The arrival of a baby in a household turns things upside down. That’s certainly how it can seem to your pets. A dog may find there’s less time for walks and playing, and a cat may suddenly be ousted from her favorite sleeping places in the bedroom or on your lap, due to the presence of the baby.
It’s important to get your pets used to the idea of having the newcomer around, along with the changes in routine that go with it. And ideally the preparation needs to start before the baby is born.
Prenatal Pet Training
In the months leading up to the birth, spend slightly less time with your cat or dog – particularly if they are used to lazing in your lap or sitting by your feet demanding attention.
If your dog is not fully trained at this point, fill in the gaps with some training sessions. Get an expert in to help out, if necessary. Your dog needs to know the basic ‘Sit’, ‘Stay’ and ‘Leave it’ commands, at the very least. It’s essential that the humans in the house reinforce their roles as Alphas in the pack.
A new baby will bring new sounds and smells to the house. You can get your pets ready for this by inviting mums and dads with babies or toddlers to call in for coffee. Play a recording of a crying baby to acclimatize pets’ ears, and switch on any noisy new toys, mobiles, swings or other baby-related apparatus. Let your pets sniff a nappy and a cloth with a few drops of baby oil on it. Familiarity is half the battle.
Get Your Pet Vet-Ready
A neutered pet is a calmer pet, and less likely to bite. This is especially true with males. When neutered, they are less likely to view the baby as a rival. Arrange for a vet to perform the operation, if the pet is not yet neutered. And while you’re there, make sure Puss and Fido are up to date with their vaccinations, worm-free, and generally in tip top health.
Babies bring lots of unpredictability to a household, and old routines soon break down. There’s nothing wrong with this, but a pet who’s set in his ways may not take kindly to sudden change. Break him in by varying feeding times, blocking off no-go areas with a baby gate, or perhaps hiring a dog walker.
If the human mum-to-be has always been the pet’s chief companion, it’s handy if you can introduce another ‘favourite’ into its life. This could be a partner, older child or friend – anyone able to spend quality time with the animal.
Introducing the Baby
Before letting a dog or cat see the baby, let them sniff a blanket and a soiled nappy. Try not to show any nervousness when bringing the baby into the house for the first time, as pets will pick up on the bad vibes.
To make the first introduction, sit with the baby in your arms – ideally in a ‘neutral’ room, one where the pet doesn’t usually go – and let the dog or cat approach in its own good time (and one at a time, if you have multiple pets). Don’t force the issue. Have some treats ready to reward good behavior.
You can reinforce the positive associations by treating a dog whenever it’s around you and the baby. That way your pet will come to associate the baby with good things (i.e. food!) A cat will need less fuss in this respect, and will simply equate the baby with you, logging it as something not to worry about.
Whenever there’s any interaction between baby/toddler and pet, make sure there’s an adult around to keep an eye on the situation.
Special Notes For Cats
A docile cat needs to get used to the new baby, and to keep away when it’s asleep. A more flighty cat should simply be kept away. Toddlers seem to have an instinct for grabbing handfuls of pet fur, and a nervous cat may react by scratching. A cat flap with a lock can be handy in the early days, to keep puss outdoors at key times.
Many cats dislike a baby’s crying, and will disappear when the screaming begins. This is very handy! Make sure there’s a quiet, safe spot for them, away from the mayhem. The Maya Nook is a perfect solution to give your cat some privacy.
Cats feel exposed and nervous when they eat, so you should keep a toddler away from the place where your pet is feeding. It should also go without saying that you should prevent young ‘uns from rummaging in the litter tray too!
Special Notes For Dogs
All dogs will need to be well-trained, in a situation where trust is so fundamental. Some dog breeds are very rarely going to be friendly with children, though. A dog bred over hundreds of years for aggression is NOT a dog you should have in the family home. ‘Snappy’ breeds such as Jack Russel, Dachshund or Chihuahua can be problematic too, but you probably know your dog best.
A treat-based puzzle toy such as a Kong ball is a useful distraction. You can give it to your dog while you spend time tending to the baby, to divert the pet’s attention.
It’s important not to abandon dog walks, as that will lead to doggy stress and frustration. It’s a case of ‘business as usual’, where ‘usual’ has simply undergone a few changes.
The dog/child relationship is a two-way process, and youngsters need training too. Teach them to be gentle with the dog, and they will have the basis for a good relationship.
And the importance of that relationship shouldn’t be underestimated. Children learn lots about friendship, respect and responsibility from interacting with animals. There is also evidence that allergies are less of an issue in kids who have been brought up with pets.
So – you’ve replaced your ‘pet baby’ with the real thing. That means big change. But when handled properly it’s a positive change, the beginning of a new chapter in the happy family home.
