Making a cat carrier cat-friendly

Posted by Halifax Veterinary Hospital Blogging Team on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 @ 09:51 AM

cat.jpgDoes your cat hate getting in their carrier? If so, your cat is not alone. Unfortunately, cat carriers are an important part of a cat’s life and are a highly recommended mode of transportation when bringing a cat to a veterinarian’s office; even a cat-friendly practice such as the Halifax Animal Hospitals. But when you think about it, more often than not cats only get into their cat carrier if they are going someplace unfamiliar or to someplace stressful, such as the veterinarian’s office. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising that a cat would not want to get into, let alone stay, in their cat carrier. Luckily, there are things you can do to get your cat used to their carrier:

Don’t hide it

Make your cart carrier a part of your cat’s everyday environment. Keep the carrier someplace where the cat can get to it, and keep its door open. Your cat will explore the carrier on his or her own terms and may just figure out that it’s a comfortable space to sleep.  

Make positive associations

Don’t just use the cat carrier for trips to the veterinary office or to your cat boarding facility. If possible, take your cat for car rides to the park or someplace else they may like using the carrier. This will make your cat realize that being in the carrier does not always mean they are going someplace they don’t like.

You could also place a familiar toy or blanket in the carrier. The smell will remind your cat of home and may make them feel more at ease while in the carrier.

Alternatively, you can calm your cat using a pheromone spray in the carrier. These sprays are known for their calming effects on cats. 

Wash it

Cats like clean habitats, so if you use the carrier a lot make sure to keep it clean – especially after a visit to the veterinarian’s office.

When selecting a cat carrier, don’t select one simply because it looks like a designer purse. The best all-purpose carrier is a medium-sized (large enough to fit an adult cat comfortably) plastic box with a handle and openings in the front and the top. These cat carriers are portable, durable and easy to clean.

They key is to introducing any carrier to your cat is to do it in a drama-free way. You want your cat to see their carrier as a safe, comfortable space and not associate it with bad smells or situations. 

We hope to see you soon...  and remember we are here to answer health and behavior questions too.

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Topics: cat care, pet travel, pet training, pet behaviour

Highest and Lowest Maintenance Pets

Posted by Halifax Veterinary Hospital Blogging Team on Thu, Oct 13, 2016 @ 11:08 AM

baby.jpegHaving a household pet will add value to your life in ways that you never imagined possible. The pet will keep you company when you are feeling lonely and liven you up as they play around the house with toys. Apart from companionship, there are also some health benefits that you can derive from pets. A study done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed that having a pet at home can reduce the risk of a child developing allergies, for instance. This is based on the fact that exposure to pets at an early age triggers the child’s body to develop a robust immune system to counter the allergens. They can also bring a lot of joy to their owners, as they bring happiness and can improve your mental state. The maintenance level of pets, however, and have an impact on all of the benefits.

Here are some of the highest maintenance pets in the world today:


Chinchillas are ranked among the softest and cutest pets in the world today. However, they are very expensive to maintain. High temperatures can compromise their health, so you should ensure that the temperature in their enclosure does not fall below 75 degrees. Exposure to high moisture can harm their skin, and they should take several dust baths per week. Unlike other pets, such as cats, chinchillas do not like to be cuddled, and their diet should be balanced and in line with their nutritional requirements.


What is unknown to most people who buy rabbits is that they can seriously injure themselves, and these fluffy pets are susceptible to heart attacks when startled. Just like chinchillas, rabbits require a special diet plan that meets all their nutritional requirements. They also very active and require a lot of exercise, so they should be allowed to play and hop around the house during the day. It is also important to note that they have a habit of nibbling things. You will also have to clean the litter box daily to prevent infections and maintain a high hygiene level inside the cage.

Let us shift gears and look two of the lowest maintenance pets.


This is a type of parakeet that has a small body structure and is very friendly. The bird gets accustomed to living and socializing with people at a young age and can bring a lot of joy to your life. As you walk around your home, you can train the budgie to perch on your body and to mimic some of the words that you say. The only downside is that they don't have limits when it comes to their bodily it is best to place a towel on your clothing before allowing a budgie to sit on your shoulder.

Guinea Pigunspecified.jpeg

The guinea pig is an ideal choice for children who want a pet, but you aren't ready for a dog or cat. When happy, the guinea pig will love to play, and the sound of your fridge opening will often bring a squeak of delight, as they know where you keep the good food.

No matter what type of pet that you decide to keep, make sure that you provide the utmost care and attention, and always schedule regular vet appointments to keep your pet healthy. When it comes time to find care for your pet, we’d love to be your vet, come and tour our hospital and learn more.

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Topics: best vet, pet training

Urine Marking Feline or Canine

Posted by Halifax Veterinary Hospital Blogging Team on Fri, Oct 07, 2016 @ 07:42 AM


Pet owners are always looking for the best care for their pets because many of us love them like they are part of the family. When behavioral problems occur it can be frustrating.

