FREE TO A GOOD HOME
Maddie’s Fund challenges adoption myths to get shelter pets placed
By Gina Spadafori
If someone else pays the adoption fee when you adopt a pet, does it change how much you “value” the animal as a member of your family? How you answer that question may reveal how you feel about many of the changes currently underway in the shelter and rescue community.
It has long been a core belief in the community that people who didn’t pay for a pet were more likely to “get rid of it” for pretty much any reason at all — or for no reason at all.
In recent years, though, organizations such as Maddie’s Fund, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians and the No-Kill Advocacy Center have challenged those views and many others, working to increase the number of homeless animals placed in good homes by changing the way shelters do business.
One of the first things they looked at: the idea that adoption fees help pets find better homes. After Maddie’s Fund experimented with paying the adoption fees for a relatively small adoption drive, the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine tracked the people and the pets they adopted. They found that the overwhelming majority of the animals were still in their homes months later, most sleeping on the beds of the people who adopted them.
A few years ago, I would have been in the “people value what they pay for” camp. I ran a breed rescue for a couple of years, taking in and rehoming about 200 dogs in that time. You definitely can get burned out and cynical when dealing with people who are giving up pets.
But the relatively few “bad eggs” in the pet-owner population seem to get concentrated into the “baskets” of rescuers and shelter workers. It’s easy to start thinking that pretty much everyone is a pet-dumping jerk, even those who don’t want to give up pets but have to, such as when someone loses their home.
There will always be some people who don’t do right by their pets, but studies show that most people truly are doing the very best they can for the pets they consider family. Even if sometimes the “best” is finding another home.
When you stop looking at everyone as an enemy, you can ask your communities for help — and you’ll get it. That’s why this year I volunteered to help Maddie’s Fund spread the word of this year’s Pet Adoption Days. For weeks now, I’ve been helping the group connect with people who will share the information — and with some, I hope, who’ll adopt a pet!
We are pet-loving societies here in the United States and Canada, and Maddie’s is truly on to something here. In providing shelters and rescue groups with the resources to change how they work with their communities, they’re giving them room to change — for the better.
It’s a pretty good bet that 5,000 pets will find new homes during Maddie’s Pet Adoption Days as planned, but it’s just as likely that more hearts will be changed forever by drives like these than can be filled by shelters operating on their own.
And that’s great news for pets and the people who love them.
More information, go to www.maddiesfund.org
Why cats are attracted to the feline-averse
• Why, in a room full of people, will a cat make a beeline toward the one person who is not paying attention? One possible answer: That’s the only person who’s playing by the cat’s own rules for proper behavior. Cats don’t like eye contact from strangers. When a friendly cat wanders into a room full of people, he may be intimidated by a new person’s stare. So, he heads instead for the people he thinks are being polite — those who aren’t looking. The cat doesn’t realize that these people may not be looking because they don’t like cats or are allergic. In the end, it’s a bit of a cross-species miscommunication. That’s one theory, anyway. It could also turn out that rubbing cat fur on the slacks of a cat hater is just the ultimate feline fun.
— Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
Free Pet Adoptions for Veterans, Active Military, First Responders and their Families
Animal Services hosts third-annual Veterans’ Day adoption event
EL PASO, Texas – This Friday through Monday, Animal Services will be holding a “Pets for Vets” adoption event, featuring free pet adoptions for all veterans, active military, first responders and their families. This Veterans’ Day event aims at connecting families with great shelter pets, while also honoring the service of the brave men and women in our community.
All adoptions include the animal’s spay/neuter procedure, initial age-appropriate vaccinations, microchip and City license.
How to Find the Right Dog for Your Family
Adding a four-legged friend to the family is no small decision, and it’s easy to get distracted by sweet eyes pleading to be taken home. Becoming a dog parent is a major commitment, so it’s important to do your research and make well-informed choices before deciding on a new dog.
