What’s the Deal with Synthetic Cat Pheromones?

If your cat is prone to anxiety and overstimulation, you may have come across the idea of using synthetic cat pheromones on your quest for a solution. Just like people, cats can become very stressed out. Changes like a new home, a new family member, or a loud neighbor can cause unwanted behaviors like destructiveness, urinating in the house, and excessive meowing. While anxiety medication does exist for cats, some owners would rather not use drugs to treat the problem. Pheromone-based products, first introduced in the United States in 2001, are a popular alternative. But what exactly do they do?

Let’s start with the basics. Pheromones are a type of chemical communication between members of a species. Pet pheromone products are said to mimic those produced naturally by the animal. By producing certain pheromones, such as those used to calm an animal, these products may reduce bad behavior. Most cat pheromone products are used to target general stress, separation anxiety, noise phobias, travel, and aggression.

Sounds like a miracle solution, right? It might be, but there’s a bit more to unpack. Much of the research that has been published or presented at veterinary conferences has been funded by product makers. Though these studies were found to help soothe stressed pets in some circumstances, the industry is in need of independent research to confirm the findings.

There are currently two popular synthetic pheromone products on the market—Feliway and Comfort Zone. If you’re struggling with a cat’s bad behavior and don’t know what to do, try one of these sprays. They’re odorless and have not been shown to have negative effects. Plus, they’re relatively inexpensive. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see an improvement, though. If your animal is exhibiting especially bad behavior, it is best to take them to a veterinarian.

Sticky Situations: Bad Weather Dog Walks

If you’re a dog owner, you’ve likely taken your pet on more walks than you can count. Every day, at least three times per day, you put on your shoes, shrug on a jacket, and secure your dog with a leash. You step outside, let Fido run around for a bit, clean up the waste, and head back inside. When all is said and done, the whole process should only take around ten minutes—longer if you have time for an actual walk. However, that ten minutes can be extremely painful for your pup, even if he’s already gone to the bathroom. Why? Temperature.

Most people believe the pads on the undersides of dogs’ feet to be weather-resistant. They’re darker and tougher than human feet, and the strategic location allows less of the foot to come in contact with the ground—that must mean they’re designed to handle hot and cold days, right? Surprisingly, this is not true. Dog paws—and cat paws, for that matter—are extremely sensitive. The toughness exists to protect the animal from rocks and the unevenness of grassy or dirt ground, not high or low temperatures.

If this is the first time you’ve heard this, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Plus, if your dog hasn’t complained about the temperature through whining, barking, or refusing to go outside, the temperatures have been tolerable. Going forward, however, you’ll want to protect Fido’s paws as much as possible. Special doggy shoes exist for exactly this purpose; if you’re heading out for a walk on a frigid day, or perhaps going to the beach in 100-degree weather, these dog shoes will do the trick.

You don’t, however, need to strap on the dog shoes every time you head out for a walk. Follow this simple rule of thumb: if the temperature hurts your feet, the temperature is too extreme for your dog. If you’re walking on a hot, sandy beach and have to put your sandals back on, Fido’s feet are likely getting friend. Likewise, if you can’t image stepping outside into the cold without putting on a pair of wool socks, your dog should have some protection, too.

 

What’s the Deal with Catnip?

Catnip is a popular and inexpensive cat toy. Our feline friends vary in reaction to the green stuff, but most will exhibit some type of abnormal behavior—they’ll likely roll around, paw at the material, or try to eat it. But what is catnip? What about it affects our pets?

Catnip contains the feline attractant nepetalactone. This attractant is known for its behavioral effect on the cat family—not only on domestic cats, but on leopards, cougars, servals, and lynxes, too. With domestic cats, nepetalactone is used as a recreational substance for enjoyment. Catnip and catnip-laced products are some of the most popular cat toys and supplies on the market, facilitating a sensation of euphoria in most felines. When exposed to the substance, cats may rub on, roll in, paw at, lick, and chew the toy. Consuming this plant is often followed by drooling, sleepiness, and purring.

However, some cats react negatively to the presence of catnip; many experience severe anxiety and overstimulation, which may lead to growling, meowing, scratching, and/or biting. If you’re unsure if your cat will demonstrate these behaviors, introduce a small amount of the plant at a time. The main response period after exposure is generally between five and fifteen minutes. If you don’t see any behavioral changes initially, wait a bit longer.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “but my cat doesn’t do anything with catnip,” you’re not alone. Actually, around one third of all cats are not affected by catnip. The behavior is hereditary. However, if you want to give your non-responsive cat a good time, there are other plants that may induce catnip-like reactions: valerian root and leaves, silver vine, and Tatarian honeysuckle wood are very popular.

So, if you haven’t exposed your cat to this plant yet, do so slowly and carefully observe their reaction. Don’t give them too much, and stop immediately if they start exhibiting symptoms of anxiety or overstimulation. With catnip, moderation is key.

Common Misconception: Cat Backpacks

In 2015, an adorable trend made its way into the world of pet travel carriers. Enter: the bubble backpack, a large, cat-sized pack with a small semi-sphere window placed in the front. Small pets, such as cats and small dogs, can sit inside the pack and peek out at the world around them through this bubble. Most of these packs come with additional strap padding for maximum owner comfort, ventilation holes, removable and washable inserts, and two separate points of entry. Plus, these things are pretty dang precious.

Unfortunately, the bubble backpack trend is not as safe and secure as we may have thought. Though animals are not likely to escape, the structure is inherently unsafe. Backpacks are known to jostle while in motion, and if an animal is standing up inside this unsecured structure, injury is likely to occur. There is no tethering device, no room for the animal to lie down, and the base of the pack is not sturdy enough to allow the animal to stand comfortably.

To that end, these backpacks are not airline approved, and you may encounter trouble while trying to board a train with an animal inside a bubble backpack. The carrier is not sturdy enough to ride safely within a car (there is no place to hook a seatbelt, and the pack may fall over while in transit), and the side holes may hinder its ability to be used on public transportation like buses and subways. It appears that recreation is the sole purpose of this type of container.

Now, for some pet owners, this is okay. Indoor cats may want to experience the outdoors, and this is a safe and effective way to bring him out of the house. Walking around with the pack on your front or back can be a fun experience for both you and your animal. However, this backpack should not be a substitute for a legitimate, transit-approved carrier—the mix-up may result in unsafe travel conditions or the inability to board your method of transit.

Common Misconception: Yarn as a Toy

We’ve all seen the cartoons—an animal, usually a cat, batting around a ball of yarn and having the time of his life. Yarn will catch the attention of most pets; it moves around, it’s easy to catch, and chewing on it can be a pleasurable experience. The material is also very cheap and easily accessible, making it a popular “do it yourself” toy option. However, yarn can pose an incredible danger to animals regardless of age.

Pets begin to chew on toys when they are teething. As with humans, this is a way to sooth the painful sensation of new, growing teeth. Many pets continue this behavior into adulthood when they are bored or anxious—think: a dog with a bone or a cat with a kickeroo. If possible, it is best to discourage chewing as an animal pastime. It can be destructive to your home and belongings but also dangerous if your pet ingests something sharp, large, or indigestible—such as yarn.

Cats, in particular, are drawn to string and long, flexible objects. Unfortunately, this material is among some of the most dangerous an animal can use as a toy. Ingesting yarn can lead to what veterinarians refer to as “linear foreign bodies,” which occurs when something like string gets wrapped in and around the digestive tract. Surgery is the only method for safely removing the material.

This danger is not limited to yarn—it incudes everything from long clothing fibers to dental floss. It is therefore essential to properly store these materials, as just a couple of inches of string is enough to cause significant damage. If you use string toys with your animals, read through customer reviews to ensure the object is sturdily-built. Store them safely and properly.

If your pet does ingest a piece of yarn, floss, or string, take them to the vet as soon as possible. To that end, never pull on or try to remove a string that is stuck in your pet’s throat or butt; it could very well be wrapped around their digestive tract, and your removal might cause serious internal damage.

Sticky Situations: Introducing a Pet

Pet introductions serve as a point of tension and caution regardless of an owner’s experience. Whether you’re moving in with a new roommate or adopting a new animal, proper introductions are necessary for peaceful and nonviolent cohabitation. These meetings must be carefully staged and planned; if poorly executed, the animals’ relationship may never recover.

What to do with toys: Toys and belongings play an important role in pet introductions, but they are a tricky variable to predict. Toys and supplies may be considered property or territory by an animal—if introduced to a stressful situation, the animal may lash out. Luckily, there are ways to assuage this potential tension.

If you can secure the other animal’s toys before the introduction, do so. Use this to introduce your pet to the other’s smell and instruct the other pet’s owner to do the same. Introducing a scent is like showing your animal a picture; it prepares for the encounter by priming them with the idea they’ve met before. Furthermore, swapping toys mitigates any feelings of attachment or possession over toys—the mixed scents will confuse ownership, allowing the animals to, after some time, share.

If you cannot secure the other animal’s toys before the introduction, remove all of your pet’s objects from the introduction space. If your pet feels as though his belongings are in danger, he may be uncharacteristically aggressive toward the other animal. Instead, purchase new toys to introduce to the common space. In providing neutral play, the animals can better focus on the introduction. Once the pets are accustomed to each other, reintroduce the old toys.

What to have on-hand: Though introducing pets is highly dependent on the animal’s attitude and disposition, owners can mitigate stress and anxiety with just a handful of useful supplies. Towels and blankets, for example, are incredibly helpful for both introducing scent and restraining a potentially violent dog. If possible, swap the pets’ bedding and blankets prior to the initial meeting. Additionally, if introducing dogs, keep both animals on a tight leash. Utilizing supplies such as a pheromone spray or diffuser can relieve stress, and purchasing new toys for the occasion is always a good idea.

 

What’s the Deal with Grain-Free?

Grain-Free is a strikingly popular pet food trend. It origins are like those of the Paleo Diet many people have assumed in recent years; according to its proponents, grain-free dog food most closely mimics a canine’s natural, or “ancestral” diet as a carnivore. It works to combat low-cost food fillers, such as corn, wheat, and barley, that were introduced to kibble as a way to create bulk and keep costs down. This food reports to increase pet energy, create a healthier skin and shinier coat, reduce shedding, reduce pet flatulence, and keep animals fuller for longer periods of time. Grain-Free pet food is expensive and popular, but is it worth it?

Put simply: No, it is not worth it. There is no data showing these diets have any health benefits for dogs and cats over more traditional, corn- and grain-inclusive diets. Nutritionally, the most important aspect of a pet food is whether it provides complete and balanced nutrition. If a food contains excesses or deficiencies of specific nutrients, the animal may suffer; this concept holds true regardless of whether the kibble contains grains.

Grain-Free foods appeared as a marketing tactic rather than a genuine concern for pet health. Many foods, including those made for human consumption, market themselves by highlighting what they don’t include. This implies that the excluded ingredient is bad or unhealthy when, in most cases, it is either beneficial or completely harmless. To that end, these foods often use other fillers, such as lettuce, celery, avocado, and chia to make the food bulkier. In a few cases, grain-free food does include a grain—barely is a popular ingredient for many of these trendy food brands.

If a friend or advertisement recommends switching your animal over to a grain-free diet, you may fall prey to this fad. Regardless, if you plan to make any significant changes to your animal’s diet, consult your veterinarian—only a professional can make sound recommendations to improve your pet’s health.

 

Welcome to House Pet Supplies

Adopting an animal is an easy decision but becoming a pet parent takes time and patience. As with most major, life-changing decisions, becoming a pet parent also requires quite a bit of research. From breed demeanors and adoption centers to the healthiest food and safest carriers, most new animal owners don’t know where to begin. In fact, most seasoned pet parents are stumped when it comes to certain supply categories.

House Pet Supplies was created as a one-stop resource center for everything pet-related. We provide informative and necessary information about a variety of pet-related supplies—from toys and toxic materials to food gimmicks and healthy treats. Our site is split into three categories:

 

  • “What’s the Deal with That”
  • Sticky Situations
  • Common Misconceptions

 

“What’s the Deal with That” seeks to unpack the assumptions and popularity behind certain pet toys and foods. This will include anything and everything from Kong toys to grain-free diets. Our Sticky Situations category is a series of “situation-based” posts, which discuss and explain the materials and supplies necessary for a range of scenarios—heading to the vet, introducing a new pet, flying with your dog, &c. Finally, Common Misconceptions fills the gaps in knowledge regarding pet supply safety—from common safety hazards to barely-understood vet practices.

If you have a question you would like us to investigate, drop us a line in the comment section below. We want to serve the needs of this caring, loving, and—quite honestly—confused community to the best of our ability.