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An indoor cat go outside…and return!

Explorer Dexter

Dexter enjoying his new freedom with his leash

Have you ever wondered how an indoor cat becomes an outdoor cat?  Do you ever feel like you are being mean to your cat by making him stay inside because you want to keep him safe and all he wants is to go outside?  Hi all, Maria here!  This is a story of my cat and how we made him an indoor/outdoor cat.

My cat Dexter has always been an indoor cat. As a kitten, he used to destroy the house because he was so young and hyper. I always thought he would grow out of it as he got older, however he is over a year old and still has the same destructive habits. I’ve always noticed how much Dexter loved to chase birds and bugs out the windows, and knew he yearned to be outside. I was very timid on making Dexter an indoor/outdoor cat because I would be heartbroken if anything ever happened to him.

I tried to make compromises so he could get some outside time and I wouldn’t have to worry about him not coming home. I noticed how much he loved to be in the car when we took trips to the vet’s office. So, I started bringing him with me for short car rides to the grocery store or those midnight trips to McDonalds. He loved it. He would sit on the passenger seat next to me and look at all the cars and birds out the window. It seemed like we were both happy with these trips. However, soon after they became a regular thing, Dexter started sitting at the door and meowing when he wanted to go out. I decided to get him a harness and a leash to give him some more outside time. I had never seen him so happy.

Dexter and I started having outside time in the backyard together. I would pull up a chair and give him some extra slack on his leash. He would chase bugs and just relax in the grass. My boyfriend, Brian, and I then taught Dexter how to chase sticks and bring them back to us. Dexter became more like a little dog every single day!! He would walk around the back yard and explore. He was so happy!!

Before I knew it, leash time was no longer enough for Explorer Dexter. He started slipping out of his harness and running around the yard while we chased him and tried to coax him in with treats and food. It was like a fun little game for him. It became harder and harder for us to get him to come inside. I started to feel like we were doing him a disservice by keeping him inside all the time. He would hear cars pull into our driveway and immediately run to the door to try to make his escape when our guests came into the house. He clearly was becoming unhappy inside the house all day.

After the fifth time in a week of him escaping out the door, I finally decided to look up the transition for him to become an outdoor/indoor cat. Everywhere I read, it said to bring your cats outside, and then reward him with food and treats when you brought them back inside. We started bringing him outside on his harness like usual, and then giving him a treat as soon as he walked back into the door. We also started bringing him only out of our back-slider door so he would associate it with going outside. It seemed to be working! As soon as we would pick up his harness and leash off the fridge, Dexter would run to the back-slider door and wait to go outside.

 

We recently had family visiting from out of state, and the girls would constantly let Dexter out without his harness. It was scary at first because he was running right into the woods and would be out of sight for hours until we could finally get him back in. After a couple of days of him getting out multiple times a day, we started leaving his harness on all the time with his identification tag. Once he would get out, it was reassuring knowing that just in case Dexter got to far, he had our address and phone number on his harness. We stopped panicking so much when he got out, and just tried to be confident that when he got hungry he would come back in.

 

The last time that Dexter got out, we decided not to chase after him. He had his harness on and was determined to go on an adventure. We sat in our living room and kept an eye on the back-slider door. An hour and a half later, Dexter came up the porch and started meowing at the back-slider door. We let him in and he immediately ran over to his food dish for a treat!! It was so exciting! Going forward, were going to start letting Dexter out in the morning, if someone is home. It’s always scaring thinking about the possibility of him not finding his way home, but he is an explorer that cannot be contained!!

Tick-nado hitting CT this year!

It has been a long time since I blogged and for that, Dear Reader, I apologize.  I have no excuse–I got busy with life 🙁  Hi all, Amanda here.  Today we are going to talk about something , that everyone is hoping for–warm weather.  Now I know that wishing it won’t make it so but I can try!!!  Warm weather means a lot of great things…short sleeves, flip flops for some (still too cold for me!) and windows open.  Fresh air and lovely walks in the sunshine.  It also means some not so great things–bugs!  More specifically, ticks.

 

We have had a really great winter as far as things go–it was warm most days.  We had some snow here and there but for the most part it has been mild.  Even though that has been great for your local pet sitter (thank you very much!) it turns out it has been a growing season for ticks.  Worse than that, Lyme disease ticks!  

 

Fear not, Dear Reader.  Let’s just be blunt–you have to be vigilant.  You have to check your dogs (and yourself!!!) when you come in from outdoors.  It takes about 12 hours to transmit Lyme disease so when ever you are in an area that is a known tick spot (high grass, lots of trees, etc.) just be quick to check Fido for ticks.  And for our feline friends–you aren’t off the hook.  Even though your friend probably didn’t go on a hike with you, they are still a carrier.  Check yourself.

 

Just because ticks are going crazy this year doesn’t mean that you can’t go on hikes with your furry friend(s.)  Just be careful!  Also worth noting–dogs don’t get the bullseye ring that humans get so please don’t wait for that!  If your dog seems off–bring him/her to the vet.

Below is a link to an article about the tick problems this year.  Not to scare anyone…just want you to be aware!

http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Shaping-up-to-be-a-bad-season-for-ticks-11027659.php

Be safe, my friends!  Enjoy your walks and the soon-to-be warmer weather 🙂

 

Fleas…no!!!!

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Even pet sitters have problems.  My problem is fleas.  Not personally, of course 🙂  My Lucy is in the unfortunate predicament.  Hi all, Amanda here.  I am writing from my new website…yay!  Of course, my email still doesn’t work 🙁  I don’t care–new website, yay!!!!

Back to the problem at hand, Lucy’s fleas.  My poor baby is suffering, truly.  She is scratching herself silly and taking of bits of fur.  This story begins with an adorable cat who, through no fault of its own, infested the house.  My daughter’s kitten spent a few weeks here while she was settling into a new place and Dexter brought fleas in with the cuddles and meows.  I saw the scratching and felt the bites of the fleas in her apartment while I helped her move.  I treated him with flea treatment, Maria gave him a bath and all was well with the world.

What I didn’t even consider was my dog, Lucy.  She had one of those flea treatment collars on that is good for like 8 months and since I had not had any trouble, I didn’t even think to watch her.   Unfortunately, the fleas in the world today are like super-fleas and my poor Lucy was a casualty of the war.  By the time I realized she had fleas in spite of the collar, she had already removed the fur and parts of the skin under her arms and neck.

I truthfully wasn’t too worried as I gave Lucy a bath in Dawn to kill the fleas.  She tolerates baths but is really not a fan of water.  After the two minutes, we rinsed off the suds and dead fleas and toweled off.  My poor baby kept scratching, regardless.  A few days later, she was still scratching.

Then I took off her collar, switched to one of those behind the head spot treatments, and gave her another bath.    Her scabs started to heal and her skin was red but clear.  I bombed my living area, washed everything I could find, put borax between the couch cushions and vacuumed it, and hoped for the best.  I aired the place out and we watched some tv.

The thing is, while I was sitting there, I saw another flea crawling on her back.  What the heck?!  The next day I went to the vets.  I told them what was going on and I got some chewable flea treatment.  They also gave me some Benadryl so she could stop scratching.  I brought her to the groomers to get a flea bath and brought her home.  So far so good.

Except today, I saw a flea on her.  The flea bath was yesterday!!!!  One of my clients told me about a flea collar they use and I think I am going to get one.  I am really desperate at this point and don’t know what to do.  Hopefully the new collar will work and in the meantime poor Lucy just has to scratch.  Ugh!!!!!

Flea Circus

Hi all, Amanda here 🙂  It has been so fantastic lately, warm weather and nice breezes.  Rain, but even that is good.  We need to feed the grass and trees so they can grow.  Unfortunately, it isn’t only great weather that is here.  Bugs.  Let me say that again.  BUGS!

Bugs are another part of life that is actually needed.  Bugs help pollinate the flowers and the trees, not to mention eating other bugs.  Oh, and what about some unsung heroes like the dung beetle who eat the waste the animals leave behind?  Gross but true; there are bugs out there whos sole mission in life is to eat the stuff left behind.  Spiders are, of course, another story.  I think their sole purpose in life is to terrorize unsuspecting pet sitters like me when they are trying to finally fall asleep.  Nothing like looking up on the ceiling and seeing eight legs scurrying across over your head to wake you up!!!!!

Bugs, not unlike most things, have downsides as well.  Specifically to this post, fleas and ticks can carry diseases and can cause illness for your pets.  Although I think eradicating bugs off the face of the Earth would be a mistake, erasing fleas and ticks from your life is not.  That brings up another question that has plagued dog and cat owners for a long time, what to use?!flea circus

There are several options available as of today to guard your pets from these pests.  There are homeopathic solutions such as raw garlic, brewers yeast, rubbing raw lemons on the fur of the animal before going out, and many others that I don’t even know about!  There are cards you can attach to the collar with a magnetic strip that causes a barrier of “earth energy” around the dog or cat to repel insects.  In other words, this barrier has been developed to cause a “do not fly zone” that bugs will adhere to.  The newest thing I have seen is a beacon of sorts that clips to the animal’s collar and emits ultrasonic waves that repel bugs.

A person can also go the traditional route and use once a month treatments.  There are several that have to be applied topically to the back of an animal’s neck or given to the animal to be digested.  The key with these is to apply them to the skin (careful not to put too much on the fur) and to give them or apply them on the same day every month.

Along the same line, there are new collars out that give the pet constant  doses of the above type treatments but don’t have to be applied every month.  Every 8 to 10 months the collars have to be replaced.  And speaking of collars, let’s not forget about good old fashioned flea and tick collars.  You know, those white collars that you cut to fit on your animal?!

I am sure I am forgetting something but that is not the point.  The point is, there are a bunch of options available for pet owners and really no excuse not to use something.  There is no reason for an animal to spend the bug season unprotected.  I can’t say which options work and which options don’t work, but pet owners have to at least try something!    One thing I do know is that it is so much easier to prevent an outbreak of fleas than it is to get rid of them once they have arrived in your home!

 

Doggy Sand boxes

Hi all, Amanda here.  Today I would like to write about something that has given me so much joy and prevented some serious anxiety…Lucy’s sandbox.

Lucy is my dog.  She is a Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix who LOVES to dig.  She loves to play, she loves to be outside, and she loves to dig.  Did I mention she loves to dig?!  I am a very lucky person because I am home more often than most; but when I first got Lucy, I was leaving my house at about 8:15 am and my son was home by 2.   My landlord fenced in half of my covered patio so I could safely leave her outside when I went to work.*

It had a cement floor except for right where the door out of the patio was. Lucy dug there the first time I put her outside and didn’t sit out there with her.  I don’t want to leave her cooped up inside, but I have always had a fear that she would dig out of her kennel before someone got home.  So, cooped up inside it was!  That is, until I read an article about dog sand boxes.  Redirecting a digger to only dig where you want them to.  Give them a place to dig and reward them for using it.

The first step was finding or building a sandbox.  I was renting an apartment so building a sandbox was not really a good 20140704_115215option.  I opted to buy a sandbox.  Unfortunately, it was August and without ordering one on Amazon and having it shipped, I had no luck.  I really had my heart set on the red crab sandbox with the cover but settled for a cute purple wading pool and a tarp.  Before I had even finished filling the pool with sand, Lucy was in there digging.  She was so funny and so cute!  I sat down in a lawn chair and watched as she dug hole after hole.  Every now and again, she would sit down in one of them and ponder.  I wonder what she was thinking?  Before I could answer that question in my head, she was up and digging again.  She loved it!!!

But…would it keep her from digging out of her kennel?  One could only hope!  I left her out there and took a few short trips over the weekend to see.  When I got back, she was laying on the cement with several holes visible in her sandbox.  So, she had dug until she got bored.  This was a great start but since I had only been gone for two hours, it wouldn’t do on a normal day when she is out in her kennel area for 6 hours.

The article, and several others I read after I researched it, said that giving Lucy a dedicated place to dig would solve my problem.  Story after story about dogs that were reformed when given a special digging area.  Dogs dig for reasons ranging from boredom (Lucy!), attention, to looking for a cool place to chill out.  Because Lucy seemed to dig out of boredom, I combined the sand box with the idea behind a treat puzzle toy.  I went out before I brought Lucy out and buried a bunch of toys and treats in the sand.  That took care of rewarding her for digging where I wanted her to dig as well.  I left her in her kennel for three hours and returned.

She was still playing in the sandbox!!!  She had dug up everything I had buried but then she dug new holes and reburied some of the toys.  Not only did she have a fabulous time on the treasure hunt I had set up, she had learned a new game–bury the treasure.

That was two years ago and we have moved on a bit.  We live in a new place and Lucy has a new kennel and a new sandbox.  Her new kennel is on the grass but she still doesn’t try to dig anywhere except in her sandbox.  Her current sandbox is an old tractor tire witlucy sandboxh a tarp on the bottom.  I originally had a table cloth on the top (one of those cheap plastic ones that you bring on picnics) but I stopped covering the box.  My main reasoning was so that nothing pooped in the sandbox (like the neighborhood cats) but since the new kennel has such high sides, I don’t think anything can get in there. Also when it rains, the water goes through the sand and runs out the bottom, so that isn’t an issue either.   Lucy is not usually out there for 6 hours anymore since I am only gone for about 3 hours at a time now, and I have made the treasure hunt a bit more challenging.  At the advice of a good friend, I have added some decent sized rocks to her sandbox.  These rocks are too big for her to eat or choke on, but not too big for her to move.  I routinely put a toy or two under the rocks so she has to move them to retrieve what lies beneath.  I look forward to coming home and seeing if she has found all her buried treasure.  And Lucy runs right to her sandbox when she sees me reaching for my car keys because she knows I have left her goodies.  Win/Win!!!

*Lucy is never truly alone outside, the landlord was home and my mother is home now.  Even though her area is safe for her, there is unfortunately a risk that she would be taken out of the yard if unsupervised 🙁