No matter what stage of acquiring a dog you’re in, educate yourself about your options. A resource like Be Dog Smart, an online tool designed to guide consumers through the process of looking for a dog, can help you every step of the way, regardless of whether you’re considering getting a dog from a professional breeder, pet store, friend, family member or adopting from a shelter or rescue.
By asking the right questions, researching credible sources and requesting transparency from those who provide companion animals, you can rest assured you are taking the right steps to bring home a new furry family member.
Take smarter steps to bring your new fur-baby home with these tips from the Pet Leadership Council, the creators of the Be Dog Smart initiative:
1.Determine the responsible environment you would like to acquire your dog from. One way to ensure those who raise and supply dogs maintain proper care standards is to understand the acquisition process and thoroughly vet breeders, retailers, shelters and rescues before supporting their operations. Ask questions about their businesses, policies, animal care and referral sources. Visit the locations personally to get a sense for the environment before making a decision. Once you settle on a source for your dog, interview several options to determine the best fit.
2.Consider how a dog fits into your living situation. For example, if you work long hours, you’ll need to consider ways for your dog to be let outside during the day. Although some breeds require less space for exercise, all dogs need daily activity and regular access to relieve themselves.
3.Think about the time and monetary investment. Dogs typically do not understand being left in their crates because you have a busy work schedule or social life. Contemplate your available time and how you would adjust to accommodate your pet. The same can be said for your finances. Ensure you can afford essentials such as food, grooming items and veterinary care as well as extras like toys and treats before making the commitment.
4.Learn about the differences between purebred and mixed breeds. With so many breeds of dogs available, it’s tough to know which one is the right fit for you. Purebred dogs, which are dogs whose parents belong to the same breed, offer predictability in size, appearance, temperament, health issues, grooming needs and energy level. Mixed breeds, whose parents come from different breeds or are mixed breeds themselves, have a lower chance of being born with inherited congenital diseases and often inherit only the best traits from each parent.
5.Weigh the benefits of a puppy versus an adult dog. Puppies are typically sweet and fun, and there are advantages to bonding with a puppy from its earliest stages of life. However, puppies quickly grow and can require a lot of work and training. Puppies are also more likely to be destructive. At rescues and shelters you’ll often find older dogs, many who were abandoned due to their owner’s life circumstances, not anything they did wrong. These dogs can be wonderful additions to a family and may be house trained and have previous basic command training, but there is a possibility of not getting a clear understanding of the dog’s past.
For additional tips and to learn more, visit BeDogSmart.org
The Benefits of Service Dogs
Supporting veterans when they return home
Service dogs offer countless benefits to help combat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but they can also be instrumental in rebuilding and uniting families after veterans come home from serving their country.
According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 30% of American military veterans experience PTSD after returning home from combat. Yet only about 40% of those individuals ever seek help.
Service animals are recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The designation is limited to dogs who are trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. In some cases, these tasks are highly physical in nature, such as guiding a person who is blind or pulling a wheelchair. Other roles service dogs play may be less immediately visible, such as providing a calming presence to a person with PTSD who is experiencing an anxiety attack.
More Than a Companion
Service dogs are highly trained to assist military veterans in achieving better quality of life. Veterans who utilize service dogs report lower levels of depression and anxiety, fewer hospitalizations and a reduction in medical and psychiatric costs, among other benefits. Beyond what these canines help prevent, consider these examples of what they empower:
• Ease loneliness and stress
• Reduce social anxiety
• Decrease reliance on prescription drugs
• Help veterans return to work or attend college
• Strengthen personal relationships
• Provide security, protection and unconditional love
Up to the Task
Just like the members of the armed forces they help, service dogs are highly trained professionals with an important job to do, including tasks such as these:
• Turn on lights and open doors before a veteran enters his or her home
• Nudging, pawing or licking to interrupt flashbacks or nightmares
• Utilizing body weight as a grounding mechanism to reduce anxiety or alleviate panic
• Retrieve bags with medications or a list of numbers to call during a medical emergency
• Provide security and reduce hypervigilance in public places
• Pick up dropped items and assist with mobility and ambulation
To see video stories of how service dogs have impacted the lives of veterans and their families, visit DogChow.com/service. In addition, for every purchase of specially marked bags of Dog Chow Complete Adult through Nov. 1, the brand will donate 5 cents, up to $100,000, to the Tony La Russa Animal Rescue Foundation Pets and Vets program, which matches veterans experiencing PTSD and other challenges with service dogs, free of charge.
