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The veterinarians and staff at Cats & Critters are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

Elderly People and Their Pets: Part 3, Therapy Pets

There are so many stories of how therapy pets have helped improve the lives and care of elderly patients in assisted living homes.

For example:

An elderly Alzheimer’s sufferer living in an assisted living facility refuses repeated requests to move to her room so her soiled clothes can be cleaned. However, after being asked if she would like to walk Molly, a black Scottish terrier, she easily stands and walks the dog to her room.

Therapy Pets and the Elderly

An older woman with a slight frame puts makeup on and prepares for a visit from a therapy dog and its handler. She is excited to share some time with the two in her nursing home room and lights up as they both enter. She bends to pet the small dog and converses with it in her native tongue; something she has not been able to do for quite some time.

An elderly gentleman is confined to a rehabilitation facility for longer than he cares to remember. However, his daughter sees hope after a visit by a therapy dog. She saw him smile for the first time in weeks.

The stories above are just a few of those told by Gigi Garner, president of Happy Tails Pet Therapy located just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. She and her group of volunteers and therapy pets—dogs, cats, and rabbits—are among a growing number of people and organizations providing therapy animals to hospices, children’s hospitals, cancer wards, and more.

Though used in a wide range of institutional settings, therapy dogs have shown great promise working with the elderly. As Garner says, “Examples abound of therapy animals easily accomplishing what sometimes cannot be done by humans. Especially with the elderly, these pets love them just the way they are today; and are not uncomfortable with walkers, oxygen tanks or memory loss.”

Therapy Pets in Assisted Living Facilities

In many cases, these animals allow human therapists deeper access into the disabled mind of a patient suffering Alzheimer’s or dementia allowing for more meaningful therapeutic care. At others, these animals are a source of comfort, friendship and catalyst for social interaction among seniors isolated by physical or mental limitations.

For those of us with parents or other loved ones living in nursing homes or are confined to their homes, a therapy animal can provide a number of life improving benefits. For example, therapy pets can help:

Alzheimer’s Patients – Therapy pets and pet assisted therapy can help Alzheimer’s patients bring them back and connect to the present. Specially trained therapy dogs can also help watch over an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient to ensure they stay out of harm’s way.

Increase Wellbeing – Spending even a modest amount of time with a therapy animal can help increase the sense of wellbeing in an elderly person as well as provide a common point of contact and reference for conversation and social interaction.

Relieve Boredom – Even the best nursing home can’t completely prevent boredom. Therapy animals that make regular and timely visits can help relieve boredom among residents as well as stress during certain points of the day. These animals also provide something for residents to look forward to and engage in play.

Acceptance of Medicine and Nourishment – As noted in the first story above, a patient lost to the anxieties of dementia or Alzheimer’s can respond positively to the need for medication, food or some other form of care if a pet is incorporated into the mix. A calm pet can relax these people enough to eat and allow others to take care of various needs.


If you think a therapy pet would be a good addition to your loved one’s elder care facility or would like to find services for a home-bound senior there are a number of resources on the Web. These include:

The Delta Society at www.deltasociety.org

Happy Tails Pet Therapy at www.happytailspets.org

And of course your local SPCA makes a great place to start.

Cat Behavior—Hunting

One aspect of cats' behavior which some owners find difficult to accept is hunting, especially when the cat insist on bringing her prey home. Hunting is a very strong instinct in cats and the techniques can be while watching young kittens at play. As the kittens grow older, the skills are finely honed through further play and by watching the mother and mimicking her when she hunts.

Cat Hunting

Hunting is entirely natural for cats and takes place even when they are well fed at home. They evidently enjoy the hunt, stalking patiently and carefully, moving forward and freezing with single minded concentration until they are close enough to pounce. If the cat returns with her kill and presents it to her owner, the reason is possibly because you should congratulate her on her hunting prowess. There is really no point in trying to punish your cat for hunting as it is a part of her nature that is so deeply rooted that to try and eliminate it may well cause her a lot of confusion. Playing catching games with your cat using toys may help to relieve some of her urge to hunt.

Cat in Tree

One solution is to put a bell on her collar so that the birds and other likely victims can hear her coming. If you do this, make sure that the collar has an elasticated section so that she can escape if it gets caught up on some object. It is important to worm your cat regularly, particularly if she hunts. Consult your veterinary hospital for more advice on de-worming.

Cats Can Be Right-pawed or Left-pawed

Cats can be right pawed or left pawed. According to Dr. Bonnie Beaver, an animal behavior specialist, right forepaw usage is preferred by about 20 percent of cats and 38 percent of cats are left pawed. The remainder are ambidextrous, using either paw to manipulate objects.

Cats can be right-pawed or left-pawed
Litter Box Behavior

Cats can be very communicative. Unfortunately for us, they generally do not communicate verbally, and certainly not in a language that we understand! So when a cat stops using the litter box, that is his way of letting us know that something is wrong. In order to determine if it's a medical problem or psychological problem, there are a few things you need to know.

When your cat stops using the litter box, have your veterinarian examine your cat to rule out any medical problems such as a urinary tract problem. If you notice your cat straining to urinate or defecate, he or she should be taken to the veterinarian immediately, as it could indicate a serious health issue. Once your cat's health has been cleared, it's time to look to other causes of litter box avoidance.

Why isn't kitty using her box?

It is important to make sure your cat's litter box is in a location that allows for some privacy. Cats, like dogs, use association as a way to dictate behavior. If your cat has a bad experience while using the litter box, it can lead to unwanted behavior and inappropriate eliminating. For example, if your cat has been frightened by the noise of a barking dog or a large household appliance while in the litter box, he may find other places that are quieter or more private to relieve himself. Trapping your cat in the litter box in order to administer medication could also result in the same unwanted behavior. To guard against this, try to find a relatively private location for your cat's litter box and allow your cat the same privacy you would like when using the bathroom.

Another reason for your cat avoiding the litter box may be the due to the number of cats in the household. Adult cats generally like to define their territory. Depending on the number of cats and the amount of space they have, territories can often overlap. This can cause territorial anxiety which may lead your cat to spray urine in order to mark his or her territory. Keep in mind, however, that the litter box can become part of a cat's territory, making it extremely important to have enough litter boxes for all the cats in the home. Cats in multiple cat households generally use more than one box, so having multiple boxes increases the likelihood that your cat is going to find a satisfactory one. A good general rule is to have one more litter box than the number of cats. For example, if you have three cats, you should have four litter boxes, if you have 5 cats, you should have six litter boxes, etc. If for space reasons you need to limit the number of boxes, have as many as you can and be sure to clean regularly, if not daily.

If you only have one cat and the litter box is in a quiet, private location, the solution could be as simple as changing the type of litter. Believe it or not, cats can be quite choosy about the litter they like. If you find a litter your kitty likes, DO NOT change it unless directed by your veterinarian for medical purposes. The litter box should be scooped daily and the entire box of litter should be changed once a week. When you change the litter, you should also wash the box with a mild soap and water and allow it to air dry. If a strong disinfectant like bleach is used, the lasting odor could deter your cat from using that box. If your cat is not using the litter box and the box has a cover, removing the cover can sometimes cure the problem. Many cats prefer the open air and find an enclosed box too confining, especially larger cats.

They help us, but not our cats

Hopefully these useful tips can help you find a solution to your cat's litter box avoidance problem. If you find that your cat is still not using the litter box after repeated attempts to resolve the problem, it might be reasonable to consult an animal behaviorist. Before doing this, however, it is best to contact your veterinarian for further assistance.

The Cat’s Out of the Bag: Ten Toys Under $25 That Your Cat Will Love

Da Bird Feather Teaser

Play and exercise are an important part of pet health. For cats, toys are a great way to stimulate play, combat obesity, discourage unwanted behavior, and provide an outlet for unused energy and predatory instincts. Below are ten highly rated toys that at under $25—most under $10—will help keep your cat happy and healthy and won’t break the bank.

  1. Da Bird Feather Teaser, online from $7.49. This teaser simulates the motion of a bird at your control. A flick of the wrist and the brightly colored feathers dance and spin enticing your cat to play. Encourages instinctual behaviors and exercise to keep your cat healthy and alert.
  2. Mylar Crinkle Ball Cat Toys, online from $1.49, an inexpensive, sure-fire hit that your cat will love to bat and bobble around the house.
  3. Yeowww! Catnip Banana, online price from $4.13. These popular stuffed bananas are made in the USA and filled with organically grown catnip.
  4. Fat Cat Kitty Hoots Big Mama’s Scratchy Box, online from $8.37. An effective, economical way to satisfy your cat’s desire to scratch and save your furniture. Comes with a supply of "Zoom Around the Room Organic Catnip." The box is 100 percent recyclable. May need to be replaced every 1-2 months, depending on usage.
  5. PetSafe SlimCat, online from $4.69. PetSafe Slimcat is an interactive feeding ball that works by distributing your cat's food into smaller meals that can be fed at regular intervals. Slimcat can also satiate your cat's craving to hunt which results in a more peaceful pet.
  6. Petlinks System Dream Curl Curvy Two-Surface Scratcher

  7. Petlinks System Dream Curl Curvy Two-Surface Scratcher online from $20.99. Your cat will love the shapely contours of the Dream Curl and its enticing variety of scratching surfaces and angles. Made from Earth-friendly sisal and contains organic catnip. The scratcher core is made from recycled material.
  8. Tipsy Nip Ball, online from $5. This organic catnip infused non-toxic wooden ball is sure to be a hit with your cat. When not in use, store in the accompanying bottle of catnip to keep the ball catnipalicious.
  9. Cat Amazing Interactive Puzzle for Cats

  10. Cat Amazing Interactive Puzzle for Cats, from $14.95. This interactive puzzle game has three levels of difficulty to stimulate and challenge cats, and those who complete the puzzle are rewarded with a treat. It is the perfect test of your cat’s skill and ingenuity and is an instant hit wherever people and cats are gathered. Made from 30 percent recycled cardboard and is 100 percent recyclable, and printed with certified metal-free inks.
  11. The Cat Dancer, available online from $1.79. The Cat Dancer is the original interactive cat toy. Spring steel wire and rolled cardboard create an irresistible lure for cats and great fun for cat lovers. According to their website, The Cat Dancer has been "home-tested by over 8 million cats."
  12. Teddy for Kitty, $5.95, available online through EcoChoices Natural Living Store, is a teddy bear made from rugged corduroy and a colorful patch and filled with organically grown catnip. Made in the USA.

Don’t forget: Homemade cat toys can be just as entertaining as those that are store-bought. Cats love batting around a crumpled ball of paper, hiding in a large paper bag or cardboard box, or attacking an object, such as a feather, bell, or stocking stuffed with catnip, attached to a string or pole. Best of all, you probably have most or all of these items in your home already.

Quiz About Kittens And Their Development From Day 1

1. What is the mother's first priority for her new kitten?

A. To smell it
B. To give it a bowl of food
C. To get it to feed
D. To get it breathing

2. As well as sustenance, what does a mother's milk pass on to her kittens?

A. Sense of his mother's smell
B. Immunity from diseases
C. Thicker fur
D. The substance which makes cat's tongues rough


3. There are 4 basic stages to a cat's development. The Neonatal Phase, the Socialisation Phase and the Adult Phase are three of them. What is the fourth?

A. Juvenile phase
B. Infantile phase
C. Youth phase
D. Childish phase

4. When do kittens' eyes open?

A. 2 months
B. 1st day
C. 1 to 3 weeks
D. 4 to 6 weeks

5.When does the kittens' hearing develop?

A. 5th week
B. In the womb
C. 2nd week
D. 1st day

6. Which week do the kittens' milk teeth start to appear?

A. Day 1
B. 3 months
C. Week 7
D. Week 3

7. What week does the mother begin to discourage kittens from suckling, thus starting weaning?

A. 1st day
B. 5 Weeks
C. 3 months
D. 10 weeks

8.Once kittens start interacting with other cats and humans, they begin to use body language. For example, pricked ears and tail held high mean that a cat or kitten is feeling friendly and approachable. What does it mean when a cat's or kitten's ears are flat against the head, the back is arched and the tail is completely erect?

A. The cat wants to eat
B. The cat is asleep
C. The cat is frightened
D. The cat is ready to fight

9.Kittens can purr.

A. Yes
B. No

10. What is the earliest date that a kitten should be brought home?

A. 8 Weeks
B. 4 Weeks
C. 2 Weeks
D. 6 Weeks

Answer Key
1. D 2. B 3. A 4. C 5. C
6. D 7. B 8. C 9. A 10. A
VIDEO: Feline Heartworm

Dog owners are well aware of the threat of heartworm disease, but many pet owners would be shocked to know that their cats are in danger as well. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes and are capable of infecting cats in addition to dogs. Unfortunately, our cats rarely show physical signs of this infection and are more likely to die due to their body’s reaction to the parasite. The good news is that your veterinarian can help you prevent this deadly feline disease.

Cats are abnormal hosts to heartworms and these heartworms will live shortened lives. You might think that this is a good thing but, heartworms actually can cause more serious and severe disease in cats than they do in dogs. It is not unusual for a dog to live for years with 50 worms in their heart. But a cat with a single heartworm can die suddenly, often with no apparent clinical signs whatsoever. In addition, your “inside only” kitty is just as susceptible as the outdoor tomcat. Watch this video to learn more.

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VIDEO: Pets Go Green

Rising gas prices and climate changes have many people worried about the future of our planet and pet owners are no exception. Luckily, help appears to be on the way. From organic pet toys to bio-degradable cat litter, many companies are finding new ways to help pets and their owners lessen their carbon footprint. Watch this video to see ways that you can help your pet “go green”!

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Winter Tips To Keep Your Pet Safe

It’s official: winter and all of its trappings have arrived. That means snow, ice, and freezing cold temperatures.

Just because your pet is covered in fur doesn't mean they’re comfortable in the cold. In fact, prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures can be just as deadly for pets as it can be for humans. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help keep your pets warm and toasty this winter.

Cat in the Snow

  • Just like a hot car in the summer, a cold car in the winter can be deadly. Never leave your pet alone in a cold car.
  • Save a warm spot off the floor and away from drafts for your pet to sleep at night. For kittens and older cats, try a heated pad or bed.
  • Be sure to keep a close eye on small, short-haired, very young, or very old dogs when they’re out in the cold. When taking them on a walk, keep them warm with a sweater or a doggy coat. Long haired dogs or breeds that tolerate the cold may be better equipped for snow, but they should also still be supervised.
  • Adjust your animal’s food intake based on the amount of exercise he or she is getting in the winter. (You might consider adjusting your own, too.)
  • Matted fur won’t protect your dog or cat from the cold, so keep their coats well groomed. After taking your dog for a walk, wipe down their feet, legs, and stomach area to prevent ingestion of salt or dangerous chemicals. And always use a pet-friendly ice melt product for your own home.
  • Never let dogs off leash on snow or ice.
  • Antifreeze has a sweet taste that attracts animals, but is a deadly poison. Wipe up any antifreeze spills immediately, or better yet, use pet-safe antifreeze.

Dogs in the Snow

  • Outdoor cats often nap on or around car engines to keep warm. If there are outdoor cats in your neighborhood, honk the horn before starting your car to make sure any cats hiding next to your tires get out safely.
  • If your dog is let out in your yard, make sure snow drifts near your fence haven’t made it easy for your dog to escape.
  • Keep water available for your dog while he’s outside. Use a tip-resistant, ceramic or hard plastic water bowl rather than a metal one so your dog doesn’t accidentally recreate the flagpole scene from A Christmas Story.