Spring at last! Woof and Meow, are we prepared?

Spring, the most colourful season of the year, has arrived! Along with the spring flowers and warmer weather comes a whole host of potential hazards for our dog and cat companions. We’d like to share a selection of dos and don’ts to ensure spring passes by safely for you and your pets.

 

Allergies

As the nature wakes up, so do the insects!

Allergies to bee, wasp or hornet stings can be very dangerous for your pets due to the effects of anaphylactic shock.

Anaphylactic shock can occur in both cats and dogs, but dogs suffer from it more frequently.

This doesn’t mean we have to limit their freedom: if they happen to suffer from this type of allergy, just be more vigilant checking your pet for stings and consult your vet so that you know what to do in an emergency.

 

Parasites

As the temperature rises, parasites begin to spread. Not only are they bothersome for you and your pet, they can also transmit diseases or cause infections in our little friends:

 

🔸ticks can infect the blood with Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and more

🔸fleas can cause intestinal infestations such as roundworms or tapeworms

🔸mosquito and sandflies bites – in particular when traveling with your pet in Europe – might result in filariasis or leishmaniasis respectively 

 

There’s no need to be overly alarmed though, you should simply be aware of the problem and take some precautions – as prevention is better than cure!

Your vet will be able to advise you on all the strategies you can apply to keep your pet safe and sound, according to its lifestyle (e.g. whether it ventures outside, or you live in the city or countryside etc.). However our vet has provided some of the main ones below.

 

There are many ways to help our furry friends

For instance, care should be taken during walks in meadows with tall, wet grass because these places are ideal for ticks to thrive.

At dusk or at night, we can protect our pets with mosquito nets and ultrasound repellents, especially when travelling abroad.

Today, there are many products on the market you can use to combat parasites. Natural remedies are growing in popularity because they are less aggressive than their chemical counterparts – and they can be a great ally.

The use of these natural products varies according to the environment and the lifestyle of your pet, and they generally require a little more effort from us for them to be effective. This because their protection does not last as long as a chemical treatment does, meaning they must be reapplied several times throughout the day and just before going out for a walk.

But it’s a worthwhile sacrifice to respect and protect our planet!

 

Cats, plants and flowersalmo nature primavera gatto

Many houseplants that we buy to decorate our homes are harmful for our cats. That’s why it is important to check with your vet before introducing a new one to your living space.

It’s impossible to give a complete list of every plant that is poisonous for your cat however it’s worthwhile knowing that some of them may lead to a local reaction if swallowed, while some others can cause kidney or liver issues, or even affect the heart or central nervous system.

Here’s a brief list.

 

🔸 Lilies are extremely toxic for cats and even a small amount can cause severe kidney damage if ingested

🔸 Tulip bulbs can cause severe gastroenteritis and may also affect the heart tissue, inducing cardiac disorders

🔸 Epipremnum aureum (Devil’s ivy) and Spathiphyllum (like Spath or the Peace Lily) can cause severe inflammation of the lips, mouth and airways, mouth ulcers, drooling and vomiting if ingested

🔸 Azalea, rhododendron, cyclamen and chrysanthemums if ingested cause severe gastrointestinal disturbances including vomiting and diarrhoea.

🔸 Lily of the valley and the buttercup can cause low blood pressure and disorientation

 

 

What plants are cat friendly?

Mint, Thyme, Rosemary, Basil, Chamomile and many other aromatic plants can be used to decorate and perfume our house. They are totally safe and our cat will enjoy discovering and smelling them!

Some other harmless ornamental plants you can consider are Lavender, African Violet, Begonia, Cornflower and Petunia. 

 

Shedding/Moulting

Nature knows best. Our pet shedding hair in spring may be messy for us but is just their way of getting rid of their winter coat.

Facilitating this process by grooming them with a suitable brush will help our animal lose their undercoat faster.

Be careful not to trim a dog’s coat too short though: remember that in winter a dog’s coat helps to keep your dog warm, while in summer it is used to regulate body temperature.

