Scratching behaviour in cats

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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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Grooming your puppy

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Make grooming time fun!

As part of general handling, you’ll need to get your puppy accustomed to being groomed and washed.  This is also a great time to inspect the condition of their skin and coat.  When brushing and bathing, be gentle and and initially keep the sessions short.  Be sure to offer lots of positive reinforcement with treats and praise, so that grooming time is fun and a chance for you both to bond.  Check out our tips for brushing, bathing and nail trimming.

Make grooming time fun

As part of general handling, you’ll need to get your puppy accustomed to being groomed and washed.  This is also a great time to inspect the condition of their skin and coat. 

When brushing and bathing, be gentle, move slowly and initially keep the sessions short.  Progress only at a pace your puppy is comfortable with.  Be sure to offer lots of positive reinforcement with treats and praise, so that grooming time is fun and a chance for you both to bond.

Brushing your puppy

Different dog breeds have different grooming requirements, so be sure to look into what grooming tools you might need for your puppy.

To help keep your puppy looking their best, here’s our guide for how often to brush:

Short-haired breeds:     brush 1 to 2 times per week

Medium-length coats:    brush every second day

Long-haired breeds:      brush gently every day

While your puppy is getting used to being brushed, offer lots of positive reinforcement with treats and praise, to keep grooming time enjoyable.

Bathing your puppy

As a rule of thumb, try to limit baths to no more frequently than once a month as bathing removes natural oils from your puppy’s coat.  Use lukewarm water and a specially formulated puppy shampoo.  Once bathed, wipe your puppy down with a towel and keep them warm until they are properly dry.

To help your puppy stay looking great in between baths, keep up regular brushing and combing in conjunction with wiping with a towel or pet wipes.  Regularly check your puppy’s ears, and if you see any discharge or abnormalities be sure to check in with your veterinarian.

How do I trim my puppy's nails?

Proper care of claws (nails) is important, and sometimes puppies need their claws trimmed.  Use a pet claw trimmer and have someone gently restrain your puppy, or better still, ask your puppy to offer their paws.  Trim each claw back a little at a time until you get close to the quick, the pink part where the blood supply is.  You can see where this is on white claws, but you will need to use your judgement on dark coloured claws. 

If your puppy has any dew claws, keep your eye on them as they will need a regular clip.  Be sure to pair this exercise with food treats to ensure a positive association with claw trimming. 

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Gum disease in dogs

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The stats

80% of dogs aged over 3 years have some form of gum disease, yet less than 10% of pet parents realise their pet has a dental health issue.  By establishing a good oral health routine from a young age, your dog can avoid becoming part of this statistic. 

The stats

80% of dogs aged over 3 years have some form of gum disease, yet less than 10% of pet parents realise their pet has a dental health issue.  By establishing a good oral health routine from a young age, your dog can avoid becoming part of this statistic. 

Teething

Puppies start losing their temporary teeth (also known as milk teeth) between 4 and 6 months of age.  These are replaced by a set of adult teeth. The milk teeth usually fall out easily and are often swallowed by the puppy.  Teething can increase chewing and mouthing behaviours, so provide plenty of quality, safe chew toys.  By the time a puppy is 7 or 8 months old, they should have all of their permanent teeth.

Gum disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is common in dogs, so start dental care while your puppy is young.  

Plaque can form on the teeth which contains bacteria and leads to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums).  Plaque can then mineralize to form tartar which leads to bad breath and gum recession.  If left untreated, this painful condition can eventually lead to tooth loss and even systemic disease such as organ failure. 

Tooth brushing

Prevention is better than cure, and the most effective way to prevent tartar deposits is to brush your dog’s teeth daily.  

Step 1: Start with pet toothpaste

Using washed hands, apply a small strip of specially designed pet toothpaste to your finger and allow your dog to lick it off.  Repeat a few times.  Pet toothpaste comes in a variety of different pet enticing flavours.  Never use human toothpaste as it’s toxic to pets.

Step 2: Now get your dog accustomed to having their mouth and teeth touched

Apply pet toothpaste to your clean finger, lift your dog’s lip and smear the pet toothpaste on the teeth and gums.  Start slowly progressing only as far into the mouth as your dog is comfortable. Be gentle and patient and use lots of positive reinforcement (treats, verbal praise).  

Step 3: Progress to using a finger-brush and then a doggie toothbrush – start with the canine teeth

Prepare the brush with pet toothpaste and gently brush the canine teeth first.  Use an up and down motion, with the toothbrush moving away from the gum to the tip of the tooth.  The front teeth are the most sensitive area of your dog’s mouth, so avoid brushing them just yet.

Step 4: Toothbrush the back teeth

After brushing the canine teeth in an up and down motion, now move to brushing the back teeth using a circular motion.  Progress only at a pace your dog is comfortable, and keep up the positive reward based training.

Step 5: Toothbrush all the teeth

Once your dog is comfortable with Step 4, hold their mouth closed around the muzzle and gently lift their upper lip to reveal the incisor teeth.  Brush these gently in an up and down motion.  Some dogs may sneeze when their incisors are brushed.

Gradually increase the amount of time you spend brushing your dog’s teeth.  Ideally, toothbrushing should be done every day.

Additional help

Specially designed dental dry food such as ADVANCE™ Dental varieties can be offered when your puppy becomes an adult.  Dental treats such as GREENIES™ can be used daily, and fed from 6 months of age.  These products are designed to help reduce plaque and tartar accumulation.  They can be especially helpful for pets who won't allow their teeth to be brushed.  

Follow these tips, to keep your dog’s pearly whites in top shape!

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Walking on the leash

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Did someone say 'walkies'?

Getting out and about on walking adventures is one of the best parts of life with a dog, but all puppies need time to get used to walking on the leash.  Follow our tips and you'll be strutting your stuff in no time!

Did someone say 'walkies'?

Getting out and about on walking adventures is one of the best parts of life with a dog, but all puppies need time to get used to walking on the leash. 

Follow our tips and you'll be strutting your stuff in no time!

How do I get my puppy used to walking on a leash?

Practice attaching a light leash to your puppy’s collar and encourage them to walk around the room.  Initially, allow your puppy to drag the leash along the floor.  Next, pick up the end of the leash and encourage your puppy to come toward you.

As your puppy moves forward, praise and reward them.  If your puppy sits and refuses to move, change direction and call your puppy towards you with an enthusiastic tone of voice.  When your puppy comes, praise and reward them. 

Keep practice sessions short and fun, so that your puppy enjoys them and views the leash in a positive way. 

How do I stop my puppy from pulling on the leash?

Your puppy should learn that pulling on the leash results in stopping, rather than going forward. 

Attach a leash to your puppy's collar and then encourage your puppy to stand near your side.  Attract your puppy’s attention by saying their name and then start walking forward.  When your puppy is walking by your side without pulling, praise and reward them. 

If your puppy pulls on the leash, stop so that your puppy cannot continue forward.  You can then encourage your puppy back to your side and begin moving forward again.  It can help to lure your puppy into position with a treat or a toy. 

Special harnesses and halters are available which can help prevent large or strong puppies from pulling on the leash.  These may be useful but should not be used as a substitute for training a puppy to walk without pulling.

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Ouch! Puppy mouthing and biting behaviour

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Sharp puppy teeth

Spend a few minutes with a young puppy and you’ll soon become aware of just how sharp those puppy teeth are.  Puppy play can quickly turn rough, but it’s important to remember that your puppy isn’t trying to hurt you.  Puppies are learning about the world, and they use their mouths to explore.  You need to help your puppy learn appropriate behaviour, so that play time is a fun and bonding experience for you both.  Let’s take a look at what you can do.

Sharp puppy teeth

Spend a few minutes with a young puppy and you’ll soon become aware of just how sharp those puppy teeth are.  Puppy play can quickly turn rough, but it’s important to remember that your puppy isn’t trying to hurt you.  Puppies are learning about the world, and they use their mouths to explore.  You need to help your puppy learn appropriate behaviour, so that play time is a fun and bonding experience for you both.  Let’s take a look at what you can do.

Play fighting

Puppies aren't able to use their hands, so they use their mouths instead.  It's normal for puppies to bare their teeth, growl, nip and bite their litter mates.  In fact, play fighting begins to develop in puppies from 2 to 3 weeks of age.  Puppies also mouth on things around them which often includes their mum.  It's often mum who is the first one to let a puppy know if a bite is too hard, or play is too rough as she starts to teach her litter 'bite inhibition'.  A puppy's litter mates also help with this too.

Learning bite inhibition

It's important to teach puppies to inhibit their biting when interacting with humans and other pets.  What might seem cute while your puppy is young can become a serious problem as your puppy grows.  You don't want your puppy biting hard or biting children.  Bite inhibition is something that every puppy needs to learn, and they'll need your help.  That way they learn how to control themselves so they can develop into a well behaved, balanced adult dog.

What should I do if my puppy is mouthing and nipping?

Think about how you play with your puppy, and encourage gentle play right from the start.  Remember that your little puppy will grow, and you want them to be well mannered around people of all ages.

A range of safe and appropriately sized chew toys are a must for every puppy.  When play becomes more vigorous, redirect your puppy by placing a chew toy in their mouth.  Your puppy then learns that this is an appropriate item to mouth on.  In the early stages, you'll need to redirect your puppy a lot so be consistent and have plenty of chew toys on hand.  

If your puppy bites you, make a short sharp yelping sound just like a puppy in pain would.  Your puppy is most likely to be startled and stop biting you.  At the same time withdraw your attention from your puppy and ignore it.  This shows your puppy that when they bite, the fun and play stops.  When your puppy is calm, gently praise and reward them. 

Positive reinforcement

Remember not to punish your puppy, as this affects the bond you are trying to develop with them.  It also gives your puppy attention when they are displaying undesirable behaviour which can back-fire on you and actually encourage the behaviour that you don't want to see.  When your puppy engages in well-mannered play, offer food rewards and verbal praise to reinforce the behaviour.  

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Common puppy feeding queries

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Feeding your puppy

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

 

Feeding your puppy

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

How much to feed my puppy?

Use the feeding guide found on pet food packaging as a starting point.  This will show you the total daily amount to offer your puppy.  Keep an eye on your puppy'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 puppy's body condition or growth rate.  

How often to feed my puppy?

In general, younger puppies 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.  

Start off dividing your puppy's total daily food into four small meals.  Over time, the number of meals can be gradually reduced so that by the time your puppy reaches adulthood, they will be on one or two meals per day.  Ensure that your puppy has free access to a continual supply of fresh drinking water in a suitable sized container.

Should I feed my puppy a home-made diet?

It can be tempting to feed a pet a diet made up of human food and table scraps.  However, it's a challenge to create a home-made diet that is complete and balanced, especially in the long term.  Puppies 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 puppy 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.

Different size puppies have different nutritional needs, so remember to choose a formula that is tailored accordingly.  ADVANCE™ has a range of puppy diets to suit the various breed sizes, so you can be sure there's a diet that’s just right for your puppy.

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Crate training your puppy

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Have you considered a crate for your puppy?  

By nature, dogs like cosy, enclosed spaces to rest in, especially if they're feeling unsure about things.  A crate provides this safe refuge for a puppy, who can seek it for some time out.  A crate is also a great way of teaching your puppy the boundaries of the house while keeping them safe and secure.  Crates can be made of various materials such as plastic or collapsible fabric or wire.  A crate should be big enough so that your dog can stand up, turn around and lie down.     

Have you considered a crate for your puppy?  

By nature, dogs like cosy, enclosed spaces to rest in, especially if they're feeling unsure about things.  A crate provides this safe refuge for a puppy, who can seek it for some time out.

A crate is also a great way of teaching your puppy the boundaries of the house while keeping them safe and secure.  Crates can be made of various materials such as plastic or collapsible fabric or wire.  A crate should be big enough so that your dog can stand up, turn around and lie down.                                                                                                                                                               

How do I 'crate train' my puppy?

Initially, your puppy may need to be ‘crate trained’ and this should always be done in a positive way and at a pace that suits the puppy.  Ensure that the crate looks inviting and let your puppy go over and investigate it.  

 

You can place food rewards around the entrance of the crate, as well as place a few inside.  Offer your puppy verbal praise to encourage them to view the crate as a great place to spend time.  Your puppy will soon be keen to explore.

 

Once they enter the crate, don’t close the crate door just yet, let your puppy enter and leave the crate as they would like.

With practice, your puppy will become more comfortable spending time in their crate and you can close the door.  If your puppy whines, ignore this behaviour and let them out as soon as they are quiet.  Slowly build up the amount of time your puppy uses their crate. 

Using the crate at night

When your puppy is happy spending some time in their crate, you can start to use it at night.  Provide your puppy with chew toys to help them self-settle in their crate.  Remember that young puppies will need regular toilet breaks every 2 to 3 hours, so set your alarm clock.  Trips to the toileting area should be done in a quiet and calm manner, so as not to signal to the puppy this is play time.  Once puppy has relieved themselves place them back in their crate to settle. 

With some practice and patience, your puppy will come to view their crate as a wonderful place.  They now have a safe place to go when they need a rest or some time out.  A crate can come in handy for other reasons too such as if your pet needs to be confined, for example, after surgery.  A crate also makes a great portable home, which can help a pet feel settled if you go on holiday together.

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