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7 ways cats show us they love us on Valentine’s Day and every day

Cats can’t say they love us with words, but they do have their own love language that they share with us on a daily basis. Here are 7 ways your cat tells you he loves you:

Listen when its time to relax:

1. Grooming – (or allogrooming) is a behavior that happens between two cats during times of rest and involves cuddling up and licking and grooming each other. This act of love reinforces friendships and provides stability in the group. It can also be a way of offering ‘a fig leaf’ when reconciliation is required after a recent misunderstanding. So when your cat gives you a lick, you don’t just taste nice, he is reinforcing your relationship.

Listen with your eyes:

2. Tail position – When your cat approaches you with his tail in an upright position he is greeting you and inviting you to stroke and play with him.

3. All in the eyes – Eyes reveal a lot about how your cat is feeling. Narrowed pupils communicate a content cat that is relaxed in your presence. When your cat slow blinks at another cat, it is believed he is looking for reassurance in a tense environment. So if you are staring at your cat and he starts blinking at you, he may be feeling intimidated and it is a good idea to redirect your gaze of love.

4. Scratching – your cat will often scratch on a mat or the arm of a couch when he is entering a room or returning home. Aside from leaving a familiar scent in his environment (see below), your cat is visually saying “hello good to see you my friend”.

Listen with your nose:

Communicating through scent is very important in the feline world and cats send and receive a mountain of information though special glands along the body; including face, side, base of tail and paws.

5. Rubbing – (or more correctly, allorubbing) is another mutual behavior that helps to confirm and maintain relationships and a familiar scent in the environment. It is believed that cats rub against the head and body of other cats to acknowledge the other cat’s status rather than to be submissive. So when your cat rubs against your leg he is confirming he has a relationship with you and exchanging smells to provide reassurance that you both belong in the same group. And although cats don’t live in a structured hierarchy, he is probably acknowledging your status. He may also just have you very well trained as, in the past when he has done this he has been rewarded with you going to the treat cupboard!

Listen with your ears:

6. Meow – When your cat ‘meows’ with an open mouth that gradually and softly closes, he is greeting you and encouraging social interaction.

7. Purrrrr – Did you know that cats don’t only purr when they are happy, they purr when they are stressed too? But your cat does purr with you during interactions that he enjoys.


Bowen, J & Heath, S (2005). Behavior problems in Small Animals. Practical advice for the veterinary team. Elsevier Saunders

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How Animals Medicate Themselves in the Wild

Animals are happy and healthy by nature. Of course, life has its ups and downs. That’s natural too. So what do animals in the wild do when they fall ill?

For common, minor upsets otherwise healthy, happy animals are perfectly equipped to heal themselves. The wonderfully complex immune system knows what to do to heal. Resources are mobilised from the appropriate cells, tissues and organ systems to support the healing process and, before you know it, health is restored.

For some problems, however, additional support is required to allow full healing. If animals don’t have the resources or nutrients they need to heal within their organs and tissues, they may look for a remedy in their environment. Continue reading How Animals Medicate Themselves in the Wild

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Animals ~ The Green Gurus

Animals keep it simple. Without trying to look good, they have been living sustainably for a long, long time. They are really good at it. You could say they are naturally gifted. Of course, humans are animals too, and there was a time when we were totally green. We all used to follow the laws of Nature. Naturally. Perhaps it is time to listen to the animals again so we can all move forward together. Continue reading Animals ~ The Green Gurus

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Happy Animals in Spring

In the yearly creative cycle Spring represents a time of youthfulness, flexibility and vibrant growth – for plants and animals.

If well-rested and restored, animals naturally let go of their winter sleepiness and wake up into a ‘good morning feeling’ of Spring filled with renewed curiosity and playfulness.

Right on cue, Nature provides animals with all they require to respond positively to the impulses of Spring. Playing a central role in this phase is the extraordinary relationship between the liver and bitter tasting plants.

The Liver

The liver is essential to life and is wholly or partly responsible for  hundreds of vital functions in animals. The liver organ is largest in young animals, in the Spring of their lives. In newborns it is involved in blood production, before the bone marrow takes over this function. With age, the liver naturally becomes smaller corresponding to a reduced liver function.

Functions of Liver (and Gallbladder)

Livers are involved in many vital functions, including:

  • Protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Bile production and excretion
  • Hormone production and breakdown
  • Detoxification and drug breakdown
  • Storage of various vitamins and minerals

Supporting healthy liver function throughout an animal’s life is therefore vitally important.

Bitter Herbs

Each season can be seen to embody its own taste or flavour, with the fresh green leaves and shoots of Spring associated with the bitter taste.

Bitter receptors on an animal’s tongue detect a variety of ‘bitter principles’ in the plants (bitter tasting chemical constituents like volatile oils, alkaloids, iridoids or sesquiterpenes). The bitter taste triggers a range of responses via the nervous system, with the degree of the response correlated to the intensity of the bitterness.

Many of these bitter plants have been used as medicinal herbs by humans and animals because of their strong effect on liver function and digestive health. Traditionally, these herbs have been referred to as bitter digestives, hepatics, choleretics and cholagogues. These categories refer to the qualities responsible for the ‘blood cleansing’ or detoxifying effects of these herbs.

Creating a Happy Animal Garden with a variety of herbs is also a good idea. Be sure to include dog and cat grass. Make it easy for your animals to self-select what is needed and what makes them feel better. Getting active and taking daily walks out in Nature will provide opportunities for animals to browse and benefit from the many plants Spring provides for a happy, healthy liver.

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Stress-Busting Herbs for Animals

All animals are happy and healthy by nature. However, modern living can be stressful and make it tricky for animals to experience their natural wellbeing.

Definition of stress

Stress is the consequence of the failure of an organism — human or other animal — to respond adequately to mental, emotional, or physical demands, whether actual or imagined. (Hans Selye, 1956)

When an animal perceives a threat the natural response is called the stress-response (also called the fight-or-flight response). In natural environments the stress-response has an important purpose. When threatened, the stress-response provides animals with the means to be focused and alert, ready for emergency action. Involving the whole animal, mind and body, this built-in safety feature ensures an animal responds quickly and effectively to the threat, and helps ensure their survival.

However, if stress continues to be present over an extended period it can be detrimental to an animal’s health. Long-term stress, even at low levels, results in animals being unable to fully relax. The resulting anxiety and nervous tension can lead to a range of disorders affecting an animal’s mood, physiological functioning and behaviour.

What experiences are perceived as stressful and how the stress manifests is influenced by many factors. These factors vary from species to species, and individual to individual. For example, a cat may be stressed by neighbourhood cats coming into the garden, a new baby in the home, or vet visits. A dog may be stressed by being left alone, thunderstorms or kennel stays. The cat may show it is stressed by urinating inappropriately in the home, compulsive over-grooming, or developing cystitis. The dog may manifest stress with diarrhoea, aggressive behaviour, or skin allergies.

Herbs that have an effect on the nervous system have traditionally been called Nervines. Nervines are usually further categorised into Nervine Relaxants that relax the nervous system; Nervine Stimulants that stimulate the nervous system; and Nervine Tonics that strengthen, nourish and restore the nervous system.

Modern science can now explain many of the effects of Nervines. Research into the functioning of nerves at a molecular level has led to the discovery that a number of important chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) can be influenced by herbs. These chemical messengers play different roles in the healthy functioning of the central nervous system.

The neurotransmitter that is primarily responsible for relaxing the nervous system is called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric-acid). A number of nervine relaxant herbs have now been shown to promote the activity of this important chemical messenger. Herbs like Chamomile, Passionflower, Valerian and Withania all support GABA function and help to relax the nervous system.

The herbs with relaxant (GABAergic) effects have an important role to play in stress-related behaviours and illness in animals. When used appropriately, these herbs can ease the symptoms of stress by helping to relax the nervous system. Relaxation, mind and body, is essential for an animal to be restored to health and normal, balanced functioning.

In animals suffering with stress-related disorders herbs are best combined with other stress-busting strategies. Touch therapies, acupuncture and massage have a role to play. Depending on the individual, relaxation can be further supported by enriching their environment, providing companionship, encouraging play, regular exercise and a wholesome diet. An integrated, holistic approach and the support of a qualified animal behaviourist will help you understand your animal’s individual needs and how best to meet them.

Important: Always consult your veterinarian if your animal is on medication, pregnant, lactating or undergoing surgery before using herbs.

 

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Herbs to Aid Wound Healing

In herbal medicine plants that help wounds to heal are known as ‘vulneraries’. Vulnerary comes from the Latin vulnus meaning ‘wound’.  Our companion animals often get small cuts and scrapes, and vulnerary herbs can be used as first-aid and to help support the natural healing process.

