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6 Odd Cat Behaviors Explained



















By Michele C. Hollow for Pet News and Views

If  you have ever wondered why cats rub up against you, make mad dashes around the house late at night, or exhibit other somewhat odd behaviors, read on.

1. Why do cats run around the house late at night? Maybe it’s their way of saying “See, I exercised! Now leave me alone so I can take a nap.” Racing around the house often starts in the early evening, and can go on all hours of the night till morning. It actually stems from instinct, when all kinds of cats—from lions to pumas to house cats—are on the hunt. They run, dive, and chase prey. Yes, I know there is no prey in your house, but it’s their instinct.

2. Why do cats smell our breath? It’s to see if we are eating better than they are. Cats can learn a lot about us by smelling our breath. They are imprinting our scent into their brains.

3. Why do cats bat their food out of their dishes? They enjoy watching us stumble about the kitchen in our bare feet when we step on the dry crunchy bits. Well, that’s my theory, anyway. But scientists will tell us that it’s because cats need to simulate the capture and conquest of their prey.

4. Why do cats knead on our chests with their claws? Are they actually trying to check our tolerance to pain? Nope. This up and down kneading action stems from nursing. Kittens press against their mother with one paw and then the other. When an adult cat kneads, it reminds her of her mother when she was a kitten.

5. Why do cats rub up against our legs? They think we’re big lint brushes, right? Actually, this is a way of sharing their scent with you. It’s a bonding experience that lets other cats know that you are owned by a cat.

6. Why do cats groom us? It’s not grooming; it’s tasting! So for your own safety, buy better cat food. I’m kidding; the truth is, cats that get along often groom each other as well as groom themselves. So they are extending the same courtesy to us.

In Search of Wildlife

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

Many of you know I have been writing about pets and wildlife at Parade, which makes it somewhat difficult in posting as often as I would like here.

I recently interviewed Yanni about his work on behalf of panadas, a marine and his service dog from Afghanistan being reunited here in the states, and several pet health stories.

I have also written a few investigative news stories for a site called Who What Why.

I’m taking a short vacation, and will return mid September. See you mid September. Thank you for your continued support.

Sunday is National Black Cat Appreciation Day

This is Karma, my black cat.

This is Karma, my black cat.

For Pet News and Views

August 17 is Black Cat Appreciation Day and the CATalyst Council, a national initiative comprised of animal health and welfare organizations working on behalf of cats, has some suggestions on how you can celebrate.  “Unfortunately, black cats are frequently in shelters longer than other cats because there is still some unfounded stigma against them,” says Dr. Jane Brunt, executive director of the CATalyst Council. “I share my home with a black cat and can attest to the fact that they make wonderful companions—he is just as loving and playful as my other two cats—a silver tabby and an orange tabby.”

Here’s how you can help celebrate National Black Cat Appreciation Day:

1. Be a Myth Buster. Surprisingly, some people still hold on to a superstition carried over from the Middle Ages (500 A.D. to 1500!) that black cats are unlucky or evil.  “I can verify that my black cat has crossed my path on innumerable occasions without any negative consequences,” jokes Dr. Brunt.

2.  Consider adopting a black cat. Cat personalities aren’t linked to their coloration, as some people may believe.  The best way to find a cat with the personality you’re looking for is to ask the staff at your local animal rescue or shelter which cat they have that would best mesh with your lifestyle. It’s more than likely that they have a petite panther with the temperament you’re looking for.

3. Take your black cat to the veterinarian. If you already have a black cat, Black Cat Appreciation Day is a great day to schedule an annual wellness visit with your vet. What better way to show your appreciation for your feline friend than to ensure it receives a lifetime of care?

4.  Spread the word. Let other people know how great your black cat is by sharing your favorite story about your pet with your friends and family. Even better, consider sharing your story via social media.

5.   Celebrate your cat. Let your black cats know how much you appreciate them on this special day by giving them an extra scratch behind the ears or an extended play session. They’ll show they appreciate you right back with purrs and maybe a head butt.

“We know for most cat owners, every day is a cat appreciation day, but it’s always good to take a little time out occasionally to let your feline friends know how much they mean to you,” adds Dr. Brunt.


