Pet Safety Tips at Christmas Time

There were probably many, many times this year when
I may have.....
Disturbed You,
Troubled You,
Pestered You,
Irritated You,
Bugged You,
Or got on your Nerves!!
So today, I just wanted to tell you....

Suck it up Cupcake!!

Cause there


Planned for 2011!

Kitty Prozac:
 Can Synthetic Pheromones Calm Your Pet?
By Andrea Sachs -

          A pheromone collar helped Sammy, a former street fighter, chill out. Cal Crary for TIME

Sara, a former shelter cat, has been luxuriating in my home for nine years. She's always been gentle yet skittish, the proverbial scaredy-cat. But after Sammy—a high-spirited (read: aggressive) 5-year-old rescued by the ASPCA—moved in with us two months ago, it was all-out feline war. Sara hissed, Sammy pounced, and I couldn't get much sleep. Desperate to end the territorial battle before my apartment got destroyed—or, worse, marked with urine—I decided to consult my fabulous (but fabulously expensive) veterinarian. I left her office with two pheromone collars, a handful of pheromone diffusers and the ardent hope that the chemical compounds would bring peace to the Sachs household.

I'm not the only pet owner who has sought such relief. According to veterinary experts, behavioral problems are one of the leading reasons that animals are given away or euthanized. With the number of pet cats in the U.S. soaring 18% in the past decade, to 86 million, and with 56% of owners taking in more than one cat, it's no wonder that so many vets are prescribing low doses of fluoxetine (generic Prozac) to calm ruffled felines.

It's also no wonder that companies are racing to market more-natural alternatives. Scientists have known for a good half-century that animals communicate via pheromones—a word that stems from the Greek pherein (to carry) and hormone—to do everything from trigger alarm to soothe their offspring. In the past decade, synthetic versions of these chemicals have been making their way into consumer products. D.A.P. (dog-appeasing pheromone) sprays and collars mimic a puppy-pleasing compound emitted by canine mammary glands. And there are plenty of colognes and body washes that purport to use human pheromones to help attract a mate, although most experts agree that these people-centric products are effective only as marketing gimmicks.

But research indicates that synthetic feline pheromones really do have a calming effect on cats—like a kitty Prozac but without the pill. Numerous studies, in journals such as Veterinary Record and Applied Animal Behaviour Science, have found that Ceva Animal Health's Feliway pheromone sprays and diffusers help reduce stress-related behaviors such as urine marking, vertical scratching and aggression.

Over the past year, more than a million cat-owning households have used pheromone products, which have no effect on humans or other noncat species. Ceva's Feliway diffusers, which look a little like plug-in air fresheners, have been available for more than a decade. Flea-collar maker Sergeant's started selling Sentry Good Behavior pheromone collars in April 2009. Both are cheaper than a vet visit. The diffusers cost $48, while the collars sell for $12 to $15. Results can be seen quickly, typically within a few days. The drawback: these products may need to be replaced after 30 days, so long-term use can get pricey.

Although each of the two manufacturers uses a different patented pheromone, there is no catfighting between them. To the contrary, says Larry Nouvel, a chemist who helped develop the Sergeant's collars, "I'd recommend that you use both." The collars mimic a soothing pheromone that mother cats emit while nursing, and Ceva's diffusers and sprays use a synthetic version of a facial pheromone—which cats leave behind when they rub their cheeks on furniture or people—that signals that the territory is safe and secure.

Many veterinarians have embraced synthetic pheromones, recommending them for use at home as well as in cat carriers. The success of these products has cut down on expensive sessions with animal behaviorists. "We're seeing far less of the common behavior problems such as urine spraying than we saw 10 or 15 years ago," says Gary Landsberg, a leading veterinary behaviorist in Toronto. Instead, he adds, "we're seeing much more difficult, pathologically anxious, phobic or compulsive animals." In those cases, he often recommends pheromones, along with psychotropic medication and behavior therapy.

