Friday, December 28, 2012

Some of 2012's Pet-Related Trends

In some ways it seems as if 2012 has just begun.  Wasn't it just New Year's Eve?  Well, no, but it soon will be again and as we look forward to 2013 it's time to look back, too.

We're not the only ones reflecting on the past year when pet food recalls and jerky made in China scared pet owners, with good cause.  The website decided to look at the pet trends in 2012.

I find it particularly interesting that at the top of their list is the trend that small dogs dominated dog shows this year.  I had predicted a rise in small dog interest and ownership about fourteen years ago.  I could see the baby boomers growing older, downsizing, becoming empty-nesters but thought they'd still want to own a dog, one that could easily go everywhere with them. A small dog seemed the obvious choice. No long afterward I wrote my first book, "The Irrepressible Toy Dog."  It was just about three years ago that I updated, expanded and revised that book and brought it out under a new and more appropriate title: "Small Dogs, Big Hearts."

The start of another trend, perhaps, is that Los Angeles  became the first city where the selling of cats and dogs in pet stores is illegal.  We can only hope that the ban will cut down on the number of dogs and cats bred in mills, by backyard breeders and commercial breeders.  Anyone who wants a purebred should go to either a responsible, ethical hobby breeder who shows their dogs and cats and does all possible pre-breeding tests for genetic diseases.

Oddly enough, groomers are now doing washable tattoos for pets for about $10.  No, I can't explain why anyone would want to do that.  Prior to this, all tattooing of pets had to do with a number that was registered so the owner could be notified if the dog got lost and was found by someone who checked for a tattoo.

Happily, Pit Bulls found their way into books bringing them some positive attention for a change.  They used to be much-loved but drug dealers and those who train dogs for illegal fighting managed to ruin their reputation. Blame the Deed, Not the Breed.

Even as Breed Specific Legislation was being fought, Lennox, a "Pit Bull-like" dog in Belfast, Ireland was put to death. Despite please to save him, even from those who are known for their dog knowledge, in the end it meant nothing to those determined to kill this family pet.  Happily, Massachusetts repealed their BSL ban and Ohio changed the language of their dangerous dog law to remove breed specific mention.

Dog clothing is nothing new but heads turned when Bret Michaels of the rock band, Poison, came out with a line of rock and roll dog clothes. No, I can't explain it.  

2012 was the year when many dogs got sick and many died from dog jerky treats made in China. Hopefully, this has resulted in more owners reading labels before purchasing treats for the pets.

A study in "Pediatrics" magazine showed that babies living with cats or dogs were 30% less likely to suffer from respiratory infection symptoms like coughing, wheezing, runny or stuffy nose, and fever and about half as likely to get ear infections. The study also found that babies living with dogs needed fewer courses of antibiotics than those living in pet-free homes.

Okay, this one isn't really news: cats love to play with mouse toys.  That's a continuing trend in toy sales.

Neither is this one: you should know that it's not safe to give your dog real wishbones.

And their list wraps up with movies starring animals and about animals being another trend in 2012.

What can we expect in 2013?  That's an excellent question.  We'll just have to wait and see.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Shopping for Your Cat

When it comes to the holidays, our pets are part of the family and are becoming more commonly part of the gift-giving experience. Frankly, I've always done this, when I a dog owner and now with my cat. You can see a photo of my girl here for the first time. Although she's on my website, this is my cat's first appearance on my blog. Aimee is a 13-year-old Chartreux and she's my little angel girl.  How could I not include her in holiday celebrations?!

Whether she's getting toys, treats or perhaps a piece of kitty furniture like a scratching post or a kitty hammock chair, she gets a gift.
Photo Copyright: Veronique Schejtman

In a survey done this year by TEMPTATIONS treats for cats, nearly half of all cat owners (46%) reported that they were going to shop for their pet for the holidays. The gift is either a toy or treats but  the owners think their cats would prefer treats even though 84.9% of cat owners will opt to purchase a toy. Obviously, both are good gifts.

It's no secret that treats can be overdone. You don't want kitty to gain weight. But kitty, like us, needs to have something special. You just need to be aware of how many treats your cat gets each day, working in that amount with the amount of food kitty gets for the day so that you're not overfeeding your cat. 

Treats are a great reward when you train your cat. Some cats work for treats, some for a favorite toy and some for affection. Using operant conditioning (clicker training) you can train your cat to do anything a dog can do. And treats and clicker training are also a great way to train shelter cats which makes their life more interesting and makes them more adoptable. And did you know that your cat can do agility? (http://http://www.catagility.comYes, there is cat agility and whether or not you enter a competition, you can have fun practicing at home.

It doesn't take long for your cat to learn, and one word that quickly becomes part of a cat's vocabulary is "treat."  Aimee comes running when I ask her if she wants a treat. Hers go on levels of her cat tree when we're not doing some training, so she has to climb and get some exercise.

According to the TEMPTATIONS survey, women (48.7%) are more likely than men (42.6%) to consider their cat when shopping for holiday gifts. But, interestingly, the majority of gift-buying men (38.3%) will spend from $11 - $20 on their cat while the majority of gift-buying women (38.3%) estimate that they spend between $6 - $10 on their kitty.

Cat training obviously helps build the bond between kitty and person. Adding a treat can enhance the experience.

We have a special contest thanks to the nice people at TEMPTATIONS. Your can win a pet stocking filled with treats and toys! To enter, send me a message via my website (  The winner will be announced this Thursday, December 20th. Hopefully, that will be enough time to get the stocking to the winner in time for Christmas.  I know your kitty will love it whenever it arrives!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Judah Maccabee - Chanukah Blog Crawl

This is my day for the Chanukah Blog Crawl.  We share the day with Catself: and we encourage you to surf there when you've finished reading this post.

You’ve already read that Chanukah is celebrated because oil that was meant to last for one day, lasted for eight.  The backstory is rooted in one family, The Maccabees, and specifically one Maccabee son, Judah.

The story goes back to the 2nd Century BCE, when the Syrian-Greek army came to conquer the Jewish people. They didn’t just want their land, they wanted to destroy their very culture. They ordered Jewish people to eat pork, to sacrifice pigs to Greek gods. If a Jewish mother wanted her infant son to be circumcised both she and her baby were killed. The Syrian-Greeks wanted the Jewish people to think like them, worship like them, to become exactly like them. Jewish brides were forced to sleep with Syrian-Greek officers before they could sleep with their husbands. And teaching the Torah, the very heart of the Jewish religion, became a capital crime. The Greeks wanted total assimilation of Jews. And there were “Hellenic Jews” who aligned themselves with them.

Sages and their students went into hiding to preserve the Torah. The religious Jewish people did everything they could to remain Jewish, including holding weddings in secret. Many Jewish people were tortured and then murdered when they were discovered. There was tremendous suffering for the Jewish people of Israel.

The religious Jews would not give up their religion and their culture, realizing that while Jewish people love peace, there comes a time when one must fight and that time had come.

One Hasmonean family of five sons stood up to the Syrian-Greeks. The Maccabees, led by the patriarch Mattisyahu, started a rebellion but Mattisyahu died before he could see the rebellion become a full out war.

Leadership passed to his son, Judah, who changed the course of Jewish history. Brilliant as a leader on the battlefield, as well as inspiring thousands of Jewish people to take up arms and fight. Judah devised ways for the much smaller band of Jews to outwit and out maneuver the much larger and better equipped Syrian-Greek Army. One Jewish family is at the heart of saving the Jewish religion and culture.

When the Jewish people captured Jerusalem they had to rededicate the Temple, which had been fouled.  It was then that they lit a wooden Menorah with the one small amount of untainted oil they could find. It was enough oil to last for one day but it lasted for eight days. It was a great miracle that happened in Jerusalem.  The name, Chanukah, comes from the Hebrew word for Education.  The Jews who fought for their religion were Torah scholars and to preserve the religion one must educate themselves and the children.

Interestingly, there would be no Christianity or Islam if this war hadn’t happened because both Religions came into being in the post-Greek period.

Today, as we light our menorahs in our homes, we are not only united with Jewish people around the world but with the seven branched golden menorah in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  

My Chanukah wish is that every dog and cat finds a loving home where he or she lives as a true member of the family.

Happy Chanukah!

Please remember to surf over to Cat Wisdom 101 tomorrow for the final Chanukah Crawl Blog Post:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why You Should NEVER Give a Pet As a Gift

First let me remind you that we're part of the Chanukah Blog Crawl. Here's the link to the entire schedule:

If you've been reading my work for any amount of time, you already know how I feel about pets as gifts at any time of year but this is an especially vulnerable time for people, puppies and kittens. Most kids are begging for a pet and many people are loathe to refuse.  I'm not saying that every family shouldn't have a pet. What I am saying is that there's a lot to consider and even then, the new pet shouldn't arrive for the holidays.

Is your family ready for the lifetime commitment of having a pet? A dog or cat shouldn't be thrown outside. If you want to plant something outside, buy a tree. A pet is not a television or refrigerator that sits in the corner.  A pet is an interactive family member who needs attention, training, food, fresh water, veterinary care and appropriate toys. If you get a cat you will also need a sturdy cat tree, a sturdy scratching post and two litterboxes because the rule of them is one for each cat and one for the house. 

You cannot expect the child to take care of the pet although the child (or children) can help with age-appropriate pet chores and everyone can learn clicker training which can be done with both a dog and a cat.  

If you've decided to get a pet for your family and you are ready for the responsibility, including who will take care of the pet while everyone is out of the house at work and school, decide which type of pet is best for your family and your lifestyle. Most people put more time into choosing a new car or kitchen appliance than they do into a new family member.  If you want a purebred dog or pedigreed cat, go to a reputable breeder and if you have to go on a waiting list, so be it. It's worth it the wait for a healthy, well socialized pet. Or you can go to breed rescue and adopt a purebred who has lost his or her home through no fault of their own. You can also go to your local shelter and save a life. But be sure to ask why the cat or dog was brought to the shelter, as well as the pet's activity level to see if it matches that of your family and will fit in with other pets you might have.  

Whatever you do, do NOT go to a pet shop.  Pet shop puppies come from puppy mills where they are bred without thought, usually in crowded, cruel conditions where they live on paper, sleep and eat on paper, defecate on paper and are more difficult to housetrain and often have both health and socialization problems.  They are then gathered together by a "bunters" when they are entirely too young to leave mom and littermates and are trucked to pet shops and put on display for higher prices than you would pay to a responsible, ethical breeder whose male and female are health checked before breeding, the puppies or kittens are well-socialized, and don't leave their mom and littermates until their about 12 weeks old and have had a chance to learn to play and interact with others of their own species. 

The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has a wonderful campaign: Puppies Are Not Toys. Please take a minute to watch their wonderful video:

Instead of giving the pet, give a Puppy or Kitten "layette," with an appropriate book on care of your newcomer, a breed specific book if you're opting for a purebred or pedigreed family member, appropriate toys, a bed, food and water bowls, etc.  Look for a veterinarian and be sure to make an appointment within 72 hours after your new pet comes home (but not in the first 24 hours) to be sure the newcomer is healthy. 

Also bringing a pet home during the holidays when people are in and out, everyone is busy and there's too much activity - enough to confuse even an established family pet is not a very nice thing to do to your new companion.

Waiting to bring home the pet will allow the family has time to prepare for the newcomer.

Our friends at the ASPCA ( are offering one of my readers a wonderful holiday gift that contains:

-    Smidge cat toy
-    Paw stockings
-    ASPCA orange tote
-    ASPCA magnet
-    ASPCA orange wristband

How can you win?  E-mail me through my website ( between now and Monday, December 17th.  One winner will be chosen.  Good luck! 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Holidays and Your Pets

Where has the year gone? The Holidays are here again and sharing them with our pets is part of the fun. However, there are potential dangers for your beloved companions.

If you are decorating the house remember that many plants are poisonous to dogs and cats including ivy, lilies, poinsettia, holly and mistletoe. While poinsettia may not kill your cat or dog it will at the least make your pet very sick. It's better to err on the side of caution.

If you're putting up a Christmas Tree don't put it close to the wall or near furniture because it's too easy for your cat to climb up and topple it and get hurt. Pets can also easily break ornaments. The shards of glass will be dangerous to pets and anyone walking barefoot. Use unbreakable ornaments. Or, if your pet won't be able to access the top of the tree or tip the tree over, put breakable ornaments nearer the top of the tree. Don't use tinsel! If your pet swallows tinsel it can cause internal damage requiring surgery. It can also cause internal bleeding. 

Remember that chocolate is dangerous to pets. The smaller your pet the more likely it is that she or he will get very sick. Keep food out of reach. 

If you're hosting a party either confine your pets to one room with food, water, litterbox for felines, and some toys. People coming and going can accidentally allow your pets to escape your home. They can also step on your pets, give them food and/or beverages they shouldn't have and if there are small children in attendance they can easily injure your pet by picking him up or pulling tails, ears, poking, etc. Children can also drop small dogs or children's shiny jewelry that your pet could swallow. The noise of a party, with or without children, can also be confusing and upsetting to some pets. It is often better to board  your pet(s) overnight to be assured of safety.

For those who celebrate Chanukah, unless you can supervise until the candles burn down, it's better to replace your Menorah with an electric one. It might not be as traditional but it will certainly be safer for your pets!

Don't forget to have fun with your pets, give them some extra attention if you find yourself busier than usual, which is common this time of year. And I'm sure your pets will appreciate a new toy or two, and a treat! When choosing toys for your pets remember that there is no regulatory agency for pet toys, the industry is expected to regulate itself.  Choose toys for your pets as you would choose toys for children. Be sure there are no parts to come off and be swallowed, no squeakers that can be removed, be sure toys are sturdy and always supervise your pets when you first give them a new toy. Also, beware of treat and toys made in China. Toys are often poorly constructed and treats from China have often been recalled. Better safe than sorry! Do not get cat teasers with mylar. While it looks shiny to you it can be dangerous to your cats because it can cause the equivalent of paper cuts around the cat's mouth. Ouch! Safety first!

Happy Holidays to you and those you love. 

Note: We'll be participating in this year's Chanukah Crawl!  Click on the link below the Badge to see the complete Chanukah Crawl schedule and find links to each post.