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Are Cats Trainable After All?

People often think of cats as untrainable creatures with their own agendas. While dogs can be easily taught to sit with just a handful of treats and about fifteen minutes of repetition, a cat may not be as willing of a participant. But is it true that cats are simply not able to be trained? The answer may surprise you…

In trying to understand how cats operate, we often make inaccurate assumptions about the species. In fact, a recent study showed that cat owners often struggle to interpret and understand their own cat’s behavior, specifically around stress. Whereas dog body language appears fairly straight forward (a tucked tail, ears pinned back, and a growl can all send the clear signal that a dog is under distress), cats can be harder to decipher. A few months ago, we wrote about decoding a cat’s tail (include link), and if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that a flick of the tail can be a subtle but important indication that your kitty is trying to communicate.

While the past few decades have shown advances in studies around canines, there hasn’t been as much emphasis on trying to understand the four-legged felines that so often behave in ways completely mysterious to us. More recently, there’s been an increased interest in feline behavior.

Many people believe that cats are not trainable simply because they are not as food motivated as dogs or eager to please. “But we have things that cats want, and that’s all that matters,” argues Melissa Chan, a behavior analyst at the Houston SPCA.

So how do you train a cat? Cats often thrive when tasked with “work” that involves problem-solving. Since they’re hunters, they greatly enjoy working for their food. Especially if it’s extra delicious food! Cat trainers recommend raising the stakes when trying to train your cat, and not attempting to do training session for any longer than five minutes.

To begin, figure out what peak’s your cat’s interest, whether it’s a little bit of tuna, some extra tasty canned food, or a game of toy mouse. Choose a simple task at first, like nose-to-hand-touch, which most cats learn quickly, and make sure to reward. So how is this different than training a dog? The key is to hold your cat’s attention long enough that your furry friend understands that a specific behavior results in a reward (that they’re actually happy about!). “The animal learns, when I do this, you’re happy, and I get a piece of food. I guess I should focus on making you happy,” says Chan. There’s an important piece to training a cat: once Shadow can successfully do the trick or command, reward and move on quickly. One last tip: attempt a short training session when your cat seems energetic or in the mood to engage. This way, the kitty doesn’t lose interest. Good luck!

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What to Do With All That Shedding

So, you have a pet, and your home is covered in a fur. Join the club! While it’s impossible to fully stop a pet from shedding (unless of course you have a hairless dog or cat), there are tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way that are helpful in keeping the fur balls under control. Here’s what we’ve learned over the years…

First, consider your dog or cat’s coat. Different brushes are designed for different types of fur – and it’s worth doing a little research. The right brush will eliminate tangles and mats, remove loose hair or fur, and – bonus for your furry friend — increase blood flow. A silicone brush that you massage into the fur works for very short-haired dogs, a rake brush works for dogs with thicker, longer coats, and a bristle brush works for dogs with medium length hair. For felines, if your short-haired cat tolerates it, a brush glove works best for removing excess fur. For longer haired pets, a greyhound style medium coarse comb is best for lifting the loose hairs and smoothing out the coat. Pro tip: if you start when they’re young, your kitty will grow to tolerate and even love grooming, the equivalent of a spa day for them.

Alternatively, hand the heavy lifting over to us at Pampered Pets! Grooming is considered to be the most effective way to not only keep your pet’s coat and skin healthy but to eliminate excessive shedding and unwanted odors. A great way to keep shedding at bay in between grooming appointments is to include a quick brushing a few times a week.

In addition, feeding your four-legged friend a high quality diet can have a positive impact on their fur, including their natural oil productions. For dogs, look for food that contains eggs, salmon, or liver, and for cats, look for food that includes a high-quality protein source as the first ingredient. You can also look for nutrients such as copper, vitamin A, Biotin, and Zinc, as these ingredients are known to improve skin health at the cellular level.

Lastly, when all else fails, we swear by a high power, cordless vacuum to remove the inevitable shedding in the apartment or house. Good luck!

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How Smart is Your Dog?

Last month, a study came out that dogs are not as smart as we think. While we have a bone to pick with the title of the article (pun intended!), we do think it makes a good point. “Dogs have a unique set of cognitive abilities,” states the article, “but they’re not inherently smarter than other animals.” Here’s our takeaway…

In the study, dogs were compared to other animals that check off the key characteristics of our furry friends, including domestication and pack mentality. The animals — wolves, cats, dolphins, chimpanzees, horses, and pigeons, were run through a series of tests that assessed their problem-solving abilities and social intelligence. The results? Dogs performed on similar levels as the other animals, and in some cases, worse.

One common assumption about our four-legged canines is that domestication has made them cognitively more attuned to humans and thus more intelligent. While it’s true that dogs are exceptionally equipped to work alongside humans and be excellent guides for the blind, for instance, it doesn’t mean they are actually smarter. The article goes on to argue that part of the reason we find dogs so smart is because of our love for them and thus our bias. They’re lovable, and so we enjoy making them the topic of research studies and we like to know that the animals in our homes are just as smart as we think they are. Of course, this has just as much to do with how we’re defining “smart” here. What does a smart dog look like? Does he have a large vocabulary and know the difference between “stick” and “ball”? Does he push harder on a door when it appears stuck? Can he guess which hand is holding the treat?

To us, it has less to do with intelligence and more to do with the remarkable ease in which dogs have acclimated to human life. How they just seem to know that couches are man’s greatest creation. How they can sense their owner is upset and most importantly, know exactly how to comfort us. How they are equally as happy to see us when we return from a trip or return from taking out the garbage. To us, that makes them the smartest animals alive!

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A Sweet Rescue Story from Hurricane Florence

We are saddened by the recent reports of damage caused by Hurricane Florence. It seems like only yesterday we were sharing ways to help pets impacted by Hurricane Harvey and we hate to have to have to write another post on the topic. A few days ago, a news story caught our eye, and we were touched so much that we thought you might be, too. Continue reading to learn more…

In the middle of the night on Wednesday, September 12th, as Hurricane Florence ravaged the Carolinas and extensive flooding forced many residents to evacuate, Tony Alsup was driving an empty school bus into the storm to retrieve cats and dogs left behind. The animals, according to The Saint Frances Animal Center in Georgetown, were “the dogs with blocky heads, the ones with heartworm.” In total, Tony’s rescue operation included 53 dogs and 11 cats, all of which piled into the bus and made it safely to a shelter in Foley, Alabama. Because of Tony’s big heart, these animals, deemed the “leftovers” are now safe and sound and up for adoption. As for Tony, his rescue mission has gone viral around the country as animal lovers salute the truck driver for his act of kindness. When asked if the bus full of animals was chaotic, he remarked, “They know I’m the alpha dog and I’m not here to hurt them!” Bravo, Tony, on behalf of the team at Pampered Pets, we love you!

Tony provided video updates during his trip to and from the Carolinas. You can see them all on his facebook page here:

If you are looking for ways to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, click here or here.

Photo via Sheiley Mays/The Tennessean

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What Is Your Cat’s Tail Telling You?

Pop quiz: when a cat flicks his tail, he is feeling:

  1. A) Playful
  2. B) Agitated
  3. C) Hungry
  4. D) Depends on the situation

Cat owners are experts at decoding their furry friend’s body language. As for everyone else? We’re often left scratching our heads trying to figure out what the mysterious creatures mean when they crouch, or suddenly have a frenzy of energy, or walk by with their tails pointing straight up. While we could talk for hours on this topic, today we’re focusing all on the tail (and if you were wondering, the answer to the question above is D!).

Cats send many messages through their tail. Understanding what a certain position or movement in their tail means is key to understanding them – and once you’ve got it down, you’ll be surprised how communicative cats are, with just a subtle flick of their tail!

The basics:

-A tail that is pointing straight up with a slight curve on the end is an amicable position, and is often the position of a cat happily greeting his or her owner at the door. If you’re at a party and a cat approaches you in this manner, they’re saying hi!

-On the contrary, a tail that is pointing straight down or back without a curve is a cat feeling aggressive or agitated.

-A languid swinging motion is often a cat in a playful or focused mood. You’ll see this as cats hunt or focus on a bird outside the window.

-When a cat wraps its tail around its body they may be feeling nervous, submissive or unsure.

– A whipping tail or active wag is often a sign of an agitated or excited cat and generally means, “Do not touch!”

-A puffed, rigged tail is the sign of a fearful cat.

Of course, even with this information, all cats are unique and exhibit unique behavior when it comes to their tails. How does your kitty communicate with his or her tail? We’d love to hear in the comments!

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Is Your Pet Overweight?

Last month, the New York Times ran a piece about overweight pets. Many of our four-legged pals are marked overweight during routine check-ups at the vet. In fact, 60% of cats and 56% of dogs are considered over their BMI in the United States, with a total of over 100 million pets nationwide.

