Archive for Pet Products

Is Lavender Toxic to Cats?

I wanted to know, is lavender toxic to cats? If it is classed as toxic to cats, what exactly does that mean? Is lavender safe to use around my cats?
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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? flowers, lavender and titleIs 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.

Over the weekend, I finally had some time to thoroughly go through the bags to see what was in them. I needed to decide what Christy Paws would give away on her blog for her birthday/gotcha day celebration.

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.

Can I use

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.

diffuserI 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.

Lavender bunch and oil

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.

Lemon Lime
Orange Bergamot
Tangerine Pine
Mandarin Spruce
Grapefruit Fir
Cassia (cinnamon) Thyme
Clove Savory
Oregano

I’d love to know about your experiences with lavender. Do you use it around your cats? Do you use essential oils?

 

References:

ASPCA – Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants: Lavender
Toxic Plants- What Does That Really Mean
University of Maryland Medical Center: Lavender
Is Lavender Poisonous to Cats?
Pet Aromatherapy And Essential Oils: What You Need To Know
JustAnswer.com Cat Veterinary
Forget Everything Bad You’ve Ever Been Told About Essential Oils for Pets

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Pine Pellet Litter and a DIY Litter Box

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Pine (Wood) Pellet Litter and a DIY Litter BoxAs a pet sitter, I see and experience lots of different pet products, from food and treats to toys and even litter. Yes, litter.

I try to go green whenever possible so I prefer biodegradable litter which is available in pine pellets, recycled newspaper pellets, and litter based on corn, wheat, walnut shells and safflower seeds. The litter I personally have been using for almost a year is corn based and you can buy it here. A 9-pound bag easily lasts as long as 30-pounds of clay litter and, in my opinion, controls odor much better.

Biodegradable Litter

  • Comes from a renewable, sustainable source
  • Virtually dust free
  • Weighs about half as much as clumping clay litter
  • Superior odor control
  • No silica dust so healthier for your cat
  • Safe if ingested during grooming

Biodegradable litters can be composted if you are so inclined. I wrote about that, well, actually my cat wrote about that, here. Even if you use biodegradable litter, it still stays in the landfill pretty much forever if you dispose of it in a plastic bag.

Clay Litter

  • Strip-mined
  • Non-renewable
  • Non-biodegradable (it sits in a landfill forever)
  • Heavy
  • Contains silica dust which can cause health problems for your cat when inhaled
  • Dust gets all over everything
  • Doesn’t control odor very well
  • Can build up in your cat’s digestive system

Pine Pellet Litter

Recently, I began caring for some cats who use pine pellet litter. I am always glad when I find a client using biodegradable litter.

While I was cleaning the litter box, I remembered that I had tried pine pellet litter once many years ago and quit using it because it is so hard to scoop. Unlike other types of litter where you scoop out the clumps, the pine litter falls apart as it absorbs liquids. The litter needs to be sifted rather than scooped and this is very time consuming in a traditional litter box.

Special sifting litter boxes are intended to remedy this. These double boxes allow the wet litter to fall through an insert which holds the intact pellets. I tried one of these, too, many years ago and found them somewhat unsatisfactory. Mostly, they were just plain too small and the sides were too low, which is the case with litter boxes in general.

DIY Pine Pellet Litter Box

What actually prompted me to write this post is a pin I saw on Pinterest. The blogger at Meow Lifestyle created her own wood pellet litter box. She used plastic storage boxes, similar to the ones I’ve used for my litter boxes for years, so I really like the project. The boxes are large and the sides are high which gives your cat plenty of room and keeps more litter in the box. Click on the link for complete instructions.

Pine Pellet Litter and a DIY Wood Pellet Litter Box

Photo courtesy Meow Lifestyle

 

What type of litter do you use? If you use biodegradable, do you compost it? If you try this project, let me know how it works for you.

If you are not up for making your own box, here are a few suggestions.

 

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Buyer Beware

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About three years ago, MeoowzResQ was turned onto a discount pet medication website by another rescue. I do some of the buying for MeoowzResQ so I was asked to research this potential opportunity. Vaccination Services (their website is fleastuff.com) has a membership program and once you pay a reasonable fee, you receive a 20% additional discount on the already discounted products they sell. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, as they say, let the buyer beware.

When I first contacted this company, our main interest was for Advantage II. Their representative explained to me that Advantage and Advantage II are the same–they just updated their packaging. Trusting that the “expert” new what he was talking about, I let him sell me Advantage.

Over the next two years, we kept getting complaints from fosters that they buyer beware - all flea treatments are not the samecouldn’t get rid of fleas. I kept telling them that if they were using the Advantage as directed and vacuuming regularly, this should not be happening.

