August 17,Black Cat Appreciation Day, is just one of several days designated to bring awareness to the plight of black cats and I am grateful for all of them. Black cats are often overlooked in shelters and rescues and many more of them are euthenized than other colors.
There are some theories about why this is:
People think they are unlucky
They are hard to photograph
They are not as flashy
They disappear into the background
The truth is, black cats are awesome. I can’t say with any certainty that it has anything to do with color but, in a group of cats of many colors, it is quite often the black ones who are the most outgoing and affectionate. I’ve only had one black cat in recent times and I can say with certainty that he was very special.
As a foster for many years and now as a pet sitter, I have met many black cats. Here are two of my current favorites.
A photo posted by Savvy Pet Care (@savvypetcare) on
How You Can Help Black Cats
You can help black cats everywhere by sharing them every day. Share this post, and all other positive posts you see about black cats, on social media. Share your own black cat stories to tell people how awesome they are. Find creative ways to help local shelters and rescues promote their black kitties. Adopt a black cat!
Remember, though, the only way to really solve the pet over-population problem is to promote spay/neuter!
Welcome to my series featuring pocket pets, birds and reptiles where guest experts will give you the pros and cons to help you decide if a particular pet is a good fit for you. Today’s guest poster is my friend Emily Hall who will be telling you about sugar gliders. I have been involved in rescuing relinquished and confiscated sugar gliders and know first-hand how adorable they are and the challenges they present.
10 Things to Expect When Owning Sugar Gliders
Sugar gliders – those adorable pocket pets that seem to be growing in popularity as of late. Yes, they are “squee” cute, and yes, they are lots of fun. I always tell my cats I wish I could put them in my pocket and carry them around with me everywhere; with my gliders, I can, and I do! They play, they snuggle, they “fly,”… let’s face it, they are just plain cool. I absolutely love my two sugar gliders; however, I will be the first to admit to you that they are high maintenance.
You may be thinking, “Are they really that much different than having a cat, dog, rabbit, hamster, etc?” Yes, they are. Sugar gliders are considered to be an exotic pet, which means they have special needs and considerations. They are not for everyone. What makes them so different? Read on to find out…
1. They are nocturnal.
Yep, that’s right – sugar gliders are nocturnal animals, meaning they are most active during the nighttime hours. That doesn’t mean you can’t interact with them during the day though. My sugar gliders usually wake up around 8pm and go to sleep around 8am, but I carry them around in a bonding pouch or in my shirt when I’m home during the day and even take them with me when I run errands. They usually just sleep through it all.
Warning: Because of their nocturnality, I wouldn’t recommend keeping their cage in your bedroom if you are a light sleeper. They do make a lot of noise during the night scurrying around their cage, running on their wheel, and eating. They also chirp, hiss, crab, and bark!
2. They live a long time.
Sugar gliders have an average lifespan of 12-15 years – similar to a cat or dog. That is considerably longer than most pocket pets though. If you add a sugar glider to your family, you are in it for the long haul, so be sure you are committed before bringing them home!
3. You can’t have just one.
People joke and say you can never have just one cat (I’ll attest to that – I have six!). With sugar gliders though, it is absolutely true. Sugar gliders are colony animals, which means they belong in a group. Lone sugar gliders will often become depressed and start over-grooming, refusing food, and even self-mutilating. Sugar gliders should always be kept in pairs, at least. As much as you may hang out with your glider, human interaction is no substitute for the companionship of another glider.
4. They have very specific nutritional needs.
Sugar gliders get their name because they glide like a flying squirrel, and they LOVE sweet things. If they had it their way, they would eat nothing but sugary foods. However, they actually require an extremely balanced diet of protein, fruits, and vegetables. An unbalanced diet can cause health problems such as a very smelly glider to hind leg paralysis. Unfortunately, there is no commercial sugar glider diet available that meets all of their nutritional requirements. To be sure that sugar gliders are getting a diet that meets their needs, it is recommended that they eat what is known as a homemade “staple diet.” You can find the recipes for these diets at www.sugie.info. I personally feed the Pet Glider Exotic Diet (TPG) to my gliders. It takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to make a month’s supply and is very easy and inexpensive to prepare.
