You n'I Animal Wellness

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Positive Reinforcement Dog Training | Dogs & Cats Problem Behavior Counseling | Aurora Colorado and Surrounding Areas

The Cycle of Lives The Story About Monte The Cat

Category: Cats
Posted: 01/21/2016

Photo Courtesy of Cindi Miller HerlemanLast Friday, my friend, Cindi and I met a gentle, sweet cat, “Monte” at Aurora Animal Shelter where we volunteer. We both fell in love with him; he kept pawing at us to get attention, and his sweet presence made our hearts melt. We spent entire an hour with him, but what we didn’t know was that Monte had an advanced diabetes and they had to euthanize him. Monte was only 12 years old. (Please read Cindi’s blog about Monte, it’s a beautiful tribute to him.)

Many thoughts came to mind after I cried like a baby after I heard this sad and heartbreaking news.

One was about my cat, Kimama, who lived almost 21 years. One day, I noticed him urinating a lot, took him to the vet, and he was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 16 years old. We were so lucky that he actually maintained his blood sugar level somewhat normal by switching his food to diabetic diet food and giving him supplements, and he lived a very good life for the next 5 years.

I wrote several blogs about how important it is to have a good relationship with the veterinarian, and it’s our responsibility to check with the veterinarian to make sure that our fur-kids are physically healthy. I can’t stop thinking about Monte and the idea that he could of had 5 more years if the guardian took him to a physical exam when he started urinating outside of the litter box, so that s/he could prevent and manage his illness before it got so advanced instead of taking him to a shelter.

Just because our furry friend gets older, that doesn’t mean their quality of life is lost; taking care of our furry friend isn’t just about having a good time when they are young and healthy, it also involves providing them a peaceful and quiet senior life until they cross over the Rainbow Bridge.

Monte also reminded me one of one my foster kittens, Fenn. I think I started volunteering as a foster parent around 1994. Fenn was the first kitten I lost since becoming a foster parent volunteer. Fenn was weak and sick for weeks, and it was too late by the time I took him back to the shelter for the veterinarian to check on him. I blamed myself, and kept asking questions that had no answers. Why couldn’t I catch his illness sooner?, What if someone else was fostering him, maybe he could have lived? Could of, could of, what if…what if…

I couldn't go back to the shelter for months after I lost Fenn. I was heartbroken, I was terrified to foster again because I didn’t want to experience such trauma. I cried every day, missed his presence in the house, and apologized for not be able to save him.

One day, my husband sat down next to me and said; “I know it hurts, and I understand that you want to quit fostering, but don’t give up on it because Fenn died. He didn’t die to make you give up on what you believe in.”

“That’s right!” I thought. Fenn didn’t die to make me give up on what I believe in. I can give up on fostering whenever I want. He didn’t have to die to tell me that. Instead, he taught me what I have to do for the next animal when something like this happens to them. He taught me that there would be some days that I would lose another foster animal like the way I lost him. He gave me the strength to move on each and every time I have to go through the loss. Even if it hurts, and even when it breaks my heart, Fenn gave me the strength for me to continue to do the things I believe in.

The first kitten my husband and I fostered after Fenn, was a cute sassy little kitten that needed to be fostered for just a few weeks until she turned 8 weeks old and became adoptable. Instead of staying with us for a few weeks, the little sassy kitten lived with us for the rest of her 7 years. Yes, that’s the little trouble, “Komaru”.

Fenn brought us the joy of living with Komaru; my husband and I were able to foster more than 200 cats and kittens after Fenn’s departure, and I felt Fenn in each and every one of them.

And now, Monte brought Fenn back to me again… I know from bottom of my heart that they do, live, in my heart as long as I live…


The Connection Between Unpredictable Aggression in Cats and Laser Pointer Toys

Category: Cats
Posted: 02/26/2015
When I get a feline behavior consultation inquiries, it is usually either “my cat and dog don’t get along”, “my cat pees/poos outside of the litter box” or “my multiple cats don’t get along.” But recently, I get more calls from kitty guardians telling me that their cat is “unpredictable” and “attacks” the guardian. Many times animals show aggression when they are sick and/or injured, because they can only tell us something is wrong by changing their behavior. So when it’s an aggression case, I always ask them to make sure that they take their cats to their veterinarian before our consultation, so that the cat can get a clean bill of health, and/or get a proper treatment. I’ll write more about different feline aggression types in the future, but on this blog, I’m going to focus on the “unpredictable aggression” by frustration.

