so they don’t have to feel uncomfortable about those resources. It may look silly for a few weeks but they needs to associate those areas with scratching, food, water and finally with playing.  The last portion will be to start playing with them in those areas to build confidence.  Remember that we are trying to break a habit here so it may be a few weeks of this setup.  If another incident occurs simply replace the pee pads.  We are hoping for a reduction of the behavior as they begin to feel more confident.  Only remove them after several weeks of no spraying in that area.

If you see the cat sniffing around in the areas that have previously been sprayed, interrupt the sniffing by distracting the cat with a toy or a treat.  Consider re-cleaning the area in case the smell remains.

 

If after trying these suggestions you are still experiencing undesirable behaviors in your cat, SUBMIT QUESTIONS by clicking the link under Ask A Trainer on the Behavior and Training page of our website.

 


Mar 18 2015

Cats in Conflict: Feline Social Behavior

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The first step with any behavioral issue is to take your cat to the veterinarian for a full evaluation.  Cats are very stoic animals and will hide illness and injury.  Sometimes our only clue that something is physically wrong is a behavioral symptom.  Many behavioral modification programs can begin in conjunction with or shortly after your trip to the veterinarian.

Cats are socially selective creatures, which means that they do not need each other to survive but they will choose to socialize with each other.  Cats are individuals with personalities and because of this they will get along with certain cats and not others.

Most people miss the subtle way cats communicate with each other and only start to notice problems when a fight occurs.  Often times there are other signs that things are getting tense between your cats.  One of the other signs is not using the litter box.  Cats have elaborate ways to share territory and disruptions to their agreements can disturb the delicate balance.  When these problems arise it is important to address them as soon as possible.  The more fighting that occurs the more difficult it will be to resolve.  Cat do not “just work things out” once they get into a pattern of fighting.  This process will take time and commitment to resolve and you may need the help of a behavior specialist.  Pay close attention to all your cats’ behaviors and document your findings.  Be patient as each cat will progress at their own pace.  Use the following information to help you evaluate the situation.

Territory and access to resources

Territory is one of the most important things in your cat’s life.  Territory aggression can occur when a new cat is brought into the home, when a cat reaches social maturity (usually around the age of 2 or 3), when one cat comes home from the vet or if the cats view their resources as insufficient to share.   The behaviors you might see include chasing, swatting, hitting or ambushing.  You might also notices one cat sits directly in the path of the litter box or food bowl or waits outside the litter box to attack as the other cat tries to leave the area.  Other signs your cats might be having territory disagreements would be having stare downs, posturing and moving slowly while starting, blocking access to food and water, finding alternate locations to urinate or defecate, marking the perimeter of the home or major walkways(face rubbing, scratching or spraying), or one cat always leaves a room when another walks into the room.  Many of these signals go unnoticed so as the owner you may have to play detective.

Redirected aggression

Redirected aggression happens when your cat is frustrated that it cannot attack something and he will turn and attack the closest cat (or human) he can.  A neighbor cat visiting your yard, for example, could make your cat upset about his territory being invaded.  Since he cannot get out and attack the stranger in the yard he will take that energy and anger out on his housemate.  Cats will also redirect onto humans or anything moving (like a housemate) if they haven’t had enough play time.  There is also the potential for a redirection if your cat is suddenly startled and attacks the closest thing to him out of fear.

Defensive aggression

When a cat feels that he cannot escape from an attack he will choose to either freeze or fight.  The defensive cat will hiss, growl or scream to keep the attacker away.  He will fall to the ground, show his teeth, pull his ears and whiskers back and get his paws in the air ready for protection.  What can happen in multi-cat homes is a cycle of behaviors.  We often will not know the original incident that starts the cycle so it may take some investigation.  When one cat is attacked over a territory dispute or is a victim of a redirected attack (and therefore confused why she was attacked) she will be wary of the other cat and will often run away from him.  As she runs, his desire to chase her becomes even stronger.  Pretty soon the cycle of running and chasing has been established even without a precipitating event.

Separate the cats and follow the same instructions in the article on Introducing a New Cat.    Modify the environment.  Do not punish cats any cat that is involved; this will may lead to further aggression between cats and fear or aggression towards you.  See a veterinarian for a full examination on both cats and treat any injuries to prevent infection. In severe cases, talk with your veterinarian about supplementing your behavior plan with medication.  NEVER medicate your cat with consulting a veterinarian.  Many over the counter and prescription medications are harmful or even fatal to cats.

