Friday, April 29, 2011

Henry the “Spirit Healer” Cat Helps People AND Pets

By Julia Williams

Last December I introduced you to a wonderful three-legged feline named Henry. This extraordinary kitty is a different kind of “Therapy Cat” than those who visit nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities, but his healing work is just as important, and has profoundly changed the lives of many.

I’m writing about Henry again today because his messages of hope, tolerance, resilience and love are too important to forget. Henry shares his story so that others can learn new things and overcome their traumas and tragedies; I want to share Henry’s story to help his healing work gain momentum and reach an even larger audience than it already has. (There’s one more exciting reason for this post, but you’ll have to read to the end to find out what it is!!).

Henry reaches out to help people of all ages through his website,, through personal correspondence and through his critically acclaimed books. “Henry’s World: a Three-Legged Cat’s View of Human Absurdity” is a heartwarming compilation of short tales by Henry about his life, along with hundreds of emails Henry has received and responded to. “What’s the Matter with Henry? The True Tale of a Three-Legged Cat,” was written for children but inspires young and old alike. A third book “What About Me? I'm Here Too!” addresses the emotional issues experienced by healthy siblings of chronically ill children.

Cathy Conheim, Henry’s Mom and self-described Cat Scribe, says “People speak to animals differently and more openly. Animals are our safe havens, an unending source of unconditional love and acceptance. Whether the animals are real, stuffed, or virtual, they become trusted confidants and helpers.” It’s largely for this reason that Henry has touched so many lives. Over the past six years, Henry has received over 50,000 letters from children – and from adults and critters too!

Henry was named the 2010 ASPCA Cat of the Year and more recently, created the “Ouch! Emotional Bandage” app for the iPhone and iPad. This app lets you personalize a blank bandage with a photo and message, or select one of the pre-made bandages. Then you simply e-mail it to people who care about you, as a way to let them know you are hurting and need some TLC. (Brilliant idea, Henry!).

Henry’s words of wisdom include: You aren’t defined by what happens to you; we don't get to choose what happens to us in life, but we do get to choose how we respond; play the paw you are dealt and be the best “You” that you can be; remember to connect with those you care about. And the one that might be the most important lesson of all: just because you can't do everything doesn't mean you can't do something.

The healing messages are for people, but all profits from the sales of Henry’s books and other fun stuff on his site goes to help animals, as well as human children. Says Henry, “I try very hard to teach humans better ways to be and raise lots of dollars for animals. Any group anywhere in the world can buy my books at our printing cost for $8, sell them for $20 and keep the money locally for the animals in their area.” Henry’s books are not sold in a bookstore, because then there would be no profit for the animals or the children.

Says Cathy, “If we could inspire enough people to buy just ONE charming book about a rescued cat, this would create a lot of money for the animals! I think it would be a great story of the power of the internet, the power of healing…of animals helping animals. Henry and I don't care how the money made is used as long as animals or kids benefit. Let's say someone had a $1000 vet bill; if they sold 83 books they could pay the bill. People sell Girl Scout cookies by the zillion, fat and sugar, the drug of choice for kids. Why not sell something pawsitive and do good things with the money?” 

Here are three simple ways you can help spread the word about Henry and his healing messages: 1) buy a book or two for someone you love; 2) tell others to check out Henry’s books and other cool stuff at; 3) if you know of a group who might want to buy Henry’s books as a fund-raising tool, please encourage them to get in touch with Henry.

Now for the exciting news – we’re giving away some of Henry’s books and other neat things to three lucky readers!! To participate, simply leave a comment stating that you want to be entered in the giveaway, and include either your email address or a link to your “contact me” info. Sorry, only residents of the U.S. and Canada are eligible to win, and entries must be received by May 6, 2011.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Guide Dog…for a Guide Dog?

By Suzanne Alicie

Mr. Graham Waspe and his guide dog Edward moved through the world side by side for six wonderful years before the dog developed a rare form of glaucoma and lost his sight. Edward received the best veterinary care available, but due to the pressure of his condition and the pain caused, it was decided that the best course of action was to remove Edward’s eyes. Waspe and his wife Sandra were devastated by the loss of Edward as a guide dog, but made sure to help him adjust to his loss.

