Cat Training: Is it Possible?

My Pet World: Health Problems Might Be Causing Cat's Yowling
By Steve Dale - Twin

Q Our 15-year-old cat has a habit of standing in various parts of the house and roaring like a female lion. This happens multiple times daily, even six or seven times overnight. I need to sleep! Any advice?

— J.M., cyberspace

A Elderly cats can suffer from feline cognitive dysfunction or, as it's sometimes called, Kitty Alzheimer's. The problem is similar to Alzheimer's disease in people. In cats, symptoms may include general disorientation/forgetfulness (such as forgetting where the litter box or food dish is located), changes in interactions with family members, changes in the sleep/wake cycle and/or the sort of vocalizing you describe. Hearing loss related to normal aging may contribute significantly to the vocalizing. Anxiety, possibly caused by physical discomfort associated with such maladies as arthritis, may also be a factor.

First, visit your veterinarian. Describe the symptoms or, even better, videotape the vocalizing. Your vet will determine if there's a contributing physiological explanation, such as hearing loss. If the vet does feel your cat is developing feline cognitive dysfunction, perhaps Anipryl will be prescribed.

Dealing with a yowling cat isn't easy. Some cats do this sort of thing only because we've trained them to by offering attention. However, comforting your elderly cat is appropriately humane —- if indeed we're talking about feline cognitive dysfunction. Often, distracting the cat or simply picking up the little lioness and relocating her to another room — or perhaps into bed with you — can help. For other cats, my best advice is to buy earplugs.

Encourage your cat to sleep at night by offering a bedtime snack. Some nutritional supplements, such as Valerian root, may also produce drowsiness.

Q We have three cats and want to add a small dog. So far, we've narrowed our choices to a papillon or Cavalier King Charles spaniel. One of the cats is 12 years old, one is 3 and another is 2 years old. I'm mostly concerned about the 12-year-old prima donna, who accepted the two younger cats after her lifelong friend passed away. We're proud of her, except when she licks the hair off her belly and hindquarters. Do you think adding a dog will be too much for her at this age? Can you suggest any particular breeds?

— K.P., Jackson, Mich.

A I give you credit; adding a pet should be a thoughtful decision rather than an impulsive one. It's appropriate to think about your established pets, particularly your prima donna kitty. While we can't ask this cat how she feels, by licking hair off her belly and hindquarters, she may be indicating she's more anxious than you think. There could be a physiological explanation for the excessive grooming, such as allergies. It's conceivable the problem may be as benign as a response to dry air indoors during the winter. Understanding why your cat is over-grooming is important. If she is expressing anxiety, adding a dog at this moment might not be the best idea.

Toy dog expert Darlene Arden of Framingham, Mass., agrees, that adding any puppy is all about play. Cavalier King Charles spaniels and papillons are particularly playful. Under normal circumstances, this might be entertaining, but your older cat may not think so.

"Cavaliers are sporting dogs who like to chase," Arden adds. "And papillons are very busy dogs who need a job, and also relish chasing. You'll have to put in extra work to train these dogs early not to chase the cats. These are not typically dogs with low activity levels, which the older cat would probably prefer."

Instead, Arden, the author of "Small Dogs, Big Hearts: A Guide to Caring For Your Little Dog" (Howell Book House, 2006), suggests some generally calmer dogs who might more easily be convinced not to pester the cats, including the Japanese Chin, Shih Tzu or Maltese.

"Certainly, dogs and cats can live together in harmony," she says. "But you do want to set yourself up for success. And the bottom line is that the dogs learn it's the cats' house, and everyone else is just allowed to be there."

Q In a recent column, you wrote that cats can be trained. I've never heard anything so ridiculous. Why would you want to train a cat?

— L.S., Miami, Fla.

A It's important to keep cats indoors. Cats live longer and healthier lives inside. Outside, they must contend with coyotes, dogs, infectious disease and everything from a deadly illness transmitted by ticks to frostbite. They can be hit by cars. Besides, allowing cats outdoors is irresponsible, since they may kill songbirds or simply relieve themselves in a neighbor's garden.

However, many indoor cats have become bored and fat. Dr. Karen Overall, a veterinary behaviorist and researcher in the psychiatry department at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine-Philadelphia, says, "Unused brain cells do seem to wither away in people; it's likely the same is true for cats." In other words, Grandpa was right. If you don't use it, you lose it. Meanwhile, indoor cats probably often don't get enough exercise. Many people don't take the time to play with their cats, or they don't know how to.

