Why Our Pets Would Excel in a Bird Box World

Why Our Pets Would Excel in a Bird Box World

If you haven’t watched Netflix’s new movie Bird Box, you’ve likely heard about it. Without spoiling anything, the concept is this: survive without your sight.

Throughout the movie, this concept proves pretty difficult for humans. But let’s just imagine this same plot line for our pets. Would they survive a Bird Box world?

Their Sense of Smell

Cats and dogs have a profound sense of smell. For both animals, it is the primary method of gaining information. Our pets use their sense of smell to learn about people, other animals, and food.Cat

With twice as many receptors in their nose, a cat’s sense of smell if about 14 times more powerful than yours. On top of that, they also have a vomeronasal, a scent organ in the roof of their mouth. Have you ever seen your cat sit with its mouth open for a period of time? It’s likely that they are gaping, a term used to describe the act of ‘smelling’ from the organ on the roof of their mouth.

If that isn’t impressive enough, consider a dog’s sense of smell. Dogs are believed to have up to 300 million receptors in their snout, making their sense of smell approximately 1,000 times better than ours.Cat

To say a dog can smell better than a cat, however, is incorrect. Dogs may have cats beat in the number of smell receptors, but cats have another factor working for them. According to a recent study, there are 3 different kinds of scent receptors found in the nose. One of these scent receptors, referred to as V1R, is thought to control a mammal’s ability to discern one smell from another. While humans have 2 V1Rs, dogs have 9, and cats have 30. This indicates that cats have an incredible ability to discriminate between smells. Scientists have begun to study their potential ability assist in search & rescue and to indicate diseases in humans.Dog

Their Sense of Hearing

Have you ever noticed how well your pet can move their ears? Dogs have approximately 18 muscles in each ear, allowing them to independently move each ear. More impressively, cats have 32 muscles in each ear. This allows cats to move their ears 180 degrees, telling them all they need to know about a sound’s direction.

Cats have impressive hearing and can detect frequencies up to 79kHz. They can hear higher-pitched noises, a trait scientists believe comes in handy when hunting rodents.

A dog’s hearing ability isn’t as refined as a cat’s, but with the ability to hear up to 45 kHz, they still have humans beat. With this range, dogs can hear ultrasonic noises – hence the use of dog whistles in training. Age and ear shape can affect a dog’s ability to hear well. Upright, curved ears are the optimal shape.Dog

Their Sense of Touch

Did you know that cats and dogs use their whiskers to detect the space around them? Their whiskers are very sensitive and tell them about the air currents, temperature, wind direction, and air pressure around them. This helps them expertly navigate their environment.

Their Sense of Taste

Although taste buds are an important feature for both dogs and cats, they still have far less than the average human. While humans have about 10,000 taste buds, dogs have approximately 1,700 and cats have approximately 470.

Similar to humans, dogs can detect the 5 common tastes – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory. Cats can detect 4 – sour, bitter, salty, and meaty. Cats do not taste sweet because sweet foods are not an essential nutrient for them.

The ability to discern between tastes is important so that they can distinguish fresh meat from rancid meat.

Their Sense of Sight

Your dog can spot a squirrel scurrying up a telephone pole all the way down the block, and your cat seems to always have her eye on your home’s insect intruders. Despite what you think, dogs and cats don’t have the best sense of sight.

An eye’s retina contains two types of photoreceptors – rods and cones. Rods help you see in low light, without color, while cones are used to see color. Humans have a mixture of both rods and cones, allowing for crisp, bright colors. Cats and dogs, on the other hand, have far more rods. As a result, dogs and cats see limited, muted color and see the best in dim lighting. This makes sense because dogs and cats are crepuscular, meaning they are active and hunting at twilight.

Overall, dogs and cats cannot see as clearly or as far as humans can. You can see some comparisons of human and cat vision here. They certainly use their sight in today’s world to find a treat or watch you as you cook, but from an evolutionary standpoint, our pets do not need sight to help them hunt or survive.

The truth is, dogs and cats don’t need their vision to survive. Their strongest senses, hearing and smell, are far more useful at taking in information around them.

If a real-life Bird Box situation were to occur, our pets would do just fine (provided someone were to blindfold them, of course).

How Much Exercise Does Your Pet Need?

We love our pets, and in a perfect world, we’d spend all our time with them. The truth is,
most of us need to work and more often than not, that requires leaving the house for a few
hours at a time.
What does this mean for your pet? With you gone for 5-8 hours per day, are they getting
enough exercise?
It’s important to note that there is no hard and fast rule about your pet and exercise. Every
pet is different, so there are many factors to keep in mind:
-Body size
-Health Issues
Cats and Exercise
First and foremost, cats tend to be fairly independent animals, requiring minimal human
interaction. Additionally, their naturally high metabolism means they can relax all day and
still manage to burn off calories. Despite this, cats still do need some exercise to keep them
healthy and to avoid obesity.
According to PetMD, “You should try to spend about 10-15 minutes a few times each day
engaging your cat in some form of activity.”
While younger kittens will initiate play, older cats will often take more convincing. Many
cat owners find sticking to a consistent daily routine helps keep their cat physically fit and
mentally alert.
Dogs and Exercise
Dogs need exercise. Without exercise, dogs can easily become bored, frustrated, or
unhealthy. How much exercise, however, is dependent upon a variety of factors. Smaller
dogs, older dogs, certain breeds, and/or dogs with health issues likely need less exercise.
Meanwhile, puppies and active breeds should receive a decent amount of exercise each day.
Depending on the unique traits of your dog, you should dedicate 30 minutes to 2 hours of
exercise each day.
Indicators of Lack of Exercise

