One of the most pervasive myths about cats is that they care more about places than people.
It's true that cats are territorial and will seek out familiar places when stressed, which is why they sometimes attempt to return to their old homes when moved. But they'll be much happier going where you go if you take steps to ease their transition from one home to another.
While you'll never manage a stress-free move for either yourself or your cat, you can make the best of the situation by keeping your pet secure before, during and after the move, and then by allowing your pet to gradually adapt to his new surroundings.
The best way to move your cat is to confine him to a "safe room" before and after the move, and to transport him from one house to another in a secure carrier. The ideal safe room is a spare bedroom or bathroom where your cat isn't going to be disturbed, and where he can be outfitted with food and water, a litter box, a scratching post and toys.
Don't feel bad about confining your pet. He'll be more relaxed in a small space where he won't be subjected to the stress of seeing people tromping around his house with the family belongings. Confining your cat also prevents him from slipping outside, which is a danger at both the old and the new home. A frightened cat may be hard to locate on the day of the move if you don't make sure he's somewhere that you can put your hands on him.
When you get to your new home, leave the carrier -- with its door open -- in the safe room. Close the door to the room and leave him be while you unpack. Coaxing him out of the carrier with treats and praise is fine, but let him choose when and how much of the safe room he wants to explore. Never drag him out -- you'll upset your cat, and you might get scratched or bitten.
A couple of days after you've unpacked and things have settled down, open the door to the safe room so your cat can explore the rest of the house. Even if you plan to let him outside, keep him in for a couple of weeks. He needs to stay inside to start forming a bond with his new surroundings. Better still, make the most of the opportunity offered by a move and convert your pet to indoor-only status. Your new neighbors will appreciate it, and your cat will live a longer, safer life.
It's relatively easy to make the conversion to indoor cat when you move to a new home. He'd carry on like crazy in your old home if locked in, but in new surroundings he'll accept the change with little fuss. Part of the reason cats don't like to convert to indoor-only is because they've marked the outside as part of their territory and have a natural desire to revisit it. A newly moved cat will learn to accept the territory he has been offered, and if the outdoors isn't part of it, he won't miss it as much.
Above all, don't rush your cat through a move. Confinement during the transition is also good for avoiding behavior problems that might pop up with the stress of moving. By limiting your cat's options to the litter box and the scratching post in his small safe room, he will quickly redevelop the good habits he had in your old home.
Puppy classes great
Q: After a lot of research, we found a breeder we liked who did all the health certifications on our future puppy's parents. She raises pups inside and socializes them. All good from what we've read, and we're getting our Newfoundland pup from her in about a month. But in our research we've encountered a dispute: Some sources (mostly trainers) say puppies need to get out and be socialized, and go to a puppy class, and other sources (mostly veterinarians) say puppies should never go out until all their puppy shots are done at four months. Who's right?
A: Both, really. It's essential for your puppy to be socialized, and a well-run puppy class is the best place to get your new family member off to the best possible start. And those veterinarians also are correct in saying that your puppy needs to be protected from disease until he is fully immunized.
Fortunately, you can protect your puppy from disease and still socialize your pet in a puppy class. That's because good puppy classes present minimal risk of contagious disease to the canine participants.
Whoa! I can already see readers stopping on the phrase "minimal risk." Perhaps I'd better say "acceptable risk." Or even "comparable risk," if you'll follow along to find out why.
There's nothing as important in a dog's life as getting off to a good start in terms of training and behavior. Dogs end up homeless because of poor behavior, and many such problems can be traced to a puppyhood without the proper training and socialization. It's always easier to prevent a behavior problem than to fix one, and that's why puppy classes are worth that "minimal risk."
If you look at it from a lifetime perspective, a dog is more likely to die from behavior problems than from disease. A pup's best chance at becoming a well-loved member of a family rests heavily on how easy that animal is to live with over time. The adorable puppy who grows into an out-of-control or aggressive dog is a solid candidate for a trip to a shelter, where he'll be unlikely to land a second chance.
Puppy classes teach youngsters how to get along with other dogs, be handled by any number of people, and learn the basic lessons of good behavior, from sitting on command to keeping all four paws on the ground when greeting people. A good puppy class uses positive techniques to teach puppies that learning is fun and people are good. And that's a lesson for life.
While puppy classes are fine, heed your veterinarian's advice and keep your pup away from other areas where other dogs frequent, such as parks. It's fine, though, to set up play dates in secure yards that have been inhabited by healthy dogs who are known to be up-to-date on their vaccines. The dogs of your friends and family are great for these socializing get-togethers, as are their children. The more your puppy is safely exposed to, the better. – Gina Spadafori
Dogs mean status
in the new China
-- China now counts almost a million registered pet dogs, and countless others fly beneath the government's radar. According to The New York Times, the popularity of dogs is a hot phenomenon that shows little sign of ending. Dog swimming pools, theaters for people and their pets, and dog-friendly bars are popping up, along with pet-friendly stores and canine social networks. The pets serve as stress relief and as substitute children in a society where one child is still the rule. Dogs are also considered status symbols in the new China: Walking around with a Tibetan Mastiff is a way of telling everyone that you have disposable income, and lots of it.
-- The vicious, fanged Chupacabra is a creature of legend, a scary doglike animal purported to suck the blood out of livestock. Scientists believe the Chupacabras that people report seeing are actually coyotes with severe cases of mange. The long snout, the hairlessness and the foul odor are all consistent with a mange-infested coyote. The same mite responsible for the disease causes scabies in people.
-- Animal hybrids may not be all that rare. An estimated 10 percent of animals and 25 percent of plants are said to occasionally breed with other species. Common crosses in captivity include zorses (zebra-horse) and the beefalo (bison-beef cattle). Most hybrids, like mules, are infertile. Hybrids are also far outnumbered and will be outcompeted by their parents' respective species. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker
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 many best-selling pet-care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.