Choosing the Right Food for your Cat

Introduction

It’s rather easy to obtain a pet. Sometimes a cat or a dog will simply show up at your doorstep. And you, being a soft touch for those big begging eyes, open the door and let the creature in–to your house and your heart.

The other way to obtain a pet is to first decide what you want — cat or dog– and then go looking at the local shelters for that certain creature that will share your living space for ten to 15 years.

That is where I found my two cats. They are litter mates and I adopted them in 2007. They were about two years old and according to the shelter people their owner could no longer care for them. We went home and began the process of settling in.

Julie, a tuxedo(Black and white), ate whatever came her way, and turned the hallway between living room and bedroom into a runway. Janie, a tortoise shell was a willing accomplice to whatever Julie decided to get into.

It wasn’t long until I realized that Janie had food problems.

Julie and Janie in my big chair

She literally could not digest most food I set out for her. That bit of knowledge started a thirteen year battle with food–what could she eat ? what would she keep down? I have read dozens of food labels, numerous articles on food; we have visited vets, studied food allergies.etc.

I found out so much about cat foods, the best ingredients, raw foods, home cooked foods, specialty foods, cheap foods, expensive foods, brand name foods.  There are certain ingredients in foods that cats need for good health, good coats and long life. I began to realize that choosing the right food for your cat, and my cat, is more than price and advertising.

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Choosing the right food for your cat- meat eaters

Simply put, cats are carnivores, more to the point, obligate carnivores-that is meat eaters. Originally, cats were tolerated  around the farm and in the barns because they were death to the mice.  Cats could live on small rodents and birds as their sole food before humans began to invent such things as mouse traps and poisons to kill rodents.

Years ago. I remember walking by the isles of foods with my mother and there was one all purpose food for cats and dogs labled Ideal dog and cat food. Mother bought several cans every week for our cat and dog.  A daily treat was milk. In addition, the pets got trimmings off chicken and beefs cuts.

Today, the dog and cat sections are separate, with all kinds of branded foods. Foods  of all kinds and flavors designed to take care of any and all kinds of special problems that your cat might have. We have all spent so much time time reading labels, so as to be sure we are getting the right thing for our beloved pet.

Reading labels-Selecting Brands

There are so many brand labels that it takes an expert to choose the right food for your cat. It takes a while to figure out what is inside the can. Two label sections that must be read carefully in order to learn what is inside the mystery can are the Ingredients and Guaranteed analysis.

Labels and ingredients on food cans

Ingredients:   Lists water, meats, veggies, vitamins and minerals in each serving. Ingredients are listed in reverse order of amount in each can. For instance, if water is listed first, then water(sufficient for processing) is the largest ingredient, then next largest amount is pork,then chicken,etc all the way down to supplements to trace minerals.

Guaranteed Analysis: lists protein, fat, fiber, moisture, ash, and other items depending upon what category the prepared food is designed for such as weight management, sensitive skin, digestive system, urinary tract, etc.

Somewhere on the label you should find that this food meets nutritional standards of AAFCO cat food nutrient profile. You will also find the manufacturer’s name and address. Look them up online for more details.

When shopping for cat food, protein should be the highest percentage. Fiber and fat should be lesser percentages and ash should be small percentage such as 1 to 2.5, 2.8% or at most 3.2 %. It is believed that  a smaller percentage of ash is better for keeping the urinary tract healthy.

If your kitty is a healthy, happy cat, that plays a lot, eats well, and gets a good health review from her vet, you should not have too much difficulty finding good healthy food for your furry buddy.  Grocery stores usually carry two or three brand name canned and dry foods.

You can usually find, for a moderate price, Friskies, Purina, Blue Buffalo, and other brands in your grocery stores. You have the information on the labels to help you select good food for your cat. You will also have the choice of dry or canned food.

Your cat may have a preference.   A lot of working people like the convenience of dry food. It can be left out all day and your cat can eat at will. Be sure you have a water bowl close by. Cats need to drink lots of water with dry food.

Pet stores carry more brands of cat food than all purpose grocery stores. Some carry their own brand which is a little less expensive than specialty brands. You will find a full line of Purina, Blue Buffalo, Hills, Royal Canin, and several others.

Of all the  brands you will find, my preference are the brands I have mentioned. I have always been able to find good nutritional food that my cats like with these brands.

But what about Janie and her special food problem?