If after trying these suggestions you are still experiencing undesirable behaviors in your cat, SUBMIT QUESTIONS by clicking the link under Ask A Trainer on the Behavior and Training page of our website.

 

 


Mar 6 2015

Managing Your Kitten’s Rough Play

Abner

The first step with any behavioral issue is to take your cat to the veterinarian for a full evaluation.  Cats are very stoic animals and will hide illness and injury.  Sometimes our only clue that something is physically wrong is a behavioral symptom.  Many behavioral modification programs can begin in conjunction with or shortly after your trip to the veterinarian.

Kittens love to play but kittens also NEED to play!  Kittens use play to explore the world, learn social skills and practice hunting.  Chasing, pouncing, biting and kicking are all normal ways that cats and kittens play with objects and with each other.  For a young kitten up to a few years old, you ideally should have 3 to 4 scheduled play sessions a day.

Typically, kittens adopted in pairs or who have had adequate time with their siblings will learn appropriately to not bite and to retract their claws to keep from hurting their playmates.  They will learn stalking and hunting behaviors by playing with toys.  You should be using interactive toys to play with your kitten several times a day and you should be leaving smaller toys laying around for them to explore while you are away.  The most popular interactive toys are wand toys with a long string that ends in a feather, mouse or another toy.  You should also consider purchasing interactive feeders for your kitten to bat around and receive a portion of her daily kibble or treats throughout the day.

You should be the one setting rules and boundaries for your kitten.  Make sure everyone in the house is aware of the kitten’s rules and inform guests as well.  One of your rules should be that the kitten is NEVER allowed to play with hands, feet or any other human body part.  Allowing this behavior will lead to injuries and aggressive behavior towards humans.  It is a very important lesson for your kitten to learn when it is appropriate to play and what things are appropriate to use as toys.

It is not uncommon for a kitten or young cat to test the boundary of acceptable vs unacceptable playing.  As a parent, your job is to clearly enforce that line and redirect the kitten’s play to an acceptable target.  For example, if your kitten has previously been encouraged to bite and kick human hands you will need to redirect that need onto a soft toy that is about the same size as your kitten.

Scheduled play times are very important.  You should be initiating play with your kitten several times a day, ideally BEFORE your kitten decides to pounce on you to get you to play.  It might be helpful to keep track of your kitten’s favorite times to play and schedule your play session 20 to 30 minutes before that time.   A natural schedule for a cat would be to play, eat, groom and then sleep.  Use this pattern to your benefit especially if your kitten wakes you up at night wanting to play.

Encourage your kitten to play by dragging a toy along the floor for her to pounce on or throw a toy across the room for her to chase.  Keep things interesting by changing the toys you use each day and putting away the interactive wand toys when you are finished playing.  Provide small toys, ping pong balls and plush toys to wrestle with when you are away.  When you are using the interactive wand toys, mimic the movements for live prey to encourage hunting behaviors.

Discourage your kitten from inappropriately playing by withdrawing your attention.  If your kitten starts playing too roughly stop the play session.  Say “ouch” in a high pitched voice and leave the room if your kitten bites or scratches you.  The kitten will quickly learn what behaviors make you end the play session.  She may continue to test how rough she can play so be consistent in which behaviors cause the games to end and which behaviors cause you to leave the room completely.  Be sure to reengage your kitten in a play session after a short break.

Do not attempt to tap, flick or hit your kitten.  Any form of physical punishment will lead to fear and further aggression from your kitten.  Even picking her to move her to a time out room could be reinforcing her behavior.  That is why YOU should be the one to leave the area.  Be sure to clean all wounds thoroughly and consult a doctor for severe bites.

 

If after trying these suggestions you are still experiencing undesirable behaviors in your cat, SUBMIT QUESTIONS by clicking the link under Ask A Trainer on the Behavior and Training page of our website.

 


Dec 4 2014

“Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks”: Chatting with Gabby Munoz, Canine Behavior Manager at Wayside Waifs

While I met with Gabby Muñoz the other day, two tiny Chihuahuas explored the office, having just been surrendered by their owners the day before. Gabby pointed out that they were curious and friendly, but nervous. Their ears were set back, and they were a little shaky.

