Happy Fall, Y’all! As I write this it is a beautiful, crisp morning, but it is about to be 85 degrees this afternoon. Summer is still going strong, and I am not one to complain about that! As I was thinking about what I wanted to write about this month, I found myself constantly thinking about new tips, some of which I’ve learned from All Pet clients; so, I thought I would share them with you. We have some very savvy pet parents amongst us, and I thank you for sharing your great ideas. Some of these tips are for dog lovers. Some are for cat lovers. And some are for all of our furry friends!
Kiln dried pine pellets as cat litter– This may be my favorite life changing tip of all time. Thank you to our All Pet client, Holly, for teaching me how to use pine pellets for cat litter. I am forever grateful. I have been disappointed in traditional clay cat litter for a long time now. Since working with All Pet and cleaning so many litter boxes, I find I am sensitive to the fragrance and also the dust. When we had a lot of cats on our schedule over the holidays, there were times when I would go home and all I could smell for days was the overwhelming fragrance added to the cat litter. That concerns me. If it burns my nose and lingers for days, then what is it doing to my cats? Cats are very sensitive to scents. Some essential oils can even be deadly. So how can these chemicals be safe? I also really hate how it sticks to the sides of the box. And you have to be a weightlifter to handle it! It is not good for the environment. And of course, there is the cost. If you are looking for an alternative to clay you will be paying considerably more. But you can buy a 40-pound bag of pine pellets at Tractor Supply for around $6.00. I have been using it for about 3 months and have used 1 ½ bags in that time. That’s about $9.00 for 3 months of litter for 3 cats. That is 1/3 what I would spend in clay litter, even at Costco. It only took my cats a couple of weeks to accept it and fully switch over. I started by adding a few pellets into their regular litter. I also left a box with only pine pellets in it and after two weeks they were using it, so I switched all boxes to pellets. I have ordered sifting boxes now that I am certain they are happy with this change. That will make cleaning almost effortless. There are some helpful YouTube videos about the sifter box process. You can easily just scoop it out in the traditional manner, too. I cannot believe how well they absorb moisture and odor. There is no longer a litter trail or litter stuck to our cats’ paws. Pine pellets are also antibacterial, so they are a good option for cats who may have recently had surgery or need a cleaner environment. I wish I would have found these years ago! Something very important to note, though. They MUST be kiln dried. Cats are very sensitive to pine oils, so this is very important. I might add that I have yet to see a bag that is not kiln dried. Another thing I learned is Diatomaceous earth is also an excellent odor absorber. I sprinkle some of that in each box.
Making a cat box area– Last year I checked in on some cats who had a private litter box area built for them. The homeowners took heavy duty clear plastic and hung it from the ceiling beams to make walls. Not only did it help contain the odor, but it gave the cats a private place to do their business. It was so brilliant that I constructed my own that night! With the dehumidifier nearby and the litter change to pine, we have nearly eliminated any odor that may have lingered before. I am sure my cats are more appreciative to have their private space as well.
Safety concerns with dogs and electric fences– Invisible fences have become a popular choice for homeowners with dogs. While they are great at keeping our pets safely contained in their yards, they cannot keep them safe from outside dangers. Recently there was a heartbreaking news story out of Texas where more than 200 stolen dogs were discovered in a warehouse. They were part of a black-market ring that steals purebred dogs and resells them- either to unsuspecting buyers, dog fighting operations or more commonly, to puppy mills to then become breeder dogs. These operations span the entire country so they move the dogs around so fast it is unlikely they will ever make their way back home. Your small dog has little defense against someone picking them up and taking them.
A friend’s small dog was attacked by a larger dog that was running loose in their neighborhood. It ran into their yard and by the time the homeowner came outside to investigate the commotion, her dog was being thrown around by the larger dog. Luckily, she was able to chase the attacker away. After extensive emergency vet care, the dog survived, but now it is terrified to go outside alone. Another concern is that the fenced dog may be too afraid to leave the yard in order to escape harm in its own space. Last Christmas a pair of bonded chihuahuas went out for their final potty break of the night. Within just a few minutes the owners heard terrible sounds coming from the yard. They looked out to see a coyote carrying one of the dogs away in its mouth. The other one was running into the woods after it (they believe he was trying to rescue his friend) and was never recovered. It is very important to remember we live very close to wildlife, and if your pet is small enough, they can become prey to coyotes, bear, eagles and other large birds. So do not get a false sense of security with these fences. Obviously, this could happen with most fencing, so monitoring is always the safest option.
Pill pockets– Our pets have incredible senses of smell. It can be frustrating, especially if they need to take medication. They are very good at “sniffing” it out and turning down that “treat” you just prepared, carefully trying to hide the pill inside. I’ve noticed some of the more “offensive” smelling medications seem to be the pain relievers vets prescribe. This is when cheese or peanut butter (NOT sugar free!) can become your best friends. If your dog can tolerate these items, they are great to use as the pill pocket. The more you can make it seem like it is a special treat and less a required medicine dose, the easier it will be. My trick is to make it as small as possible. I have never used an entire pill pocket for just one pill. The less they have to chew, the less chance they have to smell or taste the pill hidden in it. For extra picky pets, and REALLY good sniffers, you may put a very thin layer of cheese or peanut butter first – just enough to mask the pill- and then wrap the pill pocket around it. Goat’s milk to calm an upset stomach- I feel like every time I teach someone about the wonders of goat’s milk, I am paying it forward. I will always be grateful to my business partner, Ann, for teaching me about goat’s milk. In our home, if there is a bout of upset stomach, vomiting or diarrhea, we give extra goat’s milk. It works. EVERY time. And our pets LOVE it. It feels nice to give them something natural that they like when they are not feeling well. Mine will turn down everything else but will never turn down goat’s milk. How much and how long to give vary based on the issue occurring and their weight. The key to a healthy pet is a healthy gut.
Securing your pets while riding in the car– I always knew I should secure my dog in the car. I put my cats in a carrier and secure it with the seatbelt, so why wouldn’t I secure my dog? But our last boy was bigger and loved to ride “shotgun” with us, so I was lax about securing him. And we were fortunate that in his 13 years we never had an accident or even a hard brake that could’ve hurt him. But then one day a client’s son was in a car accident with his dog in the car. He survived but his unsecured dog did not. Seeing their guilt and heartbreak was enough for me. Pablo is secured every ride. We found an attachment that fits into the car’s seatbelt latch and attaches to his harness on the other end. It was under $5.00. On extended car trips he goes into his crate with a comfy bed so he can stretch out a little while still being safe and secure.
Well I hope everyone has a wonderful October. I hope my little “tricks” were a real “treat”!