5. They require a stimulating environment.
Sugar gliders can easily become bored which leads to depression, so it is important to provide them with a lot of mental stimulation and exercise. A sugar glider-safe exercise wheel is a must have item. You can also provide them with foraging toys (toys that you can hide treats and food in) and special treats like eucalyptus leaves and branches. In the wild, sugar gliders are tree dwellers, so it is also important to invest in a large enclosure that has a lot of vertical space (minimum dimensions of 2 feet deep by 2 feet wide by 3 feet tall) so they have plenty of room to jump and climb.
6. They require an exotic veterinarian.
Unfortunately most regular veterinarians do not treat sugar gliders, so you will want to make sure you have an exotic vet nearby before you bring your gliders home. You wouldn’t want to get stuck in an emergency situation and not have a vet to take them to. Exotic veterinarians are also usually a bit more expensive than a regular vet, so be prepared for a larger bill than for your cat or dog.
7. They will not be your best friend right away.
One of the biggest reasons sugar gliders get returned or turned over to a rescue is because many people don’t understand how much time, work, and patience goes into bonding with them. They expect for their sugar gliders to love them instantly, and when that doesn’t happen, they think something is wrong with the gliders. Sugar gliders are exotic animals and are not naturally trusting of humans. Bonding with them is a slow process that can sometimes take up to a year. It took a few weeks before my gliders would even let me touch them; a few months before they would climb into my hand; several months before they would let me pick them up. Patience is definitely key – if you try to rush the bonding process, you can do more harm than good. This is definitely a case when the old adage “Slow and steady wins the race” is absolutely true.
8. They are not legal everywhere.
The legality of owning sugar gliders varies from state to state. Some states ban them entirely, while others ban them only in certain cities. Some states require you to have a permit to own them, while others require no documentation at all. Below is a list of the places in which there is some type of law regulating sugar glider ownership:
Sugar gliders are completely illegal in California, Hawaii, and Alaska.
Sugar gliders are illegal in the cities of New York City (NY), Salt Lake City (UT), and St. Paul (MN) but are legal in the rest of the state.
New Mexico, Utah, and Pennsylvania require that you have a special permit to own sugar gliders.
Georgia requires that sugar gliders must be purchased from a USDA licensed breeder.
9. They should not interact with your other pets.
Believe me, I know how tempting it is to want to try to get your gliders to bond with your cat/dog/other pet. I imagine all the time how adorable it would be to see my two gliders snuggling with my cats. In reality though, that would be extremely dangerous for the gliders. Gliders move quickly and suddenly, which can trigger the prey instincts in cats and dogs. They are also very small and fragile, so even a playful swat or nibble from a cat or dog could be deadly to them. On the flip side of the coin, sugar gliders have been known to kill other small animals such as rats, gerbils, birds, etc. Of course you will find photos online of sugar gliders with other pets, but any responsible glider owner will tell you that it isn’t worth the risk. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of gliders who had been friends with a cat/dog/bird/you name it for years, and then in a matter of seconds it all came crashing to a halt. Just don’t do it. Better safe than sorry, I always say!
10. You will become addicted.
Yeah, so sugar gliders are a little more high maintenance than the average pet. They are also loads of fun, absolutely adorable, and will steal your heart. The more time you spend with them, the more you will fall in love, and the more you will want MORE! Trust me. They are worth every bit of “hassle” that they may be – and once you get used to taking care of them, none of it even seems like a hassle anymore. It is all worth it to have a couple of little creatures that want nothing more than to be on you all the time. You will find yourself carrying them around with you all day, not wanting to leave the house without them.
So, do you think you want a couple of sugar gliders?
Pin It for Later
Emily Hall is the blogger behind Kitty Cat Chronicles – a blog focusing on life with her six crazy cats, her dog, and her two sugar gliders! Writing about anything from special needs animals, to traveling with cats, to feline health and wellness, to product reviews, to the daily antics of her crazy fur-gang, Emily aims to entertain and educate. Stop on by to say “Hi” to Emily, Delilah, Sampson, Sophie, Sassy, Caster, Kylo Ren, Lucy, Jubilee, and Sydney (and her husband, Bobby)! Besides on their blog, you can find them all on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
If you are a blogger and interested in contributing to this series, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I read about canning raw food several years ago when I first started making homemade raw from the information on the CatInfo.org website. I thought it was an interesting idea back then but never really thought that I would ever can raw pet food.
When we were evacuated last September for the Butte Fire, I had just run out of homemade raw. Even if I had frozen raw, it would have been a hassle to keep it and prepare it during the evacuation.
I had read lots of articles about the poor quality ingredients in many commercial pet foods so, when I had to go buy something at the store, I agonized over what to get. Christy gets severe diarrhea on commercial canned food and I didn’t want to put that added stress on her.
