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How to Choose Cat Litter

Choosing the right kitty litter is a balance between what your cat prefers and what is affordable and easy for you to use.

A major indicator of whether or not you are using the best product is how your cat feels about their litter. Often, cats will avoid their litter boxes and even do their business in inappropriate places if they are not fond of the litter that is in their box. (For more information on inappropriate elimination see: Inappropriate Elimination in Cats)

With kittens, it is advised that a traditional non-clumping cat litter be used. Kittens tend to be curious creatures and may eat the litter. Due to the swelling properties of clumping litter, it is best if the cat litter is non-clumping. For cats that have open or recent wounds, pelleted or paper litter may be advisable because it is less likely to irritate the wound.

From 6 months on, your cat may be moved to a clumping cat litter. Pet owners find clumping litters to be more efficient. They find clumping cat litter much easier to use, as waste can easily be discarded and the contents of the entire box does not need to be changed nearly as often.

When it comes to scented versus non-scented, it is strictly a personal choice. Scented products are often preferred by pet owners because they mask unwanted odors, however the decision really depends on your cat’s preference and whether he or she will use a scented litter.

If allergies are an issue for you or your cat, a dust free product may be necessary. Again your cat’s preference is very important when it comes to choosing which litter to purchase.

If you are having difficulty finding a litter that your cat likes, try filling two boxes with different types of litter and observing which your cat chooses to use. This tactic is also useful when you are trying to switch brands or types of litter. Simply put out two pans, each with a different type of litter and your cat will select the litter that it prefers. Another solution is to gradually introduce your cat to the new type of litter by mixing the old with the new, slowly increasing the amount of new litter until the entire box contains only the new product.

Cats will not hesitate to let you know if they are unhappy with their litter. Most often when you find your cat avoiding the litter box, it is due to the type of litter being used or a dirty litter box that needs to be cleaned. Finding a litter that your pet prefers is the key to correct litter behavior.

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Your Senior Cat: Changes to Expect

Much like humans, as cats get older they change both physically and behaviorally. Below are certain physical and behavioral changes that you can expect to see from your aging cat.

• As a cat ages he or she may lose weight due to a decreased ability to digest and absorb fat.

• Senior cats may become dehydrated and constipated, as they often fail to drink enough
  water. Constipation can also be caused by a slower digestive system and arthritis or 
  anal-gland problems. It may even signal serious disease and should be discussed with a
  veterinarian.

• A cat may get grey or white hair, especially on their face. They may experience thinning and
  texture changes in their hair as well. Sudden changes in a cat’s coat can also signify
  nutritional deficiencies and should be discussed with a veterinarian.

• An aging cat’s skin can become thinner, drier and less elastic, making him or her more prone
  to injury and infections. Good nutrition is important and brushing your cat will help to
  stimulate the oil gland that will lubricate the skin and coat. Grooming also allows you to
  check for any lumps, bumps, or non-healing sores.

• Older cats will not use their scratching posts nearly as often as younger cats. This is because
  with age a cat’s claws become drier and more brittle. Again, good nutrition along with
  frequent nail trimming will help to keep your cat’s claws healthy.

• Dental disease is also common, especially gum disease, and can cause life-threatening 
  complications. This can be minimized with routine dental care including brushing your cat’s
  teeth.

• Cats may also develop arthritis as they age. This may cause them to be stiff, sore and
  reluctant to move around. If you notice that your cat is experiencing these signs please talk
  to your vet.

• It is important to encourage your senior cat to exercise, as older cats may lose muscle mass
  and tone. If your cat is unable to exercise, massaging his or her joints and muscles everyday
  may help to keep these joints and muscles flexible.

• Hearing loss is also common in older cats, although it may go unnoticed. If your cat often
  responds to you with a swat or a bite he or she may be losing their hearing. These reactions
  often occur when a cat is startled therefore reactions like this may signify a cat’s inability to
  hear you as you approach them. When a cat loses his or her hearing due to aging it is usually
  permanent.

