Belle, Oskar and Buster are special to me for many reasons, including the fact that they were my very first regularly-scheduled Monday-Friday dog walk clients. I have been working with these loyal, loving, spirited pooches since September 2017, and we’ve had so many wonderful adventures together.
Belle, who is around three years old, knows what she wants and she knows how to get it. And what she often wants is to be picked up and carried for a bit while we’re out on our walks. I often indulge her, because we’d never make it around the block if I didn’t. But it’s OK, because she’s tiny, adorable, and soft, and spoiling her is hard not to do. She regularly employs other heart-melting behaviors such as hopping up and down several times on her hind legs when she gets excited; running in circles while chomping at the air and finally rolling over for belly rubs before I leash her up for our walk; and lifting her long ears straight out to the side when anticipating a treat. Her favorite game is tug of war, and she regularly defeats all who dare to challenge her in this realm.
Oskar and Buster are brothers, and just turned 10 in January. You would never know that these guys are now officially considered senior citizens, though! They also jump in the air, usually when I first arrive and start to leash them up, although their jumps are typically combined with an attempt to land a big wet kiss on my face (or on my glasses, or up my nose), and they succeed about 25% of the time.
Buster is a real champ at chasing and catching balls, and would do it all day long if he could. Of the three, he is the most enthusiastic about rolling around on the ground while we’re out on our walks, and is the only one who stays by my side after I’ve removed their leashes when we return (Belle and Oskar usually run off into the house). Both Buster and Belle love to bark at the two chickens who live in a coop in the back yard, and the chickens seem to enjoy it, because they’re always right up next to the wire giving it right back to Belle and Buster. I like to think that it’s a complicated, love/hate relationship.
Oskar is the most relaxed of the three, and when I give him his treat I always thank him for being such a gentleman. He also loves to play with balls, but can’t keep up with his lightening-fast brother when it comes to chasing/catching them, so I always make sure he has his own that he can take off to a quiet corner to chew on.
With their exhuberance and high energy, this crew keeps me on my toes and smiling, and I hope to have many more adventures with them!
I generally try to avoid offering unsolicited pet-related advice to my clients. I view my role as that of a caretaker whose primary responsibility is to ensure the safety and well-being of clients’ pets while they are under my care while adhering to the instructions of the pet’s guardians as closely as possible. If I was a parent to a human baby and my au-pair or daycare employee started giving me advice on how best to raise my child, I think I’d get pretty annoyed. So unless I see something going on that is putting a pet in obvious danger or ill-health, I tend to prefer to leave the pet-parenting to the pet parents.
Having said that, there are a few best-practices that I personally feel are kind of important and think that pet parents should at least be aware of so they can research them further if interested, so I’ll offer up my thoughts on them here.
PETS IN MOVING VEHICLES
I wrote a post about a year ago titled Critters in Cars: Let’s Talk Pet Safety. I think if I had to choose one topic that concerns me most, this would be it. I won’t rehash what I wrote here and invite you to read the original article instead, but the main gist is that pets should always be secured properly while in a moving vehicle.
STICKS AND STONES (AND ICE AND BONES)
I was having dinner with my siblings a few weeks ago, and when I mentioned that I don’t let dogs under my care chew on or chase sticks, my sister rolled her eyes and said “Jeez, can’t you just let dogs be dogs?”. I have no doubt that most dogs would have a lot more fun with my sister than they do with me, at least until they experience one of the many unpleasant-at-best occurrences that are not at all uncommon when dogs are allowed to chew on sticks, rocks, ice, or bones. These include lacerations and infections in the mouth, broken teeth, choking, and perforated or blocked intestines. Stay tuned for a post on some safe chewing alternatives, but feel free to do some online research yourself in the meantime (or ask your vet for some recommendations).
AND BLIND CORDS!
Every year, children and pets are killed or end up in the ER because they got a blind cord wrapped around their neck. Cats are at particular risk with their tendency to like to play with stringy things. Please make sure any blind cords you have are well-secured and not left dangling, especially if your kitty is playful.
KITTIES: KIBBLE VERSUS CANNED
Pet nutrition is a topic that often sparks fierce debate among pet professionals, and one could lose countless hours and a small fortune researching and trying different pet diets. The one theme that stands out for me in this vast sea of conflicting opinions is that cats do better on wet/canned food than on kibble, and that if you’re going to feed your cat kibble, it should be of limited quantity and heavily supplemented with wet food. You can read (lots) more about why at Catinfo.org, but the main gist is that cats very much need the extra water that is provided by wet food, and they very much don’t need the carbs that come from kibble. (Note: This does not seem to hold true for most dogs, who according to my own vet seem to do just fine on a kibble diet, although I am making no recommendations one way or the other on that topic, so be sure to check with your own vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet).
Let me start by saying that if your current litter box setup is working well for you, don’t change anything. But please do keep the following points in mind:
Cat boxes should be scooped at least once a day.
If you use non-clumping litter, the litter should be entirely replaced at least every other day, preferably every day.
Choose a low-dust litter. Your cat is breathing in dust particles every time she uses the box, and the least you can do is to limit the number of dust particles she is forced to take into her lungs.
Maintain a litter depth of at least 2 inches. Your cat needs to feel like she has adquately covered up her business.
Studies indicate that in general, cats don’t have a preference when it comes to whether their litter box has a lid or not. The important factor seems to be that the litter box is large enough for them. So keep a lid on it if it’s working well for you and your cat isn’t having accidents outside the box, but consider going topless if your kitty is having issues. (You can read more about the studies here).
I think many of us tend to think that because our pets lick their own butts, this means that their digestive systems can handle anything. While they certainly seem to have more hardy systems than our own, this does not mean that they aren’t succeptible to bateria and viruses. The National Sanitation Foundation found pet bowls to be the fourth most germ-filled place in the home. Bottom line is, it’s important to thoroughly clean your pets’ food and water bowls daily, and to disinfect them periodically, and this IheartDogs article gives some additional details on the whys and hows.
Well, that’s about all from pulpit for today. Please feel free to share any thoughts you might have on any of the topics raised here.