Waspe said “If it was a person or a child, you could at least explain to them what was going to happen. In the case of an animal, of course, you can’t, so we found that side of it very traumatic.” In November 2010, Waspe got another guide dog, a yellow lab named Opal. Amazingly, the new dog is also a “guide dog” of sorts for Edward, and they all visit schools and community groups in their area to teach people about guide dogs, their training and the Guide Dogs for the Blind charity. Edward was well known throughout the area, but it seems as if Opal is also establishing herself as a remarkable dog that completes this picture.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hairball Awareness Day + RPO “Free Pet Food” Winner

Illustration by Deborah Leigh
By Julia Williams

First off, let me be clear. I’m combining two topics into one post, but they’re not even remotely related. I just checked my calendar and noticed that today is “National Hairball Awareness Day.” So I wanted to mention it, but mostly because I found it funny that someone dedicated an entire day to the almighty hairball. My good buddy “Mr. Google” refused to tell me who that person was, but never mind. I’ll just give you some hairball facts and then move on to the really important stuff.

What are Hairballs?

Every cat owner is familiar with that dreadful gagging sound indicating that a hairball is about to be hacked up on their carpet. Cats seem to have some unwritten rule that they never cough up hairballs on easy to clean surfaces like the kitchen floor. But I digress. The formation of hairballs is a common feline condition caused by the ingestion of hair when a cat grooms itself. Sometimes the ingested hair collects into a tight ball in your cat's stomach, which they will then vomit up.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Musings of an Animal Shelter Volunteer

By Kevin Hattori

My wife Tracey and I are often told that volunteering regularly at our local, no-kill animal shelter is “nice” and “selfless,” but we'd venture to say we get just as much – if not more – out of our experiences there than the cats with which we work.

I've been volunteering at the Pet Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) for more than 13 years, and Tracey’s been doing so for about seven. We both feel the lessons and rewards that come from working with these incredible animals are exponentially greater than the time we've given.

People often ask what motivates us to spend every Saturday and Sunday afternoon socializing the cats of PAWS. Well, first of all, we’re huge proponents of adopting from shelters (something instilled in us from an early age). Growing up, all of our respective families' pets were rescues, or from shelters. Our current cats Sammy and Moosey were both adopted from PAWS, and our Angel cats – Bitsy, Graphite, Lady Madonna, and Maggie – were all rescues, too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

How Trust and Love Can Change a Dog

By Linda Cole

I have to admit, I'm an advocate for any stray dog or cat – even the ones with aggression issues. I believe pets deserve a second chance when they've been lost or cast aside by their owners. Unfortunately, many aggressive shelter pets will never be adopted. But sometimes the right person comes along who makes a difference in an aggressive dog's life. With trust, patience, respect and love, one person can create small miracles and move mountains. We can change the plight of stray pets, one animal at a time, as long as we don't give up on them. It's worth the time to unravel a troubled mind in order to save a soul. I have worked with both an aggressive dog and cat, and that's one reason why I was drawn to the story I'm about to share with you.

When a stray dog shows up in a neighborhood or at a local shelter, we don't know what they went through living on the streets. Their history is unknown and we have no idea if they were mistreated, abused or became aggressive while on the streets in order to survive. When a dog shows aggression, his behavior is often viewed as a lost cause and he's put down. Most people won't deal with an aggressive dog because they don't know how to help him, or simply don't want to deal with trying to change the dog's behavior. A woman named Heike Munday saw something special in an aggressive dog and rescued her from certain death.

Friday, April 22, 2011

How to Tell if You Are a “Crazy Cat Person”

By Julia Williams

When I was thinking about writing this article, I initially decided it would be about ways to tell if you are a Crazy Cat Lady. But then I realized that even though a lot of men won’t admit they love cats, I have seen plenty of evidence that they do. Take for example, my new favorite show Must Love Cats. Every episode has at least one story, and usually more, illustrating manly devotion to felines. Many of these guys are so over the top in their cat worship they’d certainly qualify as Crazy Cat Men. So I opted to make this a unisex quiz because hey, we should all know if our cat adoration is out of control, right? Not that we need to defend ourselves or do anything about it – as if that would ever happen! Now answer truthfully, and tally up your “yes” answers to get your score.

