Thursday, September 23, 2010

Converting the Outdoor Cat

More and more research has indicated that the overall health and general lifespan of cats can be greatly enhanced by keeping them indoors, particularly in the colder days of fall and winter. But for a cat that has enjoyed the freedom of the wild his whole life, the transition inside can be a tough one...for the cat, for you and your family, and for other household pets. Luckily, if a pet owner anticipates the potential problems associated with transitioning a fully outdoor, or indoor-outdoor cat to a strictly indoor one, these problems can be greatly minimized. 

Safety First
First and foremost, if the cat you plan to transition was previously stray, be absolutely sure to have him examined by a veterinarian, and discuss spaying or neutering before bringing him into your home. These cats should first be quarantined (with their own food, water, litter, resting areas and scratching post, etc.) from other pets in your home to avoid the potential spread of disease. This separation also helps acclimate the new cat to your home environment and to using a litter box. Your resident pets are dependent on your judgement and protection, so don't expose them to a new animal all of a sudden!

Prep Your Home
If you don't currently have other pets or are new to being a cat owner, you should take some time to kitty-proof your home before allowing him to explore beyond his private quarters. A good rule of thumb is that anything unsafe for a toddler is unsafe for a cat. This includes poisonous plants like lilies, small objects (choking hazards), breakables and valuables, window blind cords and electrical cords. Preparing your home for the new cat will make the transition much safer for the cat and easier on you!

Make Introductions
Once your cat has been given a clean bill of health and appears to be comfortable in his own quarters, you can SLOWLY introduce him to your other pets. This can be a very stressful time; other pets may feel threatened and your home can become chaotic. Start by feeding your pets on opposite sides of a door or a baby gate. If this goes well, you can increase their exposure to one another little by little during mealtimes. Finally, let them see and smell each other, rub each other's faces if desired, and test the waters with verbalization. Throughout this process, be sure that there are plenty of litter boxes, toys, food and water bowls, etc. so that there is no need to compete. And if any aggressive behavior erupts, be ready to separate the pets and try again another day.

After the animals have been introduced, invite the human members of the house to slowly approach the new cat. If you have young children, supervise all interaction and prohibit any rough petting, tail-pulling or teasing. Cats are independent creatures, so it is best to let them decide when to seek out human attention rather than the reverse. After time, most cats will get cozy with you, each in his own way. 

Keep It Interesting
The last step of the transition is to provide lots of opportunities for the former outdoors-kitty to be mentally and physically stimulated. After having free reign, hunting and chasing, he will probably find indoor life to be a bit boring, so schedule time for one-on-one and solitary play, puzzle-solving, food-searching and critter videos. 

Ease the Transition
If the process is a bumpy one, you can try sprinkling/rubbing some feline facial pheromones on the cat(s). This decreases anxiety and the tendency to "mark" territory. Although many cats have been successfully transitioned to the indoors, some cats will inevitably prefer the stimulation that only the outdoors can provide. But ideally, your efforts will be rewarded, with your previously outdoor kitty wondering what life was even like before he became a happy housecat. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pet Health Insurance 101

September is national Pet Insurance Month, making it a perfect time to discuss your options as a pet owner.

If you're reading this, then your dog or cat is probably a beloved member of your family and you want the best for them. If you want to provide your pet with high quality healthcare throughout his or her life, pet health insurance deserves a good look. And since you can't buy health insurance for your dog or cat when  you really need it most, in an emergency, now is the time to examine the options that could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Your Options
There are more and more pet health insurance options available to consumers each day. And like human health insurance, pet insurance coverage can vary widely. Classic pet health insurance is meant to cover expensive, unplanned events. There are monthly premiums and a variety of deductible choices, different coverage levels, co-pays and caps that limit the total yearly or lifelong payouts. These policies may exclude older dogs, certain breeds, genetic conditions and pre-existing conditions. Fortunately, there are often discounts for covering multiple pets from the same household.

Basic types of pet health insurance include:

  • wellness (preventative services like vaccines, check-ups, blood tests at set fee)
  • prescription drug
  • cancer treatment
  • alternative therapies
  • accidental death. 
There is also a wide range of variations on these basic coverage types. From dental care and catastrophic care to acupuncture and lost pet recovery, pet health insurance options are out there for the taking. Of course, the costs for these plans vary significantly. 

Veterinarian Tim Banker believes that although pet healthcare can effectively mitigate high-tech veterinary expenses, it is underutilized. One possible reason is the persistence of stories about insurance companies that fail to provide expected coverage. The minutia of paperwork involved in properly filing claims can result in missing payments. The good news is that vet offices are becoming more adept at properly filing these claims on their clients' behalf. 

Here are our recommendations for finding the right care for your pet:

1. Consider your pet's health, age, predisposition to accidents and risk of inherited diseases to help determine what level of coverage you will need.

2. Get price quotes from each company that appears to offer the coverage your pet requires. Here are a few companies to consider:

AKC Pet Healthcare Plan, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, Embrace Pet Insurance, Pet Assure Corporation, PetFirst Healthcare, PetHealth, Inc., Petplan USA, Pets Best Insurance, PurinaCare, Trupanion Pet Insurance,Veterinary Pet Insurance

3. Ask your veterinarian which pet health insurance s/he recommends.

4. If your dog is diagnosed with a condition, make sure to renew coverage on time each year so it isn't excluded as a pre-existing condition. 

With some careful pet health insurance research and planning, you and your pet can celebrate many happy birthdays together. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

5 Ways to Go Green with Your Pets

We've all been told many ways we can green our homes and businesses. But what about our pets? You'll be glad to know that there are some simple ways to make their existence eco-friendly as well. From reducing your pet's carbon pawprint to making your home and yard a safe place for your pets to play, here are five ways to make an environmental difference.

1) Adopt your pet from an animal shelter or rescue group. ASPCA Executive VP Stephen Zawistowski estimates that nearly 12 million dogs and cats are brought to New York City animal shelters each year and about a third are euthanized because there are not enough homes available. By adopting, you will be shopping locally--you're getting a pet that was born in your neighborhood and will stay there.

2) Spay or neuter your pet. If your pet hasn't already been spayed (females) or neutered (males) when you get them, make sure you have this done as soon as safely possible. Spaying and neutering help to reduce the number of unwanted pets and helps prevent many diseases common to "intact" animals. According to pet author Karen Lee Stevens, your pet will be healthier and require less trips to the vet, therefore decreasing the number of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere from your car.

3) Use natural cleaning and grooming products. Common cleansers like Lysol and bleach are toxic to pets, can cause digestive upset, mouth irritation and even liver damage. Fortunately, there are natural, inexpensive cleaning options right in your own cabinet. Some of the best include distilled vinegar, baking soda and lemons, both for scrubbing and for getting rid of odors. And rather than using pet shampoos that contain chemicals like propylene glycol, opt for herbal products derived from plant-based and other natural sources. Don't forget your paper towel usage counts, too. Sally Deen, of Dog Fancy magazine tells us to try to cut down on your use, and find recycled paper towels to get the job done.

4) Use eco-friendly pet products. From cat litter to collars, there are plenty of choices for the green-friendly pet owner. Your typical cat litter is clay-based, which comes from strip-mining the ground and wreaking havoc on the environment. Instead, try litters made of corn, wood pulp and pine. Toys are easy--walk into any pet supply store these days and you are likely to find a selection of pet entertainment options made of organic or recycled materials. Better yet, save money and the Earth by offering up an old sock, cardboard box or newspaper as a toy for your pet. You can find bedding made of recycled fibers, organic food and collars. You might even consider moving your pet to a part-time vegetarian diet to cut down on the energy required to raise and produce edible meats.

5) Stay chemical-free outside the house. Even if you switch the products you're using on your floors and counters, the lawn is likely to be teeming with pesticides that are harmful to both your pet and the environment. Garden centers have caught onto the fact that people don't want to ingest toxic chemicals, and they certainly don't want their children or pets to, either. Therefore, they have developed and begun offering outdoor products made of all-natural ingredients and educating home owners about organic techniques for producing a thriving yard or garden. Visit your local garden center for some expert tips on this "growing" practice.

With a little effort and some ingenuity, you can make a safer, more natural life for your pets...and tread a little bit more lightly on our one and only planet Earth.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Welcome to our new blog, If They Could Talk

This is the place to find out exactly what your pampered pet needs and wants to have a happy, healthy life. Each week, we will share insider tips and solutions to common pet care concerns, need-to-know safety and lifestyle tips, and insightful stories from our every day experiences with dogs and cats at the Morris Animal Inn.

The authors of this blog are pet care experts at Morris Animal Inn who have been working in the industry for more than 50 years. In addition to running one of the top pet care boarding, day care and grooming facilities in the nation, they are members of the Pet Care Services Association, volunteers at local animal welfare organizations and work closely with top veterinarians. 

Please join us regularly or subscribe to our feed so that you are always in the loop on the very best there is for your pet!

Morris Animal Inn