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How To Reward and Praise Your Dog
by Lisa Larsson

Rewarding and Praising Your Dog
This doesn't seem like something that would be that much of an issue, but the little things can turn into the big things.

First, you need to make sure that you know what really gets your dog going. Is your dog toy motivated? Food motivated? How is his ball drive or frisbee drive? What can you give your dog that tells him "I'm so proud of you and you did exactly what I asked, he's your favorite most favorite of things because you listened". With my puppy, it's Busy Bones. (A note on Busy Bones--be careful. The ones that say they're for large dogs are great for occupying my puppy, but I only let her chew maybe half an inch. Even for dogs over a year old, it could be too much. And they'll eat the whole thing, which will make them throw up. Just be mindful lol.)

So now that you have your reward and praise item, you have to know when to give it to them. You should not just give your dog the treat because you think your dog is cute or a princess. Your dog needs to work for it. You need to be able to get them to listen to you and respect you, and in doing that, never give them anything for free. Nothing in life is free and nothing should be. Do a little training session. Ask for a series of sits, downs, stays, heels, barks, shakes, high fives, kisses, whatever you can think of. Or maybe take your dog on a good jog or run, and get them to sit every little while. Or if you've got an agility dog or a protection dog, run through their routines.

Another good thing is spending the time to teach them something they don't know. It's imperative for your dog to learn things like stay, come, it's name, kennel, etc. So you can spend a good 20 minutes solidifying something new, and then reward them. The key is to have the right reward, and make them work for it. Then they will respect you, see you as their alpha, know that good things come from listening, and you're dog will be happy knowing that not only did they please you, they got a treat out of it too!

About the Author
I'm a puppy owner and I love to write articles about how to take care of and teach your dogs. My blog is at


Chicago's Top Dog
Chicago Sun-Times

Pet Gallery
SF Gate

A Few Places Have Gone to the Dogs
The Boston Globe

Good Mannered Pups Welcome

Hobbes is a single male with soulful brown eyes who likes long walks on the beach, hiking in the woods, and the occasional good-natured tussle.

Hobbes, of course, is a dog - a burly, very friendly mastiff mix with a brindled coat. A recent adoption from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, he needs his share of training and socializing. He doesn't always come when called (not yet, anyway). Where should he go when he needs to burn some 1-year-old energy?

Dog owners know only too well that their best friends are not always welcome in public spaces. West Newbury is reconsidering its decision to allow dogs off-leash at the Mill Pond Recreation Area, and residents of Manchester-by-the-Sea have been at odds over the winter time use of Singing Beach by dogs and their owners. Then there was the recent case of the Newburyport farm owner who shot an unleashed German shepherd mix that got into his chicken coop.

Still, local dog owners have abundant resources, provided they know how to sniff them out. From Saugus to Portsmouth, N.H., Rovers of all shapes and sizes have plenty of open space at their, uh, disposal, as long as their owners bring the doggie bags.

Hardest to come by are fenced dog runs, where canines can exercise off-leash without intruding on non-dog people and, importantly for some puppies, can learn how to behave in the presence of other dogs. While big cities often have community dog parks - the Joe Wex Dog Recreation Space in Boston's South End, for example, is a real treat for pets and owners alike - people living in the suburbs and smaller, more residential cities sometimes feel hemmed in by their daily walks around the block.

A recent addition to Saugus' Breakheart Reservation, with its wooded trails just off Route 1, is the Bark Place, a fenced "barking lot" in a sunny grove between rows of towering hemlocks along the edge of the Cedar Glen Golf Course. The dog run has benches and plenty of balls and chew toys, as well as a relief station, of sorts - an actual fire hydrant.

In Salem, the somewhat hard-to-find Leslie's Retreat is a good-sized, double-gated dog park tucked by the railroad tracks off Route 114, just before the overpass on the North River. On a recent weekday, several mixed breeds romped together while one chocolate Labrador named Shelby played alone at the far end of the park, endlessly chasing a tennis ball.

The sandy dog park at South Mill Pond in Portsmouth, N.H., draws visitors from a wide area. Retired Army Major Chuck Constance of Dover Point brings his two pooches - Jesse, a chunky "Lab and everything" mix, and Charlie, a tall standard poodle - at least a few times a week. The park can get crowded on weekends, says their owner, so he goes during the week.

Elaine Lacourse operates a Salisbury-based dog-walking service called Anytime, Anywhere. She takes Dylan, her whippet, and a regular play group that includes a yellow Lab, a golden retriever, a Boston terrier, and a tiny silky terrier puppy named Putter to several sites, including West Newbury's Mill Pond, Amesbury's bucolic Woodsom Farm, Old Town Hill in Newbury, and the Salisbury Beach State Reservation.

The Merrimack River side of Salisbury Beach is one of the few waterfront areas that allows dogs year-round. Water-loving dogs are welcome to frolic alongside the fishermen, "as long as your dog isn't affected by wanting to eat bait," said Lacourse, with a laugh.

For many dog owners, their local getaways are hidden gems that they'd just as soon keep that way - hidden.

"We don't want anybody to know about this place," said Lynn resident Delores Ragucci, only half-joking, as she stood in the parking lot at the Pennybrook Road entrance to Lynn Woods Reservation with her stately, droopy-eyed, 100-pound Bernese mountain dog, Jesse.

At 2,200 acres, Lynn Woods is enormous. As a result, say residents, visitors often let their dogs roam deep inside the park, despite posted notices requiring leashes.

"It's wild in there," said Ragucci, noting that she and Jesse recently came face to face with a stray coyote.

But their long walks together are as beneficial to the owner as they are to the dog. Because if your dog is fat, as the saying goes, you aren't getting enough exercise.

Leslie's Retreat Dog Park,
Salem: Fenced run.

Lynn Woods Reservation,
Lynn: Dogs OK on-leash.

Mill Pond Recreation Area,
West Newbury: Dogs allowed off-leash, under voice control, though the town is considering a residents-only restriction.

Old Town Hill,
Newbury: Dogs OK on-leash.

Portsmouth, N.H.: Dogs should be on-leash on the trails; restricted from the picnic area.

Dog Park:
Fenced dog run.

Salisbury Beach State Reservation,
Salisbury: Dogs allowed on-leash on the river side of the reservation.

Woodsom Farm,
Amesbury: Dogs allowed off-leash.

Many beaches permit dogs during off-season months. Be sure to check with local authorities first.

Pet Insurance May Not Be for Everyone
A handful of companies market health insurance for cats and dogs, but before signing up, read the policy carefully.
Seattle Times

A handful of companies market health insurance for cats and dogs. Before signing up for such insurance, read the policy carefully.

For example, a policy offered by Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) for an annual premium of $305 for a 5-year-old beagle includes:

• Limited benefits to a specified per-procedure price schedule (for example, $556 for nonsurgical treatment of a fractured leg), which might be less than some vets charge;

• Limited benefits to a maximum of $14,000 per year;

• Included a $50 deductible for each accident or illness (rather than a per-year deductible as you find in most human health-insurance policies);

• Excluded coverage of vaccinations, annual physical exams, treatment of congenital defects or diseases, behavioral problems, heartworm protection, prescription flea control, spaying or neutering or other elective procedures;

• Provided that vaccination and routine-care coverage could be added for an additional premium of $144, but that the total payout for these types of services is $250 per year.

You must decide whether what you get is worth the price. Our general view of insurance is that you shouldn't get it unless expenses would seriously disrupt your life.

Buying insurance to cover noncatastrophic expenses means you pay profit, sales costs and administrative costs for an insurance company to process bills you could pay yourself.

You also add to your own paperwork. And you pay premiums to cover a pool of other policyholders, some of whom may be more wasteful — more prone to using excessive care — than you are.

Another option is a prepaid-health plan, offered by some veterinarians. Under these plans, you usually pay the veterinarian a set dollar amount that covers specific procedures and/or vaccinations (at a discount) throughout the year.

Reprinted by permission from "Puget Sound Consumers' Checkbook," a nonprofit, no-advertising magazine that rates many types of area service firms. For the full article, additional vet ratings or a copy of the magazine, call 206-332-9696 or see

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

Teaching Young Cats, and Owners, New Tricks
Class has kittens socializing with people, animals
Houston Chronicle

"Sit," commanded instructor Dulce Garcia, dangling a spoonful of canned chicken liver just out of paw-reach for Tex, a 2-month-old orange and white tabby.

Tex wasn't convinced. His golden eyes followed the spoon hungrily, but his haunches still hovered a few inches off the ground. His tail twitched.

"Come on," coaxed Garcia, a 23-year-old intern with who teaches Kitten Kindergarten classes at the Houston SPCA. "Here kitty, here sweetie."

Tex contemplated it, but then one of his furry classmates batted a ball in his direction and he snapped around to pounce on it.

"Cats don't have the best attention spans," conceded Garcia. "But you can train any cat. You just have to find out what motivates them."

For Tex, a stray up for adoption, that's canned cat food. Minutes before his refusal to sit, he'd responded eagerly to Garcia's orders to "touch" her thumb with his nose in return for a nibble of chicken liver.

"Sit" and "down" can wait for another day, Garcia said. Her own cat obeys commands to come, shake hands and jump through hoops.

