Monthly Archives: April 2010

Why Cats Paint…and Why Paint Cats?


By Julia Williams

I recently received an email from a friend that had dozens of pictures of elaborately painted cats. The email claimed that many pet owners were partaking in a new fad of having their cats painted by professional artists. Supposedly, people paid as much as $15,000 to have their cats painted, and the paint jobs would need to be repeated every three months as the cat’s fur grew out.

My first thoughts were (in this order): gosh, that can’t be healthy for the cats to lick the paint off their fur; $60 grand a year to paint your cat? Some people have too much disposable income; and finally – this can’t be real…can it? With that last thought, I realized I had to consult my good friend “Mr. Google” to ferret out the truth.

I discovered that this email featuring stunningly painted felines, like so many other emails, is a hoax. It’s an offshoot of two “art” books about cats by Heather Busch and Burton Silver. The first was Why Cats Paint: A Theory of Feline Aesthetics. Following the huge success of this first book, the authors released a second title, Why Paint Cats: the Ethics of Feline Aesthetics. Whereas the first book discussed cats as artists, the follow-up featured cats as canvasses.

These books are widely believed to be well-crafted spoofs, but they’re written so convincingly that many people, including some professional book reviewers, have taken them seriously. The first book purports to be “an unprecedented photographic record of cat creativity that will intrigue cat-lovers and art-lovers alike.” In a style that persuasively mimics art criticism, Why Cats Paint discusses the many different aspects of feline creativity, with representative works from the best known cat artists around the world. The authors allege that cats who paint are aesthetically motivated, and their works should be regarded as genuine art.

That sounds a lot like the stuffy high-brow world of art criticism, doesn’t it? But then the authors come up with this little gem: “While we hope this book will inspire readers to carefully examine paw patterns in litter trays for examples of aesthetic intent…it is not our intention to give instruction on methods of encouraging cats to paint.” In other words, be on the lookout for “art” when you’re cleaning your cat’s litter box. Haha! That image is amusing enough, but this Newsweek quote made me giggle: “Yes, cats can paint. The phenomenon has to do with territorial marking, acrylic paint smelling a little like cat pee, and a lot of pet spare time.”

The second book, Why Paint Cats: the Ethics of Feline Aesthetics, has spawned countless discussions about the propriety and potentially harmful effects of painting designs onto a cat’s fur. Although the authors will not admit that the pictures were achieved through computer imaging (i.e., photoshop magic), it’s pretty hard to imagine that anyone would really think painting their cat is a good idea. For one thing, how are you supposed to keep them still long enough to a) paint them and b) allow the paint to dry?

Then again, we’ve all seen people do incredibly dumb things, so is painting cats as farfetched as it might seem? I don’t know. I do know that, photoshopped or not, I really enjoyed looking at the amazing pictures of the painted cats. Cats are transformed into butterflies, belly dancers, the night sky and American flags. They sport rainbow colors on their faces and flanks, and clowns on their backsides. Which, by the way, was probably the inspiration for this: “By the time you finish flipping through Why Paint Cats…you’ll have more questions than answers. Seeing Charlie Chaplin’s face painted on a cat’s rump has that effect.”—Heather McKinnon, Seattle Times.

If you are a fan of felines, I think you would really enjoy reading Why Cats Paint and Why Paint Cats. I must offer two caveats about these books though. First, look for the large, coffee table editions and not the miniaturized ones, as the downsizing does significantly reduce their overall amusement. Secondly, please do not attempt to paint your own cat. Besides endangering your beloved feline, you risk great peril to your own limbs, which would surely be scratched and clawed to bits during such a foolish endeavor.

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.

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The Many Benefits of Pets for the Elderly


By Suzanne Alicie

We all know that pets benefit from being adopted and becoming part of a loving home. We also know that when children are exposed to pets they tend to be more responsible and caring, but when it comes to the elderly the benefits of having a pet are much more than those for younger folks. In comparison with other seniors without pets, elderly pet owners show these results:

• Overall lower blood pressure and pulse rate. Animals have a calming effect as well as causing the senior to walk and move more to improve circulation and health.

