Still Learning

I may be a semi-retired pet sitter, which means I am working a lot less than I used to, but I still love learning new things. My latest was a course in Fear Free strategies for pet sitters. And, ta-da – I completed it this week!

It isn’t that I ever set out to scare pets (my own or others) but I (like most people) have used some forceful tactics in the past in order to get things done, especially medications with difficult cats. I’ve used positive reinforcement for training since I got dogs in my adult life, and I’m no fan of punishment. But I have been known to trick cats to get meds down them, or to restrain them as much as seemed necessary to get meds in. Sometimes those meds are absolutely essential. Sometimes they are okay to skip a dose here and there, and I’ve done that (with the knowledge of clients) when getting them into an animal is just too traumatic all around. My first strategy has always been to try something stress-free for the cats, and that works many times, but there have been adventures…

I really enjoyed the class. I probably knew about 75% of the material already, but I got some new ideas, and in some cases, some motivation to try a little harder to provide my charges with a stress-free experience as much as possible. I even got to give it a good test last weekend. I have a kitty client who is terribly shy, as in not willing to get near me much, and also needs a pill twice daily. I had suggested that giving the medication trans-dermally would be easier for the cat, but the client’s vet doesn’t like trans-dermal medications. Sigh. So I have sort of tricked the poor thing in the past and gotten it into her when she’s getting ready to eat. (That’s not a great strategy in any case, since it could turn the cat off eating, so I’m not recommending that, but I’ve done it to just be sure she gets one pill a day at least.) Her people struggle with pilling her as well and give up when it becomes too much for human and cat.

Because this cat knows I’ve tricked her in the past (they do remember!!) she wouldn’t go to the feeding station with the rest of the cats this time. That actually gave me an opportunity! I fed her where she was camped, and because she wasn’t with the rest of the kitty crew, I snuck a meatball of canned cat food in with her kibble, and her tiny pill was in the meatball. Because she doesn’t usually get canned food, the meatball went down very easily! And continued to do so all weekend. Phew!

The best part of all of that was that the kitty started to trust me again, and would come and at least sniff my finger, and she didn’t leave the room when I came around. That’s big progress for this particular cat. I’m no longer the big meany, and I earned some brownie points by providing those yummy meatballs to boot.

So, fear free works. I have another cat coming up next weekend that will test my skills and creativity big time. I’m not going to bet on whether or not I will succeed in giving her meds in a stress free way, but I will certainly try. Keep your paws crossed for us.

15 thoughts on “Still Learning

  1. Good for you……figuring out a creative way to problem solve especially with pets can be a challenge I’m sure but you CAN do it! Bravo and congratulations…….

    Hugs, Pam

  2. That sounds great. I had a cat who learned how to eat the treat (whatever it was) and spit out the pill. I thought only dogs do that but this cat had it down pat.

  3. Meds can be such a challenge with some pets. I think a course is a great idea for those who have these challenging pets. Thanks for sharing one of the tricks that worked for you. I hope my current cat remains healthy, because the couple times I’ve had to pill her, she would avoid me for days!

    1. Cats are so difficult to medicate often. My sympathies…hope your cat stays healthy!

  4. Congratulations on continuing the education aspect of pet sitting strategies. Pilling pets of all stripes remains an adventure at best but being creative like you demonstrated gives the rest of us hope. Well done, Debra!

  5. Way To Go Debra!!! I’ll have to check that out for myself once my eyes have healed from the cataract surgery. (First one – left eye – is on Tuesday.) Not that I’m looking to pet sit any time soon; but it can’t hurt to learn for my own two hooligans.

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