Toys are essential to keeping your cat active and happy
And don't forget the classic catnip-filled mice for rolling and rabbit-kicking under the influence.
To keep your cat interested in his toys, change them out every few days. If he sees the same ones over and over again, he'll get bored and look for something new to play with. Cats being who they are, it will probably be something expensive or fragile that you don't want him to treat as a toy.
Those laser pointers, flashlights and wand toys have especially high value to cats because they are just so darn much fun. Bring them out less often than other toys, and limit the amount of time your cat is allowed to play with them. For some cats these toys are addictive, and they will stand in front of the closet where the laser or wand is stored and yowl plaintively until they are brought out.
Remember, if you give in even once, you have just taught your cat exactly how to manipulate you. To help soften your cat's disappointment when these favorite toys go up, reward him with a treat afterward or give him another favorite toy, like a catnip mouse.
The word "toy" just doesn't seem to cover how important these items are to our pets, especially an indoor cat. Indulge your pet with the gift of play, and you'll both be happier for it.
Ignore barking dog
to end phone follies
Q: When I get on the phone, my dog starts barking. Why, and how can I get her to stop? -- via Facebook
A: Anyone who has ever worked as a telemarketer can tell you that lots of dogs start barking the minute their owners get on the phone. Why? Because they've been taught to behave that way -- accidentally, of course.
The problem starts when a dog barks at you just once when you're on the phone. Maybe she wants your attention. Maybe she just felt like barking at that moment. If she did it while you were watching TV or paying the bills, you'd probably ignore her. That means no reward for the behavior, which also means it's not likely to be repeated.
But if you're on the phone, you don't want the person on the other end to hear your dog barking, or to hear you yell at your dog to shut up. Chances are that you'll pet your dog or throw her plush toy across the room just to keep her quiet. Before too long, you have a dog who starts yapping every time you pick up the phone, because that behavior has been rewarded.
Sometimes, it even goes a step further. There are plenty of people who give their dog a treat to shut her up while they're on the phone. This is a big payoff for the dog, who is now rewarded for every yip with a cookie. Why would she stop barking? Dogs are not stupid.
The best way to avoid this problem is to prevent it: Don't reward your dog in the short term for behaviors you don't want in the long run. If she barks when you pick up the phone, ignore her. If that doesn't work, or if your dog is already a phone pest, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a dog trainer who can help you re-train her to be quiet on command. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
a safety makeover
-- The manufacturers of antifreeze and engine coolant have agreed to add a bittering agent to their products, making them far less likely to poison pets and wildlife. In its original state, these products taste sweet, making them attractive to animals. The active ingredient, ethylene glycol, is highly toxic in small amounts and quickly absorbed, making veterinary response difficult and death common for animals that ingest the product. A number of states have mandated that bittering agents be added before products can be sold, but the voluntary agreement, brokered by the Humane Society Legislative Fund, expands the sale of the new formulation to all 50 states.
-- Like humans, dogs have two kinds of sleep. The deeper kind is characterized by rapid eye movements, so it's known as REM sleep. We know humans dream during REM sleep. We also know that the whining, heavy breathing, twitching and leg movements we've all seen in our dogs occur during canine REM sleep. So it's not a far fetch to believe dogs are dreaming, too. What are they dreaming about? We'll likely never know.
-- In veterinary circles, the popular Labrador retriever has the reputation as a breed that it will "chew 'til they're 2, and shed 'til they're dead." Bred to carry things in their mouths, it's no surprise that these dogs sometimes swallow them, too -- and without chewing first, as in the case of Ryder, a Lab puppy in Wilmington, Delaware, who swallowed an antler. Ryder's antler was safely removed by his veterinarian, and the dog's mishap was named "The Most Unusual Claim of the Month" by Veterinary Pet Insurance. -- Dr. Marty Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: Keeping kittens and cats busy with toys will help them learn not to play rough with family members. Position: Main Story
Caption 02: The move by manufacturers to make antifreeze bitter-tasting may help to save many pet lives. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 1