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Specialty Foods, Prescription Diet Foods

Choosing the right foods for my cat turned out to be a life-long search. I had an excellent Veterinary service in my town, and we went through numerous tests and trials of different foods. Nothing stayed down. It got to the point that I wanted to scream when I heard that retching sound that came shortly after she ate.

She was losing weight. Through tests we eliminated everything but the possibility of IBD (Intestinal Bowel Disease). Finally the vet suggested that we do an Endoscopy to see if anything was growing in the digestive area or a malfunction.

I left her overnight and came back for her the next afternoon. By process of elimination, the diagnosis was IBD. The vet suggested Hill’s prescription diet food.

I have to tell you, Janie is a fighter. She is a normal sized adult female cat with a normal weight of 8 to 10 pounds. She weighed just a lttle over 4 pounds when I took her home after her endoscopy. I made a bed for her on the foot of my bed. She stayed there for 3 days-only getting down to go use the litter box- then back up to the bed.

Hill’s Prescription Diet didn’t help and I decided I needed a different Vet with some different solutions.I found a Holistic vet that uses both natural remedies with latest trends.

First we did a check of food allergies-found out Janie was allergic to almost all foods normal cats eat! Beef, Duck,Lamb, potatoes, milk, oats, plus some additional items with very small allergic reactions. She wasn’t allergic to eggs, fish,chicken, turkey, rice, venison, peas.

That’s when I learned to read ingredients. The surprise for me was how many processed cat foods have potatoes as a base that holds foods together. We put her on venison- in fact Julie ate venison too- for a long time and Janie gained her normal weight back (10 lbs). I no longer heard that awful retching sound.

Janie did well for several years with Venison and other “wild” meats that I could get through my Veterinarian. We also had her on a probiotic and an Omega-3 fish oil. She began to build up an intolerance to the food that had worked so well and she was back to being unable to hold anything down.

By now Janie was 10 or 11 years old. My vet put her on prednisolone.

Janie curled around her water bowl

That is where she is today. The only thing that keeps her from vomiting everything she eats is the prednisolone. She is 15.

Choosing the right food for your cat- many choices for many situations

Some owners today want to tailor their pet’s diet for special nutritional needs:breed, size, health conditions and other defining traits. Personalized pet food is beginning to emerge as the latest trend in specialized diets.Big-brand names are looking at developing foods that address certain diseases that haven’t been included before.

Special grain-friendly foods are being developed to minimize allergies  and skin disorders. The food industry is also looking at special food formulas that will calm anxiety issues.

There is no end to specialized foods that are tailored for life stages and genetics.There are also plenty of dry foods available for pets , but some  owners are opting for fresh,human grade diets.

Most of these personalized food choices are for dogs at this point, but the demand for similar specialties for cats is in the wings. One company  —Smalls, out of New York,is offering fresh, freeze-dried,and kibble cat food subscriptions.

As long as we have cute little kittens and puppies that are looking for a home and people who fall in love with these adorable little fur balls, we will have companies working on foods that will appeal to the palates of these delightful babies, and also appeal to their owners.

I hope that the information in this article is helpful for people who have pets with dietary problems, as well as pets who just like to eat and entertain their owners. Keep reading those labels.

I’m Barbara Nelson and I would love to hear from my readers, Janie and Julie would love to hear from you, too.

Dog and Cat Years Compared to Human Years

Pet Care Trends

How old is your cat or dog, really?

When people start talking about their pets, the topic usually gets around to deciding how old your pet is based upon your age.  Inevitably someone will come up with the age old answer,”Well they say that a dog ages about 7 years for every one of people years.” Then everybody begins to calculate how old “Fido” is  by multiplying his real years by seven. Read more: Continue reading “Dog and Cat Years Compared to Human Years”

Relief for Pets with Arthritis

Cats and Dogs and Arthritis

If you suffer from arthritis, and most of us dodo, who have reached the grand old age of 45 and up,  find it hard to believe that our beloved pets either have or will have some form of arthritis.

Case in point: I have two cats, both around 14 or 15. Both are females, both are spayed and so have never had a litter of kittens. Both have lived indoors in the very lap (mine) of luxury. One of them is crippled with arthritis in the spine and hind legs; the other one has a touch of arthritis in a front leg. Continue reading “Relief for Pets with Arthritis”

Litter and Litter Boxes–A Review

General overview

If you have a cat, you have a  litter box(es) with litter in it(them).  There are as many litter boxes and kinds of litter as there are cats–or it seems that way. Walk into any  full size pet store and you will find a full wall of litter products and varieties of boxes to hold the litter.