I put a diffuser in an electrical socket in each room of my apartment. Then I put collars on my squirmy pets, who initially resisted but quickly got used to them. No prescription is needed, and there are no side effects. But as Kyle Creech, a veterinarian at Ceva, noted, "For behavior, there's not a magic pill or a magic shot that will solve all your problems."

He was right. I would love to say my cats snuggled up together, transformed by laboratory science. Alas, that's not the case. Although Sara was a lot calmer, looking positively beatific at times, she still cowered under the bed when Sammy approached. He was also calmer but was still too aggressive to just let Sara be. As the brawling continued, I realized that not even pheromones could make this particular duo harmonize. I didn't think psychotropics would resolve their differences, nor did I want to permanently sequester them in different rooms. So instead of buying another month's supply of pheromones, I took Sammy back to the ASPCA. It's a no-kill shelter, but I still cried the whole way home. Too bad I don't believe in cat whisperers.

Easy (and Cheap!) Holiday Gifts
for the Cats in Your Life
By Kim Boatman -

The economy may be hurting our wallets, but that doesn't mean you need to skip gift-giving this holiday season, especially when it comes to your cat.

There's no need to splurge on presents for your favorite pet; the best gifts often involve more thought and less cash. Here's a Santa's sack full of ideas for homemade, handmade or inexpensive cat gifts.

Homemade Gifts

•Catnip mice: Cat owner Donna Hinshaw suggests this idea for those who aren't particularly crafty. Take a 2-inch-by-3-inch square of fabric, fill it with catnip and sew it shut. "I make mine in the vague shape of a mouse and use a Sharpie to draw on eyes and a smiling mouth," says Hinshaw. "Include an old shoelace or a drawstring from a fancy shopping bag as the tail, about 12 to 18 inches long. Some cats carry the mouse around by the tail." Hinshaw removes the plastic end of the shoelace as a safety precaution and knots the end so it won't unravel.

•Quilts and blankets: Your cat's new blanket can be as simple as a piece of fleece or the bottom from an old sweater, says Hinshaw, who makes small quilts to donate to shelter adoption centers. Hinshaw's simple instruction are to lay two pieces of fleece back-to-back, cutting fringe around the edges and tying the fringe of the two pieces together.

•Climbers: The climbing towers you find in pet stores can be expensive. Consider converting an old wooden ladder into a climbing tower, suggests Sandy Sandler, a crafts expert in Henderson, Nev. You can cover the steps with carpet remnants and create a tower that suits your decor. Make sure you secure the ladder to the wall.

•Chenille stem toys: Chenille stems, also known as pipe cleaners, come in an amazing variety of colors, patterns and sizes. You can roll balls of tinfoil, then wrap chenille stems around them to hold the shape. Or mold a few stems into fish and then attach them to a wooden dowel to make a swat toy, says Sandler.

•Flying toys: Simply attach pieces of floppy fabric to the end of a straightened wire hanger, then move it through the air as if it were a bird, advises Dr. Lee Pickett, a Bernville, Pa., veterinarian. You can also make a fishing toy by tying a feather or fallen leaves to the end of a string attached to a stick.

Handmade Gifts

•Gifts that empower others: You'll find colorful, yet economical, gifts for your kitty made by a Guatemalan women's cooperative at Supporting this organization helps craftswomen who are sometimes the sole economic support of their families. A breakaway collar is $5.10, and an organic catnip hacky sack sells for $5. Organic catnip mice cost $7.30.

•Organic cotton collars: Jimena Lopez-Rehmer sells handmade collars using organic cotton for $15 each at She offers holiday themes, including snowmen and gingerbread men.

Inexpensive Gifts

•Warming pad: The Pet-zzz-pad ($19.99) heats your kitty's bed to a vet-recommended 102 degrees. The pad activates once your cat steps onto its bed.

•Organic wheatgrass: Everything you need to grow organic wheatgrass arrives in a bag from online eco boutique The bag sells for $10.50.

