Friday, December 16, 2011

Help for Confused Racehorses

Question: Hello I am a Thoroughbred race horse and I am a little confused. I was born in the spring, April I believe, yet everyone keeps saying my birthday was January 1. Well that is the middle of winter, and I know I was not born in the middle of winter. What is wrong with these people, did they not keep proper records? Oh by the way, I am going to be racing soon, how exciting!

Signed Your Winner

Dear Winner

I wish you the best luck on the track, as well the fact that you said you are going to be racing soon gives a clue to why the people say your birth date was January 1. Race horses run in races against horses of the same age group as themselves. This is made easier by assigning all race horses the same birthday of January 1 of the year they were actually born. If you are in a race for two year olds you know that all other horses were born the same year as you, but not necessarily the same month, some may have been born in February, others in May.

If race horses went by their actual birth day and the race was held in April, a race for two year olds might have some horses born in February, that just turned two years old, and others that were born in May, and are well over two years old, about to turn three, this would be far less fair.

Most breeders try to have their foals born in February, March, April, so they will be a little more mature for racing than those born in May or June, but they do not want to have a foal born too soon because if it is born in December it will be a whole year behind the others in terms of its birthday.

An interesting note is that horses born south of the equator, for example in Australia, are assigned a different birth day since the seasons are opposite, as such August 1 is the official birthday of race horses born in Australia, adjusted only if they come to the northern hemisphere to race.

These birthdays also apply to other racehorses, not just Thoroughbreds, however your registration papers will have your correct and actual birth date on them.

Question:  Hello, I am puzzled about my color, I was bay when born but am getting white hairs. I am a 3 year old Thoroughbred racehorse, some people say I am roan, others say I am gray, what color am I?

Signed Faded Out

Dear Faded Out

Your correct color would be said to be gray however in the racehorse industry sometimes a horse who is in the process of turning gray is said to be roan. Really roan is a permanent color (not actually seen in Thorougbreds but common in Quarter  Horses), it never changes from birth to old age, but gray horses are born solid and gradually get more and more white hairs until they are completely gray, which by the way is not the same as being white, because white horses are rare and are actually born white. So to clarify you are gray, but might be called roan until you have more white hairs.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Advice for Animals Confused by Enrichment

Question: Hello I am a sheep, one of many in a small flock. They other day a strange orange object was thrown over the fence. Right now I am just playing with it, pushing it around with me head, I don't know what it is but it sure smells interesting. I am wondering is this thing safe?

Signed, Blackie Sheep

Dear Blackie Sheep

The orange object is a pumpkin and they are very good for you, and your friends, to eat. Pumpkins are loaded with nutrition and are very good for you to eat. They are excellent for your digestive system and even help get rid of some worms (although a proper wormer is still needed to get rid of all worms). Pumpkins are great to help your eyes stay healthy, and the seeds have oils that will help you stay young looking.

A lot of people give pumpkins to their animals in the fall. Even the zoos will give their zoo animals pumpkins, not only are these for the zoo animals to eat, but they provide enrichment in their lives; something new and different!. As you have already discovered they are fun to play with, but you can safely eat them too, they are tasty, full of nutrition, and add variety to your diet.

Question: I am a horse. Recently my owner threw a tire over the fence into my pasture. A tire, really? I am a horse, I don't drive, I don't even have a car, for Pete's sake what is going on here?

Signed, Tired Horse

Dear Tired Horse

Your owner is providing enrichment, the tire is for you to play with, not to put on a car and drive. Sometimes horses get bored and bored horses often develop stable vices such as chewing the fence, or cribbing. The tire is something to play with, you can pick it up in, and try to toss it around. It is pretty hard to find good toys for horses, although some stores sell balls for horses, it can be cheaper for a person to find a tire and see if you enjoy that first before they buy you a more expensive horse toy.

Toys, such as tires and rubber balls, are really good for horses that live alone and don't have a lot to do in the day.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Advice for Pets at Halloween

Question:  Help, I am normally a sweet natured dog, I know it is late in October and this happens every year.  My owners dress themselves up in costumes and try to dress me up too.  They seem to like it, I do not.  What can I do to prevent this yearly torture?
Signed Dog in Disguise

Dear Dog in Disguise
The end of October brings a holiday called Halloween.  Many people enjoy dressing in costumes and some dogs are okay with this too, but some dogs do not like it.  The costume is not designed to hurt or frighten you, and should allow for proper movement and vision.  If wearing a costume scares you then your owner should not dress you up, or should practice a few days ahead of time, and offer you treats as they train you to accept the costume.

One thing pet owners need to realize this that not only can it be frightening for a pet to wear a costume but when out it is hard for other dogs to "read" the body language of a dog in costume, so owners who dress their dog up need to be aware of this even if a dog is comfortable wearing a costume.

photo source

Question:  Hello, I am one very unhappy cat.  Every year at this time my owners keep me inside, I normally go out when I want.  How can I get them to let me out?
Signed Blackie the Cat

Dear Blackie the Cat
Your owners are probably just trying to keep you safe for a few weeks as pranksters have been known to take cats at Halloween time.  Sometimes the people just want a black cat to use for their party, other times they may play cruel pranks on the cat.  Black cats in particular are at risk, but all pets are vulnerable to pranks.

Also Halloween night itself can be very frightening for a cat that is outside, there are children running around, and lots of noises including fireworks.  You might be scared and run and hide.  You will be safer indoors for a while, many people will actually put their cat in the basement or bathroom the night of Halloween to prevent it from running out the door.


Question:  Hello I am a small dog, every year my owners take me Trick or Treating, but they never share the chocolate and candy.  I think this is unfair.  What can I do to get my fair share of the candy?
Signed Treats

Dear Treats
I know it seems unfair to do all that work and get none of the candy.  However some things that people can eat can be deadly for you.  It is just not worth the risk of letting you have even a small piece of chocolate.  The other candy could cause you to have diarrhea or tummy cramps so they are not good for you either, some have sweeteners that are toxic to you.  Hopefully one of the houses you visit this year will give out dog treats, or your owner will have some at home to give you afterwards.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Advice for Bored Cats

Hello, I am a cat, I am so bored. My owner does not play with me, I am not allowed outside, I have had the same stupid toys for years, I am getting fat and sleep all the time. My life is boring, what can I do to spice up my life?

