What If We’re Reading Our Pets All Wrong?

We’ve all seen the videos that go viral online: a pet owner comes home to find bits of toilet paper strewn across the carpet. They whip out their phones and start videotaping as they find their poodle mix hovered behind the couch, ears tucked, mouth curled into a nervous, apologetic smile. “Sammy, is this you?” the person accuses, pointing to the mess. The dog drops his head, offers a small tail wag, and the guilt is practically palpable. Or is it?

To us humans, it’s hard to imagine what else that reaction could be. But according to dog-cognition expert Alexandra Horowitz, it has less to do with guilt and more to do with how our dogs think we want them to respond. In a study conducted to test this theory, Horowitz instructed dog owners to place a treat in front of their furry friends, forbid them from eating it, then leave the room. While the owners were gone, Horowitz would either take the treat away or feed it to the dog. When the owners came back, Horowitz would tell the owners their dog had eaten the treat. When owners reprimanded the dog, they would respond similarly – whether or not they had actually eaten the treat. Interestingly, the dogs that hadn’t eaten the treat responded just as guiltily – sometimes more so, than the dogs that had eaten the treat. Researchers believe the look to be more so an act of submission than anything else. In a pack, for example, the alpha dog might reprimand a lower ranking dog for taking a bite of something before its their turn. The scolded dog may crouch or back off as a way to reduce conflict. Could this be a similar response to the one we receive when we scold Fido? More than likely, yes.

So how should pet owners respond to bad behavior (or a living room covered in toilet paper)? Horowitz has wise and practical advice: keep temptations low. Put food and garbage away, keep your shoes in the closet, and consider crating if destruction is a big issue. Because it’s so unclear whether dogs understand after the fact that they’ve done something wrong, Horowitz recommends setting your dog up for success rather than failure. After all, we want coming home to be as positive of an experience as possible for both humans and four legged friends.

Do you think dogs feel guilt? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Everything You Need to Know About Neutering/Spaying Your Cat

Fun fact: neutering a male cat takes only two minutes. For females, the surgery can be slightly longer, depending on her age and the timing of her heat cycle. In both cases, it’s usually possible to take your (sweet but lethargic) furry friend home the same day of the surgery.

Spaying or neutering a cat is considered the ‘cornerstone of pet ownership in the United States,” according to the ASPCA, which also publishes staggering statistics on the cat population each year (it’s estimated that there are between 74 and 96 million stray cats without homes in the US today). Similar to dogs, the optimal time of sterilization for cats is also up for debate. At shelters, the surgery is performed as young as 8 weeks old, and the kittens are ready to be adopted shortly after. This One vet argues that the best time is actually between 5 and 9 months, when they are at a good size, they’re already at their forever home, and most importantly, can have a calm environment to recover.

The surgery reaps research-based physical and medical benefits, too — spaying a female cat will help prevent uterine infections and essentially eliminate the risk of feline mammary cancers, which are malignant in 90 percent of cats and tend to be more aggressive in comparison to other species. For male cats, there are behavior benefits to neutering as well. “Anyone who as ever tried living with an intact male cat will tell you that the vocalizations, escape attempts, roaming, fighting and urine spraying associated with normal tom cat behavior can get old really quick,” says Veteran Advisor for PetMD Dr. Jennifer Coates. In general, a neutered male cat will be less likely to mark inappropriately inside or engage in fights with other felines.

With every study reflecting both medical and behavior benefits to spaying and neutering a cat, we think of it as the most responsible thing a cat owner can do for their four-legged friend. Of course, after the surgery, keep an eye out for bleeding, shivering, refusing water, vomiting or diarrhea – and contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns.


The Case For Feeding Your Cat With a Food Puzzle

One thing we know for sure: felines thrive when they are stimulated, and often times, they don’t have enough opportunities to engage their inquisitive minds. Last week, a study came out in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery on the best feeding practices for cats. In the study, 3,192 cat owners were surveyed on how they feed their furry friends. 30% reported using food puzzles as a simple way to enrich their cat’s mental stimulation.

According to the survey, offering a challenge for your cat during meal time can encourage natural foraging behavior and exercise their hunting skills. In addition, the study referenced multiple case studies in the past that food puzzles can help with weight maintenance, anxiety and unwanted marking and urination around the house.

The key? If your furry feline isn’t familiar with eating around a puzzle, it’s important to start out with one that isn’t too hard, otherwise you risk your kitty becoming frustrated or losing interest. There are many food puzzles out there – the study recommends calling your four-legged friend over when you first fill it so he or she understands that the puzzle contains their food.

Most cats will quickly become hooked once they realize the challenge. This idea of putting your cat “to work” is based on the idea that due to domestication, we have “taken their jobs away from them”. Offering a food puzzle is a simple but effective way of giving these always-up-for-a-challenge creatures a way to “work” for their food. One caveat? Some cats (not pointing fingers but you know who you are), simply are not food driven, and a food puzzle wont peak their interest. For the cats that live for mealtime, however, this could be a fun way to infuse a little challenge into their day-to-day life.

