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


Universal Press Syndicate

Poop happens. So do urine and vomit.

While most pet messes come from young pets or old ones, even pets in the prime of their lives can get sick sometimes, leaving you looking at -- or worse, stepping in -- something you need to clean up.

If you want to make that mess a memory instead of a smelly stain, don't delay your cleanup.

Addressing a pet mess promptly does more than minimize the chance of staining. A quick and thorough cleanup also reduces the chance of repeat business, since old stains and smells tend to attract new ones, especially from pets who are struggling with the concept of house-training.

With a fresh mess, you can use gentle dish soap and warm water. Start by picking up and disposing of any solid matter. Blot the area with towels, and then wet it with the soapy solution (color-testing in a corner is always recommended, of course!). Work in the soapy solution and then flush with clean water and blot again, repeating a couple of times to make sure the soap is removed along with the mess.

Older but still pretty recent messes can benefit from the use of an enzymatic cleaner designed for pet stains, following label directions. These products break down the organic compounds in the mess, helping it to let go of the fibers of carpet or upholstery.

Don't use ammonia-based cleaners. They smell like urine to the keen noses of our pets -- ammonia being one of the byproducts of decomposing urine. Instead of making the area smell clean, ammonia products may make a mess site even more attractive to pets.

Really old, permanently set pet stains may resist any effort to remove them, but it's always worth a try. Since the carpet or upholstery is already trashed, there's no harm in saturating the stain with enzymatic pet cleaner and letting it sit. Flush well with water, blot, let dry, and repeat at least one more time if the stain is still there.

A professional furniture or upholstery cleaning service may be worth trying, as well. If nothing works, you can always put an attractive accent rug or furniture throw over the stain, unless the smell makes keeping the piece impossible.

Even the messes you can't see or smell can be a problem, because your pet may be able to smell what you cannot and may want to add his own mess on top. Many pet retailers carry black lights, which will show you the locations of old stains so you can treat them.

Unfortunately, not all stains and smells can be successfully treated. Any real estate agent can tell you a horror story of a home with pet stains that had soaked through to the carpet padding or even the sub-flooring below, making stain and smell removal an expensive proposition involving the replacement of carpet, padding and even flooring in some cases.

Just another good reason why there's no reason to wait when you've found a fresh mess.


Take a preventive approach to fur

Three tips for keeping fur off your furniture and clothing:

-- Groom your pets frequently. The fur you catch on a brush, comb or shedding rake will not end up where you don't want it.

-- Cover your furniture and bedding with washable throws. If your pets are allowed on the furniture -- or if they sneak up on it from time to time -- these washable throws will catch loose fur. Pet-themed products are widely available from retailers, or you can just buy colorful, lightweight and inexpensive cotton quilts.

-- Keep lint brushes, lint-rollers and wide shipping tape at hand. These sticky supplies are the final line of defense, picking up the fur that lands despite all preventive efforts. -- Gina Spadafori


Biting poodle may have ear infection

Q: The other day my husband startled our little poodle mix by petting her ears when she wasn't looking, and she bit him. This never happened before. I suspect this was my husband's fault for surprising her. He yelled at her mostly out of pain and shock, but didn't hit her. What should we do now? -- W.T., via e-mail

A: When a pet bites, the first step is to get a veterinary exam with diagnostic tests to rule out any health problems. We have to wonder, given the recent change in your dog's behavior and that she's a breed type with a predisposition for ear problems, if she is suffering from a painful ear infection. Pain can make anyone lash out!

If there turns out to be no health problem, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a behaviorist.

Beware of simple answers. Any combination of factors can trigger aggression in dogs. Once a pet has bitten, it's more likely the behavior will be repeated. If the bite broke the skin or if there have been more bites since, you may have a difficult time counterconditioning her to not bite again. In any case, whenever biting is involved, it's absolutely essential that you get professional help, starting with your own veterinarian. -- Susan and Dr. Rolan Tripp

Q: Can you please pass on this tip for relocating cats? You butter the cat's paws.

In the new house, put a towel down in the bathtub, shower stall, the garage or any enclosed area you will not mind having butter paw prints on. Take softened butter or margarine and completely saturate all four paws up to the dew claw, including between the toes.

Put the cat in an enclosed area and let him lick himself clean, removing all of the scents from his paws and making a clean slate for new scents to imprint. Of course, like anything you do with an unwilling cat, wear old clothes and have gloves handy! -- S.B., via e-mail

A: I've heard this for years, too, and I put it in the "can't hurt, could help, will surely be messy" category.

