Teaching Your Cat to Sit

by Stacy Ferrara,  Pawsitive Potential

cat trainingThere’s that old joke about “herding cats” that’s used to describe something extremely difficult, if not impossible. Cats have always been thought of independent and aloof creatures that do what they want on their own time. This likely comes from comparing them to dogs who have entirely different behaviors and motivations. The reality is that cats can be trained to do a variety of things. It can be retraining a negative behavior to something more pleasing to their guardians (such as using the litter box) or learning to “SIT” on command. Sometimes the biggest hurdle is training the guardians to realize that training really is possible.

As a feline behaviorist, many of my clients have concerns about scratching furniture, aggression towards other cats in the home, or the most dreaded – not using the litter box. The specific method and training technique varies for each, but all of these behaviors can be retrained using some form of positive reinforcement. Reward the behaviors you want to encourage, and humanely discourage the ones you want to stop. Cats get the message and learn how to do what makes everyone happy.

Like any animal, training cats starts with finding the right reward that they’re willing to work for. Cats may be a bit more particular than dogs in what will motivate them, but all cats value something.  It could be a particular brand of treat, a piece of fresh turkey or a favorite toy. Once you find that beloved favorite referred to as the high value reward, you save it for the training sessions and only use it when it counts. Training before meal time is helpful so they’re a bit hungry too.

Any valued treat should only be paired with doing something you want to encourage. Many guardians give treats randomly if the cat happens to look cute at that particular moment, or as a “dessert.” Without realizing it, they are reinforcing whatever was happening at that moment. If you cat jumps on the dining room table during dinner, don’t give any table scraps to appease them for the moment unless you like that behavior and want them to keep doing it. One scrap is a reward and reinforces jumping on the table again. Do they meow at 5:00 AM looking for breakfast? Each time a guardian satisfies that request by waking from sleep to prepare their meal, that morning wake up call will be reinforced and continue. Their behavior is being rewarded.

Teaching a cat to “SIT” or put up their paw for a “High Five” is accomplished using positive reinforcement too.  I’ve seen some cats learn after just a few repetitions. You hold a piece of their favorite treat over their nose while they’re in a standing position. By slowly moving the treat backwards toward their tail, they are led into a sitting position and you instantly say “SIT” as you give them the treat. Any cat can be taught to do this and more. Remember to give the treat with command within 1-2 seconds of their bottom hitting the floor – cats have very short attention spans and won’t make the connection if it’s longer than that. Soon just saying “SIT” will be all they need to hear to go into the sitting position.

Training like this is a great way to provide mental stimulation and bond with your cat. Enrichment is important for all cats, particularly those kept indoors only or in shelters. The training is fun as long as the trainer is patient and allows it to be a fun experience – going at the cats pace. It should never be a negative experience with loud voices or frustration. When you see your cat start losing interest – the session is over. Start again later or another day.

feline behavioristThere’s a big movement in the shelter environment that links training programs with increased cat adoptions. Jackson Galaxy (The self proclaimed “Cat Daddy” and host of “My Cat From Hell” on Animal Planet) initiated his Cat Pawsitive program that teaches shelters who apply for the program how to train their cats to do various things like “SIT” and “High Five.” They then measure the success of the program through adoption rates. His results have shown that cats going through the training program are adopted faster. It’s partly due to adopters being impressed with a trained cat, but also the fact that it raises their confidence levels. They’re more friendly and outgoing which are traits adopters typically look for.

Shelters are encouraged to work with the less adoptable cats which can include shy ones that stay in the back of the cage as people walk by. Boosting their confidence alone is huge in increasing adoptability even if they’re not learning to sit on command. It’s a win win particularly for older adult cats that aren’t always the first choice due to age, and have been stuck in a cage longer than others. The enrichment factor alone is a rewarding experience for them.

The next time you want to give a try to herding some cats, grab a few pieces of grilled chicken and give it a try. They might just surprise you.

