Adopting older dogs

We take a look at why adopting an older dog could be the right decision when it comes to bringing a new pet into your home.

When considering getting a dog, many people will have an ideal scenario pictured in their heads.

Often it will involve a cute-as-a-button puppy running around their garden, being mischievous and providing boisterous fun for the family.

Yet, older dogs can bring a lot to the party too. They often take a lot less training which may suit your lifestyle more than a puppy.

Why adoption?

Regardless of a dog’s age, adopting them from a rescue centre or a dog shelter to give them a good home is a brilliant thing to do.

There’s a common misconception that animals are given up for adoption because of behavioural issues, but often a change in circumstance for owners can result in an elderly dog being given to a rehoming centre. We unfortunately hear all too often that adopting an older dog is a “financial risk”. We cannot stress the need for pet insurance enough and most insurers will cover an older rescue dog.

How does an adult dog deal with a new owner?

The key to welcoming a new dog is letting him take his time. Dogs have a naturally inquisitive nature, so it shouldn’t be long before you can start to see your dog taking an interest in you, his new best friend.

Dogs are conditioned to make humans the centre of their world. If that person changes, it’s naturally traumatic for the dog, but it will learn to love again.

How long a dog takes to readjust depends on how it was brought up. For example, a dog that was used to different sitters, family members or even households may find it easier to slot into a new home, compared with a dog that only ever had one owner.

The benefits of rehoming an elderly pet

Older dogs for rehoming are likely to be well trained and have a wealth of experience with day-to-day life in a human world. Oldies are likely to know how to behave around people, are good on walks and get along with other dogs. They’re also calmer than high-energy puppies.

Older dogs require less training

Older dogs will already be toilet-trained and will have mastered basic commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ – saving you the energy and time spent training a puppy, which can take months!

Older dogs are often calmer than puppies

Dogs generally slow down with old age, so although they may not be able to take part in very energetic play or long walks, they will still enjoy a gentle game of fetch and a short stroll in the park.

If you have young children, a less energetic and boisterous dog may be more suitable. Plus, an older dog will already have their adult teeth, which leads to less household destruction compared with their puppy counterparts.

You can still teach an old dog new tricks!

Although they may not be as energetic as a younger dog, they still have the potential to keep learning and adapting just like puppies.

Older dogs have the ability to focus for longer periods of time, so if you’re worried about training them to your lifestyle, they can often be even easier to teach than younger dogs.

Older dogs aren’t necessarily ‘problem dogs’ as some people think

Older dogs are handed into rehoming centres due to a variety of reasons, including allergies, death of their owner, a new baby, loss of job, a move or change in work schedule. These dogs need homes just as much as younger dogs and make a loyal, fun and wonderful pet!

Older dogs are fully grown

You know exactly what you’re getting in terms of size and temperament – rather than guessing with a puppy.

Adopting an older dog is a wonderful opportunity for you to welcome a new member of the family and can be an incredibly fulfilling experience, while offering a pet a second chance for a happy life.

Of course – we are not saying pick an older dog and not a puppy. We are simply saying, look at your circumstance and base your decision upon if a puppy or a rescue dog suits your current situation and consider future situations.

How to pet your cat properly

How to Pet a Cat Properly

Cats are elegant, enigmatic animals. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that there are right and wrong ways to pet a cat.

Many of us are in the dark about how to properly pet our feline companions. Given that one of the best ways to communicate and bond with your cat is through touch, such knowledge is invaluable for moggie mums and dads.

We take a look at how to successfully approach petting your cat…

Understanding cat affection

First things first: not all cats are the same. Some cats love human contact, others may react aggressively to unwanted physical attention.

Interaction with people is something they learn during a relatively short period – between two and seven weeks old. As such, our characteristics are also important in determining how cats show affection; personality and gender, the regions of their body we touch, and how we generally handle them are all believed to be contributing factors.

Correctly interpreting your cat’s behaviour

Cat behaviour is a complex process that can be difficult to discern at times. For instance, if your cat approaches you, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be petted. Their meowing may simply be letting you know it’s time for food or play.

Rubbing up against or leaning on you are the clearest signs that being petted is probably desired.

What to do when petting your cat

For starters, you should always be gentle. Let them come to you and respect their personal space and boundaries. It’s all about building trust and sharing a loving relationship, which is one of the best parts of having a pet. Once that bond is made, you can then focus on learning where your cat likes being petted most of all.

Popular petting zones include:

  • The base of the chin
  • The base of the ears
  • On the cheeks, behind the whiskers
  • The base of the tail (lightly!)

Use a combination of soft finger glides and light scratches to keep your cat happy while petting them. You should also ensure they are comfortable and respond accordingly if they seem to be favouring one area or technique over another.

How not to pet your cat

Cats know what they like and what they want when you’re petting them – and they will display obvious signs of dislike or tension if you go about it the wrong way. These include:

  • Actively trying to move away
  • Staying quiet (no longer purring or rubbing)
  • Bursts of over-grooming
  • Rippling or twitching skin, usually along their back
  • Flattened or rotated ears
  • Biting, swiping or batting your hand away with their paw

If you notice these occurrences when petting your cat, a change of tact is in order; however if this behaviour continues despite you making positive changes, as this could signal an underlying medical issue. We would always recommend an appointment with one of our vets if you have concerns.

English Blue cat.

Blinking good cats

Have you ever tried to win a staring contest with a cat? Well, trust me, you can’t! Cats have a marvellous unblinking gaze, and this post will shed some light on why, and what that fixed stare might mean for you.

Where it all began

Cats in the wild survive by hunting small prey in dim light – and they are extremely good at it. This is partly due to their excellent vision which has developed specifically to be able to keep track of fast-moving creatures in poorly lit environments. They need to be able to lock their eyes onto a target and keep track of it, or else they risk losing their dinner! This means they have highly developed eyes, and using them is an important part of their lives – even if your average pet cat nowadays doesn’t have to stray far from their cosy bed to find regular meals.

Cats have also evolved a finely tuned communication system based on body language: mostly posture, facial expressions and noisy vocalisations. Intense staring can be an important form of this communication between cats and is often the first stage in various confrontations, including territorial spats. A cat’s ‘hard stare’ has therefore developed a bit of a reputation as a sign of aggression, but that is not always the case and depends a lot on other body language.

So, what does it actually mean now?

Eye contact is important to cats, but it is worth remembering that it is only one form of body language! Look for additional signs to see how your cat is feeling. A happy cat will likely be in a relaxed posture and may be blinking slowly whilst maintaining eye contact. Angry cats may hiss or growl, swish their tails and flatten their ears. Scared or anxious cats will often hide behind or under furniture in a crouched position with their tails tucked underneath them. All of these cats may also be staring at you!

Here are a few common scenarios in which you might glance up and see those eyes fixed on your face.

Your cat wants something

Cats quickly learn that we are their servants in life, catering to their every need and whim! We provide their food, their shelter, their affection and comfort. Unlike humans, they cannot put into words what they want us to do, and so they merely stare and assume we will figure it out eventually. This may be why you notice those eyes becoming particularly intense just around dinner time!

Your cat is curious

Cats are notoriously nosy creatures: curiosity killed the cat, after all! They are constantly keeping an eye on us (literally!), reading our body language and looking out for subtle signs that all is well. Cats rely on us both for food and shelter, but also because we are part of their social group, and regular eye contact is important for them to maintain that stable family.

Your cat is sleeping

This may seem like an odd one, but your cat may merely be catching forty winks! Cats sleep a lot (really, a LOT), and they can sleep with eyes partially open, so they can appear to be staring at you for long periods of time when in fact they’re well away in dreamland. Uncomfortable and a bit weird, maybe, but harmless.

Your cat is unwell

This is an uncommon cause of staring, but some diseases, mostly of older cats, can cause high blood pressure. This in turn can cause their pupils to dilate and their eyes to take on a slightly fixed stare. If you notice your cat staring more than usual, having dilated pupils even in good light, or a reddish look to the eyes, take them for an appointment with your vet.

Your cat just loves you!

Intense, staring eyes and a slow blink…. congratulations! Your cat just really loves you. Fixed eye contact and regular slow blinking is a sign of affection in cats. So, look straight back, indulge in some slow blinks and enjoy an affectionate moment with your feline friend.

In Conclusion

The reality is, it’s very difficult to be absolutely sure why your cat enjoys watching you so much. Unless they’re giving off some other angry body language, or have an underlying medical issue, though, it’s likely because you are hugely important to them and they want you to know that. What to do? Well, perhaps just acknowledge it, give them a stare and a few blinks back and revel in the attention. Oh, and maybe fetch them some dinner.

 

Indoor cats and misconceptions

Cats are mysterious enough on their own, without pesky myths and misconceptions mucking things up. Even though indoor cats typically live a safer, healthier lifestyle than their free-roaming feral friends, they aren’t without risk. So today, we’re debunking some of the most common myths about indoor cats.

My indoor cat can’t get fleas because my home is clean

Even if your home is sparkling clean, your indoor cat can still get fleas. Fleas can make their way indoors on shoes, with visitors, or through other pets that go outside. Even rodents that may take refuge in your home during the cooler months can bring in fleas. The best way to truly protect against fleas is to keep all your pets, including indoor-only cats, on a regular, year-round flea preventative.

Indoor cats only need one litter box

To minimize the chance of your cat going outside their litter box — and choosing your floors and laundry instead — they should have a choice when it comes to where they potty. Cats are likely to avoid a box that already has “deposits” in it or one that they’ve developed a negative association with. The general rule-of-thumb is to have one more box than the number of cats you have. Ideally, keep the litter boxes in different locations and not next to one another.

Indoor cats miss their hunting instinct

While your indoor cat isn’t hunting prey like their outdoor feline friends, you can provide the same stimulation indoors to help to satisfy that instinct. You can engage your cat’s primal instinct with interactive feeders, puzzle toys, laser pointers, and other fun toys and play.

Pregnant women must get rid of their cats

Pregnant women can have cats, but some caution should be exercised when dealing with the litter box. When cleaning a litter box, pregnant women can be at risk for Toxoplasma, a parasite which can live in cats and be shed in cat poop. Exposure to the Toxoplasma organism early in pregnancy can cause birth defects or miscarriage in women.

If you have cats and become pregnant, be sure to talk with your doctor and always wear gloves and wash your hands after scooping the litter box. Cleaning the litter box every day can minimize exposure risk since Toxoplasma isn’t infective in fresh stool.

Indoor cats don’t need veterinary care

It’s important for indoor cats to get a veterinary check-up at least once a year. Even indoor-only cats can develop a variety of medical conditions and diseases. After all, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and even cancer don’t respect walls and doors. Indoor cats can also contract viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections, as these nasties can come into your home on your shoes and clothes, other cats, or dogs in the home that can go outside.

Indoor cats don’t need to be microchipped

If your cat gets out of your home, how will you find them? Indoor cats do occasionally get out, especially during home renovations, when moving, or even when friends and family come to visit. An RSPCA survey found that only 74% of lost cats are reunited with their owners. If your cat gets out and doesn’t have visible identification or a microchip, the probability of them getting returned to you is significantly lower than if they are easily identified.

The outdoors stay outside

While your cat may not leave the house, you certainly do. And with you, comes a variety of unwanted “guests” like ticks, fleas, worm eggs, etc. Visiting friends, pets, and rodents can carry them in, too. Even neighbourhood strays that visit your cats from the other side of a screen door or window can pass along germs and parasites (e.g., fleas). The best line of defence for your indoor cat against outside invaders is to keep them up-to-date on their vaccines and on parasite protection year around.

Vet checking a cats mouth.

Visiting the vets with my cat

Cat’s can quite often be nervous about coming to the Vet, though let’s face it, they don’t know they are going to the vet’s! The reality is that Cat’s are creatures of habit and a break in that habit can be enough to cause stress and worry.

So what can you do to reduce that stress and worry?

What can a carrier do to reduce the stress associated with a vet visit? 

