House Torn Up? Teach Your Cat Where to Scratch

By J. Christy McKibben

“Ooh. That’s gonna require a BandAid.”

Cat scratching is destructive and worrisome for humans—but it’s normal and instinctual for cats. Your cat’s instincts encourage him to mark his territory by scratching. His instincts stimulate the need to sharpen his nails to climb trees and to keep predators away.

Yes, cats scratching can be frustrating (and in some cases, painful). But don’t get fed up or angry with your little boy. Do not declaw him. There is a way to teach your cat to stop the destructive scratching and to scratch only acceptable objects. It just takes a bit of effort and time. Once trained, you and your cat will be happier. Plus, your house will no longer be torn up. That’s a win, win, win!

Be Honest With Yourself

You’ve bought a new sofa, and your cat scratched it up. New curtains? Yep. Scratched up. New carpet? Well…you know the story. It’s destructive, and behavior you don’t want to encourage. Although it’s instinctual for him to scratch, he doesn’t always choose the correct items (bless his heart).

Let’s be clear: cats scratch. They will always scratch. You will be scratched. Other undesirable areas will sometimes be scratched. You need to get over this before you even think about adopting a cat.

Your goal with scratching should be to teach your cat what is acceptable to scratch. This includes providing him with plenty of items to scratch. He will not be perfect—but, you can teach him to do it to the correct objects most of the time.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

As mentioned earlier, one goal of a cat scratching is to mark his territory with his scent. Scratching also gives a visual signal to other cats that it’s his territory—“I’m a tough guy buddy, so don’t even think of messing with me!” Your cat climbs instinctually, so he needs to keep his nails sharp. Scratching will also get rid of his dead nails, exposing his newly sharpened ones. Cats love to use scratching to give big stretches to their entire bodies. Scratching will also flex your boy’s feet and claws.

How to Teach Cats to Scratch “Appropriate” Objects

So, you understand why cats scratch, that there’s nothing wrong with them and that you need to accept your cat as he is. You just need to adjust his behavior. You do that by teaching him where/what he can scratch, and where/what he cannot scratch.

So, every cat needs some scratching posts, pads, and/or other objects made for him to scratch. He will love the surfaces—they can be made of carpet, wood, cardboard, or ropes. You can even find DIY ideas online for building different models of cat scratchers and climbers. Don’t make the mistake of throwing the scratching objects out when they’re old and used up. Your cat will still love them because the objects have his smell on them. Just watch out for the staples; they will sometimes come out after a lot of use.

Cats have different preferences when it comes to scratchers. Some cats like certain sizes or shapes. Your cat may prefer vertical, horizontal, or angled scratching posts, boards, or toys. He may like tall posts so he can stretch his entire body while scratching. Be sure the scratching posts are nice and sturdy.

Catnip as Pixie Dust?

So, when starting this new process you may want to cover or remove the furniture or drapes your cat enjoys destroying. If you’re not removing the furniture, you may want to apply double-sided tape to the cover. Other ideas to apply to the cover include sandpaper, a bad smell, or aluminum foil. Remember, these applications are being used to keep your boy away from scratching the furniture. It’s not forever—it’s just while he’s learning.

You can also place your cat’s scratching posts in areas where he is likely to enjoy them (i.e. the place of destruction). Put catnip on the scratching posts to attract your cat. Stationary scratching toys with catnip may work too. It’s all about catnip and the location, location, location!

Now What?

As your cat gets used to the appropriate items to scratch, move the object every couple of days. No more than a couple of inches each day. Don’t take off any covers until your cat has gotten used to using the appropriate scratching item for a month or two. Remember, slow, slow, slow. Don’t remove all of the covers at the same time either. Positive reinforcement is crucial. Praise him when he uses the correct scratching item.

As a very last resort, you can clap your hands or squirt your cat with water, if he scratches an inappropriate area. You don’t want to do this if at all possible though—he may become frightened of you. Also, clip your cat’s nails on a regular basis. Visit the ASPCA’s website for instructions on how to correctly clip his nails.

