About Purrfect Companions

Winterizing your Cat

Cold weather presents a number of hazards for your pet. Some are related to cold weather and some to the escape to warmer climates from colder ones. If you are a SiriusXM subscriber, these comments are taken from my December 30 interview on Samantha Heller’s Diet and Exercise program on “Dr. Radio,” powered by the NYU Langone Medical Center on Channel 81.

Be anti-antifreeze

Winter brings with it the need for certain products to help us continue our day-to-day lives in the cold. Often, these same products pose a danger to our pets. Automotive anti-freeze, for example, contains ethylene glycol which is a potent toxin to the kidneys. It is not the same as propylene glycol, which is a safe compound found in many household products. If your pet even licks a bit of the yellow-green antifreeze from the ground, head straight to your veterinarian’s office for treatment. Pets can be saved if treated early.

Salt safety

Rock salt is another winter hazard, especially for city dogs walked on salt-treated sidewalks. The salt dries and cracks the paw pads. There are several options to prevent this problem. The simplest way is to wash your dog’s feet when she comes in after a walk. Boots are another solution, but not all dogs find boots fashionable. Finally, musher’s wax can be applied to form a protective barrier between the elements and your dog’s paws.

Avoid heat hazards

Everyone is looking to warm up during the cold winter months. Heaters, heat lamps and warm car engines are appealing to pets feeling the chill, but can result in injury. A fluffy tail might easily ignite if it brushes against a space heater. Heat lamps can cause a serious thermal burn and should never be directly aimed at a pet. A snug, warm dog house will be a much safer way to keep your dog warm outside. Cats find a nice warm car engine a cozy place for the night, but when the engine is started up the next morning, they can sustain severe trauma. On cold mornings, bang on the hood with your fist before starting the car to wake any sleeping cats to alert them before the engine turns over.

Snowbird suggestions

Over the past few weeks, a number of my patients have departed for Florida or other warm-weather states. Taking your pet on a winter holiday involves some advance planning. The Companion Animal Parasite Council, a body of experts who make recommendations to veterinarians on parasite prevention, recommend year-round preventative medications for fleas, ticks and heartworms. The southern United States are a hotbed for parasites and a vacation puts your pet at risk for acquiring one or more of the parasite-borne diseases. If for some reason you have discontinued these medications in your pet or have forgotten to give them recently, check with your veterinarian about restarting them before you head south. Every winter I see dogs and cats coming home from Florida scratching and itching from southern fleas.

Some sort of travel will be required to get to a warmer climate. If you and your pet are traveling by airplane, check the airline’s website for pet travel requirements and be sure your pet’s vaccinations meet the airline’s rules. If you and your pet are driving, try this website for dog- and cat-friendly hotels on your route.

No matter how you travel, be sure your pet has both a collar with an ID tag and a microchip in case your pet escapes.

Homer, Heroic Blind 'Wonder Cat'

Who Inspired Millions, Dies in New York at 16.

Love isn't something you see with your eyes.

I first wrote that sentence almost exactly five years ago. It was part of the cover letter I sent to literary agents, hoping one of them would agree to represent a book I'd written -- a memoir called Homer's Odyssey about my blind cat, Homer. Homer was then 11 years old, a healthy five-pound dynamo of a cat -- friendly, courageous and fiercely loyal. Of all the things I'd learned from him since he'd first entered my life as an abandoned three-week-old kitten, fresh from the surgery that would save his life but forever rob him of his vision, this one, simple idea seemed to say everything.

From Homer I'd learned that even the most "imperfect" of creatures is capable of loving with a deep and perfect love. All they need is someone to give them a chance.

Read more: Homer, Heroic Blind 'Wonder Cat'

Choosing a Petsitter

Choosing a Pet sitter

I've written extensively on how to become a petsitter. It occurred to me that not everyone wants to be one. So, for those who don't want to "be" a petsitter, but could use the services of one, I am now addressing this question.