  1. Choose a suitable cat carrier: not all cat carriers are equal! The ‘best’ cat carriers are easy to get cats in and out of, secure so the cat cannot escape and easy to clean. They should be large enough so that the cat can stand up and change position: many carriers are too small. Ideal from a veterinary perspective are carriers that have a large top opening and/or carriers which can be easily dismantled if the cat does not want to come out voluntarily.
  2. Don’t keep your cat carrier in a dusty attic or shed! Ideally the cat carrier should be a normal part of the home, as one of the sleeping options for your cat so that they do not only associate the carrier only with travel and a visit to the clinic.
  3. Make the carrier an inviting place for your cat to spend time in at home. If it has a detachable top, then remove this and the door so that the cat now has a low sided sleeping ‘basket’ they can enjoy. Put in some soft bedding, favourite toys and perhaps some treats. Feliway spray can also be helpful. Feliway contains a synthetic version of a pheromone which cats secrete from cheek glands and which they then rub onto familiar surfaces such as walls of the home and their carer’s legs. Spray Feliway into an empty carrier 20-30 minutes before allowing your cat access to the carrier and your cat will feel more reassured that their carrier is safe. Don’t spray Feliway on or near your cat as the alcohol carrier is unpleasant for them.
  4. On the day of the vet visit it can be helpful to:
  • Prevent your cat from going outdoors, if applicable
  • Spray the carrier and a towel or blanket which can be used to cover the carrier during the journey and in the waiting room with Feliway 20-30 mins before use
  • Remember to always use one carrier per cat: even best friends may fall out if confined together in a stressful situation
  • Consider restricting access to food, especially if your cat is often sick on the journey. Restricting access to food may also be required by your vet clinic if certain tests, sedation or anaesthesia are needed
  1. Place the cat carrier securely in the car – either on a seat with a seat-belt to hold in place or in a foot well.
  1. Drive as smoothly and calmly as you can.
  2. If your cat is very stressed in the waiting area of the clinic, consider waiting in your car until the clinician is ready to see you (ask the clinic receptionists to assist with this)
  3. If using a clinic waiting area:
  • Choose somewhere to sit that is as far away from other pets and people as possible
  • Try and place the cat carrier off the ground: cats feel safer if not at floor level
  • Cover the carrier with a Feliway-sprayed towel or blanket
  1. In the consultation, where possible allow your cat to choose when they wish to come out of the carrier by opening (and possibly removing) the door of the carrier.
  2. In terms of cat handling and restraint, remember that ‘less is more’. If a cat feels that they are being held or restrained they are more likely to resist this and may, as a last resort, become aggressive.

Finally some common questions that I am asked about vet visits:

  1. What if my cat does not want to come out of their carrier? 

They should be lifted out gently (if in a top opening carrier) or, if the top half of the carrier can be removed, this should be done and the cat examined in the base.

  1. Is scruffing a cat an OK way to hold it? 

Scruffing is the procedure whereby someone restrains a cat by firmly gripping the loose skin at the back of the neck in a similar way to how a mother cat lifts and carries her kittens. Scruffing is not a kind or appropriate way to handle cats – they should not be restrained or lifted by their scruff.

Handling cats should always be done gently and with respect. If cats feel they still have some sense of control of their environment they are likely to be calmer and much less inclined to resist restraint or become aggressive. Gentle handler results in a cat that is easier to examine. If restraint is needed then wrapping a towel is much kinder than scruffing.

  1. My cat is really stressed at the vets and they find it very difficult to examine them – what else can I try? 

The first thing is always to speak to your vet clinic and voice your concerns. It may be that there are solutions which can be considered including, where appropriate

  • A phone or video consultation to follow up on test results or treatment rather than the cat needing to attend the clinic
  • An appointment at a quieter time of day when the waiting room is likely to be emptier and less stressful for your cat
  • Pre-visit sedation which can reduce the stress of the clinic visit
  • A home visit may be an option although this can still be quite a stressful experience for cats

 

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Natalie Lathan career advice

Why did you want to work in Veterinary administration?
I’ve always loved working in customer service and also the advantage of being in a vets meant I would be surrounded by animals! I felt the role would suit my personality and thought it would be a new challenge that I could thrive in. Plus the added bonus of working in my home town meant I would get to see lots of people I know!

If someone said to you that they wanted to work in Veterinary administration, what advice would you give?
I had little to no experience in the role (aside from some voluntary work to gain some customer service experience), so don’t let a lack of knowledge or experience hold you back! As long as you’re keen, willing to learn and like animals, you’d sit well in the role.

What is the best thing about working in Veterinary administration?
Working in a vets is so rewarding, I love having a great relationship with both the animals and the clients. The best thing about being a veterinary receptionist is both the people, the pets and the variety. Its so hard to pinpoint the high point of the role, I love everything about the position, and have to say its less of a ‘job’ but more of a career.

Amanda MacLaren career advice

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