Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Great Cat Debate: Indoor Versus Outdoor


By Julia Williams

Should cats be allowed full access to the outdoors to roam at will, or should they be kept indoors 24/7? This question has likely been debated for as long as people have kept cats as pets. Some people are adamant that cats should never go outside, while others insist that not allowing a cat the pleasures and instinctual experiences of the outdoors borders on cruelty. Bird lovers, and gardeners irked by neighborhood cats digging in their flowerbeds, are understandably in the “cats should stay inside” camp. Veterinarians usually recommend that cats be kept inside too, because nearly every day they see firsthand the bad things that can happen to outdoor cats.

Others, like me, believe there are pros and cons for each side of the indoor versus outdoor cat debate, with no clear-cut “winner.” I think the decision of whether to keep your cat indoors or allow it to go outside is an individual one that every responsible pet owner must make for themselves. It does help, however, to be as informed as possible on the subject, so you can feel confident in the choice you are making – because this choice affects you and your feline friend.

It’s a fact that indoor cats live longer, healthier lives. Outdoor cats face many dangers, including getting hit by cars, attacked by dogs, coyotes and even cat-hating humans. Outdoor cats can be exposed to infectious diseases like feline leukemia, distemper and rabies. They can be poisoned by pesticides, herbicides, antifreeze, motor oil, rat bait, ice-melt products and toxic plants. Turf fights with other outdoor cats are common, and bite wounds can become infected. This is called an abscess, and it requires antibiotics and sometimes surgery. Parasites like fleas and ticks are more problematic for outdoor cats as well.

Even something as seemingly safe as a five-acre field with no car traffic can pose a threat to an outdoor cat. My cat Tiger got a foxtail sticker up his nose, which required an emergency vet visit. These nasty barbed stickers mimic a porcupine quill, and will migrate in only one direction after attaching to fur or finding a way into an opening – pulling it out of his nose myself was definitely not an option.

As you can see, the list of bad things that can happen to outdoor cats is quite long. However, I have to dispute the “average lifespan” figures I’ve seen claiming indoor cats live about 12-14 years whereas outdoor cats live only 3-4 years. I realize these are averages, but in my opinion they aren’t accurate. I’ve had outdoor cats that lived to be 19, 16 and 14, and many of my friends have had outdoor cats who lived similarly long lives.

If you have a pet door which allows your cat to come and go as they please, they may bring things into your house that you won’t like, including mice, rats, gophers, lizards, snakes, bugs, possums and frogs. Dead or alive, these are not things you want in your home. There is nothing worse than getting up in the middle of the night and stepping on something squishy in your bare feet. Trust me.

With all the dangers and disadvantages of allowing a cat outdoors, one might wonder why everyone doesn’t keep their cat inside 24/7. One reason many give is that they don’t think an indoor cat can be happy. Until a few years ago, I believed that a cat deprived of the outdoors would lead a miserable existence. This was primarily because I’d always allowed my cats the freedom of the outdoors, and I saw how happy it made them to climb trees, hunt gophers and sun themselves in my garden.

However, my viewpoint changed somewhat when we moved to Montana. I wanted to keep my cats indoors for several months so they wouldn’t get lost or attempt an “incredible journey” back to their old home. Then winter came, and when my California kitties felt snow on their paws for the first time, they decided for themselves that indoor life wasn’t so bad. In the winter, I don’t think they’d go outside if you opened a can of their favorite Felidae cat food and tried to lure them out with it. In the summer they have the freedom to choose, and they still stay inside about 85% of the time.

This arrangement suits me. My carpet stays a lot cleaner, my vet bills are much lower, and I like knowing they are safe. I think it suits them too, for the most part. Were they happier being outdoor kitties in sunny California? Yes, in all honesty I think they were. But I play with them and pet them often, and I find other ways to enrich their indoor lives that hopefully makes up for not being able to play outdoors.

