Even in an off year, the housing market traditionally picks up in the spring, as families who need to change residences get moving so the children can be settled into the new neighborhood before the next school year begins.
But moving is tough on families, pets included. Animals always know when something's amiss, even if they can't understand exactly what's changing, or why.
The key to moving pets is to keep them secure before and during the move, and to settle them safely and quickly into a routine afterward.
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, cats can be difficult to keep around the 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, warm home and the securely fenced back yard. Unless the dog is a high-jumper of Olympic caliber, he'll stay put while he adjusts.
Not so with free-roaming cats. The cases of cats returning to their previous homes are common 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: It keeps them safe while they become used to their new territory and make it their own. Bring 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 or bedroom is ideal -- and leave him be. Provide him with food and water, his bed, a scratching post, litter box and a couple of favorite toys while the packing and moving is under way.
The cat's ride to the new home is best undertaken in a carrier, especially for the cat who rarely sees the inside of a car.
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 arranged and most of the dust settled -- and then allow him to explore inside the house 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.
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 any territory of his own yet, and you can make the new home his only turf by keeping him inside from day one.
If you don't want to convert him, keep him inside for a couple of weeks, until he seems relaxed. You can introduce your cat to the new yard by accompanying him on short tours with a harness and a leash. But in the end, you'll have to take your chances, open the door and hope for the best.
Moving is stressful for all, but taking a little extra care when it comes to your pets will help to move them safely and with a minimum of stress and mess at the new home.
Don't forget ID
During a move, your pet is at a high risk for becoming lost. That's why it's essential to get new ID tags on your pets before you disconnect that old phone number, or to update the ID tags with your permanent cell phone number. If you use a tracking service or microchip ID, be sure they know where to reach you as well by updating your records with the registry.
If you're going to need to change veterinarians, let the staff at the old hospital know and provide a working phone number in case anyone calls the hospital because of a rabies tag on a found pet. (Rabies tags usually have the vet's phone number on them.) And finally, check with the animal control department in your new community to get new licenses and find out what regulations cover your pets. -- G.S.
Don't play vet at home
Q: At the pet store where I go, they have antibiotics for sale. Would it be a good idea to keep some on hand in case our pets get sick? -- D.F., via e-mail
A: Antibiotics are one of the outstanding contributions of modern medicine and have saved countless lives of both the human and animal variety. But we have become so comfortable with these medicines and their frequent usage that we sometimes forget they are powerful drugs that should be used with care.
And yet, some pet lovers respond to any sign of illness by dosing -- and often overdosing -- their pets with antibiotics commonly available at pet-supply stores (and often labeled for fish). This sort of treatment for your sick pet is a bad idea for several reasons.
First, if your pet has a viral or fungal infection, an antibiotic will not help.
Second, not all antibiotics are the same. They all have their own target bacteria, and they may have little effect on any bacteria they're not designed to combat as well as bacteria that are resistant to them.
Third, regular use of antibiotics may hurt your pet's immune system and may lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that will be hard to stamp out even with the "right" medication.
When your pet is sick, see your veterinarian. Getting the right diagnosis and the right medication promptly may well save your pet's life. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Art image (little): Sun conure eating a grape
Caption: Many parrots like to share food with owners.
Q: When I get home and go to let my sun conure out of his cage, he'll start bobbing his head and then vomit food. How can I get him to stop it? -- B.F., via e-mail
A: Strange as it may seem to those of us who don't have wings, what your little guy is doing is showing you his affection.
He's "regurgitating," and isn't that a much nicer word than "vomiting"? Like many animals, birds feed their young by bringing up food. Bonded breeding pairs do this to each other as a sign of closeness. When your bird brings up food for you, it's because he's showing you that he considers you a mate or companion, and he wants you to eat well.
Birds bob their heads to bring the food up, and when the behavior is performed between birds, the food is put directly into the other's mouth.
You can't stop this natural behavior, so just accept it. The behavior, that is, not the regurgitated food. -- Gina Spadafori
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.)
ON GOOD BEHAVIOR
Reward pet's good manners
Animals learn from the immediate consequences of their actions. Reward-based training is based on positive reinforcement -- giving an animal an immediate reward for "getting it right."
A reward can be anything a pet desires, such as food, praise, touch, toys, playtime, and indoor or outdoor access. Reward-based training teaches an animal that you are the provider and controller of everything good. It also builds trust and keeps the animal student eager to learn more.
When teaching your pet what you want him to do, offer what he likes the best as the reward. After the new behavior is learned, continue with intermittent rewards. Once the pet knows a behavior, you can withhold the reward when your pet gets it wrong. For example, the dog who knows how to sit but won't sit for his dinner dish can have his grub withheld for a few minutes. Then try again! Chances are he'll sit, and he'll sit even more quickly the next time.
(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.)
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" 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 more. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting PetConnection.com.
Broken teeth common in dogs
Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim and dogs gotta chew. But sometimes, that chewing can prompt a painful problem.
Broken teeth are a common problem with dogs. Aggressive chewing on hard objects such as rocks or fencing, or on hard treats such as cow hooves, bones or hard nylon toys, are the primary cause. (Veterinarian's rule of thumb: Don't give your pet any chew toy that's hard enough that you wouldn't want it to hit you in the knee.)
To prevent broken teeth, dental experts recommend regular exercise of your pet to help prevent destructive chewing and having several veterinarian-recommended toys to chew so as to distract them from the bad ones. For extremely aggressive chewers, get a large toy the pet can't get his mouth around, or offer softer chews.
A broken tooth exposes the delicate pulp and nerve endings, making life extremely painful for the pet. Food and other debris can get impacted in the fracture and attract bacteria, leading to infection, the loss of a tooth or worse.
The most common signs of dental problems are: excessive drooling (especially in a pet who doesn't normally salivate much), not eating, or favoring one side of the mouth.
Just as the human family gets regular dental examinations and cleanings, you should take your pet to the veterinarian at least yearly for a comprehensive physical examination that will include a look at your pet's entire mouth. If your pet is having problems sooner, don't wait for the well-pet exam -- dental problems really hurt!
Dental cleanings under anesthesia are a regular part of a preventive-care regimen for many dogs, as is at-home care such as brushing. Ask your veterinarian what's best for your pet's teeth and gums, both to prevent problems and to fix them. -- Dr. Marty Becker
BY THE NUMBERS
Up and down dogs
The popularity of small dogs (under 20 pounds) has steadily risen over the past decade. Some of the biggest increases in registration are among these breeds:
Cavalier King Charles spaniels
Of the breeds that have seen the highest decrease in registrations during the past decade, larger dogs are affected the most:
Source: American Kennel Club
PETS ON THE WEB
Better care for hamsters
Hamsters are popular pets for children, who often manage to convince their parents to snap up the pets before anyone has thought carefully about how to care for them.
If that's the case, no worries. The Web has hamster sites that can be of great help.
The Hamster Hideout (hamsterhideout.com) is based in Singapore, so some of the information is too regional to be of much help. But beyond that, the Hideout offers sound advice on proper care and encourages sharing of hamster stories and pictures with a reader forum. The links page provides a generous selection of other sites, from those focusing on care to others dedicated to pictures, stories and online games.
Be sure to click on the "All About" link and then on the special sections just for those with a new hamster. A very useful, kid-friendly site. -- Gina Spadafori
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 email@example.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.
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