Store litter section

If you have one cat, you will certainly have one litter box, or perhaps two, if you listen to the experts. Experts say that for every cat in the household, you should have one litter box per cat plus one. Translation: If you have 2 cats, you should have 3 boxes. Realistically: one cat, one box; two cats, two boxes etc.

A Review of Litter Boxes

Since there are not quite as many box designs as there are litter varieties, I am going to  review boxes first. Go into any pet store and you will find:

  •   Self-cleaning boxes that drop down the solids for easy extraction
  • Throw away boxes made of a heavy cardboard that can be discarded with the litter – designed for a short term stay
  • Plastic boxes designed for corner areas
  • Small boxes with low sides- designed for small areas- and small kitties.
  • Boxes with high sides-designed to keep litter in the box and not on the floor outside the box
  • High sided boxes with low cut entrance for easy access by kitty
  • Robot boxes  that you apparently never have to touch
  •  Closed top boxes for Kitty privacy

Prices run any where from $10 to $40. A lot depends on where you intend to put the box and how much you feel like spending. Remember it needs to be scooped at least once a day. The box needs to be completely cleaned once a week– that is– old litter dumped, box washed out with plain water, dried and refilled with fresh litter.

Unless you are totally into the latest high tech items on the market, I recommend keeping things simple. Your cat wants a place to go when nature demands it. If you have a large cat(10+lbs.) get a large box–regular rectangular, or high- sided( if your cat is young and agile and you don’t want to sweep litter everyday). Remember, one cat-one litter box; two cats- two litter boxes.

Litter box station

Litter boxes should be placed well away from the feeding area and in a low traffic area. Cats like privacy. If you live in a small, one-bedroom apartment as I do with no enclosed porch, your bathroom becomes the cats’ bathroom as well.

A review of what goes in the box

Again, I’m going to list the kinds of litter, by that I mean, the additives that go into the litter for review.  But first a little history.  Before World War II, most cats were outside animals, mostly because of the bathroom situation.

Cats traditionally dig a hole in loose sand or dirt, do their business and then cover it up. It’s tidy, but not for indoor living. People who really wanted to keep their cats indoors were relegated to using sand or dirt and ashes.  This led to an everyday major cleaning job.

An enterprising gentleman by the name of Ed Lowe was introducing  “Fullers Earth” or Kiln dried clay to people with chickens  and wondered if it would answer the cat problem. In 1947 he filled 5 lb. sacks with his clay and marked it “Kitty Litter “and charged 69 cents.

It sold. That was the beginning of the company Tidy Cat. Many companies with special reasons why you should buy their litter have come on the market since then.

Besides clay litter, there are other products on the market for Kitty’s use: wheat litter, wood chips litter, that all tout a cleaner way to take care of your cat’s bathroom chores.

The first litter was just that: litter. No additives, no clumping, no deodorant. Just plain litter. You put it in a pan and set it on the floor, in a corner. You could scoop out the solids, but you stirred the rest to let the litter dry out.

When the smell got to be too much, you took the pan outside and dumped the smelly litter somewhere in the weeds or in the bushes.

Then someone invented a way to make litter clump. When the cat urinates in the litter box an additive causes the wet litter to clump into a firm ball. It’s a simple non odorous way to scoop up the clump and the solids and toss into the garbage.

Kinds of Litter

  • Non -clumping Litter
  • Clumping Litter
  • Flushable Litter

Clumping litter is the most popular type of litter, so I’m saving that to explore last.

Non-Clumping Litter is usually clay with no clumping additive.  It can also be made with paper, pine sawdust, even grass. The trouble with non-clumping litter is that urine can pool under the litter  and cause a bad smell.

Litter can also be made from crystals that change color if your cat has a kidney or bladder infection.  For cats prone to this problem, a litter that can give you an early signal that something is wrong, is worth using.

Flushable Litter is a great environmentally friendly choice. Flushable litters are made from corn, wood, or wheat, or walnut shells. When your cat uses the litter box, just flush the mess down the toilet and forget it.

Clumping Litters are probably most used. Litter is mostly made of clay, but can be made of wheat or walnut -shells. You have a large list of additives to choose from:

  • Dust-free
  • Scent-free
  • odor-free
  • Hypo-allergenic
  • fresh scent
  • Multi-cat
  • Lightweight
  • Ultra attractant

Some of these are self explanatory. We will talk about those in a minute. Some may not be so clear. Most cats know what a litter box is and how and when to use it. Some cats have a little trouble learning to use a litter box so some litters have an attractant ( a smell that tells them this is the place).

If you are having trouble litter-box training your kitten, you will definitely want a litter with an Ultra Attractant added .

Some companies have come up with a litter that will clump better, be more odor free and whatever else you want a litter to do when there are several cats in the house. These are labeled Multi-Cat.

Lightweight--Let’s face it, litter is heavy, so at least one company has come up with a lightweight version of  a ten or 15 lb. container of litter. Supposed to work as well as the heavyweight kind. You might use more, which means that you might be buying it more often.

Cats are peculiar about scents. Some will accept a scent added to the litter, others will absolutely not. You will have to work that out with the cat.

Litter Recommendations for Cat Households

The cost of a container of litter varies, depending on what you want the litter to do. Clay litters are less expensive than the environmentally friendly ones. Containers come in a variety of sizes: 10, 12, 15, 20 lbs.

I recommend that you get a dust-free, good clumping, scent-free litter.  That is the minimum that you will want to use for your cats.

Store Refill Station

There is one other choice of a dust-free, clumping, scent-free litter that is easy on the pocketbook and it is offered at a well-known pet chain. All you have to do is to return to the store with your container and refill it. You can buy a 16lb or 32lb container of litter. You get a dollar off for a refill. You can do this as long as you have cats. I currently pay $6 for a 16lb container once a week. I have two cats.

Scent-free, dust-free and good clumping litter is good for most cat households. I recommend a litter with these three  components, nothing less, to be the necessary elements to look for in any litter. Other additives will depend on any special needs you may have for your household.

Thanks for stopping by. Please let me know what you think of my litter review. Leave your comments below. Barbara Nelson

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Keep your pets safe during Christmas

The holidays are here again.

 

In the frenzy of decorating the house, baking cookies, shopping for presents, and all the other activities that keep us in a whirl, we often forget about our four-legged family members. They don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

Kitten under tree

People are bringing in things they have never seen before. You’ve heard the saying,”Curiosity killed the cat.” Cats are by nature curious and anything new must be cat inspected.

There are colored lights and artificial garlands strung around. Continue reading “Keep your pets safe during Christmas”

How to Handle the Stray Dog Problem

Definition of a Stray

Last week I wrote a post on feral cats as opposed to Domesticated cats. Handling the stray dog problem is entirely different from working with feral cats. For one thing, size creates a special situation. Adult cats usually weigh 10 to 12 pounds at the most. Even if one should lash out at you, the most you would get is an an angry looking Continue reading “How to Handle the Stray Dog Problem”

What Are the Differences between Feral and Domesticated Cats?

Cats are Cats

Regardless of the conditions where cats live, they are pretty much the same as far as personality and mannerisms are concerned. Cats are opinionated. Cats do what appeals to them. Cats protect their territory. You will see these characteristics in both feral and domesticated cats.

Cats love food. No matter how many times you have fed your cat, she will come back for more. Food says “home” to cats. Cats approach food in one of two ways.

cats Eating

Some cats operate on the theory that food must be devoured immediately because it may be the last meal they will be given. Other cats ration it out over a long period of time- eat some now, save the rest for later, because it may be the last meal they will be given.

Cats like to be clean. They approach cleanliness in unique ways. Nature gave them a scrub brush and located it in their mouths.They use their tongues to clean out foreign stuff in their coats, work out snags in their fur and clean between their toes.They wash their paws and then use their paws to scrub their faces.

Mother cats will groom their kittens several times a day. Grown cats that live in the same household will often groom each other.

Feral Cats vs Domesticated Cats

The word “feral” means wild, a wild animal. A true feral cat is a cat that is born into a feral colony. But, what are the differences between Feral and Domesticated cats?

Male feral cats tend to be larger than male domesticated cats. Feral males are heavy, muscular animals with scars on their faces, ears and hind legs.

Feral cats tend to collect in colonies. They are safer in groups and kittens are safer with several females to look after them. Female feral cats are devoted mothers. Feral cats are mostly nocturnal. They sleep all day and roam after nightfall. Feral cats are smart, social among themselves, and good problem solvers.

Most adult Feral cats never make good house pets. They are always on high alert and spook easily. They don’t transition well from living outside to becoming inside pets.

All cats are very protective of food. If there are several cats in the household, each one will watch the others while they are eating to make sure no one tries to grab another’s meal.

Cat with Food

Cats in the wild often rip off their portion of a kill and carry it off so they can eat while watching the others.

Some people have found a fairly docile cat among a feral colony and point to this as proof that feral cats can be tamed. More likely they probably have found a domesticated cat that was lost from or abandoned by their owners.

Strays will join a feral colony for safety, and these strays will remember their better days. Strays that are found in a feral colony will readily submit to petting and may be happy to become a house cat once again.

Turning Feral into Domesticated Cats

I just got through saying in a paragraph above that feral cats seldom make good indoor pets. But, if you see a cat you really want, and you have lots of time on your hands we can explore the possibility of turning a feral cat into a domesticated creature. Well, it is possible. But you, my friend, must have infinite patience, and you must let the cat think it is her idea.

Even though feral cats are wary of human beings, they can be coaxed with food. All cats love food and they will follow, at a safe distance, out of curiosity, to see where you’ re going with the food.

If you have one, for whatever reason, follow you home, don’t expect her to come in the house, or even come up on the porch. In fact, after you put down the food, the cat may disappear. Later, you will also notice that the food has disappeared, too. You can follow this routine for days, or weeks, before she will eat the food with you there.
cat eating

Then, one day, to your surprise, she will show up at your door. No more going out to find her and guide her to your house with the food. She has taken the next step-she now comes to you for food. She may let you sit with her while she eats.

Now is the time to make a little bed on the porch or patio, or near the back door–where ever she comes for her meal. Make a little lean to or someplace where she can get in out of the elements.This may be as far as the relationship goes. She will trust you for food and shelter and she will make a great outdoor pet.

When she trusts you enough to let you pick her up and brush and pet her make arrangements with a vet to have her neutered or spayed. I use the pronoun “she” in reference to the cat, but male or female, your life will be easier –no kittens or no male yowls. After that little operation, she may be wiling to come inside upon occasion.

Domesticating a feral cat is a long process and takes patience.

Trap-Neuter-Return

Some compassionate people that hate to see feral cat populations wiped out by rounding up and euthanizing all the adults have instituted a program called T-N-R -Trap Neuter Return. T-N-R is considered a humane approach to the feral cat overpopulation. This program takes some veterinarians, willing to give their services and volunteers willing to give their time, so that feral cats can live in their colonies without continuing to increase the population.

It’s a simple action. Volunteers round up the males primarily, and take them to a veterinarian for a simple, quick operation, that they recover from quickly. They are returned to the colony and the colony continues without a continuous increase in kittens.

Cat and volunteer

Simply put, if you feed and water outdoor cats, you have to get them fixed. Female cats can have 2 to 3 litters each year. Each litter will have 5 to 6 kittens. The female kittens from those litters can breed at 6 months of age. It doesn’t take long to be overrun with kitties. Spaying and neutering can stop the over breeding, as well as the yowling, spraying and fighting.

There are opponents to T-N-R. They say it just doesn’t work. Cats may not make as many kittens, but they are susceptible to rabies and other diseases from being on the streets. Also, volunteers get tired of feeding and watering them over the long haul. Helping strays is a long term commitment. Outdoor cats can live five to 8 years depending upon the hazards they encounter.

End-Game

The only real way the help lower the cat overpopulation is to educate humans to be responsible for their pets. Cats should be taken to the vet to be altered anytime after 6 months of age. Cats should be seen by a vet at least once a year and they should be given the necessary shots. Above all, they should be kept inside.

It may seem romantic to let the cat roam free but it isn’t. It’s irresponsible. Pets cannot take care of themselves. We have made them dependent upon us for everything.

For those who would like to read up on cats, roaming and otherwise, an English Veterinarian, James Heriot, has written a number of books on his encounters with pets and farm animals as well as their humans. The book I recommend is: All Creatures Great and Small. Any bookstore can get it for you. For information on T-N-R, check on Google.

I’m Barbara Nelson I’d like to hear from my readers. Let me know what you think.

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Traveling with a Cat in the Car

In the Beginning

Cats don’t like to travel. Ask any self-respecting cat if she would like to take a ride and you’ll get a definite answer- with a paw swipe on any part of your body she can reach. Cats are tied to their living space- a house, an apartment, the barn, etc. Unless she was born in a house trailer or a boat, she will not take easily to a moving vehicle.

