Pet Advice: Most Dog Bites Are Avoidable

Picking the Perfect Pet Food: The Myths, Facts, and Findings
by Lauren v., Dallas Pet Scene Examiner

If you're like me, you spend extra time at the grocery store picking just the right items for your family. You may even browse over labels while comparing the pros and cons of competing brands. We regularly hear news stories that encourage this type of buying behavior, touting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and putting the highest quality ingredients into our diets.

But would you do the same for your pet?

Comparing pet food brands can be confusing. Most pet owners simply don't know what ingredients to avoid or nutritional components to look for as part of a healthy diet. And unless your pet is on a diet regulated by a veterinarian, the endless possibilities are most often left to which is most convenient and possibly persuasive in a company’s ability to employ advertising gimmicks.

Interpreting Food Labels 101
Pet food companies understand that the first impression they make is through the name of their pet food. By coming up with fancy, appealing names they hope to hook shoppers. They also will sometimes use a specific ingredient as part of the name, such as “Beef Tender-Chunk” or “Salmon Bites.” The only rule they must follow is that 95% of the food is required to be of the ingredient noted in a pet food name. If a food contains 25-94% of an ingredient, the name must be followed with a description. For example, “Beef Tender-Chunk dinner for dogs” would be acceptable.

Feeding Directions
Did you know that not all brands of pet food are portioned equally? If you read the label, each brand of food recommends a serving size chart based on the age and size of your pet. By simply filling a bowl of food, you could be over-feeding (or under-feeding) your pet.

Common Gimmicks
The use of terms such as “natural” and “premium” don’t always stand up to be as good as it sounds. “Natural” is NOT the same as “organic,” and not necessarily the healthiest choice. By stating that a food is “natural” this could mean that it does not contain dyes or artificial colors. But there is little regulation for this statement.
According to the Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine, “Products labeled as premium or gourmet are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients, nor are they held up to any higher nutritional standards than are any other complete and balanced products.”

What now?

I would encourage readers to use these tools for more information on food and labels:
Pet Food Comparison Wizard
Dog Food Analysis Website
More Important Information about Dog Food

For more information on specific brands and to see comparison charts with recommendations:
Dog Food Comparison
Top Natural and Holistic Dog Foods
Leading a full and healthy life with your four-legged companion starts with the benefits of good feeding habits. May you be blessed with many happy years together.

Stressed Over a Test? Pet Your Pooch
Duane Hoffmann /

College students who own a pet are less lonely or frazzled, survey finds

When school gets too overwhelming, college student Joanna Olsen has a tried-and-true stress reliever: an hour of Frisbee with her dog, Mischka.

“She always seems to know when I’m stressed and comes over and paws at me if I seem out of it,” says Olsen, a senior equine business major at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., of her beloved rat terrier.

When deadlines loom and homework piles up, a furry friend can be a source of support, companionship and stress relief for college students, finds a recent Ohio State University study. While other research has shown that pets can reduce anxiety and provide comfort for the elderly or the terminally ill, the new study showed the same is true for college students — a demographic dealing with the simultaneous worries over leaving home and the uncertainties of entering the real world.

Chasing the blues away
Researchers found that students who lived with a pet were less likely to report feeling lonely or depressed. They often relied on the animal to help them through stressful times, says lead author Sara Staats, professor emeritus of psychology at OSU’s Newark campus.

“Many students said that their pets fulfill a significant role that is missing in their lives," Staats says. "The pets are not a substitute for human social interaction and support, but they do provide important interaction for these kids who might otherwise feel isolated from their current environment.”

The study was based on survey responses from 350 pet-owning students at the college campus, as well as nearby community members who had dogs or cats.

Nationwide, just a handful of colleges and universities, including Stephens College, allow students to keep pets on campus. While Lory Arnold, director of residential life at Stephens, has seen the comfort a pet can provide a student, she cautions that caring for a pet while in college could add more pressure to an undergraduate. Finding adequate time and money to keep an animal well-cared for can be difficult for a busy college student.

For Olsen, Mischka's expenses are covered by money she sets aside from her summer job each year. But when she’s rushing from class to the library to parties, Olsen admits feeling a little guilty over not giving her pooch enough attention.

“Sometimes it’s hard to spend enough time with her. I’d like to take her for walks … more often than I am presently able to,” Olsen says. “Sometimes I worry that she gets bored, but she has her own personal indicator to me that I need to change something: She pulls the stuffing out of her pillow when she has nothing else to do. So unless I want to have a ‘pillow fund,’ I have to make sure she doesn’t get bored.”