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Author Bio:

Stacy FerraraStacy Ferrara, CAFTP, CFTBS, is a Certified Advanced Feline Training Professional, Certified Feline Training and Behavior Specialist and owner of Pawsitive Potential, LLC. She is on the Board of Directors for Last Hope, Inc., an organization devoted to cat and dog rescue and rehabilitation, serving in a variety of capacities. Stacy has a BS in psychology and biology and is a Professional member of the Animal Behavior Society and The Animal Behavior Management Alliance.

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Being Fully Present With Your Pet

by Alison Martin, founder of Animal Soul Connection

Sonny Brenton

As an animal communicator, one of the topics I hear from my clients is “What I can do to make my animal companion happy?” What we often learn is our animal friends simply would like to spend time with us – time uninterrupted, without distractions and with us fully present. When you spend time with your animal family, are you watching TV while you pat your dog on her head; texting while you take a walk around the block; brushing your cat but thinking about work? I think you see where I’m going with this. When we’re not fully present with our animal companions, we are missing out and so are they.

The love our animal receives from us when we are fully present with them, heart and soul, delights them.

There is nothing else like the unconditional love we receive from our animal family.  The love our animal receives from us when we are fully present with them, heart and soul, delights them. I hear this from the animals I work with time and again. They ask so little of us. If we could all work on being truly in the moment when we’re with our animal companions, can you see how the energy of Earth might enjoy a slight shift?

I encourage you to let go of all distractions, even for a few minutes, and simply enjoy being with your animal friend.

In addition to the practice of connecting with our animals when we’re together, animals are natural meditation teachers. The key to meditation is being totally in the moment, and that is where animals are, all the time. They don’t live in the past or future as we often do. They are easily here, right now, in the present moment. Whether you are a seasoned meditation practitioner or have never tried to meditate before, slowing your mind down in connection with your animal will bring many benefits!

Charlie Andy Libby Gracie

Just a few benefits of meditation:

  • It improves concentration.
  • It encourages a healthy lifestyle.
  • The practice increases self-awareness.
  • It increases happiness.
  • Meditation increases acceptance.
  • It slows aging.
  • The practice benefits cardiovascular and immune health.

When we slow our minds and tune into our breathing and relax, our pets are reaping the benefits as well. By finding a quiet time to really connect with your animal friend, you are strengthening and deepening your bond. Animals like routine, so by starting a new habit of daily meditation with them you can increase their feeling of safety and comfort.

Andy in grassNo worries, this does not have to be a lengthy process! Even five minutes a day can get you on the road to feeling more peaceful. Once you start, my bet is you’ll want to develop this healthy practice into longer sessions. It’s easy, fun and there are really no rules. You can’t mess this up! Just simply being, not doing anything, with your pet and connecting with them on a soul level helps them thrive.

Let’s get started!

● Sit near your animal, get comfortable with your spine straight, hands open in your lap and close your eyes. You may place a hand on your animal if she is comfortable with you doing so. If she moves away, that’s ok. You can join together without touching.

● Take a deep breath in through your nose. Feel your stomach expand and the cleansing breath go deep into your body. Think of the gratitude you have for your animal on the inhale.

● Exhale through your nose, or mouth, and think of the unconditional love you and your animal share.

● Repeat this deep breathing three more times then resume your normal breathing pattern, staying aware of your breath and how it fills your body.

● Next, picture one of your favorite things about your animal. Focus on that and quiet your mind. It’s ok if your mind races. Simply recognize the thoughts and let them go – returning again to your favorite thought. Try to stay with this for a few minutes, breathing in and out, relaxing and feeling your pet relax with you.

● When you are ready to end your meditation, send deep love and gratitude to your animal. Take three deep breaths in and out – breathing in gratitude, breathing out unconditional love into the world.

● Slowly open your eyes and return to the room. How are you feeling? It may be nice to start a meditation journal to record these beautiful times with your beloved animal companion.

