About Safe and Healthy Environments
Good management and husbandry can improve all aspects of a dog’s or cat’s environment, which prevents stress that can lead to disease. What two animal management skills do you think are most important for you to develop or improve on?
WHAT DOGS NEED: WELL MAINTAINED AND APPROPRIATE SHELTERS
Basic requirements for good dog housing include the following:
- Pens of sufficient space to permit housing in socially compatible groups, allow separate areas for defecation, activity and resting/sleeping, and allow essential enrichment such that the dogs can perform a wide range of normal behaviour.
- Pens of sufficient depth to allow retreat.
- Good visibility of the room outside the pen as well as a semi-enclosed area for privacy and control over social interactions.
- Bitches should be provided with a secluded area for whelping out of sight of other dogs and free from disturbance.
- Interest and choice (e.g., of location, height and social contact); in some circumstances choice can be provided through the management practices of the entire facility; in many cases, it will be necessary to provide choice within the pen environment.
- Objects to chew, provided so that the dog can hold them in a species-typical fashion
- Toys for the expression of species-typical postures and activities.
- A choice of microenvironment within the pen (e.g., light, temperature, noise).
- A warm, dry, draft-free area for resting/ sleeping within the pen.
- Flexibility in running pens together.
- Pens that are designed and constructed to allow remodelling as knowledge develops and improves understanding of the housing needs of dogs.
- Noise control through facility design and construction (e.g., by incorporating noise absorbing ceilings, upper walls and/or baffles), pen furniture and enrichment, and the use of good management practices.
Dog housing should be designed to meet the behavioural needs of the dog and provide environmental enrichment as well as the opportunity for rest and privacy.
Some people, due to space limitations or personal preference, choose to keep their dog outdoors. In areas where winters can be harsh, these dogs need special care. Even though the dog lives outdoors, the dog should not be allowed to roam the neighbourhood. A fenced-in yard or a long tie-out can restrict unwanted roaming.
In the winter, adequate shelter is essential to provide warmth and keep the dog dry. Dogs need to have a comfortable and safe place to escape the cold snow and harsh chilling winds. A large dog house with blankets or straw bedding works well. The opening to the doghouse should not face the wind. Some people choose to equip the doghouse with heat. This should be professionally done. Heating pads or heating lights powered by electric cords are not recommended. Curious dogs can chew the cords and create a serious hazard.
The bedding within the doghouse should be changed periodically. The straw can become moldy and the blankets can become dirty and wet. Moldy straw can create a variety of skin and respiratory problems. Dirty and wet blankets can make the dog very uncomfortable and lead to illness.
Watch this video on providing dogs shelter in Alberta:
Dogs need to have a comfortable and safe place to live and play.
What does the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Code of Practice for Kennels say about housing for dogs?
“Exercise areas must be fenced with sturdy construction and be in good repair. Concrete runs should be sealed and sloped to allow for drainage within 5 minutes. Excrement must be removed from runs daily.
Kennelled dogs are in constant contact with the enclosure floor. It is vital for dog comfort and foot health that the surface provides good traction, safe footing, is kept clean and dry, and is free of hazardous debris or construction. Constant contact with rough surfaces can lead to foot and skin trauma. A variety of surfaces in an enclosure will allow dogs to select the areas they prefer for sleeping, elimination, and play.
- Ensure good foot health by constructing solid floors. Wire or slatted flooring is unacceptable. Ensure the floor supports the dog without sagging.
- Construct floors of impervious materials, such as sealed concrete or other materials, which provides a smooth surface that is easy to clean and sanitize.
- Floors are in good repair and with good traction to prevent slipping and injury.
- Drain size is at least 10 cm.
- Drain covers are used and designed to minimize the risk of dog injury.
- Slope floors towards any drain(s) at a minimum pitch of 2.1 cm/m so that the dogs kept in the enclosure do not have continuous or extended contact with any part of the floor which is wet.
- Make a raised platform or deep bedding available for the comfort of the dogs.
- Extend impervious coverings at least 15 cm up the walls.
- Ensure flooring allows for traction and stable footing in order to avoid a slip injury.
- Mold impervious coverings to prevent crevices or cracks.
- Seal and slope floors to allow for drainage within 5 minutes.
- Ideal drain size is 15 cm.
