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

Pet Books

When you don’t know what gift to buy, a book is often the perfect answer

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

It’s that time of year again -- the season of gift giving. We gave up long ago trying to find just the right trinket for family and friends; we just give books instead. There is always something to suit anyone’s interests. If you’re buying for pet lovers this year -- or for yourself -- there’s a “bone-anza” of books from which to choose.

Raise a glass to working-class cats employed in security, brand management and customer relations at breweries, distilleries and wineries. You’ll giggle your way through Brad Thomas Parsons’ “Distillery Cats,” profiles of 36 feline members of the organic pest control brigade. With its charming illustrations, quotes from cat lovers and drink recipes, it’s a spirited choice for anyone who appreciates cats and cocktails.

Does your cat have mojo? He will if Jackson Galaxy, star of “My Cat From Hell,” has anything to say about it. Cat mojo is all about confidence, Galaxy says, in his new book “Total Cat Mojo: The Ultimate Guide To Life With Your Cat.” Filled with Cat Daddy Facts about feline genetics, anatomy, habits and history, the crash course in cats, co-authored with animal behavior expert Mikel Delgado, Ph.D., covers the whys and wherefores of cat behavior, physical and emotional needs, and how to troubleshoot tabby tizzies.

First-time dog owners will benefit from “Modern Dog Parenting” by trainer and behavior consultant Sarah Hodgson. There’s advice on understanding canine behavior, dealing with dog dramas; recognizing fears; providing good grooming, first aid and nutrition; and, of course, having fun together.

John Shivik didn’t like cats. Then Pinguino entered his life. The relationship they developed led to the wildlife biologist’s study of animal personalities, presented in his book “Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes.” With humor, heart and science, he explores the bonds between humans and animals. “All of us would do better if we learned to accept individual personality in all animals, even when it means giving up a little of our own individuality,” he writes.

Here’s one for the murder-mystery fans. At a Christmas tree farm, Melanie Travis finds a surprise beneath one of the trees -- a dead body guarded by a shivering Maltese. Travis finds herself plunged into a mystery as she seeks to identify the man and notify his family. In “Wagging Through the Snow,” the 21st of the series, author Laurien Berenson weaves together mystery, humor, dogs (of course!) and the effects of alcoholism and homelessness on families to create a short but sweet holiday tale.

Readers with a strong interest in the science behind the workings of the brain will appreciate “What It’s Like to Be a Dog: And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience.” Author Gregory Berns, who trained dogs to willingly enter (and lie quietly in) an MRI scanner so he could better understand how they thought, follows up by addressing the complexity of animal intelligence and emotions.

Remember ultramarathoner Dion Leonard, who unexpectedly acquired a canine teammate during a 155-mile race through China’s Gobi Desert last year? His book “Finding Gobi” chronicles the story of how the little stray dog attached herself to him during the race, determined not to fall behind, and how he grew to love her. But love is never easy, and Leonard encountered numerous obstacles to bringing Gobi home to Edinburgh, not least of which was her mysterious disappearance after the race, miraculous recovery and a four-month quarantine in China before they could go home together. He writes: “...from the moment I said yes to Gobi, my life has been different. She has added to all the good things in my life and brought healing to some of the bad.”


Should we get an

Abyssinian cat?

Q: My 12-year-old daughter has her heart set on an Abyssinian cat. What can you tell us about this breed? Are they good family cats?

A: In the right family, Abys are wonderful cats. Kids love them because they’re active and smart, good at learning tricks -- including walking on leash and playing fetch -- and funny as can be. There’s a reason they are nicknamed the clowns of the cat world.

Count on an Aby finding the highest spot in every room and then scaling it. They are highly athletic climbers and jumpers, so be prepared to find your cat on top of the refrigerator or taking a look inside your cabinets. They’re perfectly capable of getting around any child locks you may have installed. Abys get along with children who respect them and don’t disturb them during naptime. They love attention from and interaction with their humans, so living with one is a big commitment.

Abyssinians have an average lifespan of 15 years, but they have been known to die as young as 10 years or to live as long as 18 years. I asked my colleague Marybeth Rymer, DVM, who has loved and lived with Abyssinians for 25 years, to weigh in on their health. She says Abys can live long, healthy lives, but like any cat, they are at risk from certain genetic diseases.

The UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory offers testing for erythrocyte pyruvate kinase deficiency, a disease of the red blood cells, and for progressive retinal atrophy, an eye disease that can lead to blindness. A fatal kidney disease called amyloidosis does not yet have a screening test. The bottom line, Dr. Rymer says, is to buy a kitten from a breeder who tests for genetic diseases and whose line of cats doesn’t carry amyloidosis. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to or visit


Burned cat home

after 10-year odyssey

-- A cat who survived last month’s California wildfires has been returned to his family -- 10 years after he disappeared. A microchip was his way back home. Pilot was found with severe burns and taken to Petcare Veterinary Hospital in Santa Rosa. A microchip scan turned up the name of his owners, who said he disappeared in 2007, three years after they acquired him as a kitten. They checked shelters for months with no luck. A few years later they moved to Colorado, with no expectation of ever seeing their cat again. Jennifer Leigh Thompson flew out to California to retrieve Pilot, and he is home recuperating from his injuries.

-- Because of their frequent exposure to chemicals and toxic fumes, firefighters are at risk for certain types of cancer, including respiratory and urinary cancers. A Canadian organization called Cancer Dogs is hoping to reduce that risk through screenings with dogs trained to detect cancer by sniffing the breath and alerting when they smell signs of disease. More than 20,000 firefighters have been tested since the program began in 2011. People who have been diagnosed with cancer but have not yet begun treatment can donate breath samples to help train the dogs. For more information, visit

-- Veterinarians from the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, California, are helping people and pets who are homeless through Pets Without Walls, a program to provide health checks, preventive care, vaccinations, microchips, flea and tick medication, and food. The organization also offers the AniMeals program to help ensure that people who are homebound or have disabilities can feed their pets. It currently feeds more than 250 pets per week in the San Diego metropolitan area, thanks to the approximately 40 volunteers who package and deliver pet food donations to distribution centers. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.