A Cat’s Tongue… 7 Things You Never Knew

Whether you’re a cat lover, a dog lover, or both, you’ll probably agree they’re different.  One of those differences… their kisses.  Because cats have unique tongues.

They feel like sandpaper.

That’s because a cat’s tongue is covered in backward-facing papillae—barbs made of keratin, the same substance as human fingernails.

That sandpaper tongue serves several purposes, particularly for an outdoor cat or a cat in the wild.

1)   Grasping and pulling meat from the bones of its prey

The little hook-like structures on the tongue give the cat a good grasp on the meat of its prey.  This enables them to pull the meat from the bones very effectively.

2)   Collecting dirt, debris and loose hair from their fur

Cats groom themselves endlessly.  In fact, they spend more than half their waking hours on grooming.   That prickly tongue will catch anything on the fur that’s not supposed to be there

If you don’t groom them regularly, all the loose fur they lick up can lead to hairballs.

And those barbs, they’ll latch on to anything collected on the tongue.  Even something unintended for consumption.

Because the barbs face toward the throat a piece of yarn, string or tinsel in their mouth can be dangerous.  They’re not able to just spit it out. When not in licking mode, the spines lay flat.  And the cat will swallow these dangerous items.

Cat tongues are designed for intake only.

3)   Detangling knots

In a single swipe, a cat’s tongue moves in 4 different directions.  Because the spines are hook-like, the tongue acts like a flexible comb that snags on knots and teases them apart.  A handy grooming tool…

4)   Removing parasites

When your cat is grooming, their tongue removes anything in its path, including parasites and their eggs.

5)   Maintaining their ability to ambush their prey and hide from their predators

Cats are ambush hunters.  They will use extreme licking to hide their smell so they can go undetected by their prey allowing them to pounce before being noticed.

They will also lick every remnant of a fresh kill off their fur to avoid detection by their predators.

6)   Waterproofing fur

The sandpapery tongue helps redistribute oils produced by the cat’s skin to provide some waterproofing.

7)   Cleaning wounds

When a cat licks a wound, the barbs will get into the wound and clean out dirt.  And the saliva contains compounds that are antibacterial.

But a cat can go overboard and turn a tiny abrasion into a big lesion—and a big headache—if they lick themselves raw.

Necessity is the mother of invention—no truer words exist when speaking of adaptations in the animal kingdom.

Do you remember your reaction the first time a cat licked you?  Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Winter Blues… Pets Suffer From Depression Too

Short gray days at this time of year can make anyone feel a little low.  I attended college in Binghamton, New York where the sun didn’t shine from late October until late April.  I can tell you with certainty that when I was there, I suffered from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)… winter depression.  It’s a problem for many people.

But how about our pets?  Is it possible they’re affected by seasonal changes too?  And what about depression in general?  Can our pets be depressed?

If your pets are used to enjoying the outdoors—long walks in the park, games of fetch in the yard, hikes in the mountains—you can be sure they’re feeling down if bad weather’s keeping them housebound.

Are you noticing signs of the winter blues?  Our pets don’t care if the weather’s nice or not.  They still want and need to exercise… both their bodies and their brains.  Keeping a regular exercise routine, even if you have to take it indoors to an agility gym or play games of “Find It”, is essential to keeping your pet happy in every season.

But what about just generalized depression?  Have your pets ever been in a bad mood at other times of the year?

It’s likely pets experience depression, but maybe not in the same way people do.  We can’t be sure how our pets feel depressed because they can’t tell us.

In humans, doctors diagnose depression through dialog with a patient.  The patient can tell the doctor what they’re experiencing.  An animal has no ability to explain their state of mind.  So it’s a little more challenging to say they’re suffering from depression, as we think of depression.

But we know our pets suffer from depression-like symptoms.

Because of their inability to talk to us though, we can’t be sure that the symptoms they are experiencing are being caused by depression and not a medical problem.  The signs of depression are also linked to other health issues.

See your veterinarian as soon as you notice any of the behavioral changes I talk about in this article to rule out a health problem that needs treatment.

How do you know if your pet’s depressed?

A pet that’s depressed will act differently.  So take notice of any changes in their normal behavior.  Things like:

Lack of interest in playing

Sleeping more

Changes in appetite

Drinking less

Hiding

Destructive behavior

Aggression

Pottying in the house or outside the litter box

Lack of or excessive grooming

Lethargy

Withdrawing from attention

Moping

Pacing

Whining or crying

What would cause your pet to become depressed?

In pets, depression is short-lived, and it’s generally brought on by change.  A new home, a new baby or pet in the house, or a stay-at-home owner getting a job outside the house.  These can all lead to depression.

But the most common reasons for depression in our pets are the loss of an owner or companion animal.

Unfortunately, loss is a part of life… for everyone.   But there are ways to lessen the blow for our pets.

How can you keep those tails wagging?

During periods of change in your home, try to keep your pet’s routine the same.  Keep up with daily exercise, play and cuddle time—even if your new circumstances make it difficult.  Your pet needs their regular routine.

If your pet is moping, try not to reward that behavior by lavishing affection on them.  Instead, get them to do something that makes them happy and reward that behavior.

For instance, grab the leash for a walk.  If they wag their tail and show excitement, praise that happy behavior.

With a cat, give them their space.  But when they come to you, try to engage them in an activity they like and give them affection when they respond.

If you use this method of behavior modification early on, you can often avoid a prolonged period of depression.

Most pets bounce back in a few days or weeks.  They just need a little more TLC, exercise, and attention.

But if your pet falls into a depression you aren’t able to help them shake, talk to your vet about meds.  Some of the medications used for depression in people are also available for our pets.  Vets often prescribe drugs like Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft.

Medication takes time to kick in—up to 2 months.  But your pet probably won’t need to be on it for more than 6 to 12 months.

If you prefer to take a more holistic approach, herbal supplements are available for pet depression.  A holistic vet can help you find the one that’s right for your dog or cat.

But remember, never give your pet any drugs or supplements without talking to your vet first.  They can have adverse effects if your pet is sick or is on other medications.

Depression is treatable in people and pets.  It just takes a little education to see the signs so you can act… because happiness is something we all want for our pets.

Has your dog or cat suffered from depression?  How did you know and what did you do about it?  Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

7 Herbs That May Be Good For Your Cat

You may or may not believe in using herbal supplements to treat what’s ailing you. But have you ever thought about using them for your cat’s medical conditions?

They can often help where traditional medications have fallen short. And they can also be a terrific complement to traditional medicine.

Just as herbs are beneficial for treating conditions in people, they can help our pets too.

But always check with your vet before giving herbs to your cat. Some herbal supplements can be toxic if you give your cat too much. And they can be inadvisable if your pet is taking other meds.

And remember that a supplement can be good for one condition, but make others worse. Only your vet can tell you if your cat is a good candidate for herbal remedies.

Here are 7 herbs to consider for your feline.

1) Valerian Root

People use valerian root to help them sleep. In cats, it has the opposite effect. Valerian root will give your cat a boost of energy. This is helpful if you have an overweight, lazy cat you’d like to get moving.

Valerian root is a great alternative to catnip if your kitty isn’t a fan. Or you can use both on different occasions. It makes them feel euphoric and can reduce stress. Actinidine is the active ingredient in valerian root that produces the euphoric response.

You can sprinkle valerian root on their scratching post or toys. You can even find toys laced with it.

2) Dandelion

Dandelion root is a diuretic. It promotes liver detoxification and keeps the urinary tract healthy.  The root of this pretty yellow flower is just good for digestion.

And how about a laxative?  Does your cat need one? Dandelion root’s a natural remedy.

You may be wondering about the flower itself.  Well, it can be a safe and gentle pain reliever.