• Loss of vision may also occur in older cats. Common signs of vision loss include bumping in
  to things and a lack of interest in moving objects. Older cats’ eyes often become cloudy
  however this does not usually have any effect on vision. If any sudden changes are noticed
  in the appearance of the eyes or your cat’s behavior please contact your vet.

• Older cats are often less adept at handling stress. This means that things like bringing home 
  a new kitten or puppy may not be the best idea.

• An aging cat may become crabby. However, crabbiness in the form of aggression can signify
  something else such as a response to pain or fear. Behavior such as this may alert you to
  other illnesses or old age issues such as loss of hearing or vision. If your cat becomes
  aggressive please consult your veterinarian.

• One of the most common problems with senior cats is inappropriate elimination. Older cats may make a mess outside of the cat litter box and even spray. This can be due to a medical problem as well as stress.

Older cats have to use their litter boxes more often due to changes in their digestive tracts and urinary systems. This means that you may have to clean the litter box more frequently and accommodate your senior cat by lowering the sides of the litter box and having more than one box throughout the house if mobility is a problem. It is important to understand that this is due to aging and most likely not a behavioral issue. Therefore be patient with your senior cat and do not scorn him or her for occasional accidents outside of the litter box. In this case, a vet check may also be a good idea.

Older cats may also develop altered sleep-awake cycles. In order to help with this try playing with your cat before bed time as well as changing his or her feeding time.

It is important to monitor your cat more closely as he or she ages. Changes in physical appearance and behavior may not just be signs of old age but can also signify more serious diseases and issues. If you have any concerns or see any sudden changes in your cat’s appearance or behavior please consult a veterinarian.

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Goats: Raising Goats as Pets

Goats are most commonly found on farms however they are becoming increasingly popular as pets. Like any other pet, a goat is a big commitment and the decision to keep a goat as a pet should not be taken lightly or rushed in to.

For the most part goats make good pets. They are easy to handle, curious, friendly and make great companions. There are many breeds available and nearly any breed can be raised as a pet or companion.

Most people prefer smaller breeds such as dwarf or pygmy goats. As well, female goats and castrated male goats (also known as wethers) are preferred to intact males. This is because intact males tend to get larger and will be more aggressive. It should also be noted that male goats will have an offensive odor during the fall (mating season).

All goats are born with horns. Disbudded goats often make better pets than those that have horns. This is because animals with horns can get their heads stuck in fences and other areas and may use their horns as weapons against other animals or people. As well, it is best to choose a breed that does not require shearing.

Goats are herd animals and should not be kept as solitary pets. If possible a pair of goats should be kept.

A sufficient amount of space is required in order to keep your goat happy and healthy. The amount of space you require depends on the breed of goat you have as well as the number of goats.

It is important that you check local laws and bylaws to make sure that you are legally allowed to keep a goat as your pet, as many places do have restrictions on agricultural species.

Goats are prone to a number of infectious and chronic diseases so be sure you are able to provide your goat with necessary health care.

The most common health issue with goats involves parasites and worms. While goats can have some worms in their system, if there are too many they can become very sick and even die. It is important that vaccinations and other treatments for this issue are utilized. Young animals are most at risk and often need to be de-wormed one or more times before the age of one. Older goats build immunity to these parasites and may need little or no treatment. Although it is not registered by the Food and Drug Administration for use as a de-worming product, farmers often find that food grade diatomaceous earth works well for de-worming their goats. Goats should also be vaccinated each year for clostridial diseases including overeating disease and tetanus.

If your goat does become sick he or she will often keep to themselves and may stop eating. They may hang their head and have droopy ears and a droopy tail. You will be able to tell if your goat is in pain if he or she begins grinding their teeth. As well, you can check their temperature. A goat’s body temperature should be 102-103 degrees farenheit, with anything above this indicating a fever or infection.

**Please note: in the case that you encounter any medical problem with your pet goat, a veterinarian should be consulted for proper treatment.

Before purchasing a goat from a breeder, be sure that they follow good practices in terms of preventative medicine and proper treatment, care and conditions.

Once you have made the decision to keep a goat as a pet it is important to note that goats are known for their escape artist abilities. It is therefore important to make sure that you have a secure outside area or yard where your goat can roam. As much as your goat needs to be kept in, a secure area is important in order to keep predators out. Goats can be vulnerable to attacks by other animals such as dogs and coyotes, especially when tethered.

