Protecting Your Pet

Dog's Nervous Nipping
May Be a Plea for Attention
Steve Dale - My Pet World - Tribune Media Service

LAS VEGAS, NV -- These reader questions were answered by experts at the Western Veterinary Conference, the largest veterinary conference in the country, Feb. 14-18 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Q: My Collie nips at my bed sheet like he's trying to catch a flea. He only does this when I'm in the room. Any idea why? -- B.H., St. Petersburg, FL

A: Maybe you're a better dog trainer than you think. Could it be that your pup randomly performed this maneuver, then you responded? This may have taught him that if he wants a response from you, nip at the blanket.

Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Jacqui Neilson, of Portland, Ore., agrees that this could be attention-seeking behavior. She adds that just as people may chew their nails, dogs can develop unusual 'nervous' habits. Another possibility, based on your description, is that this has developed into a compulsive behavior. However, if the nipping can be easily interrupted by you leaving the room, that's probably not the case.

Neilson says if you want the behavior to end, totally ignore it. If your dog is damaging the sheets, you'll have to be more proactive, however. Pre-empt the nipping by offering a Kong toy stuffed with low fat peanut butter or cream cheese, or something else for your dog to chew on or play with, such as a Twist 'N Treat Busy Buddy toy. Or play with your pooch before you hit the sheets. As many owners will attest, "a good dog is a tired dog."

Q: Out of the blue, my two male cats started to urinate all over the house. One cat is 18 years old, and the other is 3. How can I stop the war of the urine? Is there a product I could use? -- C.H., St. Paul, MN

A: "I suggest that either the issue began as a result of your older cat having a health issue, or the younger cat reaching social maturity," says Dr. Vint Virga, a veterinary behaviorist from East Greenwich, R.I. "So, one cat urinates, then the other cat responds in kind. I'm especially concerned about the older cat."

It's important to determine if the cats are spraying (directing the urine on walls or furniture, twitching their tails as they aim, and the urine runs down the surface vertically) or instead voiding on flat surfaces with a fair volume of urine. Either way, there's interesting communication going on between the two pets.

Use an odor neutralizer to clean up. Feliway could help if you feel there may be a 'relationship issue' between the cats, or if one or both are spraying on surfaces, Feliway is a synthetic version of a friendly, comfort pheromone.

If things don't improve, you may need to call in a veterinary behaviorist ( or veterinarian with a special interest in behavior ( for further guidance.

Q: My 4-year old cat has passed blood; I saw it three weeks ago in the litter box. I've kept and eye on the box didn't see blood again until yesterday. I'll have the cat checked out, but is there anything I need to know? Perhaps, if colonoscopies are given to cats, that might be in order. What do you think? -- C.D., Las Vegas, Nev.

A: What you may not know, but need to find out, is whether the blood is coming from the cat's rectum, or do you see it after the cat urinates? Baltimore, MD-based feline specialist Dr. Jane Brunt, executive director of the CATalyst Council (a non profit dedicated to elevating the status of cats, encouraging adoptions and veterinary visits). urges you to see your vet immediately. If your cat has a urinary obstruction, this is very serious. Also, deliver a stool sample to your veterinarian.

The vet will help determine the source of the blood. Your vet will likely take a blood sample and X-rays. Colonoscopies are offered for cats, and your veterinarian will determine if that's necessary. Also discuss potential pain relief, depending on what the problem turns out to be.

Q: My 10-month-old Golden retriever is losing his curly hair. The vet said he's fine and put him on fish oil. The hair loss began when I switched dog foods; the (generic) food we were using created excessive water consumption and loose stools. The new (premium) diet has solved that problem, but now there's this hair loss. Any advice? -- G.N., Mounds View, Minn.

A: Individual dogs respond differently to different diets. "Since you think the hair loss is diet-related, for starters, transition to another food," says veterinary dermatologist Dr. Lowell Ackerman, of Westborough, Mass. "If the problem persists, ask your veterinarian about a true hypo-allergenic diet, and then offer that diet in an 8-week food trial."

