CANIDAE® Blog: Posted By Date

What Chaser, the World’s Smartest Dog, Taught Us

August 21, 2019

By Linda Cole

A Border Collie named Chaser rose to worldwide fame in 2011 after earning the title of the world’s smartest dog. Last month, news of her death saddened dog lovers everywhere. Chaser died of natural causes at the age of 15 at her Spartanburg, SC home, surrounded by her people. She was an exceptional student, learning over 1,000 words and phrases. Her success is a reminder to all of us of the role that persistence, patience and understanding plays when it comes to training and interacting with canines. Your dog is probably a lot smarter than you think!

Chaser’s owner, Dr. John Pilley, was a canine cognition researcher and psychology professor. He taught his dogs words long before Chaser was born, but it was his beloved German Shepherd/Collie mix, Yasha, who prepared him for his world famous adventure with Chaser. Yasha was John’s “canine assistant” in his classroom, and the two were inseparable. John asked his students to come up with different things to teach Yasha. The dog learned to close doors, do math (with prodding from John) and retrieve specific objects. In one experiment, Yasha watched a student place a Frisbee in a tree. A month later the dog was asked to retriever the Frisbee and went directly to the tree. Yasha was 16 when he passed away in 1994. John was absolutely heartbroken and vowed to never have another dog.

After retiring from his teaching position at Wofford College in 1995, John discovered Border Collie trials. He was intrigued by the problem solving ability of Border Collies. Based on his research with Yasha, he had come to the conclusion that dogs weren’t able to understand and learn independent meanings of words or proper nouns. However, the Border Collies he observed during the trials seemed to contradict his earlier findings. That was when he had an “a-ha” moment – his teaching method had been wrong.

It had been years since Yasha passed, and John’s wife decided it was time to get another dog. She informed him the Christmas before his 76th birthday that he was getting a Border Collie. Chaser was born April 28, 2004. At the time, neither John nor his wife knew the impact the puppy would have on their lives. She would also change the minds of John and other canine researchers about dog intelligence.

Chaser earned her name honestly. If something moved, she wanted to chase it! She was the Pilley’s first Border Collie, and John knew she needed a job. With an opportunity to continue his research on the canine brain, he refined his teaching method and began to teach Chaser human language.

Chaser and John spent hours each day working. John taught Chaser words that had value to her and turned learning into a game, rewarding her successes with positive reinforcement and play. He wanted to teach Chaser human language to better understand the possibilities of the canine brain.

John started teaching Chaser proper nouns when she was two months old, using what he called errorless learning. It was a teaching method he devised to ensure that Chaser couldn’t fail. He began by showing her a toy, repeating the name or color multiple times. Chaser learned to associate “this is…” with a new object, and once she understood the concept, she began learning in one trial. She learned 40 words in five months and was able to keep them in long-term memory.

By the time Chaser was three years old, the dog had learned 1,022 words including proper nouns, verbs like fetch, take and nose, adjectives such as bigger, smaller, faster and slower, and categorized objects. She understood the concept of hot and cold when searching for an object she was asked to retrieve. When told “you’re getting cold” or “you’re getting hot,” she understood what to do. She knew the names of other dogs in the neighborhood and wagged her tail or growled when hearing their names. Learning concepts meant she could then use her brain and learn by deduction, the same way young children learn. She could pick out an unfamiliar toy using the process of elimination. Chaser was demonstrating a creative reasoning scientists had believed was impossible for dogs to attain.

John passed away on June 17, 2018. Chaser knew he wasn’t well and sat in front of his bed keeping watch. Shortly before he died, Chaser suddenly let out one sharp bark – to say goodbye.

John firmly believed that all dogs are capable of learning in the same way he taught Chaser, and that there will one day be a world of Chasers. He believed that the world’s smartest dog really wasn’t unique – but the way she was trained was. She proved to the world that canines can understand human language, and she opened the eyes of canine researchers to the cognitive ability of dogs. Chaser shared an extraordinary bond with the person she loved, and did her very best to please her best friend.

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7 Things to Do Before Bringing Home a New Pet

August 19, 2019

By Sierra Koester

I moved halfway across the country in 2004 to go to graduate school. I was leaving my family and friends behind to embark on the next phase of my life. As a young adult, I was excited to have my very own cat for the first time. I bought some cat supplies, packed myself and Lita up, and moved several states away from where I’d grown up.

Little did I realize how much preparation should have gone into bringing Lita home with me. Before you adopt a cat or dog, make these preparations to help ensure the health, safety, and happiness of your new pet.

Gather Supplies

This is perhaps the most fun part of preparing for your new pet’s arrival. Things you’ll need for a new pet include:

  • Food and water bowls
  • Canned and/or dry food
  • Pet bed
  • Collar
  • ID tag with your pet’s name and your phone number
  • Toys
  • Nail clippers
  • Enzymatic odor neutralizer (for accidents)
  • Treats
  • Comb or brush, depending on your pet’s fur length and type
  • Pet toothbrush and toothpaste

In addition to the above supplies, a new feline friend will need a litter box, cat litter, waste removal scoop, scratching posts and a cat carrier. A new canine pal will need a leash, crate, poop baggies, house training pads (if you’re adopting a puppy) and a baby gate.

Financial Planning

Pets cost money. Food, treats, toys, regular veterinary examinations, and vaccinations are among the most basic costs associated with having a pet. You’ll need to be prepared for these recurring costs as well as unexpected ones, such as trips to the emergency room for serious injuries and illnesses.

Two options you may want to consider are purchasing insurance for your pet or setting up a special savings account.

Numerous pet insurance plans are available these days. Some plans cover illness and accidents only while other plans include coverage for routine wellness care. It’s best to purchase insurance on a young, healthy pet, as any pre-existing conditions won’t be covered.

Do your homework. Several companies offer pet insurance plans. Costs will vary by company and depend on what type of coverage you want.

