Pet-sitter to the rescue

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Dear Fisher,

Oh dear, oh dear! The young woman I live with just got a new job and she is really excited about it. She keeps looking at me like now we have to make some changes. What about Boots, she says. Well, what about me? I say.

Seems she will be traveling quite a lot. What do you think she should do about me?

Boots

Dear Boots,

Keep your mind on the upside of this new change. Think – new better job means new better snacks! Your human would probably not bring up the subject if it was going to be bad for you. The same critical thinking she used to get the good job is likely in play working things out at home.

In most cases, it is unacceptable for humans to take their pets on business trips. It is a great idea for a cat who loves to travel, but pitching an ad or going for a contract would just not be the same if you are in your carryall under the table whining because lunch is late. Finding a good pet sitter can be a great solution for you and your roommate.
You must first learn everything you can about your future pet sitter. Get references, and call them. If that person is dependable and dedicated to the task, you have found yourself a new friend. It is imperative for your human to know she can trust that person with you, your house, and your belongings. You must get fed, the littler box needs cleaning, and best of all, there should be plenty of time left over for some ball toss or catnip capering.

Remember that when a pet sitter is hired, it is a single person, not someone who is looking for a nice home to hold a family reunion. Your young woman should plan on a daily check-in. Short trips are recommended until everyone is satisfied with the arrangement.
There are many benefits for you and your caretaker when you hire a good pet sitter according to The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. All together, it is a winning combination for both of you.

• You get to stay at home in your own safe environment
• You are surrounded by all your familiar sights, scents, and sounds
• You can still have some quality playtime and human interaction
• If you really mess up, someone is responsible in case of an emergency
• She knows you are in caring, loving hands
• She has confidence that the pet sitter can deal with your grooming
• You two do no have to impose on family, friends or neighbors
• You should both feel home is more secure with someone visiting every day

The NAPPS has great advice on how to find, select, and interview a potential pet sitter and will also give you referrals. Consult your local phone book, or call them for assistance at Pet Sitters (800-296-PETS). If you know what to look for when hiring someone for this very important position, you are much more likely to make a good match. I will be fun to be the first cat on the block with a Nanny!

Your friend,

Fisher

published in tbt Tampa Bay Out There weekend edition

Doggy door practices

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Dear Fisher,

I love to bolt out the door when we have visitors. I always manage to come back when called, but first I wander out around our street. I also bark at visitors, too, which sometimes wakes up the baby. That gets me into a lot of hot water.

So, here I am at 4 years old, writing to a cat for useful ideas on how to curb my bad behaviors. Can you help?

Satch

Dear Satch,

It seems you are testing your housemates to the limit and have developed a rather frustrating habit many dogs have given into. Take a few moments to consider why you seem compelled to go bolting through the door as soon as it opens. Do you love the excitement of discovering what is going on out in your neighborhood? Are you impressed with yourself when you can get your humans running about and flailing their arms in anxious pursuit? Maybe you have some control issues to examine. If you are planning on chasing the squirrel you saw run by the house a few days ago, you may be too late.

You are lucky to have a familiar neighborhood in which to carry out your escape. Consider what might happen if your family takes you on vacation and after a long car ride, your penchant to bolt comes into play. There you go again, but this time where did you go and how do you get back and what dangers lurk while you are trying to figure it out? Do not even think of pulling off such capers when the pet sitter is in charge. Bad habits tend to have a way of backfiring.

Always wear an I.D. tag. Even when you show your people that you are indeed a good dog and have changed your ways, your tag should always be on your collar. Microchips (ouch) and tattoos (oucher) are good identifiers, but the tag is essential

The Dumb Friends League advises, “If your dog escapes, never scold him when you finally get him. Dogs associate reactions to what they just did in the last few seconds. If you scold a dog when you catch him, you are actually teaching him not to let you catch him.”

Simply start now. All of you! It is important for all members of the household to be in on the plan and to carry out the agreed upon tactics. If company is coming, you should stay in another room with the door closed. Of course your penchant for barking and making a ruckus will come into play, the baby will cry, and guests will likely be put off, but that training can come later.

A few tips and tactics for your humans include:
* Teach the Doggie Doorknob Rule. All children, adults, pet sitters and visitors should know not to turn the doorknob until they know where you are and are sure you cannot run out the door.
* Do daily practice sessions to impress upon you that you can never go out the door without their express permission. (This is where you will know for sure your problem arises from control issues!)
* They should train you to assume the “Sit” position far back from the door and tell you to “Stay!”
* During training sessions, guests or other distractions should not be present.
* Your people should keep you on a leash and at their side when guests arrive.
* You must all practice until they can open the door slowly without you breaking the stay.

Hopefully you are a fast learner and the baby will not have grown into a teenager by the time you solve your first problem. Then, we can discuss the barking issue.

Your friend,

Fisher

published in tbt Tampa Bay Out There weekend edition

Best to adopt pets in pairs

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Dear Fisher,

We are Betsy and Ross. We were recently adopted by a nice couple and they give us lots of attention and love. Our problem is that sometimes we get a little lonely for our mama and the other kittens in our litter. Now it is just the two of us kitties.

Can you give us some advice how to handle our anxieties over this change in our lives?

Betsy and Ross

Dear Betsy and Ross,

Your names give me a little clue to the character of your new people. They are very creative and clever, indeed. I am very happy to read that you are well loved and taken care of in your new home. It is also apparent they did some research before adopting the two of you.

Hands down, the advice on kitten adoption favors adopting in pairs if the kittens are under six months old. That just makes a lot of sense and goes a long way in relieving loneliness, anxiety, and even boredom.

Kittens are just naturally curious little critters, and you two can keep each other company as you do what comes naturally – chasing tails (your own), snooping into everything, and then snuggling up together for a good nap. I do have a few words of caution here. “Leave the toilet paper alone.”

You must also learn how to interact with your humans without scratching and biting your way through a play session. Of course, scratching and biting each other is allowable since you instinctively know how not hurt each other. An excellent organization, Homeward Trails gives a good insight into the value of adopting two kittens together. Just to give you an idea, the headline reads Mother Nature knew what she was doing when she created kittens in litters!”

Keeping the two of you together reduces the need for your humans to provide constant entertainment. You can be happy to know that you are providing them with that! Remember that climbing the drapes and eating the plants will not be looked upon as entertaining. That is where the importance of chasing each other, attacking the tail of your litter mate, and rolling around until you look like one big fur-ball is not only helping you relieve boredom and anxiety, you are quickly working your way deeper into their hearts. When you go from chaotic wrestling to a quiet nap in the matter of seconds, you are providing them with an amazing insight into the ways of the kitten.

Cats are often looked upon as aloof and self-sufficient. Not so. Boredom is a big factor in your learned behavior. According to Paws and Purrs, the fact that you have each other as playmates will help keep you out of mischief. Left single and apart from each other, your tendencies might turn from cute play to utter destruction.

Your task is to provide non-destructive entertainment for your humans and each other.
In return, your humans will relish playtime that also includes them. You will likely get showered with new toys and many games will develop between all parties. Your moments of anxiety will disappear as you look forward new discoveries and rewards. If you are really good, your humans might even consider leash training so they can take you out for walks in the neighborhood and show you off to their community. Believe me – that is not boring! Keep in mind that you are home now.

Your friend,

Fisher

published in tbt Tampa Bay Out There weekend edition