Summer is when families prefer to move, hustling to clear out of the old place and settle into a new one before the school year begins. As summer passes its midway point, the heat turns up on those who have a deadline for moving, but haven't yet started packing.
Moving is tough on families, pets included. And even if your pets aren't your primary focus in such a stressful time, it doesn't take much to make their transition easier. It's always worth the effort, for the good of the pets and to make your life easier, since agitated animals can be destructive or may even take off.
The key to moving pets is to secure them before and during the move, and then settle them safely and quickly into a routine after the move is completed. Start by ordering ID tags with your new phone number, so you'll have them securely attached to all collars when moving day arrives. (I never use a pet's name or my address, preferring to have "reward!" put on the tag, along with all the phone numbers I can fit. A promise of money will motivate someone who might not otherwise be bothered to call.)
Cats are a particular worry at moving time because they form a bond not only with the people in a home but also with the home itself. Because of their mobility, it may be hard to keep them around your new home long enough for them to realize that this is where the people they love will now stay.
The family dog is a bit easier to deal with: Put his leash on and drive him to his new address. Show him his new home and the securely fenced back yard. Unless the dog is a high jumper of Olympic caliber, most dogs will adjust fairly easily.
Not so with cats, especially those who roam. The cases of cats returning to their previous homes aren't uncommon for people who move short distances, and the instances of cats disappearing forever are just as common for families moving a great distance.
Confinement is essential when moving cats, as is keeping them safe while they become used to their new territory and make it their own. Put your cat inside, if he's not already an indoor cat, before the movers arrive. Set him up in a "safe room" -- a spare bathroom is ideal -- and leave him be with food and water, his bed, a scratching post, his litter box and a couple of favorite toys while the packing and moving is under way.
At the new home, work the "leaving home" procedure in reverse: Put the cat into a "safe room" for a few days -- until the movers are gone, the furniture is arranged and most of the dust is settled -- then allow him to explore on his own terms after things calm down a bit.
Quickly re-establish a routine. Pick a time and a place for feeding, and stick to it -- for all pets. It wouldn't hurt to put litter boxes in a couple of protected locations, and observe to see which spots your cat prefers before removing the others.
If you've been thinking about converting your free-roaming cat to a house-dweller for his health and safety, moving to a new home is the perfect time to accomplish this. In your old home, you'd be constantly listening to your cat demanding to be let out into the rest of his territory. In a new home, he hasn't established his territory yet, and you can make the new house his only turf by keeping him inside from day one.
Puppies need to be fed more often than adult dogs, and they need to be taken outside more frequently as well. For feeding, aim for three times a day until your puppy is 3 months old, and then drop the middle meal for an adult schedule of twice a day. How long can puppies "hold it"? A good guideline is an hour for every month in age. That means three hours for a 3-month-old puppy, five hours for a 5-month old. Ideally, the most any dog should routinely be confined without a chance for relief is about six hours.
PETS ON THE WEB
In too many cases, very little of the money donated to charitable organizations will ever do the work promised in all those slick charity pitches that hit our mailboxes every week. High executive salaries and even higher fund-raising costs eat up the bulk of donations in many groups, including some of the best-known animal-related charities.
The Charity Navigator Web site (www.charitynavigator.org) is an easy way to get the lowdown on how charities spend their money. Working with information that must be provided to the IRS, the site uses a simple four-star rating system to help potential donors evaluate and compare groups. This site, along with Guidestar (www.guidestar.org), the national database of nonprofit organizations, should be used to check out any charity before you think of giving money.
QUESTIONS FROM THE PACK
Q: I was disappointed in your recent answer to a woman who was having difficulty giving medication to her cats. She was not looking for medical advice, simply a different means for administering medicine. I have no doubt that she would consult with her veterinarian -- as you suggested -- but to have given her absolutely nothing more broke my heart.
In my case, my veterinarian suggested the local compounding pharmacy. They grind the medication down to a fine powder and mix it with either a tuna fish or chicken base. I mix her medicine into a little soft cat food, and she now looks forward to her "medicine" each night.
It used to be stressful and upsetting for both me and my cat to get her to take her medicine. Until a couple of years ago, I didn't even know what a compounding pharmacy was, and now I couldn't be without one. Please will you pass along the information? -- T.L., via e-mail
A: The question came up in a live Internet chat on The Sacramento Bee's Web site, SacBee.com, and I couldn't for the life of me come up with the word "compounding," even though it was right on the tip of my ... ah ... fingertips. I guess you'd say in such a situation. Which is why with the clock running I typed "see your veterinarian," knowing that any decent one would indeed recommend a compounding pharmacy, as yours did.
Still, I stand by my advice that a veterinarian should be the first step in attempting to remedy such a problem. After all, some people simply need more assistance in learning how to "pill" their pets, while others will need a different strategy for giving medication, such as providing it in a gel or paste from a compounding pharmacy. Remember: A good veterinarian is your partner in providing your pet with the best health care, and you need to keep him or her in the loop to make sure you're being offered all the options for care.
That said, I'm delighted you wrote so that I can correct my mental lapse and share the information with more pet lovers than would follow an hour-long Internet chat or read the transcript later. Yes, compounding pharmacies are a godsend to pet lovers who can't get pills down their pets, for whatever reason. They tailor medication to the form and flavor a particular pet will best tolerate, and are an excellent option for giving medication for chronic problems that require lifelong attention.
Q: My 10-year-old daughter received a Yorkshire terrier puppy for her birthday. She is coming to visit me for a camping trip, at which time the puppy will be 9 weeks old. My daughter is concerned that the two weeks she'll be with me are a critical time for the dog to bond with her. Is this true?
Also, is it even advisable to take a 9-week-old puppy camping? We will be in tents and doing a lot of hiking. -- M.D., via e-mail
A: Veterinarians advise that puppies be kept at home, and certainly away from public spaces such as campgrounds and hiking trails, until their puppy shots are completed. That's because it's too easy for a young dog to come in contact with parvovirus before the animal's immune system is ready for the challenge. The result of such exposure can be lethal, and is certainly not worth the risk.
Your daughter's relationship with her puppy will not be compromised by the separation. Once she comes home and takes over the puppy's care and training, the young dog will happily become her very best pal.
Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies," "Cats for Dummies" and "Birds for Dummies." She is also affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or send e-mail to writetogina(at)spadafori.com. You can also read her frequently updated Web log or view her column archives at www.spadafori.com.
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