Tuesday, September 27, 2022

One oft-overlooked strategy to tend to pets in fourth life stage is made easier with a common household object

Tending to a pet’s basic hygiene and grooming is a part of the work I do with pets in fourth life stage (the stage of life where a pet of any age is in a state of decline due to a life-limiting diagnosis or age-related causes). 

Some pets need help with hygiene, like when they have urinary or fecal incontinence. This is necessary to keep their skin and fur clean and dry, and otherwise in good integrity in those areas. And while we need to be keeping an eye on that as well as keeping their bedding dry and free from waste, more commonly pets need help with basic grooming of their fur. 

It just gets harder for them to manage as they age, especially with cats, who I’ll be focusing on here. 

The tell-tale unkempt look that encroaches on a normally fastidious groomer—usually from the mid-section of the body backward—tells us that a cat is finding it too arduous or painful to reach their hind end. Osteoarthritis is a major contributor, though with less activity in advanced age or because of pain from other sources, obesity can make it difficult for a cat to reach around to different areas of their body to keep things as tidy as they’d like. 

I’m a big believer in senior pets getting into the vet for an exam, bloodwork and an evaluation for pain, using a pain scale every 12 months and for geriatrics every six months. In doing so, families and their vets can partner more effectively to identify any changes that present, and address them appropriately: maladaptive pain being just one. Staying ahead of it sooner than later is a far better strategy. And along from anything meaningful and effective that a vet feels is appropriate to prescribe or recommend to ease the discomfort and pain (prescription medication, herbs, weight management guidance, environmental management), we humans can step up our game at home to help cats stay looking and feeling spiffy with the simplest of interactions: regular brushing. 

Of course, so long as a cat can tolerate being touched from a behavioral or decreased physical comfort standpoint. Not all are able to. And so if not, just don’t. It’s not worth the risk of stressing them out or acquiring an injury from a scratch or a bite.

That said, most cats liked to be brushed—albeit on their terms!—and so as always, I let the ones in my care lead what that looks like. If they can tolerate my using their usual brush, great. But if not, I find that an unconventional-but-ordinary object is an effective and comforting alternative. It’s also safer.

By using a new, clean soft toothbrush to gently stroke and groom the fur, caregivers can remove some of that loose fur, offer a comforting touch and provide other benefits, listed below. If your cat can tolerate being petted, giving them a wipe down with a baby wipe (I like Water Wipes) beforehand can boost the effectiveness of the session. 

Benefits 👇

 contributes to the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of a pet

 when a pet’s appearance is optimal, that positively impacts their human’s mental state 

 the gentle handling facilitates the release of endorphins 

 is easy to do


 strengthens the human-animal bond  

 can in some cases trigger a desire to eat 

More on this below 👇

With over 20 years of experience in pet care, Lorrie Shaw is an Animal Hospice Palliative Care Practitioner, Certified Fear Free Professional–pet sitter and CXO of Telos Companion Animal Services, LLC. She can be found at lorrieshaw.com.

Friday, April 1, 2022

A affordable option to incorporate Fear Free into your pet’s routine also keeps vets happy

Here’s a follow up to an idea that I posted to Facebook in March. 

We all know how vital the notion of having the most helpful and awesome tools are to interacting effectively, efficiently and safely with the pets in our life. The same is true for thinking about the economy of it all. Stuff is expensive. 

Jack Russell terrier, looking hopeful

I frequently keep commercially available baby food pouches on hand and use (upon family’s consent) as a tool with pets to provide a distraction from unpleasant things during vet visits. They’re also useful when traditional treats (reinforcers) aren’t enough I need to employ a high value reinforcer to get the behaviors I want and need from a dog or a cat, and my hands need to stay clean. 

Reusable baby food pouches are a great option that is consistent with a set of strategies that encompass the Fear Free philosophy, and they meet the requirement of being affordable while being able to deliver whatever tasty, puréed/slurried food reinforcer a pet deems to be one that is super-high value. 

Another really important aspect of these pouches is they address a hurdle that many families face: staying adherent to a pet’s dietary restrictions. Many pets have health issues, for example IBD/IBS or kidney disease, that necessitate special diets—even prescription food. Most prescription diets are available in canned varieties and can be used to fill the pouches, though in a pinch, surely kibble could be crushed up and soaked in warm water to soften and create a mush that can be loaded into them. 

In any case, it’s not a tough sell to see why you need to get your hands on these inexpensive tools, regardless of the Fear Free interaction you want to nail, yes, even during training. They’re customizable, easy to clean and disinfect, and reduce the load on landfills.

Click here to obtain yours. 

Lorrie Shaw

With over 20 years of experience, Lorrie Shaw is a Certified Professional Pet Sitter, Certified Fear Free Professional–pet sitter, 
and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. A specialist in ancillary pet palliative and pet hospice care, she’s also a member of Doggone Safe (where she completed the Speak Dog Certificate Program), as well as the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, Pet Sitters International, Pet Professional Guild, International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (supporting member) and Ann Arbor Area Pet Sitters. Lorrie can be found at lorrieshaw.com. She tweets at @psa2