May 27 2009

Helping Pets Survive Kids

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

It’s a horrific story you’ve probably heard by now–how two young boys allegedly set fire to their cat, who miraculously survived and is now up for adoption at a local shelter. The boys have been charged with animal cruelty in juvenile court.

The story is disturbing on many levels, not the least of which is the parents’ claim that the boys are “mentally disabled.” If so, we wonder how they got access to lighter fluid and matches, and why pets were left unsupervised in their care. (The family dog allegedly suffered the same fate and didn’t survive.)

We bring up this story simply to inject a note of caution. It’s not uncommon for kids to be cruel to animals in less extreme ways. Ever heard someone boast that their dog sits placidly by while the baby pulls its tail or ears? Everyone champions the dog’s patience, but few think to ask why the baby is allowed to behave this way.

Kids and pets go together. No one disputes that. But pets deserve respect and loving treatment from all family members, not just those who know better. Young kids don’t understand how fragile an animal is, nor that the animal experiences pain. (It takes a few years for them to understand that about other people, let alone animals.) Kids pull a cat’s fur or climb on a dog’s back; even a kind child can unwittingly injure a small animal, and any pet can be driven to defend itself if tormented long enough. Older kids may simply let go of the leash or forget to close the backyard gate.

This isn’t the child’s fault. It’s a parent’s job to teach the proper care and handling of an animal. Guide your young child’s hand in stroking a pet, particularly a small one. If a child doesn’t understand “gentle,” have her practice on a stuffed toy until she gets the idea. Always supervise kids and pets, and enforce strict rules against teasing and manhandling. This ensures safety for both child and pet.

A young child also shouldn’t be responsible for a pet’s safety. She’ll forget to give the cat water on a hot day or leave the hamster’s cage door open. Don’t assume that because your kid is smarter than your dog that he’s more responsible. Chances are, he isn’t.

Most tragedies involving pets and children are avoidable. Bottom line: Pets don’t teach children to respect life. Parents do.

Posted by Claire M. Caterer

May 22 2009

Simon’s Cat Gets His Way

Look familiar? Moral: Always obey the cat. Always.

posted by Claire M. Caterer

May 20 2009

Sharing a Flick with Fido

photo copyright 20th Century Fox studios

photo copyright 20th Century Fox studios

Head to Penn Valley Park at 29th & Wyandotte tomorrow for a special doggie date night! KCMO’s Parks & Rec department is hosting Hollywoof, an event just for you and your dog. The fun starts at 7:00, when dogs and their humans can play in the off-leash park. At 8:00, City Pets & Ponds will host a Dog Fashion Show, talent contest, and games. Then settle back at 8:30 for a free outdoor screening of The Truth About Cats & Dogs, a 1996 romantic comedy starring Uma Thurman and Janeane Garofalo.

Call (816) 513-7527 for more info. It just might be your best date of the year!

Posted by Claire M. Caterer

May 18 2009

A Cool Head: The Difference Between Life & Death


Do you know what to do if your dog stops breathing? Experts say that knowing basic canine CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) can save your dog’s life. Elaine Acker of Pet America has posted a video  demonstration of pet CPR that every pet owner should watch. Here are the basic steps:

 1. Clear the Airway.

Don’t perform CPR if the dog’s airway is blocked. Try 2 rescue breaths and see if the dog’s lungs expand. If not, you’ll need to perform a Heimlich maneuver, described here.

 2. Give Breaths.

Lay the dog on its right side. Check for a pulse at the paw (“wrist”) or femoral artery (underside of the knee area). Tilt the head forward so the airway is clear; close the jaws and cover the nose with your mouth. Give 4 quick breaths, looking for the dog’s chest to expand. If this doesn’t happen, the airway is blocked. Return to Step 2.

 3. Give Compressions.

After 4 breaths, give 15 compressions. Locate the dog’s heart by bringing the left foreleg towards the chest; the heart is located where the elbow touches the chest. Lace your hands together, one on top of the other, and with your elbows straight, pump your hands straight down in quick compressions (15 compressions in 10 seconds). Give another breath.

 4. Abdominal Squeeze.

You’ll help circulate the blood back to the heart by doing an abdominal squeeze. Place one hand below the dog’s ribcage on the underside, and the other hand on top. Squeeze gently.

 5. Repeat the Sequence.

Go through steps 2-4 as often as necessary: 4 breaths, 15 compressions, another breath, and the abdominal squeeze.

Watch Elaine Acker’s brief video to fully understand the directions above. While these techniques are lifesavers, perform them with caution and only in a critical situation. And always take your dog to a vet as soon as possible after an emergency to make sure everything’s okay. For more info on emergency pet care, visit the ASPCA’s emergency care info page.

Posted by Claire M. Caterer

May 15 2009

A Low-Cost Resource for KC

Congratulations to Spay & Neuter Clinic of Kansas City, which just moved this week to new headquarters at 59th and Troost! This clinic focuses specifically on providing low-cost spay and neutering services to residents who might otherwise be unable to afford surgery for their pets. Log on to to learn more about this wonderful resource, or call at (816) 353-0940.

Most shelters, like Wayside Waifs, include spaying and neutering in their adoption fees, but people who obtain their pets from other sources may find the cost of surgery prohibitive. We are grateful to Spay & Neuter KC for helping to stem the tide of pet overpopulation.

Dogs and cats that are spayed or neutered generally live longer, healthier lives and have fewer behavior problems. If you haven’t yet taken this step with your pet, don’t delay scheduling surgery. Check out our website for more low-cost spay and neuter resources.

Posted by Claire M. Caterer

May 13 2009

Baby Animals Fine Without Nanny

This baby rabbit is old enough to get along on its own.

This baby rabbit is old enough to get along on its own.

Birds, squirrels, rabbits, and deer all produce young at this time of year. When I was a kid, I used to dream of finding a tiny orphan nestling and nursing it back to life. Then, as the Disney version goes, the animal would be my friend forever, perching on my shoulder or loping along the street, following my bike.

But as an adult, I’ve learned that wild animals are wild for a reason. And their own parents are better equipped to care for them than I ever could.

This spring, you may well run across a rabbit’s nest in the grass, a fallen fledgling, or even a fawn nestled back in the woods. And you feel it: that human instinct to help. But when would help be welcome?

The short answer is, almost never. Mammals like rabbits, squirrels, and deer leave their babies for hours at a time to avoid exposing them to predators, so an undisturbed nest is best left alone. Even young animals found outside the nest are usually all right. Any animal that you have to chase down to “help” is fine on its own.

Foundling birds look helpless too.  But if the birds are fledglings–mostly feathered–they’re likely testing their wings if you find them under a tree. Leave them be. Parents will continue to watch over and feed them until they get on their way.

When to Help

Look for these signs if you suspect a baby animal needs care:

  • babies are not independent and can’t run or fly off
  • you are sure the parent is dead (not just missing for a few hours)
  • the baby has been injured
  • the baby does not have feathers or fur

If an animal has been injured, don’t try to raise it yourself. Wildlife protection laws state it’s illegal to remove most species from the wild. Keep the animal in a box lined with soft cloth in a quiet, dark area. Don’t try to offer it food or water. Take it to your local vet as soon as possible, or call a wildlife rehabilitator.

If the animal is unharmed but has fallen from its nest, return it to its home if possible. It’s a myth that birds will ignore babies that have been touched; their sense of smell isn’t that good. For more information on how to care for baby animals, visit the Humane Society website or contact one of these regional wildlife specialists:

Diane Johnson, RVT, Operation WildLife, Kansas Eastern Region (KC metro/Lawrence): 785-542-3265

Joyce Rosson, Lakeside Nature Center, Northwest MIssouri Region (Clinton Co.): 816-320-3951

posted by Claire M. Caterer

May 11 2009

It’s Swine, Not Canine

With all the recent national anxiety about swine flu, some pet owners are worried about their animals at home. Can dogs or cats get the flu, and can they transmit it to humans?

Dr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying there’s no evidence of viral transmission to or between domestic pets. If your dog goes to a doggy day care, there’s no reason she shouldn’t keep going. Normal precautions still apply, of course. Your dog or cat is much more susceptible to pet-borne illnesses like parvo or distemper than swine flu-so be sure vaccinations are up to date.

As for humans, reasonable precautions are in order. Follow the same advice you hear during any other cold and flu season: wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, dispose of any used tissues. If you’re ill, drink fluids and rest; flu remedies like Tamiflu and Relenza can be help ease symptoms if taken early in the illness, says Besser.

 Jut don’t worry about Fido and Fluffy. They’ll be just fine.

posted by Claire M. Caterer

May 8 2009

All They Wanna Do Is Dance

Do animals respond to music? We know that many shelters use soothing music to calm animals, and dogs left alone in the house seem less lonely with the radio on. But it seems that birds–those music makers of the animal world–are more in tune than any other pet.

Researcher Aniruddh Patel of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, California, has been studying whether birds actually dance. Parrots are well known for bobbing their heads in response to a variety of stimuli; my own eclectus parrot, Linus, bobbed eagerly when presented with pumpkin seeds, a favorite treat. And he often bobbed up and down when music played. But do parrots really keep to the beat?

Linus, an eclectus parrot

Linus, an eclectus parrot

 Patel concludes that they do, and he’s published his findings in the April 2009 issue of the journal Current Biology. Adena Schachner of Harvard University agrees that animals that mimic sounds internalize the beat of music and dance to it. Read more about their research in this NPR report by Nell Greenfieldboyce. And in the meantime, watch Snowball the cockatoo boogie down with the Backstreet Boys. Snowball lives at the Bird Lovers Only Rescue in Schererville, Indiana.

posted by Claire M. Caterer

May 4 2009

Flea Prevention Starts Now

Regular bathing and brushing can help keep fleas at bay. (Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis)

Regular bathing and brushing can help keep fleas at bay. (Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis)

Finally enjoying some warm weather? Chances are your pets are too. As the foliage greens up, shrubbery and undergrowth become denser, and the grass gets longer, another creature shows up for a romp: the flea.

Prevention is the best way to deal with these pesky creatures. Once they get a firm hold of your pet, they’ll end up on carpets, upholstery, bedding–and you. Eradication at that stage is a migraine waiting to happen, so take action now, when fleas are just starting to lay eggs.

If you’ve had flea problems in the past, or your yard has a lot of dense undergrowth, consider a yard application as well as direct prevention on your pet. Concentrated liquid insecticides that you apply with a garden hose work well and are available at hardware stores and home and garden centers. Because the KC metro has a long warm season, two applications will probably be necessary.

In the house, be sure a dog or cat’s bedding is washed in very hot water weekly during flea season. Vacuum frequently and empty vacuum-cleaner bags right away. While this will cut down on fleas taking hold in the house, you’ll need an indoor insecticide if you’ve actually seen fleas on pets or furniture.

Finally, and most important, your dog, cat, or other mammal needs its own flea prevention if spending lots of time outdoors. Recent research has brought up concerns over the safety of over-the-counter topical flea preventatives, which have shown to be toxic in some cases to animals and humans. Veterinarian-prescribed preventatives have fared much better in safety tests and still are considered the best option for direct flea prevention for mammals. But to be safe, consider these factors:

  • Products are not interchangeable. Follow directions for species and weight of each pet.
  • Administer the product exactly as the manufacturer recommends.
  • Ill, pregnant, and elderly pets may be poor candidates for topical flea preventatives.
  • Check with your vet before using any chemical product, particularly those available over the counter.

May 1 2009

How One Cat Became a Twitter Sensation

Romeo the Cat (photo from

Romeo the Cat (photo from

Celebrity is a delicate thing. Some people go the way of Paris Hilton; others show the grace of Tom Hanks. Romeo the cat is already getting a swelled head: “Pugsley and I got our 9 p.m. treats at 11:14:23 p.m. tonight. Staff slacking. Heads gonna roll,” he wrote recently on the popular networking site, Twitter.

Then again, maybe fame hasn’t ruined him. Maybe he’s always been this way.

Romeo is a Persian rescue cat who’s now rescuing others. Owner Caroline Golon of Charlotte, NC, has been tweeting on Romeo’s behalf since February in the hopes of raising money for rescue groups and animal shelters. With a following of over four thousand “tweeters,” Romeo is getting the word out in a big way. On Valentine’s Day, he debuted his own blog, where he dispenses advice, reports on his activities, and above all, drums up cash. Each month, the blog chooses a pet-related charity to sponsor. The site targeted Kitten Rescue in Los Angeles in April and has raised more than $1500.

Luckily, Romeo still has time to be a cat. He recently tweeted:

“Breaking News: Heroic ginger and white cat saves staff from eating too much by stealing sandwich off plate.”

 Clearly, celebrity hasn’t gone to his head.

 posted by Claire M. Caterer

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