Advice from Hank – How to Help Your Pet Beat the Winter Blues

You’re sleepy, sluggish and cold. The days are short and the sun rarely shines. You’re eating more than you should and you don’t feel like doing much. What’s the matter? Could it be a case of the winter blues?

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Just like you, your cat is probably longing for sunshine, warmth, green grass and singing birds. In fact, some cats get so bored that they try to sleep and eat the winter away.

Sun Worshipers
To an indoor cat, a patch of sunshine is a little bit of heaven. Cats love to stretch out and bask in the sun. Research suggests that sunlight does a lot more for your cat than warm her up. Vitamin D, which cats get in part from the sun, is the key element in the production of calcium and phosphorus, which stimulate a cat’s metabolism. Most animals and people get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight, which sets off a chain of chemical reactions in the skin.

Sunlight also stimulates estrus, the breeding cycle, in cats. When the daylight hours lengthen in early spring, the breeding cycle begins and cats typically have more energy. This cycle continues throughout the summer and stops in November, when the days shorten and the sky turns gray.

What happens to your cat in the winter when, in the North, there is little, if any, sunlight? Your cat’s metabolism probably slows down and she probably sleeps a lot more. Jacquie Neilson, a veterinarian and at the University of California at Davis, says some cats do tend to become inactive in the winter. This reduction in activity causes them to gain weight, which, as you probably know, is unhealthy. What can you do to keep this from happening to your cat?

Play, Play and More Play
Schedule some time each day during the winter to play with your cat. Try introducing kitty to new and different toys. Most cats love the fishing pole-type toys that you swing in the air. This type of toy resembles a wand with a string attached to it. Feathers, streamers or stuffed toys are tied to the end of the string. One of our cats, Freeway, twists and jumps several feet into the air trying to catch the feathers. Aerobics, feline style!

Some cats would rather chase than jump, however. For these cats, try a box of ping-pong balls or balls with bells inside. Throw the balls across the floor, down the stairs, into the bathtub … anywhere that makes kitty get up and run a bit.

The important thing is to keep the toys moving. “Sometimes people buy their cats toys and leave them sitting around the house. Usually, you need to pull the end of the string to get the cat interested,” explains Neilson. Pam Johnson, a feline behavior consultant and author of Twisted Whiskers agrees. “Cats are attracted to movement,” she says. If a toy isn’t moving, it becomes “dead prey” after a few paw swipes.

Your cat will play longer if you keep your play sessions interactive, which means the two of you play together. Johnson calls this type of human-feline interaction “play therapy.” Johnson says play therapy helps “depressed cats build self-confidence and find that forgotten spark for life again. It also eliminates boredom, increases health and reduces stress.

While it’s okay to leave some toys out for your cat the entire day, put the special, interactive toys away at the end of each play session. Doing this will prevent your cat from becoming bored with her toys, and will make your play sessions more exciting. Never leave toys out for your cat that might be unsafe or that are small enough for your cat to swallow.

Double the Fun
If you have one cat, consider adopting a second. After a period of initial adjustment, your cats will probably be the best of friends. Most feline companions sleep and eat together, and even take turns grooming each other. Most cats play together too, sometimes for hours at a time. If you do decide to adopt a second cat, expect to see lots of frolicking and rough play. Two cats will often run and tumble together, swat, kick and pounce on each other. Owners sometimes confuse rough playing with fighting. As long as the cats aren’t hissing, and one cat isn’t dominating the other, they’re probably enjoying themselves — and burning off some calories in the process.

Open the Drapes
Fresh air does wonders for a lazy, depressed cat. Even though it’s cold in the winter, try to open the windows a bit whenever you can. (Always check to make sure screens are secured first!) Even though the sky is gray, open the drapes or pull up the shades during the day so your cat gets some light.

A bird feeder next to an open window can be a great source of amusement for your cat when it’s cold. A cat tree or jungle gym near a window is great for cats who like to climb.

A Nibble Here and There
While you don’t want to cure your cat’s boredom by feeding her table scraps, you can let your cat nibble on some catnip. Catnip is a plant that intoxicates cats when they eat or sniff it. This trance-like “high” usually lasts about 10 or 15 minutes, and is more noticeable in adult cats than it is in kittens. For some reason, not all cats respond to catnip. You can buy dried catnip or you can grow your own with catnip seeds and some potting soil. Make sure the pot is stable, though, or your cats will knock it over trying to get to the plant. You can buy good-quality catnip or catnip seeds at most pet supply stores.

How about growing some grass for your cat? Neilson recommends growing a little garden for your cat in the winter. Some cats love to nibble on grass, which is a little bit like a vegetable. You can buy commercially prepared grass that is already planted at any pet supply store — all you have to do is water it. Or you can plant your own grass seed for your cat. Simply plant some good-quality grass seed in a container with potting soil. Make sure the container isn’t too big, though, or you cat may think it’s a litter box. Place it in the light and keep it moist. In a week or so, your cat can graze as if it’s springtime in February.

A Final Tip
If you and your cat are lucky enough to have a fireplace, spend some winter days snuggled in its warmth. If you don’t, hang in there, spring is just a few short months away!

Source: Petsmart

Advice from Hank – Interior Maintenance

Hank wants to give you some ideas as far as interior maintenance projects to complete before spring. When the warm weather arrives, you may want to turn your attention to sprucing up the outside of your home. So, in February, tie up those last minute indoor projects and clear your plate for the spring.

