The Top 10 Pet-Owner Mistakes
Mistake 9: Failing to Make Your Home Pet-FriendlyWhy this is a mistake: A cat without a proper litter box will just use the carpet. A dog without a cozy bed will end up on the couch.
How to avoid it: Location is key with a litter box. “A cat doesn’t want to travel a long way to go to the bathroom any more than you do,” says Mieshelle Nagelschneider, a feline behaviorist and a consultant at the Cat Behavior Clinic, near Portland, Oregon. Place litter boxes (one per cat, if you own a few, plus one box they can share, says Moore) in quiet areas throughout your home. Plug in a night-light beside each one so your cat can find it in the dark. Cats dislike strong odors (even air freshener), so use uncovered boxes and unscented litter and scoop out each box every day. Dogs are far less persnickety about where they relieve themselves, but do them the favor of regularly picking up the poop in the backyard. Cats and dogs also need spots where they can cuddle up and feel safe. “A dog needs a crate like a teenager needs a room,” says Dodman. Provide a crate or a cozy bed, and make it taboo for your family to pester the dog while he’s in it. Cats naturally want to climb to an optimal vantage point, so set up a place where yours can look out a window.
Mistake 10: Punishing Your PetWhy this is a mistake: You might think Chewie knows you’re screaming at him because he ate the loaf of bread on the counter, but he won’t connect your behavior with his action.
How to avoid it: Never physically punish your pet; he’ll just learn to fear you. It’s OK to startle a pet out of a behavior, but only if you catch him in the act. Command him with a firm “No!” or “Down!” and he’ll connect the reaction with what he’s doing and learn that it’s not OK. Otherwise, the punishment should come from the environment. Teach a cat or a dog to stay off the counter, say, by arranging sheet pans in a pile that will clatter to the floor if he jumps up. The counter, not you, will become the thing to fear.
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