Does a renewed interest in "green" products mean the economy's improving? We're not sure, but we're still delighted to see retailers and pet owners again trying to reduce the "carbon pawprint" of pets.
Recently, the national chain Petco put on an event at its more than 1,000 stores to promote products that are more eco-friendly -- an event in which the PetConnection team was involved. But, of course, it's possible to do a lot with what you have by making a few good decisions.
Here are a few tips:
-- Go for green products. When looking to buy pet-care items, look for items made from recycled materials (such as toys made from recycled water bottles or cat litter made from recycled newspaper) or from renewable materials (such as collars made from hemp or litter made from wheat, corn or even green tea leaves). Also consider switching to a pet food that's made locally from sustainable or organic ingredients, a move that cuts down on the "food miles" (fuel used to move merchandise) and the waste issued from concentrated animal feeding operations.
-- Meat protein is a must for carnivores -- especially cats -- but if you'd like a pet who can go completely green when it comes to food, adopt a bunny. They thrive on veggies, and will love your kitchen trimmings. (Not to mention, rabbit waste is great for supercharging the compost pile!)
-- A few of the pet-product companies that have made an effort to "go green" include West Paw, Planet Dog, Castor and Pollux, and Earthbath -- and the number is growing every day.
-- Pay attention to packaging. Pet food, pet toys, pet supplies, pet cleaning and grooming aids, pet medications -- pretty much all of these have one serious environmental problem: packaging. Look for alternatives, such as bulk buying that reduces throwaway containers, and use products that come in recycled and recyclable packaging.
-- Toss with caution. Always dispose of drugs, pesticides, shampoos, chemicals and the containers they come in safely. Flea-control products, as well as many pet shampoos and dips, need to be disposed of carefully as well, according to federal, state and local guidelines. (As for those flea-and-tick products, don't overdo it, and follow directions carefully.)
-- Handle the "do" responsibly. Biodegradable poop bags are a must, otherwise the poop you pick up will still be in the landfill decades from now. As for scooping the yard, consider a "pet septic system" like the widely available Doggie Dooley or the new Doggie Doo Drain ($45; DoggieDooDrain.com). The latter fits onto your sewer clean-out and sends the mess to the treatment plant. Keeping cats from roaming keeps their waste in a litter box, where you can dispose of it properly. Usually, that will mean bagging and putting it in the trash. (Check with your local municipal authority for guidance.)
-- Take a hike, or a bike. If you've gotten in the habit of driving to the dog park, consider that six legs in motion -- yours and your dog's -- is good for you both. Put your walking shoes on, snap the leash to your dog's collar and get your exercise in your own neighborhood. Walking (or jogging) is great, and if you want to add two wheels to the mix, look for accessories that allow you to safely take your dog biking with you. Be careful though: Exercise in the cool morning only, and don't let your dog overheat.
-- Don't litter -- and do adopt. Remember to consider adoption when it comes to choosing a pet. Great pets can be found at any shelter, and don't forget to check out rescue groups as well -- Petfinder.org can be a great resource for looking. And do make sure your own pet isn't accidentally "littering." Fences, leashes and neutering can all prevent "oops" litters.
These tips should give you a start on a greener life for you and your pet.
Missing the box, finding the bathroom
Q: I have an older cat who was a young feral when I adopted her. This past year, she has begun to miss the litter box. I have taken her to the veterinarian, which is an extremely hard thing to do because I am the only one whose handling she tolerates. She doesn't have an infection.
After some research, I thought I would try isolating her in the bathroom to see if she will start using the litter box. Is this a good idea?-- A.B., via e-mail
A: Assuming your veterinarian did assure you of your cat's complete good health, then yes, retraining is definitely worth trying.
The idea behind putting a cat in a small area such as a bathroom, with the rugs removed, is that potty options are pretty much limited to the box. Because some cats develop negative associations with their boxes, this technique may help them to get back on track. A scrupulously clean box is essential, and any outside-the-box mistakes must also be cleaned promptly and thoroughly.
Before you do that, though, do check in with the veterinarian. Medical issues that cause older cats to miss the box reach beyond urinary-tract infections, and may include arthritis or diabetes. All these problems must be ruled out or treated for retraining to work.
If your cat still will not use the box, go back to your veterinarian and ask for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist, who can develop a program for you to follow in retraining your cat and can prescribe medications that will ease your cat through the transition back to good behavior. -- Dr. Marty Becker.
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Older pet lovers
neuter more often
-- Older pet owners tend to be more likely to alter their pets, according to a study commissioned by PetSmart Charities. The study revealed that 38 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds who have acquired a dog or cat in the last year haven't sterilized their pets, as compared to 24 percent of pet owners over 55 who have yet to spay-neuter.
-- Do as I say, not as I do? Maybe! While veterinarians advise brushing pets' teeth to prevent dental problems, slightly more than half of veterinarians polled admitted (probably sheepishly) that they don't brush their own pets' teeth. Only 8 percent brush their pets' teeth regularly -- still probably a higher figure than the general pet-owning population, but with lots of room for improvement.
-- The main culprit for spreading West Nile virus across the U.S. is mosquitoes, not birds. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report that the rapid movement of the disease does not match common bird migratory patterns.
-- Although parrot beaks are constantly growing at a rate of 1 to 3 inches per year, depending on the species, the beak of a healthy pet bird will remain at a healthy length with normal chewing activities -- no trimming required. In fact, an overgrown beak is frequently a sign of illness, such as liver disease or malnutrition. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker Shannon
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 email@example.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.
Exercise helps get sleeping pets to settle
For many people, a good night's sleep is hard to come by, for reasons as varied as stress, caffeinated beverages, snoring spouses and one that recently took researchers at the Mayo Sleep Clinic by surprise: pets.
More than half of the people coming to the famous Rochester, Minn., medical center for help sleeping reported sharing their bedrooms -- and often their beds -- with their pets. The physicians started recommending tossing the pets out, but pet lovers don't usually like doing so.
Top veterinarians say there are other options. Their advice can be summed up succinctly: Keep your pets clean, keep them lean and get them on your sleep cycle. With help from your pets' veterinarian, chances are you'll be soon be enjoying sleep instead of counting sheep.
Getting pets on the same sleep cycle can actually be fun, says Dr. Gary Landsberg, a veterinary behaviorist in Thornhill, Ontario. When a pet sleeps all day, it's no surprise that the animal may want to play all night. Dr. Landsberg says exercising pets, both physically and mentally, will help them to settle down when you do.
Dr. Landsberg says pet owners can enjoy keeping their pets active. That means shared physical activity -- play, in other words -- but it also should include keeping cats and dogs busy when you're not home.
"That can be as simple as giving pets their meals out of feeding toys," he says. "You want something that will give them food rewards as they chew on it, or roll a ball and food falls out. These can keep their brains and bodies quite occupied."
And when they nudge you in the night? Dr. Landsberg says if their medical, physical and mental needs have been addressed, you should ignore them, so pets don't get the idea that you'll play with them whenever they want. -- Dr. Marty Becker
BY THE NUMBERS
Advice that's fishy
When it comes to getting information on setting up, stocking and maintaining saltwater fish tanks, specialty stores remain popular. Fish keepers with saltwater tanks reported getting advice from multiple sources, including:
Fish/aquarium store 71%
General pet store 53%
Aquarium club 8%
Source: American Pet Products Association
Paralysis always a pet emergency
The inability to walk can develop suddenly, even without a history of injury. Paralysis should be considered a life-threatening emergency, and you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Prepare to transport your pet, using an ironing board or piece of plywood as a stretcher, keeping the animal as immobile as possible. Covering the pet with a blanket may help to keep him calm.
Don't encourage or allow your pet to move around, and do not provide any medication unless specifically instructed to by the veterinarian. Stay calm, and get your pet veterinary assistance immediately, either at your regular veterinary hospital or an emergency clinic.
Never trust a frightened, injured animal not to bite. A soft muzzle should be kept on hand for emergencies, or one can be fashioned out of gauze or even pantyhose in a pinch. -- Dr. Marty Becker
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.