That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love you, her owner and loving friend. She just doesn’t understand why you have to be traveling around all the time. She thinks you should be as content with your home as she is.

Truth of the matter is : your cat probably suffers from motion sickness. When cats look out the window of a moving car, they see a moving world from a static place. That would make almost anyone slightly nauseous. That doesn’t mean that cats can’t travel, it means that if you’re traveling with a cat in the car you just have to work with them.

Planning for the Trip

Before we get too deep into the trip planning, I need to clarify a few things. First, Don’t plan to take your cat on your vacation trip, unless you have no other option. Cats really don’t like to travel, they prefer to say home.

Try to find someone you trust to come over once or twice a day to clean the litter box, put out fresh water and put food down. The other option is to find a good, clean boarding facility for pets. Go check it out first. Plan on boarding your cat with her own bed or favorite “blankie.” Provide enough of her favorite food for the time you will be gone.

Now, back to getting your cat ready to travel, if necessary. This is not going to be easy, but find a harness for your cat and put it on her. Allow yourself some time. If you can, have another person to help you because you can be sure kitty won’t cooperate.

Be sure the harness is snug and your protesting cat can’t wiggle her head or a couple of legs out. She will be lying down with all this activity and she is determined not to get up and stand on her four feet, or walk for that matter. You patiently stand her up and gently pull on the leash to get her to walk. She will immediately flop down on her side while you end up dragging her across the floor.

You will be doing this activity for quite some time. Several days, or several weeks, depending upon how stubborn your cat is. Some cats will never tolerate a harness. In that case she will have to travel in a carrier. Get a carrier that is roomy enough for your cat to turn around in.

Take your cat for short rides in the car. Put her harness on or put her in her carrier and take some short rides. See if she will eventually learn to ride without panic. Make a trip to the veterinarian with your cat. Make sure she is in good health and all her vaccinations are current. The vet can also suggest medication that will keep your cat calm while traveling.

Ready for Travel

Now that you have done everything for travel with the cat, it is now time to get the rest of the family ready for the trip. On the day of departure, pack the cat in the car first. Feed your cat several hours before you put her in the car. Now you can pack out everything else that is needed without trying to keep track of the cat. Keep kitty confined in the back seat of the car in her harness or carrier while the car is moving.

If you were able to teach her to tolerate a harness, you can let her move around in the back seat. Be sure a leash is hooked to her harness, so you can control where she roams. Other things you will need for your cat include a litter box, a bowl for water, a food dish, litter, and her favorite food.

When you pull into a rest stop, let your harnessed cat out. Stay right with her and stay near the car. She is not a dog. You’re not going to take her for a walk.

Show your cat the litter box and a bowl of water. She will probably refuse both and will immediately want back into the safety of the car. If your cat is in a carrier, let her move around loose in the car until you are ready to resume traveling.

Do not be surprised if your cat refuses to use her litter box or drink or eat until you have stopped for the day. Let her get used to her new surroundings before offering her food. Show her where her litter box and water bowl are.

If you are taking your cat on your trip- make it a short trip. Cats just don’t travel well. Now if you must travel because of a job change, preparation for travel is much the same. A lot will depend upon how much time you have to get ready or where you are going. If you are going to a totally different climate, you need to be aware what your cat will need to acclimate herself.

In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do some advance shopping for the whole family. Find out what grocery stores, what department stores and pharmacies are available. Take extra medications with you that any of the family regularly takes.

If you are going to be on the road for a couple of nights, make reservations at a good motel for the family. Let them know that you have a cat, so that you won’t be turned away.

At the End of the Day

When you reach your destination at the end of each day, take the cat in first. You may want to confine her to an inside room or the bathroom while you unpack the car. When you are in for good, let your cat out to inspect her new digs. She will go over the place with great care. When she finally settles down, feed her and let her settle wherever she wants.

I would love to hear from you. Did I miss anything? Do you have an experience traveling with a cat?  you might notice I always refer to cats as of the female gender. It’s because they seem more female in character and actions.