A week after reading this article, I was at the vet with my dog for her annual check-up and vaccinations. With this article on my mind, I asked the veterinarian if Juniper’s weight was healthy for her size. At 74 pounds, she is almost entirely muscle. Because of some vizsla in her blood, she can sprint with remarkable speed, climb trees, and jump off of high ledges. At age 5, her energy and agility keeps me on my toes. Even with a busy schedule, I aim to give her at least an hour of exercise a day. So I was surprised to hear the veterinarian say she was actually 5-7 pounds over her ideal weight. Despite providing her with an active lifestyle and healthy routine, there was one thing I was overlooking: how much I was feeding her. I hadn’t considered the fact that as a five-year old dog, she doesn’t need quite as much caloric intake as a highly energetic puppy. The vet instructed me to cut the amount of food I was giving her by 20% and watch for fatty treats (and table scraps!).

Pets that pack the extra pounds are at risk for a slew of health issues; diabetes is a common concern for cats, and arthritis for dogs, along with high blood pressure. So how do we keep our pets svelte and healthy? Ask your vet about your pet’s ideal daily calorie intake, instead of relying on the back of the food bag, which doesn’t account for lifestyle, breed, etc. Avoid free feeding and table scraps. Schedule in fun exercise for your pet, too – whatever it is that gets him or her excited to play, whether it’s chasing a ball or toy mouse, having a play date, or going for a long, vigorous walk. Lastly, I’m not sure if my vet would have addressed Juniper’s weight if I hadn’t asked, so you may have to initiate the conversation. Here’s to a year of healthy dogs and cats!

The Truth About Leaving Your Cats Home Alone


Cats are arguably the more independent of our four-legged pets. Not only do they enjoy quality time alone, they find pleasure in entertaining themselves in various ways around the house. While we love this quality about felines (we can relate!), it’s easy as cat owners to assume our furry best friends will be just fine on their own for extended periods of time. While it’s true that cats often do quite well on their own, there are many hazards in our homes that could put your kitty at risk. Read more to find out why…

Leaving your cat unattended for long periods of time gives your feline plenty of opportunities to tap into his or her more mischievous side. A curious cat can find himself in many different dangerous scenarios – wrapped up in grocery bags, stuck in electric wires, the list goes on. Other medical emergencies like a urinary blockage is common and another reason to avoid leaving your cat alone.

While boarding is definitely an alternative option to leaving your cat home alone during a trip, we highly recommend hiring a trustworthy and reliable cat sitter who can come to your home and provide your cat with company, play time, and plenty of fresh water. This way, your cat stays relaxed and happy in his or her own environment, and you can be rest assured that your furry pal stays safe while you’re away. Plus, your pets diet and exercise remains uninterrupted, exposure to illness is minimal, and professional cat sitters are trained to handle all sorts of little issues that may arise while you’re away.

To find out more about our cat sitting service at Pampered Pets, click here.


Here’s Why You Should be Grooming Your Pet This Summer


Summer is halfway over, but there’s still the hottest month ahead. Whether you have a cat or a dog, here’s why you should consider getting your four-legged friend groomed while summer is still in full swing…

To begin, groomed pets are healthier, happier, and easier to live with. Shedding stays at a minimum, long-haired dogs and cats are free of burrs or knots, and grooming distributes natural oils to make pets’ coats glossy and healthy.

At Pampered Pets, we come to your home, making the process significantly less stressful for your furry pal. It is our priority that your pet stays comfortable and at ease throughout the session, and our certified groomers use only the finest products to clean sensitive areas like inside ears and around eyes. In addition, we have cat-only groomers who are experts at understanding cat behavior, and our dedicated groomers have experience with all ages, breeds, and temperaments.

A few other reasons why grooming in summer is a must? It reduces allergens for pets that spend time outside and collect pollen and dust on their fur, and nail clipping is always included, which can often be a cause of stress for owners. Plus, a thorough brushing and washing ensures the removal of any dead skin and winter coat left behind, allowing the air to circulate properly down to their skin, keeping them cool. For pets that spend more time outdoors, groomers frequently find ticks and stay alert for other skin issues or irritations.

It won’t take long for your pet to feel comfortable and pampered in our hands – many of our furry clients even grow to love grooming and greet us at the door with wagging tails and happy meows. We look forward to pampering your pets!