Is Your Pet Intelligent? PLUS Adopt the Un-Adoptable!

Pet Talk: Adopt Less-Adoptable Pets,
and Make Their Day
By Sharon L.. Peters, Special for USA TODAY

He was too old (maybe 8, maybe 10), too big (a rangy 83 pounds) and, truth be told, sort of goofy looking. He was no one's idea of the perfect dog to take home.
But I was riveted from the moment I saw him happily waving his huge tail back and forth like a welcome banner as a noisy band of kids he didn't know poked and tugged and climbed all over him at the animal shelter.

Then he trained his whiskey-colored eyes on the center of my soul. I was hooked.

It scared me, this instant connection with a dog that surely wouldn't live more than two or three or four years. I wasn't altogether sure, since it had been only six months since I'd had to put down my beloved old Buck, that I'd be able to face it again so soon.

That was four years ago this month, and for 3½ years, that dog, my late Rufus, devoted all of his remaining seconds on earth to spreading his gentle love across every mile he covered.

No dog could have been more perfect.

Perfect. That's how my friend Caryn describes Al, a sweet-tempered Hurricane Katrina survivor, her enthusiastic walking and road-trip buddy. Caryn made Al's acquaintance just before Christmas 2005. She immediately understood that young Al had no intention of living a limited life just because he'd lost a leg in the chaotic aftermath of the storm, and she had no interest in convincing him otherwise. Now she's sort of startled when people ask what happened to the leg. She forgets he's a tri-pawed.

And I can promise you the couple who adopted Mocha, a patrician chocolate Lab who spent months at the shelter where I volunteer, have no regrets about choosing her. Mocha was 7 when they took her home, and she was nearly blind from diabetes. She was also irrepressible — she loves all creatures, adapts quickly, and quivers with joy when she picks up the scent of a fox she can track through the tall grass. Life is good for everyone at her house.

The folks at, which lists homeless animals from 12,656 shelters and rescue groups, are hoping to spur more interest in the likes of Rufus and Al and Mocha, pets that are never the first chosen, pets that languish for months (if they're lucky enough to land where there's sufficient space to give them some extra time).

They've designated Wednesday as Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Day and are working to help promote the animals that for any of a variety reasons don't top anyone's most-wanted list.

In some case these are animals that might be older, or have a health issue or a completely fixable training issue like over-exuberance or leash-tugging. In some cases, says Betsy Saul, founder of, which boasts 1.5 million adoptions annually, they may simply have the misfortune of being "a black dog lost in a sea or many black dogs in the shelter" or "might be a little shy in that environment."

A Petfinder survey, in fact, found that 96% of responding shelters and rescues said they have at least one, sometimes many adoptable pets for which they're having extreme difficulty finding homes; 43% said some have been there for one year or more.

"This just isn't right," says Saul. "We're all aware that they're great pets."

But the reality is, many people aiming to adopt think only puppy or kitten. "So what we have here is an issue of marketing," says Saul, a need to communicate that while kittens and puppies are wonderful, and may be the right choice for many, they're not the be-all, end-all for everyone who wants a great companion.

Older animals are usually house-trained, generally more mellow, have mature bladders and "know what the deal is" when it comes to making a mutually agreeable life with humans, Saul says.

When you get into the category of not just older, but senior, many people have deep reservations. "People are afraid of loss," she says. And she empathizes, though really, tragedy can take a younger pet years before anyone expected. There's also the perception that older animals have high medical bills. And although that can be the case, "that can also happen with a young, healthy pet," she says.

"I don't know of anyone who has adopted a senior pet and regretted it."

As part of this initiative, many shelters have been posting fliers and seeking media attention to promote their long-termers. And Petfinder has for weeks been publicizing the day on its website and giving shelters such backing as fill-in-the-blanks press releases to arouse interest and marketing advice on how to spotlight some of the overlooked animals.

Saul hopes the extra attention will result in "many of the animals that have been waiting the longest going home."

Animals like Angel, a mild-mannered, very large shepherd mix who spent months at my local shelter. She'd been a little too bland, frankly, to attract much attention, and was growing ever more muted. Last week I saw her at the farmers' market with the couple who adopted her three weeks ago. They clearly adore her. And she them.

There's a bounce in Angel's step now that I never saw in all those months, a confidence and gaiety she'd apparently held in reserve for whoever would finally allow her into a real home.

How they knew that about her when they spied her at the shelter, I don't know.