Let ‘Em Scratch Away!

Scratching is part of who your cat is. He doesn’t need to be declawed—he just needs slow training as to what objects he can scratch. Your cat is smart, and the suggestions above should work. If they don’t, ask your veterinarian for more ideas; or visit the ASPCA’s website.

And, it is always essential to never forget…

“Those who will play with cats must expect to be scratched.”
–Miguel de Cervantes

J. Christy McKibben

Image 1 via Pixabay by Altera
Image 2 via Pixabay by
 Jupri

Daycare Gives Children a Head Start in Life

By J. Christy McKibben

Daycare centers. Isn’t that where children just sit in front of a tv, play with toys, have meals, and take naps? Not hardly. In formal daycares there are an abundance of activities a child can engage in. Some of the best qualities a daycare center offers are social, cognitive, and parental benefits (Bonus!). Leaving your child with strangers? Yes. Scary thought. But, in no time you and your child will get to know all of the daycare workers very well.

Your child will thrive while attending a high quality daycare.

Socialization

Socialization is one of the best reasons for enrolling your child in a daycare center. In daycare your child will learn to play and get along with other children. The children learn how to share, interact, and learn from their peers. Your child will learn about teamwork, as well as coping skills.

Your child will likely have a smoother transition to kindergarten after attending a daycare center. By attending daycare before kindergarten, children learn to cope in a structured environment in a school-like setting.

Fostering Independence

Just as important as socialization, your child will also learn to become more independent. Children are given the opportunity to explore and try new things. Your child will begin to feel more confident spending time alone reading, doing their own art projects, and other activities. Adding this new found independence to those newly acquired socialization skills will be extremely beneficial when your child enters a K-12 school.

Cognitive Skills

Firm schedules are the key to a well-flowing day. You’ll find that most daycares have full calendars of activities every hour of the day. Cognitive skills will be developed and nurtured in your child’s daycare environment. Your child will have reading time on their own, with friends, and with the teacher. There are an abundance of fun art activities—your child will be so proud to show you them at the end of the day! Music and dancing are other activities children love to participate in. Children begin to write the alphabet, and then words, in daycare. Children learn their numbers and how to count. All kinds of subjects are discussed from spring to winter, cars, boats, dinosaurs, and other animals. Your child may even be able to teach you a thing or two!

child-blocks

Structure

Children often have structured schedules at home, but it’s still beneficial for your child to be in a school-like setting, and following the daycare’s schedule. It’s healthy for children to spend their day in a somewhat formal setting—it will help them to be prepared for K-12 school.

Parental Benefits

Parents can really benefit from using a daycare, even if it’s just part-time. Some of the benefits include:

  • More affordable than a private nanny
  • Parents at the center can meet and support each other
  • Give stay at home moms and stay at home dads much needed breaks. You know, to do things like grocery shop, clean the house, and run errands J
  • Licensed daycares have inspections
  • Stable care—no worries if a teacher is ill or on vacation, the daycare center will just get a substitute—it’s not your problem!
  • Staff is usually trained on what should be expected developmentally, as well as how they can best nurture those skills

Benefits Outweigh Drawbacks

There are, of course, potential drawbacks to using daycare centers—but there are fewer than you may think. Separation anxiety will come and go, but it’s better to do it now, as opposed to when your child enters kindergarten. Your child may catch colds or the flu more often than they would at home. All the more reason to teach them to thoroughly wash their hands. Yes, your child may learn, and repeat, a word they shouldn’t know. Don’t worry, they will get over it—I know from personal experience!

Enrolling your child in a daycare center is a healthy choice. It will prepare your child for kindergarten and far beyond. Even if you only enroll your child part-time, that time will be exceedingly beneficial for your child in so many ways—and for many years to come!

J. Christy McKibben

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Image 2 via flickr by Nenad Stojkovic

Children and Technology: How Much is Too Much?

