Everyone loves the amazing stories of dogs and cats who travel long distances to find their way back home or even locate their owners in a new city. Unfortunately, these happy tales are the rare exception to the rule. For every pet that makes it back after leaving, there are tens of thousands who never live to see home again!
Humane groups and pet industry experts estimate that more than 5 million pets will be lost this year. One pet in every three will be lost at some point in his or her lifetime. According to the American Humane Association (www.americanhumane.org), of those that roam away from home, less than 17% of the dogs and only 2% of the cats ever make it back to their owners. Sadly, most of the rest will be euthanized in over-crowded animal shelters. Newspapers and on-line ads still tell the sad story of some youngster’s lost pet every day. Why do we see a continuation of this problem year after year?
First, despite leash laws and other ordinances, many families are reluctant to chain their dogs or attempt to keep their cats from roaming. This is especially true in rural areas. Compounding the issue is that there are more than 200 million pets in North America and only a very small percentage has some form of permanent identification. ID tags and collars are easily removed by unscrupulous individuals or even by the pet in some instances. Microchips help to insure that the pet has some means of identification, but even these implants aren’t foolproof.
In fact, it is a rare pet that actually has a microchip. According to industry data, only about 5% of all pets in North America actually have a microchip. And, even the pets with chips aren’t necessarily any safer. When owners fail to register their pet properly, reunions are delayed or even prevented in many instances. Again, experts from all major microchip companies state that less than 50% of chipped pets are registered with correct and current information.
Other forms of identification, such as tattooing, are very rare and obscure. This fact means that a shelter employee or veterinary office may not even note the presence of a tattoo.Finally, even though they have good intentions, shelters and rescues are often overwhelmed with pets. A microchip could be missed during a hurried exam or a description of your lost pet might not match what the employee sees in front of him.
In spite of these overwhelming odds, you can proactively help insure that your pet will make it safely home. First, like so many things, prevention and preparation go a long way. Neuter your pet to decrease his roaming urges and consider using both ID tags and a microchip. Obey local leash laws and don’t allow your pet to wander the neighborhood.
Next, if your pet does become lost, act fast! Don’t delay in the hopes that he will simply find his way back. The faster you respond to his disappearance, the better your odds are of finding him safely. Visit local shelters daily.
We all want our family members to stay close to home and to heart. But, like all children, our pets love exploration and adventure too. Work with your veterinarian to make sure all your pets are properly identified with tags and/or microchips. Now, you also have the option to use the power of the Internet in case your pet decides to wander off.
Pets Found on the Web
A new online service, HelpMeFindMyPet.comhas recently made headlines across the country for their success rate in finding pets. This pet recovery service offers a nationwide alert system for lost pets.
If you are enrolled at their website and your pet is lost, one call sets a flurry of activity into motion. First, all veterinary offices, groomers, shelters, pet stores, andHelpMeFindMyPetmembers within a 50 mile radius of your pet’s last known location receive notification via email or fax of your pet’s disappearance.
This communication contains a flyer with a picture or description of your pet and any other identifying features or ID numbers. Additionally, using the power of the social media networks, like Facebook and Twitter, announcements are made to help increase the number of searchers for your pet.
According to Jessica Staton of HelpMeFindMyPet, more than 87% of pets reported through their system make it home. Additionally, this service continues to broadcast alerts until the pet is found! Ms. Staton describes numerous incidents of stolen pets being returned because of intense publicity.
Other organizations, such as Amber Alert for Pets and FindToto.comalso have web based recovery services.
Pets aren’t the only ones who need a little (or a lot) of help adjusting to life with a newborn. No matter how much you plan ahead, the addition of a new family member may be difficult for your pet. Remember, your dog or cat was your first “baby” and is used to being the center of your attention. So it’s understandable that he may experience something akin to sibling rivalry when you introduce a new human baby into your home. You can help your pet cope with this big change in the same way parents help children understand that a new brother or sister will be joining the family. The following tips below will help ease you pets’ stress, help welcome your new baby, and ensure that you pet stays where he belongs- with you and your growing family.
- Before you bring your baby home from the hospital, have a family member or friend take home something with the baby’s scent, such as a blanket for your pet to investigate. Each time you introduce something new to your pet, make the experience positive. Stroke him, give him treats and praise him for his good behavior when he’s faced with a strange new sound or smell.
