PATIENCE WHEN ADOPTING AN ADULT PET PAYS OFF IN LOVE
Even though my pets, from dogs to goats to horses, generally get along with others not of their kind, I believe most animals like having a companion of their own species. This is why I keep at least two of almost every type of pet I have, and why, three months ago, I added a cat.
Not a kitten -- a cat. I thought my middle-aged indoor cat, Ilario, seemed lonely after my other cat had died. And while kittens are always appealing, I knew that many wonderful adult cats need homes.
I had one opening and wanted to fill it with a middle-aged cat. Enter Mariposa.
Within a month, I knew I'd made the right decision in adopting her. An adult cat can slide quickly into your life. You know pretty well what you're getting with a grown cat -- activity level, sociability, health, etc. Given time in a loving environment, a grown cat forms just as tight a bond with his new people as any kitten can.
If you're thinking of adopting a kitten, I encourage you to think cat instead. (Or better yet: one of each!) Because adult cats are generally more reserved than kittens, you need to cut them some slack in the adoption process. And then give them plenty of time to adjust to their new home.
Mariposa spent the first two weeks alone in a closed spare bedroom, secluded away from Ilario and the dogs to give her time to adjust to the upheaval. When I went in to feed or clean the box, I sat quietly on the bed, letting her choose how much she cared to interact. For the first few days, all I saw of her was the flash of her tail as she slid under the bed. When she started greeting me by purring and jumping up beside me to be petted, I moved to the next stage, putting a baby gate across the open doorway.
After a few days and some hissy interactions, the two cats were happily sharing the sunny spot in the spare bedroom. But while Ilario came and went over the baby gate, Mariposa did not. She felt safer with the dogs on the other side of the gate, and I didn't push it. Another couple weeks went by before she felt brave enough to explore a little more.
My dogs are not cat-aggressive. If they were, I'd never risk having a cat in the home. But they are naturally curious, so I kept a close eye on interactions. After a few sniffs and one aborted chase that ended with Mariposa flying over the baby gate to safety -- my dogs know the "leave it" command very well -- everyone decided to get along. Each week they seem to get along better than the week before.
I made it easy, of course, with three litter boxes (experts advise one per cat, plus one) and separate feedings for everyone. Two cat trees at opposite ends of the house offer places for togetherness or quiet time alone. Not that either cat is often alone: As I'd guessed he would, Ilario loves having another cat in the home.
My biggest challenge now? Finding space on the bed. With two cats and two dogs, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of room left over. Mariposa, for her part, sleeps on top of me. That's going to be uncomfortable in the summer, but on these cold evenings I have to admit: It makes me even happier for adopting her than I ever would have dreamed possible.
Topical solution best
for dead lawn problem
Q: We moved to California a couple of years ago, and we don't miss the snow at all. But we are at wits' end over dead spots on our lawn where our dog squats. We finally have a beautiful yard, and now this. What can we give her to neutralize her urine? -- S.R., via email
A: The idea behind most "cures" given to pets for this situation is to trigger increased thirst, thereby diluting the urine produced. It's not a very effective strategy, though, and it's certainly not worth messing with the normal body processes of your pet to keep your lawn green. And there are better options.
One solution is to set aside a part of your yard -- an out-of-sight corner, ideally -- for your dog's potty needs, and train or restrict her to use this area exclusively. Replace the lawn in this area with decomposed granite, pea gravel or other kill-proof cover that will present a nice appearance and offer easy cleanup.
If it's not possible to split off part of the yard for your dog's potty area, the best way to fix the die-off is to dilute the urine yourself, on the spot. Keep the hose or a bucket of water handy and flush the area to dilute the urine to non-damaging levels. You need to do this fairly soon after your dog urinates, and you cannot rely on every-other-day water from the sprinklers to help much.
Years ago, a dog-loving friend of mine with an exceptionally lovely yard came up with a solution that takes some effort, but worked well for her. She kept a fresh roll of sod growing in an out-of-the-way corner of her yard, and when a spot on the lawn started to turn yellow, she'd cut it out and replaced it with fresh sod. The maintenance was constant, but so was the green of her yard. -- Gina Spadafori
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Smartphone can help
your fat dog get fit
-- Miami veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly, a popular columnist and blogger, has developed a smartphone application to help dog lovers trim down their pets. The Fat Dog Diet ($2.99) allows dog owners to enter precise details about their dog, including selecting from a menu that includes most commercial diets. The application then recommends meal portions, treats and minutes of exercise every day to slim down the pet. The app also tracks progress and encourages the pet owner through text alerts to keep on the program. Veterinarians say that more than half of all pets are overweight or obese, which triggers or worsens many health problems.
-- Swimming is great exercise if you're trying to lose weight, but it's a rare cat who'll agree with that. Enter Holly, a 13-year-old Virginia cat weighing about twice the normal feline weight. Holly's owner takes her swimming in a pool meant for rehabilitation therapy for pets. While swimming and water-treadmill therapy are common for dogs, few cats will tolerate the water. Holly has lost one pound over six months -- while gaining quite a following at the veterinary rehab center.
-- Over-the-counter medications are one of the top pet poisoning risks. While many times pets ingest the medications by accident, other times they're given to them by owners who don't realize some medications safe for people are toxic for pets. That's why you should never give your pet any over-the-counter medication without clearing it with your veterinarian first. For example, the common painkiller acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, can kill your cat. -- Gina Spadafori
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 affiliated with Vetstreet.com and 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.