5 Ways To Keep Your Indoor Cat Busy

We all have to go away sometimes, and for those of us who feel queasy about placing our cats in kennels – especially if we are going to be gone only a short time – leaving little Oliver at home is a practical option. Far from being the aloof and solitary creatures we think they are, cats are really very social. Whether your cat shows it or not, he depends on your presence and feels your absence when you are away.

To assuage any guilt you might feel, set things up ahead of time so that your cat can busy himself while you’re gone. Here are five things to try.

1. The Catbird Seat

Creating a special space for your cat can provide for hours of diversion. One of the best spaces is the window sill, where your cat can watch the world going by. Don’t have much of a sill? Buying or creating a window seat is as easy as drilling some holes, setting the anchors and attaching the shelf. Make it personal by adding a fluffy pillow or soft carpeting to the shelf. If the area outside of the window is yours to do with as you please, try adding a birdbath or feeder so that your cat has something to watch. Just make sure to keep the window closed when you’re away. A motivated cat can get through a screen in a scratch.

There are also ways to make it so that your cat can go outside while staying inside. Box style window seats that sit outside of the window – in much the same way as an air conditioner – can give your cat the feeling of the outdoors without ever meeting any of the dangers of the outdoors. This is another project that you can plan yourself, or buy pre-assembled.

2. A Fun Space

Even if you don’t have an entire room to devote to your cat, a space that is set up just for play can give your cat a place to retreat or spend some energy. A tall cat tree for climbing and scratching, especially the kind with hidden “caves,” will give your cat a spot other than your sofa to scratch and lounge on. If you don’t have space for a tree, you can create some places around the house where your cat can play. You can begin by hanging toys from different spots – like door knobs or over the door towel hooks – for your cat to bat around. A small open box that has been designated for cat toys will give him a place to find toys whenever he feels the desire to play.

Another fun use of space is to make use of vertical spaces. A series of shelves installed in a step-like pattern along a wall and ending with a perching shelf near the ceiling will satisfy both the need for physical activity through leaping and coordination, and your cat’s deep desire to watch from on high. Some cat parents even install high shelves (about a foot or two below the ceiling) that span the length of the room.

3. The Hunger Game

If your cat is keen on treats and snacks, a food puzzle toy can be a great way to keep him occupied and exercised at the same time. Typically ball-shaped with small holes all around to allow food to fall out when manipulated the right way, food puzzles are also great for stimulating your cat’s brain by encouraging problem solving. There are a lot of different versions of food puzzles; try more than one so that your cat will not get bored.

4. Curiosity Thrilled the Cat

There is a reason that cats are known for being curious. They will find the smallest, most hidden spaces to nap in and will peek in boxes and bags and closets just to see what can be discovered. These favorite spaces are a great place to hide little cat toys and cat treats for him to discover. Small furry mouse toys, feathered bird toys, catnip pouches, crinkly toys, food puzzles … use your imagination. Start with the spots your cat already loves, like under the bed, and add spots and new toys where your cat is likely to find them. Over time, your cat will start hunting for these hidden surprises.

Rotate the toys, keeping the box of small toys in a closed closet, so that your cat will not get bored. And don’t leave catnip out every time. It is thought by some experts that cats will become desensitized to catnip if they are constantly exposed to it. Bring out the catnip stuffed toys every few weeks to keep the discovery fresh.

5. Jazz the Place Up

It is widely believed that music can be as beneficial for animals as it is for humans. We’ll just assume it is. With that thought in mind, leaving the stereo on when you go away — or even when you leave for the work day — can be a great comfort for your cat. Leave the music at a reasonably low volume, and keep it sweet. Rock and pop music are not as welcoming to animals as jazz and classical music. But don’t just take our word for it. Try different types of music and observe whether your cat responds to one more than another. If there is no obvious response from your cat, you might keep it safe by sticking with soft jazz or classical. Piano and string are the most reliable for not producing jarring sounds.

Is Your Pet a Righty or Lefty?

Do you remember in elementary school when the left handed kids, who were always in the minority – at about 10 percent, according to studies – were made to feel even more singled out because they had to ask the teacher for lefty scissors?

If you’ve ever wondered if your pet is a righty or a lefty, you’re not the only pet parent out there, but with animals, it really doesn’t matter. They’re not going to be singled out for ridicule.

According to this article in The Washington Post, researchers are studying the right and left brain connections, sexual orientation and genetics. While the findings may one day help change the way dogs and cats are bred, trained and used in our society, it makes no difference for us as regular pet owners.