This entry was posted in Cats
Thankfully, animal ill health is very much the exception rather than the norm. Many pets go for years suffering nothing worse than the occasional tick, flea or minor wound.
However, if illness or injury strike you can cut the stress by making sure your pet first aid kit is well-stocked and ready to go. Many illnesses will require diagnosis and treatment from a vet, but there are minor problems and non-medical issues that you can easily address yourself.
What you need very much depends on the type of pet you have. But let’s start with some general med-kit classics.
No First Aid Kit Is Complete Without…
- Bandages – self-adhesive or crepe, 2.5 and 5cm width
- Non-adhesive absorbent dressing pads (5cm x 5cm, or smaller for guinea pigs, rabbits, etc)
- Sterile absorbent gauze
- Sterile wipes
- Antiseptic ointment and antibacterial spray
- Surgical tape
- Cotton wool rolls, pads, balls and buds
- Tough scissors – a blunt-ended pair, and a small curve-bladed pair
- A thick towel or blanket
- Disposable gloves
- Tick-remover tweezers
- Iodine, for treating small wounds (including tick wounds)
- Flea and lice comb
- Nail clippers
- Sterile eye wash – for clearing dust, dirt or smoke from the eyes
- A full water container – for washing cuts and dirt, and for hydration
- A mild detergent – for use with the water
- Styptic powder – this stops bleeding from broken nails
- Cornflour (cornstarch) – for staunching minor cuts and abrasions
- Diphenhydramine (or Benadryl) – an antihistamine for mild allergic reactions
- A pet thermometer
- A card with your vet’s phone number, and other useful emergency numbers
- Treats – very useful for rewarding and reassuring a pet who has just been bandaged, tweezered or manhandled in some other undignified manner!
- You should also keep a supply of species-specific flea and mite powders and worming tablets
- For smaller pets, an oral syringe is useful for giving water or liquidised food to an animal that refuses to, or is unable to drink
- A magnifying glass can be useful too, for examining wounds or infestations on rodents, rabbits and cage birds.
Cats and Dogs
Additional items useful for cats and dogs include Elizabethan collars, to prevent your furry friend biting at wounds or dressings. The collar size will vary depending on the size of your pet.
A muzzle is also a very useful inclusion in any dog first aid kit, as even the most placid pet can become afraid and defensive when in pain. You can buy face masks for cats too, with a similar purpose.
First Aid For Birds
Many of the items in the general list above are useful for treating birds. Additional items for avian first aid include a bird net, specifically made for capturing frightened or untamed pet birds in cages and aviaries.
A styptic pencil is an essential tool for staunching wounds resulting from broken feathers or claws. Unlike mammals, birds do not have efficient clotting agents in their blood, and what may appear to be a relatively minor wound can result in death, simply through bleeding. The styptic will swiftly staunch the flow.
A cage sanitizer will help minimize the risk of contagious disease spreading, should one of your birds fall ill. There are various brands available in stores, and your vet will be able to advise you on the most suitable preparation for your particular species of bird.
It is also possible to buy Ivermectin drops from your vet. This medicine kills internal and external parasites, along with the mites responsible for scaly face and scaly leg. It is also used for fur, ear and mange mites and lice in small mammals such as hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs.
It’s a good idea to keep some wire-cutters in your med-kit too, as birds can sometimes become entangled in loose wires or hangings intended for suspending toys or treats.
Crop needles and blood-feather tweezers can also be useful, but these are precision tools that require expertise to use. Ask a vet or bird breeder for more advice.
DIY is Not Always Best
Pet first aid is fine for minor problems, but in emergencies it is only a stop-gap solution before consulting a vet. Any pet illness needs proper medical care.
A well-stocked first aid kit will, however, save you a lot of time and worry when confronted with pet parasites, small wounds and other conditions that can be tackled with a swift and effective DIY approach.
This entry was posted in Pets
Summertime… Beach stays, trips abroad, hikes in a National Park… It is a great opportunity to take a break with your family and keep daily stress at bay. You book a lovely hotel with your other half, you read a map with your children asking them where they want to go, you pack your suitcases, you… Wait! Aren’t you forgetting someone? “Babe, what about the cat? Is he coming with us?!”
Most pet owners tend to forget about it: having a pet means new responsibilities and taking care of them when you go on holidays is one of them. Unfortunately, too many people still ignore it. The months of June, July and August are critical since many people seem to struggle when it comes to taking care of their pets while also going on holiday. Read our tips below to make sure your pets will have a great time this summer, just like you!
You might be an adventurous Frenchman aiming to sail around the world with your hen (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36475672). However, in all other cases, we recommend that you do not take your chickens on holidays with you. The best thing to do is to ask some friends or neighbors to take care of them while you are away, offering them to help themselves to eggs. If you are lucky enough to have an Eglu Cube on wheels, you can even move your coop directly into your neighbor’s backyard!
HAMSTERS, GUINEA PIGS AND RABBITS
Just like with chickens, it is better to leave your hamster, rabbit or guinea pig at home and ask a friend, ideally someone they already know, to come and look after them. If you still decide to take them with you, or if you don’t have any other choice, be very careful with temperature change. These smaller pets are extremely sensitive to it and a sudden temperature change could be fatal. While in the car, make sure that they are neither too hot (do not leave them next to a window or in a parked car) or too cold (do not put them in front of the air con). You also want to check that nothing is at risk of falling and hurting them in the cage: take away the bottle and the feeder and stop regularly to give them some water and food. Remember that rodents and rabbits are very shy animals that like to have their own routine and tend to struggle with change.
You can definitely take them with you, but in most cases you don’t have to: cats are independent animals that can take care of themselves for a few days. Fill their bowls with food and water before leaving. If you are away for less than 10 days, ask a friend to come and check on them (one or two short visits a day should do).
If you are away for more than 10 days, it is better to leave your cat with some relatives, preferably people who already know your cat and who don’t have any animals that the cat won’t get along with. You can also put your cat in a boarding kennel. However, keep in mind that this can be risky since your cat could feel abandoned (new place, new faces…) and get depressed. Before taking them to the cattery you can give them some soft and natural tranquillizer, like Bach flower, to help them adjust.
Dogs are probably the most complicated animal to deal with when going on holidays. You can’t just leave them at home with food and water. This is not only bad for your dog, but could also lead you to be accused of animal cruelty, as abandoning a pet is a serious crime in most states. The best option is definitely to book a seat for your dog in your car and help them pack their suitcase!
Why should I take my dog with me?
Of course you can leave your dog with your friends or family (preferably someone they already know). However, keep in mind that dogs are very social animals and thrive on their owner’s company. For them, holidays will be a fantastic opportunity to spend some quality time with their favorite humans. Moreover, since you are on holidays, you will have more free time and will be able to spend entire days with your dog, which will make them extremely happy. No more long and boring days waiting for you at home! No doubt that you and your family will also be delighted to spend the whole day playing and exercising with your dog. They can also help you to interact with fellow holiday makers: many people won’t be able to resist giving them some attention!
How to organize a trip with a dog
Here is a list of what you can do to make sure your dog is ready for the holidays and everything goes fine while you two are away from home:
- Before going, make sure your dog is used to traveling in a car. Some dogs can be car sick and it is good to prepare them, especially if you’re planning on a road trip and are spending a lot of time in the car!
- Make sure your dog knows some basic commands such as heel and sit. If they are able to go on a walk without pulling on the lead, it is even better!
- Check that their jabs are up to date, and if you’re going abroad, double check what the requirements are far in advance.
- Bring everything they may need: food, of course, but also a first-aid kit, their health record book, the lead, the food and water bowls, the crate, their favorite toys, some poo bags… It is very important to take your dog’s food with you if you are going abroad since you can’t make sure you’ll find their favorite brand in the country you’re visiting.
- While traveling, put your dog in their cage in the trunk of the car.
- Before visiting a place, make sure they accept pets. Never go to a hotel before checking it. Likewise, you will easily lists of dog friendly beaches on the internet.
- Check that your dog is not too hot. If you’re going on a walk, don’t forget to bring a bowl and a good amount of water.
- When settling your dog somewhere, do it properly: make sure they have some food, some water, some shadow… Even if it is just for an hour!
- If you think it is necessary, you can fit your dog with a GPS collar. This can be useful when you go hiking in the wild. You can also download various apps on your mobile to help you locate a lost dog, find a vets near you or keep record of your dog’s health.
- http://www.fleatickrisk.com/ is a very helpful website that will tell you if your dog is at risk of pest infections in the city you’re visiting. Check the website before going and take the necessary equipment with you.
In the US, you can travel for free with your pet on most public transport: buses, taxis, trains and ferries. However, to make sure everything goes smoothly, always check that that is the case before you board. Be aware that coach companies generally do not accept pets except for assistance dogs. Remember that passengers can complain about your animal’s behavior so try and make sure your pet will be able to behave themselves while traveling.
When traveling abroad, make sure you can go on public transport with your pet since this can vary according to the country (in some places you will have to book a ticket for your animal).
If you’re traveling by plane, mention that you have an animal when booking and check that your animal’s vaccination is up to date. On the day of the departure, make sure to arrive early. Cats and small dogs will generally be allowed to fly with you in the cabin. However, bigger dogs will have to travel in a heated and pressurized part of the cargo hold. Birds, rabbits and hamsters are often forbidden but some airlines may accept them.
This entry was posted in Pets