3) Catnip

If you have a cat, you know catnip is kitty crack. It’s an herb in the mint family. If a cat eats catnip, it acts like a sedative. But if your kitty sniffs it, this herb also known as Nepeta produces a “high” that lasts for about 10 minutes.

Nepetalactone is the compound in the leaves and stems that produces the response in your cat. The scent mimics that of feline pheromones. The “high” your cat feels from sniffing this herb may make them act hyper.

Cats inherit the sensitivity to Nepetalactone and only about half of all cats are actually sensitive to the herb.

Because the sensitivity takes time to develop, young kittens won’t react to catnip. Your cat must be several months old before they experience the “high”, if at all. And if your cat is exposed to it often, they may lose their sensitivity.

4) Goldenseal

Goldenseal is a natural antibiotic. Make a goldenseal tea.  Strain, cool, and make a compress for infected or irritated eyes.

You can also use goldenseal as a disinfectant on wounds. Turn the powdered root into a poultice and apply it to skin infections or ulcers.

Goldenseal has anti-inflammatory properties too.

5) Eyebright

Eyebright is an herbaceous flowering plant. It’s one you might never have heard of.  But this is an herb that seems to be a panacea for upper respiratory infections. Eyebright helps nasal mucous, sneezing, and breathing difficulties, as well as eye rubbing. It also supports the immune system.

Eyebright is often made into a tea—1 to 2 teaspoons added to your cat’s food. Or use it as a wash for the nose or eyes.

6) Nettle

You may choose to buy this one in supplement form to avoid having to harvest it from your garden. The little hairs that cover the nettle plant will sting your skin and cause blisters. Its other name is stinging nettle… for a reason.

But nettle packs a health punch!

A tea of nettle is helpful in treating seasonal allergies. There are histamine-like substances in nettle. These substances may slow the body’s own release of histamines… the cause of those allergic reactions.

Nettle is rich in vitamins and minerals including Vitamin C and iron. These nutritive properties make nettle an all-around great addition to your cat’s food.

It also reduces itchy skin from fleabites when used topically. And there’s evidence nettle may help with kidney function.

7) Parsley

Veterinarians use parsley to support urinary tract health. It helps prevent kidney stones and is used to treat cystitis.

Parsley stimulates appetite in cats that are poor eaters. And it’s good for digestion, not to mention fresh breath!

Parsley has a lot of folic acid… very beneficial to heart health. And some claim parsley discourages tumor growth, particularly lung tumors.

In cats that have given birth, parsley is useful in promoting lactation and contracting the uterus. But never give parsley during pregnancy. It can cause contractions.

You can also rub parsley leaves on the skin to help with bruising and itching.

These are only a handful of herbs that are natural remedies for what’s ailing your kitty. There are many other herbs that can be helpful where traditional medicine hasn’t been. You can get lots of information on this topic from a holistic veterinarian.

And if you decide to grow any of these herbs in your garden, you’ll want to research the best and safest ways to use them. A holistic vet can help.

But if you decide to buy herbs in supplement form instead of growing them, buy from a reliable source. Reputable sellers should be more than happy to tell you how to use them effectively and safely.

Herbs are generally not harmful when used topically.

But as I said at the start, herbs taken orally can endanger your cat. Some herbs are poisonous. Some are only poisonous in high doses. Some are contraindicated with traditional medications. So always talk to your vet before starting your cat on any herbs or herbal supplements.

Do you give your cat herbs? How have they helped? Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

11 Signs Your Pet Is in Pain

The only thing worse than seeing our fur babies suffering in pain is knowing they were suffering, and we didn’t realize it.

Instinctually, dogs and cats will try to hide their pain in order not to appear weak to a predator. But there are subtle signs you may notice if they’re suffering.

1) Excessive grooming

When a dog or cat is in pain, they will often groom the area that’s causing them pain to clean and care for the wound. Even if there is no wound but the pain is internal, they may lick the spot.