"There's somewhat of an urban myth out there that you can't train cats," said Elise Gouge, manager of animal behavior and training for the Houston SPCA. Dogs are naturals for obedience classes because they're eager to please, Gouge said. "Cats just need a little more convincing that it's in their best interest," she said.

Gouge said she had a cat that fetched, and another that attacked on command. She taught one cat to file its own nails using sandpaper and one to "heel" off-lead. A friend even taught a cat to play the piano.

Although feline parlor tricks impress, the main point of the SPCA's Kitten Kindergarten is to socialize cats and make them more comfortable interacting with people and other animals, Garcia said.

"It's important to start when they're smaller because that's when they'll learn more," she said.

At the end of Saturday's class, Kochia Mei, 27, watched her adopted grey-and-white kitten Honeypuff chase two other cats around the room amid a clutter of brightly-colored toys.

"I really like it and I think my cat is really having a good time, even though he's not really listening to me," said Mei, who managed to train Honeypuff to walk on a leash — although not in the direction she wants.

Kitty Kindergarten

• Classes are for kittens between 8 and 16 weeks of age. If you have an older cat, you can participate as an auditor.
• Each hour-long class meets weekly for three weeks.

• Cost of a three week series is $35 if your kitten was adopted from the SPCA and $50 if your kitten was not. Auditor spots are $25.

• All kittens must have a health certificate issued by a veterinarian no later than 10 days before the first class.

For information about class schedules call the SPCA behavior department at 713-869-SPCA, Ext. 187.

Los Angeles Times

Las Vegas Review-Journal


Secrets To Cat Biting - Have Fun With Kitty Without Pain
by Katherin Towers

Playtime with your cat can quickly become unpleasant if kitty starts biting you. Although biting and scratching is a normal part of cat behavior, a properly socialized cat knows how to control its strength. It does not usually bite or scratch to the point of drawing blood. There are several reasons why your cat can lack this self-control, and knowing why is the first step to controlling the problem.
When young kittens are taken away from their mothers too early, they fail to learn to control the strength of their biting and scratching. A kitten which spends enough time with its mother and litter mates quickly learns that biting its playmates too hard causes playtime to end. Kittens without this social skill, on the other hand, grow up into cats which bite and scratch too hard. Many owners tend to make this condition worse. When playing with their kitten or cat, they inadvertently do things which further encourage this behavior. These actions encourage and cement this behavior of biting and scratching in their cats.

This, then, is one key to controlling this playtime aggression. When kitty bites or scratches too hard, you should stop playing with it. Just ignore it - do not pay attention and do not punish your cat. Eventually, it will learn that biting and scratching too hard will lead to the end of playtime. Exactly the same as a young kitten with its mother and litter mates.

Now, sometimes it seems that both you and kitty are spending some quality time together. Both of you are having fun playing, when your cat suddenly becomes violent and bites and scratches you. There does not seem to be any reason for this sudden aggression. Some animal behaviorists believe that this happens because you have over-stimulated kitty and it is now channeling that into aggressive behavior. Regardless of the actual cause, there is agreement that there are two steps you need to take to handle this problem:

Be aware of your cat's behavior during playtime. Before it starts to bite and scratch you, there will be a change of behavior - ears flattening, fur standing up, body hunching, etc. This is your window.
Stop petting or playing with kitty when you notice the change in behavior. Just stop - ignore your cat and go about your own business. This will usually defuse your cat's aggression.
Note that this is a bit different from a kitten taken away from its mother while too young. An under-socialized kitten always bites and scratches too hard during playtime.
Cats are hunters. This is their natural instinct, and you will often see these characteristics when you play with kitty. You will see them hunched down to their belly, stalking their toy or a mouse or cockroach before pouncing on it. This can be a problem when they decide to ambush you when you are doing your chores, or just as you are going to bed. Your cat biting when under the control of its hunting instinct can be particularly painful. One way of controlling this problem is to have at least two or three regularly scheduled playtimes with kitty. You want to bleed off its excess energy regularly.

About the Author
Do you have problems with your cat biting you? Click here to learn how to stop your cat biting problem in 13 days.

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Two Tips For Dog Digging Behavior Problem
By Kelly Richmondson

A lot of dogs love to dig. There are some breeds that are more prone to digging than others. Three breeds that are on the top of the digging list, are terriers, huskies and malamutes. With different reasons why your dog won't stop digging, it's time to do a bit of research. We will discuss two tips for a dog digging behavior problem and see if this will help you get control of the situation.

Dogs get bored easily and don't like to be left alone or feel neglected. If everyone is out of the house, say at school and work, your dog is going to get bored and needs to do something to exert some of his energy so he doesn't destroy the house in some way, or if he is left outside, he doesn't dig a large enough hole under the fence that he gets out.

If your dog must be left alone for any length of time, you need to get into the daily habit of spending time with him and giving him attention while you are home, which will prevent the digging when you aren't home. So, one of the two tips for dog digging behavior problem solutions are to play with him and the very best thing you can do is to take him for a walk every single day. He won't misbehave while you are gone and he will be looking forward to you getting home and going for a invigorating walk together. Dogs need physical activity, attention and stimulation.

The next tip is to section off a part of your yard that will be just his. You may need to put cement blocks down around the fence, securely, so he can't get out, but at least he will get his digging out of his system without destroying the rest of your yard. You could even build an area with fresh dirt and let him go at it - but only in that special section.

Having a dog behavior problem can be quite stressful. Too often people give up on their dog and just live with the bad behavior. Sometimes people need to learn how to train their dog properly through professional advise. How to train your dog provides instant resources for a dog digging behavior problem.

Article Source:

Professional Pet Sitters Can Visit Homes, Provide Care and Take the Animals Out to Play
Kansas City Star

It’s vacation time again. Who’s going to feed Fluffy, Fido and Flipper? If you’re looking for dependability, perhaps it’s time to call a professional pet sitter.

“There’s no pet that we don’t take care of,” says Critter Sitters owner Stella Flannery. “We sit hamsters to horses, snakes to tarantulas. Most of our business is cats and dogs, but we take care of goats, sheep, fish. I have three or four sitters who specialize in farm animals, and there’s a couple who want to do reptiles and lizards.” Critter Sitters serves the entire metro area.

For John Morgan of Kansas City, the need for pet-sitting started with the puppy that he got his wife, Ann, a few years ago — instead of getting a new motorcycle. “We call her Harley,” he says, laughing. “She’s just a fantastic little dog, the doggonedest, lovin’est thing there ever was. I just couldn’t handle the thought of putting her into a kennel.”

They soon found Shirley Schowe, who works with Critter Sitters. Now, when they’re gone, Schowe comes three times a day for feedings, walks and playtime. “Harley just took to Shirley right away,” Morgan says.

Schowe had worked in the travel industry, but when she lost her job, she looked to her roots for a second career. “I was born and raised on a dairy farm in Minnesota,” she says. “I was around a lot of animals of different types, so it was a good fit.”

“I’ve bonded closely to some of them,” she says of the pets, adding that she gets to know their likes and dislikes. “And you make such wonderful friends with your clients.”

Schowe says peace of mind is the No. 1 reason clients call her. They are looking for someone to reliably administer a pet’s medicine or to come by at a particular time of day, every day.

“When you pay someone and have a contract with them, you can hold them accountable,” Flannery says.

As with Critter Sitters, many pet sitters are independent contractors through a larger agency. Others work for themselves, and a few veterinary clinics or kennels have employees who pet sit. Most agencies and some individuals are bonded and carry liability insurance to protect both homeowner and sitter. And many offer special services such as transportation (“pet taxi”), grooming, or even house sitting for those who don’t have any pets.

“This year,” Flannery says, “I upgraded our bonding, liability and licenses to cover short stays for the pet in the sitter’s home.”

She recently brought a dog home with her for the weekend. The owners didn’t want to pay a $75 fee to the hotel where they were staying for a weekend to keep their pet in the room. Flannery ended up taking their dog along with hers to Shawnee Mission Park for a romp and a swim and provided photos of the excursion. “The owners were so excited!” she says.

Most pet sitters charge more than kennels, from $15 to $30 per day, depending on the number of visits, walks and types of animals. But prices vary widely. Critter Sitters will make a “get to know you” visit for $15 so the pet can check out the prospective sitter.

For Morgan, cost is not the issue, but he is willing to spend the extra money. “I’m much more relaxed when I’m gone knowing Shirley is taking care of her.”

Patt Ramm, owner of Grand-Paws pet-sitting in Johnson County, says the first consideration is whether your pet would be better off in a kennel or at home with a pet sitter. “There’s a need for both services,” she says. “A lot of pets don’t board well; they’re frightened or they don’t eat. Conversely, there are dogs or puppies that have very high energy and become bored left at home.”

If you decide a pet sitter is for you, follow these guidelines:

•Call at least two weeks in advance of your departure; your pet sitter or preferred visit time may not be available on short notice.

•Ask for proof of bonding, liability insurance, background checks and affiliations with professional organizations such as Pet Sitters International or the Better Business Bureau.

•Ask for references and call them.

•Ask if the service has a standing relationship with a veterinarian for emergencies.

