Monday, September 12, 2011

My furry four legged friends: The ABCS's of Pet Ownership With RA

I am so fortunate that I have already taken the plunge into pet ownership and I am glad I did.  This is not to say that having two kitty fur babies (Moomee and Mango) hasn't come with some challenges. I would be lying if i said everything has gone completely hunky dory.  But  the joy, love and humor they bring into my life on a daily basis far outweighs my ripped under bed, toys strewn here and there and fur balls that occasionally appear out of nowhere. They are now family members. And, they have given me their permission to say so.

There is a wonderful website (link below) that covers the pros and cons of pet ownership, so I am not going to rehash all of that. Instead I want to add my personal perspective and thoughts on areas of pet care that might be difficult for people with ra. Maybe, once you realize that fur babies are indeed better then a hot water bottle for your achy joints and they are more soothing then the best cd, you will consider becoming a pet owner yourself.

                Mango loves to hang out in our fruit bowl!
  • Think short hair if you don't want to have to comb them as much or have as much hair cleanup in general
  • Consider a petite cat so that if they lay or walk on you they don't hurt as much on your joints and do consider keeping kitty out of the bedroom unless you want to take the risk of being woken up at all odd hours. After all, kitties are nocturnal animals and prefer the night hours.
  • Maybe adopt an older kitty rather then a youngin or a breed   that isn't quite as playful if you think you can't handle the rambunctious types. 

Kitty Litter box solutions:

  • Train you kitty to use the toilet (don't laugh at me…this is actually doable).
  • Consider using the self cleaning kitty litter box
  • Buy smaller boxes of kitty litter and ask for help to load into and out of your car and if you have others living with you, have the litter box be their task :-)
  • Consider putting the kitty litter box up on a higher level such as a table so you don't have to bend down when cleaning or changing the litter.
  • Do use litter liners so you don't have to wash out the kitty litter box every week.
  • If your kitty becomes an outside kitty (although I don't recommend this for safety reasons), you can have a kitty door installed so you don't have to get up and down for bathroom patrol.

Kitty Grooming Solutions:

  • Probably one of the most difficult tasks to date for me is clipping kitties' nails. I have finally found the most wonderful nail clipper that our vet's assistant kindly sold to us.  We paid like $15 dollars for it through our vet and the vet assistant did say it is only sold to vets. I did try to find it online prior to buying it through them but couldn't locate it. It is a miracle as far as I am concerned as it is easy to use. I have tried several other clippers and for my ra hands, they just didn't cut it :-)  Use a towel during nail clipping if your kitty is a fighter. With this technique you wrap your kitty in the towel and leave the claw you are working on exposed. We use a tag team approach at my house. One of us holds the kitty while the other clips away. But if you live alone, the towel approach does work fairly well. Just be sure to schedule grooming day on a pain free day.
  • Consider bringing kitty into a groomer if you can afford it and if you can't handle grooming on your own. But for some, getting kitty in the cat carrier is worse then doing the maintenance yourself.
  • Be sure to buy a good cat comb to help with the excess hair from kitty. You will want to groom them daily because it will cut down on fur balls both inside your kitty and out.  Cats love to groom themselves and because of this can get huge hair balls. Grooming helps with this problem and it also will help to cut down on fur everywhere.
Yes, Moomee is eating a bone. She thinks she is a dog!
Feeding Solutions:

  • There is an automatic feeder that you may want to consider purchasing if feeding is too difficult for you. I have not personally tried any of them but will most likely in the future be buying one for my daughter. If you have more then one kitty, this may not be a good solution. In our household Moomee is an eating machine and Mango takes backseat on the food front. Chances are Moomee would gulp all the dispensed food and hog the food dish area before Mango could get a morsel. Ahhh…the joys of dual cat ownership.
  • Elevate your feeding area. There is no reason why you can't put your kitty's water and feeding bowl up on a designated kitty table. By raising the feeding area, you will take lots of stress off of many joints.

Household protection:

  • Consider using a sheet/quiltt to cover your furniture if you don't want to have to do cat hair maintenance on a regular basis. And a sheet is easier to wash then furniture.
  • Do try to match your kitty's color to the color of your furniture. In our case we already had our furniture and just happened to want a stripped orange colored kitty. We got two! You can't see their cat hair on any of our living room furniture but on black pants….oh wow! 
  • Be sure to buy several cat scratchers for your kitty. We have one in every room of our house. It has cut down on furniture destruction approximately 75%. There still remains those obstinate moments though.
  • Be sure to kitty proof your house by removing small objects they might swallow and any poisonous plants.
I am the lump they are laying on. I'm glad someone is comfortable.
Travel Solutions:

  • Kitty, just like us, must go to a doctor on occasion which means one must get them into their kitty carrier.  The best solution I have found to date to get our kitties loaded is to put the carrier on its end with the door open. We then lift up kitty and load them, back end first. Close the door quickly and slowly put the cat carrier in its normal position.
  • If you know you have a scheduled vet visit coming up, you can leave the carrier out a day or two in advance. Typically kitties love a new hiding spot and on the day of the appointment, try throwing a cat treat inside. Chances are your cat will go in to get the treat and you can quickly close them inside.
                                                                                   Peanut my grandpup.

  • Research your breed choice carefully as some breeds do have more health issues which can impact your finances.
  • Choose a smaller breed if you will be the one walking the pup. Larger breeds can be tougher on the joints but I recommend training school for all pups with you in attendance so they learn to obey your commands.
  • Consider a short haired breed as grooming will be easier and less expensive.
  • Fence in your backyard if you can afford it so you can let the pup roam there for his/her important job on your bad flare days.

Grooming Tips:

  • If you can afford to bring your pup into a groomer, this may be the way to go.
  • If you can't afford a groomer and you have a small pup, try using your kitchen sink for bathing. The higher level will help eliminate bending.
  • As with kitties, pups also need to be brushed frequently and checked regularly for ticks and fleas.
                                                                  Peanut patiently waiting for his share.
Feeding Solutions:

  • Consider getting a timed feeding dispenser  (for dried food only) if bending is hard for you.
  • And if you do decide to use some wet food, don't forget an electric can opener.

And just as we must ensure that other family members are taken care of in our absence (say should we need an unexpected hospital stay), have a few emergency caregivers lined up for the four legged baby.

So if you want to have a friend like no other and one that will not judge you….ever….consider adopting a pet.  There are lots of  wonderful rescue agencies out there for you to choose from.  It makes purrfect sense!

And if you have any personal advice on the pros and cons of pet ownership with ra, please be kind and share.  We are on this journey together and I would love to hear your personal pet stories.

Further reading on pet ownership:  The Pros and Cons of Pet Ownership