Three’s Company

I wanted to hold off on announcing the newest member of the household until I knew for sure that there would be felicity among the felines, and I’m happy to say that after three weeks, it looks like things are going to work out.

Archimedes – also known as Archie and formerly known as both Piddles and Juneau – has made himself quite comfortable since being given run of the place after the initial introduction period, during which he was sequestered in the living room so that he and the incumbent kitty Alex could slowly get used to the idea of each other.

While I took care to do all the things the experts suggest when introducing a new kitty to the home, I think Alex’ good nature deserves a fair amount of credit for things going so well; Archie has a lot more energy than I anticipated, and Alex has been incredibly patient with this younger cat’s playful antics. He occasionally gives Archie a well-deserved smackdown when he’s had enough, and Archie respectfully backs off.

Because I think it would be a mistake to take this peace for granted, Archie sometimes gets to stay in “his room” – the living room – overnight, so that Alex can enjoy sleeping in the bed with me without fear of ambush. Luckily, Archie is chill enough that this doesn’t seem to bother him.

Anyway, I just wanted to use this introduction to Archie as a reminder of how important it is to take things nice and slow when introducing a new cat  to the home. I found the following material from Fancy Cats Rescue (the folks who took such great care of Archie while he waited for his forever home) to be useful, and recommend it to anyone who will be introducing a new kitty to a home that already has other pets.

Introducting Your New Cat

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Alex lets Archie lounge on everyone’s favorite scratcher/lounger.
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Archie wonders if there’s any chance he can attack that tail without fear of reprisal.

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Archie says his goodbyes to the volunteers from Fancy Cats, who will miss him very much!

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Cat Food Review

If you’re the kind of pet parent who occasionally angsts-out as to whether you’re providing the healthiest possible diet for your furry friend, you’re not alone. But it can be really tough to find the right food, with all the options available and all the differing opinions on what types and brands of food are best.

So I was pleased when someone from Reviews.com sent me the following article with their research into the best cat foods currently on the market. There’s a lot of information here, but I appreciate the methodical way they’ve broken it down and presented it (there are some great infographics in here) and would encourage anyone who is interested in the topic of feline nutrition to check it out, and to let me know what you think.

Update April 20, 2018: One of my clients purchased the #1 recommended wet food on the Reviews.com list, and her cats won’t eat it. I purchased the Merrick Before Grain dry, and my cats seem to like it so far. As kitty palates vary, if you do decide to try any of the foods on this list, I would recommend buying a small quantity first to see make sure your kitty likes it.

The Best Cat Food

New Billing Option

Puppy with "Well that sounds easy" bubble over head

I am happy to announce that Northwest Pets DC is now offering automatic billing for those clients who are interested.

Your credit card details can be securely stored in our payment system*, eliminating the need for you to manually log onto the website and submit your credit card information on our payment form.

Of course, those who would prefer to submit their payments manually are welcome to do so.

If interested, please contact me at northwestpetsdc@gmail.com so we can set up a time to discuss and to go over any questions you might have.

*I use Stripe for online payment processing due to its reputation as one of the more secure platforms available.

No Silver Bullet

If you’ve ever cared for a pet with chronic anxiety, you know how heartbreaking and frustrating it can be. You may have had someone, perhaps even your veterinarian, recommend pheromones to you as a good way to help alleviate the anxiety and improve the behavior associated with it.

There is debate within the animal behavioral community as to the efficacy of pheromones in treating anxiety and its resultant behaviors. Until more robust, non-industry funded studies have been completed, I remain agnostic as to their effectiveness.

In the meantime, I think we would do well to guard against recommending or using them as the sole or primary means of addressing anxiety issues. Chronic emotional and behavioral issues require a thoughtful, well-planned course of treatment, in which pheromones may play a role.

I really appreciated the following article by Dr. Mikel Maria Delgado, which focuses on the most widely used and recommended feline pheromone product, Feliway, and does a great job of breaking down the topic and summarizing the studies that have been conducted. The comments following the article are helpful, too.

Another study shows that Feliway doesn’t work: Trying to make sense of the pheromone mess

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Coywolves

Although not as cool as a Jackalope, or a Rainbow Butterfly Unicorn Kitten, this hybrid creature (whom some are suggesting should be considered its own species) is an intelligent master of adaptation.

Also, my brother is pretty convinced he saw one of these on a neighborhood trail in Northern Virginia a few months ago.

Anyone in the DC area ever encounter one of these?

For those who don’t have time to watch the documentary, here’s a nice, concise article in Smithsonian Mag on the topic. Coywolves are Taking Over Eastern North America

Mobile, Merry & Bright

Feature photograph of Max Bailey’s “Zara” Persian kitten figurine by Ruffings.

The coming holidays will be my first as a pet sitter. Like many professional pet sitters, I will spend the next few weeks on the go from early in the morning until well into the evening. No festive dinner with family; no enjoying my neice and nehphew’s excitement  as they open their presents by the tree; no leisurely Christmas morning brunch filled with mimosas and laughter. I admit that I have experienced a few moments of sadness in anticipation of this fact.