•Ask about pricing; it may be a standard rate, or it may be determined by the distance the sitter travels and the time spent.

•Make a list of the tasks you want the sitter to perform each day or week.

•Interview the pet sitter in your home at least a week in advance.

•When you leave, give the sitter two keys on separate rings, or give the second key to a friend and the friend’s contact info to the sitter.

•Provide two lists of contact information; one to remain in your house and another for the pet sitter to take with him or her.


Pet Sitters International pet sitter locator,

Training A Golden Retriever-And Reaping The Rewards!
by Hank R Hanson

The Golden Retriever was first developed in the British Islands. The breed comes from crosses between the Flat-Coated Retriever, Spaniel breeds, Setters, the Newfoundland and possibly the Bloodhound. This breed was first shown as the Golden Flat-Coat.
Highly obedient, the Golden Retriever eaisly trained has been used for many tasks like hunting and tracking, but also for narcotics detection, guiding blind people and service dog for the disabled.


*Male 23-24inches high. Female 21 1/2 - 22 1/2 inches.

*Male weight 65-75 pounds. Female weight 55-65 pounds.

*Breed group Sporting.

*Life expectancy 10-12 Years.

*The Golden Retriever is prone to hip dysplasia, congenital eye defects and skin allergies. The parents should be checked for heart problems.

*The Golden Retriever is very easy to take care of. It needs to be brushed, combed and dry shampooed regularly, but bathed only when necessary. This breed is an average shedder.

*The Golden Retriever will thrive if the training is done softly. As it is eager to please its master, this breed is very easy to train and excels at obedience competitions.

*The Golden Retriever is a very energetic dog that needs daily vigorous exercise. It will enjoy activities like running alongside you or your bicycle, swimming or retrieving.


Recognize the first basic commands to teach your Golden Retriever.

*Sit - Your Goldie will sit down in place. This is self explanatory.

*Stay - Your Goldie will stay where it is currently standing, even if you should walk away.

*Lie - Your Goldie will lie down on the floor.

*Heel - Your Goldie will follow you [by your heelside] as you walk.

Have patience before beginning to train your dog. Golden Retriever is one of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world. Don't be frustrated if he or she doesn't pick up on anything on your first few sessions.

Keep training sessions to a maximum of 15 minutes - dogs have short attention spans and you don't want them getting bored. End each session on a high note - even if you have to go back to something they know such as sit. Goldies are very intelligent - make sure to keep them stimulated with toys etc. during the day when they are separated from you. Dogs are normally unruly and excitable because they get bored. Make sure water is always available. Use the commands during your normal day with them, for example make them sit when you put the leash on, heel when they are walking next to you etc. Dont ever leave the pup alone, by itself, when it is teething.

The Golden Retriever Dog Breed will STEAL YOUR HEART.

The Golden Retriever is very friendly and loves to learn new skills. Bright, Funny And Full Of Life.

This is why this dog is one of the most popular of all family pets.

They are intelligent, friendly, very eager to please and beautiful to look at.

Goldies make excellent family pets, and are generally very good with children and other animals.

Make Your Training A Golden Retriever Fun For You And Your Golden Retriever!

About the Author
Who Else Wants To Quickly And Easily STOP Their Golden Retriever From Crapping In The House, Destroying The Carpet, Barking At The Neighbors, Peeing On Everything, And Misbehaving Like A Spoiled Brat?" Your Golden Retriever Will Be So Well Behaved Your Friends Will Be Jealous Or Else I'll Give You 100% Of Your Money Back And Still Let You Keep This Entire System For FREE!

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Interesting Facts About Cats!
by Crystal Chan

Did you know?
All cats are born blind. The ability to see comes during the first pair of weeks after birth!

Cats have fundamental nonfunctional clavicles that allow them to force themselves through tight places and helps them in their balance and stride!

Cats often have a third eyelid that is not generally visible to us. If you are attending it more often - the cat may be ill!

Cat sight is similar to humans in daytime, but they can see six times better than us in dim light - owing to larger pupils and the power to collect light at the back of the eye owing to a reflective retinal surface! Field of vision in cats is slightly compromised for a more binocular vision, that allows them greater depth sensing and ability to judge their prey's position more accurately for pouncing upon them in high-velocity pursuits!

Cats' sense of odour is fourteen times stronger than ours - this means they can smell the odour in the litter box much earlier than us!

Cats' hearing is also very good. They are able to hear sounds of higher pitch than us and dogs. Thirty two individual muscles in their ears allow them to nail the exact position of a source of sound!

The individual aligning of whiskers is unique to all cats - they are like finger prints. Whiskers also allow cats to feel their way in utmost dark and since their span, when fully put up, is nearly equal to cats' body width - it allows cats to judge whether a space or passage is too narrow for them! Whiskers also are usually suggestive of cat behavior. Put up, forward pointing whiskers show that the cat is excited, animated. Whereas laid back whiskers are often seen in resting, defensive conditions!

Cats have sharp pointed teeth that are built for killing prey by suffocation/severing of spine. A cat's teeth are its greatest asset in the wild. Corresponding body size, the elusive Clouded Leopard has the longest canines in the family felidae, whereas the Jaguar has the strongest jaws - I have seen it bite through the shell of turtles in documentaries!

Cats have more spines than us since they also have spines in their tail. Next time you see a kid pulling a cat's tail - stop him - since it hurts. Their vertebrae are also more generally connected to each other than ours, allowing them great flexibility!

Flexibility of the spine is foregrounded in the Cheetah - the fastest land mammals. With big adrenals, flexible spine and a rudder-like tail, Cheetah can out pace everything on African savanna!
Tiger is the largest feline on earth. An adult Siberian tiger may weigh up to eight hundred pounds and is one of the top predators on earth. Tigers are excellent swimmers and are in fact the only cat who seem to enjoy stepping in water (the Jaguar in Americas often go into water to hunt baby alligators and anacondas)!

Lion is the only cat that lives in groups, called prides. The only social cat, family life gives lions adjoin over other felids by virtue of their united hunting!

Leopards are extremely secretive and are perhaps the best tree climbers and individual hunters amongst big cats. Black leopards are called panthers!

About the Author
Understanding, caring for your cats, http://www., cat care will provide you all necessary and sound advice to take good care of your pet cat health, training, cat breeding, cat litter tray, cat behavior, and many more.....


Tips in Choosing a Veterinarian
Learn how to evaluate whether your veterinarian is right for you and your pet.
Seattle Times

You understand the meaning of the phrase "man's best friend." Your pet is loyal, provides companionship and is there for you through good times and bad. So when your pet is injured or feeling under the weather, you want the best for it — though you'd like not to have to declare bankruptcy to get it.

The nonprofit Puget Sound Consumers' Checkbook rated 193 area veterinary practices for quality and price (we printed a random sampling here; find more at For full information a subscription fee is required.)

Vetting the vets

You won't be able to measure all aspects of the technical skills of veterinarians. On the other hand, just as you can when choosing a physician, you can tell a lot about the performance of a vet.

• Do they treat your type of animal? Except for a few specialists, vets in this area generally care for both dogs and cats, and many will treat small mammals (rodents, rabbits, etc.), but many don't provide care for birds and reptiles and very few care for farm animals.

• Are they convenient? You'll want convenient hours, limited wait times, and a location close to your home. Most area vets have some evening or weekend hours for routine visits.

• Can you make an appointment quickly? This is important to your peace of mind and to the comfort — and perhaps the survival — of your pet. You should ask what provisions a vet makes for covering emergencies outside of office hours.

• Do they care? The first time you visit a vet you'll get a sense of whether he or she really cares about animals. Note how gentle the vet is and how interested he or she is in learning relevant facts about your pet. Note also how your pet responds to the vet.

• Can you tour the facility? To make a reliable judgment about a veterinary practice, you have to see more than the front office. Find out how open the vet is to showing you treatment rooms and the cages and runs where animals are temporarily held or boarded. The facility's cleanliness, of course, is also important.

• Do they give you advice on prevention and home care? For the health of your pet and for your wallet, you need advice on prevention, on how you can spot pet-health problems, and on how to take care of your pet when it is sick.

• Can you easily communicate with them? Good communication includes listening, making you feel comfortable about asking questions and explaining what is wrong with your pet, what is being done, and what you can expect. A vet should frankly admit his or her limitations and the need for outside specialist consultation. The vet also should talk openly about costs. And the vet should let you make decisions based on your finances, your devotion to your pet and your informed understanding of the prognosis.

• Are they competent and thorough? Does the vet give a thorough exam and take a thorough medical history to find out about previous medical problems, previous occurrences of the current problem, what treatments have worked and other matters? If your pet is referred to a specialist, does your primary vet follow up with the specialist and keep a record of what happened? If tests are done, does the vet keep a record of the results and share them with you?

• Do they have reasonable fees? Unfortunately, this is an area where consumers are often dissatisfied. The most common complaints we received from surveyed vet customers were related to bills that seemed excessively or unexpectedly high.

• Do they try to keep costs down? Low prices are not the only way a vet can save you money, of course. You also save if the vet is effective in showing you how to prevent disease and injuries and if the vet shows you how to care for your pet by yourself. Equally important, you want a vet that informs you about lower cost care alternatives and doesn't do more than necessary.

• Does accreditation matter? Veterinary hospitals can become accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) by meeting certain minimum standards: keeping adequate medical records and having complete diagnostic, pharmacy, anesthetic, surgical, nursing, dental, and emergency-service facilities.

Of the 193 practices listed on the chart, 51 were AAHA accredited. Interestingly, being AAHA-accredited seems not to be related to our other measures of quality. For example, on our customer-survey question regarding "apparent competence/thoroughness" AAHA-accredited practices, on average, scored about the same as nonaccredited practices.

But going to an AAHA-accredited practice might cost you more: the average price index score for AAHA-accredited practices was $115, compared to an average of $97 for nonaccredited practices.

Reprinted by permission from "Puget Sound Consumers' Checkbook," a nonprofit, no-advertising magazine that rates many types of area service firms. For the full article or a copy of the magazine, call 206-332-9696 or visit

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

Houston Pets

Taking Mothering to a New Level
Los Angeles Times

Advice for Pet Owners
All About Cats
Pam Johnson-Bennett - Washington Post
Certified Animal Behavior Consultant and Author

Does your cat's behavior baffle you? Is training her to use the litter box a painful experience for both of you? Feline expert Pam Bennett-Johnson can offer advice on these quandaries and other issues related to understanding cats.

She owns Nashville's Cat Behavior Associates, LLC and has written several award-winning books on cat behavior and training, including "Think Like a Cat" and "Twisted Whiskers." Johnson-Bennett is the founder and chair of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants Cat Division. She was online Wednesday, July 2, at noon ET to answer questions on teaching cats good behavior.

Please join us again Wednesday, July 9 at 11 a.m. ET for another discussion on pet care with the Animal Doctor. And check out's new pets section anytime!


Pam Johnson-Bennett: Hi everyone! Thanks for being here. My name is Pam Johnson-Bennett. I'm a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant. I've authored seven books on cat behavior. My latest book is called "Psycho Kitty" and it contains stories of my funniest housecalls. I own a company called Cat Behavior Associates and I spend my days doing veterinarian-referred behavior consultations. I'm the cat behavior expert at Yahoo! and also at Friskies. You can find my blogs there. I'm here to answer your questions and I'll do my best to help you out.


Washington, D.C.: PLEASE HELP! My 6-year-old, spayed, former stray Tabby has two bothersome traits -- she will cry heart-breaking cries, though out the day but often in the middle of the night. These bouts will last for no more than one minute and the cries are not directed to me (when I call and interrupt her cries, she seems almost surprised that I am there). More recently, she has started urinating outside of the box when I am away. These behaviors annoy me, but my greatest concern is for her well-being. She is in good physical health. I work all day and worry she is bored, but she would not accept the male kitten I tried to introduce (and I'm not allowed to have two cats in my apartment). At that time, I took her to a animal behaviorist (about the second cat and crying -- she did not have the urination issue then), who advised that my cat wanted to be a solo cat. She would love to go outside, but that is not safe where I live. She is very affectionate and sweet. I play with her in the morning and at night, but never get her exhausted. You know cats -- when she's tired of playing, she just sits down and will not continue playing. Do the cries indicate a poor quality of life? What can I do for her?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Have her checked with the veterinarian to make sure there isn't an underlying medical cause for the crying. Has her hearing ever been checked? The urination issue also needs to be checked out by the veterinarian. She may also benefit from a companion but the introduction needs to be done carefully because cats are territorial. You can find introduction techniques in any of my books. It basically comes down to giving the cats a reason to like each other, i.e., bribery. I would also set up activity toys (puzzle feeders, balls in boxes, etc.) for her so she has things to do when you're gone


Toronto, ON: We adopted a semi-feral cat about a year ago. I say "semi" as she is okay with humans so long as we don't attempt to touch or pet her, in which case she runs away. She's generally happy to hang out in the general vicinity of people, is comfortable in our house, has no litter box or other behavioral issues, and is happy with our other cats. She is about 4 years old now. Is there anything we can do to further socialize her? (When she was first introduced to the household, she stayed in a bathroom for awhile and actually would allow herself to be touched and purred).

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Use a Feliway Comfort Zone diffuser in the home. This product contains synthetic feline facial pheromones which help cats identify calmly with an environment. I would also engage her in interactive play sessions using a fishing pole toy. Wind the action down after the game to leave her relaxed, and then offer her a treat or a portion of her meal. Gradually (and I do mean gradually) work closer as she accepts treats and food.


King of Prussia, Pa.: What can I do to stop my cats from marking or scratching my new furniture? Previously, because I was working two jobs, they got into a habit of marking an old couch while I was at work. Now everyday before I leave I cover everything in plastic. Do the advertised sprays really work or do you prefer Feliway products?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: By marking, you mean spraying, then there may be some issues going on between the two cats. You'll have to work on making sure both cats feel as if they have adequate territory. You can find information on this in my book, "Cat vs Cat." For the scratching, use a sisal-covered scratching post. The rougher, the better. Make sure each cat has a post. You can even put corrugated scratch pads around because some cats like to scratch horizontally. Feliway is a wonderful product, and I often recommend it for situations such as this.


Mini-panther in Md.: My sweet cat was rescued after being abandoned and abused. He is wonderful at home, but turns into a vicious mini-panther at the vet's. They have to place him under general anesthesia to examine him and draw blood for labs. He is fine in the car, loves his carrier, but hates the vet. What can I do? Please help.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: There isn't much for a cat to look forward to at the veterinarian's office. There are things you can do when a cat is a kitten in terms of desensitization, but with an older cat, it's probably best for your veterinarian to do a little sedation for examination. It's better than having kitty get so stressed out. You should also schedule appointments for the least busy time so your cat doesn't spend lots of time in the waiting room.


Bethesda, Md.: I think I have some understanding of why our new 16-month-old cat likes to attack our feet when they're under the sheets -- but how do I get him to stop? Our older cat is used to sleeping with us, but now we have to kick them both out of the bedroom because of Bitey McClaws.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: It's all about playtime. Your cat is young, playful, and when he sees a moving target he goes after it. Engage your cat in playtime using a fishing pole toy. Do this several times a day to satisy his high play drive. Never play with him in your bedroom though -- especially on the bed. Send the message that all playtime occurs outside of the bedroom.


Cleveland, OH: How long are cats' memories? My husband and I must spend a year in different cities for our jobs. I get custody of the cat. If my husband visits us once a month, will our cat remember him?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Yes, he'll probably remember him, especially since he'll be visiting once a month. Be on the alert though for the fact that your cat may be confused by the drastic change and may grieve for the absence of your husband. Keep an eye on his eating, litter box habits and play behavior.


Lake Ridge, Va.: We have tried everything to stop our cat from clawing our couches. From scratching posts to sprays to clipping nails regularly to tape to soft paws, nothing seems to stop her. Are there any other ideas out there? We really do not want to de-claw either. Thanks.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Scratching is a natural behavior in cats. If she hasn't liked the scratching post, it may not have been an effective one. Choose a sisal-covered post. Don't buy carpet covered ones. The post needs to be rough in texture, tall, and sturdy. You can find pictures of effective posts at our site Place the post right next to the area where the cat is currently scratching. Cover the scratched area of the couch with double-stick tape. Also, reward the cat when she scratches the post.


Washington, D.C.: Hello,

Our 2-year-old female cat has gotten into the habit of climbing onto the bathroom counter and crying until we put on the faucet for her to drink from it. Is this a phase? We try to ignore her as much as possible, and there is always fresh water in her bowl, but after a half hour of crying we usually give in. Any ideas? Thanks!

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Many cats like to drink from running faucets -- it's simply fun. The running water also tastes fresher because it's colder and contains more oxygen. I would suggest getting a pet water fountain. You can find them at pet supply stores or online. You can go to our website and see a picture of one. Place the fountain on the floor, keep it clean, and your cat will have fun.


Suitland, Md.: I had a cat that used to go to the litter box, but after a while he would start to urine on our clothes. He is spayed, but after I clean the litter box every day I still don't know why he does it?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: You have to rule out any underlying medical condition such as a urinary tract issue, so have your cat checked by the veterinarian so a urinalysis can be done. If he gets a clean bill of health, take a closer look at the box itself. It might not be in a pleasing location or it might not be the right type. Most cats prefer open boxes in open locations. Use a soft scoopable litter. But make sure he gets checked out by the vet right away. You can find more specifics on litter box issues in my book, "Psycho Kitty".


Washington, D.C.: I have a 1-year-old cat that is OBSESSED with food. He snatches cookies and food off the kitchen counter and is a nightmare when I am trying to cook. When I forget to close the door to the pantry, he removes and then chews through bags of rice, crackers, candies -- anything he can get. I've changed his diet to higher quality dry food with some wet food mixed in so he has more protein, but it has not helped. It seems like he is obsessed whether or not he is actually hungry. Background if it helps: we found this cat outside when he was 8 weeks old and took him in. From the get go, he has been sweet, calm, and friendly, with no behavioral problems except for this food obsession. We have one other cat that is curious about food (as most cats are), but not nearly to the point of it being a problem. Aside from putting him in the other room when I cook and making sure the pantry door is shut, is there anything I can do to tone down his behavior and make him more calm around food?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: There may be an underlying medical problem so make sure you have him examined by the veterinarian. If he gets a clean bill of health, you may have to do scheduled feeding, using several small meals per day. I also like using the Play-n-Treat balls with food-fascinated cats. These are plastic balls that you fill with dry food. As the cat rolls the ball, food periodically drops out. Do see your vet though! That's very important.