Your goat will need exercise. A yard of approximately 50 square feet is recommended however it is possible to provide your goat with the exercise it needs by taking him or her for a walk, to a park, etc.

You will also need to trim your goat’s hooves. This may need to be done every few months or as little as once a year depending on your goat. It is important to trim the hooves in order to prevent hoof problems and to allow your goat to walk normally. In order to do this you will need to purchase a proper pair of hoof or foot paring shears.

Proceed to trim your goat’s hooves while he or she is standing. Simply lift up the foot and trim the hoof back until you see that it is starting to look pink. This pink color is an indication that you are getting close to the blood supply. Once complete, the nail, sole and heel should be parallel with the growth bands that are around the outside of the hoof.

As for food, a goat will eat grass, but prefers to eat woody plants, shrubs, trees, and leaves as well as plants that you may not want them to eat.

Mature goats that do not have babies and are not pregnant require approximately 2 percent of their body weight in feed. For example, if your goat weighs 150 lbs it will require 3 pounds of feed per day. Young goats will have higher nutritional requirements.

It is recommended that you do not feed your goat too much grain, as this can lead to many health problems. As part of their diet, your goat should also be given a mineral that is formulated for them. Please consult your local feed or pet store for the proper feed for your goat.

Always provide your goat with access to fresh, clean water. If they do not drink a lot of water this most likely means that they are getting sufficient moisture from their feed.

It is important to keep your goat from becoming too fat. This is often hard to do with pet goats because it is difficult to have them on a hay or pasture diet.

As long as you are familiar with and prepared for the commitment that it takes to raise a goat, you will find that they are fun, enjoyable and rewarding pets.

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Pet Pigs

Keeping a pig as a house pet is becoming more and more popular. People assume that a pig will be easy to take care of and much like a cat or dog. While this can be true, it is important to understand the needs of a pig and to have realistic expectations. There are many pros and cons that must be considered before entering in to a commitment such as this. Although a pig can be a very exciting and rewarding pet, it also requires a lot of time and effort.

Each pig will have his or her own unique personality. Pigs are highly intelligent in fact, they are forth on the intelligence list only after humans, primates and dolphins and whales! They are kind and sensitive animals (especially if they have been spayed or neutered), they are easily trained, affectionate, curious, playful, clean, generally quiet, odor free, and usually non-allergenic, due to their bristly hair. Pigs can be litter box trained and if they do go outside they will normally only use one corner of the yard. They can live to be 10-20 years old and may weigh over 130 pounds.

Along with these positive characteristics come some cautions when keeping a pig as a house pet. For example, because they are highly intelligent, pigs may become bored easily and will find creative ways to entertain themselves, often being very destructive in the process. A bored pig may root up carpeting or linoleum floors, eat drywall, overturn house plants and root through the dirt.

Pigs may become aggressive around 18 months of age as they begin to vie for dominance (the place of “top pig”) among other pets and family members. This dominance aggression is also seen in dogs, therefore with any pet it is important to set boundaries and rules and to communicate with your animal that you are in charge. Pigs respond well to praise but do not do well with physical punishment.

Pigs are very determined when it comes to food. They can learn to open the fridge, cupboards, pantry and wherever else food may be kept. They can also become demanding, they may beg for food and even get aggressive with kids that have food.

As a natural instinct pigs will root in order to obtain essential vitamins and minerals from the ground. An area of soft dirt should be provided in the yard so they can fulfill their need to root. If your landscaping is important to you, you may want to reconsider having a pig as a pet.

Pigs are very susceptible to bronchitis and pneumonia and due to their tiny lung size they can die very quickly from these conditions. This can be caused by weather as well as stress. Veterinary care for a pig can be very expensive and an experienced vet that can provide proper care for a pig can be difficult to find. Be aware that local zoning laws may not allow you to keep a pig as a pet. As well, it is very important that you spay or neuter your pet pig. Females that have not been spayed will go in to heat every 21 days and will become very moody and unneutered males will have a strong, foul odor.

