Why Every Pet Owner Should Include Pets in Their Estate Plans
Where would your pet go if something were to happen to you? Would they be loved and looked after? No one expects their pets to outlive them, but if you have an estate plan, including your pets is one of the most important and benevolent things a guardian can do for them.
When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough
Many people don’t bother to worry about their pets because a friend, relative or neighbor has agreed to take them if something ever happened. While that is always a kind gesture and and may ease your mind, an informal agreement like that is usually not enough. Chances are that person isn’t expecting this to happen either, and if it were to, the reality sets in quickly. For some, the loss of the friend or relative is too much to handle on its own, and under the stress of grieving they feel unable to take on the animal they once promised to care for.
In other instances, living situations may have shifted. Their financial situation may have changed so that they can no longer afford to care for your pet, perhaps they now have children with severe allergies, or their property does not allow animals. There are so many unforeseen factors that may affect someone’s ability to keep their promise, however well-meaning it was. Rescue groups and shelters repeatedly see relatives seeking to dump their deceased family member’s pet on someone else. who are eager to be relieved of the responsibility. This is heartbreaking and equally distressing to the animal who is grieving their beloved companion, too.
Pet Financial Planning: What to Consider
Eve Kaplan, Certified Financial Planner at New Jersey-based Kaplan Financial Advisers, LLC says on her blog, “A good pet owner knows that a pet may outlive him/her so provisions must be made that go beyond a simple will or informal handshake agreements.” If you’re ready to put a plan into action, the first step is to decide on a guardian. “Specifying a legal guardian is very important,” Kaplan advises, “and making sure the guardian is compensated – if needed – also is critical.” You might even consider specifying two guardians, just in case. Remember that you’ll want bonded animals to stay together whenever possible.
Next, you need to decide on the funds to cover costs of your pets’ care. This varies per animal and household, but keep in mind its better to have too much than not enough. You give your pets the very best, so ensure they get that same quality of care even if you’re not around.
If you don’t have anyone suitable to be your pets’ guardian, look into sanctuaries nearest you and take a visit. Make sure to draw up an agreement with them before adding the organization into your financial plan.
Finding a Financial Planner That Cares
Forty-one states have laws that specifically allow pet trusts, but creating a pet trust isn’t quite a mainstream practice just yet, although it should be. That said, not every financial planner is going to see the importance of the trust as you do or be as compassionate as they should.
“It’s important to locate an attorney who handles your personal estate documents and is equipped to take pet estate work seriously and not laugh at it as some trivial pursuit,” Kaplan adds. After all, your pets are family, so make sure your financial adviser sees them that way, too.
“My face may be white, but my heart is pure gold. There is no shame in growing old.”
A pet’s love knows no boundaries, and there are few discomforts that their companionship cannot ease. While this holds true for all stages of life from children to seniors, in times of happiness and health, to times of loneliness and recovery, those who experience the greatest benefits may be the ones who need it most. Like pet therapy for children and people with disabilities, animals also have a special power for spiritual healing and physical well-being in senior citizens.
The popularity of pet-friendly senior housing has grown tremendously, and with good reason. According to A Place for Mom, the nation’s largest senior housing referral service, of all the inquiries they receive more than 40 percent ask if pets are permitted.
Having a pet offers seniors much-needed companionship in a time where they are likely to feel lonely or forgotten. The stress of moving and surrendering some or all of their independence can be eased by the presence of an animal. By nurturing a beloved pet, they are given mental stimulation, a sense of purpose, motivation to keep active, and may even be more likely to take better care of themselves. The benefits are endless.
To take advantage of the power of pets, senior housing complexes have multiple ways of incorporating furry friends into the routine. Some allow their residents to have in-house pets (weight/species restrictions vary), while others have ‘community pets’ that have free roam of the place or hang in communal areas. Even more communities employ visiting therapy animals to brighten up everyone’s day. Scientific studies have proven that just 15 minutes spent connecting with an animal can lower heart rate, decrease blood pressure and release serotonin. Over time, these benefits can reduce depression and even prevent serious health complications such as heart disease and strokes.