8 Reasons to Adopt A Senior Dog


By Nicola Reynor

Dogs that usually have trouble getting adopted are the ones with a little more grey on their muzzles. Our bias earns these dogs the tag of being “less adoptable.”

Dogs that are seven years or older are regarded as seniors.  Unfortunately, dogs five or older have a harder time getting adopted.  Most people prefer adopting puppies. Puppies, however, can be a handful, and many people don’t realize how much more effort goes into training a puppy.

Adopting a senior dog can prove to be an enriching experience for both you and your family. Here are eight reasons for adopting a senior dog:

1. They are Accustomed to Human Routine 

Adopting a senior dog could mean that you spend less time training the dog and more time bonding with it. They are often experienced and trained to obey basic commands like sit, stay, and the all-important no.  A senior dog will not be as energetic and frisky as its younger counterpart, but that could be a good thing if you are looking for a more sedate companion.


2. What You See Is What You Get 

When adopting a dog for a family, it is important to know the nature and personality of the dog. Does he do well with children? How is he with strangers? Will he be loyal or aggressive? These are important  questions to ask.  A senior dog already has his personality established, which you can gauge with a short walk outside, and a few visits to the shelter

  1. They Cost Less 

An older dog, as opposed to a young dog or puppy, will cost less in adoption fees quite simply because there is less demand for them. But once you get one home you’ll realize what a great deal you have landed. Spend the cash you save on getting some delicious treats for your pooch or some toys that will help him acclimatize.

  1. They Are Always up for a Cuddle

 Senior dogs are usually not as energetic as younger ones. They tend to enjoy their time spent lazing on the couch, in front of the TV, or just sprawled out under the sun on your veranda. If they find you in bed with a book, do not be surprised if they snuggle up to you for a nap. These dogs, to a great extent, are self-sufficient and have little need for round-the-clock engagement like puppies do. That is not to say that they won’t need exercise, but instead of a power walk they will not mind a long stroll.

  1. No More Surprises to Clean

 Older dogs are usually housebroken.

  1. Train Them with Ease

 Have you ever heard the saying, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Well, that seems to not hold true for dogs as much as it does for humans. Older dogs have considerably longer attention spans and can learn faster than puppies or younger dogs.

  1. They Are Loyal to a Fault

 When you adopt a senior dog, he not only looks up at you as his companion but as someone who gave him a better life. This is one bond that is not easily broken.

  1. You Can Save A Life

 Adopting a dog from a shelter makes you a life saver.

When you go to the shelter to adopt a dog, try to go in the middle of the week. Most shelters are busy with visitors on weekends making the animals anxious and loud. If you want a better idea of the personality of the dog take him out for a short walk. Do not make prolonged eye-contact with him. Talk to him, and sit with him so that he can get used to your presence and scent.

When you bring your new friend home, you will be glad you did.

This is a sponsored post by Nicola Reynor, a community manager and a web presence strategist for Dog Love It, the best doggy supply store ever! In her spare time, Nicola loves to write about her pets, and go hiking with her two dogs.

What A Cat's Teeth Can Tell You about Your Cat's Health

My friend Andrew brushes his cats” teeth every morning. They’ve come to expect it. It’s something I never thought about doing–until I had to take one of my cats to the vet.

My cat had a foul odor coming from his mouth, and he was dripping saliva. What I found strange was that the day before he was fine. When we got up in the morning, I noticed his breath and the wetness around his mouth. When we went downstairs for breakfast, he wouldn’t eat.

Open wide!

At the Vet
We were lucky. The vet dentist was in. He removed my cat’s rotten teeth, and my kitty was fine–until the following year.  This time we saw the partner of the vet we usually see. Since she didn’t see a rotten tooth this time, she thought his foul breath was kidney related. I didn’t believe her. I said it was the exact same symptoms from last year when he had two rotten teeth.

She seemed convinced it was kidney disease or feline leukemia. I was firm and told her, no, I think it’s his teeth. But since she is the expert, I started to worry. She wanted to run tests.

