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Family Matter: Dogs Home Alone


Dogs Home AloneBack-to-school can be a lonely time for your pet. It is for my dog, Astro. All summer, he’s had the luxury of having the boys home all day to play with him and to let him in and out at his whim.

When the boys go back to school, Astro is left to his own devices in the yard or in the house. Truth be told, he has to stay outside because it’s not always guaranteed I can come home in the middle of the day to let him out for a play and potty break.

Ease him into the back-to-school routine by leaving him in a quiet house for increasingly extended periods of time as it gets closer to school resuming. This might be hard if you have kids in the house, but hey, school supply shopping takes a few hours, at least.

You might use a white noise machine or leave your radio on set to a classical (soothing music, no heaving metal head banging for your pet) while you’re gone.

Make sure there are not too many temptations around the house of objects he could easily destroy. You might consider gating him into one room or area.

Fill a Kong toy will all kinds of toys to keep your pet occupied during the day. If your pet is outside, leave ropes, balls and other toys in the yard for fun and to help keep him occupied.

If your dog will be outside, fill a bowl with a few toys, then add water and freeze. Leave the ice block outside in the yard for him, and he will uncover the toys as the ice block melts during the day.



Family Matters: Bird Toys and Play


Bird Toys and PlayJust like kids, birds like to play, too!

Birds develop a fondness for play in the “child and adolescent” years between the time they are fledglings and the time they reach sexual maturity.

Provide your bird with plenty of outlets for his play.

They tend to like things that move and make noise. Birds also love a mirror. Place a non-breakable mirror in their cage or somewhere near their cage for them to enjoy their reflection.

Ladders, swings and bells are also fun for birds. Ladders are great because it gives them a chance to exercise, and swings fulfill a need for proprioceptive movement. Bells are a great cause and effect toy, as they will learn to ring them and enjoy the resulting sound.

Paper balls might also be a fun toy for your bird. Wad up a piece of scrapbooking paper, and place it in the bottom of his cage. You can also place a few on top of his cage and make him reach for them. Paper strips from your shredder are also fun for your bird. He’ll spend hours tearing at them. Paper cones and cups, slightly smashed, can occupy birds for hours. Place several around his cage.

Toys on strings suspended from the top of their cages can also give them something to bat around in space.



Family Matters: Cats Home Alone


Cats Home AloneCats are pretty self-sufficient, and they can easily be left home alone all day. However, they can get lonely, too.

If your cat is accustomed to having plenty of company, ease them into a back-to-school routine by leaving the house for several hours at a time.

You might want to leave a white noise machine or radio on that’s playing soothing music in your home while you’re gone, so your cat feels like it has company.

If your cat has a particular spot where he likes to sleep, put a stuffed toy or a hot water bottle (one he can’t puncture with teeth or claws) in the area, so he’ll have something to cuddle next to. Some pets respond well to an old-fashioned alarm clock, one that ticks, wrapped in a blanket or towel.

Make sure your pet has a clean litter box while you’re gone during the day, so he won’t choose other areas to potty while you’re gone.

Of course, make sure he has food and water available as well.



Family Matters: Small Animal Toys and Play


Small Animal Toys and PlayYour small animal, like a gerbil, hamster or guinea pig, loves to play in his cage! Despite the fact that you see them sleeping a lot, these animals, who seem to get a burst of energy in the evening, love a good romp through their habitat.

Provide tunnels for gerbils and hamsters to run through and hide. They will even sleep in these tunnels, where they feel safe and secure.

Balls are great for inside your small animal’s cage. Make sure the ball is size-appropriate for your pet, so he can enjoy it without swallowing it or having it be too overwhelming. Make sure it’s made of a durable plastic or other material that he can’t chew and shred.

Big plastic exercise balls are also fun for smaller pets. Hamsters love to be inside the ball and have free range to run around your house. Make sure they are on the floor, not a table or surface where they can fall. Also, make sure they are supervised when in the exercise ball, so they don’t get stuck under furniture or chased by larger pets.

An exercise wheel inside the cage can be a great option for a hamster or gerbil for exercise as well.

Many small pets love to chew, so visit your local pet store for a block of safe wood made specifically for your type of small pet that they can gnaw on to their heart’s content.



Family Matters: Traveling with Your Pup


Traveling with Your PupSure, your pet pooch wants to jump in the front seat, back seat or truck bed when you take a road trip. You can certainly enjoy your canine companion when you travel, but there are ways to be safe and smart when taking him out on the road.

First of all, don’t let your best friend hang out the window or ride in the bed of your truck. Both are very dangerous. Your pet can get hit by flying highway debris or somehow end up on the road himself.

Secondly, if your dog is small, put him in a secure carrier for the ride. If you have a big dog, consider a harness or restraint that can loop into your seat belt mechanism.

Take practice runs before your date of travel to see how your dog is going to tolerate riding in the car. Make sure he has a collar, ID and a leash, so you can take him to the restroom on pit stops. Make sure he has water, food and treats. If your dog gets carsick easily, a vet might be able to prescribe Benadryl to help him relax and sleep during the trip.

If you need to fly with your dog, check airline regulations on where your pup will ride, climate and pressurization measures; how he’ll be transported between gates; and to make sure his travel crate fits the airline’s restrictions.



Family Matters: A Safe Place for Your Small Pet


A Safe Place for Your Small PetYour small pet, whether it be a guinea pig, hamster or bunny, needs a comfy place to call home.

Most small pets need to live inside. Rabbits can live outside, but your bunny is much safer if he’s in a hutch inside the home.

Small pets generally need their cages placed somewhere where they can get away from people. While they like attention and love, they also like their “me” time. Place their cage out of the path of traffic in the busiest parts of the house and in a place where the temperature remains a constant 65 to 75° F.

A lot of your small pets like to have something to chew on in their habitat, and providing something for this purpose will keep them from gnawing on the cage itself.

They also tend to like a place to hide. Whether you provide a box, a PVC pipe, or some other kind of tube or compartment, don’t panic if you can’t find your pint-sized pet. He might just be enjoying that “me” time.

Of course, make sure your pet always has fresh, clean water.

Toys, exercise wheels and nesting material are also great for small pets. Find out what your specific type of small animal will like and provide it for them.

Keep that nesting material clean and free of debris and refuse.



Family Matters: Traveling with Your Cat


Traveling With Your CatWhen you go on a trip, your kitty probably wants to stay home. If that’s not a practical approach to your vacation or long-term travel plans, there are ways to make your cat happy and healthy as they travel with you.

If you’re traveling by car, keep your cat in a carrier. Cats shouldn’t be allowed to roam through the car during your trip. It’s not safe for the driver, and it can unnerve your cat. The same goes for letting your cat hang out windows or sit on top of the dashboard. Just don’t do it. It’s not safe.

When you make a rest stop, don’t leave your pet in the car alone. A car can get overheated in the time it takes you to run into a store, use the restroom and buy a soda. If you have two adults in the car, take turns taking a rest break while one of you stays with your cat. If you’re alone (even more reason to keep your cat contained on a trip), keep him in the carrier and bring him with you. Make sure he is wearing a collar and ID.

If you decide to fly somewhere with your cat, keep him in a carrier in the cabin with you. A pet store should have the appropriate size of carrier allowed to fit into the cabin of your flight. If your cat gets anxious in a carrier or traveling, have your vet recommend and prescribe an anti-anxiety medication for the trip. Do not take your cat out of the carrier during the trip. Your seatmate might not appreciate it, and you might lose hold of your cat.

Make sure your cat has plenty of food and water, and bring a leash or a portable litter tray so that he can relieve himself in designated areas when you are able.



Family Matters: Home Sweet Home


Home Sweet HomeIt’s easy to make a home sweet home for your feathered friends.

First, you have to choose the right cage for your bird. The right space can affect your bird’s happiness and health. You want it to be the right fit for him in a variety of ways.

If your pet bird is small, he needs room to fly back and forth. If he’s larger, he still needs space to flap his wings, play with toys and move about. If your bird has an exceptionally long tail, he needs a tall cage able to accommodate those feathers.

For all birds, the cage should be made of sturdy, nontoxic materials. A painted cage might look cute, but you don’t want your bird chipping away at the paint. It goes without reason that the cage should be escape-proof for the bird, but you also might want to make sure your bird is safe inside from small hands, like a child reaching through. The spacing of the bars should keep your bird inside and safe.

When furnishing the cage, the same rules apply to an apparatus as it does to the cage: make sure it’s sturdy, safe and clean. Provide a shallow water bowl and make sure the substrate is far enough below the floor of the cage that the bird can’t reach it with his beak.

Place your cage near natural light, but make sure it doesn’t get too hot or drafty. Keep it away from fans, A/C or heating units, and small children.

If you line your cage with newspaper, try to find one that uses a soy-based ink, as it’s nontoxic.



Family Matters: Hot Weather Safety for Your Cat


Hot Weather Safety for Your CatThe best place for your cat during summer months is inside. If your feline gets frisky and needs to go outside, there are ways you can help keep him cool.

First of all, provide plenty of water and shade. An automatic water bowl provides fresh, clean water all day long. Make sure there is a porch, patio or tree cover in your yard to help provide shade for your cat. Cats are likely to seek cool places under a porch, house or other structure, so make sure those places are safe and secure for your cat.

Groom your cat frequently to remove his excess hair, and also to check for fleas and ticks. Your vet can prescribe medications and topical ointments to help treat and prevent both.

If you have an inside cat, it’s cute to see them curled up on a windowsill, but make sure that area doesn’t get too hot for your cat. Those areas inside can get just as hot as places outside.

Of course, never leave your cat in a hot car.



Family Matters: Hot Weather Care for Your Dog


Hot Weather Care for Your DogMy pup, Astro, is not a huge fan of the summer months. While he doesn’t have a heavy coat, he, like all dogs, is totally covered with hair! That keeps him hot. He solves this problem by digging a swimming pool-sized hole in the backyard and lying on the cool dirt.

If you don’t want your dog digging to China to stay cool or if you can’t control it, there are other ways to help him through the warm months.

First of all, make sure he always has access to plenty of clean, cool water. I fill Astro’s bowl with ice in the morning before I leave, and it keeps his water cooler during the day.

If your dog stays outside during the day, make sure he has adequate shade. If a tree, porch or patio isn’t available, consider installing a camping canopy or other shade to give him shelter from the sun. Some pet owners provide a hard-plastic child’s wading pool filled with a few inches of water, depending on the size of your dog, to splash around in. Drain every evening as to not attract mosquitoes.

Don’t over-exercise your pet on hot days. If your dog is already accustomed to taking a walk, it’s probably still fine, but bring water with you. Make sure he drinks when you’re finished. Limit your walks to the cooler parts of the day, and never walk your pet on hot asphalt. Remember, you have shoes on, but he does not.

If your dog goes outside, check him regularly for fleas, ticks and other insects that creep and crawl, especially in hot weather. Your vet can prescribe both internal and topical treatments for these pests.



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