• Improved mood and less depression. Pets generate good feelings and lift the mood.

• More social interaction. By making visits to the park to walk a dog or taking a cat to the vet, the elderly are exposed to other people more often.

• More physical activity. Walking dogs and playing with pets are good ways for the elderly to get more exercise, which is beneficial for their overall health.

• Unconditional love and affection. These are things that many elderly people are missing in their lives, since younger family members are often busy with their own lives and don’t have time to visit and spend time with seniors.

• Less loneliness. Again, pets take the place of people in the life of the elderly and many of them spend a great deal of time interacting and talking to their pets.

Besides these benefits it has been shown that seniors who have pets tend to take better care of themselves and show improved health after obtaining a pet. The elderly are exceedingly responsible pet owners too. Interestingly, it has been found that when an elderly family member has a pet, more relatives with young children will visit them because the pet provides a distraction for the children while the adults visit. This provides not only more attention for the pet, and interaction with adults for the senior, but also a chance for the senior to interact with the youngsters using the pet as a common ground of interest.

Young dogs and cats that are energetic and need to run and play more are not the best choice for an elderly person. Instead, a mature pet that has been well trained will make a more suitable companion. These are animals that will soak up all the attention that the elderly person will give them, they will nap often and just be a constant presence.

When it comes to the benefits of pets for the elderly, there are many suitable pets. Every sort of animal, from cats and dogs to fish, can provide the companionship and entertainment that improves the quality of life for the elderly. Many physicians and therapists recommend that their elderly patients obtain a pet for companionship, for exercise, and for therapy.

Just as companionship, understanding and devotion are beneficial to teenagers, the same is true for the elderly. The simple act of having a cat to cuddle on their lap, or a dog to curl up at their feet can make a world of difference in the life of an elderly person.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

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.

Common Health Issues for Older Dogs


By Ruthie Bently

Do you know how old a senior dog is? Most large dogs are considered seniors at the age of five to six years old, while their smaller counterparts are seniors at the age of eight to nine. As they age, many adult dogs can develop health issues that mirror our own, even down to the symptoms. According to a 2005 MIT study that mapped the canine genome, humans and dogs share 5% of the same genes, so it stands to reason they might have some of the same health problems we do.

One aspect of being a responsible pet owner is taking your dog in for a yearly vet visit, but senior canines may need to visit their vet more often. Older dogs don’t have the health reserves a younger dog has, and getting them to the vet quickly can be a life saver under certain conditions. Getting a base line veterinary checkup can help you with your geriatric canine; you can use it as a gauge for later vet visits.

One of the most common health problems our dogs have as they age is obesity. Obesity can be caused by overfeeding, not enough exercise or a combination of both. Obesity is a cause for concern because it can lead to more serious health issues and can actually make your dog age faster. Obesity can lead to diabetes, heart disease, lack of energy and the early onset of arthritis. Diabetes occurs when a dog’s body cannot assimilate glucose (blood sugars) properly. Signs of diabetes can include increased water consumption and inappropriate urination in the house. Side effects of diabetes are cataracts, glaucoma and blindness. Canine diabetes is managed with insulin injections, as it is with humans.

Senior canines are susceptible to developing heart disease, though it’s more common in dogs that are overweight. Dogs with a good exercise program and a healthy diet are less apt to develop heart problems. Your dog may be moving slower as they age, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get exercise. You just need to take their age into consideration when exercising. Tone down the exercise to something easier for your senior dog to handle; for example instead of jogging, go for a leisurely walk. Excessive heat and cold will affect your senior dog more, so don’t exercise them during too hot or too cold temperatures. Exercise more frequently, for shorter periods of time, and take along plenty of water for your dog.