Remember Safety

As you make or purchase gifts for your cat, Pickett cautions that you keep safety in mind. Strings, ribbon, tinsel and yarn can cause deadly obstructions if your cat eats the material. Always supervise the use of stringed toys. If you splurge on a number of gifts, rotate them to keep your cat's interest.

Kim Boatman is a journalist based in Northern California whose work has appeared in such publications as the Miami Herald, Detroit Free Press and San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifetime lover of animals and shares her home with three cats.

A Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Tropical Fish
by Galen Schultz -

EVERYONE should have a pet. Some people may be put off by the idea of having to clean up poop or be woken up by loud squawking every day, but your choice of pet doesn’t necessarily have to be something cuddly that you can play catch with or teach to talk.

Tropical fish are a great alternative. Not only are fish therapeutically pleasing and interesting animals, but they can be very easy to look after and maintain. You may consider pet fish as boring but you will be amazed at the variety, colours and characters inherent in tropical fish.

I have been keeping tropical fish since my childhood years and have learnt a great deal regarding what to get and how to look after a great array of fishy friends.

Starting off

If you wish to invest in your first tropical fish tank it’s a good idea to go large. Starting off small is not necessarily easier and once you get into such a hobby (and your fish grow) you will want to upgrade, which can be a mission and comes at a cost.

Invest in a large, rectangular shaped tank (30 liters is a good volume) and first ensure that you have a good place to house it. A fish tank stand is a good idea but ensure that the tank will rest at a comfortable eye-level.

It is also important to keep your tank away from direct sunlight as this will encourage rapid algae growth. You don’t want to have to scrap away algae in order to have a good look at who is inside.

Keep your setup as varied as possible. It’s best to have sections of both soft and gravel substrate. Keep your tank well planted and create lots of hiding places such as caves, tubes and rock tunnels, and decorate as you see fit.

The Nitrogen Cycle

Once your tank is filled up with de-chlorinated water and you have finished creating your own underwater Eden, there is a short waiting period to endure. With a heater installed and set between 25-27 degrees Celsius, and a good filter running, you tank will begin to perform a nitrogen cycle. Your local pet store will provide you with instructions on how to do this correctly.

After completing the above you are now ready to get your first tropical fish! It is always a good idea to only get a few at first and ensure that they are perfectly cheerful before getting more. It is also very important to research each tropical fish species beforehand to understand their needs and requirements and temperament with other fish.

There is tons of info available on the web – written by dedicated tropical fish hobbyists who are more than willing to give expert advice to beginners. However, I can recommend the following families as good fishy pets for the beginner: Corydoras, Gouramis, Loaches, Black Ghost Knife fish, Ramirezis, Algae Eaters and Tetras.

LETTER: Be a Responsible Pet Owner

So, exactly what is the thought process of people who think that everyone who has a barn wants other people’s cast-off pets or animals?

Do they think there is a private well of money to care for everyone’s cast-offs?

Did you know that doing this creates fights, sickness, gross deformities from in-breeding, and death of your throwaways and their young, and also it puts the property owners’ pets at risk? Is that right? Out of sight out of mind, right?

Well, get real, people! If you can’t or don’t want to take care of a pet for its entire lifespan of about 20 years, and their offspring if you choose not to spay or neuter, my suggestion is: Don’t get a pet.

Newsflash: Pets are expensive. They are a luxury. They are a commitment.

Cute puppies and kittens grow up. If you want something cute to look at and can’t commit to them with love, food, warm shelter and medical care for their entire lives, then buy a book with photos of cute puppies and kittens.

Shocking are the photos of barrels of “pets,” euthanized due to the sheer volume of people’s irresponsibility.

And what about dumping these helpless creatures in the wild to fend for themselves ... they suffer and die.

Out of sight out of mind?

Get a conscience!