Still, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

“My days are usually brimming with activities and at the end of the day it’s nice to just play with my dog or take her for a walk and forget about things for a little while,” says Olsen.

Julie Chappell, a sophomore majoring in communications at DePaul University in Chicago, doesn’t have the family golden retriever, Allie, with her at school, but says there are days when Allie’s presence would be a plus.

Furry stress reliever
“Allie is such a stress relief when I’m at home. If I'm working on an essay or studying and I feel overwhelmed, she always helps me relax,” Chappell says.

But would she want Allie with her at school all the time? Not exactly.

“While I would love to have Allie or a pet living with me, that would be a horrible idea,” she says. “If I'm not busy with school, I'm busy with my social life, which includes going out and sometimes coming home at unnatural hours. I would not be able to devote enough attention to an animal, no matter how hard I wanted to.”

Schools that permit pets typically limit pets to certain floors or buildings. At Stephens, which has allowed pets since 2004, only one residence hall permits pets, and students must abide by rules addressing such issues as noise, grooming and waste disposal. Abandonment between semesters, which is often a concern of humane groups, isn’t really an issue at Stephens, Arnold says.

“A lot of students bring their pets from home," she says. So, "they take them home with them.”

While a pet can ease loneliness for some students, it could cause others to feel more isolated. “Students will stay in their rooms because they want to spend as much time as possible with their pet because they’ve been in class all day and their pet’s been alone, says Arnold. "So they don’t socialize as much as they probably should when they have a pet in their room."

The pet policy is sometimes a factor for students who are deciding between Stephens and another college, Arnold says.

That’s not surprising, says Stephen Zawistowski, the executive vice president of programs and science advisor for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“(A) lot of these kids were … the first generation of latchkey kids,” Zawistowski says. “In many cases, the dog and the cat were the family they greeted when they came home. The stresses of school and homework and everything else were shared with that companion animal."

So while students can't bring mom or dad or siblings along with them to school, with a pet, "you can have a piece of your household that you remember and enjoy a great deal,"says Zawistowski.

For Mischka, at least, the choice of Stephens was a no-brainer.

“When I couldn’t decide between Stephens and another college,” Olsen says, “one morning I woke up and found that Mischka had gotten sick — on my acceptance letter to another college.”

Dog-Noise Mediation Can End the Howling
Edythe Jensen - The Arizona Republic

They are woofers and growlers, yappers and yowlers - barking dogs that annoy humans and ignite conflicts in cities across the Valley.

Incessant barking can push sleep-deprived or otherwise agitated neighbors to invoke city noise ordinances. The disputes can end with criminal misdemeanor charges and fines.

Complaints are so widespread that Phoenix is enlisting help from Phoenix School of Law students to run a free, downtown barking-dog mediation service that will start this month. A similar service in the southeast Valley, Chandler-based Solve-It!, has mediated more than 150 dog-barking cases since 2007, coordinator Wendy Hollingshead said. Dog-barking complaints represent half the agency's phone calls and one-fourth of scheduled mediations, she said.

Officials across the Valley expect these conflicts to increase as more people lose their jobs and stay home, start home-based businesses or work night shifts, exposing them to daytime dog barking.

They say most of the problems are caused by pet owners who leave their dogs outside when they are away and don't realize that bored or anxious animals spend so much time barking.

Close proximity of homes in suburbia and noise echoing off block walls aggravate the problem.

Families feel their peace has been interrupted. Telecommuters complain they find it hard to concentrate.

At the same time, some dog owners say the laws can be unfair and overly harsh.

Facing the consequences

Many Valley residents have felt the bite of anti-barking laws.

Chris and Kara Horrocks of northwest Phoenix say they spent more than $1,000 defending their Labrador, Macchiato, from a neighbor's complaint last year. As part of a plea agreement, they installed a gate that kept the dog away from the neighbor's property line, pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor and paid part of a $300 fine. Kara said many of her neighbors came to their defense and said the dog wasn't a problem, but the complaining neighbor submitted videotapes of barking.

It was the sight of the neighbor pointing a video camera over the fence that upset Macchiato and prompted him to bark, the couple say.

"I think the law is too vague," Kara said. "It comes down to: If you live next to me, you can say my dog is annoying you, and boom, we're in court."

Jennifer and Jeffrey Sofka of north-central Phoenix paid a $286 fine and now have a criminal misdemeanor on their records because barking by the couple's three dogs disturbed their north Phoenix neighbors.

"It was our first offense," Jennifer said, "and they wanted to put us on probation - dog-barking probation! I thought that was ridiculous. There should have to be some kind of mediation first."

She said they have since moved, taken their dogs to training sessions and purchased bark collars.