Optimal dog housing allows animals to exercise, socialize, and exhibit as many normal behaviours as possible.
The provision of a safe environment that minimizes the risk of injury and stress contributes to overall well-being. Reducing risk of disease transmission will have a positive impact on overall animal health within the facility.
The primary enclosure and activity area may be combined into one space for each dog, or may be divided into sections depending on function. Regardless, the entire space the dog has access to must facilitate the dog’s daily needs. These daily needs include eating, drinking, resting, elimination, exercising, socializing, and interacting with humans.
Exercise for dogs is of prime consideration. If no separate exercise areas are provided, pen sizes are adjusted to provide exercise space, and a daily exercise program is instituted (outdoors when weather permits).
Outdoor housing can be provided for selected breeds that are suitable to the out-of-doors, and that are properly acclimatized to seasonal and regional temperatures.
- Shelter and protection from the elements in both the primary enclosure and activity area, if separate, including protection from direct sunlight, wind, rain, sleet, snow, and extreme cold or hot temperatures.
- A stand-alone shelter such as a dog house accessible to dogs at all times. This shelter consists of a solid roof and walls that are tall enough to allow the dog to stand fully upright, a doorway that is large enough for the dog to enter and exit comfortably, and a solid floor constructed in such a manner as to remain dry. The floor is large enough for the dog to turn around and lie down comfortably.
- The shelter contains adequate bedding and insulation, such as straw, to keep the animals clean, dry, and warm.
- Dogs unable to tolerate living outdoors have access to the indoors, including but not exclusive to those that are aged, ill, or injured.
- Provide a shelter that is weatherproof and waterproof.
- Provide ventilation in a manner that prevents the accumulation of moisture and odours.
- Provide an entrance and hallway that are separate from the sleeping area.
- Attach a canvas or rubber flap at the entrance.
- Elevate the structure off the ground.
- Use feeding and water bowls that prevent spillage.”
Excerpts obtained from the Code of Practice for Kennel Operations (3rd Edition, 2018), Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, pgs 8-11.
Outdoor Exercise Areas
Outdoor exercise runs should be large enough for dogs to break into a trot and should provide protection from adverse weather. The exercise running surface must be safe and not slippery, and free from debris that could cause injury or damage to the dog.
Exercise areas must be fenced with sturdy construction and be in good repair. Concrete runs should be sealed and sloped to allow for drainage within 5 minutes. Excrement must be removed from runs daily.
WHAT CATS NEED: WELL MAINTAINED AND APPROPRIATE SHELTERS
Basic requirements for good cat housing include the following:
- Pens of sufficient space to permit housing in socially compatible groups, allow separate areas for urination and defecation, activity and resting/ sleeping, and allow essential enrichment such that the cats can perform a wide range of normal behaviour.
- Pens of sufficient depth to allow retreat.
- Smooth, non-slip, solid floors.
- Good visibility of the room outside the pen, while still allowing semi-enclosed areas for privacy and control over social interactions (e.g., hiding boxes, vertical panels, trellises and curtains).
- Queens should be provided with a secluded area for queening out of sight of other cats and free from disturbance.
- Interest and choice (e.g., of location, height and social contact); in some circumstances choice can be provided through the management practices of the entire facility; in many cases it will be necessary to provide choice within the pen environment.
- A choice of microenvironment within the pen (e.g., light, temperature, noise).
- Warm, dry, draft-free areas for resting/ sleeping, with comfortable bedding for all cats in the pen as cats like to rest alone rather than with others.
- Elevated resting surfaces for surveying the environment; sufficient for all cats to occupy simultaneously; slanting boards and steps will help kittens and small cats reach the raised areas.
- Windows with deep sills for watching activity outdoors (i.e., sensory stimulation).
- Surfaces for claw abrasion and olfactory marking (e.g., scratch posts, rush matting, carpet, wood).
- Feeding stations, water bowls, and resting surfaces in a number of different sites to prevent cats from monopolizing any one resource and denying others access to it.
- Toys and play objects for the expression of species-typical postures and activities.
- At least one litter tray per cat.
- Pens designed and constructed so as to facilitate refurbishment and remodelling as knowledge develops and improves understanding of the housing needs of cats.
- Adequate socialization and habituation to humans, and training as appropriate.
