Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

ONLY THE BEST

Universal Press Syndicate

With thousands of companies spread out in booths across two levels of the San Diego Convention Center, it's not easy to spot just 10 products that will grab the attention of pet lovers. But at the recent Global Pet Expo trade show, the Pet Connection team split up to stroll the 15 football fields' worth of floor space looking for new products with pet "wow" power.

We came up with seven products in common on each list of our top 10 -- some of the products also were named best by industry peers at the show's end -- and then we haggled over the remaining three slots. In no particular order, here are the Pet Connection's top picks among new pet products that will soon be in retailers:

-- Fling-ama-string cat toy (Moody Pet, $25). Put in three AA batteries, hang the brightly colored toy on a door knob, and watch your cat's transformation from couch potato to hunter. The Fling-ama-string was so enticing, we wanted to pounce on it, too (moodypet.com).

-- Microwavable Canine Cake (Claudia's Canine Cuisine, $5 to $6). The kit contains a microwavable mixing bowl, cake mix and frosting. Add water, microwave, and decorate for a fun project for the kids. The ingredients are all pet-friendly, of course (claudiascaninecuisine.com).

-- DogTread Motorized Exercise Treadmill (PetZen products, $500). Treadmills for dogs (and people) have been around for quite a while, but the DogTread is designed specifically to keep small dogs (under 30 pounds) in shape. The unit folds for storage and has treat bowls to keep the dog's attention forward (petzenproducts.com).

-- Celltei Pak-o-Bird ($109 to $579, depending on size of bird). Birds need a change of scenery, too. The Pak-o-Bird is made from soft luggage material in a variety of colors and is designed to be carried like a backpack (the company also offers a foldable cart for $125). Inside the carrier are comfortable perches and food/water cups (www.celltei.com).

-- Bionaire Odor Grabber Litter Box (Jarden Consumer Solutions, $100). The Odor Grabber catches waste smell as well as airborne pet dander and fur. The manufacturer says its quiet filter motor will not scare cats or annoy cat owners (www.jardencs.com).

-- Toto Too Center Mounted Pet Seat for Dogs (Wigali, $200). The plush Toto Too fits between front seats and provides a safe, secure and elevated ride for little dogs. The seat removes easily and comes with a shoulder strap (tototoo.net).

-- Comfy Cone soft Elizabethan pet collar (Imagine That Designs/All Four Paws, $15). No more cone-heads! The Comfy Cone is an alternative to the hard plastic cone traditionally sent home with pets from the veterinary hospital. It keeps animals from damaging incisions and prevents the stress of hard plastic banging into everything and everyone (allfourpaws.com).

-- Dogzilla Deep Freeze (PetMate/Aspen, $9 to $14). Take the Dogzilla Deep Freeze, some tiny treats and some meat broth, and soon you have a chilly, iced treat for your dog in the shape of a bone. Perfect for teething puppies. The rubber part of the treat is infused with a smell to attract pets to chew it (aspenpet.com).

-- Purrsuasions Catnectors Switch-n-snap cat toys (Sergeant's, $4 to $8). Purrsuasions comes with a set of toys than can be snapped on and off the play glove for variety to keep cats engaged in play and owners entertained (sergeants.com).

-- Pipi Dolly's Toilet for dogs (Rush Direct, $50). Indoor potty spots for little dogs are not new, but the Pipi Dolly adds some practical twists to the design. The unit comes with two trays and two grids, as well as absorbent paper that can be placed in between so paws do not become wet and smelly. The Pipi Dolly also features a vertical "fire hydrant" for male dogs (no company Web site).

Please note that since these are all new products, they might not yet be featured on company Web sites yet, and prices may change before they get to retailers.

(The Pet Connection's Morgan Ong contributed to this article.)

SIDEBAR

Dr. Becker on 'Good Morning America'

Dr. Marty Becker will show off the best new products for pets -- some of the ones listed here and more -- on his regular "Good Morning America" segment, scheduled for Wednesday, March 19.

The top pet product picks are also featured on the PetConnection.com Web site, along with more information, images, retail prices and links to the manufacturers' Web sites.

Q&A

Help finding Mr. Right Vet

Q: What would be the best place to meet veterinarians? I'm not kidding: I want to marry a vet. I'm 32, with a great job and my own house. I broke up with my last boyfriend in part over my two cats (not the biggest issue, but we fought over them). Between guys who hate cats and the cost of veterinary care, it seems marrying a veterinarian is the right idea. In any case, the cats are staying! -- K.R., via e-mail

A: I see a couple of problems with your plan. First, I assume you're looking for another boyfriend. Since women have been in the majority at veterinary schools and colleges for some time now, finding a male veterinarian presents an increasingly difficult challenge.

Second, there's the competency issue. Half of all veterinarians theoretically graduated in the bottom 50 percent of their class. What if you're looking for a superbly competent veterinarian, but you happen to fall in love with one who suits your needs for romance yet isn't the best at caring for pets? Can you imagine how it will go over when you tell your husband, "You know I love you, honey, but I wouldn't let you near my cat for all the money in the world." I'm guessing that wouldn't play well at all, especially if Dr. Hubby believes himself to be a modern Dr. James Herriot.

Believe me, you're not the first single animal lover to think that marrying a veterinarian is a perfect solution to two problems. Go to any animal-related event, and you'll immediately bump into unattached people who would love to find another person who doesn't flinch at the idea of stray pet hair on the butter from time to time. Not to mention: a veterinarian would never be squeamish over a hairball!

You could (as a friend of mine once joked she'd try) start hanging out at veterinary conferences in a vampy red dress. But honestly, you'd be much better off marrying another animal lover -- or even becoming content sharing your bed with your cats alone. At least then you'd know you were choosing veterinary services based on what's best for your pet.

A final bit of advice (very tongue-in-cheek): Get into veterinary school yourself. If nothing else, you'd seemingly have a wide selection of datable pet lovers to choose from when you graduate. You could go into large-animal medicine: There's a shortage of large-animal veterinarians (according to the American Veterinary Medical Association) and a lot of lonely cowboys (according to any number of country songs or cowboy poets). -- Gina Spadafori

(Do you have a pet question? Send it to petconnection@gmail.com.)

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books.

On PetConnection.com there's more information on pets and their care, reviews of products, books and "dog cars," and a weekly drawing for pet-care prizes. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to petconnection@gmail.com or visiting PetConnection.com.

PET BUZZ

Your vac can kill all fleas

-- Vacuuming really sucks for fleas, reports Veterinary Practice News. Researchers at The Ohio State University found that vacuuming fleas kills the parasites in all stages of their lives. Passing through the vacuum cleaner kills 96 percent of adult fleas and 100 percent of younger fleas. A vacuum's brushes likely damage the waxy outer layer of the pests, and without this armor, fleas become dehydrated and die.

-- Did last year's waves of food recalls and pet deaths make the road bumpier for Chinese car imports? At least one consultant believes so. Chinese manufacturers have "inadvertently touched on the first two things you don't hurt: children and pets," said Rebecca Lindblad of Global Insight, a consulting firm. Citing safety scandals involving toys and pet food, she said Americans are wary of Chinese-made products.

-- Dogs who bite children often have no priors, according to Veterinary Economics magazine, which reported on research from the journal Injury Prevention. In a study of 100 dog bites from 103 dogs presented at a behavior clinic over a four-year period, 20 percent of the dogs had never bitten anyone, and of those who had, 33 percent had never bitten a child before. Researchers think anxiety or pain may play a part in uncharacteristic aggression. Three-quarters of the biters exhibited anxiety when separated from their owners or when exposed to loud noises such as thunderstorms or fireworks. Half of the biting dogs had medical conditions such as skin or bone growths, eye or liver problems, kidney disease, hormonal conditions or infections. -- Dr. Marty Becker

THE SCOOP

Tips for finding foster cat a home

Adult cats can be difficult to find new homes for. But if you're patient and persistent with the cat you're fostering, you can find people with open hearts to match their open homes. Here are some tips:

-- Do everything you can to make the animal more adoptable. The pet has a better chance for adoption if her vaccinations are current, she uses her litter box reliably, and she's altered.

-- Don't lie about the pet's problems or why she's being placed. Although finding a new home for a pet with problems takes longer, you can usually still do so. But the person who gets such a pet without warning is likely to bring her back, take her to a shelter or give her away -- maybe to a horrible situation.

-- Spread the news. Distribute fliers and place ads in newspapers and on Internet sites. Ask rescue groups to spread the word on your foster pet as well. Talk to everyone about the pet you're placing.

-- Ask prospective adopters whether they've had pets before and what happened to them. The person who has had a lot of pets that have disappeared, died young or were given away is probably not your best choice. Ask for a veterinary reference, too.

Above all, don't give up! It may take weeks to find the right home for a pet, but it's always worth the time it may take to get it right. The goal here is not to "get rid of" an animal, but to find a loving, caring and, most of all, permanent home for a pet who needs one. They are out there. And if you keep looking, you'll likely find the home that's just right for the cat you're trying to help. -- Gina Spadafori

PETS BY THE NUMBERS

Cats lag in veterinary visits

Cats may be the No. 1 pet in the United States in terms of popularity, but dogs rule at the veterinary office. The average number of veterinary visits per year, by species:

Dogs 2.6

Cats 1.7

Horses 2.2

Birds .3

Source: American Veterinary Medical Association

GOOD BEHAVIOR

Your dog is watching you

Since your dog is always watching and learning, be careful what you show your pet. One observation may be worth a thousand tries as far as your dog is concerned.

For example, if your dog sees you step over a low fence, the seeds for escape may be planted. When your dog is bored enough or is ready to show that neighbor cat just who's in charge, he may realize he can get out as you did, by going over the fence.

Dogs, like people, learn by imitation. When we take a dog into our family, our actions can sometimes speak louder than words. Watch your step!

(Animal behavior experts Susan and Dr. Rolan Tripp are the authors of "On Good Behavior." For more information, visit their Web site at AnimalBehavior.net.)

Pet Connection is produced by a team of team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper, by sending e-mail to petconnection@gmail.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.

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