How are pets affected by the pandemic?

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Olive the cat.

How are our furry friends handling the stress of the pandemic? Do they like having us around all the time? Well, according to a dog training expert I heard on the radio, if man’s best friend’s behavior has changed, then they may be stressed out. (I’m sorry I can’t remember the name of the dog trainer, but he had some really good advice.)

If we are stressed out, our dogs may become stressed, too. Barking more than usual, destroying things or being super clingy are signs of stress. The trainer said the best thing to do is not yell at your dog when they are barking or rifling through the trash, but instead say, “Come!” Next, work with them for a few minutes so they get focused. Run through a few sits and stays. Our dogs live to please us and they are dying to work for us. Spending a few minutes throughout the day with short training sessions can change their destructive behavior and make them feel better.IMG_6035

In an article called Preventing pandemic-related pet anxiety now and later by Kristi King on WTOP.com, a Maryland radio station, a veterinarian offers advice for our pandemic-stressed pets. Here’s an excerpt:

A veterinarian has advice for helping pets get through the pandemic when everyone is home and when their owners return to work.

With all the family at home during the pandemic, pack animals such as dogs could not be happier to have everyone in the same roof. Some cats, on the other hand, not so much.

“I think it’s very smart to think proactively,” senior veterinarian at Chewy, Dr. Katy Nelson said.

If you’re a dog owner, Nelson recommends making adjustments now to help dogs that might experience separation anxiety when you’re not constantly around.

Start by resuming former routines you might have dropped, such as waking up, getting dressed and leaving the house.

“Whether it’s just for 30 minutes or an hour, where you go pick up a coffee through the drive-thru and you sit in your car for a while. It gives your pets a little bit of time without you,” she said.

If you can, Nelson said to try to make your departure time as similar to your usual workday routine. Some dogs might need to revisit the habit of having to spend time in their crates.

Signs of separation anxiety can include dogs destroying things or overly grooming themselves.

“Really good exercise can help a lot with these pets. A tired pet is a good pet,” Nelson said.

The article also talks about cats and typically they aren’t as happy as the puppers to have us around all the time. That’s because cats like to be left alone and they like privacy. They probably believe we are invading their space. Cats definitely differ from dogs — they aren’t living to please us.

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Waffles the pug.

How are your pets doing during the pandemic? How have their schedules and routines changed?

 

Who Makes Us Happier? Cats or Dogs?

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Olive

I’m a cat owner. My cat is Olive and she’s going on eight years. We got her when my son left for college. He’s allergic to cats so we waited until he was out of the house. Olive is really my daughter’s kitty, but she didn’t take Olive to the snow in Salt Lake City during college, even though Olive would do well with all her fur and polydactyl paws. We figured Olive likes her life here and I don’t think she’d do well to move to a new house. So, Olive remains my only pet now. I like it that way.

In an article by Christopher Ingraham called “Dog owners are much happier than cat owners, survey finds” published in the Washington Post, he quotes lots of statistics that basically say that there’s little difference between pet owners and non-pet owners, but a huge difference in happiness between dog and cat lovers.

The well-respected survey that’s been a barometer of American politics, culture and behavior for more than four decades finally got around to the question that has bedeviled many a household.

Dog or cat?

In 2018, the General Social Survey for the first time included a battery of questions on pet ownership. The findings not only quantified the nation’s pet population — nearly 6 in 10 households have at least one —they made it possible to see how pet ownership overlaps with all sorts of factors of interest to social scientists.

Like happiness.

For starters, there is little difference between pet owners and non-owners when it comes to happiness, the survey shows. The two groups are statistically indistinguishable on the likelihood of identifying as “very happy” (a little over 30 percent) or “not too happy” (in the mid-teens).

But when you break the data down by pet type — cats, dogs or both — a stunning divide emerges: Dog owners are about twice as likely as cat owners to say they’re very happy, with people owning both falling somewhere in between.

Dog people, in other words, are slightly happier than those without any pets. Those in the cat camp, on the other hand, are significantly less happy than the pet-less. And having both appears to cancel each other out happiness-wise. (Since someone’s bound to ask, it isn’t possible to do this same type of analysis for say, rabbit owners or lizard owners or fish owners, since there aren’t enough of those folks in the survey to make a statistically valid sample).