2) Heavy panting

When your dog pants, you probably think nothing of it. But excessive panting warrants attention. It’s a sign of stress and that stress can be caused by pain.

One of my labs panted like crazy towards the end. I live in a warm place, so I assumed she was just cooling herself. But when I look back, I realize she was panting all the time… not just after activity.

I took too long to realize the panting was a sign of her pain.

Besides panting, you may also find that their breathing is faster or shallower. This can be a sign it hurts to breathe but it can also be a sign of general pain.

Your pet may be subtler. If they lick their lips when you touch a part of their body, they may be telling you it hurts.

3) Inappetence

Lack of appetite, particularly if your pet is a good eater, should be a red flag. Their pain may make it difficult to stand or to lean over the bowl. But when you’re in pain, you sometimes just don’t feel like eating.

Inappetence can be a sign of many ailments, some serious. So this definitely warrants a trip to the vet.

4) Shyness and aggression

An animal in pain can act out. They may try to bite or scratch if you try to touch them. If your always-sweet dog growls or snaps, or your mellow cat tries to bite or scratch you, they’re trying to tell you something. They’re going into protection mode so you don’t hurt them.

Have your vet evaluate your pet so you don’t get hurt.

If your friendly pet is suddenly hiding or doesn’t greet you at the door like usual, check for pain. They may avoid you so you don’t hurt them.

Some pets will seek constant affection when they’re suffering. But if the pet that typically likes to be held won’t let you pick them up or cries when you do, this is a warning sign.

Any noticeable change in attention seeking should cause you to question if something’s up.

5) General behavior changes

Is your pet depressed, lethargic, or mentally dull? Any extreme changes in behavior should cause the light bulb to go on.

If your pet suddenly won’t walk steps, jump, climb, or chase a ball something’s wrong. Everyone knows what it’s like to be in pain. You don’t want to do anything that’ll increase the pain.

You may also notice limping or stiffness when they stand.

A general disinterest in the things your pet used to love is a signal that something’s amiss.

6) Unexplained accidents

When a pet is in extreme pain, they may have accidents in the house. When the pain is too much to get up, a dog may not make it outside to do their business and a cat may not get to the litter box.

And if squatting is painful, they may just do their business in their bed.

7) Excessive vocalizations

If your dog is vocal, they may become less vocal. If they’re typically quiet, they may start whining, whimpering, yelping, growling, snarling, or howling. Do you find they’re vocalizing more than usual?  Check it out with your vet.

Cats may purr more. Purring is not always a sign of pleasure, so take note if your cat is purring more than is typical for them.

8) Changes in sleep

Sleep is important for healing. As a result, your pet may sleep more than usual. Sometimes though, they’re sleeping more because it hurts to move.

If your pet is pacing and not sleeping, they may be too uncomfortable to stay in one place and rest.

9) Postural changes

Your pet that normally curls up in a ball to sleep may lay flat on their side when they’re in pain.

They’re back may be arched or sunken, while some may get down in a prayer position with their rear-end up in the air and their abdomen stretched.

Your pet may take a rigid stance or their usually perky tail may be tucked.

10) Eye changes

This one may not be immediately obvious to you. Pain can cause your pet’s eyes to become dilated. Conversely, animals with eye pain often squint and their pupils may become smaller.

11) Restlessness

If you’ve ever been in severe pain, you know you can feel agitated and restless. It’s difficult to sit or lie down. The same goes for your pet.

If you see they’re pacing— or sit or lie down and then immediately get up— they’re uncomfortable.

Sometimes your pet will sit or lie in an unusual position to minimize their pain.

Anything out of the ordinary should alert you to a problem. If you sense something’s up, reach out to your vet at once.

The sooner you identify your pet’s pain, the sooner you can treat it. But never, ever give your pet a human pain med without talking to your vet first.