Ackerman says also see your veterinarian to rule out other possible diagnoses, such as mange or ringworm.

If the hair continues to drop after both a full physical exam and a change in diet, consider a biopsy to determine if there's a problem with the hair follicles themselves, Ackerman says. Inhalant allergies, though possible, are less likely unless the dog is scratching and/or licking, which you didn't indicate in your question.

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, N.Y., 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD@STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.

Protecting Your Pet

Local veterinarian gives tips to look for when companions feel poorly

It all started with a guttural meow at 2 in the morning.

While her sister Lucy looked on with annoyance, my kitten Ethel was meowing her head off.

I had grown up with cats all my life. But at that minute when I had my feline alarm clock meowing in my ear I realized how much I had shoved off on my parents. I had actually thought Lucy and Ethel were too young to be in heat.

Then again, my dad reminded me of a stray that landed on my parents’ doorstep, who we also thought was too young to be in heat. She was Lucy and Ethel’s mother. Dad called her Juno because that was “one doodle that couldn’t be undid.”

I’m in the process of getting Lucy and Ethel spayed. I’ve come to understand that it’s more than just doing what Bob Barker would say “keeping the pet population down,” but not getting the kitties fixed could have other health risks.

Dr. Tara Cumley, a veterinarian at Animal Health Clinic of Funkstown, offered some words of advice on some of the most frequent pet problems in both cats and dogs.

During a visit to your veterinarian, Cumley said a veterinarian should be checking your pet all over.

“Head to toe -literally,” she said.

Also, a vet should be asking about how your pet’s been eating, sleeping, playing and going to the bathroom.

She said if you’ve noticed a major change in your pet’s behavior such as eating and energy-level, make sure to tell your vet.

Most importantly, she said, is to make sure to keep your favorite pal updated on all preventative shots to ensure a healthy lifespan.

And always, make sure your pet gets its rabies shot because Cumley said there’s only one diagnosis for pets.

“It’s 100 percent fatal,” she said.

What to look for

Here are just a few common problems that pet owners should look for when caring for their animals.

• In heat

Cumley said your cat will start with “those awful noises.” She said the cat’s behavior might change. For instance, a cat that likes to be alone, is all of a sudden is lovey. Cumley said dogs may have a behavior changes, but they’re more subtle changes than found in cats. Female dogs might excrete blood from the vagina.

How it’s treated: Getting your pet spayed or neutered by about 5 to 6 months old.

If left untreated: An animal will continue to be in heat, until treated. In dogs, Cumley said, females can sometimes develop a false pregnancy. Dogs and cats can also develop pyometra, which is when a reproductive tract that has become infected fills with pus, she said. Females can also develop mammary cancer, she said.

• Ear mites

Cumley said cats are mostly effected by ear mites, which is a dark debris in the ear. Dogs can also get them too, but she said is uncommon.

“You’ll notice cat when your cat scratches it ear or shakes its ear a lot,” she said.

Ear mites are transferable, which means if one animal has it most likely will pass it onto another pet.

How it’s treated: The veterinarian can clean out the ears in one visit, Cumley said, as well as apply a medication.

If left untreated: Cumley said cats can develop a painful inner- ear infection.

• Roundworms, hookworms

Found in cats and dogs, roundworms and hookworms are sometimes hard to spot, Cumley said. If there’s a severe infection a pet owner might be able to spot the worms in the stool, she said, but often they’re hard to spot.

How it’s treated: Deworming is the best option for dogs and cats, starting at 2 weeks old, and then every two weeks, until 4 months old.

If left untreated:: She said signs are usually diarrhea, anemia, be underweight and have dull hair. Also, these types of worms are easily transferable to humans, especially to children, Cumley said. Roundworms have been known to cause blindness in children, she said.

• Heartworms

A pet affected with heartworms will likely develop signs similar to heart disease, Cumley said. Coughing, problems with breathing and excessive panting after exercising are the general signs of heart disease. It affects both dogs and cats, she said, but it’s seen as different disease in each animal. That’s why it’s hard to detect in cats.

