Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Golden Moments Senior Pet Blog Tour with Amy Shojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant and author of 23 pet care books. She's a spokesperson to the pet products industry, a columnist at and, and appears as an expert on Animal Planet's CATS 101 and DOGS 101, and is the host of Pet Peeves radio show on

I'm personally interested in her Your Aging Cat since my Funny Face is growing older. He's already 14 nearly 15, rather elderly for a cat. The advice in the book is helpful and enlightening. Funny Face shows needs and tell-tale changes in most areas, except he doesn't match his owner: He hasn't gained weight with age like I have. He still has his slim, trim physic of younger years.

Amy has insight in both books that most readers would find delightful and eye-opening. I highly recommend owners of cats and dogs, whether their pets are senior citizens yet or not. The facts of life are they will age, and owners can use the knowledge before needed.

Now from the books written by Amy Shojai:

Enrich the Environment

Cats and dogs older than seven often have the constitution and attitude of much younger animals. Your pet doesn’t know she should feel or act any differently the day she turns seven. Expect the best of her, give her the best help possible, and there’s no reason why she shouldn’t enjoy a rewarding and vital life well into her golden years.
Health maintenance is paramount for seniors, and mirrors that of youngsters. The help you give her includes good nutrition, exercise, grooming, environmental accommodations, and mental stimulation.

Twenty minutes of aerobic exercise twice a day helps keep cats and dogs of all ages physically fit, mentally alert—and out of trouble. A tired pet is a well-behaved pet! But most old cats and dogs tend to slow down and may have stiff or painful joints that make them reluctant to move their furry tails. It takes more effort to get her moving at all, let alone to generate the same activity level as when she was a youngster.

Simple movement gives her a much needed healthy edge, though. Muscles that aren’t used atrophy. Muscle mass is the buffer a cat needs to maintain health and recover from injury or disease, and so muscle loss can have risky consequences.

As for the joints, they help feed themselves by spreading nutrients with the pumping action of their movement. A reduction in movement allows the joints to get rusty, become less efficient, and can speed the progression of arthritis. Painful arthritis, in turn, makes the cat and dog reluctant to move—and reduced exercise can lead to gaining weight. In a vicious cycle, obesity puts more strain on the already painful joints, and also predisposes her to diabetes mellitus.

As she ages, your cat may not be physically capable of maintaining the same level of exercise she enjoyed as a youthful athlete. Painful joints aren’t helped by the concussive action of leaps and jumps after flying feather toys or Frisbees, so you may need to carefully control her exercise.

Rather than a race across the linoleum, entice your cat to follow you around the house or up and down stairs by dragging a feather lure.
Cats are masters of the stretch and bend, and naturally practice feline yoga. Try hiding toys or treats in places she’ll have to expend energy to reach—on the top of a step stool, for example, or behind a sofa cushion. If she’s trained to walk on a halter and leash, tempt her with a garden stroll to hunt for crickets or butterflies. Find games your cat already enjoys, such as chasing the sheets as you make the bed, and make them part of a daily aerobic workout. The best idea is to maintain a level of aerobic exercise your cat enjoys, so you don’t have to fight her every step of the way.

Rather than a jog on hard surfaces, take your aging dog for a controlled walk on the leash around the block, or up the hill. Use food or toy rewards to tempt her interest. Terriers especially enjoy games that involve chasing, and a favorite stuffed animal dragged along the grass in the back yard may spark interest—some of the same “cat tips” work for terriers and small canines. For small dogs, walking once or twice around the family room or up and down the stairs may be more than adequate. Many dogs love going for a ride, so use this reward as a bribe to entice her to walk down the driveway to reach the car.

Dogs obsessed with toys such as the Frisbee or tennis ball often are fetching fools, and easy to entice into exercise. They don’t always know when to quit, though, and can easily hurt themselves if they overdo. Instead of tossing the toy high in the air, keep the Frisbee or ball low to the ground. That gives them the thrill of the chase, and fun of the game without prompting dangerous leaps that could hurt them. Make sure she has adequate time to catch her breath between mad dashes. Smaller dogs may relish a game of fetch inside the house, with a soft-sided toy.
Swimming is an ideal low-impact aerobic exercise for many dogs that enjoy the water, says Susan G. Wynn, DVM, an acupuncturist and holistic veterinarian. “
But when they’re 14 years old isn’t the time to teach them to swim,” she cautions. Retriever breeds such as Labradors are natural water athletes who enjoy fetching toys from the pool, paddling in shallow water alongside the beach. Small dogs such as miniature Dachshunds may benefit from regular swimming in the bathtub. Cats rarely want to indulge in water sports, though.

