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"Of all possessions, a friend is the most precious."

- Heradotus

Our feline friends are well-known for their acrobatics and daredevil stunts. This sense of adventure may make cat videos go viral, but for high-rise condo and apartment dwellers, it’s a source of concern. 

If your cat makes a beeline for your balcony or loves to perch in an open window, you’ve probably felt a twinge of worry: Does my cat know when it’s too high to safely jump? 

While experts say that it’s unlikely that cats will deliberately leap from a dangerously high window or terrace, injuries from an accidental fall are quite common. Here is what pet parents should know about their cats’ fall risk and how to help keep them safe. 

cat looking out windowWhy do cats love heights?

Despite the risks, many cats are drawn to the highest point they can reach. 

This love of heights comes from their wild ancestors, who sought out tall trees both to stalk prey and protect themselves from predators. Today’s domestic cats are also drawn to high vantage points, and they have no natural fear of heights. For this reason, cats are naturally attracted to windows and balconies and won’t hesitate to walk along ledges or try to balance on the railing. 

What is high rise syndrome in cats?

High rise syndrome refers to the injuries that cats can sustain when they fall from a considerable height. This can happen inside your home, if they lose their balance on a second-story banister or even miscalculate a leap from one tall bookshelf to the next. 

Most serious falls, however, occur on balconies or from high exterior windows. Cats may get caught up in pursuing a bird and leap off the edge. They may also fall because they are startled, often by a pet parent who is alarmed to discover their cat perched on the railing. At particularly high heights, the wind may be strong enough to knock a cat from its perch. 

Despite our feline friends’ reputation for always landing gracefully, these falls can result in serious injuries or death. 

Common Fall Injuries in Cats

Incredibly, a New York veterinary hospital’s study of 132 cats that fell from high rise buildings revealed that 90% survived their ordeal.

Thanks to their tree-climbing ancestors, modern cats have a large surface area relative to their body mass – a feature that increases air resistance and slows down their velocity during a fall. 

Depending on the height that they fall from, as well as what hazards they meet on the way down, cats who lose their balance on balconies may experience:

  • Sprained or broken limbs
  • Broken teeth
  • Internal injuries
  • Cuts, scrapes, and abrasions
  • Punctured lungs
  • Injuries to the face and jaw

Do cats always land on their feet?cat on balcony

Cats have an innate sense called a “righting reflex” that uses their gyroscopic sense of balance to reorient themselves during a fall. Regardless of their body position at the time they lost their balance, cats will twist in midair with the goal of landing on their front feet first. For this reason, injuries to the teeth, jaw, and face are common hallmarks of a steep fall. 

While the risks of falling from a particularly tall terrace or window seem self-explanatory, shorter falls are also a danger. Cats who don’t have time to reorient their bodies in midair may be more likely to sustain injuries from an improper landing. 

How do I keep my cat safe around windows and balconies?

Because of the risk of an accidental fall, it’s best not to let your kitty perch in open windows or roam on the balcony. 

Leaving the window screen in place will allow cats to safely enjoy the view and get some fresh air. If your feline friend loves to hang out on the terrace, consider investing in a harness and leash that will allow them to lounge and explore without venturing too close to the edge.

If your cat does take a tumble, it’s extremely important that you seek out your vet right away, even if they don’t appear to be hurt. Cats are naturally stoic, and their injuries may be internal. A veterinary exam will rule out punctured lungs and internal bleeding you may not notice until they become life-threatening. 

 

If you’ve caught your dog nibbling on your lawn, your first instinct may be to assume that he has an upset stomach. 

While many people are under the impression that dogs eat grass to soothe their stomachs or induce vomiting, the precise explanation remains a mystery. Studies reveal that only 10% of dogs who are observed grazing are sick beforehand, and less than 25% vomit after consuming grass. More often than not, it seems to have no connection to nausea at all. 

Though the jury is still out on this puzzling canine behavior, here are some of the leading theories.

Eating grass may help with dogs’ digestion.

why do dogs eat grass sniffing grass

Despite our best efforts to feed our pups 

a balanced diet, they may still be attracted to the supplementary fiber that grass provides. 

