Wednesday January 22 2014

Making your home a pet-friendly one

Pets are a nice to have around the house,

Pets are a nice to have around the house, however, it is advisable to prepare for them. If you do not want them inside the house, construct a kennel so that they have a comfortable place to rest. Photo by Ismail Kezaala 

By Betty Ndagire

Pets can be an endearing part of the home unless you subscribe to the tales, films and superstitions involving pets as mediators in those horrific stories.,
If not, they can be a nice addition to your home offering companionship and security in some cases. If you plan on getting one –dog, cat or fish – for the house, there are some things to consider so that the pet is comfortable without messing up the house.

A space of their own
As a pet owner with a special attachment to the animal in your keep, you might find it easier to share the bed with it.
However, Dr Eddie Ekakoro, a veterinary surgeon at Makerere University, Department of Veterinary surgery, says studies over the past year have shown that bringing dogs or cats into the bedroom can actually be dangerous to one’s health.

He says though it might be a very rare instance, experts suggest that this close contact between a pet and guardian opens up the door to contracting life-threatening infections which include rabies, scabies, ringworms, tuberculosis, cat scratch fever, plague, tick paralysis, bird flu and common allergies, among others.

“We wanted to raise the attention of people, as sleeping with a pet is becoming quite common, and there are risks associated with it, even if it is not very frequent.
“Pet owners should know that a pet-free bedroom improves the quality of sleep for the guardian. In addition, a pet-free sleeping area helps relieve allergy symptoms. ” says Dr Ekaroro, “Some might be hesitant to force their dogs and cats to sleep in their own spaces, but veterinarians indicate that your pet will be healthy and happy no matter where they sleep.”

Pet beds/cushions
Dr Ekaroro advises that you train your pets to stay out of your room or off your bed, if possible, to allow you get a good night of sleep without worrying about allergies. This can be done through getting pet beds, for animals which have been accustomed to sharing the space with you.

“Those who own dogs cats and rabbits as pets should buy pet beds. These beds are like mattresses and provide support. They are best for older pets and provide extra cushioning. They are also roomy, so if your pet likes to spread out in sleep, this could be a good option if stationed in a comfortable corner of the house.”

Kennels
He says for those home owners who want pets such as dogs away from the house completely and yet need them for security, they should construct kennels. It is important for the well-being of your pet that it is well housed. This kennel provides your pet with protection from the outside elements and sufficient space for comfort.

“The house (kennel) should have a floor which sits far enough above ground to prevent water from entering on the rainiest days. Raising the floor will also isolate it from the cold ground. It should be large enough to allow your pet to move around easily in it. Don’t make it too large, since a smaller house is more easily heated by the dog’s natural body. Heat is an important consideration on cold days.”

Litter boxes
For cats, get a box or plastic tray and put cat litter (this can be sand), which absorbs urine and the smell that comes with it. If you train the cat to always go to this box whenever it wants to relieve itself, it makes it easy for you to clean up.

If you keep fish
For those who choose to keep fish as pets, there are things to consider when choosing the location for your tank, glass bowl or aquariums for your fish.
“Too much sunlight will cause excessive algae growth and a maintenance nightmare. An interior wall, away from bright light, is best. Fish are known to have a tranquil, calming effect on anyone who watches them glide serenely through the water,” he says, therefore they too need a tranquil environment.

Generally speaking, fish are easier and less expensive to feed and care for than other pets, however, they do require a proper environment and knowledgeable caretakers. Unlike many dogs and other furry and feathered pets, fish don’t develop destructive behaviour when you leave them alone at home.”
With these tips you can have pets at home without dreading their presence.

House training

Teddy Kiwanuka, a resident of Ministers Village Ntinda in Kampala and an owner of four dogs and three cats says. “Unlike human counterparts, pets are loving but not hypercritical, giving their owners a kind of acceptance they may not have elsewhere. They can lead to a healthier lifestyle, and may even provide some security and protection.”

However, she points out that in order to enjoy the most of the pet in the home, it is good to house train them. Kiwanuka says house training will influence other forms of training and establish the rules of the house. Owners who do not take the time to house train correctly, end up with a problem pet.
“Often, incompletely house trained cats and dogs soil the home haphazardly. Sometimes, it is because they don’t know how to communicate to their pet parents that they need to go outside,” says Kiwanuka.

Kiwanuka says her neighbours who own puppies, lament that these animals often sneak away to ease themselves in another room or behind furniture rather than letting their owners know that they need to go outside.Train them when they are still little by taking them out every time you notice that they want to ease themselves.

Put barriers
“Pet owners are always advised to place gates in doorways so that the puppy or kitten stays in the room with you. If you need to be away for a significant amount of time, place the puppy in a crate or hire a pet sitter to come and watch it.”

She adds that if you own a home and think of sharing it with some pets, you need to lay down a few ground rules if you not interested in too much extra work. You do not have to worry that you might not be able to train your animal well enough to follow house rules. The rules are for you, not your pet.

“There is a need to decide which part of your house you want to share with your pet and be consistent about enforcement, restrict your pet to its own bed not yours. Mark off one of the rooms as the pets’ room with items such as toys, bowls, treats and the pet’s bed,” she says. “If you have limited space in your home, please do not risk having pets for they need to have a large space to expend their energy and get sufficient exercise.”

Maintenance

Dr Ekaroro says to ensure that your pet is clean, bathe it on a regular basis. This will significantly reduce the amount of allergens your pet carries around. This is done through shampooing it with an antibacterial shampoo.

Feeding them table leftovers no matter how cute they are when they plead is not a good idea since human food often has minerals and items in it that can be harmful to our canine and feline friends. In the case of fish, avoid feeding them on bread crumbs since they can easily choke. If you can’t find fish flakes, feed them on small pieces of spinach or cheese.

“Grooming a pet’s claws is also part of the keeping it hygienic but normally this is done by use of a nail clip, a pair of scissors or pliers when the animal is under anaesthesia.

“This should be done outdoors, to minimise airborne skin particles that contribute to allergies,” says Dr Ekakoro.
If your pets shed a lot of hair and they like to lounge in the sofas or on the rugs, cover the sofas and rugs with easy to clean cloths or dust them regularly to avoid allergies.

If you get them

Kennels. Most people construct kennels themselves, using ironsheets and pieces of wood left over from construction. However, in case you are looking for a professionally constructed one, Alex Nkwanga of Savanah English Bulldog Breeders in Namugongo, Wakiso District says an already built kennel is worth Shs350,000 for one dog and for two it cost Shs 700,000.

Aquariums. Jessy Kidde of Aquapet Uganda, a fish shop located on Bombo Road says an aquarium ranges between Shs400,000 and Shs1m and more depending on the size.
Or you can get a glass bowl you don’t use anymore, put smooth rocks — the kind you get near a lake, and fill it with fresh water.
Goldfish cost Shs15,000 each while Koi catfish costs Shs20,000 each.

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