When You See a Service Dog
Service dogs are often large breeds that stand out in a crowd, and their calm demeanor can make it seem perfectly appropriate to approach and pet them. However, it’s important to remember that service dogs are at work and distractions can prevent them from providing the service their owners need.
The International Association of Canine Professionals offers these etiquette tips for interacting with service dogs and their owners:
• Remember that a service dog is there as support for a person with a physical or health disability, which may or may not be readily apparent.
• Respect that health conditions are private matters most people prefer not to discuss with strangers.
• Just as you would not stare or point at a person in a wheelchair, avoid calling unnecessary attention to a person with a service dog.
• If you must interact, always focus your attention on the handler, not the dog, so the dog can stay focused on its job. Avoid whistling, clapping or otherwise distracting the dog.
• Teach children not to approach service dogs. Although most are trained to avoid aggression, a perceived threat to their handlers could result in warning growls or barks that may scare a child.
5 Ways to Keep Your Cat Happy and Healthy
While cats can be quite independent animals, they still rely on their pet parents to maintain their well-being. It’s up to pet owners to provide the adequate care, nutrition and home environment to ensure their furry friends live long and healthy lives.
Consider these tips and visit temptationstreats.com and iams.com for further guidance on raising healthy and happy cats.
1. Designate a Special Spot – Make sure your cat has a space in the home where he can be unbothered and relax. This space can also be somewhere your cat can hide or snuggle up. Putting a cat tree with a lookout in a quiet spot can give your pet a perfect place for a catnap.
2. Provide a Healthy Diet – Diet is a vital part of your cat’s health and wellness, and it’s important to find a food that caters to your pet’s specific needs and preferences. Look for food that fits your cat’s needs like senior care, hairball control and oral care, so he receives the best nutrition at every life stage. For example, IAMS™ formulas provide wet and dry food options tailored to your pet’s age, activity level and dietary needs.
3. Regular Checkups – Cats are notoriously secretive about how they are feeling. Scheduling regular visits with your local veterinarian for vaccinations and checkups can ensure your pets are as healthy as they can be. Ask your vet how often you should schedule appointments, as every cat requires unique care.
4. Groom Regularly – While cats may not need regular baths, they do sometimes need a little extra TLC to look their best. Depending on breed and lifestyle, each cat requires a different grooming routine. Longhaired cats should be brushed regularly to keep their coats nice and shiny while indoor cats may need their nails trimmed more frequently to avoid scratching.
5. Playtime with Toys and Treats – Enrichment and bonding are key factors in a pet’s well-being. Providing stimuli, like toys or scratching surfaces, encourages your furry friend’s curiosity and natural behavior. Dedicate time each day to play and snuggle up with your cat to solidify your bond. A simple shake of a bag of treats, such as TEMPTATIONS™ treats, can make your cat come running and signal it’s time to play.
Photo courtesy of Fotolia
Know Your Dog
Before choosing a breed, research its historical purpose and decide whether you’re prepared to live with its associated behaviors
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
The dog trainer received a phone call from a couple wanting to hire her to help train their new 9-week-old German shorthaired pointer. “You must like those high-energy hunting dogs,” she commented as they spoke.
“No; why do you say that?” the man replied.
She learned that he had chosen the breed because he’d always thought they looked nice, and he wanted a dog to hang out with. The couple didn’t realize that their highly active puppy would grow up to be a highly active dog. They were prepared to walk the dog around the block, not go running or hunting with him.