Planning a Road Trip with the Dog

Introduction

When the weather begins to moderate, we begin to day dream about vacation time. The days grow longer; daylight stays until almost 8 o’clock in the lower United States and we have “cabin fever.”What is “cabin fever” you ask? It’s not a real, physical illness, it’s a longing to get out of the house and plant flowers, take a long walk in the sun, build something, go fishing, etc. Most of us are disgusted with Winter. It’s so cold outside, the days are short, and our tempers get “short” too.

Family members begin to talk about where to go this summer. The kids want to go to a Theme Park; Dad wants to take a prolonged road trip,with a couple of fishing side trips along the way. Mom wants to go somewhere that doesn’t require her to do anything domestic. She wants to be pampered, she doesn’t want to cook, wash or iron clothes.

Then the kids ask, “Can we take Tops with us, please, can we?” Tops is their new dog. He is part Golden Retriever and no one knows exactly what else. He is a sweet dog, but how will he travel? Mom puts the kids off with a half-hearted, “We’ll talk about it later.” The last thing Mom wants to do is to plan a road trip with the dog.

Train Your Dog for the Trip

The begging, the tears and the shouts of joy are all over and it’s been decided that Tops will go on vacation with the family. Does Tops know about riding in a car? Someone in the family must take charge of his training.

1.Take Tops in to see the veterinarian. Tell the vet you’re going to be on vacation and you want to be sure Tops is healthy. Make sure he has a current rabies shot and any other shots he may need. Get a copy of Top’s medical record to take with you.

2. Make sure Tops is okay with riding in the car. Do some short practice road trips. Make sure none of these trips are to the vet. You want Tops to understand that riding in the car is fun and he may go anywhere with you. Take him places that are strange to him and where people that he does not know are shopping or visiting. Make sure he knows how to act in these instances.You will be his guide.

3.Tops is a large dog so you won’t have a carrier or a crate for him, but don’t let him roam loose in the car. All dogs should ride in the backseat. Keep a leash on him at all times. When you stop at a rest area, you don’t want Tops to bolt out of the car.

4. Stop about every two hours. Dogs need rest stops too.

5. Take dog treats and chew toys. Bring Tops’ favorite food, his favorite blanket or bed and his water bowl. Also bring his comb and brush. He will be getting out of the car into  some places that have weeds and high grasses and you will want to keep his coat clean.

Decide on places to see, Where to Sleep

You have the dates you are going to be gone, you have the dog trained, now where are you going? You have made arrangements to visit a theme park for the kids and the rest of the trip will be sight seeing with overnight stops at motels. Find out from the Theme park their rules concerning pets. Some will allow dogs on leashes while others have kennels for visitors to house their pets while seeing the sights.

Check with Motels about rules for pets. Some allow pets with no extra arrangements, others charge an additional fee for a  pet to stay in the room. A few motel chains do not allow pets in the room. Do not sneak your pet into the Motel, go on down the road to another facility. You can save yourself some hassles, it you decide how far you are going each travel day and make motel reservations ahead of time.

Traveling with a small Dog has a few different  considerations

Before we round out our story , we need to take a look at our friends with small dogs. If you are traveling by car, all small dogs should be confined in a crate or a small carrier. Put them on a leash so that when you stop for a rest, your little dog can’t get away. They should at all times be in the back seat,  All other considerations would be the same as for large dogs. Small dogs are more likely to be acceptable at most Motels.

Some rules are made to be broken, however. My mother had small dogs and the current family pet always rode in mother’s lap in the front seat of the car at all times. In their retired years, my mother and father drove all over the Southwestern United  States. Dad bought a GM pickup truck and a small travel trailer and  outfitted it with everything necessary for camping.  The little dog, sometimes two little dogs, were always with them.

Alternative Travel Vacations

Some people like to “rough it” and spend all their vacation time in the great out of doors. It’s called Camping. With the right gear, camping can be almost as easy as being in your own kitchen. However, everybody in the family should be in agreement about a camping vacation. If even one person is not happy about the choice then the whole vacation will be less than ideal.

But if everybody is “gung ho” about a camping trip, consider National Parks, and National Forests for your destination. All campgrounds have information on rules and regulations for campers, and if pets  are allowed.

 You would be wise to check early on campgrounds in popular areas. During summer months campgrounds in some areas are completely filled.

A good time was had by all

Our pets become part of the family. With a little training, your dog can be delightful company, especially for your kids during a long trip. Also consider that your dog can be a watchdog for your belongings. Most dogs bark when strangers approach, and that can be a good safety measure. Take the dog. You’ll all have a great time.