Universal Press Syndicate
Last week we offered some of the best "must know" information from our just-released book "The Ultimate Dog Lover." This week, the cats have their turn, with tips from "The Ultimate Cat Lover."
Each "must know" piece in the book has been developed with the help of one of the top experts in each area of expertise, and these experts are noted at the end of each tip.
-- Litter-box avoidance: Cats don't urinate outside the litter box to spite their owners. Some cats who don't go to the bathroom where we'd like them to have a medical or metabolic problem. Others are terrified of bully cats. And some don't like to do their business in a box that smells like a standing-line-only carnival porta-potty on a hot summer day. Many homes have too few litter boxes, located in the wrong places, or filled with litter that cats don't really like. -- Dr. Gary Landsberg, veterinarian and behaviorist, noted speaker and instructor on pet behavior issues
-- Pain management: It's particularly challenging for veterinarians and cat owners to recognize when a cat is in pain. Cats are descended from small predators who instinctively know that if they show signs of illness, the hunter becomes the hunted. Subtle changes in a cat's interactions with the family may be a clue that pain is present. Be on the lookout for unexpected hiding, irritability, lack of appetite or just plain weird(er) behavior. While you should never give human pain meds (even the over-the-counter variety) to your cat (they can be lethal), your veterinarian can help you to ease your pet's pain with traditional and alternative medicine and with strategies to help manage the cat's environment to ease the hurt. -- Dr. Robin Downing, veterinarian and internationally recognized expert on pain management in companion animals
-- Keeping indoor cats busy: Today's cats are born retired -- they've gone from mouser to moocher. Bored cats may develop medical problems and may suffer both physically and emotionally from the stress of living entirely in a man-made world. The key to stress reduction is to identify activities that make us feel better and then to do them. The easiest way to learn what an individual cat prefers (whether with treats, toys or litter box type, filler or location) is to offer alternatives and watch what she chooses. -- Dr. Tony Buffington, professor of veterinary clinical sciences at The Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital, which runs the Indoor Cat Initiative (IndoorCat.org)
-- Speaking "felinese": You don't have to go through a language immersion course to learn what your cat is trying to tell you. The language of cats has a lot to do with non-verbal cues -- body language, in other words. A cat's tail is one of the most reliable ways to tell his emotional state. A friendly cat will carry his tail upright, with the tip tilted slightly forward. Tail-wagging is a danger sign in cats, and you'd better back off when you see it. -- Dusty Rainbolt, author of award-winning books on cat care, most recently "Cat Wrangling Made Easy: Maintaining Peace and Sanity in Your Multicat Home." She has fostered and placed more than 300 hard-luck cats and has bottle-raised countless orphaned kittens.
-- Feline introductions: Cats are the least forgiving of interlopers trespassing on their turf. Don't toss the new kitty into your existing clowder to "work it out on their own," or you'll end up with the makings of a slasher film. Respect your resident cat's proper claim to territory. Confine the new cat in a single room by herself, to make both cats more comfortable during the transition period. -- Amy Shojai, a certified animal behavior consultant, pet-care columnist and author of 22 per-care books, including "PEToQuette: Solving Behavior Problems in Your Multipet Home"
That's just the tiniest of tastes of all the information that we've put into these new "Ultimate" pet books. The cat book also contains information on safer anesthesia, reducing both shedding and allergies to cats, and how to take great pictures of your cats.
Ultimate series starts with animal lovers' set
Combined, they have authored or co-authored more than 20 books, including the 2007 New York Times best-seller, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet?"
The "Ultimate" books are the first in a new series from HCI, publisher of the best-selling "Chicken Soup" series. The "Ultimate" pet books combine original stories from top writers, must-know information from experts in every specialty and lush, full-color photography.
Sympathy notes fine when a pet has died
Q: I have always been a pet lover. My cats and dogs have always been important to me, but especially since my children all moved away and got married, and I am now a widow.
Knowing how important pets are to others as well, I wonder if you think it's acceptable these days to send a sympathy note to a friend when a pet dies. I have done so, but I don't want the gesture to be poorly received or misunderstood. -- I.C., via e-mail
A: How can any caring, thoughtful gesture ever be inappropriate? You are letting a friend know that you are thinking about her during a difficult time, and that's always appreciated.
You may not be aware that sympathy cards for pet lovers have been available for many years now. There are also longstanding programs that accept donations in the memory of a beloved pet. Your local shelter or college of veterinary medicine will welcome such a gift and will send your friend a card of acknowledgment. Pet-health research organizations such as the Winn Feline Foundation, Morris Animal Foundation or AKC Canine Health Foundation also make good use of donations.