Obviously, a petsitter is a trusted person. If I am hiring a petsitter, I want to know that my computer, TV and jewelry will be there when I get back. I want to know that my pet is safe and lovingly cared for. How can I tell if the person I'm interviewing for the job will do what I want and be trustworthy?

Read more: Choosing a Petsitter

Cats and Peppermint

Cats and Peppermint

Cats and PeppermintNow is the time of year to get Peppermint Extract. Yes, Peppermint extract. Why? What if your cat needs to go to the veterinarian? What if your cat gets into a fight or eats too much turkey? What about that kitty breath? Nerves?

Catnip is in the same plant family as Peppermint, so this makes a lot of sense.

I'm finding all kinds of uses for Peppermint extract in my emails. If you need to bathe your cat for some reason, instead of getting your felines wet at this cold time of year, why not rub a little Peppermint extract on them? It eliminates the offending odor and works much better than vanilla or other, milder extracts you might already have in your kitchen. It helps settle their tummies and freshens breath. It seems to soothe the cat's nerves a little bit and helps them find sleep. In the act of washing it off her fur, kitty will get enough extract to help with hairball elimination-not by lubrication, but by relaxing the digestive tract.

Indicators:

If you have a cat that had to go to the veterinarian, came home and is the target (or makes another cat the target) of hostilities, wipe all the cats down with Peppermint extract. It will eliminate that "hospital" smell that makes the other cats uncomfortable. The cats will get along better, and the vet visit will be forgotten that much quicker.

Your cats get involved with a passing kitty and end up fighting between themselves because of scent, not visual cues. Wipe them down with Peppermint extract and they will calm down.

You get a new cat for Christmas - wipe them all down to mask the new kitty's smell. Your cats will smell the same and the introduction will go more smoothly.

So, get to the grocery store, go down the baking aisle and get a bottle or two of Peppermint extract. Keep it on hand year 'round.

I don't suggest using this for a long time because it's made with alcohol, but for short term use, it's fine.

Morgen Marshall, a cat lover and trainer, invites you into her

Cat Behaviors

Cat Behavior

Cats can be major stinkers. We're not talking about smell, but rather their “catty” behavior towards their humans. Cats believe they are superior to all other living things.

Don't you feel that sometimes they are just humoring us humans? Sometimes, their behavior can go to extremes and make us all crazy. Whether it is caterwauling, stalking, pouncing or displaying their dual personalities and schizophrenic tendencies, sometimes coexisting with your cat can be nerve-wracking and almost not worth the trouble. However, with a few basic tips, you can live with your cat peacefully. Ok, peaceful might be a relative term, but you get the idea!

Read more: Cat Behaviors

Summer Safety for Cats

Summer Safety for Cats.

Summer months can pose risks that can cause injuries to your cat. The list of summer-time dangers to cats
includes fireworks associated burns, all related injuries, heatstroke and sunburns.
Pets shouldn’t be around fireworks at all. Cats who enjoy chasing moving objects may pounce on firecrackers,
or bat at sparklers and get burned or injured. The noise generated by fireworks can also scare your cat.
Turning on a radio or television may help offset the sound of fireworks.
High rise syndrome is the term associated with cats who fall out of windows or off balconies. Even though
cats possess a flexible musculoskeletal system, great balance and a righting reflex, they don’t always escape
injury from falls. Studies show that cats falling from heights up to four stories generally have time to
right themselves, land on their feet and escape serious injury. However, cats who fall from balconies or
windows located fifth—eighth stories tend to suffer the worst injuries because they land with feet and legs
braced and rigid, causing leg fractures, chest injuries, broken jaws, concussions, spinal injuries and ruptured
organs. Be sure to secure your window screens so that your curious cat cannot push them out and end up
outside and lost. While most cats hate water, some may fall into pools or hot tubs and be unable to get out.
Heatstroke can be fatal to cats, and can occur both when cats are indoors or inside parked vehicles. Cats
cool off by licking their fur so the saliva evaporates to cool the body. When outside air is higher than normal
body temperature (about 102 degrees) evaporation will not help. Unlike dogs, cats almost never pant unless
overwhelmed by the heat. Some cats enjoy sunbathing. However just like people cats are at risk for sunburns.
Keep cats out of the sun during the hours of most intense sunshine—between 9:00am and 3:00pm.
If you are hot, realize that your cats are hotter and take necessary precautions to protect them.

