Cap’n Krunch

Cap'n Crunch

 

 

As many of you know, I am not only a great lover of cats but an owner of many.  My neighbor commented the other morning that I looked like “the crazy cat lady” as I went out to retrieve my newspaper and four cats followed me down the driveway.  Mind you only one of the four was actually mine, that was Sarafina.  She is my 10 year old tuxedo cat that lives in the garage.  What they don’t know is that I have numerous kitties who live in the bedroom and travel in and out of the house by way of a cat door.  Most everyone in the cul-de-sac thinks that I have the one lone cat, little Sarafina!!  My other kitties prefer the backyard because it backs up to a huge wooded area that is owned by State government.  No one will ever  own that land and no one will ever develop it.  Sweet, right?  So my kitties get to spend their days frolicking in the woods, chasing all sorts of critters, climbing trees and basically goofing  off.  After that they come home and take over the bed to get their necessary 16 hours of sleep.

One evening, as I was preparing to settle in bed with a good book, I heard an unusual sound from underneath the dresser.  It was a loud “crunch, crunch” sound. “Odd” I thought. ” I know we have dry cat food under the dresser for my timid eaters, but I’ve never heard it sound quite so crunchy.”  Taking a moment to look under the dresser I see Mr. MacCafferty, my big, orange tabby.  And wouldn’t you know, Mr. Mac has brought some scrumptious delicacy from outside to enjoy in my house.  I was freaking out!!  ” What now?”  I thought. ” It’s too big to be a baby mole – which we have had several of, but not as big as a squirrel- yes, Mr. Mac has taken down squirrels that were as big as he was”.  Upon closer examination, I realized it was a bunny. Yeah, a sweet little fuzzy bunny.  How horrid! and right there in my bedroom.   At this point, there wasn’t much left of the bunny and I knew better than to reach my hand in there to claim his prize.  Shoot, I’d have to fight off the other four cats who were hanging around waiting for the leftovers.  It was like watching a pride of lions; the male was devouring the kill as the rest of the pride waited their turn. Natural instincts kick in no matter how long they have been domesticated.   Actually it’s  pretty fascinating once you get over the gross factor.  The truly amazing thing about this whole grizzly episode is that Mr. MacCafferty is not a cat that appears capable of bringing down anything. Just check out his picture.   He was born without eyelids, the poor little guy.  We adopted him from the vet and she agreed to perform a surgery that would basically attach skin that would function as his eyelids.  So he had that going.  Then about two years ago he got in to something in the woods that caused an infection in one eye and it had to be removed.  Add to that the fact that his remaining eye is losing vision and finally, Mr. Mac will be 13 this year.  I am always in awe of the ability of animals to overcome what we mere humans would see as a disability.  Mr. Mac didn’t know he was different when he was a kitten, so he acted just like the other cats.  He learned how to hunt and prey by watching the rest of my crew.  After he lost his eye, it took some time for him to adjust to the changes in how things look, gauging depth perception and general functioning.  But he soldiered on.  He never gave up.  He kept doing the things he loved to do.  The vet said, after removing his eye, that it would be in Mr. Mac’s best interest to keep him inside from now on.  I beg to differ.  Mr. Mac needs to live his life as he always has, on his own terms.  If something happens to him, well he certainly has had some amazing experiences!

Why don’t you tell me about some of your cat experiences?  We all love a good story!

Water, water everywhere!

Fun Fountain for your Pet

I am one of those people who always has a bottle or glass of water in my hand. It is a habit I picked up from the hundreds of diet plans that I have dallied with over the years. We are all aware of the health benefits of drinking lots of water and I know it has made a difference in my overall well-being.  It is just as important for your dog or cat to have access to clean water. Water is necessary for a number of reasons: digestion of food, regulation of body temperature, cleansing the system of toxins and delivering that all important nutrient, oxygen, to various organs in the body.  I have found an equally important benefit of water for your pet – the dilution of nitrogen in the urine.  You may be wondering, ” Why is this lady concerned about the nitrogen in my pet’s urine?”  That’s a very valid question and when you have finished reading this post you will understand and want to thank me for this tidbit of information.  Seriously, it’s THAT important.

