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Family Matters: Introducing Your Cat to Your Baby


Introducing Your Cat to Your BabyWhich came first, the baby or the pet?

In a lot of cases, the pet came first and the baby joins the family later. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be an either/or proposition.

Plan ahead as you prepare to welcome baby into your family.

Set boundaries with your cat and the baby’s room immediately. Keep the door closed, or firmly remove the cat whenever he enters. Make sure the nursery is deep-cleaned to remove pet hair or dander, especially if it was a room your cat used to frequent. Do not let your cat sleep on the baby’s bouncy chair, crib, rocking chair or anything else that will be exclusively the baby’s.

Take your cat to the vet to make sure he is up-to-date on all of his shots before the baby arrives.

Keep the cat’s nails trimmed.

If the cat is accustomed to being held, get him used to sitting next to you instead of on your lap.

Do not tolerate any aggression toward the baby, and monitor them closely until you know how your cat will react to his new family member.



Family Matters: Introducing Your Dog to Your Baby


Introducing Your Dog to Your BabyFido was your first baby, but now there’s going to be another one. One who will probably take more kindly to being dressed up in adorable outfits and Halloween costumes.

The first thing you have to do is set clear boundaries for the baby’s space. Even if your pup is super gentle, he’s also probably a lot bigger than your new bundle of joy. Make the baby’s room off-limits to your pooch, just for safety. Go ahead and set up the baby’s swing, bouncy seat and portable play mat, and teach your dog not to touch them.

After baby is born, have your partner bring a burp cloth or blanket home from the hospital before baby arrives. Then, have him hold it at a distance from your dog, teaching your pup some restraint with the little one.

When your baby is ready to come home from the hospital, it’s best that your dog is calm and ready. Maybe take him for a long walk first, so he’s a little tired out. Your dog can sniff near the baby, but most dogs will get the idea pretty quickly.

As your baby grows, also teach him how to touch the dog gently and with respect.



Family Matters: Bird Safety


Bird SafetyDid you know that your pet bird is the adventurous sort?

Well, he is!

The first way to keep him safe is to make sure his environment, in most cases, his cage, doesn’t pose any unseen dangers. Make sure the bars are close enough together so that he can’t fit his head through, or else he might get it caught. Use a water bottle and feeder that are designed for your cage and that don’t pose an extra safety risk. Check doors and spring-locked mechanisms so that your bird can’t get a beak, head, wing or foot trapped either.

If your bird is allowed to fly around your house, make sure the house is bird-proofed, too. Watch for crayons, household cleaners or foods that are harmful to birds. Blankets, yarns, threads in sewing supplies, ropes, macramé decorations and small toys, such as Lego bricks, can also be hazardous. Put away table salts and insecticides, too.

Certain houseplants are toxic for your bird, including avocados, calla lilies, coffee beans, eggplants, Jerusalem cherry, milkweed, mistletoe, philodendron, tobacco, tomatoes, Virginia creeper and yew.



Family Matters: Small Pet Safety


Small Pet SafetySmall animals like hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs and mice can make great pets, but you have to keep them safe!

First of all, make sure their habitat is secure, and they can’t escape! Take care to make sure cage lids, latches, doors and other openings can’t be pried open by your small pet. Also, make sure no one else in your house (i.e. curious children) can leave them open by mistake.

Then, make sure that large pets don’t have access to your small pet. Cats and dogs can definitely be a danger to a hamster, gerbil or other small animal.

Make sure the lining in a small pet’s cage or crate is appropriate. Dryer lint isn’t safe to use for pets because it’s flammable.

When you let your pet out of the cage, make sure they are being monitored and can’t scamper easily under any furniture or appliances.

Finally, do not sleep with your small pet, as you run the risk of suffocating them.



Family Matters: The More Movement, The Merrier


The More Movement, The MerrierYour small pet, like a hamster or guinea pig, spends most of his day in a cage, so he needs a good outlet for exercise.

You can purchase a tunnel system for many small pets, which extends the area in their cage and gives them a great opportunity to climb and run. If your cage doesn’t accommodate this type of exercise run, build one within safe confines where your pet can’t get loose, and let him work his way through it.

You might have to start by hiding a small treat in the tubing to help motivate your pet to move through the course.

A wheel is also a great form of exercise. Hamsters, gerbils and mice especially love to run on a wheel mounted in their cage.

Create an enclosure (outside of the cage and in a much larger space) where your pet can roam free. They will like the feeling of vast freedom that they will experience.

Small balls are wonderful playthings, as your pet will chase them.

Finally, invest in a collar and leash for your small pet. You can walk them, too.



Family Matters: Keeping Your Feathered Friend Active


Keeping Your Feathered Friend ActiveEvery once in a while, you have to let a caged bird sing or, in this case, exercise.

You’d feel all penned up in a cage, wouldn’t you? While it’s not exactly the same for your pet bird, you do need to make sure it gets enough exercise to keep him healthy and happy.

