EIGHT LIFESTYLE HACKS FOR DOG AND CAT OWNERS
Remember when the words "pet decor" meant a cat tree wrapped in ugly carpet or a crate with a cover thrown over it that doubled as an end table? No more. Whatever your decorating style, clever manufacturers and DIYers have come up with some amazing and amazingly attractive items and home hacks that suit both your pets' needs and your own desire to have an attractive home. We've collected eight of our favorite ideas for making a beautiful life with your cat or dog, whether you're remodeling, redecorating, crafting it yourself or buying something new.
-- Fur-niture. We've all sighed over the amount of pet hair that collects on sofas, chairs, bedspreads -- pretty much anything in the home. Of course you can throw a sheet over your sofa or purchase a cute cover decorated with paw prints, but there are other options if you want a more sophisticated look.
If you're buying a new piece of furniture, look for easy-clean fabrics such as Ultrasuede, a type of microfiber, or Crypton, a synthetic fabric that resists stains (including those made by muddy paws), odor and bacteria. Or consider skipping fabric altogether and going with leather, pleather or vinyl. All are easy to clean, and some vintage vinyl pieces look fabulous. Check Etsy, salvage shops or Craigslist for finds.
-- Re-cover. If you have sewing skills, look online for patterns and make slipcovers from the fabric of your choice. Pet-friendly and washable fabrics include denim, cotton duck and canvas. Choose something that can be thrown in the washing machine when your pet throws up on it. Other good choices are floral or tapestry prints that will help hide fur between vacuum visits.
-- Pet beds. Repurpose an old radio cabinet, console TV or suitcase to make a unique sleep spot for your pet. Another way to upcycle: Turn an old dresser drawer into a pet bed with a cushion or pillow. Look on Pinterest or HGTV.com for how-tos.
-- Built-ins. If you're building or remodeling your home, ask the contractor about implementing one (or more) of these pet-friendly conveniences: a pullout cabinet for storing pet food and dishes, or a sliding drawer beneath a cabinet with custom cutouts to hold pet dishes; window seats, bookshelves or cabinets with built-in pet beds; or a custom pet door that matches cabinetry or door paneling. Houzz and Pinterest have scores of examples.
-- Pet door. For a simpler way to snazz up an existing pet door, simply add trim, or molding, around the edges.
-- Cat walks. Cats like to rule their domain from on high. And what could be higher than the ceiling? You can build or purchase attractive steps that attach to the wall so your cat can climb to the highest point in the room, well away from marauding dogs or toddlers. Bridges allow him to perfect his acrobatic skills as he crosses over doorways. Cat bridges, mazes, forts and other configurations all attach to the wall so they take up little space while allowing your cat to go vertical.
-- Windows. Build a window seat so your pet can enjoy the view outdoors or even an enclosed "catio" that can be accessed from a window. You can build a window seat yourself, hire a contractor or purchase one from retailers such as Bed, Bath and Beyond or Amazon.
-- Underfoot. Hard-surface floors such as wood, bamboo or tile are easiest to clean, but if you must have carpeting, look for a low-pile style made of stain-resistant material. Another good option is Flor carpet tiles, which can be easily taken up and replaced. It will be a mood-saver when you're cleaning up cat vomit for the umpteenth time or housetraining a puppy.
Q: Can cats get mange? There's a stray hanging around our backyard whose fur looks kind of patchy. If that's what it is, would it be contagious to people? -- via email
A: It's rare, but cats can indeed get mange, which is caused by parasitic mites that feed on skin debris. Animals with mange are crazy itchy, often with dandruff and, as you noticed, hair loss.
Mange mites are more likely to make their home on dogs, but mites that can take up residence on a cat's skin or in the hair follicles include Demodex cati, Demodex gatoi, Notoedres cati (feline scabies) and Cheyletiella. Cats most prone to mange tend to be malnourished or have lowered immune systems, both of which could be the case with the stray cat you've seen.
Demodex gatoi, which is seen mostly in southern and Gulf Coast states, is contagious between cats, as are Cheyletiella and scabies. They are usually spread through contact with an infected cat or that cat's bedding or environment.
Feline scabies, which usually starts on the face and ears, then spreads to the rest of the body, can be transmitted to other species, including dogs and humans, although, again, it's uncommon in cats. The signs of scabies in pets are itchiness on the head and neck, hair loss, and red, raw or scabby skin. Scabies mites can cause a rash on human skin, but they don't live on human skin, so the problem is temporary.
Demodex cati lives normally on a cat's skin and rarely causes any problem. It can get out of control, though, in cats with underlying immune-suppression diseases such as feline leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus.
Ask a veterinarian who is experienced with stray cats for advice on providing treatment. If you want to trap the cat for treatment, be careful about handling him unless your hands are protected with gloves. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Border collies rule
at agility contest
-- A border collie named Tex finished first at the second-annual Westminster Kennel Club agility trial, winning over a field of 330 dogs. A husky mix named Roo successfully defended his 2014 title as the highest-scoring mixed-breed dog in the competition. Scoring highest in their height categories were Pink, a papillon, 8-inch division; Keebler, a Pembroke Welsh corgi, 12-inch division; Smart, a border collie, 16-inch division; the aforementioned Tex in the 20-inch division; and Ffynch, a border collie, 24-inch division. The canine competitors comprised 74 breeds and varieties, plus 15 mixed breeds.
-- New Jersey legislators and Gov. Chris Christie have enacted a "pet store disclosure" law that requires pet stores to provide breeder and inspection report information about puppies for sale. Described as the toughest in the country, the legislation also prohibits pet stores from selling puppies purchased from breeders found by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to have "severe violations" of care standards. The measure's sponsor, state Sen. Jim Holzapfel, says providing the information allows consumers to research breeders and make an informed decision before buying.
-- Wrong visiting hours? A miniature schnauzer named Sissy trekked 20 blocks to the hospital where her owner was undergoing chemotherapy. She had ridden there in the car previously, but had never made the journey on foot. After finding her way, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, dog walked in through the automatic doors and was presumably in search of an elevator to take her to visit Nancy Franck. Hospital employees intercepted her and used the phone number on her tag to call Dale Franck, who had been searching frantically for the would-be canine candy striper. -- Kim Campbell Thornton
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: Pet hair cleanup is easier when you have leather, pleather or vinyl furniture. Position: Main Story
Caption 02: A 5-year-old border collie from Long Valley, New Jersey, took top honors at the 2015 Westminster Kennel Club agility competition. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 1