Kansas City, Mo.: I've caught three feral kittens and their mom and am trying to socialize them so I can get them adopted. I've had them a week. I've been spending time with them, quietly sitting nearby while they eat, ect. The mom has warmed up to me and will let me pet her (probably had owners at one time) but the kittens are still terrified. I need to get them socialized quickly so they can be adopted while still cute, have any ideas?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: If it has only been a week and you're able to pet the mother, then she probably isn't feral. She's probably a stray who had an owner at one time. Continue to work with her and use food to entice the kittens. I also use peacock feathers with kittens to get them used to being petted. Don't be in too much of a rush to adopt them out though. They need about 12 weeks with mom and siblings.


Columbus, OH: Hi! I have been wondering about this issue for some time and being able to ask a behaviorist is great! I have three cats, all rescues. Two of them are very independent, friendly but have their own agendas, plans, things to do. The youngest one is very, very clingy. She likes to be next to me all the time, and at night she is pasted to me like glue. I joke that if she could ride around curled up on my head like a hat, she would. But I kind of worry about her real need for attention, such as when I go on a trip. Can you give me some thoughts on why she is so needy and if I should worry about her when I'm away from home for vacations?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Every cat has their own personality. If you rescued her when she was very young, then she maybe didn't get enough time with littermates (if any time at all). You have become her source of security. One trick I do to raise confidence in cats is to engage in several short interactive play sessions. Use a fishing pole toy and trigger her prey-drive. Any time you engage a cat's prey-drive, it helps boost confidence as they become the mighty hunter. It'll help her see that she doesn't have to be velcroed to you in order to feel secure.


Washington, D.C.: Thanks for taking my question! I have two cats -- a 9-year-old male and an 8-year-old female. They are generally well behaved, although I think the female instigates a lot of the trouble the male gets blamed for. Anyway, my question is about one aspect of the male's behavior. Every few days, he chases around after the female's rear end, biting at the fur there. Both are fixed, so it can't be a hormonal thing. He ends up pulling many tufts of her hair out. Any thoughts on what that could be?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: It might be more a case of him biting her because she's retreating from battle so he's getting the last word in. Unless he's actually attempting to mount her, it sounds as if he's showing off a bit. When you notice the behavior is about to begin, distract the cats with a toy. If you can catch the behavior before it actually happens and distract the cats, you may be able to break the pattern.


Downtown: I would like to issue a serious reminder to cat owners (based on our own scare last week). Do not, under any circumstances, keep lilies in your home if you own a cat. They are very poisonous to cats, and can cause death in a matter of days if the petals (or even the pollen) is ingested.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Excellent reminder. In fact, almost all plants are lethal to cats. At the very least, some are very toxic and can cause the cat to become very ill. You can find a list of unsafe plants at the ASPCA Web site.


Sarasota, Fla.: Several months ago I adopted two cats -- mother and son, 16 and 15 years old, both neutered -- from a close friend who died. They have adjusted well to their new circumstances EXCEPT...the male was an outdoor cat his entire life and had never used a litter box. With me, they are both now living on my screen porch, with two boxes. Mama Kitty is doing fine and is impeccable in her litter-box habits now; her son...not so much. I've seen him use the box occasionally, but mostly he goes in the 18-inch dirt border, covered with stones, around the inside perimeter of the porch floor. And if I let him in the house, he's very happy, but then will back up to couch or drapes and spray. What can I do? I can't/won't let him be an outdoor cat again; he loves attention and human contact, but I can't have him spraying all over my house. And giving him away is not an option. Can you teach an old cat new tricks?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: You can teach an old cat new tricks but you have to have a few tricks up your sleeve as well. If you can place the cats in another room other than the porch, that might help because the porch might be too much of an outdoor reminder. I would suggest that you try a litter called Cat Attract. It was created by a veterinarian and contains herbs that attract cats to the box. If that doesn't work, create a box with simple soil, which will be similiar to what kitty used outdoors and then gradually add regular litter.


Baltimore, Md.: I have a 2-year-old boy who seems impossible to train, particularly when it comes to climbing on the kitchen counters. He so far doesn't seem to mind getting sprayed with water, stepping on sticky tape, or getting yelled at. Any suggestions of how to keep him down? Thanks!

Pam Johnson-Bennett: It's natural for cats to seek out elevated areas and the counter is one of the most enticing. My best method is to place pieces of plastic carpet protectors on the counter -- use the ones with the little points on the underside. Place the protectors with the point side up. Do this every time you aren't using the counter. Also, provide your cat with a better option such as a cat tree. Even allowing him to sit on a stool near the kitchen (perhaps nears a window) is enough of an option.


Atlanta, Ga.: The only thing my 13-year-old neutered cat wants to do is lick me. This is a problem because I am very sensitive to touch and it gives me the same sensation as when someone scrapes fingernails on the chalkboard. He is very demanding in this behavior and becomes frantic if he cannot lick my hands. Sometimes I'll let him do this when I'm brushing him because I figure that he wants to do a give-and-take grooming, but I cannot tolerate being the constant object of his obsessive licking behavior. I find that I end up ignoring him more and more just so I do not have to deal with this behavior. Do you have any advice for me?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: For many cats that's a social behavior. For some cats though, they can really take it to the extreme. When he gets into position to start licking, distract him with a toy. Try to time it so you're doing it BEFORE he licks so he doesn't associate his licking with being rewarded. If you can distract him from affection-mode into play-mode, you might have some relief from the licking.


Springfield, Va.: My cat is very affectionate and seems to like to be stroked -- in fact, she nuzzles my hand to get me to stroke her -- but sometimes, particularly if my hand touches her hind legs as I stroke her, she will reflexively turn and bite me and occasionally even hiss. I really don't mind this, as she doesn't bite very hard, but I'm curious why this happens. I'd like to train her not to do this, because if something happens to me and she ends up back in a shelter and exhibits this behavior, she will likely be euthanized.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Many cats have areas of preference when it comes to petting. If your cat reacts aggressively when petted near the hindquarters she may be acting on reflex because she thinks someone is sneaking up on her. Also, some areas create more of a stimulation. I have a cat who doesn't like being stroked down the back. Even though you don't mind her level of aggression it's not good to continue that behavior. It sends the message to her that biting is an acceptable form of communication. Instead, stick with the areas of her body where you know she enjoys.


DC, 20005: Hi there. I've read in the Post recently that the dry cat food we feed our cats daily is diametrically opposed to what their bodies need for nourishment as born carnivores. Also, the wheat gluten in the dry food often brings on diabetes and other ailments as cats age. As a result, I've lowered our cat's intake of the dry stuff throughout the day in favor of them splitting a tiny can of Fancy Feast in the morning and evening. What's your take on this? One of our cats has a pre-existing weight issue too -- is the wet food over the dry food adding to this problem or could it possibly help reduce his roundness? Thanks.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Wet food is typically more similar to what a cat would eat in the wild (mice, birds, etc.) It has fewer carbs. The problem though is that it's much tastier for many cats and they overeat. You should consult with your veterinarian to determine how much your cat should eat during the day to maintain healthy weight. It also helps to feed smaller, more frequent meals. That way, kitty is fooled into thinking her tummy is still full.


Arlington, Va.: Thanks for taking questions. Why does our cat constantly carry our clothes (especially socks) down the stairs while meowing? When we come home from work there's a collection of like four socks in the corner. Very weird.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: It's probably something that she views as a cherished prey and she's presenting it to you much as a mother cat would present prey to her kittens. Your socks should feel very honored. If you don't want her doing it, there are toys that are similar to socks that might serve as acceptable substitutes.


Boston, Mass.: I have a 6-year-old female who is very high strung. She has a habit of licking things continuously for several minutes, things like corners of the walls, her nylon cat house, and me. If I try to move her off, to stop licking the wall for example, she just moves to a new spot. Her litter mate, male, is a much more relaxed cat without this behavior. Any idea what might cause this? Should I try to stop it?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Have her checked by the veterinarian, especially since she's licking odd things such as the wall.


Arlington, Va.: Cat biting problem -- I moved a few months ago and after a couple of days of hiding, my cat seemed to have adjusted. But about a month after the move, he started biting me, seemingly because he wanted more food (his food dish would be empty and my giving him food seemed to calm him -- though I always delayed giving him more food until some time had passed after he bit me). He has actually lunged at me and bitten my arm at night while I was asleep. I reacted by pushing him off the bed and closing the bedroom door almost all the way, and he has never come back in the same night. But he has bitten me off and on over the last several weeks on the arm or leg, drawing blood each time. In our old home, he occasionally bit me when he wanted to play and very, very rarely when he wanted food. But that had totally stopped in the year before we moved. As background, he is 8; I adopted him from the shelter when he was almost 4 after the couple who got him as a kitten got pregnant. The cat had my mother for company until her death in Sept. of 2006. He never bit her, and interestingly, the very occasional biting of me stopped at some point after she died, which is why it's a mystery to me that he's started again. Any suggestions? Could he have health issues I need to explore?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Any time a cat displays an unusual behavior you should have him checked by the veterinarian. You need to rule out any possible underlying medical issue for the biting.