Once you have weighed the options and have decided to adopt a pig, be sure that you visit a conscientious, reputable breeder, or, better yet, adopt a pig from a shelter.

You will need good quality pig food and to provide your pig with regular vaccinations, hoof and tusk trims, and to have him or her spayed or neutered. Regular access to the outdoors for exercise is also a necessity.

Pigs are very social animals and will need a lot of attention and interaction. If possible you should consider keeping more than one pig.

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Bringing Home a New Kitten: Item Checklist

Excited to bring home your new kitten? Make sure that you are prepared for your new kitten’s arrival and that you have all the necessary supplies before bringing him or her home for the first time.

Below is a list of items to help you prepare for the arrival of your new kitten.

□ Kitten food. Make sure that the food you purchase is specifically designed for kittens and
    that it is the same or similar to what your kitten is currently used to eating. A change in a
    kitten’s diet can cause an upset stomach as well as vomiting and/or diarrhea. In the case 
    that you must change your kitten’s diet, be sure to make the change slowly so that his or 
    her stomach can become accustomed to the new food. Diet change is not recommended
    for at least one to six months.

□ Food and water dishes. Stainless steel is suggested as plastic dishes may harbor bacteria.

□ Kitty litter and a litter box. Clumping cat litter is not recommended for use with new
    kittens. A non-clumping litter is suggested (for example, try WC Cat Kitty Litter). It is 
    important to show your kitten where the litter box is and to place him or her in it in order
    to show them what it is for. One litter box per floor is recommended for homes with 
    multi-levels. In order to help keep your kitten’s litter box area clean, the EazyZorb Pet Mat
    is also a great product to have at home for your new pet’s arrival. Place the EazyZorb Mat
    under the litter box to help trap litter particles that are brought outside of the box on your
    kitten’s paws and to absorb any messes or accidents that your kitten might make outside
    of the litter box.

□ A bed.

□ Toys. Kittens are like babies therefore it is important that their toys do not have moving or
    easily removable parts or strings. Items such as shoe laces, tinsel, lace, ribbon, yarn and
    thread are not safe for kittens. As well, any item that can be easily swallowed is not safe
    to have around your new kitten.

□ A collar and name tag. Identification information, including your pet’s name, your name,
    address and telephone number is important in case your pet gets lost or runs away.

□ A scratching post. A scratching post is needed in order to help prevent your kitten from
    scratching other things in your home such as furniture and carpet.

Other products such as grooming tools (a brush or comb and nail clippers) and cat treats (such as catnip) may be purchased as well.

In addition, a harness and leash as well as a cat carrier may be needed, especially if you plan on traveling with your pet. When purchasing a cat carrier keep in mind that your kitten will grow. Buy a carrier that will be big enough for your fully grown cat to be able to sit and stand upright and to be able to turn around.

Please consult the breeder, shelter or pet store for recommendations of other items you may need.

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Pet Care: Signs of Dehydration

What is Dehydration?

Dehydration results from a lack of water in the body and can cause serious health problems. Some of the most common causes of dehydration in animals are severe vomiting and diarrhea, as well as a lack of access to or consumption of fresh potable water.

What are Signs of Dehydration?

An animal that is dehydrated may:

    • Be lethargic

    • Look droopy

    • Pant heavily

    • Sprawl out

    • Roll their eyes back

    • Lose their appetite

    • Have difficulty breathing

    • Have sunken eyes

    • Have raised veins (this can sometimes be seen on animals like horses or dogs with very
       short coats)

    • Show signs of depression (i.e. a lack of interest in what is going on around them, treats, 
       etc.)

    • Have pale lips and gums and a hot, dry nose

    • Have a dry mouth

    • Lose skin elasticity. To test this, gently pinch and lift the skin between the animal’s
       shoulder blades. Healthy, elastic skin with bounce back into place while a dehydrated
       animal’s skin will stay up in a ridge.