If your pet is not getting enough exercise, there are some key indicators that will let you
know. The biggest indicators for both cats and dogs are: boredom and health.
When your pet is bored, you may find that they enact destructive behavior around the
house. This looks like: shredded up furniture, chewed on items, and even, bathroom
accidents. If you notice your pet is restless, pacing, or wanting of your attention, those are
also good indicators that your pet is bored.
If your pet has gained weight or has shown a decline in health, those are good clues
pointing to a lack of exercise. Exercise doesn’t just tone muscles or help keep weight off, it
also ensures that the body is functioning properly and efficiently. Without this proper
function, your pet’s body can undergo stress and in turn, a weakened immune system.
How Can You Give Your Cat More Exercise?
Cats are a little harder to grant more exercise to as you often don’t have the luxury of taking
them outdoors. If you HAVE trained your cat to walk on leash, that is the easiest way to
increase their daily exercise.
If your cat is strictly indoors, don’t worry, there are still ways that you can increase their
daily exercise to ensure a happy, healthy cat! Make sure there are plenty of toys around at
all times so that your cat can swat them around as they are feeling more active. Cat towers
and scratchers are also a great way to get them reaching, jumping, and scratching.
A fun DIY toy is an indoor ‘hockey rink.’ Take a ball or toy and place it inside a cardboard
box. Your cat will love being able to hit and toss the toy all over the box.
A laser is another fun, interactive toy that is sure to get your cat pouncing all over!
According to Everyday Health, you may even want to consider getting a second cat. Having
a second cat around is a good way to keep your cat on their toes and ready to wrestle or
If you’re gone for many hours and are concerned about your cat and their exercise, you can
even hire a cat sitter. Although you aren’t actually out of town, a cat sitter can still come by
your home and help entertain your cat while you are away.
How Can You Give Your Dog More Exercise?
The easiest way to increase your dog’s exercise is to take them outdoors! Visit a park, take
them for longer walks, or better yet, take them on a jog with you.

If you don’t have access to the outdoors, there are still plenty of ways to give your dog
exercise while indoors. If you have enough space, you can play a game of chase or fetch. It’s
also a great idea to bust out the toy chest and play other active games like tug of war or
hide and seek.
Even spending time working on your dog’s mental health is important. Buy a dog puzzle or
teach them a new trick to get their brain working.
If your schedule is tight as it is, consider getting a dog walker or sitter. This is an affordable
way to ensure your dog is getting what they need without feeling stressed yourself. Dog
walkers and sitters are especially helpful for dogs left alone for many hours. Puppies and
senior dogs needing frequent bathroom breaks can also benefit from a midday visitor.

As pet owners, we all do our best to ensure our furry loved ones are happy and healthy.
Exercise is a key component to this. Take some time to consider your pet’s needs. Are they
happy lounging around all day? Are they in good health? Are they acting out or destroying the
house? They may just need a Dog Walker!

How to Bring a New Dog Home

Whether or not you have pets already in your home, adopting or even fostering a new dog takes work. You may not know much about your new dog’s history. There are a lot of things to consider. How are they with people? Other dogs? Cats? Children? Food?Toys? Being left alone?

If you go into this process knowing that it is just that – a process – you will find it mucheasier. The following are some tips to help make the transition a smooth one. A lot ofthese tactics maygo against your human nature, so it is important to continuouslyremind yourself of these and why they are so important.

Apply Rules From the Beginning

When first adopting a dog, thereis so much excitement and happiness, a lot of people resort to smothering theirnew friend with love and attention. RESIST! The best thing you can do for youand your new dog is to establish rules and boundaries from the start.For example, if youeventually would like to train your new dog not to jump up,you should be enacting a “NO” or “OFF” command starting Day 1.Don’t worry, it may seem cold or cruel to you, but your new dog wants to pleaseyou, so making clear what you want from them is truly a service to them!

Limit Their World and Exposure to New Things

Space. It is best to limit your dog’s capability for destruction in your new home.Start withallowing them in one room and one room only. Over the course of afew weeks (if you can manage it), slowly, add in other rooms. Additionally, manyowners like to implement crate training (if the dog isn’t already crate trained).Crate training is a wonderful tool to give your dogboundaries AND a safe spaceof their own.

People. You may be so excited to bring your new dog home that you want tothrow a party.However, it is best to limit the number of new faces. Even if yourdog is lovely with new people, reducing the number of new people only helpsthem establish the bond with you AND helps ensure rules and boundaries arebeing relayed properly. If you can tell your new dog is wary of new people, it isespecially important that you prep all new people with this information – both

for their safety and your new dog’s best interest.

Other Dogs. When encountering another dog on leash, your first step should beto communicatewith the other owner. You should ask if the dogs may meet and iftheir dog is generally friendly. You should also make sure to let them know thatyour dog is new, and you are still getting to know them. Leash meetings areimportant and should take your full attention. Promote your dog sniffing theother dog’s rear – not their face! Keep the sniffing short and keep an eye out forleash tangling.

Even if the interaction goes well, it is important to remember that these meetingsshould be short.

If you find that your dog’s leash interactions aren’t going well, don’t stress aboutit. Leash interactions are extremely tough as leashaggression is very common.Instead of continuously forcing these interactions, take the time to work on therelationship between you and your dog. Building trust can help with thesemeetings in the future.

Introducing Your Dog(s) to Your New Dog. It is easier said than done, buttry to remain calm. All dogs have different personalities, and this process willinevitably take some time and will likely be stressful since you so dearly wanteverything to work out. If you are (understandably) nervous, chew gum or grabsome mints; these help mask your fear/nerves as dogs can smell them! If your‘old’ dog senses you are uneasy, they will associate that uneasiness with the new


Before introducing the dogs, ask someone to help you out. For the first interaction,do a PACK WALK. This means, you take one dog on leash, and your assistant takesthe other. Upon seeing one another, the dogs will undoubtedly be excited. Do notallow the dogs to interact. Instead, you and your assistant should begin walking,each with their dog on the outside. As the dogs become calmer, they each can moveto the inside of their human. Still, do not allow the dogs to sniff each other. Once thedogs are very calm, you may stop for a brief interaction. Then, continue to walk. APACK WALK should happen on neutral territory i.e. around the neighborhood, in asecluded park, etc. Try to walk for at least 30 minutes. If you encounter other dogs,cross the street. This interaction is about your two dogs!

If you have additional dogs in the household, repeat this process with them.

Depending on how well this goes, one PACK WALK may be all you need. However,feel free to do these PACK WALKS as often as needed.

When you feel comfortable allowing the dogs to meet at home, make sure there areno tension triggers around like food or toys. Start with small sessions. When thedogs are separated again, be sure to spend time with each individually – work ontraining, commands, etc.

Other Pets. Other pets in the household should be the last thing you introduceto your new dog. This introduction should happen after they’ve met with otherdogs, and you have an idea of their behavior. Of course, you may choose not tointroduce them to your other pet at all – that is also perfectly fine if you sochoose.