Establish a daily routine for your cat and dog—ten to twenty minutes every morning and evening is a good target, and is much better than one long marathon session on weekends. Don’t wait for her to ask you. At the scheduled time, take the leash to her, wake her from a nap if necessary, and get her up and moving. Cats are champion sleepers and won’t need an excuse to steal an extra forty winks. With regular exercise, your aging cat and dog will feel better, act younger, and remain healthier for much longer. When you can do it together, it also enhances the bond you share.

Complete Care for Your Aging Cat, a CWA Special Award Winner, as well as Complete Care for Your Aging Dog  a DWAA Maxwell Award Winner, have both been updated and revise. The Kindle Editions include “hot links” to the experts cited in the book, and the paperback of “Aging Cat” updated second edition is also is available. Amy Shojai, CABC is the award-winning author of 23 dog and cat care and behavior books, and can be reached at her website

The thing is, I believe I'd be in better shape if I followed her advice and adapted it for an aging person.

Thank you, Amy, for sharing your knowledge with us today.

Please visit the next stop on Amy's virtual tour:


Ginger*:) said...

As the "mother" of an aging dog, I appreciated the article, the advice and the value of the things we can do with our older pets. I think Henry would love to sleep most of the day, but if I ask him, he is still ready to take a short happy walk.

Karen Cioffi said...

I have to give the url to this post to my daughter. She has a 3 year old CockerSpaniel who is completely untrained - to the point where no one wants to watch the dog.

Thanks for sharing.

Amy Shojai said...

Thanks so much for hosting, Vivian! I'm delighted to be a guest here, and look forward to any questions folks might have.

Amy Shojai said...

Hi Ginger--you're right, sometimes we have to "wake" up the old fogie pets just to get them up and moving. (sounds like me on cloudy days, LOL!). Karen, hope your daughter finds the post helpful...even though the dog at 3 isn't a senior, there may be info to help. And another book PETiQuette has a lot of training info, too (at my website *s*)

Vivian Zabel said...

I've found Amy's books to be helpful and interesting. Her Animal Planet segments are, too.

Thanks for joining us, Amy.

Bob Mayer said...

I have to force myself every day to load and unload my two yellow labs using a ramp to my Jeep, even though they could easily jump in and out. Thanks to Amy for sharing.

Amy Shojai said...

Appreciate your lovely note, Vivian! And Bob...your dogs surely appreciate the effort. *s* Even the young pooches benefit from less wear and tear (jumping up/down) on the joints, and that can make a big difference later on. Thanks for stopping by!

Janet Ann Collins said...

My dog isn't old yet, but it probably won't seem very long in human years until she is. I'll be sure to use some of this helpful advice and keep her active starting now.

Amy Shojai said...

Janet, it's amazing how much impact "today" has on "tomorrow." All the savvy pet parents out there who prepare now will see the benefit down the road. Thanks for visiting!

Joybeth said...

Great information, Amy. Thanks.

Amy Shojai said...

Thanks Joybeth. I appreciate your visit. *s*

Folks, will check in tomorrow afternoon, but I leave for the airport at 3:30 am so shutting down for the night. Vivian, again thanks for hosting my visit--I'll keep sending folks this direction, to your terrific blog! And...thank you kindly for the lovely review/post on re: the aging cat book.

woofs & purrs,

Vivian Zabel said...

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by. If anyone visits Thursday, I won't be able to access a computer. I'll be on the train to Austin from early morning until late afternoon.

Martha said...

Amy, What great advice. I found myself sending off this interview to everyone I know with cats and dogs.

Susanne Drazic said...

What an interesting post. I'm going to have to check out Animal Planet. Our family cat is about 13 years old and as feisty as ever, but I do worry about him as he is not a young cat.

Vivian Zabel said...

Sorry to have disappeared, but I didn't realize when I left I would be without Internet from Wednesday night until Monday night. Talk about withdrawal.

Amy, I'm going to try to catch up with your tour. Thanks for visiting here.