The two couples are among 75 dog owners prosecuted in Phoenix last year, a number that city officials hope to reduce with the new mediation program.

The city laws

Residents who have put up with barking dogs welcome efforts to deal with the problem.

All Valley city codes make some reference to dog barking as a noise offense. The code in Phoenix, for instance, reads: "No person shall keep a dog within the city limits which is in the habit of barking or howling or disturbing the peace and quiet of any person within the city." Violations can be considered civil infractions or criminal misdemeanors punishable by up to six months in jail and $2,500 in fines. Court records show most fines are $300 or less. There is no indication that anyone was ever sent to jail for owning a barking dog.

Before a barking dog's owner can be charged in Phoenix, the city requires that three neighbors sign complaint petitions or one neighbor submit evidence that can include noise logs, video or audiotapes. Guides on the municipal Web site urge the annoyed to talk to their pet-owning neighbors first. By the time a resident is upset enough to contact a government agency, neighborhood tensions have likely gone beyond the "let's talk" stage, officials agree.

Familiar calls

It is difficult to quantify just how prevalent dog barking is. In most Valley cities, barking is counted with other noise complaints. However, the calls are familiar to police officers.

"A barking dog can be a good crime-prevention tool, but 15 or 20 minutes of a dog howling is unreasonable," said Chandler Police Detective David Ramer, who estimates that the city gets several barking-dog complaints every week.

He remembers a case in which a Chandler resident's bloodhound had puppies and the entire dog family "howled non-stop." "About 100 neighbors signed a petition," he said.

Chandler prosecutor Tom Zaworski said he seeks compliance before punishment in dog-barking cases and usually gives the owner six months to correct the problem. Some owners work on training their dogs and purchase bark-deterring collars. Others have a veterinarian perform vocal-cord surgery or give up their animals. "The issue is always: Is the noise unreasonable?" Zaworski said. "I've played 15-minute tapes of constant barking for judges."

Help from mediation

Noisy dogs are frequently turned in to shelters and rescue groups. So the Arizona Humane Society posts lengthy advice about "understanding the barking dog" on its Web site:

Ashleigh Goebel, spokeswoman for the Humane Society, said "vocal" dogs are often bored, fearful, suffering from separation anxiety or happen to be one of the breeds known for barking, like beagles and other hounds.

Understanding from both sides helps settle disputes, mediator Hollingshead said. "Dogs are members of peoples' families, and they take it personally when someone complains," she said. "But the other side just wants the barking to stop."

Some of the most creative solutions have come when the people who have complained understand why their neighbor's dog was barking, she said. In two of her cases, the annoyed residents now visit and console the lonely canines.

Q&A What Does It Mean When a Cat Suckles on Her Tail?
Posted by PetDish - Atlanta Pets

We found some of the best pet experts in metro Atlanta. Look for your answers every Monday. Today’s advice comes from Ingrid Johnson of Paws Whiskers and Claws, The Feline Hospital in Marietta. Click here to see all the AJCpets experts. And feel free to submit questions in the form of a comment today.

Q: My 8-year-old female tabby curls up in a ball and sucks the end of her tail while purring heavily. Any idea as to why she does this? She is an only cat, spayed and has a sweet disposition. When it’s nap time, she assumes the curled-up position, gets the end of her tail in place, sucks on it as if she’s nursing and goes right to sleep. I adopted this cat about 3 years ago so I have no idea if she was taken from her mother too soon. I would think by now that wouldn’t be an issue. Any light shed on this behavior is welcomed.

A: Many cats, if taken away too early from their mother or littermates, can exhibit these types of behaviors. Adult cats will continue to do the behaviors to comfort themselves when stressed or simply out of habit. It is not a problem as long as it does not become compulsive.

Tail and paw suckling are common and only become a health threat when the cat becomes obsessed with the behavior and starts to self-mutilate. This would involve creating bald, raw spots; actually ingesting the tail and then vomiting it, or chewing until they bleed. If and when this is the case, I suggest coating the tail (or body part of obsession) with something of an unpleasant taste such as bitter apple spray or a similar product. This behavior can also become a problem when it is focused on other household objects such as cords, wool products or anything that could be chewed off and ingested and become a foreign body.

Some animals do require behavior medications to help lessen anxiety and curb these behaviors. These animals are usually showing the behaviors because they are stressed or bored. Environmental enrichment is a helpful tool — give your cats something else to do and think about so they spend less time focusing on the negative action.

