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ADVANCE™ is scientifically formulated to help improve pet health.  Read all the latest articles and news, as well as get tips and advice on puppy, kitten, dog and cat nutrition and health care topics.  Brought to you by the experts at ADVANCE™ premium pet food.

Digestive upset in kittens

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This is an image of two kittens playing.

Bellyache

Did you know that digestive upset is common in kittens?  Rapid dietary change and the stress associated with moving to a new home, plus other causes such as infectious agents, can lead to loose faeces, diarrhoea or vomiting. 

Bellyache

Did you know that digestive upset is common in kittens? 

Rapid dietary change and the stress associated with moving to a new home, plus other causes such as infectious agents, can lead to loose faeces, diarrhoea or vomiting. 

Avoid milk

Once kittens are weaned from their mother, they no longer require milk as part of their diet.  The feeding of cow’s milk to kittens can lead to digestive upset, and should be avoided.  Lactose-free pet milk is an option, but a complete and balanced kitten diet will supply all the essential nutrition your kitten needs. 

How can I avoid my kitten getting an upset tummy?

  • Ensure that your kitten's vaccinations and worming treatments are up to date
  • Avoid access to food scraps and garbage
  • Offer small, frequent meals
  • Make any diet changes gradual, over a period of 7 days.  Add a small proportion of the new diet to the kitten’s regular diet on the first day.  The proportion of the new diet should be gradually increased each day, so that it makes up half of the kitten’s food on day 4 and the whole meal by day 7.

When to call the Vet

If your kitten is experiencing diarrhoea, vomiting or lethargy be sure to take them for a check-up at the Vet.  Dehydration can occur quickly in youngsters.  Signs of dehydration include dry skin that lacks elasticity such as neck skin that stays tented when gently pinched, lethargy, increased heart rate, high fever and a dry mouth.

By feeding a high quality, highly digestible kitten food you will reduce the chance of an upset tummy in your kitten.                                                                                 

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What your cat's tail is telling you

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Tail Talk

Would you like to know what your kitten is really thinking?  Well, there's a way to get inside your kitten's head and that's by becoming aware of their body language.  Here we'll take a look at what your kitten's tail movements can tell you about how they're feeling. 

Tail Talk

Would you like to know what your kitten is really thinking? 

Well, there's a way to get inside your kitten's head and that's by becoming aware of their body language.  In fact, your kitten's busy little tail is one of their most effective ways to communicate their mood.

Here’s our guide to what your kitten’s tail is telling you:

• Tail held high – your kitten is feeling happy and confident

• Wiggling at the base or tip – your kitten is saying a friendly “hello”

• Curled under their body – your kitten is feeling submissive

• Curled around another cat's tail or human legs - your kitten is being friendly

• Fluffed to more than twice its size – your kitten is scared, threatened and defensive  (if your kitten is also displaying an arched back, hair standing on end and unfurled claws then you should give them some space!)

• Rapid flicking – your kitten is agitated

• Wagging – your kitten is irritated (note that this is the opposite of a dog’s wagging tail!)

• Thumping – your kitten is highly frustrated, and may even attack

• Slowly twitching tail tip – your kitten is curious or excited (you’ll often see this when they're crouching)

So keep your eye on your kitten's tail.  You'll start to notice a wide repertoire of tail movements, and get to know you're kitten on a whole new level!

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Scratching behaviour in cats

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Scratching

Scratching is a normal feline behaviour that serves a range of important functions for a cat.  However, in the interest of a happy co-existence with your kitty, it’s important that this behaviour is directed onto appropriate surfaces.  Training is best started early on in kittenhood.  Read on for tips to help save your furniture.

Why do cats scratch?

Scratching is a normal feline behaviour. 

It’s used to groom nails, for marking territory (both visual as well as scent signals) and to help cats stretch and condition their muscles.  Most cats have 5 claws on each front leg and 4 claws on each hind leg, for a grand total of 18 claws.

Given that scratching serves a range of functions for a cat, it’s not a behaviour that can be stopped.  It is however a behaviour that needs to be directed onto appropriate surfaces.  Your kitten needs you to help them understand what is okay to scratch and what isn’t.  The effort you put in will be a life saver for your furniture and other valuables.

What do cats like to scratch?

In general, cats are attracted to textured surfaces and items they can sink their claws into.  However, different cats prefer different scratching surfaces, so initially you might like to offer a range of surfaces and see what your kitty is fond of.  Common materials to try are sisal rope, cardboard, carpet, rough fabrics and wood. 

Cats will often have a scratch after they wake from a nap and when they want to mark their territory.  They also like to scratch when they’re excited about something.

How do I prevent my cat scratching the furniture?

Ideally begin training to use the scratching post while your cat is young.  Supply both vertical and horizontal surfaces covered with your cat’s preferred material.  Make the scratching surfaces desirable by placing catnip or treats on them and train your cat by encouraging them with a toy held part way up, and reward the cat for using it.

If the cat prefers another material, such as the couch, attempt to get an appropriate item covered in a similar material.

Never punish your kitten or cat if you see them scratching an item they shouldn’t, as this will only teach them that scratching the item while you are around is scary.  Your cat will likely continue to scratch it when you are gone.

A better method is to cover the inappropriate item in double sided sticky tape or another material such as plastic which makes the item aversive at all times.  Meanwhile, positively reinforce the cat with praise and treats when they scratch the appropriate item.

Nail care can also help reduce inappropriate scratching.  Pair nail trims with positive reinforcement eg treats to create a positive association for your cat.

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Socialising your kitten

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This is an image of two kittens playing.

Positive socialisation practices are critical for your kitten                                                              

What your kitten experiences in their first few months will influence the rest of their life.  In fact, their early experiences shape their future character.  Cats that are under socialised may become shy and fearful.  In contrast, kittens that have been well socialised generally grow into happy, confident adults.   

Positive socialisation practices are critical for your kitten                                                              

What your kitten experiences in their first few months will influence the rest of their life.  In fact, their early experiences shape their future character.  Cats that have been well socialised generally grow into happy, confident adults.  

Socialising your kitten involves introducing them to a whole range of new experiences including meeting different types of people, other animals, places, smells and noises. 

Positive socialisation

Be sure to present socialisation experiences in a gentle way that helps your kitten become accustomed to them.  Reward your kitten for calm behaviour and move only at a pace your kitten can handle.  If your kitten seems nervous or fearful, that's your cue to slow things down.  The aim is for new experiences to be presented in a positive way so that your kitten can develop into a relaxed, confident cat.  

Remember that it's still important that socialisation continues throughout your cat's life. 

Here are some typical situations in which kittens should be socialised:

Environment

  • Drive in the car
  • Trips to the vet.  Have your kitten weighed, handled and restrained for a health check
  • Using a cat carrier
  • At home, exposure to different floor surfaces, steps, tools, cleaning, working, music, pram
  • Outside (while on a harness) exposure to bicycles, gardening

Other animals

  • Other cats and kittens (all well-socialised and fully vaccinated)
  • Dogs (only cat-friendly ones)
  • Farm animals
  • Birds (in a manner where the bird is safely able to get away)
  • Any other animal they may come in contact with during their lifetime

Situations

  • Visitors in the home,
  • Being groomed
  • Having a picture taken
  • Being held (in a manner where they are never afraid and never dropped)
  • Tooth brushing
  • Nails clipped
  • Playing with a variety of toys

People

  • Children
  • People wearing glasses, hats
  • People with beards
  • Loud and timid people 

By providing your kitten with a wide range of positive socialisation experiences, you'll help them develop into a sociable and well-adjusted cat.

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Common kitten feeding queries

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Feeding your kitten

It can be argued that nothing plays a more important role in healthy kitten growth and development as nutrition, so let's look at some common kitten feeding queries.  

Feeding your kitten

It can be argued that nothing plays a more important role in healthy kitten growth and development as nutrition, so let's look at some common kitten feeding queries.  

How much to feed my kitten?

Use the feeding guide found on pet food packaging as a starting point.  This will show you the total daily amount to offer your kitten.  Keen an eye on your kitten's body condition so that you can fine tune the amount fed, if needed.  Have a chat to your veterinarian if you're concerned about your kitten's body condition or growth rate.  

How often to feed my kitten?

In general, younger kittens should be fed smaller meals more frequently.  This is to help allow them take in enough food for growth.  Their stomach capacity is small, therefore they require frequent meals.  

Over time, the number of meals can be gradually reduced so that by the time your kitten reaches adulthood, they will be on one or two meals per day.  Many cats prefer to graze feed throughout the day, and this is acceptable provided they maintain a healthy body condition and are not allowed to become overweight.

Ensure that your kitten has free access to a continual supply of fresh drinking water in a suitable sized container.

Should I feed my kitten a home-made diet?

It can be tempting to feed a pet a diet made up of human food and table scraps.  However, it is a challenge to create a home-made diet that is complete and balanced, especially in the long term.  Kittens need a complete and balanced diet that is specially formulated to support their healthy growth and development.  A high quality super premium pet food such as ADVANCE™ provides this peace of mind.

In addition, some human foods can be toxic to pets such as grapes, raisins, onions and chocolate. 

Should I feed my kitten dry or wet food?

Dry and wet foods are equally nutritious.  The feeding of both dry and wet foods is known as ‘mixed feeding’.  This method of feeding provides a pet with taste and texture variety and enables them to get the benefits that each feeding format offers.

ADVANCE™ kitten diets are suitable for all breeds, so you can be sure there's a diet that’s just right for your kitten.

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Bringing your kitten home

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This is an image of two kittens playing.

Settling in

Lots of kittens can seem timid when they first move to a new home.  It's understandable, as leaving the only family they've ever known to start another life with a new family is a pretty big deal!  Here we offer our tips for helping your new arrival feel at home in no time.

Settling in

Lots of kittens can seem timid when they first move to a new home.  

It's understandable, as leaving the only family they've ever known to start another life with a new family is a pretty big deal!  Here are our tips for helping your new arrival feel at home in no time.

Take it slow

Don't be in a rush to remove the cat carrier your kitten was transported in.  Instead, leave it in the corner of the room where your kitten will sleep to create a familiar refuge.  Initially, a new kitten might hide quite a bit until they become more accustomed to their new home.  Don’t worry, it won’t be long before they will be out and about exploring their new surroundings.

Essential items

Provide your kitten with a litter tray on one side of the room and a fresh bowl of food and water on the other.  You might like to also supply a few other hiding places such as a cardboard box (a perennial kitten favourite!) to help your kitten feel safe and secure. 

Leave your kitten's food and water bowls, as well as litter tray in the same spot so they can be located easily.

Keep things quiet

In order for your kitten to adapt to a new environment and settle into a regular feeding and sleeping routine, the household should be kept relatively quiet and visitors kept to a minimum for the first two weeks.  Children should be reminded that the new kitten needs lots of rest and should not be over-handled. 

Wait before making introductions

If you have other pets at home, it’s best not to introduce them just yet.  Provide your kitten with their own space for the first few days or weeks.  This will help boost your kitten's confidence levels.

Exploring the home

Once your kitten has settled in, and developed a regular routine of eating, drinking and using the litter tray, they will become curious about their new home and be keen to start to explore.  Ensure this is well supervised, and limit your kitten to the areas of your home where you spend the most time.  This provides the opportunity to reinforce desirable behaviour.                 

Finally, remember not to let your kitten outside until they are fully vaccinated.  If they arrived fully vaccinated, it's still best to keep your kitten indoors for the first 2 to 3 weeks.

Other pets in the home can then be introduced very slowly and only under close supervision.

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How can I tell if my dog is overweight?

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A weighty issue

Did you know that around 40% of Australian dogs are considered above their ideal weight?  Pet obesity is a serious issue, and globally it's on the rise.  As with humans, overweight pets are at an increased risk of serious health consequences, which may be life threatening.  In addition, obesity may exacerbate existing medical conditions in pets.

A weighty issue

Did you know that around 40% of Australian dogs are considered above their ideal weight? 

Pet obesity is a serious issue, and globally it's on the rise.  As with humans, overweight pets are at an increased risk of serious health consequences, which may be life threatening.  In addition, obesity may exacerbate existing medical conditions in pets.

Overweight pets have a reduced quality of life and are more likely to be disinterested in exercise and play.  They tire quickly when they do exercise and might appear to walk with a waddle. 

Reduced lifespan

Overweight pets live shorter lives. 

A study published in 2018, examined Banfield Pet Hospital™ data from over 50,787 pet dogs across 12 of the most popular breeds.  The results showed that the lifespan of overweight dogs was up to two and a half years shorter when compared to dogs with a healthy body condition.  So it’s not just quality of life that is affected in overweight pets, it’s quantity too. 

Body condition scores

You can learn to assess the body condition of your dog and this also helps let you know if you're feeding them the right amount of food.

Take a look at your dog from both a side-on, as well as an aerial view (ie from above looking down) and check:

• Can you see and feel your dog's ribs, as well as the bones along their spine and over their hips?

• When looking down on your dog, can you see an obvious ‘waist’?

• Look at the area behind the ribs.  Can you see a tuck of the abdomen? 

A dog in ideal body condition has:

• Ribs which can be felt without excess fat covering them. 

• A ‘waist’ which can be seen behind the ribs when viewed from above

• The abdomen is tucked up when viewed from the side.

Once a pet is overweight, it becomes more difficult to feel their ribs due to a padding of excess fat.  Their ‘waist’ becomes less obvious and their abdominal tuck decreases. 

All packets of ADVANCE™ dog food display a 5-point body condition scoring chart that you can use to help assess your dog's body condition.

On a 5-point body condition scoring chart, a score of 3 is considered ideal.  A score of 1 or 2 indicates that the dog is underweight, while a score of 4 or 5 indicates that the dog is overweight.

Getting back into shape

Overweight pets need a tailored diet and exercise plan, and this is best managed under supervision by your Veterinarian.  Feeding a lower calorie or ‘light’ diet can be helpful, as they provide less calories per meal.  In addition, a tailored exercise program that is appropriate for the dog helps burn calories and build muscle.

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Preventing boredom in dogs

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Home alone

Many dogs are left alone for hours every day.  This can lead to boredom which is often the root of many behavioural problems.  Let’s take a look at how you can keep your dog occupied when you’re not there.

Home alone

Many dogs are left alone for hours every day.  This can lead to boredom which is often the root of many behavioural problems. 

Dogs are intelligent creatures and therefore require mental stimulation.  Left alone with nothing to do, a dog will create its own entertainment.  This could include such behaviours as barking at birds and clouds, running in circles, pulling clothes off the line or digging holes in the garden.  In extreme cases, some dogs will even resort to self-mutilation.

How can I keep my dog occupied when I'm not there?

The key lies in 'environmental enrichment'.  This means to make your dog's environment more interesting and complex, and is a strategy used in zoos and wildlife parks around the world.

Exercise

Dogs need daily exercise and ideally they should leave your property every day.  Taking your dog on a walk has many health benefits for both of you.  Try to vary your walks so that your dog gets to experience new sights, smells and interactions.

Find a safe off-leash area where your dog can let off some steam.  For high energy dogs consider dog sports such as Agility or Flyball.

A happily tired out dog is more likely to rest when you’re not home, rather than seek out mischief.

Toys

Have a collection of safe and fun dog toys and rotate them daily (yes, every day!) so they maintain their novelty factor and stay interesting for your dog.  Select toys that are appropriate for your dog’s level of destructiveness.  Always supervise your dog when first playing with a new toy to see if there is any potential risk of the toy becoming dangerous.  Inspect toys regularly for signs of wear, and replace any that are damaged. 

Make feeding time last longer

In the wild, an animal spends a significant proportion of their time seeking out their next meal.  When your pet can rely on you to meet their nutritional needs, they’re left with a fair bit of time on their paws.  So rather than feeding your dog from a bowl, scatter their dry kibble around the backyard.  It will take them ages to sniff out every piece.

Stuff a ‘Kong’ toy with yummy treats or put some kibble in a treat ball or ‘Buster Cube’.  Your dog will need to use their brain to work out how to get those treats.

Provide your dog with a raw bone and smoked pigs ears a couple of times each week to chew on.                            

You could also

Create a digging pit using a child’s sand pit.  Try hiding toys and treats in it for your dog to find as buried treasure.

Play hide and seek by hiding treats around the garden for your pooch to find.

If you don’t have time to walk your dog, consider employing a professional dog walker.

Investigate local doggy day care centres, where your dog can spend some quality time playing and socialising.

 

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Problem barking in dogs

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Dogs are social animals

Barking and other forms of vocalisation serve as a form of communication and are considered normal behaviour for dogs.  Tensions arise when a dog is considered to bark excessively.  Here we take a look at what you can do to help prevent and reduce problem barking.  

Dogs are social animals

Barking is considered a normal behaviour for dogs.  Barking and other forms of vocalisation serve as a form of communication between individuals, such as to alert to an approaching threat.  This ability was a seen as a good thing when humans were domesticating the dog.  Breeds were developed based on individuals who were very good at alerting us to danger.  A dog's hearing is about 4 times better than ours, and things they can hear (from some distance away) can be very arousing to a dog, whose response is often to bark.

Many dogs also vocalise when they are frustrated, excited or anxious.  If dogs are left alone for long periods, they may become under-exercised, under-stimulated and may bark as a result.         

Tensions arise when a dog is considered to bark excessively.

How can I help prevent my puppy becoming a barker?

There are quite a few things you can do when you first bring your puppy home to reduce the chance they will develop into an excessive barker.

Positive Socialisation

Ensure that your puppy is positively socialised, and that this continues for life.

Socialising your puppy involves introducing them to a whole range of new experiences including meeting different types of people, dogs, other animals, places, smells and noises.  It’s important that these interactions are a positive experience for your puppy.  Introduce them to new situations gently and reward them for calm behaviour. 

Dogs that are under socialised may become fearful and suspicious of things they haven't encountered before.  These things will be seen as a potential threat, and something that the dog then barks at.

Encourage calm

Develop a routine that encourages your puppy to display quiet and calm behaviour.  Teach your puppy that it's OK to be alone for short periods and encourage their love of chew toys which helps keep them mentally stimulated.

Crate training helps reinforce happy, quiet time and teaches your puppy that the night is for sleeping, not for barking at cats or possums!

Training

Teach your puppy to 'speak' on cue, along with the alternative command 'shush' to stop the barking.  This is a lot easier than trying to teach your puppy to be quiet when they are barking excessively (and in an aroused state).  By practising these commands when your puppy is calm and focused, they'll make the learning connection.  You then have an effective cue to offer them when you want them to stop barking.

My dog seems to be barking a lot, what can I do?

Ideally, determine the cause of the barking.  Keep a barking diary where all members of the household (as well as neighbours) note down the times of day when the dog barks.  From this, it may be possible to understand what triggers the barking. 

Another option, especially if your dog only seems to bark when you’re not home, is to use video surveillance to observe what your dog is doing.  Only when you understand why your dog barks can you start working to reduce the noise.  Options include changing the way your dog is managed, changing the places they have access to, covering over fences or gates to reduce visual stimuli or allowing your dog a better view of the world.  Sometimes the answer is to bring your dog inside the house when they are most likely to bark, or when you're not at home.

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Treating your puppy

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Treats

Who doesn't love a tasty treat from time to time?  Pet food treats come in a wide range of formats and flavours and are generally designed to satisfy one of 3 key need states.  Here we look at how to use treats wisely.

Treats

Who doesn't love a tasty treat from time to time? 

Pet food treats come in a wide range of formats and flavours and are generally designed to satisfy one of 3 key need states: to reward/bond, to occupy and for functional health.

Types of treats

Treats provide an important mechanism for strengthening the bond you share with your pet and are frequently used as a motivating tool for training.  Certain treats are designed to be longer lasting to help keep a pet entertained for a period of time.  In addition, some treats have positive effects in areas such as oral health and joint health.

How can I use treats wisely?

Treats are particularly useful for training, but due to the risks of overfeeding and nutritional imbalances, their use should be controlled.  As a general rule, no more than 10% of the calories in your puppy’s diet should come from dog treats.  Keep a close eye on how many treats your puppy is getting, and how often they are getting them. 

It’s likely in the early days of puppy training that you’ll use food treats as rewards a lot.  Consider using part of your puppy’s daily dry food allowance as treats.

Get the timing right

When using food treats as training rewards, timing is crucial.  Only offer a treat when your puppy responds correctly to your training command and is calm.  That way you’ll avoid inadvertently rewarding any over-excited behaviour.

Stick to pet treats

Treats designed specifically for dogs and puppies are best.  Chocolate and foods containing xylitol (a sugar substitute) are just a couple of examples of human treats that are highly toxic to pets.

Consider life rewards

Whilst food treats can be very effective for a puppy when learning a new behaviour, you should introduce other rewards that your puppy responds to.  A ‘life reward’ is anything that your dog desires in their day to day life.

Consider the following life rewards:

• A tickle on the belly

• Verbal praise

• Playing a game of tug 

• A pat on the head

• Playing with a toy

Life rewards teach your puppy that it’s important and worthwhile to listen to you, even in the absence of food.

By using food treats, in conjunction with life rewards, you'll keep training fun and interesting for your puppy while helping build reliability in their behaviour.

 

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