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Can Cats be Service Animals?

A simple googling of the question will present you with the following answer: “Unfortunately not.” As of right now, the Americans with Disability Act does not recognize cats as service animals, and only certifies dogs. But! Cats are able to be registered as both Emotional Support Animals and Therapy Animals. Read on to learn about the difference…

Service Animals are canines that are trained to help someone with a disability, whether it’s physical, sensory or mental duties. They can be trained to provide assistance during seizures, help a visually impaired person safely cross the street, and retrieve medicine, among other tasks. An Emotional Support Animal (ESA), on the other hand, is an animal certified by an owner’s mental health provider in the form of a letter that qualifies the pet (usually a dog or cat — but could even be a horse or ferret!) as an emotional companion. An Emotional Support Animal does not receive specific training for the certification, but rather is recognized by the therapist as a support for someone with an emotional disability. 

In addition, cats can also become Therapy Animals that frequent hospitals, nursing homes and even prisons to provide a dose of cuddly comfort (and oxytocin!) to anyone in need. These cats are trained through organizations such as The Pet Partners Story to walk on a leash, feel comfortable with car rides/transportation and most importantly, enjoy spending time on the laps of strangers. An ideal cat candidate is one with a friendly and calm disposition, over the age of 1. Therapy Animals have become increasingly accepted in hospitals and institutions across the country as mounting evidence grows around the wonderful benefits a warm furry animal can have on just about anyone. 

In more recent years, there has been a big push for the public to acknowledge that cats can take on certain tasks and be just as much a support as their furry counterparts. We’re here for that push, and as always, feel that the furry members of the family should always be recognized for their remarkable ability to make us feel better, whether it’s in certification form or not! 

Click here to learn more about Emotional Support Animals.

Click here to learn more about Therapy Animals.

The Potential Harm of Grain Free Dog Food

What do you feed your dog? Grain free dog food has become increasingly popular in the pet market in the last decade, as grain and gluten-free diets have garnered immense attention and popularity among us humans. 

While it has been thought that dog food formulas heavy on grains such as rice or oat can cause skin issues and may be a common allergy for some canines, the American Kennel Club argues that the anti-grain trend in dog food was actually spurred on by an unfortunate contamination in 2007 from Chinese imported wheat gluten that ended up causing kidney damage and even death in thousands of pets across the country. In fact, the top two allergies listed for dogs are beef and dairy, and according to New York veterinarian Lisa Lippman, grain sensitivity in dogs is “extremely, extremely rare.” 

On June 27th, the FDA issued a warning cautioning against grain free dog food, stating that an initial investigation had begun of the potential link between canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and dog food free of grains and high in peas, lentils, and potatoes. DCM is most common in larger dog breeds in middle to late adulthood, with signs including decreased energy, coughing, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse. 

As the FDA continues its investigation and testing, they are tempering any alarm by encouraging pet owners to “work closely with their veterinarians…to select the best diet for their pets’ needs.” While the disease is still rare and the warning still inconclusive, veterinary-medicine professor Christopher Lea doesn’t see any point in sticking with a grain-free diet for their pet if it was not specifically instructed by their veterinarian. 

Read the official report here.

How to Keep your Cat Happy During the Final Stretch of Summer

We’re in the final stretch of summer, with the forecast staying in the balmy 70’s and 80’s. Summer can be (but isn’t always!) a drag for pets that spend the majority of their time inside. With the windows closed and the AC blasting, felines in urban areas can start to lose touch with their inner wild side. Here are a few ways to keep your kitty entertained during these last few weeks of summer…

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A refreshing snack: We loved this idea from online cat magazine the Catster: Meat broth ice cubes! Opt out of store bought broth as it is often loaded with ingredients not suited for your four-legged friend. Instead, make a simple homemade broth, fill an ice cube tray once the broth is cooled, and into each cube drop a small piece of meat. Pop the tray in the freezer until frozen and throw a cube or two in a shallow cat bowl for your cat to enjoy. They’ll love the challenge of licking the quickly melting ice cube to get to that special treat in the middle.

Have a less food motivated kitty? A cat that enjoys spending time by the sink and batting the faucet might enjoy a water game in which you fill the sink with cool water and surprise him with a small rubber ducky or other water-safe floating toy to “hunt.”  Just make sure the object isn’t small enough to ingest.

Lastly, with end of summer being a common vacation time for many, we wanted to remind anyone headed to the beach that finding a cat sitter you can rely on and trust will make the time away from your furry friend stress-free and enjoyable. At Pampered Pets, we make sure your feline feels comfortable with our pet care staff in advance, so you can be rest assured that all members of the family are enjoying their last bit of summer. 🙂

Do Cats Lick out of Affection?

Cats show their affection in different ways. A lingering body lean against your leg, a cuddle in your lap as you read the paper, a heart-warming cheek rub — these are all ways that our furry felines let us know we’ve got their stamp of approval. But what about licking? If you’ve been licked by a cat, you’ve probably been surprised by the rough texture of a cat’s tongue. It might be bubblegum pink and adorably tiny, but a feline’s tongue contains papillae, which feel like sandpaper and help cats properly groom themselves and effectively remove meat from bones. 

So why is your four-legged friend repeatedly licking you? For one, they lick to form and strengthen bonds. Allogrooming, a behavior in cats and other social animals, creates a familiar group scent, reinforces the relationship and social connection between members and (bonus!) keeps everyone in tip top shape. “I usually take my cats’ licking as a compliment,” states certified feline behavior consultant Marci Koski, who explains that a licking cat with relaxed body language like kneading or nuzzling is generally a sign of a calm and content feline. They could also be tasting something unfamiliar that spilled on your arm, having a moment of affection, or requesting your attention. Of course, compulsive self-licking could be a sign of an anxious kitty — especially if you notice thinning or bald spots — and should be addressed with your veterinarian. The takeaway? Social grooming by licking is a key feline behavior indicative of affection between cats and between cats and humans. 

Dog’s Personalities Evolve with Age

When we bring puppies home, we can’t wait to see their little personalities take shape. As they grow, we come to understand them as unique and special, whether they’re fearless, friendly, cuddly, sensitive, smart, loyal, or shy. When I brought Juniper home, I couldn’t have predicted all the qualities that make her who she is. As she grew, I took note of her quirks, big and small — how she prefers gentle music like Norah Jones, enjoys an ear scratch more than a belly rub, is sensitive to people crying, and could sleep through her morning walk if I let her. Through the years, I’ve noticed changes, too; as a six year old, she prefers a good squirrel chase over the dog park, doesn’t like to eat her dinner unless I’m eating mine, and has finally come around to enjoying a dip in the ocean.

Apparently, I’m not alone in seeing my dog’s personality evolve with age. In a study by psychologists in the Journal of Research in Personality, dog owners were instructed to closely observe their four-legged friend’s personalities and behavioral histories throughout their lifespan. The research indicated that people seemed to notice their dog’s specific character traits take shape over time. And characteristics such as aggression, timidness, and anxiety were often contingent on the owner’s personality traits. This is not so surprising as we’ve seen, time and time again, just how attuned our furry canines are to our emotional state. But the study pointed out an interesting find: “When humans go through big changes in life, their personality traits can change. We found that this also happens with dogs—and to a surprisingly large degree,” stated William Chopik, lead psychologist and author of the study. While it’s been previously assumed that dogs personalities are somewhat fixed, Chopik proved that our furry friends actually grow into their personalities and may exhibit shifts in characteristics and quirks throughout their lives. Fascinating!

What do you think? Have you noticed your furry pal’s personalities change with age? We’d love to hear in the comments!

Cat News for the State of NY

Last month during Animal Advocacy Day, New York became the third state to push forward a bill by the Humane Society banning cat declawing, joining other countries that have long since banned the procedure. The bill awaits the signature of Gov. Cuomo to be passed. Read more, below…

The surgical removal of a feline’s claws has been mistakenly considered a quick fix for unwanted scratching and the destruction of furniture. But cats scratch for a reason — in fact, it’s a trait specific to cats — just as a bear will scratch its back on a tree or a monkey will groom its offspring; a good scratching session is part of what makes a cat a cat, helping him or her to remove dead husks from their claws, have a sense of marking territory, and flex their muscles. Plus, there are adverse effects to a declawed cat. Without their claws, cats are more likely to bite, often feeling defenseless without their number one tool. It is also reported that a declawed cat will avoid the litter box after the surgery, perhaps because of pain or discomfort.