When we kept getting complaints, I started doing some research. I discovered that Advantage and Advantage II are NOT the same. Advantage II contains a growth regulator that plain Advantage does not have. This keeps hatching eggs from growing into adult fleas thus breaking the life cycle.

So, several months ago, when I placed our order, I very specifically ordered Advantage II and said, “Do not send us regular Advantage,” and have reminded them of that with every order. I had had a flea infestation and certainly did not want to have another!

Well, about three months ago, I started seeing the telltale signs. My cats were scratching. They started running across the carpet and eventually refused to be on the carpet. They would move across rooms on the furniture. They preferred to lay on the kitchen floor or other hard surfaces like the kitchen counters. Ugh!

I had been using the regular Advantage that we had been getting in the past so I went to the rescue to get some of the new Advantage II they had been getting. When I was handed a tube, it said “Advantage” on it, not Advantage II. The only ingredient listed was the pesticide. I figured this must have been an old tube but was suspicious. It was time to reorder so I asked them to keep all the packaging when the new order arrived. 

When the order arrived, I was shocked! Twelve tubes of Advantage were packaged in an Advantage II box for six tubes with a sticker placed on it that said 12 tubes. The tubes said Advantage, with the single ingredient, while the box said Advantage II with the two ingredients. 

Of course, I called the company. The gentleman again began to try to tell me they are the same. When I confronted him on the ingredients, he said, “Return it to me and I’ll give you a full refund.” When I wanted it replaced with Advantage II, he finally admitted that they don’t actually have Advantage II, only what they shipped.

So, I have been fighting another flea infestation! At least this one is fairly mild compared to the last one as I recognized the signs early. I still have not actually seen any fleas in the carpet, etc., only on the cats. During my last infestation, they were jumping all over the place, including on me!

Needless to say, we have found another, reliable source for our Advantage II. Here is an article about some other online scams to avoid: 

Seven Dog Scams to Avoid Online


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Save Money Treating Fleas with Revolution

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save money treating fleas with RevolutionIn our last post I told you how to save money on flea treatment by splitting large tubes of Advantage, made by Bayer, and Frontline, made by Merial. You can do the same thing and save money treating fleas with Revolution but there are a couple of differences. 

Advantage and Frontline are regulated by the EPA and are now available over the counter. Revolution, made by Zoetis, still requires a prescription and is regulated by the FDA rather than the EPA.

Although it is a little more expensive than Advantage and Frontline, Revolution helps protect your pet against a wider variety of parasites. The active ingredient in Revolution is selamectin. It works by penetrating the skin and entering your pet’s bloodstream. Concentrations of selamectin in the tissue and bloodstream prevent heartworm disease. Selamectin also redistributes into the skin from the bloodstream and kills adult fleas, American dog ticks, and ear mites, and prevents flea eggs from hatching. It is also an anthelmintic, which means it fights to expel parasitic worms. Parasites ingest the drug when they feed on the animal’s blood. Revolution is safe for pregnant and lactating pets. Revolution doesn’t have a growth regulator in it but the active ingredient in it does prevent flea eggs from hatching.

The thing I really like about Revolution is that it is quick-drying and non-greasy. If you are splitting tubes, it is imperative that you leave it in the tube it comes in and draw it from the tube with a needle as described in our previous post. The ingredient that makes it quick-drying also makes it very volatile. Once out of the tube and in a larger container, it can totally evaporate! Make sure the tube is tightly capped. I have read that it is advisable to store it in the refrigerator once opened.

The largest packet of Revolution is PLUM colored (for Extra Large Dogs) and is labeled for dogs 85.1 – 130 lbs. The volume of each dose of topical solution is 3 mL and the concentration of the drug is 120 mg/ml. THUS, each dose of PLUM Revolution for Extra Large Dogs (360 mg) can treat 24 kittens or 8 cats!

Revolution dosage chart

Please note: Veterinarians and drug manufacturers warn against tube splitting and doing so may void their liability. Some dog-only products, such as Advantix, can kill a cat. Do your own research and if you decide to split tubes be sure to:

  • Handle safely – wash your hands thoroughly after use
  • Store properly – in a cool, dark place
  • Use the appropriate dose

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Save Money on Flea Treatment

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save money on flea treatmentDid you know you can save money on flea treatment for your cats and small dogs by purchasing the largest size package of Advantage II (Extra Large Dog – over 55 lbs.) or Frontline Plus (89-132 lbs.) for dogs and using a portion of a tube at a time? You can also use plain Advantage and Frontline the same way but these products do not contain the second ingredient that the II and Plus versions have which is a growth regulator and I cannot stress how important this is in avoiding a flea infestation.

