Pet Advice: Flying With Your Pet?

Happy Easter!!

April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month
Maria Devore - Denver Pet Health Examiner

You can never be too prepared for an emergency. Do you know what to do if your pet gets injured or sick? What if your vet is not available? Minutes can make a difference in emergency situations.

Find out which emergency veterinary clinic is nearest to your house and keep that information easily accessible. Know how to get there before you need to drive there in a panic. Put these poison hotline phone numbers on the refrigerator so you don’t have to search for them when your pet has eaten something toxic. Have a pet first aid manual on hand. Learn what you can do yourself by taking a pet first aid class.


ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center

1.900.443-0000 ($55.00 per case). The charge is billed directly to the caller's phone.

1.888.4ANI.HELP or 1.888.426.4435 ($55.00 per case). The charge is billed to caller's credit card only.

Follow-up calls can be made for no additional charge by dialing 1.888.299.2973. There is no charge when the call involves a product covered by the Animal Product Safety Service.

Request a pet safety kit from the ASPCA; it includes a pet rescue window decal to alert rescue personnel that pets are in your home and a magnet with the ASPCA Poison Control Center Hotline.

Animal Poison Hotline – a joint service provided by North Shore Animal League America (NSAL) and PROSAR International Animal Poison Center (IAPC).

1.888.232.8870 ($35.00 per incident). The charge is billed to caller's credit card only. Staffed 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

National Pesticide Telecommunications Network

Toll free number 800.858.7378

This organization provides information about pesticide products and poisonings, toxicology, environmental chemistry, and other pesticide-related issues.


Pet Emergency Care is a free booklet offered by the Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado, 303.874.7387. For a read-only Adobe Acrobat version, go to their web library and click on VRCC Pet Emergency Booklet

The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats by Amy D. Shojai (Rodale, $19.95) has sections about accident prevention, when to call the veterinarian, how to handle more than 150 injuries and illnesses, follow-up care, and what to keep in your pet’s “medicine chest.”

The Goldsteins' Wellness & Longevity Program by Robert S. Goldstein, V.M.D., and Susan J. Goldstein (T.F.H. Publications, $19.95) provides a holistic approach to preventative health care yet offers solutions for a number of emergency situations.

Pet First Aid: Cats and Dogs by Bobby Mammato, DVM, MPH, (Staywell, $10) is the official handbook for American Red Cross Pet First Aid classes.


PetTech offers an eight-hour PetSaver course. The next one in the Denver area will be held June 6 fom 8am to 5pm.

The Mile High Chapter of the American Red Cross offers its next Pet First Aid course on June 24.

Spreading the Word About Greyhounds

Lisa Fast of Newton long admired a friend’s greyhound before adopting her own in 1991. Despite the former racing animal’s initially fearful personality, Fast remembers her late pet as the ‘‘most wonderful, easiest dog I’ve ever had to teach.’’

Realizing that support was needed to promote the dogs’ adoption and welfare, she helped establish the Greyhound Project Inc. in Framingham the following year.

Fast, who is a board member, said the organization helps hundreds of greyhound adoption groups raise money through an annual calendar featuring adopted dogs. Approximately 12,000 calendars are sold each year by the greyhound charities nationwide, according to Fast, generating up to $80,000 in funds.

The organization also produces a quarterly magazine, Celebrating Greyhounds, which features tips and stories about adopting, training, and caring for the breed.

In recognition of April as National Adopt-a-Greyhound Month, Fast is urging people who plan to adopt a pet to consider a greyhound, particularly as they become more available with racetracks closing across the country.

‘‘I can go on and on and on about these great dogs,’’ said Fast, who has two greyhounds with her husband, Bob. ‘‘Each dog has its own personality, but one thing they have in common is they make excellent pets.’’

For more information, go to

Most Birds Need Attention
Marie Hulett -

Like some other domestic animals, they need interaction with humans.

Q. Are there any bird species that will be contented if their keeper isn't home most of the time? I live alone and have a full-time job, but otherwise I am at home a fair amount of time, which includes being home on most weekday evenings. What would be enough? Many years ago, I took in a parakeet that I found, and I thought it was too lonely so I got a second parakeet. After I got two, I couldn't take the noise (I don't remember the sexes), so I had to give both of them away.

A. Most birds are social and don't do well if left alone all day. They are true companion animals and need daily interaction with their people to thrive. The uninformed public considers birds to be nothing more than pretty little things to look at. But in reality, many birds are as intelligent as young children and crave activities and attention. Without this type of mental stimulation, birds will become destructive, noisy, may begin to pluck out their own feathers or worse.

There are a couple of bird species that don't seem to be bothered by not having a lot of human contact. The first is the canary. Canaries can even be happy without having other canaries around. I would recommend getting a male because they have a beautiful little song that isn't too noisy. Females will sometimes sing, but not as well.

Finches are fun little birds, too. However, finches do need to have a little buddy around. I recommend getting finches in pairs. They are perfectly happy to live without a lot of human contact. What chirping they do participate in is hardly noticeable. This makes them great pets if you have neighbors that are just a wall away.

Both species need large flight cages and natural perches. Steer clear of the machined, perfectly straight, sanded wood or plastic perches. Most pet supply stores sell perches that look more like branches; they are uneven and rough in some spots. This type of perch is good for a bird's feet. Be sure to purchase a cage with bars that are spaced no more than half an inch apart. For exceptionally small finches, quarter-inch spacing may be necessary.

Canaries and finches should have a natural diet with fresh fruit, sprouted seeds and veggies every day. High-quality pellets are a good addition. You can also include seeds in the daily diet, but try not to let this become their main source of food. Encourage them, as much as possible, to eat their fruits and vegetables. Seeds are generally the "junk food" of the bird diet. Of course, fresh water must be provided daily.

All pet birds need plenty of rest. Once it gets dark and you are done enjoying them for the evening, be sure to cover them up and keep them in a quiet place. Without a good sleep cycle, they may become stressed. When you get up in the morning, assuming that is after the sun rises, uncover them and let them begin to enjoy their day.

Canaries live to be about 10 years, though my nieces had one that lived to be 17! Finches live anywhere from five to 15 years. Either species will be perfect for you.

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Missouri Tries to Shed Reputation as 'Puppy Mill' Capital
By CHERYL WITTENAUER – Associated Press

SENECA, Mo. (AP) — When authorities raided J.B.'s Precious Puppies, they discovered more than 200 dogs standing in their own excrement, crammed three and four to a cage. Some were so sickly they were missing clumps of hair. The skeletal remains of puppies and adult dogs were found inside pet-food bags.

The ghastly scene deep in the Ozarks has become far too common in Missouri.

Missouri is the "puppy mill" capital of America, home to more than 4,000 shoddy and inhumane dog-breeding businesses, by one estimate. But now the state is trying to shed its reputation, with the chief of the Agriculture Department pledging to do more to crack down on bad breeders.

"Missouri led the nation in licensing breeders. Let's lead the nation in putting unlicensed breeders out of business," Agriculture Director Jon Hagler said.

Missouri has been No. 1 in puppy mills for decades, with fly-by-night breeders — both licensed and unlicensed — selling pups churned out by dogs that spend their entire lives in cages. The pets are sold through classified ads, in pet stores and over the Internet.

The problem is so severe that Missouri's reputable breeders complain that the shady ones are making them all look bad.

Animal advocates say puppy mills flourish here for a number of reasons, among them: uneven enforcement of the rules, and remote, rural landscapes that allow poor or illegal practices to escape detection. The hills and hollows of the Ozarks have the state's highest concentration of puppy breeders.

"It's embarrassing," said Julie Leicht, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation. "We're the meth capital. And we're the leader in puppy mills. Welcome to Missouri."

The stories are heartbreaking. In February, a raid in Missouri's Pleasant Hope netted 93 Yorkshire terriers, their hair severely matted and covered in feces. Last September, 171 anemic, flea-infested cocker spaniels, some of them blind, were taken from a breeder. Fifteen days later, 67 emaciated, mangy dogs and puppies were rescued.

"Most people think puppies were born in a box next to a fireplace in somebody's living room," Kim Townsend, an activist who monitors the industry. "If they walked into these places, they'd be appalled."

Since taking office in January, the agriculture chief has been working to better enforce a 1992 program for protecting animals cared for by breeders.

He has named a new program coordinator, asked for a re-examination of old cases, ordered a review of internal procedures, and stepped up inspections and the issuing of citations to violators. His new Operation Bark Alert allows people to report unlicensed breeders directly to him by e-mail.

But Hagler said his agency simply does not have the means to conduct inspections every year as required by law. "We cannot regulate 3,200 licensed breeders plus every animal rescue, shelter and dog pound, and go after unlicensed breeders with 11 total inspectors."

The Humane Society of the United States' "Stop Puppy Mills" campaign says Missouri should stop licensing breeders until it has enough inspectors.

State audits in 2001, 2004 and 2008 sharply criticized Missouri's regulation of puppy breeders as ineffective and lax, citing management conflicts of interest, spotty inspections, few sanctions and failure to track repeat offenders.

State authorities can shut down breeders, revoke their licenses, fine them and ask local prosecutors to bring criminal charges of abuse or neglect. But Tim Rickey of the Humane Society of Missouri said the Agriculture Department rarely pursues charges.

Inspection reports show that the state instead encourages violators to reduce the number of dogs to a more manageable level or below the threshold of regulation.

Townsend, who maintains a Web site with inspection reports on Missouri puppy breeders, said many puppy mills are repeat offenders: "You take away their license, and they go out and get more animals."

Jewel Bond, owner of J.B.'s Precious Puppies, failed to meet state standards in 2007 after temporarily losing her federal license. She agreed to get out of the business and let the state sell her dogs at auction, from which she received the proceeds, minus a $1,000 fine. But a year later, Bond was back in business. Townsend said Bond repurchased some of her dogs at auction.

After the raid in February, Bond, 66, was charged with two counts of animal abuse, each punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Bond's telephone has been disconnected, and she did not answer the door on a recent visit to her Seneca kennel, situated behind a tall fence and no-trespassing signs.

"All she cared about was strictly the money. You can't convince me she or anybody cared about the welfare of these animals," said Sheriff Ken Copeland, who orchestrated the raid.

Marilyn Shepherd, a breeder in rural Ava in the Ozarks, has been the subject of three federal licensing complaints but still maintains a state license. She would not allow her dog pens to be toured or photographed, saying pictures of caged dogs would set off protests by "whiney-ass animal rights activists."

Rickey, of the Humane Society of Missouri, said he is encouraged by what the new agriculture director is doing.

"Their focus seems to have changed," Rickey said. "They are working harder to shut unlicensed facilities down. They are seeking prosecutions. This is all new and unproven."

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Do You Give Your Dog Too Much Affection?
By: Deidre Wengen -

We all love our pets. I honestly can't imagine what I would do without my dog and I know that there are a lot of other people who feel the same way. Because we care about our pets so much, we often shower them with affection. But is it possible to show too much affection?

The truth is that being overly affectionate with your dog could lead to problems with separation anxiety. Dogs, just like humans, need to be comfortable spending time alone. If you are showering your pet with love every single second of the day, you may be doing more harm than good.

This article from Modern Dog Magazine explains how animal owners have to show their pets "healthy affection." Dogs need to be comfortable and content when you aren't in the house. The environment that we create plays a huge role in how a dog experiences the world. If we allow them to spend time chewing on a bone, or snoozing on the sofa, they are more likely to adopt to a solo environment more quickly than if we are constantly picking them up or petting them all the time.

The article suggests going easy on certain displays of affection. For instance, if you try to make up for the time when you aren't around and shower your pet with love because you feel guilty, the impact of your absence when your dog is alone will multiply. To help alleviate this problem, create some distance when you are home with your dog and don't feel guilty about it. Spend some time in a different room or put up a gate when you are trying to do something so that your dog knows that you are not available.

There is some really good advice in the article about separation anxiety and how some of our subconscious actions can trigger this type of behavior in our pets. It's interesting stuff, so make sure to check it out.

Traveling by Plane with Your Pet
Jackie Fuchs - LA Cat Care Examiner

Taking your pet on a plane can be a stressful experience for both you and your furry friend. But there are steps you can take to make sure that both of you make it through the trip with a minimum of hassle.

The first step when planning an airplane trip with your pet is to check the port of entry to see if there are any restrictions in place. Island locations (including the United Kingdom, Hawaii and Hong Kong, among others) have strict procedures in place to prevent the accidental importation of rabies. Before taking your pet to an island, you will want to know whether he will be required to spend any time in quarantine, or whether you can avoid it through advance preparation and testing. For instance, at present, under the UK Pet travel scheme, you can avoid quarantine in the UK, but you will need to start prepping your animal six months in advance of your trip. While the airlines are usually well informed of the restrictions of specific destinations, it is your responsibility, as the animal’s owner, to make sure that you are in compliance with the most up-to-date rules.

The next step is to find out whether your animal might be permitted to travel in the cabin with you as your carry-on bag, or whether he must be checked in as cargo. Most major U.S. carriers (including American, United and Continental) permit a passenger to bring one dog or cat at least eight weeks old along as in-cabin carry-on baggage on most domestic and some international flights, provided that the animal can fit into a carrier no larger than 23" long x 13" wide x 9" high and be able to stand up, turn around and lie down in a natural position inside it. Check with your airline for restrictions on the types of carriers that it will accept.

The cost of taking an animal in-cabin varies by airline, but is usually $125 each way on domestic flights. Some carriers, such as American, permit two animals per passenger, provided that they are the same species, are between 8 weeks and 6 months old, can fit in the same carrier, and have a combined weight of not more than twenty pounds. There are species restrictions, and a reservation is essential for pets being transported in the passenger cabin. Note that most low-cost carriers, including Southwest, do not accept live animals in the aircraft cabin or cargo compartment other than fully trained assistance animals accompanying a person with a disability or being delivered to a person with a disability.

Most international carriers require that all pets be transported as checked baggage and travel in the cargo hold, and there is usually a limit of two checked pets per passenger. A notable exception is Air France, which permits animals in the cabin provided that they weight under 6 kg, carrier included. There is usually a cost of $250 to check an animal as baggage, although the cost varies by carrier.

All dogs and cats imported into and transiting the EU will be subject to regulations, which include an anti-rabies vaccinations certificate, an implanted microchip (see note below) and, for UK travel, proof of a clean tick and tapeworm treatment containing the ingredient Prazequantal and given between 24-48 hours prior to the time of check-in for the flight. Pets not meeting these requirements will not be permitted entry. The EU has a different microchip standard than the US, and your pet must either be fitted with an EU-compatible chip, or you must bring a functioning hand-held scanner that can read your animal’s chip. Hand scanners cost several hundred dollars (considerably more than the cost of a microchip), although they can often be rented for less. It is critical that if bringing a hand scanner you test it out in advance and have extra batteries available, just in case. For animals already fitted with a US chip, note that implanting a second chip may render both chips unscannable – check with your vet.

If you are travelling with a nervous animal, you should be aware that The American Veterinary Medical Association does not advise sedation, because the effects of tranquilizers on animals at high altitudes are unpredictable and there is an increased risk of heart or respiratory problems. If you decide that your pet ought, nevertheless, to be tranquilized, it is critical to seek the advice of a veterinarian to discuss an appropriate dosage and the best time to give your animal the medication.

Passengers checking their animals as baggage should also be aware that although airplanes’ cargo holds are temperature controlled, in the event that oxygen masks are required on the flight, there will be no one to administer one to your animal. And while checked pets do not need a reservation, capacity is sometimes reached and checked pets are accepted on a first come first served basis, so it is best to arrive early for your flight. Booking a mid-week flight with few changes of plane can help ensure that your pet can be accommodated. Most airlines also have restrictions which prohibit animal travel during extreme weather and on long flights. Check with the airline’s web site for the specific carrier’s policy.

Finally, some airlines, such as Virgin Air, have special programs under which pets and pet owners can receive special gifts, so it pays to shop around to see which airline has the best policy for you and your animal.

Travelling by air with your animal isn’t always easy, but with a little research and preparation, it doesn’t have to be all that bad.

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Ear Care for Your Pet
By Dr. Shannon Monteith - bugleobserver

Just like people, pets need to have their ears cleaned on a regular basis.

The inside of an ear canal is covered with skin, and skin needs to be kept clean and dry. As with us, animals produce ear wax, and left too long it can trap dirt and debris in the ear.

Pets also have a normal amount of bacteria and yeast on their skin, but with the right set of circumstances, the number of organisms can increase, leading to an ear infection.

Signs of an ear infection include scratching at the ears, shaking the head, red/swollen ear canals, debris in the ears, and odour.

With a quick swab and five minutes under the microscope, your veterinarian or vet technician can tell you if your pet has ear mites, a yeast infection, a bacterial infection or a combination of the three.

Depending on the causative organism, your vet will prescribe the appropriate medication. Typically, all that is needed is an ear cleansing product and some medicated drops.

More serious infections may require oral or injectable antibiotics or anti-inflammatories. Success or failure in treating infected ears lies not only in the medications used, but also in the physical way that the ears are cleaned.

The ear canal is long, "L"-shaped, and extends down to the corner of the jaw. The entire canal must be accessed in order to get the cleanser, as well as the medication all the way to the eardrum. This means that the accumulated discharge, wax and dirt must be loosened so that it will come out when the pet shakes his/her head.

To effectively clean the ear canal, apply cleanser to the ear and massage the ear canal wall with firm motions from the bottom of the ear as well as in front of and behind the ear. This is the most important part of the cleaning. Then release the animal for a moment (probably outside) so that he/she can shake his/her head three or four times to expel the loosened debris from the ears.

The material can now be cleaned from the ears with a cotton ball. DO NOT USE Q TIPS! Clean the external ear first, then the opening of the canal. Finally, insert a smaller piece of cotton ball and turn it around with your fingers (being careful not to scratch with your nails).

If the ear is not yet clean, repeat the process until you have removed as much as possible. Apply the medicine as directed, waiting one to two minutes for the thick fluid to run down into the ear, then massage the ear as previously described. Clean the ear daily at first, then only when discharge is visible.

Please use an approved cleaning solution. Mouthwash, alcohol and peroxide are not appropriate. Vinegar and water works in a pinch, but it leaves the ear canal too wet for routine cleaning.

Good ear cleansers break up wax, then evaporate to leave the ear canal dry and acidic (both important to reduce yeast).

'C' for Canary
George Sommers - Boston Birds and Fish Examiner

I tawt I taw a paprazzi!Parrots are for people who like their pet birds loud, playful and "hands-on". For those who prefer a more "traditional" quiet beauty, occasionally broken by a pleasant trilling melody, canaries might just be the way to go.

Despite our photo, and the prevailing image; not all canaries are of a sunshiny yellow hue. Tweety of cartoon fame was originally "flesh" colored but when censors cried "fowl" Warner Bros. colored him yellow. The original wild canary; a type of finch, is green. Domestically bred color variations include reds and whites. Physical varieties produced through selective breeding include the Gloster, with a "crown" of feathers resembling Moe "Three Stooges" Howard's haircut.

Fun feathered fact: Wild canaries are native to an island off the African coast. Visitors from the ancient Roman Empire were impressed with the large dogs kept by natives and named the islands the Canary (Canis) islands. The birds, in turn; were named after the islands which were named after the dogs.

Crocodile Numbers Rise in South Florida, But at What Risk to Dogs?
Pete Thomas - LA Times

These are scary times in South Florida--if you're a small dog or a dog owner and live near the coast.

That's because American crocodiles, once near the brink of extinction because of hunting and habitat loss, now flourish so at the tip of the Sunshine State that they've been downgraded from endangered to threatened status by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

South Florida is the species' only U.S. habitat and it might be no coincidence that with crocodile numbers up to about 2,000, more dogs and other small pets are vanishing.

Chris Marin told the Associated Press that he's moving from a canal property south of of Miami after losing poodles named Spotty, Luna and Angel to an estimated 11-foot crocodile.

"When we first moved in, I even put a swing on a tree here for my kids to plunge into the canal," Marin said.

Florida has more than a million alligators, but crocodiles are establishing an increasingly ominous presence in brackish coastal areas, where habitat restoration and protection have allowed for a population boom.

There have been no documented attacks by American crocodiles on people (gators, on the other hand, are responsible for several each year). But their crocodilian relatives in Central America have attacked and killed people, so Floridians--and their canine companions--have just cause for concern.

Species Profile: the Golden Wonder (or Striped Panchax) Killifish
Karen Mittelman - Cleveland Fish and Aquariums Examiner

In my experience, the golden wonder (aka striped panchax) is more readily available in local pet shops than any other type of killifish. The males are an attractive brilliant yellow color with a thin red line tracing the tail and electric blue eyes. Females are more drab in appearance, often looking more silver than yellow, and are less frequently seen for sale.

Scientifically Aplocheilus lineatus, this fish hails from Asia (especially India) and is quite hardy and easy to care for. However, there are a few important things to keep in mind to ensure a great experience with this fish.

Home Sweet Home

I would suggest a minimum tank length of thirty inches, as golden wonders reach four inches as adults and need their space. This top-dweller tends to hover just beneath the surface of the water and, because it is skittish and an excellent jumper, you must be sure to keep a tight-fitting lid over your tank at all times.

Providing floating plants, such as water sprite, will make this fish feel much more secure (and less likely to jump). If you don’t keep live plants, you may remove the bases from some clumps of plastic plants and allow them to float for a similar effect.

Though they prefer soft, slightly acidic water, golden wonders are not terribly picky about their water chemistry, provided that the water is kept clean. Temperatures in the upper seventies suit them well. In all, they are adaptable to most tropical community tank conditions.


Though generally peaceful, golden wonders are extremely aggressive toward conspecifics (fish of the same species) so one male per tank is a good rule.

Also, because they are predatory, please keep small fish (such as neon tetras) out of their tank unless you want them to be lunch! I once introduced half a dozen zebra danios to a tank containing a golden wonder, thinking that they would be fast enough to escape. My killifish hunted them so ruthlessly that I felt compelled to remove the survivors. I don’t mind if a fish just eats another fish, but that cat-and-mouse game was more than I could tolerate! However, they do quite well with larger, non-aggressive fish, such as gouramis, angelfish, and large tetras.


A variety of floating foods, including flakes and small pellets, is a good base diet. Mine particularly relished occasional treats of pinhead (baby) crickets, which can be purchased from many pet stores. Sinking foods are largely ignored, though the scent of frozen food may attract their attention.


This brilliantly colored fish makes a stunning addition to a tropical community tank housing peaceful fish that are too large for it to eat. Golden wonders are quite capable of jumping out of their tank, so floating plants and a tight fitting lid are highly recommended. I hope that you will have the opportunity to keep this aquatic jewel!

10 Ways to Make Your Cat Smile
Karen Lee Stevens - Santa Barbara Pet Examiner

Ray Charles once said, “Whether they be the musician cats in my band or the real cats of the world, they all got style.”

And who has more style than a smiling cat? If your feline friends are moping around, read on. The following tips will have them purring with panache in no time.

1. Rub them the right way. Most cats love to be rubbed under the chin, around their checks, and at the base of their tails.

2. String them along. Drag some string, yarn, or a shoelace across the floor and watch the party kick into high gear. (Caution: don’t leave string or yarn lying around; if swallowed, it can prove harmful to cats.)

3. Buy or grow some grass. Cats love to nibble on “kitty grass” whenever they have an upset tummy. Grass also aids in reducing hairballs.

4. Step on it. Help older or arthritic kitties step up to their favorite napping places like the bed or window sill by providing them with their very own carpeted staircase.

5. Lean to speak “fluent cat.” Cats exhibit more than 20 different meow sounds. Take time to learn the difference between the “I-haven’t-eaten-in-a-year, please feed-me-now!” meow to the “I’m-so-happy-to-see-you” meow.

6. Get a kitten for your kitten. It’s really true: two kittens are more fun (and, some would say, easier to care for) than one because they will entertain each other. Introduce a new four-legged family member slowly, so they become used to one other over time.

7. P-U! Avoid using scented cat litter. Most cats prefer the plain old unscented, grocery store brand of litter.

8. Brush your cat’s teeth. Begin by letting her lick something tasty off the toothbrush so she gets used to the texture. (OK, your cat may not like this one at first, but having tarter-free teeth and healthy gums are bound to make her smile!)

9. Give kitty dandruff the brush-off. For a healthier coat, add a teaspoon of corn, safflower, peanut or sunflower oil to your cat’s main meal of the day.

10. Jazz it up. Treat home-alone cats to music. Studies have shown that cats prefer jazz and classical music to hard rock or talk radio. (Thanks to Arden Moore,'s Pet Training Examiner, for the last two tips.)

Tips for Dealing with Kitty's Aggression

Is your cat biting or scratching you? Is it stalking and pouncing on you? Is it biting you after you have been petting it for a short period of time or touch it in a certain place?

Aggress-ion is normal cat communication behavior and is used to tell another cat that it doesn't wish to interact, to claim territory or valuable possessions (including food) or to play. Understanding what is behind the behavior can help you teach your cat how to communicate with you in a different way.

Occasionally, medical problems that cause pain will lead to irritability or aggression. So if there has been a change in your cat's behavior for the worse, a trip to the veterinarian can eliminate potential medical issues.

The first step is to prevent your cat from harming you. Trim his nails so that if it scratches, it will do less damage. This can be done with human toenail clippers while your cat is drowsy. Next, observe carefully what is setting the cat off. For example, some cats behave aggressively when touched on the rear end, and other cats do not like being petted when sitting on someone's lap.

Some cats become overstimulated when they have really enjoyed an exciting petting session. For other cats, aggression is actually just play.

Watch for the warning signs that occur shortly before your cat acts out. Signs for some cats are dilated pupils, swishing or twitching tail, or a change in ear position. For others, it can be as subtle as a tense body posture.

Once you learn to recognize the signs, stop interacting before the cat becomes upset. Ignoring the signals, punishing a cat, or trying to placate the cat with more attention is likely to result in more aggression.

A common cause for aggression is boredom. Many cats live indoors and don't have anyone or anything with which to play all day. Instead, they choose to play with your leg or hand or sometimes your head while you're trying to sleep. Providing your cat with an appropriate outlet for his energy can reduce the likelihood he will choose to play with you in that way. Catnip toys, fishing rod or feather wand toys and laser-pointer light toys are a great way to redirect kitty's play and burn off excess energy. If you have an especially active cat, play together for a minimum of 20 minutes, twice daily.

Create a toy box for your cat. Toys that are available all the time quickly become uninteresting. Cats love novelty, so rotate the toys in and out of the toy box every three days.

You can also buy food-dispensing toys that some cats really enjoy. Don't use toys that involve your hand or any other body part as an object of play since you might be encouraging the very thing you are trying to control.

If your cat is stalking you and/or jumping at your legs, you can teach the cat to come to you instead. If you see the kitty getting ready to attack or know where the cat hides, call his name and offer a special food reward or toy if he comes out instead of pouncing.

If your cat is continuing to engage in aggressive behaviors, use remote punishment such as spraying with a bottle of water or dropping a large book on the floor . Your goal is to interrupt the behavior, but not hurt the cat. Next, leave the room and close the door, giving the cat a time-out for several minutes. When you let the kitty out, ignore him for a few minutes and then call him to you. Reward your cat with a treat or play if he approaches you in a non-aggressive manner.

The reasons for a cat's negative or aggressive behavior can be complex. If you are not successful with implementing these recommendations or you don't know how to apply them to your situation, please contact the Nevada Humane Society Animal Help Desk at or 775-956-2000, ext. 200. Trained counselors will be happy to discuss other options with you.

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Events: Nevada Humane Society is celebrating Easter with a "purr-fect" adoption promotion. Through Monday, new pet adopters can select one lucky Easter egg containing a great prize ranging from pet products, pet treats and children's stuffed toys to adoption-fee discounts on adult pets. Several lucky adopters can even win a free adoption of the pet of their choice. Visit Nevada Humane Society at 2825 Longley Lane or call at 775-856-2000.

Diane Blankenburg is community programs director with the Nevada Humane Society.

Holistic Tips for Pets: Skin
Darla Rewers - Seattle Alternative Veterinary Care Examiner

The skin and mucous membranes are the largest organ of the body. We are constantly absorbing anything put on the skin, and excreting waste materials through the skin. How do your pet’s skin, hair and mucous membranes look? Is the coat dull, dry, dandruffy, or shiny and lustrous? Are the pads of the feet dry and cracked, or smooth? Are the delicate tissues around the eyes, in the ears, inside the cheeks, and around the teeth, lips, and nose smooth and pink, or are they pale, yellow, dry, cracked, or red? Are the toenails brittle or overgrown? Is there any oily residue or crustiness or odor? The condition of these tissues can give big clues to how healthy the animal is overall.

Is your pet itchy? Check for fleas or flea dirt. Fleas are tiny, fast, and more common in the Pacific northwest than one might imagine—even through winter months. Pets who are sensitive to fleas only need one bite to become itchy and allergic. They will often chew a flea off their fur before we will ever see it. When in doubt, cover your bases by using flea control. Sometimes you can find flea dirt, the excretions of the fleas that look like dirt. If you collect some of this dirt on a wet paper towel, it will turn red after a few minutes because of the blood meals the fleas eat. If you look very closely at flea dirt it will often be seen in the shape of a curve or tiny spiral—another clue that it is no ordinary dirt. First step is to acknowledge if there are critters pestering your pet and treat accordingly. Organic, all natural remedies are available for those who are chemically sensitive.

If there are no fleas, there could be other parasites such as mites, the pet could be trying to detox, or there could be something getting “under the skin” energetically. Some pets can develop behavioral licking/scratching when they are irritated or anxious. In traditional Chinese medicine itchiness is from wind, which can be allergic in origin such as hives or wheals, or can be from stagnation in the liver, or heat or damp in the lungs. Again, this issue is more than just skin deep. Food sensitivities are being recognized more commonly as a cause of itchy skin, ears, or feet. Even if your pet has been on the same food for a long time, or you have tried multiple types of food, there could still be sensitivity to an ingredient in the food and treats.

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