During the initial consultation, I ask many questions about the kitty and make sure that I don’t miss anything, but I rarely find cats attack their guardians unpredictably. Majority of the times, they have reasons why they do what they do. It could be because the cat was under-socialized when s/he was a kitty, it could be because the cat somehow associated pain with that particular person (after a major surgery and/or illness), it could be the lack of environmental enrichment, change of the environment (stress), and/or too much stimulation. (For example: too long of petting session, stray cats outside of the yard, etc.)

With minor cases, I can suggest the guardian manage the environment for the cat to have less stress, and with natural remedies such as Rescue Remedy or Feliway. For more serious cases, I’d ask the guardian to discuss with their veterinarian about behavioral mediations, and then work with the cat’s behavior modification.

When the guardian and I have discussion on the cat’s aggressive behavior, I also ask them what type of toys that the cat likes, and I hear so many times that they use laser pointer toys to play with the cat. One time I heard that the guardian played with the cat using the laser pointer until the cat starts panting and gets exhausted. I know there are so many laser pointer toys available, and many guardians purchase it for their cat, thinking it’s cute, funny, and fun to exercise them after watching some “cats and a laser pointer (or “red dot”)” videos on the Internet.

As I mentioned on my previous blog, cats are natural hunters; they search for prey, and they hide, wait, stalk, chase, pounce, grab the prey and kill it. These instincts are still intact even in cats who live indoors, and the last part of the instincts-grab it, feel it in the paws, and kill it-are the most satisfaction a cats get. (If you watch and/or play any sport, you know how it feels like to score and/or witness the winning goal or homerun in the 9th inning.)

Now imagine that the cat keeps chasing the red dot, and finally s/he thought s/he caught it, and then poof, it’s gone. The cat would search for the red dot again, finds it, chases it, pounces onto it, and then it disappears right before they can grab, feel, and kill it, over and over again. They can never win the game-a single time-. Does it bring them satisfaction? Absolutely, not, but it will build frustration in them, that’s for sure. When a cat builds frustration inside of her/him, some may start to show obsessive behavior such as excessive grooming, and some may turn the frustration outward and become aggressive towards other animals or people, and the worst case, some end up biting their guardians.

So if you haven’t used laser pointer toys for your cat, please don’t use it! There are so many more ways and other safe toys available for you and your cat to play with. If you’re already using a laser pointer toy for your cat, please switch to a regular fishing pole type of toy after you use it for a few minutes so that s/he can “win” the hunting game, and you can provide her/him a peace of mind and great satisfaction after the play session.

I often dream about having a huge, yummy strawberry short cake, but I always wake up from the dream right before I bite into it, and I crave the cake all day long. I think the cats who play with a red dot feel the same way I feel when I wake up from the dream. I hope your cat is happy and proud of her/himself for catching the prey, and s/he is having a beauty nap with a dream that is all about how great hunter s/he is! Mean while, I better get some strawberry short cake for myself! J

Want to know more about Feline behavior? We’re going to have a fun, interactive, and educational workshop, “Understanding Cats-These Mysterious Creatures” on March 9th! We’ll talk more about our feline friends, and their behavior! Please register today, all proceeds go to Misha May Foundation! 


Feline Enrichment-Are you playing with your feline friend?

Category: Cats
Posted: 05/01/2014

When I have an initial consultation with cat guardians, some of the basic questions I ask them are “What toy does your cat like” and “How does he play with it?” and “How do you play with your cat?” It’s amazing how often I hear these comments; “My cat won’t play”, “She doesn’t care for playing” “She’s 3 year old, and sleeps most of time”. My response to that is “Really?” because even our “half feral” “scared” cat, “Oryo” seems to play with string.

I usually get an idea “why the cat won’t play” when I see the toys they have. The majority of the toys they have are; fuzzy mouse toys (or stuffed animals), plastic balls with a bell inside, fabric ball with cat nip in it; stationary toys that you hang it up on the door or put on the floor. Unfortunately, most cats won't usually play with these toys for a long time because they are self-entertainment toys, and they get bored very quickly.

Cats are natural hunters; they search for prey, and they hide, wait, stalk, chase, pounce, grab the prey and kill it. These instincts are still intact even in indoor cats. Your cat may be interested in a new mouse toy in the beginning, but it usually will end the play once he gets to catch it. (How often do you find mouse toys/plastic balls under your sofa and furniture and your cat doesn’t even care at all when you show it to them again?)

Cats also need human interaction when they play, and it’s a great time to bond with your cat. Cat lovers know how independent cats are, (which we typically love that they are) but we also know how affectionate they are, too. Many of us forget about the connection between “bonding” and “playing” with cats once they become 2-3 years old,(thanks to their independent traits) but it actually is the biggest part of their lives while they are living with us.

