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!

Does my pet need insurance?

Q&A: Does my pet need insurance?

Is pet insurance a scam?  Or is it worth every penny?  How can a pet owner decide if insurance is worth the cost for their cat or dog?

 

I was going to write a blog post answering this question, and then someone else beat me to it.  And to be honest, she does a fabulous job of addressing this controversial topic – better than I could have!

 

So, if you are questioning the idea of pet insurance, I wholeheartedly recommend this article.

 

I used to think pet insurance was a ripoff.

 

Go check it out, and then let me know if you have any questions about pet insurance!

Q&A: Does my dog need to wear sunscreen?

In Colorado, we live close to the sun.  We never leave the house without sun protection in the form of sunscreen, hat, or sleeves.  But what about our dogs?

 

Dog Hiking in the Summer

 

If your dog has light-colored or thin fur, then it’s a great idea to provide their skin with protection from the sun!  Here’s what you need to know:

Don’t use any old sunscreen lotion.

The sunscreen that you use for yourself MIGHT be okay for Fido, but only if you use one that doesn’t contain zinc oxide.  And most of them do.  Zinc oxide, the same ingredient that helps with diaper rash, is toxic to your dog.  If ingested, it will cause their red blood cells to explode, resulting in anemia.  Major summer buzz kill.

You also need to make sure that you are protecting your dog’s skin from both UVA and UVB rays (to prevent both sunburn and skin cancer), so look for a sunscreen that is labeled as “broad spectrum”.

Here’s an option that I recommend and is safe for your dog:

 

Bull Frog Sunscreen

(P.S.  Don’t put this sunscreen on your cat.  It contains salicylates, which are toxic to cats.)

There are some “pet-friendly” sunscreens you can purchase at pet stores, just read the labels first.

And if you really want your pet to be protected from the sun, there are places that you can get dog sunglasses, visors, and sun shirts!

Now get out there and have some [protected] summer fun!

Dr. D’s Tips For Hiking With Your Dog in Colorado

Oh, how I love the summer in Colorado!  Every year I can’t wait to strap on my hiking shoes, grab my pack, and hit one of the many amazing trails along the Front Range.  And more often than not, I took along my best hiking buddy – my dog.

Because hiking with your dog is one of the greatest pleasures of living along the Front Range of Colorado (there are so many great dog-friendly trails!), I put together a list of tips for you so that you and your pooch can have the best experience.

(And so can all the other trail users…)

 

Backpacking with Dogs

 

1.  Make sure your dog is in good health.  Consider getting your dog an exam to make sure they are fit for some serious exercise.  If they are elderly, definitely have them examined by your veterinarian for any joint or limb pain before you start hiking with them.

2.  Don’t be a weekend warrior.  If you and your dog aren’t getting any exercise during the week, it’s not a good idea to jump into a 4-hour hike on Saturday.  You’ll both regret it.  Start building up your dog’s endurance with walks, runs, or fetch sessions during the week.  Increase the time and intensity gradually.  You should also gradually increase the intensity of your hikes over time.

3.  Strengthen your dog’s recall response.  Many trails in Boulder County allow your dog to be off leash if they wear a Voice and Sight tag.  If you participate in the program, make sure your dog has practiced and can recall immediately when you signal them.

4.  Bring plenty of water and snacks.  Not just for you.  Hiking burns a ton of calories, and it’s easy to get dehydrated quickly.  Make sure you have some good, energy-replenishing snacks for your pup.

(4a.  Do you know the signs of heat exhaustion?  I had a park ranger in Boulder tell me once that they see tons of dogs with heat stroke, and they wished more people knew how to spot the signs.  Learn all about it in this article!)

5.  Know your dog’s abilities.  Don’t take him on a hike that’s too strenuous for his level of endurance.  He’ll end up with an injury that will put him on bed rest.  If it’s a hot day, pick an easier hike (like one that ends at a pond), or just let them stay home.  Remember, a dog’s paws are more sensitive to hot sand and rocky trails, and they can easily end up with burns.  That would certainly put a damper on your summertime adventures.

 

Dog Hiking on Trail

 

6.  You and your pooch are ambassadors for ALL hikers with dogs.  Be the best at hiker/dog etiquette:

  • Pack it out!  You know what I mean.
  • Obey posted signs regarding leash laws.
  • Yield the trail to other hikers and trail users.  When someone is passing, leash up your dog and hold them next to your side.  Say a friendly hello to the people passing so that your dog knows they are not a threat.
  • Don’t assume that everyone you see is a dog lover.  Some folks might find your exuberant, friendly pooch rather intimidating.  Recall your dog, and keep them by your side.
  • If you see another dog approaching, leash your dog.  It is easier to control the situation if at least your dog is on a leash.  Be familiar with dog body language so that you can avoid an undesirable situation with another dog.  And don’t be afraid to ask the other dog’s owner to leash their dog if necessary.
  • Don’t let your dog chase or approach wildlife.  The trail is their home, after all.

7.  After the hike, inspect your dog.  Check all four paws for injury or soreness.  Check their coat and skin for any ticks, thorns, or burrs.  Make sure they are hydrated and not over-heated.  And if they are sore the next day, give them a rest and don’t let them push so hard the next time.

8.  Above all, have fun!  Take your time, stop and smell the smells, listen to the sounds of nature, and enjoy being in the great outdoors with your best friend!

 

GrayTorrey 2011 summit

 

Need to schedule a pre-hiking exam for your pooch?  Give Dr. D a call!

Q&A: Is it ever OK to leave my dog in the car?

In the last two weeks, the rain finally stopped falling and the sun started to shine again in Broomfield, Colorado.  It’s been gloriously warm and beautiful!  But also in the past two weeks, I have heard and seen several dogs locked in cars in parking lots.

 

 

You’re asking me if it’s ever okay to leave your dog in the car.  Here’s what I hear people say:

I’ll only be a few minutes!

It’s not that hot today – only 75 degrees!

I parked in the shade; he’ll be fine.

Oh, I always crack the windows so she can get some fresh air.

I’d like to address these statements with you right now.

 

When it is 70 degrees outside, the inside temperature of a car can rise to 90-100 degrees in 10 minutes.  TEN MINUTES.  The temperature inside the car can rise up to 160 degrees on a really hot day.

 

It DOES NOT MATTER if you crack the windows.  Cracking the windows has little to no effect on the temperature inside the car.

 

It DOES NOT MATTER if you park in the shade.  The temperature inside the car will still rise rapidly.  It may not get to 160 degrees, but it will still reach over 100 degrees in no time flat.

 

It only takes a few minutes for your dog to start showing signs of heat stroke, and death can occur in less than 10 minutes under extreme conditions.

 

doginhotcar

 

It sounds obvious and I know you would never treat your dog this way, but every summer hundreds of dogs suffer and/or die from heat stroke in Colorado.  Don’t let your pet be one of them.

 

You might think I’m being extreme.  You may be one of those people who have left your dog in the car without any problems.  I am so glad that nothing bad happened to your dog.  But, just humor me for a minute.  Put yourself in your dog’s position, and then tell me how you feel in 10 minutes.  Or just watch this video:

 

 

 

Now, I know none of my wonderful clients would leave their dogs in the car, but so many of you wouldn’t hesitate to save a dog if you found one in a hot car!  So here’s a lovely info-graphic that explains what to do if you come across one.  Share with your friends!

 

IF YOU SEE A DOG IN A HOT CAR_

 

Let’s all treat our dogs the way we would like to be treated.

 

How To Move Without Making Your Cat Crazy

 

We’re in the process of purging, selling, and packing up our home to get ready for a local move.  And while the kitties certainly love the empty boxes all over the place, I know as moving day gets closer their stress level is going to increase significantly.

Cats do not appreciate change.  Especially change that involves removing them from a comfortable, well-marked territory to one that is completely new and smells funny.  But, as a veterinarian mommy to these two handsome felines, I know how to help them remain calm, and I’m going to share my tips with you!

(By the way, these tricks will work to reduce cat anxiety in many stressful situations besides moving; think new cat, new baby, new human, new furniture, etc…)

 

GooseBeanFocused

 

Prior to moving day:

Purchase a Feliway diffuser and place it in the room your cat uses most often, especially if they hide there.  Feliway is a synthetic cat pheromone that only cats can smell, and it helps reduce anxiety.  You can begin using Feliway a couple weeks before moving day, and then continue its use in your new home (we’ll talk more about your cat’s “sanctuary room” later).

Play classical music while you’re packing!  Studies have recently shown that cats respond well to classical music and that it reduces anxiety!  As an added benefit, it will reduce your stress as well.  I like this product (for both dogs and cats)!

Get out the carrier(s) and do some positive reinforcement training.  If your cat does not like the carrier, this is really important.  Your cat should not see the carrier for the first time on moving day!  Bring it out several days in advance, put it on the floor in a quiet spot and put a comfy blanket in it.  Prop the door open and put some food or treats in there.  Do this every day leading up to moving day.

Make sure your cat is microchipped and that the info is updated.  Moving is the perfect opportunity for tragedy to strike in the form of an escaped kitty.  Take this simple precaution to make sure your cat can be identified.

Play with your cat regularly during the packing stage!  Be sure to have regular play sessions during the weeks leading up to the move.  This will help reduce any anxiety or loneliness your cat might experience while you are preoccupied with the move.

 

Goose in a box (4)

 

On moving day:

Lock ’em up!   Put your cats, their carriers, a litter box, some food and water, and a hiding place in one room with a closed door.  This room should either be emptied before the cats are placed inside, or emptied last.  Whatever you decide, make sure everyone knows the plan and to keep the door closed.  Place a sign on the door as a reminder if necessary.

Move the kitties last.  Once the movers have emptied your home, load up the kitties in their carriers and buckle them up in the car to take them to their new home.  You might consider spraying a little Feliway on the blanket that is in the carrier at least an hour before you are going to load them up.

Cat proof the new house by checking to make sure all the windows are closed, the screens don’t have holes to escape through, and that your cats can’t get stuck anywhere.

Set up a sanctuary room in the new house.  Plug in your Feliway diffuser in the room you have chosen.  Place the litter box, food and water, and hiding places in this room.  If necessary, have the movers put your furniture in this room first, so that the cats will feel more at home.  Let your cats out of the carriers inside this room, and close the door.  This is their safe zone, until you are finished moving for the day.

When you are done moving and all is quiet, open the door to the cats’ sanctuary, and allow them to explore on their own time and terms.  You can also use Feliway in the rest of the house to help your cats adjust more quickly.  Play some classical music.  Maintain the same routines as much as possible, and give them plenty of love and attention as they are getting used to their new home.

 

For super anxious cats:

If your cat is prone to severe anxiety, consider arranging to board them for moving day and the day after.  They may be less stressed this way, and there is less chance of them escaping or hiding out of fear.  Sedatives might also be an option that you can discuss with your veterinarian.

 

Does your kitty totally freak out at the vet, too?  Then call Dr. D – she makes house calls!

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!

Things You Should Know: Easter Hazards For Pets

It’s that wonderful time of year again – pet hazard time!  It only rolls around once a …. I mean 4 or 5 times a year…  Oh, holidays.

 

Easter-Dog

 

Yes, holidays are the most common times of the year for your pets to be exposed to poisons and hazardous items in your home.   Veterinarians like to use these magical times of year to remind you of all the ways your pet could potentially die.  So morbid.  Ah, well, you DO need to know!

 

Here are the most common hazards for your pets during EASTER:

 

Flowers of the Lily family

 

1.  Lilies, and any flower in the Lily family.  Also daffodils.

If you’ve been around me for very long, you know that I remind you often about the dangers of lilies for cats.  They are extremely toxic.  Only one or two leaves or petals can send your cat into kidney failure.  If you have cats, it’s better to not buy any lilies at Easter.  Seriously.  Don’t buy any.

 

EasterGrass

 

2.  Easter Grass

It’s that pastel colored stringy stuff that lines the bottom of your Easter basket.  And it’s irresistible to your pets.  If they ingest it, it can cause severe problems in the intestines and may require surgery to remove it.  Not a happy ending.

 

Chocolate-Easter-bunnies

 

3.  Chocolate.  Duh.

You all know this one, right?  Chocolate is toxic to your pets.  The darker it is, the worse off your pet will be.  I suggest putting any Easter candy, baked goods, or other treats under lock and key, far away from your curious pets.

 

xylitol

 

4.  Xylitol

Xylitol is that artificial sweetener that’s used in candy, gum, and even mouth wash.  It’s extremely toxic to your pets.  Ingesting as little as 1 or 2 pieces of gum containing xylitol can put your doggie in the hospital for days.

 

Now that you know the hazards, take the time to keep your pet safe!  And have a Happy Easter!!

 

If your pet ingests any of these hazardous substances, get thee to an emergency clinic!