Cats and County Fairs

This month I had the opportunity to judge the cat show at 2 county fairs. I have done this previously and always felt that cats are a difficult animal to show. They are not leash trained so it can be a challenge to keep them from running away. It is also a challenge for a judge to get an accurate idea of their body conformation and movement. Most cats are extremely timid when removed from their natural environment so we do not get to see the true personality of the cats. Many cats are much heavier than what we would consider to be ideal since they get little exercise on any given day.  With all this information, I set out to answer the question:

Is there a way to improve a cats personality and behaviors that would make cat shows more enjoyable not only for the person showing their cat but also the judge and the spectators?

Yes! EARLY INTERVENTION IS KEY! This relates to handling and exposing that kitten at a pre-weaning stage of its life to all the things that a judge would want you to do with your cat at the show and to prepare it for the show.  Studies have shown that cats need a lot of handling before 9 weeks of age. Dogs have an open window for social skills until 16 weeks of age. Many families do not even get the kitten until after 8 weeks of age. This can make attachment to the new family a challenge in some cases if the home they came from did not spend time exposing them to new people and situations. As a kid I remember being told not to even touch the kittens and puppies before their eyes were open. We do not recommend that any more since we realize that the more handling they receive the better their social skills are. If you have a litter of kittens in your home spend time picking them up and turning them upside down, touching their feet, opening their mouths, combing their hair, and exposing them to as many people as you can in those early months. Introduce them to dogs, car rides, carriers, bathing, and other environments if possible. Early social experiences can enhance their acceptance of change as they age.

As I have practiced over the years and seen kittens grow into adult cats, it has become apparent that kittens growing up with preschool kids and toddlers are the best cats in my exam room. Now this may surprise you. What I suspect is that kittens handled by this young age group learn to accept that in life uncomfortable things happen and I never get my way. Think about it.  A young child catches that kitten and just holds on because if it gets away, they know they will not be able to catch it again.  So the kitten eventually realizes it does no good to struggle and just gives up. Also these kittens are put into backpacks, doll strollers, wrapped in blankets, and dressed up in doll clothes all while having to endure some less than comfortable positions while being held. They may be dropped, stepped on, or have hair pulled as the child learns the proper way to handle them. Together these things make the cat extremely relaxed with various interactions with people. Remember that this would apply to kittens that are having this interaction before 9 weeks of age.

Come With Me Kitty Harness & Bungee Leash

I am not advocating that every kitten has to grow up with a preschool child. What I would point out is if a kitten is struggling to get out of your arms, wait to set it down until after it has relaxed. Do not let it down in the struggle. Take the kitten to meet people wherever and whenever you can. Travel with the kitten to places other than the veterinarian’s office in its carrier. If the only time I got into my car was to go to the doctor’s office, I would most likely hate my car. Teach the kitten to accept a harness and a leash if you plan to show the cat or expose it to the outdoors. This is even helpful when traveling to the veterinarians office. A company called PetSafe has a “Come with Me Kitty” harness and bungee leash.  This link will take you to their website to learn more about the harness. Come With Me Kitty Harness and Bungee Leash by PetSafe – GRP …There are techniques out there to train a cat to walk on a leash.  It can be done. Cats are trainable but you have to find the reward that makes them want to do what you ask of them. Some cats are food motivated but others may have more desire to play with a toy or get some personal attention. There are links on the web that help people teach their cats how to walk on a leash or even do tricks. The earlier you begin these techniques the better success you will have.  Also teaching a cat to let you trim its nails, open its mouth, roll it over to groom the belly, lift the tail just to look, etc. can go a long way to make this cat more relaxed in a cat show and in your home.

I know many people that say cats and dogs do not like each other. Watching kittens grow up with dogs you see that they love to spend time with them if introduced at an early age. The same philosophy should be used when trying to make cats more relaxed outside of your home. Start by taking them places to meet as many new people as you can and go to as many locations as you can. The more they get exposed to new situations the better they will be when taken to a cat show or even the veterinary office.

Wouldn’t it be fun to see our cats walking on a leash in a circle while being judged on their body conformation and gaits? Wouldn’t it be great to let the judge see their true character during the judging process? Far to long we have allowed our cats to rule our homes and just accepted their independence. I want to encourage families who get young kittens to work with them immediately upon coming into your home to learn healthy social skills.  Attempting to change their behaviors later on in life is extremely difficult and next to impossible. The key is early intervention and socialization if we want to make our cat shows and our house cats more personable!

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2 Years of Blogging

June 24, 2016…..the day I posted my first blog. Two years and many topics later, I am still finding information to share about pets, practice, and life. I probably need to figure out what my audience looks like? The demographics of who reads my blogs? What topics get the most likes or views? In this day in age, everything is analyzed for gaining the edge on your competition. Isn’t that why we invest time and energy into social media? I have attended multiple continuing education sessions on the importance and benefit of social media. Writing a blog gives you additional merit and leverage with Google to help keep your position when people are searching for veterinarians in Winterset or Central Iowa. It is amazing to me how many people are finding us from our website. Gone are the yellow pages and local phone books. Now one just asks Siri or Alexa for veterinarians in the Winterset area and she gives Winterset Veterinary Center as her first option and indicates they have a 5 star rating if you ask her what is good about them.   We have had some great reviews since starting our website in 2009. We went through an update a little over 2 years ago and I suppose it is time to review the information and see if we need to make any changes. We need to make certain the information is accurate and easy to understand for any potential client that may be searching the web for veterinarians.