As human lifestyles have changed, from hunting mammoths and gathering roots and berries to pushing a cart through the supermarket, it’s easy to assume that our dogs have evolved right along with us to have a more relaxed lifestyle. In fact, the brains of different breeds have evolved differently depending on the traits for which they were bred, according to a study (“Significant Neuroanatomical Variation Among Domestic Dog Breeds”) published earlier this month in the Journal of Neuroscience.
That’s right. Now there’s science behind the advice to consider working heritage before choosing a breed.
Researchers looked at brain scans of 62 pet dogs representing 33 breeds. Their findings established that brain anatomy varies significantly in dogs, likely in response to human selection for particular behaviors. “Through selective breeding, humans have significantly altered the brains of different lineages of domestic dogs in different ways,” the researchers write.
Those differences in brain anatomy aren’t simply linked to the dogs’ body sizes or head shapes. Their neural networks are actually different, based on the traits selected for in particular breeds. For instance, breeds that tend to have cognitively complex jobs such as herding or police work have larger prefrontal cortexes, the area of the brain involved with planning and decision-making.
In an interview with Jill Radsken of The Harvard Gazette, lead author Erin Hecht, Ph.D., assistant professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard, said she and her collaborators could see that breed differences weren’t randomly distributed, but were focused in certain parts of the brain. They identified six networks of the brain where anatomy correlated with types of processing important for different breeds: reward; olfaction; eye movement; social action and higher cognition; fear and anxiety; and scent processing and vision.
The finding? Dogs have multiple types of intelligence that suit them for specific types of work, such as retrieving, herding, seeking out scents, guarding and, yes, companionship. They aren’t born knowing how to round up sheep or retrieve pheasants or sit in a lap, but they do have a propensity to learn those behaviors.
So if you’re thinking about a Dalmatian, for instance, know that they were bred to run behind carriages for long distances.
German shorthaired pointer: bred to seek out and retrieve all types of prey in rough terrain.
Border collie: bred to run miles daily and control challenging livestock.
Siberian husky: bred to pull sleds with endurance and speed in snowy, icy conditions.
Beagle: bred to hunt rabbits over hill and dale.
Jack Russell terrier: bred to chase and dig out prey.
Rottweiler: bred to drive cattle to market and pull carts for butchers.
Miniature poodle: bred to be a circus dog or truffle hunter.
Papillon: bred to be companions, but with the highly active nature of their spaniel ancestors.
Greyhound: bred to sprint after and bring down prey.
Labrador retriever: bred to retrieve bird after bird, all day, every day.
Chihuahuas: bred as companions and ratters.
You get the picture. Do your research and choose wisely.
Million Cat March
Rethinking cats and their needs helped shelters save more than 2 million feline lives. They’re not stopping there
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Being in a shelter is stressful — at best — for cats. Stress plus crowding leads to illness. And when there are too many cats and too few homes, euthanasia is often the outcome. But two veterinarians, in partnership with shelters, are working to change that equation.
Five years ago, Dr. Kate Hurley and Dr. Julie Levy challenged themselves — and shelters — to save a million cats over a five-year period. By 2018, more than a year early, a million cats had found new lives outside of shelters. Since then, more than a million additional cats have followed in their pawprints.
The secret? Providing cats with more secure, healthful and comfortable living quarters, and recognizing that some cats do best living on their own or working a job instead of being housecats.
Dr. Hurley is the director of the University of California, Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, and Dr. Levy is a professor of shelter medicine at the University of Florida. One of the key initiatives of the Million Cat Challenge, as they called their campaign, is “capacity for care.” That means not just avoiding overcrowding, but also providing conditions that let cats be cats.
To be happy and healthy, cats need freedom from fear and distress, freedom from illness and disease, and freedom to express normal behavior. Sometimes meeting those needs is as simple as installing portals — little round doorways — to combine two cages into one unit. Portals allow cats to have separate areas for sleeping and eating, away from litter boxes. For cats, that’s huge.
