Pet Care Advice
We thought it would be helpful to compile a list of pet care advice that we’ve read on websites and blogs, webinars and books. Where possible, we’ve added the links and authors of the information, in case you’d like to do further reading on the subject, and/or in case you think we’re ‘talking cobblers’!
Purchase some shelves for your cats to climb on. Ensure they are fitted correctly and hold the correct weight requirements for your cat. If their located opposite a window even better – they can look out at the birds. (John Bradshaw, Cat Sense)
Cats feel safer in elevated places. Have a look at www.catastrophicreations.com for some more inspiration.
Purchasing a scratching post for your cat is highly recommended –one with vertical scratching surfaces, made of corrugated cardboard that is placed next to sleeping or resting areas – as cats like to scratch after waking. Cats love corrugated cardboard and it lasts a long time too. Daniel Mills et al, (BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behavioural Medicine (BSAVA British Small Animal Veterinary Association).
Posts keep the claws in good condition and cats have scent glands in-between the pads of their paws which produce a smell unique to that cat so they scratch to mark their territory. Check out this scratching post by Pet Fusion.
What and How many?
The rule is 2 litter boxes per 1 cat. The tray should be big enough for the cat to turn and move around in, dig in, and low enough for them to access it easily. A box that’s 1.5 the body length of the cat means they’re more likely to use it. Litter box styles that have lids on may trap odours if they’re not cleaned and scooped regularly and in places without good ventilation.
The tray should be placed on the floor, in a quiet, undisturbed location where other pets in the home won’t be able to disturb the cat while it’s using it, or access it and where it won’t be knocked over. The cat should be able to have access to it at all times. It should be away from windows so other cats can’t see it and potentially cause anxiety to your cat when they’re doing their business.
Scooping and litter
It should be scooped once a day at least – twice if possible. This helps you to keep an eye on your cat’s toilet habits and notice any problems such as constipation and diarrhoea. Studies suggest that clumping litter is preferred by cats – this will mean that any urine is clumped together so it can be removed easily without being mixed in with the clean spots of litter. There are a lot of cat litters on the market however, so if you can it’s worth trying a few to see what your cat prefers – if your cat gets in the litter, and scratches and digs at the litter – this suggests they like it.
Studies have shown that a 3cm depth of litter is preferred by cats, so rather than getting a ruler out each time, you can make a little mark on the tray to indicate how far to fill it up.
Water and food locations
Keep your cats food and water bowls in separate places. Have a few places around the house for water. If your cats not a big drinker then add a bit of tuna juice to make it more appealing..
A lot of cats enjoy running water so a water fountain is an advisable purchase. The movement of the water also makes it more oxygenated. Just make sure it’s silent and be sure to by spare cartridges to change.
Ensure your cat can see round each bowl from a 365 degree angle – their ancestors, the African Wildcat would have had to look out for predators when eating and drinking.
The water and food bowl should be shallow ideally so their whiskers don’t touch the side – this can be annoying and uncomfortable for our feline friends.
Purchase some live grass for your indoor cat as many enjoy having a chew on it.
Cats are fastidiously clean creatures and if their litter box isn’t kept clean – they will find somewhere else to go. It should be deep cleaned weekly with warm water, a non smelling detergent and dried off, taking care to dry the corners.
Commercial deodorising products and liners should be avoided – while they may appeal to the guardian, they often don’t appeal to the cat as they are different textures and deodorisers smell too strong.
What about cats that go outside?
Even if your cat goes outside it’s recommended that you have a litter tray for them incase they’re ill, or the weather is very bad.
Daniel Mills et al, (BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behavioural Medicine (BSAVA British Small Animal Veterinary Association) and Karen L Overall Manual of Clinical Behavioural Medicine for Dogs and Cats.
As well as exercise opportunities, playtime is fun, stress relieving, boredom busting and it’s a great way of bonding with your cat too. Plus it’s awesome to see their ears flatten, eyes widen and backside wiggle before they pounce! Indoor cats especially, need more mental and physical stimulation as they don’t go outside so won’t be chasing mice or attempting to catch fluttering butterflies. A sedentary lifestyle can mean the cat gains weight which can lead to health problems like diabetes. Cats possess an innate desire to hunt and if they don’t get the chance they may find their own forms of entertainment and become destructive.
The Cats Protection Welfare guide explains that even 10 minutes twice a day is shown to have a positive effect on a cat’s wellbeing. If this is done once in the morning and once in the evening before food that would be ideal as the hunting cycle of a cat consists of stalk, pounce, catch, kill, eat, groom sleep (adapted from Power of the Purr, Sally Chamberlain).
What to get
Many of the cats we play with adore this toy! It has real bird feathers on a long piece of string, that mimics a bird flying so you’ll really see your cat’s predatory instinct come out. Cat’s can get super duper excited by this toy, jumping super high in the air, so be mindful that they have a soft surface beneath them and don’t let it get too high – especially if your cat is overweight to avoid their joints hurting. Once they get it they can be reluctant to let it go! Ensure you put it safely away so they don’t get caught up in the string or hurt themselves on the attachments.
There are different attachments available for this if your cat prefers fluff to feathers!
Ribbon, string, corks
Everyday house-hold items can be made into toys your cat will enjoy! Things like ribbon and string can be pulled across the floor and mimic a mouse’s tail. Cats also like chasing after cork screws – an even better excuse to pop some champagne!
A lot of cats enjoy the feeling of just relaxing in a tunnel but it can also be a great hiding place for stalking before coming out to pounce!
To increase your cat’s activity, you can pop a laser chasing after the little laser on the floor, obviously, unlike a mouse your cat won’t experience the final achievement of catching their prey, so provide them with a bit of food or Kong Kickeroo or a stuffed sock for them to bunny kick to avoid frustration.
Cats become habituated (get used to) toys very quickly so the novelty can soon be lost. Rotate the toys regularly to keep them interested. You can also pop things such as the kickeroo in a box full of catnip – most cats are enticed by cat nip so they will be very interested when it’s bought back out.
Snuffle mats & Puzzle feeders
You can pop your cats daily allowance of kibble in here and they can exercise their brain and sniff it out. Puzzle feeders can also be a good form of enrichment. Just ensure that your cat can work out the puzzle to avoid frustration. You can purchase more intricate puzzles as your cat gets the hang of them. Nina Ottoson has a wonderful wide range : https://www.nina-ottosson.com/products/great-for-cats/
Non human involvement toys
There are also motorised toys that your cat can play with by themselves. It’s important to supervise this play though incase they trap or hurt their paws.
What to avoid
With kittens it can be tempting to allow them to pounce on your hands and feet during playtime. However as your cat gets older, their claws get longer and their aim gets faster so not engaging with hands and feet during playtime as a rule is a good one to set from the beginning.
Your cat should see the vet annually and this should increase as they get older.
All cats need vaccinations to keep them safe – these can be divided into core and non core vaccinations. For core vaccinations, even indoor cat’s need to be suitably protected against the disease. As always, ask your vet for advice-we’ve always found that they’re happy to help. Check out https://icatcare.org/advice/vaccinating-your-cat for more information
If traveling to the vets is problematic, such as your cat gets very stressed traveling in the car, some vets, for a fee, will attend your home to administer the vaccinations – it’s always worth having a chat with them.
A well fitting harness is important for dogs. Whatever harness you choose ideally it should have adjustable straps that go underneath the dog so you don’t have to lift up their legs to place the harness on – this can chafe underneath their legs and be very uncomfortable for them.
Dogs have very sensitive necks, physiologically they are virtually identical to human necks with the trachea, thyroid land and oesophagus in the same place. (Beverley Courtney, Change for your Growly Dog) Obviously, because of this pulling on the collar can be associated with a host of neck problems. If a dog lunges forward at another dog and you pull back their collar – this will hurt. They may then associate the pain with the sight of the dog – meaning seeing other dogs results in bad things – the opposite of what you wanted!
Chirag Patel recommends the perfect fit harness
Games are fun, they help engage your dog, so help with distractions in the environment (hello other dogs, birds, cars and people!), they also help with bonding with your dog. They are good for mental stimulation too, games such as find it which involves chucking treats or kibble on to the long grass for your dog to hunt out with their nose engage the brain.
Games are great as they can be used to improve recall, for example you can play back and forth with your dog moving in opposite directions chucking treats on the ground and pair it with the cue ‘this way’ to encourage your dog to move in different directions. (A Different Dog, Recall Masterclass)
Where can I find out more?
Hide and Find games! Puzzle and interactive feeders from Nina Ottoson.
Many dogs also find flirt poles lots of fun.
Cue’s such as drop it, leave it, and reliable recall are so important to keep your dog safe. Attend a puppy training class, so your dog can learn life skills and meet other dogs in a controlled environment. A good puppy class will let yoy attend beforehand to watch. Consistency is key so make sure all family members follow the training. Ensure that the trainer is qualified, has testimonials and only uses positive reinforcement training. If any one mentions using force and dominance to train your dog – steer clear!
Take trips to the surgery with your puppy to meet the vets, get used to smells, handling, generally hang out and have lots of treats. Call your vets for advice, in our experience they and the veterinary nurses are knowledgeable and helpful.
Puppies need to be taken to a vet for a health check and registered with the practice. Your vet will advise you on vaccinations, worming, microchipping and health issues. Puppies can receive their first vaccination from approximately eight weeks.
The Vet will start vaccinations against the four main infectious diseases.
• Canine Distemper
Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, you should not take it anywhere where it might come into contact with dogs or ground that may be infected, but you can take it out in your arms or the car to habituate it to different places and situations, in a controlled and sensible way. You may also want to have your dog vaccinated against Kennel Cough – talk to your vet about this. (Kennel Club Website)
Find out more about fleas, worming, ticks and teeth checks from the Kennel Club.
Very happy rabbits will jump into the air, all four paws off the ground and twist mid-air before landing this is called a ‘binky’ (cool name!)
Worried rabbits will often lay in a crouched position, body tense, pupils dilated, with their ears wide apart and flattened.
It’s best to pet your rabbit when they’re on the ground as this is where they feel safer.
Rabbits who are angry can show a variety of different behaviours. One of these key signs is standing in a tense position and thumping their back legs on the ground.
Rabbit’s teeth can grow at a rate of 3mm per week and this is why eating lots of grass and hay helps to wear their teeth down. They will have to go to the vet if their teeth become too long.
Rabbits are highly social animals and should be kept in at least pairs- in the wild rabbits often congregate in warrens with sociable groups (you will see lots of rabbits if you walk your dogs over in Colney Heath!) Like us, rabbits can become lonely without social interaction, which can have a negative effect on their behaviour and health. They shouldn’t be homed with guinea pigs.
It’s a common misconception to feed your rabbit museli, but this can cause dental disease and obesity. A high-fibre hay based diet is more preferable. Rabbits should have access to water at all times and a large hutch to move around in. They should have supervised opportunities to play outside their hutch.
More information can be found at: www.rabbitawarenessweek.co.uk