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Cat Hairballs – Cough It Up

Preventing hairballs—or their aftermath—helps keep cats healthy (and floors clean).

By Sandy Robins

This April 25 marks the ninth year cat lovers will celebrate National Hairball Awareness Day. It is interesting to note that felines aren’t the only hairball expellers; rabbits do, too. So do cud-chewing animals such as cows, oxen, sheep, goats, llamas, deer and antelopes. And—wait for it—people, too! A human hairball is called a trichobezoar. It’s common in people who compulsively play with their hair and swallow it.

Now, this is not a day you want to celebrate by being greeted by a big hairball presented by your cat. A celebration would be NOT waking up to a hairball on the rug.

Most cats are able to expel hairballs by vomiting them up. But often that is the tip of the iceberg of hair—so to speak. Ingested hair can cause a serious blockage in the intestinal tract and lead to all sorts of complications.

It’s so important to remember that while cats are self-groomers, they still need help from their pet parents, especially if the cats have long hair and, also if they are elderly and simply are not agile and mobile enough to groom themselves properly.

There are lots of excellent grooming tools on the market that help get rid of thick undercoats. I am always telling my friends with cats that grooming should be considered a fun way to spend quality time with their cat rather than a chore. My cats really enjoy being massaged with a hand mitt, which picks up the loose hair as your brush.

For owners who need to deal with their cats’ ingested hair, there are products, such as Petromalt Hairball Relief Gel from Sergeants PetCare, which can help alleviate the formation of hairballs by coating the digestive tract to prevent build up—they also act as a laxative. It’s simply a matter of putting a dollop on a front paw and letting the cat lick it off. For really fussy cats, put a blob on their lower chin and let them take over from there.

For anyone wanting to know more about hairballs, the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) in Washington, D. C., has a virtual hairball exhibition on its website. You can learn why hairballs develop in the stomach and see examples of them from various animals, including humans.

There are also craft books such as Crafting with Cat Hair, which shows readers how to transform stray clumps of fur into soft and adorable handicrafts. From kitty tote bags and finger puppets to fluffy cat toys, picture frames and more, these projects are cat-friendly, eco-friendly and require no special equipment or training.

For the past couple of years, there have been all kinds of hairball events, including a celebrity lookalike competition where people were asked to brush their cats and take the fur and style it into a celebrity. I took part last year and got my cats’ shedded fur to look like Howard Stern—well sort of….

On a final note: when you’re stressed and want to pull your hair out, remember it’s simply a phrase, not a call to action. Brush your cat regularly instead!


About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats

 

Pet Identity Crisis

Make sure your pets have proper ID at all times because you never know when they’ll need it most.

By Lisa King

Pet Protection Matters Most in Times of Emergency

Having a dog or cat go missing is a very traumatic event. Not knowing whether they’ve been hit by a car, been pet-napped or have simply wandered off is nerve-wracking. Providing your pet with effective identification is the best way to ensure that if the worst happens, you can be reunited with your lost pet.

Some dogs are real escape artists and will take advantage of a loose board in a fence or an open gate; some have been known to dig under fences to get free. If the escape happens while you are at work, you might not find out for hours, giving your dog plenty of time to wander quite a distance.

Even if you have indoor-only cats, a door left ajar can mean a missing cat. Two of my cats once pushed a loose screen out of a window and went on a walkabout for several minutes before someone noticed. Fortunately, we were able to round them up quickly.

If someone finds your pet and brings him to a shelter, the staff will make every effort to find you. If your pet has no ID and you don’t turn up looking for him, he is at risk of being euthanized. But this tragic outcome is easy to prevent.

A simple metal tag bearing your pet’s name and your phone number attached to his collar can make all the difference. These can be custom made at most pet supply stores or ordered online. Someone who finds your wandering pet needs only call your number to let you know where your dog or cat is.

Another option is a specially designed flash drive. These are available in shock-proof, waterproof cases that attach to your pet’s collar. You program your contact information onto the drive so whoever finds your dog can plug the drive into his computer and contact you. These devices can also include medical information if your pet has a serious condition.

Since collars can come off—especially cat collars, which should always be breakaway collars—all your pets should be micro-chipped. If your pet is ever stolen, the thieves can remove tags, but cannot remove the microchip.

Some countries require that all pets be microchipped. Most U.S. shelters routinely microchip their cats and dogs, but if not, you can pay your veterinarian a one-time fee of about $50. She will inject the tiny chip (about the size of a grain of rice) with a syringe, usually just under the skin between the shoulder blades.