So when I start to play with a guardian’s cat during the initial consultation, the guardian usually tells me “Wow, I haven’t seen my cat play like that!” and sometimes they ask me if the toy I have is something very unique and special, and/or if I purchased the toy from a special place. The toys I have are not special ones at all; in fact, you can get it at most any pet supply stores. The ones I like to use are pole toys with a small toy and/or feather attached in the end. The differences between those mouse toys/ stationary toys and pole toys are interaction with humans, and that makes it “Fun” for the cat so he can use all his instincts-hide, wait, stalk, chase, pounce, and catch-over and over again, for a long time.

All I do is “create” a game for me and the cat. The game is very simple. “You catch the toy, I lose. You miss the toy, I win”-The cat will be using their natural behavior, get excited, motivated, and finally, they’ll be satisfied and rewarded by catching a toy from me. Of course, I have to use my “reaction-speed” drills with my eyes and hand to not let him get the toy so easily. The cat will be focused on “Catch” the toy, and I’ll be focused on “Escape” the toy from the cat. Now that the cat is using their natural instinct-“Hunt” and the game is on.

Another important thing for you to remember is, “Play session with your cat every day” could save your kitty’s life. Cats are notorious at hiding their illness from us, and it’s a good indication to take him to your veterinarian when you notice that he won’t play with his favorite toy with you the way he used to, and/or stop playing with you all together. The more you play with your cat and know how your cat likes to play with you, the sooner you’ll be able to detect his medical problem.

If you think your cat won’t play with you, try a different toy, sometimes you don’t even have to go to a pet supply store to find your kitty’s favorite toy. Have you tried to moving your finger/toes under a piece of tissue and/or blanket? Our dragon cat, “Oryo” loves cooking twine, what about yours?

We’re going to have a fun and educational workshop, “Cats-Understand these mysterious creatures” on June 16th, we’ll talk more about our feline friends. Please register today, portion of fees goes to Misha May Foundation! 


DECLAWING-The Real Horror-There is No Treats, Only Tricks

Category: Cats
Posted: 10/28/2013

Although I love Halloween and can’t wait to have our contest winner announcement soon, I would like to share with you a true horror story of what many cats are going through.

One of my friends updated her status on her Facebook, she was urging her family and friends to go see a documentary movie, called “The Paw Project”. ( I knew exactly what it was about when I saw the photo of the movie. My old memories of working at an animal shelter came right back to me. It is about medical procedure called “Onychectomy”-commonly known as “Declawing” and I recalled the memory of myself, cringing while I was imagining vividly what this procedure would do to cats while my boss told me about it. Also it reminded me what I saw at the shelter- many kittens and cats who couldn’t use their front paws because their body changed structurally, and many were relinquished by their owners due to behavior issues after being declawed. Before I went to see the movie, I asked my husband if he knew what “Declawing” is. His immediate answer was exact the same answer I used to hear at the shelter. “Isn’t it just taking the nails out?” That night, my husband and I talked about “Declawing cats”, and then I asked him if he’d watch the movie with me.

So what is “Declawing”? Declawing is not as the same treatment as a spa, massage or manicure at a nail salon. It is the amputation of the final segment of toe bone as well as the attached claw with a scalpel or guillotine clipper. It’d be equivalent of our fingers being cut off at the last knuckles with something like a cigar cutter. Also the surgery is very painful, and cats could have long term physical and emotional risks, such as pain, regrowth of improperly removed claws, nerve damage, bone spurs, lameness, back pain and arthritis at a young age. From a behavior point of view, some cats may become fearful, depressed, may increase their biting habit, and show more aggressive behavior. Our furry friends cannot speak to us when they are feeling pain. Behavior change is the only way of them letting us know that “I’m not feeling well”.

Many people don’t know and/or misunderstand the facts about declawing; they think it’s a harmless “Quick Fix” for unwanted scratching behavior. But is that so? To me, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING beneficial for our Feline friend; it's cruel, torturous, inhumane and a UNNECESSARY surgical procedure that may cause far worse problems than it solves. I’ve seen many declawed cats stop using their litter boxes because they associated the litter box with pain after they were declawed. It broke my heart when I witnessed a playful kitten become depressed, hide under the bed all day long and not play with his favorite toys anymore. Their claws are their first choice of defense. People think that declawed cats are safer around babies, but because they lack claws, they tend to use the only other alternative that they have to protect themselves.-Bite-.

Scratching is a natural behavior for cats. They scratch to leave their scent and mark their territories, keep their nails in condition and be ready to hunt, stretch their bodies and relief the stress by digging their claws into something and pulling back against their own claw hold.

Is there any alternative? Absolutely! There are many ways to help cats scratch their nails properly, and it’s very easy also!

1.) Learn how to trim your cats nails. (Read my previous blog, although it’s written for dog guardians, you can still use these techniques.)