If I had my own canned food on hand, it would have been easy to pop in the cats’ go boxes. It would have been easy to store and feed from the jar. It would’t need heating – yes, I slightly warm my cats’ raw food in the microwave because it is too cold out of the fridge. Cats like their food at mouse body temperature.
Even after the evacuation I didn’t try canning right away. It wasn’t until I decided to attend BlogPaws and take Christy with me that I knew I needed to learn more about how to can raw pet food.
You aren’t comfortable feeding raw but want to know exactly what is in your pet’s food
To use to transition your pets to raw
Your friend or pet sitter is not comfortable feeding raw while you are away
It’s not practical to take raw food while you are traveling
To include in your disaster evacuation go boxes
To entice a raw-fed sick cat to eat (cooked food has more aroma than raw)
It is fit for human consumption
The idea of canning pet food might be a little misleading. What I learned while researching the process of canning pet food is that you can only the meat without bone or supplements. That’s why it is fit for human consumption. You follow the same procedure you would if canning meat for human use.
I only found one post that discussed canning food for dogs. Those instructions said to cook the meat and vegetables first but I would not can my dog food that way. I would raw pack the meat and vegetables just like I did for my cat food. The temperature reached during pressure canning cooks it so pre-cooking is an unnecessary step.
Steps to Can Raw Pet Food
Preserving food, by whatever method, is serious business. It is important to follow instructions carefully to avoid serious illness. Meat is a low acid food and MUST be processed in a pressure canner, not a boiling water or atmospheric steam canner.
Get Your Supplies Together
Lids and rings
Prepare Your Jars and Lids
Wash your jars, lids and rings in hot soapy water and rinse well. Check your jars for any imperfections. If you are using the raw-pack method, your jars do not need to be pre-heated. Heating is to prevent breaking when hot food is added. Prepare your lids and rings according to package directions – some need to be pre-heated, some don’t.
Prepare Your Meat
Since you are going to “cook” the meat, you don’t have to worry about bacteria. You can make things really easy for yourself and buy ground meat. I still purchased my meat in bulk and ground it at home since it is more economical that way. I had a beef roast and a pork loin so I ground and canned both. You can also just cut the meat into chunks.
If you see a recipe for canning meat that says to add salt, don’t! The salt is for flavoring meat for humans, not preserving and we don’t want it in the pet food.
If you are making dog food and adding fruit/vegetables, stir them into the raw meat.
Pack your meat into your jars as tightly as possible and try to remove any air pockets. Leave one inch of head space. Do NOT add any liquid. The meat will make it’s own delicious juice.
Wipe the rim of the jar with a damp cloth to be sure it is perfectly clean. Put on the lids and screw the bands on finger tight.
Pressure Canning Your Meat
Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for more specifics on preparing the canner itself.
Put 2 to 3 inches of hot water in your canner.
Place the filled jars on the rack in the canner using the jar lifter.
Fasten your canner lid securely, leaving the weight off the vent.
Turn your heat to high, heating until the water boils and steams. Always vent for a full 10 minutes.
Place the weight on the vent.
Start timing the process when the pressure gauge indicates that the recommended pressure has been reached or, for canners with no gauge, the weight begins to wiggle. The pressure will depend on your altitude and you’ll find this information in the instructions with your canner.
Regulate the heat to maintain the pressure at or slightly above the recommendation.
Processing time for the meat is 75 minutes for pints or 90 minutes for quarts. I recommend pints for cats because you will need to use it within about 3 days once it is opened. I even used half pints since I was making this for just one cat. If you do use half pints, you still need to process for the full 75 minutes.
When the timed process is complete, turn off the heat and let the canner cool down naturally. This can take up to 45 minutes.
When the canner is completely depressurized, remove the weight and wait another 10 minutes.
Unfasten the lid and open it away from you.
Remove the jars from the canner by lifting them straight up (do not tilt) with the jar lifter and placing them on a rack or folded towel away from drafts. Do not leave them in the hot water to cool. They will fail to seal.
Do not adjust the rings. Do not try to dump or wipe any water from the lids.
Leave the bands on the jars until they have cooled completely – up to 24 hours.
Once completely cool, remove the bands.
Check each jar to be sure it is sealed by pressing the middle of the lid with your finger. If it springs back, it didn’t seal. Refrigerate any jars that haven’t sealed properly and use within 3 days.