This procedure is no more painful than a vaccination would be for you. The chip remains inactive until it is scanned. You must then put your contact information into a pet database. If your pet is picked up and brought to a shelter, he will be scanned to see if he is microchipped. If so, shelter staff will contact you through the database. Always keep your contact information up to date. The chip will remain usable for the life of your pet.

Since there are a few different types of chips, shelter staff might have to check several registries before they find your pet. You can simplify the job by putting a tag on your pet’s collar that names the type of microchip he is carrying. Newer scanners can read all types of chips, but older ones can miss certain chips.

Microchipping may sound pricey, but it can save you the trouble and expense of searching the neighborhood, posting fliers, and paying rewards, not to mention the anxiety and heartache of losing a family member.


About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea” and the recently released “Vulture au Vin.”

 

Allergies in Dogs – Providing Allergy Relief for Dogs

allergy free dogs

Allergies in dogs, what to know…

By Lisa King

Even though the eastern part of the U.S. is covered in ice and snow and California is experiencing heavy rains and mudslides at press time, spring will eventually come. When it finally arrives, people with seasonal allergies will begin sneezing and wiping runny eyes. Although their symptoms are very different, dogs can suffer from seasonal allergies, too.

Allergies are basically an overreaction of the immune system to a specific trigger. While in allergic humans, spring (and in some cases fall) brings on upper respiratory misery, in dogs who are allergic to pollen the symptoms are usually skin-related. Although allergic dogs sometimes sneeze and have runny eyes, they usually scratch, chew and lick themselves excessively, especially their feet. A dog who scratches all the time can create open sores, hair loss, hot spots and skin infections. These dogs also are more susceptible to ear inflammation and infections. Not to mention, they feel miserable from all the itching.

If you notice your dog scratching excessively, take him to your veterinarian to have him evaluated. He might have flea-bite dermatitis, an allergy to flea bites, another spring and summer phenomenon. This condition is usually relieved by effective flea control and thorough house cleaning.

However, if fleas aren’t the problem, your vet might diagnose your dog with a seasonal allergy. There are several ways you can help your allergic dog be happier and more comfortable. Clean off his feet when he comes in from outside so he doesn’t track pollen and other allergens into the house. Bathe him often; this removes allergens in his coat. Vacuum your home frequently to keep floors free of allergens. Wash your dog’s bedding and blankets often, too, to remove accumulated allergens. If it’s feasible, request that people remove their shoes before they come into the house to reduce tracking in pollen. Keep track of the pollen count in your area, and on bad days reduce the amount of time your dog spends outdoors.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can be effective in reducing minor inflammation. Many supplements formulated for dogs are available at pet supply stores. Ask your vet if your dog should be eating an anti-inflammatory diet. These diets are formulated to contain very little grain.

Medications that suppress the immune system can help reduce allergic reactions. Some over-the-counter oral antihistamines, such as Benadryl, are safe for dogs, but check with your vet for dosage recommendations, which will vary based on the size of your dog. These medications reduce itching and inflammation, but can make your dog sleepy.

If you try all these measures to mitigate your dog’s allergies but he is still scratching, your vet might recommend oral or injectable steroids. They are effective with many allergic dogs, but they can have side effects, especially if used over the long term. Cyclosporin, sold as Atopica, is the same drug that people take to prevent organ transplants rejection. It is an oral medication, and its use in dogs is relatively new. It can be more effective than steroids and has fewer side effects, but it is also more expensive.

Your vet might also recommend an intradermal skin test, which is similar to a human allergy test. The vet will shave off a patch of hair and apply specific allergens to isolate the one causing problems. If she is able to find the source of your dog’s problems, she can give your dog a series of allergy shots or a vaccine to prevent future reactions. These solutions can be costly, however.

Some dogs grow out of allergies, but some dogs’ allergies get worse as they age. If you think your dog might have seasonal allergies, the wisest course is to take him to the vet as soon as he begins scratching to prevent his symptoms from becoming too severe so he can enjoy the spring weather outdoors with you.


About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea and the soon-to-be-released “Vulture au Vin.”

Doggy Daycare – Keeping Fido Entertained While You’re Away

By Stacy Mantle

Doggy Daycare – Pros & Cons

There are many advantages to putting your dog in daycare during the long work week. If you live a busy life (and who doesn’t), you probably don’t get as many chances to let your dog socialize with other animals or engage with other humans. Socialization is an important part of your pet’s development and doggy daycare can help you meet that need. Dogs are social creatures, which is just one reason they make ideal companions for humans. Like us, they can become “overly attached” to a human or another animal; they can become stressed when left alone; and they can become destructive when left alone. Daycare can be an excellent way to wean your dog off an unhealthy attachment.

Doggy daycare is much like “child daycare” in that it provides an outlet for energy, offers an environment for socialization, and if you choose the right daycare, can help you in your training protocol so that you have a happier, healthier, well-adjusted pet.

Choosing a Daycare for Your Dog

Choosing a quality daycare is the most important thing you can do. You should only work with daycare facilities that employ qualified dog trainers who understand and love dogs. A good place to start is by asking your current trainer for recommendations.

Be very cautious about unlicensed facilities or ones that take place in a person’s backyard. A fun day at daycare can result in tragedy if an aggressive animal is added to the mix or if the owners are not trained in how to deal with aggression.

It’s very important that you are honest in assessing and reporting your dog’s needs to whichever facility you choose. For example, if you are working on separation anxiety with your dog, or if your dog is aggressive towards other animals, you will need to find a trainer who understands and knows how to deal with these problems. If you have a well-balanced dog who gets along with others and simply needs to burn off some energy, a communal daycare will probably be just fine.

Who Can Attend and Requirements

Requirements will vary according to the facility, but generally groups prefer dogs to be at least 4 months of age. For general daycare programs, such as those offered by pet stores, they usually require your dog to be well-socialized with other dogs. They also require your dogs to be in good health and spayed/neutered.

Every daycare worth its salt will require your dog’s vaccinations to be up-to-date. This generally includes bordetella, rabies, distemper, parainfluenza and parvovirus. They might also require your pet to have some sort of flea/tick protection (e.g., Frontline, Advantix or other topical treatments). If your dog is prone to skin conditions or has had a reaction to any topical medication, be sure you discuss this with the daycare staff and ask for an exception.

Unfortunately, most bully breeds or wolf hybrids are going to be turned away from many daycare facilities. However, there are many daycare facilities that have trainers who specialize in these breeds and you’ll want to avoid any daycare that doesn’t want your beloved dog there, anyway.

If you have a dog who does not qualify or does not do well in this environment—and there is no place qualified to take him nearby—consider hiring a dog walker to come to your home throughout the day. These are wonderful services that allow your dog the one-on-one time he needs and can be a great way to help socialize him during the day. Be just as certain that the person you hire for dog walking is well-trained and understands your dog, and is licensed and bonded. You’ll want to avoid any liability if anything happens at your home. Again, the best thing you can do is be honest with anyone who interacts with your dog.

Cost

Cost varies dramatically according to region, the quality of the facility and the education of trainers available, as well as the frequency of visits. Some places range a few dollars a day to a monthly program that includes training and range in the hundreds. However, you’ll find that many fall into the $25-per-day category—a small cost compared to the destruction an unsocialized, untrained dog can do to a home while you’re at work!


About the Author: Stacy Mantle is the founder of PetsWeekly.com and the bestselling author of “Shepherd’s Moon.” Learn more great tips for living with animals by visiting PetsWeekly.com or get to know a little more about the author at  www.StacyMantle.com

 

Cat Bath – How To Bathe a Cat

how to bathe a cat, cat bath

How To Bathe A Cat

The general perception is that cats hate water, but in fact, they are natural swimmers. Certain breeds such as Abyssinians and Turkish Vans might even willingly join you in the shower. This misconception probably persists because the average domestic feline isn’t usually exposed to water on a regular basis. For an adult cat who has never been bathed to suddenly find herself in warm water can be very stressful and could even cause her heart rate to spike. However, if you introduce your feline to water from kittenhood, she will learn to tolerate a bath—and may even enjoy it.

It’s a good idea to get everything ready before you bring your cat into the equation. Make sure you have your shampoo and conditioning products open and have at least two towels in place. Special absorbent pet towels are excellent for removing excess water before you wrap your cat in an ordinary towel. If possible, warm your towels in advance by placing them in the dryer.

Remember, you have options. You can bathe your cat in the kitchen sink, in your bathtub or even in the shower stall. It will depend on how tolerant she is. Wherever you decide, be sure to put down a rubber mat or a towel on which she can stand. This will give her traction and make bath time less stressful for her—and for you.

Often, cats don’t like the sound of handheld shower sprays more than the actual water. The best way to deal with this type of hesitant cat is to place her in position and have several buckets of warm water on hand along with a sponge and a cup. The idea is to use the first bucket of water to sponge her before and during the shampooing and conditioning ritual and then to use the second bucket of water and cup to gently pour water over her fur for the final rinse.

Start washing your cat from her neck down to her toes and tail. Massage the bath formula into her fur—she will like that part. Dab shampoo and conditioner onto a cotton ball and work gently around the eyes, nose, ears and under the chin. Some cats might prefer the use of a pet wipe on facial areas.

If you are using any kind of special skin treatment, experts suggest that you apply it twice during a bath for it to effectively treat the condition. Leave the second application on for 5 to 15 minutes (cat permitting, of course) to allow the active ingredients to be properly absorbed.

Rinse the fur well to remove all traces of shampoo and conditioner, especially if you are using the “buckets-of-water” routine. If you are showering the products off, allow the water to run over your cat for at least 5 minutes to enable her skin to be properly hydrated. It’s very important to rinse well because products not designed to be left on the skin and fur can cause irritation. They might also be ingested when your cat takes over her own grooming and starts licking herself after you’ve completed the bath.

Also, never allow water to enter your cat’s ears—fold them over when rinsing. It’s not a good idea to place cotton balls in the ears because you may forget to remove them.

When your cat has been thoroughly rinsed and while she is still in the tub, use an absorbent pet towel to remove excess water. Then scoop her up in a warm, dry, fluffy one for the final toweling.

Longhaired cats should be gently brushed or combed after a bath so that their fur doesn’t mat during the drying process. If you are going to use a hair dryer, make sure that it’s made specifically for pets because those designed for humans are far too hot—and noisy.

No matter how efficient you are and how wonderful the experience is, you will probably still get a look from your cat that implies you didn’t do a proper job, so she is now forced to “clean up” after you.

But that’s just her natural grooming instincts kicking in. It’s what cats do.


About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats

 

10 Dog Breed Myths – Choose the Right Dog Breed

10 Dog Breed Myths

Revealing the truth behind these common misconceptions.

By Audrey Pavia


Urban legend isn’t limited only to stories about Bigfoot and Pop Rocks. A number of dog breeds have also fallen victim to rumors that have spread like wildfire through the years. Here’s a look at 10 myths about dog breeds and the truth behind the rumors.


1 .Myth: Irish Setters Are Dumb.

It’s hard to know how this rumor started. It could be because of the Irish Setter’s puppyish, clown-like nature. Not serious and stoic like some sporting breeds, the Irish Setter likes to goof around. The truth is that Irish Setters are intelligent dogs bred to work closely with hunters out in the field.


2. Myth: Greyhounds Need a Lot of Exercise.

Not surprisingly, people think that because Greyhounds are famous for their talents on the racetrack, they need a lot of exercise. The truth is that Greyhounds are actually couch potatoes who prefer to cuddle up on the sofa than run around digging up the backyard. Although they love long walks, Greyhounds actually make great house dogs.


3. Myth: Rottweilers Are Vicious.

Although Rottweilers were bred to be guard dogs, they are also very trainable and affectionate. They are not mean by nature, as some people believe, and like any dog, make wonderful companions if they are properly trained and socialized. Although a Rottweiler will give off a ferocious bark when protecting his territory, a well-socialized Rottweiler will greet strangers with a wagging tail once his owner lets him know guests are welcome.


4. Myth: Pugs Are Lazy.

Some people are under the impression that Pugs just want to lay around the house all day. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Although by no means hyper, Pugs are active and happy members of the family, and are often underfoot, looking for the next adventure. Even though they aren’t bred for jogging alongside their human companions, they still enjoy running around the yard chasing a ball or another dog.


5. Myth: Pit Bulls Can Lock Their Jaws.

Pit Bulls suffer from very bad press, and one of the stories often repeated by those who don’t know better is that these dogs can lock on to a human or other dog during a fight. In truth, Pit Bulls have the same mechanics in their jaws as other dog breeds.


6. Myth: Long-haired Breeds Need to be Shaved in the Summertime.

Although dogs such as Siberian Huskies, Chow Chows and American Eskimos might look uncomfortable in the summertime with their long coats, nature has provided them with fur that allows the heat to escape from their bodies when the weather is warm.


7. Myth: Small Breed Dogs Live Longer than Large Breed Dogs.

As a general rule, this is actually true: Smaller breeds tend to live longer than larger breeds. While a Saint Bernard might only make it to 7 years, a Chihuahua can live to be 14 or more.


8. Myth: Shetland Sheepdogs Are Miniature Collies.

Although Shelties might look like small Collies, they are actually a completely separate breed. The American Kennel Club recognizes the Sheltie and the Collie as two distinctly different dogs, both with inborn instincts to herd livestock.


9. Myth: Jack Russell Terriers Are Hyperactive.

Jack Russell Terriers are busy dogs with a lot of energy, but they aren’t hyperactive. While they do need lots of exercise, more than anything, Jack Russells need something to occupy their minds. Interactive toys and playtime with their human companions usually fit the bill.


10. Myth: Labrador Retrievers Have Webbed Feet.

As odd as this may sound, it’s actually true; Labs do have webs between their toes. This feature was bred into the Lab to help him swim, as the breed was originally created to retriever downed waterfowl. Labs can also use their tails as rudders when they are swimming.


About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visit www.audreypavia.com.

 

It’s Pet Dental Health Month

It’s Pet Dental Health Month

Pet Bad breathe isn’t the only thing that improves with proper oral care.

By Lisa King


The condition of your dog’s teeth and gums affects not only whether his breath is stinky or not; poor dental health can influence his quality of life and even his life expectancy. Although cavities are relatively rare in dogs, they can suffer from plaque and tartar buildup, gingivitis and periodontal disease just like people. These in turn can cause painful gums, loose teeth and bone loss.

Periodontal disease can be very serious; bacteria and toxins from diseased gums can enter the dog’s blood stream and be carried to the organs. The brain, heart, liver and kidneys are the most likely organs to be affected. These toxins and bacteria can cause inflammation and infections in the organs, leading to permanent organ damage or even death.

It’s your responsibility as a dog owner to keep your pet healthy by caring for his teeth to prevent these painful and dangerous conditions. Ideally, this means brushing them every day.

This might sound like a tall order if your dog is not used to it. The trick is to get him accustomed to brushing. If he’s a puppy it will be easier, but an older dog can also be taught to tolerate tooth-brushing. Start by massaging the outside of his mouth for 30 seconds or so a couple of times a day. When he’s used to this, try massaging his teeth and gums. Let him lick a little doggie toothpaste off your finger.Never use human toothpaste.

When he will accept this type of touching calmly, get him a doggie toothbrush, either one that looks like a smaller human toothbrush or one that fits over your finger. Apply toothpaste and move the brush in small circular motions, lifting up his lip as you work around his mouth. If he gets impatient, you can skip cleaning the inside surface—most of the tartar buildup is on the outside of the teeth.

Another tool in your dental arsenal is the chew toy. Hard rubber, rawhide and rope chew toys help keep your dog’s teeth clean and his jaws strong, as well as relieving stress. You can also purchase dental treats that are designed to clean tartar off a dog’s teeth and dental rinses that you can put in your dog’s water. But as with people, there’s no substitute for regular brushing.

A well-balanced dry food is less likely to cause tartar buildup than wet food, and human food is worst of all when it comes to your dog’s dental health, so keep table-scrap treats to a minimum.

It is important that your veterinarian checks your dog’s teeth regularly. She will need to handle issues such as cysts under the tongue or tumors in the mouth. Between vet visits, be on the lookout for bad breath, increased drooling, loose teeth and swollen or inflamed gums (the tissue is red instead of pink). An apparent loss of appetite can be caused by painful teeth or gums. Any of these can indicate that your dog has a dental problem and should see the vet.

If you haven’t been taking care of your dog’s dental health or if he is simply an older dog, he might have developed tooth or gum disease. If so, it’s time for a professional deep cleaning. Your vet will need to anesthetize your dog so she can do a thorough job, including cleaning under the gum line. She will also X-ray your dog’s mouth to ensure the roots of his teeth are healthy. This procedure can cost hundreds of dollars, but it can make your dog pain-free and add years to his life.

The best approach to maintaining your dog’s dental health is prevention. Start as early as you can to brush his teeth and check the condition of his teeth and gums. Provide him with a good diet and plenty of chew toys and dental treats. Take him in for regular vet visits. A dog with a healthy mouth is a happier, healthier dog.


About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea.”

For the Love of Cats – Valentine’s Day Gifts for Cats

For the Love of Cats

Valentine’s Day gift ideas for your favorite feline companion(s).

By Sandy Robins


There’s no question that our pets get to celebrate the holidays throughout the year, too. However, the next one up on the calendar, Valentine’s Day, is actually a difficult one for cats to celebrate by copycatting tradition people gifts because felines neither appreciate red roses nor chocolate, which is a big toxic no-no.

So what to do?

Cats are not that easy to shop for on Valentine’s Day in terms of themed merchandise. That said, you simply can’t go wrong with anything catnip, such as a plush mouse that can be filled and refreshed with dried catnip or a fresh catnip plant.

Kitty Cat Garden

Live plants should be placed in a bright position such as on the kitchen counter. Cats love to nibble on greens and a planter with different types of seeds—such as Pioneer Pet’s KittyGarden—makes a great gift, especially in multi-cat households. The wooden planter has four separate sections for 100 percent organic oats, wheat, rye and barley seeds. They begin sprouting in four to six days. And if you keep harvesting fresh greens for your cat, it can yield quite a crop.

A small, sealed aquarium of exotic fish or even a single betta fish, as long as it’s in a sealed, sturdy bowl, makes a nice decorative feature in a room and will provide endless hours of feline entertainment.

Super Cat Paper

Cats love crumpled paper and paper bags. So the feline paper items from Supercat—available in pet specialty stores and online—make great gifts for cats. Not only do they enjoy the sounds of the crinkly paper, but the products are infused with catnip to increase their enthusiasm!

Nothing says love quite like treats. This is a time to splurge and head for the pet store and purchase a variety of different flavors. However, it’s really important to know whether your cat likes her treats soft and chewy or crisp and crunchy. Some cats really enjoy treats that are crunchy on the outside with a soft center.

For cat lovers and pet parents, a nice coffee mug is always a welcome gift. If you simply Google “cat + coffee mug” a slew of fun designs will pop up. Even Grumpy Cat has her own mug, channeling Garfield and protesting that she hates Mondays …

The website Cafepress.com has a slew of fun cat-themed merchandise, including magnets, aprons, jewelry,, mouse pads and iPad covers. You name it there’s a variety of slogan and paw prints on everything imaginable. The craft site Etsy.com is another great place to explore.

For The Love of Cats

I can’t let this Valentine’s Day opportunity slip by without mentioning my cat book, which is aptly named “For The Love of Cats.” It’s a coffee-table collectible with beautiful illustrations by the talented Mark Anderson. The book is an alphabetical collection of fun rhymes and interesting feline factoids that cover everything from why the ancient Egyptians loved cats to the many “features” cat’s whiskers have. It’s available at www.SandyRobinsOnLine.Com.

While gifts are fun, there is no substitute for spending quality time with your favorite feline (or canine) and dispensing lots of extra hugs and kisses on Valentine’s Day. With love in the air, this is undoubtedly the best way to show your feelings to your pets.


About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats

 

 

What to Know When Reading Cat Food Labels

Reading Cat Food Labels

How to determine what is really in your pet’s food.

By Sandy Robins

There is no question that reading cat food labels is not straightforward; in fact it can be very frustrating to the average cat owner. Cats are meat eaters (carnivores), meaning they require two to three times the amount of protein than omnivores, such as humans, do. Consequently, they rely mainly on nutrients found in animals—high protein, moderate fat and minimal carbohydrates—to meet their dietary needs.

For the layperson, the key is to look at the first three ingredients listed on the can packet or bag. By law, pet food ingredients must be listed on the label in descending order by weight, with the protein at the top of the list. However, it’s important to remember that the moisture content affects weight. So ingredients that are moisture-heavy, such as chicken or lamb, are listed higher on the ingredient list than the same ingredient that is added in a dry form.

In addition, similar materials listed as separate ingredients might out weigh other ingredients that precede them on the list. For example, chicken might be listed as the first ingredient, then wheat flour, ground wheat and wheat middling. In this instance, although chicken appears to be the predominant ingredient, when added together, all three wheat products could weigh more than the poultry. It gets more complicated because for a food to be called chicken, the ingredients have to be 95 percent or more of the total weight of the product. Then there are a variety of fancy names that crop up on the shelves—e.g., dinner, platter, delight and formula—that in fact means only 25 percent of the content is that particular ingredient.

A word about protein and feline basic nutritional needs: Proteins are the basic building blocks for cells, tissues and organs. They can be either animal-based (e.g.,chicken, lamb, turkey, fish and eggs) or plant-based (soy, vegetables and cereals). In addition, cat food often contains byproducts of animals or plants—the parts that people don’t normally eat. But don’t necessarily be put off by this. If a cat catches a bird it will eat everything—intestines, bones and all.

The type of meat products that most closely resemble what a cat would catch for itself in the wild comes from birds(chicken, turkey, duck and quail)and game animals(buffalo, ostrich, deer, and bison).Animal-based proteins also contain complete amino acids, such as taurine, arginine, cysteine and methionine. These are essential for cats because their bodies don’t synthesize them in adequate amounts. In particular, taurine is crucial to a cat’s diet and a deficiency is serious because it can cause blindness and fatal heart disease.

Cats also catch fish in the wild, so fresh fish can be an excellent addition to their diet. Fish is high in iodine and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that promote healthy skin and fur.

Because ingredient definitions and designations are standardized, it is difficult to determine the quality of ingredients. Ingredient quality can only be determined from laboratory analysis and animal feeding tests.It is up to the pet owner to  research various food manufacturers’ websites to get an idea of what they are offering. Once you’ve narrowed down the field, you should then discuss the diet with a very knowledgeable pet food retailer or, better still, with your cat’s veterinarian.

Since the pet food recall of 2007, cat food ingredients have come under scrutiny more than ever before.Accordingly,companies are going to great lengths to discuss their quality, such as human-grade contents.And inline with human food trends,organic ingredients are growing in popularity.

“A question we often get from pet parents is ‘how do I know if this food is organic?’” said Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parent relations for Castor & Pollux, a manufacturer of natural and organic food for pets. “There are strict labeling requirements around organic that enables pet parents to know the differences between products.”

A product with 70 to 94 percent organic ingredients can state on its label, “Made with organic…” but it cannot include the USDA logo, according to the USDA’s National Organic Program. However, those ingredients must still be certified by an independent third party. Products with 95 to 100 percent certified organic ingredients can use “organic” in the product name and bear the USDA logo. Both categories of organic products must include the name and contact information for the certifying agency on the back of the package.

Another growing trend is for single ingredient foods, which definitely makes it much easier to read a label.

Finally, you can read labels all you want, but the big question is whether you cat will eat the food.Pet food manufacturers, especially those whose products are grown and manufactured in the USA,try hard to be very transparent about what they are offering and are happy to talk to pet owners and discuss their concerns. So, once you have narrowed down the field, don’t be shy to ask for a sample directly from the manufacturer. Any company that proudly stands by what it sells will be only too happy to oblige.


About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats

 

Top 8 Toy Presents for Dogs

Dogs Can Expect Plenty of Cheer this Holiday Season

Top 8 Gifts for Dogs in 2013

By Stacy Mantle

Don’t forget to buy your canine companions presents this holiday season.

According to a poll from Petside.com, just over half of American pet owners will buy gifts for their pets this holiday season and they’ll spend an average of $46 doing so. Toys and treats top the list as favorite pet gifts, but new bedding, clothing, leashes or harnesses and grooming products make up 12 percent of Santa Paws’ gift list.

Here’s a look at our holiday favorite gifts and stocking stuffers this year.

Dog Harness - Great Holiday Present for Dogs

Wacky Paws Travel Harnesses

1. Wacky Paws Travel Harnesses
When it comes to traveling with pets, you want something colorful and lightweight. This harness comes with a detachable pouch for easy storage of keys, phone and doggy bags while on your walk. They range in size from extra small to extra large and make the perfect harness for active pets. You can choose from light pink, deep pink, green, and blue. MSRP: $39.99 – $54.99

Dog Treat Presents for the Holidays

Honest Kitchen Treats

2. Honest Kitchen Treats
Have your pets been extra good this year? Treat them with a festive, limited-edition container of Holiday Quickies! These one-ingredient treats feature dehydrated haddock, making them grain-free with no fillers or by-products. These healthy treats make the perfect stocking-stuffer for dogs who deserve the purest, most delicious treats this holiday season. MSRP: $9.99

Dog Tote Bag - Holiday Presents

Sherpa Park Tote – Dog Tote Bag

3. Sherpa Park Tote
Fashion meets function for pets on the go. This stylish carrier unfolds into a blanket for lounging on the grass with your pup. Lined with cozy faux lambskin, the carrier also features a side window with privacy flap. Pets can enter from the side or the top with easy zippered access. The entire carrier is machine washable for easy cleaning on the go. MSRP: $54.99-69.99

Dog Bowl Present for the Holiday Season

Top 8 Dog Presents – Loving Pets Milano Dog Bowls™

4. Loving Pets
Every dog should receive a new set of bowls this holiday season, and Loving Pets has a large selection of colors and designs to fit any personality. Milano Bowls™ are dishwasher-safe, resistant-to-bacteria and veterinary-recommended. The fashionable outer shells can be easily matched to your pet’s personality and consider this adorable treat jar from Loving Pets. Loving Pets brings new life to veterinarian-recommended, stainless-steel treat canisters by combining a stainless-steel interior with an attractive poly-resin exterior. MSRP: $14.99

Top 8 Dog Gifts for 2013 - Cycle Dog Collars

Cycle Dog Collars

5. Cycle Dog Collars
If you’re looking for something unique, consider an earth-friendly collar from Cycle Dog. These collars are made from recycled bicycle tires and are some of the softest, longest-lasting collars we’ve ever seen. Each collar features a latch-lock, stainless-steel buckle (which is more than 400 percent stronger than plastic buckles) and even contains a “pup-top bottle opener” for easy opening on the road. Perfect for dogs who are as active as their owners. Choose from a large variety of fun colors and designs. MSRP: $25.00

 

Hear Doggy Ultrasonic Plush Dog Toys

Hear Doggy Ultrasonic Flat Dog Toys

5. Hear, Doggy Ultrasonic Toys
If your dog loves plush squeaky toys, but you have no love for the sound of squeaky toys, the Hear, Doggy! Plush ultrasonic line of pet toys is for you. Hear, Doggy! toys are tuned to an ultrasonic range of 24 to 28 KHz (out of human hearing range) and are available in a variety of characters, both plush (stuffed) and flat (unstuffed). Select designs feature Quaker Pet Group’s proprietary Chew Guard™ Technology, a unique manufacturing process that adds a super tough, durable mesh liner inside the plush as well as reinforced, double-stitched seams. MSRP: $11.99 – $17.99

Dog Bone Toy - 8 Great Holiday Gifts for Dogs

Busy Buddy® Bristle Bone®

6. Busy Buddy® Bristle Bone®
This is a great toy for heavy chewers. Made from durable nylon and rubber, each Busy Buddy toy includes natural rawhide treat rings that encourage chewing. Soft bristles help keep teeth clean as dogs chew, and the natural rotation of disks help keep their attention. These fun toys will keep your dogs busy for days at a price you can afford. MSRP: $6.99 – $19.99

ThunderWorks Thunder Sweater - Dog Sweater by ThunderShirt

ThunderWorks ThunderSweater

7. ThunderWorks Thunder Sweater
We all know the ability of ThunderShirt to ease a dog’s fear and anxiety, particularly in stressful situations (such as storms, having company over or the holidays). ThunderShirt’s patended design is based on the principles of T-Touch and applies a gentle, constant pressure around your dog’s torso, which has a calming effect during stressful situations. Now when you have holiday visitors, you can leave your Thundershirt on your pet and simply snap the stylish ThunderSweater over the shirt for a quick jaunt outdoors in cold, snowy weather. The new ThunderSweater offers all the calming benefits of ThunderShirt, but with added warmth. (Each ThunderSweater includes a ThunderShirt.) MSRP: $59.95

Duck Dynasty Dog Toy

Duck Dynasty Dog Toy

8. Duck Dynasty Dog Toys & Apparel
If you’re looking for a creative and unusual gift for your four-legged friend, we reckon you ought to join the Duck Dynasty revolution. A&E’s show has taken the world by storm and we know you’ll be as happy as a duck-huntin’ dog with afun selection of fashionable coats, T-shirts bearing the favorite slogans of Uncle Si, plush duck toys (shown) and yes, dog beards. Cat-bearding is so 2013; bring in 2014 with a dog beard and Duck Dynasty hat fashioned after your favorite duck commander. Toss a pair of dark Doggles on your dogs, and you’ll be ready for the New Year with “family-certified, redneck approved” duck gear from America’s first family of duck callers. MSRP: $9.99 – $19.99

View Our Top 8 Cat Holiday Gifts


About the Author: Stacy Mantle is the founder of PetsWeekly.com and the bestselling author of “Shepherd’s Moon.” Learn more great tips for living with animals by visiting PetsWeekly.com or get to know a little more about the author at  www.StacyMantle.com