If you choose not to purchase pet insurance, you may want to set up a special savings account for your pet instead. Put a certain amount of money into the account each month. This way, you’ll be more prepared for unexpected medical costs for your pet.

Choose a Diet

Oftentimes, cash-strapped shelters and rescues must feed their dogs and cats a cheap, poor-quality diet. Find out what your pet is currently eating so that you can transition him from his current food to a higher quality one such as CANIDAE PURE.

Remember to transition your pet to the new food slowly, gradually increasing the amount of new food and decreasing the amount of old food you feed him over approximately a week’s time.

Choose a Veterinarian

A good veterinarian is essential. To find a good vet, you can begin by asking family members, friends, and co-workers for recommendations. Online reviews might also be helpful in choosing a vet. And be sure to read our article, How Do You Know If Your Vet is a Keeper?

Once you have found a veterinary clinic or hospital you like, schedule a tour. During the tour, observe your surroundings. How does the staff treat clients? Is the facility clean and organized? Are the dogs and cats kept in separate areas? Do the pets look safe and comfortable?

If you like what you see during the tour, schedule an appointment with the veterinarian. The worst time to meet a vet for the first time is when you need one, such as when your pet is injured or ill. Meeting a vet for a wellness exam will allow you, your pet, and your vet to get to know each other. You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions about the vet’s policies at this time. Good communication between you and your vet is important for your pet’s health and well-being.

Prepare Your Home

Put all household chemicals up high out of your pet’s reach. Remove any toxic plants from your home. Get down on your hands and knees, and pick up anything that could be dangerous for your new cat or dog. Put breakables up high or store them away. Consider hiding electrical cords under furniture or covering them with cord protectors, especially if you’re getting a new puppy or kitten.

Create a Safe Space

Set up a room or a crate in your home to act as a safe space for your new pet. Make sure it has a bed, food and water, a litter box (for cats), and some toys. Make this space as comfortable as possible for your new pet so that he feels safe and content in it. This space will give him somewhere to go when he feels overwhelmed, scared, or anxious.

If you choose to use a crate, make sure that your dog can comfortably turn around, lie down, sit, and stand up in it.

Designate Responsibilities

Routine is important for pets. Before you bring your new pet home, create a daily schedule and make sure everyone in the household knows what they are responsible for. Decide who will walk the dog in the morning, who will feed the kitty at night, who will scoop the litter box every day, who will wash the food bowls, and who will refresh the water.

Everyone should make time to bond with the new pet. Interactive playtime and going for walks are good ways to bond with your new furry companion.

Do you have any additional tips to add? Please share them with us in the comments section!

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What are the Signs of Dementia in Dogs?

August 14, 2019

By Langley Cornwell

The advent of modern medicine has allowed people to live much longer than our ancestors did. The same holds true for veterinary medicine; it’s so advanced that our dogs and cats have significantly longer lifespans than those who came before. While being able to spend more time with our beloved pets is a very good thing, there is also a downside. It’s hard enough to watch our pets get older, but when you add cognitive dysfunction into the equation, it’s downright heart breaking.

Dog dementia, otherwise known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), is a relatively new area of study. Research from the Behavior Clinic at the University of California in Davis finds that this under-diagnosed disorder touches 28% of dogs over 11 years of age and up to 68% of dogs over the age of 15. I’ve even seen reports claiming that most aging dogs exhibit some signs of cognitive impairment, regardless of their size or breed type.

The signs of dementia in dogs are oftentimes hard to recognize because they come on slowly. Additionally, many pet owners attribute cognitive disorders to behavioral or physical problems and don’t identify them for what they truly are. To further complicate matters, senior dogs may develop cognitive problems concurrently with physical problems.

DISHA 

The acronym DISHA refers to the signs connected to dementia in dogs:

D – Disorientation

I – Interactions

S – Sleep Cycles

H – House Soiling

A – Activities Alterations

Let’s take a look at each of those.

 Disorientation

 Disorientation is often the first sign a pet owner notices. If your dog goes to the wrong side of the door when you let him out or in, if he can’t find his dog bed and curls up to sleep in unusual places, if he wanders behind a piece of furniture and doesn’t know how to get out, or if he has trouble recognizing familiar places or people, these are all signs of disorientation.

Interactions

This refers to any deviation from the normal way your dog interacts with other animals or people. For instance, your dog may withdraw from you or other family members. He may not be interested in his once-loved walks, play time, or belly rubs. Some dogs that were confident and secure may exhibit signs of insecurity, clinginess, and fear-aggression.

Sleep Cycles

 Pet owners generally recognize a change in sleep cycles quickly because it directly impacts their own quality of life. Dogs with dementia may get to the point where their sleep cycles are upside down – they sleep all day and are awake through the night. You may glean some helpful tips from these articles to help get your dog’s sleep schedule back on track:

House Soiling

House soiling is as inconvenient as it is sad; some senior dogs simply lose the understanding that they are supposed to eliminate outside, forget they are supposed to indicate when they need to go outside, or simply cannot control their elimination. If your dog starts to “go” inside, or even if he urinates or defecates in a new location outside, it could indicate CCD. See your veterinarian so he can determine if this change in behavior is related to kidney problems, a bladder infection, or any other physical reasons.

Activity

Granted, we all slow down as we age; I know I’m less active than I once was. But this is different. One of the signs of doggie dementia is not only a decrease in energy but a marked decrease in response to things they once loved, like playing fetch or tug-of-war. Your dog may exhibit an overall lack of interest in exploring new places or barking when someone comes to the door. On the flip side, your dog may become more restless with cognitive dysfunction. He may start to pace aimlessly, lick obsessively, or whine for no apparent reason.

This article outlines the signs of dementia in dogs. It’s a complicated subject and one I’d like to explore in more depth and share my findings with you. Coming soon, I’ll write an article on How to Help a Dog with Dementia. Recognizing it is one thing, but we need to know what to do about it and how to live with it, because it’s our responsibility to usher our dogs through their golden years with love, grace, and dignity.

If you have felines in your family, you may also want to read our comprehensive article entitled “Can Cats get Dementia?

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Do Cats Really Always Land on Their Feet?

August 12, 2019

By Emily Hall

Have you ever seen a cat fall? They seem to have this uncanny ability to always land on their feet. It’s as if they possess some magical skills that allow them to twist around in the air and stick their landings. But how, and is it actually true? Do cats really always land on their feet? The short answer is “most of the time,” but let’s dig a little deeper.

The Cat Righting Reflex

Cats are born with an innate ability to orient themselves in the air to land on their feet. This ability is called the “cat righting reflex” and begins to appear in kittens when they are about 3-4 weeks old. The ability is perfected by the time they are 6-7 weeks old. Because of the cat righting reflex, cats will actually land on their feet the majority of the time, but it really depends on the height of the fall. They need to have about 2-3 feet to right themselves and stick their landing.

A Little Cat Anatomy Lesson

Before we get into the “how,” it is helpful to have a little background in cat anatomy. There are a few physical attributes cats possess that contribute to their ability to land on their feet. The first is located in their inner ear and is called the vestibular apparatus. It helps with balance and helps them determine where they are in relation to the ground. It is an orientation compass of sorts.

Cats also have an exceptionally flexible spine, thanks to the 30 vertebrae that make it up. To put this in perspective, humans only have 24 vertebrae in their spines. This extra flexibility allows cats to stretch, compress, and arch their backs as well as rotate, bend, and twist the front half of their body independently of the back half. They also don’t have a collarbone, which further helps contribute to their flexibility.

So How Do They Do It?

When falling, a cat is able to tell which way is up in a fraction of a second, thanks to the vestibular apparatus. Once a cat has determined his orientation, he rotates his head and front half to face downwards, and the front legs tuck in close to his face. At the same time, the cat’s back half rotates separately as he stretches out his back legs to create a slower rotation than the body’s front half.

Once the front half of the body is facing the ground, the cat extends his front legs towards the ground and tucks his back legs in, which then slows the rotation of the front half of the body while increasing the rotation of the back half. The cat then stretches his back legs out again and arches his back to stabilize himself and prevent any more rotation. This all happens in the blink of an eye.

Once a cat has positioned himself for a fall as described above, he relaxes and turns himself into a parachute by spreading himself out. This, combined with a cat’s light bone structure and thick fur, helps to decrease the speed at which he falls (his terminal velocity).

Fun fact: An average-sized cat with his limbs extended will reach a terminal velocity of about 60 miles per hour, while an average-sized human reaches a terminal velocity of about 120mph. Because of the low terminal velocity, a cat is better able to absorb the shock from a fall.

What About Injuries?

Now that it’s been determined that cats do in fact land on their feet the majority of the time, does that mean they won’t suffer any injuries in a fall? Unfortunately, no. While their unusual skill set of being able to land on their feet and reduce their terminal velocity helps to prevent and lessen the chance of injury, cats can still suffer injuries from extreme falls. The most common include dental injuries, broken facial and jaw bones, chest trauma, and other broken bones. Cats can also die from high falls.

Cats have been known to survive unbelievably high falls though. In a study done by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, there was a cat included that had fallen from 32 stories high and survived! Another cat fell from 26 stories high and not only survived, but was uninjured. This same study suggested that cats who fall from 7 stories and above actually seem to suffer fewer injuries than cats who fall shorter distances. A theory as to why this may be is that when cats fall from shorter distances (1-5 stories high), they tend to be tensed up which can result in more injury. However, when falling from higher distances, cats have more time to right themselves and then relax as they parachute themselves and freefall.

While all of the physics surrounding cats and their ability to land on their feet is incredibly fascinating and amazing, please don’t put your cat’s abilities to the test. You should never intentionally drop your cat to see if he will land on his feet. You can marvel at your cat’s awesomeness without seeing it firsthand.

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The Best Cat Breeds for Allergy Sufferers

August 9, 2019

By Melissa Lapierre

When I was a little girl, I had to go to an allergist where a scratch test was performed. For anyone who hasn’t been through it, the doctor puts a tiny drop of a suspected allergen on your skin, then makes a small scratch to allow the allergen to get underneath it. If the area swells up and gets red, you’re allergic to that particular thing.

In my case I was allergic to pretty much everything they tested for – dust, mold, pollen, grass…and cats. Even though I was quite young at the time I still remember the follow-up appointment when the doctor asked my mother if we still had our family cat, Patch. My mother replied with a very logical answer, “She’s allergic to things like pollen and grass. Is she supposed to never step outside and expose herself to them? That would be impossible, so why should she be deprived of living with something she loves as much as cats?” The doctor never asked about Patch’s living arrangements again.

Patch was a beloved member of our family and finding a new home for him was never an option. It was never even up for discussion. Thankfully, my cat allergy was mild and 30 plus years later I’ve more or less outgrown it. (I can’t say the same thing for dust and pollen though!)

Maybe it’s the cat lover in me and I’m being unfair, but I’ve always felt that a lot of people use an allergy as a good excuse to not take on the responsibility of a pet. I understand that for many people allergies can be very serious, even a life or death situation, but in milder cases there are so many easy ways to deal with a pet allergy, as we explored in Solutions for Pet Lovers with Allergies.

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about what exactly causes an allergic reaction to cats. Many people believe its cat hair they are allergic to, but the real culprit is a protein (Fel-d1) in the animal’s saliva, dander, and urine. Fur collects these allergens in addition to others like dust and pollen. During the grooming process this protein is spread throughout their fur, and when a cat sheds or dander falls off them, the allergen is deposited into the environment.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a 100% “hypoallergenic” cat (or dog, for that matter), but some breeds are widely accepted as causing fewer allergy symptoms than others, possibly because these breeds naturally have less Fel-d1.

  • Sphynx: this breed is considered less allergenic because it’s hairless and allergens can’t get trapped in their fur, but these cats still require regular grooming to remove oil on the skin and wax in the ears.
  • Siberian: How can the Siberian cat with its long, beautiful coat be an option for allergy sufferers? Surprisingly, they shed very little and their skin produces less Fel-d1 than most other breeds, as do Russian Blue and Balinese cats.
  • Cornish Rex: this breed possesses only the soft down hair that makes up most cat’s undercoats, meaning they have a lot less hair than other cats and therefore shed less. The Devon Rex has a similar coat, also consisting of soft, fine down hair, and little to no top coat.
  • Javanese: Like the Cornish and Devon Rex, Javanese cats have only one of the three layers of coat that most cats have. The difference is that Javanese cats have a fine top coat instead of an undercoat.
  • Oriental Shorthairs have a very short, fine coat that sheds infrequently.
  • Bengal: this beautiful cat has a short pelt-like coat that requires considerably less maintenance than other breeds with zero to minimum shedding. Since the Bengal is a hybrid (part domestic cat and part Asian Leopard Cat), it’s believed their allergen-causing proteins may be different enough to not cause a reaction.
  • LaPerm: this cat has a unique, curly coat which helps keep their dander from spreading around.

Regardless of breed, male cats tend to produce more Fel-d1 protein than females, especially intact males. Dark cats produce more Fel-d1 than light-colored cats, and kittens produce less Fel-d1 than adults. It’s also believed that long-haired cats release fewer allergens into their environment than short-haired cats because their long fur holds the protein against the skin better.

These are all generalizations of course, and individual cats may produce more allergens than average members of their breed, so a person with cat allergies may still suffer from symptoms when exposed to a so-called “hypoallergenic” breed. No one wants to adopt a cat only to have to return them because of an allergy, so you should always spend extra time with any cat you plan to bring home to gauge your reaction to them.

Don’t let allergies stand in the way of the joy of living with a cat. There’s a purrfect match out there for most anyone, and kitty cuddles are worth the time and effort to find yours!

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Calico Dorsey: The Dog Who Delivered the Mail

August 7, 2019

By Linda Cole

 Calico, California is a historic, restored ghost town today, but in its heyday from 1881 to 1907 the town’s 500 mines produced over $20 million in silver ore and $9 million in borax. People flocked to the mining town hoping to find their riches in the surrounding hills, but it was a stray dog who delivered the mail that gave the town its lasting fame.

Following a boom in population, Calico soon had a sheriff and constables, a justice of the peace, two lawyers and two doctors. There was a court house, five general stores, three restaurants and hotels, a meat market, bars, brothels, boarding houses, a weekly newspaper, school, and post office. At the peak of the town’s silver production, the population was 1,200 people. Three mines – the Silver King, Oriental and Bismarck – contributed the bulk of the town’s wealth.

The mail was delivered to Calico by stagecoach, but getting it to the outlying mining communities sprinkled among the hills was a slow and difficult challenge. Calico’s postmaster was Everett Stacy, and his brother Alwin ran a general store at the Bismarck mine a mile and a half away in the hills.

No one seemed to know when the black and white Border Collie first showed up in town. When Everett found the dog stretched out on his porch, he took the stray in and named him Dorsey. The postmaster was impressed with the intelligent, bright-eyed dog who followed him around. Whenever Everett made the trek to visit Alwin in Bismarck, Dorsey tagged along on the very steep and rugged path – a challenge for both man and beast.

One day, Everett had an urgent message he needed to get to Alwin, but he wasn’t able to make the trip himself. Since Dorsey knew how to get to Alwin, Everett decided to send the dog. He tied the message around Dorsey’s neck, pointed him towards the mining camp and said “Bismarck!” Dorsey hesitated at first, but with encouragement from Everett, the dog finally headed out on his own. He returned to Calico the following morning with Alwin’s reply tied around his neck. Everett was delighted that Dorsey was able to make the round trip, and wondered if it was possible to use him to carry mail to Bismarck.

Dorsey had a reputation around town as a somewhat lazy dog more interested in lounging in the shade than working to earn his meals, but that was before he had an actual job to do. Everett sent Dorsey off to Bismarck on more test runs until he was convinced the dog was capable of making the daily trip to deliver the mail. Everett and Alwin had a special mail pouch made to strap on Dorsey’s back, and leather booties to protect his feet from the rough terrain, sand and rocks he would have to travel over.

And so it was that Dorsey became the official mail carrier to the Bismarck mining camp. It was a great job with benefits, too. Upon arriving at the camp, Dorsey was showered with affection and good tasting treats and rewarded the following morning after returning to Everett with outgoing mail from Bismarck.

It wasn’t long before newspapers across the country heard about Calico’s canine mail carrier and began running their own version of Dorsey’s story. His picture appeared in newspapers from coast to coast, and photos of the famous dog hung on the walls in mining shacks and businesses in the Calico area. Dorsey had become a beloved canine celebrity. In 1886, the San Francisco Chronicle featured Dorsey in a full article, ending it with: “He is immensely popular with the miners, whose mail he carries so faithfully, and every evening at Bismarck, the miners order an extra beefsteak for the canine carrier.”

It was a unique, reliable and cost effective way of delivering the mail, but it only lasted for about a year. Everett and Alwin decided to move, but before Everett left he gave Dorsey to a San Francisco financier, W.W. Stow, who owned the Bismarck mine. Retired from the mail service, Dorsey lived out the rest of his years at Stow’s San Francisco mansion.

According to a local legend, the ghost of Dorsey can be spotted now and then close to the cemetery and print shop where the old post office in Calico was located. Kenny Rodgers recounted Dorsey’s story in a song called Dorsey, the Mail Carrying Dog on his 1972 album, The Ballad of Calico. His story was told again on an episode of The Wonderful World of Disney in 1977 called Go West, Young Dog, and children’s author Susan Lendroth has kept Dorsey’s story alive in her 2010 book, Calico Dorsey: Mail Dog of the Mining Camps.