 

Nutrition

Like with humans, as the temperature rises it is time for a lighter diet for our pets too. Including fish, which is rich in omega-3, in their diet will help them maintain a healthy coat in spite of the heat and the stress of shedding.

If you didn’t feed your dog wet food in the winter, now it is important to add some. A spoonful of wet food mixed with their kibble (dry food) will help keep them hydrated and delight their “palate” while providing an additional supply of nutrients in this season when more energy is expended by your pet.

Unlike dogs, cats ALWAYS need wet food to aid with hydration. Wet food is also useful for eliminating hairballs that might be ingested when your cat grooms itself.

In fact, there are specific anti-hairball recipes that are rich in fibre that facilitate elimination of hairballs, and you can also use wet food in jelly that also helps cats pass the hairball naturally.

 

Stay tuned, because next time we will be talking… chocolate!

 

Journey to a Cat’s World

You can find lots of information about cats on the internet. However, one thing we know for sure is that we will never understand everything about a cat’s world. Their changing habits surprise us, and delight us, every day!  That said, we do understand some of what makes a cat tick. In this article, Dr Maria Grazia Calore, veterinary surgeon and expert in pet behaviour takes us on a journey to discover the world and habits of this charming animal.

 

Do Cats Dream?

Elegant, quick-witted and… sleepyheads! Yes, cats sleep a lot! And apparently they dream, just like we do.

It is known that cats have stages of sleep just like humans. In fact, the stages of feline slumber alternate between of episodes of light sleep, periods of heavy sleep lasting about 20 minutes, followed by periods of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which lasts around five minutes…

Click to read more

 

How Big is a Cat’s Territory?

The answer to this question is simple: it depends. If a cat lives outside, the likelihood of it finding food in an area will determine the distance it travels. If food is easily accessible, then its territory will be relatively small.

If the feline lives inside as a house cat, then its territory will encompass the space that it has access to. So for house cats, it is important to consider the available space in three dimensions – for example, giving the cat the opportunity to climb and access high spots around the house can greatly increase the range of its territory…

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How and Why Do Cats Purr?

The most accepted theory as to how a cat purrs, is that the brain signals muscles in the larynx to vibrate, these muscle contractions open and close the glottis, which in turn passes air over the vocal chords. Cats generally purr during pleasant experiences such as petting, or cuddling; kittens also purr while drinking milk from their mum. A cat can also use its purr as a form of comfort: it is therefore not uncommon for cats that are sick or suffering to purr…

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Why Do Cats Love Boxes?

Cats and boxes: a seemingly perfect combination for going viral. But why can’t cats, no matter how refined, resist the lure of the common cardboard box?

A perfect hiding place! In nature, the cat is a formidable predator. Ambushing its prey by assuming a crouched, ‘soldier in the trenches-style’ position, thereby appearing virtually invisible to its target, is a common tactic to achieve the element of surprise.

Cardboard, what a passion! It is a great surface for the cat to scratch as it’s soft enough to mark with very little effort compared to wood or fabrics, it also retains the cat’s scent-marking pheromones as well as other surfaces.

Support and warmth In addition to representing a ‘perfect island retreat’ for your feline, boxes are also an excellent way for them to avoid losing heat, especially if the box is of a similar size to the cat…

Click to read more 

 

Do Cats Smell Our Emotions?

Not only can our cat smell everyday odours they can also smell our emotions thanks to the pheromones we give off. Don’t be surprised, therefore, if your kitty lingers to smell your sweaty feet when you return home. Their slightly opened mouths and scrunched nose, an amusing sight, as they inhale, running the smell over their vomeronasal organ to read our chemical messages. For our cat it is an important sense: it smells us, our scent and also our mood, if we are happy, angry, sad etc.

 

 

How Do Cats Interact with Other Species? 

We should remember that our cat is a relational species and that mixing with other cats and other species, such as dogs, man, birds, and fish, can be a rewarding experience for them. Get your cat used mixing with other animals from a young age in order to avoid them being afraid of other species when they’re older!