    • Have an elevated temperature

    • Show signs of shock, including collapse (in severe cases)

What to Do If Your Animal is Dehydrated

If you suspect that your animal is dehydrated, he or she should receive veterinary attention immediately. If he or she is still mobile and alert, you may want to provide a small amount of water. However, be sure that your animal does not consume too much water too quickly, as this can also result in health risks. It is important to note that any sick animal, including one who is dehydrated, may act irrationally. He or she may become confused and distressed, urinate or defecate uncontrollably, snap or behave irregularly. Once at the vet, you animal will receive fluids, including a balanced mixture of electrolytes. If the animal has a high temperature, which can indicate heatstroke, cooling blankets and/or a cool bath may also be used to get the animal’s core temperature down.

If your animal is not vomiting and likely is only mildly dehydrated, provide him or her with an electrolyte solution. According to WebMD, in addition to Gatorade, balanced electrolyte solutions for treating dehydration in children are also suitable for dogs. In any case, however, it is important to first contact your vet in order to receive further instruction.

Tips to Prevent Dehydration

    • Provide fresh, clean water at all times.

    • Be sure to change your animal’s water frequently to keep it fresh.

    • Wash your animal’s bowl every day to prevent the growth of bacteria.

    • Monitor your animal’s water intake to be sure that he or she is drinking an adequate
       amount of fluid. If you not, contact a veterinarian immediately.

    • Try to prevent your animal from knocking his or her water bowl over. Often a dish with a
       weighted bottom will help.

    • Be sure to bring water for your animal when you are traveling or exercising with him or
       her.

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Using Stall DRY as Kitty Litter

As with most of our environmentally friendly products, Stall DRY can be used for many purposes. With its ability to absorb moisture and odor and neutralize ammonia, Stall DRY works well not only in animal stalls and cages but also in litter boxes.

To use Stall DRY as cat litter:

    • Put approximately 5-7 lbs of Stall DRY in your litter box.

    • Clean the solids out of the litter box daily (or as needed). When removing the waste you
       will also be helping to mix wet spots with the dry material, keeping the litter box fresh
       and eliminating ammonia.

**Depending on the number of cats per litter box, 5-7 lbs of Stall DRY should last between 4-6 weeks.

For other Stall DRY methods see: Providing a Clean and Safe Environment for Your Animals: The Stall DRY Method

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Winter Hazards for Pets

During the cold winter months it is important to protect your animals from the dangers caused by the cold.

Freezing temperatures can be just as hazardous to your pets as extreme heat in the summer. If exposed to freezing temperatures, animals are particularly at risk of suffering from frostbite. Their ears, toes and nose are especially vulnerable. Short haired animals are also more susceptible to the cold and a special effort should be made to keep them warm when exposed to cold weather. While it is possible to keep your pets warm with coats and boots, puppies and kittens as well as older dogs and cats and those that are ill should not be outside, no matter how well-dressed. These animals don’t have the fat, metabolism, or the full fur coat they need to stay warm. Rule of thumb is that if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet.

Cats are particularly at risk during the winter months. They may climb up under wheel wells or under the hoods of cars to stay warm and can be injured or die when the driver pulls away. You can protect your and others’ pets by checking for small animals by banging around the hood and wheel wells of your vehicle before starting it. Also, try giving your vehicle’s horn a quick honk or two in order to warn the animal.

Salt, often used for de-icing, is also a hazard. It can irritate your pet’s paws, drying out their skin, burning the pads of their paws and causing cracked, sore areas. Boots or balms are suggested in order to protect your animals’ paws from exposure to salt. Certain balms can be applied to your animals’ paws that will harden in the cold and then can be wiped off upon returning from outside.

One of the most dangerous hazards to pets is anti-freeze. Anti-freeze is often used with salt as a de-icer and can attract animals due to its sweet smell. It can cause kidney failure and can be deadly. In fact, it doesn’t take the ingestion of much antifreeze to kill an animal. Cats can be poisoned just by walking through antifreeze and then licking their paws. Any animal that you suspect has ingested antifreeze should be immediately taken to a veterinarian for treatment. In order to prevent antifreeze poisoning in animals, be sure that all antifreeze containers are tightly closed and put away on a high shelf and that your car is not leaking antifreeze.

With numerous health hazards threatening animals during the winter months, it is important to take preventative steps in order to ensure their safety.

