Dillie the Deer and Oscar the Cat (Photos)

Abandoned, Wrinkly Dog Gets
Full Face Lift, Double Eye Lift
Ross Schultz, The Daily Telegraph/FoxNews.com

An abandoned shar pei named Roland recently had a full face lift and double eye lift.

A wrinkly dog has received a full face lift and a double eye lift costing $897 so he won’t go blind.

The abandoned shar pei, named Roland, from Australia, is highly prized for his wrinkly skin. But the breed suffers from entropion, a painful condition in which his wrinkles cause his eyelashes to turn inward and rub against his eyeballs, The Daily Telegraph in Sydney reported.

If left untreated the condition could have caused Roland to go blind and was preventing him from finding a home. So the dog has had cosmetic surgery.

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals chief veterinarian Magdoline Awad said the 90-minute surgery was not about vanity.

"What we have done is made him adoptable," she said.

"It is not uncommon in this breed, it is a congenital problem."

Roland now has a better chance at finding a good home as a family could adopt him without having to pay for the surgery, Dr Awad said.

SOURCE: The Daily Telegraph

Cats Eat Grass Sometimes and That's OK
By Hawaiian Humane Society

QUESTION: Is it OK for cats to eat grass? My cat enjoys grass but it sometimes makes her sick.
ANSWER: Grass is healthy in moderation, and most pet supply stores sell seeds so that you can grow fresh greens for a healthy diet. Pesticides and fertilizers of outdoor grass can cause problems, as can a large amount of grass or leaves. It can result in vomiting or act as a laxative.
The Hawaiian Humane Society welcomes questions by e-mail, hhs@hawaiianhumane.org. Indicate "Pet Ohana" in the subject line.

Just-Released Book Profiles
Feline Angel of Death
Ray Henry - AOLNews.com

AP PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Jan. 31) -- The scientist in Dr. David Dosa was skeptical when first told that Oscar, an aloof cat kept by a nursing home, regularly predicted patients' deaths by snuggling alongside them in their final hours.

Dosa's doubts eroded after he and his colleagues tallied about 50 correct calls made by Oscar over five years, a process he explains in a book released this week, "Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat." (Hyperion, $23.99) The feline's bizarre talent astounds Dosa, but he finds Oscar's real worth in his fierce insistence on being present when others turn away from life's most uncomfortable topic: death.

"People actually were taking great comfort in this idea, that this animal was there and might be there when their loved ones eventually pass," Dosa said. "He was there when they couldn't be."

In this July 2007 file photo, Oscar, a hospice cat with an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, sits outside a patient's room at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, R.I.

Dosa, 37, a geriatrician and professor at Brown University, works on the third floor of the Steere House, which treats patients with severe dementia. It's usually the last stop for people so ill they cannot speak, recognize their spouses and spend their days lost in fragments of memory.

He once feared that families would be horrified by the furry grim reaper, especially after Dosa made Oscar famous in a 2007 essay in the New England Journal of Medicine. Instead, he says many caregivers consider Oscar a comforting presence, and some have praised him in newspaper death notices and eulogies.

"Maybe they're seeing what they want to see," he said, "but what they're seeing is a comfort to them in a real difficult time in their lives."

The nursing home adopted Oscar, a medium-haired cat with a gray-and-brown back and white belly, in 2005 because its staff thinks pets make the Steere House a home. They play with visiting children and prove a welcome distraction for patients and doctors alike.

After a year, the staff noticed that Oscar would spend his days pacing from room to room. He sniffed and looked at the patients but rarely spent much time with anyone - except when they had just hours to live.

He's accurate enough that the staff - including Dosa - know it's time to call family members when Oscar stretches beside their patients, who are generally too ill to notice his presence. If kept outside the room of a dying patient, he'll scratch at doors and walls, trying to get in.

Nurses once placed Oscar in the bed of a patient they thought gravely ill. Oscar wouldn't stay put, and the staff thought his streak was broken. Turns out, the medical professionals were wrong, and the patient rallied for two days. But in the final hours, Oscar held his bedside vigil without prompting.

Dosa does not explain Oscar scientifically in his book, although he theorizes the cat imitates the nurses who raised him or smells odors given off by dying cells, perhaps like some dogs who scientists say can detect cancer using their sense of scent.