Build a Routine and Trust

Right off the bat, try to create a normalroutine for your dog. This applies to feeding times,bathroom breaks, exercise,socializing, training, etc.

In the beginning, practice leaving your dog alone. Every dog will have a differentresponse to being left alone. For the first few days, leave the room or house for15-30 minutes at the same time every day. Your dog will learn that you leave, butyou also come back! Over time, leave for longer periods of time and at differenttimes of the day.

If you plan to use a dog walker when you are away from home, now is the time to introduce the walker to your pet and add them into the routine. The more exposure your new dog gets to their daily life, the more adjusted they will become.


Hot spots are also known as pyotraumatic dermatitis or superficial pyoderma. Those tongue-twisters are just scientific labels for inflamed, infected skin.

How Hot Spots Develop

Hot spots are created when your dog’s natural bacteria overpopulates parts of his skin. When an infection arises from a dog’s own bacteria, there is almost always a root cause. Hot spots often occur in dogs with underperforming immune systems.

Hot spots can come on very quickly. You might leave your perfectly healthy pup one morning to go to work, and by the time you return home that evening, she’s completely preoccupied with an area of skin that is irritated, inflamed and oozing. Hot spots can be very painful for your dog and quite sensitive to the touch.

Any dog can develop hot spots, but they’re much more common in dogs with thick coats, dirty and/or moist skin, and dogs with allergies, including fleas.

Let’s say your dog jumps into a pond of dirty water on a hot, humid summer day, then gets out and lays in the grass under a tree for a nap.

This activity has created a dirty, damp, warm, very hospitable environment for your dog’s natural skin bacteria to overgrow. It’s a set-up for a potential full body allergic reaction, including multiple hot spots, on your pet’s skin.

If your canine companion develops a hot spot, you’ll need to do two things:

  • Treat the wound
  • Identify the underlying cause

Treating Hot Spots

Hair removal. To treat the wound, the first thing you need to do is remove the hair on, in and around the affected area.

You may not want to do that, because, for example, you show your dog in the ring.

But if you don’t remove the hair, it will become trapped in the wound by the pus and you’ll have a much harder time healing the hot spot. In fact, hair in and around the affected area can create a perfect environment for the wound to get bigger and the infection to get worse.

I recommend you shave the area of the hot spot, and then mark the edges of the lesion with a Sharpie type pen so you can tell if the infection is expanding.

If the infection appears to be spreading, you know you’re not treating it effectively at home and you should get your pup to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Some hot spots can result in fever and serious underlying skin problems, so if you see the wound growing rather than improving after a couple of days, it’s time to seek veterinary care.

Disinfecting the wound. Once you’ve shaved the area and identified the margins, clip the hair back until you see healthy skin. Then you can begin gently disinfecting the wound with a solution that will remove bacteria.

I recommend using povidone-iodine, which is often sold by the brand name Betadine. It’s an organic iodine with has no side effects and does a good job controlling most skin bacteria. You can buy povidone-iodine at most pharmacies and some health food stores.

Dilute the solution with purified water until it’s the color of iced tea. Apply it to the wound using a soft wash cloth or gauze.

In the beginning – at least days one and two of the disinfecting routine – while there’s a lot of oozing from the wound, you’ll want to repeat the disinfecting procedure as often as necessary to keep the area clean, dry and pus free.

Your goal in managing your pup’s hot spot is to keep the area clean and dry at all times, so the first couple days you might need to disinfect the wound as often as every two hours.

Depending on the severity of the infection and the amount of pus the wound is producing, disinfecting two times a day should be an absolute minimum. Remember – a consistently clean and dry wound is critical to healing the infection.

Applying a topical solution. After you clean the wound you can apply a topical solution like colloidal silver, or raw aloe, or a thin layer of manuka honey, which is a raw honey made from the tea tree plant. You can also use a cool chamomile tea bag against the wound to provide a soothing effect.

Don’t use anything with stinging or astringent properties on an open, raw wound. Solutions like vinegar or tea tree oil, while anti-microbial, are really painful when applied to an open, raw wound, so I don’t recommend you use those types of aggressive solutions when you are treating an infected hot spot.

Repeat the disinfecting procedure and application of a light, natural topical soothing gel afterwards until the wound shrinks in size, the infection clears and your pet is no longer bothered by the hot spot.

Keeping your dog away from the wound. Insuring your pet leaves the hot spot alone is critical to healing. You’ll probably need to put an E collar on her (one of those lamp shade shaped collars that are so annoying to pets) to prevent her from licking and biting the affected skin.

If your pup continues to re-traumatize the wound, the infection won’t clear up and the hot spot will get bigger.

As an alternative to the E collar, you might be able to manage the wound by applying a light wrap or putting a t-shirt on your pet, as long as you are sure she is leaving the wound alone.

Finding the Root Cause of Your Pet’s Hot Spot

The second step in managing hot spots is to identify why they happen.

Allergic sensitivity. Allergies, both food and environmental, can cause hot spots. If you notice that each time your dog eats a bit of your wheat bread crust she gets a hot spot, there’s a very good chance she has a grain-based allergy. If that’s the case, you’ll want to evaluate the content of the food you feed your pet and make adjustments as necessary.

Environmental allergies can also cause hot spots.

Ragweed, grasses, pollens and molds are typical allergens, but it can also be polluted water or even toxic air that causes a secondary hot spot on your pet. You’ll need to evaluate not only your dog’s diet, but also her environment to search for sources of allergens that could be causing hot spots.

Besides food and environmental allergies, flea allergy dermatitis is also a major reason why animals get hot spots.

You might not even be able to see the fleas, but if your dog is sensitive, the bite of just one flea can cause a raging hot spot. Check your pet with a flea comb for fleas and flea dirt regularly.

Underlying painful conditions. If your dog has a painful spot on his body and he starts digging and chewing at the area, he can create a hot spot. For example, if you have an older dog that has never suffered from hot spots but suddenly starts bothering the skin over a hip joint, it could be a response to underlying pain.

If your pet has neuralgia or perhaps sciatica — which is an irritated, tingling nerve pain similar to how your foot feels as it wakes up after falling asleep — you might notice him chewing on an ankle or a toe.

This can bring on a secondary infection that your veterinarian may label a hot spot. In this case there’s no underlying allergic condition, but rather an underlying muscle, nerve or bone problem.

Emotional or mental causes. Sometimes there are underlying mental or emotional causes for your dog’s hot spots, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, separation anxiety, or even boredom.

These behavioral issues can cause licking and chewing which creates hot spots.

Behavioral causes of hot spots are unfortunately the hardest to successfully treat. If your pet is obsessive about licking certain parts of his body and it leads to open wounds, the problem can be very difficult to fix long term, even using behavior modification techniques.

Hopefully I’ve helped you today to identify the root cause of your dog’s hot spots, along with an effective plan for wound treatment.

Thank you Dr Karen Becker

2015 Top 10 Medical Conditions in Cats

By Dr. Becker

Nationwide Pet Insurance recently released a list of the top medical conditions in dogs and cats during 2015. The results were compiled from over 1.3 million claims submitted to Nationwide by the owners of more than 550,000 pets.

2015 Top 10 Medical Conditions in Cats

Top 10 Medical Conditions in Cats for 2015
Condition Average Cost to Treat per Cat
1. Bladder disease (cystitis)/FLUTD $441
2. Periodontitis/dental disease $326
3. Chronic kidney disease $628
4. Vomiting/upset stomach $313
5. Excessive thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) $396
6. Diarrhea/intestinal upset $189
7. Diabetes mellitus $862
8. Upper respiratory infection $185
9. Skin allergies $158
10. Inflammatory bowel disease $311

Sadly, but not surprisingly, cystitis and FLUTD top the list of kitty health problems for another year.

There are many ways in which the domestication of cats has actually been detrimental to their health, and in fact, virtually every problem on the above list can be caused, linked to, or exacerbated by one feature of domestication in particular: processed pet food.

Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC)

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) describes a collection of conditions that affects the bladder and urethra of cats. The most common FLUTD condition is feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC). About two-thirds of kitties with FLUTD have FIC.

Feline idiopathic cystitis is the technical term for inflammation of the bladder (cystitis) without a known cause (idiopathic). Typical symptoms seen in kitties with FIC include:

  • Straining to urinate. Most FIC cats are in and out of the litter box frequently in an effort to empty their bladder. They may void some urine with each visit to the box, but they don’t feel they can completely empty their bladder in one trip.
  • Inflamed and irritated urinary tract, which can cause blood in the urine. The blood can be either microscopic (meaning you won’t see it but it’s there, present on a urinalysis), or it can be visible in the litterbox.
  • Pain during urination — your kitty may cry out while she’s in the litterbox.

These symptoms are also seen in urinary tract infections and when there are urinary crystals or bladder stones present. It’s important that your veterinarian arrives at a precise diagnosis for your cat, because inflammation and infection require different treatment approaches.

Feline Expert Describes FIC as ‘Pandora’ Syndrome

Research on feline idiopathic cystitis points to the importance of stress reduction andenvironmental enrichment in treating cats with the disorder. In an Ohio State University (OSU) study of 12 healthy cats and 20 with FIC, researchers observed that healthy cats behave as if they’re sick when their routine is changed.1

“Sickness behaviors” such as refusal to eat, vomiting and eliminating outside the litterbox tripled in healthy cats whose routines were disturbed. The study also suggests that cats with FIC experience significant symptom reduction in an enriched environment.

In affected cats, symptoms improved by 75 to 80 percent when they were fed at the same time each day, their litterboxes stayed in the same location, and regular playtime was encouraged.

Dr. Tony Buffington, a professor at OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, concludes FIC is part of a larger disorder that he suggests be referred to as “Pandora” syndrome.

“A name like ‘Pandora’ syndrome seems appropriate for at least two reasons,”says Buffington.

“First, it does not identify any specific cause or organ, and second, it seems to capture the dismay and dispute associated with the identification of so many problems (evils) outside the organ of interest of any particular subspecialty.”2

What this means is that FIC isn’t simply inflammation of a single organ (the bladder) with no identifiable root cause. Instead, it appears to be the result of a potentially wide range of problems that extend beyond the bladder and lower urinary tract.

FIC Appears to Involve Not Just the Bladder, But Also Its Interaction With the Nervous System and Adrenal Glands

According to veterinarian Dr. Gregory F. Grauer of Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine:

“FIC appears to be associated with interactions among the nervous system, adrenal glands and the bladder.

Environment also appears to play a role in the pathophysiology and, in some cases, FIC is associated with clinical signs related to the gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, integumentary, and immune systems. These signs tend to wax and wane, similar to urinary signs associated with cystitis.”3

Symptoms of FIC directly related to the lower urinary tract include increased permeability of the bladder lining and wall, and decreased urine output. The causes of decreased urine output and frequency of urination include:

Neutering of male cats Insufficient water intake Obesity
Confinement Dirty or poorly located litterboxes Arthritis
Insufficient physical activity Aggression among cats in a multi-cat home Viruses

Cats with FIC have multiple physiological symptoms that indicate a heightened stress response leading to increased inflammation and decreased bladder and urinary defenses.

The role of stress is more difficult to quantify than clinically observable signs, but the picture comes into better focus once we link symptoms to recent events, such as boarding, traveling, a new person or pet in the household, the use of pet sitters, or even inclement weather. Another stressor in homes with more than one cat is intercat aggression due to competition for food, litterboxes, space, etc.

The Importance of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Kitties With FIC

Helping cats with feline idiopathic cystitis drink more, urinate more, and eat a moisture-rich diet is one of the primary goals of treatment. In addition, it’s also extremely important to reduce inflammation in cats with FIC. Inflammation has a number of different causes. I always focus first on diet, because I know there are foods that are pro-inflammatory and those that are anti-inflammatory.

For felines, a pro-inflammatory diet is one that is high in carbohydrates. A high carb diet creates inflammatory byproducts in your cat’s body that can ultimately inflame the bladder. I recommend you avoid foods with carbohydrates, particularly potato, corn, wheat, rice and millet.

Another focus in effectively treating feline bladder inflammation is to identify potential sources of food allergies. In about 50 percent of FIC kitties I see in my practice, we can achieve improvement in symptoms simply by eliminating potentially allergenic foods from the diet.

Many cats are hooked on a certain kind of food, so it can be difficult to move them to a different protein source. I recommend first transitioning from kibble to human-grade canned food, then to three months on a novel protein human-grade canned food, for example, rabbit.

The ultimate goal should be to transition your cat long-term to a balanced, fresh, moisture-rich, raw or gently cooked meat-based diet. I also use natural supplements to help control inflammation. There are oral anti-inflammatory medications and herbs that can help, but feeding an anti-inflammatory diet is the most important thing you can do to manage your pet’s condition.

I recommend partnering with an integrative veterinarian to manage your kitty’s cystitis. Integrative vets have a variety of treatment modalities they can use depending on what protocol best addresses your cat’s specific issues, including his or her level of emotional stress.

Why Your Cat’s Diet Should Also Be Loaded With Moisture

Water is essential for all life forms, but cats don’t have a strong thirst drive compared to other species. That’s because cats are designed to get almost all the water their bodies require from the food they eat. Healthy cats don’t lap up water like other animals do.

With few exceptions, only cats with underlying disease will drink a lot of water. Often, the disease involves their lower urinary tract, especially if they’re suffering from chronic, moderate dehydration thanks to a primarily dry food diet.

Cats in the wild hunt prey, and a wild mouse, for example, is about 80 percent water. Canned cat food contains at least that much moisture. Dry food, on the other hand, contains only about one-tenth that amount. If you’re feeding your cat mostly dry food, he’s probably drinking more water than he would if his diet was high in moisture content. But as a general rule, cats on dry food diets consume only about half the water cats on moisture-rich diets consume.

Now think for a minute about your cat’s lower urinary tract — specifically the bladder and kidneys, which need to be flushed constantly with adequate quantities of urine. It’s easy to imagine the growing stress on those vital organs when your kitty’s body is operating on half the amount of water it requires to function normally — day in and day out, for months, years, or a lifetime.

Stress Reduction and Environmental Enrichment

Environmental modification/enrichment to reduce stress is proving to be an effective management tool for kitties with FIC. Toward that end, litterbox cleanliness is one of the most important aspects.

Litterboxes should be cleaned frequently (scooped at least once daily and fully sanitized at least weekly). They should be located a distance from noisy areas, and should give your kitty easy access to and from them so there’s no feeling of being trapped or unable to escape.

It’s also important to have the right number of boxes (one for each cat in the household, plus one extra), as well as the size and shape your cat prefers. In a multi-cat household, especially, access to more than one source of fresh water and food may help reduce stress, avoid intercat aggression, and increase water intake. It’s also important that food and water stations are in safe, secure locations.

In the wild, cats not only hunt prey, they are prey for other animals. They feel most vulnerable while eating, drinking or eliminating. This vulnerability creates stress when a cat’s food dish or litterbox is in a noisy or high traffic area. Increased interaction between you and your kitty with FIC may also reduce her stress. Petting, grooming, and play activities that stimulate hunting behavior may help. Discover what type of toy (prey) she responds to and engage her in play.

Increasing your cat’s access to private areas may also be beneficial, especially if there are other pets in the home. Your cat needs her own resting and hiding spots where she feels untouchable.

5 Reasons Your Cat Is Eating Constantly

As a cat guardian, you know that if your cat goes off his food for more than a day or so, a trip to the vet is probably in order. But did you know that constant eating can be a sign of health problems, both physical and psychological? Here are some reasons why your cat may be overeating.

1. Your cat has worms

Roundworms can cause your cat to become very hungry, because the worms are taking all the nutrition from his food before he can get it. Ironically, a roundworm-infested cat may look fat, as the parasites cause his body to swell.

 Roundworms are contagious to humans, so if you suspect your cat has them, bring a fecal sample to your vet to have it tested.

2. Your cat has hyperthyroidism or diabetes

These diseases both cause a vast increase in appetite: hyperthyroidism does so because your cat’s metabolism is burning too many calories, and diabetes because your cat’s body can’t convert sugar to energy — and the nutrition doesn’t even get into his body in the first place. If your cat is eating constantly and still losing weight, and especially if he’s also drinking a lot of water, get him to the vet as soon as possible.

3. Your cat is bored or lonely

Just like humans, some cats will eat because they’re bored. The solution to this problem is to provide your cat with more stimulation and to stop leaving kibble out for him to munch on all day. If you want to have a supply of food available, provide it in puzzle toys, which will cause your cat to have to work for his meal. This will help him burn calories and keep his mind engaged.

Be sure to provide other intellectually stimulating toys (or maybe even a kitty friend) to keep his mind off his dish. You can also buy automatic feeders, which provide access to a set amount of food at set times of day.

4. Your cat is depressed

Overeating can be a self-soothing behavior for cats who are depressed or grieving. I’ve seen this happen: I once met a couple who had a cat they’d exiled to the basement after their baby was born. In response, the cat started eating to self-soothe, and the result was incredibly sad.

If your cat is depressed, try drawing him out of his shell with gentle interactive play. Give him “love blinks” — close your eyes slowly, leave them closed for a second, and then open them slowly, while thinking “I love you.”

5. Your cat’s food isn’t meeting his nutritional needs

You know how when you eat fast food, you’re usually hungry an hour later no matter how much you ate? Poor-quality cat food can have the same effect on your cat. And like a person who eats a lot of fast food or who can only afford starchy foods, your cat will eat and eat because he can’t satisfy the true hunger (for nutrients) at the root of his desire to eat. Try feeding canned food; it’s typically more nutrient-dense, tastes better, and the cost ends up being about the same as kibble when you feed your cat the proper amount.

Remember that cats’ stomachs are extremely small: a couple of tablespoons of canned or raw food or (not and) a third of a cup of kibble per feeding is about all a cat needs to stay fit and healthy. Of course, if your cat a 20-pound Maine Coon, he’ll need a lot more food than a petite Singapura, so be sure to work with your vet to figure out the most appropriate amount to feed your feline friend.

JaneA Kelley  |  Apr 16th 2013

An Open Letter to Pet Owners Who Don’t Use Professional Pet Sitters

Dear pet owner,

We get it—you’re busy and you’re budget conscious. And we can even understand why you’d think about asking your neighbor’s teenage daughter or checking one of those Uber-like sites to find a pet sitter when work or travel keeps you from your pets. And while we get it, and while we can understand your desire to find a quick (and cheap) pet-care solution, we urge you to stop and think about your pet.

Here at Pet Sitters International (PSI), we aren’t just the world’s largest educational association for professional pet sitters—we are pet owners ourselves, and our love for pets drives everything we do here at PSI.

We’ve seen the news alerts come through about crimes committed against pets and clients by purported “pet sitters.” Just this week, a police report detailed how aneighbor who was asked to pet sit installed hidden cameras in the bathroom and watched the pet owner and her children shower.  We wish this was the only horror story, but it’s not. Time and time again, we’ve seen reports of teenagers hired as “pet sitters” trashing a home,  so-called “pet sitters” stealing thousands of dollars in property, and much worse, including pet abuse and death.

Oftentimes, pet owners, and even news outlets, use the term ‘pet sitter’ carelessly, referring to anyone—from a family friend to the neighborhood teenager asked to walk a dog—as a “pet sitter,” but it’s important that you understand pet sitting is a professional career and professional pet sitters offer peace of mind that other pet-care options cannot.

While it may be tempting to save a little cash by hiring  a neighbor, high school student or even a loving, retired couple or family who’ve listed a free profile on a “pet sitter” site, isn’t your peace of mind and your pet’s health worth more?

Would one of these individuals be able to spot the early signs of renal failure in your senior cat and rush him to the vet while you were on vacation? A professional pet sitter would.

Would any of these “pet sitters” know how to respond if they entered your home to find a broken window, open door and missing pets? A professional pet sitter would.

Would any of these hired “pet sitters” rush to your home at your call to say goodbye to your beloved pet on his deathbed? A professional pet sitter would.

How do we know this? At PSI, we hear from professional pet-sitting members every day. They share their successes: the aggressive kitten that owners thought they would have to rehome but has now adapted to the family after the professional pet sitter shared behavior tips learned at a recent pet-sitter conference…the professional pet sitter whose pet-first aid training enabled her to recognize signs of bloat in a client’s dog and seek veterinary care just in time…the PSI Certified Professional Pet Sitter who was able use the information he learned about pet loss and grief counseling to comfort a family mourning the loss of a beloved pet.

Every day we work with professional pet sitters  who are committed to taking advantage of continuing education, to maintaining the proper business credentials and to increasing communication with their clients to ensure they offer the best professional pet-sitting services possible.

We also hear the other side: the frantic call from a pet owner seeking advice because they’ve discovered their “pet sitter” wasn’t insured and they’re now left with thousands of dollars in damages to their home resulting from a running faucet left on overnight…the e-mail from a pet owner asking for help finding a professional once they return home to discover their pets have been left unattended for days by the “pet sitter” they hired while they were vacationing…the tragic reports of pet owners trusting individuals they’ve found through an online listing only to have their pet stolen, lost or worse.

This is why PSI is so passionate about promoting the benefits—and necessity—of using only local professional pet sitters.

Even for pet owners committed to using professional pet sitters instead of friends or family, the search can be confusing. With the influx of Uber-like pet-care sites popping up in the last few years and news stories touting pet sitting as an easy way to earn extra money, more and more people are deciding to cash in on the growing need for pet care.

Please know that just because you’ve seen a pet sitter in an online directory—or even on a nationally-publicized site—it doesn’t ensure that person is a legitimate, qualified professional pet-sitting business. Anyone can post a profile advertising pet-sitting services, so it’s important that you to take a closer look to ensure you are hiring a ”real pet sitter” to care for your pets.

While professional pet sitters may cost slightly more than their non-professional counterparts, your investment pays big dividends. Using a professional pet sitter who is insured, bonded and trained protects you and your pet—and we know there’s no price you would place on your pet’s safety and well-being.

We encourage you to ask seven important questions of any pet sitter you consider hiring.

As a pet owner, you decide which pet-care option works best for you and your pets—and we understand that what works best for another pet owner may not be what works best for you.

But, we want your decision to be an educated one. We want to make sure you know that relying on family and friends is no longer your only option—there are professional pet sitters available.

We want to make sure that you understand not everyone who advertises pet-sitting services and “loves pets” is a reliable, qualified option—but there are professional pet sitters available.

We understand that you may be looking for a quick solution and don’t think you have the time or money to invest in professional pet-care—but there are professional pet sitters available…and they offer quality care for reasonable rates. You just have to know where to look and what to ask!


“Don’t Be Tricked by So-Called Pet Sitters,” Warns Pongo’s Pals Pet Services

Kelly Andrade, owner of Pongo’s Pals Pet Services is partnering with Pet Sitters International for the Get A Real Pet Sitter® campaign to educate pet owners on what to look for in a reputable,

professional pet sitter.

 psi-logoPETHEALTHbackground check 400px


With more than 60 percent of households owning a least one pet, finding reliable pet care is likely a concern for the majority of pet owners in North Kingstown. For these pet owners, Kelly Andrade, owner of Pongo’s Pals Pet Services, has an important piece                                                       of advice:  Don’t be tricked by so-called pet sitters.


“Many pet owners, and even news outlets, use the term ‘pet sitter’ incorrectly, referring to anyone—from a family friend to the neighborhood teenager asked to walk a dog—as a ‘pet sitter,’” explains Andrade. “It is important that pet owners understand that pet sitting is a professional career and professional pet sitters offer peace of mind that other pet-care options cannot.”


Even for pet owners committed to using professional pet sitters instead of friends or family, the search can be confusing.

With the influx of pet-care directory sites popping up in the last couple of years and news stories touting pet sitting as an easy way to earn extra cash, more and more people are deciding to cash in on the growing need for pet care.

Andrade’s pet-sitting service, Pongo’s Pals Pet Services, offers pet-sitting services for dogs, cats and small pets in North Kingstown as well as daily dog walks Kelly Andrade is a member of Pet Sitters International (PSI), the world’s leading educational association for professional pet sitters. In addition, the business is licensed to do business in North Kingstown, insured, bonded, can provide proof of a clear criminal history and Kelly is also certified in Pet CPR and First Aid.

PSI President Patti Moran—who also founded the pet-sitting industry more than two decades ago—offers additional advice for pet owners.

“Simply being listed on an online pet-sitter listing—or even on a nationally-publicized directory—does not make a pet sitter a professional, qualified care provider,” explains Moran. “Anyone can post a profile advertising pet-sitting services, so it’s important for pet owners to take a closer look to ensure they are hiring a real pet sitter.”

Andrade is joining with PSI and thousands of fellow pet sitters to promote the “Get A Real Pet Sitter®” message to educate pet owners on what they should look for when selecting a professional pet sitter.

PSI and Pongo’s Pals Pet Services advise pet owners to ask these important questions when interviewing a potential pet sitter:

  1. Does the pet sitter have the proper business license for your city or state?
  2. Is the pet sitter insured and bonded?
  3. Can the pet sitter provide proof of clear criminal history?
  4. Does the pet sitter provide client references?
  5. Will the pet sitter use a pet-sitting services agreement or contract?
  6. Is the pet sitter Certified in pet-care training, such as pet first aid?
  7. Is the pet sitter a member of a professional and educational association, such as Pet Sitters International?

Kelly Andrade encourages local pet owners to visit or call 401-226-2306 to learn more about Pongo’s Pals Pet Services credentials and services. To learn more about PSI, visit

5 dangerous homemade cat food mistakes + how to avoid them

Avoid these homemade catfood mistakesMaking your own cat food can be cost-effective and very healthy for your cat, but – and this is a BIG BUT, friends – only if you do it right: otherwise, it could potentially be life-threatening to your cat. (Still, it’s do-able. We’ll talk about the easiest way to get it right in a moment.)

Dr. Karen Becker writes about a kitten fed only raw chicken muscle meat until he was 5 months old. He became critically deficient in several important nutrients, which caused metabolic bone disease, rear leg lameness, and central retinal degeneration! (The good news is, as kittens have a lot of healing power and this one had a good doctor, he did fully recover after a couple of months of cage rest and a balanced diet. However, not all nutrient-deprived cats and kittens can be so lucky.) Dr. Becker said that she’s seen “an increasing number of pets with skeletal problems, organ failure and endocrine abnormalities caused by dietary deficiencies of essential nutrients.”

I’ve made a lot of homemade cat food and researched it enough to know how easy it is to get certain things wrong. I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time, as I see a lot of confusion and mixed messages out there.

Serious homemade cat food mistakes to avoid

Here’s what many of us get wrong if we aren’t fully informed before attempting to make cat food:

Mistake 1: Not supplementing with taurine – even with raw food

Serious heart and eye conditions have appeared in cats fed diets containing insufficient taurine. Cats cannot synthesize enough taurine to meet their needs, so taurine needs to be added even to foods that naturally contain some taurine because it degrades so easily (see mistake #3). Better to err on the side of caution with this one!

Mistake 2: Not making sure the food contains these other critical nutrients…

There are a few other nutrients that a cat must have, but that are not always in homemade cat food:

  • Niacin (B3) and thiamin (B1): These B’s are degraded by cooking, so any homemade food needs to have these added after any cooking or heating (attention anyone who warms raw food in the microwave!). Adult cats deprived of niacin, which their bodies cannot manufacture, will lose weight and could die as a result of this deficiency. Thiamin is also essential because a deficiency leads to blindness and neurological impairments such as seizures and heart-rate disorders.
  • Vitamin A (not beta carotene): Deficiencies in vitamin A lead to blindness. Cats can’t manufacture vitamin A and, unlike us, they can’t synthesize vitamin A from beta carotene. They must get it from their diet, but it’s not present in most foods. Vitamin A is found in liver and egg yolks, so if those are not part of your cat’s regular diet, they will need appropriate supplementation (not too much! see mistake #4).
  • Calcium: If you feed cats meat without a calcium supplement or bones (finely ground in), it can lead to a collapse or curvature of lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones; bone pain and fractures, as well as hyperparathyroidism.

Mistake 3: Adding the supplements before cooking, grinding or pureeing the cat food 

Why is this bad? Because key nutrients won’t survive those processes. Add supplements AFTER cooking, grinding, or pureeing. You need to add taurine after any cooking has taken place. And, even if you serve raw food or food that contains taurine naturally, it is believed that is also degraded to some degree by grinding and pureeing. And, taurine leaches out in water, especially if cooking in hot water, so keep that in mind too. Finally, most B vitamins cannot survive heat and the B’s are essential to your cat’s health too (see mistake #2).

Mistake 4: Adding too much supplementation (overdosing)

If you get supplements for your cat food, but add too much, this can also cause significant health problems:

  • An excess of magnesium is associated with stones in the feline urinary tract.
  • Vitamin A, while critical, becomes very toxic when too much is consumed.
  • Too much calcium causes depressed food intake and decreased growth in cats.
  • Excessive vitamin D is also toxic.

Mistake 5: Including ingredients cats shouldn’t eat

Again, lots of misinformation out there! Here are human foods that shouldNOT be added to cat food:

  • onions and garlic – cause hemolytic anemia in cats
  • tomatoes, chocolate, grapes and raisins – toxic to cats
  • raw egg whites – contain a protein called avidin that can bind to certain B vitamins and prevent their absorption
  • pasteurized milk – very difficult to digest because the lactase enzyme has been neutralized by pasteurization
  • grains or soy of any sort (wheat, rice, corn, oats, etc) – while several years ago it was common to recommend putting grains like rice in homemade cat food, and a lot of commercial cat food still includes them, we are now learning that grains are very hard for most cats to digest and may lead to digestive diseases in some cats (See this article by Fern Crist, DVM and Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life by Dr. Hodgkins, and this article by Dr. Becker.)

How to easily avoid those homemade cat food mistakes!

IMG_0153As you may imagine, after I did a little research and discovered all this, I was daunted.

I looked at the amount of time in my day and quickly deduced that I’d much rather buy a reliable supplement mix for homemade cat food (andfollow the instructionscarefully) than risk winging it.

Once I made that decision, I just needed to find some feline food supplement mixes that looked good…

Supplement mixes for making homemade cat food

The sources below include ones I have bought or would buy for my cats. Of course, I cannot make any guarantees about them, but I can say that at this point I trust them and would use them. (I don’t make them, sell them, or have an affiliate connection with them.)

Each source provides recipes and instructions so making homemade cat is not a mysterious process! You just follow the recipe. (See the video at the end of this post for an example!)

(Note: If you are making a homemade meal for your cat just once every few weeks or months as a treat, and feeding them food that meets or exceeds the AAFCO standards the rest of the time, you need not worry about adding supplements for very occasional homemade meals. But this is the only exception!)


alnutrinAll ingredients are pure food grade products without silica, magnesium stearate or other processing additives. They do not use any raw materials from China or India. All raw materials are manufactured in the USA, Europe or Japan. Free of controversial chemical additives like BHT, BHA, ethoxyquin and menadione. Alnutrin’s site has a wealth of practical, easy-to-understand information on making food for your cat and they offer free formulation advice to customers.
They also offer free trial samples!

Feline Instincts

feline instinctsFeline Instincts premixes are human grade, organic and USDA approved with no preservatives, colors, or other artificial additives. You add raw meat, raw liver (or a raw liver powder, which they sell), and water. Their mixes also incorporate ImmnoPlex Natural Glandulars by Nutricology, sourced from New Zealand. Dr. Gardner, a holistic vet they consulted with in creating their mixes, is quotes on their site about the use of kelp in the mix. He said, “Kelp is to supply a source of minerals and helps to support the thyroid. While there is controversy over the use of kelp in felines, in the right amount it is beneficial. We have not had any issues with thyroid problems and a lot of felines with hyperthyroidism use the diet and have done very well along with appropriate veterinary care, both holistic and allopathic.”

TC Feline

tcfelineIf you’re in Canada or Europe TC Feline may be a good option.
I haven’t tried this one, but I’ve heard some folks love it. It uses 100% human grade and pharmaceutical grade ingredients. GMO-free, and no artificial additives, flavors, etc. The premixes are “made in small batches, precision measured, blended, sifted, and packaged by hand in a spotless facility.” The sources of ingredients are carefully selected. For example, it includes grass-fed whey protein from New Zealand (GMO free, rBGH free, BSE free). However, I have question marks around their use of the Arctic Pacific krill oil in the product. I cannot confirm it, but there is concern about eco-system damage from this kind of krill fishing and some are also concerned with a risk of Fukushima radiation contamination in Pacific krill oil.
Get TC Feline in the US here.


  • Premixes are not meant to be used as a “sprinkle” on top of meat or added just to water or other foods; Feline Instincts says you can harm your cat by using the supplements that way. Follow the instructions for mixing the right amount into the food at the right time.
  • For cats with constipationFeline Instincts No Bones About It or Alnturin with Calcium mixes are an ideal option. TC Feline also provides a bone-free special mix for cats with kidney problems.
  • Some (but not all) experts say you shouldn’t use store-bought meat(unless you cook it before adding supplements) because there are concerns about bacteria. Instead, they say you should grind your own or order from source that freezes immediately after cutting or grinding, like Hare-Today, which carries many types of meats.
  • Alnutrin provides an excellent homemade cat food nutrient calculatorto create your own new recipes or to customize one of theirs. You can also use it if you already have a recipe and would like to know what the nutritional composition of the diet is.
  • The homemade cat food supplement companies listed above will provide you with what you need to know for making your cat food. But if you’re really wanting to geek out and learn more about doing it all from scratch, see Dr. Lisa Pierson’s HUGE page on the topic of making cat food here.

Wanna see how to make, prepare, and store a batch of cat food?

Here’s a video that shows you exactly how to prepare and package a batch of homemade cat food that’s supplemented with a premix. Demystifies it!

Nutrition References:

Best Seat Belts for your dog

Not all Dog Seatbelts are created equal.

This is an article I came across from Hannah Elliot from Forbes

The Safest Seat Belts For Your Dog


All dog seat belts are not created equal. Just ask Lindsey Wolko.

“I had to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident, and Maggie was tangled in the tether,” said Wolko, who is the founder and CEO of the Center for Pet Safety. Maggie is a 30-pound English Cocker Spaniel. “She launched off the back seat into the front seat, and she was injured.”

That crash—Maggie made a full recovery after sustaining a strained spine and hips—got Wolko thinking. If Maggie had such a rough time in the car during a relatively minor crash, imagine what other dogs might endure in a serious collision. The worst part? Companies who make automotive pet restraints aren’t legally required to test their products before putting them to market.

“It’s so intuitive for us to just reach over and strap a seat belt on, but people don’t think about using these products for their pets,” Wolko says. “It’s incredibly important.”

So in 2011 she conducted a pilot study of four seat belts that seemed to be the highest quality offered on the market. Not even one passed basic safety criteria.

“We had a 100-percent failure rate,” Wolko said. “The dogs were flying off the seats.”

That’s where Subaru came in. Executives there say two-thirds of its drivers own dogs (AAA reports that nearly 90% of U.S. pet owners say they travel with their pets)–so canine safety is particularly important to the brand. And after seeing Wolko talk about the crash test failures on morning talk shows, the automaker commissioned a full CPS report that tested belts for small, medium and large dogs in simulated crashes.

 It worked as much to raise awareness about pet safety in cars as to call out faulty harnesses.

“The thing people don’t think about is that [having a dog in the car] is like carrying an 80 pound sack of spuds behind your seat,” said Michael McHale, director of communications at Subaru of America. AAA says that a 10-pound unrestrained dog in a car traveling 30 miles an hour will exert 300 pounds of force during a crash.

The safety harness results reported last month weren’t great. Four of the seven brands tested had “catastrophic failure” during a crash, which CPS defines as allowing the dog to become a projectile or release from the restraint. Only Sleepypod’s Clickit Utility Harness consistently kept dogs from launching off the seat; it was the only restraint deemed to offer substantial protection to all passengers including the dog.

The other belts? They ripped, tore, stretched and broke in crucial areas, releasing the fake test pooches as missiles thrown across the vehicle. Some broke “legs” and “ribs.” Others were decapitated.

Behind the Numbers

To compile the report, CPS recreated the same crash tests used to rate child safety products. Subaru and CPS enlisted MGA Research Corporation, an independent lab often contracted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to study commonly available pet safety harnesses.

Testing included fake dogs built around steel frames–a 25-pound “terrier mix,” a 45-pound “border collie,” and a 75-pound “golden retriever.” The models were weighted and packed to give a realistic representation of a dog’s body. Each device was also fitted with internal computer instrumentation to measure harness performance and collect baseline data.

The ultimate goal of each harness is to maintain the dog’s stability and restrain movement under duress. Each should also help stabilize the dog’s spine and limit rotation during an accident in much the same way seat belts for humans work.

“It’s so intuitive for us to just reach over and strap a seat belt on, but people don’t think about using these products for their pets,” Wolko says. “It’s incredibly important.”

Important–with plenty of room for improvement. Subaru will soon offer Sleepypod’s Clickit Utility Harness as an optional accessory in its vehicles.