Anonymous: I'm curious why you say the kittens should stay with mom and siblings for at least 12 weeks -- I have always tried to catch any strays just as they are weaned to make adoption easier. What issues can come up from a too early separation ?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: They learn valuable social lessons during those 12 weeks. They learn social play, being the mock aggressor, learning how hard to bite. This helps later in life if you ever want to introduce a second cat into a resident cat's life. I know it's easier to adopt out right after weaning but those social lessons are important.


Boston, Mass.: Hello. Thank you for answering my question. My 10-year-old cat has had a bad bout of diarrhea, and has been put on a prescription diet (Hill's) with "novel proteins". We are giving her a medicine to soothe her stomach, which is in liquid form and we mix in with her wet food. (We can't give her pills because she used to be feral, and although friendly, she doesn't let us hold her). Our problem is she does not like this new wet food, and doesn't like to eat it, so she isn't getting her medicine. She still has a strong appetite, and often tries to eat the regular wet food (fancy feast) we give our other cat. Any ideas on how to get her to eat her food so she's getting her medicine? Thank you.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Talk to your veterinarian because she may be tasting the medicine in the food and that's causing the rejection. I would also feed her in a separate area from the other cat so she doesn't smell the Fancy Feast.


Los Angeles, Calif.: My cat has always meowed at me non-stop when I am feeding him. It's progressed to little nibbling on my legs (it hurts!) and aggressively jumping onto the counter tops to elbow me out of the way to get to his food. He's broken quite a lot of bowls this way. I've tried putting him in the bathroom when I am feeding him but that just sets off our OTHER cat to start meowing too. He's usually very quiet and passive when it comes to food. What can I do to make meal times more peaceful?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: You didn't mention how often you feed him. If you're feeding on a schedule, try increasing the number of meals (not the amount). Several small meals per day fools the cat into thinking he's getting more. You can also supplement the regular meal with puzzle feeders, such as the Play-n-Treat ball. This is a plastic ball with a hole in it. You fill it with dry food and as the cat rolls it, food periodically falls out. Puzzle feeders encourage slow eating while engaging in activity.


Medford, Mass: I adopted a stray cat two months ago and she won't get along with our house cat (also female). She immediately attacks her whenever she gets out of her room (she's behind baby gates). We introduced them slowly (like the books say) but nothing seems to be changing after two months. The new cat is, however, very attached to me and my husband -- especially me. I wonder if some of the behavior is coming from her attachment to me/jealousy over the other cat. My question is, do you think there is hope that this behavior will ever change, and if so, any suggestions?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Don't give up. Start the introduction all over again. Separate the cats and then bring them together for a few seconds during meals. Keep each cat at a distance. Basically, what you're doing is showing them that good things happen in the presence of each other. It takes time but if you do it at a snail's pace, they'll work through their territoriality. You can find step-by-step instructions in my book, "Cat vs Cat".


Alexandria, Va.: I am hoping you can help! Our cat is aggressive towards other people who enter our home to the point where he swats at them as they innocently walk by him. Sometimes he is aggressive towards us but mostly he is lovable. I would really like to find the cause of his aggression. He has been this way since he was a kitten. It is a problem because he is social and always wants to be around when people are over. Sometimes he even jumps into people's laps but if they so much as brush a finger against him, he gets aggressive.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: He may not be as sociable as you think. His behavior may be rooted more in being territorial. While he may jump on a guest's lap, it might not be for affection, it might be to do a closer evaluation of the "intruder". I would try clicker training your kitty. It's a great way to show him that good behavior gets rewarded. I also have a step-by-step technique for helping cats become more comfortable when guests come over. You can find information on both in my book, "Starting from Scratch". You can also find a fun story about a visitor-aggressive cat in my book, "Psycho Kitty".


Martinsburg, W.Va.: Pam, I am inheriting nine cats (11 years old), and I'm not concerned about their behavior but am wondering your suggestion on types of litter and litter boxes. I don't want to "smell" up my house but I can't let these senior kitties go to the pound either. Thank you.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: You are so wonderful to take these cats in. If the cats don't have litter box issues now, I would try to find out what kind of litter and boxes they're currently using. Cats hate change and if you can keep things the same for them, that would help. If they have issues or you can't find out what type of products they use, I would stick with uncovered boxes and use unscented scoopable litter. Use the same number of boxes as you have cats (I know, it's not fun) and locate the boxes in different areas so one cat doesn't end up guarding the litter box area.


Palm Bay, Fla.: You said always to use a sisal-covered scratching post rather than a carpet one. We have two 4-year-old cats that ignore sisal entirely. They love their carpet posts, but absolutely refuse the scratch the sisal. Is there anything we can do to encourage them to switch?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Cats are individuals. If they're using the carpet posts, then you don't really need to switch. Or, you could introduce some corrugated cardboard scratch pads. Most cats can't resist them.


Reston, Va.: Hello. I adopted a 5-year-old cat about eight years ago. While I can cope with the scratching that he does to my furniture (I don't think he knows the difference between a post and furniture, and hates sisal), but he's very hard to brush and trim claws with. I have to essentially back him into a corner on the couch to trim his claws, and he cries bloody murder. Any suggestions? He's the sweetest cat in the world, otherwise, and I don't regret adopting him, even if he ruined my favorite furniture!

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Ease him through the procedure by doing one nail at a time and then give him a treat and let him play. Do the same with brushing -- just a few strokes and then reward him. Gradually build up the time. If he knows it's going to be torture session, he'll always hate it. If you do just a little at a time, reward him, and then it's all over before he knows it, he'll start to relax.


New York, N.Y.: Medical-type question for you. I have two cats that are 7 and 9, and they seem to be in good health. I haven't taken them to the vet in three years. They were overweight, but I put them on a diet and they're losing weight -- that was the only health risk I anticipated. Is there really a need for annual vet check-ups if they're both indoor cats? Thanks!

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Yes, they need to be checked regularly. At 7 and 9, they're at the age where age-related issues can come up, such as renal failure, etc. Weight gain and/or loss can also have an underlying medical cause. Even though they may seem healthy, if a medical issue is brewing you won't know about it until it's visible -- and in that case it might be advanced. A little preventive care can mean a healthier, pain-free long life for your cats.


Omaha, Neb.: Just a strange cat behavior, not a "problem" really. My 4-year-old female cat makes a strange sound when she's excited (e.g. when she sees birds.) It's half way between a cough and a clicking sound. I've had cats for all of my 28-year-old life and I've never seen or heard this noise before. Do you have any idea what it could be and why I haven't seen other cats make a similar noise?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: That's a chattering sound cats make when they've spotted prey that they can't get to. The cats are so excited and they can't contain themselves. It's a very common behavior. It's almost as if the cat is saying "I know you're out there and if I could get out there you'd be in big trouble!"


for the cat who hates the vet: There are some vets now who make house calls, which is a lot less stressful for the cat. They may not be able to do every single thing in your home but much can be done this way and your cat will not be in a strange place so he/she may behave better when he/she is handled.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Yes, this is true and many veterinarians offer that service. It has been my experience though that when a cat is that reactive at the vet clinic, he'll still be reactive when the vet comes to the house. It's certainly worth trying though if there's a housecall vet in the poster's area.


Scratching: My cat LOVES those cardboard scratching pads that lay flat on the floor. I've got one on each floor of our house, in areas she spends the most time. At first I tried putting them behind stuff, so that she could get to them but they weren't visible by company. That didn't work. So I moved them out in the open and she has not scratched a couch since. She loves these things so much, she sits on them, sits near them, scratches on them throughout the day. When we have company, I just scoot them out of the way and pull them back out later.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Even though the scratch pads are so pretty, I'd rather have them all over my house and have scratch-free furniture. My cats love the pads. They're inexpensive and very appealing.


Audubon, N.J.: Recently my son moved back home with us. He brought along his two cats, male and female. They got along great at his house. I have two cats, male, and a small chihuahua of my own. All in my household got along great, until the newcomers came in. It has been about a week now and I think the new boarders are scared of my dog. He just wants to smell them but the cats won't let him get near them. What should I do to help this along so we can have harmony at home. My son's cats will be with us for about a year so I have to do something.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: It's terrifying for cats to move to a new location. Cats are territorial creatures of habit. Imagine how frightening it was for them to move to a location with other animals. Yikes! The best way to handle this is to keep the cats separated and do a very gradual introduction. You can find step-by-step instructions in all of my books. You'll need to do it in two phases- - cat/cat intro and cat/dog intro. And don't be discouraged because it hasn't been that long.