At its heart, Dosa's search is more about how people cope with death than Oscar's purported ability to predict it. Dosa suffers from inflammatory arthritis, which could render his joints useless. He worries about losing control of his life in old age, much as his patients have lost theirs.

Parts of his book are fictionalized. Dosa said several patients are composite characters, though the names and stories of the caregivers he interviews are real and many feel guilty. Donna Richards told Dosa that she felt guilty for putting her mother in a nursing home. She felt guilty for not visiting enough. When caring for her mother, Richards felt guilty about missing her teenage son's swimming meets.

Dosa learns to live for the moment, much like Oscar, who delights in naps and chin scratches or the patient who recovers enough to walk the hall holding the hand of the husband she'll eventually forget.

The doctor advises worried family members to simply be present for their loved ones.

Richards was at her mother's bedside nonstop as she died. After three days, a nurse persuaded her to go home for a brief rest. Despite her misgivings, Richards agreed. Her mother died a short while later.

But she didn't die alone. Oscar was there.

Safety Gear Breathes
Life Back into Pets

Pets are some of the most vulnerable members of our families. An estimated 500,000 pets are affected by fires in the United States and more than 40,000 pets die each year due to smoke asphyxiation.

These bleak statistics inspired Virginia-based Wag'N Enterprises to launch its "O2 Fur Life Program" to give first responders across the country access to pet oxygen masks that can save an animal's life in the event of a fire. (Check out the video below.)

Pet oxygen masks are necessary to resuscitate animals that have suffered smoke inhalation. Unfortunately, most municipalities don't allow their first responders (e.g. police, fire departments, EMS) to purchase equipment for non-human life support. Since its inception in February 2008, the "O2 Fur Life Program" has served as a distribution channel for first responders, providing pet oxygen masks and "Pet Oxygen Masks on Board" decals to more than 50 fire departments across the United States and Canada.

"We were shocked to find that most fire departments aren't equipped to save your pet's life in an emergency," says Ines de Pablo, Chief Wag'N Officer. "These pet oxygen masks can be used on dogs, cats, ferrets, birds, hamsters, alpacas, wolves — you name it."

The "O2 Fur Life Program" aims to outfit every fire department across the United States and Canada with pet oxygen masks. In addition to helping communities raise enough money to sponsor local departments, Wag'N also has a fellowship program that uses donated funds to distribute pet oxygen masks nationally to organizations in need.

Wag'N also helps educate pet parents and first responders how to effectively avoid, prepare for and respond to emergencies that impact pet health and safety.

Despite the program's accomplishments, de Pablo says her company still has a lot of work to do — namely by making sure that "every community across the country is aware of the solutions that will help save the lives of pets and law enforcement K9s."

Although Wag'N is not currently aware of any rescue units in the Bay Area area that have received mask donations, they have offered to send me one to give to a local fire, police or EMS unit.

Click on banner to visit The Pet Warehouse

Dillie the Deer
Thanks to Al in BHC, AZ

Dillie the deer acts just like a house-trained dog as she walks up the stairs and lounges around on her owner's bed.

Living with vet Melanie Butera, in Canal Fulton, Ohio, four-year-old Dillie is so spoiled she is served linguine in bed.

She has even managed to work out where a deer that lives in a house should go to do her business.

House trained: Dillie the deer polishes off a plate of linguine in her owners' master bedroom

Taking full advantage of Melanie and her husband Steve's generous hospitality, Dillie even gets to enjoy their swimming pool and five acres of property on which to run around on.

Living with the Buteras since she was three days old, Dillie now knows how to turn lights on and off and how to take ice from the dispenser in the fridge.

'We took a call from a local farmer at 3 am one wintry night,' said Melanie, 48. 'Dillie's mother was not taking to her and he asked if we wanted to try to nurse her back to health.

'We put her on an IV drip because she weighed four pounds and got her back up and running after around two weeks.

'We then realised that she couldn't go back to the farm and live with the other deer and she couldn't live with our horses because they scared her too much.'

Deer's best friend: Dillie plays around with Lady, the dog of the house

Leaving her in the capable hands of her eight-year-old poodle Lady, Melanie decided that Dillie was going to become the Butera household's latest pet.

'She developed cataracts and this meant that she had to be cared for in a sensitive manner,' explained Melanie.

'She would hang around Lady and she very quickly learned to act like a dog.

'This became apparent to us when we came home one day and couldn't find her downstairs.