When animals have a mild form of oral fixation such as described here, most owners find it cute and infantile. In this particular case, I would not necessarily recommend any treatment as long as the owner does not find it is impeding with quality of life or bothering the humans in any way. It is the equivalent of a person chewing his fingernails or tapping his foot — the cat is comforting herself before a nap and that is OK.

When Times Get Tough, Pets Sometimes Become a Luxury

When times get really tough, pets sometimes become an impossible luxury.

Veterinarian Michael Tenzer, who owns South Beach Animal Hospital, recalls a woman recently bringing in a kitten that might have had a broken pelvis. Tenzer needed an X-ray before he could start treatment.

''She didn't want to pay the cost of an X-ray or setting a fracture,'' he said. She told him: ``I've just decided to put the kitten to sleep.''

Like just about everything else, the pet business in America is getting hit by the recession. People scrimp at the vets. They buy far fewer fancy aquariums and ''collector'' snakes. And in the most extreme cases, they're saying no to vet treatment or abandoning their pets when the bank forecloses on their house.

Still, some are prospering.

Consumers seeking to save money on pet medications are turning to PetMed Express, a Pompano Beach company that boasts that it's ''America's Largest Pet Pharmacy,'' beating prices offered by vets and pet stores by 10 to 15 percent through its Internet and phone sales.

PetMed, which also does business under the name 1-800-PetMeds, has seen 26 percent annual sales growth over the past five years and was recently rated one of the top five small businesses in America by Forbes magazine.

''I don't think we're recession-proof,'' says Bruce Rosenbloom, PetMed's chief financial officer. ``We like to say we're recession-resistant.''

The same can be said of much of the pet industry. Research has shown that young professionals and aging Baby Boomers are fueling the business. ''People will continue to spend above and beyond on their pets as the population ages and pets take the place of children at home,'' wrote Laura Bennett in Small Business Trends.

At the American Pet Products Association, President Bob Vetere says most owners will make sure their pets are taken care of. ''It's hard to fool around with Fido's diet,'' Vetere says. But many now ''look more for value-priced products,'' meaning fewer gourmet treats.

''And maybe people who would shop in a Petco or PetSmart are making fewer stops,'' says Vetere, ``going to a Wal-Mart or the pet aisle in the local supermarket rather than a separate trip to a pets-only store.''

Dogged Devotion: John Katz Explores the Instincts, Inspiration and Mystery of Canine Companions
By Art Gould

Izzy & Lenore: Two Dogs, an Unexpected Journey and Me
By Jon Katz, Villard, 2008, 198 pps., $24

Once a dog "decides" to be your dog — and it is the dog that must consent emotionally to the pet/owner relationship — a friendship is formed providing a bond of comfort, solace and affection. The dog's devotion is faithful and unswerving. Understanding for you is without verbal dialogue. You've hit the jackpot, according to dog behaviorist Jon Katz, when ". . . a dog and a human have found one another and mesh beautifully, embarking on one of those great interspecies love affairs."

Katz has written extensively about his life with dogs (six novels and eleven works of nonfiction, including The New York Times bestseller, Dog Days. In Izzy & Lenore he continues his quest to comprehend the amazing behavior, instincts and spiritual life of his canine companions.

Two themes dominate Katz's stories about dogs: Evidence of a free will among dogs, and their embodiment of mythical elements in the events of daily life.

"Sometimes when you wait for something, it arrives and proves worth waiting for," Katz writes prophetically about his rescue of an abandoned Border Collie in northern New York. Later, when Katz asks a veterinarian his opinion of Izzy, a "wreck of a canine," the doctor tells him he observed the moment when Izzy turned to Katz and chose him, decided to be his dog.

What follows is the heart-wrenching story of Katz and Izzy working together as hospice volunteers comforting the terminally ill in upstate New York. In this work of nonfiction, Katz successfully balances the debilitating grief of dying patients and their families, as well as the author's own bout of bleak depression, with the joy and strength that Izzy brings to each hospice visit, as the black and white, long haired Border Collie takes on the work of "herding" to safety the anxious, ill and frightened people who enter his life.

Lenore is the other canine in the book. She is another of Katz's rescue dogs, a black Labrador Retriever. She enters the author's life near the end of the book and helps "retrieve" him from the depths of despair. Lenore joins the potpourri of dogs and livestock at Katz's hobby-farm and soon proves herself as a member of the hospice volunteer group.

But is Katz's holistic understanding of dog behavior a suspect New Age anthropomorphism? Not really! The evidence of his experiences with dogs in this well written and moving story of suffering and redemption suggests that the more we learn about dogs the more we appreciate their excellent instincts. We learn to respect the distant frontiers of a dog's natural limitations.

