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“Pawternity” Joins the Ranks of Pet-Friendly Employee Benefits

These days, employee benefits go above and beyond. Everything from egg freezing to salad bars to free vacations — companies are finding ways to offer the most appealing employee perks in an effort to recruit and retain the best employees.

In July, we wrote about employer-sponsored benefit plans that insure the family pooch or cat. The newest perk to join the ranks is paid pet leave –“pawternity” — offered for employees who have recently brought home a fur baby and have long nights ahead. The trend, while new in the US, has long been established in the UK, and also includes paid time off during the death of a beloved pet.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with pet owners feeling especially pleased that companies are finally acknowledging and recognizing the large role pets play in our lives.

“We offer maternity and paternity leave,” states the CEO of a firm in this article, “And a pet is another member of the family. We don’t discriminate just because they aren’t human.” Not only is it a perk for new pet parents to spend time with the newest furry members of their family, studies have shown that quality time for bonding, settling in and learning proper socialization is key for a healthy puppy’s development. Most importantly, companies may find themselves with very happy and refreshed employees returning from quality time with their four-legged babies.

In addition, being able to be with any children in the home to help them process the death of a pet and to be together as a family is undeniably important. “When a pet dies suddenly, it highlights the unpredictability of the world,” says Abigail Marks in this NYTimes article, “It tells children that the people and animals they love can die without warning.”

As pet-lovers at Pampered Pets who have dedicated our work to offering the best possible care for the furry friends of New York and New Jersey, we’re happy to see a growth of pet-geared employee perks!

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Cat Owners: Your Cat is Left or Right “Pawed”

Every once in awhile, something new comes out about our furry felines that takes us by surprise. Recently, it’s been the discovery that cats are laterally biased, meaning they favor one paw over the other. The preference varies from feline to feline — just like humans are born left or right-handed, and because it’s a relatively new discovery, there’s still much to learn. Here’s what we know so far…

According to a new study by Animal Behaviour, 44 felines (24 male, 20 female) — young and old and of varying breeds — were tested in a low-stress study conducted in their homes. Owners were asked to observe and keep track of their cat’s behavior when it came to their paws, including how they stepped over things, went down stairs, and reached for food. The results? Male cats favored their left paw, whereas female cats were more likely to use their right.

The gender difference is interesting – and means more research may be needed before we can fully understand why this difference exists. So far, Deborah Wells from the Animal Behaviour Centre has a few fascinating ideas. Limb preference might be an indicator of how well an animal handles stress, she speculates, so a cat that is left “pawed” might show stronger fear responses or aggression. Does that mean male cats are more likely to be aggressive? Not exactly. “Further work is needed to investigate this,” says Wells, “But the strong sex effects reported here, and elsewhere…point more and more strongly to underlying differences in the neural architecture of male and female animals.”

There is still much to learn about this new discovery. Cats join other animals – horses, dogs, apes and whales to name a few — that show lateral bias. We look forward to hearing more about this and are constantly reminded that there is so much still to learn about our beloved four-legged friends!

The Best Way to Keep Your Indoor Cat Active During the Winter

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Winter has hit in New York and New Jersey, and as we fight the urge to hibernate until we can feel our toes, we’re reminded that our beloved pets, while happy to cuddle up on a winter day, also need some activity to stay healthy.

House cats in particular can go stir crazy. Living indoors suppresses a feline’s natural hunting instinct, and the days can tick by slowly if they aren’t given a chance to exercise — both physically and mentally. In the wild, for example, cats are snackers, hunting small rodents and birds throughout the day. Often times, they won’t eat right away, but rather, keep their prey for brief entertainment, even tossing it around in the form of play. “The behavior pattern is written in the genes of the animal,” says Dr. Siracusa from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, “Which means that this is a behavioral need.” As you can imagine, having their food available in a bowl at all times is less than inspiring for the nimble and skilled felines, and the lack of stimulation can cause boredom or overeating.

One way to keep a cat entertained and in tip top shape when it comes to food is to make meal time more challenging. It may be a little extra work for you, but offering a “scavenger hunt” for your furry friend activates the inner hunter — and gets them off the couch (or out from under it). There are several feeding systems available — one being the “NoBowl” which has gotten great reviews. Of course, stuffing dry cat food into pouches and hiding them around the house is not for everyone, but luckily there are other ways to stimulate your four-legged pal around meal time. For example, try incorporating some play before dinner, or offer your kitty a strategy-based toy or puzzle. Cats are smart and quick to become bored of a predictable puzzle, so we like this list of 11 unique and challenging cat toys

Paying attention to your furry friend’s feeding behavior can be a fascinating window into their world. By offering a challenge during mealtime, your feline will not only be able to flex their hunting muscles, they’ll find more enjoyment in your home.

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Why Do We Baby Talk to Our Pets?

Put a baby in front of us, and we’ll coo and tickle until we’re blue in the face. Put a puppy or kitten in front of us — and we’ll do the exact same. While the impulse to baby-talk an infant can be explained biologically (it increases attachment and attention) it’s less clear why we feel the same impulse towards our furry-legged companions.

A study conducted by Tobey Ben-Aderet set out to see exactly why we use infant-directed speech when communicating with our furry canines. To do so, Ben-Aderet recorded people using high-pitched, sing-songy voices, and then played those recordings to both adult canines and puppies. The “pet-directed” speech, he found, had an immediate and positive impact on the puppies, but less so on the adults (he theorized that adult dogs would respond more positively to hearing their owner’s voice over a stranger’s voice). As for why we baby-talk our furry pets, Ben-Aderet concluded the following: when speaking to a dog, we modify our speech as if we’re talking to babies or linguistic- foreigners — that is, we believe, either consciously or unconsciously, that the ‘listener’ has not fully mastered the language and thus would respond more positively to simplified speech.

The takeaway? It’s somewhat hardwired for us to talk to our pets the way we do, the same way we talk to our babies. Even if we aren’t baby-talking, chatting to our pets in general is a normal and natural human response to being in the company of others, human or not. We are “natural anthropomorphizers,” says anthrozoologist Hal Herzog, “meaning we naturally tend to [ascribe] all kinds of thoughts and meanings to other things in our lives.” So, is it harmful? Definitely not. Beneficial? Maybe – especially if it means we have someone to talk to, even if they’re only there to listen.

Read more: here and Here.

Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?

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Do you ever wonder about your cat’s sleeping habits and patterns, or how they manage to sleep anywhere, anytime? Cats are crepuscular, which means that they’re most active during dawn and dusk. They can get up to 16 hours of sleep a day (fun fact: they sleep more than dogs!) and are often snoozing, going in and out of light sleep and deeper sleep, but quick to awaken.

From our resident blogger, Joy:

When I was growing up, we had a black and white cat named Pepe, who would, every evening as my parents prepared dinner, sprint from beneath the couch in the dining room, through the kitchen, around the counter, and into the hallway. She did it religiously and almost always at the same time, as if she had a clock set to remind her. It always baffled me, and to this day, I can hear the sound of her little paws padding quickly on the floor. Now I understand it was always during her burst of energy at dusk! Perhaps she was playing out an elaborate fantasy where a mouse scampered from room to room, and capturing it was her only chance of survival.

Why exactly do cats sleep so much? The answer lies in genetics and evolution. Feline predators (and prey — more on that later!) sleep for long periods of time to reserve their energy; after all, hunting is both physically and mentally demanding — so much so that they need to be fully rested to be the agile, quick and cunning hunters that they are. Interestingly, cats are dreamers — that is, they enter a REM sleep similar to humans and can be seen twitching their whiskers or flicking their tail during their deepest slumber.

While cats are some of the most expert nappers, it’s good practice to be aware of your furry pal’s sleeping habits and be watchful of any changes or behavior that strikes you as odd; it could be a sign of illness or pain.

 

Do Dogs Have a Sense of Self?

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We like to think that dogs have many attributes similar to our own; they’re quick to make friends, they enjoy a day of cuddling and they have unique personalities. But do they have a sense of self the way we do? Recent studies have taken a closer look at canine self-awareness. This is what they found…

To understand a dog’s concept of self, it’s important to consider how they perceive the world around them. For example, we understand the world visually, whereas dogs understand the world through smell. When it comes to self-awareness, we can look in a mirror and understand that we are looking at ourselves, whereas dogs might not make that connection.

Keeping this in mind, Alexandra Horowitz, author of ‘Inside of a Dog,’ was curious to see how she might be able to learn more about our furry friend’s self-awareness through smell. To do so, she devised a study in which 36 dogs were presented with two canisters; one with a drop of each dog’s urine, and the other with the drop of urine, plus an additional, foreign scent. Across the board, the dogs spent more time smelling the modified canister, suggesting that the dogs were more interested in the smell that they didn’t recognize as their own. Could this mean they have an understanding of themselves in the same way that we recognize ourselves in the mirror? When taking the study further and separating the altered urine with the foreign scent (in this case, anise oil), the dogs continued to sniff the modified urine longer than the anise oil on its own.

So, what does this mean in terms of dog’s awareness of self? It’s hard to know for sure. “I’d say that they have a rudimentary theory of mind,” says Horowitz, “One that’s not equivalent to a human adult, but that isn’t absence of thinking about one’s self and others.”

While we have yet to know exactly what goes on in our furry pal’s minds, we could spend hours contemplating. After all, they are fascinating animals, with a unique closeness and bond to humans. Sometimes, we’re convinced they’re even more like us than we realize.

What do you think? Do you think dogs have a sense of self? Let us know in the comments!

6 Ways We Are Grateful for Our Pets

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We usually use the blog as a way to answer your questions and share all sorts of tidbits and fun facts about the furry creatures in our lives. Today, though, we wanted to do something a little different and raise our glass to our pets – big and small, old and young, they bring us so much joy every year, and it’s worth celebrating! Here are 6 ways we are grateful for our pets this holiday season…

  1. They remind us to take care of ourselves. Even on the days when the last thing we want to do is go for a walk, they remind us of the importance of getting fresh air and stretching our legs.
  1. They offer hours of endless entertainment – and we mean hours! Over the years of working with cats and dogs in New York and New Jersey, we are always amazed at just how entertaining these little creatures can be. There is never a boring day!
  1. They are A+ snugglers, and after a long day, a snuggle on the couch is exactly what the doctor orders (dare we say, snuggles with our pets are #1 in our book!?)
  1. They keep us curious, and help us see the world through their eyes. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of human life, but our pets remind us to stay curious and be present, whether it’s watching our cat laser-focus on a pigeon outside the window, or stopping to see the squirrels play during a dog walk.
  1. They teach us valuable lessons about ourselves. Owning a pet can be challenging, but it can also be a wonderful learning experience. Since our pets so often look to us for cues on how to behave, we are reminded to be aware of our own behavior. They keep us on our toes!
  1. Lastly, they are the world’s best foot warmers!

Happy Holidays from the Pampered Pets team, to all the animal-lovers out there!

4 Qualities to Look for in a Cat Sitter

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Finding a responsible, professional sitter can be challenging. Not only are you trusting your pet sitter with your beloved four legged friend, you’re trusting them with your home, too. Plus, there are thousands to choose from these days, as more people take on dog walking, cat sitting and pet care as a side profession. Below, we’re outlining the four key qualities to look for in a cat sitter. Starting with…

TRUST. For and foremost, they must be able to prove that you can trust them (a feeling is not enough!). All pet sitters should have at least a few references readily available in your first meeting.

EXPERIENCE. With pet sitting becoming a popular side gig for many, it’s important to find one that not only has experience, but also fully understands cat behavior, and has years of experience. This means they know what to do under various circumstances, and won’t be stumped or confused by your cat’s behavior or temperament. An experienced cat sitter has seen it all.

BONDED AND INSURED. We can’t reiterate the importance of this enough! We urge you to only consider pet sitters that are licensed, bonded, and insured. Pampered Pets sitters are also trained to notice irregularities with your pet as well as with your home, so they come knowing how to appropriately assess various situations.

ATTENTIVE TO YOUR CAT’S NEEDS. A good cat sitter has an innate understanding of feline behavior; they are knowledgeable, responsible, and in tune with your cat’s needs, whether it’s extra play time, a soothing cuddle on the couch, or no attention at all – whatever the cat prefers.

What qualities are important to you in a pet sitter? Feel free to share in the comments!