Sunday, June 26, 2011

Your plant smells like a great spot to ...

Paws & Claws

Jill Bowen has practiced veterinary medicine in England and Texas. She lives in Blacksburg now, and answers local pet owners' questions every week in The Roanoke Times and

Recent columns

Q: We have three indoor cats, one of whom has started urinating in our large potted plants. We removed the top two or three inches of soil in the pot and replaced it with new potting soil, topped with grated coal tar soap. This did not stop them from continuing to use the pots. Now what do we do?

A: From your cats' point of view, you have very kindly provided them with a lovely new clean latrine with nice soft soil in which to dig.

Unfortunately many of the disinfectants that smell clean to us, smell of urine to cats, stimulating them to urinate in the pot again.

The answer is to repot your plants and get rid of the soiled compost. At the same time as you buy the new compost from the garden center, buy some large pebbles, too heavy for your cats to move, and place them on top of the new soil.

As well as stopping the cats from using the new compost they look nice and help to retain moisture for the plant.

If you think pebbles are not the answer, try covering the potting soil with a hat of aluminum foil -- not pretty but usually effective. In case one or more of the cats has marked the outside of the pots, clean them with hot water, followed by an enzyme cleaner, or if that is not available, rubbing alcohol or even vodka makes a good substitute.

Q: Our 10-year-old Terrier has never needed his claws clipped until recently. He does not like having them cut and snaps at me. Will he get used to it in time or will I always have to take him to the vet?

A: It is important for all dog owners to get new puppies and young dogs accustomed to having their claws clipped and paws handled so that the problem you are having does not occur.

It is quite common for dogs to refuse to have their claws clipped by their owners but to accept it from a groomer or veterinarian. Usually once a dog realizes that it can't escape by growling or snapping, it will give up.

Unfortunately most owners stop trying to clip the nails when the dog snaps and this reinforces the bad behavior. Instead of battling alone, seek the help of a friend to restrain him with a cage muzzle before you start clipping, taking care not to hurt him.

In dogs with white nails it is fairly easy to see the quick, which appears as a pink area and contains the blood vessel and sensory nerve fibers.

Black nails make it much harder to tell where the quick starts, and it is easy to inadvertently make the nail bleed.

The latest pet-grooming tool is a battery-operated file, which works well once the dog grows accustomed to it and understands it will not hurt.

Initially I only do one paw at a time, as it takes a little time and the dog rapidly becomes restless. There is a guard on the file to prevent the nail being taken too short. Dogs that are only mildly upset by nail trimming can be retrained not to object by playing with their paws and letting them sniff and play with the clipper without starting to clip.

Reward good behavior with a treat and verbal praise. If a clipper is used, I prefer the guillotine type rather than the older type, which often crushes the nail rather than making a clean cut.

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