Chew marks and scratches are all part of the joy of pets.

Everyone knows the joys of owning a pet.  Love, companionship, protection and just being fun make having a pet a joy.  But it is not all fun and games, is it.  Unfortunately, a large part of my day is spent discussing how to address issues we have with our companion animals.

 Many people think that some pets actually enjoy driving us crazy.  And while some do bad things to gain attention, for most, being “bad” is a combination of natural behaviour and not having an outlet for that behaviour.

Many of these actions can be remedied by simply removing the opportunity to be bad.  Taking away an object, moving it to a place it can’t be reached, or making it unattractive to the pet are all simple solutions to resolving conflict.

If the item is something that is not needed, removing it or replacing it with an item that is not attractive to pet is an easy fix. We got some seagrass baskets, and Streaky decided they are the perfect scratching area.  Changing then from seagrass to fabric ones stopped that behaviour.  We could have tried an number of things to stop the behaviour, but this is by far the simplest solution.

When removing the object is not possible, restricting access to it can be an easy fix.  For instance, cord chewing is a common complaint.  Some cats and dogs find cords an irresistible opportunity for trouble.  Blocking access to the area behind the TV/Stereo can remove the temptation.  Either with a physical barrier, or with a deterrent (there are sprays that pets find distasteful, and there are products like the X Mat or Scat Mat that have either pokey spikes or a static charge that stops the animal from accessing the area).  Alternately, you can lift the cables up out of the reach of the animal, or run them into the cabinet, limiting the amount of exposed cable.

In the case of chewing, you can also make the item unappetizing by the application of various sprays, gels or home remedies. Finding a taste that is loathed by the animal is key, these tastes are either something extremely bitter, or extremely hot.  They don’t all work the same on all animals, each may have different tastes.  Just like how we all have that friend that can drink pure Tobasco, some animals like the taste of certain deterrents, so finding one they detest is key.  

There are also guards you can buy to protect cables, and even something as simple as wrapping the cable in tinfoil can work. But don’t use tinfoil on power cords, please, for obvious reasons.

Chewing is one problem, but cats and even some dogs also destroy our items by scratching.  This is a much harder behaviour to curb, because we can’t use a taste deterrent.  There are the sprays I mentioned (you can spray them directly on an item (test on an inconspicuous area first), or on a piece of cloth which is then placed near the area) that make the area unappealing, and the mats that can protect the item, and these do work well.  If they are not an option, then there are protectants you can apply, like a 2 way tape or tinfoil, to stop cats from scratching an item, but again, try it first on an inconspicuous area.

Training is also an option.  The good old spray bottle is a favourite deterrent, the only problem is that you have to be there to spray.  Once you leave, its open season on the couch.  Dogs can usually be trained away from bad behaviour with a little effort, cats though, well, they’re cats.

The most important thing is to address the problem immediately, and continue working until it is resolved.  If you don’t, the behaviour will become normalized, and fixing the issue will be much more difficult.

Giving our pets the right boost.

There are a lot of people looking at alternative feeding options for dogs and cats, especially for easy ways to add fresh foods into their diets.  Like us, pets can benefit from better diets, but it is important to do things properly, or you can do more harm than good.

Just adding in some fresh foods can have amazing benefit for our pets.  Many of the same superfoods we eat have similar benefits for our pets.  Foods rich in antioxidants or vitamin complexes like Kale, seaweeds, blueberries, acai and the like can be used as toppers for commercial foods.  Coconut oil, tumeric, chia are standard food "improvers" in our diets, and yes, they work for dogs too.  Leafy veggies, though, need to be broken down for the dogs to get nutrition out of them, so making a kale smoothie for the dog and freezing them in ice cube trays makes it easy and effective, my Stitch gets a kale+ cube (a smoothie of frozen kale with coconut oil, tumeric, blueberries, kelp and a manganese supplement) added to her food every day. 

 Getting cats to eat fresh fruits or veggies isn't always an easy task, some cats love greens, but most don't.  For these cats, and dogs too, adding in some fresh meats can boost nutrition.  Salmon (previously frozen for 3 weeks) is a great source of Omega 3.  Any other meat protein that you are preparing for your own consumption can be offered in a raw form that our pets were designed to eat, and they are also packed with great nutrition.  Wild game, like salmon, should be frozen 3 weeks first.  Some people prefer to cook anything they offer to their pets, and while it does reduce the nutritional benefits, its still better than nothing.

These additions to the diet need to be handled and offered with the same protocols we use for handling any raw meats.  These are not difficult to follow, and should already be being used in the handling and feeding of dry pet foods.  The FDA guidelines for handling dry pet foods are pretty strict, they recommend washing the dish and scoop with soap and water after every use, and sterilizing the bin between bags of food.  So adding raw fresh foods should not add any steps to a proper cleaning regimen for pet bowls.

For people who want to add something, but don't want to break the bank, the simple egg is a perfect addition.  Raw or cooked, it is an amazing protein with lots of benefit.  The membrane in the shell is loaded with glycosaminoglycans, said to out perform glucosamine supplements, as well as other proteins.  Too much raw egg can be an enzyme and biotin inhibitor, but cooking the egg white neutralizes that.  Lightly scrambling eggs in a teflon pan, or using coconut or olive oil,  and then freezing them can make for an easy and cost effective nutritional boost for our pets. 

If we cross the line for these items being additives to them being a primary part of the diet, we then have to look at creating a fully balance diet recipe.  There are lots of them out there, and they can be easy and affordable to follow.  It is important to make sure you fully research any home made diets, and ensure they are a proper balance of meat, bone and organs.  We don't want to risk our pets health by accident.