Google Analytics is a program that all websites within google can access to evaluate your usage. The data is extremely interesting and helpful to see what areas are of most interest to those that visit wintersetvet.com. 

In the last 2 years since we updated our website:

  • 88% are new visitors and 12% are return visitors
  • 2,235 users viewed 1.6 pages/session and averaged 1 minute and 12 seconds/session
  • 33.5% are age 25-34 and 27.5% are between 18-24
  • 45.85% are female and 54.15% are male
  • 52% use desktops, 43% mobile, and 5% tablets
  • 69% either use chrome or safari for their browser
  • 51% organically search verses 34% typing in wintersetvet.com and 8% and 7% respectively come from social media (Facebook) or referral from other sites(Winterset Chamber).

The most interesting data piece to me is a map of where our users live. It shows that 89% are US users but that other 11% varies across the world. The following map shows the locations around the world that have either accidentally or intentionally been directed to our website. France has had some repeat visits so we are wondering who may be following our updates or blogs there.

A funny story that occurred a few months back while I was on call one Friday evening. A man informed me he would be bringing his dog in on Saturday morning to have me remove porcupine quills from his dogs face. I requested we do the removal that night since Saturday’s schedule was already booked and sedation would be required. He insisted that we do it on Saturday morning. I politely told him that I was sorry but he would need to go to the 24/7 emergency facility on Saturday.  He said some rather unkind words and hung up the phone. The next morning he never called and I got to thinking how we do not have porcupines in Iowa. I had removed quills from dogs in Minnesota numerous times when I practiced up in St. Cloud. I googled Winterset Veterinary and up popped a practice in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania. Now they probably have porcupines. I decided to call the number back on my phone from the night before and share with him the ironic confusion that occurred. He did not answer so I left him a nice sweet message informing him of the organic search mistake that had occurred when he googled Winterset Vet. About 30 minutes later he called me back and we laughed as he told me I was the only Veterinarian that answered my phone the night before and returned a call to him. Since he was a truck driver he mentioned he may stop by someday while traveling across the country. Those types of mistakes would never have occurred when using telephone books. With our current google ranking, even in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania we are the first veterinarian that pops up when typing in Winterset Vet.

So whether you are local or around the world following our updates we thank you for stopping by. We will continue to strive to find ways to educate or entertain you with information pertinent to your pets and their health. We hope that you will consider subscribing to our blog by following this link:

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The blog will then be sent to your email each time it is posted. We never want you to miss a blog just in case the information is exactly what you needed to hear. Have a wonderful July 4th and enjoy the long summer days.

New Beginnings

We are empty nesters after 26 years. Time has finally moved Dan and I into a new role in our lives. We enjoyed the weekend celebrations of JoAnn’s graduation party and ceremony.  We celebrated having all the kids home since this becomes more rare with each passing year. We enjoyed having family and friends come to congratulate JoAnn and offer advice on how to adjust to an empty nest. We set off fireworks in celebration of JoAnn and all her accomplishments and to bring in our new empty nest status with a bang!

New beginnings can be scary but yet they can hold so much excitement and anticipation about what the next journey will be. JoAnn asked people to highlight a favorite verse in the bible that had significant meaning to them. The variety of verses that were highlighted just shows that everyone’s path is different and unique. With each new adventure you discover more about yourself and the world around you. I was thinking about the three graduations in my own personal life and how they were the same or different. The common thread in all of them was the new beginnings that followed. Three separate times in my life where I could consider myself having a fresh start. A whole new direction that would propel me towards the future that God had planned for my life. This month is 30 years since I graduated from ISU College of Veterinary Medicine. In those 30 years, I have been married to the same wonderful man. I gave birth to 4 amazing children that have grown into even more amazing adults. I have lived in 2 states, 6 different houses, and in 4 different school districts.  I have owned more vehicles than I care to remember. I was a business owner of my own practice, worked for a corporate practice, and have practiced as an associate in multiple practices. I have been a stay at home mom, a weekly volunteer at elementary schools, a youth leader along with Sunday School teacher at church, and a mom volunteer at fundraisers for the numerous organizations that our 4 kids became involved in. With each of these events and activities, I discovered more about myself and what is important in my life.

New beginnings have been common in these past 30 years. I sometimes felt guilty that our children did not get to live in the same home and school district their entire lives like my husband and I did. Yet, then I think about how often we must accept change and new beginnings in our lives. I recognize how experiencing those things early in their lives has helped shape them into the confident adults that they are. They have had to adapt to change along-side Dan and myself. With those new beginnings, we have seen them stumble, but also quickly pick themselves back up, brush off the fears and frustrations, and push forward with more confidence and determination than ever. They have come to discover that new beginnings are something to embrace and conquer. Knowing that the future holds more adventures that will help propel them into this game of life. We can try to plan every step, but if you forget to side step along the way, you will miss opportunities.

If you are facing new beginnings in your life at this time, try to find the positive in every moment as you move forward. In the Lion King movie, Simba and Rafiki talk about how the winds are changing and how change is good but not easy. I am ready to embrace the winds of change and open my life to any and all opportunities and new beginnings.

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