Wipe the jars with a damp cloth. Some oil may have seeped out during processing. You can replace the cleaned bands or leave them off.
Label and date your jars. Store them in a cool, dark, dry place for up to one year.
While the meat was processing it smelled so good! As I mentioned above, I did both pork and beef. I filled the jars the same and although the pork looked like it had more fat, it was actually the beef that had more.
Since you can only the meat, you add your supplements when you serve your meat, or meat and vegetables in the case of dog food. This created a bit of a challenge for me. You can buy supplements pre-mixed but I already had my supplements that I use when I make raw so I made my own. I mixed up a batch of supplements (minus the fish oil) that I would use for 3 pounds of meat then calculated how much I would add to one half pint jar that is about 7 ounces of meat and juice.
When I opened the jar, I poured the contents into a bowl, stirred in the supplements and put the unused portion of the meat back in the jar.
All three of my cats love this cooked meat. Looks like I’ll be making another batch soon.
Is pressure canning a new idea for you or do you already use a pressure canner to preserve food for your family? Have you canned or thought about trying to can raw pet food?
OK, I can hear you raw feeders out there all the way over here. Why on earth would I want to can my raw food, you are asking. There are actually a few reasons why canning raw pet food is not a bad idea. I’m not suggesting you can all the raw food you make, but to have some canned on hand for emergencies is actually a good idea.
Last September, when the Butte fire broke out, I was just getting ready to make a batch of raw when the power went out. We got our generators set up and I was going to make it the next day but, before I could, we were evacuated. I’m bad about waiting until the last minute to make the next batch and I had NONE in the freezer.
I had the cats’ things all ready to go except for food! I couldn’t even buy more at our local store because their power was out too and they were closed. In all the chaos, I didn’t think about stopping to buy some when we were down the hill evacuating the horses. Thankfully, (I think the cats were more thankful than I was) I had a big bag of treats and that’s what they had for dinner that night and breakfast the next morning.
That second day, I was able to go down the hill to the pet store in Jackson to buy food. Oh my gosh. I read and agonized over labels for what seemed like hours. I started feeding raw because Christy has chronic diarrhea on canned commercial cat food and I hadn’t really looked at labels in years. I am still looking for a commercial food she can eat for times like this but it hasn’t happened yet.
My friend Kelly’s relatives were kind enough to offer us a place to stay while we were evacuated but they had dogs and there was not a good place for the cats. I have an SUV and decided the best place for them was in the car. I really didn’t want Christy to have an issue with diarrhea in my car so it was especially difficult to decide what to feed them.
As much as I am against feeding dry food to cats, I decided she would be less likely to get diarrhea from it and I hoped it would only be for a short time. So, I settled on what seemed to be a high-quality dry food and that is what they ate for the next few days. If I had a supply of canned raw food on hand, it would have been easy to grab and put in their go boxes and I would have been much less stressed.
Recently, I went to a pet blogging conference and took Christy with me. I knew taking frozen raw food on the trip would be very impractical so I decided to try canning some of her food to take along. I made it a couple of weeks ahead of time to have time to try it out on her. I wanted to be sure she would eat it and she loved it!
Do you have pet peeves? I don’t really have anything I would call a pet peeve because if something bothers me, I try to ignore it and move on. No point in wasting energy on something I probably can’t change. However, lately, one thing is becoming a “pet” peeve for me and that thing is the way people use the word pet when they really mean dog.
Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs. I have had many over the years and am a sucker for every dog or puppy I meet. I just don’t currently have one. For me, cats fit my current lifestyle better and that’s what brings me to my pet peeve.
I recently attended the BlogPaws pet blogging conference in Chandler, AZ. I wanted to take my cat, Christy Paws (who is the star of her own blog) with me. I wanted to take her last year when the conference was in Nashville but it just didn’t work out. This year, a photo on her blog was nominated for a Nose-to-Nose Award so I thought it would be especially fun to have her there.
I decided to drive for a couple of reasons, but the main one was that I wanted to stop in Orange County to take care of some business and visit some friends. I decided to stay there two nights in each direction.
What Does Pet Friendly Mean?
I started looking for a pet friendly hotel through gopetfriendly.com. Sounds easy, right? Well, it should be. Their website is packed full of info with a great listing of hotels.
I started calling hotels in the area where I wanted to stay. Go Pet Friendly says pet policies change so to confirm with each hotel.
That’s when the fun began and this pet peeve began taking shape. One after one, even though they claimed to be “pet” friendly, said they do not accept cats. In fact, the only “pets” they accept are dogs. Then why don’t you say you are dog friendly and save those of us with other pets some phone calls? One even went so far as to say they only accept service dogs. Um, excuse me, that’s the law, that’s not even dog friendly.
Have you seen the Trivago ad about the pet friendly hotel and the rabbit convention? That really hit home for me that there are other traveling pets out there.
After a few frustrating phone calls to hotels, I contacted a friend who often travels with her cat, and asked her for a recommendation. I called both Red Roof Inn and La Quinta Inns and Suites. I wasn’t happy with the customer service from Red Roof Inn’s general manager so decided on La Quinta Inns and Suites in Santa Ana. They were over the top friendly, helpful and welcoming to all pets.
My Pet Peeve
This trend of pet means dog isn’t limited to pet friendly hotels. I’ve seen pet photo contests that were just for dogs, pet food that is dog food, and pet product suppliers that only have things for dogs.
So, my pet peeve is this: When did pet become synonymous for dog? If you look up synonyms for dog, pet is not one of them. A pet is any domestic or tamed animal or bird that is kept for companionship or pleasure — not just dogs. Using pet when you mean dog can be frustrating and confusing to pet parents of pets other than dogs. It’s OK to say dog when you mean dog.
If you own cats or other pets, have you experienced this? Am I the only one who has noticed or is frustrated by it?
I love lavender. I love the flowers, the scent, the color. I love everything about lavender, so imagine my delight when I recently won a gift bag full of lavender scented items. There was a lovely reed diffuser, body wash, moisturizer, even some laundry detergent.
Then someone said, “I hope you don’t have cats!” Oh, but I do. I have three cats. Then I had a little flicker in the back of my mind that reminded me I heard recently lavender is toxic to cats. So I put all those treasures away and didn’t think much more about them.
Then I also remembered that I have been using lavender scented air fresheners around my cats for years. What harm might I have done?
Is Lavender Toxic to Cats?
The end of June, I went to the BlogPaws pet blogging conference in Chandler, Arizona. BlogPaws and the Cat Writers’ Association joined forces this year to make the conference doubly awesome. We received swag bags loaded with lots of terrific items provided by the sponsors and vendors.
One of the items included was a calming collar from Sentry. And there, right on the top, it said lavender and chamomile fragrance. Sentry is part of Sergeant’s Pet Care Products and I know Sergeant’s has had issues with their flea medications so immediately a red flag went up. I knew I had to do some research on lavender. I wanted to know, is lavender toxic to cats and if so, what exactly does that mean?
What Exactly Does Toxic Mean?
As with many things on the internet, you’ll find many opinions. I wasn’t interested in opinions. I wanted some facts. Even the ASPCA lists lavender as toxic to cats so there must be some merit to the claim. (When I look at the list of plants toxic to cats, I wonder how they ever survived!) So, the first thing I wanted to know is, what exactly does toxic mean?
Webster’s Dictionary defines toxic as “containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation.” Is this really true of lavender? Could it kill my cat? Some seem to say yes, don’t let it anywhere near your cat. It will destroy it’s liver. On the other end of the spectrum, an article in Catster says it is safe for your cats to eat.
Does a Plant Have to be Deadly to be Classified as Toxic?
This is where the confusion and varying opinions come in to play. The answer is a resounding NO! Plants don’t have to be deadly to be classified as toxic. Toxic can mean anything from a little will kill to a whole lot will cause an upset stomach. A “toxic plant” list tells you nothing about how much is dangerous.
Lavender falls into the “a whole lot will cause an upset stomach” category. Ingesting the plant or flowers may cause a mild GI upset with nausea and vomiting, according to the ASPCA. Moderation is the key and I think most cats are good at the moderation part on their own.
What About Lavender Lotions and Diffusers?
But back to my goodies. I wasn’t planning on feeding lavender to my cats. I don’t even have a lavender plant. I want to use my room deodorizers and reed diffuser. I want to wear the lavender scented lotion. What about those? And what about that calming collar?
Dr. Melissa Shelton, who has pioneered the use of essential oils to treat animals, has used lavender (and other oils) in diffusers for years. When she first started, she watched her kitties closely and did lots of blood work to make sure they were healthy. She continued to monitor them to make sure no abnormalities were developing. Based on this and her observation of her cats’ behavior, she went on to explore further the use of essential oils for cats.