Cindy Ernst
Fond du Lac

Guide Dog Aids Soldier
 Blinded in Afghanistan

BLOOMFIELD, Conn. -- A war veteran from Connecticut who lost his sight while serving in Afghanistan is getting a new outlook on life thanks to a guide dog.

Air Force Senior Airman Michael Malarsie, 22, has been "test driving" guide dogs with the help of a trainer from the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation in Bloomfield.

For Malarsie, it's a time to learn new skills.

“All I know of what to do with one of these dogs is to say forward, left right, but it's been great,” Malarsie said.

Malarsie was on a routine foot patrol in Afghanistan's Kandahar Provence in January, when he was injured.

Fidelco’s CEO and Executive Director Eliot Russman says it's an honor to help American heroes like Malarsie.

“In Michael's case he was fortunate in one case he survived the IED that killed four of his friends, but he left his eyesight in Afghanistan and we're honored to provide him with a new set of eyes a Fidelco guide dog,” Russman said.

Since Tuesday, Malarsie has been working with dogs of different sizes and speeds.

In the coming weeks he will be fitted with the one that best meets his needs.

Although his life will never be the same as it was before the injury, a guide dog will provide him with a much higher quality of life.

“I feel like I can walk like I use to when I'm walking with my cane it's really slow and I have a lot of time, walking with these dogs I am my normal pace again, it's almost like I'm running,” said Malarsie.

It takes two years and a cost of $45,000 to train the German shepherds.

The money for that dog came courtesy of a donation from the Newman's Own Foundation.

The Golden Years:
Helping Your Dog Age Gracefully Kennel Club

Most dog owners consider Fido a part of the family and want him to live a long, healthy life. Dogs, just like humans, need special care once they become seniors. Generally, dogs are considered in the senior stage of life at seven years old, but how your dog ages will vary depending on what breed he is. The American Kennel Club offers the following tips to help you make your dog's golden years happy and healthy.

-Pay attention to change. Older dogs have predictable routines and behaviors, so any change in his behavior, activity, weight, eating, and bathroom habits could be a sign that something is wrong. Be observant of any changes and go see your veterinarian to rule out any developing conditions.

-Well visits. Since dogs age faster than humans, early detection of age-related problems is key to keeping your senior dog happy and healthy. Have your elderly dog examined by your veterinarian every six months. These regular exams will help you catch any age-related illnesses before they become too advanced.

-Make your home senior-friendly. As Fido ages, he'll become less agile than he used to be. Smaller dogs may have trouble jumping onto or off of furniture, and larger dogs may have trouble getting in and out of cars. Set up carpet-lined steps or a ramp to help your dog do the simple things he used to do in a safe and comfortable way.

For more information on responsible dog ownership, visit

Christmas Pet Safety Tips

Christmas is definitely one of the most wonderful times of the year.

However, being a loud and busy season, it can also pose dangers to pets. To avoid any unwanted happenings, it is best to keep your pets safe at all times. Here are some pet safety tips that you can do to keep your pets away from accidents this Yuletide Season:

1.The food is probably one of the biggest treats during Christmas and pet owners have this tendency to give our pets some goodies without realising that not all foods are good for them. Here are some foods and beverages that you should NEVER give your pets:

•Chocolate (highly toxic!!!);

•Chicken or Turkey meat with bones (even cooked bones can splinter or get lodged in your pet’s throat or can cause serious damage by puncturing the intestinal tract!);


•Alcoholic beverages

•Spoiled foods (this can cause diarrhea)

•Salty foods

2.You should also try to avoid over-feeding your pet during the holidays. If you want your pets to have a treat, purchase a nutritionally balanced pet treat from a pet store or veterinarian instead of giving them table food.

3.If you have a Christmas tree, make sure that it is well secured. As much as possible, avoid using small decorations that your pet could swallow. Do not use tinsel, foil, or artificial snow, because these decorations can severely injure your pet when swallowed. Secure ornaments well and consider displaying fragile or precious ornaments in a less tempting area of the house so that they cannot be reached by curious pets. Cover electric cords and flashing tree lights so that your precious pet cannot play with them or worse, chew them. Moreover, if you use ribbons, keep them out of reach and refrain from putting ribbons to dress up your pets for the holidays because your pets could swallow the ribbons. Also, you should keep candles and lamps well out of reach, as curious pets could burn themselves or start a fire.