2.) Know your cat’s preference. Providing the right scratch post for your cat will prevent her from scratching furniture and/or other objects. Make sure you provide a scratch post that is tall/long enough for your cat, s/he should be able to stretch out all the way. Don't forget for her to have pleasant association with the scratch posts by feeding yummy food, have play time, and praise her when she uses it to scratch her nails! (Don’t forget the power of catnip, too!)

3.) Have multiple cat condos and/or cat towers nearby to prevent your cat from scratching your furniture. Remember, make things you don’t want your cat to scratch unattractive, and make things you want your cat to scratch more attractive!

After my husband and I saw the movie, he said “Before I saw this movie, I probably didn’t care if my friend said he is going to declaw his cat, but now I know the difference. I can tell him “Don’t do it, and here’s why”. It was a powerful movie, and now it’s our turn to let other people know what “declawing” really means, what we can do to prevent declawing our feline friends, continue and thrive to educate ourselves.

Please, consider alternative humane ways before you think about declawing your cat. We’re all perfect the way we are, so are our feline friends.

“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.” ~Leonard Da Vinci

If you are having trouble trimming your cats nails, scratching problem, please contact us BEFORE you decide to declaw your cat. We can find a better solution, without pain and suffering.


Is Your Cat Not Using Their Litter Box

Category: Cats
Posted: 07/08/2013

We are very proud to announce that we will be joining Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue open house party on July 13th, and will have “Meet the Trainer & Adopt a Cat” event at Kriser’s in Greenwood Village on July 20th. Since we have these cat events with Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue throughout the month of July, I’d like to share the most common issue that cat guardians are facing in this blog.

Getting your cat to use the Litter boxThe number 1 problem is “Litter box” issue; the cat is not using the litter box and/or the cat stopped using the litter box all of sudden, or the cat is marking the house, etc. The first thing we will ask a client will be “When was the last time you took your cat to the vet and had thorough physical exam including full blood panel and urinalysis?” Cats are notorious for hiding their physical illnesses from us; sometimes it’s also difficult for us to detect who is having a problem, especially if there are multiple cats in the household. Your veterinarian can tell you many things from full blood panel and urinalysis, like if your cat’s kidney and liver are in normal ranges, possible bacterial infection, Urinary Tract Infection and/or kidney stones.

Once the vet gives your cat a clean bill of health, the next thing we will ask is, “Has anything changed in your environment?” Dogs and Cats both like their “Routine” and some cats may be more sensitive than others when the environment changes, like moving from apartment to a new house, rearranging furniture around, changing cat litter from clay to a clamping one, changing litter box from a box with hood to no-hood, a new baby/people/animal moved in, etc. If the cat was using the litter box until recently and all the sudden s/he is marking the house, look around your property and see if there is a stray cat or if a neighbor’s cat is roaming outside. (And please consider spaying/neutering your cat if you haven’t done so already.)

Some times, it can be caused by stress and/or anxiety. The best things you can do for your cat is remove the stressor if the litter box problem is caused by anxiety or stress. Using natural remedies such as “Rescue Remedy” and “Feliway” may help reduce their anxiety level, too. If it’s too severe, ask a veterinarian like Dr. Brenda Eisenhauer at Parkside Animal Health Center, who is expert on behavioral medication. But how can you tell if your cat is stressed out? I know a few clients who travel a lot for their business or luxury; the cat stopped using the litter box during the owner’s absence, and started to use it again once the owner got back to a steady life schedule. Also it is true that they will pick up your energy if you are stressed out or feeling anxious about something. Did you have any family conflict, lost your job, or experienced a traumatic event around the same time your cat started to urinate inappropriate manner?

Make sure you provide at least one litter box per cat if you are a multiple cat owner. If one particular cat is not using the litter box, keep an eye on the other cats who may be bullying the particular cat by blocking the litter box.

If you are living with an elderly cat, please consider moving the litter box closer to her/him where there is no stairs and/or steps so s/he can get to it in quickly. Not only physically s/he may have struggle to move around, but s/he may start to have some cognitive dysfunction as s/he gets old, and some may forget where the litter box is.


DO NOT rub your cat’s nose into urine and/or feces
DO NOT scold your cat
DO NOT force her/him into the litter box
DO NOT use Ammonia based cleaning supplies since it can attract cats to eliminate more. (Instead use “Nature’s Miracle” or similar type of cleaning product that is specifically made for pet accidents.)

Need more direction for your specific cat? Contact us with specific questions or setup an in home consultation with us when your kitty is having the litter box problem. We can find possible treatments WITHOUT using harsh methods like spray bottles and/or hitting your cat’s nose. Why use physical punishment when we have better tools where nobody gets hurt?


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