- When you return from the hospital, your pet will be eager to greet you and receive your attention. Have someone else take the baby into another room while you give your pet a warm, but calm, welcome. Keep some treats handy so you can distract your pet. After the initial greeting, you can bring your pet with you to sit next to the baby; reward your pet with treats for appropriate behavior. Relax! If you act anxious, your pet will be anxious too.
- Don’t speak to your pet with negative tones when the baby’s in the room (“no,” “off,” “don’t,” “stop”)? If so, your pet will certainly connect unhappy feelings with the baby’s presence. While you hold your baby, smile at your pet and use his name.
- Life will no doubt be hectic caring for your new baby, but try to maintain regular routines as much as possible to help your pet adjust. Routine is important to pets because they need to know what to expect. Think ahead and gradually begin establishing new routines early on. Include in your adjusted schedule at least once a day, quality time for just you and your pet, with no competition for your attention. This “non-baby” time is very important for your pet and for you!
With proper training, supervision, and adjustments, you, your new baby, and your pet should be able to live together safely and happily as one (now larger) family.
Your home may be one of the many households enjoying a bird as a pet. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that birds, though not nearly as popular with Americans as cats or dogs, reside in 4.5 million households. Birds aren’t always the first pet that comes to mind for children requesting that perfect pet from their parents, and parents should be wary of letting children handle birds as they are easily injured and do frequently bite.
What is it about birds that make them good household pets? Friends of a Different Feather by Michelle Sathe indicates that there are positives to pet bird households. When you want to add a pet to your family and think you’ll enjoy a feathered friend, remember to check with your nearby veterinarian for recommendations, adoption opportunities and guidelines for wellness and good health.
Birds are available in many sizes. The size of your new pet should be appropriate to the size of your home and the space you have available for it. Your bird choice can be a big parrot or a tiny canary – and everything in between. Birds have various life expectancies. Generally, the larger the bird the longer it will probably live. Large birds of the parrot family can have a life expectancy as long as a human.
Your pet bird will need care, though you won’t be out for a walk like your neighbors who have dogs. Your bird will require a cage and space that is free from debris, feces and trash. It will need a cage-cleaning on a regular basis. Your bird will have specific nutrition needs. Veterinarian Marlene Anschultz advises that each bird species requires its own special diet and maintenance. You’ll want to establish a relationship with your local veterinarian and have regular checkups and nutrition support.
Birds can be vulnerable to certain illnesses, viruses or diseases like other pets. Your veterinarian will help you learn how to care for the bird species you select.
Remember that larger birds can have longer lives. Dr. Anschultz also advises that “small birds are social among each other and are better off in an aviary, so you can get two or three of them and put them in an enclosure. Bigger birds, such as parrots, need constant affection, attention and holding.”
She admits that some people find birds irritating, disturbing or unpleasant. These people are not willing to enjoy life with a pet bird. Other people get enjoyment from birds and realize that birds can provide companionship, make you laugh and make your family smile with delight. “Some birds cackle along with your jokes and make fun of you afterward,” she says. “They can be real characters.”
|Transitioning a Bird into Your Home
|When including a bird of any size and species in your household, take time before the transition to prepare. Use these tips to welcome your new bird and create a happy experience for your family.
- Choose housing with bars or slats that are only half the width of its head. All the bars should be parallel to try to prevent the bird from injuring a wing or foot.
- Decide where your bird’s cage will be placed before you bring your new pet home. A sunny room where the family spends most of their time is best.
- Always place your bird’s cage at your eye level to discourage dominance and encourage obedience.
- Plan to socialize and train your bird so it will learn supportive behaviors and not focus on destroying its cage or plucking its feathers.
- Provide appropriate toys, treats and food choices for your new bird.
When thinking about bringing home a ferret as a family pet there are a number of considerations you will want to make. Some of the top items to think about before deciding on this pet are related to housing and safety for you and your new ferret.
Safety first, so remember ferrets are fragile. Pick them up by the scruff of their neck with one hand under their bottom, or with hands supporting both chest and hip areas. When making sharp or fast gestures, or pointing, know that you may get a quick nip because you startled them or prompted them to think of you as a food source.