So whether your loved one has a full-time furry companion, or just the ability to spend time with one on a regular basis, the benefits are outstanding. Cooperation with the animal rescue community allows seniors and living centers various opportunities to take advantage of this incredible bond. Seniors for Seniors-type programs match senior citizens with a senior pet, and some even waive adoption fees. For those who aren’t able to care for an animal full time, pets can be ‘shared’ among multiple residents. Alternatively, seniors can foster through a local rescue organization and keep pets on a short-term basis, allowing them to save multiple lives through their own. Some assisted living centers even have Pet Care Coordinators that share in the responsibilities and management of in-house pets.
If you are considering pets for yourself or a loved one who is in senior or assisted living, contact the organizations director or reach out to a Senior Living Advisor at A Place for Mom. For a list of pet-friendly senior and assisted living communities by state, go here. Of course, the care of the animals is of the utmost importance for everyone involved, so speak with the appropriate representatives, depending on your situation. If you someone you know is currently a pet guardian, consider including the animals in an estate plan or trust to ensure their long-term comfort and well-being is secured.
“Senior pets: their affection is timeless, their devotion is endless, and their love is forever.”
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 1 in 5 Americans suffer from at least one type of allergy. Pet dander is one of the more common allergies, affecting roughly 15-30% of allergy sufferers. Considering that between one-third and nearly one-half of homes have a dog or a cat, there are plenty of people who are allergic to pets yet still consider pets to be part of their family and share their home with them. Knowing how to manage your allergy symptoms and limit contact with dander can go a long way towards creating a peaceful, breathable home for those with pet allergies.
Understanding Pet Allergies
Many people mistakenly believe that they are allergic to an animal’s fur, but it is actually the dander (dead skin that is shed) and saliva, known collectively as allergens that causes a person’s symptoms to erupt. Fur, however, does carry a heavy amount of allergens, especially cats since they groom themselves frequently, coating their fur with saliva.
While genetics do play a role in a person’s likelihood of having allergies, no one is born with allergies. Rather, they may develop later in life due to various triggers as the body’s immune system tries to figure out what is safe and what isn’t. Usually, this allows the body to successfully identify and ward off viruses and other harmful invaders. But sometimes our body overreacts and attacks harmless substances like pollen and pet dander. Of course, not everyone develops allergies and people who do have them in varying degrees of severity. Many people’s allergies are so mild they don’t do anything to treat them.
Studies have shown that raising children in a home with a dog or cat can actually strengthen their body’s immune system, especially when they are exposed while under 2 years of age. Additionally, these children have reduced risk of allergies and are less likely to develop respiratory infections, coughs, and colds.
Unfortunately, most allergens including pet dander are light and clingy: they travel easily through the air and attach to just about anything fabric: clothing, carpet, and furniture. In order to eliminate exposure, you should address how dander travels and collects in your home. Whenever possible, replace carpet and install tile, wood or laminate flooring so allergens don’t get trapped and linger in the fabric. Place filters over air vents to prevent dander being blown through the air ducts, especially into the bedroom of those with allergic reactions. These are very inexpensive and can be found at any home improvement store. Invest in a decent air filter, preferably one with HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Arresting) technology which means it captures at least 94 percent of allergens, greatly helping to purify the air and help you breathe more easily.
Of course, regular washing of bedding, both human and animal, in hot water is suggested. Routine vacuuming and cleaning will also help, even if you do have a HEPA filter. If symptoms are severe enough for a member of your family, you might consider having ‘pet free zones’ in your home, especially bedrooms. Allergies are the cause of about 11 percent of cats surrendered to shelters, according to the American Humane Association, and not all of them will make it out. For this reason, and the fact that your pet is already comfortable and happy to be part of your family, it is best to do anything possible to ensure you all can stay together. If visiting friends or relatives have allergies, your pet can stay in a separate room for the duration of their stay and will be just fine.
Your house might be hoarding allergens, but they are originating from your pet, so why not address the source directly? Daily brushing is important, and so is regular bathing. Shaving your pet may be helpful for decreasing the fur, but it will not have an impact on dander, since that comes from the skin itself. For in between baths, use hypoallergenic and shed-control wipes. Pets with unhealthy coats or skin will produce an excess of dander, so make sure your pet- and their coat- is healthy. Dietary supplements, such as fish oil, can be very helpful in maintaining a healthy skin and coat. No need to buy the pet-specific kind from Petsmart, you can just use a generic brand from a grocery or health food store , which tends to be cheaper. Be sure adjust the dosing depending on your needs and pet’s weight.
While allergies to animal dander are always an inconvenience at best, in most cases it can be managed. Taking the advice above, as well as speaking to your doctor or allergist if needed can help. All avenues should be explored to ensure that you and your pets can live happily ever after, together.
*Disclosure* This article is not a substitute for medical advice. You should speak with an allergist to identify your specific allergens and discuss treatment options for living with pets and allergies. If you have any personal tips, please share in the comments.
Losing a pet is never easy, no matter how peacefully they pass, or how many times you’ve gone through the grieving process. Once the initial shock and heartbreak is over, it is common for people to find a way to memorialize or honor their deceased pet. For many, this helps them reach the acceptance stage of the grieving process, and makes way for warm, happy memories.
Here are a few unique ideas you can do to honor your pet, from simple and sweet, to extravagant and strange. No matter what you choose to do, it is important that it is meaningful to your family and honors the special bond with your pet.
1) Custom Nose-print jewelry
One of the most adorable pet-themed jewelry available! Get a personalized sterling silver pendant with your cat or dog’s nose print and wear it as a necklace, bracelet, on a key chain, etc. Of course, there are plenty of custom paw-print jewelry options if you prefer.
2) Blown Glass Pendants
Turn your pets ashes (or fur) into a stunning piece of blown-glass. With this unique creation, they will remain close to your heart at all times, but no one will know what it is, unless you choose to tell them. Choose from transparent or colored, and a variety of shaped pendants. The type of sentimental item you choose to use (i.e cremains, fur, fabric, etc) will affect how it appears in the pendant, and varies from bubbles to colored flecks.
Perfect for the earth-friendly pet family, these burial pods and urns are bio-degradable and come with a seeded leaf planter so your beloved pet’s resting place ‘sprout a lasting tribute.’ These pods are available in a variety of sizes, for small animals to large dogs, and even fish-sized.
4) Pet cemetery
For families that wish their pet to be buried as many humans are, you might choose to lay your pet to rest at a Pet Cemetery. Many of these cemeteries are full-service memorial centers, offering viewings for friends and families, customized funeral services, and even clergy or funeral celebrants. New Jersey has quite a few of these, but each offer different services. For a full list of pet cemeteries visit the Pet Loss Support site.
Younger generations, especially, may enjoy getting a tattoo of an extra-special pet they’ve lost. But with the growing popularity of tattoos, this option really is for anyone! You can get a picture of your pet (be sure to find an experienced portrait artist!), or get his/her paw print or name. Alternatively, if you’re especially bold, a few artists will actually meld the ashes into the ink, so your pet is forever part of your body’s artwork. Although is not a common practice, it has been done a handful of times, with both human and animal ashes.
6) Unique Photo Options
Framing a photo and placing it in where you’ll see it often is an easy way to remember your pet. Sometimes, picking out your favorite single photos can be hard, so why not try one of these other photographic ideas? Make a book! There is a great site called Blurb that allows you to upload photos then caption, decorate and arrange them into a beautiful, professional book. You can chronicle your pet’s whole life if you want to, or focus on the highlights and holidays. Another unique idea is to compile lots of photos into one giant image, mosaic-style. Or, if you have a photo that is especially meaningful, get that one hand painted in your favorite style by a local artist: acrylic, oil,
7) Light Affection Photo
Instead of just a photo or painting, why not let your pet’s face continue to light up your life, even after they are gone? This company creates custom-carved photo lights and night-lights.
8) DIY Shadow Box
Shadow boxes are much more personal than just displaying photos: through tangible objects, you can express your pet’s personality, his or her favorite things, etc.