These differences are quite large: The happiness divide between dog and cat owners is bigger than the one between people who identify as middle and upper class, and nearly as large as the gap between those who say they’re in “fair” versus “good or excellent” health.

However, correlation doesn’t equal causation, and there are probably a number of other differences between dog and cat owners that account for some of the differences. The General Social Survey data show that dog owners, for instance, are more likely to be married and own their own homes than cat owners, both factors known to affect happiness and life satisfaction.

Previous research on this topic yielded mixed results. In 2006, the Pew Research Center found no significant differences in happiness between pet owners and non-pet owners, or cat and dog owners. However, that survey did not distinguish between people who owned “only” a dog or a cat, and those who owned “either” a dog or a cat, potentially muddying the distinctions between exclusive dog and cat owners.

2016 study of dog and cat owners, on the other hand, yielded greater happiness ratings for dog owners relative to cat people. It attributed the contrast, at least in part, to differences in personality: Dog owners tended to be more agreeable, more extroverted and less neurotic than cat owners. And a 2015 studylinked the presence of a cat in the home to fewer negative emotions, but not necessarily an increase in positive ones.

We’ve always had dogs, too, but currently are empty-nesters as far as the pups go. My daughter has Waffles the pug, who I get to babysit occasionally. I raised him from puppyhood for several months until she was able to come home and take him.  It’s kind of what I think grand-parenting will be like. I love having Waffles around and then I miss him when he’s gone. But, I don’t miss the daily responsibility.

Growing up we had big dogs. Golden retrievers, a doberman, German shorthair pointers and a yellow lab. As adults, my husband and I got Natasha as a gift from good friends. She was a rottie and a housewarming gift for our first home. That was before kids and she did make us happy. She was our baby.

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Natasha and my kids

Next pet was when someone found a kitten in their car engine on their way to work, and I ended up taking the poor sweet kitty home. That was Peabody, our second pet named for the cartoon series Rocky and Bullwinkle. Next came Sherman, who was a black cat that lived with us from kitten-hood to 17 years old when she wandered out of our yard and got attacked by the neighbor’s dog. Ugh. After we said good-bye to Natasha, we got Angus from Guide Dogs of the Desert. (I wrote about Angus here.) Angus lived until the ripe old age of 15.

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Angus and Sherman

It’s so hard to say good-bye. It’s not fair that our pets live such short lives. I have two friends that lost their best friends in the past few weeks. One lost Beckham, her Aussie, and another lost her glorious golden last week at eight years old. My heart grieves for them both.

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Lola (RIP) center, with Waffles and Gracie.

What is your opinion on dogs versus cats? Do you have either or both and do they make you happy?

 

Silly Cat: Olive Bear and Her Misadventures

During this crazy time of COVID 19 and “shelter in place” there’s nothing but doomsday on the news. I’m revisiting my favorite stories of cats and dogs written in years’ past. For some reason, kittens and puppies can brighten people’s moods, so I’m trying to do my fair share. Here’s the story of Olive Bear our cat along with her baby pic.

Baby Olive Bear

Baby Olive

Yesterday evening, when it was dark outside, my husband said he needed some nutrition bars to take to work. I got in the car to go to the store. I heard a faint scratching noise in the back seat. I wasn’t sure what it was.

The noise made me slightly uncomfortable as I backed out of the garage.

It sounded like the speaker had a little rasping noise. I turned off the radio. The scratching noise continued. Maybe it was a mouse or a rat? It definitely sounded like an animal of some kind!

I put the car in park, opened the door, and jumped out. I threw open the door to the back seat. I saw something gray dart around. It moved so fast it was a blur.

The creature moved to the front passenger seat and began scratching at the window to get out. It was Olive the cat.

kittens-in-carThe car is a hybrid so it had been silent, but at that moment the engine roared on. The poor cat was terrified. After she scrambled around, I managed to shoo her out the driver’s side door.

I called for her, but she was gone. She stayed out all night after that adventure. My guess is she was hiding in our hedge. Fortunately, this morning she returned home, safe and sound. She’s been clinging to my side ever since.

This was the second time she got into the car. I wonder what her fascination is with cars?

I also wonder how and when she gets in?

Our dog Angus used to love to ride in cars. He’d jump in anyone’s car if the door was open. Even the neighbor’s car. But, I’ve never known a cat to like to cars before. Have you?

Olive, the last time I found her in the car.

Olive, the last time I found her in the car.

Please share your cat or dog photos or amazing animal stories in the comments below. We’d all like to see them!

How to Keep Calm in a Topsy Turvy World

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Our cool as a cucumber cat is helping to keep me calm.

I was doing okay, but yesterday when my kids called me and said they were under mandatory “shelter in place,” I started to panic. I’m wondering if the world will ever get back to normal? They were working remotely in my son’s house in the Bay Area.

The mandatory shelter in place started today. Yesterday they were told to prepare to be home for at least two weeks. My daughter is working remotely and decided to get out of the city and drove home last night. It’s so nice to have her home! I wonder how long she will be here?

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Waffles the pug came home, too.

My dad agreed to let me grocery shop for him and I found everything he needed except for toilet paper, of course! While I was driving from his home, my daughter called and Waffles, her pug, ate something and was trying to throw up, but nothing was coming up. I told her to call a vet and I got really stressed out again! She called back in tears and said that the vets she called would NOT take new patients in their practice due to the Coronavirus! I was in the car and while she was talking to me and I noticed a big white pick up truck on my tail! Then he swerved in the lane next to me, and started yelling and screaming, giving me the finger. He threw a milkshake at me! It hit my windshield and the car was covered. I’m still shaking.

What in the h*ck is going on, folks? Is this really the time to become completely unhinged?

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This is the guy in a white pick up truck with a Home Depot trailer that threw a milkshake at me.

Let’s take a moment to breathe some fresh air, calm down, take a walk an enjoy your families. And love up our dogs and cats, too!

When the scaredy cat has had it

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Olive the cat.

Things have changed on the homefront. Olive cat has decided she’s had it. She’s no longer putting up with being locked in the guest room or our master bedroom. She’s not going to cower and run with fear when the Waffles the pug comes near her.

In fact, she’s no longer slinking under furniture hiding from Waffles. Instead, she’s walking by, tail high swishing back and forth. It’s like she’s trolling him.

There have been a few chases but they don’t end up well for Waff. He makes his move, she runs, stops, turns around and holds her ground hissing and spitting.

Yesterday, I was sitting down with the kitty Olive rubbing my legs, asking for a scratch around the ears when Waffles appeared. Waffles stopped short of us and stood staring about five feet away. Olive stared back for several moments. Then, out of the blue, she charged full speed, spitting and hissing ripping at his face with her claws.

Someone has changed from the scaredy cat to the alpha boss. Waffles is like “Whoa!” in his best Owen Wilson impression.

It will be interesting to see if these two can become friends before Waffles’ extended visit is over.

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Waffles the pug.

How have you introduced a new animal into your family?

Why can’t they get along?

 

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Waffles graduation pic.

I’m babysitting my daughter’s pug Waffles while she’s off visiting her brother and then studying abroad in Paris and Rome. I have him under my wing until August when she moves to Arizona and takes Waffles with her. He’s a sweet little guy without much fuss or muss, most of the time.

But, we also have Olive. Olive is a seven-year-old cat, who looks suspiciously like a Maine Coone. When my daughter was a sophomore in high school, my daughter adopted the young kitty from the Palm Springs Animal Shelter. Olive has become my cat and I’m pretty attached. She’s a pretty lame hunter, and mostly goes after worms and bugs.

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Olive Bear.

The problem is Waffles and Olive don’t get along. Waffles is not quite two years old and likes to chase. Olive used to run. Then Olive would stay outside and wouldn’t come back until Waffles left. It wasn’t a long time, like a week of being an outdoor cat, while our daughter was home for Christmas or Spring Break. But now it’s going to be three months. I don’t want Olive to run away for good.

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Waffles picture on “We Rate Dogs.”

Olive has changed her behavior to hissing and whacking at Waff. But it doesn’t intimidate Waffles at all and he gets quite growly and barky. He has a big personality and gets right in her face. It escalates quickly and gets noisy and rough. I don’t understand why they just can’t get along.

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My pretty kitty Olive.

 

Do you have any advice for getting a seven-year-old cat and two-year-old pug to become friends?

 

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My favorite graduation picture of my daughter and Waffles.