Training your cat to come when called or to play hide 'n seek is fun for the entire family and good exercise for the kitty. "Behavior Guidelines for Indoor Cats," a booklet from the American Association of Feline Practitioners and Hill's Pet Nutrition, written by Overall and other experts, encourages these games as contributing to a cat's well-being. Teaching your cat to sit or wave not only will impress visitors but most cats also seem to enjoy learning (as long as there's a payoff, such as a treat). "It's important not to diminish the importance of exercising our dog's brain, and we seem to do that some, but cat brains require exercise, too," Overall says.

You can train a cat to do pretty much anything you can train a dog to do. Learn more from "Getting Started: Clicker Training for Cats" (Sunshine Books, 2001). "Behavior Guidelines for Indoor Cats" is free at

Because training dogs seems to enhance the bond between owner and pet, there's reason to believe training cats also enhances the cat's relationship with family members.

Write to Steve Dale at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to Include your name, city and state.

Are Turtles Unsafe to Have as Pets? The FDA Seems to Think So
by Erin Paquette, DC Pet Care Examiner

While we wondered if the FDA was simply crying ‘wolf’ on the safety of turtles as pets to cause some press to come their way, it turns out that the FDA’s claim that turtles can be unsafe as pets is completely valid.

According to an article written Consumer Affairs “turtles often carry Salmonella on their outer skin and shell surfaces, and people can get Salmonella infection by coming in contact with turtles or their habitats.”

While Salmonella does not usually make turtles sick — making it hard for anyone other than a trained professional to recognize the signs of Salmonella in a turtle — people who come in contact with turtles who have Salmonella are prone to becoming seriously ill. This is especially true for children and eldery individuals who usually have a weaker immune system than the average adult.

One of the scariest parts of turtles carrying Salmonella is that people who get Salmonella from touching a turtle usually won’t know that they got it from the turtle (thinking instead that they got it from something they ate) leaving the infected turtle in a situation where it can infect more people without them realizing it.

This is, of course, not the turtle’s fault; but even so, turtles infected with Salmonella should be removed from situations where they have physical contact with humans. As the Consumer Affairs article points out, “Infectious disease specialists estimate that banning small turtles prevents 100,000 Salmonella infections in children each year in the United States.”

100,000. And that’s only the estimated results. If we were a betting type of person, we would say that the actual number is even higher. But if keeping children from becoming ill isn’t a good enough reason to take this topic seriously, we don’t know what is.

So what can you do? While the obvious answer is “don’t buy a turtle,” we know that not all of you are going to follow that advice. So if you decide that you would still like a turtle as a pet (or already have a pet turtle that you are unwilling to give up) here are a few tips that will make sure that you — and your turtle — can be a little safer.

--Keep your turtle away from children and people who are older or might have immune systems that are easily prone to illness

--Take your turtle to the vet regularly and ask your vet to specifically check your turtle for Salmonella

--Do not clean your turtle’s habitat (usually a tank) in any place where you prepare food (such as the kitchen sink or the kitchen counter)

--Feed your turtle properly; talk to your vet about nutrition that could help keep your turtle from contracting Salmonella

--After using anything that has touched your turtle (ball, a food bowl, a toy) be sure to wash it thoroughly with a disinfectant. Just be sure to wash the disinfectant off items completely since you don’t want your turtle to get sick

Don’t let your turtles play with strange turtles. It sounds funny, but we’ve known a lot of people who would take their turtles to play with other turtles that were owned by co-workers or acquaintances. While it’s great for your turtle to be social, be aware that you or your turtle could catch Salmonella from other turtles. Check the medical history of other turtles that you or your turtle plan to come into contact with whenever possible

Don’t let your turtle wander alone. While it’s a popular practice to let pet turtles roam around the house or in the backyard by themselves, break the habit right now. Not only is it not safe in general for your turtle to wander around unsupervised, it is also dangerous for you. If your turtle does end up having Salmonella and you don’t know what they’ve touched, you are far more prone to contracting it yourself.

To share this article, simple paste the following link (http://www.examiner.
have-as-pets-The-FDA-seems-to-think-so) onto your MySpace, Blog or Facebook. You can also paste it into an email.

Hypoallergenic Pets
By: Lisa Chelenza - Capital News9

First, let's consider the definition of hypoallergenic. According to, hypoallergenic is an adjective that means "having a decreased tendency to provoke an allergic reaction".

There is no such thing as a 100 percent hypoallergenic pet. Any pet, except maybe a fish, can cause an allergic reaction it just depends on what you are allergic to.

All dogs have fur. It is a myth that some dogs have hair, although the silky fur of a Maltese is often called hair. Dogs that don't have undercoats, need to be groomed regularly or are practically hairless can make good pets for those who suffer with allergies because they don't shed their coats. However, they do have dander, which is just dead skin that flakes away, but can trigger some allergies.

Hypoallergenic pets
There's been a lot of buzz lately about hypoallergenic dogs. Today I have the facts for people who suffer with allergies but really want to add a dog to their family in this edition of Pet Pointers.

Many popular breeds are touted as being hypoallergenic, like the soft coat Wheaton terrier, Maltese, shi tzu and mixes of these breeds. There are literally hundreds of purebred dogs and thousands of combinations that can work for those allergic to fur.

There are far too many breeds to mention here but if you or a loved one has allergies it's best to meet and interact with any pet before you bring them home to make sure there won't be an allergy issue.

What You Can Do to Keep Your Pet in Tough Times
Deseret News

Pets are losing their owners as owners lose their homes

Animal advocates offer this advice on how to keep your pet, or help those that belong to other people, when times get tough:

• If you're looking at foreclosure, talk to friends or family who might care for your pet until you can find housing.

• If your neighbor's home is foreclosed on, look in the windows to make sure pets weren't left behind.

• Low-income residents might be able to take advantage of free spaying and neutering programs. Call No More Homeless Pets in Utah at 801-364-0370 for more information.

• Several animal groups this fall pulled in more than 5,000 pounds of donated pet food to help people keep their pets in the face of rising costs. Check your local food pantry for assistance.

• To help pets in need, donate sealed, unopened cat food and dog food to No More Homeless Pets, 374 S. 400 West, Suite C, in Salt Lake City, or e-mail for a drop-off location in your area.


Helotes Humane Society Notching Success Stories

Members of the Helotes Humane Society have quickly learned that every animal has a story, from the five-legged dog they took in to the litter of pups born at a volunteer fire department station.
In less than a year of existence, they’ve facilitated roughly 100 happy endings through aggressively keeping their fostered cats and dogs in the public eye.

“Somebody’s shining down on us and it’s working,” society member Barbara Martino said of the group’s initial success, adding that the group is currently looking for a home for a disabled Chihuahua named Lola and her four puppies.

Without a physical location, the group requires that participants in its foster program participate in at least two adoption events per month.

Smaller groups helping animals through fostering programs has historically been the norm in the area instead of physical shelters like the Animal Defense League, said Ron Aaron, executive director of the Animal Defense League of Texas.

The challenge for these groups is getting their animals in the public eye, Aaron said, and that’s a reason the Alamo Area Partners for Animal Welfare started “super adoption” events like the one this past weekend at the Rim.

“It’s a great, high visibility, high traffic area and that’s the key,” said Aaron, also on the AAPAW board of directors. “We’re trying to do four super adoptions a year and looking for other ways to get those smaller groups out in front of people,” he said.

At the AAPAW event, 186 pets found new homes.

Members of the Helotes Humane Society sensed there was a need for an animal welfare group in far Northwest Bexar County but said they were surprised how quickly the community got behind the fledgling organization.

“It’s been an unbelievably heartwarming situation to see how many people care and come out,” Martino said, noting the support the group has gotten from area businesses and municipalities. They hold a monthly adoption event at Palms Pet Resort and Spa in Helotes.

To gauge interest in forming a humane society, founder Janice MacRossin put an ad on By the end of March, the group was incorporated and over time has grown to about 40 volunteers, Martino said.

The group studied other humane societies across the country; looking at programs they thought would serve a need in their community.

Their pet food bank program is modeled off of Pikes Peak Pet Pantry in Colorado Springs, Colo., which was started more than a year ago, said Darlene McCaslin, that group’s founder.

Including the Helotes Human Society, the Colorado Springs pantry has received inquiries from people in 25 states and Canada about starting similar programs in their cities, McCaslin said.

The Helotes Humane Society distributes free pet food to help owners through rough times. It also supports the group’s foster program and distributes some of its donated food to other area shelters. Since its first official distribution at the end of June, the group has given out roughly 12,000 pounds of food.

“We want to keep pets in their homes so people don’t have to give them to a shelter,” said Stephanie Dunlea, who heads the program.

Click here to view all breeds.

Macy's Holiday Pet Photo Contest: Cast Your Vote!
SF Tails of the City

If you haven't already visited the San Francisco SPCA Holiday Windows at Macy's in Union Square, you now have one more reason to go: a chance to cast your vote in the Macy's Annual Holiday Pet Photo Contest!

Five fuzzy finalists are vying for a chance to win a gift basket from Del Monte Foods Pet Products. Their likenesses will be on display at the SPCA's on-site adoption center from today, December 10th, through the 14th. A winner will be announced on December 15.

As an extra-special bonus, I'll be at Macy's tomorrow (Thursday, December 11th) between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to help collect ballots and enjoy some quality play time with the adoptable pets. So spend a few minutes on your lunch break to stop in and say hello, meet some adorable animals and vote for your favorite pet photo!

And please show off your own favorite holiday pet pics on the Holiday Pets Photo Gallery right here on SFGate. It's easy and only takes a few seconds to upload your photos.