Ideas for including in your Shadow Box:
- name tags and collar
- favorite toy
- a photo and poem
- molded paw print
- adoption certificate
- baby teeth or lock of fur
- bows, bandanas, etc.
- for more inspiration, browse Pinterest
Your pet was one of the lucky ones. They got to spend their life being loved, sleeping on warm beds, always a full belly. You should take solace in this, in knowing your beloved pet’s life was made better because of you (and likely the other way around as well). A great way to honor your deceased pet is to make a donation in his or her memory to a local rescue group, so that other pets may be as lucky.
Which of these ideas do you like the most? How have you memorialized your beloved pets? Share in the comments!
For most of us, especially here at Pets fur keeps, our pets wear many hats: they are our greatest comfort, patient listeners, our best friends, spirit lifters; just to name a few roles . Our pets often bring out the best in us, and depending on some of your resolutions, they can be wonderful motivations and inspirations to achieve your goals. So while your dog or cat probably doesn’t have their own new year’s resolution, that doesn’t mean they can’t help with yours!
Lose Weight & Exercise More: Year after year, this takes the #1 spot for most popular resolutions, and probably always will, considering 1 in 2.6 adults think they are overweight, and roughly the same percent are obese. But if you have a dog, you’ve got the best exercise partner ever. Set a goal of how far you want to walk everyday, and stick to it, but not just for yourself, for your dog: to see your pup’s eyes light up when you say ‘walk’ and grab the leash, to see his little dance as you walk out the door.
For added incentive, download the ResQWalk App (it’s free for both iPhone and Android). The app tracks the number and distance of all your walks, AND it donates money to the rescue of your choice every time you hit the pavement. Talk about motivation!
Fall in Love: Another common resolution it to fall in love or find ‘the one.’ Did you know pets can help with that too? Yup, and rescue pets have even more sway for attracting that someone special. Check out these stats from a 2014 survey of Match.com pet owners by Petsmart Charities:
- 59% of women would be more attracted to someone if they found out they rescued a pet rather than bought one
- 35% of single women have been more attracted to someone because of their pet
- 4 out of 5 singles are pet lovers
Quit Smoking: If you can’t quit for yourself, would you do it for Fido or Fluffy? According to a 2009 survey, 28% of pet owning smokers would consider quitting if they knew the smoke could harm their pets. I hope you’re one of them! The ASPCA’s Poison Control Center says “Nicotine from secondhand smoke can have effects to the nervous systems of cats and dogs. Environmental tobacco smoke has been shown to contain numerous cancer-causing compounds, making it hazardous for animals as well as humans.”
Cats who live with a smoker are 2-3 times more likely to develop cancer, including lymphoma, which kills 75% of afflicted cats in under a year. Cats with smoking families typically have nicotine and other toxins in their urine, and are especially vulnerable to oral cancers because they are constant groomers- consistently consuming the cancer-causing carcinogens from secondhand smoke (Mercola). For dogs in smoking households, their risk of lung cancer increases by 60%. Small animals and birds are also at increased risk for lung cancer, heart problems, and pneumonia (Petfinder).
So make this year count- not just for you, but for your pet, too! Best of luck with all of your resolutions and endeavors for 2015.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want everyone to show your gratitude for the felines in your life! While cats might be a bit subtle in their expressions of thanks, we know its there, don’t we? A bird-like chirp now and again, the question-mark shape their tail takes when they are delighted to see us, and everyone’s favorite: the sweet, slow eye-blinks of love. But just because they are subtle doesn’t mean we have to be! Here are some ways to show them you’re thankful for the joy they bring to your life.
1) Grooming session:
A good brushing can do a lot for a kitty; it prevents matting, especially in long haired cats, removes lose fur that can cause hairballs (which are no fun for you either!), it can be a great bonding experience with their human, it makes them look healthier and more beautiful, and offers guardians a chance to examine for abnormal skin conditions, growths, and other health concerns.
So take some time (even if your cat doesn’t absolutely love it) to brush them thoroughly. Offer treats while you’re doing it, especially if they are not big fans of being groomed. Feeling bold? Add nail trimming to the session, too.