I feel pretty comfortable that my reed diffuser is fine to use around my cats. Of course, I have made sure they can’t get to it where they might ingest the oil and they can leave the room to get away from it.
If my cats don’t like the way something I have used smells, they let me know by moving away from me or it. It is unlikely that any hand or body lotion would contain enough lavender to create any kind of a problem but, to be safe, some recommend you wait until it is completely absorbed before touching your cat. I do that with any lotion anyway.
And as for that calming collar, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, research has confirmed that lavender produces slight calming, soothing, and sedative effects when its scent is inhaled. Sentry says their collar uses “a pheromone that mimics the one mother cats produce to calm their kittens, the collars are clinically proven to reduce or eliminate stress-related behavior such as inappropriate marking, destructive behavior, clawing and anti-social behavior. Collars help alleviate problem behaviors triggered by travel, thunderstorms, fireworks and new social situations.”
The collar ingredients state pheromones (squalene) 6% and inert ingredients of 94%. There’s no mention of the lavender or chamomile so I called the company. They should be getting back to me in a day or two and I will update this post.
Once I hear from them, I might give the collar a try the next time I take Christy in the car. She doesn’t hate the car anymore but she sure doesn’t love it! If the collar could help her be more comfortable, that would be a good thing.
Please note that this post is about LAVENDER. There are other herbs, plants and oils that are detrimental and even deadly to cats. But remember, when you read that something is toxic, you really need more information than that.
Why the Concern Over Essential Oils?
Treating cats with essential oils is a totally different subject for another post, but I wanted to address, without going into detail, what the concern over essential oils is.
Essential oils are 500-2,000 times stronger than the flower or plant from which they came. A cat’s liver lacks the enzymes necessary to break down and excrete certain chemicals in many essential oils as well as other substances, like aspirin, and these chemicals can build up to a lethal level.
I want to leave you with this list from Optimum Choices of oils to definitely avoid around cats.
I’d love to know about your experiences with lavender. Do you use it around your cats? Do you use essential oils?
When I heard about the first ever National Tabby Day, I knew I had to participate. A few years ago, I wrote a post called The Glorious Tabby Cat. That post continues to be my most popular post of all time so I know there are lots of people out there who love tabby cats.
As you probably know, tabby cats are not a breed. Tabby is a coat pattern and comes in several variations. Tabbies originated from the African wild cat which has similar markings that are excellent camouflage. You can read the above post to learn more about tabby patterns, personality and myths.
Famous tabbies include Morris the Cat, spokescat for 9Lives; Garfield; Lil Bub; and Thomas O’ Malley, the tabby in the Disney movie The Aristocats. Maybe Buffy the Cat will join this list!
If you have had a cat for any length of time, you have most likely experienced it. You are sound asleep when you are jolted awake by the sound of your cat hacking, gagging and retching. You know when you turn on the light you will be greeted by the sight of a hairball.
The tiny backward-slanted projections on their rough tongue send the hair down their throat into their stomach
Hairballs are the by-product of your cat doing what it does naturally – grooming. When cats groom, the tiny backward-slanted projections on their rough tongue send the hair down their throat into their stomach. Most of the hair passes undigested through the digestive tract in the feces, but some stays behind in the stomach and eventually forms a hairball.
An occasional hairball, once every week or two, is nothing to worry about. If your cat is refusing to eat, lethargic or has repeated episodes of unproductive retching, you should consult your veterinarian as these could be signs of something more serious.
Some cats, like Ocean, feel the need to groom every cat in the house, making them even more susceptible to hairballs
The Best Ways to Prevent or Reduce Hairballs in Cats
Make Sure Your Cat is Getting Enough Moisture
If your cat is eating an all-dry diet, she is not getting enough water. Since cats get most of their water from their food, your cat is living in a constant state of dehydration and her digestive system is working harder than it should to process all that dry stuff. Her GI tract is less able to move the fur and other debris through than a well-hydrated cat. Consider feeding your cat a more species appropriate diet.
Add Omega-3s to Your Cat’s Diet
Essential fatty acids, especially omega-3s, is a commonly seen nutritional deficiency in cats. Commercial pet food often provides more omega-6 than they need and not enough omega-3. A healty balance of fatty acids will not only improve your cat’s coat and skin, but it will help her digestive system deal with the hair and other debris she swallows. Krill oil is the optimum source of omega-3.
Brush Your Cats Often
Removing the hair before it is ingested is the best prevention of hairballs. Brush your cats at least once a week and more during shedding season, even daily. The more you brush the less time it will take each time making it more tolerable for your cat. Some cats are not fond of brushing. As with most things, the younger you start brushing your cat the better. If you have a long-haired cat, tangles can be an issue but if you brush often, these should be eliminated.
I have three cats and each takes to brushing differently. Ocean tolerates it but swishes his tail the entire time. Christy enjoys it and lays patiently while I maneuver her around to get the best angles. Echo, when he sees me brushing one of the others, comes and begs me to brush him and tries to take over the grooming spot.
The added benefit of brushing, besides preventing hairballs, is that you will have less hair floating around your house to vacuum up. Speaking of vacuuming, be sure to keep string, thread, and other materials off the floor that could become dangerous if swallowed and entwined in a hairball. I have to be especially careful of this with Echo — he is a string chewer.
Choosing a Brush or Comb
There are many types of brushes and combs on the market. You should use whatever works best for you and your cat. Some prefer one over the other. Combing is more efficient at removing loose hair but brushing is usually more soothing. When you are finished brushing or combing, rub a damp paper towel over your cat to pick up any remaining loose hair.
What I Use
When I discovered FURminator deShedding Tools a few years ago, I got rid of all my other combs and brushes. I had heard how great they were but the price kept me from getting one for a long time. I wondered if they were really worth it. I finally got one on sale and haven’t used anything else since.
FURminator claims to reduce shedding by 90% and I believe it. Your cat ingests less hair, reducing the chance of hairballs significantly. It also stimulates your pet’s natural oil production, which protects the skin and promotes healthy, shiny coats. And less loose hair means a reduction in airborne allergens.
To celebrate Hairball Awareness Day on April 29th, I’m hosting a giveaway for a FURminator. I have not been compensated for this post in any way. I just love FURminator and want to share one with one of my readers. The FURminator in the giveaway is designated for long hair; however, I have both long and short-haired cats and use the long-haired version on both. It works great!
The giveaway will end May 2, 2016 at 12:00 am. The giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only who are 18+ years old. The winner will be contacted by email to confirm shipping address. Winner will have 48 hours to respond before an alternate winner is chosen. Good luck!
When I first started feeding my cats a homemade raw diet, I used Dr. Lisa Pierson’s chicken recipe from catinfo.org. Once I had my grinder, the recipe was pretty easy, especially the more I made it.
This website doesn’t talk about rotating proteins so my cats ate chicken for probably three years or more. Even though I thought about giving them something different for variety, I didn’t have any other recipes and didn’t know how to make sure another protein was properly balanced.
Avoid a Protein Intolerance
As I did more research on raw feeding, I learned that feeding the same protein over and over can cause allergies or at least an intolerance to that protein. So, several months ago, I started rotating their proteins.
Now, my cats eat a way better variety of meat than I do. Some of them I’d love to have for myself but they aren’t available or are too expensive. They have had rabbit, venison, turkey, duck, pork, bison and beef. I buy rabbit, duck, venison and bison from my local raw food supplier, Excel K9. I buy frozen ground turkey in bulk (5 lbs.) at the grocery store. I buy large, whole beef or pork roasts and grind them myself.
Shortly before I started rotating proteins, Christy started throwing up several times a week but I didn’t think that much of it. She’s the reason I started feeding raw since she has always had a sensitive digestive system. I didn’t give it anymore thought since she stopped when I changed her food and all seemed well.
When it was time for chicken again, I made my usual batch. Right away, Christy started throwing up again, this time pretty much every meal. I conducted a little test. I gave her canned tuna and it stayed down. I gave her pork and it stayed down. Another meal of chicken and up it came. This could all be coincidence but it seems she has probably developed an intolerance. And, of course, I have 40 pounds of chicken thighs in my freezer! That’s okay, though. No more chicken for Christy. At least not for a long time.
I want to make it clear that this is not just a raw food issue. Feeding the same protein over and over in any form; canned, dry or raw, can cause allergies or an intolerance. It is important to rotate the proteins and even the brands in your pets diet.
Have you had an experience with a protein intolerance or allergy? How have you dealt with it?
Welcome to my new monthly series featuring pocket pets, birds and reptiles. Each month, an expert will give you the pros and cons to help you decide if a particular pet is a good fit for you. I’m excited to have Abby Chesnut as my first guest, telling you about pet rats. I have had pet rats in the past and just adored them.
Are Pet Rats a Good Fit for Me?