Signed Bored Kitty

Dear Kitty

It is up to your owner to make your life more stimulating and interesting. Sadly some cat owners just forget how important it is to play with their cats. Cats do suffer from boredom, although this is more common in dogs, no offense but this is because dogs are a bit smarter than cats. People tend to address the issues of boredom in dogs more directly, because if a dog is bored, it often becomes destructive.
I am not suggesting you become destructive in order to get your owner's attention, but you do need to do something. I realize your toys are boring, but perhaps if you play with them your owner might be motivated to buy you new toys. Most cat owners fail to realize that cats like toys they have not seen for a while. You might look at the same toy for days, but if your owner hides it for a few weeks then brings it out, you may show a sudden sign of interest in the toy.

Some cat toys are better than others. Most adult cats like cat nip toys (young kittens do not notice cat nip), but if you are overweight this might not be a good idea since cat nip is also an appetite stimulant. I suggest honeysuckle toys. These cat toys might be hard to find but are excellent. Your owner should have a variety of cat toys and should rotate them often, keeping some tucked away and swapped out on a weekly basis. Your owner should try to engage you in play from time to time too, as that will make your life more interesting.

A well placed piece of cat furniture can be a good idea. Cats like to look out the window so a cat tower with a resting spot near a window is great. Of course you will probably sleep there too, but cats do sleep for 16 hours a day.

Another thought is that your owner might consider adopting another kitty pal. Cats typically object to having a new cat introduced unless it is done slowly and correctly, but usually having another cat in the house does provide some interest, and is a good idea for owners who are not home often.

Related Reading for Cat Owners

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Advice for Breeding Betta Fish

Hi, I am a pet female Betta fish, and I always thought it might be nice to raise a little fishy family, but it seems impossible if I cannot be put with a male without worrying that he will try to fight me. How do we have a family?

Signed, Betta Babe

Answer: Dear Babe

As you know male Bettas often fight, which is why they are also often called Siamese Fighting Fish. Female Betta fish look an awful lot like a wild Betta male, it is just that through breeding, the pet Betta fish have just been bred to be fancier. As male Betta fish are very territorial a male will fight even the prettiest Betta babe, that is, unless she is in her breeding pattern.

In order to breed you, a female Betta, must be put into a roomy tank where the male lives. There should be a divider between you and the male, but water should flow between. This way you will both pick up each other scent in the water. If fed a good diet, eventually you will enter your breeding phase (as pictured above), often changing colors to show vertical stripes which will indicate to him (along with the scent) that you are a female fish. You may also start to get plumper and eggs with form within you.

The male will usually build a bubble nest. Some do this anyhow regardless of if a female is there or not.

At this point your owner can put you with the male, but you need to be supervised in case the male Betta gets rough. He will usually wrap around you and this is when spawning (fish mating) takes place. You will release the eggs and he will start to collect them and scoop them up into the bubble nest. At that point your owner needs to actually remove you, I am afraid the family will not be as you expected.

The male Betta fish is the one that looks after the eggs, picking them up if they fall out of the nest, he would fight you just to keep you away, and you might even eat the eggs yourself. The little fry (baby fish) will hatch in about two days, and three days later they should be able to swim on their own at which time the father Betta is removed so he doesn't start to eat them.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Advice for Dogs with Vestibular Disease

Question:  Hello I am an older poodle, I was recently diagnosed with vestibular diesease.  I noticed I was not feeling well, I thought I must have eaten something bad, I was dizzy as heck.  I started falling over and couldn't seem to focus my eyes on things, I felt really sick.  My owner took me to the vet who diagnosed me with Vestibular disease, what does this mean?

Signed, Wobbles and Falls Down

Answer:  Dear Wobbles,

It is good that you have been diagnosed.  Vestibular disease looks a lot like a stroke in dogs, but is sometimes less serious, both problems are more common in older dogs than younger ones.  Vestibular disease is basically a problem with your inner ear and the nerves that run to the brain.  This causes dizziness and other symptoms, such as falling over, poor balance, and so forth, you may even find you are holding your head at a tilt.  When a dog feels dizzy they often do not want to eat, and may vomit.

Your vet might give you medication to help with the nausea.  They might be able to treat the problem causing your inner ear to be such a trouble maker for you, this could be an infection, or other cause.  Sometimes vestibular disease starts all on its own and goes away on its own, but this could take weeks or months.

I know that as a human, or dog, being dizzy is no fun.  You need to take it easy, go for short walks in safe places.  Do not go up or down stairs without help.  Try to stay calm, and relaxed and hopefully you will be feeling better soon.

Vestibular disease is not deadly, but it is very stressful, and difficult to experience, you may have some long term side effects (such as a permanent head tilt) even after you are well.

Dog owners can read more about Vestibular Disease to learn how to help their dogs, and what to expect.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Advice for Cats who are Sneezing

Question: Hello I am a four year old cat, it seems that every now and then I get the sniffles. Nothing too bad, but it is annoying. What is the matter?
Signed All Stuffed Up and No Place to Go

Answer: Dear Stuffed Up

Hi there, it sounds like you may be suffering from seasonal allergies, these are common in people, and can be a problem for cats too.  Snow mold is a problem in the spring, and later plant pollens can be an allergy irritant. Even ragweed, which is so commonly associated with people's allergies, can be an allergy causing problem for cats. Most seasonal allergies only last a few weeks. You can also be allergic to everyday things, such as dust in the home, or chemicals used around the house.