- Consider also providing containers of grass for chewing and ingestion, which helps cats eliminate furballs.
An indoor-only lifestyle may decrease the risks of disease and injury and increase a cat’s lifespan, but may also limit the environmental enrichment a cat receives.
Indoor cat houses can encompass any number of cat furniture, including tree houses, cages, enclosures and even simple bedding. Cages are made from metal and can be all different sizes. Cat furniture can be covered with carpet or densely stacked cardboard. This provides a comfortable surface, but cats may also use it as a scratching post. Cats like small, dark and warm places, so they like cat houses that provide a simple, close enclosure. Indoor cat houses can provide this type of space.
Indoor cat houses can also include platforms and crevices for cats to jump and sleep on. Fleece and cat hammocks can provide bedding and should be part of any indoor space.
Outdoor cat houses should be able to provide protection from snow, rain, wind, sun and all other weather conditions and climates. Outdoor cat houses can be made from insulating hardwoods and plastics, the same materials used for patio furniture. Cat houses should be waterproof and windproof. They should provide a cool escape in the summer and help retain the cat’s body heat in the winter.
Outdoor cat houses have some different needs than indoor houses. Ventilation should allow air to circulate and reduce humidity on the inside. A small vent near the top of the cat house won’t cause heat loss when a cat most needs it.
An indoor and outdoor lifestyle may provide a more natural and stimulating environment for cats, but may also increase the risks of infectious disease and trauma, and result in increased predation on wildlife. Supervised or controlled outdoor access, for example, via leashed walks or cat-proof enclosures, may reduce some of the risks otherwise associated with access to the outdoors.
What does the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Code of Practice for Catteries say about housing for cats?
“Single Enriched Living
Single housing is appropriate only for short stays, unless the cat is not suited to communal living. Some cats may prefer single housing.
Because of lack of space and environmental complexity, cats in single housing have less choice for behavioural expression. These cats may become frustrated or depressed. To meet the psychological needs of cats, housing must be enriched. Cats housed for longer terms may benefit from being moved around or by having their cage rearranged occasionally.
The single cage should provide:
- Separation between functional areas, such as food and water bowls secured on the cage door, and an elevated bed.
- Some control over the amount of exposure to cattery activities.
- Opportunities to engage in a wide range of behaviours such as hiding, perching, playing with toys to simulate hunting behaviour (batting, pouncing, throwing up in the air), scratching, and playing with people.
- Substrates to facilitate scent marking. Cats feel at ease when their space is familiar – containing their own scent.
In view of the fact that cats hunt alone, they were long believed to be asocial. However, cats are very social – just not always with each other. Cats can form social groups if they are raised together from birth and form strong bonds. Some cats engage in affiliative behaviour with other cats such as body rubbing on each other (allorubbing), grooming each other (allogrooming), nose touching (greeting behaviour), and play. Many cats, however, do not enjoy the company of other cats and are most happy as the only cat or pet in a home. These cats still need company and socialization with people – cats prefer short and frequent interactions with humans.
Cats in groups show a repertoire of submissive and dominant behaviours to reduce conflict.
Familiar cats tend to resolve conflict by increasing space between them. When creating communal spaces for adult cats that may not care much for each other, it is important to organize space in a way that minimizes the possibility of ongoing or repeated conflict as this can cause high stress. It is essential to recognize that when cats have not been exposed to other cats for their entire life, they may have little or no tolerance for other cats and may not be well suited for communal living.
The use of communal enclosures can be counterproductive if not appropriately designed. Communal living must encourage social contact between cats while meeting their need for personal space and safety.
To meet the psychological needs of cats, the communal area should provide:
- More single size shelves than cats and at least one meter between shelves.
- At least one single size hiding area per cat.
- Several vantage points at different heights and with different views of the area.
- Corner shelf viewing points from which the cat cannot be approached from behind.
- Separation between feeding and elimination areas.
- Food and elimination areas should be located in places where shy cats cannot be intimidated by more confident cats.
- Enough free floor space for cat-cat play and interaction.
- At least one perching area that can fit several cats.
Cats must not be kept on wire floors or any other material that will injure their feet or legs.”
Excerpts obtained from the Code of Practice for Cattery Operations (1st Edition, 2009), Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, pgs 10-12.