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The truth and myths about cats; don’t punish your digging dog

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By KAREN CUNNINGHAM

True or false? Cats don’t need to see the veterinarian as often as dogs.

False.

Just like dogs, the best medicine for cats is prevention. You should also consider that cats are actually much better at hiding symptoms of illness than dogs. In other words, if you don’t schedule veterinary appointments as needed for your cat, you may not be aware of illness until it’s too late. Protect your cat and bring them to the veterinarian at least yearly, for a physical and to keep vaccinations current.

Cats always land on their feet. Cats do have a remarkable ability to control their bodies in mid-air and shift balance; usually they will manage to land with their feet on the ground. Still, it’s not a certainty and more importantly many people — especially children — will mistakenly assume that all cats will also land without injury. It’s important to talk with kids about playing gently and equally important to make sure all of your windows are closed or screened.

All cats hate water. While most domestic cats would rather not bathe in, swim in, or otherwise interact with water, there are exceptions: The Turkish Van, Turkish Angora, Bengal, Savannah, Norwegian Forest, Maine Coon, and other breeds may look forward to baths.

Cats are mean. Cat owners already know that there’s no truth to this rumor. Not only are cats warm and affectionate, sometimes they’re even heroes! Cats have been known to save the lives of dogs and people.

Cats are evil or bad luck. The association between black cats and evil occurred during the Middle Ages. Because black cats walked around at night, had glowing eyes, and moved stealthily, they were thought to have supernatural powers. They were even thought to be witches’ servants or even reborn witches. Let’s face it, during the Middle Ages many things were considered to be evil for equally arbitrary reasons. Furthermore, superstitions often vary by region, and in many parts of the world, cats are considered good luck.

YOUR DOG IS DIGGING UP YOUR LAWN

Punishment is not the way to stop your dog from digging. There is a reason for this behavior.

The dog may be hot, and the cooler soil is soft and refreshing. Solution: If your dog is hot, bring it indoors.

The dog may be bored. Dogs left alone for long periods need to do something to occupy their time. Solution: If your dog is bored, exercise and more of your company may solve the problem.

Your dog may be trying to escape. Solution: If your dog is trying to escape, make sure it can’t. You might need to install a foundation below the fence line.

If your female is not spayed, she may be pregnant and observing normal nesting behavior. Solution: If your dog is pregnant, find her a suitable whelping box.

Your dog may be having fun. Lots of dogs enjoy digging, especially in soft earth. Solution: If your dog is having fun, install a sandbox full of soft earth in an appropriate place. Encourage digging in the box by playing with your dog in the sandbox and burying toys for it to find.

Your dog might be giving in to predatory instincts or to a scent in the soil that the dog believes may be scrumptious. Solution: Spray forbidden areas of your yard with a nontoxic dog repellent. You may have to enclose prized garden plants to protect them.

Remember: Digging is a natural behavior for dogs to exhibit. The idea is to manage the behavior appropriately.

Karen Cunningham is president of the St. Lawrence Valley Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

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