The plain versions of these products kill adult fleas but do not stop the eggs that fall to the floor or furniture from hatching and becoming adult, biting fleas. Yes, once back on your pet the adults die, but that doesn’t stop the cycle and an adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day! That’s where the growth regulator comes in. It interferes with the normal growth cycle of the fleas and prevents them from becoming mature adults.

The drugs in Advantage II for Dogs and Advantage II for Cats are exactly the same drugs (Imidacloprid 9.1% and Pyriproxyfen 0.46%) at the exact same concentrations. 

Advantage II Application Guidelines:
Cats up to 9 pounds – 0.4ml

Cats 10+ pounds – 0.8ml
Dogs 11-20 pounds – 1.0ml
Dogs 21-55 pounds – 2.5ml
Dogs 55+ pounds – 4.0ml

Frontline Plus for cats contains 9.8% fipronil and 11.8% (S)-methoprene (and 78.4% inert ingredients). Frontline Plus for dogs contains 9.8% fipronil and 8.8% (S)-methoprene (and 81.4% inert ingredients). The amount of growth regulator in the dog version is LESS than in the cat version so certainly should be safe for your cat. Don’t use the cat version on your dog.

Frontline Application Guidelines:
Cats 0.5ml

Dogs 11-22 pounds – 0.67ml
Dogs 23-44 pounds – 1.34ml
Dogs 45-88 pounds – 2.68ml
Dogs 89-132 pounds – 4.0ml

Here’s How to Save Money on Flea TreatmentSave money on flea treatment. What to use and how much. Photo of bottle, syringe and flea medication.

Using the dog versions of Advantage and Frontline on cats is nothing new. You will find uninformed people on the internet saying don’t do it, but shelters and rescues have been doing it for years. That doesn’t in and of itself make it right, but it is vet approved, including by my vet.

I have found the easiest way to portion out the product if you are treating multiple animals is to empty a tube into a small (1/2 oz.) bottle with a dropper tip. You can cut off the tip to accommodate a syringe and draw up the proper amount. I prefer to draw it out this way rather than wasting what sticks to the outside of the syringe if you just stick it down into the bottle. You can then just squeeze out the syringe onto your pet. I highly recommend using a syringe for accurate measurement–this is not something you want to eyeball!

A second method, especially if you are treating only one or two pets, is to use a syringe with a needle and draw what you need directly from the tube. Remove the needle and apply to your pet.

Please note: The above information is for Advantage and Frontline only. Veterinarians and drug manufacturers warn against tube splitting and doing so may void their liability. Some dog-only products, such as Advantix, can kill a cat. Do your own research and if you decide to split tubes be sure to:

  • Handle safely – wash your hands thoroughly after use
  • Store properly – in a cool, dark place
  • Use the appropriate dose

Advantage II Extra Large Dog 6-Pack (Misc.)


List Price: $60.21 USD
New From: $57.40 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

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Outdoor Cat Enclosures – Getting Cats Outdoors Safely

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Kelly’s article on pet doors inspired me to write an article about how to get yourlooking out window cat outdoors safely using an outdoor cat enclosure. Let’s face it, cats love to be outdoors but there are so many dangers out there for them. In the city, traffic is a major issue and in rural areas there are many predators looking for a meal. There are also some benefits of cats going outdoors, so which is more important?

Outdoor Dangers*

  • Cars
  • Dogs and other predators
  • Poisons
  • Inter-cat aggression
  • Communicable diseases
  • Theft
  • Inter-neighbor disputes
  • Wildlife predation
  • Skin cancer (especially in white cats)
  • UV light-related corneal lesions
  • Parasitism

Outdoor Benefits*

  • A lower risk of obesity and its related diseases (arthritis, diabetes, heart disease…)
  • A greater opportunity to exhibit natural behaviors and the myriad psycho-social benefits that confers
  • Fewer inappropriate elimination issues
  • Less inter-cat aggression among household members
  • Less litterbox cleaning (if any)

Outdoor Cat Enclosures

In my opinion, and I’m not alone on this, the dangers far outweigh the benefits, so outdoor cat enclosures seem to me to be the perfect compromise. Being an advocate of “indoor only” cats, I embarked on some research for enclosures for cats. There are some “prefab” enclosures that are great for small spaces, but I was amazed at the variety, creativity and beauty of some of the enclosures custom built by or for cat owners. They range from very simple spaces for cats only, to beautiful, functional spaces shared by humans.

outdoor cat enclosure

Outdoor cat enclosure

They are limited only by your imagination and the space you are willing to allocate to them.

piedmont-triad-cat-enclosure

Tunnels, on the ground or in the air, can be used to join multiple areas.

outdoor-cat-enclosure tunnel

There is cat fencing that you can use to enclose an area or an entire yard.

outdoor cat fencing

If you have an outdoor cat enclosure, please share it with us in the comments. If you are thinking of building an enclosure, click here for lots of samples and inspiration.