  • Reseal grout on tile floors.
  • Tighten garbage disposal drain, connections and fasteners.
  • Inspect the chimney (if you have one). Clean if necessary, but also perform maintenance to it if things need to be replaced.
  • Check caulking around tubs, showers, and sinks; replace if falling apart.
  • Change furnace filters.
  • Replenish first-aid and emergency kits.
  • Check batteries in flashlights and other emergency devices.
  • Grease door hinges and hardware.
  • Replace any old or broken light fixtures.
  • Re-paint walls or touch-up problem areas in your rooms.

This list may trigger other things you need to complete before spring, but it’ll at least give you a start.  Stop into your local Hardware Hank and save.

Advice from Hank – Removing Snow off your Roof

If you live in an area where it snows a lot, you may find yourself raking snow off your roof. Some homes are designed to keep snow off the roof; however, not all homes will keep snow off your roof. If it collects, it’s necessary for you to remove it. Follow these simple steps, and you’ll have your roof cleared quickly and safely.

HAN_0001-thumbsupFirst, you should purchase a snow rake. Visit your local hardware store for a snow rake and to receive additional information about how to clear your roof. You may need to assemble the rake before use.

After you assemble the rake, make a path around your house, so you can walk without struggling in the snow. You can either shovel the path or simply walk on the same path several times around your house. It will help compact the snow, so you can stand on it without falling into holes. It’ll make it easier to get snow off your roof if you’re not worried about the ground beneath you.

Finally, you’re ready to clear the roof. First, go for the easy stuff first. You can first get rid of the easier to reach snow, and then if you’re up for it, go after the snow way up on the roof.

I do the easy stuff first and then if I have the time and energy, I go after the hard stuff that is higher up. You don’t have to get all the snow. Just the excess that threatens the load-bearing capacity of the roof. It helps to leave the bottom-most layer of snow on the roof as this protects the shingles from damage by the snow rake.

Be aware that snow rakes destroy gloves. You may need to invest in a nice pair of gloves from Hardware Hank if you’re planning to do his project.

Snow raking can provide good exercise, but it’s also very necessary. Not only could your roof collapse under the weight of excessive snow, you also want to prevent ice from blocking the path of melting snow. That means, you should make sure your gutters are clear. If you have a build-up of ice in your gutters, that could act as a dam. If the weather warms, and snow melts on your roof, the water has no place to got but under your shingles. Then, you have a water problem. So, in addition to raking your roof, please make sure to clear your gutters so you don’t get any leaks in your roof.

Do-it-Yourself Today and save when you shop at your local Hardware Hank.

Advice from Hank – Removing Wallpaper

As the cold whether persists, you may want to work on some interior remodeling projects. Sometimes changing your wall’s color can make a huge difference in the look and feel of your room.

The following instructions details how to safely and efficiently remove Hank Ready to Remove Wallpaperwallpaper. Wallpaper creates obstacles and challenges upon its removal; however, with these instructions, you may find the process much less painful and time consuming.

Before you start stripping the wall paper, you want to clean a large area around the wall. If you might trip on something, you’ll want to get it out of the way. It’s dangerous to remove wallpaper while trying to sidestep furniture.

Next, you want to place cloths beneath the working area. These cloths will protect your floors. When you start a home improvement project, you don’t want to create other projects in the process. Isolate your project to the walls and don’t let the mess get out of control. All these preliminary tasks are in place to ease the stress.

Now, you’re ready to begin. Certain wallpaper is designed to simply peel away without a snag. However, many papers require the walls to be sized before application. If the walls were not sized properly, you may need to scrape, steam, scrub or sand where the wallpaper refused to disengage.

First, pick a corner or seam to get started. As a test, you want to pick a spot that’s out of the way. Take your putty knife or scraper and attempt to lift a corner of the wallpaper. Simply lift a corner of the wallpaper to see what mess it will leave behind. You picked a spot out of the way because you want to minimize the damage. If the paper removes poorly, you won’t have unsightly blemishes in the middle of your wall.

If you can’t peel the paper away or only the top layer peels, you can lightly score the paper with an exacto knife. This takes some finesse. You need to lightly score the paper because going too deep will damage the drywall or plaster. Cutting tiny slits in the paper allows the solution to soak in further.

You may use several different solutions, but each wall and paper are different. A solution, that successfully removed wallpaper previously, may not work this time. Certainly, you can purchase commercial solutions; however, that could get expensive. Vinegar works fairly well if you can handle the smell. In addition, some suggest using an ordinary household foaming cleanser. These cleansers contain stronger detergents and won’t run down the walls like other solutions.

Don’t hesitate to apply a healthy amount of any solution. Allow the solution to saturate the wallpaper as it will peel away easier.

A steam wallpaper removal system is a more costly alternative. If you need to remove a large amount of wallpaper, it might be worth it. However, they can be messy, awkward to handle and dangerous. If not used properly, they will cause nasty burns.

Once you’ve removed the wallpaper with solution, you may have a glue residue underneath. Scrap away as much of the glue as possible. If some remains, use sandpaper to remove the rest. Move to a coarser grade of sandpaper if necessary.

Removing old wallpaper is a difficult project. Commercial products work well; however, they’re expensive and can be harmful.  A steamer is effective, but again, it’s expensive and somewhat dangerous. The one guarantee: it’ll take some hard-work and effort to finish this project. However, with the steps outlined, maybe you’ll have as much fun as Hank removing wallpaper.