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.

Teddy and the Cats

I don’t really remember my first owners now, however, I do remember the day they took me for a car ride and left me in this strange place.  The room was filled with new people and these creatures that hissed and swatted at me whenever I approached. My leash got passed from person to person, and I had no choice but to trail after them as they walked through the corridors of the hissing creatures.  

Thankfully, after a few hours of dodging claws and teeth, I got to go home with a nice lady.  She had a gentle basset hound that I got to play with. Now, being a shih tzu mix puppy, a dog that was my height made me feel good.

I looked up at the lady,  When are my owners coming back?

The lady ignored my question, “You are such a cutie, we will find you a good home.  I promise.”

New home?  What is she talking about? I have a home.  

“Come lay on the bed next to Buddy.” The lady patted the extra doggie bed at the foot of her bed.  She then patted the basset hounds’ head, “Take care of our guest, tonight.”

I collapsed on the bed next to Buddy, too exhausted from confusion to figure anything else out.

It will look better in the morning.  Maybe this is all a bad dream.

The next morning, I woke up to Buddy howling.  I glanced around with a start, before remembering my new surroundings, and realizing I had to find Buddy and his mom.

I scampered down the hall, following the sound of Buddy’s howl.  I found the back door just in time to follow Buddy into the yard.  

I relaxed a little and enjoyed marking my territory in Buddy’s backyard.

As Buddy’s mom let us back into the house, she continued to talk on the phone.

I followed her.  Maybe she is talking to my owners, and they are coming to pick me up.

She talked for a long time, and was definitely talking about me, from her side of the conversation.

“Yes, he is about 4 months old.  His wavy black hair gives him such personality.”

Yep, that’s me.  

“Yes, he played with my basset hound, and slept through the night.”

I peed all over Buddy’s backyard too.

“No, he seemed kind of scared of the cats yesterday, but it was a completely new environment for him.”

She paused momentarily before continuing, “Yes, he will be with me at the rescue event tonight.  Great, we will see you then.”

I wagged my tail, as Buddy’s mom made eye contact with me.   I hope she has good news!

“You are coming with me to the cat rescue today.  Then, we will go to the adoption event tonight, and a nice woman is going to come meet you.  She sounds very interested in adopting you.”

My tail slowly stopped wagging.  My owners aren’t coming back?  

I laid on the tile floor.  My good mood was gone. I didn’t want to go back to the ‘cat rescue’.  

Cats are the hissing creatures that hated me yesterday.

I want to go home.

“Come get in the car,” Buddy’s mom called to me.  “See you tonight, Buddy,” she continued.

Bye, Buddy.  I want to live in one place again, all this moving around is confusing.

I rode in the car, stretching my neck to see out the window.  I am not sure why I wanted to see where we were going, after all, the streets looked identical to me.

When we got to the cat rescue, I made sure to stay extra close to Buddy’s mom’s heels.  I was greeted with the same hissing and spitting faces from the cats this morning. I dodged a few swatting claws, before I was stopped in front of a cage with a cat hunched in the back.

Maybe, I can make friends. This cat looks as scared as I feel.

Before I had even taken a full step towards the cat, pointy claws and teeth lunged for me.

Yikes!  I jumped backwards, before shaking myself off.

Forget it.  I just have to avoid the claws until tonight.  Then, maybe the new woman will adopt me.

The day seemed longer than any day I had every experienced.  My paws hurt from all the walking.

That evening, I was driven to a pet store, where there were crowds of people and dogs passing me.

At least, the dogs were friendly.

I ducked behind Buddy’s mom’s legs as curious hands reached out to pet me.  

When is the woman you told me about coming?  If she was my ticket out of here, I couldn’t wait to meet her.  

I had just curled up for a nap under the one table, when Buddy’s mom started talking to a woman.

The woman had a nice smile and welcoming eyes.  She kept glancing down at me, as she talked.

That’s her, this is the one I am supposed to meet, I just know it.

I got up and tiptoed over to the woman’s shoes.  I sniffed the strange scent, and then jumped as the woman bend over to pet me.

“Can I pick him up?” I heard her ask.

“Yes, of course.  He is very friendly, just a little scared from all the changes.”

The woman squatted down and talked to me, “Come here, little guy, it’s all right.”

She held her hand out for me to sniff.  I hesitated momentarily, but soon felt safe by the calm presence of this new woman and walked over to sniff her hand.

She smiled and cooed, “Look at your long curly hair.   You are so cute.”

I felt my tail wag just a little in response to the sweet tone.

I was then scooped into her arms.  I started to struggle, but her gentle hold and soft stroking made me relax.

I heard her ask several questions to Buddy’s mom.

I stretched my head up and sniffed her chin and cheek.  She giggled and cuddled me to her.

I found myself licking her cheek and my tail wagging.  Yes, I want to go home with you.

To my delight, I heard the woman ask about adopting me.

After a few more minutes of conversation, I left the store with the new woman.  I should have been scared, but I wasn’t. She had me tucked securely under her arm and spoke softly to me.  I already trusted my new mom.

As we got in her car, she told me, “I am going to name you Teddy Bear.  After all your soft coat feels like a teddy bear’s. You are going to come home and live with me, ok?”

I stared into her eyes and wagged my tail.

Alright!  I have a mom now, just like Buddy.

Then my new mom continued, “You will love your new home, Teddy.  It is a two story house, with lots of cats for you to play with.”

Cats!  Oh, no.  I don’t want to be hissed and swatted at again.  I’ll take my chances with Buddy’s mom. Take me back.

I tried to squirm away, but even while driving she managed to keep me confined to her lap.

I sighed and rested my head on her leg, suddenly not wanting to get to ‘my new home’ at all.

It wasn’t too long before my new mom, parked the car and carried me into the house.

I gazed around and saw several cats coming out to greet us.

I cringed as I was set down in the middle of the floor, hearing my mom say, “This is Teddy.  Everyone be nice to him.”

As I sat on Mom’s feet waiting for the hissing and spitting to start.  I couldn’t take the tension, so I shut my eyes. Maybe, if I don’t look around, this will all go away.  Suddenly, I felt a furry body rub against mine. As I peeked out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a light grey tabby cat rubbing against me.

I stood up and sniffed at her.  There was no hissing and no signs of claws.  In fact, soon I had all five cats rubbing against me purring.

I glanced up at Mom who was watching protectively, I wagged my tail.  I returned to sniffing each cat as they rubbed against me.

These cats like me!  This is great!

I followed Mom across the room to the couch.  As I jumped up to sit next to her, the light grey tabby, put her paw around me.  She then frisked across the room. I studied her movements. She came back up to me, and then as I went to sniff her, she frisked away again.

She wants to play!

I chased after her and soon the other cats joined in our game.  When Mom called bed time that night, I was relaxed and happy with my new home.

I drifted off to sleep in the bed surrounded by my new family, a doggie smile on my face.   I had a new Mom and five cat friends to play with.  I am so happy to be home.

The end.

Summer Shedding

Summer heat means, your dogs and cats are shedding. While you might be annoyed at the extra hairball tumble weeds on your floor, remember that all that loose hair isn’t good for your pet. Dogs and cats require a minimum of weekly brushing year round, even if they are indoors. Long haired cats and dogs may require daily brushing.

The best products I’ve found to help me manage my dog and cats’ shedding are the Furminator products.

Furminator makes stainless steel blade brushes in many varieties to fit every coat length and type. The brushes are very effective at removing not only the top coat, but also the loose undercoat that can cause matting if left on your pet. The brush blades are well made and don’t scratch your pets skin or pull on their fur. I’ve found that brushing my dog and cats with the Furminator brush twice a week really controls my pets’ shedding.

Furminator also makes many waterless sprays that aid in the effectiveness of brushing.. I’m going to tell you my two favorites.

The first one is for cats. I’ve been using Furminator Hairball Prevention spray on my cats for years. It helps reduce shedding and prevents hairballs in cats without having to bathe them. The spray contains Omega 3 Fatty Acids and other natural ingredients that help keep my cats fur shiny and healthy looking.

The second spray is for dogs. I use Furminator detangling waterless spray. My Shih-Tzu has curly fur that gets easily tangled between grooming appointments. This spray is very effective in loosening the tangles, so I can brush through it without pulling his fur. Like the Hairball Prevention spray, the detangling spray is made with Omega 3 Fatty Acids and other natural ingredients to promote healthy fur.

Furminator products will help you keep the excess hair off your dogs and cats so they can enjoy the summer with you. Happy brushing!!

Kitten Olympics

“Let’s have our own Olympic events today,” Petey said one Saturday afternoon.

“Good idea,” said Gizmo.

“I want to run a 50 yard dash,” said Misty.

“Let’s get the events organized,” instructed Chip.

After a few minutes, the kittens had their backyard setup for their events.

The first event was the four legged race.  Petey and Misty teamed up against Gizmo and Chip.

Each team had one front leg and one back leg tied to their partners.  Both teams lined up on the starting line, and then took off. Both teams moved slowly as they tried to find their rhythm.  Chip and Gizmo stumble after a few steps, and had trouble getting back up.

Petey and Misty had found a steady pace and made their way across the yard without stumbling, and were the first to cross the finish line.

After untying their legs, the four decided to try a tug of war game next.  This time, Gizmo and Misty teamed up against Chip and Petey.

Getting the rope in their teeth, both teams started pulling on the rope.  Chip and Petey got a quick tug in right off, that caught Misty and Gizmo off guard.  They stumbled forward a few steps, before recovering and pulling consistently back. Despite Chip and Petey’s quick hard tugs, they still skidded forward until they crossed the centerline.

“Yeah, good game everyone,” Gizmo cheered giving Misty a high five.

After a quick water break, the four kittens lined up at the far end of the yard for the final event, the fifty yard dash.

All four kittens took off in a rush.  They stayed neck and neck for the first half of the yard.  Then Chip and Misty started pulling away from Petey and Gizmo.  In the last quarter of the yard, Chip pulled ahead of Misty, and kept his lead to the finish line.

“Yeah, that was so much fun,” Chip cheered.

“We should come up with more events next weekend,” Misty suggested.

“Yeah, it keeps me in shape,” said Gizmo.

“It was perfect weather for it today.  Thanks for playing today,” Petey said.

The four siblings cleaned up the yard and headed inside, happily exhausted from the afternoon’s events.

The end.

Pet sitting Guidelines

Find out the pet’s normal schedule and routine from the owner.  Follow it as closely as possible.  Pets are creatures of habit and their routine will comfort them while owner is away.

Find out about pet’s normal eating habits- do they scarf their food or do they graze on it all day?  This will be important for you to know if the pet is stressed while their owner is gone.  Not eating is a common symptom of separation anxiety in pets and needs to be monitored closely and taken to the vets when necessary.

Find out if the pet’s favorite spots in the house- cats might hide under the bed or in a closet while owner is away, dog might lay on a couch or bed that is forbidden when owners are home.

Make sure the owner leaves you phone numbers where they can be reached, an itinerary of their travel plans, and pet’s veterinarian number. Ask for written instructions for pets feeding and medication instructions so you have a reference sheet. Take notes as the pet owner explains their pets’ daily routines.

Remember even though the pets are in their own home, they will still be stressed to some degree while their owner is away.  Use common sense when it comes to caring for the pets and don’t expect them to behave for you the same way they do for their owner. 

Find out the owner’s weekly schedule- do they work from home or do they go to the office 5 days a week? A pet that is used to a person in the home all the time is going to be a lot more stressed, staying in the house alone.

Know if the pets have had pet sitters in the past or if this is the first time.  A pet that’s never been left before is more likely to stressed than a pet that is left on a regular basis.

Find out expectations from owner as to communications.  Some clients will want a call or text every day from the pet sitter, while others only expect a call if there is an emergency.

5 Things Pets can Teach Children

Many children start asking for a pet at a very early age.  Parents play an important role in teaching children the correct way to interact and care for pets.  If introduced to the care of a pet in the proper way, pets can teach children a number of valuable skills.  Today, I’m going to cover the top five skills: responsibility, patience, trust/respect, compassion, and self-esteem.

Responsibility:  Parents can use a pet to teach children of any age responsibility.  Pets require daily feeding, exercise, attention, and cleaning up after.  Depending on the pet, they may also require regular brushing.  No matter the age of the child, they can learn responsibility from the pet.  Younger children can learn through one task such as feeding or playtime. Older children can learn how to care for a pet by performing multiple tasks daily.   The tasks that are required to care for a pet are a small price to pay for such a loyal companion.

Patience:  It takes patience to bond with a new pet. While the family is getting used to having a pet in the house; the new pet is becoming comfortable with its new surroundings.  At this pivotal point in the new relationship, it is important that a child is taught the correct way to interact with the pet.  A child will learn patience while the new pet becomes comfortable with the family. 

Trust/RespectThe biggest part of this bonding time is building trust and respect between the family and the new pet.  Children must be taught how to touch the pet gently, tend to its needs, and learn not to disturb the pet when it’s eating or sleeping.  Once this relationship has been made, pets make wonderful trusted companions.    

Compassion:  The work that goes into building a relationship with a pet teaches children compassion.  Caring for a pet requires compassion and understanding.  The new pet can’t communicate with words what it needs.  A child needs to be taught to understand the subtle body language that pets use to convey their desires.  A pet needs a compassionate caretaker who can understand the pet’s required care. 

Self-esteem:  Pets show unconditional love to the family that cares for it.  This love can be a great boost to a child’s self-esteem.  A pet can be a constant companion for the child.  The pet’s nonjudgmental love makes it easy for the child to confide in the pet.  The skills used to build this relationship with a pet will also give the child the confidence to use these skills with others in their life.   

Owning a pet teaches children how to respect others and build trusting relationships using patience and compassion.  All this being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all children are ready for pet ownership. Parents should first make sure they are able to help their child with the pet. Together, the family should decide what type of pet is best. Moreover, don’t assume a child will take care of the pet without assistance from the first day. The ultimate responsibility usually falls on the parents, not the child, to make sure the pet is cared for properly.  But allowing a pet to become a member of your family will benefit everyone involved.