Bad Breath and Disease
“A healthy cat’s breath should not be offensive,” says Eric Davis, DVM, a fellow of the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry and director of the Dental Referral Service at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. As my vet said, bad breath can be the result of periodontal, kidney, respiratory, liver disease, or even diabetes.

“However, by far, the most common problem associated with bad breath is periodontal disease,” says Dr. Davis. “Just think how your breath would smell if you didn’t brush your teeth for a week, months or even years.”

It’s important to check your cat’s teeth and gums regularly. If you see any blood, inflammation, or if your cat wince–and not because he doesn’t want you checking his mouth–but because he feels pain, then take him to the vet.

Test Results
Fortunately, the tests for kidney disease and feline leukemia came back negative. The situation resolved itself because the tooth had fallen out, and the area in his mouth that was inflamed healed–just like in the wild. It saved us money too. The dental visit, tests, and complete exam added up. A tooth extraction would have cost more.

Daily Brushing
Following my friend Andrew’s advice: “You need to make your cat comfortable with having his teeth brushed; so start early and make it part of his daily routine,” he explains. “First you will need to introduce your cat to the toothbrush. The earlier your cat is introduced to the toothbrush, the easier it will be for him to accept the brushing routine later on.”

If you are going to brush your cat’s teeth, you can buy a toothbrush that will fit on your finger. You can also buy a cat toothbrush with a handle. Both versions have extremely soft bristles. And whatever you do, don’t use toothpaste designed for humans. It will upset your cat’s stomach. You can buy tuna or chicken flavored toothpaste at your local pet shop.

According to Andrew, his cats enjoy their daily toothbrush routine. For Andrew, it’s more time for him to bond with his fur kids.

A Bat in My House

By Michele C. Hollow for Pet News and Views

I wrote the story below a few years ago. Well, we had another bat visit us this past weekend. We came home from a wedding, and my son was outside waiting for us on our front porch. This time, the bat in our house was much bigger and quite active.

Our two cats, had their rabies shots, were chasing it around. We called animal control and are now waiting to find out if it is rabid.

In all truthfulness, I thought it was quite impressive looking. I like bats–out in the wild–because they consume mosquitoes. Following is the story of our first bat encounter.

My husband, Steven, was telling our son, Jordon, a bedtime story. Steven looked up and did a double take. He saw a brown bat on a wall in our bedroom. He calmly had Jordon go downstairs and called animal control. I wanted to catch and release it.

When the animal control officer caught it, he also wanted to let it go. However, he said it needed to be tested for rabies since we have a small child and a cat living in the house. Within the last two weeks, eight bats were found in homes in South Orange and Maplewood, NJ. One in Maplewood came back positive for rabies.

Rabies is found in the brain of an animal. So, it has to be destroyed in order to find out if it is positive or negative. A few days later, we got a call, and were told the bat tested positive, and that we were the first family living in South Orange to have a rabid bat in our house. I really didn’t believe it. I also did’t want to go for rabies shots, and I was sad that the bat had to be destroyed.

First, I took Earl Gray, our cat, to the vet. He was due for a rabies shot. Then it was our turn. Steven and I picked Jordon up from camp, and told him we needed to head to the emergency room.

A Series of Rabies Shots
The staff at Saint Barnabus Medical Center in Livingston, NJ, is great. The nurse who administered the shots was painless. Steven and I had to get a Tetanus shot. Jordon recently had one. Next was the rabies vaccine. While we waited, we played games and entertained Jordon. I felt so bad that he had to get three shots. I had three shots (plus the Tetanus). One in the arm and one on each butt cheek. Because he’s a big guy, Steven had to get five shots–plus the Tetanus–one in each butt cheek, his arm, and his thighs.

That marked day zero. Three days later we went back to the hospital for one additional shot. Tonight, which is day seven, we each get one more shot. And on day 14, we get our last shot.

We felt so bad for Jordon that we let him eat dessert for dinner. He ordered an ice cream Sundae.

Bats and Bites
I was almost going to nix the shots. However, the animal control guy said we needed them. I was certain we weren’t bitten. As a rule, bats don’t bite people, unless you handle them. The majority of bats eat insects and some eat fruit. The vampire bat, which this wasn’t, feeds on the blood of animals–mostly cattle. Vampire bats are mostly found in South America.

The bat in our house was a brown bat. Brown bats are not endangered, but many are being decimated by White Nose Syndrome. This disease is spreading rapidly throughout the northeast, and is killing bats in large numbers. I like bats. Any animal that eats its weight in mosquitoes is good.

How Is Rabies Spread?
According to the Center for Disease Control, “rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. The rabies virus can be passed to humans via the bite of a rabid animal, its saliva, or feces.” This means that you have to touch the rabid animals’ saliva or feces. I don’t know how anyone would not know if they were bitten or came in contact with saliva or feces.

Every doctor, nurse, and the animal control officer all said that if you are sleeping you would not know if you were bit. Apparently bats’ teeth are quite sharp; the puncture holes are tiny, and because they are so small, you don’t feel it.

We were also told that a bat can brush up against you, and if you had a cut on your body and that cut came in contact with the rabid animal’s saliva, you could get rabies. It seems a bit of a stretch to me, but that is the truth.

As I said, I like bats, and I don’t want to start a bat scare. According to the State Health Department, each year between two and three people in the U.S. contract rabies.

Protecting You and Your Pets
If you see a bat in your home, call animal control, and have the bat tested. If the tests come back positive, go for the series of rabies shots. The odds of getting rabies are slim to none; it is best to make sure, and also make sure that your pet’s rabies vaccinations are up-to-date.

If you want to read a story on avoiding wildlife encounters, and what to do if you come into contact with wildlife this summer click here.


NJ and NY Pass Ban on Ivory and Rhino Horn Trade

ElephantBy Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

NJ and NY Pass Bills to Save African Elephants and Rhinos

The New Jersey legislature passed S. 2012/A.3128, a bill that seeks to eliminate trade in ivory and rhinoceros horn. Introduced by Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-20) and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33), illegal trafficking of these wildlife products is directly responsible for shocking declines in wild populations in recent years, and this bill is a crucial step toward reducing the target market.

“The elephant poaching epidemic across Africa has reached crisis levels and rhino poaching is escalating exponentially,” said Adam Roberts, CEO at Born Free USA. “As the second largest ivory market in the world, the United States bears a significant responsibility to act now. New Jersey is of particular importance because the port of Newark is a hub for illegal wildlife trade.”

Elephant poaching has become increasingly severe over the past several years, and it is estimated that more than 86,000 elephants have been poached since January 2012.  “If the killing rate continues, certain African elephant populations could be extinct within a decade,” said Roberts.

Additionally, all five rhino species are in serious danger due to poaching. Africa’s black rhinos are critically endangered, with a population of fewer than 5,000. There are only 3,000 one-horned rhinos remaining in India and Nepal, and Southeast Asia’s Sumatran rhinos number only in the hundreds.  Javan rhinos are less than three dozen. The horns, made of a substance akin to fingernails, are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Despite conclusive evidence that they have no curative properties, hundreds of rhinos are killed for their horns every year.

Senator Lesniak, stated, “The illegal trade in ivory products for which Port Newark-Elizabeth is a major factor also contributes to organized crime, not only throughout the world but also here in the state of New Jersey. Also, we don’t exist as a state in isolation. We’re part of a worldwide population that’s concerned not only about animal rights but also what this illegal trade has done in terms of fueling organized crime, drug smuggling and gun running — which has a tremendous impact on society as a whole.”

Assemblyman Mukherji, sponsor of the Assembly bill, said, “Terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab, The Lord’s Resistance Army, and Janjaweed are funding their operations with profits from poaching and the illegal ivory trade.  With New Jersey ports serving as a hub for illegal wildlife trafficking and our proximity to New York City, the largest ivory buyer in the country, we as a legislature needed to act now.  Just two weeks ago, U.S. Attorney Fishman secured a lengthy federal sentence for the ringleader of a rhinoceros trafficking ring and pointed to the threat to the United States posed by the multibillion-dollar illegal wildlife market.”

