Universal Press Syndicate
The number of people who travel with their dogs is growing, and so too are the options for pets on the road. From "ruffing it" at campgrounds to enjoying fabulous four-star hotels, the time has never been better to pack your pet and go.
Still, traveling with a dog is no picnic sometimes. Finding lodgings can be difficult, luxurious inside dining is largely sacrificed in favor of eating takeout in the car or a park, and spending hours tripping through quaint shops becomes a thing of the past when a dog is waiting. Traveling with dogs offers some challenges, but nearly all are surmountable with common sense and creativity.
The travel industry wants to help, that's for sure. Countless books cover traveling with dogs, and some travel agents have carved out a niche booking canine-centered vacations. People in the travel industry have learned that many people with dogs are exceptionally grateful for pleasant accommodations, and so return to the places that treat them well year after year. As a result, some entrepreneurs have gone to great lengths to attract dog lovers: You can even find canine camps where people do nothing but share a slice of "dog heaven" with their pet for a week or more at a time.
Is your pup ready to hit the road? As with all other training, ending up with a good car-rider starts with molding correct behavior when your dog is a puppy. No matter how cute or how small, do not allow your pup to ride in your lap, and don't make a fuss over him while you're driving.
Traveling with your dog in a crate is often easier and definitely safer. Depending on the size of your dog and the size and shape of your car, a crate may not be feasible. It should always be considered, though, especially for those dogs who are so active that they distract the driver. Collapsible crates are available for easy storage in the trunk when not in use.
Another safety tool is a doggy seat belt. Some models attach to the seat belt and then to a harness you provide, while others come complete with harness. Also good for keeping a pet in place -- if you have a station wagon, van or SUV -- are widely available metal barriers that fit between the passenger and cargo areas. These barriers aren't considered as safe in the event of a crash as a crate or a safety belt, but they do solve the problem of a dog whose behavior can distract the driver.
If your dog's only exposure to travel is an occasional trip to the veterinarian's, don't be surprised if he comes to hate car trips. Try to build up his enthusiasm by increasing his time in the car and praising him for his good behavior. The first short trips should be to pleasant locations, such as parks.
Because most of the car-sickness problems come from fear, not motion sickness, building up your pet's tolerance for riding in a car is a better long-term cure than anything you could give him. Ask your veterinarian's advice for any medication to help in the short term.
On the road, remember to stop at regular intervals, about as often as you need to for yourself, for your dog to relieve himself and get a drink of fresh water. Always keep your dog on a leash for his own safety. And don't forget that your dog's ID tags are never as important as when you're on the road.
With a few short practice trips and some training, you'll be on the road in no time.
As often as I turn to the Internet for information, it's a bit of a surprise to me that my most valued resource when it comes to traveling with my dogs is still a book: "Traveling With Your Pet: The AAA Petbook." I've traveled though likely two-thirds of the states and part of Canada with nothing more than this book as my guide to places that accept pets. Even now, you can find a copy stuffed under the seat of my minivan. Now in its seventh edition ($18 from AAA or most booksellers), the book lists almost 13,000 hotels and hundreds of campgrounds where pets are welcome.
More limited in scope but more detailed in the descriptions of individual lodging and pet-friendly attractions, the "Dog Lover's Companion Series" of guides tells you not only where dogs are allowed, but also where they're truly welcome. Avalon Travel Publishing is behind these guides, versions of which cover major urban areas (New York, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Baltimore/Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Bay Area), and all of California and Florida.
Popular Internet guides to pet-friendly travel include PetsWelcome.com, petfriendlytravel.com, dogfriendly.com and petswelcome.com.
Angry cat may lash out at owner
Q: Whenever my cat looks through the window and sees another cat outside in the yard, she starts this awful-sounding meow and freaks out, running back and forth to different windows and meowing. If you get near her, she jumps up and scratches you. I try to bang on another window so the cat in the backyard will go away.
The last time it happened, my cat followed me upstairs. I was trying to swat her head to get her away from me. She showed her teeth and hissed like she was going to attack me. I was firmly calling her by name and telling her "no," but she had me cornered. I was genuinely afraid.
Finally she went out of the room and downstairs, and a few minutes later she was back to normal. It's so weird because she is so docile and sweet most of the time.
I figure this behavior is probably because she was born in the wild, but I want to see if there is anything I can do. My friend thought there might be some kind of medication I could give her. I hate to get rid of her because we are really attached to her. People who have been around her comment on how gentle and loving she is. -- J.C., e-mail
A: Your cat's behavior likely has nothing to do with being born feral. You have a classic case of what behaviorists call "redirected aggression," and it's not uncommon.