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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Why Pets Need to Play


By Linda Cole

Some form of play is found in all species of mammals. People play card games and video games, they jump out of airplanes just for fun, and engage in a host of other stimulating activities. Dogs and cats need to play for the same reason – it helps to beat boredom!

I have a cat named Pogo who was born with one back leg shorter than the other. Because of this he has a pronounced limp, but you would never know it to watch him play. He began to walk at the same time his siblings did, but instead of walking, he bounced across the floor on his back legs hopping like a kid on a pogo stick. He is now almost 5 years old and still bounces while he plays. No string, ball or cat toy can escape his clutches as he leaps and strikes at the exact right time to capture his prey. All of my cats are expert acrobats and clowns when it comes to play, and I’ve spent hours watching, laughing and playing with them as they learned important skills and life lessons through play. Dogs and cats need to play to keep their minds active and their bodies in good physical shape.

Cats need play in order to hone their skills as hunters, to learn how to socialize with us and other pets in the home, and develop good mental skills. Playing with your dog or cat is one of the best ways to bond with them. They love having their favorite human interacting with them and any moving stimulus will grab a cat’s attention. Even an older cat that has become a couch potato can’t resist something moving.

Dogs need play for many of the same reasons as cats. Puppies learn about social order in the pack by playing with their litter mates. Play gives both dogs and cats confidence and helps them lead happy and stable lives. Like cats, dogs learn important hunting skills through play. As puppies and kittens grow, the lessons they learn from playing teaches them what they need to know as adults.

Even though most dogs no longer need to depend on predatory skills, they are still learned and instilled in a dog’s mind during play. Every time they chase a stick or ball, they are learning how to chase prey. Each leaf or toy that is caught teaches a dog or cat how to pounce and attack. To them, these activities are just plain fun, but the specialized skills they are learning will never leave them. These skills are stalking, patience, sizing up their “prey” and knowing when and how to attack.

Play gives dog and cat owners an insight into their pet’s health. As dogs and cats age, most will continue to play even though it may require some coaxing from us at times. A pet who doesn’t play and doesn’t respond to a stimulus can indicate a health problem that may need to be addressed. It can also tell you if your pet is unhappy or depressed.

Just like kids, dogs and cats need to play to keep them out of trouble and help burn up excess energy. A bored pet can do a lot of damage to a garbage can, recliner or couch cushion. I had a bored cat who took on a couch pillow all by himself one afternoon. Of course he tried to blame the dog, but the dog had been confined in the basement that afternoon, far from the scene of the crime.

Dogs and cats need play to maintain a healthy mind and body. The skills they learn are invaluable as they mature. A puppy or kitten who doesn’t play will still develop normally, but they could be at a disadvantage to others their own age.

A dog will show you they want to play with a “play bow.” They lower the front part of their body to the ground and stretch out their front legs. Their back end is in the air with their tail usually wagging. Cats are always ready to pounce on anything moving and all it takes is a crumpled ball of paper to get them into a game.

Dogs and cats that play together learn how to interact with each other. The best time for puppies to be socialized is around 8 to 16 weeks and kittens between 5 and 12 weeks. Don’t be afraid to romp on the floor with your pet. Playing is fun for them, and for us!

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.

Plants That Can Poison Your Pet


By Suzanne Alicie

The week of March 14-20 is National Animal Poison Prevention Week. There are many items around your home that are poisonous for pets; sadly, many of the pretty plants and flowers we enjoy seeing can be deadly for our pets. National Animal Poison Prevention Week is designed to bring attention to all the dangers that our pets face every day.

Many times animals will naturally avoid dangerous plants, but occasionally the color or scent will attract them to ingest something that could potentially kill them. Removing these temptations from areas that your pet uses and watching carefully when your dog or cat happens to be exposed to plants or flowers that may be harmful can help prevent your pet becoming a victim of poisoning.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center provides a great deal of information on plants and other items that can be poisonous to our pets. While there is a long list of plants that are poisonous to pets which you can see here, there are five plants that have the most potential to create life threatening problems for dogs, cats and other companion animals. Those five plants are:

• Lily – This is a common plant in many yards and flowerbeds, and although they are pretty to look at, lilies are highly toxic for felines. Small amounts of a lily ingested by a cat can cause severe kidney damage.

• Azalea – This flowering shrub contains grayantoxins which cause vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, and central nervous system problems in animals. Ingestion of the azalea plant can lead to coma and even death.

• Oleander – While beautiful and elegant, the oleander is very dangerous to your pets. Considered to be highly toxic, the oleander contains cardiac glycosides which affect the heart, and gastrointestinal tract. Ingestion of the oleander plant can lead to abnormal heart function, hypothermia and death.

• Sago Palm – Each part of this plant is poisonous, but the seeds contain the largest amount of poison. If your pet eats one or two seeds from the sago palm he could suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and liver failure leading to death.

• Castor Bean – The castor bean plant contains ricin which is a highly toxic protein causing abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. If your pet ingests a large amount of this plant the result is dehydration, muscle twitching, seizures, coma and death.

If you have plants that are considered toxic to pets in your home or garden, in an area that is accessible to your pets, the safest thing to do is to remove the plants. Even if your pet has never shown any interest in playing with or chewing on plants, it’s far better to remove the temptation than to risk accidental poisoning.

If your pet is exhibiting any symptoms of poisoning such as excessive thirst, unexplained vomiting or diarrhea, confusion, dizziness, seizures or lack of muscle control you should immediately contact your veterinarian. If for some reason you are unable to reach your vet, you can call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: (888) 426-4435. (A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card). You may also call the National Animal Poison Control Center at 1-900-680-0000 or 1- 800-548-2423. When using the 900 number, the charge is $20 for the first five minutes, then $2.95/minute thereafter. For the 800 number, the charge is $30 per case (VISA, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express only).

When you call, be ready to provide:

• The species, breed, age, sex and weight of your pet.
• The animal’s symptoms.
• Information regarding the exposure, including the agent (if known), the amount of the agent involved, and the time elapsed since the exposure.

The 5 plants listed above are just the tip of the iceberg when considering the plants that can be poisonous to your pets. Your vet, the ASPCA and the National Animal Poison Control Center can provide you with not only a list of other plants, but also many ways to prevent accidental poisoning of your pets.

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.

Why Do Dogs Lick Us?


By Linda Cole

I have a dog who loves to lick legs and feet anytime she catches an unsuspecting bare foot or hand dangling from a chair. I also have one who will sit right beside me while I’m watching TV or working at the computer. Every now and then out of the blue, she’ll slurp me on the side of the face. Do dogs lick us because we taste like salt, are they giving us a kiss, or is it more complicated with no clear answers?

Puppies are groomed by their moms to keep them clean and help stimulate body functions. This is warm and gentle, and feels good to them. The pleasant feeling of their mother’s grooming leaves them with positive memories they carry into adulthood, and they may be trying to share those positive feelings with us.

We know wolf puppies and adolescents greet the adults returning from a hunt by eagerly gathering around them and licking them on the mouth and chin to induce a regurgitated meal from them. Licking is also considered a sign of respect, and is a submissive behavior of welcome given to the alpha and those who are higher in their social order.

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Surf Dog Ricochet: Changing Lives, One Wave at a Time


By Julia Williams

Some of you have undoubtedly heard about Surf Dog Ricochet, and you may have watched the incredibly moving YouTube video about her, “From Service Dog to SURFice dog: Turning disappointment into a joyful new direction.” If you have, then you know what an amazing canine Ricochet is. If you haven’t seen the Surf Dog Ricochet video, then I hope this article inspires you to do so— because the story of how this beautiful young golden retriever found her true calling and is changing countless lives as a result, is one that every pet lover should see.

Two-year-old Ricochet’s original path in life was to be part of the Puppy Prodigies Neo-Natal & Early Learning Program, as a service dog for a disabled person as well as a service dog breeder. Ricochet’s training began when she was just a few days old, before her eyes were even open. She learned quickly and showed great promise for becoming a service dog. But as she grew, so did her interest in chasing birds. Because this could be unsafe for a person with a disability, Ricochet had to be released from the service dog program.

Her people were terribly disappointed, but rather than dwell on what she couldn’t do, they chose to focus on what she could do, which was surf. You see, at 8 weeks of age, in addition to her service dog training, Ricochet had begun learning to surf on a boogie board in a kiddie pool. Although her surf dog training was begun just for fun, Ricochet displayed a remarkable natural talent for it. Moreover, she really seemed to love it.

Ricochet’s surf training progressed and before long she was “hanging 20” in the ocean, competing in (and eventually winning) Surf Dog Competitions. So Puppy Prodigies created a brand new job for Ricochet, as a ‘Surfin’ for Paws-abilities’ SURFice dog who would raise awareness and funds for charitable causes. And the rest is history, as the saying goes. In just seven short months, Ricochet has raised more than $20,000 for charitable causes!

Her first fundraising endeavor was last August, for 15 year old quadriplegic surfer Patrick Ivison. Surf Dog Ricochet raised $10,000 to help pay his medical bills, and one of her sponsors awarded Patrick a grant to fund three more years of physical therapy. Then in December, Ricochet began a new fundraiser: a Surfin’ Santa Paws toy drive. About the same time, the inspirational SURFice Dog video went viral, which spurred an influx of donations from all over the world. As a result, Ricochet was able to provide toys for 650 children in hospitals and domestic violence shelters.

Continued donations from the video have allowed Ricochet to fund therapies for six year old Ian McFarland, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident that claimed the lives of his parents. Additionally, most of the surfing competitions Ricochet enters are fundraisers for animal charities. So besides having fun and competing, the “Little SurFUR Girl” (as she is sometimes called) is also making a difference in the lives of her four-legged cousins. When she’s not surfing or fundraising, Ricochet is involved in goal assisted therapy work with children through Pawsitive Teams.

I’m a firm believer in the old adages, “Everything happens for a reason,” and “When one door closes, another one opens.” I’ve seen enough examples firsthand that I don’t doubt this is exactly how the universe works. And now, the story of Surf Dog Ricochet is yet another fine illustration of these principles. Instead of greatly changing one disabled individual’s life by becoming their assistance dog, Surf Dog Ricochet is changing the lives of thousands… and potentially millions.

If you’d like to know more about Surf Dog Ricochet, you can visit her website, become her fan on Facebook, and even follow her on Twitter. And if you want to try teaching your own canine companion to hang 20, Ricochet offers some great beginner doggie surf training tips here.

There are two lines in the inspirational YouTube video on Surf Dog Ricochet that I just love: “When I let go of who I wanted her to be and just let her ‘be’ she completely flourished. And I reveled in knowing she is perfect, just the way she is.” She sure is. The video features the Taylor Hicks song, Do I Make You Proud. I just want to end this by saying “Yes Ricochet, you do!”

Photo courtesy of Diane Edmonds

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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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.

Night Calling: Why Do Cats Meow at Night?


By Ruthie Bently

The daytime noises have faded away, you’ve finished watching the news or the late show and finally gotten to sleep, and then your cat begins to howl. Because cats are nocturnal by nature, this is when they are most active. Have you ever been woken up in the middle of the night by your cat meowing? This is known as night vocalization, nighttime calling or night calling, and there are different reasons that our cats do it.

All cats use vocalization from time to time. They vocalize to connect to each other and to us as well. A mother cat will use it to call her kittens. A cat vocalizes to tell their owner they want food, water, to go out or that their litter box needs to be cleaned. Cats will even use it to let each other know where they are during a game of hide and seek. If a female is in season or there is a territory dispute, two males will use vocalization to warn each other before they square off for a fight, though this is known as caterwauling. Your cat may be disturbed by something they can hear or see outside. It may be as simple as your cat wanting your companionship and they meow to get you to pay attention to them.

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