Repurchase: Busy Buddy Jack & Bristle Bone

The Busy Buddy Bristle Bone was one of the first toys I purchased for my first dog, Allie. When we decided to add another canine to our crew, I took full advantage of the opportunity to buy another similar toy by the same company, the Busy Buddy Jack. Well, that was about 3-4 years ago and it was time for a repurchase! As you can see, although these toys are completely ruined, they were well loved. My motivation for repurchasing was primarily the rubber rings – the nubs were rapidly declining and I can only assume my dogs were ingesting them (and again, this is after 3-4 years of good chewing so I’m not thinking this is a defect).

These toys are predominantly a hard plastic (nylon) chew toy that unscrew apart to allow two rubber rings and an edible ring to be inserted and cost $5-20 (online), depending on the size (XS-L). Four edible rawhide rings come with the toy and refill packs – which come in a variety of flavored rawhide or cornstarch – containing 16 rings are $4-8 (online).

DIY Busy Buddy Toy Refills

I’m not crazy about giving my dogs a lot of rawhide or cornstarch so I generally make my own refills with sweet potatoes. Using the fattest sweet potatoes that I can find, I cut them into 1/4-1/2in slices and use a heavy duty apple corer to punch holes in the middle of the slices. Then I dehydrate the slices for about 8 hours and voila! Yummy, chewy, healthy Busy Buddy refills! (No dehydrator? You can accomplish the same thing in a low heat oven for a few hours!)

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Journal Article: How to Not be a D#@% to Your Cat

IMG_2540Have you ever considered that cats, creatures that we commonly deem to call “owned”,  are a totally different species to ours?  Because cats are relatively common aspects of our households, the fact that their needs to totally unrelated to our own frequently goes overlooked. Dr. Meghan Herron and Dr. Tony Buffington published recommendations for cat owners to provide good health and welfare for their feline friends. Furthermore, ensuring good health and welfare can pre-empt or ameliorate many cat behavior problems! The authors divide their advice into five systems in a cat’s world: physical resources, nutrition, elimination, social, and behavior. My summary of these experts’ recommendations for each system is below!

  • Physical Resource System (Home!)
    • Indoor cats benefit from secure, seclusive “microenvironments”. These are spaces that a cat can go to be away from loud noises, other home inhabitants (both four- and two-legged), and removed from other things that may stress the cat.
    • Multi-cat households may experience a range of cat-on-cat sociality. Cats may prefer a social distant from other cats in the home of between 1 to 3 meters, which includes both horizontal as well as vertical distance!
    • Introducing something new to the cat – food, litter, etc. – should be offered near to the current whatever is being replaced so the cat can choose the preferred item.
  • Nutritional System (Nom noms)
    • Cats are solitary hunters of small prey, so offering food in puzzles that must be manipulated by the cat to release food away from other animals in the household may mimic cats’ natural feeding habits.
    • Cats that are “finicky” about their food may be responding to a perceived threat in their environment.
    • Offering multiple sources of water, including running water from a pet fountain, may benefit cats.
  • Elimination System (When you gotta go…)
    • Multi-cat households should have at least one litter box per cat, plus one additional, kept out of sight of other littler boxes.
    • Covered, self-cleaning, or too small litter boxes may disrupt a cat’s normal elimination behavior routine, which may cause inappropriate elimination (i.e., going outside the box)
    • Cats seem to prefer clumping litter, which should be scooped daily, the entire contents should be dumped weekly, and cleaned with mild soap and water monthly.
  • Social System (You talkin’ to me?)
    • Other living creatures in cats’ environments basically fall into three categories: threats (dogs, humans); competitors (other cats); and prey (birds, fish, pocket pets).
    • Having a perception of control can decrease stress for cats: let cats determine the timing and location of interactions with other species (as safety permits).
    • Multi-cat households may experience inter-cat aggression to due a multitude of reasons: health problems, inadequate resources/space, social status conflicts due to other animals inside or outside the home, etc.
    • Cats may prefer avoidance (silent conflict) to aggression (open conflict).
    • Cats that experience conflict may never be best friends but can usually learn to live together tolerably, sometimes with the help of a certified behaviorist.
  • Behavioral System (A cat’s gotta do…what a cat’s gotta do)
    • Cats must be permitted to display normal behavior to ensure adequate welfare but many normal cat behaviors can be “undesirable” to owners, including scratching, chewing and playing.
    • Directing otherwise “undesirable” towards desirable outlets provides an enriched environment, which can be accomplished by providing outlets that appeal to the cat’s natural behavior.
    • Cats prefer to scratch things after rest and that allow them to hook their claws into it. Poles covered in sisal rope or real wood logs may be good options, placed near common sleeping areas.
    • Cats can be enticed to chew on cat-designated plants (such as live catnip) by rubbing the plants with tuna or wet cat food, and likewise discouraged from chewing non-cat-designated plants by spraying them bitter sprays from pet stores. Pet toxic plants should be removed from cats’ access!
    • Providing a rotating variety of toys (wand toys, stuffed toys, battery-operated self-propelling toys, balls, cat-nip filled toys, laser toys, etc.) will encourage normal cat behaviors like pouncing, stalking, chasing, and biting of said toys (and discourage those same behaviors direct toward the owner’s hands/feet/etc!).

Sources Cited 

Herron ME, Buffington CAT. Environmental Enrichment for Indoor Cats.Compendium (Yardley, PA). 2010;32(12):E4.