As our pets age, things will hurt. They’ll get sick.  And our young pets will have those inevitable accidents and illnesses.  But minimizing their pain and keeping them happy is our job as a pet parent.

Knowing what to look for will help you spot a problem quickly so you can manage your pet’s pain and keep them comfortable.

Has your pet ever been in severe pain? How did you know? Tell us in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

Head pressing in dogs and cats… no laughing matter

What could be cuter than your dog or cat rubbing its head against you for some love and affection? That’s one of the many joys of pet ownership.

But how about when your pet is incessantly rubbing its head against a wall or some other hard surface? You might think they’re just being silly. They’re not. This is serious.

This behavior, known as head pressing, is a sign something’s going on in their brain.  Head pressing differs from affectionate head butting. It’s difficult to discern in a cat because cats often rub their heads against people and objects to mark territory and show affection.

In dogs, as you can tell from the pictures, it’s more obvious.  It’s the compulsive nature of the behavior that alerts you to a problem. So it may be common in cats for them to rub their heads against things, but doing this nonstop should sound the alarm.

Photo source: dogheirs.com

Head pressing tells you there’s damage to your pet’s nervous system and it can happen to any dog or cat, no matter the breed or age.

The damage can be caused by:

Prosencephalon (forward-most part of brain) disease

Toxic poisoning

Tumor in the brain

Metabolic disorder

Infection

Stroke

Encephalitis

Head trauma

Often, head pressing isn’t the only sign of a problem. Your pet may pace or circle endlessly. You may notice changes in learned behavior—they don’t respond to commands you’re certain they know. They may have seizures, vision problems, and abnormal vocalizations.

The head pressing, pacing and circling can lead to head and feet lesions if it’s allowed to go on for too long.

This behavior is always a sign of something serious. You must get your pet to the vet immediately. And be sure to share all the symptoms you’ve noticed, no matter how incidental they seem.

Your vet will examine the retina which may show infection or some other problem in the brain. They’ll likely do a CT scan or MRI of the brain. And a blood test and urinalysis will pick up any metabolic problem or toxicity.

Your vet will recommend a treatment plan based on the underlying diagnosis. But your pet will probably need follow-up neurological exams to monitor their improvement.

I recently read about head pressing and thought this would be an easy thing to miss—or misunderstand—and wanted to bring it to your attention so you can get your pet the help they need quickly.

Have you experienced head pressing in your dog or cat? Maybe your experience can help someone else, so please share in the comment section at the top.

 

 

Declawing your cat…should you or shouldn’t you?

If you’re a cat lover, I’m certain you have an opinion about the declawing controversy.  Although I don’t own a cat, I have many friends who do.  And we’ve talked about it.

I’ve heard opinions on both sides.  I imagine you have too.  So let’s talk about why declawing is so hotly debated.

What is declawing?

Declawing is an amputation of all or part of the end bones (distal phalanges) of the cat’s toes to permanently remove the claws.

They don’t just remove the claw.  The little piece of bone that the claw grows from has to be removed too.  This prevents the claw from growing back.  It’s NOT simply a cat manicure.  Declawing is major surgery.

Declawing

Usually, only the front paws are declawed and there are a few different methods that vets use.

There’s the guillotine method that cuts a straight line through the joint between the little end bone and the next piece of bigger bone.

With the guillotine method, the pad gets cut in half too because it’s right below that joint.  That’s where a lot of the pain comes in.  Cutting the pad is like cutting the tip of your finger off. With this method, it can take weeks for your cat to fully recover and walk comfortably.

Then there’s cosmetic declawing, which uses a tiny curved blade.  The vet goes inside with the blade and cuts away the bone keeping the pad intact.

This method is not as easy as the guillotine method. Because it’s time consuming, few vets use the cosmetic method.  But the recovery is easier.  The cat can walk right away.  And cosmetic declawing takes only about a week to recover from.

Either way, declawing is a painful procedure and pain management is an important part of the after care.

