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5 Useful New Year’s Resolutions for Pet Owners in 2020

A new year approaches, and it’s a very special one: 2020. It’s not only the end of another year; it’s the beginning of an entirely new decade. Because of this, many are opting in to make New Year’s resolutions more so than ever.

Just as many of us make resolutions for ourselves at the start of every year, we should also make and keep resolutions for our pets for the same reasons. Consider what we are trying to achieve for ourselves by making resolutions: we want to improve our health, happiness, safety, comfort, and to feel good about ourselves. Why not keep these goals in mind when making resolutions for your pets? Here are five New Year’s resolutions for pet owners that you can put to good use for 2020.

1. Ensure Your Pet is Eating a Nutritious, Appropriate Diet

Humans receive nutrition from milk and then graduate to solid foods with an emphasis on particular nutritional needs at various ages, and for control of health problems, too. As we age, our activity decreases and the amount of food we eat must decrease as well. Diets and nutrition for pets follow these similar patterns. Resolve to be careful about your pet’s nutritional needs and make sure you stay on track:

  • Keep yourself informed about the best diet for your pet, and be prepared to alter it as your pet grows older.
  • As pets age, they are often prone to diseases of old age, just as humans are. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best diet for your elderly cat, dog, or bunny.
  • Diets can help control arthritis by easing joint pain and increasing joint function.
  • Obesity is dangerous for any pet and can lead to arthritis, diabetes, liver disease, and heart problems. The cure for obesity is diet and exercise, just as it is for humans. Your pet will not willingly cut down on his or her food intake, and won’t willingly exercise either. It’s up to you to see that these problems are controlled and better still if you anticipate the patterns that lead to obesity.
  • Avoid being led astray by myths spread by people or companies that can profit from our eagerness to give our pets whatever they need to lead long and healthy lives. If you are urged to buy, say, high protein food for your pet, check with your veterinarian first before you commit to your decision. Don’t make radical changes to your pet’s diet without professional advice.

2. Follow Age-Appropriate Health Guidelines

Pets need their owners to see that their basic health care needs are met, and these must be adjusted as pets go through different stages and as they age. Are your pet’s vaccinations up to date? Have you arranged for an annual checkup in the last 12 months? Resolve to take care of the most important concerns as soon as possible:

  • Annual checkups are the key to good health and the welfare of your pet. Your veterinarian will provide a full comprehensive exam and may opt for adding some additional testing to screen for problems such as altered cell counts, liver problems, hormonal changes, kidney disease, diabetes, and many more; the physical exam includes checking for lumps, swelling and signs of pain, breathing difficulties, tooth decay, and problems associated with your pet’s age and breed.
  • Our furry companions of all ages need to receive vaccinations and booster vaccinations to protect them against diseases. Your veterinarian is the best source the most current vaccination recommendations for the life stage and life style of your companion.
  • Your pet is also counting on you to see that flea control and parasite protection is made available so that terrible suffering isn’t the trigger for you to remember, “Oh, right, I should have prevented that.” See to it that your pet is protected from an insect or parasite infestation before it happens, this maintains a good quality of life for them.
  • There are desirable ages at which your pet should be spayed or neutered in order to live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Spayed females are spared from heat periods and are protected from uterine and mammary cancer; neutered males are spared the urge to fight, roam, mark territory, and are protected from the risk of prostate and testicular cancers. Ask your veterinarian about these procedures and when they should occur if they haven’t already.

3. Improve Safety Conditions for Your Pet

Find a veterinarian trained to care for your particular pet: dog, cat, or an exotic pet like a rabbit. Introduce yourself and your pet soon after you have adopted him or her. Pick a safety resolution from the following list that you haven’t already implemented and adopt it as soon as possible to ensure your pet’s safety.

  • Start keeping phone numbers handy not only for your veterinarian, but also for an emergency animal clinic or hospital, and names and numbers for after-hours emergency help. Make sure these phone numbers are keyed into your cell phone, and addresses and routes handy if you are in a tearing hurry to locate urgent help.
  • Assemble a pet first-aid kit for your home and a smaller version of the kit to take on pet outings, walks, hikes, or vacations. It should include a list of serious symptoms so that you will know how quickly you have to respond to some mishap.
  • Make sure your pet has a collar with a nametag that includes your name and phone numbers, so that you can be contacted if your pet becomes lost or is injured. This is especially important for outdoor pets. An ID microchip that can be inserted painlessly by your veterinarian is a really good idea. Pet hospitals and shelters routinely check for ID chips now and the chip carries a number that identifies your pet with all the pertinent information about the owner’s name and contact numbers.
  • Invest in a pet carrier and introduce it gradually. A good idea is leaving the carrier open in a common space such as a living room so your pet can roam freely in and around it. This can make) taking a trip to a hospital or a visit to a friend’s home less traumatic.
  • Do a regular check of your pet’s environment, inside and outside at home and in the yard, and keep an eye out for dangers in pet parks, or any place your pet is likely to wander. Make sure poisons, toxic chemicals, cleaning supplies, electrical implements, batteries, and unsuitable foods and plants stay out of reach.

