COMPLEX ISSUES…. CLOSE-QUARTER LIVING WITH PETS.
The current trend towards moving out of free-standing houses and into complexes and residential estates brings with it a host of benefits, but just as many challenges. One of the most common “bones of contention” in densely populated communities is the unruly behaviour of pets. Twisted Whiskers has some ideas on how you and your pets can stay on good terms with your neighbours.
As much as we’d like to believe we live alongside other animal-lovers, the truth is that not everyone takes care of their animals the way we do. A percentage of cats living in complexes has been abandoned at some point when their “owners” moved away. Many people think cats are independent creatures who don’t rely on humans for care, and that they will somehow “make it on their own”. While it’s true that cats are resourceful and better at fending for themselves than dogs are, this makes them opportunistic and they have to look for food elsewhere. Your kitchen the yummy delights you’ve left for your own precious kitty is a welcome bistro. Sadly, most of these abandoned animals are also unsterilized (would a person who is prepared to move away and leave their pet behind be likely to vaccinate, neuter, etc.?). This can lead to fights, spread of disease, unwanted litters, and, of course…. the dreaded spray-marking of territory.
So how do you keep your cats safe and protected in their own home environment? One answer is to keep them indoors. Cats are extremely adaptable and can thrive in an indoor environment with a few adaptations to their environment: monitor their food intake – indoor cats aren’t as active as their outdoor counterparts and they also groom more. A calorie controlled diet with an anti-hairball formula is recommended.
Provide indoor cats with plenty of stimulation and opportunities for exercise. Interactive toys that capture their attention, and “cat furniture” to be able to jump up on and down from are ideal. Twisted Whiskers offers an extensive range of cat scratches and fun activity items.
The “catio” is a fantastic invention from the US, where cats are often kept indoors. This wonderful concept involves creating an enclosed outdoor space that is linked to the inside of the home. The internet is full of cool ideas on how to construct an outdoor haven for your cat that they will be sure to love.
If you prefer to allow your kitty outdoor access, but worry about them being pestered by strays, consider setting up a “feeding station” at the bottom of your garden for the neighbourhood prowlers. Deter unwelcome felines from visiting your home by feeding your cat only at mealtimes and don’t leave tempting food down all day.
You can also prevent strays coming onto your property through painless but dissuading behaviours such as spraying the stray cat with water from a hose, or by creating a startling noise near them. The sound of a tin can containing some stones landing near (not on!) a cat gets the message across effectively too.
To keep unwelcome cats out of flower beds, powdered tobacco (sold at nurseries), or repellent preparations available from Twisted Whiskers will help maintain friendships with garden-proud neighbours.
The most common complaint about dogs in complexes or estates is excessive barking. This problem is best pre-empted by researching the breed before you plan to get a dog. Just because a dog is little, doesn’t mean he’s ideally suited to a smaller property. Many small breeds like Jack Russells, Schnauzers and Dachshunds are hunting breeds and are hard-wired to respond to movement and noise, and to alert the hunter. Add a high wall with no visual access to the mix and you have a dog who barks incessantly at every sound. Ensure that your dog is socialised from 8 weeks of age, so that he’s confident around different stimuli. Allow your dog a view outside his four walls, so that he can see the world around him – hearing all of those interesting sounds but being confined in an enclosed ‘cell’ can be very frustrating for dogs.
Provide a range of interactive toys to entertain your dog while you’re out and alleviate boredom by creating a “sand-pit” for him in one corner of the garden. This is his turf alone and will prevent him landscaping the rest of the property. Rotate his toys every couple of days and bury them in his sand-pit for added interest. Fill some with treats or peanut-butter or hide biscuits and kibbles around the garden for him to discover throughout the day.
Or take him to Doggy Day Care a couple of times a week to socialise with other pooches and enjoy some fun activities? Twisted Whiskers is affiliated with the best trainers and day-cares around – ask us for a recommendation.
Walk your dog often, if not daily (based on breed and age of your dog); dogs familiarise themselves with all the scents in their garden in a few hours and they need to go outside your property regularly to experience new things. Include your dog in as many outings as you can – a well-socialised dog is a pleasure to have around and you won’t have problems associated with a bored animal.
If your neighbour’s dog is being a noisy menace, consider taping or videoing him as the owner may not be aware of the problem; especially if it only happens when they are away. Approach the issue respectfully, and suggest a consultation with a pet behaviourist. Animals don’t act out of malice; territory marking, barking, etc. are all completely normal behaviours for them. We need to find out the reasons behind the unwanted behaviour and work from there.
Peaceful interaction with human and animal neighbours is a pretty extensive subject, and one which we’ve literally just touched on here; chat to Twisted Whiskers staff, your vet or a pet behaviourist if you have specific issues you need assistance with. There’s always someone who has been through it themselves or has the answer or a referral for you.
© Written By Twisted Whiskers