How it’s treated: To find out if a dog has heartworms, there is a quick blood test is administered in house. Because it’s more difficult to diagnosis in cats, a special test must be sent out, Cumley said.

Once a dog has it, there’s an injectable treatment. “The treatment is pretty risky because you have to kill the worms in the heart,” Cumley said.

Prevention is key. Dogs can be administered a monthly pill, Cumley said. In cats, Cumley suggested a topical treatment that can be absorbed.

If left untreated: Cumley said simply, it’s death. Especially in dogs it’s a fatal disease if left untreated, she said.

• Arthritis

Arthritis affects both dogs and cats similar to people, Cumley said.

“They move more slowly, or maybe they have a limp,” she said.

Another sign for cats is that the cat will have problems going to the litter box because the cat finds it painful to get into the position, she said.

How it’s treated: Because animals can’t tell us if they’re hurt, Cumley said the doctor will do an exam looking for certain pain responses. She said that often an exam isn’t enough and an X-ray will be ordered for an definitive result. If arthritis is found, Cumley said veterinarians will prescribe a joint supplement and medications such as an anti-inflammatory.

If left untreated: Cumley said some dogs can become paralyzed or get to the point they can’t get up. Because of the loss of quality of life for the pet, Cumley said, many owners opt to put the animal down when it becomes too advanced.

• Kidney disease

Affecting cats the most, Cumley said you’ll notice your kitty might have kidney disease if it is losing weight, is tired or lethargic, drinks a lot and urinates a lot. Dogs are affected as well.

How it’s treated: Cumley said the doctor must conduct blood work and an urinary analysis. Cumley said if a veterinarian sees an increase of liver or kidney enzymes, she will prescribe supplements or change the pet’s food.

If left untreated: Worst case scenario, Cumley said, is organ failure.

• Urinary tract infections

Cumley said both cats and dogs, male and female, are susceptible to urinary tract infections. She said the cat will go to the litter box and strain and cry out, or produce little puddles of urine. In male cats, especially, there’s the chance for a blocked urethra, which is extremely painful and lethal, Cumley said. For dogs, there’s a change in their urination habits, which she calls “inappropriate urinating.” “Sometimes you’ll start finding little puddles in your house,” she said.

How it’s treated: An urine analysis is used to detect bacteria in the urine. She said knowing the type of bacteria lets the veterinarian know which antibiotic to prescribe. Cumley said if crystals are found in the urine, depending on the type of bacteria, one option is to change food, which is usually long-term for cats.

If left untreated: If a cat has blockage, the result can be death in 24 to 48 hours, Cumley said. For urinary tract infections, the animal can have long-term affects on the bladder. The infection can go into the bloodstream and usually first attacks the kidneys, she said.

• Dental disease

Cumley said dental disease is commonly overlooked when it comes to our pets. During the one-year check-up the veterinarian is looking for fractures because, she said, young animals are often chewing on items such as rocks. By age of 2, Cumley said is when pets should have their first dental cleaning.

How it’s treated:: Brushing is a good way to get your dog or cat a pearly smile. A pet should have its teeth checked every six months or year, whatever is recommended by the veterinarian, she said. Cumley said. There are also special treats to help with dental care.

If left untreated: Just like humans, tartar can build up and cause inflammation of the gums or cause the gums to recede, Cumley said. Fractured teeth or an abscessed tooth can be painful for your companion, she said. It can also play a part in how your pet eats but don’t usually seen until it’s really severe. In severe cases, bad dental health can lead to problems with the heart and kidneys, she said.

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25-Pound Kitty Gets Stuck at Newark Airport

Of all places for a cat to freak out and hide -- under the bomb detection equipment at the airport isn't tops on any pet owner's list.

But that's exactly what one nervous, 25-pound cat did on Tuesday at Newark International Airport, according to this story in the Newark Star-Ledger.