One thing you can do is put a ladder in his bird cage so that he can climb up and down it at his pleasure. When he sees the ladder, he will be compelled to climb it to the top.

Purchase foraging toys from your local pet shop. These toys allow you to hide food or millet treats inside so your pet has to work for them.

Let him fly, literally. Provide a safe, enclosed space, and let him flap his wings. If your bird’s wings are clipped, take him out of his cage and put him on a perch to let him flap around.

Hang a small bell in your bird’s cage; he will reach for it and ring it.

Offer your bird things to tear up, like newspaper or eucalyptus branches. He’ll get a good workout shredding.

Finally, place your bird on the floor at one end of a hallway (with doors to the hallway closed). Go to the other end; call him and let him hop to you.



Family Matters: Caring for Your Kitten


Caring for Your KittenYou just brought your new bundle of fuzzy joy home. Now, what do you do?

Most kittens are ready to be weaned and rehomed at 8 weeks, so you’ll have a little ball of love on your hands.

First things first: take your new kitten to a veterinarian for a complete checkup and shots. You want to start his life with you in a healthy way.

As for food, offer your kitten a brand of food specially formulated for a younger cat. Either wet or dry food is okay. Just make sure it’s chock full of the nutrients kittens need to grow big and strong. Kitten meals should be about 30 percent high-quality protein.

Teach them good bathroom habits immediately. Most cats love to stay clean and don’t need much litter box training. Introduce them to the litter box in the space where it will remain permanently. Let the cat scratch around inside. Bring her back to the box frequently the first several days or until she has it down pat.

Pet your cat frequently to help it socialize. If it tolerates being held, snuggle with it and let it fall asleep on your lap or chest.

Provide your cat with toys like small balls, squeaky toys and things that move. You might need to provide it with a scratching post to protect your furniture as your kitten’s claws grow.



Family Matters: Exercise is Fun with Your Dog


Exercise is Fun with Your DogWhen I mentioned that I was writing a blog on doggie exercise, my boyfriend immediately offered that some people dance with their dogs.

Um, okay

I can just picture him twirling Astro, my 95-pound mutt, around the dance floor. Maybe they could get matching tuxes or something.

He wasn’t kidding.

Sure enough, get your dog to exercise by having him move and groove around the room with you.

Start by clearing furniture to give you both a large enough space to dance. Turn on some tunes and encourage him to weave through your legs, turn circles, leap into the air, spin around and back up to you.

Keep some low-fat treats in your pocket to reward him for participating.

Did you know doggies do yoga, too? Where do you think “downward dog” came from? Astro has downward dog mastered. Partner yoga moves can help your dog relax and relieve stress. Look for YouTube videos guiding you through the moves with your pup.

Play! Of course, this is great exercise. Throw your dog a Frisbee or a ball, and let him catch it or fetch and retrieve.

You can always take him on a brisk walk as well.



Family Matters: Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth


Brushing Your Dog's TeethDoes your pup suffer from an all-day case of morning breath?

Brushing your dog’s teeth should be a regular part of his hygiene routine, especially as older dogs have a tendency to lose teeth.

For starters, dry food is better for dog’s teeth than wet foods. The crunch factor helps clean plaque off of teeth.

Start your dog off on a teeth-brushing regime when he is a puppy, so he’s accustomed to always having that task in his life.

Go to the pet store and pick a toothpaste. Human toothpaste can be harmful to dogs, as it contains fluoride, so choose one formulated for a dog. Grab a dog-specific toothbrush while you’re there.

To brush his teeth, catch him while he’s calm. Snuggle him in your lap or wrap your free arm around him. Place a small dollop of toothpaste on the brush. Then, gently pull back his gums and brush his teeth. Dogs don’t need to rinse, but do offer him a bowl of clean water afterward.

Flossing is optional.



Family Matters: Fun and Exercise For Your Pet


Fun and Exercise For Your PetToys aren’t just for kids; your small pet loves them, too!

Small animals like hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs or mice love a good toy. Not only are they fun, a lot of these toys are great exercise for animals cooped up in a small area.

Try plastic running balls. These rigid, plastic domes have a little door (and plenty of ventilation) for your hamster, gerbil or mouse. Place the animal inside and put the ball on a flat surface, like the floor (not on a table or countertop where he could roll off and injure himself), and let him run wild. Placing the ball inside a clean, DRY bathtub works, too, and lessens the chance of the ball getting stuck under furniture, where you have a hard time getting it out.

Tunnels are also great toys for small animals. Either attached to their cage or freestanding, tunnels can give them other options of places to run and explore. Try placing a treat in one corner and see how quickly your small pet finds it.

Small rubber balls are fun, as are ball pits! Miniature versions of this childhood favorite provide your pet with great exercise (and a fun place to burrow in and sleep).

Fiddlesticks and chew toys are also good options.



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