Can Your Dog Read Your Mind?

Three in Five Americans Own Pets,
Harris Poll Finds

More than three in five Americans (62 percent) own at least one pet, according to The Harris Poll, an online survey of 2,184 adults conducted by Harris Interactive between May 9 and May 16, 2011. The 62 percent figure matches the overall pet ownership statistic from the American Pet Products Association’s APPA National Pet Owners Survey 2011-2012.

Of the pet-owning respondents, 69 percent owned dogs, 51 percent owned cats, 11 percent reported owning fish, 7 percent reported owning one of more birds and 8 percent reported owning some other type of pet, Harris reported.

Of dog owners, 62 percent reported owning one dog, 25 percent reported owning two, 8 percent reported owning three, and 4 percent reported owning more than 4.

Of cat owners, 47 percent reported owning one cat, 30 percent owned two, 11 percent owned three, and 11 percent owned more than four.

Of bird owners, 61 percent reported owning one bird, 18 percent reported owing two, 8 percent reported owning three, 2 percent reported owning four and 10 percent reported owning more than six.

Not surprisingly, 32 percent of fish owners reported owning six or more fish, with 23 percent reporting owning one fish, 19 percent owning two fish and 26 percent owning between 3 and 5 fish.

The poll also asked about respondents about dogs in public places. The majority of respondents felt it was a good idea to have dogs in long-term care facilities (89 percent), hospitals (72 percent), and prisons (60 percent), but a bad idea to have dogs in professional offices (52 percent) and university libraries (55 percent). See table.

Among other findings, 91 percent of pet owners said they considered their pet to be a member of their family and 57 percent reported they frequently let their pet sleep in bed with them, compared to 23 percent who reported never allowing their pet to sleep with them.

Also, 60 percent of pet owners frequently or occasionally bought their pet a holiday present compared to 36 percent who frequently or occasionally bought their pet a birthday present.

Twelve percent reported frequently cooking especially for their pet and 13 percent occasionally cooked especially for their pet, Harris reported. Sixteen percent reported either frequently or occasionally dressing their pet in some sort of clothing.

Cat Coaxed from Pipe Following 7-Day Ordeal
By Brandon Smith-Hebson,

"Rooter" the kitten was stuck in a pipe for seven days before being rescued by Roto-Rooter at her owner's home on Grant Street. Staff photo by Marshall Gorby

SPRINGFIELD — An emaciated kitten emerged from a muddy hole after a week-long ordeal on Friday afternoon with the help of a company that usually unclogs commode drains.

“We just had the equipment,” said Shannon Doerner, a service technician with Roto-Rooter’s Dayton office.

Doerner and a colleague were ordered to Springfield at the insistence of the company’s dispatch network: A cat had been stuck in a pipe seven days, they said. Doerner doubted the animal was alive.

By then the cat’s owner, Angela Neal, was desperate. For most of those seven days — ever since she began to hear the cat’s yowls reverberate through all her house’s pipes — she had been trying to give the kitten food and water.

And Neal “got the run around” from several agencies and companies she called to help her get the cat out. They didn’t return her calls for days, she said, and then claimed to not have the proper equipment.

Doerner and Mark Allen, his supervisor, left with advice from managers: “Be as careful as possible” and “get there as quickly as you can.” Most importantly, their plumbing gear included a light and camera on the end of a long, flexible line.

On his way to Springfield, Doerner remembered that before he started with Roto-Rooter, he had seen a news story about one of their employees rescuing an animal from a drain. Ever since, he said, he had wanted to help someone in a similar way.

Neal explained the situation as she led the men to the basement, where she could hear the cat the loudest. None of the food she was throwing into an opening made it to the cat, she explained. The cat was down there somewhere, in a series of pipes in the old Grant Street home.

Seven feet deep, the cistern was originally meant to collect rainwater from the old house’s roof, Doerner said, before city water was connected to the residence. Doerner crawled under the porch and Allen manned the camera from outside.

“First we tried an ice cream bucket,” he said. “The cat wouldn’t jump all the way into the bucket.”

Neal then gave the men a wicker basket.

“If (Allen) didn’t have the idea of screwing the can of cat food into the wicker basket, we would have been done,” said Doerner. “If (the cat) had knocked the food out, we never would have gotten it into the basket.”

But up the cat came, after seven days with nothing to drink or eat but spiders, flies and maybe a little rain water.

Neal has taken the cat in. She briefly debated her name before choosing a fitting name: “Rooter.”

Pet Dog's Illness Takes Its Toll on Hilary Duff

Singer-actress Hilary Duff's dog is sick and she is so stressed out that she says she is having a nervous break down.

Duff's dog Lola was diagnosed with seizures this week, reports

"Hi, Please say prayers for my little pup Lola! She is having seizure over and over and I am basically having a nervous break down. This sucks," she posted on microblogging site twitter.