1. Do you find it hard to resist buying a new cat toy every time you go shopping for household stuff?
2. When strangers come into your home, are there obvious signs that you have a cat, such as furry mice and other cat toys on the floor, a scratching post, cat tree or pet bed in the middle of the living room?
3. When you’re sitting down and a cat is sleeping peacefully on your lap, do you forego getting up because you don’t want to wake them, even though you really, really need to get up?
4. Do you have any clothing with cats on it, and more importantly, do you actually dare to wear it in public?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Garden Plants That Help Fight Fleas Naturally

By Linda Cole

It's that time of year when pesky fleas begin popping up in the home and on your pet. Planting certain garden plants around your home and in the areas where your pets wander can help deter and repel those little pests. Now is the time to plan your garden to include some plants that can help control fleas naturally.

Many of the same herbs used in cooking, baking and teas work well to help deter and repel fleas. However, not all plants are safe for use around dogs and cats. Tansy, Wormwood, Eucalyptus, Fleawort, Pennyroyal (also called Fleabane), Rue, Citronella and Sweet Bay are garden plants that can help repel fleas and they are suggested for use as natural flea control, but all of them are toxic to dogs and cats. Since most gardens are visited by neighborhood cats or dogs, it's best to avoid using these plants in gardens or around the yard.

Mints are one of my favorite garden plants because they can be used in baking, cooking and teas, and they have a wonderful smell. I have chocolate mint growing around my dog pen and the foundation of the house. All varieties of mint work well to repel fleas. One thing I love about my chocolate mint is when one of the dogs wanders through a patch of mint, they have a minty smell that clings to them for awhile and at the same time, it repels some of the fleas on them. And if one of the dogs decides to munch on some of the mint, I know it's safe and won't hurt them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dealing with Spring Fever in Female Dogs

"Bear" helps in the garden by guarding the shovel
By Suzanne Alicie

Okay, so I don’t know if it’s actually spring fever but when springtime rolls around my female dogs have always acted out just a bit. When we had two dogs they would do a bit of sparring and some territorial behavior. This was funny to watch as the younger dog suddenly gained confidence and a bit of cockiness and shoved her mom around. After several weeks they returned to normal.

This spring fever behavior didn’t coincide with them going into heat or beginning their cycle, so I just chalked it up to being similar to the way I react to spring. When the days begin to warm and the sun is shining, flowers are blooming and pollen fills the air I feel rejuvenated and alive after a long winter.  I suppose if I were a dog, I might get just a bit pushy too!

Now that I only have the younger female dog, she seems to have turned her spring fever towards me as the only other female in the house. Bear has always been an odd duck; she didn’t socialize well when she was a puppy and still seems to have the puppy mentality even though she weighs 50 pounds and is just over seven years old. She sleeps under the bed, and she generally thinks she’s either a lap dog or a person. But when spring fever hits, she’s downright ornery!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Take a Vacation with Your Dog at Canine Club Getaway

By Julia Williams

Even though I’m a diehard “cat lady,” I love all animals including dogs. Lately, I’ve been having a strange desire to get a dog. I say “strange” because I’ve always bonded more with cats than dogs. Plus, it takes considerably more time and effort to be a responsible dog owner than it does to be a responsible cat owner. If your cats are poorly trained it doesn’t really matter, because no one expects you to be able to train cats anyway. Ha ha!

But seriously – one big advantage dogs have over cats is the potential for fun outside the home. There are umpteen dog sports and activities you can participate in with your canine best friend. Cats generally prefer to stay home getting their 16-18 hours of beauty sleep. Most dogs enjoy road trips, and pet-friendly lodging makes it easier than ever to take the pooch along on summer vacations.