Washington, D.C.: I have all your books! Can't believe I have a chance to ask for advice but here goes. My cat Loki (one of three) and my right eye had a near miss on Monday morning when I was trying to get him off my bed pillows (where he occasionally urinates). I do this by propping them up so he gets off. He really socked me -- he packs a punch. There is a teeny scratch on the skin above my eye crease. I know he loves me but he wants his way. After he belted me I got up and fetched the water spray bottle from the bathroom. He hates that -- just seeing it makes him run -- so I was able to get back to sleep. Later we had a cuddle. I took the water bottle to be with me last night. (The cats usually go to sleep with me on the bed.) Loki was walking across me and stopped dead when he saw the bottle. He turned around and went to sleep on me with his back to it. He did not even try to get near the pillows. I am happy but want him to be happy, too. Any advice? BTW, he has been checked by a vet repeatedly but he does not have FLUTD or anything like that. Thanks!!

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Yikes! I'm so glad you're ok. You have to address the urination on your pillow though. Does he have a hostile relationship with the other two cats? Perhaps he feels more secure eliminating on the pillow because the bed is elevated and he has more of a visual advantage, or maybe it has your scent and he feels more secure. Look at the litter box set-up and make sure there are enough boxes in enough locations.

The reason he probably struck you was that he was in stress when he went to urinate on the pillow. When a cat urinates outside of the box it causes him to be in a stressful state.


Arlington, Va.: What can we do about our cat urinating next to the litter box, rather than in it? Not around the house otherwise, and vet says no health issues. This is on a linoleum floor. Have you seen this before? Thanks.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: When a cat eliminates near, but not in the box, it can often be due to the litter box conditions itself. It's almost as if the cat is saying that he's trying to get as close to the box as he can. Make sure the box is uncovered, and that you're scooping it at least twice a day. Thoroughly scrub out the box at least once a month. Make sure the box is the right size for the size of your cat. You can also set up a second box with Cat Attract litter to see if he will use that. This litter has special herbs in it that attract cats to it.


Reston, Va.: I will be moving in with my fiance in a couple of months. He has a 2-year-old Lab who has never been around cats. I have three "middle-age" cats (ages 6-8), only one of which has ever been around dogs. I am not worried about the Lab so much. She is non-aggressive and doesn't exhibit a lot of "hunting" behavior (really indifferent to rabbits in the yard, etc.) However, I know that the move, new surroundings and large dog will be stressful for my cats, no matter how friendly the dog. What do you suggest for reducing the stress on my cats as much as possible? Thank you. I really appreciate the help.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: When you move, place the cats in one room initially so they can get their bearings. A move to a new location is very frightening. When they seem comfortable with the one room, you can start to let them investigate other areas of the house. Then you can start the cat/dog intro. Have the dog on a leash and have plenty of dog treats/toys handy. Keep the dog focused on you (or have your fiance handle the dog) so the cats can see that the dog isn't a threat. When the dog shows interest in the cats, gently redirect him back to you. You can find step-by-step instructions on this in "Starting from Scratch" and "Psycho Kitty".


Alexandria, Va.: Hello! Thank you for taking my question. I have a behavioral problem with my 2-year-old cat. He has always been playful, loving, running through the house having a great time. A couple of weeks ago he changed. He won't let me pick him up, and he has become very skiddish around me. In order to pet him I have to let him sniff my fingers before he comes near me. When I've tried to pick him up he jumps out of my arms which draws blood every time. I'm on a blood thinner so it can get quite dangerous. When he hears that I've come home he starts a howling cry, I call for him and eventually he will come to me but is very cautious. What can I do?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Because this seems so sudden, there may be a medical problem causing it. He may have injured himself, has an underlying medical issue, or perhaps was frightened by something when you weren't home. The first step is for him to be thoroughly checked out by the veterinarian.


Rockville, Md.: I love my cat, but she is a lousy roommate. She yowls from the bathtub for me to turn on the faucet so she can drink the water, day and night. She absolutely refuses to drink from a bowl. I can get her a fountain and just live with this, but the problem is that she doesn't just drink, she gets her head and paws wet as well...and then she stands on the toilet and yowls when she's finished for me to come and dry her off! I suck it up and dry her off because I don't want her to use the litter box when she's wet and end up with litter stuck to herself. This is starting to get out of hand and I was wondering if it was a lost cause to try to get her to drink from a bowl, at least sometimes. She only eats (very high quality) dry food, so it's important that she drinks a lot of water, but this is ridiculous. She used to at least splash at the water if I left her a bowl (one that doesn't tip, otherwise it would end up upside down), but now she's completely lost interest.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: I would have her checked by the veterinarian just to make sure there isn't an underling reason for the obsession with water. I would also invest in a water fountain. You can place the fountain in large tray with raised edges to contain any water spill. Also, to work off some of that energy, engage in several play sessions with her, using a fishing pole toy. Finally, leave activity toys out for her to work off that energy when you aren't home. Set up boxes with holes in them and place toys or dry food inside. Even a ping pong ball in an empty tissue box can be a good activity toy.


San Francisco, Calif.: One of our cats has an insatiable appetite -- for cloth. He's eaten holes in blankets, sweaters, scarves and my mother's beautiful wrap from Argentina. He prefers fuzzy items, but eat both natural and synthetic fibers. He's been like this since he was a kitten. What can we do to stop this?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Your veterinarian needs to do an examination. Talk to your veterinarian about a possible increase in fiber in your cat's diet. Even though, in most cases, the pica behavior (eating non-food items) may not have an underlying medical cause, the behavior can be controlled with more fiber in the diet. Don't change the diet though without consulting your vet though because if not done correctly, increase fiber can have "explosive" results.


Audubon, N.J.: I have four adult cats, three male, one female. Their ages are 1, 2 and 4 years old. How much food should I put out for them to eat? They all eat at different times so I don't really know who is eating and who is not. What can I do to make sure everyone gets their fair share?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: If they're all the right weight and in good health, then free-feeding is working well for them. If anyone has a medical or weight issue, then you might want to feed on a schedule where you can give each cat their own specific portion. I'm a big fan of feeding several small meals a day. That way, I know exactly who is eating what.


Washington: My 2-year-old cat is a bit standoffish. She doesn't much like to be held or lay in my lap or next to me to be petted -- except occasionally when I am lying in bed she will come next to me and knead my side and suck on my blanket for 10-20 minutes. She likes to be around me and keeps an eye on where I am in the house, but she doesn't curl up next to me. Is there anything I can do to make her more comfortable with cuddling?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Do playtime sessions with her using a fishing pole toy. Wind the action down at the end of the game so the cat gets relaxed. Toward the end of the game, move the toy closer to you. As a big reward for the mighty hunter, offer her a treat or a portion of her food and place it right next to you. Extend your index finger toward her so she can sniff it. This is the equivalent of nose-to-nose sniffing that cats do. If she rubs your finger, you can then gently pet her once or twice. Do this often enough and you'll be able to increase the petting and decrease the distance between the two of you.


Dumfries, Va.: I have a question regarding my 6-year-old male cat's behavior regarding food. Almost everyday when I'm preparing a meal, he insists on running downstairs and meowing uncontrollably. This will go on for five to 10 minutes. From an outsider's perspective, it sounds like I'm torturing him. I have tried ignoring him but that doesn't help. I have also tried squirting him with water but that turned into a game for him. I have also tried giving him a lot of attention prior to preparing my meal but this didn't work either. Is there a way I can get my cat out of this annoying habit?

Pam Johnson-Bennett: It sounds as if he's over-the-top with excitement and anticipation. If you can, do a playtime session with him before preparing his meal. That would imitate what would occur naturally in the wild -- the hunt and then the feast. Wind the action down after the great play session so he's left relaxed and then feed him. Also, make sure you're not spacing the meals too far apart. Cats have small tummies and it's hard for them to go 12 hours between meals.


Seattle, Wash.: My daughter brought an 8-month-old old kitten home from college and as things go, he is now mine. I live in a rural area. He is really on the small side and I've been advised to make sure he is a house cat. Now it's summer and windows are open and the neighbor cat has discovered mine and has begun to prowl outside our house marking everything in sight. Mine has just begun to mark certain territory inside and it's driving me crazy. He's been neutered. What can I do to stop this behavior? Help!

Pam Johnson-Bennett: Your cat is coming into his own now and his sense of territory is developing. It's natural for him to mark territory if he sees an unfamiliar cat outside. Is it possible to talk to the neighbor about confining his/her cat to prevent intrusion onto your property? If not, you may need to block viewing access at your windows by covering the bottom of them with poster paper. If the outdoor cat can't see your cat then he may not be as interested in marking, which may help reduce your cat's desire to mark.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Pam! First, a little adulation. We love your books and have read them all (and have given them as gifts to friends). Second, a behavioral question. We have three cats -- a brother and sister who are 2 years old, and then another girl, who is 1. The siblings are Russian Blues, and the young girl is an adorable rescue. The boy has developed a habit of sniffing his sister's rear. This wouldn't normally be a problem, but both he and the "new" girl pick on the sister often. Since the new girl arrived, the sister is not allowed to have the top of the cat tree any more, and she is frequently hunted under the sofa or under the bed. She has taken to spending most of her time sleeping in a very small space under our bed. She has never been super-friendly, but this is a new low for her, interaction-wise. So this new rear-sniffing behavior, which makes her trot away, seems to be adding insult to injury. When the other two threaten or chase the sister, we do warn them and then put them in time out. The boy has gotten so used to this that when we stand up and say "time out!" he trots right in the time out room and waits for us to shut the door. We pick up the new girl and put her in. With the new girl, it started out as playful behavior, but the sister had been bullied so long by her brother, that her reaction wasn't to play but to run. So now the new girl knows exactly how hard she has to push to get the sister to leave, and she does it with efficiency and skill. We've had the siblings since December 2006, and the new girl since December 2007. We love them all, and they can all be quite sweet and (to varying degrees) affectionate. I know that with cats, the fights aren't about leadership of a pack but, instead, about territory. How can we: 1) set some limits so that the sister cat doesn't get chased away on the increasingly rare occasions that she's out with the crowd and 2) get her brother to stop with the rear-sniffing, as it's certainly not helping the situation. We're at the point where all he has to do is sit and look at the sister cat when she's on the top of the cat tree, and the sister will hiss, growl, and then run away. Help!