Dorsey made his daily mail run regardless of the weather, and became the most famous canine mail carrier in history.

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Exotic Shorthair: The Lazy Man’s Persian

August 5, 2019

By Sierra Koester

Exotic Shorthairs, known as Exotics for short, are sweet, affectionate and playful cats. Exotics are similar in personality and appearance to Persian cats. In fact, if you love Persians but don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to meet their daily grooming requirements, an Exotic might be the purrfect cat for you!

History

American Shorthairs were originally bred with Persians in order to add silver coloring and green eyes to the American Shorthair breed. However, though the resulting kittens were beautiful, they did not meet the American Shorthair breed standard. Jane Martinke proposed a new breed called the Sterling based on the cats’ silver coloring. These kitties were supposed to look like Persians with short-haired coats. Initially, the breed was only supposed to be silver in color. However, the breed name was changed to Exotic Shorthair, and every color was accepted.

The Exotic began to be developed in the 1950s. Breeders crossed Persians with short-haired breeds, such as the American Shorthair, Burmese, and Russian Blue. The offspring were then bred back to Persians.

Early progress on developing the breed was slow. Once the breed began to become more popular, more Persian breeders were willing to work with Exotic breeders on developing the breed further.

The Cat Fanciers’ Association recognized the Exotic in 1967. The International Cat Association recognized the breed under the name Exotic Shorthair in 1979.

Appearance

The Exotic Shorthair breed meets the same standards as the Persian breed with the exception of its coat. Exotics have broad, round heads with big, round eyes, and low-set ears with rounded tips. The breed has full, rounded cheeks and a short, broad nose. The head sits on a short, thick neck.

Exotics are large boned and have powerful muscles. The Exotic’s body is medium-sized, cobby, and sits low to the ground. The breed’s legs are short, thick, and strong with large, round paws with tufts of hair between the toes. The tail is short and carried low to the ground.

The Exotic’s coat is medium-length, thick, soft, and plush with a thick undercoat. The breed, like Persians, comes in a variety of colors and patterns. Exotic coats can be blue, lilac, chocolate, cream, red, black, silver, or gold. They can have calico, tabby, particolor, shaded, smoke, or bicolor patterns.

An Exotic Shorthair’s eye color is related to coat color. White Exotic Shorthairs have copper, deep blue, or odd eyes – one copper and one blue eye. Other solid-colored Exotic Shorthairs possess copper eyes. Golden or silver Exotics have blue-green or green eyes.

Personality

Exotic Shorthairs are an affectionate breed. They’ll follow you from one room to another to be near you, and enjoy curling up in your lap when you’ve settled down. They are known to be more active than Persians and love to play.

Exotics won’t demand your attention; rather, they’ll patiently gaze at you and wait for you to notice them. They aren’t very talkative, but when they choose to say something, their voice is soft and melodious.

Exotic Shorthairs are easygoing and tend to get along with children and other household pets.

Grooming

Unlike the Persian, the Exotic is able to keep her coat tidy with little help from her human. Weekly brushings help remove loose fur and decrease hairballs and shedding. Because of the minimal grooming needs, an Exotic is often referred to as the “lazy man’s Persian.”

As with the Persian, the Exotic’s tear ducts are prone to overflowing, so they’ll need the corners of their eyes wiped everyday in order to prevent under-eye staining.

Health

It’s important to remember that every cat is an individual. As a breed, Exotics are at risk for a number of health issues, mostly related to the shape of their face.

  • Brachycephalic Airway Obstructive Syndrome causes upper airway abnormalities that vary in severity. The condition can cause inflammation in the structures in the airways, increase airway resistance, and put strain on the heart.
  • Seborrhea Oleosa is a condition in which a cat’s skin produces excess sebum. This results in scaly, red, flaky, and itchy skin. The face, flanks and back are most often affected, and it is usually worse within the folds of the skin.
  • Feline Polycystic Kidney Disease is a genetic condition that causes cysts to form in a cat’s kidneys. The cysts may eventually cause kidney dysfunction and kidney failure.
  • Calcium Oxalate Urolithiasis: In this condition, crystals or stones form in a cat’s bladder.

 Exotic Shorthairs are beautiful, playful, affectionate, and family-friendly pets. Have you ever had the privilege of being owned by an Exotic? Please tell us about him or her in the comments section!

Read more articles by Sierra Koester

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Why Does My Cat Keep Changing Her Sleeping Spot?

August 2, 2019

By Julia Williams

Do you ever feel like your cat is pranking you? That they like to do odd things all the time just to mess with your head? It certainly does seem that way to me sometimes, especially when I’m trying to figure out yet another quirky behavior. And if your cat is anything like my two feline best friends, this happens pretty much daily. My cats are always doing things that my non-feline brain just can’t comprehend!

I’ve written about a number of those perplexing puddy tat antics here, including, Why Does My Cat Put His Toys in My Shoe?; Why Does My Cat Sleep on My Head? and Why Won’t My Cat Sleep in Her Bed? Speaking of sleeping, that brings me to the subject of today’s post: why do cats always change their sleeping spots? As in, for a good solid month (or two or three) they slept in the cat bed on the couch every day all day, and then one day they refused to go near it. Did the cat bed develop cooties overnight? Or, is the cat just changing things to befuddle you? What about those kitties who seem to change their favorite sleeping spot more often than most people change their socks and underwear? Is there a method to their catnapping madness?

Having spent decades researching cat behavior, I’m fairly confident that the peculiar things cats do are not born of a devious mind. Cats are definitely clever little creatures though, so I concede that I could be wrong about that. For the sake of argument, let’s take a look at some possible (more rational?) reasons why a cat might want to change her sleeping spot.

It’s a Seasonal Thing

Every spring, I wash the cat beds and put them away for awhile. I’ve learned that until the weather gets a bit nippy, those beds will not be seeing any action so I might as well get them out of the way. During winter it’s a different story – the beds almost always have a sleeping feline in them. It makes sense, because what might be a warm and cozy place for winter catnaps can become a too-hot spot in the summer.

The changing seasons are a common reason many cats will seek out alternate sleeping spots. In the spring and summer I’ll find my cats snoozing on top of the bed, on their cat tree or the back of the couch, under the bed, and even just sprawled on the cool kitchen floor – always directly in my path, of course! Basements, cellars, bathroom sinks and tubs are also favorite places cats like to sleep in the summer. In colder months, in addition to the aforementioned beds my cats like to sleep under the bedcovers, in a blanket-lined box in the closet (yes…I keep it there just for them) or in front of the wall heater in the living room.

It’s Instinctual

Many behaviors of domestic housecats are inherited from their wild ancestors; changing the sleeping spot may be one of them. In the wild, a cat must take precautions against other predators. Changing where they sleep helps to keep them safe because predators can’t learn where they will most likely be found, and can’t track them to their den by the scent they’ve left there.

So even if your kitty never sets a paw in the great outdoors, this protective behavior is innate. It’s also said to be a primary reason why mother cats will constantly move their kittens, even if they are indoors and their “nest” is in a perfectly safe spot.

Moods

You’ve probably heard that old saying, “variety is the spice of life.” While it is true that cats are creatures of habit and like order and routine, this doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy changing things up now and then. A different sleeping spot gives them a different vantage point for “snoopervising” the household activity. It might also be too noisy or chaotic in a certain spot, so they seek out a quieter space that is more conducive to getting that all important shut-eye.

Pain or Mobility Issues

Advancing age can limit a kitty’s ability to climb and jump, making it harder to reach some sleeping spots. If your senior cat used to love napping on the bookshelf or fireplace mantle but is now more likely found at ground level, pain and mobility issues could be the reason for the change.

Other Pets

In multi-cat homes, the choice of where to sleep may be influenced by the pecking order. Yes, there is a feline hierarchy in every cat group even though it may not be obvious to you unless you study their behavior. The top cat on the totem pole will claim certain spots for himself, and will chase interlopers away from his territory.

Sleeping spots may also change if there’s a shift in the cat population – for instance, if one cat dies or a new kitty is added to the family. I witnessed this when my cat Mickey passed away. He almost always slept in the living room, and Annabelle kept to the bedroom, my office or the laundry room. Once Mickey was gone, she started sleeping in the living room.

These are a few of the reasons a cat’s preferred sleeping spot might change. As with all cat behaviors, multiple things may influence where the catnaps happen. Sometimes, it might even be cats just being their quirky cat selves to keep us guessing!

What are some of your cat’s favorite sleeping spots?

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Home Remedies for Your Dog’s Upset Stomach

July 31, 2019

By Langley Cornwell

Nothing will jolt you out of bed faster than the sound of your pet throwing up. As in humans, nausea can strike at any time, but why does it seem to happen most frequently when you’re sound asleep? In any case, there are a few easy things you can do at home to help your dog through these times. Please bear in mind that these tips are for a general, mild upset stomach, like when your dog raids the trash can or samples something unsavory in the yard.

Aside from vomiting and diarrhea, other signs your dog has an upset stomach include licking the floor and eating grass, which should be discouraged. You may also notice a lot of grumbling and gurgling noises from your dog’s stomach and he may be passing more wind than usual.

Before I discuss home remedies, I’m going to list some symptoms that require immediate veterinary attention. If your dog is vomiting nonstop, dry heaving, has acute diarrhea or blood in his stool, emergency treatment is warranted. Likewise, determine if your dog shows signs of extreme lethargy and dehydration, which require immediate consideration. Also, keep a sharp eye out for a distended stomach and obvious discomfort like panting and pacing. All of these signs indicate it’s time to act fast and get your dog in to see your vet.

There are many different reasons a dog can develop an upset stomach, and it’s always wise to take the proper precautions to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your pet.

Now let’s take a look at a few things you can do at home if your dog has a mild upset stomach.

Hydration

Regurgitation requires a lot of fluid, so it’s important to keep your dog hydrated as he’s working through the stomach discomfort. As counter-productive as this may seem, keep your dog from gulping down copious amounts of water quickly; rapid water intake will further upset his stomach and he will likely throw that up, which continues the cycle. If your dog likes ice chips, give him a few to lick on. If that doesn’t do the trick, you may offer him small amounts of clear broth diluted with water or even a bit of electrolyte enhanced liquids. Some dogs even like a few sips of well-diluted apple juice when they are dehydrated.

Remember that small breed dogs and puppies dehydrate at a quicker pace than larger breed dogs.

Fasting

If your dog has been suffering from stomach distress, sometimes a break from eating is needed to let his gastrointestinal tract rest and recover from the inflammation. Food avoidance is something that happens naturally in the wild; un-domesticated animals usually do not eat when they are recovering from stomach ailments. In fact, you may have noticed your own dog losing his appetite on occasion but if he doesn’t, now is the time to remove his access to food for 12 to 24 hours to let him heal.

Bland Diet

Once the vomiting has subsided and your dog is keeping small bits of liquids down, small bites of bland food may be tolerated. Some vets recommend a bit of boiled rice with a low fat protein mixed in, something like lean hamburger or white meat chicken. The ratio should be 75% cooked white rice to 25% lean protein. Allow your dog small meals of this multiple times a day. If diarrhea is still a problem, some canned pumpkin added to this mixture will help.

If the bland food is tolerated for several days, you can gradually introduce his regular food back into your dog’s life. Take this slowly though. Begin by adding a few bites of regular food into the bland mixture and gradually increase the regular dog food to bland diet ratio until you’re back to 100% regular dog food. Make sure your dog is eating a healthy, well-balanced food such as one of the CANIDAE Grain Free PURE formulas.

While these tips are vet approved, they should in no way be a substitute for a thorough veterinarian examination. There are countless reasons for a canine upset stomach, and only your vet can pinpoint the exact reason and recommend a proper course of treatment.