Dogs are not people, but dogs cherish human companionship. Canines will do everything possible within their bordered powers to please and assist their homo sapiens. For Jon Katz that is the meaning, the inspiration and the mystery of dogs.

Art Gould is a former newspaper reporter and book publisher. He lives in Anniston.

Save 5% on Pet Supplies Orders Over $75

The Hidden Costs of Free Pets
by Laura Bogart, Baltimore Pet Services Examiner

Craig’s List is the online equivalent of that dish of M&M’s on your desk: instantly available and instantly addictive. Like the chocolate junkie who is shocked to discovered that he’s downed half a bag, a Craig’s List browser will absentmindedly while away her time scanning through the seemingly infinite array of classes, events, goods, and services offered on The site is a communal effort, in which posters offer anything from concert tickets to furniture, art supplies to car parts. Then there are the personal ads, which range from the hey-it-might-be-worth-it-to-reply earnest to the oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-there’s-someone-really-into-that pornographic. The site has a section to meet every desire possible, including the desire to love and be loved by a pet.

Under “community” there is a section for “pets”. A quick click will yield a seemingly infinite array of options. Truly a buyer’s and seller’s market for dogs, cats, small animals, and even exotic creatures like doves, turtles, and pot-bellied pigs. Yet unlike the animal “biographies” offered on many shelter websites, these posts are immediate, raw. Mostly because the owners themselves write the posts, and what they write often reveals far more than whether Skippy the poodle can be trusted with cats or small children.

An ad attempting to re-home a mixed-breed:

“He is a very GOOD dog, especially if you plan to spend time with him…We have started a new family and have outgrown our living space. We'll also be moving within the next week or two and it would be easier if we could find a nice home for him before then as there just isn't room for him, even in our new home.”

“Moving” “No room” “New baby” and “Allergic boyfriend” seem to be the most common phrases in owner give-ups. These superficial reasons are enough to provoke even the most mild-mannered of animal lovers, especially given the blasé tone struck by these writers. Take one new ad for a free cat on Baltimore Craig’s List: “this is a male cat about 3 years old, looking for a nice house. if you are interested email me back.” Below this text is a grainy photo of a young cat struck wide-eyed from the flash, or perhaps from a secret intuition that his life now hinges on a single sentence.

Judging these posters as bad owners is easy, but sometimes not fair. For selfish idiots who fails to realize that pet ownership involves actual work, there is a loving pet parent who is compelled by their circumstances to make the hardest decision. As a number of recent ads attest, the dire straights of the economy are forcing people out of their homes. Johnny C., a man who posted an ad for his Maine Coon cat, was devastated by the decision, but felt that he had no choice. Johnny lost his job in the middle of December, and, unable to make the rent of his Charles Village apartment, was forced to move in with a brother who is allergic. “Besides,” Johnny writes, “if I couldn’t afford to feed myself, I couldn’t afford to feed my cat.”

Though Craig’s List removes posts written by breeders demanding a fee for their custom pups, the site does allow posters to charge a rehoming fee (which is on par with most reputable shelters). Still, many seem so desperate to find new homes for their pets that they forego any fees. For some owners, both former and soon-to-be, this is a win-win proposition. Alison Merschoff found her sleek black beauty of a cat, Maybe, from a “free cat to good home” on Craig’s List. For financial reasons, Maybe’s former owner had to move in with a boyfriend who was violently allergic to cats. Maybe lucked into a compassionate owner who lets her roam a five-story Victorian townhouse, feeds her top-of-the-line kibble, and lavishes her with belly rubs. Alison lucked into a healthy, affectionate cat that came to her up-to-date on all shots and spayed.

However, giving or getting a free pet can be dangerous for human and animal alike. The peril for animals is articulated, unwittingly, by a man attempting to give away a Pitbull puppy: “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!NO DOG FIGHTERS PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Within the Craig’s List community, the free pet posts have generated heated debate, with self-described “animal activists” imploring owners to consider the risks posed by hoarders, “bunchers”, dog fighters, and plain old sadists. Bunchers are individuals who collect animals to sell to laboratories.

Aleta, a rescue worker helping a friend place his cat for adoption, says that the majority of responses to her Craig’s List ad were disheartening: “ I got a lot of one-line responses, just ‘I want to see your cat’, or ‘when can I pick him up?’ It was really scary because when I mentioned the adoption fee, or asked them more about themselves, they suddenly stopped emailing me. It frightens me to think what their intent might have been.” Johnny C., the man who gave up his Maine Coon, echoes her sentiment; he feels that charging a rehoming fee ensured that only serious cat lovers contacted him. He reasons that if he invested the money to get his cat adoptable (i.e. vaccinated and neutered), he ought to be reimbursed.