It is, fun, however, to see if we can determine if our dogs and cats are lefties or righties. I conducted the tests outlined in the article with all of our six-pack of dogs this past weekend.

We shook paws with those that knew how, hid treats just out of their grasp, put a toy in their visual field and placed a treat under a bowl. For a cat, you could also dangle something above their head and see which paw it uses to swipe. 

The results mirrored a 2006 study conducted at the University of Manchester in England, which showed half of the dogs in the study were right pawed, while half were left pawed.

Although I think one of our dogs could be either as she will shake hands with either paw she feels like lifting and she split almost evenly on other exercises, but came out dominate on the lefty side more.

In 1991, the Ataturk University in Turkey did a similar study on cats, which resulted in 50 percent being right pawed and 40 percent left pawed, with 10 percent being what we would call ambidextrous, or showing no preference in right or left.

According to the above article, some children face ridicule and even well-meaning parents and teachers who try to force them to be right handed, such as Robin A.F. Olson, founder and president of a rescue organization called Kitten Associates.

Her mother didn’t want her to be “different” so she always handed her things close to her right hand, forcing her to use it and even color with the right hand.

This is another area from which we can learn from our pets. They don’t care if they’re right pawed or left – or lean to left or right politically for that matter – they just accept each other for who they are. What a wonderful way to go through life.

Overweight Pets

Nutrition experts like to portray weight control as a simple matter of “calories in minus calories out.” But as anyone who’s ever been on a diet knows all too well, it isn’t quite that easy! There are many factors that affect weight, such as genetics, metabolic rate, weather, and even breed. Ultimately, the only ones we humans can control for our pets are diet and exercise—so let’s see why and how to manage our pets’ weight.treat

In our busy lives, we may sometimes use treats or extra food as a substitute for quality time with our pets; or our pets get a little chunky because we just love to pamper them. But letting a pet become overweight is actually the opposite of love—we’re truly risking their health and lives for a few treats, a nibble from our dinner plates, or an extra spoonful of chow. The list of obesity-related diseases is a long one and includes arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, liver and kidney disease, urinary tract disease, skin and coat issues, and many more. It’s up to us to be the “adults” in the family and call the shots on what our furry “kids” are eating

Unfortunately, overweight has become the norm for our dogs and cats. In fact, many people would consider the “ideal” body condition as too thin. Yet research has shown that dogs and cats live longer–significantly longer–if they’re kept slightly underweight. A long-term study done by Purina looked at the difference in lifespan between Labrador Retrievers who were kept slimmer versus normal Labs (who were fed according to Purina’s own directions for that food!). The dogs who were fed less lived TWO years longer, and and the onset of degenerative diseases such as arthritis was significantly delayed. Remember, this comparison was between normal dogs and underweight dogs. Overweight pets’ lives, health, and comfort are damaged even more.

Other research has shown that, in both cats and dogs, feeding a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet results in healthier weight loss and better muscle mass retention than high-fiber “weight loss” diets. This makes perfect sense when we consider that our dogs’ and cats’ ancestors—and their current cousins—are designed to eat prey animals that are just that: high in protein, relatively high in fat, and very low in carbohydrates. Canned, raw, or properly balanced homemade diets are ideal for both dogs and cats; and are especially important for cats, who need the extra moisture and high protein for urinary health. Dry food is not recommended for cats, period.

“Light” and “weight control” diets tend to be lower in fat and protein, and higher in fiber and carbohydrates, than comparable regular foods. But this is taking the nutritional balance in the exact opposite direction from the natural high-protein, low-carb carnivore diet our pets were designed to eat. If the amount of “light” food being fed is not restricted, most pets will gain weight on that food. Carb-based diets just aren’t satisfying to the canine and feline palate, so pets will eat more of the food to get more of what they want and need. Moreover, a recent study showed tremendous variation in the amount of calories in different brands of “light” foods–some were higher in calories than other brands’ regular foods!

If your pet is a treat junky, there are things you can do to moderate the number of treat calories your dog or cat is getting without making your pet (or you!) feel deprived. For larger treats, break them into smaller pieces. Your pet will quickly adjust to the new size and feel just as satisfied. Give a lower calorie treat; or try treats made from dehydrated chicken or other meat that add primarily protein and little or no carbs. Limit rawhide bones, marrow bones, and other “chew” treats; many of them are very high in fat and will load a huge amount of calories to your pet’s daily intake.To your pet, it’s more about the attention and love from you that your companion associates with treats, than about the treat itself. Whatever treats or “shared” food your pet gets,you need to deduct treat calories from meals to balance the day’s total. Yes, that means the meal needs to be smaller!

