How to introduce a second cat into your home

We came across this article on adopting a second cat quite some time ago, and with some of our residents here at Alvern Gardens going through the pet adoption process, we thought we’d talk about this adventure.

Adopting animals together is probably the least stressful option for creating a multi pet home. In fact, there are plenty of pets in shelters that must be adopted as a pair because they are bonded to each other and can’t be separated. If, however, you already have a pet and would like to adopt a second (with your landlord’s permission, of course), then there are was to do it right.

goofy cat
if your cat is a high energy goofball, finding her a companion might be just the thing to burn off all that excess energy.

As the above linked article explains, you need to find a cat with a similar activity level and compatible personality traits to your cat. Once you have found a candidate, it’s a good idea to give it a trial run, which is something that, as the article states, many shelters offer. It’s never a good idea to commit to a pet from the outset, because you just never know how and whether it’ll truly work out. About a week or two is usually what it takes for a cat (or two) to establish a routine, so it should become apparent fairly soon whether the pairing is a good one.

The article points out that you need to have enough space in your home for the cats to get away from each other and enjoy some solitude. A home with multiple floors offers ideal levels of separation, but it can be managed in an apartment as well. Although a one bedroom might be a bit small, a two bedroom has potential as a wide enough territory to have a scattering of multiple litter boxes, water bowls, feeding stations, and hangout areas.

What the article doesn’t specify about having enough space is that the space also needs to be cat friendly. It’s not fair to confine one cat to a dark, windowless basement while the other cat shares the upstairs living space with the family. You also need to have at least one litter box per cat, plus one extra, so for two cats, you should have three litter boxes. These should be spread throughout your home rather than lined up side-by-side, and they should be far away from food stations (cats, like humans, don’t like to do their business in the same spot as where they eat). Speaking of food stations, each of your cats should have their own spots to eat and drink, at least until they get used to each other.

Cats mark their territory in several ways: urine spraying, cheek marking (which is what they’re doing when they rub their faces against things), and scratching. To protect your furniture from the dreaded scratching, place different types of scratching posts throughout your home, ideally one in every room. Feliway pheromone sprays and diffusers can help with scratching as well as urine marking, so stock up before bringing home your second cat.

Finally, multiple cats need multiple hangout spots, and vertical space is one of the best places to expand feline territory. You probably already have one cat tree and/or cat bed, so buy a second set for the second cat. When cats aren’t fighting for the window seat or otherwise eking out a spot to make their own in limited space, they’ll get along much better from the start. And happier cats make for happier cat owners.

Keep dogs’ paws safe this winter

As most dog owners know, regular walks and outdoor playtime are hard on paws in winter. Here are some tips for keeping your pup’s paws safe.

  • Don’t leave your dog outside unattended, even in a secured area that they’re used to roaming during warm weather. Keeping a close eye on your pooch is key to making sure the cold isn’t taking its toll.

    Dogs welcome at Alvern Gardens Apartments
    Just because I’m fluffy doesn’t mean I’m impervious to cold. Keep me safe in winter!
  • Shorten time spent outdoors, especially in extreme cold. Obviously, the less time exposed, the better. If you’re on a walk and your dog starts showing signs of being too cold (shaking his paws when he picks them up or even limping), it’s time to turn around and go home—whether he did his business or not.
  • Gear up with a coat and booties, if your dog will tolerate it. Some dogs can’t stand wearing clothes, and some don’t even need them, but if your dog has a wiry or thin coat with just a single layer of fur, it needs some protective gear. Even if she’ll only wear booties on her hind paws, it’s still better than nothing in extreme cold.
  • Stick to the grass instead of salted pavement. The salt that’s essential to keeping sidewalks safe for human pedestrians can seriously hurt a dog’s paws, so keep your dog walking in grassy areas, and if possible/necessary, carry her over salted patches of pavement.
  • Clean your dog’s paws as soon as you get back inside. Use a clean towel to wipe down all four paws, thaw out any clumps of snow that might have gotten caught in long fur, and check between the pads of each paw to make sure no salt has gotten stuck.
  • Don’t allow your dog to lick its paws. Excessive licking can cause sores (and stinky feet!), but it’s also a sign that your dog’s paws hurt. If you notice him licking, give his paws a closer look and make sure they’re clean and  not injured in any way.

An Ode to Vinegar

We’ve touted the wonders of white distilled vinegar as a natural cleaner on many occasions. Today, we’d like to share something new that we’ve read: vinegar can help prevent mold growth! We’re not sure if it’s true, but since it seems to be true that it prevents mildew growth, why can’t it do the same for mold?

natural cleaning
Baking soda and vinegar just keep showing up in cleaning tips. If you haven’t tried this pet safe, environmentally friendly cleaning method, it’s time you did. Image attribution: By katerha (http://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/5703151566/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
This is how it apparently works: if you find mold growing, clean it up by soaking it in vinegar for an hour then wiping the area clean. After it’s all cleaned up, spray some more vinegar and just leave it there. Reapply every few days. Because vinegar is safe and non-toxic, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to give this a try.

Now, obviously this is no substitute for finding and repairing the source of the moisture that’s allowing the mold to grow in the first place. It is, however, a nice way to give yourself peace of mind that you’ve done everything you can to stop mold from growing.

Have you heard of this trick? What other uses do you know of for vinegar? Share in the comments below.

Leafy Greens: Good for More Than Just Salad

Did you know that houseplants are good for your health? It’s true: plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen, improving air quality for humans. Plus, green stuff livens up a home and makes it feel cozier and more inviting.

Here are three tips for adding leafy greens to your home:

  1. If you’re new to keeping houseplants, start with something easy. Hearty plants that do well in low light and don’t require much watering are easiest for beginners. Check out this site for some really easy plants to keep. Our personal favorite is mother-in-law’s tongue, also known as a snake plant.
  2. Ready for plants that have been proven by NASA to help improve air quality? Check out this info-graphic, and note t
    pet friendly apartments
    While house plants are good for humans, not all varieties are pet friendly, so make sure you check plants before bringing them into your home.

    hat there’s some overlap between these plants and the hearty varieties that are easy to grow: snake plants, spider plants, and peace lilies.

  3. Pet owners should note that not all houseplants are pet friendly. The ASPCA has an expansive list of plants that are toxic to cats, dogs, and even horses. Filter this list by your specific pet(s) to know which plants to avoid. For a quick look at plants that are both cat and dog friendly, check out this site.
  4. Bonus tip: get a spider plant. They’re easy to keep alive because they thrive in low light and don’t require frequent watering, they’re proven by NASA to help purify the air, and they’re both cat and dog friendly. What more could you ask for? Well: if you know someone who already has a spider plant, they can break of a sprig for you to plant for free! As your own plant grows, you can break off its offshoots and plant them in new pots. Soon, you’ll have a spider plant for every room in your home.