It might be best for you to stay inside when you find you have seasonal problems, or have your owner talk to your veterinarian about getting you some medication to relieve your symptoms. If you do have allergies to such things your owner can buy special wipes to clean your fur as this will remove the pollens from your fur. If the medication does not help your symptoms you might have a reoccurring upper respiratory tract infection. It would be best if you stay inside if this is the case too, because you do not want to spread it to other cats.

photo source

Question: Help I am a young kitten. My friend is typing this because my eyes are so crusted over they are glued shut. I keep sneezing all the time, my nose is plugged, and I feel terrible, what can I do?
Signed Little Snuffles

Answer: Dear Little Snuffles

This definitely sounds like an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection, or URTI.  This can be caused by either bacteria, or virus. If it is bacterial a veterinarian can give you some medication to help clear it up.  Viruses pretty much have to pass on their own, you can help by keeping your body strong.

Your owner may try to wipe the mucous from your eyes very gently with a warm, wet, cloth. They should keep you inside, in a warm room, possibly even with a humidifier. Sick kittens need to be kept comfortably warm, and given plenty to eat and drink. Your owner should feed you a small amount of canned kitten food (chicken mush) and mix it with water, sort of like a chicken soup. This should be done at least 4 times a day, with unlimited dry kitten food.  Feeding should not be done in a plastic bowl as plastic bowls cannot be disinfected correctly.

Upper Respiratory Tract Infections, especially in kittens, should not be ignored. Sometimes called "Cat Sniffles", this can get worse (I don't want to alarm you but they can develop into pneumonia), and can spread to other cats very quickly. With a little rest your problem should pass much like a cold in people, but if you get worse, start panting like a dog, have blood in the mucous, or are lethargic and stop eating, you really should get proper veterinarian attention.

Links to Help Owners with Sick Cats

Monday, July 18, 2011

Advice for Captured Wild Born Kittens

Question: Help, my sisters and I were born wild but recently were abducted and put into a cage, the food is good, but they keep holding us even when we hiss, are we safe?

Signed Freaked out in Captivity

Answer Dear Freaked

Hopefully your abductor is a kind hearted animal welfare person who is working to rescue you and tame you so you can find a good home with plenty of good food and a warm place to sleep at night.

What will usually happen when people try to tame wild, or feral, kittens, is that they put the kittens into a cage or small area just until the kittens learn to trust them. They will probably hold you a lot so that you stop hissing so much, and eventually will start to purr and even enjoy the attention you get. Once you become more friendly to people they will hopefully either keep you out of the cage, or try to find you a new home.

Depending on how old you and your sister kittens were when first caught you might become tame in less than a week. Do not worry, it sounds like the people are feeding you and holding you, so this is a good sign.

Tips on how to Tame a Wild, or Feral Kitten

Keep the kittens in a cage, such as a large dog kennel, or rabbit cage. Give them plenty of dry food and water while in the cage, but only give them canned kitten food when you are with them. The cage should also have a litter box, blanket, and a few toys. Find many opportunities to take the kittens out of the cage and hold them, even if they hiss. Do not let children hold them when they are still nervous and frightened, if dropped this could traumatize them worse.

When the kittens are more relaxed they can be given more space, such as being allowed loose in a bathroom. They should not be outdoors until wormed, and vaccinated, or ideally, not outdoors at all.

Further Reading

Advice for Broody Hens Waiting for Eggs to Hatch

Question:  Hello I am a hen who has been sitting on eggs for a number of days now, just wondering whey they will hatch. I am very concerned because I have heard all kinds of stories that hens eggs do not always hatch.

Signed Expectant Mother

Answer: Dear Expectant Mother

If everything goes well your eggs will hatch into chicks at about 20-21 days from the day you started to sit on them. It is true that there are some things that can go wrong, and sometimes eggs do not hatch, in fact it is very likely that not all your eggs will hatch.

Let us look at some of the reason eggs do not hatch.

If you do not have a rooster the eggs are not fertile and will not hatch. They will not hatch if you did not mate with him before laying the eggs.

Some of the eggs you may have laid first might have gotten cold and died before you started to sit on the clutch of eggs and acted broody.

Sometimes there are problems with bacteria, or cracked shells. If the eggs are not cared for correctly (brooded and turned) they will not hatch. However I do not want to alarm you, there is every reason to expect that the majority of your eggs will hatch just fine.

Tips on Hatching Chicken Eggs

Hens should be encouraged to use nesting boxes that are slightly raised off the ground, and lined in straw.

Hens will lay many eggs (often 1 a day) before sitting on the clutch of eggs. When they do sit on the eggs they are said to be “broody”. Eggs will generally hatch within hours of each other at about 20 – 21 days after being brooded. Typically not all the eggs will hatch and those still not hatched should be disposed of after a few days (the hen will not sit on them much more after the other chicks hatched).

Some people take eggs and raise them in an incubator, in this case it is important that the eggs are kept warm, and turned at least twice a day, up until a few days before hatching. Even after hatching, human raised chicks, must be kept warm. Those with a hen will run under her body for protection and warmth.

Chicks need chick starter ration to aid proper growth and development.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Advice for Pets who are Attracted to their Relatives Sexually

Question:  I am a young male dog. I was raised with my mother but all my brothers and sisters have gone on to find new homes. Well lately I have been kinda feeling interested in my mom in what is called a sexual way. My owners are horrified at my attempts to mate with my mother, but I cannot help it. Am I wrong to feel this way about my mother? What can I do?
Signed Hot Dog

Dear Hot Dog,
Your sexual feelings are normal, and are caused by your hormones. Normally a male dog would have been taken away from its mother so it would have these feelings, but not towards its parent. Sex is what makes puppies and when related dogs breed there is a chance the puppies will have deformities. Some deformities you can see, such as eyes spaced too close or too far apart, but some deformities you cannot see, such as a small heart.
Your owner should not be upset, they can either have your mom spayed, or have you neutered, or both.

I am a young male cat, my sisters and I grew up together as kittens. The problem is those girls are now teasing me to mate with them. They have a smell that I cannot resist, they meow a lot, and rub against me. As I get older I find their actions more attractive. I totally want to have sex with my sisters. My owner thinks this is wrong, and has thrown water on us and even kicked us. I need to know if this feeling is wrong why does it feel so right?
Signed Tom

Dear Tom
Your owner should not punish you for a natural behavior, instead they should neuter you, and spay your sisters, so this behavior is prevented. You will also be happier if you are neutered, and they will be happier if spayed because for them the feeling of being in heat can be annoying. It will eventually be impossible to ignore your feelings of sexual attraction to your sisters unless your owner gets you, and/or them fixed.
Hope that helps!
Note to Pet Owners: Some pet breeders do allow related cats, and dogs, to breed, this is called inbreeding, but there are risks of deformities. Some of the deformities from inbreeding are listed below:

Facial deformities, eyes too close together, too far apart. Large heads, cleft palate. Under bite, over bite.
Ears that are not placed correctly.
Tails that are too short, crocked, or kinked.
Heart defects, liver defects.
Weaker immune system.
Smaller size (inbreeding is often used to create stunted pets marketed as “teacup pets”).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Advice for Cats Concerned about Vaccinations

Please answer my question, I am a tiny kitten, only eight weeks old, so really do not know much, but recently I was taken to the veterinarians office, while there the vet did a bunch of stuff to me but the only thing I am worried about is that they poked me in my back, they said it was “needles”. What the heck was that about?
Signed Poked Kitten

Dear Kitten
There are a couple of things that could have happened to you at the veterinarian's, and neither are bad. Your owner may have had the veterinarian implant a microchip identification under your skin, this is usually done along your back and is harmless. The benefits of having a microchip are that if you get lost, shelter workers, or another veterinarian, can scan the chip and it will give them a code number which they can use to find out who owns you.

Another thing that veterinarians do to kittens (and cats) is they give them needles that are vaccinations against diseases. A needle is a thin metal stick with a hole in it to put in medicine. Usually the vet will try to pinch the skin so it does not cause you much pain, but sometimes you do feel it. In Canada, and many other places, such as the United States, cats are given what is called a 5-way vaccination, as well as a rabies shot. Rabies is not a problem in some areas, such as the United Kingdom.

A 5-way feline vaccination includes vaccinations against Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Chlamydia, and Feline Leukemia Virus. You will have to go back to the veterinarian to get these shots boostered in about a month, and they really are not effective until a few days after the booster shot. Even still vaccination is not a 100% guarantee that you will not get sick, but they do help lower the risk.

I am a beautiful Persian cat, and my owner has decided to keep me indoors. We are wondering if I still need to be vaccinated?
Signed Don't Stick me with that Needle

Dear Stick me
Your owner really should consider getting you vaccinated with your first set of shots, booster shots, as well as your rabies vaccination, if needed in your area, even if you are to be an indoor only cat. These vaccinations are especially important while you are young and are required if you are going to be attending any cat shows, or going to a boarding kennel. Other cat owners who visit you could spread disease too you, and if your owner works where there are other cats they could also bring diseases home on their clothing.

If rabies is a risk in your area, even if you are indoors only, you should get your rabies shot too, because if you do happen to bite somebody and are not vaccinated, you will be placed on a 10 days rabies hold, which is no fun.

So, I do suggest you at least get your owner takes you for your first set of feline vaccinations, and boosters, as well as your rabies vaccine. Your owner can decide if they want to continue with vaccination boosters in the following years, even if you are to remain as an indoor only house cat.  Most veterinarians are gentle and it should not hurt at all, plus the vet can check you over to make sure you are healthy and doing well in general.

Read More about Cat Health

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Advice for Pets Eating Other Pet's Food

Question:  Hi, I am a Guinea Pig, my owner also has a rabbit and ran out of my food recently.  They have been giving me the rabbit food, which tastes okay, but I just do not seem to feel as good lately.  I am wondering if this is because of the food?

Signed GP the GP

Dear GP

You are quite right to guess this is food related.  Guinea pigs require food that has Vitamin C added.  If your owner is feeding you rabbit food they should give you another source of vitamin C to make up for the fact that rabbit food does not contain vitamin C. 

Vitamin C deficiency in Guinea Pigs will cause weight loss, fur loss, and sometimes a discharge from the nose.  You will not feel as healthy over all, and may have trouble breathing, or be sore all over (you may even yelp when your owner picks you up).

If you get this sick your owner needs to take you to a veterinarian for help. 

File:Small Guinea Pig.jpg
photo source - a healthy looking Guinea pig

Question:  I am a cat.  I live with a dog, and normally I do not mind the dog one bit, but lately he is eating my food.  I find this infuriating - he drools!  I often find my bowl empty as the dog has eaten all my food, and although there is some dog food in his bowl it really does not interest me.  How can I get the dog to stop eating my food?

Signed Kitty

Dear Kitty

I am sure the dog eating your cat food is annoying, but cat food is also bad for dogs so the dog should not be eating it.  Cats are true carnivores, your cat food contains more meaty ingredients which is why the dog is so attracted to your cat food.  Cat food has more protein and more fat than dog food, and could give the dog diarrhea. 

Additionally cat food is more expensive than dog food so if the dog is eating it they are costing your owner more money.

Cats should definately not eat dogs food.  Dog food does not have enough meat protein in it for cats, and more importantly it does not have taurine.  Taurine deficiency will show with problems such as poor vision, heart problems, poor growth (if you are a kitten), reproductive problems, poor skin and coat, and dental problems.

Your owner should find a place higher up to put your cat food so the dog cannot get at it. 

Read also, Should Cats and Dogs Eat Each Others Food?

Help for Birds who Cannot Fly

Question:  Hello, I am a bird but for some reason I cannot fly. I know I should be able to fly, I see other birds flying, but I simply cannot fly. What is wrong with me, how can I fly?

Signed Flightless in Seattle

Dear Flightless

There are many reasons why a bird cannot fly, some birds are flightless naturally. Kiwis and penguins are two types of flightless birds, chickens are semi-flightless, they can fly but not for long and cannot get terribly high. You did not say what kind of bird you were, are you a chicken? Sometimes fowl are fed so much that they become too heavy to fly properly.

Other birds cannot fly if they are young, but eventually reach a point where their wings are strong enough to fly a short distance, and later they can fly farther. If you are young just keep flapping your wings to build muscles and one day your parent bird will encourage you to take flight or will leave you, forcing you to take flight and find your own food.

If you are a pet bird there are two other things that could hamper your ability to fly. Your owner may have clipped the flight feathers on your wings. Some people do this to stop birds from flying away. If done correct this is painless and you will grow flight feathers again (unless they are clipped).

File:Clipping chicken wing.jpg

The other thing that may happen to pet birds is that the cage itself does not provide enough room for flight, resulting in muscle atrophy. Basically your wing muscles are too weak for decent, prolonged, flight.  Many pet birds are kept in tall cages that offer very little flight room.  Most bird would be happier (and may even be healthier) in a large aviary, or if given time out of their cage for decent flight.

If you are feeling pain in either wing you could have sustained an injury which would leave you unable to fly.

Some wing injuries will heal on their own, some will not.  If you are a wild bird hopefully somebody will find you and take you to a wildlife rehabilitation center, if you are a pet bird hopefully your owner will take you to the veterinarian.

Another thought would be that perhaps you are moulting and have lost some of the flight feathers that you need, or that your feathers need to be preened better for flight.  Or you may even be a mutation that has feathers that are simply not practical for flying.

Further Reading for Bird Owners

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Advice for Cats that Want to Go Outside

Dear Animal's Advice:

My owner is a prison warden holding me prisoner. I am a male cat and it is spring, I would really like to be outside now. There is so much to do outside. Why is my owner so cruel to keep me indoors, how can I escape?

Signed Jailcat

Dear Jailcat

It may seem to you that your owner is being mean by keeping you indoors, but your owner is actually doing you a favor, and is being a responsible cat owner. It is recommended by nearly every animal welfare group, including the SPCA, and humane society, that cats be kept indoors only and not allowed to roam freely even if laws allow it.

Cats who go outside face many risks. Being hit by a car is probably the most common risk, but cats who are outdoors are also at risk of being poisoned by neighbors (either intentionally, or accidentally). Cats who go outside are often taken and dumped in other parts of town because other people don't like them being out (pooping in the yard, spraying, meowing, digging). You are at risk for diseases from other cats, cat fights, and even other animals – depending where you live.

Cats who go outdoors are said to have much shorter lifespans, on average, than cats who are indoors only. On farms the average outdoor only cat only lives to one year of age (although certainly many live longer, most die while young). In most cities the average lifespan for a cat that goes outdoors is two years, cats who are kept indoors only often live well into their teens.

If you are not neutered this could also be a reason your owner has you confined indoors only. Male cats who are not neutered tend to roam further, and can get lost, as they look for female cats. They also tend to get into more fights and will “spray” to mark territory – which lots of people do not like. Cats who are not fixed (spayed or neutered) should not go outside at all.

As well a cat who is not vaccinated should not go outside.  Cats who are declawed should not go outside either!   It is just too risky, what if you are attacked?  You cannot climb a tree.  Some declawed cats try to look tough by fighting back but that is a bad idea too as you have no weapons. 

What I am saying is that your owner is not being cruel, they are being responsible.

An other idea is a “catio” or cat enclosure. This would be an area that is built so you can go outside without leaving your owners property. Some people go so far as to put up a cat fence around their yard to contain their feline, or have it leash trained. Leash training a cat takes time and you should not be tied up outdoors or you could be at risk from cat thieves, wandering dogs, and so forth.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Advice for Chickens with Problems

Question:  Hello I want to be a mother hen. I have laid a clutch of eggs but they just do not hatch, what am I doing wrong?
Signed Mom To Be Maybe

Dear Maybe
There are many reasons why a hen's eggs do not hatch. If you are new to laying that could be the issue, your first few eggs are not fully developed. If there is no rooster present, or you have not mated, your eggs will not be fertile and will not hatch. You must be broody, this means you must sit on your eggs to keep them warm, as if you do not the chicks inside will not develop. You must also turn your eggs regularly to allow the chick to develop properly. Even with all things done right there are other things that can go wrong such as a bacterial infection.

Hopefully the problem with hatching your eggs is minor. Keep in mind that it takes 21 days for chicken eggs to hatch, so maybe you have not been sitting on them long enough.


Question:  Help I feel like a freak. I have no feathers on my neck and its chilly. I an a fully grown rooster but have never had feathers on my neck and I feel silly, what can I do to grow feathers?
Signed Naked

Dear Naked
Very likely you are a breed of chicken that is called Naked Neck. It is normal for you not to have feathers on your neck. This breed originate in Transylvania, oddly enough, home of the vampires. It is best for you to have a shelter on colder days when the temperatures are below freezing, but otherwise have no worries. The lack of feathers on your neck is totally normal.


Question:  I am a rooster and apparently I am disliked. People seem to be mad at me for making so much noise, but I cannot help it crowing is so natural. What can I do to help people to like me better?
Signed Big Mike

Dear Mike
Roosters are very valuable to some people but not everyone likes them. It is impossible to get new chicks without a rooster to fertilize the eggs. Chances are your owner knows this and that is why they have you around. Roosters are also very good at protecting their hens. If a predator is small enough the rooster can often scare it away, and will even try to fight larger predators such as foxes! Ideally the noise will alert your owner who can act quickly to secure the safety of all the chickens.

Some roosters are not friendly, they get mean and chase even people away from the hens, if you want to be liked, don't do that. Additionally your crowing is probably annoying even though it is natural. People need to understand that you crow, not with the intent of waking everyone up, but rather to state “I am here!”. You are just trying to warn off intruders in the area.

Hopefully, Mike, you will have owners that understand the real value of a rooster and not dislike you for being what you are.
Reading for Chicken Owners

Care of Pet Chickens

Why Won't All Chicken Eggs Hatch

The Naked Neck Rooster

Chicken Breeds for Pets

Friday, April 1, 2011

Advice for Pets who are not Looking After their Offspring

Question:  I am a mother cat. For a while I was not feeling too good, then one day I felt really ill, and after a few hours I had six small versions of myself, apparently they are called kittens. Four of the kittens are doing great, but two are not as big and are not able to get as much of my milk to drink, what can I do?
Signed Worried Mother

Dear Worried Mother
Hopefully your owner will be aware that two of the kittens are not getting enough to eat. Because you have a large litter that is probably the problem although occasionally things like this happen when a kitten has a heart defect or other problem. Your owner needs to start bottle feeding the kittens (they could have a vet check them too). The kittens need to be fed proper kitten milk replacement formula (KMR) not cows milk. They can stay with you otherwise for warmth and bonding.


Question:  Howdy, I am a dog who has had puppies. To be honest I don't really like them and often walk away from them. My owner keeps forcing me to be with them, but they hurt when they try to nurse, and I am kind of scared of them. I would really rather have them gone.  What is a dog to do?
Signed Bad Mom

Dear Mom
Not all female dogs want puppies, some want nothing to do with puppies, and do not want to be mothers. Your owner must remove the puppies and look after them. Your owner will need to buy proper milk replacement for the puppies, know as Puppy Milk Replacement (PMR) and start bottle feeding them. Cows milk should not be used. Your owner should also consider having you spayed because, although you may look after your next litter, there is just a good of a chance that you will not.


Question:  Hi, I am a first time mother sheep, a ewe. I had twin lambs, but only really want to feed one of them. I kick when the other tries to nurse, I just don't have enough milk for both. What should I do with my other lamb?
Signed, Mom of Twins

Dear Mom of Twins
Sheep, and goats too, will sometimes reject one of their babies, in your case, a lamb. These lambs will start to stand hunched up and eventually die. Often then are getting a little bit to drink, but not enough to survive. The best option is for another ewe to adopt your lamb, as might happen if another ewe gave birth but her lamb died, however not all ewes will accept new lambs, so its best for your owner to start bottle feeding that lamb with special Lamb Milk Replacement Formula. As with the other baby animals, lambs should not have cows milk.

©B Nelson

*Note: It is very important all newborn mammals get their mothers first milk – colostrum. If a mother animal has not allowed her baby to drink at all it is vital the owner contact a veterinarian about getting some colostrum for that newborn (you can milk a sheep or goat for this, but its rather hard to milk a cat or dog).

Further Reading on Bottle Feeding Orphan, or Rejected, Pets

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Advice for Dogs who are Itchy

Question:  I am a dog and my paws are itchy like they are on fire. I spend most of my time biting my paws, they are so sore all the time and sort of tingle. I cannot stop myself from itching by biting my toes, even though my owner has put yucky tasting stuff on my paws. What is wrong with my paws.
Signed, Sad Feet

Dear Sad Feet
Very likely, unless you hurt them from walking on something bad such as lawn chemicals, the problem with your feet is actually a sign of a food allergy. Many dog owners only treat the symptoms of food allergies, which are often called “Hot Spots ”, or try to stop the dog from itching. A better idea would be to stop the problem itself.

Your owner could take you to a veterinarian for a proper allergy test but that can be expensive so they are better off to look for common allergy causing ingredients in your dog food, and dog treats. The most common allergy causing ingredients in dog food are beef, pork, soy, wheat, and corn. As well owners need to know that mystery ingredients, such as “meat meal” and “animal fat” could be anything and also should be avoided in dogs who are showing signs of food allergies.


Question:  I am a pit bull terrier dog, and I am itchy all over, I have no idea why, I did not roll in anything, I don't think I have fleas, but my skin kinda does not look as good as it should.
Signed, Scratchy

Dear Scratchy
Thanks for mentioning the type of dog you are, because some dogs are more prone to skin problems that are less common in other breeds and pit bull dogs are one of those who often have skin problems. Your owner should check for fleas even if you think you do not have them, as well mites are another concern and would cause hair loss as you mentioned. They should check the food ingredients, as mentioned for the dog in the question above, as these can make some dogs itchy all over, or break out in hives. Soy in particular seems to be an ingredient that Pit Bull Terriers are extra sensitive to.

You might have dry skin, or problems with seasonal allergies, even bug bites, such as from mosquitoes, seem to be more of a problem for dogs of your type.

Your owner can try bathing you in an oatmeal shampoo that is made for dogs with itchy skin. They should also look at the ingredients in your food as Pit Bull type dogs tend to be more prone to problems related to certain ingredients (soy, wheat, corn, beef, or pork), and make sure your bedding is washed without the use of strong detergents.

Your owner should have a veterinarian examine you to determine exactly what is causing you the problems.

Question:  Hello there, I am a Shih Tzu dog and my ears are driving me crazy. I scratch my ears and shake them, but nothing seems to help. What can I do to stop my ears from itching?
Signed, Itchy Ears

Dear Itchy Ears
There are many reasons why a dog's ears can be itching. Ear mites do occur in dogs, but not as often as in cats, and these could cause your ears to be itchy and irritated. Bacteria or yeast infections are common ear problems in dogs, particularly in dogs with floppy ears, and often your ears might smell bad if you have one of these problems. Sometimes these problems start when water gets in your ears and they are not dried properly. As with both other dogs, itchy ears, and infectins can be a problem related to dog food ingredients too.

Your owner should consider what could be causing the problem and take you to a veterinarian for a proper check up to see what the matter is. Your owner should be very careful about cleaning your ears themselves because they could make things worse if they push anything too deep into your ear.

Further Reading for Dog Owners

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Help for Pets in Animal Shelters

Question:  Help, I am an adult cat and have been at the animal shelter for two months hoping to get adopted.  I came here with kittens, they all have found homes, which of course makes me happy.  I have heard that people do not often adopt adult cats, like myself, what can I do to get a good home?
Signed, Is one-year-old too old?

Dear One
Sadly many adopters think that year old cats are too old to adopt.  Personally I would rather adopt an adult cat, and actually have done so.  Adult cats do not use their claws as much, and are better behaved, plus adult cats are often better with young children than are silly kittens.  I am very hopeful that you will find a loving person to adopt you and take you into their heart, and home. 


QuestionI am a dog in a shelter wanting to get adopted, I try my best to make sure people notice me, I jump up at the cage door and bark, but they just keep walking past and I do not get adopted.  What else can I do?
Signed, Am I Invisible

Dear Invisible
You are anything but invisible, in fact your problem is most likely the fact that you are doing too much to get noticed and it scares the potential adopters away.  Barking is normal for dogs in shelters, they are bored and surrounded by other dogs.  I suggest you try sitting nice at the door, and not barking, this is what people want.  As a dog, it is tough for you to understand that, which is why some shelters employ dog trainers, or have volunteers spend time with the dogs, teaching them good manners.  Hopefully somebody can focus your energy correctly, and a potential owner will realize that with a little time they can keep you so happy you no longer bark or jump up!


Question:  What the heck is going on here.  One day I was at home, not a care in the world, the next day my owner stuffed me in the car - drove me to an animal shelter, and left me behind.  I gather I am "up for adoption" but have no clue what that means, can you help?
Signed, Confused

Dear Confused
All I can tell you is that for some reason your owner decided they no longer wanted you, or had a reason they could not keep you.  They did the right thing by taking you to an animal shelter - some owners just let their pet run loose which is cruel, and often illegal. 

Being "up for adotion" means that you are ready for a new home.  People can look at you and hopefully one will decide that you are the right pet for them.  They will fill out an adoption questionnaire and if the shelter determines they are a good owner, and are allowed pets, then you will go home with them. 

looking smug in his home
Further Reading

Life and Death of a Mother Cat in an Animal Shelter

Advantages of Adopting an Adult Cat

Why Dogs Bark

Why Animal Shelters have More Cats than Dogs

Reasons Why People Abandon Pets and Animal Shelters - a Resource for People in Canada, USA, and Mexico to find pets - and livestock - for adoption

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Advice for Deer who are Worried

Question:  Help, I am a mother deer, I leave my fawn everyday while I go to eat, she is only a week old, and today I returned to feed her but she was gone. There is no blood, and I know my little fawn would not have left, what is the matter?
Signed, Doe the Deer

Dear Doe the Deer
You have every right to be worried, your young fawn has probably been taken by a person who thought she was abandoned. Hopefully the person will realize their mistake and return her where they found her. Mother deer, like yourself, often continue to look for their lost fawns for days. Sadly many people do not realize that mother deer regularly leave their fawns like this and the fawns are best left alone.


Question:  Hi, I am a young fawn, and I am a little worried about being different than the other deer. My mother looks nothing like me, I have white spots, and she does not. Am I sick?
Signed, Little Spotty

Dear Little Spotty
No need to worry little fawn, the spots are for your protection. They make it harder for fawns like you to be seen in the woods. The word for this is camouflage, and to a predator you look like spots of sunlight shining through the trees, rather than a deer. Eventually your spots will grow into a solid pattern like your mother has, by then you will be stronger and faster to run away.


Question:  Hello, I am a young buck, I have these things growing on my head, I guess they are called antlers. Anyhow I have been itching my antlers lately and one of them fell right off. It scared me, what is happening?
Signed, Buck

Dear Buck
No need to worry, this is normal for male deer. Antlers are different than horns, horns do not fall off, but antlers fall off every fall, or winter. This means you do wont have to carry around a huge set of antlers throughout the winter, but will have them for the rut - which is when mature male deer (bucks like yourself) compete to get does (female deer). In the spring you will quickly start to regrow another set of antlers which will be bigger than the set you had this year. That set of antlers will also fall off, and the cycle will continue.

Further Reading on Wild Deer

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Advice for Dogs who have House Training Problems

Question:  Woof, I am a cute 4 month old Shih Tzu pup who cannot be housebroken. My owner lets me out several times a day, and always gives me treats when they bring me in, why am I not house trained yet? Please help me I do not want to be a bad dog.
Signed, Frustrated Pup

Dear Frustrated Pup
Your owner is to blame, they are not house training you correctly, and some puppies, such as Shih Tzus need extra training. Your owner needs to go out with you every time they put you outside to pee and poo. Your owner needs to reward you immediately after you do your thing outside. By waiting until you come in they have only trained you to come inside, not to do your business outside.  Crate training might be a good idea for your owner to consider.

Question:  Hello, I am a Yorkshire Terrier dog and I am so confused at what I am suppose to be doing. My owner has pads in the house for me to pee and poop on, and sometimes take me outside to use the yard, but sometimes they get mad at me for peeing and pooping inside on other things, why is this?
Signed, Confused

Dear Confused
Your owner's house training method is sending mixed messages. The pee pads are generally a bad idea since they tell dogs that it's okay to pee and poop on carpets, towels, and other things, but the owners expect you to only use the pads, or go outside.  Some dogs simply play with the pads and tear them to shreds!  The pads are okay to use if you are in an apartment up high, and cannot get out to a yard. 


Question:  Hi there, I am a very attentive Border Collie puppy, I am very smart, and really want to please my owner, but feel hurt by my owner who hits me every time I mess in the house, what can I do to stop this?
Signed Hurt

Dear Hurt
Border Collies are smart for sure, and quick to learn. Your owner may not realize it but they are rewarding you for messing in the house. Dogs love attention, especially smart dogs. Hitting, yelling, and so forth are, in an odd way, a reward to the dog, plus when it happens after the fact the dog may not even associate it with messing in the house. This is another house training owner error because you should always be watched when indoors - dogs who are supervised, and taken out immediately when they start giving signs (sniffing, circling) do not mess in the house!


Question:  Hello, I am a handsome one year old Pit Bull terrier mix, and for some reason I pee on everything. My owner is not at all happy about this, I was fully house trained until recently, but not I cannot seem to stop the need to urinate on everything, inside, and out.
Signed, Messy

Dear Messy
If you are a male dog, and are not neutered, this is probably because of your hormones. This is common as male dogs mature and can start feeling the urge to leave their scent everywhere they go. Another concern might be a health issue. This would be if you are female, or are a neutered male dog, or even an intact male dog. If you have a bladder infection, or other urinary tract problem, you would feel the need to urinate quite often.  Your owner should take a urine sample to the veterinarian to check for urinary tract infections or problems.

©Brenda Nelson

Further Reading for Dog Owners

Advice for Horses who are Cranky

Question:  Howdy, I am a roan Quarter Horse, 10 years old. My owner (she is my forth owner so far) mostly rides me for barrel racing, I have done that for many years, and am quite good. In the past few months I am starting to hate it. We run the barrel pattern, speed out the gate, and slam to a halt, I no longer am happy when we enter the arena and often put up a fuss. Surely there is more to life than this?
Signed, Whata Life

Dear Whata
I am afraid your problem is fairly common among barrel race horses. Some owners become so focused on competition they forget to show their horses the fun side of life. Your owner needs to do other things with you, go for a trail ride, or just take you for a a walk. The main thing is your owner needs to diversify their riding and take you out of the arena more, because you are clearly becoming bored and sour, and this is unfair, and admittedly, not a good life.

Question:  I am a beautiful gray Arabian Mare, some times things are great, I am a happy horse and I throw my tail over my back like there is not a care in the world, but other times I just get cranky, moody, and cannot be bothered to do anything. What the heck is going on with me, why I am so moody?
Signed, Bint Moody

Dear Bint Moody
You are a mare and this is moody behavior is very common in mares of all breeds. Your hormones go up and down, particularly in the summer, but some mares are moody all year long. Your owner can invest in feed supplements for mares to help regulate your moods. Some people find that adding a small amount of calf colostrum on a weekly basis will help add bacteria to your stomach and this might help too, because your hormones affect digestion, and poor digestion will make any horse cranky. A vet should be called out to give you an overall check up (including your teeth). I sure hope that helps, but if not your owner might consider getting you spayed if they don't want to use you for breeding later.  Mares who are moody, tend to  have moody foals too.

There are quite a few herbal supplements to help issues of moody behavior in horses, your owner can find many supplements at either or

Question:  Hello, I am a big chestnut Warmblood, I compete as a hunter. I am stabled most of the time and have my own turn out pen. I have found a fun habit I want to tell you about, I bite the fence with my teeth arch my neck, and suck in air. It makes a cool sound. The people at the barn are mad at me for doing this, should I continue with my habit or is it bad?
Signed, FunTimes

Dear FunTimes
Your habit is a problem known as cribbing, or windsucking, and it can be bad. Cribbing can cause digestion problems, even colic, and can wear down your teeth. Plus what if you get a splinter in your mouth? You need more mental stimulation in your life, perhaps a bigger pasture with other horses, a rubber horse ball, or inner tube. Even a kids plastic pool filled with water. Until you stop your new habit you need to wear a cribbing strap to prevent you from doing that. Your owner needs to bring more diversity into your life, this is a symptom of boredom for many horses.  Toys for horses can be found at many tack stores and online.

Advice for Pet Rabbits with Concerns

Question:  Help, I am a cute little bunny, but I have a bad habit and my owners are making fun of me. It seems I sometimes eat my own poop straight from my bottom.  My owners think this is disgusting, what can I do to stop this habit?
Signed, Cute but Worried

Dear Cute by Worried
Do not worry little bunny, your habit of eating your poops is not gross, or offensive, in fact rabbits eating their own feces (another word for poop) is normal. Rabbit's bodies makes special feces called cecotropes, and you are suppose to eat them. Cecotropes are smaller and softer than your regular poops, and most bunnies eat them right away. You will usually have them at night or in the morning. These droppings contain bacteria and other nutritional things that are helpful to you!

Question:   I am a male bunny with bad teeth, and I think I need a dentist. My teeth are so long it is almost impossible to eat, in fact I have lost weight! I thought my teeth were suppose to wear down on their own, but they don't, what is wrong?
Signed, Toothy

Dear Toothy
Yes it does sound like you need a dentist, but a veterinarian will do, in fact even a patient owner can trim your teeth. While most bunnies will wear their teeth down, a rare few have dental problems called Malocclusion. Your owner can help by giving you more carrots, hay, even chew toys, such as apple tree branches, but chances are you will need your teeth trimmed on a regular basis. Some people even do this with human nail trimmers but must be careful not to cut your tongue. For your first time it is very important that you are seen by a vet because this problem can get worse if the teeth are not trimmed correctly.  Tooth problems like this are just as common in male bunnies, as in females.


Question:  Hello, I am so upset, I am having an identity crisis. I know I am a rabbit, I thought I was a rodent, but my cat friend, she says I am not a rodent at all. Should I even trust the cat; if I am not a rodent, what am I?
Signed, Confused

Dear Confused
The cat can be trusted, she is right, rabbits are not rodents. Rabbits are Lagomorphs. There are a few differences between rodents and lagomorphs. You are a true herbivore (rodents will eat meat), and you have 4 incisors on your upper jaw (rodents have two). 

Other Reading for Rabbit Owners

Should I Breed my Bunnies?

Fly Strike - is my Pet at Risk?

How to Care for Pet Rabbits