Pet Advice: Break the Toilet Drinking Habit

Does a Bigger Tank Promote Faster Growth in Fish?
Aquarium Fish Wonders

Q: I recently bought a louhan fish and put it in a three foot tank. I was advised by friends to keep the fish in a bigger tank if I want my luohan to grow faster. Is it true that bigger tank promotes faster growth in luohan or any fish for that matter? Please advice.

A tank is a home to a fish. There are three-, four- and five-foot tanks sold in aquarium stores. Just like we have three-, four- and five-room apartments or houses available for us to choose from. We aspire to have the best we can afford. The same goes for fish; they too would prefer a larger home.

With a bigger tank, fish will have more space to move around and feel more comfortable. Naturally, they will tend to “exercise” more, thus eat more which in turn grow faster than in a “constraint environment.” It is more important, however, to provide them with clean water (right water chemistry), a stress-free environment, and healthy varied diet. Without these factors, how ever much space your fish has will not do any good let alone grow faster.

Luohan grow quite fast, so it would be good to anticipate their growth and invest in a slightly bigger tank from the start. This way, you need not spend more money upgrading the tank. Of course, you also have to consider the availability of space to accommodate the tank, and your finances.

Domestic Violence Impacts Pets, Too

LINCOLN - One man lined up his family in the driveway of their rural Nebraska home. Wife first, children in order by age next, dog last. Then he shot the dog.

Another man threw a 4-month-old boxer puppy against the wall during an argument with his estranged wife. The puppy limped a few feet before collapsing and dying in front of the children.

Another would stand next to a pot of boiling water, holding his wife's tiny dog. She got the message.

A fourth hid his partner's pet bird every time he left home, knowing she would not leave him without taking the bird.

Such cases - all occurred in Nebraska - aren't new to people who work in domestic violence and animal care. They've known for years that animals suffer along with people when family relationships become abusive.

"I've been doing this 25 years, and I've heard some pretty horrific stories," said Kay Mathews, development director for Lincoln's Friendship Home, a shelter for abused women and children.

"In domestic violence, pets very often are used as a weapon," Mathews said. "It's a tool."

Now laws spreading across the country aim to give victims of domestic violence their own tool to protect themselves and the animals they love.

The laws allow people seeking protection orders for themselves to have their pets included on those orders. Judges can require abusers to stay away from the animals or risk arrest. Judges also can give temporary custody of pets to the person seeking the order.

Ten states - Maine, Vermont, Colorado, Tennessee, Louisiana, Illinois, Connecticut, New York, California and Nevada - now have such laws.

Iowa and seven other states are considering similar measures, according to the American Humane Association.

A proposal was introduced in the Nebraska Legislature this year but stalled last week. Legislative Bill 83, offered by State Sen. Amanda McGill of Lincoln, fell one vote short of advancing to the second round of debate.

Opponents of the Nebraska measure argued that it would elevate animals to the level of children and other household members.

They also expressed concern that the proposal was an effort by animal rights groups to push their agenda in Nebraska, with an eventual goal of restricting how farmers raise cattle, hogs and other livestock.

"I think the concern has been that (those groups) have attempted to blur the line between pets and farm animals," said Craig Head, a lobbyist for the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation.

The Farm Bureau dropped its opposition to the bill after an amendment clarified that only household pets, not livestock, could be covered by protection orders. Some rural lawmakers, however, continued to question the bill.

Backers of the measure said it could help victims of abuse, who are typically women, escape their situation. Concern for pets can keep people from leaving a violent situation, just as concern for pets kept people from fleeing Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters.

"Some people will sacrifice their life to protect their children and their pets," said Bob Downey, executive director of the Capital Humane Society in Lincoln.

In domestic violence situations, abusers use pets to control or torment their spouses or partners.

Research by Frank Ascione, a psychology professor at Utah State University, has found that up to 75 percent of pet-owning women at a domestic violence shelter reported their partner had threatened or harmed their animals.

In more than half of those cases, the abuser actually hurt or killed the animal.

Sometimes abusers use a beloved pet to keep spouses or partners from leaving. Sometimes they use animals to punish or terrorize their victims. Sometimes abusers see animals as competitors for affection.

"For some people, that animal can be the only thing they have that they feel really loved by," said Ellen Freeman, chief operating officer for the YWCA in Omaha. "The pet is their closest friend. It's their child."