The 23-year-old has received encouraging messages, including a post from her friend Ashley Tisdale, who wrote, "Sending positive vibes ur (your) way for Lola!"

Multi-Millionaire Pooch Dies at Age 12
 (84 in Dog Years)

Leona Helmsley and her dog, Trouble, in 2003. The pampered Maltese inherited $12 million from his doting mistress. Jennifer Graylock / AP file

Trouble, the beloved Maltese of billionaire Leona Helmsley who became an international celebrity when Helmsley died and left him $12 million, has died. The pampered pooch was 12 — 84 in dog years.

And despite Helmsley’s request, Trouble will not be interred next to her. The late real estate mogul who reportedly once sniffed that “only the little people pay taxes” wanted the dog next to her in her cozy 12,000-square-foot family mausoleum in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery north of New York City, but a member of the cemetery’s board told the New York Daily News that regulations forbid it. Instead, the pooch has been cremated.

Despite his millions, Trouble had been troubled in his later years; the dog was blind and feeble when he died, sources told the Daily News. That's not to mention the dozens of death and kidnapping threats he received, according to a spokesman for the Helmsley Charitable Trust, which receives the balance of the funds set aside for Trouble’s care. That care reportedly included $8,000 a year for grooming, $1,200 for food, and a full-time bodyguard.

Originally purchased at a Manhattan pet shop to console Helmsley after the death of her husband, Harry, the impeccably groomed and garbed Maltese was accustomed to traveling among his mistress’s many properties via stretch limousine and private jet. In contrast, Helmsley scorned two of her own grandchildren in her will.

After Helmsley’s death in 2007, the dog retired to Florida, where he was cared for by the manager of a Helmsley hotel in Sarasota, the Daily News reported.

Despite his millions, Trouble was not the richest dog in the world.

Technically that distinction belongs to Gunther IV, a German dog left $372 million by his owner, reports Business Insider. Other mogul mutts include Miss Charlie Brown, an English cocker spaniel in South Dakota who stands to inherit $130 million from her mineral magnate owners.

In addition, Oprah Winfrey’s will is rumored to have earmarked $30 million for the care of her pups.

Cat Found In Air Filter Alive

WPTZ reports that a mechanic in Springfield, Vt. discovered a kitten in the air filter.

"I brought in a car for service, opened up the hood, went to check the air filter, and saw a big ball of fur in the air filter. And it was breathing," mechanic Jim Perry said, according to KITV.

Perry said he's found mice in air filters before, but never a cat. "That's nothing I ever expected to find," he said.

The fortunate bundle of fur likely got trapped when the car's owner was on a trip to Connecticut.

One of the mechanics at the shop decided to adopt the pet and give it to his daughter.

"She's in first grade and her birthday's coming up," Josh Webster said. "This is what she's getting."

In This Recession,
Even a Police Dog Got Laid Off
By: Everett Rosenfeld -

A police dog like this one was recently let go in East Haven, CT.
Visuals Unlimited, Inc./Cheryl Ertelt

A harsh economic climate has negatively affected cities and municipal services across the country. But the downturn hit home for a five-year-old German Shepherd named Daro earlier this month.

Daro, a police dog for the East Haven Police Department in Connecticut, was forcibly retired after the town council cut his budget. As the only police dog in the EHPD, Daro's early retirement has angered the town's police union and some citizens, according to the New Haven Register.

“My concern is why it's not being funded anymore,” Sgt. John Miller, police union president told the Register. “It's a valuable tool. It's been a proven success ... It's a valuable tool for police work these days.”

Miller said that by his calculations, it costs the town just $3,500 a year to keep Daro in service, and that his dismissal is only the latest in a series of cuts to important police programs in the past three and a half years.

Paul Hongo Jr., deputy director of town affairs, said, however, that the costs are higher than $3,500. Two years ago, the town spent $7,000 on dental work for the dog, and the town also spent an estimated $2,200 in payroll costs for early dismissal and overtime costs to care for the Daro.

Deputy Chief John Mannion told the Register that the department's K9 unit was eliminated because, “the chief just decided, upon reviewing the budget, that there wasn't enough money to sustain the program.”

But East Haven's Town Hall is fighting back against these allegations. In an email to the public, Mayor April Capone fought off reports that she disliked dogs and denied any monetary connection to Daro's dismissal.

“First I would like to say that I have always been not only a supporter of the K9 program but a true ‘dog person' myself. I remember meeting Daro when he was a puppy in some of his first days on the force and feeling lucky to have him,” she said in the email. “Unfortunately, the situation has changed in ways that have less to do with our budget and more to do with factors beyond my control.”