Johnny C. is one of the more responsible former owners who’ve posted on Craig’s List. Some adopters find that their new friend, who was advertised as “a GOOD dog” turns out to have serious aggression issues, or that the cat who was “up-to-date on all his shots” has feline leukemia. Mary J., who adopted a mixed-breed puppy after his owners gave him up because of “allergies”, soon discovered her new friend hadn’t been potty-trained. “This dog was almost a year old,” she says, “and these people must’ve done nothing, because I hadn’t even had him in the house for a night, and yeah, it wasn’t pleasant…I wanted an older dog because I didn’t want to have to deal with potty-training. I mean, you start that on day one with a dog. I worked through it, but it makes me so mad to think that these people were just passing on a dog they knew had a problem.” Mary J.’s “free dog” ended up costing her several hundred dollars in carpet cleaning expenses.

One might be tempted to quip that people like Mary get what they pay for. But Internet marketplaces like Craig’s List find their appeal in the quick, cheap ways posters can meet their needs; prospective adopters are merely following standard expectation. Though the allure of the easily had is hard to see through, adopters must pause to consider whether they’re getting a healthy, loving companion or a problem child with serious medical and behavioral issues. Those making the heartrending choice to give up a pet must ask themselves if a prospective adopter can give that animal the best life possible.

Having a Cat is Serious Business for This Woman
By Kathy Van Mullekom - Daily Press

Feline fancier has turned her love of kitties into a livelihood — award-winning Persian breeder.

When Laura Thomas was 2, her grandfather introduced her to a tortoiseshell kitten.

"That kitten was my best friend," says the Hampton resident, 48. "I have a feeling she probably didn't feel the same way about me — I used to dress her in doll clothes — but I will never forget her."

When Laura turned 8, her life's ambition was to be a veterinarian, but that goal changed at age 16.

"I thought about having to do surgery and having to open up a kitty," she says.

"At that point, I knew I couldn't bear to be a vet, but would someday find a way to work with my love of cats.

"I believe the cat is also the most beautiful creature God created."

Since foregoing veterinarian school, Laura has spent life reading veterinary handbooks, manuals, feline resources — everything cat she can get her hands on.

Today, she's a Persian cat breeder, working on and winning awards with the blue-eye bi-color Persian program. She's also developed a spa products line — Castle Baths at — that includes a pet category for dogs and cats. Her site at showcases her kittens and offers a grooming tutorial.

This weekend, she and other local cat lovers show off their favorite felines during the annual cat show sponsored by by Pawprints in the Sand and Chamberlain on the Bay and the Cat Fanciers Association. The show will be held 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Nettles Drive in Newport News. Admission is $5 adults, $3 seniors.

Here, she offers tips on how to live happily ever after with a cat in your home:

Tips for selecting a family cat? Purchase from a reputable breeder and don't buy based on sex and or color — research the breed itself.

Select a cat that suits the time you have for a pet and matches your personality; pick a cat by their personality and activity level.

Consider your new kitten as if this is a new baby — take the first few days slow. Cats do not show stress — instead, they simply become ill.

Find a good vet and develop a relationship with the vet; this helps you and your lifestyle work around the best choice in selecting and keeping a cat healthy and happy.

When you consider the type of cat you want to get, know the differences. Persians/Himalayans are more like puppies .... they like to follow you around, like to be in your lap, are playful and normally are not climbers. Longhairs require monthly baths and grooming.

Short-haired cats are more adventurous, climb any and everywhere, exploring the tops of refrigerators, curtain rods, opening cabinets; they have lots of energy.

Things a cat needs? Sisal rope cat tree; glass or stainless steel food and water bowl (to prevent chin acne); several clean litter boxes; and good nail clippers. I prefer Fresh Step scoopable litter because it offers less mess, less odor.

What keeps a cat happy? If the family is away from home working most days, consider a second kitten as a playmate.

Remember to get toys, catnip and teasers because most cats, even adults, love to play and interact with humans.

Give them bonding time. When you arrive home and kitty is sitting at the door, offer a kind word or rub; don't just walk past your cat. And, keep their water bowl fresh daily, food filled and litter box clean.

What makes a cat unhappy? Being ignored; cats get depressed and standoffish when they are not acknowledged daily. Young children with high-pitched voices bother and stress them. Cats are creatures of habit, so holidays, vacations and time that is not their normal routine stress them. Sometimes, unhappy cats leave signs like stool on the carpet, telling you "Hey, I'm not a happy camper today."