2) Extra playtime
It’s easy to forget about play sessions with our cats, especially after long days at work, household chores, etc. But offering your cat regular outlets to expend energy will make both of you more relaxed at the end of the night. So put in the extra effort; put down the cell phone or turn off the TV and dedicate some time (or extra time, if this is already part of your routine) to play- no, really play- with your cat. Get them riled up, panting if possible, using whatever toy they like best; lasers, feather toys, mice, balls… For a most fulfilling experience, follow playtime with dinner or their favorite treat (For more playtime tips, check out my post ‘The Importance of Playtime‘)
Okay, so no cat wants to go to the vet, but it’s in their best interest. Domestic felines, like their wild cousins, are experts at hiding symptoms of illness (it’s an instinctual behavior that helps them avoid looking like easy prey to predators), so its important to take your cat for checkups and routine blood work, especially as they get older. Even if your cat is indoor-only (as they should be) and you choose not to get them vaccinated annually, check ups are key to making sure your cat isn’t suffering in silence.
Now and then its fine to give your cat something special to eat, especially as we ourselves indulge on Thanksgiving. Just make sure it is in moderation and kitty-safe! Here’s a great recipe from The Ultimate Cat Treat Cookbook.
Just like humans, cats benefit from having company of the same species. This is especially true if your cat is young, high energy or rambunctious, spends long hours alone, or recently lost a companion animal. Having another cat to roughhouse and play with typically decreases negative or destructive behaviors. Or, if you have a newly adopted young’n who tends to bother your older cat, getting another kitten will give your elder feline some peace. No matter what your situation is, chances are your kitty could benefit from having another. Not sure? Come in and talk to us about it- we’re experts on cat introductions and match-making. See our current adoptable list here.
Of course, if you really want to show your cat gratitude, your best bet is to open all the cans of cat food and bow down at their feet 😉
You can’t put a price tag on saving an animal’s life, or on the relationship you have with them. However, adopting one still requires you to dig out your checkbook. Some people are surprised at the cost of a group’s adoption fee (or that there is a donation fee at all). They expect it to be minimal because, after all, the pets aren’t ‘for sale’ anyway. Unfortunately, rescue groups are non-profit, always on limited funds, and without donation fees from adopting families, we would go under in no time.
What Donation Fees Cover
Some potential adopters have the mindset that adopting an animal is basically doing us, the rescue group, a ‘favor’ and therefore we should be grateful, and not ask for fees. Remember that in rescue no one is out to make a profit. In most cases, we barely break even. Adoption fees cover (barely) our basic costs, such as: spay/neuter, vaccinations (first vaccines for kittens/puppies require multiple boosters), deworming and flea treatment, testing for diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus in cats or heart-worm in dogs) as well as food and litter. If you were to get these services done at a veterinary clinic, you’d be spending significantly more. When adopting from a rescue group, you’re really getting a packaged deal and saving money in the long run.
Why No Pet Should be Free
Having adoption fees is important, aside from the fact that they cover a rescue’s expenses. Most people won’t dole out that kind of cash unless they’ve been planning to adopt and have considered the weight of the commitment. This deters ‘impulse’ adopters, and reminds people that being a pet guardian is a serious dedication- monetarily, emotionally, physically, and timely- and should not be done spur of the moment. If someone has trouble affording the adoption fee, it might not be a good time for them to adopt. Of course, you don’t need mountains of money to be a great, loving pet parent, but you do need to be realistic about the costs and be able to meet those requirements to keep the pet in good health for the rest of his or her life.
It is also worth mentioning, however unpleasant it is, that donation fees help prevent animal abusers from obtaining animals from rescue groups. Usually (but not always) people who intend to abuse an animal will search for free ones- especially on Craiglist and from ‘free to good home’ ads in neighborhoods and bulletin boards.