Instead of a budgetary link to the K9 cuts, Capone claimed that the decision was partially influenced by Daro's handler, Officer Dave Cari, insisting on a midnight shift when a dog unit is not at its most effective. Whatever the cause of the dismissal, East Haven residents have taken to Facebook and the New Haven Register's website to voice their dissatisfaction with the decision.

Daro would probably have served three more years on the force if not for his dismissal, Cari told the Register.

Canine Telepathy:
Can Your Dog Read Your Mind?
The Huffington Post - Catherine Pearson

That was the question posed in a recent study published in the journal Learning and Behavior about canine behavior. The answer, apparently, is both a little bit yes and also, a little bit no.

Researchers at the University of Florida set out to better understand the origins of exactly how it is that dogs respond to human gestures, focusing specifically on what the study's lead author, Monique Udell, called "attentional states."

To do that, they set up several different experiments. Dogs from both domesticated situations and shelters were given the choice to beg for food from a person with her face or eyes concealed, versus one whose attention was fixed on the dogs. The same experiments were also conducted with wolves -- the idea being that it would show whether or not they have some kind of genetic barrier that prevents them from responding to cues of attention in the same way dogs can, as previous studies have suggested.

What the researchers found is that both the dogs and the wolves were less likely to beg for food from the experimenters who had their backs to them, which indicates a "capacity to behave in accordance with a human's attentional state," the authors wrote. In other words, most of the canines and wolves displayed some kind of ability -- perhaps inherent -- to sense how people were acting, regardless of whether or not they grew up in contact with humans.

But the researchers also found that, generally speaking, the dogs raised as pets rather than in shelters were more likely to respond to cues when they had a human's attention. Which indicates that in the course of living with, and being cared for by humans, they'd learned to better understand their cues.

"What this shows is that it's not a question of nature versus nurture," explained Udell. "It's always going to be a combination to the two that informs a dog's responsiveness to humans."

In other words, Fido does have some natural ability to sense when he's got your attention, but he hones that sense through a lifetime of experience, too.

Udell added that people could take this information and use it to help train the dog of their dreams.

"Dogs aren't born being man's best friend," she said. "The experiences they have and the type of environment they live in -- these influence their behavior. If you want a dog that's very responsive to humans, that does take work."

5 Things to Know About Protecting Pets
from Summer's Heat

Just like people, pets can suffer heatstroke at any hour of the day -- even in the shade.

Summer’s swelter has arrived, and Hillsborough County Animal Services reminds pet owners about the dangers of Florida weather. Just like people, pets can suffer heatstroke at any hour of the day -- even in the shade.

According to a press release from Hillsborough County Animal Services, defenseless animals cannot call for help, and many pet owners fail to recognize the signs of distress and heatstroke. Symptoms include excessive panting, drooling, weakness, disorientation and seizures. It is not uncommon for an animal in heatstroke to refuse water.

While Florida felines are also at risk, dogs are the more likely to suffer heatstroke due to their activity level, breed characteristics and modes of confinement. Hillsborough County Animal Services offers the following tips for protecting pets from Florida’s dangerous heat:

1. Make shade and fresh water available and plentiful at all times.

2. Use caution when exercising dogs, even in off-peak temperature hours.

3. Reduce risks to very active dogs that don’t know their own limitations.

4. Limit outdoor exposure of older pets, heavy-coated (fur) breeds and brachycephalic dogs (those with pushed-in noses), such as bull dogs, pugs, Pekingese, Boston and Yorkshire terriers, to name a few.

5. Ask boarding facilities and pet-sitters about exercise procedures.

Like humans, pets suffering from heatstroke require immediate first-aid:
1. Lower the body temperature by submerging in cool (not icy) water, or by running a hose over its body.

2. Cool the head and neck areas first.

3. Place the victim in an air-conditioned space.

4. Do not attempt to force a heatstroke victim to drink water.

5. Seek immediate medical attention and evaluation for any victim of heatstroke.

It is best to keep the family veterinarian’s phone number handy at all times.

As with children, local and state statutes also forbid leaving animals inside vehicles -- even with windows cracked or during evening hours. Violators risk both civil and criminal penalties. When the temperature outside is 85 degrees, the inside of a vehicle can reach 102 in just 10 minutes -- 120 degrees in 30 minutes. Animals left in closed vehicles will develop heatstroke, and may suffer pain, injury or even death.

Citizens who witness animal cruelty or see a pet confined inside a vehicle should notify law enforcement or Hillsborough County Animal Services immediately. For more information, call (813) 744-5660 or log on

"Excuse Me, Did You Lose A Cat?"

Tips for Take Your Dog to Work Day
American Kennel Club -

This June 24 is Take Your Dog to Work Day. While many might think a dog in the office would be distracting, studies have proven that having pets in the workplace creates a more productive work environment, lowers stress, and actually decreases employee absenteeism.