Pointsettas, poisonous?

Pointsettas, poisonous to Cats?

Pet owners know that dogs and cats often have a penchant for eating strange things. Cats often gravitate toward plastic or wool, and many a dog will chew on whatever it can get its chops around. And then there are plants. Whether garden plants, houseplants, plants in the wild,order to prevent poisoning by cut flowers or house plants, avoid placing toxic ones in your home where pets may be able to access them. Or better yet, avoid buying flowers and plants that are known to be toxic. Outside is trickier, especially if your dog or cat has a wide range to roam. For dogs, the animal science department at Cornell University suggests adding bran flakes to his food or switching her diet to one higher in vegetable fibers to deter cravings for vegetation. The only other thing to do is to watch your dog’s behavior when walking outside, and try to prevent them from munching on vegetation unless you know it is harmless. When you see symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, difficult breathing, abnormal urine, salivation, weakness, and any other abnormal condition, take your pet to the veterinarian because he may be poisoned. You can use this list, which has been compiled using information provided by Cornell University and the ASPCA, as a guide to what plants and flowers to keep your eyes open for. The list is by no means exhaustive, there are a number of other toxic plants, but this covers the top offenders. (For a complete list, visit the ASPCA website.) Aloe vera
Great for burns, toxic to cats and dogs. Who knew? If you keep an aloe plant on hand for burns, make sure to keep it out of reach for your pets.
• Symptoms: Vomiting, depression, diarrhea, anorexia, tremors, change in urine color. Amaryllis
Pretty, common as a garden ornamental, and a very popular potted bulb for the holidays…and toxic to both cats and dogs. Be careful with the bulbs, they contain the most toxins.
• Symptoms: Vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia, tremors.tempting diversion for animals, one that can be at odds with your pet’s health.

The origins of the Domestic Cats

The Origin of Domestic Cats

It has been about 4,000 years since the first cats were domesticated.
The Ancient Egyptians were the first to have cats. However, they were used to protect food sources. Other ancient civilizations later began to domesticate the cat and took tame felines to Italy where they slowly spread around Europe. Eventually, they arrived in the New World with the Pilgrims. The shorthaired domestic cat spread across the world from Egypt while longhaired cats came later from Turkey and Iran. By the eighteenth century cats had become popular household pets worldwide. The domestic cat is thought to have evolved from the African wild cat because of its tabby markings. A cat whose ancestry is formally
registered is called a pedigreed cat or purebred cat. A purebred cat is one whose ancestry contains only individuals of the same breed. A pedigreed cat is one whose ancestry is recorded, but may have ancestors of different breeds.

Cats of unrecorded mixed ancestry are referred to as domestic longhairs and domestic shorthairs or commonly as moggies, mongrels, or mutt-cats. The semi-feral cat is a cat that is not owned by any one individual, but is generally friendly to people and may be fed by several households. Feral cats are associated with human habitations and may be fed by people or forage in rubbish, but are wary of human interaction. The non-pedigree domestic cat, the Moggie is the most popular house pet today with the black and white Moggie being the most popular followed by the black cat followed by the Tabby cat. There are also 36 recognized breeds of pedigree cats around the world with the Siamese cat being the most popular. Most homes today that keep pets have at least one cat in residence.

Special Diet of Cats

Special Diets of Cats

Cats have different dietary needs compared to dogs. Many of the special needs are due to a difference in liver and digestive enzymes between the two species. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has developed separate minimum requirements for dog and cat foods (See Table 1), and from these, it becomes evident why dog food should NOT be fed to cats. Special feline nutritional needs include:

Read MoreSpecial Diet of Cats

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