Product Review: Food Dispensing Cat Toys: Twist ‘n Treat, SlimCat Interactive Feeder, and Active Treat Ball Cat Toy

ProductTwist ‘n Treat and SlimCat Interactive Feeder by PetSafe and Active Treat Ball cat toy by KONG

Cost: $3-6 at online retailers like Chewy.com; $6-9 in most pet stores

Length of ownership: 1.5+ year

Review:

Let me start off by saying that I approve of all of these toys’ durability, inexpensiveness and effectiveness. They are all great ways to add activity to your cat(s)’s daily routine by getting Kitty to work for her food.

My favorite of this bunch is the SlimCat Interactive Feeder. It’s a spherical shape with that an swivel to make it harder or easier to dispense the food inside. That variable difficulty is why this toy is my favorite. With two different hole shapes (oblong and circular), it accommodates different kibble shapes and sizes. Additionally, you can choose to have the holes completely open or partially closed, which adds to the difficulty level. These toys are large enough to hold about a cup of food. A small complaint about this toy is that the lid to the toy is a tad small, which can make adding food from a measuring cup difficult. It’s easy enough to pour kibble in from your palm, so, as I said, it’s a small complaint.

My second favorite of this trio is the Active Treat Ball toy from KONG. This toy is egg shaped with an oblong hole at one end for the kibble to come out. The toy unscrews at the middle and can hold about 1/2 cup of a kibble. There is a cylinder in the middle of the toy so you can choose to put the kibble outside of the cylinder (easier to dispense) or inside the cylinder (more difficult to dispense) or both. This toy isn’t my favorite because it does hold significantly less food than the SlimCat toy and you can overload the cylinder so that the kibble gets jammed. I also didn’t see significant increases in the time it took my cats to get the kibble out when it was in the cylinder vs. the body of the toy, so this toy isn’t as adjustable as the SlimCat toy.

My least favorite toy is the Twist n’ Treat toy. This toy is an saucer-shaped toy that twists apart at the center and holds a scant 1/2 cup of a kibble. It is meant to be adjustable by screwing the two parts closer or farther apart but because it is made of hard plastic (instead of something with more grip, like rubber), as my cats batted around this toy, it either came apart or tightened up to the point that kibble couldn’t come out. It does essentially work – I’m not going to give it away (yet) – but the other toys in this post are way more effective.

Product Review: FroliCat Bolt Interactive Laser Pet Toy

ProductFroliCat Bolt Interactive Laser Pet Toy by FroliCat

Cost: about $20 at online retailers and in most pet stores

Available: Chewy.com* and other online retailers; most pet stores

Length of ownership: 1+ year

Review:

[Edit 11/06/2014: Please see my response to Dr. Marty Becker’s article on the safety of laser pointer toys for cats here. Out of concern for my cats’ mental health, I am reducing the frequency of their laser pointer play time and using wand toys/jingle balls/fake mice instead.)

The Bolt Interactive Laser Pet Toy is a robotic laser toy that will whirl around a laser dot for your kitties to chase for 15 minutes (it can also be used as a regular, although bulkier, laser pointer). I found this on clearance at a pet store for $10 and purchased it impulsively. Upon reflection, I have NO idea why this item was put on clearance because it is AWESOME! I mean, it’s a pretty basic idea – entertain your cat for 15 minutes with as much effort as it takes to push a button – so what could go wrong?

The Bolt toy takes 4 AA batteries, which weren’t included but have lasted over a year for me. The robotic part of this toy works by using a rotating mirror to reflect the laser point around the room. The tilt of the mirror is adjustable, which I found useful if I put the Bolt toy on a table vs. the floor. The best results that I’ve had with this toy, however, came when I put the toy in our attic crawl space (which I converted to a secret cat lair). Because the ceiling is so low, the laser point is never out of reach for my cats, whereas in a regular room, the laser point will inevitably go somewhere the cats can’t reach. This isn’t a big problem but occasionally, my cats would become disinterested in the Bolt toy if the laser point was out of reach for too long.

As much as my old cats enjoy the Bolt toy, this toy was heaven-sent when I fostered kittens and a momma cat. The kittens were endlessly amused with this toy and I was likewise entertained with their antics. After the kittens left for adoption, the momma cat had bouts of loud nocturnal activity. I turned on the Bolt toy before we went to bed and if she woke me up in the middle of the night to wear her out so that she’d sleep when we slept.

Even though I got this toy a half-price, I think it’s definitely worth $20 for cat owners! The toy does make some noise as it rotates around but didn’t keep me awake at night or similar. I would advise keep this toy away from dogs when not in use because my dog chomped on the top, which made the mirror tilt-adjustment a little wonky. (I don’t consider this a fault of the toy – it’s obviously not meant to be a chew toy!)

The FroliCat company says that this is a “pet toy”, suggesting that it can be used with dogs and guinea pigs and etc. I don’t have a guinea pig or etc. but I avoid using this toy with my dogs. I’ve heard a couple horror stories from veterinary behaviorists of dogs who developed obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) behavior in association with laser pointer play. I have no idea if laser pointers cause or contribute to OCD in dogs! However, the dogs required extensive psychopharmaceuticals and behavioral therapy to overcome their OCD behaviors in these stories. Personally, I’d rather not risk it for my dogs! They have plenty of other toys anyway…

*I regularly use Chewy.com to order dog and cat food as well as other pet supplies. I’m not sponsored by this company in any way. I LOVE them because they are affordable, have great customer service and fast shipping.