Cats like to play with dangling Christmas tree ornaments, and dogs will rummage thru an open trash can. Dogs will take items from the counter if they are tall enough to reach it. Cats will jump on the counter and other food preparation surfaces to check them out, and in my experience, they do not wash their feet first, even if they have just been to the litter box.
First, the dog dilemma. The trash can may be put into a pull out cabinet, or get a can with a cover. Both of these pose a problem if you are like me and prefer to be able to toss items in the trash from distance to avoid walking over to the receptacle, lifting the lid, and depositing the item.
The best way to keep pets from all of the locations listed above, and probably some that are less of a problem such as your bed, the furniture, and other areas is to use one or more mousetraps.
This method may seem a bit profound but we are trying to keep the dog from eating a big piece of aluminum foil, tin can lid, or other foreign material from the trash which will have to be surgically removed for a hefty price. We are going to keep the cat off of the counter in order to prevent tracking debris from the litter box onto food service areas or helping itself to a thawing piece of meat and to keep the dog from eating food items from the counter.
I have seen other methods suggested such as bells that warn the owner that the pet is transgressing. This may work a time or two, but the pet learns to avoid the bells or is gone by the time the owner arrives to give a reprimand. We are talking here about bringing this undesirable behavior to a screeching halt with a bit of tough love. Do not worry: the pet will not associate you with the traps.
I had a distraught newlywed call my Veterinary Hospital and said her diamond ring was missing from the kitchen counter and she thought the dog, a large black Labrador retriever, might have swallowed it. An X-ray showed that she was correct. It was in the large intestine. In a case like this an enema is contraindicated because the dog will defecate in several different places in the yard and it may be difficult to locate the ring in the grass. We used the match trick and it worked like a charm. The dog had a bowel movement and a Veterinary Technician, with rubber gloves, quickly found the ring. Fortunately, the dog did not chew the ring before swallowing. Her next step was to put mousetraps on the counter.The mouse traps are not used to injure the pet, just to frighten them. Apply a few drops of Vanilla extract, Cinnamon, or other aromatic material to the wood of the trap. Do not use a scent from something the pet may eat such, as sardines, peanut butter, etc. This may cause the pet to stop eating food that contains that flavor.
Set the trap in the normal manner and place it very gently UPSIDE DOWN in the trash can or on the counter. When the pet touches the trap it will go off and spring up and give them a good scare. If the pet avoids the trap and still scouts out the counter then use several traps, set upside down but each draped with a single piece of paper towel. When they step on it or sniff the trap, it will pop up and give them a good scare. They rarely come back for a second helping.
The reason for applying the liquid aromatic spice is so that the pet learns to avoid the distinctive odor. The spice can be applied to other pet “no go” areas, and the cat or dog will avoid the odor even if there is no trap.
We had a big grey cat, MishMish, who kept jumping on the dining room table and leaving grey hairs on the white table cloth. I put several mouse traps odorized with Vanilla extract on the table and covered each with a tissue. The cat set off one of the traps, and we never had hair on the table cloth again.
To keep pets from playing with the Christmas ornaments place several aromatically enhanced traps around the perimeter of the tree. Once the pet has set off one or the traps, then just the aromatic spice will be enough to make them keep their distance.
NOTE: There is a female crook running for President. Vote to keep her out of the White House and take a like-minded friend with you to the polling place.
James F. Gaines, DVM, MS, Dip. ACLAM
Editor’s Note. Dr. Jim Gaines, an experienced veterinarian, will answer questions about pets and other animals in articles posted every Sunday in the Fairfax Free Citizen. Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Take advantage of this opportunity to gain insights into your pets (and other animals), their health and behavior, and how best to work with them.