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Family Matters: Caring for Your Kitten


Caring for Your KittenYou just brought your new bundle of fuzzy joy home. Now, what do you do?

Most kittens are ready to be weaned and rehomed at 8 weeks, so you’ll have a little ball of love on your hands.

First things first: take your new kitten to a veterinarian for a complete checkup and shots. You want to start his life with you in a healthy way.

As for food, offer your kitten a brand of food specially formulated for a younger cat. Either wet or dry food is okay. Just make sure it’s chock full of the nutrients kittens need to grow big and strong. Kitten meals should be about 30 percent high-quality protein.

Teach them good bathroom habits immediately. Most cats love to stay clean and don’t need much litter box training. Introduce them to the litter box in the space where it will remain permanently. Let the cat scratch around inside. Bring her back to the box frequently the first several days or until she has it down pat.

Pet your cat frequently to help it socialize. If it tolerates being held, snuggle with it and let it fall asleep on your lap or chest.

Provide your cat with toys like small balls, squeaky toys and things that move. You might need to provide it with a scratching post to protect your furniture as your kitten’s claws grow.



Family Matters: Exercise is Fun with Your Dog


Exercise is Fun with Your DogWhen I mentioned that I was writing a blog on doggie exercise, my boyfriend immediately offered that some people dance with their dogs.

Um, okay

I can just picture him twirling Astro, my 95-pound mutt, around the dance floor. Maybe they could get matching tuxes or something.

He wasn’t kidding.

Sure enough, get your dog to exercise by having him move and groove around the room with you.

Start by clearing furniture to give you both a large enough space to dance. Turn on some tunes and encourage him to weave through your legs, turn circles, leap into the air, spin around and back up to you.

Keep some low-fat treats in your pocket to reward him for participating.

Did you know doggies do yoga, too? Where do you think “downward dog” came from? Astro has downward dog mastered. Partner yoga moves can help your dog relax and relieve stress. Look for YouTube videos guiding you through the moves with your pup.

Play! Of course, this is great exercise. Throw your dog a Frisbee or a ball, and let him catch it or fetch and retrieve.

You can always take him on a brisk walk as well.



Family Matters: Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth


Brushing Your Dog's TeethDoes your pup suffer from an all-day case of morning breath?

Brushing your dog’s teeth should be a regular part of his hygiene routine, especially as older dogs have a tendency to lose teeth.

For starters, dry food is better for dog’s teeth than wet foods. The crunch factor helps clean plaque off of teeth.

Start your dog off on a teeth-brushing regime when he is a puppy, so he’s accustomed to always having that task in his life.

Go to the pet store and pick a toothpaste. Human toothpaste can be harmful to dogs, as it contains fluoride, so choose one formulated for a dog. Grab a dog-specific toothbrush while you’re there.

To brush his teeth, catch him while he’s calm. Snuggle him in your lap or wrap your free arm around him. Place a small dollop of toothpaste on the brush. Then, gently pull back his gums and brush his teeth. Dogs don’t need to rinse, but do offer him a bowl of clean water afterward.

Flossing is optional.



Family Matters: Fun and Exercise For Your Pet


Fun and Exercise For Your PetToys aren’t just for kids; your small pet loves them, too!

Small animals like hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs or mice love a good toy. Not only are they fun, a lot of these toys are great exercise for animals cooped up in a small area.

Try plastic running balls. These rigid, plastic domes have a little door (and plenty of ventilation) for your hamster, gerbil or mouse. Place the animal inside and put the ball on a flat surface, like the floor (not on a table or countertop where he could roll off and injure himself), and let him run wild. Placing the ball inside a clean, DRY bathtub works, too, and lessens the chance of the ball getting stuck under furniture, where you have a hard time getting it out.

Tunnels are also great toys for small animals. Either attached to their cage or freestanding, tunnels can give them other options of places to run and explore. Try placing a treat in one corner and see how quickly your small pet finds it.

Small rubber balls are fun, as are ball pits! Miniature versions of this childhood favorite provide your pet with great exercise (and a fun place to burrow in and sleep).

Fiddlesticks and chew toys are also good options.



Family Matters: Good Pets For Your Family


Good Pets For Your FamilyLast weekend, I went to the zoo with a little friend. She loved the birds so much she squawked and flapped and imitated them for hours after we got home.

After we got home, her mom started looking into what kind of bird would be best to get her for a pet to have at their house.

Bird Talk Magazine ranks Cockatiels as the best bird to have for a pet. According to the magazine, these birds are affectionate and talkative, and not very expensive to maintain. They are very social birds and can be taught to perch on a shoulder, to nuzzle or to give “kisses.”

The African Grey Parrot was the No. 2 choice. Owners reported liking the size of the bird, its intelligence and, after the initial investment, says they are not too expensive to keep.

Cockatoos, Conures, Macaws and other varieties of parrots also made the list.

The Bird Channel also recommends Budgies, Canaries and Finches as good pets for kids.

All experts recommend making sure the child is mature, can control impulses, and won’t harm the delicate bird if you consider it as a pet.



Family Matters: Grooming Your Cat


Grooming Your CatNot only does your dog need to be groomed, especially if he’s an outdoor sort, but your cat should get some pampering, too.
Cats are somewhat self-cleaning. Their tongue is designed to help keep them clean and neat, but if your cat gets smelly, you might need to step in.

Bathing a cat can be about as fun as wrestling an alligator, but here are some tips to make it an easier process.
Choose a time when your cat is most mellow, maybe after an afternoon nap in the sunshine. Don’t attempt this right after they eat, however, as it can upset their stomachs if they get stressed out during the process.
Trim their nails before you attempt a bath, for your safety.