News to Use
What: Annual Cat Show sponsored by Pawprints in the Sand and Chamberlain on the Bay and the Cat Fanciers Association.

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Where: Knights of Columbus Hall, 12742 Nettles Drive, Newport News (Exit 258A off I-64)

Admission: $5 adults; $3 seniors and ages under 12; free ages under 5. Donations of cat food, litter, towels, grooming and other necessities are appreciated and will be donated to area humane/rescue groups.

Info: 489-4516

Want to enter the show? Contact Sarah Sieffert at 301-794-4482, or Kimberly Lowe-Breiner at

Laura Thomas
Age: 48

Residence: Hampton

Family: Husband Gene; three grown children

Profession: Award-winning breeder of Purrinlot Persians —; also, owner of Castle Baths of spa and pet products —

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Most Dog Bites Are Avoidable
By Linda Wilson Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

They are called man's best friend for a reason.

Their loyal, affectionate and playful nature make dogs great pets.

Only in extreme cases have dogs been known to attack humans.

And when attacks do occur, such encounters are rarely fatal and are largely preventable, according to the experts who track the cases.

In any given year in the United States, 12 to 16 people are bitten and killed in attacks by a dog or by multiple dogs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC has been tracking dog bites since the 1970s, and officials say the numbers have not been increasing. Each year, about 800,000 people seek medical attention for dog bites, and 386,000 of them require treatment in a hospital emergency department, the CDC notes.

Nearly half of all dog-bite victims are children under the age of 12, with children ages 5 to 9 at greatest risk, the CDC reports.

The rare instance of a "killer dog" hit close to home last Monday when an 8-year-old girl was killed by a Rottweiler-mix in Beaver County. The body of Brianna Shanor was found in a trailer, where the dog was kept chained by owner William J. Renda of Hanover. State police did not charge Mr. Renda, who is a friend of the girl's mother, because they said the dog was properly restrained. Reports indicate the girl had been told to stay away from the dog.

Two other local incidents occurred within the past decade:

In July 2006 in Westmoreland County, Sandra L. Piovesan, 50, bled to death after being mauled by a pack of nine wolf-dog mixes she had raised as pets. Her body was found in a fenced enclosure where she kept the animals.

And in March 2003 in Clarion County, 2-year-old Lily Krajewski was killed by two Rottweilers owned by her uncle, Roger Hansen, 36, of Lucinda. The girl was walking in the woods nearby when the dogs attacked. Her grandmother, Kathleen Hansen, tried to pull the dogs off the child but was unable to do so.

In Allegheny County, there have been no fatal dog attacks in the last 34 years, said Guillermo Cole, spokesman for the county Health Department.

Reported dog bites have been holding steady at 1,100 to 1,200 per year, he said. Doctors and other medical providers are required to report them to the Health Department when they treat a dog bite victim.

"Reported bites are everything from a scratch to injuries that require stitches," said Mr. Cole, who could not recall any serious, life-threatening attacks.

A large percentage of dogs that bite "are un-neutered male dogs, that spend most or all of their lives chained and are not up-to-date on inoculations," said veterinarian Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University.

Experts said it's the responsibility of pet owners and others who are around dogs to prevent any attacks.

"There are very few public health crises that can truly be cured by public awareness and education, but dog bites are one of them," according to the American Veterinary Medical Association Web site. The "suffering, injury, disability and mortality is completely unnecessary. It's up to people, not dogs, to stop dog bites."

Dr. Beaver, immediate past president of the AVMA, emphasized that education is the key.

"Dog owners need to learn how to make their dogs good citizens," and that means training pets and teaching them to behave properly around people and other animals, Dr. Beaver said.

"The victims that are bitten most often are children. Children need to learn how to behave around dogs. And if parents would learn to never leave children unattended around dogs," the number of dog bites would decrease dramatically, she said.

"Many shelters do a great job" by offering training classes for dogs and their owners, Dr. Beaver said.

Local shelters and dog training clubs offer such classes as well as programs for schools and youth organizations where children are taught how to treat dogs, how to act around them and how to avoid being bitten or attacked.

Tips from the CDC and American Veterinary Medical Association include: ask permission from the dog owner before petting any dog; let a strange dog sniff you before touching it, and then pet gently, avoiding the dog's face, head and tail.

If confronted by a hostile dog, remain calm and avoid eye contact. Stand still or back away slowly until the dog leaves. If knocked down, curl into a ball and protect your face with your arms.

Other organizations that provide campaigns and programs aimed at reducing dog bites include the U.S. Postal Service and the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 2007, about 3,000 postal employees, nationwide, were bitten by dogs, according to the Postal Service.

For more information, visit and

Linda Wilson Fuoco can be reached at or 412-263-3064.

Pet Adoption Tips
By Matthew Emerzian and Kelly Bozza - McClatchy Newspapers

Pet tips from Matthew Emerzian and Kelly Bozza, the authors of "Every Monday Matters: 52 Ways to Make a Difference."

There are 4,000 to 6,000 animal shelters in the U.S. To help those pets,
Every Monday offers these tips to potential owners.

1. Go to an animal shelter or adoption center near you to see if there is an animal with which you "connect." If not, visit another location or come back another day.

2. Speak with an adoption counselor at the location about whether your choice of particular type or breed will be best for you and your lifestyle.

3. Only select a pet if you have a realistic understanding of the time, effort, and money required to provide a healthy, loving environment for your pet.

4. Enjoy your newfound friend. Animals are unconcerned about age, looks or physical ability; they accept you just as you are. If you're thinking about getting a pet, seriously consider adopting. Not only will you be helping your new pet, but you'll also be rewarded with years of companionship, entertainment, unconditional love, and increased opportunities to meet others.

Dogs Just Wanna Have fun! Pitch In to Save Homeless Pets
by Emily Randolph, Scottsdale Dog Training Examiner

The Arizona Animal Welfare League is going to bat for the thousands of Valley dogs and cats that have no place to call their “forever home.”

Honorary Chair Derrick Hall, President of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Emcee Daron Sutton, Diamondbacks’ Play-by-Play Announcer, will lead off An Evening to Paws – an all-star night where the boys…and girls…will have a GRAND time at a unique baseball-themed fundraiser. The event benefits the Arizona Animal Welfare League and Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the state’s largest and oldest no-kill shelter.

The night opens with cocktails and scrumptious snacks, along with bidding on nearly 200 thrilling Silent Auction items. Fans will have a chance to meet our starting lineup featuring AAWL / SPCA standouts who love to play, catch balls and run the bases! The fun continues at the Hall of Fame Dinner, featuring great food and wine, laughter, a lively auction, and dancing until the bottom of the ninth.

AAWL/SPCA uses funds raised from the event to provide temporary homes for about 2,000 dogs and cats each year — many of them rescued shortly before they are scheduled for euthanasia. And the need is growing, as more families lose their homes and animals are abandoned or surrendered. Help this worthy cause and have a great time with family and friends!

When: Saturday, March 7, 2009; 6 p.m.

Where: Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas

6333 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale

Cost: $200 per person; tables of 10 available

A Great Place for Organic Pet Food and Treats on the Westside
by Sharon Harleigh, LA Pets Examiner

If you're like me, you will sometimes wonder why it seems that your pets are eating better than you are. Have you ever had that happen? I'll look at my dog's food or my cat's food, and then I'll look at the unhealthy pizza on my plate, and I'll think... no wonder they have so much energy and have a nice shiny coat. Me, not so much. I found a GREAT place this weekend that will support your pet's health and help you to keep them fit and eating right.

My Pet Naturally, located at 12001 West Pico in West Los Angeles, specializes in all items holistic, organic, and natural. They've got pet food, treats, leashes, and bedding. This place is like heaven for the pet lover! They provide homeopathic remedies for every ailment or need that your pet may have, including itching or dry skin, anxiety, and other pet maladies. They also have gourmet treats that I could happily snack on myself, including a sweet potato chew that Angel went crazy for (after opening the bag and taking a sniff, I really was not sure I wanted to share with her). They have a pet bakery in the back with cakes, cookies, snacks that I call "attention grabbers" because your pet will be so engrossed in it that you can clean the whole house without interruption. Seriously. I'm not kidding.

My Pet Naturally is a family owned small business, and I love to support those businesses especially in this type of tough economy. They offer all sorts of cool additional services like pet grooming for dogs and cats (I have never had my cat groomed but perhaps I should consider it) on Saturdays and Sundays with Lois Bouquet; they also have non-anesthesia teeth cleaning on Saturdays and I am definitely going to look into that! Sundays morning are also dog training mornings, and you can sign up for a 6 week group training class for your dog (or, for your dog to train YOU... depends on who the alpha is, I guess!). They also are involved with Lhasa Happy Homes, a pet rescue group that does terrific work on the Westside, finding permanent homes for wonderful pets in need.

If you love your pet and want to treat them to the finest organic food and treats, you have to check this place out. For more information, you can email them at or check out their website Had I not been attended by a rational adult yesterday, I would've bought everything in the store - the hemp leashes, the dog beds, the treats, and all the homeopathic remedies!

Click here to visit The EZ Online Shopping Network of Stores

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