Some dogs who come to Wayside Waifs are more than a little nervous. Abandonment, abuse, or neglect may leave them not knowing how to interact with humans or other animals. They may guard their food or overreact to unfamiliar stimuli, or shy away from contact altogether. Wayside Waifs hired Gabby as an expert to help the more troubled dogs trust again, behave more appropriately and become good pets.

All of Gabby’s work is based on scientific research, in keeping with her academic background. She earned her Masters in Biology with a Zoology concentration from Western Illinois University. She has also always been a “dog person,” and is the owner of two rescue cocker spaniels now.

Gabby told me about a Wayside alum named Frank, a yellow lab/Shepherd mix. His owners had used physical dominance and punishment to try to control him. In response, he had become aggressive, to the point that many shelters might have given up on him.

The staff started Frank’s rehabilitation simply by showering him with treats and positive reinforcement and then ignoring him when he wasn’t behaving. Positive reinforcement works much better than punishment in changing anybody’s behavior. After lots of work with Gabby and the other patient humans at Wayside Waifs, Frank’s behavior had turned around. He was ready to find a forever home, and he went home with a retired man in a successful adoption match.

Because I didn’t associate Labrador retrievers with fighting behavior, I asked Gabby if certain breeds are more aggressive than others. She told me that breeding did bring out certain personality traits, but that a dog’s experience plays a large part as well. Many American pit bull terriers, for instance, can be excellent pets. Wayside Waifs carefully assesses the behavior of all dogs that come to the shelter.

I had read before that owners need to assert their dominance as the “leader of the pack”- something I probably don’t do with my two rescue terriers. Gabby explained that this idea came from studying wolf behavior. But although dogs are related to wolves, they’ve evolved to behave quite differently. She said that they best owner-dog relationships are, like any relationship, based on “co-respect.”

Gabby assured me that my dogs could definitely learn more from obedience classes at Wayside Waifs, even though I’ve had them for a while. The shelter actually offers three levels of classes: one for puppies, one for dogs and an advanced course to help dogs obey even in the presence of distractions.

Although any dog can learn a lot, Gabby said, their basic temperament will not change. A shy dog can learn to interact with others, but may never be the life of the party. A boisterous pup can learn to calm down, but may never be a couch potato.

Dogs have their own personalities and quirks, just like people do, and they deserve to be loved for who they are. After all, they love us for who we are. And isn’t that what we all want?

-Stacey Donovan
Contributing Writer


Nov 24 2014

Your How-to for an “All-wags” Holiday Season

Give thanks and be safe!

With Thanksgiving just hours away, there is bound to be lots of cooking, eating and undoubtedly begging. But as the responsible pet owner that you are, think twice before giving your furry family member that turkey leg. What may seem like a harmless way to say thanks to your favorite companion, has all the ingredients for a visit to the pet emergency room. And that is something that nobody wants!

Keep it “all wags” at the holiday season with these helpful tips:

Dog-friendly Treats

Whether you want to get crafty and make your dog some paw-approved holiday treats or just want to say thanks  the old-fashioned way, practice caution as you indulge your pooch. An extra scoop of food or treat goes a long way in your dog’s book. A word of advice, though: don’t go to your dinner plate when you want to show some extra love. Stick with treats that you know are safe, avoiding common holiday offenders like cooked bones, chocolate, candy, and fat trimmings.

Skip the Mistletoe

If you are anything like us, you probably get plenty of sloppy, wet kisses on the face. That said, skip the mistletoe this year. With your pets’ cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health on the line, its worth it. The only cardiovascular irregularity you need in your household is your heart melting when your furry family members shower you in affection.

Lights, Tree, Tree Stand

Before everyone gathers around the tree, make sure you have considered a couple of things:

  1. Does your dog have a chewing problem or does your cat think stringed lights are a play toy? If so, consider foregoing them this year.
  2. Do you have a stable – and we mean cat-launching-at-the-tree or dogs-rough housing-in-the-pine-needles – stable tree stand?

If you have assessed these important decorating factors, then hang those ornaments already. Oh, and that brings us to one last consideration: ornaments. What makes for pretty decorations often makes for breakable and dangerous messes, so consider waiting to hang what the dad in the Christmas Carol would call the “Frag-gee-lee” ornaments until your pets are comfortable around the tree.

The holiday season is a busy time of the year, but just make sure you don’t neglect your furry friends’ safety needs as things get hectic.

-Contributing Writer Libby Hastert

 

 


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