4. Engage in Regular Grooming to Make Pets Happier

We humans feel better when we pamper ourselves with luxuriously soaking in the bathtub, a visit to a steam room, a pedicure and manicure, regular brushing and washing of our hair, and taking good care of our skin. Pets are happier, too, when owners fuss over their needs, and take time to brush, stroke them and keep them well groomed. Make pet grooming a habit:

  • If you are nervous about any necessary procedure for keeping your pet well-groomed, take your pet to an animal groomer for baths or nail clipping. Make sure you supply the means for your pet to keep teeth clean with chew toys if your pet doesn’t want you to brush his or her teeth or if you don’t feel comfortable about it. Eventually a dental cleaning under anesthetic may be needed if brushing is not allowed by your pet.
  • Purchase a good brush and comb and make time to keep your pet’s hair or coat brushed and combed daily or as often as you can. Pets love having their owners brush their coats and massage their skin.

5. Make Time to Love Your Pets!

Pets need to feel loved just as we humans feel happier when we know we are loved. Everyone responds well to caring relationships. Make sure your pets know they are loved by taking time to play with them, and/or walk them, talk to them, massage them, groom them, and show you enjoy their companionship. Pets can become very attached to their owners and respond to them with love and attention, too. Make time for playtime.

Most of these resolutions are easy to implement. Put together a list and post it where you will have a daily reminder of your New Year’s pet resolutions. It will make 2020 a good year for you and your pets!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Are Cats Allowed to Drink Milk? (The Answer is No & Here’s Why)

To answer the question, “Should cats be allowed to drink milk?” the short answer is “no.” The puzzle that leaps to mind is, why are we cautioned against it when the sight of kittens and cats happily lapping up saucers of milk are shown everywhere? Not only do we see it in numerous movies, cartoons, and picture books, but also we see kittens fed milk by mother cats, and they obviously love drinking it. It’s the food for kittens provided by nature.

And therein lies the difference, and the answer—milk is the food provided for kittens, not cats. Mother cats feed their kittens milk and then wean them off from nursing in four to ten weeks, sharing solid foods with them instead. Mother knows best! Milk as a whole food is perfect for her babies, but it’s no longer good for them when they begin to mature.

As kittens are weaned from nursing and they begin to eat solid food, the mother cat stops producing milk. It is no longer available for the kittens by the time they are eating a regular solid food diet.

Why Does Milk Stop Being Ideal for Cats?

A few weeks after birth, there is a reduction of the enzyme lactase in a kitten’s body. Lactase is needed to break down the sugar in a mother cat’s milk to allow the young kitten to digest it properly. Kittens produce this enzyme in smaller amounts as they develop, and by six months of age, most kittens have adult levels of lactase. These adult levels are insufficient to digest milk and their bodies can no longer tolerate it. Basically, like some humans, most cats become lactose intolerant.

In addition to no longer producing lactase, kittens no longer have access to their mother cat’s milk since it dries up when she stops nursing. This means any other milk you decide to feed your older kitten or adult cat is even less suitable and less easily digested by your cat, who is now, very likely, lactose intolerant.

When cow’s milk is pasteurized, the protein in the milk changes and particles of homogenized milk will leak into a cat’s gut, which causes digestive problems for kitties. The same difficulty occurs if you decide to feed ice cream or cheese to your cat, which will also cause digestive problems since they are processed dairy products.

Milk is not a “whole food” for adult cats any more than it is a whole food for adult humans. Humans need many different types of foods to satisfy their nutritional needs. So do cats.

Are Some Cats Able to Drink Milk?

Yes, some adult cats can drink milk; not all of them are lactose intolerant. However, even if your cat is one of the lucky ones who can enjoy milk as a treat now and then, there are other problems with relying on whole milk as a staple in a cat’s diet.

One is a possible lack of meeting your cat’s nutritional needs because your kitty may fill up on milk and then not eat the variety of food necessary for good health. The other—equally serious—is cat obesity.