Many people are helped by the idea of the "Rainbow Bridge," a place where our animals wait for us, and then we are together, forever. The idea has become so popular that it's accepted practice among pet lovers to refer to a deceased pet as being "at the bridge."
If you are writing a sympathy note to a friend who has lost a dog, you might make note of the first use of "man's best friend," in a courtroom speech by George Graham Vest, who later became a U.S. senator:
"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog," said Vest in 1870.
Playwright Eugene O'Neill's lovely 1940 tribute to his Dalmatian Blemie, "The Last Will and Testament of Silverdene Emblem O'Neill," is also perfect for sharing.
For cat lovers, I like to share quotations from the French writer Colette, a cat lover for the ages.
But no matter what you write or whether you make a donation in memory of a special pet, I will guarantee you that any kind note to a friend who has lost a pet would be very much appreciated. -- Gina Spadafori
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books.
On PetConnection.com there's more information on pets and their care, reviews of products, books and "dog cars," and a monthly drawing for more than $1,000 in pet-care prizes. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to email@example.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.
Pet worming tip for human health
-- Three of the top five diseases transmissible from pets to people (what the experts call "zoonotic") are easily prevented through the use of wormers, according to Banfield, The Pet Hospital. Banfield lists that the top five zoonotic risks from dogs are: roundworm, hookworm, tapeworm, giardiasis and ringworm. For cats: tapeworm, roundworm, ringworm, hookworm and toxoplasmosis.
-- You're never too old to be a dad ... well, at least according to Henry, a 111-year-old reptilian tuatara at the New Zealand Southland Museum. The expectant parents, Henry and his partner, Mildred (younger by 40 years), have 12 eggs that caretakers hope will hatch in five months. Tuataras have been on the endangered species list since 1895, threatened from a non-native Polynesian rat as well as loss of habitat.
-- Heart disease affects about a quarter of all dogs over 7 years of age, but a new drug is showing great promise for dogs with congestive heart failure. Vetmedin (pimobendan), made by Boehringer Ingelheim, has been shown to double the survival time, compared with current treatments, according to British newspaper The Telegraph.
-- The seven states with the fewest veterinarians for every 1,000 pets are Wyoming, North Dakota, New Mexico, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky and West Virginia. The four states with the most vets per pets are Colorado, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. So reports Veterinary Economics magazine. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker Shannon
Pet parrots need rules to live by
To achieve the full potential of a pet parrot, you need to practice consistent handling and gentle training. It's not hard if you follow some basic guidelines:
-- Learn when to leave your bird alone. Birds can be very moody, and there are times when it's best just to let them be. As you come to know your bird better, you'll be able to identify clearly the times when he wants to be with you and when he wants to be left alone. Give him space when he needs it.
-- Control your bird's comings and goings. Instead of opening the cage door to let your pet out, ask your bird to step up onto your hand and then bring him out. Likewise, give the "step up" command when it's time to put your bird back in his cage. This routine may seem like no big deal to you, but you're sending a message of leadership to your bird.
-- Keep training sessions short and upbeat. Parrots are highly intelligent, but they don't have the longest attention spans. While trick-training is great for keeping them engaged, they get bored easily. Several short sessions a day -- just a couple of minutes at a time -- are better than one or two long ones. Always end on a positive note!
-- Don't let your bird ignore a command. If you say, "Step up," persist until your bird complies, or you'll set yourself up for trouble down the road. Birds are very smart, and if they figure a way around you, they'll take it.
Your bird will love you for setting clear guidelines -- and you'll get more out of the relationship as well. -- Gina Spadafori
BY THE NUMBERS
Fish better than TV?
Why keep fish? While some people enjoy the challenge of keeping complex tanks running well, most people cite watching an aquarium as the thing they like best about having fish. Top reasons (multiple answers allowed):
Fun to watch: 84 percent
Appearance: 78 percent
Relaxation: 69 percent
Quiet: 57 percent
Easy to maintain: 47 percent
Source: American Pet Products Association
ON GOOD BEHAVIOR
Keeping dogs from rushing the door
Dogs can learn to respect barriers, even if they are invisible. Teach your dog to stop before going out your front door by always insisting your dog wait for your cue such as "outside" or "OK" before stepping through.
Use repetition and small steps to teach this concept. Begin with one person indoors holding your dog's leash as you walk out the door, and tell your pet to wait.
As your dog learns to wait, raise the bar: Run out the door, or ask a neighbor to come to the door. In other words, help your dog to learn to wait regardless of the situation. No training is 100 percent, but you can put the brakes on door-dashing with consistency and practice.
(Animal behavior experts Susan and Dr. Rolan Tripp are the authors of "On Good Behavior." For more information, visit their Web site at AnimalBehavior.net.)
Pet Connection is produced by a team of team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper, by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting PetConnection.com.
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