Elevating that idea to a whole new level is Canine Club Getaway (CCG), a once-a-year opportunity to take an amazing vacation at a beautiful resort that caters to people AND dogs! Uh oh. I was already feeling the itch to get a dog – and now, after looking at all of the pawesome activities the Canine Club Getaway offers both its two and four-legged guests, I really, really want a dog!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Two Acts of Loyalty after Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami

By Linda Cole

Natural disasters can happen in the blink of an eye, and people and animals caught in nature's fury have their lives changed in a matter of minutes. Even with all the destruction, life goes on as stories of survival emerge from the rubble. Japan's earthquake and tsunami devastated so many lives, but some were saved because of the devotion of dogs.

As an animal lover, when natural disasters happen I worry about the pets that are caught up in something they don't understand. Pets that suddenly find themselves wandering through debris and shivering through cold nights with no shelter, food or clean water and no comforting voice from the ones they love.

Since the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, videos and stories of survival have been popping up on Facebook. One video in particular captured my attention. It shows two dogs left homeless by the devastation. One dog is injured and his friend stands guard over him in a true display of loyalty. When this video began to appear, the person posting it left a comment saying, “This is a hard video to watch. It's heartbreaking.” So I passed it by not wanting to watch something I knew would make me cry. But it stuck with me as the days passed and I kept thinking about the dogs and wondering what their fate was.

The video was shot by a Japanese reporter and his cameraman surveying the destructive power of the tsunami in an area called Arahama. A dog approached but stayed a comfortable distance away from them. He gave a bark as if saying, “That's close enough,” and went back to another dog lying in the background in front of a large metal barrel resting on its side. It's obvious the dog was protecting his injured friend. Both dogs were muddy, wet, cold and probably hungry. No one knows how long they had been together, but it's believed they knew each other. The uninjured dog wore a collar, so he was at least someone's pet. The good news is, both dogs were rescued. The dog guarding his friend was taken to a shelter, and the injured dog was taken to a vet where he is being cared for.

One story of survival that has stayed with me recounted a 12 year old Shih Tzu named Babu and her owner, 83 year old Tami Akanuma, who rode out the earthquake in their home. Babu is not a dog who enjoys walks, but on the day of the earthquake, she insisted on going for a walk when the lights in the house began to flicker. Once outside, instead of following Tami, Babu yanked on her leash and went in the opposite direction towards a nearby hill. Each time Tami stopped to rest, Babu would urge her to keep moving by pulling on her leash to get Tami to move faster. Babu finally relaxed and stopped pulling, and Tami was amazed to have discovered they had walked a little over half a mile in just a few minutes. As she turned around to look down the hill, the tsunami crashed through her coastal town and Tami's home was destroyed, along with everything else in the area.

Those of us who are close to our pets aren't surprised by these two stories of devotion, but they are nonetheless humbling because they remind us how the strong bond we've built with our pets goes both ways. Even between two dogs.

I do think animals have an ability to predict the weather to a certain extent, and I'm sure Babu sensed the tsunami. She could have raced outside and left Tami behind – but she didn't. Babu knew her job was to lead Tami to higher ground because of the impending danger she sensed. The uninjured dog in the first story could have taken off on his own to find shelter and food – but he didn't. His devotion kept him by the side of his injured friend. Loyalty and love run deep once a bond and trust has been formed, and not even an earthquake's destruction nor a tsunami could break their bond.

This isn't a feel bad story. It's a reminder to love your pet each and every day, and never take them for granted. It's a reminder to “see” stray cats or dogs who are trying to survive the best they can because they could be someone's lost pet. It's a reminder to treat every animal with respect and realize how precious they all are. It's a reminder to give the people and pets you love an extra hug. Life and security should never be taken for granted, because both can be changed in the blink of an eye.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Saturday, April 16, 2011

How to Bond with Your Cat

By Julia Williams

One of the most prevalent myths about cats is also one that, as a lifelong cat lover, I can unequivocally refute. Cats are said to be aloof, independent creatures that shun humans and don’t form close bonds with them. Many people joke that the only use cats have for people is to keep their food dish full. If that were really true, I imagine there would be a lot less cat owners in the world. Cats can and do bond with humans. This is not to say there aren’t aloof cats among us. There are, yet I believe the vast majority of them are not born aloof but become that way as a result of their environment or lack of human interaction.

