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

Out of Work

Animals with jobs are tired of staying home, too, though some are able to work remotely

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Basil is bored.

Turns out that even cats are out of work because of COVID-19. The orange tabby, who in the past has appeared in Bissell vacuum commercials and made frequent therapy visits to nursing homes and hospitals, has been grounded since the pandemic started, and it’s getting to her.

“Production on movies and commercials is at a standstill,” says Tina Parkhurst of Beaverton, Oregon, who lives with Basil and manages the cat’s career. She and Basil make only rare facility visits now -- carefully coordinated to keep everyone, including Basil and Parkhurst’s other cats, safe.

“It’s tough, because cats can’t transmit the virus to humans, but they can get it and give it to other cats, which could stand my entire herd on its ear if I’m not careful,” she says.

Basil just wants to be back on the job. She tries to follow Parkhurst out of the house and waits outside the shower, knowing that if she gets a bath, a facility visit is coming up. “She’s more calm, more attentive, just better behaved overall,” Parkhurst says. “It’s like she thinks that if she’s on her best behavior, she’ll get to go back to her peeps and kids at the hospital.”

Summer is a social media influencer and lifestyle blogger at The Somali cat (the longhaired variety of an Abyssinian) still posts about her daily life, but modeling catwear, making appearances at cat shows and other events, going on photo shoots, making therapy visits at hospitals and auditioning for television and movies are all on hold.

“With the pandemic, all this has ground to a halt,” says Janiss Garza of Los Angeles, Summer’s personal assistant, stylist and bodyguard.

Like Basil, Summer is bored staying at home.

“She is a busy cat by nature, and it’s been kind of difficult keeping her occupied since she is so used to traveling and being the center of attention,” Garza says.

Other animals are used to working from home. Belinda, a New Zealand white rabbit, is a spokesbunny for Small Pet Select in Pittsburgh. She writes a weekly blog, “Belinda Says Hay,” and posts on social media every Tuesday and Friday.

“I write about my life at home and as a remote worker for a pet food company,” she responds in an email (typed by her roommate Mary Cvetan). In her latest blog post, she shared her concerns about her friends on the West Coast -- including Abigail, the other rabbit writer on the team, who lives in California.

Even animals with more outdoorsy jobs have been affected. Lola, a 7-year-old dingo, is a canine ambassador at Shy Wolf Sanctuary Education & Experience Center in Naples, Florida, but she doesn’t have many people to greet these days. The sanctuary used to welcome 20 to 30 community groups per month, but the pandemic put a halt to community education and outreach events until recently, says Deanna Deppen, Lola’s handler and executive director of the sanctuary.

But training and enrichment keep Lola and Deppen busy. Lola is trained as a search and rescue dog -- a job for which she’s well-suited, thanks to her problem-solving ability and independent nature. To maintain their status, she and Deppen must complete continuing education courses and annual testing.

“National certifications require dogs to identify different types of human remains” and differentiate them from animal remains, Deppen says. “Test areas include vehicles, buildings, fields and woods. Dogs must pass all sectors and identify ‘negative’ areas with no remains in double-blind scenarios.”

But there’s good news for some working pets. At least seven airports, including ones in Philadelphia; Reno, Nevada; and John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, have recently allowed therapy animal teams to come back to work. Here’s hoping other animal employees are back on the job soon.


Cleanliness is

next to catliness

Q: How often should I clean my cat’s litter box?

A: If you’re referring to scooping poop and urine clumps, the answer is daily -- at a minimum. Cats are like the rest of us: They prefer a clean bathroom instead of a stinky, unflushed toilet. Your cat will appreciate your keeping her personal potty area clean. It’s a good idea to scoop the box any time you notice it has been used. That’s why we recommend uncovered litter boxes: They ensure you notice right away that the box needs to be cleaned. And covered boxes hold odors in, which can make them unattractive to cats.

Add new litter as needed. That can vary from cat to cat. Some cats like a deep bed of litter, while others have a “less is more” attitude. It can also depend on the type of litter. Usually, 2 to 3 inches is a good depth for clay litter, or 3 to 4 inches for clumping litter. Stick to unscented kinds; cats have very sensitive noses and they may not like the smell of scented litter.

If you’re referring to the actual litter box, we recommend dumping litter in the trash and cleaning the box every one to two weeks. Use hot water, a mild, unscented dishwashing soap and a brush dedicated to that purpose. Never use ammonia, bleach or pine-scented cleansers, all of which can repel or be toxic to your cat. Dry thoroughly and then add new litter. Clean the litter scoop, too, and store it in a plastic bag or hard-sided plastic container.

Keeping the box clean not only keeps your cat happy, it also helps to keep her healthy. A clean litter box, especially in a multicat home, is less likely to harbor bacteria, viruses or parasites. -- Dr. Marty Becker

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


Learn a new

language: dog

-- Ever wish your dog could talk to you? He’s doing it all the time, but using body language instead of words. Artist and dog lover Lili Chin, whose illustrations have appeared in books, museum exhibits and dog-bite prevention campaigns, recognized the need for a dog body language guide -- a canine phrasebook of sorts. “Doggie Language: A Dog Lover’s Guide to Understanding Your Best Friend” (Summersdale) contains illustrations and explanations of what dogs are saying when they tilt their heads, yawn, blink their eyes, grin, lick their lips, and more. The book helps readers look at the “whole dog” to interpret posture, tail movement, facial expressions, eye and ear signals, and what it means when a dog has “the zoomies” or offers a kiss.

-- Dogs and cats with osteoarthritis, a painful, degenerative joint disease, may signal the condition by limping, hesitating to jump on or off furniture or go up or down stairs, reducing their activity level, or appearing slow or stiff when they stand up or lie down. If you suspect your pet has osteoarthritis, take her to the veterinarian for an exam. A number of medications and therapies are available to reduce pain and improve mobility. Checklists of signs are available at (dogs) and (cats).

-- One of the requirements on a pet food label is a nutritional adequacy statement. It tells you whether a food is appropriate for a puppy or kitten or for an adult animal, for instance. Young animals need high levels of nutrients to fuel their rapid growth, but adult dogs or cats with normal activity levels don’t need those extra calories or nutrients. A nutritional adequacy statement says which life stage the food is meant for, whether that’s “growth” or “maintenance.” An “all life stages” food can be fed to any animal. -- 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, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets 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.