Cats are territorial animals, and the sight of another cat (even through a window) can trigger an aggressive response. The cat who feels "invaded" will work into a state of trancelike anger. The animal becomes frustrated that he cannot get to the invader and typically will lash out at any person or other pet unlucky enough to be in proximity. Sometimes they'll take things further, as your cat did.
The usual advice in such cases is to work to remove the triggers for such behaviors. If possible, figure out a way to keep other cats out of your yard, and block your cat's view to the area where the cats show up. When your cat's in an aggressive state, do not pick her up or touch her, but try to "shoo" her into a darkened room to chill out. Throwing a blanket over her will also end the confrontation in a pinch.
Most cases of redirected aggression aren't as dramatic as your cat's. They can usually be dealt with just by giving the cat a wide berth until it's apparent (from the cat's relaxed body language) that the aggressive state is over. Given the high level of arousal your cat displayed and your fear of a repeat incident, I'd recommend asking your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist who can set up a program of medication and modification that will help defuse the feline time bomb in your home.
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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New rabies shot to last longer
Cutline: Researchers are studying a rabies vaccine that would last for five years and cut the potential for vaccine reactions.
-- Researchers are evaluating a new, yet-to-be-licensed rabies vaccine that will allow more time between shots. The minimum duration of immunity (DOI) for this product is five to seven years, significantly longer than the one- to three-year DOI for rabies vaccines currently available. The American Animal Hospital Association says the increased DOI will reduce the number of animals that develop adverse reactions following immunizations, which is currently estimated to be 1 to 3 percent of the population.
-- Veterinarians' suicide rate is proportionally four times that of the general population and twice that of other health professionals, studies in the United Kingdom show. Job stress, access to lethal drugs and euthanasia acceptance are among the potential driving forces behind veterinarians' heightened risk, according to the study, "Veterinary Surgeons and Suicide: Influences, Opportunities and Research Directions," published in the UK's Veterinary Record.
-- In a study of 200,000 ostriches over a period of 80 years, no one reported a single case where an ostrich buried its head in the sand.
-- Ever wonder how many beats an animal's ticker makes per minute? According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, elephants bring up the bottom at 25 to 40 beats per minute (bpm), with horses close behind at 28 to 40 bpm. Dog hearts clock in at 70 to 120 bpm, with cats' cardiac speedometer hitting 120 to 140 bpm. But that's nothing compared to rabbits, chickens, hamsters and mice, whose hearts are like race cars, clicking along at 180 to 350, 250 to 300, 300 to 600 and 450 to 750 bpm, respectively. For comparison, the human heart averages about 72 bpm.
-- For most folks, a nice hug and some sympathy can help a bit after we get pushed around. Turns out that chimpanzees use hugs and kisses the same way, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Associated Press report of the study noted that stress was reduced in chimps who were victims of aggression when a third chimp stepped in to offer consolation. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker Shannon
Feline fur length a matter of personal preference
Let's get one thing straight up front: Almost all cats shed. The "almost" is there to apply to those very few cats who haven't any fur -- such as those of the Sphynx breed, who still manage to carry a little down that can rub off on your clothes. Once you accept the shedding, though, you'll find there's a lot of variety when it comes to cat fur.
If you count out the more exotic coats of some purebred cats, though, you're mostly looking at the difference between choosing shorthaired and longhaired cats.
Some people like the sleek look and feel of a shorthaired cat, while others adore the flowing softness of the longhairs. Do you prefer to rub your hand down a sleek pelt or to bury your fingers in a longhaired one?
What about shedding? The difference in shedding levels between short- and longhaired cats can be dramatic, especially in cats that are prized for the volume of coat, such as with Persians. Are you prepared to live with a lint roller in your bathroom, your glove box and your desk drawer at work? Would you be appalled to have a friend pick one of those glorious 4-inch pieces of fur off the back of your sweater? If you're on the low end of fur tolerance, you'd better stick with shorthaired cats.
You also need to consider the extra care that goes into all but the sleekest of coats. If your longhaired cat's mats get out of control, you'll need to seek out a professional groomer, and that costs money. You'll spend even more money if you elect, as some cat owners do, to have your longhaired cat professionally groomed on a regular basis.
Canaries come in countless varieties
Well-known for vocal talents and vibrant color, the canary is one of the most popular pet birds in the world. Canaries hail originally from the Canary Islands, which were named not for their most famous residents, but for the dogs the Romans found there ("canis" being Latin for "dog").
Canaries are actually finches, and wild canaries come in green and yellow, not just the bright yellow most people associate with these pets.
But even domesticated canaries come in many colors and varieties, thanks to centuries of selective breeding. Canaries can be sleek or plump in body type, and smooth or puffy when it comes to feathers, with colors from yellow to bright orange to greens and browns. If you want a singer, though, make sure your new bird is a male. Female canaries don't sing.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read her frequently updated Web log or view her column archives at www.spadafori.com.
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