Not counting the “family cats” of my childhood, I’ve been a mom to 12 different felines, and have had a close relationship with all of them. Learning how to bond with your cat is not rocket science. It’s more about knowing a few simple things about cats that will help you forge a mutual close relationship.

Respect Your Cat’s Individuality

This is by far the most important thing you can do if you want to have a good relationship with your cat. It’s crucial because cats are individuals and each one has very different likes and dislikes. Moreover, they don’t enjoy being forced to do something they don’t like. Imagine what would happen if you took a child who disliked roller coasters on the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland. They’d scream, cry, kick and make your life miserable. The same principle holds true with cats.

Some cats love being held and hugged, while others don’t. One cat may love having its belly rubbed, while another might think this is a form of torture. If you want to bond with your cat, you need to first learn what it likes and what it doesn’t like. Then you can spend your time doing the things your cat prefers rather than trying to force it to do things it doesn’t enjoy.

Although you may want a cat that enjoys being petted while sitting on your lap, you may actually have a cat that prefers being petted while it’s lying on the bed or the floor. Unfortunately, you get what you get, and you can’t change your cat’s preferences by wishing or by force. This is one reason I love having more than one cat. My three cats all like different things, so I get to enjoy a little of everything. For example, one cat doesn’t like being held or kissed but will sit on my lap for petting, for as long as I indulge him. One likes to be cradled like a baby but is not a fan of the lap. One loves to be brushed while two do not. You get the idea. It’s all about what the cat likes, not what you like!

Spend Time with Your Cat

You simply can’t expect to bond with your cat if you don’t interact with them on a daily basis. This is especially true if you work outside the home and are gone for most of your cat’s day. If you come home, plop on the couch to watch TV and don’t pet your cat or play with them, do you think they don’t notice? It’s preposterous to think that cats don’t have feelings and don’t know when they’re being ignored. They certainly do, and they don’t feel all warm and fuzzy toward the people who ignore them. Greet your cat enthusiastically every time you come home. Engage them in play with their furry mouse or feather toy. Show them that they matter to you, and you may be surprised to see that they actually meet you at the front door!

Talk to Your Cat

Even though your cat will not understand everything you say, they can and do learn certain words. Aside from that, they love hearing your voice and they know that you’re speaking to them and paying attention to them. You can talk to them about anything and everything because what you say doesn’t matter nearly so much as how often you speak to them and are focused solely on them.

These tips are all things I have learned from many years of having cats in my life. I really believe that anyone can form a close bond with their cat if they desire it, and are willing to do a few simple things to nurture the feline-human relationship. When you treat your cat like family, respect their individuality and see them as sentient beings that want to give and receive love, your relationship will blossom.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Friday, April 15, 2011

Breed Health Concerns for Poodles

By Suzanne Alicie

Poodles are wonderful pets. They are intelligent, easy to train, eager to please, and just a pleasure to have around. However, as a responsible pet owner you have to look further than the outward appearance and behavior before choosing a dog. Poodles aren’t low maintenance dogs, and even have some breed wide health concerns to consider. It’s important that you are aware of the possible health problems your poodle may have before you adopt one and get hit with veterinary bills.

I was given a poodle for Mother’s Day several years ago. My dog, named Noodle the Poodle by my kids, was a toy poodle. I had never owned a small dog or a poodle before, so I went in blind. Initially everything was great. I kept Noodle groomed and up to date on his shots and vet visits. He loved to play and was an all around great dog. He even got along with my cat!

When Noodle was about 18 months old he was lying on the floor beside the sofa while I watched TV. Suddenly I heard a coughing/choking noise and I jumped up. When I looked at Noodle his whole body was stiff, his eyes and mouth were open and he was gasping for breath. I thought he had found my child’s toy and had eaten it. I tried to feel in his throat to see if there was anything I could remove, but found nothing. I picked him up, and raced for the car telling my husband to get us to the vet. It was a Sunday afternoon, and we went to three veterinary offices before we found one that was open.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Can Dogs and Cats Have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

By Linda Cole

Search and rescue dogs, police dogs and military dogs are by their handler's side through some of the worst conditions nature and man can create. We don't think of dogs as having the same sort of reactions to conditions that can affect a person, but dogs in war zones or those who work in difficult surroundings can have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), just like a person. However, these aren't the only conditions that can cause a dog to experience this anxiety disorder.

Dogs have been going into war zones with humans for centuries. They've been used to run messages, search out the enemy, warn of intruders, guard prisoners and, in recent warfare, sniff out hidden explosives. Military dogs aren't prepared for the real conditions of war. They may have experienced gunfire with their handler during training, but exploding bombs and battlefield conditions aren't felt until a dog gets to the war zone. The same sights, smells and trauma experienced by soldiers are also felt by dogs, and it can cause a well balanced and happy dog to withdraw as anxiety overtakes him.

PTSD also affects dogs and cats that have gone through the traumatic and stressful aftermath of natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina or an abusive home. A severe thunderstorm or fireworks display can also cause a pet to become overwhelmed by anxiety. A dog that was attacked by another dog or wild animal can show signs of anxiety. To make matters worse, an owner who fails to understand why their pet has suddenly withdrawn from them or is showing signs of aggression may do the worst thing for the pet and just abandon him or surrender him to a shelter.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dog Trivia Quiz

By Julia Williams

Many of you had a lot of fun with the Kitty Cat Trivia Quiz I posted a few weeks ago, so now it’s time for Dog Trivia! I’m making this quiz a wee bit harder, because I know how many devoted dog lovers there are out there, and I think most of you know a lot about dogs. We’ll see!

1. Which dog breed is sometimes referred to as “the Little Lion,” and why?
A. Poodle
B. Lowchen
C. Chow Chow
D. Samoyed

2. What does the phrase “three dog night” refer to?
A. Dogs fighting
B. A pack of wild dogs roaming at night
C. A Jazz Band from the 1920s
D. The temperature

3. What did psychologist Sigmund Freud’s dog supposedly do?
A. Barked at anyone Freud didn’t like
B. Saved Freud’s life by alerting him to an intruder
C. Attended all of Freud’s therapy sessions
D. Nothing – Freud hated dogs and did not own any

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Itchy Dogs

By the Drs4pets Team

Dogs scratch. Some dogs scratch a lot. Why do dogs scratch, and when should you intervene?

Let’s first talk about why dogs do not scratch. One myth is that dogs begin to itch when something changes in their diet. This is rarely the case. First, food allergies make up the smallest percentage of allergy cases in veterinary medicine; less than 10% of dogs with allergies have an allergy to food. Allergies develop over time, typically after a dog has eaten a particular food for 2 or more years.

Dogs can be itchy because of allergies though. The most common type of allergy is flea hypersensitivity, followed by atopy or inhaled allergies. Instead of coughing and sneezing, dogs get itchy when they breathe in molds or pollens that they are allergic to. Food storage mites and dust mites are known to trigger an allergic response in pets, and are found in almost every household. They thrive in dry, warm environments, like a pet food bin.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ten Practical iPhone Apps for Pet Lovers

By Linda Cole

New technology is always fun, especially when it's in a phone. Today's iPhone has apps for pretty much anything a phone user could want. And if you're a pet lover, there are apps especially for you. If you need to find the nearest dog park or just want to catch up on the latest pet news, there's an app for that. The following apps are all compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Pet Acoustics: this app gives you streaming music designed especially for your dog, cat or horse. For pets that are afraid of thunderstorms, firework or other loud noises, this app plays soothing music to help keep them relaxed. Helps relieve stress while you wait at the vet's office as well. Requires iOS 3.1.2 or later. $1.99.

Pet Notebook gives you one place to keep your pet's important information like birth dates, medications, vet number, ID information and microchip number. It can store information for multiple pets. Requires iOS 3.0 or later. $.99.

PetMD Pet Services Finder helps you locate pet friendly hotels, dog parks, emergency clinics, veterinarians and more. Requires iOS 2.2.1 or later. Free.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

How to Break Up a Cat Fight

By Julia Williams

If you have more than one feline in your household, there may come a time when your ears are assaulted with the awful screeching noise of two cats fighting. Most of the time, these are merely playful tussles that sound a lot worse than they actually are. The noise fighting cats make can seem like they are in a fight to the death, even if they’re really just engaged in a mock battle or trying to assert their place as Top Cat in your household. As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to be able to distinguish between a real cat fight and a “play” fight. Play fights don’t require human intervention, but all-out cat brawls do, lest one or both of your cats get injured in the fight. Learn about the body language of cats and the signals that indicate a fight is for real.

The best way to break up a cat fight is to not let one get started in the first place, and understanding a cat’s body language is a great help. The problem is that with some cats, there is a bit of a “gray area” between play and fighting. Generally speaking, growling, hissing, arched backs, flattened ears, puffed up fur and big fat tails are not good signs. Subtleties aside, if you really take the time to observe your cats’ posturing and sounds, you can usually distinguish between the mock battles and a serious fight.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Paws and Purrs Abound at Pet Expos

By Suzanne Alicie

If you haven’t ever attended a pet expo, you should make it a point to do so. There are organizations all over the country that host pet expos throughout the year. The world’s largest and most well known is the America’s Family Pet Expo held each spring in Southern California.

So, what exactly is a pet expo?  Basically, it is a showcase for pet products and services all set up in one location for a certain amount of time. But believe me, it’s a lot more exciting than walking through the pet store. Just imagine booths and tables set up, stages and videos all over the place. A pet expo is a pleasurable attack on the senses that is lots of fun for pet lovers of all ages. There are demonstrations of pet products, attractions and competitions as well as helpful and informative representatives from each of the companies involved to answer your questions. Simply put, if you are a dog or cat owner, you should definitely check out a pet expo.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How to Deal With Small Dog Syndrome

By Linda Cole

About a year and a half ago, my neighbor brought their new puppy over and begged me to take her off their hands. I took one look at the little wiggling Terrier pup tucked under my neighbor's arm, and saw a bright eyed face I couldn't say no to. Riley was 8 weeks old at the time. About a month after she came to live with us, she decided she was going to show our larger dogs who was boss. She went after my Lab mix who looked at her like she was an annoyance he could do without. It's easy to mistake a little dog's actions as being jealous, but she was a perfect example of a pup with small dog syndrome.

Regardless of a dog's size, all dogs should be treated equally. We have a tendency to view small dogs as needing us more than a larger dog. We see things that small dogs do as cute, but if a big dog did the same thing, we would consider the dog's actions as aggressive. A dog who growls at another dog, a cat or a person is saying they are the dominant dog. Growling is also a sign of aggression. It doesn't matter what size the dog is, a small dog acting badly should not be tolerated any more than allowing a larger dog to act in an aggressive matter.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Funny Pet Memories Bring Smiles

By Tamara L. Waters

When it comes to our pets, they make us smile, they melt our hearts and yes, they make us laugh. Admit it, funny pet videos featuring the crazy antics of our favorite critters are some of the best and most entertaining. We love LOL'ing at our silly pets, and they always seem to provide us with plenty of material. Check out a few of these funny pet memories, then think about your own. You're sure to find a giggle or two somewhere.

For myself, I have a few funny memories of favorite pets that I enjoy sharing with friends. One is of my beloved dog Skynyrd, a Yellow Lab and Golden Retriever mix that had the personality of sunshine. She was given to me as a Christmas present by my then-husband when she was about eight weeks old, and she was the best dog ever.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How “Maddie's Fund” Helps Shelters Save Pets

By Linda Cole

It's a challenge for most animal shelters to meet their responsibility to feed, house and provide vet care for the pets they take in. Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made to open up space in shelters. Many pets are in shelters because their owners could no longer care for them, or didn't do the proper research to make sure their pet was right for them. Some owners surrender a pet because they lost their job or home due to an illness or layoff. For one reason or another, countless pets end up in shelters every year. Maddie was a beloved Miniature Schnauzer and her owners, Dave and Cheryl Duffield, created Maddie's Fund to honor her in the best way they knew how – by trying to save lives in her name.

Maddie passed away in 1997 at the age of 10. Dave and Cheryl established Maddie's Fund because they believe all dogs and cats should have the same opportunity of finding a family of their own to share their love with, just like Maddie shared her love with them. Maddie's Fund has a simple and clear mission statement: “To revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals.” They intend to do this is with an aggressive campaign to help shelters transition to no kill shelters by the year 2015, creating a no kill nation. All pets that are healthy and have no serious behavioral issues should be ready for adoption and never euthanized.

Most shelters, even no kill shelters, make decisions based on available space and whether a pet is adoptable or not. Maddie's Fund is trying to change that by working with entire communities and counties to help them develop business and strategic plans that puts all shelters on a path to no kill facilities. Starter grants are available for shelters willing to show they are serious about moving toward a no kill facility. The grants help pay for shelters to gather statistics and write business and strategic plans to guarantee that healthy pets are not euthanized. Long term grants are then available to help implement the shelter's plans.

Maddie's Fund is about working together as a community. In order to apply for funds, animal groups in cities, counties or states must come together in a coalition and have a human population of at least 100,000 to be eligible for a grant. This creates a working commitment between animal control, veterinarians and shelters to move towards no kill shelters in their area.

One problem many shelters have is a lack of qualified veterinarians who can provide medical care and behavioral rehabilitation for shelter pets. Maddie's Fund supports programs at Colleges of Veterinary Medicine to develop shelter medicine programs that train vets for work in animal shelters. Adoption guarantee shelters with a full time vet on staff are eligible to apply for a grant that helps pay for medical equipment. Maddie's Fund is about changing the way shelters have done business in the past to a more humane and progressive focus to help solve the problem of homeless pets.

Putting shelter pets down to make room for more homeless pets won't solve the problem of overpopulation, and no healthy dog or cat who is adoptable should ever be put to sleep. The animal welfare community, the Ad Council, DRAFTFCB (a marketing communication agency), and Maddie's Fund have teamed up for a three year public service ad campaign that began in 2010. The Shelter Pet Project promotes shelters and rescue groups as places to go first when looking for a pet.

It's estimated that 25% of shelter pets are purebred, and eight million pets end up in shelters and rescue groups every year. Three million healthy pets are put down every year. These are heartbreaking numbers that Maddie's Fund is determined to change. If only a third of the people planning to add a new cat or dog to their home visited their local shelter to find a pet, all of the adoptable pets in shelters could be placed in forever homes. The Shelter Pet Project's goal is to educate people and erase stereotypes connected with animal shelters. The majority of pets in shelters are not there because of behavior problems.

For detailed information on how Maddie's Fund can help your community become part of their no kill nation, visit their website. Roll your mouse over the bar above the picture of Maddie for the exact information you need.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Friday, April 1, 2011

How to Transition an Outdoor Dog Indoors

By Suzanne Alicie

If you adopt a dog from an animal shelter, chances are they will have been housed in an outdoor kennel. You might also find yourself providing a new home for a dog whose previous owners kept him outside. But you want your dog to be an integral part of the family, which means keeping him indoors where he can interact with you on a daily basis.  So, how do you get a dog who is accustomed to being able to go potty wherever he wants and who is not used to furniture and house rules, transitioned into an indoor dog?

Hopefully your outdoor dog knows some basic commands such as sit, stay, no and down. These are basic training words that all dogs should know. Even if he hasn’t been trained, you can still work with him and turn him into an indoor dog. The key thing to remember is that your dog is not a human. No matter how smart he is, he can’t know what is and is not allowed until you teach him.

Begin by bringing the dog inside on a leash several times a day. This allows you to let him explore the place while you are in control. He can sniff and check things out while you walk him through the house. When he gets near things that you don’t want him to become overly friendly with, a quick tug on the leash and saying the word NO in a firm voice will help with the indoor training.  This can be used to train him away from furniture, wiring, the kids’ toys and other things he might love to chew on and is unfamiliar with.

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