If a cat owner declaws their cat, the vet will suggest doing it when the cat is young.  Often they’ll do it during the spay/neuter procedure to avoid anesthesia twice.

Why do people declaw their cats?

Unfortunately, most people who declaw their cats opt for this procedure because of destructive scratching.  It ruins furniture.

However, legitimate reasons to declaw your cat do exist.  If a claw is severely damaged and can’t be repaired, it may need to come out.

If there’s a tumor in the claw, that’s a legitimate reason too.  In both cases, only the affected claw would need to be removed.

Also, a person who is immune compromised but would like to own a cat may have concerns about getting scratched.  The bacteria on the cat’s claws could be dangerous. And elderly people on blood thinners could be at risk of bleeding if they were scratched.

Some might say in these instances that the cat owner can avoid behavior that might provoke scratching.  But only a person in this situation can decide with their doctors, what’s an acceptable level of risk.

What’s the downside of declawing?

The consensus is that declawing is inhumane.   It’s painful and takes away a cat’s ability to do what comes naturally to them.  Cats have claws for a reason. They should be able to use them to scratch and stretch.

In fact, 22 countries ban the procedure and many more have said declawing can only be done if a vet deems it medically necessary.

Remember too, that declawing is surgery. With surgery, comes risk…like infection.  They can’t sterilize the paw so declawing is not a sterile procedure.  Infection is a real possibility.

Also, if the declawing isn’t done right the claw can grow back.  And it won’t grow back the way it’s supposed to.  This can lead to abscesses and other serious paw problems.

Another downside of declawing is the cat’s inability to defend itself without claws.  Once a cat is declawed, it must be kept indoors for the rest of its life.

It’s not a bad thing for a cat to be an indoor cat because indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats.  But sometimes cats get out by mistake. And that can be deadly for a declawed cat.

Are there alternatives to declawing?

Scratching is a natural behavior for a cat. They do it to remove the dead husk from their claws, to keep them sharp and to mark territory—visually and with scent.  Cats also scratch to stretch their muscles.

They need to be allowed to scratch.  So what’s the alternative to declawing?

Ideally, someone who wants a cat would get a young one and train it to scratch appropriately.  Most cats start scratching at 8 weeks old.  That’s the time to teach them how to use a scratching post.  An adult cat will have a harder time learning this.

As part of the training process, the kitten is given several proper scratching vehicles like pieces of fabric or carpet attached to a stationery object that’s an acceptable item to scratch.   The cat is and praised for using these items for scratching.

A cat that’s 8 weeks old can be trained to tolerate nail trimming.  Trimming every week can help if scratching people is a concern.

Unfortunately, trimming won’t preserve your furniture. Cats scratch to sharpen their claws.  If their claws are trimmed they’ll just want to sharpen them more…probably on your couch.

Vinyl nail caps called Soft Claws can be applied to the claw with surgical adhesive. But these must be glued on correctly for them to be effective.  You have to trim the cat’s claws before you use the vinyl caps. If your cat doesn’t tolerate nail trimming, this may not work for you.

Soft Claws last about a month and then have to be reapplied.  These work well for outdoor cats that need to be inside for a short time, maybe to recover from an illness or a weather emergency.

There’s a special tape called Sticky Paws that can be attached to your furniture to deter your cat from scratching.  But this could be impractical.  If your cat is determined you’ll end up taping your whole house.

If your cat has a favorite chair for scratching, you might be successful using the tape on that one chair.

So, should you or shouldn’t you?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, cats that have destructive scratching behavior are more likely to be euthanized, relinquished, released or abandoned.  No one wants to see more homeless cats.

Declawing is better than giving up your cat. And it’s better than making the cat live outside because it won’t live as long.

It seems to be the consensus that if all other attempts to get the cat to stop using its claws destructively have failed, or if scratching is an above normal health risk for its owner, declawing is better than euthanizing or abandoning the cat.