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5 Alternatives to Pet Insurance

July 29, 2019

By Emily Hall

Did you know you can get health insurance for your pet? It’s called pet insurance! Policies, pricing, and coverage vary from company to company, but pet insurance works similarly to human health insurance. You pay a monthly premium and get help covering your pet’s vet bills in return. There is usually a deductible of some sort, and various things like wellness checkups are covered along with a percentage of the costs of additional expenses. Unfortunately, just like with human health insurance, there are usually exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and some pets aren’t even insurable due to age and/or pre-existing conditions.

While having pet insurance is great for some, what if you have a pet with a pre-existing condition? Out of my seven cats, only two of them are fully insurable and have no exclusions. Many people have similar situations that make having pet insurance impractical and/or not worth the cost. This can pose a problem when an unexpected and expensive veterinary expense comes up. Don’t fret though – whether your pet doesn’t qualify or you can’t afford it, there are some awesome pet insurance alternatives out there!

Financial Assistance Programs

There are programs and organizations, funded by grant and donation money, whose sole purpose is to provide support to those who may have trouble covering their pet’s healthcare costs. These programs have varying guidelines and requirements. There are national and state organizations, as well as organizations that are geared towards specific health issues such as cancer. Thankfully, the Humane Society has compiled a list of the different financial assistance programs, categorized alphabetically and by state.

Credit Financing

Most people these days have at least one credit card. While it’s never recommended to carry a large balance on a credit card due to the interest fees, they do come in handy in the case of large vet bills. If you don’t have a credit card or would rather not go that route, there are other credit financing options that are specifically for veterinary care.

Care Credit is the most commonly used company for this. They offer no-interest financing on veterinary bills for 6, 12, 18 or 24 months on purchases of $200 or more when you make the minimum monthly payments and pay the full amount due by the end of the promotional period. (Care Credit can be used for your human healthcare costs as well.)

Some veterinary hospitals offer their own financing options and payment plans as well, so always ask your vet about those first before applying for any special financing.

Pet Savings Account

A great alternative to pet insurance is a savings account specifically dedicated for your pet care costs. An idea that I’ve heard is to put the amount you’d spend every month on pet insurance into a savings account instead. That way you have it when/if you need it, but if you never need it, it’s still there for you rather than it going to an insurance company. Even if you do have pet insurance, having a backup savings account is a good idea for those times when the insurance doesn’t cover 100% of your pet’s needs. An added bonus of a pet savings account is that you can earn interest on it from your bank. Even if the interest rate is low, every little bit helps!

Veterinary Discount Plans

A veterinary discount is exactly what it sounds like – a plan that offers a discount on veterinary services for cardholders/members. Pet Assure is the most popular veterinary discount company. Members pay a monthly or annual fee and get a 25% discount on ALL veterinary services – no restrictions or exclusions. The catch is that the discount is only available if you see a vet that is “in network,” so make sure your vet accepts any discount plan you are looking into before signing up.

Prescription Plan

A pet prescription plan is similar to the veterinary discount plan in that you pay a monthly or annual fee and get discounts in return. The difference is that prescription plans are only good for any medication your pet takes – not any of the actual veterinary services. The discount usually works on flea, tick, and heartworm preventative, vitamins and supplements, special prescription food, and any other prescribed medication. If you combine a prescription plan along with a veterinary discount plan, you could be looking at some pretty big savings!

Pet insurance can be great and bring you peace of mind, but it’s certainly not for everybody. It’s good to know there are some great alternatives for pet insurance out there!

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Must-Watch Modern Movies for Cat Lovers

July 26, 2019

By Melissa Lapierre

Cats don’t get nearly as much love as dogs do on the silver screen. Dogs are viewed as much easier to work with and can be trained to perform on command, resulting in feline films coming few and far between. Thankfully there are some really good ones out there that should be in everyone’s Netflix queue. We’ve already presented a list of Must-See Classic Movies for Cat Lovers; here’s a handful of more recently released titles.

Kedi

One of the best documentaries ever released for cat lovers is Kedi, a film focused on the cats that freely roam the streets of Istanbul. The movie showcases how the cats of Istanbul are beloved by the people who live there but not domesticated, creating a sort of hybrid cat that’s certainly wild but also very happy to interact with humans. This documentary is interesting because it explores the roles of cats in Turkish society, and it’s also extremely cute, featuring thousands of adorable cats and kittens.

The Secret Life of Pets

Do you ever wonder what your furry friend gets into while you’re away at work? Then watch The Secret Life of Pets, a hit animated movie that was released in 2016 and explores the lives of several animals who have outlandish adventures once their owners leave home. This is a great movie to watch with kids, since it’s geared toward a young audience. You can also watch it with the dog lovers in your life since there are lots of main canine characters as well. The Secret Life of Pets will make you laugh, make you cry and keep you on the edge of your seat, no matter how old you are.

A Street Cat Named Bob

This 2016 movie is based on the bestselling book and chronicles the story of a street musician who finds and befriends a stray cat. A Street Cat Named Bob is heartwarming until the very end, celebrating the love that can exist between cat and human – and showing just how powerful and restorative the relationship can be.

Nine Lives

Kevin Spacey plays a workaholic father named Tom Brand who never has time for his family. In need of a gift for his daughter’s birthday, he visits a mysterious pet store and leaves with a cat named Mr. Fuzzypants. After getting into an accident, Tom wakes up to find himself magically trapped inside the cat’s body. As his family adjusts to life with the strange cat, Brand must figure out a way to become human again. This is a fun family movie with an important message about priorities.

The Adventures of Milo & Otis

How many orange tabbies were named Milo thanks to this movie? A lot! That shows what a modern-day classic Milo & Otis is. Released in 1989, the movie follows the many adventures of Milo and his pug pal Otis after they’re separated and struggle to find their way back to each other.