 

How Wild Is a Cat’s Nature?

According to geneticist Wes Warren, co-author of the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the characteristics of the Felis silvestris catus (the domestic cat) have changed over the course of the 9,000 years that it has lived with man. The compromise between man and cat appears to have marked the beginning of real evolutionary change for these fascinating creatures, resulting in a noticeable change in their DNA.

Yet, despite this genetic modification derived from human domestication, the domestic cat still remains wild enough at heart to be considered semi-domesticated at best, the researchers surmised: “We believe we have created the first preliminary evidence that depicts domestic cats as not that far removed from wildcat populations…”

Click to read more

A new life – and a new cat litter – for Kit and Kat

We love hearing from our customers about how our products have changed theirs – and their pet’s – lives for the better; and never has this been more true than when the owners of Kit and Kat recently got in touch with a heart-warming story of Kit and Kat’s adoption, Kat’s medical issues and how Almo Nature’s cat litter CatLitter helped them solve a sticky issue…

 

From rescue centre to a new forever family

One day Henri went to the shelter. Let’s listen to the story in his own words:

I wanted to adopt an adult cat, so one day, I went to the shelter to look for one. As I walked through the facility, I saw several cats …. then a cat approached me. It was Kit, a female cat; she sat down next to me.

I began to stroke her and thought “Ok I’ll take her.” Only Kit …. but that’s when Kat decided to show up! The shelter volunteers told me: “We found them together. They should not be separated“. 

‘But I was only planning on taking one cat. I got scared, two cats are a lot of work, I thought. I went back home, alone…  I couldn’t sleep that night because I felt like Kit & Kat had chosen me. After a sleepless night, I decided: “Ok, two cats can keep each other company” so I went back to the shelter the next day to pick up Kit and Kat.

 

Cat Litter

Cat Litter CatLitter

Kit and Kat, inseparable!

 

 

Kat’s health problems

It wasn’t long before Henri discovered that Kat had some health issues that led to his stools being very runny and liquid. Henry had bought a litter made from pellets that could conveniently be flushed down the toilet.  However, the pellet litter had several disadvantages: it did not eliminate the smells very well and Kat’s liquid stools sunk to the bottom of the tray. Furthermore, the litter did not effectively contain Kat’s ‘deposits’ as it didn’t clump, and the product tracked all over the apartment meaning Henri was constantly sweeping up.

One day Nathalie, Henri’s girlfriend, discovered Almo Nature’s cat litter called CatLitter. The product description sounded like a miracle product and just what they needed. After the first use Henri was so impressed, he said to Nathalie: “Your litter is the best. It eliminates smells and absorbs the stools and the urine. I can throw the clumps in the toilet. This is exactly what I wanted!”

 

Henri wrote to us announcing his delight at discovering Almo Nature’s cat litter:

“I did not think that I could find a product without a single fault. But we have found it. And it has changed the life of the whole family! We are delighted to share with you the story of our happy cats Kit & Kat!  Even if we found a cure for Kat’s medical issue, we would not change the litter: it is really very good in every way, it changes our lives daily.”

 

Cat Litter CatLitter

“Even if we found a cure for Kat’s medical issue, we would not change the litter”

 

About Almo Nature’s Cat Litter

Almo Nature CatLitter is a natural, biodegradable, compostable cat litter made of vegetable fibres that can be disposed of in the toilet. The starch in these fibres quickly produce clumps while enzymes neutralise the smell. The litter is free of dust, silica, synthetic chemicals and clay.

 

The portable and compact 2.27kg bag is very efficient. Once the 2cm base of cat litter is established in the litter box, consumption is only 500g per week (based on a 4kg cat using a 30 x 40cm litter box). We have also recently launched a new 4.54kg bag for high-volume users.

 

 

 

 

If you have an Almo story to tell, we’d be delighted to hear all about it. Please do get in touch on our Facebook page.

A Pet as a Therapy

Animals are affectionate, playful and loving. For this reason, pets are becoming increasingly recognised as a therapy for adults and children recovering from illnesses and injuries, or for those with physical, mental, emotional conditions or disabilities. This makes both the animals and human happy, just like the famous quote “Happiness is only real when shared”!

