Taking Care of a new Fur-Kid...

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Getting a New Kitten or Puppy? Read on....


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Kitten Care....

Before introducing any kitten or cat to resident Pets, you must have them examined by a veterinarian to ensure they are healthy!   There are a lot of diseases that you can’t see that could threaten the health of your other Pets.  First of all, Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Aids (FIV) are two deadly viruses that the kitten could have contracted from its mother or another cat and may look healthy initially.  Therefore, you want to make sure your kitten or cat is free of both viruses with a blood test before introducing him or her to any other cats.  When you do introduce your new cat to a resident cat, make sure to do it slowly over a period of a week or two…cats do not like change and the gradual transition will lead to less hissing, spitting and swatting.

Secondly, having a stool sample (fecal) checked is very important.  Some cats will have a pot-belly when they have worms while many cats will be infected with intestinal parasite and show no visible signs of illness. There are many, many different parasites and not all of them are treated the same way.  In particular, coccidia is a very common parasite that must be treated with a 10-day course of Antibiotics.   Some parasites can even be transmitted to children and people, especially roundworms, hookworms tapeworms and giardia.  


During the examination, the veterinarian will check your cat’s 

Teeth (baby teeth erupt at 3 weeks and all 26 teeth are present by 6 weeks;   

Adult teeth begin to erupt at 3 months of age and all 30 teeth are present at 7 months),

 Eyes (yellow discharge is a sign of Upper Respiratory Infection-URI, which is contagious to other cats),

Ears (ear mites are very common in kittens and are contagious to other Pets www.revolution4cats.com ),

Skin & Hair (fleas are common in strays, can be transmitted to your other Pets, infest your house and bite you, so make sure to use monthly flea control such as Firstshield or Revolution), ,

Feel the Abdomen to check the organs, palpate for masses and fluid,

Listen to the Heart and Lungs for abnormal heart beat or murmur and any unusual lung sounds and 

Evaluate the body condition (a good body condition without ribs or backbone showing, no pot-belly appearance and a well-groomed hair coat)

It is important to get your kitten a series of vaccines to protect him or her from serious diseases.  Most kittens will get a series of 2 or 3 distemper vaccines every 3-4 weeks until about 4 months of age.  This vaccine will also protect against respiratory disease, which is very common in cats.  Rabies vaccine is required by law and is administered to cats 3 months or older. 


It is recommended to keep your kitty indoors, however, should s/he have a hankering for the outside, and then s/he should be vaccinated against Feline Leukemia virus (a series of two vaccines).  If you are not sure what preferences your cat will develop later in life, then it is highly recommended to get the FELV series to make sure s/he is protected in case s/he slips outside.  Currently there is a vaccine for FIV but it is not widely used. 


Spaying and Neutering is a must and can be done between 4-6 months of age.  Altering your cat reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancies, breast cancer, urine spraying, roaming and fighting.  Note that ONE female cat and her offspring if left unaltered will produce almost a half MILLION cats in Seven Years.

 It is important to take your cat to the vet TWICE A YEAR for an examination–early detection of disease leads to a longer life!   Cats are very good at hiding illness ... visit www.npwm.com for more information on Pet Wellness Month and "Twice A Year For Life" campaign. Some vaccinations will be given every year while others are only every 3 years.  If you cat experiences any changes in appetite or activity, weight loss or develops vomiting or diarrhea, you should consult your veterinarian immediately.

LITTER BOXES:  The number #1 reason cats are relinquished to shelters is for failure to use their box.  Rule of thumb is ONE MORE box than the number of cats in the house.   Keep litter boxes in a quiet place that are easily accessible and away from food and water dishes.  Scoop them daily and wash the boxes out with SOAP and water every week.  KEEP THEM CLEAN!!  Do not use chemicals to clean the boxes as it could react to the ammonia in the cat’s urine.  Cats usually prefer unscented litter and be aware that if you cat has respiratory problems or allergies, the scented kind could aggravate their illness.  If your cat does not use the box, there may be a medical problem such as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease so don’t assume s/he is just being spiteful.  You should take your cat to the vet right away for an examination and urine test.   Litter Additives such as Cat Attract (www.preciouscat.com) can help your kitty use the box as well as FELIWAY Diffusers (www.feliway.com), which are also excellent to help reduce anxiety and inappropriate elimination.       

NAIL CARE:   Ask your veterinarian to show you how to trim your kitty’s nails.  Trim the nails every 2-4 weeks to keep them short.  Start young and it will become easier over time.  Visit this site to watch a video on how to trim your cat's nails:


Scratching Posts are a must to help keep your kitty’s nails healthy as the scratching helps shed the outer sheath of the nail.   LOCATION IS VERY IMPORTANT!  Sisal Rope posts are the best...carpet is not recommended as it is hard for your kitty to tell which carpet is okay to scratch.   Praise and reward your kitty with a treat when s/he is using the post.  Put some treats around it as well as catnip...about 20% of cats will not respond to cat nip.   If your kitty is scratching inappropriate things, squirt him or her with a water bottle or take a can of pennies and shake them.  Alternately, soft paws nail caps work well (www.softpaws.com).  These can be applied easily at home or at your veterinarian’s office in about 10 minutes.             

GROOMING:  Yes, you can give your cat a bath but use a gentle shampoo that is labeled for cats.  Brushing and combing are essential for long-hair cats to avoid matting; however, short haired cats enjoy it too. Cats do groom themselves daily and are prone to hair balls.  Giving them a hair-ball diet can alleviate the hair balls or give them a Natural Hairball Remedy such as Vetbasis that is petroleum-free twice weekly is another alternative. 
PLAY:  Cats are NOCTURNAL, which means they are active at night. So don’t be alarmed if kitty wants attention at 3am. Cats need exercise too. And you can teach your cat to fetch! Provide several multiple SHORT play sessions throughout the day. Rotate Toys and play objects. This will help reduce boredom and anxiety. Toys should be reflective; motion and noise are important too. Please note that a cat's natural behavior is to play for only 1-5 minutes so if your cat walks away after a few minutes do not be alarmed; it's normal cat behavior--they get short bursts of energy! The Undercover Mouse is a great interactive toy. Panic Mouse also makes a variety of interactive toys that can keep your cat entertained for hours www.panicmouseinc.com Even a paper bag makes a great toy!! LASER POINTERS are NOT recommended because the cat never catches the prey and this results in frustration--if you decide to use a laser pointer, make sure the pointer ends up on a toy so the cat can actually "catch" the prey. Pole toys with feathers and mice are great to get your cat jumping but do NOT leave these toys sit out. Many cats like to chew on string and if ingested can cause a life-threatening blockage in the intestines. Also, do NOT tease or play with your hands or feet—cats are predators and their natural instinct is to pounce and hunt….while it may seem "cute" now, it will not be so cute a few months from now when they are attacking your hands or feet.

Socialization: The experiences of kittens during their first few months of life are critical in helping to shape their temperaments and personalities as adults. These experiences begin very early as kittens interact with their mother, litter mates and humans. Socialization can be further enhanced by frequent petting and handling, as studies show that petting a young kitten can make it more responsive as an adult cat. Exposing kittens to as many people as possible is important in helping to lessen their fear of strangers as adult cats. Cats will also do a "Social Roll" is to initiate contact—TALKING, not touching as the abdomen is a very vulnerable spot for a cat—this is NOT submission as in dogs. Rubbing on your leg is to say HELLO and does not indicate the need for food. Think of Cats at TENANTS living in the same house—resource sharing is NOT the same as family members. Proximity to other cats in the house does NOT indicate a relationship—cats will congregate to share resources. Cats like warmth and height, so place a cat condo in front of a window for your kitty to enjoy the view and the sun. (Give them some real entertainment by hanging a bird feeder outside the window!) Cats also need areas to Retreat & Hide so make sure to provide tunnels and boxes with TWO holes for escape.

**Desensitizing them to car rides will make trips to the vet smoother in the future. Carriers that have hard sides with TOP & FRONT Loading doors are the best. Do not put the carrier in a closet—keep it out at all times and make it part of your decor. Line the carrier with a fuzzy blanket or a shirt with a familiar scent. Throw treats into the carrier and say "IN" when the cat goes in the carrier. Reward and praise your cat within 3 seconds. Make sure to feed special treats or food in there regularly to make it a pleasant experience. Desensitize to trips in the carrier—start by having the cat in the carrier and take it to another room, then to the car, then for short trips – cats RARELY leave home and when they do to go to a negative destination, the carrier becomes a conditioned aversive stimulus which then triggers anxiety and fear! Also, removing food for 3-6 hours before a visit will make your cat more likely to eat treats at the office to condition a positive experience.

Also, getting your cat used to a harness is a great idea!  If you have a collar on your cat, make sure it is a break-away or Safety Collar. 

NUTRITION:  Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they are strict meat eaters.  A cat can NOT be a vegetarian and cannot survive on meat alone.  Feed your cat a premium food with MEAT as the first ingredient.  Cats do much better on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. And cats are not small dogs.   It is essential to feed your kitty CAT FOOD as they have different requirements than dogs.  One important factor is the need for taurine...without this amino acid; a cat can become blind or develop serious heart disease.  In addition, kittens need a different diet than adult cats, as their stomachs are smaller and their nutritional needs somewhat different because they are growing.  Kittens should be fed a food that is labeled for Kittens or all-life stages including Growth.  Kittens have a higher calorie requirement and need for higher levels of protein, calcium and phosphorus for building strong bones and muscles. Also, be warned that a cat should not go more than three days without eating as they can develop life-threatening liver disease.

Visit www.royalcanin.us to check out the Nutrient Book, Kitten Guide and Cat Encylcopedia--a great resource!

Eating is NOT a Social Behavior for cats—Hunting is a SOLITARY behavior. FOOD is NOT a shared resource in the cat world, therefore, there should be multiple food dishes for multiple cats and in several locations around the house.  Natural Cat Behavior is to eat 15-20 times PER day so when your cat comes to the dish to take a bite and walks away, it is not that the cat doesn't like the food--this is natural cat behavior. Cats are only successful hunting 1 in 15 times. Prey is brought back to the safe zone to eat—cats will bring prey home with the intention of eating it but since there is food already there prepared in the dish, they don’t eat the prey. Motivation to Hunt and Sensation of hunger are controlled separately. Movement triggers hunting; therefore, confining a cat indoors does NOT reduce the desire to hunt but can lead to misdirected behavior. Cats do not repeatedly eat in the same location as this will draw attention to predators so it is very important to place food dishes in multiple places to allow them to explore and use puzzle feeders such as the "Play-N-Treat Ball" or "Egg-cercizer" Cat Toy. Free feeding is best for cats as their digestive tracts are not designed to digest large portions of food at once. Cats do NOT have food soliciting behavior in their repertoire but WE condition that behavior—Rubbing on your legs simply means your cat is saying HI and is NOT a request for food. Speak to them or get a toy. **Feeding as a demonstration of love is a misunderstanding of cat communication.**

Kittens can switch to adult food at around 9-12 months of age but it is advisable to make the switch over a 1 to 2 week period to avoid digestive upset.  Some veterinarians recommend changing to an adult food at the time of spaying or neutering as altering reduces the energy needs of kittens.

Overweight cats are more prone to diabetes, arthritis and urinary tract disease.   Please note that cats are desert animals so it is important to provide several water dishes around the house….they will drink much more water when it is NOT next to their food bowl. Also, cats like moving water so a water fountain is ideal or they may put their paw in the dish to make the water move.  In addition, brushing your cat’s teeth with pet toothpaste www.petdental.com will also help keep them clean as 80% of cats by age three have dental disease.  Feline Greenies are great dental treats. 


THE HERO'S HANDBOOK: A Survival Guide to Modern Feline Living https://www.revolution4cats.com/docs/pdf/kitten_handbook.pdf 

Puppy Basics....

Preventative Care for Dogs...

A trip to your veterinarian for a complete physical examination should be done within the first week after you get your puppy to ensure s/he is healthy.   The PA Attorney General now enforces the Dog Purchaser Protection Act also known as "The Puppy Lemon Law" to help ensure  consumers that their new pet has a clean bill of health.  To learn about your rights under this act, please visit the Consumers section at www.attorneygeneral.gov

Visit this site to learn the costs to expect the First Year of Your Puppy's Life  www.thesimpledollar.com/pet-cost-calculator

Your puppy will receive a series of examinations and vaccinations every 3 to 4 weeks until about 4 months of age (then annually) to protect him or her against life-threatening diseases. Distemper vaccine is actually a combination vaccine that protects against distemper virus as well as corona virus, parvovirus, hepatitis, influenza and leptospirosis. Do not take your puppy to dog parks, the lake or in the woods where other animals have been until s/he is fully vaccinated. Rabies vaccine is given at 3 months of age or older and is required by law. Lyme Disease (from ticks) vaccination is highly recommended due to the large number of cases diagnosed in PA. Bordetella (or kennel cough) and FLU vaccines are required for boarding kennels and should be given if you are taking your dog to the groomer or training classes.

Checking a stool sample is necessary since puppies are born with worms such as roundworms, hookworms or whipworms (which can be transmitted to humans). Other parasites such as tapeworms, giardia and coccidia may also be present for which prescription deworming medication is needed. Puppies should have two negative stool samples in a row to ensure they are parasite-free. To prevent infestation with the common intestinal worms and heartworm (transmitted by mosquitoes) it is necessary to give your dog a once a month preventative medication (TRI-HEART PLUS) to keep your dog healthy.    

Use VECTRA 3D Flea and Tick control to protect your puppy from fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, sand flies, lice and mites.   Keeping parasites off of your dog will prevent flea infestations in your house and the transmission of disease to your dog and other furry friends.  

Also, your dog should wear a collar with a nametag as well as a license and rabies tag (both required after 3 months of age) in case s/he is lost.  Microchips are available which serve as a permanent source of identification for your pet as well as permanent dog licensure and are highly recommended.  For information on Pennsylvania's Dog Laws, please visit the PA Department of Agriculture's website at www.agriculture.state.pa.us

Lastly, your dog should be spayed or neutered between 4-6 months of age. Not only will this routine surgery prevent pet overpopulation; it will prevent your dog from developing reproductive infections and cancers.  Before undergoing anesthesia, pre-op blood testing is highly recommended ensure your pet is healthy.


Feed a high quality diet two to three times daily. (Better quality foods--meat as #1 ingredient, no by-products or artifical preservatives and dyes--will cost more money but have less fillers, which mean your dog will eat less and defecate less plus have a shinier hair coat and be in better overall health). Put the food dish in front of your puppy for 15-20 minutes and then take it away, even if there is food left in the bowl. This will get your puppy on a schedule and make it easier to house train. Large breed dogs (those over 50 pounds as adults) should be fed a Large Breed Puppy Formula to prevent growth abnormalities. Allow your dog to rest about one hour after feeding especially larger breed dogs to prevent life-threatening condition called bloat (stomach twisting on itself).  It is always better to EXERCISE FIRST, then eat.  To prevent begging, never feed your dog while you are eating at the table and do not give table scraps.  Ideal weight: you should be able to feel your dog’s ribs easily and see a waist--if you can see the ribs, increase food portions....if you can not feel the ribs or see a waist, then it is time to reduce food portions.  You can give veggies either raw or cooked (carrots, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, squash and sweet potato) for snacks or mixed with kibble as a healthy alternative to high-calorie treats.  You can also give fresh fruit such as apples (no seeds), canteloups, cranberries and blueberries (great source of antioxidants), watermelon and papaya (great for digestion) instead for processed treats to keep your pet healthy.  Just beware that grapes and raisins have been reported to cause kidney failure in dogs. For more information on diet and exercise, visit www.petfit.com

Visit the Dog Encyclopedia www.thedogencyclopedia.com 


House Training

A crate is a must! The idea behind crate training is that a dog does not want to sleep in the same place s/he eliminates. Make sure the crate is not too big. Your puppy should be able to stand and turn comfortably. If you bought a large crate for your puppy to grow into, just block off part of it for now. Frequent trips outside (every hour to start) are necessary. Do not train your puppy on paper or pee pads as this may cause problems with house training in the future. After meals and playtime, make sure to take your puppy outside as eating and activity stimulate elimination. When your puppy goes to the bathroom outside, give him or her A LOT of praise--treats as well as verbal praise--and s/he will soon catch on. Ignore accidents in the house. Do not rub your dog’s nose in it! If you catch your puppy in the middle of the act, tell him or her "NO" and immediately take him or her outside.

Behavior Training: Patience, Persistence and Praise are the keys.

You can teach your dog basic commands at home. When your puppy does something desirable, reward him or her with small training treats and verbal praise. Dogs will catch on quickly if there is a reward, and eventually you can eliminate the food rewards and just use verbal praise for training (and some people use clicker training). Ignore bad behavior unless your puppy is in danger. Just like some children, they think any attention is better than no attention--if you make a big scene over an undesirable behavior you may inadvertently be reinforcing that bad behavior.

"NOTHING IN LIFE IS FREE." That means you should make your dog work for everything. Your dog’s paycheck is the food dish. Before feeding, going outside, grooming, playing--basically anything that is a fun or pleasant activity--your dog should SIT and WAIT (s/he’s working), and then after waiting patiently, s/he gets the reward (i.e. paycheck). If, for example, you give your dog the food dish while jumping up and down, you just rewarded a NEGATIVE behavior.

Positive Reinforcement is KEY to encouraging behaviors you want.  For more information visit http://positively.com/

You MUST be the PACK LEADER....dogs look for a leader to follow, and that's YOU!   If you do not lead the pack, your dog will, and there will be problems!  Just ask Cesar http://www.cesarmillaninc.com/

Right now your puppy is like clay--you can mold him or her into the dog you want. It will take a lot of time and hard work. Here are a few things you should do now to avoid problems in the future: 1) Play with the mouth making sure you can put your hands into the mouth and get something out if necessary.  2) While your dog is eating or playing with bones and toys, make sure s/he allows you to take these items away (remember you are the leader of the pack). 3) Teach the "Drop It" command. 4) Start brushing your dog’s teeth NOW but remember to use only pet toothpaste www.petdental.com  5) Touch your dog everywhere especially the FEET and EARS, which will make toenail trimming (recommended monthly) and ear cleaning (recommended every 1-2 weeks) MUCH easier in the future. Practice touching your puppy as the doctor would do during an examination (feeling the belly, lifting the tail, opening the mouth, etc).  6) Rough playing and wrestling are NOT not acceptable.  Gently rolling your dog over on his or her back is a dominance move that you can practice. Your dog should be submissive to you and a dog rolling over and showing the belly, means s/he respects you and understands you are the pack leader.  Remember, dogs are pack animals and look for a leader.  YOU should be the leader of the pack or the alpha dog. 

Only give dog toys and dog bones to chew on--no old shoes or socks because your dog can’t tell the difference between what is old and what’s new. KONG TOYS www.kongcompany.com and Buster Cubes www.bustercube.com are great toys. You stuff them with treats or food (peanut butter is a favorite) which will occupy your dog since s/he will have to work to get the stuffing out--these are especially good to use when you are gone. If your puppy is biting a lot, gently but firmly grab the muzzle and say NO, then give something appropriate to chew on. If that doesn’t work, try a deterrent spray such as Bitter Apple www.bitterapple.com . You can also use these sprays on furniture to discourage chewing.

Puppy socialization is a must! Socialize your puppy with as many people and other dogs as possible.  Remember dogs are pack animals and enjoy being with their own kind. Make sure to bring your dog into the vet’s office just for the fun of it too!!   Puppy classes are highly recommended for your puppy.   www.awesomedawgs.com   www.berkscountykennelclub.com


EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE!!!  You should walk your dog for at least 30 minutes twice a day.  A GOOD DOG IS A TIRED DOG!!   When walking, please remember YOU ARE THE LEADER and your dog should walk BY YOUR SIDE or BEHIND YOU, not in front of you.  If you allow your dog out front, you are telling him/her that s/he is now the leader of the pack!  If your dog does not walk on a leash without pulling or jumps a lot, then a GENTLE LEADER Head Collar is needed for training. www.gentleleader.com  Shock collars are not acceptable for training as they can burn the skin and hurt your dog. There aren’t any quick fixes for behavior problems--just hard work!!

To Avoid Separation Anxiety: Put your puppy in the crate about 10 minutes before leaving, go do something else, and then leave without making a fuss over the puppy. Just remember NO DRAMA.  When you come home, do NOT go to your dog first thing when you walk in the door. Wait about 10 minutes until your dog has calmed down, and then let him or her out of the crate.  This would be a great time to take your dog for a LONG walk to release all that pent-up energy.  Most anxiety stems from lack of mental and physical stimulation and lack of leadership.  Dogs pick up on your energy and anxiety, so make sure you are calm and relaxed but assertive.   There are two approved medications for canine separation anxiety:  Reconcile www.reconcile.com/bond-training/ and Clomicalm www.clomicalm.novartis.us   Alternatively, Rescue Remedy www.rescueremedy.com/pets/ and Comfort Zone with D.A.P. (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) www.petcomfortzone.com/czdogs.htm  may help mild anxiety

A few things to keep in mind about diet...

1. Milk is a food and not a substitute for water. As a food, milk is incomplete and does not provide a balanced diet. It can be useful as a treat for some pets, however, large quantities of milk may not be well tolerated as dogs and cats do not have the enzyme lactase to digest milk.

2. Repeatedly adding raw eggs to a pet's diet can cause a deficiency of the vitamin biotin. Symptoms of biotin deficiency include inflammation of the skin, loss of hair, and poor growth.

3. Some raw fish can cause a deficiency of the vitamin thiamine. Symptoms of a thiamine deficiency include loss of appetite, abnormal posture, weakness, seizures, and even death. Repeatedly adding raw fish to the diet is not recommended.

4. Table scraps alone will not provide the balanced diet which your Pet needs. Ideally, table scraps should not be fed especially if your pet eats a prescription diet. But if you can not resist, keep it to less than 10% of your pet's daily intake. Fruits and Veggies are okay to feed.

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