Grass contains an indigestible component called cellulose, which allows it to pass through the digestive system without breaking down. Dogs who have overeaten or gotten into food that wasn’t meant for them may use grass to bulk up their stool and make bowel movements more comfortable. 

Dogs may graze for emotional reasons.

Emotional eating isn’t just for humans. Dogs who are stressed, bored, or anxious may turn to chewing grass as a way to distract themselves. This may be especially true for puppies, who need a great deal of stimulation and attention.

If you suspect that your dog is noshing on your lawn because of boredom or nerves, offer a favorite toy or a healthy snack instead. Ensuring that your pup is getting enough exercise and interaction can help reduce the urge to eat grass. 

Instincts could play a role in grazing.why do dogs eat grass happy dog

Though it isn’t believed to have been a major part of their diet, our dogs’ wild ancestors regularly ingested grass. 

Wolves have been observed grazing, and they also take in a great deal of grass through the digestive systems of their prey. Some experts believe that modern dogs may miss this second-hand grass in their everyday food. 

While high-quality dog food should meet your dog’s nutritional needs, it stands to reason that our dogs may have developed a taste for greens. 

Dogs may eat grass because they enjoy it.

Pet parents can’t discount the possibility that their dog may nibble on grass simply because it tastes good. 

Thirsty pups may be attracted to the dew or rainwater that collects on your lawn. Offering plenty of clean water and healthy treats can help make grass less appealing to your dog. 

Is it safe to let my dog eat grass?

While chewing on grass isn’t harmful in and of itself, it’s a good idea to discourage this behavior as much as possible. Grass may be treated with chemicals and pesticides that are toxic to pets. What’s more, it can be a vehicle for harmful microorganisms like giardia, hookworms, and roundworms. 

Dogs who eat grass obsessively may be experiencing behavioral problems or nutritional deficiencies. Talk to your veterinarian about any concerning behavior to keep your pup (and your lawn) healthy and thriving. 

While leukemia in humans refers to cancers of the white blood cells, feline leukemia, or FeLV, is a virus. 

Though it is the second most common cause of death in persistently infected cats, the prevention and management of feline leukemia have improved in the last several years. Get the facts on this illness, and learn how to keep your cat healthy and safe. 

feline leukemia close up catWhat is feline leukemia?

Feline leukemia is a virus that inhibits cats’ ability to fight off infections. 

Though FeLV isn’t cancer, it can cause lymphoma, a kind of cancer that attacks the immune system. Common viruses, bacteria, and microorganisms that wouldn’t pose a threat to a healthy cat can become deadly when this happens. 

Around 2-3% of cats in the US are infected with FeLV. Kittens are particularly vulnerable because their developing immune systems aren’t as well-equipped to fight off the virus. Rates of infection are also significantly higher amongst outdoor cats and those who spend time in communal settings. 

What are the symptoms?

Because FeLV makes cats more vulnerable to diseases, kitties with no secondary infection may appear to be healthy. Cats who do fall ill commonly exhibit:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Weakness
  • Anemia
  • Fever
  • Pale, sore gums
  • Weight loss
  • Persistent infections

How is it transmitted?

feline leukemia black and white cat

As the name suggests, feline leukemia can only be transmitted amongst cats. It spreads through body fluids, including saliva, urine, feces, mucous, and mothers’ milk. 

Though it’s most commonly spread by grooming and fighting, kittens can contract the virus in utero from infected mothers. This virus is comparatively rare amongst indoor-only cats — most infections occur when pet parents add a cat who hasn’t been screened for FeLV to their household. 

How is FeLV treated?

There is currently no cure, but an early diagnosis and regular veterinary care can greatly improve cats’ prognosis by dealing with secondary infections as they occur. 

FeLV is diagnosed through blood testing. If you suspect that your cat has been exposed, it’s best not to wait to confirm their status. Cats live an average of 2.5 years after they are diagnosed with FeLV, and quality medical care plays a large role in their length and quality of life. 

How can you keep your cat safe?

Feline leukemia has declined significantly in the past 25 years thanks to vaccines. 

Though vaccinations offer helpful partial protection against infection, it’s still important to consider your cat’s other risk factors. Screen cats for FeLV before bringing them into shared spaces, and be aware of your own cats’ status. 

Kitties who carry the FeLV virus should stay inside, and shouldn’t be allowed to share water bowls and litter boxes with non-infected cats. 

Talk to your vet about FeLV, and work together to develop a plan to support your cat’s health. 

The emotional connection we share with our furry friends is powerful. But we often find ourselves wondering what exactly is going on in their heads.

Cats and dogs may speak a language of their own, but researchers have identified some key behaviors that give us valuable clues about our pets’ state of mind. Here are six of the most common ways that our dogs and cats show us they love us as much as we love them. 

pets say I love you dog greeting1. Pets welcome you home.

Good news! You can take your dog’s happy dance when you walk through the door at face value – they are genuinely glad to see you. 

While cats aren’t known for being as overt in their affection as dogs, many kitties will also greet their favorite people. For cats who typically hide when strangers come into their space, this is a way of demonstrating trust and acceptance. 

2. You catch your cat or dog staring at you.

There’s a reason why “puppy eyes” are so irresistible. As pets and humans have adapted to rely on each other, we’ve also learned to bond through eye contact. Modern dogs have even evolved eye muscles that allow them to give us the deeply expressive looks that flood our brains with the feel-good chemical oxytocin. 

Cats have their own version of a meaningful glance. Take note when your kitty gives you a “slow blink” by making eye contact with you before closing their eyes for a few moments. This willingness to make themselves vulnerable is a way of showing that they feel at ease with you. 

Best of all – humans can reciprocate by locking eyes with their kitty and returning the slow blink. 

3. Your pet sleeps with you.

The pack that stays together sleeps together. For our pets’ wild ancestors, sleep was an extremely vulnerable time. It makes perfect sense that our dogs and cats have evolved to be very selective about where they choose to nap. 

For modern pups and kitties, co-sleeping is a sure sign that they consider you to be a trusted member of the family. 

Cats say I love you cat sleeping4. Your dog or cat shows you their belly.

Our pets may not have to worry about predators anymore, but they are still well aware that their bellies are a vulnerable area that would need protection if they were attacked. 

When cats and dogs voluntarily expose their tummies, they are showing you just how safe and comfortable you make them feel. 

5. They share their toys with you.

If you feel special when your pup drops their favorite toy at your feet, you aren’t alone. Resource-sharing is a common behavior in dogs who want to acknowledge their favorite humans as leaders. It can also be a demonstration of trust and an invitation to play. 

While cats are known for being more independent, they have also been known to show affection through sharing. Kitties who have successfully “hunted” a toy will often proudly present it to their favorite people as a way of showing their love. 

6. Your pet grooms you.

When our pets were small and reliant on their mothers, grooming was an important part of family bonding. We may not always appreciate their insistent licks, but for dogs and cats, keeping loved-ones clean is a way of expressing affection. 

Just like we want to keep our pets happy and healthy with regular trips to the groomer and wellness checks at the vet, they also have instincts to take care of us. Pet parents can enjoy every sloppy kiss, purr, and wag knowing that the feeling is mutual.  

 

If your dog is limping, avoiding stairs, or walking with an odd gait, hip dysplasia may be to blame. Fortunately, there are medical interventions that can help pups with this scary-sounding condition.

Learn how to recognize the symptoms of hip dysplasia and help keep your pup healthy and active at any age. 

What is hip dysplasia?

For dogs, healthy hip joints develop when the ball joint of the femur (thigh bone) and hip socket grow at the same rate. Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition that causes puppies’ femurs and pelvic sockets to grow out of sync, resulting in loose hip joints. 

Over time, the improper fit of the femur and socket can cause the cartilage and bone in dogs’ hip joints to wear down. This causes pain with movement, and eventually, osteoarthritis. 

Though hip dysplasia begins when dogs are very young, not all at-risk pups will grow up to develop the condition. A number of other factors, like hormones, body weight, and activity level will determine if a dog’s loose joints will develop into joint disease.  

hip dysplasia bulldog

What are the signs of hip dysplasia?