“We designed that as an intervention to reduce upper respiratory infection, and we’ve heard from shelters that have reduced it by 90% or more,” Dr. Hurley says. “Upper respiratory infection is a stress-induced disease in cats, so those kinds of reductions speak to not just the health of the cats, but to their mental well-being.”
The difference is visible. Cats play more and scratch to mark their space. It’s still a small area, but because the cats are happier, they look better and stay healthier. That means they find homes more quickly. Preventing overcrowding by managing when and how many cats come in is also key. Foster homes, behavior counseling and trap-neuter-return programs for feral cats are among the solutions that keep cats out of shelters.
Feral cats are among those at greatest risk in shelters. Not every cat who lands in a shelter has lived life as an indoor pet — or wants to. Some have grown up outdoors and are savvy at caring for themselves, sometimes with a little help from humans who feed them and make sure they have shelter from inclement weather.
When those cats are brought to shelters, they aren’t going to suddenly enjoy being around humans or appreciate the opportunity to live indoors. Ensuring that they are healthy; vaccinating them (even once can potentially protect them for a lifetime); treating them for parasites or wounds; spaying or neutering them so they can’t add to feline population numbers; and returning them where they came from is one way to help these cats leave shelters alive.
“We loan traps and pay 100% of spay/neuter costs, plus rabies vaccine, if people agree to allow the cats to remain on their property afterward,” says Dee Dee Drake, executive director of Calaveras Humane Society in California.
Placing feral cats on farms as barn cats or in warehouses, distilleries and other businesses where rats and mice may be a problem is another solution. That allows them to lead independent lives without having to interact with humans or be confined indoors. “I think trap-neuter-return is more and more widely practiced and accessible, and I think that’s a hugely positive trend,” Dr. Hurley says.
Working Dog Blues
Is it time for your dog to retire from a sport or job? The answer is intensely personal and depends on the dog’s attitude and physical ability
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
My dog Harper and I recently flew to Oregon to compete in a nose work trial. I worried a little bit before we left that traipsing through three different airports, taking two flights and participating in a high-level competition on a hot day might be too much for an 11 1/2-year-old dog, but she breezed through all of it with a smiling prance.
But every dog ages differently, depending on factors such as genetics, size, overall health and diet. At other trials recently, owners of 12-year-old dogs told me that it was their dogs’ last day of competition because the dog just wasn’t up to it anymore.
Teaming up with a dog to compete in a sport, make therapy visits to hospitals or other facilities, or do detection work is one of the most satisfying experiences a dog lover can have. It builds trust, confidence and communication between you and your canine pal; fosters happiness and emotional well-being for both of you; and reduces stress in your lives. But like professional athletes, working and sport dogs can have a limited shelf life. They begin to slow down, become injured more frequently or simply indicate that they’re no longer having fun.
One sign that it’s time to stop is loss of enthusiasm.
“With therapy dogs, if they start hiding when you bring out the vest, it’s a good indication that they’re done,” says Daleen Comer. “Usually evaluators can catch that at the evaluations, which is why it’s good that they are every two years.”
Signs that a dog is reluctant can be subtle. It’s essential to carefully watch and interpret body language, or to decide for the dog that all the preparation — baths before therapy visits, for instance, or waits in the sun between runs or searches — are too hard on an aging dog’s body.
Health is another issue. Comer’s dog Duffy made therapy visits until he died, but Bonnie retired due to heart problems and Macy retired at 13 when she began to have trouble walking on slippery floors.
Terry Albert retired her 11-year-old dog Tank from agility after they came home from a trial one day and she noticed that two hours later he was still panting. He was diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis.
“My dogs retire from agility when they start spending more time recovering from injuries than training in the sport,” says Jenn Stollery.
Some dogs don’t want to give up their work despite health issues. Bison, a Bernese mountain dog, finished his last agility title just weeks before he was diagnosed with lymphoma. “Even deep into chemo, he insisted on carting the recycling out to the curb,” says owner Adam Conn.
If you’re not sure your dog is ready for retirement, a second opinion can help.
“It truly helps to have another pair of eyes to give one an honest appraisal,” says Barbara Brill. “I had asked a trainer to observe me practicing obedience with my then-3-year-old collie. What was I doing wrong to cause her to lag? The trainer recommended I have my dog X-rayed because she suspected a structural fault. I did, and Tiffy was diagnosed with spondylitis. The doctor recommended no more obedience practice.”
Retirement doesn’t mean your dog has to stop playing, though. Many people transition their dogs from active sports, such as agility and obedience, to slower or more low-impact activities, such as nose work, rally, swimming or walks on the beach.
Adam Conn’s Australian shepherd, Pockets, earned her Rally Novice title when she was 15 years old. That level of competition has no jumping and is done with the dog on a lead.
“Until your dog tells you she’s done, let her keep going,” he says. “Even if she runs out of things to compete in, you can still do training sessions.”
Harper? We’re road-tripping to Colorado this week so she can nose around for a good time.
ONE-TWO PUNCH AGAINST HEARTWORM
New approach to preventing infection in dogs may stem tide of resistance
By Dr. Marty Becker
Andrews McMeel Syndication
If you’ve heard that heartworm, a dangerous parasite that can cause serious disease and death in dogs as well as cats, is becoming resistant to the drugs we’ve long relied on to protect our pets, you’ve heard correctly.
“Failure of oral preventive drugs is reported most often from the Mississippi Delta area, where transmission rates are very high and resistance to preventive drugs has been confirmed,” said Dr. John McCall, professor emeritus in the department of infectious diseases at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. “But the spreading of resistance to other parts of the country is just a matter of time.”
The threat of heartworm that can’t be prevented with our present drugs is not a minor one. Infection with heartworm, a parasite spread by mosquitos, can cause life-threatening immune system reactions, respiratory distress, kidney failure, heart failure and other symptoms in both cats and dogs. However, there’s some good news, too. McCall recently published a study of a new two-step approach to fighting heartworm infection in dogs: one that targets both the heartworm and the mosquito that carries it.
“Heartworm is a two-parasite system,” said Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, director of veterinary relations for Ceva Animal Health, which makes Vectra 3D, a topical mosquito repellent and insecticide for dogs that also fights fleas and ticks. “Until now, we have not targeted one of these parasites, the mosquito. We’ve relied on preventive drugs against the worm to do the ‘heavy lifting’ alone.”
This flies in the face of how human public health programs fight mosquito-carried diseases like Zika virus, where the mosquito is always the primary target. Not only that, but putting all your health eggs in one prevention basket will always be less effective than protecting against disease with more than one strategy.
“When you get a flu vaccine, you still take other precautions, don’t you?” asked Hodgkins. “You still wash your hands and avoid standing in the air space of someone who’s coughing. You know there are other things you need to do to give that vaccine the best chance to keep you from getting sick.” It’s the same, she said, with heartworm.
When it comes to preventing the spread of resistant heartworm outside the South, or protecting dogs in areas where resistance is already present, targeting the mosquito is a valuable extra layer of prevention.
Resistance is thwarted because the topical medication stops more than 95% of mosquitos from biting protected dogs. As a result, the dog has a greatly reduced risk of getting infected — and so does an uninfected mosquito, who might bite an infected dog later. That stops the transmission of both resistant and non-resistant heartworm.
On top of that, the repellent and insecticide killed 98% of the mosquitos exposed to a protected dog. That’s good news for everyone, including humans, cats and other pets, who would benefit from a reduced mosquito population. “In areas where mosquitoes are abundant, hundreds, and possibly thousands, of mosquitoes can bite a dog in a 24-hour period,” said McCall. “The use of a repellent and insecticide could reduce this by 95% or more for an entire month.”
While there’s no such thing as 100% protection when it comes to living creatures, this double-defense of topical repellent and oral preventive medication is about as close as you can get.