One of the most common problems with cats is urine marking around the house and sometimes, right outside of the litter box. Many cat owners are at a loss of what they can do to stop and even prevent this kind of behavior. To begin, here is a list of possible reasons as to why your cat might be doing this:

  • Moving into a new home
  • Bringing in additional cats to the environment
  • Having a new person come to live in the home whether a relative or a new child
  • The stress that comes from holiday commotion and hustle and bustle
  • Various medical conditions that need to be diagnosed by veterinarian
  • Litter boxes that are not easy to step into, that are never clean, or not enough or large enough for all the cats to use, the use of scented or different textured litter

This is why special care needs to be taken to prepare your home for a pet or keep it calm and friendly for that cat to reside in. Behavioral problems in animals are very similar to the ones humans may express. They are typically caused by an unwanted or unsavory situation that promotes either an animal or a human to act out, in this case, for cats to urinate where they are not supposed to.  A natural pheromone product called Feliway also helps to naturally decrease stress.

Bringing a cat to the vet can be very stressful not only for the cat, but for the owner too. Knowing that there may be other animals there which may upset your cat is sometimes unavoidable, but this is why certain veterinarians take pride in providing a cat friendly practice. This is a certified organization that specializes in making the environment welcoming and calming for your cat when you have to take them to the vet. This includes things like textured mats on the examining table, examination rooms that only cats use with no dog scents, and separate areas for cats with scratching posts and other inviting tools to try and make your cat feel more at home. With three locations in Quinpool, Fairview, and Spryfield, our Quinpool Veterinary Hospital is a Certified Feline Friendly Practice one of those places that take the time to make you and your cat welcome and well taken care of. All of our practices use low stress handling and a pheromone spray/diffuser in the exam rooms and kennels which naturally decreases stress for your cat. We also place your cat in the exam immediately to decrease the chance of other animals upsetting your cat. They even have a strict policy about not declawing cats as this has also been related to behavioral problems causing unwanted urination around the home. Safe alternatives are offered instead with information on what this procedure ultimately does to your cat long term.

If you have questions about your cat's behavior, ask your vet.  

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Topics: pet training, cat care, pet behaviour

How to Choose a Dog Trainer

Posted by Melanie Taljaard on Mon, Jul 08, 2013 @ 07:22 AM

by Amanda Mullins, RVT, BSc. (Animal Sciences)

Teaming up with a dog training club can be one of the most enjoyable thingsdog trainer halifax you can do with your dog. Trainers can help help enhance your everyday relationship, help you trouble shoot and they also help you meet like minded dog owners and you can develop lasting people and dog friendships.

Choosing a dog trainer can be one of the most challenging decisions as a pet guardian. A good trainer can aid you and your dog into doing great things together, a bad trainer can set you up for an un-trusting and fearful relationship.

1. Choose a reward based training program:
There are multiple ways to train dogs, it is critical to ask your trainer of their methods. Each dog has their own unique personality, motivators and will thrive with different styles of learning. Make sure your trainer is willing to adjust their program to suit you and your dogs individual needs. Focus on programs that use motivators rather than punisher's. Research proves that punitive training methods and tools (electronic shock collars, pinch/prong collars, choke collars, physical force and intimidation) inhibit learning and the motivation to learn. These methods can worsen problem behaviors and hinder the positive and trusting relationship you want to build with your dog. Avoid trainers who use these methods.

2. Make sure your trainer is also a good teacher.
Often you will attend a group class and have homework to do on your own. It is important to choose a trainer who fully explains the pros and cons of their teaching methods. Ensure that you understand how to teach the desired behavior and what to avoid when teaching your dog at home. Trainers should provide individual feedback to each handler/dog team and help them trouble shoot. Questions should be answered clearly and they should follow up with you to make sure explanations are clear and working. Class sizes should be small enough to ensure each dog has ample working space and the trainer can provide individual attention.

3. Choose a trainer who is committed to their knowledge.
Most trainers are self taught or mentored by another trainer. Be sure to choose someone who follows up with current trends and research. Trainers should attend continuing education events that are relevant to their practice and pay attention to science based results.

4. Choose a trainer who is respectful to you and your dog.
A good trainer will work with you at your pace and comfort level. Trainers should never push you into a situation that stresses yourself or your dog. Make sure your trainer explains the signs of stress, fear or uncertainty your dog may exhibit in a variety of situations. A trainer should never make you feel bad about your progress, comfort level or your dogs individual quirks. Don't be afraid to ask for alternative options during a class or training session. If something isn't working for you or your dog, be sure to address it and find another solution with your trainer.

5. Choose a humble trainer.
A conscientious trainer will not offer training guarantees, these trainers will understand that behavior is variable and always changing. No environment or situation is the same and can elicit different reactions from your dog. A humble trainer is someone who has seen a variety of responses from dogs and who will understand that dog training is a life long process, not a quick fix.

6. Choose a trainer who knows when to collaborate.
Choose a trainer who knows when it is time to ask for help from outside sources. This is important when dealing with problem behaviors. Trainers should feel comfortable referring a client to an animal behaviorist when their options have been exhausted. They should feel comfortable asking for veterinary help when a medical cause may be suspected or medications may need to be used. Trainers should have knowledge of common health problems associated with behavioral concerns and the effects of behavioral medications. All dogs that have behavioral problems should be examined by a veterinarian to rule out a medical cause and a good trainer will insist upon this.

7. Choose a trainer who puts health first.
A training club should insist upon a clean bill of health, vaccine status/titer report and parasite/flea prevention before allowing dogs into the program. Many diseases are infectious and can be spread through the air. Dogs should be considered healthy before spending a lot of time together. Going to a training club should be for the betterment of your dog, not to come home with an illness or parasite.

Topics: animal hospital, dog training, pet training

The Trouble with Punishment, Dominance and Force when Interacting with your Pet.

Posted by Melanie Taljaard on Sat, Jun 15, 2013 @ 07:47 AM

by Amanda Mullins, RVT, BSc. (Animal Sciences)

(as adapted from Dr. Sophia Yin's “Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs and Cats”):

It is our responsibility to not only ensure the physical health of a pet but also their mental health. We strive to the enhance the human animal bond through keeping pets healthy, but by also placing an emphasis on keeping the client and pets everyday relationship healthy and happy.

Here are nine reasons why punishment, dominance and force are not the best methods when training or interacting with your pet.

1. The punishment must be strong enough to be effective.
The intensity of the punishment must be strong enough to suppress the undesired behavior completely. Often owners or trainers begin using a low level of punishment (ex. A low level of shock on a shock collar) and then findbehavior themselves needing to increase the intensity when the pet becomes habituated to the previous level of punishment. Eventually you will reach a level of punishment that is physically dangerous to the pet. For example, shock collars can cause burns and choke and prong collars can cause wounds, tracheal damage, collapse and temporary airway obstruction. Even if you reach a high enough level of intensity the effects are only temporary.

2. The punishment could cause intense fear, which may be generalized.
If you find a level of punishment effective enough to suppress the behavior, the animal may become overly sensitive or fearful to the object, person, place or other environmental surroundings. For example, if another dog is always around when you punish your dog, your dog may begin to associate other dogs with an incoming punishment.

3. Punishment can increase or cause aggression.
Early in the 1960's it was well established that punishment can cause aggression. A recent study (2008) showed that using punishment (kicking, pushing, hitting, alpha rolling, shocking etc) elicited an aggressive response. Subtle stress signals often go missed and the animal reacts to a stressful, confrontational or painful encounter with aggression.

4. The punishment must occur at the exact time the undesirable behavior occurs.
Research shows that punishment is not effective if it does not occur at the exact time as the undesirable behavior. If you come home and your dog urinated in the house while you were away, some people may use the old “rub their nose in it” method. This only sends the message that when you come home something bad will happen and your dog will begin to avoid you rather than greet you. A study in 1967 showed that even a delay of 2 seconds has ineffective results.

5. Immediate rewards may outweigh the future possibility of punishment.
Even if your pet does associate the punishment with the behavior, the immediate rewards of the behavior may outweigh the effects of a possible punishment. Animals often still perform the undesirable behavior because they are unsure of when/if the punishment will happen (usually due to a lack of consistency or timing on the owners part). For example, my dog will still counter surf because it usually takes me a while to notice he is in the kitchen doing something naughty.

6. Punishment can strengthen the undesirable behavior.
The punishment has to occur every time the animal performs the undesirable behavior. Often owners have the punishment on a variable schedule (it only occurs sometimes and it rarely occurs during the undesired behavior).  Behaviors happen most frequently when rewards are on a variable schedule. Animals tend to work harder and offer more behaviors when they don't know if a reward is coming or what the reward will be. Using the counter surfing example again, the reward of eating what's on the counter is on a variable schedule. Sometimes there are good food items on the counter and sometimes there is nothing on the counter. If I only punish my dog when I happen to find him on the counter, the variable of a food reward up there outweighs any potential punishment.

7. Punishment can suppress some behaviors while masking the underlying emotional state.
Often people will use punishment to eliminate the outward signs of a behavior we deem unacceptable. For example, a dog may be punished every time they growl or raise their lip because the owner dislikes the aggression. Outward signs can be eliminated but the underlying cause is often forgotten. Which may lead to teaching the dog to suppress his warning signs and later immediately bite because he was punished when trying to communicate his emotions.

8. Punishment can lead to a poor bond.
The human animal bond is weakened every time you punish your dog. If training sessions are associated with the shock or prong collar and impending pain the dog will begin to dislike training and shut down emotionally when you try to work with your dog. The unpredictability of if a punishment is coming or not can keep dogs in an anxious state and chronically fearful of the punisher (often the owner).

9. Punishment fails to show the animal the appropriate behavior.
If all the conditions are ideal and the punishment is delivered at the right intensity and time, we still fail to show the pet the correct behavior. In the end we teach them what not to do and leave them wondering what to do.

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior frowns upon the use of punishment and dominance in training. Their position statements can be found here:

Halifax Veterinary Hospital Inc. does not promote or condone the use of punishment, force or dominance when interacting with your pet. It is our promise to you that we will never use these methods while your pet is in our care.

Topics: dog care, pet training, pet behaviour