Why do Cats Crave Milk in Spite of the Problems it Creates? 

Because cats are not capable of linking cause and effect, your kitty will never make the connection that drinking milk is causing his or her digestive distress afterwards. Fortunately, you can. You may wonder why cats continue to love milk when it is obviously not a good idea for them to drink it. These are the reasons:

  1. Cats love milk because it is cold and fresh, and they love the familiar taste and smell
  2. Cats connect drinking milk with old, positive memories (as kittens), and it remains a comfort food for them.
  3. Cats need liquid and may prefer milk to water.

Although your kitty may not be interested in drinking water, liquid is important for hydration and you must supply water regularly rather than milk:

  • Keep water in your kitty’s water bowl.
  • Add a little wet food to your kitty’s diet.
  • When serving water-packed canned fish, add a little water to the liquid. 

What are the Symptoms of Cats Suffering From Milk Consumption? 

In spite of a cat’s determination not to show pain because of an instinctive fear of showing weakness to predators, there are distress signs of which cat owners should be aware. 

Signs of Adverse Effects of Drinking Milk:

  • Stomach Upsets – Your kitty may vomit and stop eating until he or she has recovered from the stomachache.
  • Diarrhea – This problem is unmistakable and is caused by undigested sugar that draws water into the intestine.
  • Gassiness – Most cats do not routinely expel smelly gas. The gas is created by undigested sugars fermenting in the intestine.
  • Bloating – A distended abdomen can be a sign of bloating caused by gas from fermenting undigested sugar.

Even if your cat is able to tolerate milk and shows no symptoms of distress after drinking it, you don’t have a free hand to let your kitty drink milk regularly no matter how urgently he or she meows for it.

Obesity is Another Adverse Effect 

Obesity is a health risk for animals just as it is for humans. Obese cats and obese humans have shortened life spans and are at risk for many unpleasant ailments.

If your cat has a regular supply of milk, your kitty will eat less of the nutritional, balanced diet you provide through canned food, which is much lower in calories. Most cats also enjoy eating dairy products such as ice cream and cheese, which add even more unwanted and unnecessary calories.

How Did the Message That Cats Can Drink Milk Become so Widespread?

People who don’t know any better spread messages about animals who eat foods that aren’t good for them. Animal experts no longer accept old-fashioned ideas about animal eating habits:

  • Mice don’t normally eat cheese—Cinderella’s friend Gus is an exception.
  • Dogs shouldn’t chew on bones, which can be dangerous to them—Scooby Doo takes lots of risks.
  • Rabbits shouldn’t be offered carrots except in small amounts now and then—never mind what you saw in Bugs Bunny.
  • Older kittens and adult cats shouldn’t drink milk regularly, if at all—forget what you learned from The Aristocats.

In the same way that you have to control children’s access to candy, you must be strong and not allow your cat to drink milk. It will help protect your beloved pet’s health and life.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Why, When, & How Should My Cat’s Nails Be Trimmed?

Cat nail trimming is something we’re very frequently asked about at our clinic, and for good reason! Cat’s nails are retractable, meaning they’re kept hidden until the cat needs to use them. These nails can grow back fast sometimes! Almost every cat needs to have their nails trimmed regularly; others, not so much for a few reasons.

Regardless, it’s a good idea to prepare your cat for nail trimming by using certain strategies in your cat’s regular grooming routine. For you, the cat parent, you will need to learn how to trim their nails safely. Here is what you need to know.

Why Do Some Cats Not Need to Have Their Nails Trimmed?

Trimming or not is generally dependent on your cat’s lifestyle.

Outdoor Cats – If your cat is an outdoor cat, it may be a bad idea to trim his or her nails because they are needed for important tasks:

  • Climbing – Cats need to climb to navigate their territory and also to escape danger when pursued by other animals.
  • Scratching – Cats nails are always growing, and scratching is an instinctive act that keeps the nails trim and sharp.
  • Marking Territory – Cats have scent glands in their paws, and will scratch as well as urinate to help them mark their territory outdoors and keep other strange animals away.

Indoor Cats – If your cat is an indoor cat, you may need to trim your cat’s nails more frequently:

  • If your cat has a scratching post and likes to use it, his or her nails may need only occasional trimming when young, especially if his or her nails grow very slowly.
  • If you regularly take your indoor cat outside for walks on a leash, he or she may have opportunities to scratch and wear down his or her nails and reduce the amount of trimming needed.