Place a fluffy towel or rubber mat in the bottom of a sink or the tub, whichever you use. This will help with traction.
Place an oven rack or cookie cooling rack in the tub or sink. This gives kitty something to cling to, besides your arm, during the bath process.

Make sure water is warm but not too hot or too cold. Don’t suds their faces; they usually hate that. Using the water wand, gently and thoroughly wet the cat, and massage some specially formulated shampoo (made for cats, not for humans and definitely not dish soap) into his coat. Rinse thoroughly.

Immediately scoop your cat up with a towel wrapped snugly around him and dry thoroughly.



Family Matters: Making Your Home Safe for Your Dog


Making Your Home Safe for Your DogGetting a dog is sort of like having a toddler – they can get into things you never saw coming!

To prepare a safe haven for your pooch, consider pet-proofing very much the same way you’d child-proof.

Use child-proof locks on cabinets that contain cleaning agents, chemicals or even food that your dog could get into and could be potentially harmful. Make sure all medications are on high shelves or in other places your dog can’t reach.

Consider putting a latch or at least a lid on your trash can, or secure it in a cabinet with a latch. That way, your dog can’t get into it and eat something he shouldn’t!

Keep the toilet lids closed. Do you really want your pet drinking toilet water?

Secure cords that your pet could trip over, so he doesn’t knock lamps or other appliances over on top of him.

Keep children’s toys with small parts out of reach of your dog, too.

Some house plants are poisonous. Research them before bringing them into your home and around your pet.

In your garage, make sure that your car isn’t leaking antifreeze, which can cause kidney failure in your pet, or that you don’t have paint, oil, gas, fertilizer or any other chemical agent accessible to your pet.



Family Matters: Keeping Kitty Safe At Home


Keeping Kitty Safe At HomeThey say cats have nine lives, but you don’t want them using up any of those in an unsafe living environment!

Keeping your cat safe in your home requires a few simple steps.

First, think like a cat! You’re going to have to examine your home for nooks, crannies and crevices that your cat can get into (look high, look low), and make sure they aren’t a safety hazard for your cat. Make sure nothing can fall on them and that they can’t get stuck anywhere. Patch any holes in walls or closets.

Keep an eye on your cat! Check the dryer before turning it on (cats like to climb into warm spaces). When outside in the winter, bang on your car hood before starting the car to make sure kitty hasn’t climbed up inside the warm engine.

Certain plants can be poisonous to pets. Research plants before bringing them into your home or remove ones you already have that might be dangerous.

Keep food put away; not all human food (or the packages it comes in) is good for cats.

Many bathroom essentials are toxic to cats, so be sure to keep makeup, cleaning agents and personal hygiene products behind closed doors.

Cats are notorious for playing with cords from electronics or strings dangling from blinds. Be sure to keep those out of reach so they don’t get tangled in them or chew through them, which can be fatal to your feline.



Family Matters: Feeding Do’s and Don’ts


Feeding Do’s and Don’tsSmall animals are just that…small! You don’t want to overfeed them or they will get fat, which will tax their hearts.

Hamsters and gerbils should eat one tablespoon or less of food per day. For a treat, they can have unshelled nuts with no salt added. Do not give your hamster or gerbil iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, chocolate, raw beans, potatoes, or sugary or salty foods. Too much green food will cause diarrhea. Never give sticky food to a hamster, as it will stick to their pouches.

Guinea pigs love grass hay and green foods, in addition to high-quality pellets. They need vitamin C, such as kale, dandelion greens, collard greens and peppers. They should be fed twice a day. Great treats for your guinea pig include apples, apricots, bananas, berries, cherries, grapes, kiwi, melon, oranges, pears and strawberries.

Do not give them celery – they can’t digest the “strings.” Do not feed them raw beans or rhubarb, as those foods are poisonous to these animals.

Your bunny will love you for providing grass hay, and they can eat it without restraint. Pellets should be fed in the amount of no more than 1/8 cup per day. Avoid high-starch or fatty foods such as beans, breads, seeds, peas, corn, nuts, cereals, oats or other grains, but they can have kiwi, strawberries, pears, melons, apples, oranges and vegetables in limited quantities.



Family Matters: Do’s And Don’ts of Feeding Your Feathered Friend


Do’s And Don’ts of Feeding Your Feathered FriendFeeding your birds all seed?

Your feathered friend might call ‘fowl’!

Most birds kept as pets should eat very little seed, even though it’s intuitively what a lot of bird owners flock to. Seeds are fattening and not healthy in high quantities. There are conflicting reports on the benefits of seed for birds, but if you stick to natural seeds like sunflowers, your bird should be fine.

Instead, your bird should be ingesting organic pellets and a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and grains. Of course, this comes with rules, too. Avocado can be toxic to parrots. Avoid it with other birds as well. The pit contains an oil toxin called persin that can seep into the fruit. Signs of avocado toxicity include lethargy, anorexia, breathing difficulty and sudden death. Onions can cause irritation to a bird’s mouth, esophagus and crop, and they can also cause ulcers. Fresh tomatoes can also cause ulcers because of high acidity, but dried tomatoes are fine in moderation. Mushrooms, a fungus, can cause digestive problems in your bird. It’s best to avoid them all together. The strings from celery are not good for your bird, but small, stringless morsels are fine.

Apples, pears, plums, grapes and other soft fruits are great for birds.

Hardened fat cut from unsalted meat is also a great treat. Bread is okay in small quantities, just remember that it doesn’t really have nutritional value for your bird; it’s basically a filler. Cooked brown or white rice and potatoes (no salt added) are fine foods for your bird.

Don’t give your bird anything with margarine or butter as it can bog down the bird’s feathers.

No salt. Salt is toxic to birds.

No milk. Birds cannot digest it.

Be very careful of peanuts. No large morsels, no salt, no molds.



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