Category Archives: Common Sense Care Tips

When We Can’t Help and When We Can

WHEN WE CAN’T HELP:  A property owner called, asking if we would trap and have destroyed several feral cats that were killing their birds and destroying the feeders. As you know, we are an Animal Welfare Group that supports Trap, Neuter and Release programs.  Unfortunately the property owner was not interested in that option. It is even more unfortunate that we were unable to help them. Clip Art - TNR Logo

When you find feral companion animals surrounding your property, it means that the conditions are better there for their survival than any other option.  Maybe you have uncovered trash.  Maybe you have bird feeders that provide feral cats with an instant access to birds.  Maybe you have outbuildings and cover that provides shelter.  Maybe you have other animals that the feral animals can smell, or you feed your animals outside, so feral animals have a chance of getting a bit of what is available.

In any of these cases, nature abhors a vacuum, so even if you remove the feral animals that you find, unless you also change what drew them to your property, more will follow.

Our stated mission is to help keep all companion animals in the area safe, not to euthanize them.  A responsible Trap, Neuter and Return program could have helped make sure that the kitties this person wanted to put down would have been  much less interested in the bird feeders, since they wouldn’t have been hungry.  But under such a program, feral cats are trapped, fixed and returned to where they came from.  And without such a program, even if the original cats were removed, others would likely move in, looking for a birdie meal too.

We are happy to help you set up a TNR program by offering food, housing and the spaying or neutering.  Otherwise we have no assistance to offer.

Planning for the Future Welfare of Your Pets

PLEASE PLAN AHEAD:   I know none of us wants to think about death, disability or an extended stay in the hospital, but if we love our companion animals, we simply have to do so.  Four Legs and Fur has recently been calledClip Art - Feeling Sick upon to help people who were going into intensive care for an extended time period figure out what to do with their pets.  We also know of a situation where a person passed away with young animals in their care and no one to take them.

From your pet’s perspective, it’s bad enough to lose you, the person they love.  Just imagine when they’re left out in the cold to fend for themselves?  That happens more than you know.

Please have that talk with your family members, friends, neighbors or whomever.  Think through what would happen if you could no longer care for your animals, or if a disability causes you to be unable to walk them as you once did.  If you want to discuss options or how to make plans, we’re happy to do so.  We even know of a reliable dog walker who is available to help with that chore.

On a similar front:  I know that we want to make sure our animals are mainly bonded with us and will protect us and the home when needed.  But please remember that they also must be socialized enough that someone else can keep them from chasing animals, pick them up, get a leash on them or get them in a carrier.  Clip Art - Dog Chasing Squirrel

Otherwise, it becomes a traumatic experience for your pets when it happens that someone (often a stranger), needs to step in to help you take care of them, get them into boarding facilities or send them to foster care while you recuperate and/or if you can’t come back.  I even know of several animals who were lost simply because no one could catch them after an owner died.  And that can’t possibly be what you would want for the pets you love.

Solve the Dog Nail Trimming Nightmare

Anyone who has a dog knows their nails keep growing no matter what you do, and one of our least favorite activities is trying to convince them to let us trim their nails.  You can either take them to the vet or groomer and pay for it to be done, or try and do it yourself.  Often we spend the money in frustration, because who needs the hassle of your dog having a nervous breakdown.

Recently I heard of a nifty trick.  Part of the problem with us trimming our dogs’ nails is that we are doing it the wrong way.  Either we’re taking too much off at a single time or we’re asking them to become unsteady on their feet by lifting up their paws, which is uncomfortable.

Instead, get a trimmer that has an open end, so you don’t need to lift up the nail or paw.  Kneel down in front of your dog.  Don’t lift the paw.  Just put the trimmer under the nail with the paw still on the ground, bring it up slightly and snip off just a small amount.  Doing so will let your dog stay stable and avoid the possibility of cutting too much or hitting the quick.  This lets you quickly get each paw done.

If you have one of those dogs who hates the sound of the clipping, do a paw, then go away.  Come back another time to do another one.  If your dog’s nails have grown super long, take them down a bit at a time, and you’ll get less resistance from your pet.

Sparkling White Teeth

In the last ten years or so it’s become somewhat of a fad belief that pet owners need to brush their cat’s or dog’s teeth.  This is laughable to me.  These animals, and the wolves before them, survived perfectly fine with no one to brush their teeth for literally thousands of years!  And I know of no pet that enjoys having you manhandle their mouth regularly, no matter how livery the toothpaste may taste!

So why is it recommended now?  Because, in my humble opinion, it takes advantage of the trend to convert your cat or dog from an animal to a living doll and provides the pet-supply industry with yet another way to make you spend your hard-earned money foolishly.

What’s really the best way to get your pet’s teeth clean:  In most cases, uncooked bones.  I have had animals rescued from shelters and puppy mills with gum problems and black teeth.  After a few months of regularly giving them real bones to chew upon, their gums are good and their teeth end up white and clean. Not to mention that chewing and consuming these bones is exactly how nature intended for them to get enough calcium.

