Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Got Summer Vaca and Warm Weather on the Brain? Your Pets Do Too! Make Sure Both of You are Safe this Summer!

Now that the weather is warm, it is reminding everyone that summer vacation is just weeks around the corner. The birds are chirping, neighbors are outside cutting their lawns and people are walking their dogs more than ever. We all have spring fever and so do our pets. This combination can be a deadly one if we let our guard down and become lax with the way we treat our animals.

My family cat, Sassy, enjoying the good outdoors.

The arrival of nice weather does not mean that our brains should go on summer vacation mode as a pet-owner. For instance, I cringe every time I see a person riding their bike while walking their dog at the same time. This is a recipe for disaster. This is a scenario in which the pet and its owner could get seriously injured. For one, the dog leash could get twisted in the bike tire, causing the person riding the bike to flip over the handlebars. The bike or person could fall on the dog and cause serious harm. The dog may also take off running down the street, dragging the bike behind him which would be a path of destruction. The dog or person may fall into traffic. Each time that I see this, I think of the various scenarios that could take place, all of which are never good. Make separate time for your hobbies and your pets.

 While walking your dog, it may be tempting to let him or her off the leash in parks or on trails. Please understand that there are leash laws set in place to protect you and your dog from being sued during a possible altercation. If a person or another animal scares your dog, this could lead to a dog bite and other injuries. Then, you may be sued and the court may order your dog to be euthanized. This horrendous scenario can be prevented by using common sense.

As our pets may want to go outside more often, it is critical to protect them against fleas and ticks this spring, summer and fall. Because we had such a mild winter in upstate New York, some fleas and ticks never died. Thus, they will be out with a vengeance this year. Popular flea and tick preventatives like K9 Advantix, Frontline, etc., are readily available and recommended by veterinarians. If you see a tick embedded in your pet's skin, it is important to be prepared. Check out ARCANATURA's all-natural tick removal kit here. After walks with your pet, make sure you do a basic fur check to see if there are any wandering ticks. Flea combs are available for both dogs and cats.

If your pet spends any time outside without supervision, be that a dog in a backyard or an indoor-outdoor cat, it is very important to provide proper shelter, food and drink for the animal. As we all know, the summers easily reach 80 degrees and your pet will drink abundantly and dehydrate quickly. Check on your pets often and monitor food, water, and proper shelter that provides shade from the hot sun. Do not leave your pets outside for extended periods of time without supervision. It's easy to forget that a pet is outside when we are doing laundry, homework or other chores; don't assume that your pet knows right from wrong when you aren't there or that your pet won't be affected by the heat.

For cats and dogs that spend any time outdoors, please make sure to microchip them or fasten a pet ID to a break-away collar. If your indoor-outdoor cat gets lost or injured, it can be identified at a shelter or veterinary clinic. If your dog finds a way to escape out of the yard, he or she can also be identified quickly by animal control or neighbors. Make sure to list the pet's name and owner contact information on the ID tag. 

Overall, the summer does seem to be the time to relax and unwind with family and friends, but it is important for us to stay diligent with our pets. With proper precautions, our pets can relax and unwind too---safely.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Most Painful Mani-Pedi: Consider an Alternative Before Declawing Your Cat

When I moved into my first apartment after graduating college last year, I faced a lot of decisions regarding outrageous pet fees. Although I lamented these fees and still continue to do so, I understood why paying a deposit was necessary. Just in case my ten year old cat, Cady, decided to destroy the place, my landlord would be able to pay for repairs. However, the odds were in my favor. Cady does have anxiety, but luckily, (or not so luckily,)  he takes it out on me and not my rugs and furniture. My landlord requested a deposit along with a large (and crazy) non-refundable payment because my cat was not declawed.

There is a downside to losing a lot of money as a new college grad who is paying off loans and making entry-level pay; but, it is also critical to weigh-in on another issue at hand: the excruciating pain that cats endure during the declawing process that can affect the rest of their lives and personalities.

Paws off! 
It is easy to forget or displace the fear, anxiety and pain an animal feels when it is declawed because as humans, we drop our pets off at the vet and then they come home to us in one piece. And even better, they can't destroy the house! But wait-it's never that simple, at least not for the animal. First off, declawing a cat is similar to cutting off the first segment of the human finger. Just imagine how painful it would be to lose all ten of your finger-nails and the top parts of your fingers. You would never feel normal sensations on the tips of your fingers again and the process would be extremely painful. Not only would you have to endure that suffering physically, but you would also have to cope with the fact that you can't grasp objects as easily and would have to modify your daily lifestyle.