Another health issue older dogs can have is dental disease, which is due to incorrect dental hygiene as well as the lack of kibble or baked treats in the dog’s daily diet. Without daily brushing, plaque turns into tartar which needs to be scaled off the teeth, as it cannot be removed by brushing. Tartar buildup can cause periodontal and gum disease and can lead to a bacterial infection in your dog’s system or the need for teeth extractions. Many senior dogs can have bad breath, but it can also be a sign of something more serious. Other things to watch for in your canine senior are a loss of their appetite, rapid weight loss or gain if their diet and exercise levels have not changed (this could be a symptom of cancer), excessive urinating or drinking excessive amounts of water (this could be a symptom of kidney issues).

Canine arthritis is a disease caused by improper lubrication of joints. It causes the joints to become inflamed and your dog will have a hard time or be unable to run, jump or even walk. Signs of arthritis can be difficulty standing after resting or limping after exercise or walking. The pain may make your dog aggressive or highly agitated. You can help your arthritic dog by getting them a canine heating pad, a bed made for an arthritic dog, or by putting a cover over their crate or moving it to a warmer room of the house in colder weather. Cognitive dysfunction syndrome is comparable to human dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and some symptoms are confusion, wandering the house aimlessly, not recognizing humans or other pets, insomnia and inappropriate vocalizations. For more information, see my articles on canine arthritis and cognitive dysfunction syndrome.

Just because our dogs are aging doesn’t mean their quality of life has to be any different than when they were younger. Your dog may be a bit grayer around the muzzle, walk a bit slower and take more time getting up after a nap; but if you look closely I’ll bet that you’ll still see that sparkle in their eye and that wagging tail as they greet you at the door after a hard day at work.

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.

Is it Separation Anxiety, or Something Else?


By Linda Cole

We all know what separation anxiety is. A dog just can’t stand being away from the people he loves. Left alone, the dog might whine, howl or bark all day which isn’t good if you live in an apartment. He may also destroy things in the home or scratch up the doors and windows. He gets all worked up and so do the neighbors. But, there could be something else going on that has nothing to do with a dog missing his owner.

Separation anxiety has become a sort of catch-all for behavioral problems. But it could also be boredom or a disease. No one knows why some dogs seem to miss their owner more than others. Some become anxious even with the owner at home but in a different room. Destructive chewing, howling or constant barking, drooling and doing their business inside are all symptoms of separation anxiety. Some dogs become so worked up they chew on themselves, causing self inflicted injuries. A mild case can be dealt with easily whereas a more severe case may require medication and/or working with an animal behavioral expert to help solve the dog’s anxiety.

A bored pet can be as destructive as one who misses his owner, but the two problems are quite different. Boredom can be solved with exercise before you leave the house and chew toys stuffed with dog treats. But before you can solve the mystery of whether your dog is destroying your couch because he’s bored or because he’s experiencing separation anxiety, you need to determine which problem you are dealing with. Discussing the issue with your vet can help.

There are medical reasons why your dog may be exhibiting what appears to be separation anxiety. Cushing’s disease, seizures, diabetes, renal disease, gastrointestinal problems or cystitis could be the problem. A fear of thunderstorms that increases when you are gone can upset some dogs enough that they howl or chew to help relieve their fear. Cognitive dysfunction, needing to go outside, marking their territory, a pup who is teething and not being completely housebroken can all be symptoms that you should have your dog checked out by a vet or an animal behaviorist, or spend extra time working on housebreaking and basic training.

Separation anxiety can begin at any age and for a variety of reasons. If you’ve moved into a new home, your dog may not feel as comfortable in his new surroundings. Separation anxiety can occur is you adopt a new dog who isn’t accustomed to you, their new environment or a new routine. It might manifest if your work schedule changes and you don’t have as much time to spend exercising and playing with your dog.

Other causes of separation anxiety include: a new baby in the home; new people living in your home; other changes in your living arrangements; a death in the family which can be a human or another pet. Separation anxiety might occur if your dog had an extended stay in a kennel or at the vet, or if you’ve adopted a new puppy or kitten. Your dog needs to know he hasn’t lost your love, so any time there’s a change, it’s important to reassure him he’s still your buddy. Dogs feel most comfortable and secure when their routine is maintained from day to day. Before making changes that are in your control, talk to your vet for recommendations on how to best implement the change so your dog doesn’t feel threatened. Changes you can’t control, like a death, may need to be dealt with by an expert if your dog continues to grieve.

Don’t assume your dog has separation anxiety just because it’s an easy explanation for why your dog is misbehaving. Any of the diseases mentioned above, boredom or lack of proper training could be the culprit. If you’re thinking about using a crate to help keep your dog from destroying the house while you’re gone, discuss your intentions with your vet before doing so. A dog with separation anxiety should never be put in a crate. It will only cause him more stress to be confined in a small area.

The more we learn about dogs, the more we understand how intertwined our lives are. Separation anxiety can be dealt with as long as that’s the problem. It’s always a good idea to have your vet give your dog a checkup just to make sure it’s separation anxiety and not something else.

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.

Great Careers for Animal Lovers


By Julia Williams

Children who dearly love animals often dream of becoming a veterinarian when they grow up. It’s a logical choice, since it’s likely the one they’re most familiar with. But there are actually thousands of other animal-related occupations to choose from. It’s an interesting field in that it includes animal-related jobs that require no education and very little training, those that call for college degrees and years of experience, and many that fall somewhere in between. Here are just a few careers for animal lovers.

Groomers turn dirty dogs and scruffy cats into clean, well coifed pets, be it for creature comfort in everyday life, or high profile shows where appearance is everything. Pet groomers can learn the tricks of the trade by attending a licensed grooming school or by apprenticing with a professional. Groomers may work for a vet, pet store or specialty pet grooming “salon.”

Pet sitting and dog walking businesses are perfect for independent types who want to be their own boss. Pet sitters care for animals while their owners are away, which may include feeding, walking, playing, petting, giving medication and cleanup. You typically visit the pet a few times a day, but may also be asked to stay in the home. Busy people hire dog walkers to give their canine companions much-needed exercise. Although it is possible to make a decent income as a pet sitter or dog walker, it takes dedication and hard work to build a steady client base, and your schedule needs to be extremely flexible.

Doggie daycare workers supervise canine playtime, feed and clean up after them, and generally just make sure the dogs are kept safe during their stay. Training is often offered on-the-job, and with experience a dedicated worker could even become a manager or open their own doggie daycare center.

Trainers: this field includes a host of different jobs, working with all types of animals, from dogs and horses, to dolphins and sea lions. Jobs include obedience training for private clients, service dog training, working with canine and feline “actors” in show biz, training exotic animals to perform at amusement parks, and training horses for shows and competitions.

Animal control officers (think “Animal Cops”) investigate the mistreatment of dogs, cats, horses, roosters and other animals in their city, rescue strays and deal with wild animals that endanger humans. These jobs can be rewarding for those with a sincere desire to help animals, but can also be demanding, stressful and heartbreaking, and are not right for everyone.

Animal Educators work at wildlife parks, sanctuaries, zoos and aquariums to educate the public. These jobs require a high level of confidence, and you must be comfortable meeting people and speaking to large groups.

Zookeepers feed animals, clean enclosures, and observe animal behavior. Most have a college education and prior experience as an animal caretaker.

Zoologists are biological scientists who study the behavior, diseases, genetics and life processes of animals in their natural habitats as well as in laboratories. Zoologists may work for universities, museums, zoos, government agencies or private companies.

If you’d like to work with animals but have no idea which job you’re best suited for, your local library and/or the bookstore is a good place to start. Books are a valuable resource for information on animal related careers. They contain detailed descriptions of specific careers for animal lovers, along with the education and training needed, typical salaries and job outlook.