I live in a condominium where there are lots of rules so, as much as I’d like to enclose my patio, it is not an option. I will be looking into some of the prefab enclosures, so stay tuned to see what I do with that.

* From PedMD

Some updated, newly added links:
The Animal Rescue Site Ultimate Catio How-to Guide
Catio Showcase
Dream Catio from Catster
 



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Pet Doors

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Over the years I have spent a small fortune on pet doors. Many shapes, sizes and brands have come through my home. This article is based on my personal experience and opinion of the several I have owned.

First of all let’s talk about whether you would or should have a pet door. There are many situations where a pet door can be convenient but, as with everything else as a pet owner, you must be responsible with your pet and what your pet does. For example, a dog that tends to go out and bark in the middle of the night may need to be locked in at night or you will have angry neighbors.

I had a friend who lived in an apartment with two cats and two roommates. The cat box was in the shower of the downstairs bathroom. She wanted her cat to sleep with her in her room but, with roommates, felt uncomfortable leaving her door open at night. This meant having to get up to let the cat out to use the box in the middle of the night and then again when he wanted back in. Her solution? She went to the local home improvement store and purchased another door. She had her dad install a cat flap into the door and install the door into her apartment. Problem solved and the cat really liked the fact that he had access to the room any time. When she moved, she simply put the original door back and since the door fit her next place, she just did the same there too.

I started out with a simple flap door when I first lived with my mom in Whittier. It was mounted into the door in the back porch. I had a very busy nine-pound terrier mix. She was in and out all day long. The flap door worked great. Because she chased out any and all animals from the yard, I had no worries about leaving it open all the time. After she passed, I didn’t get another dog for many years.

Then I got Asia after moving to Walnut with my brother. She was just nine weeks old. After she got a little older, we installed a screen door flap allowing her into a fenced back yard. She just thought that was great. Problem was, she would hit that door at a full run and the screen just could not take that kind of use. Within a few weeks we had to remove it and re-screen the door. 

We then purchased a sliding door panel with a pet door built in. That worked great for many years with only one baby possum getting into the house. Then, one fateful night, Asia discovered why you should leave skunks alone. Oh yes, she got sprayed and proceeded to run through the house in a panic. My brother caught her quickly and bathed her in the traditional methods, but the smell was with us for several weeks. Unfortunately, there was not much that would have prevented the incident, but it was still worth having the door for her.

When it came time to replace that door, we decided to get our first electronic pet door. The first one we had was a regular flap door that had a locking mechanism that was triggered by a controller warn on the dogs collar. This worked fairly well for about six months. The door stopped unlocking, trapping her inside. My brother tried fixing it several times, but eventually we just left it in the open position and forgot about it. When that door wore out, we tried another brand that worked on the same principle. It worked for about the same amount of time and then eventually quit too. When I moved back in with my Mom just before my Dad passed away, she could use the old door that was in the back porch. Though it was small, she managed just fine. 

Now, when we moved to Northern California, into the mountains, that was a different story. Here we have squirrels, raccoons, possums, lots of skunks, deer, bears, and mountain lions. In fact I’m locking the dogs in at dusk right now Pet door 2because there was a mountain lion spotted across the street a few days ago. Here, I knew that if I were to install a pet door, it would have to be reliable. I got on line and started searching and found “High Tech Pet.”  They are based in Ventura, California. The door can be mounted into a door or wall. I picked the wall in my room next to an outlet for power.  This door works with a sonic collar, but where it differs from all other doors is, it’s not a flap. This door is a piece of bullet proof glass that opens like a guillotine, sliding up and down. Even better, you can get parts fairly reasonably. I have had it installed for a year and a half, and though I have had to replace collars, the door works great. I have just received a new speaker harness to replace inside the door. It lets the dogs out, but not back in. The wiring harness was quite easy to replace too. The initial cost of the door was a chunk, but for me and where I live, it is imperative that only my animals are allowed access.

Pet door 1

Pet door 3

All in all, I would recommend a pet door to anyone who has a safe place for their pet to get out to.

CAT Door SALE – Electronic Cat Doors, Selective Entry Cat Doors, & Cat Flaps. Low Prices & Free Shipping!


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