Yet I don't care if you coat your cat's paws with caviar, it's still recommended to start him in a small room for a couple of weeks after the move (with all necessities). Then let him graduate to the rest of the house and, finally, to the yard. Better still, use moving as a good reason to convert your cat to indoor status. Cats object loudly to having a large part of their territory removed. But after a move, it's all new, so they can't miss what they never had. -- Gina Spadafori

(Do you have a pet question? Send it to


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 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 or visiting


Heartworms not just a dog worry

-- Cats can get heartworm disease as well as dogs. If these microscopic larvae -- transmitted by mosquitoes -- settle in a cat's lungs, they can cause big health problems. Found in all 50 states, feline heartworm disease is incurable but 100 percent preventable with medications from your veterinarian. Think your indoor-only cat is safe? Think again! A North Carolina study reported that 28 percent of cats diagnosed with heartworm disease were indoor-only cats. For more information, visit

-- Gorillas on diets? Polar bears slurping sugar-free frozen treats? Giraffes nibbling alfalfa biscuits? The Associated Press reports the days of letting visitors throw marshmallows to animals is history, replaced by a growing focus on diet and nutrition. Like humans, many zoo animals have been getting fat by eating too much sugary, high-fat food and not moving as much as they're genetically programmed to.

-- Rabies on the rise. Reported cases of animal rabies in Virginia have spiked to their highest number in 25 years, according to DVM Newsmagazine. Although most of the 730 cases involved wild animals, with the highest number among raccoons, almost 40 cases involved dogs and cats.

-- Want to attract a crowd to your business? Get a cat! Tourists are now flocking to the Kishi station of the struggling Kishikawa train line in Kinokawa, Japan, to have their picture taken with Tama, a 9-year-old calico cat who wears a black cap and sits by the entrance. The Associated Press reports that Tama has done such a good job attracting new business that she was recently promoted to "super station master." She got a raise, too -- all in cat food. -- Dr. Marty Becker


Celebrating all the colors of the cat

By far, the most common marking pattern in cats is the "tiger-striped," or tabby. The word "tabby" comes from "atabi," a silk imported to England long ago that had a striped pattern similar to that of the domestic tiger cat.

Tabbies comes in many colors, such as red (more commonly called "orange," "ginger" or "marmalade"), cream, brown or gray. The tabby pattern is so common that, even in solid-colored cats, you can often discern faint tabby markings, especially on the head, legs and tail.

But there's more to cat markings than stripes.

"Smoked," "shaded" and "shell" describe the varying amounts of tipping that appear on each individual hair, with shell being a dash of color at the very tip, shaded a little more tipping, and smoked, at the other extreme, being a coat so heavily tipped that it may look solid, except as the cat moves and the lighter color becomes visible underneath.

Fur can also be "ticked" -- that is, banded with color, as in the agouti pattern seen in the Abyssinian, where dark-colored bands alternate with lighter ones on each hair shaft.

"Pointed" cats are those such as the Siamese, with lighter-colored bodies shading to darker, complementary colors at the "points" -- the face, the ears, the legs and the tail.

"Bicolors" are any other color (or pattern, such as tabby) paired with white, and "particolors" have three or more colors, as is true of calicoes.

Mixing these genetics can have some unpredictable results. The spotted Ocicat, for example, was created as the result of mating a Siamese and an Abyssinian! -- Gina Spadafori


Popular Cat Breeds

Pedigreed cats aren't as popular as pedigreed dogs. Most cat lovers are happy to share the company of a cat of unknown breeding, what the British so charmingly call a "moggie." But cat breeds have their fans, too, and according to the Cat Fanciers' Association registration figures for 2007, these are the most popular:

1. Persian

2. Maine coon

3. Exotic

4. Abyssinian

5. Siamese

6. Ragdoll

7. Sphynx

8. Birman

9. American shorthair

10. Oriental


'Scooting' likely not from worms

Does your dog scoot along on his fanny? You need to talk to your veterinarian about your pet's anal glands.

Anal glands are a topic no dog lover likes to think about, but the subject often cannot be ignored. Positioned on either side of the anus, the glands secrete a material that smells vile. Normal defecation may keep the glands emptied, but in some dogs, impactions and infections become a real problem.

The glands should be emptied regularly, a task that's simple if unappealing. Your veterinarian can show you how to empty the glands, or you can have the groomer do it for you when your dog's in for a regular grooming.

Infections of the anal glands are not uncommon, and they need to be treated by your veterinarian. In some cases, chronic infections need to be dealt with by having the glands removed. -- Dr. Marty Becker

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 or by visiting

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