'We walked upstairs and found her standing on our bed with Lady. She had obviously learned a few tricks from the old dog.'

Family: Dr Melanie Butera and her husband Steve Heathman share their bed in their home in Canal Fulton, Ohio, with Dillie and Lady

Dillie slept for the first few years at the Buteras' home in their bed with Lady.

'I suppose it was quite a cute get together, said Melanie. 'Me, my husband, Dillie and Lady all sharing the same bed.

'My husband Steve always liked the way that Dillie would warm his feet up when she lied on them.'

Fully house-trained, Dillie now wears a GPS collar due to a frightening runaway incident last year.

'She went missing because a gate was left open on our property when she was out roaming,' said Melanie.

'So we got this collar fitted to her to keep our minds at ease.'

Enjoying a wide variety of meals, Dillie's favourite is ice cream and coffee, topped with frozen ice shavings.

Stairway to heaven: Dillie has the run of the house, and has even learned how to use the toilet

Frozen Cat Thaws...
And Lives To Tell About It
Peg Rusconi NORFOLK (WBZ)

In the midst of the weekend's prolonged winter storm, Norfolk Animal Control Officer Hilary Cohen was driving through the snow, responding to a call about a cat.

It didn't look promising.

Cohen tells WBZ the small gray and white cat appeared dead. She was stiff, showing no signs of life. "I kept her in the blanket and put her on my lap in the cruiser and headed to the hospital. Once in the car, I turned the heaters on and saw a whisker twitch. That was the real only sign of reflex I saw from her."

Cohen took the frozen feline to Acorn Animal Hospital, where veterinarians were ready to apply heat therapy and administer IV fluids, among other things. Cohen says the staff there "worked miracles on this little cat."

Days later, the cat is showing strong signs of recovery. The feline is walking, eating and drinking, which is why Cohen is trying to find the cat's owners. "She is very affectionate so (it) was definitely someone's pet and not a feral cat."

Animal control tells WBZ's Peg Rusoni that the cat's owners recognized the now-thawed cat as their own and will soon be reunited with their furry friend.

Deal of the Week 120x60 AmeriMark.com
AmeriMark Direct is a leading direct marketer of women's apparel, shoes, name-brand cosmetics, fragrances, jewelry, watches, accessories, and health-related merchandise.

Pet Stories:
The Unconditional Love
Between Dogs and Humans

The unconditional love between dogs, and humans does not take much soul searching at all

Everyday there's support given to you by your dogs, the glance they give you from their eyes. The tail wag when they are looking at you, there is a message in every tail wag. Whether it says thank you for taking me for a walk, or thank you for playing with me. The dogs don't ask for anything in return, dogs don't speak our language, but they have body language just the same as us. Your dogs can read your body language when you're sad, or when you're happy, even when you're not well. A dog given the chance will be able to read their human owners mind the same way as we can read theirs.

My dogs have given me a special bond, they are my power animals, sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe how my dogs have changed my life. Tibby and Charlie have taught me how to care for animals, if they're injured or sad; the tail wag is a signal for a happy dog. When you hear stories of animal cruelty on the news, you feel sorrow for those animals. These animals never had the opportunity to be loved the same way, Tibby and Charlie are loved so much by all.

I walk outside into my backyard to peg the clothes on the line, you do not have to look far; for Tibby and Charlie are out side sitting on the lawn watching and waiting for me to finish, sometimes we solve the problems of the world between ourselves.

For a while, my health had not been the best, Tibby and Charlie came into my life and taught me how to laugh again. Tibby and Charlie are small dogs, but they have a big heart with a lot of room to fit everyone inside.

When our dogs were young babies, we were out of dinner with special guests from America. To our surprise when we came home the Pizza that was left on the chest freezer to cool down was no longer there when we arrived back home. Oops, there was a box left by the freezer and they climbed up onto the freezer and enjoyed the pizza. All we could do is laugh when we came home; the fault was ours, a lesson well learned.

They are our protectors, we are there careers, and to have animals as our pets is a privilege not a right so take care of them, like you do your children. If you take on the responsibility of owning a pet, it is a lifetime commitment not just over Christmas, and then the owner of the pet, drops it in at the rescue centre. The same as having a marriage and child it is a lifetime commitment, so is a pet.