Pam Johnson-Bennett: I'm glad you've enjoyed my books. Thank you for the kind words.

You probably have to do a reintroduction. Let the little kitty have the run of the house so she can spread her scent and develop confidence. Then, slowly reintroduce the others, one at a time, using the methods described in my books. Their interaction should last a few seconds to a minute during meals or treat-giving. They need to learn that she's an equal member of the family.

The rear-end sniffing is normal between animals but it triggers hostility in your cats' cases so the reintro will help there.

Good luck.


Lorton, Va.: What is your take on the indoor-only vs. indoor/outdoor cat issue? When I moved into a temporary apartment where she could not go outside, my one cat became depressed and gained 4 pounds. Once we moved again, she lost the weight and is back to her spunky self. My friends all have indoor-only cats and give me guilt trips for letting my cats outside, but they seem so much happier, and frankly healthier. I don't have cats with urinary problems, diabetes, etc.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: It's a hot-button issue, I know. I believe indoor-only cats live longer, healthier lives. It's important though to create a stimulating indoor environment though. You can't expect a cat to sit at the window and watch all the fun things happening outside. I have lots of tips in my books on how to do environmental enrichment.


Purcellville, Va.: My 6-year-old, neutered, Abyssinian mix has been pulling out the fur on his back. The vet said there is nothing wrong with him physically. He is very affectionate and gets attention throughout the day and evening. (He is one of five cats in the household.) Any thoughts on why he is doing this? We tried the plug in pheramones and they are no longer working.

Pam Johnson-Bennett: More diagnostics are needed. This could be caused by an allergy, other underlying medical issue, or it could be stress related.


Pam Johnson-Bennett: I want to thank everyone for being here but I have to say goodbye now. If I didn't get to your question, you can find lots of information in my books. You can visit our Web site for lots more information about my books and there's an FAQ section there. Thank you again!


7 Foods That Are Deadly To Your Parrots
by Nora Caterino

When parrots were first keep as pets, people thought they only lived a short time. This was in part because most of the soft billed wild birds only live a few years but also because the parrots they kept die within 10 years or so. This was because the diet these parrots were being fed did not supply the necessary nutrients and the birds basically starved to death very, very slowly. Some succumbed to illness but this was in large part due to the fact that they were malnourished and their bodies couldn't fight the disease.
Today we know that many of the large parrots can live to be over 100 years of age and even budgies and cockatiels can live to be 20 or more. This is because we now know what to feed our parrots and what to avoid letting them eat.

There are lots of good things to feed your parrot, but there are a few things that you might offer that can kill your beloved feathered friend. The reasons may differ but the results are the same: death.

Foods You Must NEVER Feed Your Parrot

There are only a few things that can actually kill your parrot as far as human food goes. These are:

* Avocado * Chocolate * Alcohol * Seeds of any fruit * Raw meat * Uncooked eggs * Any food that may have mold or may have spoiled (including seeds)

As you can see, this is a very short list.

Foods You Should Limit

This list is a lot longer and contains people foods that won't kill your parrot quickly. However, over time, these foods will be detrimental to its health. These foods fall into three main categories. Some foods may fall in to several or even all of these categories:

Foods High In Fat

Any food that has a high fat content should be limited. In the wild, parrots eat very little fat; what they do eat is mainly from bugs and other protein sources. Now, this doesn't mean that you parrot pal can't have a taste of these foods occasionally. Think of feeding your parrot as if you were feeding a three year old child. You would let a child have a few potato chips even though they are high in fat and salt, but you would limit the quantity. With a parrot, of course, the portions are much, much smaller. If you want to let your parrot have a bite or two of a single potato chip once in a while, there is nothing wrong with this limited quantity. Just do not let it become a habit that every single day the parrot gets potato chips and don't let the quantity increase over time. Everything in moderation is the practice to be followed for this list - every small amounts if what moderation means here.

Examples of these foods are:

* Potato chips * Vegetables with lots of butter * Fried foods * Cream, whipped or liquid * Cake icing * Ice cream * Fatty meat * Butter sauces and cream soups that contain a lot of butter

Foods High In Salt

Too much salt isn't good for people or birds. Of course, since parrots are so much smaller, a little bit goes a long way. Some foods can simply be taken out of the food preparation cycle before salt is added to allow the parrot to enjoy a safe serving. If your parrot enjoys cooked veggies and you salt your food, then by all means take some out before adding salt. Crackers can have the salt scraped off before allowing the parrot to have the food. Many foods can be found in unsalted versions that can safely be shared with you parrot. For example, unsalted nuts are fine but eating a lot of salted nuts is not good for your feathered kid.

Some of the foods in this category are:

* Salted potato chips * Salted corn chips * Salted nuts * Salted vegetables or meats * Many prepared foods such as microwave entrees * Salted popcorn * Bacon, ham and other cured meats

Foods High in Sugar

Parrots can become little junk food junkies is allowed. They seem to love sweets and will insist on having a taste. Most foods with sugar are perfectly safe to allow the parrot to have a bite or even two, but limit the quantities to a very small amount and do not allow these foods every day. These are for the rare occasion rather than daily diet.

Examples of these foods include:

* Cakes * Cookies * Candy * Sweetened juices * Other sweetened drinks * Sugary cereal * Ice cream

Everything Else

Everything else that you eat, you can and should share with your parrot. The more different foods your bird eats, the better its health will be, the more vibrant the feather colors and the happier you'll be. However, use some common sense about feeding people food to parrots.

Fruits and vegetables are very good additions to the diet, preferably raw but if you parrot prefers some things cooked, that is better than not eating the food at all. Eggs, cheese, pasta, rice, potatoes (other than potato chips or French fries), pizza, noodles, bits of meat or fish and other people foods are great for you parrot. Limit the amount of meat to very small amounts because in the wild, parrots do not get a lot of meat-type protein. Some parrots LOVE a bone with bits of meat left on it to chew on and will even eat the marrow out of the bone.

Of course, fruits and vegetables are the best for the parrots and for us. But variety is the spice of life and everyone wants variety including your parrot.

About the Author
Nora Caterino helps parrot owners from over 14 different countries in taming and teaching parrots to TALK. If you want to learn more about her parrot training videos - to instantly solve annoying behavior problems like biting, screaming, or feather plucking - then join the 'Elite Parrots Club' and get super coaching from the 'Bird Lady'.

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Spoiling Your Loved One with Special Pet Accessories
by cool pet boutique

If you are an animal lover, it is doubtless that you will spoil your pet the way you would spoil your own flesh and blood. For most pet owners, taking care of our cat, dog or other animals that we love is already a joy in itself and we constantly seek ways to pamper our furry friends. Perhaps it is because of the unbridled love we feel for our four legged partners, or even the fact that we are thankful and appreciative of their companionship and contributions to the family. Whatever it is, it is not wrong if we continuously find ways to return the affection by allowing our pets a steady stream of special pet accessories so that their comfort is prioritized above all things.

Examples of special pet accessory worth getting are designer collars and leads. These collars are not made from your average hide. A vast array of designer collars made from the finest quality leather can be found everywhere. They are aesthetically pleasing to the eye and are comfortable when worn around your pet's neck. Moreover, purchasing these will not cause you to go broke so most pet owners love buying several designer collars at one time so that their pets can sport a different one each time they go out for a walk. Some collars are also adorned with gleaming Swarovsky gems of all colors while others are rhinestone-studded. In fact, some pet owners even go as far as to personalizing these collars by sewing on fresh water pearls on them whereas other pet lovers will order specially engraved ID tags bearing their beloved pet's name upon the stainless sterling surface. A great idea is to seek out a beautifully crafted heart-shaped pendant that can be opened to reveal a picture taken of you and your precious pooch or kitty. That way, he or she will be easily identified and found if your pets lose their way around the neighborhood.

Building a pet mansion for your furry friends may prove to be a tad bit excessive for those who cannot comprehend your love for your pet but this is by no means a clear act of affection. Pet owners who can afford the construction of a pet home will waste no time hiring the right people to build their pet a grand abode either indoors or outside on the vast lawn, complete with wallpaper, basic pet furniture and window blinds. Your pet's dream dwelling can be of any style you wish and some pet lovers even construct a pet mansion in the exact replica of their own home!

There are more ways to spoil your pets so feel free to explore them during your leisurely hours. Happy pampering!

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