To help make your dog's office debut more productive, the American Kennel Club offers the following tips for those planning to take their dog to work.

- Survey the scene. Before bringing your dog to the office, take a look around and pet-proof your space. Secure all cabinets and trash cans that contain food. Remove anything smaller than a tennis ball or items within your pet's reach that have sharp edges or could be a choking hazard. Cover any exposed electrical cords or outlets to prevent burns and electrocution as the result of chewing.

- Behavior. You should only take well-trained and housebroken dogs to work with you. Make sure your dog is socialized and safe around strangers. If your dog is unnerved by changes in environment or social situations, the attention and strange noises associated with an office may cause your dog undue stress.

- Health. You would stay home from work if you were sick and so should your dog. If your pup has a contagious condition, it is best he stay at home. It is also very important to make sure he is up to date on all of his vaccinations.

- Hygiene. Make sure your dog is clean and well-groomed before you take him to the office. A dirty dog might cause co-workers to complain.

- Bring the necessities. Make sure you bring the necessities your dog needs with you, such as bowls, food, quiet chew toys, treats, clean up bags and a leash.

- Supervise! Keep an eye on your dog at all times. Be mindful of those who might be afraid of your dog and people who are allergic to him.

Additional tips can be found on the American Kennel Club Web site at

Living with Pets May Protect Infants from Allergies
By Amanda Gardner, -

Growing up around a dog reduced the risk of dog allergies for boys, but not for girls -- a finding that mystified researchers.

( -- Children who live with dogs and cats are less likely to develop allergies to those animals later in life, but only if the pet is under the same roof while the child is still an infant, a new study suggests.

Compared to babies born into cat-free homes, those who grew up with cats were roughly half as likely to be allergic to them as teenagers, the study found.

Growing up around a dog reduced the risk of dog allergies by about the same amount for boys, but not for girls -- a finding that mystified researchers.

Being exposed to pets anytime after the first year of life appeared to have no effect on allergy risk, however, which indicates that timing may be everything when it comes to preventing allergies.

Though they can't say for sure, the researchers suspect that early exposure to pet allergens and pet-related bacteria strengthens the immune system, accustoms the body to allergens, and helps the child build up a natural immunity.

"Dirt is good," says lead researcher Ganesa Wegienka, Ph.D., summing up the theory. "Your immune system, if it's busy with exposures early on, stays away from the allergic immune profile."

This isn't the first study to find that having a household pet may protect kids from allergies, but it is the first to follow children until they were 18 years old.

Previous studies have had mixed results -- some have even linked pet exposure during infancy to an increased risk of allergy -- so it's too early to recommend getting a dog or cat just to ward off allergies in your infant, says David Nash, M.D., clinical director of allergy and immunology at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

"In the end, we'll probably find out that there are periods of opportunity when exposure to allergens, for some people, is going to have a protective effect," says Dr. Nash, who was not involved with the new study. "But we're a long way from figuring out who it's protective for and when that optimal period is."

By the same token, don't give away your beloved family pet because you're concerned the critter will provoke allergies.

"I would not get rid of my dog if I was having a child," says Wegienka, an epidemiologist in the department of public health sciences at Henry Ford Hospital, in Detroit. "There's no evidence that you should get rid of a dog or a cat."

Moreover, it's possible that factors other than having a dog or cat in the house influenced the study participants' risk of allergy.

For instance, although the researchers took into account whether the children's parents were allergic to animals, they didn't ask about a broader family history of allergies or other health problems. So it could be that children who are genetically predisposed to animal allergies simply are less likely to grow up in homes with pets.

In the study, which appears in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy, Wegienka and her colleagues collected information from 566 children and their parents about the kids' exposure to indoor pets and their history of allergies.

In addition, when the kids turned 18, the researchers took blood samples and tested them for certain immune-system proteins (known as antibodies) that fight off cat and dog allergens.

The teenagers who lived with a cat during their first year of life had a 48 percent lower risk of cat allergy than their peers, and the teen boys who lived with a dog had a 50 percent lower risk of allergy.

The authors suggest that infant girls may not develop the same immunity as boys because they may interact differently with dogs than infant boys, but that's only a guess.

Ask Dog Lady: It's OK for Dogs to Catnap
Dog Lady - The Eagle Tribune

Dickens, our 4-year-old bichon frise/shih tzu, runs with me three days a week, 4 to 5 miles per run, plus he gets a 10 to 20 minute walk three times every day. He sees a veterinarian regularly, weighs an appropriate 15 pounds, eats well, has good digestion, and is a perpetual delight. But sometimes he just plops down at home as if he's exhausted. Is it possible to exhaust a 4-year-old dog? Is too much exercise making him old early? We're counting on Dickens being around for a decade or more.