That was true for an eastern Nebraska woman who endured verbal, mental, physical and sexual abuse during nearly six years of marriage.

She said the abuse extended to the couple's dog because her husband knew how much she cared about the animal. She left her husband nearly two years ago, but only after making a careful plan to get the dog to safety as well.

"He used him like some abusers use a child," she said. "He'd yell at him, he'd kick him. If we had a fight, he'd take the dog with him and lock him in the truck all day."

The woman, who is in her early 40s, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of continuing threats from her now ex-husband.

She has a protection order against him that does not include the dog. She said it would be helpful if Nebraska allowed pets to be included in protection orders.

Marcee Metzger, executive director of Voices for Hope in Lincoln, said some judges have included pets in protection orders even though Nebraska law does not explicitly allow it.

Others have refused to do so, she said.

Abusers can be charged with animal abuse when pets are harmed, said Traci Nelsen, legal advocate for the Center for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Survivors in Columbus. But those laws don't apply when an animal is merely threatened or held hostage to keep a person from leaving.

LB 83 can be taken up again this year if a senator, a committee or the speaker of the Legislature decides to make it a priority bill. Otherwise, the idea will have to wait for another year.

A dog dressed in a bee costume is taken for a walk at a park Beijing February 28, 2009.
REUTERS/Christina Hu (CHINA)

Experts Offer Tips for Pet Owners with Unruly Pooches
By Christena T. O'Brien - Leader-Telegram staff

Sadie wasn't necessarily bad to the bone, but the 14-year-old beagle pushed the limits of her leash more than once before her death in October.

"She was such an important part of our lives," said Cindy Hoenisch of Eau Claire, who inherited Sadie when her daughter, Beth, started college, "but she could be the naughtiest dog."

In fact, Hoenisch would rate Sadie up there with Marley, the yellow Labrador retriever featured in "Marley and Me," a best-selling novel by John Grogan that was made into a major motion picture.

Earning the title of "world's worst dog," Marley got into all sorts of trouble during his life with the Grogan family. He ruffled his owners' tempers by chewing up furniture, relieving himself in the house and running away on more than one occasion.

Hoping to teach their young dog new tricks, the Grogans enrolled Marley in obedience training. However, he didn't complete his first class.

Over the years Karen Rude, owner of the Eau Claire canine training center Rude Dog University, has seen her share of Marleys come through the door - including Sadie - but the trainer doesn't fault the dogs - most of the time.

"I just don't think there's an awful lot of bad dogs out there," said Rude, making an exception for Sadie, whom she described as "a handful." "Most people just do not know how to correct issues."

Looking for help with canine problem behaviors, some pet parents turn to Rude and other area trainers, who offer obedience and other classes, along with private instruction.

Topping the list of behavioral issues, according to local pet experts, are aggression towards people and other dogs, barking, biting, destructive chewing, house breaking, jumping and pulling on the leash.

Some behaviors are unleashed as the result of dogs becoming bored and not getting enough exercise, said Rude, who owns six yellow Labs and two miniature poodles. And pet owners also aren't always vigilant about training or correcting problem behavior.

"Some people don't want to say no and correct their dogs," she said. "They're afraid their dogs won't love them, but owning a dog is just like having a child. It's called parenting."

Just like human parents, Mickey Mueller, owner of the Menomonie-based Waggin' Tails Training Co. and Doggie Daycare, recommends pet owners begin training their canine companions when they're young to nip potential problems in the heels.

"The best time to start working with dogs is when they're puppies," she said, stressing training needs to be consistent so a pet isn't given mixed messages.

But not all pet owners are willing to put in the time it takes to train a dog, said Melissa Moen, a trainer at Petco in Eau Claire. "People are so busy nowadays, and they don't have the time."

Training needn't chew up several hours each day, said Rude, noting a five- or 10-minute walk can provide owner and dog with one-on-one time and training opportunities.

Over the years Vickie Price, shelter manager at the Chippewa County Humane Association outside Chippewa Falls, has encountered some owners so exasperated with their dog's behavior they want to throw in the rawhide and surrender the animal.

"Our biggest goal is to prevent those animals from coming here," said Price, who tries to help people find the tools they need to work on behavior issues. "You don't have to do it alone."

Obedience classes don't have to cost a fortune, she said, noting training opportunities also sometimes are available through 4-H clubs. Petco also offers free pet seminars on Sundays.

Doggie day care or a dog walker can help a pet burn off energy, Price said.

"A tired dog is like a tired child - there is no time for bad behavior," Mueller said.

That said, "I tell my clients that not everything can be fixed," she said, although, at times, behaviors can be modified.

Hoenisch's Sadie attended an obedience class when she was a puppy. But the sassy lassie only obeyed commands when she felt like it, Hoenisch said.

For example, when Sadie - an expert escape artist who loved to run - made a break for it, she would ignore her owners' orders to come home while giving them a backward glance.

"The best thing we could do was to go home and wait for her to come back," said Hoenisch, chuckling as she recalled Sadie once even eluded the dog catcher.

Despite occasional romps around the neighborhood, Sadie suffered from separation anxiety - when dogs exhibit problem behavior when left alone, like chewing or scratching at furniture - and sometimes got into trouble at home.

"She preferred to be tied up to being confined," said Hoenisch, who once struggled with what to do with Sadie when the beagle stayed home alone.

"We tried metal cages, but she found a way to get out (and ended up with a bloody mouth)," Hoenisch said. "We put her in the basement for a while, but she almost scratched a hole through the door."

Hoenisch used to tie Sadie to her bed at night. Otherwise, her furry, four-legged companion would wander the house and leave behind a little "surprise."

Last fall Sadie's antics came to an end after she suffered a stroke that left her hardly able to walk.

On the way to the vet clinic to have the dog put to sleep, Hoenisch let her canine companion sit on her lap. As the beagle hung her head out the window to let her ears flop in the wind one last time, Hoenisch said a prayer, asking God to overlook her antics on Earth and let Sadie, her constant walking partner, into heaven - proving that even the most challenging of dogs can earn their owners' love.

"I guess I truly didn't understand how much she meant to me until I was about to lose her," she said.

An older, tired-looking dog wandered into my yard.

I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home and was well taken care of.

He calmly came over to me, I gave him a few pats on his head;
he then followed me into my house, slowly walked down the
hall, curled up in the corner and fell asleep.

An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out.

The next day he was back, greeted me in my yard, walked inside and resumed his spot in the hall and again slept for about an hour.

This continued off and on for several weeks.

Curious I pinned a note to his collar: 'I would like to find out who the owner of this wonderful sweet dog is

and ask if you are aware that almost every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.'

The next day he arrived for his nap, with a different note pinned to his collar:

'He lives in a home with 6 children, 2 under the age of 3 - he's trying to catch up on his sleep.

Can I come with him tomorrow?'

Thanks to Al from Bhc, Az

Maryland Considers Law Permitting Pet Trusts

Maybe you’re no Leona Helmsley, and have no plans to leave your dog $12 million to assure he continue living in the luxurious manner to which he has become accustomed.

Maybe you’re no Doris Duke, the tobacco heiress who, in addition to bequeathing large amounts to animal organizations in her will, left $100,000 in a trust for the care and feeding of her dog.

Maybe you’re not even a Dusty Springfield, the 60’s era British singer who specified in her will that, after her death, the friend caring for her cat, Nicholas, ensure that he sleep in a bed lined with her nightgown, that he be fed his favorite imported baby food, and that her recordings — You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, for example — be played each night at his bedtime.

That doesn’t mean that you might not want to look into making some sane and basic arrangements — even if it’s just an informal agreement with a good friend — in the event your pet outlives you.

About 500,000 animals are killed in shelters and veterinary offices each year after their owners die, according to a Consumer Reports article on pet trusts, originally published in 2007.

If you live in Maryland, though, establishing a pet trust hasn’t been an option. We’re one of 11 states with no legally binding way to ensure that a portion of an estate will be spent on an animals’ care. A bill to change that was approved by the House of Delegates yesterday and will now be considered by the Senate.

If it passes, Maryland would become one of 40 states, including Virginia, that allow residents to establish legal trusts for their pets.

Under the proposed law in Maryland, no more could be set aside than was needed to care for an animal and courts could overrule pet lovers who tried to leave millions to their pets and order that the money be given to other heirs.

Under current Maryland law, residents can name a caretaker for their pets in their wills and ask that a sum of money be set aside for the pets’ care. But if the designated caretaker proves unable or unwilling to care for their pets, there is no guarantee that the deceased’s wishes will be followed. Under the legislation, a court would enforce the terms of the trust, requiring that the money set aside go only to care for designated animals, according to a Washington Post article.

“The states and courts should recognize that there’s an important human-animal bond,” said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, which has pushed for such legislation nationwide. “People want the peace of mind of knowing that their pets will be cared for.”

The bill is being sponsored by two professed animal lovers: Del. A. Wade Kach (R-Baltimore County), who has two cats, and Del. John A. Olszewski Jr. (D-Baltimore County), who owns a 2-year-old border collie-chow mix.

“You work hard for what you earn,” Olszewski said. “You should be able to decide how its spent after your death.”

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Banned Pet Fish Gets a Stay of Execution in N.Y.
USA Today

Public outcry in Upstate New York has won a temporary reprieve for Rocky the Snakehead fish, an invasive species that was banned five years ago.

State officials tell The (Syracuse) Post-Standard they have backed off for now on their plans to nab and execute the 28-inch-long pet Snakehead owned by Chris Deverso of Clay, N.Y. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation had designs on 10-year-old Rocky because it has been illegal to own Snakehead fish in the United States since 2004. Deverso bought Rocky legally in 1999 and has kept in an aquarium tank. The Post-Standard has a photo of Rocky and Chris. Here are other images.

Snakeheads are lot different than your everyday tuna or goldfish. They’ll eat up all the other fish in a lake or pond, and even their own young, and they can live out of water up to three days. Deverso maintains Rocky could not possibly hurt the waterways in his area because Snakeheads cannot survive Upstate New York’s winter.

Arguments aside, DEC Lt. Don Pleakis said Rocky is going, and sometime soon — just not today as scheduled.

"Chris still has to give up his fish; he knows that," Pleakis told the newspaper today. "But for me to go over there today … it’s just not a good situation."

Snakeheads — dubbed "Frankenfish" — are native to Asia and Africa, and resemble domestic Bowfins. They lend their name to Chinese criminals who smuggle people, often in ships' cargo. Here are some Snakehead facts.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has background (pdf) on the fish and why it's a threat if released into waterways. Three species have been found in seven states: California, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

(This item was written by USA TODAY's Melanie Eversley. Additional research by Michael Winter.)

Dog, Missing 9 Years, Returned to Family in Kentucky
Associated Press

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — A German shepherd named Astro who has been missing from his family for more than 9 years is finally home.

The Geary family was shocked when they recently received a call from an animal control officer who said that Astro had been found.

The dog went missing from the Geary family's Port St. Lucie, Fla. home shortly after the family adopted him. Since then, they have moved three times and ended up in Louisville, Ky.

On Jan. 29, 2009, an animal control officer in Tennessee picked up Astro after receiving a report about a dog running loose. Officers tracked down the family through a microchip implanted in the canine.

Dennis Geary says he wasn't sure if Astro would remember him. But when they were reunited, the dog sat down and began licking him.

Information from: The Stuart News,

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Passion Fish
By Jan Stevenson - PrideSource

A fantastic splash of paisley, green and bright purple, swirling so quickly it is first a blur of wild color. Then just as quickly it stops, the sharp color delineations so stark to look almost unreal.

The latest from Paris' Fashion week? No. It is the Mandarin Goby, one of the most beautiful and exotic of tropical fish - a fish so captivating that it inspired Cindy Melchert to start her own business devoted to the care, display and appreciation of fish.

"An aquarium is a living work of art," says Melchert. "It's all about balance, design and compatibility - of both the environment and the individual fish."

Melchert is on the floor of a beautiful, spacious home in Livonia, busily installing a large, 80 gallon saltwater aquarium. The homeowner, Joe, an elderly man who had a tank in his office at work over 40 years ago, hired Cindy's company, Aqua Dreamscapes, to set up, design and help him stock his new ecosystem.

"At first, I just went into a couple of fish stores. Everyone had a different idea of what I should do," said Joe. "So I looked for a professional to help me, so it was done right."

Unlike furry pets that we can sleep with, fish do not share our intimate spaces. Perhaps that is why watching an aquarium can be so mesmerizing, and so relaxing.

The scientific community has sought to quantify the impact of aquariums on people's health. Studies have shown that regular exposure to aquariums can lower blood pressure, decrease elevated heart rate and reduce muscle tension. Some of the most impressive research found that Alzheimer's patients showed signs that an aquarium significantly reduced anxiety, aggression and wandering behaviors.

Melchert and her co-worker, Kevin Cooper, explained that they are building a saltwater environment that will closely simulate actual conditions in the ocean. The bottom will be covered in sand, they will then add over 100 pounds of "live rock," stones taken from the floor of the ocean off the coast of Florida and shipped overnight. These "live rocks" have tiny micro-organisms that will reproduce, generating natural food for the fish and helping to maintain the delicate chemical balance of the aquarium.

Then comes the fun part - adding the fish. Melchert and Cooper will help Joe decide which species, and how many to put into the tank.

"The filtration system can handle lots of fish, maybe as many as 20," said Cooper. "But it takes time and patience to get a group that gets along. I like to start with just a few, and then add about two fish every two weeks or so. Remember, each one of these fish is a wild animal, so you can generalize only so much as to how each fish will react in the tank."

Melchert explained that almost all saltwater aquarium fish are caught by divers in the wild. Only a small number are bred in captivity, so each animal is dealing with the stress of capture, transport and change.

"As a rule, though, you can't have two of the same fish. They will fight," said Melchert, explaining that an aquarium is a much more confined space than a wild fish is accustomed to, and they will be territorial about their feeding space.

Joe is looking forward to selecting his fish, with Melchert and Cooper's advice. "I know I'll need to get a 'Nemo' fish," he says, referring to the popular Clown Fish breed made popular in the Pixar film "Finding Nemo." "I have 10 grandkids, and that was the first thing they said when I told them I was getting an aquarium. 'Oh boy - get a Nemo fish, grandpa!'"

But are fish really pets? Do they recognize individual humans?

Melchert and Cooper both kept their counsel, but Joe had no hesitation. "Of course! My wife went to Karmonos Cancer Center often before she passed, and they had two huge aquariums. Thousands of people walked by those tanks all the time, but when the aquarium keeper came near, all the fish got excited. They knew exactly who he was."

Who knows. Maybe the fish enjoy watching us as much as we enjoy watching them.

Roberts: Attract Birds That Hang Upside Down

Right now I have more goldfinch than ever. They are such magnificent birds that I would love to see everyone attract their share.

With regular thistle seeds and tube feeders I have always attracted a few. But Wild Birds Unlimited has a half thistle/half sunflower bits mix and an upsidedown tube feeder that is pure magic. I have so many goldfinch that I bought another feeder.

Several times I have written about these special tube feeders that birds can only access hanging upside down. Yet I still run into people who fuss over the way house finch take over their feeders. Buy one of the upside-down feeders and you will have the problem solved. They cannot hang upside down.

In the winter the males have subdued yellow colors but look a lot like the females with their light green bellies and darker green backs. But at this time of year you can see the males becoming more bright yellow. By spring their yellows are simply spectacular.

I remember when and where I met some of my favorite birds. When I was only about 10 years old I was taking a cane pole and a can of worms across the railroad track behind our home on Harrison Pike and walking to nearby South Chickamauga Creek.

Suddenly, I saw what appeared to be a bright yellow tree in front of me. I remember how awe-struck I was that day. It was not a yellow tree but a large half-dead tree loaded with goldfinch. I sat down on the railroad track and savored the sight for a while. I fell deeply in love with the species and have courted them ever since.

Right behind the two upside-down feeders I keep a big wire feeder full of oil sunflower seeds because the overflow of goldfinch will dine there on regular sunflower seeds as they await their turn at paradise (the thistlesunflower chip mix). Since I started this column and hour ago I have had from two to 10 goldfinch on my regular sunflower feeder, while almost all of the perches on the paradise feeder have been occupied. But if you cannot afford the paradise mix, just put out oil sunflower, and you will draw goldfinch.

Hairy and downy woodpeckers also love the paradise feeder. They can hang anywhere they wish on a tube feeder, with or without a perch. I thought they were strictly there for the sunflower bits, but with my binoculars, I can clearly see they also eat the thistle. They alternate between my wire cage with peanuts in the center, the wire cage with three cakes of suet in the middle and the paradise feeder.

Two of my longtime favorites, chickadees and titmice, also hang upside down and like the seed mix in the paradise feeder. One reason I love these two birds is they are the most dependable visitors to bird-feeding areas. If you lived on the 20th floor of a tall apartment building, I think chickadees and titmice would come and dine with you.

Once in a very blue moon I will see a wren on the paradise feeder, but they much prefer the peanut and suet wire cages. They absolutely cannot resist peanut butter smeared on a wire grid feeder, but I quit using the wire grids because they bring in the starlings. To pull in the wrens, I just make sure one of the three suet cakes in the wire cage suet feeder is peanut butter.

At a former residence, a migrant Tennessee warbler came through twice a year and dined for several weeks on one of the peanut butter grids. Since I moved in 1995, he has never found his way to my present home. I miss the cute little big-eyed beauty every year.

If he drops in at your place, tell him where I live and suggest he come and try out my paradises feeders.

E-mail Dalton Roberts at

8 Tips to Keep Squirrels from Feasting on Bird Seed
By Karen Youso

How to feed the birds without also catering to mice and squirrels.

Q: Yesterday, my neighbor left a note requesting that I no longer feed the birds and squirrels with hopper feeders. He says they're attracting mice. The feeders are filled with sunflower seeds and are 25 to 50 feet from his house. The neighbor on the other side of me does not have problems with mice, nor do I. As a friendly gesture, I have taken down the feeders for the moment. What are the odds that the feeders are the cause for my neighbor's mice and squirrel problems? Any suggestions?

A: The odds are very good that the feeders are contributing to the neighbor's mice and squirrel problems. Abundant food supplies can cause rodent populations to explode. These rodents need shelter, and so they try to enter homes. The trick, then, is to keep your house in tiptop condition and impervious to the interlopers. That may be why you and another neighbor don't have mice problems — at least, not yet.

Here are some tips collected from readers and wildlife experts for feeding birds without also feeding mice and squirrels:

• Don't spread birdseed on the ground.

• Add a tray or basin to the feeder to catch seed and prevent it from falling to the ground. Empty frequently.

• Switch feeders to a type that keeps squirrels out. (Several versions are available at stores that sell bird seed and feeders.)

• Don't use mixed bird seed. Birds with special tastes will dig and toss seed around until they get what they want. If you want to feed different birds, use more than one feeder, such as one feeder with safflower seed, another with sunflower seed and another with thistle seed.

• Dose your seed with cayenne pepper. It's a chemical irritant that affects mammals such as squirrels, but not birds. (Hint: Spray the birdseed with vegetable spray oil as you mix in the cayenne pepper. The pepper will stay on the seed rather than fall to the bottom. Just be sure to clean the feeder regularly to prevent rancid oil problems.)

• Mount the feeder on a pole and add a baffle to keep critters from climbing it.

• Store birdseed in metal containers.

• Fill feeders in a place where you can clean up what spills.

Breaking the Toilet Drinking Habit
By Jura Koncius - Washington Post

Does your cat or dog drink out of the toilet?

This is not a good thing. According to pet-care expert Gina Spadafori, a toilet is never going to be clean enough to drink out of.

"Dogs are attracted to the water in a toilet because they think it's a wonderfully cool fountain that we have put in the middle of the house for them," she says. Cats have a harder time getting down to water in a toilet but some manage to do so, even if you have provided a full water bowl somewhere else in the house.

So what can you do to break this pet habit?

Keeping the lid down on your toilet and possibly the door closed to the bathroom are two logical solutions.

Spadafori has a few other ideas. Wash and refill your pet's water bowls twice a day, so there is always a nice supply of fresh water. Consider buying a pet fountain at a pet store, which has recirculating water in it and is intriguing to cats and dogs. Also see if your cat or dog likes to play with running water from a faucet for a treat.

"There is a natural reason animals want fresh running water," says Spadafori, who has written eight pet books with veterinarian Marty Becker and whose Web site is "A stagnant pond is more likely to kill you than a fresh mountain stream that is running. Animals are intuitively attracted to fresh water sources."

Homemade cat toys

Creating your own cat toys might be a way to save money on pet costs in 2009.

Sometimes the things that most catch the attention of your cat are not the pricey gadgets you pick up at the pet store. What cats most want to do is to interact with you, their best friend, so try to think of something fun you can do with your pet.

Here are some inexpensive ideas for cat playthings, most of which start with common household items. Remember, always supervise your cat when he is playing.

--Darken a room and use a flashlight on the wall to get your cat to move around and follow the light.

--Ping-pong balls make fun toys, as they are light enough for your cats to bat around and they won't scratch your furniture or floors.

--Use an old but clean sock with a knot in it to play with your cat. You can also put catnip in the sock to make it more fun.

--Make a small fishing pole out of a stick (or use a child's plastic pole) and attach a fabric mouse or a feather at the end. Your cat will love chasing the mouse or feather around as you move the bait.

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