If you have hunter friends, ask them to save the leg bones for you.  Rib bones cut off the spine work well too.  Or contact a local butcher shop and ask the same thing.  Farm supply stores often have real bones, although they have been dried and flavored, and I’ve even found those at the local Walmart from time to time.  Avoid the greenies, kongs and other similar items.  They accomplish nothing close to what real bones will do.  And whatever you do, please, please, please! avoid the rawhide chews and/or pigs and cows ears, whether or not they are twisted into the shape of bones.  You’re simply asking for bowel obstructions, especially with larger animals that bite off huge pieces, as well as dirty, germ-filled slobbery messes after they have been chewed on for a while.

If you absolutely can’t find them anywhere local, then jefferspet.com is a great option for a wide variety of bones starting as low as $1 each for bones for small dogs.  Since I have so many pups at home, I like to take advantage of the option to buy multiple bone packs at a time at a lower per-bone cost.  At 24-pack of pork femurs, which all my dogs (even the little one) love, love, love is $44, so less than $2 each.

No matter where you get them, please do let your animals have the satisfaction of chewing on real bones.  They’ll thank you for it.

Your Cats & Dogs feel the Cold too.

We’re now officially entering colder weather, and while you’re cozy inside, remember that all of your outdoor companion animals, feral kitties and dogs, and even your chickens and other poultry need help to stay warm too.  Sadly, over the last several winters we here at Four Legs and Fur have received too many reports of animals literally freezing to death.

Most regular dog houses and outdoor cat condos are not insulated, so they provide little in the way of shelter from biting winds, freezing rain or snow.  It’s relatively inexpensive to fix this.  Hermitage Lumber and farm stores sell bales of straw, which have an amazing insulating value if stacked against the walls and even over the ceiling of the house.  And a warm four-inch layer of straw inside keeps your pet from being exposed to as much of the cold coming from the ground.

If that doesn’t suit you, and especially if you’re dealing with feral cats you want to try to help, here’s a great link for instructions on building a variety of feral cat cold and all-weather shelters:  http://www.catster.com/lifestyle/feral-cat-health-shelter-cats-how-to-build-diy

Also keep in mind that it benefits outside animals to have a bit more flesh on them during the winter months than you would want during the summer.  You can accomplish this by feeding them a bit extra and adding more fat to their rations.  Doing so helps them generate more heat.

Lastly, please remember that your outside companions continue to need water (not ice) to keep them hydrated.  If they have to resort to eating snow, it often results in their getting hypothermia.  A stock tank heater, or a metal water bowl put up on a brick, with a heat lamp below it can provide water in the coldest of temps.
And if you’re wondering whether or not your animal HAS hypothermia, here’s how that is defined:  There are three phases of hypothermia: mild, moderate, and severe. Mild hypothermia is classified as a body temp of 101.3°F-97.7°F, moderate is 97.7°F-93.2°F, and severe is a body temperature under 93.2°F.
Because animals have a higher normal temperature, they can suffer the results of hypothermia that much earlier.  If you suspect your companion has become too cold, supplemental heat can be provided through the use of warm IV fluids, a fluid line warmer, insulation on the feet, circulating warm water blankets, and/or warm air circulation systems.  If it seems severe, an immediate trip to the vet may be the only solution.  Better to prevent the problem if you can.

Are You Part of the Problem Or Why to Spay or Neuter Your Pets

  • If you like male cats yowling around your house every 10 days, then don’t spay your female.
  • If you love both sexes marking everything with their urine, inside and out, then keep your male and female intact.
  • If you think having male dogs come from literally miles around to sniff out your female in heat is a good thing, then don’t spay her either.
  • And if you think that killing over 141,000 animals in Missouri every single year is what you want to be part of, then keep your animals fertile and reproducing.

My grandmother drilled into my head the saying, “You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.” In the case of companion animals, the myth that allowing them to become pregnant because it’s “natural” and/or keeping a male dog intact because he’ll be happier are just that, and contribute to thousands of animals EACH DAY being put down because no one wants them.

Ask any mother you know if going through pregnancy was easy and blissful, and you’ll probably get an earful. Your female cat or dog doesn’t “enjoy” being pregnant. It strains her body, makes her more apt to have joint problems when older.  One of my rescued dogs is a puppy mill survivor.  She’s as sweet as can be, but you can see her pushed out hips and bowed legs from having litter after litter.  I’m sure she would have preferred a different life.

And every time you place the pups or kitties your pet produced, you are contributing to over-population. Why? Because every free kitten you place with friends is one less home that can take an animal already in a shelter.

As for keeping a male dog intact, doing so just contributes to their roaming away from home in search of love, being much more aggressive (can we spell liability issues?) and having bone and cancer problems later on down the road.

Spaying or neutering your animals just before they come into their first heat (in the case of females), or around 6 months to a year (for males) allows their bones to grow at the correct rate, prevents many cancers, and gives you a calmer and happier pet.

Four Legs and Fur has a limited number of vouchers for low-cost spay and neutering of both dogs and cats. Apply now and do your best friend the best favor you can.