In addition to providing a wholesome, appropriate diet, there are supplements that will help your pet get the most from food, as well as strengthen the immune system, optimize overall health, and support longevity. These include: (1) Omega-3 fatty acids, (2) digestive enzymes, and (3) probiotics, and the fourth, antioxidants, are needed for immune system support.)

Unfortunately, counting calories is the best way to understand what we’re feeding our cats and dogs. Happily for those of us who recoil at math, it’s much easier for our pets than for people, who need to know calorie counts in a huge variety of food. Most of the time, we’ll be dealing with just a few foods and treats.

Calories in Pet Food*

Here’s a simple chart to give you a ballpark estimate of different types of pet food:

Food Type Cat Dog
Dry Adult 200-600 kcal/cup 300-600 kcal/cup
Dry Diet 200-400 kcal/cup 200-400 kcal/cup
Canned Adult 80-200 kcal/5.5-6 oz. can 200-400 kcal/12.5-13.2 oz. can
Canned Diet 80-200 kcal/5.5-6 oz. can 200-400 kcal/12.5-13.2 oz. can
Raw 300-550 kcal/cup 300-550 kcal/cup
Treats 10-300 kcal/treat 10-300 kcal/treat

*What we commonly refer to as a “calorie” is technically a kilocalorie, or kcal. There may be little or no difference between regular and “diet” foods. Calorie information is not required to be on the label, although some makers provide it. Check the manufacturer’s website, or call for calorie info on each particular food or treat.

Calculate Your Pet’s Caloric Needs

Your pet’s current weight: ______lbs (______ kg)  To calculate kg, divide lbs. by 2.2

Your pet is estimated at _______ on the Body Condition Score Chart (below). The ideal BCS for disease prevention and longevity is about 4.

Your pet’s ideal weight: _________ (in kg; this may be based on breed standards, or your veterinarian can give you a good estimate.)

Next, estimate your pet’s daily caloric needs using these formulas:

(1) Resting Energy Requirement (RER)

30(weight in kg) + 70 = ______ kcal

(2) Metabolic Energy Requirement (MER)

RER x Multiplier (see chart below) = ______ kcal

This will give you your:

Target daily caloric intake: __________

(This is an estimated average only. Actual caloric needs vary with age, activity level, weather, and other factors.)

With this in hand, along with calorie information for the food and treats you feed your pet, you can calculate how much food to feed.


Fluffy weighs 15 pounds (6.8 kg). His body condition score is around 6-1/2, and his ideal weight is 12 pounds.

Fluffy’s Resting Energy Requirement (RER)

30(6.8) + 70 = _274_ kcal

Fluffy’s Metabolic Energy Requirement (MER)

RER x Multiplier (0.8) = __219__ kcal

Fluffy’s target daily caloric intake: 219 kcal

In canned food terms, this is between 1 and 3 cans per day.

For dry food, this may be anywhere from 1 cup per day to only 1/3 cup per day!

This is why knowing the caloric content of the food is so important!

Many’s the obese cat I’ve seen whose guardians were feeding a whole cup of dry food per day. This way too much of most dry foods, which are highly concentrated calorie sources, full of fattening carbohydrates and not enough moisture. Cat or dog, high protein, low carb wet food (canned, homemade, raw, fresh, or reconstituted freeze-dried) is the key to healthy weight–which is, of course, the key to health and longevity!

Neutered Adult 1.2   Neutered Adult 1.6
Intact Adult 1.4   Intact Adult 1.8
Active Adult 1.6   Somewhat Active Adult 2
      Moderately Active Adult 3
      Highly Active Adult 4-8
Obese Prone 1.0   Obese Prone 1.4
Weight Loss 0.8   Weight Loss 1.0
Critical Care 1.0   Critical Care 1.0
Weight Gain 1.2 – 1.4   Weight Gain 1.2 – 1.4
Gestation 1.6 – 2.0   Gestation (0-42 days) 1.8
Lactation 2-6   Lactation 4-8
Growth 1.2-1.4   Growth (0-4 months) 3
Post-neuter (4-12 mos old.) < by 25%   Growth (4 months – neuter) 2

10 Ways to Keep Your Pet’s Warm

It’s getting cold! If you’re outside for any time at all, you probably can’t wait to get inside and warm up. But what about your dog?

Certain dogs are more affected by the cold than others, particularly older pets and/or those with certain ailments, like arthritis. Here are 10 ways to keep your dog warm this winter.

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Arthritis In Pet’s

What is canine arthritis? Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease (DJD), is a progressive, debilitating disorder characterized by a loss of cartilage and the death of cartilage-producing cells. DJD can occur in any joint, but is most often found in the hip. It can lead to permanent loss of function.

What breeds/ages are prone to canine arthritis?
In most cases, DJD occurs secondarily to trauma, nutritional disorders or infections. It is prevalent in middle-aged to geriatric dogs (and sometimes in cats). DJD may also occur in young dogs who suffer from canine hip dysplasia, a common developmental disorder of the hip joint found primarily in the larger breeds and breed mixes.

What medications are used to treat canine arthritis?
The goals of drug therapy for DJD are to control pain, increase mobility, slow down the destructive process in the joint and encourage cartilage repair.

– Carprofen (Rimadyl®)has a very wide margin of safety. Rare instances of liver toxicity have been reported in dogs receiving carprofen.

Chondroprotective agents are drugs that help protect cartilage as it attempts to repair itself. They have become increasingly popular in treating DJD.
– Two such drugs are Cosequin® and Glyco-flex®. They consist of glucosamine and purified chondroitin sulfate, major building blocks of cartilage. Cosequin and Glyco-flex are neutraceuticals, i.e. dietary supplements or food additives that do not require FDA approval.

-Adequan®, on the other hand, has been approved by the FDA for the management of DJD in dogs. It works by inhibiting some mediators of inflammation, as well as enzymes that contribute to the destruction of cartilage. This chondroprotective agent is given to dogs by intramuscular injection. Successful treatment is more likely if the drug is given early in the development of DJD. For example, when puppies diagnosed with hip dysplasia were given Adequan before arthritic changes occurred, their radiographs showed significant improvement and development of DJD was delayed.

Because the drugs work in different ways, NSAIDs and chondroprotective agents can be given simultaneously to dogs who are severely affected.

Are there other ways, besides drug therapy, to treat dogs with canine arthritis?
Drug therapy is most effective when combined with appropriate exercise and weight management. Nonstrenuous exercise, such as swimming or walking, is therapeutic and may enhance the nutrition of cartilage. Dogs should be exercised on a regular schedule, and strenuous, high-impact activities should be avoided. Overweight dogs should be placed on an appropriate diet. Dogs with DJD may benefit from being somewhat underweight.

Is surgery an option for dogs with canine arthritis?
If medical management fails to reduce pain and improve function, there are many surgical options for hip dysplasia. The most common is femoral head ostectomy, where the head of the thighbone is removed to resolve the pain of the thighbone grinding against the hip socket. Triple pelvic osteotomy is a corrective surgical procedure that reorients the hip socket to realign it with the head of the thighbone, thus stabilizing the joint. If all else fails, total hip replacement with a prosthetic device can be performed.

Is acupuncture used to treat canine arthritis?
Although controlled clinical studies are lacking, there are many anecdotal reports on the use of acupuncture in treating musculoskeletal disorders in dogs. Pain from hip dysplasia and accompanying DJD is a common reason for acupuncture referrals.

What Does Your Dog’s Breed Say About You?

From a Chihuahua to a Great Dane, dogs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and display an array of temperaments. Studies suggest that the type of dog breed that you choose can tell a lot about your personality. The following are a few generalizations about what owning a certain breed says about your personality. How similar to your dog breed do you think you are?

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Pudgy Pups

Pudgy pups strike again- why the story of Obie bothers me

Why are overweight pets so fascinating to people? The whole 40 pound cat thing, having now been overplayed, is making way for roly poly dachshunds. Obie’s all over the news, as you’ve seen- the 77 pound doxie on his way to health through his foster mom. Although I am glad it has reminded people about the plight of the 50% of US pets who are overweight, I have mixed feelings about the attention he’s getting.

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Anal Glands

In case you’ve never had the pleasure of handling an anal gland, let me properly inform you. In this post I will distinguish between the pervasive fictions applied to the structures and the biology of their existence, their raison d’être and the disgusting consequences of their disease. Continue reading

A Cute Video…

Our pets do the cutests things! Just a few pictures to show you.. 🙂

But have you ever been lucky enough to catch them in action? Watch this video of cat hugging his teddy bear.


Avo Derm Food Recall



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 11, 2012 – Breeder’s Choice Pet Food is recalling a single manufacturing batch of Breeder’s Choice AvoDerm Natural Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Adult Dog Formula due to possible contamination with Salmonella. The product affected by this recall is identified below and has the following “Best Before” dates: