Monthly Archives: March 2010

Social Media Has Gone to the Dogs… and the Cats too!


By Julia Williams

Not so long ago, it used to be frowned upon for people to give human characteristics to animals, which is known as anthropomorphism (how’s that for an unwieldy word!). Those who were against it said things like “animals shouldn’t talk” and “animals can’t think or reason” etc.

My, how times have changed. This public disapproval of anthropomorphism seems to have faded into oblivion. I suppose it’s to be expected, given that the age we live in is so vastly different now, technologically speaking. The internet is firmly entrenched in the daily lives of everyone from teens to seniors. Most of us check email at least daily and visit many different websites and blogs every week. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have become the new gathering spot. Moreover, humans aren’t the only ones using social media to communicate – now there are countless dogs with blogs, and cats that tweet! Not only that, they are doing it with great success.

Consider these impressive numbers:

Surf Dog Ricochet, the inspirational canine who has raised over $20,000 surfing for charity, has nearly 5,700 Facebook fans. Surf Dog Ricochet also has her own website.

Nora the Piano Cat apparently tickles more than the ivories – she has more than 1500 Facebook fans and 1600+ Twitter followers. The Piano Cat also has her own website and blog, both of which “she” updates regularly.

● Charlene Butterbean is a surrogate mama cat to kittens fostered by Laurie Cinotto, aka, The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee. Ms. Butterbean (or “the Bean” as she is often called) has nearly 1,100 Facebook friends and the same number of Twitter followers.

Giant George, a blue Great Dane who is the world’s tallest dog according to Guinness World Records, has more than 40,000 Facebook fans.

Compare some of those numbers to the Facebook fans of world renowned writers such as Anne Rice (60,000) or J.K Rowling (58,000) and you can’t help but be impressed. Truly, the following these canines and felines have amassed in just a few short years is a testament to the power that pets have to touch our hearts.

In addition to all of the Facebook pages and Twitter accounts purportedly manned by canines and felines, there are many other technological pet inventions that indicate we are in a new era. Take for example, the Twitter-enabled dog collar from Mattel called Puppy Tweets. When the collar’s tiny device detects barking or movement, it randomly posts one of 500 phrases to the dog’s Twitter page. According to the Huffington Post, there’s also an intriguing new app from Japan called BowLingual, which supposedly analyzes your dog’s bark and translates it into one of six emotions. It syncs the phrase, which can then be tweeted through your dog’s Twitter account.

Last year, the aforementioned Charlene Butterbean wore a “Cat Cam,” a collar with a tiny camera attached that automatically snapped photos every 15 minutes. The pictures were then uploaded to the IBKC blog so readers could log on to see what the Bean was doing throughout the day – mostly sleeping, eating and kitten wrangling (but please don’t ask me how I know that).

The “Shiba Inu Puppy Cam” became an internet phenomenon in 2009. This website featured a live-streamed webcam focused on six adorable newborn Shiba Inu pups doing all of the things that puppies normally do. I confess to getting my daily virtual puppy fix, although I usually only watched for a few minutes because it seemed like every time I tuned in the puppies were asleep. Those puppies eventually went to their forever homes, and now there is a new Shiba Inu Puppy Cam with five more fluffballs the public can fawn over via their computer monitor.

Should dogs blog? And what of tweeting cats? Should people put their puppies on a virtual display for the world to view whenever they want? I don’t see why not. If one chooses to pretend that a dog can type and is sending them a message on Facebook, that’s their business. If one considers it cool to get an email from a cat (ahem…that would be me), why should anyone else care? There’s no harm done to the animals, who are probably asleep in a corner of the room while their designated “PR agent” types away to their adoring fans. Intelligent people do realize that dogs and cats can’t type. Right?

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners


By Lexiann Grant

Disasters come in all types and sizes, from local mishaps such as industrial fires or chemical spills, to regional or larger weather disasters like flooding, tornadoes, ice storms and hurricanes.

Every household should have a disaster plan for situations that require evacuation or remaining in your home. And that plan should include your pet.

First, if you have to leave, never leave your pets behind as this puts them in extreme danger. It’s important to know in advance where you can go with your animal companion – a relative’s, a pet-friendly hotel, or a kennel where you can board your pet until it’s safe to return home.

If you are away when disaster strikes, have a neighbor lined up who is willing to get your pets out and to safety. Provide them with keys or access ahead of time, as well as detailed instructions on your pets’ care, where their supplies are and where to take them.

Although the Red Cross website notes that health regulations prohibit pets in emergency shelters, some areas are beginning to set up disaster relief shelters for people with pets. Consult your local chapter for further information.

Make sure that your pet’s ID is current, whether a tag or microchip registry, and that your cell phone number and away-from-home contact information is also available. Carry a current picture of your pet in your wallet in case you get separated.

Keep a doggy (or kitty) survival kit ready to grab and go. This kit should contain such items as:

* Water and non-perishable pet food for about a week

* Portable or disposable bowls

* Medications; copies of medical records including rabies certificate

* Extra leash and collar, possibly glow-in-the dark or lighted

* Dog license

* Collapsible crate; bed or blanket

*Quick clean-up items like paper towels and pooper-scooper bags

* Small bag of kitty litter, pan and scoop

* Sweater for thin-coated dogs in cold climates

* A toy to help pass the time

Also consider a pet first aid kit. These pet-specific kits can be purchased from the Red Cross or pet-supply stores, or you can put one together yourself with your veterinarian’s advice and suggestions from Linda Cole’s informative article found here.

Your pet survival kit should also be readily available for times when you have to take shelter in your home. For severe weather like tornadoes, make sure there is space and you have provisions in your home shelter to care for your pet until the danger ends. Longer events, like power outages or blizzards, require additional plans to keep your pets warm.

In extreme situations, it may be necessary to pre-arrange for a relative or neighbor to take care of your pet until you are reunited. As much as you might not want to think about it, a pet owner’s disaster plans should include a person who would take your animal(s) in the event of your death. Include this information in your will, but also give it to a trusted friend or relative in advance.

Several organizations offer pet disaster preparedness and planning information online. Search the web pages of such groups as the ASPCA, the Red Cross, NOAA, www.ready.gov, FEMA, and the AVMA.

Hopefully you’ll never need to use your pet emergency plan, but if you do, knowing that you – and your furry family members – are prepared, should give you more peace of mind if disaster strikes.

Read more articles by Lexiann Grant

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

How Well Do You Know Your Pet?


By Linda Cole

Our pets are as individual as we are. They have their own little quirks and preferences. They don’t always follow what the experts say and they may or may not come when called. Understanding your pet on an intimate basis is important because during times of stress, you have a better idea of how they might deal with events that upset their normal routine. Our pets are creatures of habit and getting to know them well is as important as knowing a close friend. It’s possible your intimate knowledge of your pet’s personality could actually save their life during an emergency or if they were to ever become lost. Do you know your pet well?

How many times have you heard someone say, “He just wasn’t acting like himself?” Most likely he was, it was just a side others hadn’t seen before. Pets are the same way. It’s easy to learn and understand a dog’s body language and what their bark is saying. Your cat’s swishing tail will tell you it’s time to leave them alone and you know by their yowls if you are late with their supper or if they want inside or outside. It’s also important to understand their moods and the subtle looks they give you that sets them apart from other dogs or cats. When you know your pet well, it’s easier to understand why they do specific things.

Does your pet have a favorite room in your home? If they are upset, scared or not feeling well, do they hide under the bed, in a closet, under the recliner or someplace where you can’t find them? Does your cat like to catch up on what’s going on in the neighborhood from a certain window? What’s your pet’s favorite game or toy? Do you know when they want to play or go outside? Did you notice how much your dog enjoyed going on a hike with you? Is your pet comfortable around strangers or in unfamiliar surroundings? Do loud noises or storms make them nervous?

Some pets are more sensitive than others. They do get hurt feelings and will pout. They can also get mad at us and can display their anger via behavioral problems. If you know your pet well, it’s easy to see how things you do or changes you’ve made can affect them. They don’t have a vote in our decisions, but they do let you know how they feel about it in their own way.

My twelve year old cat, Taylor, decided one day she didn’t want to eat with the other cats anymore. She started to hide under the bed at meal times. The other cats intimidated her and meals had become traumatic for her. She would hiss and growl and wildly attack anyone close to her, including me. After a checkup with the vet revealed no medical reason for her actions, I was able to help her best by changing where she ate her meals. Some cats just prefer to eat alone. My work schedule had also changed and she wasn’t able to curl up next to me like she’d been accustomed to. She now eats in peace in my office while I work which is in a room away from the other cats, and she’s able to get the extra attention she craves.

When you know your pet well, there is a bond that continues to strengthen. The trust and loyalty your pet gives you is special. They will be by your side no matter who you are, where you go or what you do. Rich or poor, they will give us everything they have and expect nothing in return. Pets are always happy to see us no matter how long we’ve been gone.

Our pets do have feelings and fears, and we can hurt their feelings and miss their fears. They look to us to be their rock in good times and bad. Pets can sense our emotions and read our body language, and they love us unconditionally in spite of our faults. They react like children to our outbursts and cower or hide if they think they’re in trouble. They don’t reason the same way we do, but they do understand more than they are given credit for.

When you know your pet well, you see them for who they are – imperfect beings just like us. If you haven’t gotten to know your pet, there’s no time like the present. You might be surprised by what you learn. Having an intimate relationship with your pet says a lot about you, and benefits both you and your pet.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

What Does an Animal Shelter Volunteer Do?


By Julia Williams

If you love animals, becoming a volunteer at your local shelter is definitely something you should consider. You will be making a difference not only to the animals that reside there, but to the shelter and to your community. Words can’t adequately describe the rewarding feeling you get from helping these beautiful four-legged souls that are without a family to love and care for them.

Since most shelters operate on shoestring budgets, volunteers are an essential part of their daily operations. Although there is no central data reporting agency for animal shelters, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that 6-8 million dogs and cats end up in America’s shelters every year. That, my friends, is a lot of animals who desperately need some TLC.

There are a variety of tasks assigned to volunteers; some include working with the animals, some do not. You can walk dogs, socialize cats, clean cages, help with feeding, watering and grooming, do adoption counseling or administrative tasks. Some volunteers choose more than one “job” so they can contribute wherever help is needed most. Shelters also need foster parents to care for animals in their home – you can read more about that here.

Most shelters ask for a two hour commitment every week. That said, they usually won’t turn you down if you have a sincere desire to help but only have a few hours every month. They do, however, expect volunteers to honor whatever time commitment they’ve made. They need to know you’ll be there when you say you will, and if your life is in flux, it’s unfair to the shelter and the animals to make promises you can’t keep.

Getting started as an animal shelter volunteer is easy. You fill out an application, and typically attend a “new volunteer” orientation. Shelters use this orientation to familiarize volunteers with their operations, and to make sure this new relationship starts off right. It’s similar to starting a new job, except you don’t get paid, at least not with currency you can spend. Shelter volunteers get paid with emotional dollars they can put in their personal bank of pride and self-appreciation.

I’ve volunteered at three different shelters throughout my life. My first was at age 17 (the minimum age requirement varies, but is usually between 16 and 18). I signed up as a dog walker, because I felt bad that the dogs had to be cooped up in kennels all day long. The excitement and happiness the dogs exuded when I approached with leash in hand was palpable. They all clamored to be chosen to get out in the fresh air for some exercise.

Those dog walks were always enjoyable, but I’ll never forget one in particular. There was a dog at the shelter I knew quite well, since she had belonged to a friend. I took her out to the large open field and decided to unleash her, because I was certain she wouldn’t run away. The moment I unleashed her, she took off like a rocket across the field. Soon she was just a tiny speck, and as I stood there with the leash, I contemplated how to explain this to the shelter staff. I was certain my dog walking days were over. Much to my relief, Trixie reached the end of the field, then turned around and raced back to me.

At another shelter I was a cat socializer (sometimes called a cat cuddler). The primary duty was to give the shelter cats some much-needed love and attention. I cared about all the cats I interacted with, but sometimes I’d feel a special connection to one of them. Paige was a cat I considered a “lifer.” She’d been at this no-kill shelter for at least a year, and I didn’t think she’d ever get adopted because she had a bit of a split personality. I’m good at reading the body language of cats, and most give you clear signals when they want you to stop petting them. Not Paige. One minute she loved the attention and the next, she’d claw my hand to bits. I could never tell when she was about to go psycho on me. But as it turns out, even a cat like Paige can get adopted if the right person comes along. I’ll always remember the day I came in to find Paige gone. I dreaded asking, for fear she had been put down for some reason. But no – Paige had found her forever home!

Volunteering at a shelter is something I highly recommend for all animal lovers. If you’re like me, it may make you sad (and mad) to see so many beautiful animals without a loving home. Yet it will also fill your heart with happiness to know that you are enriching their lives as they wait to find a family of their own.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Invisible Fencing: Pros and Cons


By Ruthie Bently

Many communities these days do not allow fencing, as they feel it ruins the aesthetics of the view from one’s front yard and can affect property values. One alternative many pet owners are trying is “invisible fencing.” The premise is that invisible fencing allows containment of the family pet without putting up a wooden or chain link fence, while presenting an unobstructed view of the neighborhood. There are pros and cons to invisible fencing, however, that you may not be aware of. While I have no personal experience with these systems, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence from clients who have used them.

It is suggested that if you install invisible fencing, you should spend several weeks training your dog. I always recommended that my clients mark the edges of the entire containment area with flags to give the dog a visual perception of their new boundaries. Your dog needs to be conditioned so they do not have the urge to approach the fence. Only in this way will you be successful containing your dog with invisible fencing. Some of these systems also let you set a height to the fence boundary in case you have a jumper. This is important if you have a dog that can jump vertically, as they can leap over the invisible barrier without fear of getting an electrical reprimand.

The biggest plus according to manufacturers of these systems is that they are buried underground and you don’t have an unsightly fence line. After your dog is trained, another plus (in theory) is that you can allow your dog access to the yard without the fear of them running off and you don’t have to constantly monitor where they are. You can have the system installed by a company for you, or install it yourself if you are handy. After installation you put a collar on your dog which will first give them an auditory warning that they are too close to the fence line. If they attempt to leave the yard they will get a mild shock.

While the idea of containing a dog without a physical fence may sound wonderful, it will not prevent neighborhood dogs from entering your yard on their own. It won’t prevent wildlife from entering your yard either. While you may not be worried about a deer, if you are in an area that is populated by foxes, wolves, coyotes, raccoons or skunks it may give you pause. Your dog will not be protected behind a vertical barrier from any of these creatures. It should also be noted that dog theft is up during these economically challenging times, and invisible fencing will not present much of a barrier to someone determined to steal your dog.

Last but not least, there are some dogs that will not be contained by an invisible fence. I had one client whose dog was aggressive, and if they saw a dog walking on what they considered their turf (now that there was no physical barrier to break their line of sight), they would charge out of the containment area and the owner would have to go and retrieve their dog. Because the dog knew it would get a shock coming back into the yard, it would not venture back across the border without having the electric fence turned off first. You do not want them charging out into the street where they might be injured by a vehicle, or onto the sidewalk where they can accost the mailman or passers-by.

If you are considering purchasing invisible fencing, see if the company has a system set up that you might be able to use to evaluate your dog. Or check with friends or family members to see if they know someone who might have one that you could use for your evaluation. It is a good idea to keep an eye on your dog, whether you have a classically fenced yard or an invisible fence. Only in this way can you be sure that they will be truly safe.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Dangers for Outdoor Dogs


By Suzanne Alicie

Some dogs just aren’t able to be kept indoors. You can set up your yard in a way that you think is wonderful for your outdoor dog but there are dangers that even fenced and penned outdoor dogs face. You can’t simply put a dog out in the yard and assume he is safe. Some things you need to monitor and check are listed below, along with the reasons why these things are a danger to your dog.

Broken Fencing – No matter how much your dog loves his yard, if he sees a way to escape he will do so. There are so many intriguing smells coming from the other side of the fence that he will want to explore. The first danger in this is if the broken fencing creates a small hole, your dog will try to squeeze through and may injure himself on the broken edges. This can lead to tetanus, infection and possible life threatening injuries if the dog becomes stuck or pierced by the fence pieces. Once your dog is out in the world he faces the dangers of being hit by cars, attacked by other animals, and becoming lost. Even a short time out can cause serious damage to your outdoor dog. Check your fencing and any areas that the dog seems to be attracted to regularly, so you can repair any breaks before they cause a problem.

Disease – Outdoor dogs can be exposed to many kinds of disease in the back yard. These diseases can be spread through nature in the form of animal feces, dead rodents and even the occasional break-in by other neighborhood animals. When you have food and water out, stray and wild animals will attempt to get to it. Squirrels, rats and even birds can carry diseases that can pass to your dog. Some of the diseases that your dog can face are parvovirus, rabies, and even food contamination illnesses.

Exposure – Placing a dog house with a solid floor and a good roof is one step that you can take to protect your outdoor dog from exposure to the elements, but in extreme heat or cold your dog may still face the risk of exposure. In cases of extreme weather, moving an outdoor dog temporarily to a basement or garage is a better option than an outdoor doghouse.

Alienation – An outdoor dog is not included in the central family unit and may become somewhat unfriendly and territorial of his yard. It is important to make sure that you spend time paying with and grooming your outdoor dog to help him feel like part of a family.

All outdoor dogs not being professionally bred should be spayed or neutered to prevent unwanted puppies, which can happen if your dog goes into season and either gets out or other dogs get in. Besides the dangers listed above, there is also the chance of dehydration if the outdoor dogs water supply gets spilled or drank on a hot day and no one notices or refills until the next morning. Outdoor dogs should be checked on several times a day.

Remember that accidents can happen, dogs can get out and it is up to you to do everything you can to keep your outdoor dog safe and healthy.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.