Dr. D Did It: Kitty Bed From An Old Shirt

 

They say you should blog about what you’re good at and what makes you happy, then people will be more likely to enjoy what you write.

 

Well, you know I’m passionate about veterinary medicine, about a fear-free experience for pets, and about the human-animal bond. But did you also know that I love DIY?  🙂

 

Here’s some fun for ya:  I want to show you what “Dr. D Did”. Just because it’s fun, and it makes me happy.  And maybe you will “Did It” too! I’m sure your pets won’t complain.

 

Here’s what Dr. D Did today:

 

I took this original idea for a DIY cat tent made from an old t-shirt from Pinterest (click the image to go to the original article and get directions).

 

DIY Cat Tent From Old Shirt

 

And I made this for my kitties:

 

DIY Cat Tent for Jack

Don’t judge…I know it’s not pretty! But Jack doesn’t care. He is sleeping in it as I type this.

 

 

Here’s what you need:

  • An old shirt (I used an old scrub top, because, you know…veterinarian)
  • A piece of cardboard about 13×15 inches (I used the cardboard tray from a case of canned cat food)
  • two metal hangers
  • masking tape and/or safety pins
  • pliers and scissors

I happened to have all these supplies lying around my house, and the whole project took approximately 20 minutes.  That is including all the time I spent extracting a crazy kitten from the partially completed tent…

 

Cat Tent Blooper

 

If you “Did” this too, I want to see pictures!  You can send them to me at drd@smallthingsvhc.com, or post them to my Facebook page.

Dr. D Recommends: Catification

 

“Dr. D Recommends…” is a sporadic presentation of something I love (or just like a lot) that pertains to pets and/or veterinary-type stuff.  Something I think you might also like or find useful.

 

Or it might be silly.  That happens around here sometimes.

 

Catification

Catification. 

 

It’s a made-up word that means “making small changes to your living environment that benefit the cats you reside with”.  It was coined by the wonderful Jackson Galaxy, a cat-whisperer who got his start in Boulder, CO.

 

If you’ve seen any of Jackson’s popular Animal Planet show “My Cat From Hell”, you know that he has an uncanny ability to understand cats and their specific environmental needs. In the book Catification, Jackson explains how to give your cat opportunities to practice their natural instinctive behaviors to climb, scratch, and rest safely in your home, while still maintaining a stylish and comfortable home for the humans who live there.  His ideas range from simple DIY to fancy store-bought, and everything in between.

 

If you have a cat, you have probably heard me talk about environmental enrichment for their mental well-being. Cats have very specific and instinctive needs that we can accommodate fairly easily in our homes.  Without opportunities to climb, scratch, play, rest and own their space, cats will develop behavioral and medical problems.

 

I love this book, and here’s why:

  1. Jackson explains the most common personalities of cats, including my personal favorites – the tree-dwellers vs the bush-dwellers.
  2. He helps cat people determine what, if any, issue is plaguing their feline roommates, and how to remedy most situations with easy solutions.
  3. He empowers and encourages cat people to live freely with their felines, embracing what we love most about them and improving the human to cat bond.
  4. There are so many amazing ideas that are quick and easy to implement, right now!  In fact, right after I read this book, I immediately gave my kitties a couple new beds (which I made myself) and some new toys.  My home is in a constant state of improvement for the kitties’ benefit.

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If you have a cat, go pick up this book from your library or purchase it for your future reference! Also, this would be a perfect gift for the cat-lover or veterinarian in your life… just sayin’.

 

 

Do you have a cat with behavioral and/or medical issues, and you are ready for some professional help?  Give Dr. D a call – she does in-home consultations!

 

Great Indoor Games to Play With Your Dog

The weather outside is frightful…  but my dog is going crazy!

 

When you can’t get outside with your pooch, here are some ideas for great indoor games that will give your dog some mental and physical exercise.  Feel free to involve your kids as well if they are big enough!

 

Play Hide and Seek

Give each family member a handful of treats and have them take turns hiding somewhere in the home.  The hiding person calls the dog to them and then rewards them with treats.  When the treats are gone, tell your dog “all done!”, and then go hide again.  Repeat ad nauseum!

 

Tug and Fetch

Playing tug and fetch are great physical games that can be played anywhere!  A long hallway or stairs can add extra exercise to a game of fetch for a young and healthy dog.

 

Find It!

This game involves sniffing and eating, two of your dog’s favorite things!  You can use your dog’s regular meal or some low calorie treats for this game.  Show your dog a treat or piece of kibble; say “find it!” then toss the morsel onto the floor.  If your dog doesn’t quite get the point, start by dropping the food right in front of her, and gradually toss the food farther and farther away.

You can make it even more difficult for good sniffers by asking your dog to “stay” while you hide the food somewhere, then release them to go find it!

 

The Muffin Tin Game

I love this game for its simplicity and mental enrichment!

Place a treat (or piece of kibble) in each cup of a muffin tin, and place a tennis ball on top of the treats in about half of the cups (not all of them).  Put the muffin tin on the floor for your dog.  Once they find all the uncovered treats, it won’t take them long to figure out that they can find more treats by knocking out the tennis balls!

 

Training Manners and Having Fun

Using your stuck-indoors time to reinforce your dog’s obedience training can be an excellent way to exercise his brain and tire him out!

You can test and treat your dog on the “Basic Five” – sit, stay, come, down, and heel.

Or, you can teach your dog some new tricks, like spin around, roll over, shake a paw, or close a cabinet.  Let your imagination run wild, and have fun!

(By the way, there are some excellent training videos online to learn from…  just make sure that you are only using positive rewards during your training so you and your dog are both having fun!)

 

Schedule A Doggie Playdate

Does your dog have a best friend?  Invite them over for a playdate!  This is a great way to wear your dog out.

Just make sure you clear some space of breakables… we all know how crazy dog play can get!

 

Stuff A Kong

Are you worn out from all this play, but your dog is still full of it?  While you sit with your cuppa tea or coffee and a good book, give your pup a stuffed Kong to occupy his time!

You can stuff a durable Kong toy with peanut butter and kibble, or freeze it full of peanut butter or broth.  I love this article from Puppy Leaks with some excellent Kong-stuffing ideas!

 

If you use these or any other ideas for your indoor play, I’d love to hear about it!  Leave me a comment below with your favorite indoor games!

 

How to Teach Your Dog Patience

 

Dogs typically don’t have a lot of patience, especially when it comes to something they really want – like food, or going outside, or their favorite toy.  Teaching your dog “impulse control” can be very useful in these situations.

The following link will take you to a video by trainer Mikkel Becker that will teach you the basics of training your dog to be patient.  Although she focuses on “waiting for the food bowl”, this technique can be applied to many other situations in which patience is a virtue.

Video: Learn How to Train Your Dog to Wait for the Food Bowl

I promise it’s not too difficult!  In fact, I often use similar techniques to encourage patience during my veterinary visits with dogs.  Many times, the owners don’t realize what I’m up to, and the dogs learn very quickly what I am asking of them.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you try this training skill with your dog!

DIY Cat Scratching Platform (that actually works) for less than $10!

 

I have a cat who loves to scratch.  He is also a horizontal scratcher, which means he likes to get his claws into my carpets.  As you can imagine, over time, my kitty is completely capable of destroying a rug.

Here’s the other dilemma:  Commercial cat scratch platforms are too small.  For a cat to get all the good endorphin release from scratching, he needs a few things:

  1.  He needs to be able to streeeeeeeeeeeetch the full length of his body.
  2.  The platform cannot move when he is scratching violently, or he will be too scared to use it.
  3.  It has to be the perfect substrate, which is different for every cat. (great…)
  4.  It has to show wear over time, because otherwise, how will he show everyone that this is HIS territory??

Because I love my kitty, and I couldn’t find a commercial cat scratch platform that was suitable, I decided to do it myself.  And I want to share it with all of you!

 

Supplies Needed:

 

Supplies needed for Cat Scratch Platform

Sisal rug from IKEA (or something similar), the size of a welcome mat

Scrap piece of plywood, cut a little smaller than the rug

Felt floor protectors (the kind you get for the bottom of furniture legs)

Hammer

Nails (with heads)

 

How to DIY:

This is truly the simplest DIY I think I’ve ever done!  It only took about 15 minutes to complete.

I actually trimmed the plywood myself, but if you have a small scrap you can make it work without cutting it.

Lay the sisal rug over the top of the plywood, lining up the edges.  It’s okay if the rug hangs over the edges a little (like an inch or less).

Use the nails with heads to attach the rug to the plywood, spacing them evenly around the edge of the rug.  Also attach the center area of the rug with a few evenly spaced nails to keep the rug from lifting too much when kitty scratches it.  (Choose nails that are short enough that they won’t go all the way through the plywood and scratch your floor!).

 

Cat Scratch Platform (2)

Flip the whole thing over, and attach the felt floor protectors to the bottom of the plywood.  This will keep the plywood from scratching your flooring when it moves around a little.

Place platform in your kitty’s favorite spot, and let him go at it!  You can entice your cat to scratch on the platform by sprinkling it with catnip or treats, and/or spraying the surface with feline pheromones (such as Feliway).

 

Goose on his cat scratcher

 

I hope your kitty enjoys this DIY project as much as mine does.  Please share pictures of your projects with me; I’d love to see them!

 

Things You Should Know: Trees or Bushes?

You may have heard me say this before:  Cats are typically either tree-dwellers or bush-dwellers.

 

Wondering why this is important?  How can you tell if your cat is a tree-dweller or bush-dweller?  And what are you supposed to do with that information once you figure it out?  What the heck are you talking about, Dr. D?

 

Tree or Bush?

Trees or bushes?  Why do we care?

 

Indoor cats have a unique problem among domesticated animals.  Their instinctive nature is not to be confined in a box, but to be free to climb, scratch, hunt, and hide.  When we bring a cat into our home, it’s easy to expect them to adapt to our human way of life.  Unfortunately, when we don’t provide our feline friends with acceptable outlets for their natural behaviors, they will often act out in negative ways.  This can include scratching your favorite chair, attacking other cats in the home, “going” outside the litter box, or getting sick.

If you have a multiple cat household, it is especially important to determine the preferences of each cat and provide them with the corresponding enrichment type.  This will not only provide your cats with mental and emotional comfort, but can help prevent many inter-cat conflicts.

Bottom line:  A cat with a healthy, mentally enriching environment will be a better and healthier companion.

 

Cat in condo

Tree-dweller or bush-dweller?

Okay.  So how can I tell if my cat is a tree-dweller or a bush-dweller?

 

First, read over the following lists while keeping your cats in mind.  Does your kitty seem to subscribe to more “tree” or “bush” behaviors?

Is your cat a tree-dweller or bush-dweller?

 

I’m learning so much!  What can I do for my cats now?

 

Now that you have an idea whether your cat prefers “trees” or “bushes”, here are some things you can do to easily provide your cat’s preferred environment.

A tree-dwelling cat

Observe – the brave tree-dwelling cat in his natural habitat…

For Tree-Dwellers

  • The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a tree-dweller’s space is VERTICAL.  Think cat trees with high perches, beds that hang on window sills, a book shelf or floating wall shelf that your cat can access, etc.  Find a place up high that your cat can get to, and put a comfy bed or blanket there.  Now your tree-dweller can freely survey his domain from on high.

 

A bush-dwelling cat

The elusive and secretive bush-dwelling cat…

For Bush-Dwellers

  • The number one thing to focus on here is HIDDEN.  Bush-dwellers like to hide low to the ground.  Think about adding boxes, hutches, covered cat beds or “condos”.  Even a cardboard box with a blanket inside can be the perfect “bush”.  Placement of the hidey hole is also key – make sure it’s out of the major flow of traffic and that your cat has an easy exit route so they don’t feel trapped.

 

I’d love to hear what type of kitty you have!  Tell me in the comments!

 

Got cat behavior questions?  Check out The Indoor Pet Initiative website for more great information!

Q&A: Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

Every cat owner knows this to be true:  Cats and empty boxes go together like peanut butter and chocolate.  Like wine and cheese.  Like french fries and ice cream… oh, is that just me?

 

My cat Goose will literally find his way into a new empty box faster than you can say "Goose-in-a-box"!

My cat Goose will literally find his way into a new empty box faster than you can say “Goose-in-a-box”!

 

But why?  It’s a question that researchers were only recently able to answer.  Getting an answer took so long because, well frankly, cats are terrible at filling out surveys.

There are three prevailing theories that have emerged:

 

Goose in a box (2)

1.  The Predatory Instinct

Cats are predatory by nature, and they prefer to hunt from places of hiding.  This could explain why your cat pounces unexpectedly onto your feet when you walk by an empty box.

2.  Warmth

Anyone who has observed a cat knows that they really like to be warm.  Their normal body temperature ranges around 100-102 degrees F, but the typical home temperature sits around 72 degrees F.  A box (or other small space) may provide insulation and warmth for our dear kitties.

 

Really?  The trash can?

Really? The trash can?

 

3.  Self-soothing and stress reduction

And finally, in a study among shelter cats, it was discovered that chilling in a box greatly reduced stressful behaviors and potentially harmful hormone levels.  Having empty boxes around helped the cats adjust more quickly to a new environment.  Cats apparently derive comfort and security from small enclosed spaces.

 

I swear, I have a thousand more pictures like this.

I swear, I have a thousand more pictures like this.

 

So how does this new knowledge benefit you and your cats?  Here are a couple ideas I have that will help you put this information to good use:

  • Provide plenty of empty boxes and/or hiding places if you are bringing home a new cat, or changing your cat’s environment.  This could help with stress reduction and a faster adjustment to their new space (or new house-mates).
  • Use that empty Amazon box as environmental enrichment.  Cats get bored in the same-old-same-old.  A new hiding place will stimulate and encourage their mental and physical health.
  • In the winter (or any time of year, really), try putting a comfy hidey hole right where the sun beam hits your floor.  Not only will they bask in the glow of warmth but they’ll be secure and hidden, completely able to relax during their mid-morning nap.

 

Do you have any theories to add?  I’d love to hear ’em!