Just like dogs are historically pack animals and prefer to live in cave type shelter with other dogs – or you – your ferret’s long-lost relatives lived in dens and he or she will want to live in that environment also. Setting up a new home will be easy when you plan in advance.
Avoid glass or plastic aquariums that do not provide adequate ventilation. Instead, choose wire or mesh caging that measures a minimum of 30 inches wide, 18 inches long and 18 inches deep. You will find that your ferret will probably prefer a multi-level home. Steps, stairs, shelves and climbing blocks can be used to create this effect. Check your cage to ensure that openings are smaller than 1×2 inches and make sure your furry friend’s cage locks securely so you don’t fast find out that you have an escape artist in your home!
Place a washable, flat surface over the cage’s mesh floor. Vinyl, linoleum or disposable carpet pieces will provide them comfort and still be easy to sanitize. You’ll want to locate your ferret’s cage in an area that’s very cool in your home and away from direct sunlight. When cleaning use mild detergent for hard surfaces, launder bedding and always sanitize all materials used by your ferret.
“You can save time cleaning a ferret’s cage by simply teaching the animal to use a litter pan,” suggests the Humane Society of the United States. “Find a small cardboard or plastic tray that is three to five inches high to serve as a litter box, and secure it to one side of the cage, away from sleeping and eating areas.”
Cats are fastidious with their hygiene, ferrets are not. Expect to empty their litter box often and rest assured that you will know they’ve made a deposit. Ferrets don’t cover their bowel movement as cats do.
Plan to provide regular care for your ferret’s ears because they will be susceptible to ear mites. Flea prevention, a continuous problem for dog and cat owners, will be an issue to discuss with your family veterinarian. You’ll also want to talk with your vet about possible respiratory problems that can be caused when using clumping litter and wood chips made of cedar or pine.
Play time will be enjoyable for you and your ferret when you provide interesting items for your ferret to use for entertainment. They are masters of climbing and crawling, and will enjoy paper bags, tubes, boxes, clothing items, hoses and other hidey-hole environments.
“Ferrets are social creatures who enjoy visiting with people, so let them roam frequently in a secure area outside of their cages. Although they have a great sense of smell and acute hearing, ferrets have limited vision, which means you should avoid sudden movements and speak in a gentle voice before approaching,” advises the Humane Society of the United States.
Fragile Ferrets Entertain Families and Friends
Your new family pet will provide you with entertainment and laughs as he or she climbs and crawls through tubes, hoses, boxes, clothing and pipes.
Keeping your ferret safe and secure in your home is easy with a bit of advanced planning.
Create or purchase a cage, bedding, toys and preliminary food choices before you bring your new ferret home. Your veterinarian can make suggestions as to appropriate long-term foods for your new pet. During your visit, you’ll want to talk about future wellness visits.
Your veterinarian will also help you determine if your ferret is prone to allergies or has sensitivities you should be aware of.
Parents love both their children and their pets. Many pet owners even call their pets fur children. But it is important to create a safe and healthy environment for both children and pets. We especially worry about parasite and bacterial transmission from animals to people, although the reverse can occur as well. The following are some ideas to keep children and pets safe.
1. Take a pet’s stool sample to your veterinarian at least twice yearly to check for parasites. This is a routine test, but some parasites are “sneaky” and won’t show up in every sample.
2. Make sure all your dogs and cats are on monthly parasite preventatives. Some of the heartworm preventatives will also prevent some intestinal parasites that can infect people. Discuss with your veterinarian which preventative medications are effective for which organisms.
3. Do not ever feed raw meat to your pets. Uncooked meat can harbor parasites and bacteria that are dangerous to both people and pets.
4. Keep your cats as indoor-only pets. Cats that are allowed to roam can eat mice or other animals that can give them parasites such as Toxoplasma, which then can be transmitted to people.
5. Reptiles can be fun to own but they are frequently found to harbor Salmonella. There is no method to determine with certainty which reptiles have this bacteria or any way to clear them of the organism. It might be best to not allow small children to own reptiles until they are old enough to understand that hand washing is imperative after handling.
6. Do not have a sand box in your yard or allow your children to play in one. Roaming cats love these as they think sand boxes are a great big litter box. Serious parasites can be transmitted from the cat’s stool to kids for months or even years after the sand is contaminated; the eggs can even survive freezing and hot weather. These parasites can cause blindness or organ damage.