But early this morning, as I drove to visit one of my kitty clients before the sun was fully up, I noticed the light displays in so many yards along the way. My car radio was tuned to a classical station that I’m pretty sure will be playing nothing but carols from now until the new year. There was a decorated tree waiting for me when I arrived at the client’s home. And it struck me that in my travels around town as a pet sitter, I will actually get to experience more varied festive holiday stimuli than I would otherwise.

Most importantly, I’ll get to spend time helping people’s pets feel a little less alone while their families are away, and hopefully help their families enjoy themselves a bit more, knowing their pets are in good hands.

When I look at it this way, I can’t think of a better way to spend the holidays.

Now, if we can just not let it snow…

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with Strings…

…these are a few of your pet’s favorite things.

They are also a few of the things that can send your pet to the vet, and you remembering your favorite things isn’t going to make your furry friend feel better (or pay the bill for emergency surgery to remove a foreign object from his or her digestive tract).

I often feel like such a buzz-kill with some of what I write here, but what can I say? I’m an ounce of prevention kind of gal.

So, here are a few other things to keep in mind while you’re enjoying the holidays with that kitten and her whiskers, and/or that dog who hopefully isn’t biting (if you happen to also have cream-colored ponies or geese, and live within my service area, get in touch!):

FOOD
Who wants to have their holiday vibe interrupted to clean up prodigious amounts of vomit and diarrhea? While it may be tempting to share your holiday meal or treats with your pets, best just to stifle that generous urge, harden your heart against those beseeching eyes staring up at you, and have some of their pet treats on hand to offer as an alternative. Of course, this is easier said than done, and I confess to having been weak in the past. If you must share some of your people food, please do so in very small quantities and make sure it’s something that won’t upset their GI system (think meat or vegetables without a lot of seasoning). Also, bones are out, and definitley keep them away from any chocolate (and probably from any crisp apple strudel).

Cat looking cute begging for food

PLANTS
I think most pet owners have heard that poinsettias are toxic to pets. While this is true, I recently learned that they are only mildly toxic, and that medical treatment is rarely required. However, since we’ve already established that we’d rather not deal with vomiting and diarrhea when it can be avoided, it’s probably best to keep these plants out of reach if possible. Other holiday plants such as mistletoe and holly can be far worse for our pets if ingested; the ASPCA has compiled a comprehensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants for cats and dogs. Apparently roses with raindrops on them aren’t much of a hazard.

cat smelling rose

DECORATIONS
Tinsel:  If my memory serves me correctly, I recall that my mother hated tinsel on the Christmas tree. We kids loved it, and I think my dad did, too. I’m pretty sure Mom eventually won the debate, and at some point our holidays became tinsel-free. Which is probably a good thing for the family cats, because tinsel is very hard for them to resist, and is very dangerous to them if ingested because of the liklihood of an intestinal blockage (and believe me, your cat will eventually ingest it if it’s around). In the unfortunate event that your pet does swallow some tinsel and you find out about it on its way out, here are some guidelines for how to proceed (please take note that any attempts to pull it out should be gentle, breif, and halted immediately if you encounter any resistance when you start to pull on the string).

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Gift Wrapping Material: See Tinsel. Our pets explore the world with their noses and mouths, and bless their hearts, they’re often not much better than a two or three year old human at knowing what they should swallow and what they shouldn’t. So best to promptly pick up any bows, ribbons, etc.

Lights: Holiday lights are one of the best things about the season if you ask me, so I woudn’t dream of recommending not having them around. However, if a pet bites into a strand, all sorts of mayhem is likely to ensue, including a shock or burn to the pet, and an electrical fire that could burn down your home and totally ruin your holiday. Our friskier feline friends also run the risk of getting them wrapped around their neck if the strand is not securely wrapped around something. So please just keep an eye on your pets while the lights are plugged in, be sure to unplug them whenever you leave your home, and try not to have loose light strands lying/hanging around.

I’m sure there are other potential hazards I’ve failed to mention, but it’s time for me to go dream about silver white winters melting into spring. Please feel free to add any important points I may have missed in the comment section!

And sincere best wishes to all for a very happy and safe holiday season filled with your favorite people, pets, and things.

In Case of Emergency

Many of us load our emergency contact’s info into our phones under “ICE” (in case of emergency) so that first responders know who to contact in the event that we are incapacitated.

I would like to suggest that you consider including your pet sitter’s information either in the note field of your ICE contact, or as a separate ICE contact, if you have not already done so. This wikipedia article points out that you can designate multiple ICE contacts, and also provides some good tips on how to make sure the ICE contacts on your phone are accessible to first responders even if the phone is locked.

I typically ask my pet sitting clients to notify me once they have returned safe and sound from their vacation, but I know that it’s easy to forget to do this. Having your pet sitter listed as one of your emergency contacts just adds an extra layer of insurance that your pet sitter will be able to continue caring for your pets in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to request it.

If the suggestion above doesn’t work for you, please make sure that your primary emergency contact has your pet sitter’s contact info.

Thanks for your consideration, and may your ICE contact never need to be utilized!