When cats are declawed, they lose an integral part of their being. They are unable to satisfy both physical and psychological needs. According to, cats scratch as a way to expend energy, to play and to mark their territory inside and outside. Cats become very attached to scratching posts and even card board once they understand that they are allowed to scratch certain things. It all stems from the feline's primal urge to scratch their nails and mark their territory on trees in the wild. Humane organizations, including PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,) fight against declawing because limiting a cat's natural urge to scratch may make them more aggressive, shy and nervous because they lose the ability to defend themselves. It may also cause other behavioral problems,  such as using the bathroom outside of the litter box. I don't know about you, but my cat thoroughly enjoys scratching around in his litter box while marking his territory.

Lastly, a cat may suffer from severe medical complications that could lead to heavy bleeding, infection or death.The process overall is very painful and a cat may never recover psychologically from this trauma.

I am against declawing cats, especially because there are healthy and easy alternatives that allow you to live your life while your cat doesn't have to suffer the consequences of a painful procedure. For one, provide your cat with plenty of toys, like cat scratching posts, that allow for climbing, clawing and scratching. Buy a blanket and bed specifically made for your cat that allows for kneading without it being an issue. Walk your cat on a harness outside so that he or she can sharpen nails on trees. Bring home old card board boxes for your cat to shred. Consider using Feliway Pheromone diffusers, sprays and collars to curb scratching and anxiety associated with it. For more serious situations, check out Soft Paws' plastic cat nail caps or talk to your vet about behavioral or medical treatment. And always remember to cut your cat's nails often!

I urge you not to declaw a cat because of apartment fees. If you are an animal lover who cannot live comfortably with apartment animal fees, consider waiting to adopt a feline friend or adopting one from a shelter who is already declawed. That way, you don't have to be a direct supporter of this horrendous process and you can still give a cat a loving home. Research all options before making any rash decisions; there are apartment complexes out there that offer more affordable pet fees. Most animal rescue and placement websites, such as, allow you to search specifically for declawed cats if you are interested in adoption.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Buy Your Kids Candy for Easter, Not Bunnies or Chicks

I've dyed Easter eggs every year since I can remember with my family. As a child, I was mesmerized by these decorated eggs and also with the surplus of baby bunnies and chicks in pet stores in the mall. I begged my mother each year for a bunny around Easter time and she always refused. Besides the fact that she knew I had no time or inclination to care for this animal as a 7 year old, we already had 2 cats at home that would love to have a personal meet and greet with this new animal. And that would be the end of my own Easter Bunny.

As an adult, I've seen the overpopulation of bunnies and chicks around Easter time and have noticed another sickening trend: dyed chicks. Chicks are dyed pretty pinks, yellows, blues, greens and other spring colors to catch the eye of children and parents alike. What is better than dyed Easter eggs!? Obviously, dyed Easter chicks! Not. Although I find this tradition completely inhumane and repulsive, I find it hard to believe that parents think this is an OK practice to be involved with. According to this article, by Jennifer A. Kingston, chick eggs are injected with a supposed non-toxic dye in order for the actual chick to be born with wildly colorful feathers, festive enough for the Easter holiday. Kingston adds that most egg hatcheries do not admit their participation in this Easter tradition. I wonder why...

It is also important to note that over-breeding chickens and rabbits in preparation for the Easter Holiday is always a bad idea. The breeding of these animals adds to the over population problem and most parents who buy these pets for their children will get sick of them and will end up returning them, giving them away to unfit homes or not properly caring for the animals themselves. Remember, a pet is forever, not just a temporary purchase. Even these beautifully (and artificially) colored chicks have needs; they are not toys. 

So, I would suggest buying kids candy and other toys for Easter instead of live animals who need constant attention and care. Or better yet, buy them a stuffed animal of a furry friend. Don't support the over breeding and inhumane animal treatment that comes with pet store purchases. Not only will this help the animals, but I'm certain that the Easter Bunny will not be pleased if he sees his fellow bunnies being mistreated and neglected within the home as presents.