7. When your dog goes outside to defecate, pick up the stool immediately. Parasites will have less time to become infective. If the stool is allowed to sit on the yard, the parasites are spread into a wider area by rain or water from sprinklers.
8. You should deworm puppies and kittens even before you bring them home. It is best to obtain medicine from your veterinarian for this, as the dewormers used by breeders are usually less effective over-the-counter medicine.
9. Wash food and water bowls daily. A recent study showed that hand scrubbing and then washing in a dishwasher was the only effective method of cleaning. Each method done separately did not provide good sanitation.
10. A different topic is keeping kids safe from bites. Do not let your child run up to a strange dog. Teach your children what to do if approached by a dog: don’t run, don’t put your hands out, and don’t stare into their eyes. If the child is able, they should back up slowly. If in danger, they should roll into a ball on the ground and protect their head.
Pets and children are wonderful, they give us so much joy and are very important members of the family. They may be initially uncertain around each other, but with some knowledge and precautions we can keep everyone in the family happy and healthy.
Adults and children oftentimes enjoy sleeping with household pets. They can keep us warm, feel comfortable, make us feel safe and loved. They may lick our faces, hands or other exposed areas before or during sleeping time.
Scratches and bites, wounds, abscesses, ulcerations or other breaks in the skin can allow bacteria to enter the body. Pay special attention to these areas when they are present. Eliminate bacteria transmission and infection by keeping them covered to heal quickly. Also, take measures to prevent your pet from licking these areas.
What happens when the pests traveling on our pets begin to travel on us? This is an issue of particular concern for family members with compromised immune systems. If someone in your family has a reduced efficiency immune system due to disease, illness, treatment, aging or other factors you’ll want to take special care when your pets stretch out beside them. Good pet practices are important for all members of your family. Those practices are critical for family members with reduced immunity to infection or disease!
Zoonoses in the Bedroom places particular attention on several good pet habits that owners must take to maintain the health and well being of their family members when sharing sleeping space. The Center for Disease Control, vigilantly paying attention to the social-emotional role of pets in households, stresses preventative measures when owners choose to sharing sleeping space with their pets.
Take special care to treat your pets for fleas. This should be a lifetime habit you’re already consistently addressing with your veterinarian. If not, talk with your vet to determine the best course of flea reduction and elimination for your family’s household. Your vet can help you decide which product to use to keep your loved ones safe. The doctor may also have recommendations to make about treatment options that will provide additional support for your pet’s health and well being.
Tick-Tock It’s Time to Treat
Treating for ticks will be a discussion you need to have with your veterinarian. Your doctor will be able to recommend treatments and alternatives as appropriate for your pet’s health status and your home’s location. You may already be treating for ticks and you’ll want your vet’s feedback about other concerns and the impact sleeping with your pets may have on your family.
Remembering to wash your hands frequently will support your family with reducing or eliminating bacteria that may be shared between you and your pets. Human hands are probably the area of our body that have the most frequent opportunities to transmit disease. Typically, you may not give much thought to the places your hands have been before they appear in your kitchen preparing food or handling your child’s toys. Scrub-a-dub with lots of suds whenever possible!
Pearly Whites Need to Stay Bright
Dental care for your pet is important. When your pet is sharing your sleeping space keeping the pearly whites bright will have additional importance for the health and well being of your family. Tartar and buildup on your pet’s teeth will gather bacteria in their mouths. Happily licking you or your family in bed can share that bacteria.
Keeping your pet’s vaccinations current will help it maintain good health. Those shots will also minimize chances that you or your family will become ill from something that can be prevented. Your family veterinarian has a schedule for your pet’s shots and can advise you as to necessary vaccine updates and out-dated practices.
Preventing parasites in your home can be fairly easy when all members participate in preventative practices. These practice include good hand washing during meal preparation, carefully handling feces and hand washing after handling, keeping litter boxes covered and clean, and maintaining a feces-free yard. Pet owners who implement flea and tick treatment measures will also help to prevent parasites in their homes, beds and on their skin.
Infectious diseases can be transmitted from dogs and cats to owners that share sleeping space with them. Notable examples include: Pasteurellosis in Japan and the United Kingdom, Cheyletiella dermatitis in France and cat-scratch disease in Taiwan.