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Author Bio:

Alison MartinAlison Martin is the Founder of Animal Soul Connection. As an animal communicator, reiki practitioner and pet loss grief counselor she brings her passion to life. For over 20 years, Alison has made a positive impact in the lives of animals and their people through her professional work from contributing to a large humane society and veterinary clinics, to owning her pet sitting business and teaching holistic care classes, she has helped one animal at a time with love and compassion. Volunteering with rescues and shelters since her early teens, Alison knew her life’s purpose was to give her heart to animals. Her animal family of seven dogs, one cat, two horses and two goats teach unconditional love every day. Alison believes our animal friends have an unlimited depth of love and knowledge to share with us and is dedicated to making a true difference in as many lives as possible

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Celebrating Your Pet in Art

by Karen Robinson, Pet Portrait Artist – Devon, UK

There are many reasons why you may decide to commission an artist to paint your pet. After all, the earliest paintings we have any record of were made by our ancestors of animals on the walls of their homes (caves).

Here are a few tips for you if you are considering asking an artist to create a painting or drawing of your own.

The artist’s style

Look at as many examples of artists’ work as you can. When you find some work that clicks with you, ask the artist to send you more images to view if necessary to help you choose. The most important thing is that you like what you see! There are many artists offering to paint your pet all around the world so you, the pet parent, have a huge amount of choice. You do not need to commission the first artist you find.

The art: size and medium

Consider what size you wish to commission. Price is not the only consideration: if an artist, whose work you have decided you like, paints 4 ft x 4ft canvases and you live in a tiny apartment you may wish to reconsider. “Can you do one like this but much smaller?” is not
likely to work well!

The most common mediums for pet portraits are: oils, watercolours, pastel and graphite (pencil). Paintings in oil – the traditional medium – are usually more expensive than other mediums and take longer to create. Beautiful work can be found in watercolor, and pastel
is a medium that allows for highly realistic rendering of fur. Both of these mediums need to be framed behind glass before hanging, whereas oil paintings do not.

Here are 4 examples, from left to right: graphite, pastel, watercolour, oil:

Working with the artist

It is obviously very helpful if you feel comfortable working with the artist and are at ease in your discussions with her about your requirements.

This is what you have a right to expect from the artist:

  1. A clear, written statement of what your art work will cost you and the terms and conditions surrounding payment, including shipping cost (if applicable).
  2. Most artists will ask you to pay a deposit of 20-50% of the agreed price up front before they begin work. The balance becomes payable when you approve the completed work.
  3. Artists working in oils will usually price their work excluding the cost of a frame.
  4. Artists working in pastel, pencil and watercolour will sometimes price to include the frame, because it is essential that these media are framed to protect them.
  5. Make sure you are clear what is included in your quote.
  6. Unless you have specified and agreed with the artist very clearly what you  expect the finished painting to look like (eg. “I want one of my dog that looks just like THIS” with an example of what you mean), then you should expect a clear description, or better still a visual (such as a rough working sketch) of what your painting is likely to look like. At the very least, you should know whether the painting will be portrait, (on the left) or landscape (on the right) and what size it will be.
  7. An indication of how long your painting is likely to take to complete (or to start, if the artist has a waiting list).

This is what the artist is likely to expect from you:

Karen Robinson Pet Portrait ArtistA clear idea of which pet or pets you want the artist to paint: “adding in” an extra one half way through is unlikely to be possible, especially if the pets are very different sizes. Tell the artist all the important points that will ‘make or break’ the painting for you. For example, if you provide the artist with a photograph of your dog wearing a collar but do not want the collar included in the final painting; if you need the background of the painting to “match” your room’s wallpaper or paint color; if you want the painting to be the same size and shape as one you will be hanging it alongside. Good quality reference photographs to work from. It is unlikely the artist will work from life – although sometimes artists will sketch the animal from life if this is practicable. Most of my customers live in a different country to me, usually a different continent – so I always work from photographs. This is so significant to the quality of the finished piece, here are a few tips specifically about photographs.

