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and in turn become afraid), we wouldn’t be surprised if they respond similarly to humans feeling sad, low energy, or withdrawn.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!

There’s a New Breed in Town and it’s Called the Pibble

Here at Pampered Pets, we don’t breed discriminate. We believe every dog should be treated with respect and proper care, regardless of their size, their breed, whether they’re purebred or a mix, rescued from a shelter or purchased from a breeder. We’ve talked about pit bulls in the past (read here and here), and we were touched by a recent article in the New York Times entitled “Pit Bull gets a rebrand.”

According to Katy Brink, executive director of the renowned internet website the Dodo dedicated solely to the cute things animals do, pit bull nicknames have started to trend as pit bull owners band together to defend the often misunderstood breed. Pibble, pittopotamous, potato, and hippo are all names that have stuck, all with the connotation that the breed is in fact silly, sweet, and lovable.

Even with awareness growing around the unjust treatment towards the breed, including a book that made some buzz a few years ago and many online videos highlighting pit bulls in their true nature; lounging on the couch, lovingly tending to a baby, and being no different than any other dog, there are many people who continue to believe that the dogs are vicious, unpredictable, and bred to bite. Our resident blogger, Joy, dog owner of pit bull mix, Juniper, experiences this on a daily basis, from people choosing not to take the elevator with them, to the fellow dog owners that cross the street.

But how did pit bulls become the country’s most feared furry canine?  According to Dr. Pamela Reid, vice president of the ASPCA anti-cruelty team, the term pit bull is an umbrella term to describe any dog that fits the bill of having a blocky head and muscular body, and can include “American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, and American bulldogs,” both purebreds and mixes. Breed discrimination didn’t start with pit bulls, either. Over time, America has gone through phases of fearing rottweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds, and other big dogs.

One thing is clear: what is less celebrated is the remarkable resiliency and forgiveness these dogs have shown humans on countless occasions, and how their spirits shine through despite maltreatment and abuse. With their fair share of quirks and preferences (we like a recent video trend of pit bulls eating spinach, and find great delight in watching this video of two pit bulls playing a game of bop-the-balloon, we will do what it takes to support the breed, even if that means something as simple as calling them pibbles!

To read more about breed discrimination click here.


The Evolution of Pet Food

Like the human diet, pet food has evolved through time. Recently, the industry has adapted to meet the needs of not just our furry friends, but of the humans that buy it. “This transformation of pet food,” stated an article published in the Atlantic that discussed the huminifaction of dog food, “reflects a broader trend, in which people go to ever-greater lengths to address the human needs they project onto their pets, almost as if the animals were their children.”

But why now? Some people theorize that with this generation of millenials waiting longer to have children, people are dedicating more time, money, and care into their furry children. We see this reflected in pet owner’s actions beyond just food — pet health insurance, for example, has increased in the last decade, and in recent years, the introduction of “pawternity” leave as a desirable employee benefit shows just how much people are considering their pets as true members of the family.

Plus, pet owners, now more than ever, are shopping for pet food in the same way that they shop for their own food. Quality ingredients, appealing packaging, transparent and ethical processing and manufacturing are all factors that play into how people are choosing the food they feed their pets. In fact, the amount of money Americans spend on pet food has nearly doubled from 2009 to 2017. And with the rise of meal-kit delivery services such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh, pet food companies have begun to offer at-home delivery of freshly prepared dog food as well. Nom Nom Now, for example, offers complete meals for your four-legged friend delivered fresh with enticing names such as “porkalicious potluck” and “tasty turkey fare” with ground turkey, brown rice, carrots, spinach and fish oil. The Farmer’s Dog, another dog food delivery service, states on their website that “you shouldn’t be the only one eating healthy.” Made with human grade USDA ingredients, they say it’s food humans could eat.

According to the Pet Food Institute, in the 1400’s, people were advised to feed their dogs bran bread, some meat, and a mix of goat’s milk and bean broth or buttered eggs if the dog was sick. We find it fascinating to think about how pet care has evolved since then.

But is this trend of marketing dog food as appealing to humans making the actual food better for dogs? According to Merck Manual’s Veterinary nutritional guide, “Nutritional problems occur most commonly when dogs and cats are fed imbalanced homemade diets, when cats are fed diets formulated for dogs, or when dogs or cats are fed certain human foods.” We think this speaks to the importance of making sure your pet is receiving the proper balance of nutrients, proteins and caloric intake, regardless of whether your furry friend is eating dry food, canned food, homemade food, or high-end prepared food.

To read more about the history of pet food, click here.

Everything You Need to Know About Crate Training Your Dog

Crate training a dog is sort of like sleep training a baby – it’s an entirely different experience depending on the baby or dog — and the parents! Here are our tried and true tips, whether you’re thinking about it for your puppy, or wondering if it’s the answer to some unwanted behavior with your furry friend, we think you’ll find something useful below….

Dogs feel safe in enclosed, den like areas, and it’s their natural instinct to seek out areas around the house that make them feel secure. It isn’t a weird habit of your furry friend to take a nap under the coffee table — it’s genetics! However, while many dogs gravitate towards enclosed areas, some dogs are a little more skeptical. Still, there are times when a crate is an excellent solution to solving a behavior problem. For example, dogs with separation anxiety may actually feel soothed being in an enclosed area. For puppies, crate training can be a great way to introduce routine and boundaries for your furry friend, and once puppies hit the curious and mischievous phase of puppyhood, a crate can be an excellent way to curb any house-related destruction. If you would like to crate train your furry canine, there are a few ways to get your dog accustomed to crate time:

  1. Make it cozy! The comfier the set up, the more enticing it will be for your four-legged friend. We recommend putting a nicely padded dog bed inside, a soft blanket, and a few of his favorite toys. Throwing a towel or throw over the top also makes the crate feel extra den-like.
  2. Give meals inside the crate. When first introducing the crate, placing the dog bowl in the crate will help Fido begin to associate the crate as his space.
  3. In the beginning, leave the crate door open and let your pup explore it freely.
  4. Start to use a command with the crate like “kennel” and always follow up with treats!
  5. Limit the time your puppy/dog spends in the crate to less than 3 hours.
  6. Stay away from negative associations by using the crate as a form of punishment or time out, i.e. “you were bad, go in your crate.” Once your dog has that negative association, they’ll avoid the crate all together (no one puts themselves in time out!).
  7. Lastly, make sure you include a good walk before your dog goes in the crate.

You may find that your furry friend will begin to use the crate as his den for napping or even as his place to sleep at night. It can become a positive, calming and secure place for your canine, and may even help him regulate anxiety. Plus, it prevents from accidents happening when you aren’t home. Just remember, every dog is different – some take more time to feel comfortable in a crate, but with the proper introducing and a little patience, you’ll find your pup using the crate as a comforting and safe space of their own.

Have you tried crate training your dog? Please feel free to share your tips in the comment section below!


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!