DEAR DR. FOX: We recently brought into our home a pair of goldfish. They seem to be happy together in a large aquarium with rocks and weeds, and we've added an aerator and filter to help keep the water clean and clear. Our two children enjoy watching and feeding them and the fish do seem to know when they are there.
How intelligent are goldfish, and do fish have feelings? -- K.L.C., Washington, D.C.
DEAR K.L.C.: I have written before about the fact that goldfish and most other fish species do not thrive when living alone with no contact with their own kind. I am glad you have two!
Have your children ring a little bell or flash a light before feeding time and condition the fish to be fed in one corner of the tank. They should soon learn with the food-is-coming signal to go to the feeding corner, where you might secure against the inside of the tank a small floating wooden or rubber ring into which a few pinches of dry fish food is placed.
For details about fish having feelings and why we all need to be more concerned and involved with the fate of these species in the wild, go to fishfeel.org.
Most of us take seafood for granted and have no awareness about the intelligence, sentience and complex social lives of fish or of the critical state of their marine and freshwater environments. All who eat seafood and feed it to their cats and dogs should become more aware and involved from the perspectives of food safety, animal suffering and natural resource depletion and pollution.
"DECODING YOUR DOG"
This is the appropriate title for a book I highly recommend for dog caregivers, trainers and all veterinary students entering the companion animal field. Chapters cover most, but not all, areas of normal and abnormal canine behavior and how to prevent and treat various problems from separation anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders to old-dog dementia and cognitive impairment.
Contributions come from veterinarians who are members of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.
You can buy "Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones" by The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists on Amazon.com.
U.S. GOVERNEMNT DEVELOPS NEW CAT LITTER
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have found a way to a way to make cat litter that is almost fully degradable.
The department's Agricultural Research Service found that using spent corn, called dried distiller's grain (DDG), may prove to be more environmentally friendly than popular but nonbiodegradable clay-based litters that mostly end up in landfills. DDG is what is left over after ethanol production. In this case, the DDG was treated with one or more solvents to extract any remaining potentially useful natural compounds. USDA has called these x-DDGs.
ARS researcher Steven Vaughn and his colleagues found a kitty litter formulation composed of x-DDGs and three other compounds: glycerol, to prevent the litter from forming dust particles when poured or pawed; guar gum, to help the litter clump easily when wet; and a very small amount of copper sulfate, for odor control.
The mix resulted in a highly absorbent compound that clumps and provides significant odor control, researchers found.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)