Culture & Entertainment

Humane or inhumane: Are you making the best lifestyle choices for your pet?

By: Stephanie Zolis
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Humane or inhumane: Are you making the best lifestyle choices for your pet?

By: Stephanie Zolis
Boo, the world's cutest dog, models for Monocle Order. RVS by V glasses, $359, monocleorder.com. Being a pet guardian is a daunting task. You adopted your cat or dog with nothing but the best of intentions: To give him or her a forever home where he or she will be happy and healthy. But not all common pet care practices are what your furry family member wants or needs. Read on for some pet parent mistakes and contentious questions about caring for your cat or dog. Scenario 1: Your indoor cat longs to be outside and cries at the front door. You're unsure whether it's safe to let him outdoors, or cruel to keep him in. Many cat guardians believe felines are meant to roam the outdoors as nature intended, and only come indoors as they please. But domesticated cats, while perhaps equipped to deal with some predators, have no defence against many modern dangers. The American Humane Association says cats lack the instinct to avoid car-trafficked streets, which is why they often get hit by cars. Allowing them outside and off your property also puts them at risk of toxins and poisons, animal cruelty, infectious abscesses, parasites (fleas, ticks and worms) and disease. Feral cats carry diseases like feline leukemia, feline AIDS and upper respiratory infections—putting outdoor cats at risk of contracting these illnesses. According to PetMD, indoor cats typically live twice as long as their outdoor counterparts. Scenario 2: You view a photo gallery of cute animals wearing onesies online, and decide your puppy would look adorable in baby clothes. Dressing some dogs in pet clothing keeps short-haired pooches warm during the winter months. But many dogs—and most cats—prefer not to wear clothing. Cat behaviour blogger Pamela Merritt says that while some felines are mellow in temperament and trusting of their guardians, tolerating the clothes doesn't mean they don't mind them. If you can't fight the urge to clothe your cat, observe its body language and other cues (scratching with its back claws or walking backward, for example) that might indicate the costume is unwelcome. And if your pet appears to welcome the attire, ensure the garment is safe (free of anything that could lead to choking or strangulation) and climate-appropriate. Scenario 3: Your cat or dog doesn't like car rides or crates, so you forgo annual vet visits. Regular vet visits are important for all household pets. Depending on the animal, you may be able to forgo some vaccines (say, a rabies shot for an indoor cat) after talking to your vet, but most cats and dogs will need their annual booster and physical exam. Animals aren't able to communicate with guardians about their ailments, so it's important to check for problems regularly. If your pet suffers from severe anxiety during trips to the vet, try familiarizing your cat or dog with its carrier by leaving it open around the house between trips and putting favourite blankets, toys and treats inside. If all else fails, calming supplements—with ingredients like chamomile flower and ginger root extract—can relieve anxiety, while lavender- and chamomile-scented collars or jackets reduce travel-related stress. Feline pheromones also have a calming effect on cats. Scenario 4: You want your pet to look like Boo, the world's cutest dog, meaning Boo 2.0 has to visit the groomer against his will. If your family pet is a feline, grooming probably isn't a great idea. Cats come equipped with barbed tongues that are designed for combing and cleaning their fur. They're said to spend up to 50 percent of their waking hours cleaning their coats, which equates to roughly four hours every day. Licking the fur distributes the coat's natural oils—which ward off dampness and seal in warmth—across the body. Soaping up removes these oils, so it's better not to bathe your furry feline. But for hairless cats, like the Sphinx, bathing is required on a weekly or even bi-weekly basis, depending on the cat's skin type. Specially formulated cat shampoos can clean the excess oil from the invisible coat. Meanwhile, dogs can benefit from regular grooming, but the benefits of bathing are for owners more than anything. Like most cats, canines don't require cleaning, although they aren't as cleanly as their feline counterparts and, as with humans, can emit body odor. A dog with normal skin can be bathed monthly, but the frequency of baths really depends on the type of coat (for example, wire-haired Schnauzers versus Border collies' wool coats). You may also consider shaving your cat or dog during the summer months—but don't worry about your pet overheating. Feline bodies are naturally capable of regulating body temperature, and their coats help them stay warm in the winter while cool in the summer. Moreover, their smaller size means it's easier for them to cool down compared to humans. The same applies to many dogs, although some canines have been bred to grow thicker, fuller coats, and may benefit from grooming during the summer months. Always discuss whether shaving is right for your dog before heading to the groomer, or consider using a shedding blade to remove dead hair and lighten the coat. (Photo courtesy Monocle Order)
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Humane or inhumane: Are you making the best lifestyle choices for your pet?

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