In addition, cat declawing can result in lifelong pain for your cat, since it is essentially an amputation procedure. Cats that have undergone cat declawing surgery are more prone to infection, nerve damage and tissue death. While there are many in opposition of the surgery, there are some in favor, including those who believe that owners with blood diseases such as hemophilia should be given the option to declaw their cat. The bottom line? There are several ways to keep unwanted scratching at bay. Keep your kitty’s nails trimmed (we wrote a blog post about it here – link attached) and provide plenty of scratching posts throughout the house, replacing them as needed. 

What do you think? While the ban has both those in favor and those in opposition, lawmakers are uniting over a common sentiment: our pets give us so much love and happiness, we’d do what it takes to keep them safe.

Clever Evolution to Explain Puppy Eyes

We’ve all been on the receiving end of it: a wishful dog peering out from under the table gives you his best shot at puppy eyes as you lift a forkful of chicken into your mouth. We’ve loved reporting on the various ways dogs have evolved to cohabitate with humans, and especially how some characteristics reflect the species keen adaptation to our human ways. The newest research on the matter hasn’t let us down, so we knew we’d share with our readers…

A few weeks ago, a team of researchers at the National Academy of Sciences reported that dogs make puppy eyes — that look of quizzical anticipation — more frequently than wolves. In fact, officially coined “AU101: inner eyebrow raise” the look we so often see as a dog cocks its head may be a result of clever evolution and positive reinforcement. The proof is in the pudding here; dogs have evolved to have muscles above their eyebrows that make for a more expressive face, while wolves, despite having similar muscle construction, don’t lift their eyebrows. This bit of domesticated biology has been working in dog’s favors, perhaps passing the favorable trait down through the generations. For example, an expressive dog with puppy eyes is more likely to be adopted from a shelter, and in studies conducted on human preference, research has shown that people prefer pets which infant like features — such as wide, hopeful eyes — a characteristic that kicks our “nurturing” instinct into gear. Puppy eyes aren’t the only way dogs continue to steal our hearts – according to other research in the field, both human and dog share a boost of Oxytocin when reunited, the love hormone that reinforces bonds and keeps our canines so loyal.

All this to say, we’re happy these lovable companions continue to choose us and our couches over the wild woods!

Does Soothing Music Really Help My Pet Stay Calm?

Researchers have wondered for years: does soothing music have a similar effect on pets as it does on humans? Could a peaceful piano ballad put Fido at ease during a thunderstorm? According to extensive studies on shelter dogs, relaxing music with a steady tempo can lower cortisol levels, the hormone present in the blood responsible for stress. In fact, calming music and sounds seem to have a similar influence on many animals, causing a physiological response and the slowing of heart rates. This can be especially beneficial for canines, whose autonomic system is designed to swiftly recognize moments of fight or flight.

Interestingly, a study conducted in 2002 took the research a step farther and explored exactly what kind of music was most likely to calm an easily agitated pup. The takeaway? Dogs seem to respond most positively to simple music that has a tempo of around 50-60 beats per minute. “Classical music with a single instrument at a slower tempo has been especially shown to produce relaxed behaviors in dogs,” states Dr. Cornelius, founder of Last Wishes, an organization helping support families in end of care services for pets. Not surprisingly, fast music or tunes with especially heavy bases or loud percussions could have an adverse affect, causing your four legged friend to become anxious or on edge (it sounds like thunder!).

Wondering if this could apply to your kitty? Yes and no! With their keen sense of hearing, cats do prefer calming music similar to dogs, but they especially favor “species-appropriate music.” This includes music that mimics the sounds of birds chirping and cats purring or lightly scratching — think of it as a soundtrack of all the things cats love. In fact, with research backing just how beneficial cat-geared music can be for a jittery furry friend, it’s become an industry, with Kickstarter campaigns raising thousands of dollars to produce cat-friendly albums to be left on the stereo when owners leave for the day. Curious to have a listen? Music for Cats offers a free audio sample.

The real question is — if you have a dog and cat, would they both be happy to listen to the same album? We’ll leave that for them to decide.