Additional hazards are presented during the holidays. For a list of these dangers and how to protect your animal check out Pet Care: Holiday Safety Tips

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Pet Care: Signs of Hypothermia

Cold winter weather can be very dangerous to humans and pets alike if they are exposed to it for long periods of time. In fact, even though their coats may seem warm, when dogs and cats are exposed to the cold for too long their body temperature can drastically drop, leading to hypothermia. In addition to prolonged exposure to the cold, hypothermia can occur as the result of wet fur and skin, lengthy submersion in cold water, shock and anesthesia.

What are some signs of hypothermia?

Symptoms to watch out for include:

    • violent shivering

    • lethargy or slowness

    • paleness

    • weak pulse

    • stiff muscles

    • breathing problems

    • loss of appetite

    • temperature below 98°F (average normal body temperature is usually between 101°F and 
       102.5°F)

    • frostbite

    • coma

    • heart failure

What do I do if I suspect my pet has hypothermia?

If you think your animal may be showing signs of hypothermia it is important to contact your veterinarian immediately. In addition:

    • Wrap your pet in a warm blanket or coat or place a warm, towel-wrapped water bottle

       against your pet’s abdomen, armpits or chest, then wrap him or her in a blanket. Please

       note: Do not use the water bottle unwrapped, hair dryers, heating pads or electric
       blankets to warm up a hypothermic pet. This can burn your pet’s skin or cause surface
       blood vessels to dilate, which may compromise circulation to vital organs.

    • Bring the animal into a warm room

    • Provide warm fluids to drink

    • Boost your pet’s energy by giving him or her a solution of four teaspoons honey or sugar
       dissolved in warm water to drink. If your pet is too weak to drink put 1-2 teaspoons of
       corn syrup on the gums

The best way to manage hypothermia is to avoid it. Hypothermia can be prevented by avoiding prolonged exposure to cold temperatures and providing warm, dry shelter for your pets when they are outdoors. As well, pet clothes, boots, and other accessories can help animals with thin fur to keep warm. Very young and old animals, those with low body fat, thyroid gland problems and those that are under anesthesia are particularly at risk of hypothermia. It is important to keep a close eye on these animals and to take all step necessary to prevent hypothermia.

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Pet Care: Frostbite

cat walking in snow

Freezing temperatures can pose many threats to your pets, including frostbite. With a little knowledge and preparation you can protect your pets from the dangers of the cold.

When does frostbite occur?

Frostbite can occur when pets are exposed to freezing or even subfreezing temperatures, particularly when it’s windy or humid outside.

What causes frostbite?

In addition to supplying oxygen to tissue, blood provides heat. When the body becomes very cold, blood vessels will constrict in order to conserve heat. This however, can pose a risk to tissue with fewer blood vessels. This tissue, if cold enough, may freeze, resulting in frostbite.

What areas are most at risk for frostbite?

Frostbite most commonly affects an animal’s paws, tail and ears.

What are frostbite symptoms?

Initial signs of frostbite include:

    • Tissue that appears pale, gray or blue in color

    • Skin that is cold and hard to the touch

As the area thaws you may notice:

    • Red, puffy skin

    • Pain in the affected area when touched

After several days, if severe frostbite has occurred, you may notice:

    • Tissue that appears black in color

What should I do if I think my pet has frostbite?

    • Apply warm (NOT hot) water to the frostbitten area for at least twenty minutes. Use 
      warm compresses or soak the affected area. For example, put the animal’s foot in a bowl
      of warm water. Do NOT use direct dry heat such as hair dryers, heating pads, or electric
      blankets, as this may cause burns.

    • After you have warmed the area, dry it gently and thoroughly.

    • Do not rub or massage the affected area, as this may cause permanent damage.

    • Call your veterinarian immediately.

How can I protect my pets from frostbite?

    • Provide your pet with warm, dry shelter.

    • Rule of thumb: If it’s too cold outside for you then it’s too cold for your pet

    • The risk of frostbite increases when an animal is wet. Make sure your pet is dry before
      going outside into the cold.

Enjoy winter and keep your pet safe during cold weather with these tips!