It was meant to be.

Choosing a Dog Breed: Here's a Great Guide
by Joan Lowell Smith/For The Star-Ledger

"The World Atlas of Dog Breeds'' is a wonderful guide to finding the right canine.How often do you hear someone say, "That was the best book I've ever read"? Well, I won't go that far and exclude Tolstoy and Shakespeare, but I will go out on a reviewer's limb and say the sixth edition of "World Atlas of Dog Breeds" by Dominque DeVito (TFH, $99.99), is the most comprehensive dog breed book I've ever read.

And it was published by TFH in Neptune. Before diving into this weighty 960-page tome, I should warn people with back problems or weak arms to get assistance before picking it up. If you're planning to set the attractive book on your coffee table, make sure its legs can handle it.

"Dog Breeds" is the perfect resource to delve into characteristics of familiar breeds like beagles and Labradors, the world's most popular purebred which appears on the cover. Or you could explore unfamiliar breeds, like the Posavaz Hound from Croatia, if you're headed that way.

Or you could pop over to Ireland for a gander at the Glen of Imaal Terrier. Each breed gets two pages, beautifully illustrated, listing origin and history, personality profile, care, feeding, grooming, health and training issues, as well as a paw-print grading system in various categories.

"Dog Breeds" also is a valuable tool when selecting a mixed breed if you focus on the predominant breed when possible. If the mixed-breed dog peering at you from a shelter kennel is unidentifiable but adorable, just set the book aside and go with your heart, remembering the important thing is to promise the home is permanent.

Gregory Simpson, noted for decades as an outspoken animal welfare advocate, addressed that promise in his article "Keeping a Promise," which appeared in the October 2007 Mensa Bulletin. A champion of adoption, he writes: "Animal shelter staff members nationwide daily look into the faces of animals because promises were NOT kept."

Simpson reminds that an estimated 25 percent of dogs in shelters are purebreds. Just check, type in a breed and see how true that is, unless of course you're looking for that Posavaz Hound. (I didn't find any.) He also warns against going anywhere near a pet store to purchase a purebred dog where most are from puppy mills.

"We don't bother to fix things anymore. We've become a throwaway society," he states, giving an example of a man who came to a nearby shelter to "trade in an older cat incurring high veterinary bills for a newer model."

Simpson differentiates between "animal people" and "people who like animals." With the latter he says, "It's often more about them than the animals." They may want to flaunt that they have the latest "in" breed but if the pet's performance doesn't match their expectations, out they go. He describes animal people as "those who find a way to care for their companions no matter how meager their means. They keep their promise." You don't have to have the requisite high IQ for Mensa membership to know that Simpson makes a lot of sense.

For those wanting a purebred puppy, most veterinary practices carry the NJ Federation of Breeders and Rescue Services directory of reputable breeders. The directory also can be purchased for $2 including postage: 1737 Route 206, Skillman, 08558.

Now here's a product that made me flinch. Hammacher Schlemmer's mid-summer catalog features a canine genealogy kit. For $59.95 the kit analyzes your dog's DNA.

"All" you have to do is take a swab from inside the dog's cheek (lotsa luck), then a laboratory analyzes the specimen to "provide scientific confirmation of physical characteristics, behavioral tendencies, personality traits and potential health risks that your mixed-bred may possess." Out of curiosity, that may sound tempting, but why bother? What if the results aren't appealing? What happens to the dog? My guess: off to the nearest shelter.

My advice: Do your homework to find the right breed for your circumstances and trust your instincts and your heart. Then make a promise, similar to the marriage vows: "for better or worse, in sickness and in health as long as we both may live." That has a nice ring to it.

Click here to save $$$$ on 'The World Atlas of Dog Breeds'.

Hints From Heloise
Washington Post

Pet-Sitter Planning

Dear Readers: If you travel and use PET SITTERS while you're gone, you need written instructions, including detailed care, feeding schedule, treat amounts, whether your pet likes to be held, petted, walked, etc. Emergency veterinarian phone numbers, addresses and directions to the clinic are a must! For your pet to be treated, contact the vet before you leave OR sign a release to give your permission for the pet sitter to handle medical care while you're gone.

You should first have a meet and greet! Let your pet(s) meet the sitter and vice versa to see if they get along. Watch your pet's body language. If your dog is cowering or your cat is hiding under the bed and won't come out, then perhaps another sitter is best for the well-being of all. Asking for references is vital!

Since many pets stress out when their owners are gone, keeping the daily routine as normal as possible is important. -- Heloise


Dear Readers: Amy Haycox of Fort Wayne, Ind., sent a photo of her two big yellow Labrador retrievers sitting on a dock at the lake looking happy as can be. Amy says: "Both the dogs are 10 years old. They are named Zoey Jeanne the Biscuit Queen and Gypsy Doodle Dandy."

To see the labs enjoying their visit to the lake, visit -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I have three little dogs, and they will only eat dry dog food that I have to make a special trip to get. I buy the largest bag available, and it was hard to open and close. So, I bought a large plastic trash can with a swinging lid, and pour the food into it and place a plastic cup on the top. Now when I need to fill their dish, it is easy to do. -- Wally S., Charlotte, N.C.


Dear Heloise: We have six cats of various ages, and I was having litter-box problems. They always went over the box, which was very frustrating and messy. I got rid of the boxes and just put cat litter in a child's small plastic swimming pool. No more messes, the cats love it, and it's easy to scoop out the clumps and change when needed!

I use one of the hard-sided small pools -- the clumps don't stick to the plastic. I even bought an extra one so I can use one and clean the other when it needs scrubbing. -- Sue, via e-mail


Dear Heloise: I have several little Chihuahuas that play with lots of toys, which would always be scattered all over the house. I bought a pretty plastic basket (at a store that sells stuff for a dollar) and put all of their stuff in it. It is in the spare bedroom, and they know where to go if they want a toy! Now everyone is happy! -- K. Bowles, Texas

Heavy on the Petting
Chi's the Second Best (d'oh!) City for Pets

Chicago's the most pet-friendly city in the nation after New York, according to apartment rental juggernaut

New York beat us out, according to the report, because Gotham boasts Central Park's "winding trails", the Brooklyn Bridge, and petcare spots in most neighborhoods.

What they don't say is that NY's apartments are so ungodly miniscule that you're basically forced to sleep with your pet, which brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "pet friendly."

The pad peddler placed Chi-Town above eight other major U.S. cities, noting our Navy Pier canine cruises, pet-welcoming restaurants, and assortment of pet resorts and boarding kennels.

As for the city's and their amenities that Chicago beat out, there's #3 Boston (the Freedom Trail), #4 Houston (pet-friendly hotels), and #5 San Francisco, which offers beaches that allow off-leash surfers dogs.

Rounding out the bottom five are Ann Arbor, Portland, Charleston, Austin, and Washington D.C.

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Cathy M. Rosenthal: Heartworm in Cats a Problem
Cathy Rosenthal -

Dear Cathy: I read your column every Sunday and wanted to pass along something my vet said recently when I had one of my cats in his office for her shots. He was trying to sell me on heartworm prevention for my three cats (all indoor, but he says mosquitoes can get them there, too). I thought he was nuts, but he says new research shows that heartworms manifest in cats' lungs rather than their hearts, and that many vets suspect that what they historically thought was lung disease in cats might have actually been heartworms. He also said that, unlike in dogs, heartworms cannot be treated in cats, and that they will eventually die from the disease. Needless to say, my cats are now on heartworm meds.

I thought you might want to pass this information along to other readers.

— Susan Shaked

Dear Susan: Thanks for sharing your vet visit. Heartworm disease in cats was once thought to be too rare to warrant any testing or preventative measures. But recent studies now show that it is becoming a serious problem for our feline friends.

Heartworm disease is an infestation of the heart and lungs by a parasitic worm. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it ingests some of the worm's larvae. The next time the infected mosquito takes a blood meal, some of those larvae enter the dog or cat's bloodstream and grow into long parasitic worms. While dogs can have hundreds of heartworms, felines may only have one or two, but sadly, that's all it takes to produce clinical signs that can result in a cat's death.

As you noted, coughing, respiratory problems, or even asthma-like symptoms are some of the warning signs. Some cats may show no signs at all, but can die suddenly from this disease. If you have a cat, talk to your vet about protecting your feline from heartworm disease.

Dear Cathy: We wanted you to know that in addition to the pet food bank operated in San Antonio by Pet Pals of Texas, the Helotes Humane Society also operates a pet food bank that can help people feed their pets in time of financial crisis.