Here are some to look for: Careers for Animal Lovers, by Louise Miller; Careers With Animals, by Ellen Shenk; 105 Careers for Animal Lovers, by Paula Fitzsimmons; Careers With Animals (for grades 3 to 8), by Willow Ann Sirch. For the entrepreneur, Joseph Nigro’s 101 Best Businesses for Pet Lovers provides information on starting an animal-related enterprise – from popular choices like pet photographers and doggie daycares, to unusual careers like catnip farmers, doggie fashion designers, pet furniture makers and pet party planners.

If you’re already established in a non-animal-related field you love, you can still work with animals by becoming a volunteer. There are so many worthwhile animal charities and organizations that rely on volunteers in their quest to help pets and the people who love them. Consider volunteering at your local animal shelter, rescue group or wildlife rehabilitation center. Those who live in Oregon could volunteer at the Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank, a wonderful organization CANIDAE supports in its mission to provide meals for every hungry pet in Portland.

I’ve been an animal lover as far back as I can remember. I’ve felt profoundly connected to animals in a way that is often difficult for me to achieve with people. Had I not discovered an affinity for writing at a very young age, I might conceivably have chosen any one of these careers for animals lovers instead. As it is, writing about animals offers me the best of both worlds – I get paid to do something I dearly love, while immersing myself in a topic that I care deeply about.

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.

Why Do Dogs Have Hackles?


By Ruthie Bently

All dogs have hackles and they run from the dog’s neck, down their backbone and to the base of their tail, sometimes even the shoulders. One of my dogs actually had hackles that started at the base of their skull and went all the way down their back and partway down their tail. The first time Smokey saw horses, he sniffed the air in their direction and his hackles rose to their full extent on his back. He didn’t bark or growl at the horses as he approached them and he didn’t race up to them, so why did his hackles rise? Put it down to a simple case of curiosity. Smokey saw these huge creatures who smelled funny to him, and he was trying to assess the situation before taking action. Since I wasn’t worried, neither was he.

When a dog’s hackles rise it is called piloerection. It is similar to the hair going up on your arm, your head or the back of your neck and is an involuntary reaction to a situation. It is theorized that piloerection happens when there is a rush of adrenaline through a dog’s system. Hackles may rise on a dog’s entire body or just in one area, depending on the situation. This should not be confused with a Rhodesian Ridgeback’s ridge. This is a particular feature indicative of the breed and even some Ridgeback crosses.

Piloerection can be caused by excitement, stimulation, arousal, being startled, fear or interest. It is rare that hackles are raised in an aggressive manner, though it does happen. A hunting dog’s hackles may rise when they are pointing a bird or catch a whiff of a pheasant in the brush; they are stimulated and react accordingly. An intact male dog scenting a female in heat in the neighborhood may raise his hackles in his arousal. A dog’s hackles can rise involuntarily due to a loud clap of thunder that startles them. Even the excitement of greeting a family member or canine friend can cause the hackles on a dog’s back to rise.

Small dog or dogs that are fearful may raise their hackles when they meet another dog and it is thought they do this to try and make themselves look taller to the approaching dog. It reminds me of what my cats did when I brought my first puppy home. They puffed themselves up and looked so huge the puppy backed up in terror. While it was funny to watch, I had my hands full trying to calm the poor puppy and soothe the cats. A dog smelling an unfamiliar wild animal in their territory at night may raise their hackles and growl a warning to “stay away.” A puppy raising its hackles may do so because it is unsure how to react to a situation or change in its surroundings.

The best thing for a responsible pet owner to do is to be aware of your own dog’s body language and be in charge of any situation you and your dog are in. The next time you go walking with your dog or to the dog park, watch your dog and how they react to other dogs they meet. Watch both the dogs and their communication with each other. Watch not only their hackles, but their tail, eyes, ears, body posture and facial expressions. For more helpful tips on this topic, read Linda Cole’s Body Language of Dogs. By understanding your own dog and their body language, you are a step ahead of the game.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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.