  1. Try to familiarize your pet with the camera, especially dogs as some dogs may find the camera confrontational.
  2. Have an assistant if possible. They can help keep your pet in one place and looking in the right direction, whilst you concentrate on getting the shot. A supply of dog treats and a few favorite toys, such as a ball if you’re after an action shot, or a squeaky toy for grabbing attention, will come in useful.
  3. You’ll need a background as clutter free as possible so as not to cause a distraction from your pet. A plain sheet simply draped over a chair might do the trick. Think about the main colour of your pet’s fur, especially if it is very dark (black) or very light (white). For example, If you have a white dog, don’t sit him against a white sheet but choose a darker colour/fabric so it is possible for the artist to see where the dog ends and the background begins.
  4. Try not to photograph your pet looking down from a standing position, try to get down to their eye level for a more engaging image. If the pet is tiny, place him on something higher up so that you can look into his eyes.
  5. If there is something specific you want in the background of your painting, you can send a separate photograph of that, you do not have to try and get the perfect shot that includes both the dog and the item. Just remember to
    photograph whatever the item is from the same level (position) that you photographed the pet.
  6. Remember that artists paint what they see – when I am painting a pet to commission, I am painting one particular pet – YOUR pet – not just any pet. So I cannot “make things up”. For example, If you want a full body painting I cannot do it if you send me a photograph only of a head. Or, if you would like all four of your dog’s paws in the portrait, please do not “cut them off” on the photo.

FINALLY…

A painting of your pet is a very personal and individual piece and cannot simply be bought off the shelf. Be willing to engage with the artist and answer any questions she may have. An artist who specializes in painting animals will want to get to know your pet through your words and your photos and will want to delight you with their work. Have fun with your commission and enjoy the process – the finished painting will be well worth the time!

Pet Artist Karen Robinson

Author Bio:

Karen Robinson paints from her home on the Devon/Cornwall border, looking out over her easel across open fields. Usually there are sheep or other livestock peacefully grazing, sometimes rabbits,  often pheasants. In summer there will be flocks of swallows and house martins gathering mud for their nests and, in winter, murmurations of starlings.  

Karen came late to painting after many years of raising children and earning a living in other ways. Practising for many years as a textile and fibre artist, the move to traditional art media came about because she could no longer achieve in stitch the degree of realism and expression she sought. She found herself stitching less and painting on to the fabric more.

Inspiration comes from the world around her and the work of many realist painters from Velasquez to John Singer Sargent, but especially master animal artists: Sir Edwin Landseer, John Emms, Rosa Bonheur.

Special mention must be made of her dog, Bilbo Baggins, who was her first model and continues to be her Muse. Karen’s paintings hang in homes around the world, including Europe, Scandinavia almost all the States of the USA.

Links:

Pet Grooming 101: Brushing Up on Grooming Certifications

by Olivia Watson, Team Petmasters

Most pet parents would agree that when they request a pet service of any kind, they are looking for a trustworthy, responsible, and above all qualified professional to care for the animal they love. Yet with so many certifications, associations, and organizations surrounding pet professionals, it can be difficult to navigate these titles and the skillsets they represent. So what does professionalism look like in the pet grooming industry, especially for pet parents who may have no idea who they’re handing their precious pup or favorite feline off to for hours at a time? 

What You May Not Know About Pet Grooming:

While most grooming businesses, veterinary clinics, pet stores, and kennels employ certified pet pros, it is important to consider that most states do not regulate or license groomers. As a result, their training could range from no certification to the prestigious title of National Certified Master Groomer – one of the highest honors for a pet professional who has passed a series of comprehensive written tests and practical exams.

Certified Master Groomer Linda Easton from International Professional Groomers, Inc. notes that, “Apprenticeship is the way most of us old time groomers learned the trade.” A groomer with no certifications may have started as a grooming assistant or apprentice and learned on the job – perhaps through a family grooming business.