Because hip dysplasia is a degenerative condition, it often comes on with age. However, even puppies under a year old can suffer from hip pain and arthritis. Keep an eye out for the symptoms of hip dysplasia:

  • Limping or lameness 
  • Difficulty getting to a standing position
  • Trouble navigating stairs
  • Clicking or popping sounds from hip joints
  • Unusual “bunny hopping” gait
  • Overdevelopment in the shoulder muscles to compensate for hind end weakness

Which dog breeds are at risk?

Hip dysplasia is most common in larger dogs, as well as breeds with stocky bodies and short legs, like corgis and bulldogs. That being said, pups of all breeds and sizes can develop hip dysplasia, particularly if they are overweight. 

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed and treated?

Your veterinarian can diagnose hip dysplasia by manipulating the joints to check for grinding and stiffness. They may also take x-ray images to determine the severity of your dog’s condition in order to recommend the best course of treatment. 

For less severe cases of hip dysplasia, your vet may recommend dietary changes, physical therapy, joint supplements, or anti-inflammatory medications. More advanced joint degeneration, however, may require surgery. 

Surgical options for hip dysplasiahip dysplasia corgi

There are several different surgical procedures that can alleviate the symptoms of hip dysplasia. Your vet may be able to repair your dog’s hip joint, or they may perform a femoral head ostectomy, a procedure that removes the head of the femur to create a false joint. In some cases, a total hip replacement might be necessary.  

The best course of treatment will depend on your dog’s age, health, and the severity of their osteoarthritis. 

Prevention

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition that is present from birth. It is possible, however, to reduce the likelihood that dogs with loose joints will go on to experience pain, stiffness, and osteoarthritis. 

One of the best ways to keep your pup’s joints healthy is to keep them active and at a healthy weight. Excess body weight puts added stress on their hips, exacerbating and accelerating degeneration. 

Schedule a visit with your vet to assess your dog’s body condition score, and make a plan to be proactive about their joint health as they age. 

 

Adding a pet to your family requires thought and preparation. While brand new pet parents face the challenge of pet-proofing their homes, those who are adding to their pack are usually most concerned about how to introduce a new cat or dog to their resident pets. 

Even the friendliest pups and kitties will need time to acclimate to a newcomer, and the process can be stressful at first. Fortunately, approaching the introduction the right way can minimize both pets’ anxiety and teach them to share common space without drama. Avoid these mistakes, and you’ll help maintain the peace as your family grows. 

introducing cat and dog through window1. Rushing the introduction.

Whether you are a cat parent hoping to adopt a dog, or a dog parent excited to add a cat to your household, successful introductions happen in stages. Your new pet needs time to feel comfortable in their environment and the resident pet will have to adjust to their presence. 

Even if your cat is a natural with dogs, or your dog already has feline friends, it is best not to start with a face-to-face meeting. Set up both pets in separate areas of your home for a few days to allow your dog and cat to become familiar with each others’ scents. Feeding your pets on opposite sides of the same door can help them establish positive associations with the presence of their new sibling.  

Ideally, both pets will soon acknowledge that the other is in the home with relative indifference. Watch for signs that your dog is fixated on the cat, like:

  • Barking or whining
  • Scratching or digging at the door
  • Growling
  • Staring at the barrier separating them from the cat

Wait until any obsessive behaviors have subsided and your dog seems fully acclimated to the cat’s presence before you move on to face-to-face introductions. 

2. Introducing cats and dogs in an unfamiliar environment.

Pet parents who are introducing a cat and dog often assume that the best meeting place is on neutral territory. While this strategy seems logical, it’s likely to backfire. 

Having your pets meet for the first time in a strange environment probably won’t give you an accurate prediction of how they’ll interact at home. In actuality, this arrangement can add to the anxiety by placing the pet who would have felt more secure at home in a stressful, unfamiliar situation. 

Let the resident animal have the home-field advantage and give your pets plenty of time and space to negotiate boundaries. Keep interactions short and supervised at first while your cat and dog learn to share your home. 

3. Forcing your dog and cat to interact.introducing cat and dog cuddlings

As your pets begin to spend more time together in common areas of your home, it’s important to make sure they both have the option to retreat if they choose. 

Maintain the safe spaces that you set up for your kitty and pup when the new pet first came into your home and make sure they always have an exit route. Cats who share a home with dogs often like to escape to high spaces where they can lounge and observe. Investing in a cat tree or perch can help your pets maintain boundaries while spending time in common spaces. 

4. Failing to consider your pets’ personalities.

Because most breeds of dogs are larger and stronger than the average house cat, the greatest fear of most pet parents introducing new fur-siblings is dog aggression. Dogs with a high prey drive may be naturally predisposed to hunt cats, while others might unintentionally hurt your cat by playing too rough.

It’s also important to recognize that some cats can be aggressive towards dogs, even if they aren’t being antagonized. Your pet’s personality will be the biggest determiner of whether or not cohabitating peacefully with a newcomer is possible.

Supervise interactions closely, both during introductions and in the weeks that follow. If your dog lunges, growls, or tries to pin your cat, the pets shouldn’t be left alone together. Special training may help one or both pets learn to share your home over time, but some dogs and cats simply won’t tolerate each other. In these cases, it’s important to prioritize safety.

5. Skipping a wellness visit with your vet.

While most common viruses are unique to either cats or dogs, parasites like roundworms, tapeworms, ringworms, and fleas are not. Before you bring a new pet into your home, make an appointment with your veterinarian to make sure everyone is up-to-date on preventatives and vaccinations. 

With the proper planning and precautions, you can keep your whole family of pets happy and healthy as it grows. 

 

 Pet parents love to feel like part of the pack. It’s great to be reminded that our dogs love us back, even when they say it with lots of sloppy kisses. 

Some people enthusiastically accept licks from their pets while others discourage it, but is it actually unhealthy? Learn more about the potential risks of allowing your dog to cover you in kisses, and how to show your affection safely. 

Why do dogs lick faces?

Like humans, our pups have distinctive individual personalities – and some just like to lick more than others. Your dog’s fixation with licking your face, however, is based on instinct. 

When they are puppies, dogs will lick their mothers to bond, exchange scent information, and stimulate regurgitation. Wolves, your dog’s wild ancestors, use licking to help organize their social hierarchies. A submissive wolf will lick its pack leader’s face as a sign of respect and to ask for permission to eat.  

As a part of your human family, kisses on the face are still a way of communicating. Your dog may be trying to:

  • Express affection.
  • Acknowledge your authority.
  • Indicate hunger.
  • Bond by helping you “groom.”  

Is it unhealthy to let a dog lick your face?

The question of whether or not to encourage kisses is an issue that divides many pet parents. 

On one hand, dogs’ saliva contains some antibacterial and antimicrobial properties – which explains why they instinctively lick their wounds to promote healing. On the other hand, it would be inaccurate to claim that dogs’ mouths are categorically cleaner than humans. 

Dogs’ mouths are home to a microbiome of unique organisms. While these yeasts, viruses, and bacteria are normal for your dog, they are unfamiliar to our human immune systems. There is a possibility that exposure to these novel organisms can make people ill. 

What illnesses can be transmitted through dogs’ saliva?

Dogs have a reputation for being fairly indiscriminate about the things they sniff, lick, and eat. For this reason, their mouths can easily become home to bacteria like E. coli, campylobacter, and salmonella. These microorganisms are zoonotic, which means they can be readily passed from one species to another. 

While healthy adults will almost certainly survive being exposed to the viruses or bacteria in their dogs’ mouths, there is a non-zero risk of gastrointestinal illness and oral diseases from puppy kisses. 

Certain parasites like giardia, roundworms, and hookworms can also be transmitted through licks. These organisms can cause severe abdominal pain and digestive problems in dogs and humans. 

Are there other risks?

Just like the organisms in our dogs’ mouths may not be good for us, the products on our skin may not be good for our dogs.

Certain cosmetics, lotions, and topical medications may contain ingredients that are toxic to pets, so it’s best to be aware of what is on your skin before you allow your dog to lick you. If you suspect your pup has ingested something harmful, contact your vet right away. 