We started our pet food bank in June 2008 and since then have distributed 34,765 pounds of food to pet owners in need. People in need can contact us by phone at (210) 591-0293 to arrange for the twice-a-month pick up. They also can read more about it at our Web site at

— Janice MacRossin and Stephanie Dunlea, Helotes Humane Society

Dear Janice and Stephanie: With many pets relinquished because of financial woes, it's good to know about resources for pet owners in need. I encourage people to donate pet food to both these pet food banks. It's a simple and easy way to help our neighbors in need keep their pets by their side.

Send your pet stories and questions to Cathy M. Rosenthal, c/o Features Department, San Antonio Express-News, P.O. Box 2171, San Antonio, TX 78297-2171, or Cathy's advice column runs Sundays.

World's Oldest Dog Turns 26

In dog years the terrier-cross is 182, the equivalent of being born in 1827.

He lives in Louisiana in the United States of America.

"I never spoiled Max," said his owner Janelle Derouen.

"I've never fed him anything but Kiddles and Bits [brand of dog food] and a few treats like those beefy doggy bones.

"We don't give him any food from our table," added Janelle, 49, who lives with her husband Billy, also 49, in New Iberia.

Max, who is greying, has a veterinary birth certificate to prove his age and is awaiting official confirmation from Guinness World Records.

Janelle and Billy bought Max from a local sugar cane farmer in 1983.

"He was the only one in the litter that was brown and I liked the colour so I took him home," said Janelle.

Max has been visiting the same vet since birth at the Robichaux Veterinary Clinic in New Iberia. An 80s puppy Max's birth was formally logged in 1983.

Until recently it was believed that Chanel, a geriatric Daschund-cross from New York was the oldest dog alive but Chanel, who turned 21 in May, is a full five years junior to Max.

Chanel is riddled with health problems, struggling desperately to see, walk and hear.

But Max is still in fine health and only suffers from mild arthritis and some cataracts. His secret, says Janelle, is not worrying about anything at all.

"He's a very, very laid back dog," said Janelle.

"He likes to lie down, relax, nap, sleep a lot and keep life simple. He'll play with the kids for a bit but if they bother him too long he'll wander off.

"He doesn't have any fancy toys, just a bit of rope and a regular squeaky ball."

Janelle and Billy held a special birthday party for Max on Sunday.

"We spoiled him just a little bit that once," said Janelle.

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Is Your Pet Intelligent?

I had a smashing little friend called Shadow, a half collie/spaniel. When I was helping with a roofing job, I thought we had locked him in. But when 30ft up a ladder on the roof, who decided to visit me - Shadow. I had to put him on my shoulders and bring him down. John, Llandudno

My friend's late English bull terrier Rowsby Wuff always knew when I rang, even before they answered the phone because he'd get excited. Tim, Lytham

I have had dogs all my life, from the grand German shepherd to my present tiny jack russell. They have all shown more intelligence than the average adult, let alone baby. Flashy, Wexford

I had a flatcoat called Magic. He was intelligent and had a presence about him and seemed to know all that I said to him. But he was clumsy, bless him. He would trip over one of his toys even if it was the only thing in the room. Julie, Northamptonshire

They may not speak our language, but animals understand and aren't daft. They could teach us a thing or two about loyalty too. Gillian, Coventry

Ode to my alsation. "Sinton is a lovely dog, he's black and tan and bold. But what would make me happy is if he'd do as he was told". Beautiful dog, unfortunately as thick as a plank. JL (harassed owner), Chesterfield

We had a dog who would get on to the windowsill at exactly 2.15 to watch for my husband. If he stayed two hours overtime, she would be there again at exactly 4.15. Carol, Blackpool

My cat looks at me and meows when I say tuna, fish, chicken etc. Marj, Wirral

I had three dogs who always knew when it was Sunday when a friend would come and take them out. They'd watch for him at the window. Sarah, Burnham on Crouch

All our cats have been extremely intelligent and equally lazy. They all understood key words, particularly food. Our latest addition is never more than 75ft from the fridge and is attached to it by invisible elastic. Susan, Rushden

My friend's dog would follow your hand back and forth if you had a treat, but when you threw it it would just let it bounce off its nose. Every other dog I knew would catch it. Shaz, Jarrow

My dog reacted to the car engines of friends and would go to the door to greet them. Keight, Newcastle

My jack russell used to make a bolt for the door. Bob, Peterborough

A neighbour's cat was friends with a fox and they used to go for nightly walks together through the local gardens. Very endearing. Aine, Ireland

How to Remove Pet-Urine Odor
from Wood Floors
by Henri de Marne/For The Star-Ledger

Q: We have rugs with pet-urine odor. Of course, the smell is worse when the windows are closed. Need advice on what to do when rugs and padding are to be replaced. Can the floorboards under the carpeting be treated in any way to permanently remove the odor? Some of the carpeting will be replaced with new carpeting and some with wood flooring. -- via e-mail

A: Faced with the same problem in a house I rented to tenants who were not supposed to have pets, I had great success by washing the plywood with Pinesol. A mixture of Clorox bleach and water should also work. Good luck.

Write to Henri de Marne c/o United Features, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016-3903, or e-mail him at

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How Do I Start To Train
A 2 Year Old Horse?

Q: I have been asked to train a 2 year old horse.I have worked with her last summer. So I kind of know the horse. I just need some help on where to get started.

11 Responses to “How Do I Start To Train A 2 Year Old Horse?”
Zair says:

YA will give you 100 tips on help,none of which replace experience and actual knowledge and all will differ. Take a pass on this one and go to clinics,workshops,audits,read everything, buy stacks of DVDs,and never never combine a green or untrained person with a untrained/green horse. When you are confident on starting horses as an assistant, your mentor can answer this very important question.Training is very rewarding and I do hope you pursue it..eventually:) Luck!


Get it comfortable around people.
Work with it day and night. It needs to trust you and other people. Bring other people who are used to horses and have them pet it, feed it.

Get it halter broken.
Start bringing a halter with you to feeding time and while the horse is feeding take the halter and rub it all over its body. Don’t push the horse too far by putting it on in the first day. Go slowly and reward often. Once you get the halter on, leave it on for a couple of days. After the horse is used to it take it off and put it on many times.

Get it blanket broken.
Rest blanket near feeding dish for a while. Rub blanket all over body. Get it smelling “horsey”. Lay it gently across its back. Don’t use a nice blanket if you don’t want it to get dirty. If the horse runs away with the blanket and it falls, that’s okay. Let the horse sniff it. Put back on back until horse ceases running away and is just bored.

Get it saddle broken.
Get some straps not attatched to the saddle and place on horse loosely. A “bareback” saddle pad is good for this; Its still light but has a cinch. After used to the cinch, tighten. Watch fireworks ensue as horse tries to buck it off. After horse is worn out, leave on until evening feeding. Put it on and keep it on each day until the horse is really used to it. Next use a regular saddle. Straps and cinches aren’t new any more, just the weight. Let horse get used to weight. Add more weight to saddle in form of sand bags possibly hanging over each side.

During all of this switch to having a bridle over the halter so it can get used to it. If your horse absolutley refuses a bit, consider a hackmore. It works by putting pressure on the nose instead of the mouth, but gets less response in some horses. The key to all of this is to take it slow and not work the animal pass its stress free zone. A bad memory of a bad training day can ruin a horse for life.
Get it rider broken
Get it used to wind, bags, noisy things.

friendsf says:

How far are you with her? Did you break her to ride yet? Or has she just been started with ground work? It depends where you are with her. I guess that didn’t really answer your question though.

Krude Kitty says:

Considering that every horse is different, and you haven’t stated what your end goal is with this horse, you can hardly expect a reasonable response to your question.
To bring on a young horse you need an enormous amount of experience with many different horses. You need endless patience and, often, nerves of steel! It’s a huge responsibility to produce a well adjusted young horse, who will be safe and secure as an adult.

If you need to ask where to start, I am sorry to say, that you just are not ready. Do the horse a favour, and let someone with enough knowledge and experience continue it’s education.

I’ve seen so many horses who’s future success has been ruined by a well meaning amateur…

abbracad says:

I just finished training my 2 year old and it is a complicated process. If you are interested you can email me and I can give you detailed instructions and answer any questions you may have.

Increase My Vertical says:

A 2 year old horse needs to be taught ground manners above all. Your filly is at a good age to learn things like how to stand to be clipped, to stand tied, to load in a trailer or van, to stand for grooming, vet exams, etc, but I would wait until she is at LEAST 3 and a half or 4 to start her under saddle or put any weight on her back.

Longe work is also a NO-NO at this age- the pounding on her legs and constant work in circles will make your filly too susceptable to injuries and to road founder ( a version of the same terrible disease that killed Barbaro) as well as possibly making her very sour towards work and people. You don’t say what breed your filly is, but if she’s a warmblood or a horse of Thoroughbred or Arab descent, then she is going to need a few more years without work so she can grow up. Horses of the breeds I mentioned mature far more slowly than other breeds-and this means that their bones do not close as fast. That’s why you need to be a little careful when it comes to starting your filly under saddle.

I would hope that someone is working with your filly through the winter and spring- training a horse is something that must be done gradually and on a daily basis. Horses who are not handled regularly by people can become feral and afraid of human contact- they learn to see people as enemies instead of friends, and this can be dangerous when beginners are around. Also, if you have never started or trained a horse before, you need to get some professional help to train your filly successfully. An experienced trainer- and there are many of them out there- will know how to help you start your filly under saddle,and how to introduce new things so that the experience is a positive one for both of you.Good luck to you.

SEZ says:

I don’t know exactly know how to train one but you should definately do natural horsemanship training. you and that horse would benefit from it tremendously. Also holistic haorse care is good when horses are learning new stuff. What else. There’s a thing called Join-Up by Monty Roberts and you can build up a trust with the horse. That would be good too. Go to

ashlan_0 says:

Just say NO it is much more complex than a few answers. It was really nice of you to help her last year but to expect you to tackle a professionals job is nuts. You must tell her the truth and be nice: you do not even know where to start. I’m sure she will understand

boy lover says:

go online or go ask a someone that train horses

Free Wii says:

Since this was asked in the Horse Racing section, I going to assume the horse will be started up to race this year.
If so than it should have been broke and been going under tack for at least 2 months last fall. If not you need to break it immidiately.

Jog it for a 1 to 2 miles for the first month then gallop it for 1 to 1 1/2 miles for the second month. Then the horse should be ready to go to the track and get down to business. Give her a week or two of galloping at the track so she gets used to her environment. Then she should be ready for her first 1/4 mile work, give her another one 6 days later then go up to 2 3/8ths works 6 days apart then two 1/2 mile works. You should have started gate schooling by the 2nd or 3rd workout. By this time work her 5/8ths from the gate then she should be ready to run.

If she’s an April or May foal x-ray her knees just to make sure the’re closed up by the time you start working her. If she’s earlier the’ll be fine by now.
Then again if you are asking how to start to train a 2 year old you probably don’t have your trainers license so maybe you should get that first.
And if you’re talking about any other breeds or types of riding I’m the wrong person to be answering because I don’t know they exist (aside from polo).

princess says:

I would not suggest breaking the horse. Instead get it desensitized. In other let it experience things, slowly move a plastic bag all over its body things like that. If you are racing then at two you can start riding but if it is a recreational or show horse then wait until at least three or four years old. Just get it used to having a saddle on with someone riding. Put the bridle and walk him. Teach the horse about your “bubble,” the space where he isn’t allowed (so he doesnt learn to pocket search or be on top of you when leading him on the ground). My sister is a riding instructor her website is I suggest you check it out.

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Pet Cat Eaten by Giant Snake

AN owner told today how his pet cat was "crushed, asphyxiated and consumed whole" by a neighbour's 13ft python.
Wilbur, a four-year-old tabby, was devoured after straying into a nearby garden in Brislington, Bristol, where the Burmese python was lurking.

The cat's owners, Martin and Helen Wadey, heard "blood-chilling cries" and rushed to the neighbouring property to help. But after getting no reply from the house they were powerless to save Wilbur.

The snake's "huge bulge" was eventually scanned and RSPCA officers confirmed that micro-chipped remains were inside.

An RSPCA inspector later issued the snake's owner, Darren Bishop, with a verbal warning about appropriate housing and care requirements.

Now Mr and Mrs Wade are calling for a change in the law so that pythons are officially classed as dangerous animals, requiring a licence.

Mr Wade, 44, writing on his website "Justice for Wilbur", describes the cat as "beautiful, strong, soft, with a purr like a dynamo".

He said: "We don't know whether Wilbur stumbled across the snake and it was an opportunistic kill, or if the snake was actively hunting him, but either way, we heard the python's strike from the terrified scream that came from Wilbur and the subsequent blood-chilling cries as he fought for his life.

"Then in less than a minute, all was silent. He never stood a chance against a creature over 13 times his weight with such immense power. Wilbur was crushed, asphyxiated and consumed whole.

"Helen and I were both standing on our deck hearing everything, but unable to see what had happened, other than it involved Wilbur and it was something awful From an upstairs window, I was able to make out movement in the garden in question, but no detail."

Many owners underestimate pet snakes' "wild instincts", Mr Wadey said.

He added: "Because of that Wilbur's little life was brutally snuffed out and after death we have had nothing to say goodbye to, stroke for one last time, mourn over, or bury. Our lovely little Wilbur was slowly being digested by a serpent a short distance from us."

Pythons, which usually feed on birds and small mammals, wrap themselves around their victims. They can be bought as domestic pets for around £100.

Last month a two-year-old girl was reportedly crushed to death by an 8ft Burmese python.

Mr and Mrs Wadey, who have three other cats and no children, want to introduce a "Wilbur's amendment" to the Dangerous and Wild Animals Act and are petitioning No. 10 Downing Street.

Pet Tales: Attracting Fireflies,
Warding Off Mosquitoes
By Linda Wilson Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mosquitoes thrive when wet weather leaves pools of water where they can lay eggs.

Where have all the lightning bugs gone?

Growing up in the 1950s, I saw hundreds of them on warm summer nights. Now I see few, if any.

The kids in my Bethel Park neighborhood had contests to see who could catch the most fireflies. We scooped them into jars and punched holes in the screw-on lids. We oh-so-helpfully put blades of grass in the jars to give the bugs something to eat.

The bugs always died in their jars while we slept. Some animal lovers we were.

The lightning bugs' disappearance isn't my imagination, says David Mizejewski, naturalist at the National Wildlife Federation. They've been driven away by "light pollution" and the overuse of pesticides, he says. They lose habitat when fields, woods and wetlands are destroyed to make way for houses and shopping centers.

While Pittsburghers call them lightning bugs, Mr. Mizejewski calls them fireflies, although he says they're neither bugs nor flies. They're beetles. He has tips for attracting them to your yard, and he's not even judgmental about the jars.

"The best way to enjoy fireflies it to turn off the TV, put away video games and go outside," Mr. Mizejewski said.

The federation has launched a "Be Out There" campaign "to get families across the United States to open the door and get outside." The organization hopes to see healthier kids with a lifelong appreciation of wildlife and nature.

Here's my favorite fun tip from Mr. Mizejewski: "Use a flashlight to mimic firefly flashes. When you flash, the fireflies will respond."

Everyone can attract fireflies, songbirds and other animals by creating "wildlife friendly" yards.

Don't use pesticides. Plant native wildflowers and greenery that provide shelter for fireflies. The grass in your lawn holds no attraction for wildlife, especially if you used chemicals to kill weeds and insects. For more tips, go to

"It's OK to catch a few fireflies and keep them in a jar with holes poked in the lid for a few hours," Mr. Mizejewski says. "Just make sure to release them back into nature."

Don't bother putting grass in the jar because that's not what fireflies eat. Adults eat nectar and larvae eat slugs, worms and other soft-bodied invertebrates around streams and ponds.

If you do go outdoors, you'll have to deal with another type of bug -- mosquitoes. Mr. Mizejewski has tips for dealing with them, too.

Mosquitoes are a stretch for a topic in a pet column, but they can carry heartworms that can harm dogs and can carry rare but deadly diseases, like Eastern equine encephalitis, that kill horses.

DEET-based repellents are effective for people but Mr. Mizejewski says don't apply them to dogs or cats because DEET is not approved for pets. Chemical-free solutions include "aromatic herbal repellents," like lemon eucalyptus, which "work if applied frequently."

Here's my favorite skeeter tip:

"Mosquitoes are not strong fliers, and the breeze created by a fan is often all you need to keep a patio or deck mosquito-free so you can enjoy the outdoors."

Fans won't get to the root of the problem, however.

The most important thing is to get rid of standing water that collects in clogged gutters, flower-pot drainage dishes, children's toys and tarps that cover stacks of firewood.

Birdbaths attract birds to your yard, and some birds eat mosquitoes. But empty and refill birdbaths every few days because "it takes a minimum of a week for the metamorphosis from egg to larva to pupa to winged adult," Mr. Mizejewski says.

Another way to deal with mosquitoes is to attract their predators. In ponds and water gardens, "fish feed on mosquito larvae. Just don't release goldfish or other exotic species into natural areas. ... Add plants that attract frogs, salamanders and dragonflies," he says.

Don't put insecticides or oil on the surface of bodies of water because that will kill "beneficial insects" and mosquito predators.

And here's something I've never heard:

"Bug zappers aren't effective against mosquitoes" but they "do kill thousands of beneficial insects each night."

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