Increasingly, however, aspiring pet professionals choose to get certified through a reputable training program or grooming school that requires extensive knowledge and practical experience.

By acquiring their certification, pet groomers undoubtedly hone their skills and boost their credibility as professionals and business owners.

Some well-known grooming schools for dogs and cats in the U.S. include:

While these schools offer specialized grooming programs, people can also get certified through an association or organization. Some of the bigger names include:

But what does it mean for pet groomers to belong to these communities?

Membership vs. Certified Membership:

A groomer can gain entry into the above-mentioned organizations by earning their certification or registering as a member. They may become a member because they support the grooming curriculum, code of conduct, or safety protocol but that does not mean they are certified to uphold these standards in a professional setting. Look out for this! Someone who is not yet certified or may be in the process of getting certified could be a member of a reputable association and maintain a paid membership position that does not require the same effort or skill set as an officially certified member.

Two examples of associations that use a two tier membership system are the National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA) and the International Professional Groomers, Inc. (IPG). In the United States, the largest dog grooming association is the NDGAA. Since 1969, they have been promoting proper education in the grooming industry, while trying to unify pet groomers with recognized standards.

To be a registered member of the NDGAA, one must be working towards a grooming certification or have achieved it already. Registered membership is open to all groomers in grooming school or apprenticeship training who are at least ¾ of the way through their program. Therefore, to be a member of this association in any capacity demonstrates serious commitment. Certified members of this association can also choose to go above and beyond the basic title to become a National Certified Master Groomer, by taking extensive additional written and practical exams.  

Newer to the grooming scene is IPG, created in 2014 to educate, certify, and uphold professional standards in the grooming world. Similar to the NDGAA, they offer two kinds of membership: those pursuing their certifications on a specific tract: Certified Salon Professional (CSP), Certified Professional Groomer (CPG), Certified Advanced Professional Groomer (APG) or registered members. Unlike the NDGAA, groomers can register to be paid members of this organization that abide by their Code of Ethics but are not certified or perhaps not even in the process of getting certified. So what does it take to earn these certifications and why should you be looking for a groomer who has put in the work?

Getting Certified:

Pet grooming programs or schools generally include courses in safety, first aid, anatomy, biology, breed and coat type recognition, nail clipping, brushing, ear cleaning, matted fur, and fluff drying. This knowledge is invaluable to a professional who will likely be spending an hour or more one-on-one time with your pet. It is crucial they know how to respond to a pet emergency, and of course possess the necessary skills of proper grooming.

Thus, acquiring a grooming certification requires a considerable time commitment that demonstrates dedication. Though some programs are shorter, most grooming certification courses are about 480 hours total, or roughly 16 weeks. While different programs use slightly different terminology, a Certified Professional Groomer (CPG) is typically the most basic level of recognition while Certified Master Groomer (CMG) or National Certified Master Groomer (NCMG) is the more prestigious title that awards a groomer for a more rigorous training process.

For the NDGAA, the NCMG certification requires a written exam that consists of 400 questions, covering toy and hound groups, anatomy, breed standards, breed identification, a glossary of canine terms, general health, pesticides, and cat questions. To be awarded this elite certification, the groomer needs to be able to put a correct trim on several dogs in different breed categories: Non-Sporting, Sporting, Long-legged Terriers, and Short-legged Terriers. A written exam accompanies the practical exam for each breed group. Most importantly, before a pet pro can begin this process, they must have passed all other phases of their certification with an average percentage of 85 or higher. So is it worth it?

Groomers who share their experiences in online forums often weigh the advantages of earning this elite status. Most pet groomers are hungry to achieve the highest level of professionalism in their industry and like to be considered a master of their profession. These groomers have gone above and beyond to ensure the highest level of care for your pet. So what standards should pet pros be held to once they are considered masters, or certified pros at the least? 

Ethical Standards and Guidelines for Pet Grooming:

There are organizations that exist to promote education and knowledge about safety standards and ethics for pet care across the board. Some of them do not offer memberships or certifications, but instead a pet constitution of sorts.

For grooming specifically, The Professional Pet Groomers and Stylists Alliance exists to assure the uniformity of standards of care, safety, and sanitation taught through certification and/or training programs. Major brands like Petco and PetSmart are members of this collaboration that provides a uniform set of standards to which all responsible groomers and stylists should adhere to, regardless of where and how they were trained.

Though not as critical as safety and sanitation, your dog or cat’s styling and appearance is certainly important in a grooming appointment! The American Kennel Club (AKC) provides an aesthetic baseline for what dogs should like according to the standards for their breed. This registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States is the primary criteria used in dog grooming across the states. The American Cat Association (ACA) offers a similar registry of cat breeds that groomers can use as a reference.  

Be Paw-sitive About Your Pet Groomer:

Knowing that your groomer has the necessary experience and qualifications is of the utmost importance to your pet’s safety and happiness. Petmasters exists for a similar reason – to ensure that dedicated and skilled pet professionals connect with pet parents and build a community of pet lovers that understands its professionals and vice versa. Now you can be sure that when you pass your pet off to a perfect stranger, they are the committed, knowledgeable purr-fessional you expect! 

How To Keep Your Cat Off The Counter

by Maureen McCarthy,  owner of Love and Kisses Pet Sitting

Having a cat is a great pleasure but how to keep your cat off the counter is not so easy. Most people have pets in their homes. Some of the common pets include dogs, cats, birds and so on. These pets normally provide companionship to their owners. If you have a cat as a pet, you should take good care to make sure it stays off the counters.  You will realize that cats love counters. Some pet owners dislike it when cats prance around the counters. This due to reasons such as hygiene issues and so on. You will realize that cats can carry dirt from outside and can deposit it on your counters. Counter tops can be dangerous for your cat. You cat can get injured by a sharp knife or even touch hot elements. This is the reason why you should keep your cat off the counter. The following are tips on how to keep your cat off the counter:

Make your counter a less enjoyable place for your pet

You can do this in different ways. You can place a double sided tape on your counter. When your cat is walking around up there, he will feel it sticking to his feet. This can be annoying. Your cat will be discouraged and jump back to the floor.

Use Noise

You can actually discourage your pet from jumping on the counter by using noise. You can use a tin can filled with pennies. In order to keep your cat from jumping onto the counter, you have to watch him closely. When it looks like it is ready to pounce, shake that can thus will startle your cat. It is likely to refrain from jumping on the counter.

Vicks

Leave a jar of Vicks Vapor rub on the counter.  The cat will not like the smell of that and hopefully will not want to up there near that smell.

Provide it with something to climb

Cat like naturally like climbing. You should not discourage this behavior. You should instead get him one of those cat towers to play with. You should offer it something to climb. This way, it will stop jumping on your counters.

Feed your cat often

You will realize that cats explore kitchen countertops for food. This is because most of them are normally hungry. In this case, you should consider feeding it more often. You can feed your cat maybe twice a day. Provide free access to food or a timed feeder.

Those are some of the tips on how to keep your cat off the counter. Your counter might have your food and it and it might get contaminated as a result of your cat jumping on the counter. Your cat might also mess around while on the counter and even pour things such as milk, hot tea and so on. It can also get hurt if you have sharp knives on your counter. This is the reason why you should ensure that it stays away from the counter. Follow the above-mentioned tips and you will enjoy the results.

About the Author:

Maureen McCarthy is the author of this blog and the owner of Love and Kisses Pet Sitting. A Dog Walking and Pet Sitting business serving Union county NC since 2006. A passion for all animals is what drives her in her business and making sure all pets are getting the love and attention when their owners can not be there. 

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