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By Kirstie Gregory, Mar 31 2017 04:09PM

Environmental Enrichment For Dogs

At the start of my career working with animals I worked at an animal shelter. I was asked to complete a mini project on environmental enrichment for dogs in kennels. For dogs in kennels it is crucial to keep them mentally stimulated to avoid boredom and minimize stress. For dogs in the home they should have less stressful and more fulfilling lives , but even a happy dog can become bored or stressed. As a dog owner myself it gives me great pleasure to see my dog exploring something new with his senses or to excercise his brain to solve a puzzle .

As you probably know a dogs sense of smell is far superior to ours and dogs use this sense to explore their surroundings. Dogs get pleasure from using their nose. It has been scientifically proven that games involving sniffing out something can increase endorphins in your dogs brain.So why not introduce a game like 'find it' into your dogs day? 'Find it' is a very simple but highly enjoyable game for your dog where you throw a tasty treat to the ground whilst saying "find it". For the first few times you should throw it so it lands close to your dog and point to it to help him. My dog Indie loves this game and it can be a great distraction tool. It can be great if used on a walk when you see for example a cat in the distance and don't want your dog to see it or become too wound up. A more advanced version of 'find it' can be where you tell your dog to wait outside a room and hide treats in the room. Your dog is then allowed into the room and you used the command 'find it' and point in the area you have hidden the treats. Once your dog has played this a few times remove the pointing and simply use the 'find it' command once the dog enters the room.

There are so many great treat toys available for dogs. I love Nina Ottosons range. We have the Dog Brick and Whirlwind for our dog. Kongs are a classic and are perfect for filling with treats, peanut butter

or even just your dogs food. But you don't have to spend money to provide your dog with mental stimulation. Toilet roll tubes are great instead of kongs. I put some of my dogs biscuits inside and fold over the ends of the tube so it looks like a parcel. You can even use scrunched up paper with tasty treats inside or a small cardboard box (remove any tape or staples) upside down with treats underneath!

A mentally stimulated dog is a happy dog!

By Kirstie Gregory, Jan 21 2017 12:20PM

As an experienced Cat Sitter I know to always pay particular attention to the litter tray when I'm cat sitting! It can communicate a number of potential health issues.

Is the litter tray being visited more frequently but there is little or no urine? Does any urine that is present contain blood? Is the normally house trained Cat just peeing around the house instead? It could be a sign of Cystitis.

Cystits is an inflammation of the bladder causing increased frequency in the urge to urinate and pain whilst urinating. In elderly cats or cats with chronic problems such as kidney disease it could be caused by infection. More commonly it is caused by stress. It can be more severe in male cats than females, this is because in male cats crystals may form or blod clots causing a blockage in the urethra and the bladder being completely unable to be emptied. This can be life threatening so if your male cat is visiting the litter tray but no urine is produced an emergency appointment should be made immediately.

In all cases you should call / make an appointment with your vet ASAP.

Once a cat has had cystitis there is a high chance of them having it again. However, there are ways that you can reduce the frequency of reoccurences. As it can usually be caused by stress , stress prevention measures are often advised. A change in diet to more wet food or a prescription urinary health food may be advised by your vet.

It's not quite as nice as cat cuddles but as a Cat Sitter observing the litter tray for anything unusual or out of the norm is an important part of the job in keeping an eye on a cat's health.

By Kirstie Gregory, Jan 1 2017 10:18AM

As a dog walker one of the diseases I'm aware of is Leptospirosis. When you're next out dog walking in Exminster or Exeter here's 5 things you should know....

1 ) How Leptospirosis is spread...

It can be passed from animals such as cattle, pigs, dogs and commonly - rats. It can also be passed on to humans. Often it is passed on from water contaminated by affected animals urine but can also be passed through infected soil.

2) Symptoms of Leptospirosis in humans are...

Mild flu-like symptoms, muscle aches, a temperature, headache and in rare cases it can be life-threatening and cause organ failure.

3) Symptoms to look out for in your dog...

Lethargy, reduced apetite, high temperature, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased thirst, jaundice.

4) Dogs are usually routinely vaccinated against Leptospirosis, but humans are not.

So if you dog has been for a swim in the river or a lake ensure that you wash your hands after handling him and before eating. If you have any wounds keep these covered when you have contact with river water either directly or on your dog.

5) The Leptospirosis vaccine is now given in two doses.

This is because it now covers four strains of the disease but cannot be given all at the same time. So keep your dog up to date and that's him protected. Wash your hands and change your clothes after river walks and that's you better protected too!

By Kirstie Gregory, Nov 20 2016 03:32PM

I've been Pet Sitting in Exminster and Exeter for many years now and people often ask what does a Cat Sitter do?

8.00am - It's breakfast time for most kitties so I'm off to my first visit of the day.

I'm leaving at this time because I know it takes me fifteen minutes to get to Harry and Daves house. I don't want to be any later because Dave needs his insulin at eight thirty every morning. Once Dave has had his insulin I sit on the sofa and he climbs on my lap for a cuddle, purring away . I then look for Harry. Harry is shy so I usually find him hiding under the bed or in the wardrobe. Usually I just see a pair of eyes. upon seeing him I usually speak to him in a silly high pitched voice that has been shown to reassure nervous cats. I then leave the room not wanting to overload him with human interaction if he is not comfortable with it. Today however was different. I entered the room and Harry was sat under the bed I crouched down (making myself smaller so as to be less intimidating to him). To my surprise he came out from under the bed and tentatively sniffed me . He then proceeded to rub himself against me before making his way downstairs to eat his breakfast! I felt honoured and excited. Harry had decided to be my friend! I texted his owners to let them know. They too were pleased as Harry had always been shy with new people.