How do animals help?                            

Animals are affectionate, playful and loving. They provide unconditional friendship and a positive experience for patients, which is particularly important for children. Animals assist in other ways when part of a therapy program:

– Create bonds and companionship

– Non-verbal communication allows people with autism or other learning difficulties to interact and this often improves their communication and social interaction skills with other people

– Encourage expression, communication and language

– Reduce stress and anxiety, leading to calm and relaxed situations and better health and learning outcomes

– Give social and emotional support

– Enhance mood and quality of life

– Regular contact can improve and maintain movement and cognitive function, especially when patients are asked to exercise, care and groom animals

– Assist with overcoming depression

– Encourage activity, exercise and play

– Provide social and mental stimulation

– Can raise self-esteem amongst those with disabilities

– Distract patients from their illness or condition

– Reduces feelings of isolation

Where is the therapy applied?

The goal is to improve a patient’s wellbeing, quality of life and social interaction. There is no doubting the success of animals in this regard. However, more empirical research is needed to measure the effects of animals on long-term medical and learning improvements and the cognitive function of patients.

Research has shown that animal therapy has benefitted children with autism, Down syndrome, attention deficit disorders or learning difficulties as well as people who are recovering from stroke, those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and with depression or anxiety.

Particularly in relation to Alzheimer’s disease, autism and learning disorders where frustrations and stress hamper behaviour and mood, animals help calm patients and reduce aggression.

 

Source: http://www.simabo.org

Do dogs dream? The secrets of their sleep

Do dogs dream just like cats? Where do they like to sleep and how much sleep does our four-legged friend really need? Before answering these and other questions with the help of Dr Maria Grazia Calore, veterinary doctor expert in pet behaviour, let’s start by underlining the key role of sleep – for the wellness of the dog.

 

A dog’s sleep: how, how much and where?

A dog’s sleep, just like a human’s one, is divided into a deep phase and a deep REM phase in which it dreams. This moment can be recognised by the following signs: softly barking, growling, whining, a wagging tail and paw movements that mimic running. In fact, during the REM phase, a dog ‘processes’ information gleaned during the day retracing its experiences and steps.

The duration of sleep varies depending on the age of the dog: a puppy up to the age of three weeks old sleeps from 15 to 18 hours a day and from eight weeks of age, 10-12 hours total. This prolonged sleep has an ethological explanation: a predator, just as we could consider a dog, can have long periods of rest because it does not always need to be alert to survive.

To avoid problems of coexistence at home we should not place a dog’s bed in a passageway: in this way he will not assume the ‘responsibility’ of controlling access around the house. Rather, we should put their bed in our room, if we want to sleep with them, or in another room. Moreover, the choice of the bed must be proportionate to our friend: it does not need to be too large because most dogs sleep curled up in a ball to maintain heat.

 

A dog’s sleep: a clue about their health

Even a dog’s sleep can provide information on its state of health or mind. For example, if it sleeps very little, wakes up at night and complains or is agitated at the time of going to sleep, it is probably going through a stressful or anxious period. If, instead, the dog sleeps more hours than the expected physiological duration, it may be suffering from depression.

In these cases, it is advisable to consult your veterinarian to rule out any physical disorders or metabolic diseases and deal with any behavioural problems with the help of an expert in pet behaviour.

Pet and owner: 5 key elements of their relationship

Relationships between pets and their owners are quite different from those established between humans. Dr Maria Grazia Calore, veterinary doctor and expert in pet behaviour, has identified five key elements of this bond for us, useful not only to understand the nature of dogs and cats but also to interact with them in the most advantageous manner possible.

1. Elective Affinities

Pets ‘perceive’ us in a different way, picking up our ‘secret’ information from pheromones emitted by the skin. Thanks to these chemical messages our four-legged friends will understand if they can get close to us or if it is better to stay away.