Older Cats 'Should Be Indoor-Only'

A veterinary expert has told cat health cover customers that making their pets indoor moggies could lengthen the lifespan of the creatures.

Steve Dale wrote in his pet advice column in the Anchorage Daily News that nearly all felines should be inside-only animals.

He was indicating to a reader that getting their two senior moggies, which spend half their time indoors and half out, would be a good training goal for the new year.

"I'm confident your resolution will extend the life spans of your cats," he said.

Mr Dale noted this was especially true for older kitties.

Not only were they less able to get away quickly from predators or cars, they demonstrate the same type of forgetfulness humans can in their twilight yeas.

"They sometimes forget things, including how to get home," the expert explained.

UK animal specialist Celia Haddon said on her pet advice website that while older felines may not mind becoming inside cats, younger ones will need diverse, oft-changing toys, attention, play time, high places, scratching posts and an element of adventure to make the change.

She recommended making the kitten forage for food through a home-made obstacle course to stimulate its needs.

Take a Pill
by Matt Stelter - dfs-pet-blog.com

For many, the thought of needing to administer a pill or tablet to their dog is daunting. Some “food-obsessed” canines may devour anything that might remotely resemble a treat. However, many are a little more conscious about what they decide to consume. They are quick to realize that funny-colored pill offers nothing savory to their palate, especially if it is being offered on a regular (prescribed) basis.

Also, if the pill contains powder or liquid inside of a capsule, you would want to avoid any chance of your dog chewing it and possibly having a portion of the medication fall or leak out of their mouth.

Have no fear, getting that little pill to its final destination does not need to be difficult. All you need are a few tips to make the task successful.

How to give a dog a pill.

--First, grasp the top of your dog’s muzzle, placing the tip of your thumb & index finger directly behind the top canine teeth. A firm grip here is critical.

--Point the dogs muzzle up in the air.

--With your other hand, grab the pill with your thumb and index finger of your other hand, and use the remaining fingers to gently open your dog’s jaw. Open the jaw wide so you have a clear view of the back of your dog’s mouth.

--Holding the pill, get it as far back into the mouth as you can reach. Using gravity, drop the pill onto the very back of the tongue where it meets the roof of the mouth. If you don’t get the pill to the back of the tongue, he will quickly push the pill forward with his tongue and away from his throat.

--As soon as the pill gets to the back of the tongue, use your index finger to quickly “push” the pill an inch or two down into the throat and out of view.

--Close the mouth and keep the muzzle shut with a firm hold. This will minimize tongue movement and prevent chewing.

--Massage his throat until you feel him swallow. Success!

--Finally, release his muzzle and praise him for his cooperation.

One helpful tip is to administer a pill immediately after your dog has taken a drink of water. The water will help create a “slippery slope,” essentially lubricating the throat for the pill. Most pills will slide down the throat even more easily.

If you have a dog that simply will not allow you to administer a pill, there are two other solutions. Greenies make a great product called Pill Pockets. They are meat-flavored treats designed for you to “hide” your dog’s pills inside of, allowing the dog to consume them without being any the wiser. There are different Pill Pocket shapes made for both capsules and tablets.

Prescription Compounding
Another option is to work with an online Pet Pharmacy to compound your dog’s medication into a more palatable form, such as a tasty chewable or liquid. This can also allow you to combine medications or customize formulation.

Hopefully this information will help you feel more at ease the next time you are faced with administering your dog a pill. Remember, it doesn’t need to be a battle of wills. Instead, with a little bit of planning, you can turn it into a minor and maybe even enjoyable experience for You and your dog.

Javelina Bites Man
By Randy Metcalf, The Explorer

Attack on Dove Mountain; Rabies Feared

A man walking on a path alongside Dove Mountain Boulevard was attacked by a javelina.

The man, 66, bitten several times, is undergoing a course of treatment for rabies.

The attack happened about 11:30 a.m. Jan. 1, when the walker heard a noise behind him. He turned around to see a female javelina charge him and bite him around the knee and thigh, knocking him to the ground.

The javelina attacked the man as he was on the ground, latching onto his wrist and forearm. It wouldn't let go, according to Mark Hart, the public information officer for Arizona Game and Fish Department in Tucson.

A passing bicyclist hit the javelina first in the head with a stick, and then with a log to get the animal off the walker. A Marana Police Department officer arrived on scene about the time the javelina ran onto Dove Mountain Boulevard, and started toward a group of people. The officer then sounded his siren and startled the javelina, which ran off into the desert. He pursued the javelina and killed it.