My next visit was Molly. Molly lived on a busy street so I had to be very careful not to let her out the front door. Molly was an elderly cat (she had recently turned fourteen). She needed to take a tablet twice a day. Since I had known her I had tried every trick in the book. I've tried wedging it in cheese, sardines,tuna and all manner of cat delicacies. She sniffs it and walks off. Unfortunately there is only one way of administering her essential medication...down the hatch.

I was shown at the Blue Cross how to administer tablets to cats if more paletable methods fail. A towel is required to wrap around the cats paws to protect yourself from being scratched. The cats head needs to be tilted back until its mouth will naturally open. The pill can then either be dropped in manually (although there is a risk of being bitten and not putting the pill far enough back the cats mouth) or a 'pill popper' can be used. There is a knack to these which when you have the hang of is fine but on the first few attempts can be fiddly. It's like a syringe but instead of a needle at the end there is a bit that holds the pill. It is then that the syringe bit is pushed towards the back of the cats mouth so the pill sits there ready to be swallowed. Next you need to close the cats mouth and stroke under it's chin to encourage the swallow reflex. It can take a few attempts to get the cat to swallow the pill. They are clever creatures who seemingly trick you into thinking the pill has been swallowed and then proceed to spit it out. On the third attempt Molly had swallowed the pill , ran off and out the cat flap. I felt guilty at inflicting the ordeal on her but things would be much worse without her medication. I texted her mummy and daddy to say she had had her pill and sent a photo using Whatsapp to reasurre them she was well.

My next visit was Ted. Ted was a very gregarious cat who spent most of his time outdoors. Often I wouldn't see him and the only evidence he had been in was that the litter tray was used and his food was eaten. Ted had suffered bouts of cystitis as is common in male cats. Teds cystitis was brought on by the appearance of a new male cat next door who regularly tried to claim Teds garden as his own.

I needed to check the litter tray carefully so that I could see that Ted had urinated and that there was no blood. Typical symptoms of cystitis in cats are attmpting to urinate but being unable to and blood in the urine.Ted was inside when I arrived and gave me a fond greeting of a chirrup and a head nudge. He then proceeded out the catflap to survey his territory. I texted his dad to let him know he seemed well. I explained that I attempted a photo but his acknowledgement of me was brief. Ted's dad's response was jovial. He knew how independent Ted was.

Cats can vary enormously in their habits. It gives me great joy to see their personalities shine through. I always feel happy in the knowledge that they are well and their humans reassured with texts and pictures.

By Kirstie Gregory, Oct 27 2016 05:32PM

Today is National Black Cat day. As the name suggests it is a day to celebrate black cats. It is promoted by animal charities to help the plight of homeless black cats.

Cats Protection have reported that black cats take 22% longer to find their forever home. Black cats make up 45% of cats coming into the charity for rehoming. In 2014 the RSPCA said that 70% of the cats in their shelters were black or black and white. Why? You might ask.

It seems strange in modern times that superstitions surrounding black cats are preventing them from being rehomed but it is possible. Superstitions surrounding black cats began around 1233 when Pope Gregory IX released his Vox in Rama. In it cats especially black cats were linked to Satan. For 300 years after that millions of cats were tortured and killed alongside their (mostly female) owners who were accused of witchcraft.

Cats Protection have suggested that it could be more due to aesthetics. Black Cats make up a large part of the domestic cat population in the UK. This means that when a potential adopter goes to meet the cats in a shelter most of them will be black or black and white . If amongst them there is a rarer colour like a silver tabby or a calico cat then the prospective new owner will be drawn to them visually.

It is a shame because this means that due to the sheer number of black cats in shelters if less people adopt black cats then less people adopt cats in general.

When I was born my parents had two black and white cats. They were named Kimmy and Bimbo (you'll have to ask my parents why they chose those names!) They were completely different characters. Bimbo was aloof and was definately my dad's cat. She adored my dad. It would always be my dad she would greet with a chirrup if we all came home as a family. Kimmy was very maternal and soppy. Apparently if I or my sister were outside my house in our prams and a dog came near she would hiss at it. She wasn't frightened of dogs one bit. She was a prolific hunter . She once brought home a grass snake much to my mother's terror! She also liked to lick people's bare feet! They were both beautiful girls.

When I was in rented accomodation and unable to have my own pet we had a neighbours cat who would frequent our garden. He was black, fluffy and gorgeous. He was deaf and used to 'announce' his arrival in our garden with a noise that could be mistaken for him being in pain. he was one of the most soppy cats I have ever met. He loved to be picked up, kneading the air and purring every time I did so. Woe betide any othe cat who ventured into our garden though. He had claimed it as his territory! I love black cats. I can't see why anyone wouldn't want to take one of these mini panthers home!

In some parts of the world black cats have been seen as good luck. In celtic mythology there is a cat known as the Cat Sith who takes the form of a black cat. In Scotland some people believe that the arrival of an unknown black cat in the home signifies prosperity. When sailors chose their ships cat they usually preferred black cats believing them to bring good luck. Fishermens wives often had black cats in the hope that it would ensure their husbands safe return. The ancient Egyptians believed that owning a black cat would please the cat goddess Bastet. Charles I believed that the death of his black cat signified the end of his luck. The next day he was arrested and charged with high treason!

So if you are a superstitious person or not these lovely creatures make a great addition to a family. If you are thinking of bringing a feline home in the near future why not pop down to your nearest animal shelter and meet some of the many black cats there.