4.If you decide to display holiday plants, do not forget that many plants are toxic to pets. For instance, mistletoe, holly, and poinsettia are all very dangerous for animals, so keep these plants out of reach. You should also avoid using tempting edible decorations and ornaments around the house.

5.Try to avoid using chemicals when you celebrate the holidays, as your pets could ingest these substances and become seriously sick. Some examples of things to avoid are fire glow that come in various colours and aerosols such as air fresheners.

6.Loud noise and lots of people can be stressful for pets. Since Christmas holds lots of gatherings with family and friends, it would be best to consider confining your pet in a safe, comfortable place using a pet crate or pet playpen with enough food and water. On the other hand, if you need to travel for the holidays, find a reliable pet sitter rather than taking your pets along. That’s because travel delays and other stresses that are annoying for you can be deadly for animal companions because they are more sensitive to stress and extreme temperature.

Keep these helpful tips in mind and you are sure to make your pets happy and comfortable this Christmas!

Top 10 Reasons to Use a Pet Stroller
By Lynette Judd -

With all the glam about pets being accessories carried around in purses and strollers, there are some very compelling reasons why pet strollers do serve their purpose aside from being the latest fashion statement. Here are the top 10 reasons why pet strollers

1. Helpful for Older Humans

Strollers can be a benefit for elderly individuals that may want to walk for exercise and find it difficult when their dog pulls on the leash and can become a danger to their walkers.

2. Elderly Dogs, Dogs with Disabilities or Limited Mobility

Way to often when dogs fall into this category they start to miss out on life’s simple pleasures of how life used to be when they were more active. Pet strollers can bring these dogs back into the circle of activity with their owners.

3. Jogging, Marathons and Distance Walks

Many active individuals train to become distance walkers, joggers or run in marathons, however their dog may not be able to keep up the pace with them. Give your dog the benefit of enjoying these activities with you. When they tire from walking or are unable to keep up with your trained level, put them in a stroller to finish the journey with you.

4. Walking Multiple Dogs

Lots of dog owners have more than one breed and size of dog. Pet strollers offer more relaxing and safer walks eliminating tangled leashes and dogs pulling in different directions.

5. Vet Visits Made Easier

When you dog becomes injured or the pet owner has mobility difficulty, pet strollers can a very practical and easy mode of transportation to the vet. Pet litters can also be easily handled for those multiple visits to the vet. Keep them safe and hassle free in a pet stroller.

6. Travel With Safety and Peace Of Mind

When traveling by car, boat or RV you can make your trip easier and safer with a pet stroller. Transporting your dog from a vehicle to a hotel room when you have many other obstacles to deal with can lesson the worry that they’ll get loose by a busy intersection or strange location.

7. Paw Protection

Paws can take a beating on hot and rough sidewalks. Dogs living in large cities have to navigate all kids of debris on sidewalks like broken glass, trash and hazardous chemicals. Boat docks are also a very hot place for sensitive paws to travel on.

8. Less Stressful Evacuation

Every household should have an evacuation plan in the event of a tornado, earthquake, hurricane or other emergency. Pet evacuation is much easier in a stroller.

9. Outdoor Events

Picnics, festivals and other outdoor events can be fun to share with your dog. But they also mean dealing with crowds, bugs, other potentially aggressive dogs, trash and confusion. Give you dog a safe place to observe the festivities without getting her tail stepped on or gulping down dangerous chocolate before you can stop her.

10. Keep Your Dog Safe From Unleashed Aggressive Dogs

If taking your dog into an area that may have unleashed or aggressive dogs, a pet stroller can lessen your worry and help keep your dog safe.

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