A woman removed the brown and black tabby from a carrier so the container could go through the X-ray security checkpoint. Amid the airport craziness, the kitty kind of flipped out and ran under the explosive detection machine.

The cat eluded efforts to snare it, so police brought in a hydraulic lift to raise the 1,000-pound machine. Passengers, meanwhile, were diverted to another X-ray machine.

Kitty and owner were back together in about 20 minutes, but the woman missed her flight to Florida.

If the woman was headed on a vacation, she really needs a vacation now. Yipes!

Picture of a fat kitty, not THE fat airport kitty, courtesy of trippchicago's photostream on Flickr.

No Matter How 'Adorable' the Pet:
Weight Hurts and Fat Kills

No, your dog does not have a hang-up about her burgeoning mirror image. She does not hide at home in embarrassment when she could saunter saucily down the street in all her Rubenesque glory. Nor will your cat shrink under your critical gaze as you consider his striking resemblance to that ottoman you saw at Pottery Barn.
No, pets are not like us. They do not suffer the slings and arrows launched by the enemy of all humans: comparison. The problem, however, is that you're largely in charge of your pet's food supply and activity level.

I abhor media depictions of fat pets, as if bulkiness were the accepted norm we should all aspire to, as if it's OK to have a bulldog that looks more like a refrigerator than anything remotely canine … or a cat too fat to move its backside off your bed.

You might argue we're supposed to laugh at the inanity of pet obesity and hold it up as a mirror to our own cultural foibles, but when it comes to animals, somehow the obvious always gets lost: Weight hurts and fat kills.

Ultimately, our collective comfort level with the size of these portly pets is what irks me most. Pop culture's idea of adorability seems to have shifted what owners consider normal when it comes to their pets' weight. Case in point: Even Westminster's Labrador retrievers are fatter than ever.

Then there's the corollary to this kind of community groupthink: Pets of lean or normal proportions are subject to the kind of condemnation formerly reserved for those who would starve their pets or work them to the bone.

Recently overheard at my local puppy park: "Would you just look at that?! You think she'd feed him occasionally!"

No, this dog's skin wasn't plastered to his ribs, nor was there any other evidence of illness or ill treatment. This was a dog as he was meant to be: healthy and lean, with a hint of ribs, a waspy waistline and a tucked-in abdomen.

As this dog made his way around the canine promenade, meeting and greeting and bounding like a canine superball, it was clear he was full of healthy raw energy. Too bad the buzzing of the crowd made it abundantly clear that many of the other dog owners didn't quite agree with my perfect-specimen assessment.

But the dog park isn't the only place where owners get treated to this "you're dog's too skinny" sentiment. I happen to keep one very lean dog and one slightly softer one. Both are in good shape, slipping nicely into the category we vets term "ideal." Nonetheless, I'm often surprised by casual comments from critical observers when my thin one accompanies me on my daily rounds:

"Is he sick?" or …

"Is he supposed to be so skinny? I always thought his breed was supposed to be blocky."

(If my French bulldog's head isn't as blocky as the rest of him, I have no idea what qualifies as quadratic anymore.)

Then there's this pervasive exam room issue to ponder: Upon recent examination of a near-perfect chocolate Labrador retriever, I'd had the opportunity to praise the family members on their superb handling of her diet and exercise regimen (notoriously fraught for this breed). But instead of the gratified reception I'd expected, I got treated to a litany of complaints related to Cocoa's "severe anorexia."

Turns out she won't eat her whole bowl of food (ever!), which translates into deep frustration on the part of her owners … and an awful lot of Big Macs. ("But it's the only thing she's really happy about eating!")

No, the way it stands, pet obesity won't be going away anytime soon. Not while the extreme version of the "food is love" mantra holds and even pet food commercials confuse the chunkies with the healthies. All of which makes me wonder: What makes our country so different in this regard?

After all, the rest of the world doesn't live with a caloric Cracker Barrel mentality and a culinary sensibility that heralds McDonald's fare. I mean, offering a greasy disk of beef to an otherwise healthy animal probably doesn't occur to most humans on the planet outside this fair country's four corners. Not when they intend to say "I love you," anyway.

But then, cats that look like love seats and dogs that waddle probably don't happen much outside the USA, either. Is there any better evidence of our pervasive cultural decline?

Get Pumped With Your Pet on Vacation
posted by Mary Anna Gentleman -

Loews Hotels, which welcomes pets to join their owners during their stay as guests, has created the Pumped-Up Pets package, which includes a deluxe room, workout tips for both the guest and their pet, a Zisc dog Frisbee, and a specially created and veterinarian-approved “Scratch My Flat Belly” meal for pets.

Studies show that people who diet and exercise with their pet stick to it. Research conducted by Northwestern Memorial Hospital shows that more than 60 percent of people who began an eating and exercise program with their pets stuck to the program for a year.

The Pumped-Up Pets package, offered at 17 Loews Hotels throughout the U.S. and Canada, is available now through May 1. Pricing varies at each hotel and is subject to availability. Loews has two participating hotels at Universal Orlando: Portofino Bay Hotel and Royal Pacific Resort.

For details or to book the package, go to the Loews Web site or call 1-800-23-LOEWS.

Here’s the Scratch My Flat Belly Recipe for Dogs cooked up by Loews Hotels Executive Chef Marc Ehrler:

Recipe for a medium to large dog
1/2 cup of ground lamb, beef or chicken
1/2 cup of cooked barley
1/2 cup of cooked lentils
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 tablespoon of organic yogurt

In a sauté pan heat up the olive oil and cook the meat. Add the cooked barley and cooked lentils. Remove from the heat, place in a bowl until cool to touch. Mix in the organic yogurt and serve to your dog.

Keep reading for some workout tips for you and your pet (but check with your doctor and your vet before starting an exercise regime):

Frisbee: Throwing a Frisbee helps you build arm muscle, balance and flexibility. Your dog will benefit from the chase, stimulation and coordination required in catching the disc and returning it to you. Using a tennis ball can be just as effective; it’s great for chasing and getting you and your dog to move around.

Walking or jogging: Consider using an expandable leash. It’s helpful when walking or jogging because your pet can go ahead or vice versa. For joggers, start by warming up with a walk and work up to a jog. Pay attention to your dog for any signs of fatigue or overheating, because dogs have a higher body temperature than humans. Be sure to bring water for you and your dog; collapsible water bowls are great for this. Also, be on alert for rough terrain and any signs that your dog’s paw pads are sore.

Stair climbing: Find a public building or auditorium and walk or run up and down the stairs. It’s a terrific aerobic workout and great for the thighs. Begin with 10-minute sessions and try to work up to 30 minutes.

Jumping rope: You and your dog can learn how to jump rope together; this is great aerobic exercise and can be done inside or out. Start slowly by letting your dog understand the idea of jumping over the rope, then work on integrating the rhythm of the rope going around.

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Missing Dog Turns Up 600 Miles Away
From Home in Florida

DELAND, Fla. - A Virginia couple has been reunited with their missing German shepherd, which somehow made its way to Florida.

Pamela Holt lives in Stuart, Va., and says she thought the phone call from an animal control officer in Florida was a "mean trick." Then she realized the man really had found her missing pet, Deacon, hundreds of miles from home.

The dog hadn't been seen since December. Holt and her husband eventually decided the dog must have died.

According to police reports, a convenience store clerk saw Deacon and another dog running in traffic last week in Deland, Fla. The clerk called authorities and the dogs were taken to a kennel.

Deacon had an implanted microchip, which helped track down the Holts. The Virginia couple have made the more than 600-mile trip to pick him up.

5 Reasons Why Cats Need Their Claws

Those of you who know me, know that I adore cats—claws and all. I would never declaw a cat. Simply put, it’s wrong. The operation is painful, and it has been likened to cutting off the first knuckles of a human hand.

Cats, unlike humans, don’t have opposable thumbs. They use their claws to grab things. If you ever tossed a toy to a kitty, you can see her grasp onto it with her claws. Cats also scratch to remove the dead outer layer of their claws. And yes, they like to scratch. If, however, your cat is scratching your sofa or carpet, then you need to buy a good scratching post and train your cat to use it.

The U.S. and Canada are the only countries where declawing is commonplace. In other countries, it is illegal or is considered inhumane. The American Veterinary Medical Association also considers it cruel. Following are 5 reasons why cats need their claws:

1. For Protection: If your cat ever gets outside and doesn’t have claws, he will be defenseless. Cats use their claws to climb trees, which can help them escape from dangerous situations. Without those claws, he has a greater chance of being attacked. Even indoor cats need their claws. I have a 9-year old, and when his friends come by they often want to pick up the cat. My cat likes some of the kids, and runs from the more aggressive ones. I am always on hand to make sure everyone is safe. In my house, everyone treats Earl, my cat, with respect. Don’t pick him up if he doesn’t want to be picked up. Earl is a sweetheart. However, he will show his claws if he feels threatened. He never struck anyone; yet it deters kids who can become overbearing.

2. For Exercise: They also use their claws for stretching their muscles.

3. Claws Mark Territory: Ever see a declawed cat “scratch” your furniture? It’s an inherent trait that “marks” a cat’s territory. They won’t scratch a particular item if you train them to use a scratching post. (In my house we avoid certain items, like tightly woven rugs and wicker furniture. They are just too tempting for my cat.)

4. For Balance: When a cat is declawed, it’s not at all like clipping nails. Declawing is amputating the claw and related bone and muscle tissue. Without that, balance is often affected.

5. To Catch Prey: Cats are natural hunters. My indoor cat has caught a few crickets that made their way indoors. He pounces on them and uses his claws to hold them in place.

Trimming Your Cat’s Claws

You will need to purchase a good nail clipper, which you can find at your local pet store.

If possible, start clipping your kitten’s nails to get him used to it. If you have a full grown cat, go slow. Start by playing and then gently petting him so he’s relaxed. It’s great if he falls asleep on your lap. That’s the best time to clip his nails. Following are simple steps on trimming your cat’s claws.

1. The key word here is trim. Just trim the tips. Stay away from the “quick,” that’s the pink tissue inside the claw. Cutting that will cause pain, and it will bleed.

2. Gently press on the pad area of your cat’s paws to extend his claws. If your cat gets fidgety, let him go and try again later. You don’t have to trim all of his claws in one sitting.

3. And don’t forget to reward him. Earl won’t eat treats. He just doesn’t like them. I offer a lot of praise and play.

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9 Tips to Ensure That Your Pet
is Well Cared For While You Are Away
By Sandra Ekland -

If you have never left your animals alone, you may be unsure about whether to send them to a kennel or use an in home pet sitting service. Studies have shown that leaving them home, in their own environment, is much less stressful and healthier for them, than taking them to a kennel. At home they have their food, their bowls, their yard, their bed, and all the familiar sights and smells of home.

Because Mom & Dad, do need to go away at times, you are going to want to find someone that you have confidence in to take care of your babies while you are away.

How to Identify a Quality Pet Sitter

You can look for pet sitters in your area, very easily, on the internet. I recommend This is the website for Pet Sitters International, one of the largest pet sitting organizations in the world. They offer education and information to pet sitters and pet owners. They have a Pet Sitter Locator that you can click on, type in your zip code and all the pet sitters in your area will appear.

1. Check Competitive Rate
Visit the websites of your potential pet sitter and check to see if your potential new pet sitter has competitive rates.

2. Check their Experience and Testimonials
See how long the company has been in business. The longer someone has been pet sitting, the more experience they have. Be sure to read their testimonials, do their clients live in your town?

3. Evaluate their Credentials
Along with experience, they have other credentials like Pet First Aid or Obedience Training. Also, make sure they have insurance and a bond. Insurance will cover any possible damage to your home, pet or the pet sitter, while they are on your property. The bond protects from any possible theft or loss from an employee.

4. Meet your new pet sitter in person.
Watching them interact with your pets, will help you to know if this is the right person for you and your babies.

5. Ask for References in your area.
Be sure to check the reference you are given to ensure of the trust and dependability of your new pet sitter. After all, these are your babies and your home that we are dealing with!

6. Confirm scheduling.
Because it is important for your animal to stay on his or her regular schedule and normal routine, your pet sitter should be flexible and accommodating. They should be able to get to your pets, for their regularly scheduled potty breaks and feeding times. This ensures less stress and makes them feel that the only thing missing is you!

7. Ask about other services.
In addition to feeding, playing, walking making sure your pet has fresh water and your cats boxes are scooped, many companies provide other services, which are very useful and provide care to your home. They can pick up your mail, water your plants inside and out and take your garbage and recycle out for you. Having them altar your blinds and lights, also serves as home security and makes your home look "lived-in", while you are away. Most visits are typically 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the needs of the animal.

8. Confirm who is going to be doing the visits.
Make sure you know who is going to be entering your home. There could be times when your regular pet sitter is not available, so be sure you know when that might happen and who the replacement would be.

9. Decide how many visits you need.
You can also schedule as many visits per day as you want. Typically for dogs, people will have no less than two per day and often times 3 per day. If you have a doggy door and only need two, you may want to consider a third visit, perhaps every other day, to provide a little extra company for your pet.

These tips should ensure that your pet(s) are healthy, happy and safe when you are away from home.

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Hints From Heloise

Dear Heloise: Can you help me find a way to keep STRAY CATS out of my mother's flowerpots? They are ruining her flowers. -- Patricia McGhehey, Rockwall, Texas

Patricia, cats do love to dig, but here are several things for you to try:

- Put lots of pine cones in the dirt; cats don't like feeling them, you can water right through them, and they won't hurt the flowers.

- Place net or wire over the dirt of the plant, so the cats can't get to it.

- Throw citrus peels (or sprinkle lemon juice) around the base of the plant; the cats don't like the smell.

Hopefully one of these will work. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I have two vegetable beds with soft, friable dirt that look like potty boxes to my cats. To keep them from pooping in the beds, I put lots of inexpensive dowels in the dirt until it looks bristly and uninviting to a cat. -- Tanya, via e-mail


Dear Readers: Claire Esposito of Middletown, Ohio, sent a photo of her cat BeeBee "helping" with the sewing by being wrapped in the fabric. Claire says: "We rescued a 5-week-old kitten we found abandoned on our lawn and named him BeeBee, which originally stood for 'Beautiful Baby.' As he aged, he became Beautiful Boy, then Big Boy and occasionally Bad Boy when he bites my ankles as I walk by! He is more like a dog than a cat." To see BeeBee, the sewing helper, visit -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: Back in the Victorian era, women put their hairbrush hair in small, covered containers called hair receivers. The hair was used for a variety of things: to make hair jewelry, as pincushion stuffing or to put inside lockets.

I have found a wonderful, modern idea for using tufts of hair from the hairbrush. I go outside with the hairbrush, rake a comb through it and let the hair go into the wind. Birds use the hair for their nests -- they love it. Once in a while, after a storm, I will find a small nest. It brings a smile to my face every time! -- Ellen in Indiana


Dear Heloise: Whenever I bathe my dog, after he is all lathered up I add a generous amount of baking soda to his body, along with a little more water, and wash as normal. I don't scrub hard because the baking soda can be abrasive on his skin. It makes a huge difference in the way he smells, and to me he seems to get a cleaner coat than without it. He is a white poodle and likes to roll in the dirt. -- C.M., Kerrville, Texas

Baking soda is an odor neutralizer and is safe to use around pets. When wet, it should not be too abrasive, so it's perfect for a bath. -- Heloise

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