By J. Christy McKibben

Who would’ve ever thought that we’d all have internet access right in the palm of our hands, all the time, and wherever we go? There’s a whole new generation of children who’ve never lived a day without this technology—in their hands, at all times, wherever they go. But, many people are asking what kind of guidelines parents should set for their children regarding technology use. Another question? Is technology harmful or beneficial to children—or both?

Attention Deficit

Children often get distracted by technology—even when walking! Children are used to texting and looking at their social media while having conversations, and while doing homework. This isn’t a healthy combination.

I’ve even heard that there’s a name—“Text Neck” used for young people who have neck problems due to constant texting on their phones. The millennial generation may truly be known as the hunchback generation someday.

Learning too Much too Early?

With internet access so readily available, there are millions of sites that children should never have their eyes on. Violence and pornography are two of the obvious problems. But, you name it—it’s on the internet. Cyberbullying has become another vast problem with internet use. Children often don’t realize the kind of serious pain, and other consequences, that may occur with just one bad decision. It’s important for parents to know if their child is a victim or a bully, so action may be taken to remedy the situation.

It’s crucial that parents know what their children are viewing and are involved in while on the internet. It’s tempting to be sneaky and “spy” on their devices. But instead, it’s probably best to let your children know that you will be regularly monitoring what they’re accessing, and who they’re communicating with.

Development and Learning

Technology is incredible for learning. There are so many educational sites, videos, and classes. As long as legitimate sources are chosen, of course. A child no longer has to spend hours in the school library looking up information in an encyclopedia or other textbook. Research for schoolwork is a breeze nowadays. Have a question? Just Google it.

Another bonus to technology—specifically cell phones? Parents, at least in theory, should always be able to contact their children. It’s definitely nice to know where your child is at all times, and that if they get into trouble, they can contact you. No more searching for a payphone!

Ideas to Set Limits

Common Sense Media suggests that “A healthy media diet balances three things: what kids do, how much time they spend doing it, and whether their content choices are age-appropriate. Mixing media and tech time with other activities will help families find that happy medium.” Below are some paraphrased ideas from Common Sense Media for setting limits for the family. They may not work for everyone, but they’re a good place to start. Adjust as needed for your family.

  • Create, and abide by, technology-free times and places. Many parents don’t allow technology at the dinner table. Creating evening hours where technology is no longer allowed is another idea.
  • Be aware of the ratings. Know what your child is exploring with their technology. Teach your children to use media responsibly.
  • Maintain open communication. Stay connected with your child, know what they’re playing, reading, and seeing. Encourage your child to ask you questions and consider the messages they’re receiving. This will help them to better understand how media plays a role in their lives.
  • Teach about the negative effects of multitasking. Your child needs to know that when they’re “doing their homework”—while watching tv or texting—the quality of their homework will not be what it should be. Your child needs to remain focused on schoolwork only.
  • Lead by example. This is pretty simple. The best way your child will learn about when, and when not, to use technology is by watching you. Don’t use your phone when driving, at dinner, or during any other family activity. The rules should apply to you as well.
  • Consult an expert if needed. If your child is having a difficult time due to over-using technology, and you can’t seem to gain control, consult a professional. Some of these signs may include affecting their grades in school, harming them mentally, or interfering with relationships. Your child’s pediatrician is a good place to start, and they may refer you to a therapist or social worker.

Everyone’s situation is different. Some children are more addicted to technology than others. Even if your child seems to be doing fine, it’s still a good idea to set limits on technology. It’s essential that the internet be used for good. When used properly, technology is truly remarkable.

J. Christy McKibben

Images via Pixabay by geralt and janeb13

Fulfill the Exercise Needs of Your Child…NOW!

By J. Christy McKibben

Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.
-John F. Kennedy

Physical activity, or lack thereof, can have a profound effect on our lives. Exercise is especially crucial for the health and fitness of children. All children. Why? Because starting the habit of regular physical fitness at a young age makes them much more likely to sustain their fitness throughout their lives.