So you have seen all the cute photos and videos of these fluffy, smart, and whiskery rodents and you are thinking about getting some as pets. Don’t get me wrong, they make wonderful pets, but there are a few pros and cons you should know before diving into the world of pet rats.
Things to consider before purchasing pet rats
Lifespan – The average for rats are around 2-4 years. Rats age very quickly compared to cats or dogs and this can be disheartening for many, but I like to think of that quote where they say for you, your pet might not be your whole life, but for your pet you are his whole life. Just gives you more reason to spoil them, right?
Health – Depending on where you get your rat (pet store or breeder) you will most likely run into some health problems that require you going to a vet. Before you decide that you want to have a pet rat please make sure that there is an exotic vet in your area that sees them. Costs can get high depending on where you live so it is always nice to have money stored up for an emergency.
Pet rat brothers Delmar and Everett
Social Animals – Rats need buddies so it is very frowned upon to get just a single rat. They live happier healthier lives when they have another rat to cuddle and interact with. The only thing I would say is more costly about having 2 rats compared to 1 is higher vet bills. Food doesn’t cost much and I mean come on, who doesn’t look cool with a rat on each shoulder?
Double Critter Nation Rat Cage
Environment – Rats love to climb so they need enclosures that are more tall than long. Aquariums are not ventilated and can harm their fragile respiratory system so wire cages that are similar to bird cages but made for small pets like rats are the best. There are many cage calculators online that can help you find out if a cage is big enough, but overall for price and ease of use I always recommend the Critter Nation cage. Cleaning is important as well (they can get smelly), and you will need to clean your cage at least 1-2 weeks depending on how litter box trained they are (yes, it is possible), what bedding you use, and how big your cage is. Don’t forget that you will need to fill your cage up with toys, huts, hammocks, chew toys, a litter box, bedding, water bottle, and food!
Baby Delmar and Everett playing in their wheel (click the picture to see the video)
Exercise – When I first had my rats as babies they would go so crazy at night on their wheel! It was definitely hard to sleep at first, but what really helped that over the years is getting them out of their cage to release some of their energy. A lot of people put them on their bed with a dedicated rat blanket, or let them roam the bathroom, and even some people have their own rat rooms (a girl can dream). With many dogs and cats in my household, I put cardboard boxes on top of their cage and they go and play there while still being able to go back in for potty breaks and getting water. No dogs can get to them, and I supervise when one of my rat crazy cats is around. My point is that you can get creative, but exercise is very important for pet rats.
So I have touched on some major points to consider when you decide that you are serious about getting a pet rat (or two, or seven). Let us look at what makes them great pets!
Clicker training Delmar and Everett to spin (click the picture to see the video)
What makes rats great pets
Super smart – Some people have compared them to dogs when it comes to smarts, and they aren’t wrong. Did you know that rats were the first animal to be clicker trained? Mine actually love to do tricks, even though they only know two (spin and stand up) and they were so quick to catch on that it surprised me.
Adorable – Rats are super cute! Despite the horrible stigma people have against them, those big eyes and whiskery noses are the best things to come home to after a long day. They will greet you at their cage door to say hi and eagerly await dinner. Afterwards, they very well would probably enjoy a shoulder rub! (I know my Delmar does) Rats do this cool thing where they brux (grind their teeth) and boggle (eyes bulge out because of the brux) when they are content. Some people think it is creepy, but I see it as a sign of a happy rat!
Delmar spreading the love at a pet parade
Just Plain Cool – Have you ever walked around and seen a person with a rat on their shoulder? No? Well, you could be the next. I love to go to public events like pet parades and pet shows to educate the public about how amazing rats can be. So many people think that they are disgusting, once they learn how much grooming they do (as much as a cat) and pet them a little bit, you can change minds.
Overall, I think rats can make a great pet for older children (rats claws can be sharp and their bodies are fragile) and people of all ages can enjoy them just as well. If you aren’t ready for the big commitment for a dog or cat, but looking for a great small pet I think rats make a great animal companion!
Abby Chesnut is a pet product influencer on her blog The Chesnut Mutts which has been around since November 2014. Jada and Bailey are her two mutts who have mostly taken over her blog with high-quality pet product reviews and giveaways, but her cat Shipoopi, pet rats Everett and Delmar, Emilio the betta fish, Tyrone the Apple Snail, and other household sharing dogs & cats pop in frequently. She loves to make people smile and laugh either by her photography, videos, or just her humorous and laid-back reviews.