The bite victim was taken to Oro Valley Hospital, was treated for the bites and began the course of treatment for rabies.

Hart said authorities are "exercising due caution" with treating the victim for rabies due to the javelina's aggressive behavior.

"Since it was a sow, maybe there were young javelinas in the vicinity, although they weren't seen, and perhaps the animal though the offspring were at risk," Hart said. "But absent that, there really isn't a good explanation other than rabies. It was an unprovoked attack."

The attack comes on the heels of a recent rabid bobcat attack on a man in Oracle on Dec. 23. In the last year, there were 261 confirmed rabid animals in Arizona, roughly a third of them in Pima County.

"We may be more aware of cases because of drought conditions which are bringing animals into urban areas in search of water and food," Hart said.

Hart said the Arizona Game and Fish Department strongly advises against feeding animals such as javelinas. He also said pet owners should not leave food out overnight, and should make sure their pets are up-to-date with their shots. He also suggested carrying a walking stick and a whistle, and to never turn your back on an animal.

As of press time, test results had not yet been confirmed if the javelina was rabid.

Click on banner to visit this site

Click here for "Dating Tips, Relationship Advice and Intimacy"

Can You Keep Koi Fish in a Fish Bowl?

Q: I plan on decorating my office and was wondering if I could keep koi fish in a fish bowl?
stupid question isn’t it? but I have NO EXPERIENCE with fish.


1.talarlo says:

NOOOOO! Koi get huge. They are meant to be kept in hundreds of gallons of water. They can be up to two feet in length.


2.Zoe says:

Definitely not. Koi can grow to 3 feet, and the myth that fish won’t outgrow their tanks is just that – a myth. Well, it’s partly true, because they will die before they can grow. Especially fish in the goldfish family – they are poop machines and foul up their water really quickly.

If you want a nice small office tank, go with a 5 gallon. There are lots of neat formats out there (ie cube-shaped tanks). Get a little filter (like the AZOO palm fitler), a small heater, some rocks and some plants, and get a nice Betta fish. Clean the water weekly (replace 30% of the water) and you will not be disapointed.

3.DorseysWife says:

Absolutely not. Koi need a lot of room and can grow to 4 feet. Goldfish are also not a good idea as they get big too and both of them produce more waste. Your best bet is a betta. That is really the only fish you should keep in a bowl.

4.julie a says:

no, kois get up to 3 feet long. also keeping any gold fish in a bowl in murder. goldfish need very clean water with a filter. when there in a bowl they die usually in a few weeks or months. get a 10 gallon tank and put a fancy fantail in it. these tanks are cheap and your fish will be happy. dont put your koi in it though, kois are for ponds that are huge.

5.talisy77 says:

betas are the only fish that reasonalbly can be kept in a bowl. they can deal with the lack of oxygen in the water due to a special organ they have for processing oxygen from off the top of the water. They also do not emit as much waste as anything in the goldfish/carp family.

6.meg says:

you can keep koi fish in a tank but it has to be large enough for the fish to swim comfortably and it has to allow him enough room. you will need a filter as well since they can dirty a tank quickly, plus it helps to add oxygen in the water.

7.shavi R says:

no way it will die

8.dizzymisslizzie_1 says:

*sigh* your koi will not get to be 4 feet in a tank, but they do get large, the only fish that can really handle living in a bowl is a betta, i have had my koi for years, largest is about 18″, they are in a 75 gal tank, and as others have said koi and other goldfish have fast metabolisms and soil the water very quickly, the biggest problem is they have the water temperature too high, the higher it is the faster they metabolize, they are not like “tropical” fish

9.angelmwilson says:

You should have never gotten that fish. They get HUGE. Like were talking a foot long or more. I would return him to the pet store!

10.desi - says:

NNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOO, NNNNNNNNNOOOOOOO,NNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOO!! they will die!! i have some in a fish pond outback and they love it plus they are almost out growing it!! the pond is like 2 feet deep, 6 feet long and shaped like a doggy biscuit!! so no goldfish or koi!!

Selecting a Pet Pony for Your Child

Do you remember your first pony? Well, that is for those of you who were lucky enough to have had one it's a dream come true ... hmm ... dream or nightmare?