What’s your opinion about declawing? Share your thoughts in the comment section at the top.

 

Music to de-stress our pets

The most wonderful time of the year” is more often than not the most stressful time of the year…for us and for our pets.

Whether it’s new people coming and going, changes in routine, fewer walks and less exercise, our pets can be very stressed around the holidays. For the same reasons, we usually are too.

We love our pets. So we want to be sure we’re not overlooking their needs during this hectic time.

If your pet is anxious to begin with, the holidays will really throw them into a tailspin. So what can you do to help your furry family enjoy the holidays as much as you do?

Well, do you find that listening to holiday music is soothing to your frazzled nerves? It can be for your pets too.

It’s been known for years that music therapy is very beneficial to humans. Two significant studies have shown the calming effects of music on our pets too; one in 2002 by animal behaviorist Dr. Deborah Wells, and one in 2004 by Dr. Susan Wagner, veterinary neurologist.

Dr. Wells’ study showed that classical music had a beneficial effect on dogs in animal shelters. The music reduced barking and allowed the dogs to relax enough to fall asleep.

In 2004, Dr. Wagner joined forces with Joshua Leeds, a sound researcher with 20 years experience in psychoacoustics–the study of the effect of music and sound on the human nervous system.

Their research took Dr. Wells’ research a step further. Dr. Wells determined that classical music had a calming effect. Wagner and Leeds looked at different types of classical music to see if beats per minute and harmonic complexity made a difference to the dogs.

They discovered that not all classical music is created equal in our dogs’ minds. Their research on dogs in a kennel environment resulted in 70% of the dogs becoming calmer when the music was simple; solo instruments, slower tempos and less complex arrangements had a greater calming effect than faster more complex compositions.

In the home environment, 85% of dogs were calmer and more than half the dogs went to sleep when listening to these simple classical compositions.

They also showed that specific anxiety behaviors (fear of fireworks, separation anxiety, etc.) can be reduced with the right music.

As a result of their research, Leeds worked with a musician to create Through A Dogs Ear/Through A Cats Ear—Music and Sound Therapies for Canine and Feline Anxiety. Their recordings are psychoacoustically designed to benefit your pet’s nervous system and immune function.

Although the Wells and Wagner studies were done specifically on dogs, music works for cats too. But cats seem to have a preference for the harp.

Harpist Susan Raimond established a harp enrichment program that’s been used by the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the San Diego Zoo, and she’s spoken on the subject at several veterinary schools.

Harp music produces certain tones that humans can’t hear but cats can. These sounds have an anxiety reducing effect on cats, slowing their heart rate and their breathing pattern.

Freeborn County Humane Society in Minnesota uses a harpist to calm cats surrounded by barking dogs until they can build a separate cat building.

Diane Schneider is a harpist that created Harp of Hope, a collection of songs originally recorded for people. After a number of people told her the music calmed their anxious cats, she released an animal version.

Veterinary hospitals have even used her music to calm their anxious patients. Diane Schneider’s compositions are also specially arranged to promote relaxation.

So, although you could try just leaving the radio on, it seems that there’s a real benefit to playing music specifically designed to reduce anxiety in pets.

Not all pets will benefit from music therapy, but for some pets it really works wonders. And for those pets, it seems to work quickly.

If you’d like to give it a try, click on the links to Through a Dogs Ear/Through a Cats Ear, Susan Raimond or Diane Schneider where you’ll find CDs available for sale on their websites.

You’ll want to start playing the music for your pet when things are calm in your home to get them used to feeling calm when they’re listening to it. And then introduce the music at stressful times.

Remember, a quality diet is important to managing stress too. In fact, some nutrients can actually reduce stress. If your pet is particularly anxious, talk to your vet about their diet.

Maybe music will be the key to a stress-free holiday for you and your pet.

Has music therapy worked for your anxious pet?  Share your experience in the comment section above.  We’d love to hear about it.