Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Introducing Your Dog to Your New Baby

Introducing your dog to your new baby needs to be a gradual process. Your pet will need time to adjust to the newest family member. Since your dog was likely your first baby, he is used to being the center of attention. It's completely natural for your dog to feel something like sibling rivalry when you bring your new baby home. You can help your dog accept his new role by taking a few simple steps.

Start by having your pet spayed or neutered if they aren't already. Sterilized pets are calmer and more likely to behave. They also will have fewer health problems associated with their reproductive systems.

Next, you will want to review your dog's obedience training. Knowing commands like ‘down’, ‘stay’ and ‘leave it’ will be immensely helpful when the baby arrives. It's important to be sure he will reliably and consistently behave for you. Ideally, start addressing behavior problems as early into your pregnancy as possible to give yourself enough time to teach your dog some key commands. If your pet exhibits fear and anxiety, now is the time to get help from an animal behavior specialist while your life is still relatively uncomplicated.

The time and energy needed to care for a newborn leaves less time for your dog. When the baby comes home, your dog will no longer be receiving the same amount of attention he was accustomed to. Gradually reduce the amount of time your pet is spending with you. If your pet is particularly bonded to the expectant mother, another family member should start establishing a closer bond with him. Drastically decreasing attention or isolating your pet after the baby is born will only produce stress. Though you will be tired, it is still important to spend special quality time with your pet.

While it's important to maintain your dog's daily schedule, you can gradually adjust his timetable by making changes at least a month or so before the baby arrives. If his exercise routine will change from leash walks to backyard time, it is best to start making the change ahead of time. Put up baby gates so that your dog gets used to the restricted movement. Early and gradual changes in daily routines and physical environment can help make the adjustment easier for your pet once the baby comes home.

Sprinkle baby powder on your skin and/or a baby blanket. Leave the blanket around the house so that your dog becomes familiar with the scent. You can also use a baby doll to get your dog used to baby routines such as bathing and diaper changing. Put the doll in the stroller and take it on walks with you so that your dog gets used to both the stroller and its occupant. Purchase a CD of infants crying and play it at gradually increasing volume to get your dog acclimated to the sound. Make sure to give your dog calm, quiet praise during this time so that he associates all of these new sounds, smells and routines with positive things.

When you return from the hospital, your dog will be eager to greet you. Let someone else take the baby into another room while you give your dog a warm, calm welcome. After you are done with your greeting, you can bring your pet to sit next to the baby. Reward him with treats for appropriate behavior. You want your dog to have only positive experiences with your newest family member. Never force your pet to get near the baby. If you feel comfortable, allow him to sniff tiny feet and hands. Once his curiosity is satisfied, most dogs will ignore the newborn. For the sake of safety, even the most accepting and gentle dog should never be left alone with an infant, whether your baby is awake, sleeping, in a carrier, or on the floor.

For more information on introducing your family pet to your new infant, please visit the following websites:

Introducing Your Pet to a New Baby

Introducing an Infant to a Resident Dog

Introducing Your Pet and New Baby

"Bowser Meets Baby" or How to Introduce Your New Baby to the Family Dog

Introducing a New Baby

Monday, July 5, 2010

Enriching Your Cat's Environment

Cats who spend their lives entirely indoors live much longer than outdoor cats. Keeping your cat inside eliminates their ability to get into trouble, and reduces the likelihood of them being injured. Cats that go outside face a variety of dangers. They can get attacked by dogs, eaten by coyotes, fight with other cats, get lost or stuck in places and/or hit by a car. While being inside keeps your cat safe from most dangers, your indoor cat needs enrichment to remain happy and healthy. Eliciting a cat's natural behaviors with hunting and foraging games can do wonders for their well-being. Even on a limited budget, you can keep your indoor cat stimulated.

Toys are an easy way to enrich your cats environment. They come in many shapes and sizes, but there are two basic kinds of toys you can use to entertain them: self play and interactive. Self play toys are great for cats who are left home alone a lot. Some self play toys dispense food. Simply fill with dry kibble and treats to encourage your cat to play. Others contain cat nip, which is irresistable to most cats. You can also buy toys that hang from doorframes which will keep your cat occupied when you are too busy to play with them. If you don't have the money to buy toys, you can use things in your house to keep your cat entertained. Some suggestions include: tabs from milk bottles, plastic bottle tops, wadded up paper or foil balls, cardboard inserts from paper towels or toilet paper.

Interactive toys help strengthen the bond between you and your cat. There are numerous products on the market using sticks or wands that will encourage your cat's inner hunter. These allow interaction with your cat as you move the stick/wand around so your cat can stalk and chase the toy. Some cats enjoy chasing a laser light around the house. Others can find entertainment in yarn or shoelaces. It is imperitive that you pick all of these toys up and place them out of your cat's reach before leaving the house for your cat's safety. Cats are capable of eating almost any object, many of which can cause serious problems when ingested. You want to enrich your cat without endangering them.

Cats love to climb. High places make them feel secure. From a perch, they can watch the world around them - both inside and outside. Multiple perches and cat trees throughout your house or apartment are ideal. Cats feel vulnerable when they sleep and tend to prefer higher areas. Indoor cats need visual stimulation. They will enjoy looking out the window to watch birds, butterflies and other wild life. This can provide hours of entertainment and help your cat feel as though it is outdoors. Cat perches come in many sizes and shapes. They can be expensive, though. If you don't have the money in your budget to purchase one, clearing off the back of a couch or a chair and placing it next to the window can suffice. Adding a bird feeder or bird bath within view of the perch can increase your cat's enjoyment. Just be sure to place it high enough off the ground that the birds are safe from predators.

Scratching Posts
Scratching is a natural behavior for your cat. Cats lose the sheath of their nail by scratching rough surfaces. Scratching also helps your cat release pent up energy or emotional stress. Provide a variety of scratching posts - vertical and horizontal, sisal and cardboard. You will have to experiment a bit to find your cat's preference. Providing scratching posts for your cat to express their natural instinct is important to keep them from scratching inappropriate areas.

Providing your cat with an enriched environment will keep them happy and will also cut down on behavior problems. It is important for their well being that they have plenty of toys, perches, appropriate scratching places and opportunities to play. In addition to proper nutrition and regular vet visits, enrichment plays a necessary role in keeping your cat healthy and happy so they live a long life with you.

Friday, July 2, 2010

How A Microchip Saved A Life

This is Al. Al disappeared from his home on April 19th. Al has been gone before, but has returned after a short period of time. What brought Al home this time wasn't his memory of where he lived. Lisa, Al's mom, got a phone call from a vet hospital on June 25th. They called her because they scanned him for a microchip. Al had one so he was reunited after spending 10 weeks in the mountains. We don't know what adventures Al might have had, but some of them left him injured - too injured to get back home on his own. When Al was found, he was being circled by three juvenile and two adult hawks. His luck was close to running out. A kind stranger discovered him and took him immediately to a vet hospital for help. The vet techs scanned him, his number popped up and Lisa got a phone call she had all but given up hope of receiving. Thanks to his microchip, Lisa was reunited with her beloved cat. Al is lucky - only 3% of lost cats ever return home. Only 3 out of every 100 cats who get lost ever find their way back home.

There is a misconception that cats can always find their way home. Sometimes cats get sick or injured. So what happens when your pet is too injured to make their way home to you? If they end up at a pet hospital or at the shelter, they will be scanned for a microchip. That microchip could mean the difference between life and death for your cat. Even if your cat wears a collar with ID Tags, collars can come off. They can fade over time. In case they aren't wearing their collar when they get lost, make sure that your pet is also microchipped. Every animal that winds up in an animal shelter is scanned for a microchip upon arrival. If chipped, they can immediately contact you so that you can retrieve your pet. Without any way of identifying your pet, the shelter is forced to either adopt your pet to someone else or euthanize it due to overcrowding. Microchipping is simple, safe and relatively inexpensive. The procedure only takes seconds - the chip is implanted between your pet's shoulder blades with a shot and lasts the lifetime of your pet.

Where can you get your pet microchipped? At your next vet appointment, ask your vet to implant one. If you don't want to wait for your next vet appointment, you can get one done at your local shelter for a small fee. Once you call the microchip company and activate the chip, you have peace of mind knowing that your pet will be returned to you if lost.




Thank you, Lisa, for sharing Al's story with us! And congratulations to Al on making his way home. Thanks also to the kind woman who found him and didn't just leave him there!