Crate Training Your Cat

Cat training to crate often is neglected, although it gets lots of attention with dog owners. Kittens learn more easily and quickly than adult cats, but even set-in-their-ways felines can accept cat training to crate.

Kittens and cats should always ride in a carrier when traveling in your car to keep them from distracting the driver. Pets become furry projectiles should you be in an accident, but a carrier protects the kitten and also keeps him from running away in fear and pain should he escape.

Cat Training to Crate

Most cats hate the crate simply because it’s used so seldom and associated with scary stuff. How many times have you pulled the kitty carrier out of the closet, only to have the cat disappear? Most felines only see the crate to be taken to the veterinarian or groomer. Kitty is no dummy—it only takes once for her to learn that CRATE means NEEDLES, or a thermometer placed in a rude location. In fact, surveys report that “hates the crate” is a top reason cats don’t visit the veterinarian as often as they should.

Instead, train your kitten to associate the crate/carrier with fun, positive experiences. This allows you to quickly confine and safely transport the cat whenever necessary, rather than play hide-and-seek during emergencies to find the frightened feline. Happy acceptance of the crate also means less stress, and a happier, emotionally healthier cat.

10 Tips for Cat Crate Training

  1. Make the crate part of the furniture—set it on the floor in a corner of the room for Kitty to explore at his leisure. If it’s out all the time, the “strange/scary” factor wears off.
  2. Take the door off so he can come and go.
  3. Toss a soft blanket or towel inside for a bed, especially one that you’ve rubbed over him so it smells like the cat.
  4. Spritzing a bit of Feliway on the inside of the crate can help calm kitty fears. Feliway is an analogue of the cheek pheromone that makes cats feel safe.
  5. If you’ve chosen a hard crate, toss in a ping-pong ball inside to create a kitty playground.
  6. For treat-motivated cats, leave tasty tidbits inside for Kitty to find so he discovers the magical-crate has the most delicious smelly bonuses for going inside. You want to make the crate the most fun place in the house.
  7. Consider using clicker training to inspire your cat to quickly go into the crate. Review how to “load the clicker” and locate the training treats for spur of the moment sessions. Then wait for the opportunity when you see Kitty approach, sniff, or (hallelujia!) enter the crate. Click the clicker to tell the cat THAT (touching/going inside/even approaching) the crate is what you want, and then reward with the treat or favorite toy. The more you practice, the better Kitty will become at hanging out near or even inside the crate.
  8. It may take a week or more for the kitten or cat to feel comfortable around the carrier. Once that happens, put the door back on, and wait until Kitty goes inside. Then shut the door while praising him in a calm, happy voice that’s matter of fact to convince Kitty this is normal and no reason for upset feelings. After a minute or so, let him out and give him a treat or toy reserved only for his best performance. Praise the dickens out of him! He should know that staying calm inside the crate earns him good things.
  9. Repeat training sessions at least once a day over the next two weeks, building up the time until the kitty stays inside three minutes, four, then five minutes and so on.
  10. Once he’s reached ten minutes and remains calm, pick up the carrier while he’s in it and carry him around, and then let him out. Take him in the carrier out to the car, sit there and talk to him, then bring him back into the house and release him–don’t forget to offer the treat.

Soon, you should be able to take him for car rides in his carrier, without him throwing a fit. He’ll learn that most times, the carrier means good things for him–and the vet visit isn’t the only association it has.

Is Your Cat is a Purebred?

Some cat lovers seem to overly focus on breeds, and are not happy until their cat is classified neatly within a certain breed. For years I have received emailed photos with the question “what breed is my cat?” I finally published Feline Breeds, Domestic Cats, and Color Patterns, to provide a handy reference guide to help readers recognize the difference.

What is a Purebred Cat?

The Cat Fanciers Glossary defines purebred as, “purebred: A cat whose ancestors are all of the same breed, or whose ancestry includes crossbreeding that is allowed in the breed standard. For example, a purebred Bombay may also have Burmese cats in its background.” Generally a cat’s pedigree (list of ancestry) must be certified by the registry, before it can rightfully be called a “purebred.”

“If it Walks Like a Maine Coon…”

“Purebred” is sort of a lazy lay term used by those of us outside the cat fancy to describe a cat of a given breed. More commonly however, people will subscribe to the “if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck” theory. A very common example is the Maine Coon cat, with its distinctive ear tufts, ruff, bushy tail, and sweet voice. I’ve received many photos over the years for my Maine Coon gallery, of beautiful Maine Coon look-alikes. Then, upon reading the story behind the cat, we find that the cat was adopted from a shelter, or found wandering on the street. It rightfully could be claimed as a Maine Coon mix since it lacks the necessary documentation for a full-fledged Maine Coon. The first two photos illustrating this article show a registered, pedigreed Maine Coon, and my Billy, a possible Maine Coon mix, but more properly known as a DLH (Domestic Longhair cat).

The same goes for the American Shorthair breed, which, like the Maine Coon, is indigenous to North America. Virtually every DSH (Domestic Shorthair cat) tabby cat could be called an “American Shorthair,” were it not for that important documentation. I’m sure ASH breeders could readily tell the difference, but most of us lay people could not.

Breed Rescue Groups

Most of the major cat breeds have breed rescue groups, dedicated to saving and protecting their breeds. They generally have two methods of rescuing cats:

  • From Shelters
    Most of the cats breed rescue groups take in are breed “look-alikes,” and will be subsequently be offered for adoption as mixed-breed cats, e.g. “Maine Coon mix.” Occasionally they will be called in when animal control has shut down a breeder for overcrowding, unhealthy conditions, or upon the death of a breeder with no known family.
  • Directly From Breeders
    At times a reputable breeder may contact a breed rescue group because of illness, to ensure that good homes will be found for his or her cats. The same will also apply upon the death of a breeder, whose heirs have either no means or intentions or carrying on with the cattery.

Breed rescue groups provide a valuable service to the breeds they represent, and are an integral part of the cat fancy.

So — What Breed is my Cat?

Do your homework. Familiarize yourself with the various cat breeds. Then ask yourself two questions:

  1. What breed does he most resemble?
  2. Do I have a registry and pedigree for this cat?

If your answer to question number 2 is “no,” then you can only legitimately call him a “mixed (choose your breed)” Or, you could save yourself a lot of time and trouble by calling him your domestic cat.

The most important thing, of course, that no matter what you call him, you love him unconditionally, regardless of his breed or heritage.

Keep Your Dog Cool In The Summer Heat

Whether you see summer as a time to have fun in the sun or take a nap in the shade, it’s important to keep the health and safety of your dog in mind. The warmest months of summer can be a dangerous time for you dog. Here are some tips to help you make sure your dog enjoys the summer as much as you do.

On the Go With Fido

  • Make sure your dog has access to plenty of cool, fresh water 24 hours a day. There are many inexpensive and collapsible bowls (usually plastic or fabric) that you can take with you anywhere and refill at water fountains. If you are going to be out for a long period of time, freeze a bottle of water or bring ice cubes in a Tupperware container so that you will have cold water when you reach your destination.
  • Be aware that asphalt and sand can quickly get hot enough to burn the pads of dogs’ paws, and that your dog’s entire body is much closer to the ground than yours. In hot weather, walk your dog on the grass or dirt where it is cooler.
  • Never leave your dog in a vehicle. When it’s only 80 degrees outside, a car can heat up to over 120 degrees in just minutes and leaving a window cracked does little to prevent heat build-up. Many vets say that this is the most common cause of heat exhaustion.
  • Tying a dog outside a store while you run an errand in never a good idea, but is especially dangerous in the summer since he may be exposed to direct sunlight. If you can’t bring your dog inside the store, it’s best to leave him home.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise on extremely hot days. Take walks in the early mornings or evenings, when heat and humidity are less intense. Remember that if your dog is spending most of her time in air conditioning, the intense weather outdoors will be even harder for her to acclimate to.Consider getting a dog treadmill.
  • Many dogs like swimming, but some cannot swim (Bulldogs, for instance, are too large-boned) or may not like the water. Be conscious of your dog’s preferences and skills before putting him in the water. Always supervise your pet while swimming. Dogs can become easily disoriented in swimming pools and may not be able to find the stairs.

Know the Signs of Heat Exhaustion

  • There are many factors that can make a dog more susceptible to heat exhaustion; physical condition, age, coat type, breed, and the climate it is most acclimated to. Very young and very old dogs are at the most risk. Brachycephalic dogs (those with short muzzles), such as Pugs and Bulldogs, are also at greater risk.
  • Symptoms of heat exhaustion or stroke can include excessive panting, disorientation, and obvious paleness or graying to the gums due to a lack of oxygen. A dog’s natural 102-degree body temperature should never exceed 105 degrees.
  • If you feel your dog is suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, act immediately by submerging her in cool water (not ice cold) or by placing ice packs on her neck. Once the dog has been stabilized get her to a vet.

Keeping Cool

  • If you keep your dogs outside, it’s critical that they have access to shade, and remember that dark-colored dogs absorb more heat than dogs with lighter coats. Dog houses are not good shelter during the summer, as they can trap heat.
  • There are various products that can help keep pets cool, such as fans that clip onto crates and mats with cooling crystals that stay up to 20 degrees below room temperate. These can be used as crate liners or as beds. Collars, vests and other items are also available. For an immediate and inexpensive option, try placing your dog on a wet towel on a concrete or tile floor in front of a fan or air conditioner.
  • Dogs do not sweat and their only means of reducing body heat is by panting. Although it seems incongruous, trimming your dog’s coat will not make him significantly cooler, and you should never shave your dog–his coat helps regulate body temperature and protect from sunburn!

Summer Travel With Your Dog

With pet-friendly hotels, cabins, and resort spots popping up all over the map, traveling with your best friend has never been easier. But while jetting off without planning in advance sounds romantic, it can cause sticky situations if your dog is along for the ride.

Practice first

In any endeavor, practice makes perfect. Your angel of a dog could turn into a devil in transit if you embark on a lengthy trip without preparing properly. But with a little advance work, you can help your pup learn to take travel in stride.

  • Acclimate your dog to his pet carrier or dog crate. Set the carrier up in the comfort of home well in advance, to help your dog view it as a safe and familiar den that’s just his. Be sure the carrier’s big enough so your dog can stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
  • Stick to day trips at first. This is especially helpful for a puppy who hasn’t been away from home much. A Saturday visit to an unfamiliar locale can help your dog get used to exploring new terrain and meeting new people.
  • Try an overnight trip next. Once he’s used to short journeys, arrange to spend a night with a friend or relative, or go to a pet-friendly hotel. This will introduce your dog to a variety of potentially anxiety-producing situations, such as sleeping in a new place, meeting strangers, and dealing with the odd noises of a different household or a hotel.

Prepare your dog for a lengthy trip

Whether you’re setting out via plane, ship, or automobile, take these steps first to prevent problems while you and your dog are away from home:

1. See your veterinarian. Make sure your dog is in good health, is up-to-date on shots, and has enough of any needed medications for the trip. Depending on the destination, the vet may suggest additional vaccinations. For example, if travel involves hiking in the woods, the vet could advise a shot for Lyme disease.

2. Get a health certificate from your vet. This verifies that your dog’s in good condition, and it may be required by some airlines, hotels, or doggie daycare locations in other cities.

3. Talk to the vet about sedatives. These are most important if your pet has had travel anxiety in the past, but you may choose to use them as a precautionary measure. However, your vet may advise against them for airplane travel.

4. Try any new sedatives or medications before you leave. Check to see if your dog has any allergic reactions that require a vet visit.

5. Ask your vet about a microchip. If your dog doesn’t have one already, you may want one as a safeguard against losing him permanently in an unfamiliar place.

6. Know the rules at your destination. For instance, to bring a dog across the border to Mexico, the health certificate must be dated within two weeks of the travel date. Most such certificates will remain valid for 30 days, to cover bringing the dog back into the U.S. at the end of your trip.

7. Research dog-walking routes in advance. Remember, dogs are creatures of routine, and yours will need that daily walk no matter where your vacation spot is–plus he’ll enjoy the adventure of new outings.

Bottom line: Pet-friendly accommodations make it possible to travel widely with your dog–but regulations and requirements mean it’s crucial to plan all the details first.

Fireworks and Dogs Do Not Mix

The 4th of July is Just a few days away, and that means fireworks. Many owners underestimate their dogs when it comes to fireworks. The truth is, even the bravest dogs can become terrified by the sound of fireworks. The most important thing you can do for your dog is to keep her away from fireworks displays. If you plan to go see fireworks, do your dog a favor and leave her home. If fireworks can be heard near your home, keep her indoors for the evening. Continue reading