Hope to see you tomorrow!

In the meantime, here's a preview of the five photo finalists:

Recession-Proof Cat Toys
By LINDA LOMBARDI • For The Associated Press • Courier-Journal

Hard economic times can mean fewer holiday gifts — for your pets, too. Fortunately, cats were into recycling and repurposing long before "green" became the latest buzzword.

If you've ever seen your cat walk past a nice stuffed mouse to bat around one of those wire twisty-ties that close a loaf of bread, why not take the hint? Here's what your feline family really wants you to do for the holidays:

— Get milk! Or juice, as long as it's in a plastic jug. Those little caps make great toys, especially the kind with the tear-off plastic strip.

— Drink wine to relax. If watching your portfolio crash means you're going through more wine these days, you've also got more corks for your cat to bat around.

— Wear your wristwatch, even if you can't afford new batteries. On a sunny day, you can get the sun to reflect off it and make a spot of light that your cat will chase around the floor and walls — just like a laser pointer, but totally free.

— Let your hair grow long. You'll save money on haircuts, and once it's long enough for a ponytail, you can share your hair ribbons. Cassandra Zaruba of Westminster, Md., has a cat that loves a particular kind of hair ribbon.

"I keep them in a Rubbermaid box, and a sure way to lure her out of any hiding place is to pop the lid of that box," she says.

(Don't do this with rubber bands, which some cats might be tempted to eat.)

— Buy presents for other people. Not because your cat is so generous, but because your cat will enjoy trying to help wrap presents. Tear off a piece of the wrapping paper and crunch it up on ball for her to chase around. When you run out, try aluminum foil or candy wrappers.

— Shop by mail. Online or catalog, it doesn't matter what you buy as long as it's delivered in a box. Leave the empty shipping carton on the floor or a table, and cats are sucked in as if by a magical force.

— But shop local, too. Your cat doesn't give a fig about keeping independent neighborhood shops in business, but you'll bring things home in paper bags that are great for hiding in and make that irresistible crinkly noise.

It's OK if you have to cut back on the shopping, because you only need a few of those boxes and bags. "What I've discovered is that if you move them to a different location, the cats think they're brand new and will start playing with them again," says Karen Duvall of Bend, OR.

Don't forget that many activities that you think are chores are really cat games: You want to tie your shoes; your cat will want to bat the shoelaces. You want to change the sheets on your bed; you cat will want to play hide and seek.

Speaking of beds, there is also no need to buy a special kitty bed.

Cats love to lie on things on top of other things, no matter their texture or height: lying on a shirt that's on the bed is better than lying on any other spot on the bed, even if they're made of nearly identical fabric. A magazine on a table, even a piece of paper on the floor— if it's flat enough to lie on and it's on top of something else, it's a free cat bed.

Kyle McCowin of Arlington ,Va., has noticed this phenomenon, and wondered, is there such a thing as too much "on-topness"?

"Like is a magazine on a newspaper on a shirt on the bed better than just a shirt on the bed, or is that too many layers?" says McCowin. "These are the questions that keep me up at night."

And if other worries are keeping you up at night, you can both make use of another arrangement that pleases cats: read. Your cat loves to get in the way of a good read.

When your cat sits on the newspaper, don't push him away. He'll be happy at no cost - and maybe skipping that bad economic news will be good for your mood too.

Big Cat Bites Santa During Photo Shoot at NJ Store

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- Santa Claus posed with a very large kitty on his lap - and now, unfortunately, he might need rabies shots. Jonathan Bebbington was playing the jolly old elf during a Santa Paws photo event at a PetsMart store when he was bitten Sunday on the wrist and hand. The event was to raise money for Penny Angel's Beagle Rescue group.

The cat and owner disappeared after the incident. At least one person thought it was a bobcat, said Joan Kerr, president of Penny Angel's.

"It had absolutely huge paws, like 3 inches around," Kerr said.

The cat, named "Benny," appeared terrified because dogs were nearby, Bebbington, 47, told The Press of Atlantic City.

"It had very powerful jaws and big teeth," he said, estimating the cat weighed about 30 pounds.

The woman who brought it to the store told people there she bought the cat from a breeder in Wyoming for $1,500.

"Her last words were, `I have a permit and the cat has all his vaccines,' " Bebbington said.

Unless the owner produces vaccination records, Bebbington will have to receive rabies shots starting Thursday as a precaution. He's already had a tetanus shot.

"I don't want anything to happen to the cat," he said. "It's a beautiful animal and was naturally scared."

Rabies shots are not as bad as they used to be, when they were a long ordeal of dreaded, painful shots in the abdomen. They now consist of a shorter series of shots in the arm.

Click here to visit The EZ Online Shopping Network of Stores!

No comments: