This week, a little petpourri ...
Pet Food vs. People Food: Do you include your pet in holiday festivities? If you do, you're not the only one. According to a recent survey conducted for Purina, nine out of 10 pet owners treat their pets like a member of the family. Nearly three-quarters of us consider our pets to be our best friend, and half feel guilty about leaving pets home alone.
When we do go out, we try to calm our guilty feelings by bringing home a doggie bag from the restaurant -- or so said 54 percent of the respondents.
Not surprisingly, Purina was especially interested in the feeding habits of these pampered pets, many of whom will share food from the holiday table. Turkey will be the No. 1 treat for these pets this holiday season, followed by ham. A few will even get cookies or candy -- even though 88 percent of those polled said they realized "people foods" can cause upset stomach in pets.
Actually, it's worse than that. Fatty or spicy foods can trigger a life-threatening case of pancreatitis in dogs, requiring a trip to the emergency clinic and a hefty holiday bill you weren't anticipating. In cats, the juice-saturated strings from holiday meats can prove too tempting to resist, but may need to be surgically removed in another lifesaving intervention.
Cookies or candies? Forget it! A big chunk of chocolate can be deadly to the small dog who eats it, and even a larger dog can get a bellyache. Foil or other food wrappings can also be dangerous if consumed. A touch of white-meat turkey won't hurt your pet, but it may not make him any easier to live with. The poll reports a list of problems related to poor eating habits, including begging (69 percent), sneaking food (52 percent) and diarrhea (40 percent).
All of which leads to Purina's self-serving but not incorrect conclusion: Your pets are better off being fed a complete and balanced pet food than they are sharing your meals.
There are more good foods on the market than ever before, in pet-supply stores, veterinary offices and even grocery stores. Choose a high-quality food, and leave the people food out of it.
The Ultimate Guides to Dog and Cat Products: The Purina survey also revealed that 13 percent of us will be giving our pets gifts this holiday season, a figure that to my mind seemed low. If your dog is on your gift list, however, a new book will help make the shopping easier -- and fun.
"The Whole Dog Catalog" (Three Rivers Press; $19.95) is a guide to every imaginable product for dog and dog-lover, from the simplest bowls to the most elaborate dwellings (could your dog live without a $4,500 doghouse made to look like a thatched-roof cottage?). Clothes for dog and dog-lover both, tags, toys, fine art and jewelry -- it's all in this remarkable and enjoyable book. My favorites: lifelike breed doorstops, dog sculptures and "pup tent" dog beds.
Author John Avalon Reed drops plenty of interesting dog facts into the book, too. His previous book, "The Whole Kitty Catalog," fills the same niche for cat-lovers. Either book would make a perfect gift for an animal-lover.
Pets on the Web: "We really enjoyed watching your cat eat," writes one fan. "I am in love with your kitty!" comments another. "You must have been busy yesterday getting rid of your slob reputation. Your kitchen looks nice."
These comments and many more are on Eric Max Francis' site, The CatCam (http://www.catcam.com), where a fixed camera under a table sends a constant flow of images to the Web. You can see his kitchen, from a cat's-eye view. Sometimes, you can see his cats, Beowulf and Ebi. The flash of a tail ... the hint of a leg ... oh, the suspense! If you can't stand it anymore, you can review the last day's worth of images. Empty room. Cat. Empty. Empty. Empty. Cat. Darkness.
"I trust I would not be the first person to point out that this CatCam business is very silly," comments another fan. "I love it."
Me, too. And the cats, when they do show up, are very cute.
Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies" and "Cats for Dummies," and is the editorial director of the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or e-mail to Giori(at)aol.com.
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600