2. Social reference or equal?

After their arrival in the family home, a dog will automatically try to form social relationships with all the members of the ‘family-pack’ by creating different ‘roles’ for each family member according to how it views them.

For a cat however, the bond with its new, human owner will develop into a relationship similar to friendship: it will consider us its equal in every way.

3. Not only food 

It’s wrong to believe that cats and dogs create closer relations with those who prepare their food.

In fact, equally important in a dog’s social reinforcement is the satisfaction of doing something with the owner, working towards a common goal or receiving a ‘well done’ cuddle; sometimes these experiences are worth more than a thousand tidbits!

Even in the eyes of our cat, we don’t just represent a vending machine of kibbles. Indeed, our feline often judges us so inept in the art of hunting that it presents us with prey to teach us how to do it!

4. The importance of being Ernest

We must be careful, just as in the novel quoted above, to avoid misunderstandings with our pets. For example, when we ask a dog to approach we shouldn’t adopt a position that might frighten it – but use a bent forward posture – we should also avoid talking using an angry or an excessively high tone of voice. Both an incorrect posture and the wrong tone of voice are communicating that there is a danger while the words are asking him to approach the threat – these conflicting messages will be confusing for your pet!

In the presence of a cat however, if we move too quickly or if we hide our hands or feet under a blanket, they could associate us with prey and attack. So reacting with a rebuke to a normal behaviour of predation can risk undermining our friendship.

It’s matter of…

Respect, understanding and desire to communicate: three elements that, together with affection, will ensure that the relationship with our four-legged friend works.

– Respect means satisfying the behavioural needs of their species: we should ensure our dogs socialise, let them explore the environment, sniff and mark the ground. Don’t impose any ‘forced’ cohabitation with other animals on our cat, and provide areas for games and relaxation.

– Understanding is to try to understand that animals have emotions, moods that, at times, are like ours or sometimes typical of their species.

– Desire to communicate means to make an effort to understand their language, being informed, reading books about them, stopping to observe their behaviours without prejudice. And we should adapt our language to our animal, not limiting our communication efforts to words, but accompanying them with gestures and coherent and clear body language.

The wild nature of cats: the truth is in their DNA

Often in the mood for pampering, always there to remind you when it’s time for food, and occasionally on guard duty to defend your home from ‘alien invaders’, the common, household cat is considered a perfect pet companion. However, the most innocuous of felines, which has lived among men for thousands of years, still continues to hold on to a characteristic from its untamed past: its wild nature.

A key aspect of a cat’s evolution, from savagery through to domestication, has been highlighted by recent research into a cat’s DNA by researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

 

The influence of man on the evolution of the cat

To understand how, and to what extent, its proximity to man has affected the nature of the cat; researchers conducting the study compared the genomes of seven breeds of domestic cat and two breeds of wildcat. The specific parts of the genome sequenced and analysed in this comparison were the ones responsible for behavioural characteristics that have been linked to the evolution of tameness, such as memory, reward seeking, and fear conditioning (i.e. curbing a cat’s natural ‘fight or flight’ response when faced with unfamiliar people or situations, thereby taming the cat’s wild nature).

According to geneticist Wes Warren, co-author of the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the characteristics of the Felis silvestris catus (the domestic cat) have changed over the course of the 9,000 years that it has lived with man. Professor Warren, explained: “Humans most likely welcomed cats because they controlled rodents that consumed their grain harvests. We hypothesised that humans would offer cats food as a reward to stick around.”

This compromise between man and cat appears to have marked the beginning of real evolutionary change for these fascinating creatures, resulting in a noticeable change in their DNA.

 

The tenacity of a cat’s wild nature

Yet, despite this genetic modification derived from human domestication, the domestic cat still remains wild enough at heart to be considered semi-domesticated at best, the researchers surmised: “We believe we have created the first preliminary evidence that depicts domestic cats as not that far removed from wildcat populations,” Professor Warren added. Because of the researchers’ conclusions, we must be mindful to the nature of our cats: because in them, lying dormant remains part of nature as mysterious as it is wild.