Puss in Boots

The original story of Puss in Boots is a European fairytale about a cat who uses trickery and deceit to gain power, wealth, and the hand of a princess in marriage for his penniless and low-born master. The character is best known today as part of the Shrek franchise and the Netflix series The Adventures of Puss in Boots. This 2011 film is a prequel to Shrek and pits the dashing pussycat against Jack and Jill, two outlaws in ownership of legendary magical beans that lead to a great fortune. Along the way, Puss in Boots finds romance with Kitty Softpaws.

A Cat in Paris

The Academy Award-nominated A Cat in Paris is a beautifully hand-drawn caper set in the shadow-drenched alleyways of Paris. Dino is a cat that leads a double life. By day he lives with Zoe, a little girl whose mother is a detective in the Parisian police force. But at night Dino sneaks out the window to work with Nico, a slinky cat burglar with a big heart, whose fluid movements are poetry in motion as he evades captors and slips and swishes from rooftop to rooftop across the Parisian skyline. A Cat in Paris is a delightful animated adventure that is perfect for both adults and children. It’s a witty and stylish “animated noir” with a jazzy soundtrack featuring Billie Holiday, and a thrilling climax on top of Notre Dame cathedral.

Garfield: The Movie, and Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties

What cat lover doesn’t adore Garfield? The original grumpy cat with a disdain for Mondays and a love for lasagna made his cartoon debut 41 years ago but only recently became the star of his own feature flicks. Whether he’s causing trouble in the ‘hood with Odie and the gang or gallivanting around England, Garfield is a feline icon and his movies are essential viewing.

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey

Based on the 1960s novel by Sheila Burnford, the movie tells the story of a wise old Golden Retriever (Shadow), an American Bulldog (Chance), and a Himalayan cat (Sassy) who perfectly lives up to her name as they make a long journey home to their family. I have to admit, feline fanatic that I am, it’s Shadow that stole my heart in this movie. If you can make it through the final scenes without sobbing, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am.

What’s your favorite cat movie?

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8 Reasons Your Dog Might Develop Behavior Issues

July 24, 2019

By Linda Cole

There are many reasons dogs develop behavior issues that have nothing to do with being “bad dogs.” The only way to address undesirable behavior is to take a step back and evaluate what is causing your dog to misbehave. It could be due to inconsistent training, not enough exercise, poor socialization and even genetics. Here are 8 possible reasons for canine misbehavior.

Inconsistent Training

Training helps your dog understand what you expect from him. But inconsistent training causes confusion. If you allow your dog to jump up on you when you’re wearing jeans and a T-shirt, don’t scold him for jumping up on you when you’re dressed up. Be consistent, use positive reinforcement, and be patient and understanding when training. It helps you earn your dog’s trust, grow a strong bond and provides leadership.

Lack of Exercise or Mental Stimulation

Walks around the neighborhood are great and can provide some exercise and mental stimulation, but some high energy breeds require more substantial exercise. Dog sports or secure areas where they can run off leash and really stretch their legs will provide these athletic canines with a more acceptable option. Training is a good way to provide mental stimulation; another idea is to hide some of your pet’s CANIDAE kibble around the yard or house for a healthy enrichment activity.

Poor Socialization

Proper socialization should begin as soon as you bring a new puppy home, and is the foundation for a well balanced pup. A dog’s education starts with his mother and siblings and continues throughout his life. The most crucial period for socialization is between 3-16 weeks. Even a well socialized dog can develop behavior issues from negative life experiences, such as being teased by kids, a bad experience at the vet, negative training techniques, being attacked by another dog, or spending time in an animal shelter. A dog that hasn’t been socialized can develop fear or aggression issues. Most adult shelter dogs already have good social skills, but some may need to be re-socialized.

Inconsistent Routine

Dogs feel comfortable when they know what to expect, and they like to know what’s next. An inconsistent routine can cause stress, which in turn can create behavior issues. Anytime there’s a major change in the home such as a new pet, addition of a new person or baby, a move to a different home or a change in work schedule, this can leave a pet feeling confused and uptight. A stable routine provides dogs with a sense of security. While a change to their routine may seem insignificant to us, it’s actually a big deal to dogs. Be patient and understanding, and give your pet time to adjust when it’s necessary to change their routine. Maintain a regular feeding and walking schedule, and give your pet extra attention to reassure him and help ease anxiety.

Poor Diet

Behavior problems can develop because of an inadequate diet that leaves a dog constantly feeling hungry. Dogs that don’t get proper vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients from their food can become cranky and out of sorts. A poor diet can cause depression, aggression, hyperactivity and begging. It can also cause a dog to steal food and become protective of his food bowl.

Not Understanding Normal Dog Behavior

Our canine buddies are guided by instinct, and normal behavior can be different depending on your pet’s breed or mixed heritage. Never punish your dog for following his instincts. It’s normal for dogs to chase other animals, growl when threatened, mouth things, sniff, chew, roll around on smelly things, and guard or protect his home and family. Some canines use their voice more than others, and some dig to escape their enclosure. Some are naturally wary of strangers and some want to herd children and other household pets. Some dogs are stubborn, capable of thinking on their own, tenacious or unwilling to back down when threatened, and some love to run. Ancient breeds have been bred for thousands of years and modern breeds for hundreds of years. Each one was developed to perform a specific job and created with traits needed to perform that particular job. Dogs are also individuals with their own unique personality.

Genetics

You can do everything professional dog trainers and behavioral experts recommend to give your puppy the best start in life. But genetics has a role to play, and a puppy can unfortunately inherit bad genes. The behavior of a dog is influenced by genes, environment and life experiences. And through the maturing process, a confident puppy can become more fearful as he ages. While training and socialization help teach a puppy to be confident, there’s no way to control bad genes he inherits from his parents and grandparents.

Health Issues

Anytime your dog isn’t acting like himself or has a change in behavior, the culprit could be an underlying medical issue you may not be aware of, and a vet checkup is in order to rule out any health concerns.

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