Thoughts? Would you try giving your kitty a food puzzle? Let us know in the comment section below.


Myth vs. Fact: Neutering/Spaying Your Dog

Over the years, we’ve been asked our opinion on how neutering or spaying dogs affects their behavior and health, everything from the appropriate age to neuter and whether it’s true that it can cause weight gain. We aren’t veterinarians, but we did some research, and we’re here to clear the air on some common myths…

Myth: My dog will drastically change after the surgery

Fact: The sterilization process in male dogs involves the surgical removal of the testicles. Contrary to popular belief, the only behaviors that may change following the procedure are those that are related to male hormones. As Caesar Milan points out, a “dog’s basic personality is formed more by environment and genetic than by sex hormones, so sterilization will not change your dog’s basic personality, make your dog sluggish or affect its natural instinct to protect the pack.” So will anything change? Yes! Luckily, the removal of hormones will eliminate unwanted tendencies of unneutered male dogs – such as “roaming”, mounting, running away, and inappropriate marking. In terms of decreasing aggression, we’ve found evidence to suggest that neutering can prevent some aggression problems in males, but it won’t necessarily “fix” a temperament-related issue, such as territorial aggression or food aggression. In females, the affects are more subtle, and you will only notice a difference if your dog has gone through a heat cycle.

Myth #2: A neutered dog is more likely to gain weight.

Fact: There is no scientific evidence that a neutered or spayed dog will gain weight due to lack of sex hormones. This myth could simply be due to the correlation of pets gaining weight in general as they age, and less to do with the surgery itself. So fear not! As long as your dog is active, eats a health diet and gets plenty of exercise, the surgery will have no impact on metabolism or weight gain.

Myth #3: Dogs should never be neutered or spayed before one year of age.

Fact: The traditional age for neutering is 6 to 9 months. While some breeders recommend waiting until a dog is two years old for developmental reasons, we recommend referring to your veterinarian, who will know what’s best for your furry friend.

More facts: According to Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine, intact female dogs have seven times the risk of developing mammary tumors than spayed females. And for male dogs, the risk of testicular cancer is eliminated.

For new pet owners: we know the idea of your furry baby going under the knife isn’t a pleasant one, but rest assured that it’s a procedure with very few complications. And once it’s done, its done!

Next up: Cats! It’s different than you may think…

Do Our Pets Get the Winter Blues?

It’s officially that time of the year: winter is dragging, and everyone is in need of a little sunshine and warmth. Everyone, we should add, includes our pets! While there is no research-based evidence to back the claims that our indoor-only pets are at risk of developing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), veterinarians and animal behaviorists suspect that our furry friends are also affected, in some ways, by the drearier months.

According to animal behavior consultant Steve Dale, dogs experience the hormones melatonin and serotonin in similar ways to humans. During the shorter days of winter, the brain produces more melatonin and less serotonin, resulting in cranky moods and less energy. While we can’t be certain, we can deduce that dogs also experience this decrease in the hormone that contributes to our wellness and overall happiness.

Other people theorize that pets that exhibit symptoms of SAD during gloomy days, especially in the low energy department, may actually be mirroring our moods. This is something that sounds feasible to us — especially given how attuned both felines and canine are to our daily emotional states. In fact, given how quickly canines can detect and pick up on mood shifts (it’s been proven that dogs can smell human fear and in turn become afraid), we wouldn’t be surprised if they respond similarly to humans feeling sad, low energy, or withdrawn.

While it has yet to be scientifically proven that dogs and cats suffer from SAD, it’s unarguable that both felines and canines are affected by light. While the days are gradually getting longer (finally!), there are a few easy ways to make sure your four-legged family member is getting enough exposure to natural light on a daily basis, like situating their bed close to a sun-facing window, and leaving the blinds open during the day hours.

Of course, if your furry friend is lethargic, low energy, or has a loss of appetite, we recommend taking them to the vet before anything else.

What do you think? Do you notice your pet being down in the dumps during the winter? Feel free to share in the comments!

Curious to read more? We liked this article: https://www.petmd.com/behavior/does-seasonal-affective-disorder-affect-pets



How to Konmari your Pet’s Space

The Konmari method (of “does this spark joy” fame) has taken the world by storm. With a new netflix series in which you can see Marie Kondo in action, the method of decluttering, inspired by Japanese simplicity, has us thinking about how we can tidy up our pet’s things, especially since the clutter from our pets has a tendency to sneak up on us. If we break it down by category, as Marie Kondo suggests, we can start the see where the build up can happen. For example:

-Care products like shampoos, pet wipes, tooth brushes, grooming tools, and odor control products

-Accessories like old collars, food bowls, gifts from friends, expired tags

-Bedding, blankets, cat furniture

-Attire, including winter coats, halloween costumes, and harnesses

-Toys, chew products, kongs, puzzles

Of course, it wouldn’t be the Konmari method without considering what “sparks joy” for our pets. That raggedy, barely-held-together-by-a-string mouse toy that your furry kitty has lovingly hunted around the house for years? Don’t dare get rid of it! Did you save your pup’s baby teeth? Of course, keep them forever. In terms of the extra bed that’s stored away, or the collar that didn’t fit, we recommend donating items to your local shelter. Here’s a list of items that shelters always need more of: https://www.petfinder.com/helping-pets/information-on-helping-pets/unusual-donations-for-shelters-rescue-groups/

Our favorite part of the Konmari Method might actually be the hashtag that is currently trending on social media, aptly called: #Konmaripets. Have you seen it? In the process of tidying up, pet parents have started posting pictures of their furry babies trying out the Konmari method for themselves. Take for example, this corgi who is insistent all his toys spark joy…

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Or this kitty who, in true Konmari fashion, is being thoughtful and deliberate about which items to chuck.

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Have you done the Konmari method for your pets? Please feel free to share in the comment section below!

Want More Friends? Get a Furry Baby!

On this blog, we’ve covered a range of topics having to do with our furry canines. We’ve talked about whether dogs have a sense of self, we’ve wondered what they dream about, we’ve explained why they’re so friendly and we’ve talked about the benefits of raising children and pets together (include links). And so much more! While there is still much to talk about when it comes to our four-legged friends (we’ll never get sick of talking about them), we wanted to explore something else today: how owning a dog can be a very social experience. Do you agree?

Sometimes, the easiest way to make friends is through the repetitiveness of life, where your routine requires you to see or interact with the same people every day. Enter dog walks. When you own a furry canine, you’re likely to frequent the same park every day, letting your pup stretch their legs and chase squirrels. Because of this, the same people congregate in the same areas every day, holding cups of coffee and sleepily throwing balls for happy pups. It’s during this time that friendships form. And, simply put, dogs are the world’s greatest ice breakers. This isn’t just anecdotal, it’s based in science: according to this article in the Atlantic, studies conducted on human interactions between people involving dogs found that strangers on the street “offer more smiles and friendly glances to people with dogs, and are more likely to approach and have a conversation with someone with a canine companion.” After all, strangers think of people with dogs more positively, and are much more likely to smile and make eye contact. For dog owners on the shier side, owning a pup can be a great way to ease into friendships. Because dog owners are always happy to talk about their lovable Fido, the initial awkwardness of conversation is replaced with dog pleasantries.

Walking Juniper, I’ve found many friendships to form naturally and gradually over time. Because I’m out with her so often, the companionships I’ve made through my dog offer a chance for me to socialize in a low-pressure way (while simultaneously giving Juniper the chance to see HER friends, a win-win!). And because I see these fellow dog owners so often, it’s especially nice to share the goings-on of my day-to-day. Just the other day, I got to the park, ran into my friend Heather and her furry child, Zeno, and the first thing she asked was, “How’d the date go?!” Walking a dog every day can feel tedious at times, but I’ve found that the amazing community of dog owners in New York City makes the experience so much more enjoyable and social.

Cats Prefer Human Interaction over Food and Toys

It’s commonly believed that cats are the more aloof of our four-legged pets, preferring their alone time over socializing. But is this true? We loved the recent findings of a study conducted on whether cats preferred human interaction or food, when given both options. Read more, below….

In the study’s abstract, researchers outlined their intention of determining just how sociable felines are by providing 25 adult cats with 4 stimuli in the form of human interaction, food, toys, and “biologically relevant” scent categories. “It is still common belief that cats are not especially sociable or trainable,” they explained. “This disconnect may be due, in part, to a lack of knowledge of what stimuli cats prefer, and thus may be most motivated to work for.”

During each of the 4 stimuli, the amount of time the cat spent engaging with each stimuli was recorded. The human interaction included petting, vocalization and engaging with a feather toy, either by the cat’s owner, or in the case of a shelter cat, an experimenter. Each stimuli was presented for one minute and then associated with an identifiable cue. For the food, chicken and tuna treats were presented inside a clear cup with a string attached. This stimuli was set up so that the cats could taste the food but not eat the treats quickly so that motivation and focus on the food remained for the 3 minutes. For the scent stimulus, the cats were presented with cotton cloths that each had the scent of catnip, gerbil, and an unfamiliar cat. Lastly, in the last stimuli, a movement toy, a mouse toy, and a feather toy were presented to the cats.

The results of the study showed that social interaction was the most preferred stimulus category. Given the choice between social interaction or to engage with the toys or the treats, over 50% of cats preferred human interaction. Yes, that’s right – the majority of cats will take an ear scratch from their owner before they take a piece of tuna! “Overall,” they concluded, “These findings suggest both social interaction and food could function as reinforcers, providing useful data for behavior modification or cognitive testing.”

Our takeaway? It’s an important reminder to avoid pigeon-holing the species, especially when we continue to learn so many things that surprise us! While they may not show it, our furry felines are happiest when we’re around. For us, this also reinforces the importance of finding quality cat-sitting for trips away. To find out more about Pampered Pet’s top of the line cat services, click here: http://pamperedpetsinc.com/services/

Does this study surprise you? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!