But what exactly is a pony - a small horse with short legs? Yes, true. The official definition of a pony is a small horse that measures less than 14.2 hands (58inches or 147cms) at the withers; horses are 14.2 or taller, although there are some variations.

When you think of a pony what springs to mind? A cute, little fluffy thing with your even cuter child sitting sweetly on top? Lovely, but there is a whole lot more to ponies. Do you know there are nearly 100 different breeds of ponies and that there is one called the Zemaitukas or Hokkaido pony? No, neither did I.

Ponies must not be confused with miniature horses as they are a completely different thing.

So, as I say, for many children owning a pony is a dream come true. However, that dream can quickly become a nightmare if the pony becomes spoiled. Ponies are generally considered intelligent and friendly, although they can also be 'stubborn, naughty and devious'.

But, the difference of opinion is often the result of the individual pony's degree of proper training - or lack of it! People, including some trainers, sometimes let ponies get away with being naughty because they are so 'cute'.

Without proper training ponies quickly learn bad habits. All children who are around ponies should be taught how to handle bad habits, and learn to be consistent when teaching a pony that bad habits are unwanted - however, this can be hard as children generally have the attention span of a pea!

If you are thinking of buying a pony, have a good look at it first. If it's being sold very cheaply, ask yourself, why? Don't take on someone else's problem.

The best advice here is to take an experienced trainer with you. Initially don't take the child as they will simply want the prettiest or cutest - you don't, you want a safe and reliable pony!

A pony that is 15 or 20 is not too old, and the advantage here is you can buy a well trained pony that may have been round the block a few times. But that does not mean he will actually look after your precious child.

Don't just go and look at the pony once, go several times. Take the pony on a trial basis, although this may not always be allowed, or possible. If you can't, once you have found your potential pony, take the child along and ensure he/she can ride and handle the pony.

Look out for any bad habits - like biting and kicking - that could have been masked previously.

See if you can catch the pony and tack it up; see how the pony reacts to you when you groom it, will he allow you to pick up his feet, for example?

See how the pony behaves in his stable. You are buying an animal for a child and, as with children, you need to know your pony has good manners, as well as being safe and reliable. Ponies are quick to learn bad, as well as, good things. Once at home, you need to establish boundaries and rules.

All of us like to pamper our pets, but keep the giving of treats as a reward for good behaviour, or if you simply want to give a treat do it in the pony's feed bucket. You will be teaching your pony to barge and bite if you give him treats every time you see him.

Also, be careful how many treats you give. It is potentially dangerous to overfeed a pony as it can lead to serious health problems.

However, it is also very important to nurture the relationship between your child and his/her pony.

Ponies are so very versatile, and are used in all equestrian disciplines, dressage, jumping, gymkhanas; they are used for pretty much anything, but above all to enjoy and have fun on.

If you are considering buying a pony, perhaps you should first consider leasing one. It gives all the benefits of ownership without the liability and expense, an excellent way of teaching your child how to look after a pony. In Bahrain, most of the riding stables offer a leasing option for both horses and ponies, and it's well worth discussing this with the stable owner.

It often happens someone has a pony they have grown out of, that they don't want to sell. Another common occurrence here is when children go off overseas to school, leasing becomes an ideal choice for both parties.

So, dreams come true.

Personally, I had to wait a very long time before I was lucky enough to have one of my own, in fact, not until I came here to Bahrain ... Although it does go to prove dreams can come true even when you're not a child any more! On that note, I'm off to ride my horse.

Pet Talk:
Cats Can Have Finicky
Friendships, Too. Just Ask Gus
By Sharon L. Peters, Special for USA TODAY

This is a tale of how blind luck and happenstance converged to mend a relationship. Of how a cat unhappy with another cat regained his confidence — and happiness — during a forced separation.

I tell this tale, which unfolded recently, because lucky turns of events and fortuitous choices brought about the kind of happy ending many cat owners also are seeking.

It all began about this time last year, when I adopted athletic Grisabella, 3, as a pal for Gus the Cat, a 6-year-old Maine Coon (more or less) rescue from my vet. My two dogs took to the newcomer instantly. Placid, love-everyone Gus did not.

But after a couple of weeks of keeping the cats separated (Gus growled and hissed when he saw Grisabella through the glass erected to let them see but not reach each other), they united fairly harmoniously. They raced through the house and played games.

Then everything changed. Gus, when chased, would often hiss, then hide. Soon he wouldn't engage with Grisabella, left rooms when she entered, wouldn't allow anyone to hold him, became resolute about keeping to himself. I thought maybe he was sick, but tests indicated otherwise.

I vowed to call an expert. This couldn't continue.

Then Grisabella did something that altered everything. She urinated on a chair cushion. I could have assumed this was her indication of stress, but she didn't seem stressed. She was living life fully, including taking over the place at the foot of the bed where Gus had hung out nightly while I read before lights out — and nothing, including locking her elsewhere, persuaded Gus to reclaim his spot.

Anyhow, Grisabella visited the vet. She had a urinary tract infection. So I confined her to the third floor for the weeks she required medication. She'd be no more than 8 feet from litter boxes, so, I reasoned, she could always reach one fast. Also, I figured, she'd forget about the upholstered substitute she'd chosen while ill and not revisit it.

Then a funny thing happened. Once Grisabella was freed, Gus was fine … with her, with me, with life. He was my sunny cat again. And has remained so for the four months since all this transpired.

I don't pretend to understand cats, but I always aim to learn. Cat people would tell me, yes, this sort of mysterious thing happens with cats, but they couldn't explain precisely what happened and why.

So I called Mieshelle Nagelschneider, owner of the Cat Behavior Clinic, a consulting operation in Bend, Ore.

She explained how everything went bad, then went good.

"It's fairly common for cats that get along well to develop this kind of issue," she says. Often it occurs after one cat inadvertently startles another; sometimes one cat sees an unfamiliar animal in the yard and that triggers a cascade of events that prompts avoidance or outright hostility. Also, if one cat smells different because of a vet visit or bath, or one is sick, that can provoke similar reactions.

In my cats' case, I probably rushed their initial introduction. And early in their acquaintance, the rough-playing Grisabella went too far with Gus. She's a leaper and a snatcher who doesn't back off a chase until someone is panting or dead. Gus is much more relaxed.

"When energy levels or play styles dramatically differ, you can have one cat wreaking havoc on another cat's life," Nagelschneider says. There's also a chance Gus was wrenched from his litter too young and didn't learn vital communication skills and how to set social boundaries.

Gus likely felt things were careening out of control. He actually became fearful (indicated by the hissing) of her prey-ful play. Avoidance of his feline housemate was the first step. As he became increasingly upset, he withdrew from people and dogs as well. As he gave up territory, she cheerfully assumed the upper hand.

Enter the infection. Grisabella was removed from his life.

And separation is something Nagelschneider recommends for feuding felines (though for greater duration and with a more cautious re-introduction than what I did).

Life returned to pre-Grisabella normal for Gus. Favorite spots were available; there was no challenge or conflict (including the icy stare, something cats take very seriously and that I was too dumb to recognize).

Happily (if accidentally), Grisabella (not Gus) was relegated to a distant part of the house. If I had reversed this, things could have been made worse.

Gus had time to process things, reconnect with places and people he'd enjoyed before her arrival. He began to feel confident again about his place in this world as he roamed the stairways and sat where he wanted.

When the door finally opened and Grisabella emerged, it was a Gus with renewed confidence who greeted her. She apparently saw the difference. She wasn't so forceful in initiating rough play. He didn't feel compelled to leave a treasured spot by the door when she approached.

And, get this: Almost every night, Gus now lies at the end of the bed for a few minutes, then jumps down, and Grisabella enters the room and takes the same spot. No squabbles. No tension. "Cats often work out time-sharing arrangements," Nagelschneider says.

Still, dissonance may be right around the corner. An accidental bad turn of events could bring us back to Tension Central, she says. It happens.

Her recommendations to preserve peace: I must play with Grisabella in ways that meet her prey drive … let her kill and catch a phony bird on a wand. And do it when Gus isn't around.

I play with my cats, but it's generic play. I realize now they have different play needs, and Gus' desire to play fetch must occur when Grisabella isn't nearby to ratchet things up into something more competitive.

Also, Nagelschneider advises I begin "allogrooming," a relatively new approach to help cats affiliate with each other by rubbing each cat's face with the scent of the other cat. I'll detail that concept in next week's Pet Talk column.

Click here to visit The EZ Online
Shopping Network of Stores

No comments: