Ask Me Anything
After more than 10 years of working in pet resorts, doing dog training, pet sitting and caring for my own household full of pets, I have lots of experience with pets of all kinds. I’m happy to share my knowledge with you!
Post a question about pets in the comments for me to answer!
Did you know?
Lots of common household items and plants are toxic to cats. Here is a list of top 10 toxins: poisonous poisons
- Spot-on flea and tick medications for dogs
- Household cleaners such a Windex and Bleach
- Antidepressant and stimulate medications
- Essential Oils- meant to be inhaled not ingested!
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Mouse and rat poisons
- Aspirin and decongestant medications
- Onions and garlic
- Adult multi-vitamins- will overdose a cat.
Pet Halloween Safety Tips
- Halloween candy is toxic for cats and dogs. Make sure to keep candy out of your pet’s reach.
- Keep your pets, especially black cats, in the house on Halloween night. This is the worst night of the year for cats and dogs being injured or killed by humans.
- When answering the door, keep your pets confined away from door so they can’t get out. Give your cats and dogs a safe place to hide away from the front door and costumed kids so they don’t get spooked.
- Keep glowsticks and candles out of your pet’s reach. These commonly go inside pumpkins and can injure cats and dogs. Keep lit jack-o-lanterns away from your pets.
- Keep fall decorations such as carved pumpkins, fall corn cobs, and haybales away from your pets.
- Keep electronic decorations off the floor and anywhere that your cats and dogs can get to. Some pets are attracted to the new object and chewing on these can cause choking, battery burns, or electrical shock hazards.
- Dressing your pet up in a costume is fun, but make sure you take the costume off immediately after showing your friends or taking the photo. Costumes can shift and create leg, tail and face injury to pets by restricting their movements. Also, if your cat or dog decides to chew the costume off, it can cause stomach blockages.
- Make sure your cats and dogs wear a collar with a current ID tag while you are having friends over or answering the door for trick or treaters. ID tags are the only way others can help return your pets to you if they get out.
Many dogs experience separation anxiety when left alone. They will often whine, bark, cry, howl, chew, dig, scratch at the door, soil the house or destroy your home and yard. We often unintentionally train our dogs to behave this way because whenever they throw this kind of tantrum when we leave, we quickly come back to reassure them, give them attention or even a bone or biscuit. If you do this, your dog will soon learn that he can control you with emotional blackmail.
Long, drawn-out farewells can create separation anxiety problems by first exciting your dog and then making the isolation more obvious when you’re gone. Just when he gets all worked up and ready to play, suddenly you disappear. With all this energy, your dog will either try his best to get you to come back or he will have to vent his energy in some other way. Since he can’t build model airplanes or invite his buddies over for a hand of poker, he does doggy things – like chew, dig and bark.
Perhaps it is not separation anxiety after all! We often think our dog is destructive because he is angry and spiteful that we left him, but he could actually be just trying to have some fun since there is nothing else to do. He may be relieved to be able to do those things he normally can’t do when you’re home. He may be thinking, “Thank goodness the owner is finally leaving! Now I can chase the cat, dig up the tomatoes, get in the trash, and bark at the neighbors. They never let me do those things when they’re home.”
Some dogs with separation anxiety are stressed, nervous and insecure when they are left alone. They express this nervous energy in typical dog fashion – chewing, digging, barking and house soiling.
To prevent separation anxiety, dogs need to feel happy, secure, and comfortable when you’re away. It’s important to give them things to do while you’re gone. Provide them with lots of toys, such as a Kong stuffed with treats, and chew bones. Often another companion pet can help alleviate the boredom.
Another way to prevent separation anxiety is to set aside scheduled time periods to give your dog undivided attention, play and exercise. A happy, well-exercised dog will usually sleep contentedly during the day while you are gone. Be sure that one of the scheduled play sessions occurs before you must leave for the day. Give your dog a chance to settle down before you leave and don’t make a big deal of your departure – just leave without any emotion or commotion.
If your dog is already experiencing separation anxiety, then gradually accustom him to your leaving. Practice leaving and returning several times a day until he gets used to your departures and realizes that you are not abandoning him forever. Gradually leave for longer and longer periods of time, but start out by leaving for just 5 minutes and returning again.
Why do cats drop their toys into their water dish?
Misty has always taken her toys or post it notes from my desk and dropped them in her water dish. She then attracts her brothers attentions and all five cats will attempt to fish the toy or piece of paper from the dish with their paws splashing water on the floor.
I was curious what instinct made Misty want to take her toys or my post it notes to the water dish, so I started looking into it.
I was surprised to find there wasn’t one definite answer. Scientists are guessing at why cats take toys to their water dish. There are several theories. One is that cats are using their fishing/hunting instinct by putting the toy in the water and pawing at it. Another theory is that cats view their food and water dishes as a safe place. Since domestic cats don’t have a ‘nest’, they use their food and water dishes as a safe hiding place for their ‘catch’. A third theory is that the cat is trying to teach it’s human to hunt/fish by showing off their skills.
Crate Train Your Dog
Growing puppies alternate periods of activity and rest throughout the day. There’s no reason they can’t do their resting in a crate, like a baby taking a nap in a playpen or crib. By keeping the puppy on a regular schedule of feedings and exercise, you can control his natural rest periods. If you put the puppy in his crate when he’s already tired and ready to settle down, he’ll get used to his new “bedroom” faster.
In the beginning, he should only be expected to stay in the crate for 2 hours at a time and overnight. During his periods out of the crate, your puppy needs plenty of playtime and attention. I like to give puppies at least an hour between crating periods where they’re played with, loved, allowed to explore and romp. This burns off their boundless puppy energy and helps them understand that crating is only a temporary thing.
Special toys and treats help make his “room” a pleasant place to stay. Give the puppy a small treat every time he has to go into his crate. Better still; toss the treat into the crate so he can jump in after it. (If you want him to learn to go in the crate on command, say “Kennel” when you toss the treat. He won’t understand right away but before long he’ll put three important things together in his mind – “Kennel” + Crate = Treat!)
You’ve given him a reward for going into the crate, now you need to give him an incentive to stay in there quietly. Make his “room” comfortable. Get him a soft but hard to destroy blanket or bed. Get him a selection of toys but don’t give them all to him at once, just one or two at a time. Rotate the toys. Puppies get bored easily and switching the toys around makes them seem new and exciting. Teething puppies love chew toys and all dogs love a sterilized beef bone with peanut butter stuffed in the middle. They can spend hours trying to clean it all out.
Dogs learn quickly when their behavior is associated with a reward. Behavior that doesn’t result in a reward often disappears when there’s nothing in it for them. It’s normal for many puppies to bark, whine, howl or throw tantrums when first being crate-trained. If you let your puppy out of the crate while he’s upset, you’ll be rewarding him for bad behavior. The next time he’s supposed to go in his crate, he’ll cry and bark again because that’s what got him out the last time.
For many puppies, just ignoring their complaints is enough to make them stop. If it doesn’t get them anywhere, they soon give it up and find something better to do like sleep or play with a toy. Stubborn puppies might need a harsh-sounding “No!” and a rap on the top of the crate to help them get over their tantrums. Whatever you do, don’t take him out of the crate until he’s quieted down.
Training Your Kitten to use the Litter Box
Kittens explore the world with their mouths just like human babies. Using clay clumping litter with kittens under 8 weeks old is dangerous. This litter is highly toxic if eaten. The best litter for young kittens is recycled newspaper. These litters have newspaper that are pressed into inch long pellets, which is too large for a kitten to swallow. The newspaper won’t hurt the kitten if they chew on the pellets. The newspaper pellets should be placed in a low-lying open box/pan that is easy for the kittens to get in and out of. A rabbit litter box is a good height for young kittens.
To start litter box training the kittens, stimulate them to go potty in the box after every meal. Leave the soil pellets in the box, so the kittens can smell where they have gone before. Scent is a big part of litter box training. Some kittens will start pottying in the box very quickly, others take several days of repetition. Praise the kittens for successfully using the litter box. Don’t scold them if they go outside the box.
As kittens are learning to go potty without being stimulated, they will have very little warning that they have to go potty. Keep the litter box in the same room as the kittens at all times. The litter box should never be more than 10 feet away from young kittens.
Set up the room so that the litter box is at one end of the room and their toys and beds are at the other. Kittens naturally don’t like to potty where they eat and sleep. Placing puppy potty pads under the litter box will making cleaning up mistakes easier. Kittens will already have a natural drive to cover their potty, so allow the kitten to cover their potty even if they are scooping the litter pellets out of the litter box.
Clean the litter box multiple times a day, as the newspaper pellets will get quickly soiled. Kittens are naturally clean creatures and won’t want to use a dirty litter box. To clean the box, scoop out the soiled pellets and wipe down the sides with a damp paper towel. After a few times scooping the box, it will be time to dump the entire box and put fresh pellets in. Do not use scented soap or cleaners when you are wiping the box down, this hides the kittens’ scent. The kittens will go potty where they smell that they’ve gone before.
For kittens under 12 weeks old, it is dangerous to use clay clumping litter in the litter box. Remember, kittens still put everything in their mouths and clay litter is dangerous for them to ingest. After they have learned to use the litter box and are consistent with going on the newspaper pellets, transition them to a natural ground litter, such as corn cob litter. Initially mix the newspaper pellets and corn cob litter together, so the kittens don’t stop using the litter box. After a few days of them using the combination of litters, you can fill the litter box with corn cob litter only. This litter will have a similar texture to the clay clumping litter but is much safer for kittens if they do put some in their mouths. Corn cob litter will absorb odors and clump just like clay litter, so it’s easy to scoop. Corn cob litter allows the kittens to use their instinct to dig before they go potty and then bury their potty.
Clumping cat litters are those that are designed so that urine and feces can be removed easily from the box without having to empty the entire box. Most contain a material known as bentonite that allows the litter to form a nice solid clump as the litter absorbs liquid. It is important that the cat litter is low in dust. Cats naturally dig in the litter before and after they go potty, so they are very susceptible to inhaling dust. Cat’s respiratory systems are very sensitive, so inhaling large amounts of litter dust can lead to serious health issues. Look for litter that has 99% dust free on the packaging. Avoid litters that are heavily scented. The scents won’t hide the odor any better and can irritate cat’s respiratory system.
The pet stores carry a scoop-able litter that is designed for kittens. It is ground to finer size so it doesn’t irritate kitten’s paws. It also contains kitten-specific natural pheromones so kittens are curious to use the litter box. This litter can be used in the entire box or mixed in with other clay clumping litter.
Fourth of July Pet Safety Tips
Fourth of July is a holiday full of pool parties, cook-outs, and fireworks. But many of these same things can be dangerous for our pets. Here are some tips to help keep your pets safe this holiday:
- Leave your pets at home. The safest place for your pet is inside your home. Pets will be stressed by the noise of a backyard pool party or cookout. The large crowds and louder booms at firework displays can cause pets to panic and run away.
- If you are hosting a party, remember that alcoholic beverages are poisonous to your pets. Make sure these drinks stay out of your pet’s reach.
- Don’t give your dog scraps from the table during your cookout. Fatty meats are too rich for pets, corn on the cob could cause an intestinal blockage, and chocolate is poisonous to your pets.
- Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with an identification tag on them so they can be returned if they happen to get out.
- Fourth of July can mean hot temperatures outside. Make sure you pets aren’t left outside for extended periods of time or left waiting in a parked car.
- Be aware of matches and lighter fluid as these can be dangerous to pets skin and cause severe illness if ingested.
- Provide a safe space for your pets to stay during the fireworks. This safe spot could be a closet or a crate. Many pets have a favorite hiding spot that they go to for security. This is where your pet will want to be during the fireworks.
- It sounds like a cute photo opportunity to adorn your pet in glow sticks or glow jewelry, but these items glow because they contain chemicals inside. If your pet chews up the glow stick, the chemicals inside will be harmful to your pet. You pet could also choke on the plastic pieces.
- Be aware of matches and lighter fluid as these can be dangerous to pets skin and cause severe illness if ingested.
- Never use fireworks or sparklers around your pets. Your pets may spook and run away in panic. Or your pet may be curious about them and get burned or ingest the hazardous pieces.
- Keep your pet’s veterinarian number with you as well as the local after hours emergency animal clinic numbers. Contact your vet immediately if your pet exhibits unusual behavior.
Stop Your Dog from Jumping Up
In order to get your dog to stop this behavior you have to stop rewarding it. What do pet owners usually do when the dog jumps up? Usually they look at the dog and say something like “OK, Rover, OK, down, down, OK, good dog, go away now, enough, OK…” and may even pet the dog during the episode. All this attention is PURE REWARD to the dog, and only encourages the jumping up behavior. What needs to be done is the withdrawal of all attention. When the dog jumps up, quickly turn away from the dog, fold your arms, make no eye contact and say nothing. Once the dog has settled down THEN give it loads of attention and serious petting. The dog will need to learn this with every family member and everyone should act the same way to be consistent.
Once the dog learns that jumping up gets it NOTHING, the behavior should lessen or stop. Often the combined use of the sit command to refocus the dog’s attention is a great way to speed the whole process. As the dog is calming down, give the sit command and reward the dog for the good sit. This is especially good when you are on walks and the dog encounters a human it wants to greet. Just before it gets excited, give the sit command, then reward the dog with food, petting, toys, etc. Get the human to come down to the dog’s level and greet the dog that way. A dog that is busy sitting can’t jump up if it’s on a leash.