Although cats also suffer from heartworm infection, there is currently no repellent safe for use on them. Owners of both cats and dogs should keep the treated dog away from the cat until the topical repellent is fully dry, usually a few hours after application.
Dog owners can learn more at fightheartwormnow.com, and should consult their veterinarian about how to best protect their pets from heartworm infection.
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Happy Cat Habitat
What makes your cat happy? We share the secrets
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Smokey loves sunny spots for cat- napping. Chester chooses chicken. Summer likes to wear dresses and hang out in airports.
OK, Summer’s a little unusual, but her preference is just an example of the many different things that make cats happy. From snuggling with their favorite humans to swirling around our legs at mealtime to chatting with us about their day, cats express happiness in a variety of ways.
“Every cat is an individual, so it’s going to vary from cat to cat,” says behavior expert Debra Horwitz, DVM. “Some cats like when you spend time with them. If they’re cuddle kitties, they like to sit on your lap. If they’re playful cats, they like if you engage them in interactive games.”
While there’s no doubt that cats love their food, many of them will choose human companionship over a meal or treat, according to a study by the Human-Animal Interaction Lab at Oregon State University. For both pet and shelter cats taking part in the 2016 study, social interaction with humans was the preferred stimulus category for the majority of cats, with food taking second place.
Happy cats snuggle close, purr, bump heads with us — known as bunting — and give slow blinks, communicating affection and trust.
Sofiya and Mollie follow owner Sally Bahner around the house. Sofiya “meeps” when Bahner comes into the room. Her cat Tekla hops onto the counter so they can have a conversation. Mollie reaches out and “combs” Bahner’s hair.
At their Florida home, Frank and Relina Sockman’s cats R.J. and Abby enjoy happy hour with the couple. “We all go to the lanai to kick back,” Frank says.
Janiss Garza’s Abyssinian cat Summer makes therapy visits and is a blog star who frequently travels with Garza to conferences. Summer loves strutting her stuff, whether it’s in a hospital, airport or convention center.
Cats play favorites when it comes to letting us know who makes them happy. Sandra Toney is the one who does everything for her cat Angel, but Toney’s husband Ray is the apple of Angel’s eye: “All her love goes to him. She lays across his legs every time he sits in his recliner and has a look that says, ‘He belongs to me.’”
As Angel demonstrates, being in touch with their people — literally — is an important part of feline happiness. Brigitte Cowell Moyne’s Savannah cat, Zari, sleeps in bed with her, sprawling on top of one arm to keep her in place. Teo, a Peterbald who loves Moyne’s daughter, sleeps curled around Lola’s head.
Purple sleeps next to Alison Taub, purring as she pets his head, the back of his neck and his throat. Purple is normally high-strung, Taub says, so when he relaxes and snuggles, purrs and “talks” to her, she knows he’s a happy cat.
Routine also makes cats happy. Liz Moe’s Miss Kitty enjoys watching her litter box being cleaned. That makes sense, Dr. Horwitz says. She believes cats are happy when their life is predictable. And that includes knowing when the litter box will be clean. It’s not unusual for cats to wait for their box to be scooped and then immediately jump in to use it.
People, food and routine are important to cat happiness, no doubt, but here are a few more of their favorite things: boxes to sit in, batting at a small ball or wadded-up piece of paper, special toys. Gail Parker’s cats Leo and Athena enjoy loving on their dog buddy Daisy.
But Kim Hundley may have the real answer to what makes cats happy: “Doing whatever they want.”
Put on the dog for Dog Day
• It’s National Dog Day! Celebrate on Aug. 26 (or any day, for that matter) by giving your dog a special treat or toy, going for a “dog’s choice” walk (he gets to stop and sniff whenever he wants), taking a selfie with your dog, or making banana-peanut butter “pupsicles” by blending two ripe bananas and two tablespoons of peanut butter (make sure it isn’t sweetened with xylitol) and freezing the mix in an ice cube tray or popsicle mold. You may also want to make a donation to one of the many groups working to improve dogs’ lives and health. Some to consider are Morris Animal Foundation, the Grey Muzzle Organization, Waggle Foundation or your local shelter or breed rescue group.
• Some people look for the perfect retirement town, others for a location with an active outdoor lifestyle. Dog owners want a welcoming attitude toward their pets. This year, Scottsdale, Arizona, is top dog when it comes to pet friendliness. The city was named most pet friendly by WalletHub after comparing 24 metrics, such as number of veterinarians and pet businesses, cost of pet care, amount of pet-friendly parkland and trails, and strength of animal protection laws. Following Scottsdale are Orlando, Florida; Tampa, Florida; Austin, Texas; Phoenix; Las Vegas; Atlanta; St. Louis; Seattle; and Portland, Oregon.
— Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMarty Becker or Kim Campbell Thornton is at
Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker.
PHOTO CAPTION:National Dog Day is a good time to show your dog just how special you think he is.
The right food can help to improve quality of life for cats with chronic kidney disease
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Old cats and chronic kidney disease go paw in paw. Nearly a third of geriatric cats are diagnosed with the condition. It has no cure, but it can be managed with IV fluids and therapeutic foods.
In fact, diet is the best way to manage chronic kidney disease in cats, but if you’ve ever tried to get a cat to eat something he doesn’t want, you know how frustrating it can be when he needs a special diet. Fortunately, there are ways to meet this nutritional challenge — once you and the veterinarian know what you’re dealing with.
To “stage” the disease, or see how far along it is, your veterinarian will begin by looking at the cat’s overall condition: weight; body, muscle and coat condition; and any clinical signs typically associated with CKD that might affect the diet choices recommended for your cat. It’s important to know such things as whether the cat’s weight is increasing or decreasing, whether the cat is dehydrated and if his mouth, joints or other areas of the body are painful.
Blood work, a urinalysis and a blood pressure test tell the veterinarian if the cat has any conditions such as anemia, hyperthyroidism, urinary tract issues or electrolyte imbalances. With all of this information in hand, the veterinarian can determine whether the cat is doing well on what he’s currently eating or if he needs a change to a therapeutic diet.
Contrary to what you might have heard, diets formulated for cats with early kidney disease do not restrict protein. Cats, especially seniors, need high-quality protein to help maintain their body weight. Your veterinarian may recommend a therapeutic diet with higher protein content but restricted levels of phosphorus. Too much phosphorus increases the risk of further renal damage. Your cat also does not need a sodium-restricted diet, even if she has hypertension (high blood pressure).
If your feline is finicky, you may be worried about getting her to eat a new food. If possible, switch your cat to a therapeutic kidney diet while the disease is still in the early stages. Your cat is likely to still have a good appetite at that point and may be more willing to try something different. Ask your veterinarian for samples of several recommended foods, and see which one your cat likes the best. After she has eaten the food for a week or two, your veterinarian should take another look at her to evaluate her physical condition on the diet.
Cats who have a poor appetite may be suffering from dehydration, an electrolyte or acid-base imbalance, nausea or vomiting, or chronic pain from osteoarthritis or another condition. You and your veterinarian should work together to identify and manage those problems before reaching for an appetite stimulant.
Managing your cat’s dining environment is another way to help improve his appetite. He should have a safe, comfortable place to eat, away from noisy or curious children, dogs or other cats. Try feeding him in a separate room or inside his carrier — if he enters it willingly and enjoys being inside it. You don’t want him to associate the food with being in an area that he doesn’t like.
Therapeutic kidney diets aren’t one-size-fits-all. To make sure your cat is benefiting from the new food, watch her weight closely. If she’s losing weight, you may need to try a different food, or return to the original diet and use supplements recommended by your veterinarian to help manage the disease.
PHOTO CAPTION: To improve a cat’s appetite, feed him away from other pets so he doesn’t feel threatened.