Phew, you exhaust (and delight) Dog Lady by describing Dickens' aerobics routine. For a 15- pound dog, he's going for the burn and running with the hounds. Vigorous exercise is good for any dog. Still, you must cut him some slack.

A friend once used a charming way to describe his own small dog's need for snoozing: "Oscar is nothing without his 22 hours of beauty sleep." Dogs sack out. This is what they do. They need their shuteye, especially younger dogs. Is it any wonder the dog bed industry is booming?

Do not worry that Dickens wears out early. Check with your veterinarian, of course. Yet, Dog Lady believes all the exercise you provide primes your dog to endure for a good long time. The workouts give strength to his muscles and sanity to his behavior. So does sleep, which he needs in abundance because it restores and nurtures him. Leave Dickens alone when he plops down. He's just doing what comes naturally.

I recently acquired a 5-year-old collie mix. She is a very loving and good natured dog except when someone opens the door to our house. She barks incessantly and is hard to calm down. I don't know what to do to stop this behavior. I don't know if she is being protective or if she is scared. I would appreciate any advice you can give me.

Your collie acts out of instinct — either protection or fear or both — when visitors are afoot. Yours is a new home for the dog and she is learning the ways of the world from you. So are your guests.

Start a campaign of silence with visitors. Warn them beforehand not to ring the doorbell, not to knock, and to enter your house quietly with no fuss, muss and fanfare. This means, of course, that you know who's coming to dinner — as well you should in this day and age.

As for your collie, teach her to sit and say — for treats — so you divert her. If you keep her distracted, she won't go ballistic. When company is expected, put her in another room if you don't want to continually train her to sit and be silent. Handle all of this in as quiet a manner as you can muster. Yelling on top of barking never solves anything.

My dog, Milkyway is a terrier beagle mixed. He sniffs out everything and not only chews it but swallows things. Paper, tree sticks, grandkids' small toys, anything he can. I watch him constantly. He is a year old. Is he bored? He has chew toys and bones but still does this. Help!

Basically, there's no magic retort except you owe more to your dog. You've got to keep Milkyway better contained in a crate, a room, or behind a gate.
You can't let him roam and eat whatever he wants because he might ingest something that will rip apart his insides. Yes, he's bored and yes he needs better from you. Walk him more. Keep him on a leash in the house and don't let him wander away. If you can't watch him every minute, put him in a safe place where he can hang out. Training a young dog not to chew is like asking the sun not to shine. Training a dog to chew appropriately is all up to you. Go to the dog store and buy Kongs (indestructible dog toys). Stuff these with peanut butter, and give to Milkway. The chomp toys will keep him occupied. Your pet is a dependent domestic dog. He needs you to help him become successful at living with you. Just do it.

4 Tips to Keep Your Dog’s Coat Healthy
By Lauren Johnson -

Anyone with a furry friend can tell you that keeping up with a dog’s shedding is a full-time job. And some dogs can grow 100 feet of fur per day -- that’s adding up all the new strands covering the entire animal end-to-end, including the fluff between your dog’s toes -- so it’s easy to see why taking care of your dog’s coat can sometimes seem overwhelming. But all that fluff’s got real substance! You may not know it, but your dog’s fur:

•Is eight times warmer than wool

•Is fire-resistant

•Wards off dirt

•Repels static

•Protects from parasites

So how do you keep your dog’s coat healthy and handsome? Use these tips and tricks from the experts to keep Fido’s coat glowing -- and growing.

A Healthy Diet
Like humans, dogs are only as healthy as what they eat, says Michael Weiss, a veterinarian at All Creatures Veterinary Care Center in Sewell, N.J. Two things to look for in your dog’s food:

•Protein. If your dog lacks this vital nutrient, its body will dedicate protein to muscle first, leaving its fur and skin dry and dull. Make sure your dog’s food is rich in protein.

•Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. These essential building blocks keep your dog’s coat healthy, thick and lustrous. They may also help reduce itching, dandruff and allergy-related skin problems. On the ingredients panel, look for fish oil, fish meal or flax, all excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Exercise not only keeps your dog slim, it may also help keep her fur in top condition. Weiss says regular exercise benefits your dog’s overall health -- and a healthy dog is more likely to have a healthy, shiny coat.

The fact is you can’t keep your dog from shedding. But with a few key products and techniques, you can easily take great care of your dog’s coat at home to keep it looking its best:

•Brush at least once a week. In order to keep your dog’s mane manageable, give the fur one good brush each week with a de-shedding brush to get out the undercoat, says New York City-based groomer Lisa Caputo from the dog service company Biscuits and Bath. Part the hair and brush from the skin out to avoid matting, moisture and heat build-up, which can cause yeast and bacteria. For an even slicker look, give your dog a quick brush every day.

•Bathe with gentle shampoos and conditioners. If your dog has sensitive skin, try a hypoallergenic or oatmeal shampoo. Caputo recommends washing your pooch every four weeks.

Medical Checkups
If you notice your dog has consistently itchy, uncomfortable skin or is shedding more than usual, your best bet is to take him to a veterinarian. “There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and each dog is different,” says Weiss. “It could be something as small as a food allergy to a more serious problem, like ringworm.”

Adopting an Extra Cat Adds Fun
and Another Furry Friend to Your Home

People are social and we all highly value our interactions with friends and family. While you might not think the same of cats, people who have more than one can attest that having multiple cats can make everyone in the household - two-legged and four-legged - a little happier.

"Cats need stimulation, friendship, companionship, play and exercise, and these are all things that a second cat can help provide," explains Dr. Jane Brunt, a veterinarian and executive director of the CATalyst Council. "That's why the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Humane Association, Petfinder and the CATalyst Council are partnering to remind people that adopting two cats can be twice the fun."

Emily Armitage, spokesperson for the Anti-Cruelty Society, estimates that cats are surrendered to shelters at up to twice the rate as dogs, depending on the time of year. That's why it's appropriate that the theme for this June's Adopt-A-Cat month celebration is "Adopt Another Cat." More litters of cats are born in the summer, so shelter staff must work even harder to find each kitten a "forever" home.

There are a lot of good reasons to adopt two cats. While cats are often misunderstood as solitary beings, cats are extremely social. They get lonely when left by themselves, and cat owners often report that a cat will mourn the loss of a feline friend.

But before you add a new pet to any home, you need to be prepared. Take a minute to make sure you and your family are ready. The AVMA offers this countdown of the top 10 things you should consider before you adopt a cat:

10. Scratching is a healthy form of exercise for cats. When you adopt a cat, pick up a scratching post, or other items, to give your new pet a healthy place to "work out."

9. Visit your veterinarian to get advice on parasite controls for fleas and ticks. Prevention is the best cure.

8. Make sure everyone in your house is prepared for the new pet. In fact, make the visit to the shelter a family affair, so that all members of the family can help pick an appropriate cat - or cats. Everyone needs to be on board to provide the best quality of care.

7. Make a cat-care budget. Litter, cat food, scratching posts, veterinary care, perhaps a little catnip - add this all up and you'll see that cats are far from expensive pets, but these are costs for which you should be prepared.

6. Stock up on supplies before you bring the cat home. This will help your cat feel at home from the first moment they arrive. In addition to a scratching post, you'll need a litter box (be sure to show your new kitty where it is), cat litter, food and water bowls, cat food, toys, perhaps a cat bed and grooming tools like a brush, toothbrush and nail clippers.

5. Cat-proof your home. Did you know that cats can swallow loose string or tinsel, and that they can cause stomach or bowel obstructions? Cats are sometimes attracted to power cords and will chew on them - resulting in a powerful shock. Kittens have also been known to swallow paper clips. For more information, visit

4. Call your veterinarian to ask for health tips. A quick consultation with your veterinarian before the cat arrives and a visit soon after you adopt the cat will give you the information you'll need to keep your cat healthy.

3. Include your cat in your home emergency plan. If there is a fire, flood, storm or other disaster, your new pet needs you to be a hero. For a video or brochure on keeping pets and other animals safe in an emergency, look for the "Saving the Whole Family" brochure and video on and

2. Pick a cat with a personality that matches your own. According to animal behaviorists, round-faced, long-haired cats are often more mellow in personality, while short-haired cats with triangular faces can be a bit more active and fun, although there are always exceptions to this rule. Take the time to get to know a cat to make sure it will be a good fit.

1. Mark your calendar to visit your veterinarian twice a year for a wellness checkup. Cats are often perceived as self-sustaining. But, as Dr. Brunt explains, many cats do not show obvious signs of pain, discomfort and other symptoms when they are ill, so you may not realize you have a sick cat at home until it's too late.

Bottom line? Two cats will bring you twice the fun, but it's up to you to make their lives healthy, safe and happy. For lots of great information about cats and how to keep them healthy, visit

Pet Vet: Ear Problems in Pets

Many pets scratch their ears, but it’s not always normal; itchy ears can have many causes. 16 Saturday Morning’s Pet Vet, Dr. David Visser, has tips on what you can do about it.

Itchy ears are very common. In fact, the largest pet insurance company, VPI, researched and reported the top reasons that pets went to the veterinarian. The 8th most common reason for cats to see the vet was ear infections. For dogs, ear issues topped the annual list.

While there are pets that have just an innocent itch, there are also several ways that pets show more intense itchiness and are likely to have a bigger problem going on.

•Most pets with ear problems will intensely scratch one or both ears.

•Sometimes, especially pets that don’t reach their ears well will shake their head or run their face and ear along the furniture or floor.

•Pets show ear discomfort by walking with one ear tilted down or with their entire head tilted to the side.

Sometimes pet owners may gently rub the ear, causing their dog to lean in and moan, or get their foot tapping because of the itchiness.

Odor can also indicate a potential problem. While there is a typical mild odor that can come from a dog’s ear, but most of the time it isn’t very noticeable; so any strong odor is one of several signs that indicate a more significant problem with the ears.

•In addition to strong odor, the ear openings or canals may be bright red and irritated.

•They may be ulcerated and raw.

•Discharge may be many different colors and consistency from dry crusty material to more liquidy fluid.

•And, if a pet has been intensely scratching, they can cause some bleeding either in or around the ears.

A more serious consequence of itchy ears and head shaking is something called a hematoma. The ear flap is really like a cartilage sandwich between two layers of skin. If head shaking or scratching causes a blood vessel to break inside the flap, it can distend out like a balloon. This often requires an operation to drain the fluid out, in addition to treating the underlying cause of the itchiness.

There are several causes for ear problems. Most people are familiar with ear mites, which is an insect that prefers to live in the ear canal. Mites are most commonly a problem in young cats and some puppies, but it isn’t very common in adult pets.

The more common causes of ear problems in dogs and cats include allergies to inhaled pollens, dust and molds or even reaction to certain types of food proteins. When looking at ear discharge under the microscope, we can also identify bacteria or yeast organisms, which are true infections, but these infections usually develop secondary to moisture or water in the ears (like after swimming or baths), or narrow ear canals and floppy ears that don’t allow a lot of ventilation in the ear canals.

But pet owners shouldn’t worry too much; ear conditions are manageable. Ear mites, for instance are easily controlled by prescription ear mite drops, or the heartworm preventative called Revolution. If the infection is related to mild bacteria or yeast, specific eardrops and ear flushing solutions can provide comfort and cure.

More severe infections, particularly those that have torn the eardrum require internal antibiotics, and avoiding ear drops altogether since some medications in the ears can damage hearing.

This is the main reason that an exam by your veterinarian is so important – to know if the eardrum is ok and to determine what specifically is causing the ear problem so the right treatment can be prescribed. It’s easy to think that all ear infections are the same and that one ear product can take care of anything, but the only safe approach is to have it checked out first.

If you want to contact the Pet Vet, Dr. David Visser, you can reach him at the Roseland Animal Hospital by calling 574-272-6100 or at the Center for Animal Health by calling 888-PETS-VETS.

You can also shoot him an email at

Hints From Heloise:
Color-Coded Pets
By Heloise,

Dear Heloise: With four dogs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with their toys, blankets, etc. I came up with an easy way to stay organized: color-coded stickers! These can be found in the office-supply section of most stores.

Each dog, and even the cat, has its own color. This makes things much easier when I go away and have someone else housesit and watch my pets. -- Shelly in Texas


Dear Readers: Do you spend a lot of time outdoors, hiking, hunting, boating, etc., with your dog? Be aware of the possibility of coming in contact with snakes! And in warm weather, snakes are about.

If your pet is bitten by any snake, even a nonvenomous one, get to the veterinarian immediately! Don’t do anything yourself.

Know the snakes that are in your area. If your dog is bitten, don’t try to kill or find the snake -- you’re wasting valuable time for your pet’s care.


Dear Readers: Nina R. of Ventura, Calif., sent a picture of her 10-year-old white dog, Phoebe, smiling and standing next to a tie-dyed T-shirt. To see Phoebe and our other Pet Pals, log on to and click on “Pets.”


Dear Heloise: One day, I was in a bind and needed to get my cat to the vet, but I didn’t have my cat carrier handy. My sister suggested taking one laundry basket, putting a towel in the bottom and using twist-ties to secure a second laundry basket to the top. Worked like a charm! -- A Reader, Fort Wayne, Ind.


Hi, Heloise: I read your article on traveling with pets in crates. This is the only safe way to transport an animal in a vehicle. In addition being safer, we have our dogs’ information in a clear envelope attached to the outside of the crate. On one side it says, “In Case of Emergency,” and the other side has the names and phone numbers of two people who would take our dogs in case we are unable to speak or are taken to the hospital. Also included is the name and phone number of our vet’s office. -- Kathy, via e-mail


Dear Heloise: I have many birds, and providing them with water was a never-ending chore! I made it a bit easier by purchasing a self-watering container meant for cats and dogs. Refilling it is much less time-consuming than constantly refilling the small cups that are intended for birds. They now never run out of fresh, clean water. -- A Bird Friend, via e-mail

Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Please include your city and state.

Kandi Stevens:
 A Basic Guide to Keeping Your Pet Bird Happy

Are you thinking of getting a new bird as a pet? Birds are very interesting animals — each unique and wonderful in its own way with some species living as long as 80 years.

The following are some general guidelines that apply to all birds, but be sure to do additional research on each species to find one that fits your lifestyle. A good place to start after you’ve done some research is to check out any local rescue groups, there are many birds out there in need of a home.

Be sure the bird you choose is healthy. A sick bird is no bargain no matter what the price. If a bird appears droopy, ruffled, tired, or hides his head under his wing, if he sneezes, sits on the bottom of the cage, has droppings stuck to his tail feathers, or a discharge above his nostrils, there may be a big problem. Too often, by the time a bird shows any symptoms of disease or illness, it has become quite advanced. Signs of a healthy bird include clean shiny feathers, good appetite, lots of energy and bright eyes.

If you have other birds, make sure to place the new bird in an isolated room (many birds harbor contagious, disease-causing organisms). Check with your avian vet for advice on safely introducing new birds to each other.

Housing requirements
Get the largest cage you can easily manage in your home, making sure the bird can not slip his head between the bars. There will need to be room enough for the bird to have some movement like spreading and flapping its wings without hitting anything.

The perches should preferably be natural wood of varying sizes to allow for exercise and aides them in trimming their beaks (Manzanita, Madrona, and Eucalyptus are all safe woods for birds to chew). An aviary is another housing option. This allows for freedom to move and fly around freely with fewer restrictions.

Because bird’s diets vary so greatly from one species to another, a good rule of thumb is that no more than 30 percent of a bird’s diet should be seeds and nuts. The remaining 30 percent should be vegetables, fruits, and small amounts of cheese, lean cooked meats, and boiled eggs. The last 40 percent should be a good quality pellet food. Of course, fresh water daily is essential!

Moms Talk: Losing the Family Pet –
The Aftermath
By Kat Stremlau -

How to Mom-Up during one of the worst times of your life.

Nate and Greta on her last day. Credit Kat Stremlau

A few weeks back, Moms Talk covered the issue of dealing with the loss of the family pet. This week, I’m sad to report that I had to take my own advice. One thing I learned is that situations like these require us women to totally Mom Up.

What does Mom Up mean you ask? Mom Up means that you put aside your own feelings and do what is right for your children, your marriage and, in this case, your family pet.

On Monday, the wonderful staff at Your At Home Vet came to my house and euthanized our 14-year-old boxer mix, Greta. Talking about the decision to put an animal down is always difficult, but it obviously needs to be said, especially from a mom’s perspective.

While losing our pet was a totally horrible experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, I knew that as a mom, I had to Mom Up and do what was right for the entire family.

Obviously, my husband and I knew that the end was near for our dog. She was just about to bridge that divide from being an old cranky dog to an old suffering dog. Sadly, I had to be the one to Mom Up and make the decision to call around for someone to come to our house. While we typically take Greta to Banfield, the vets within Petsmart downtown, but we just didn’t have the heart to have her life end in an exam room. And, to be perfectly frank, I couldn’t imagine running into 10 people I know crying like an idiot.

The personal service is expensive but worth every penny. I can’t think of a time I was treated with such gentle compassion, even when my own mother passed away last year. The woman who answered my call scheduled a time that worked for our family and I hung up the phone feeling sorry for her…for having to deal with the likes of me, us weepy women, barely holding on, while trying to schedule such awful things around a play date, a husband’s lunch hour and my own crazy grief.

Since I’m in this not-often-seen emotional state, I will fully admit that I goofed on my last article. In it, I suggested that you take an impression of your pet’s paw print…and I totally biffed it. I fully intended on doing it (the vet even offered to leave me with the impression so my son could put his own hand print next to it and later bake in the oven) but I realized that it would not be the impression, no pun intended, I wanted to leave with my son.

Upon further reflection, I feel it would be wrong for our family to have a memento of such a terrible day. We have a few of our son’s handprints, even some of my husband’s, and they are used to commemorate special dates and ages in our life together, not sad ones. Instead, we have pictures of Nate feeding Greta an entire rotisserie chicken.

My last bit of advice on this matter is the importances of letting your child lead the way. Part of the Mom Up strategy is to let your child naturally come to you with questions. We are not bringing up the dog again…unless he asks first. When I told my son, who was at a play date, what happened, he was 100 percent OK with it.

We had a lot of conversations about the dog being ill and that she would die soon and that likely the doctor/vet would come to our house and take her away after she stopped breathing. It’s been a day and he hasn’t asked anything except whether or not he will ever see her body. I explained that the doctor took her body and left her collar with us.

In all, it was an awful experience, but one tempered by the gentle comforts of a wonderful vet, a supportive husband and a son who got to feed some chicken to a pup one last time.

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