Why Fees Can Vary by Rescue
If you’ve been browsing various shelters and rescues in your search for the perfect new addition, you might have noticed differences in the costs and what is covered. This doesn’t mean that one group is better than another, just that each organization is in a different financial situation, and works on different scales. Therefore, they adjust the fees to their needs. For example, a large, county-wide shelter with in-staff veterinarians is typically able to have lower fees because they do higher volume adoptions, get donations that exceed their costs, and aren’t paying someone else for veterinary services. They might have sponsors, and likely have a larger staff that includes a grant writer to get state and national grants. Smaller, foster based organizations like Pet Adoption Network, have fewer volunteers, no paid staff, no physical facility. Therefore, our fees may not always compete with other shelters. However, you’re getting a great deal, in terms of savings, in either scenario along with a ‘priceless’ happy ending.
Just about everyone who adopts a cat says, ‘Oh, I wish I could just take them all home!’ If only! Very few people are in a position to care for a cluster of cats, but opting for a single kitten is not usually the best idea either. If you are looking to adopt a kitten under 6 months old and you don’t already have another cat, you really should at least consider adopting a duo.
Social Growth Kitten-hood is a crucial time for development, just like infancy is for human babies. Kittens learn from their mother, their siblings, their environment, and any other cats in the household. They learn how to hunt, play, socialize, and communicate. They figure out who is in charge, what is appropriate behavior, and how to perfect their motor skills and physical abilities. In many situations, a mother is not always present, making time with their litter mates even more important. (Remember, cats are kittens, physically and mentally, throughout the first year or two of their life.)
Importance of Play Playtime is not just fun and games: there are lessons to be learned in every pounce, every stalk, every bite. One of the most important lessons is that of the inhibited bite. Wrestling and roughhousing with other cats helps kittens to learn an appropriate level of playtime aggression. If a kitten bites too hard, the other cat is not going to tolerate it. Over time, this will teach them how to gently ‘bite’ without any pressure, and also encourage them to play without their nails extended.
Single Kitten Syndrome When a kitten spends the first six months or so of his life alone, he won’t learn what is acceptable, and will often exhibit undesirable behaviors towards people and other cats. ‘Single kitten syndrome,’ though not a medically diagnosable condition, is the term for such behavior. Of course, not all single kittens will turn out this way, just as not all only-children are spoiled and bratty, but it is commonly seen and best to be avoided. It seems a little counter-intuitive, but a kitten raised alone does not learn independence. Rather, they are more likely to become overly dependent on a human, distraught during separations, and less able to deal with minor stressors. Other behaviors associated with single-kittens include chasing and biting ankles, excessive neediness, boredom, and loneliness. Those last few are often coupled with destructive behaviors because, like kids, a kitten left alone for a few hours must find a way to keep himself occupied. Here at Pet Adoption Network, we’ve heard it over and over again.
Still, someone might say, the kitten doesn’t need a playmate because I’m going to be her best friend; shower her with love and toys and lots of treats. Isn’t that good enough? Not really, because a human, no matter how much they offer, can never be a substitute for a feline companion or replicate behaviors crucial to teaching a kitten how to be a well-adjusted cat.
Cats are like potato chips ‘You can’t have just one!’ Have you heard that saying before? Apparently, it holds true! In 2012, of all the homes with cats in the United States, 55% of them were multi-cat households. So, there’s a really good chance you’ll end up with another anyway, but its easier to do it all at once. The longer a cat stays solo, the harder it is to introduce a second (it’s nearly always possible to do so, it just takes much longer.) Having a cat that is good with other cats is important in the unfortunate case that they ever need to be re-homed; it greatly increases their adoptability and makes their experience in a shelter environment less stressful.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to adopt a pair is the sheer cuteness. A kitten playing alone is pretty darn adorable, but two kittens playing and cuddling together? Infinitely more adorable; its almost too much to handle. Almost.
What about the expenses? Aside from the initial costs of adoption fees (many groups, including Pet Adoption Network, offer discounts for adopting pairs), a second cat is not much more expensive or more work than one, and they can share many of the same supplies like toys, litter boxes, and food dishes. Kittens separated from other members of their species at a very young age can develop a pathological fear of other animals. No one knows what the future holds for you and your cat. A well-rounded cat that is acclimated to other animals can only have an easier time in life- even going to the vet will be less stressful.
If you really can’t handle or have more than one cat, that’s OK. There is still someone perfect for you! There are always cats that would prefer to be your one-and-only, and while they aren’t babies, they can be as young as 6 months and full of kitten spirit. Any rescue group will help you find a cat that is a good match for your family and lifestyle, so please take their advice. That way, you know the cat will be as happy as possible, and you will be, too.
And now, I’ll leave you with some more cuddling cuteness of Thana & Tarot.
No matter how gentle or docile your cat is, chances are you’ve got a few battle scars from run-ins with those claws. But with a little patience, practice, and good guidance (which we’re about to give you!) you can master the often-despised task of nail trimming. It is a wonderful skill that all cat guardians should learn because it creates a happier home.
Regular trimming ensures that your cat’s claws won’t overgrow and curl under and into the paw pad. Ingrown nails are extremely painful and can cause nasty infections. Also, your cat will be less likely to get caught on fabric or screens, and it will lessen the level of destruction caused by unwanted scratching on clothing or furniture (or, well, people!).
Many cat parents are intimidated by the idea of trimming, but once you know what to do and where to cut, it’s pretty simple. First, let’s get familiar with the structure of the toe, and why claws are so important.
Anatomy of a Paw
Part of the reason cats are so light-footed is that they walk on their tippy toes; this is called digitigrade movement. Humans, primates, and bears walk fairly flat footed, which is known as plantigrade. Because cats are digitigrade, their claws are crucial for comfortable locomotion and balance. Unlike human fingernails which attach to flesh, cats’ nails grow directly from the bone. When cats are declawed, part of this bone is removed in order to stop it from growing again. Afterwards, they are left to walk on what is left of the amputated digit. Imagine if someone removed part of your foot, how difficult and painful would it be to walk?
When at rest, a cat’s claws are safely sheathed and tucked away. When he or she wants to utilize them -either for defense, play, or climbing- they protract the nails outward using ligaments and tendons. Cats have four regular claws on each paw, plus a dewclaw that is set back on the inner side of each front paw, sort of like a thumb. The dewclaw is awkward: it hangs loosely, doesn’t touch the ground, and is considered a vestigial limb, one that has lost most or all function that their ancestors once used it for. You should trim this claw anyway because it still grows; you don’t want it become ingrown and infected.
Making them comfortable
A cat who has never had her nails trimmed before will be pretty startled if you just hold her down, grab her paws, and start clipping away. For this reason, it is important that your cat is familiar with the sensation of having her paws touched and handled, so begin doing this as soon as possible. The younger you start, the easier it will be in the long run, so if you adopt a kitten, don’t delay on getting her comfortable with this. But that doesn’t mean an adult can’t get used to it even if you haven’t done it before. Start by stroking her paw, then gently holding it. If she pulls away, allow her to, but keep a loose hold. Eventually, start to put pressure on the toes to extend the nail from the sheath. It is also a good idea to also allow your cat to see and smell the nail clippers ahead of time. These techniques are best done when your cat is already in a relaxed or sleepy mood. Be patient and don’t get frustrated if she needs some time.
Let’s Get Trimming
Once they allow you to handle the paw without fretting, you can start to trim. Make sure you have the proper tool: a trimmer made especially for cats. These are inexpensive and sold at all pet stores. Gently grasp the paw between your thumb and index finger, putting a tiny bit of pressure on the first digit to protract the nail. Follow the diagram, and remember that you only want to trim off the ‘hook’ of the nail, nothing more. If you follow this rule of thumb, you’ll greatly eliminate your chances of cutting the quick. Consider buying a clotting agent, known as styptic powder, to keep on hand in case you cut too close- just apply it to the nail and the bleeding will stop. Corn starch works, too.
Keep in mind, not every cat or their guardian will be able to make it through a complete nail trim in a single session. Consider keeping the trimmers readily available in an area where you frequently find your cat relaxed, so you can snip a few here and there. Even if it takes you a week to get them all done, that’s perfectly fine. If you really feel uncomfortable with this task, ask your vet, groomer, or adoption agency to show you how, or you can usually have it done for a small fee/donation of $7-10. A full set of nail trimming should be done once or twice a month.