In pets, the percentage of nitrogen in the urine can result in various things.  For the purposes of this post I am looking at the effect the nitrogen has on urine odor and on it’s ability to damage, or “burn” grass.  Many pet owners who allow their dogs free access to  their yard have the problem of “burn” spots on the lawn.  What is occuring is the nitrogen in the urine is chemically “burning” the grass.   If the nitrogen were diluted,this would not happen.  Sounds so simple doesn’t it?  Well, it is just that, simple.  Case in point, I care for a very large American Bulldog named Rocco.  Rocco can be a little lazy when it comes to his potty habits and prefers to walk outside the door- tinkle and run back inside.  Not big on wandering around the lovely acreage that his Mom and Dad have for him.  Rocco’s parents love to entertain and it’s was a bit unsightly to have these spots so close to the house.  Couldn’t I just walk Rocco further out for him to do his business?  Certainly I could, but that wouldn’t fix the problem.  I had noticed that for a large dog, Rocco really didn’t drink a lot of water.  Since I check his bowl daily, I knew he needed to drink more.  I was sure that if I could get the Big Guy to drink more, we could be rid of those unsightly “burn” marks.  As I further observed Rocco and his drinking pattern, it was apparent that he did not like his water station.  He had one of those bowls with the big jug on top that would automatically refill the reservoir.  As it turned out, when Rocco went to get a drink, his big ol’ head would bump up against the jug and that startled him.  Therefore, he surmised if he didn’t drink, he wouldn’t get bumped.  Smart dog!!  I convinced his Mom and Dad to take the jug off the bowl and voila – Rocco was drinking more water and we didn’t have the “burned” lawn.  All problems should be so easy to resolve.

 

Now let’s look at cats.  Many is the cat owner who abhors the smell of cat urine, yet must tolerate it because kitty needs to use the litter box.  We buy the best litter, try all sorts of different boxes that promise to keep the odor away, use deodorizer to cover the smell and so on.  While I do know that a male cat will have a stronger odor than a female for the purpose of marking his territory, all cat urine has a distinct and strong smell due to the chemicals present.  As I learned from my experience with Rocco, I figured it would behoove me to test this theory with my cats.  Why can’t I increase their water intake and decrease the aroma they put out?  With cats, I also know that keeping them hydrated is essential to their health.  I keep several sources of water available to my cats both inside and outside.  Even though I live next to a large lake, I want my cats to have clean drinking water and by natural instinct, the cat wants clean water too.  In fact, cats prefer running water to still water.  There are many theories as well as urban legends about this behavior, but no one knows for sure. This attraction to running water may reflect an adaptive behavior from a wild past. Perhaps because running water has fewer contaminates, many wild animals prefer to drink from streams rather than ponds.  Ever notice how your kitty comes running whenever you turn on the kitchen or bath faucet?  Mine do it all the time.  A bit annoying until I understood why and was able to give them what they wanted, their own running water.   I invested in one of the watering systems shown above.  My cats LOVE this thing.  They are fascinated to watch the water come out of the spout, they drink by the side of the bowl, they drink right from the pouring spout, they just drink and drink!!  I am sold on this fountain.  And my litter boxes are a lot easier to be around.

In summation, I just want to express the importance of accessible, clean water for our pets.  Don’t just have one bowl set out, put them in different places in the house so they can grab a quick drink whenever they want to.  If you have a dog and a cat, be sure you have a separate water source for your kitty that is his alone.  Even if they do get along well, a cat should be able to quietly sip his water without fear that Fido will pull a surprise attack.  Dogs will do that you know, just sayin’.

Is Your Dog Jerking You Around?

In a previous post,”Dog Walking- Why Does My Dog Pull Me?”, I discussed why your dog pulls you on your walks.  I would like to take the opportunity to expound on that topic.  Most of my discussion was centered on the type of collar used during the walk.  I stressed the importance of being in control of the walk in order to make it as enjoyable as it should be for both you and your dog.  No one wants to have their sweet dog pulling them down the street in what looks like a tug-of-war with the leash.  Can you imagine the horror?  Besides that, it can be harmful for your dog.  As your dog pulls on the leash, the collar is pressing up against the esophagus.  The more he pulls, the more pressure on the esophagus and the result could be a trip to the vet.  If nothing less, your dog will be coughing and choking and people will think you are just plain mean.

Many owners will see this problem and think “I know, I’ll get a harness.  That will be so comfortable for my dog.”  This may be the solution.  If your dog will remain calm and walk at your side while wearing his harness, then great.  However, if he is going to simply substitute harness pulling for leash pulling, we are back to square one.  To make matters  worse, when you strap that harness on your dog, you are actually  giving him some serious leverage.  Your dog’s shoulders are one of  the strongest muscle groups in his body. To think that he wouldn’t use this to his advantage is folly.   People who harness their dogs are typically preparing for them to work, to pull something.  Maybe a wagon, or a tree trunk, or a sled but definitely not them.  In fact, there are competitions for this very activity because it is a natural instinct.  It is amazing to see these dogs at work.  They can pull over a thousand pounds, absolutely awesome to watch.  But I digress.  Suffice it to say, that if some dogs can be trained to pull that much weight, why not just pull you??

There has been some  progress made in the world of dog harnesses.  Joseph Sporn came up with an idea that would change the effect of pulling and he put that into a harness/ halter.   This harness transfers pressure from around the neck where the collar is to underneath the legs.  At this location, the dog is just sensitive enough for the pressure to cause him to back off the pulling.  The restraints are attached to the front of the collar then looped under the legs and anchored at the top of the collar.  It comes with sherpa sleeves to make the restraints more comfortable for your dog.  A very interesting concept that has been tested by dogs and their owners for over a decade.

So, back to the collar .  My previous post described the proper use of a choke collar and it’s cousin, the pinch collar.  To some dog owners these measures may seem extreme, even cruel.  But I have used them with great success and taught others how to use them as well. I truly believe that with many dogs, this is the best collar option that the owner can make.  There are alternatives.  Cesar Millan, known to many as “The Dog Whisperer”, has written numerous books on dog training and a lot of his materials cover the topic of dog walking and controlling the walk.  He has developed an innovative collar that he calls the “illusion collar”.  It is basically a choke collar with an added base to keep the choke in it’s most effective position- high on the neck and behind the ears.  This position is the most sensitive for the dog and therefore the most effective.  You have seen this leash position on show dogs in the ring.  The show collars are high to give the handler more control over the dog’s behavior.  Exactly what you want when you have your mutt out in the park!!

Finally, let’s talk about leashes.  I mean a proper leash.  My personal preference is leather.  A good width for your hand, so that will be specific to your palm size. These leashes give you a firm hold on the dog, will weather well and are tough as…leather!!  I have seen some very nice webbed, nylon leashes that are durable and sturdy.  The webbing gives the leash a round shape that is easy to hold and won’t tear your skin.  My first gripe is a flat, nylon leash that can cut through your hand when a dog makes a quick jerk or lunge.  They often seem slippery and the grips are not comfortable.  My second gripe is those flexi-leashes or whatever they’re called.  They remind me of a broken fishing reel, it can be let out, but can’t be pulled back in!!  I think they are a danger to mankind and dogkind for that matter.  Your dog goes free-wheeling down the street as the tiny nylon string unwinds and if some sort of danger arises – say a loose dog approaching- you have no way of getting your dog back to you and to safety.  Add to that the risk of nylon burns if the leash is dragged across your legs, the major hassle of unwinding the spaghetti of  leashes if walking two dogs and the possibility of severing a finger if the nylon string wraps around it and the dog really pulls.  Phew!  That should convince you.   I have used a great leash from Cesar Millan.  It is a diamond-braided rope similar to a mountain climbing rope.  The unique feature is the padded hand grip.  It is ergonomically designed to give you the Cadillac of walks when it comes to comfort and as a dog walker, I am all about comfy walks!!

This Big Guy won't jerk you around!!

A Purposeful Walk

Louie Enjoys a Flower on His Walk

As I sit outside on my deck, I am watching Spring appear. I think of the dogs I will see this week and the great walks we will take together. What is the purpose of these walks? How will I make each walk special for the dog? This is a new way of thinking for me. When I first started my pet sitting business, I naturally thought I would simply be walking dogs. That was it. Put on a leash and away we would go. What could be more basic? What could be further from the truth, was more like it! As dog owners, we know that we are given an opportunity to bond with our dogs when we take them for walks. In the dog world, it is commonplace for dogs in a pack to begin their day with a walk. It is in their nature to arise and set out to seek food or simply cover ground and establish their territory. When you walk your dog you tap into it’s natural instinct to walk with the pack leader wherever he goes. How incredible is that? So when I was leashing my dogs and starting out for a walk, my main goal was to cover ground. A nice long 20 or 30 minute walk was my intention. Little did I know, the dog would also have intentions of his own apart from mine. At first I would become a bit frustrated that the dog wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted him to. Why were they trying to stray from the path? Didn’t they know I had their best interests in mind?

It wasn’t until I began to research and understand different breeds that I came to appreciate the different purposes for walks within the canine family. Knowing that a hunting dog investigates his territory with his nose, helped me to understand that maybe he would spend more time in one place that I had expected. He may only venture a few blocks from home in order to get all the sensory stimulation he needs. Walking with a labrador mix breed, I found she wanted to cover as much ground as possible on her walks. She would walk briskly and with purpose; no nonsense, no wandering around from spot to spot. She had a purpose and when she was finished with her walk, she was a very happy puppy. I have a mix breed Australian Heeler who prefers to spend her first 20 minutes chasing a frisbee. Chasing the frisbee is her purpose, to fetch for me is what makes her happy. She will fetch and retrieve over and over again. When she is tired, we take care of other business and I’m done. I have an American Bulldog who is about the size of a small pony. I thought he would only want to saunter around the backyard and then nap in the sun. Wrong! He likes to play chase and hide and seek. He has a tremendous amount of energy and can go from a standstill to full gallop in seconds. Who am I to say what will make this dog happiest? I have learned to understand the breed first, then go about giving him what he needs when he gets a walk. Maybe I shouldn’t even call it “dog walking” but “dog exercising”. Because it’s about learning the characteristics of the breed and translating that in to a meaningful interaction. I want the dog to be challenged physically as well as mentally when I visit them. That way, when their owners come home, the dog is settled and happy and ready to greet them calmly.