There are an abundant of advantages daily physical activity provides children. Just a few of these obvious benefits include sleeping better, working out some of that energy (You know, the “ants in their pants!”), and they’ll have tons of fun while they’re moving their bodies!

Why Exercise?

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), physical activity helps children by:

  • Keeping their weight under control
  • Reducing their blood pressure
  • Raising their good (HDL) cholesterol (the “healthy” cholesterol)
  • Reducing their risk of diabetes and certain cancers
  • Improving their psychological well-being—this includes gaining a higher self-esteem and self-confidence

Physical activity doesn’t need to be formal. No need for exercise classes or anything fancy. Your child can play outside, play in sports, bicycle, run, jump, and even walk. Just that normal kid stuff is great exercise—as long as they keep those bodies moving!

How to Get ‘Em Moving

Sometimes it can be difficult to get children off their phones, tablets, or computers. So how do you convince your child to do so? The AHA offers some good advice for promoting exercise in your child:

  • Sedentary time needs to be reduced (cut back on computers, tablets, phones, television)
  • Physical activity should always be fun for kids
  • Parents need to be role models and live an active lifestyle—this will create more opportunities to increase physical activity

So you might ask: What if my child isn’t athletic or is overweight? No problem. They need to get some physical activity in each day; but they don’t need to be great athletes. Most children can play outside, even if it starts with just walking. It all counts. Remember, in addition to the physical benefits, it can also help with their self-confidence.

Recommendations

The AHA recommends that children who are age 2 and older need to engage in a minimum of 60 minutes of a moderate intensity physical activity each day. The activity/exercise should be enjoyable to the child, and appropriate for their age and abilities. Be sure to shake it up and vary the activities to avoid boredom. Don’t have a full 60 minutes to devote to physical activity each day? Then break the activity up into four 15 minute, or two 30 minute periods each day.

Let’s Get Physical!

It doesn’t take much to get (and keep) your child moving. Get them in the habit now and they are much more likely to continue the pattern throughout their childhood and into adulthood. It is much harder to pick it up as an adult (Isn’t that the truth?). Don’t worry if up to this point they haven’t been getting the exercise they need—just start now. All that matters is what you do now and in the future!

J. Christy McKibben

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Image 2 via Stockfresh by lenm

It’s Okay to Savor Chocolate (Guilt Free!)

By J. Christy McKibben

Chocolate. Need I say more? If you’re anything like me, that rich and satisfying confectionery calls to you over and over again—and I’m never able to resist the call.

Chocolate. Healthy? I know—there has to be a catch. There is. Milk chocolate and white chocolate don’t provide any health benefits…but dark chocolate does—yaaay! So stick with the dark chocolate and forget the others. Also, try to find organic chocolate, if at all possible.

So…what are some of the health benefits of eating dark chocolate?

Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

The most obvious health benefit is how chocolate can make you feel. It tastes good; and it stimulates your brain to release certain kinds of hormones, called endorphins. Think about when you’re exercising. You feel great when you’re done. That’s the release of endorphins, and that’s what you get when you eat dark chocolate. This certainly doesn’t mean you can replace exercise with chocolate—it’s just nice to know that there is a real physiological impact when you eat dark chocolate.

Antioxidants are probably the main health benefit found in dark chocolate. Flavanols work as antioxidants and are found in dark chocolate. Flavanols lower blood pressure. They improve the flow of blood to both your heart and your brain. Your chances of having a stroke are reduced. These antioxidants also reduce the LDL (lousy) cholesterol and increase the HDL (healthy) cholesterol.

In Moderation, of Course…

Generally it’s okay to eat a very small amount of dark chocolate each day. The main thing to remember is that it’s all about portion control. Don’t go crazy. In this case, it’s true that too much of a good thing may not be a good thing. Try to keep it to one serving per day.

Delight in the Dark

So now you know, there are health benefits that some chocolate provides. You can allow yourself to take great pleasure in it—live it up! You can truly have a love-love relationship with chocolate (at least the dark variety).

J. Christy McKibben

Image via Pixabay by jackmac34