Why Do Almost All Cats Need to Have Their Nails Trimmed?

  1. An indoor cat may not be very interested in using a scratching post and so their nails may grow too fast and too long to be curbed by the post.
  2. As an outdoor cat ages, he or she may become so much less active that the nails grow out. This increases the risk of their nails growing into a curve that drives into their footpads, and in turn causes your cat pain, mobility problems, or even infections.
  3. Both indoor and outdoor cats need to have their nails trimmed because their nails can be snagged and caught in soft surfaces, or the cat may lose their ability to retract their claws altogether.
  4. Arthritic cats, indoors or out, usually don’t exercise enough to keep their nails short via scratching.

How Often Should My Cat’s Nails be Trimmed?

  • For indoor cats, nail trimming in general should be done every ten days to two weeks.
  • A senior indoor or outdoor cat will often develop thick, brittle nails that need to be trimmed more often than when they’re a kitten. Stay alert.
  • Declawing cats was made illegal in BC in 2018 by the B.C. College of Veterinarians. It is now understood that declawing means that the ends of the toes are amputated during the surgery, which has been stated as “ethically problematic and not an appropriate means of dealing with feline behaviour issues”. So now if you live in BC you must learn to trim your kitty’s nails properly, or either pay a groomer or visit your cat’s veterinarian to perform this task.
  • An outdoor cat may become more of an indoor cat when he or she is old and arthritic, so regular nail trimming will become a necessity.
  • Usually it is only the front paws nails that need to be trimmed, but if you notice that the back paw nails are digging into you when your cat jumps up into your lap, you should trim those nails as well.

Here is the Nail Trimming Process

  1. First Things First
  • Most cats don’t like to have their nails trimmed and some will absolutely not tolerate it. If your cat won’t even allow you to hold his or her paws, you may have to rely on a pet groomer or your cat’s vet to trim your pet’s nails.
  • If you take a slow and easy approach, you can succeed in time, especially if you have treats ready, and your cat may associate the nail clipping routine with yummy treats.
  • Don’t attempt to clip your cat’s nails if your pet is upset or if you are upset.
  1. Organize Your Supplies:
  • Towel – You can gently wrap your cat loosely in a towel if you are afraid he or she might suddenly bolt off your lap and scratch you.
  • Sharp cat nail clippers – There are a variety of good nail clippers for cats. Some of them are designed to make sure you don’t clip too close to the vein that runs into the thick part of the claw.
  • Styptic Powder – If you have clippers that aren’t designed to protect the vein and you accidently cut into it, you can apply a small amount of powder to stop the bleeding.
  1. Rehearsals are Important
  • Even an outdoor cat should become used to the idea that you can hold and massage his or her paws and extend the nails when your cat is seated on your lap. It’s easier for a young cat to become used to a routine rather than introduce it when your cat is older and it becomes a necessity.
  • For several days prior to the first nail trimming, hold your cat in your lap facing away from any windows and away from you in a quiet room. Gently massage your cat’s neck and then the front legs and paws. Talk quietly to your little pet as you do this. Gently press on the footpad to extend a nail, then quickly release it, and give your cat a treat. Do this every day on a different toe. Note the pink part of the nail, called the quick—this is the extra sensitive part of their nail consisting of nerves and blood vessels.
  1. Do the Deed!
  • When you and kitty are used to this routine, pick a time when your cat is sleepy and relaxed after eating, and prepare to clip only one or two nails—no more. Do everything the same as usual, only this time, cut the tip off one of the nails. If everything goes well, cut the tip off one more nail and give your kitty a treat.
  • Proceed until you have clipped all of the front paw nails over a period of five days or so, and your cat will soon adjust, especially to the regular treats! You will then be able to trim all the nails on the front and back paws at one sitting.

Many cats don’t need their nails trimmed, but if yours does, learn how to do the job safely. If it will help, make massaging the toes and extending a nail part of their regular grooming and care. If you know you must trim your cat’s nails, rehearse with your pet until you are both comfortable before attempting the job. Expect to trim your cat’s nails every 10 days or so as part of your cat’s regular grooming routine. If all else fails, ask your cat’s groomer or your veterinarian to do the job for you.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

How to Train Your Cat to Walk on a Leash

Yes, it’s true! Your cat can be trained to walk on a leash. While letting your cat outdoors is not something we recommend, if your cat insists on going outside and you live in an area where it isn’t safe to let cats outside on their own because of traffic or other dangers, the only way you and your cat can have fun outside is to train them to walk on a leash. It’s not difficult to introduce your cat to the leash and if your pet is familiar with it, you can enjoy frequent outings together.

Will Your Indoor Cat Enjoy Going Outdoors?

You can let a cat outdoors on a leash if it absolutely insists on going outside. You need to be vigilant, of course, and make sure your pet is protected as much as possible against various bacteria, parasites, poisons, and the usual outdoor dangers that they may encounter. You also have to accept the fact that outdoor cats are never as safe as indoor cats because of the dangers. This is why we don’t recommend letting cats outdoors in the first place. Having your cat on a leash is the safest way to protect them if they want to be outdoors.

You may decide that you want your cat to remain indoors unless on a leash. The question is, will going outside be a treat and will the leash be accepted by your cat?

Maybe – Cats that are trained to walk on a leash generally enjoy being outdoors and exploring. As long as cats are trained slowly and at an early age, most of them can adjust to the outdoor experience. Walking on a leash can keep them from becoming bored and lazy. It allows them to have regular exercise, which helps to maintain their health and weight. It can also be fun for both of you!

Maybe Not – Some cats are never comfortable walking on a leash because of their personalities, their age, or their health. If you spend a lot of time slowly and patiently introducing the harness and leash with plenty of treats and praise, but your cat continues to resist, it is time to give up. Accept your cat’s decision to not walk on a leash and play indoor games instead.

How to Train Your Cat

When training your cat, each stage requires treats, praise, and patience.

1. Purchase the Right Equipment – The “right equipment” means a harness, not a collar. Cats can slip right out of a collar, so make sure you buy the correct sized harness, preferably one that is adjustable. 

2. Introduce the Harness – Leave the harness near the food dish so your cat associates it with something nice—food, of course! If the harness makes a snapping sound or the characteristic Velcro sound when the harness is adjusted, make those sounds with the harness multiple times for several days so that your cat is used to the sound before you try fitting it on. After a few days to two weeks, put the harness on your cat right before mealtime, and take it off afterwards. Repeat for several days.

Once your cat is used to the harness, try adjusting it for size—you need to be able to fit two fingers under the harness. Leave it on for a few minutes and offer your cat a treat, some praise, and a pat on the head before taking it off.

3. Introduce the Leash – Your cat may not mind wearing the harness or it may take several days or weeks before it is accepted; take your time. When your cat is used to wearing and walking around with it, attach the leash. Let it drag on the floor while you feed your cat treats, give praise and a pat on the head, play for a bit, and then take it and the harness off.

After the leash is accepted, pick up the end and follow your cat around the house with the leash slack in your hand. Don’t forget the praise and treats! Then try gently coaxing your cat with a treat while guiding the harness. Don’t allow your cat to back out of the harness because you don’t want that to happen when you are out on a walk. Repeat this exercise daily for a few days.

4. Take Your Cat For Walks Outside – With the harness and leash attached, pick your cat up in your arms and walk out of the house. Never allow your cat to walk out or your cat will be streaking out the door whenever it is opened. Carry a towel with you in case your cat gets scared when you put them down on the ground. That way, you can quickly wrap up your cat in the towel to avoid being bitten or scratched before taking them back into the house.

Try going outside each day for an hour, always staying close to the door so that you can go back inside at a moment’s notice. After building their confidence while outside, your cat will soon enjoy going for walks. If at any point your cat drops to the ground with tail twitching and ears flattened back, stop the training session or the walk. Your cat is always the boss and you do whatever the boss wants!

Useful Hints

  • Don’t tie up your cat outside and leave your pet unattended. A cat can be tangled up in the leash in no time or be spooked by another animal or a person and can’t get away.
  • Keep your cat from picking up items and licking or chewing anything. Have some treats handy as a distraction.
  • Remember that you are walking a cat, not a dog. Cats tend to be less inclined to be guided by a leash and they may decide for no obvious reason that today is not a good day for a walk. Or they may decide a walk is fine, but not at the same place as before, even though it was a perfectly acceptable place yesterday.

Most cats can be trained to walk on a leash, but not all. If you live in an area where it isn’t safe to let a cat outside and your cat refuses to cooperate with your training efforts, resign yourself to enjoying only indoor adventures with your pet. Again, we don’t advise letting cats outdoors, but if you need to then using a harness and leash is the safest way.

However, you could be lucky. Purchase a cat harness and leash and try training your pet. It may take many weeks of effort or you could be out walking with your cat quite soon. You’ll never know until you try!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.