Is it safe for dogs to lick kids’ faces?

In a word, no. Children and babies have developing immune systems, so they are more likely to become sick from any viruses or bacteria present in your dog’s mouth.  

The most important reason to discourage licking, however, pertains to dog safety. Kids who are taught to show affection for pets through hugs and kisses may not understand that unfamiliar dogs might respond with aggression.  Even good-natured family pets can snap at children who don’t know how to read their body language, so it’s a good idea to discourage any nose-to-nose play.

What precautions should I take with dog kisses?

While the risk of serious illness is small for healthy adults, you can minimize them by being selective about where your dog licks you.

Avoid direct contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth, as well as any broken skin. If you choose to let your dog kiss you, it’s a good idea to wash your face and hands afterward so that potentially irritating bacteria don’t linger.

In lieu of kisses, consider showing love in other ways, like scratches behind the ears, belly rubs, or playtime with a favorite toy. Use what you know about your pup’s favorite activities, and you can share affection without sharing saliva. 

Do cats rely on their human parents to keep them clean? The short answer is no. Generally, our kitties are quite good at bathing themselves. It’s not unusual for cats to spend between 30 and 50 percent of their waking hours meticulously grooming

Anyone who regularly wakes up to their cat’s sandpaper kisses can see how their tongues make the perfect natural hairbrush. The grooming process helps shed loose fur to make room for new growth, removes dirt and debris, and distributes cats’ natural skin oils. Because they are so agile and flexible, cats typically have no issue grooming their entire bodies. 

Under most circumstances, healthy kitties don’t need our help to keep their coats shiny and clean. There are, however, a few exceptions. 

should I give my cat a bath grey grooming

When should I bathe my cat?

Although cats are self-cleaning, there are times when your kitty may need a little help with grooming.

Certain breeds of cats may need regular baths.

Cats with very long hair, like Persians, may struggle to keep up with the work of self-grooming. Regular brushing can help prevent these cats’ fur from becoming matted, but they still may require the occasional dip. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, hairless breeds of cats need periodic baths to remove excess oils from their skin. 

Obese or arthritic cats might need assistance with grooming.

Joint pain and extra weight can limit cats’ range of motion and make it harder to clean themselves. If you notice that harder-to-reach areas of your kitty’s fur are becoming greasy, dirty, or matted, you may need to give your furry friend a helping hand. 

Keep in mind, however, that grooming difficulties are a symptom of a larger problem. Visit your vet to seek treatment for arthritis or get help making a plan to manage your kitty’s weight. 

Cats with skin conditions can require baths.

should I give my cat a bath long haired

Cats who are dealing with parasites like fleas, ticks, or ringworm may need to be washed with medicated shampoos to remove pests and soothe their skin. Reach out to your vet for advice on how often to bathe cats who are recovering from skin conditions. 

Particularly dirty cats may need help getting clean. 

If your kitty gets sprayed by a skunk, walks through mud, or sneaks into the trash, their normal grooming won’t be enough to remove odors and debris. This is especially true if they’ve come into contact with a toxic food or substance that isn’t safe for them to clean with their tongues. 

Cats who have gotten dirty, sticky, or smelly will need a bath with pet-safe shampoo to get clean. 

How do I give my cat a bath?

Cats aren’t known for enjoying bath time, but preparation can help the experience be as painless as possible: 

  • Place your pet-safe shampoo and plenty of extra towels next to the sink or tub where you plan to bathe your cat.
  • Have treats on hand to reward your kitty for being brave.
  • If possible, trim your cat’s nails before beginning the bath. 
  • Take care to avoid getting soap or water in your cat’s eyes, ears, nose, or mouth.
  • Take your cues from your cat. If they aren’t tolerating the experience well, try to work as quickly as possible. 
  • Ensure that the water is warm, but not hot. Towel your cat off right away so they don’t become cold. 

Though cats generally only require baths on an as-needed basis, taking steps to streamline the process and following up with plenty of praise can prevent bath time from becoming a dreaded activity. 

If you notice your cat is requiring an unusual amount of help with grooming, schedule a visit with your veterinarian to identify and treat any underlying conditions.