Well known vulnerary herbs include Aloe, Bulbine, Chamomile, Lavender and Sour Fig. These herbs can all be grown in the garden and used when required to help an animal’s skin to heal. Some herbs can be used just as they are, while others can be transformed into a variety of useful preparations. Continue reading Herbs to Aid Wound Healing

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Herbs to Aid Digestion

Matricaria recutitaThere are many herbs that can play a useful role in supporting an animal’s digestion. Herbs can serve as an important source of nutrients, as well as helping with minor digestive upsets (like poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation and flatulence). Because herbs are typically eaten, they naturally come into contact with the surface of the digestive tract. Some herbs affect an animal’s digestion in this direct way. Others are first absorbed into circulation before they exert their beneficial effects on digestive processes. Continue reading Herbs to Aid Digestion

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Herbs to Aid Mobility

Herbs can be useful in supporting an animal’s natural mobility in a number of ways.  On the food-end of the spectrum, there are nutritious herbs that provide valuable nutrients to the tissues and organ-systems involved. Then there are the first-aid herbs that can help with minor problems like a strain, or stiffness. Some herbs are useful after trauma or surgery, and can support convalescence or rehabilitation. Herbs are also useful to promote mobility in older animals. Where optimal mobility is essential, like working animals and animal athletes, herbs can also play a useful role. Continue reading Herbs to Aid Mobility

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Discover Astringent Herbs

Carpet Geranium (Geranium incanum)Herbs with a drying, tightening effect on tissues are referred to as astringents. In animals, astringent herbs are primarily used to promote wound healing and resolve diarrhoea. Astringent comes from the Latin adstringere, meaning ‘to bind fast’ and astringent herbs generally exert this effect due to the presence of tannins. Continue reading Discover Astringent Herbs

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Discover Adaptogen Herbs

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)Our natural environment is in continuous change, and animals are continuously adapting to the emerging physical, mental and environmental challenges. The ability to adapt to change is natural, and the ability to respond positively to changing circumstances is what defines success in the natural world.

Herbs that can support animals through times of change and challenge, enabling them to remain strong and resilient are referred to as adaptogens. Continue reading Discover Adaptogen Herbs

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Discover Bitter Herbs

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)In Nature, the bitter taste is often associated with poisonous plant chemicals. Animals generally find bitter plants distasteful and so avoid eating them. However, animals often change their preferences and tolerance for bitter plants when ill. That’s when a poison can become a medicine.

Chimpanzees with digestive upsets due to intestinal round worms have been observed to seek out a bitter plant (Veronia amygdalina) that they normally avoid. They strip off the outer layers of the young shoots and suck on the very bitter inner pith. Within 24 hours the worms are passed in the stools and their behaviour returns to normal. Perhaps grass eating in our domestic dogs and cats is also an example of this sort of self-medication with bitter herbs. Continue reading Discover Bitter Herbs

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Roots for Animals

Valerian RootRoots play a vital role in the wellbeing of our companion animals and can be beneficial in a number of ways. Roots that can be eaten as food, like potatoes and carrots, are generally rich in vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates (sugars). These nutrient-packed roots can be an important part of the diet of many of the animals we care for.

Then there are roots of herbs that can be useful as first-aid remedies or to help prevent disease.  For example, roots can be useful to help support the digestion (like Ginger or Dandelion), to ease anxiety (like Valerian), and to relieve pain (like Devil’s Claw). The Soapwort root can even be used to make a natural animal shampoo. Continue reading Roots for Animals

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Warming Herbs for Animals

Warmth is vital for animal wellbeing and is a central factor when caring for happy, healthy animals.

Our sun plays the central role in providing animals with the warming required to feel good and function well. The hot summer sun requires that animals find ways to keep cool. Tiled floors and shady spots in the garden become favourite hangouts. In the winter months, however, as temperatures drop, an animal’s fur coat thickens to provide extra insulation and their behaviours change. Now favourite places include fireplaces, heaters and sunny spots in the garden.

For some animals, the cold (and damp if you live in winter rainfall areas) can be challenging and associated with health problems. Cold temperatures mean animals must conserve body heat by reducing activity and decreasing blood circulation to superficial tissues. Mobility problems due to arthritis, stiffness or frailty are often more pronounced. Older animals are particularly vulnerable, and animals with respiratory problems. Continue reading Warming Herbs for Animals