Mukherji added, “Ivory trafficking is at the highest rate ever recorded, and it is driving elephants and other endangered and threatened species toward extinction.  By prohibiting sale and importation, this bill closes loopholes in ivory commerce and, coupled with federal law and recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulations, will take our state out of these nefarious activities.”

More Good News

And as I was editing this story, I received word that the New York State legislature passed a bill banning the sale of ivory and rhino horn. “These bans are important tools for regulating, and, we hope, eventually ending the ivory and rhino horn trade,” says Jeffrey Flocken, North American Regional Director of International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “Every 15 minutes on average, an African elephant is slaughtered for its ivory tusks to support a mass consumer demand. Rhinos, which are also poached for their horns, are similarly threatened. The U.S. ranks as one of the largest ivory consumers in the world and New York serves as one its biggest entry points and markets.”

 Michele C. Hollow writes the animal advocacy blog Pet News and Views. She is also the pets/wildlife columnist at Parade. You can read her stories by clicking here


Spoil Your Cat Day

This is Stanley, the spokescat for the CATalyst Council. You can find his advice for cats at

This is Stanley, the spokescat for the CATalyst Council.

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

Dogs aren’t the only ones celebrating Take Your Dog to Work Day.  Cats have been looking forward to this day for a whole year!

“While Friday isn’t Take Your Cat to Work Day, why not make it your very own Spoil Your Cat After Work Day, with extra playtime or a special treat when you get home from work?” asks Dr. Jane Brunt, executive director of the CATalyst Council.

To see how cats everywhere will be celebrating click here.

10 Tips on Finding the Perfect Pet Sitter

By Diane Pomerance, PhD, Rescue Dog Specialist & Pet Expert for Pet News and Views

Many people would not dream of taking a vacation without their pets. However it is not always practical or possible to bring our pets with us. In order for us to be happy on our vacation we want to be sure our pets are happy, healthy and safe while we are away.

Before you go on vacation make sure your dog and your pet sitter spend time together.

As creatures of habit, our animal companions fare best when adhering to their regular daily routines regarding diet, exercise and sleep. An experienced and reliable pet sitter can keep our pets happy and healthy while we’re away. But just how do we go about finding this magical being to be entrusted with the care of our beloved pets? Following are 10 tips to find the perfect pet sitter:

1) Make a list of everything you need in a sitter and a list of the needs of your pet. Will the pet sitter simply need to exercise, feed, provide fresh water and play with your pet? Does your pet require any medications? Do you have plants that need to be watered, mail and newspapers to be taken in and other household duties that need to be discussed?

2) Get recommendations from friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Ask what functions they have their pet sitter perform while they are away. Are these consistent with what you will require?

3) Seek recommendations from your veterinarian and vet techs. Some provide pet sitting services or they may be able to recommend a reputable pet sitter.

4) Contact NAPPS (National Association of Professional Pet Sitters) for referrals. NAPPS offers a certification program for qualified prospective pet sitters.

Make sure your pet sitter spends time with your playful kitten or cat.

5) Speak with employees of your local pet store for recommendations. They may offer dog socialization and obedience classes, and the trainers themselves may be available to pet sit or know of qualified people to do the job.

6) Your local animal welfare or rescue organization may know of capable, caring, professional people who pet sit.

7) Meet with a potential pet sitter before you go on vacation. Familiarize him with the pet(s) he will be caring for as well as your home. Watch how the pet sitter takes to your pet and how your pet takes to him or her.

8) Write down detailed information about his responsibilities so that he can refer to them whenever necessary. Also provide him with contact information, phone numbers and addresses of your vet, friends and neighbors who can help out if necessary.

9) Make sure he is licensed and bonded and has excellent references and experience.

10) Make certain he is able to handle an emergency and is aware of the phone number and location of the nearest veterinary emergency hospital as well as your vet’s office.

Animal Behavior Expert Diane Pomerance, PhD, is author of thebook, Our Rescue Dog Family Album. She works closely with the SPCA of Texas, K-9 Friends Visiting Therapy Dogs of GTDOG, and the Alaskan Malamute Assistance League.


Service Dog Keeps Child Safe

By Michele C. Hollow for Pet News and Views

Imagine how scared Destiny O’Brien’s parents were when they witnessed their child’s first seizure. At age 6, Destiny was diagnosed with Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that effects children ages 6 to puberty.

Destiny and her best pal Salsa.

Tests from Destiny’s first hospital visit showed that she had multiple seizures. The severity varies from simple to violent. Destiny was having both. After her diagnosis, she was on a lot of medications.

Her mom works in a school right next door to Destiny’s elementary school in Tennessee. “I was afraid to leave her alone,” says Rachel, Destiny’s mom. “The seizures happen suddenly.”

Destiny, now age 11, has friends who come over to her house. Her parents understandably don’t want to leave her with people who won’t know how to react to her seizures. Over the course of the last 5 years, Destiny has had a series of seizures. She spent two weeks in the hospital where doctors removed four inches of her brain, a small part of her skull, and put in six clamps, which will eventually come out. The clamps are helping to reform her brain.

When Destiny was first admitted, her doctor suggested she get put on a list for a therapy dog. It took 5 years, and now Salsa, a 2-year old Golden Retriever is always at Destiny’s side. “Salsa is my SBFFE,” says Destiny, which her mom translated to: ‘Super Best Friend Forever and Ever.'”

Training Service Dogs
Salsa was trained by Meghan Hopkins, who works with Canine Assistants, a nonprofit organization that trains service dogs for people with physical disabilities and seizure disorders. “We start training the dogs from the time they are a few days old and they graduate when they are between 18 months and 2 years of age,” says Meghan.

Meghan, a former school teacher, explains, “Destiny’s service dog, Salsa, was born and raised at our facilities in Milton, GA. She was trained to help people with physical disabilities and seizure disorders so she learned how to do things such as picking up dropped items, opening and closing doors, turning lights on and off, and going to get help. When Destiny has a seizure, Salsa can go get Destiny’s mom. She can bring her medication or the phone and will lay next to Destiny. Salsa has also begun to alert Destiny to her seizures about 15 minutes before she seizes. This isn’t something we can train the dogs to do; we aren’t even really sure what they are picking up on. It could be a sense of smell but we can’t guarantee that the dogs will do this.”

Detecting Seizures before they Occur
Shortly after Salsa came to live with Destiny, she woke up the entire house around 1 a.m. “Salsa sleeps in Destiny’s room,” says Rachel. “She was acting strange, jumping on and off the bed. We let her out because we thought she needed the potty. That wasn’t it. She just kept on jumping on and off the bed. Finally, she got tired of us not knowing what she wanted to tell us, and she jumped on the bed and lay across Destiny. Then Destiny said, ‘Mom, I think I’m going to have a seizure.’ I rushed and got her medicine, and she was fine.”

Since Salsa has entered Destiny’s life, Destiny takes less meds and has had fewer seizures. Her parents hope that she grows out of this entirely. Some children with this rare form of epilepsy do grow out of it when they reach early adulthood. Her parents don’t know what the future holds, but they are a lot calmer having Salsa around.

Service Dog Goes to School
Salsa sits quietly at Destiny’s side at school. When she is working the other children in the class leave her alone. “We let people play with her during play dates at our home,” says Rachel. “In school, she is working, and shouldn’t be a distraction.”

However, one day at school, Salsa acted out of the ordinary. She left Destiny’s side and lay across the teacher’s legs. Salsa didn’t want to leave the teacher. Later that day, the teacher had her first seizure. “I got a call from the teacher’s husband, and he said his wife had a seizure, and that Salsa picked up on it,” says Rachel.

Love at First Sight
Destiny, her parents, and her 9-year old brother, Devon, got to meet Salsa a few weeks before she came to live with them. “Destiny and Salsa seemed to have an instant connection,” says Meghan. “Destiny came to one of our training camps where she worked with a few different dogs. Salsa pretty much picked her out; they loved each other right away! The camp is 10 days long and the recipients are matched with their new dogs on the second day. We teach them our training methodology and show them how to get the dogs to work for them.”

Destiny always loved animals. Her family owns 5 horses, 3 cats, and another dog.