Blog Posts by Sarah D. Bunting

  • The American pet population is getting smaller

    The American Veterinary Medical Association has found that Americans own fewer cats and dogs than they did in 2006 – 2 million fewer dogs, and 7.6 million fewer cats, to be exact. It's not a huge decline in pet-owning households percentage-wise – 2.4 percent – but it's the first such decrease since 1991.

    Karen Felsted of Felsted Veterinary Consultants in Richardson, TX presented the numbers at the AVMA's annual meeting in San Diego, and said the dip in pet ownership is "clearly" thanks to the bad economy, and called the dwindling "significant." Ownership of pets of all species had shown steady growth since 1986, when the AVMA began conducting the survey (it's performed every five years and surveys fifty thousand households). Between 2006 and 2011, though, the trend reversed itself. The AVMA's CEO, Ron DeHaven, theorized that people are less likely in the last few years to replace older pets who have died – because they may not be able to afford a new one.

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  • Moving safely and unstressfully with pets

    Moving is a hassle, no matter how excited you are about your new home (or sick of that leaky shower head in the old one). Wrapping each plate and glass in paper, packing all your shoes by mistake, getting all the utilities changed over, reassuring your kids (and yourself) about the new school…it's really stressful. Adding the pets to that seemingly endless to-do list doesn't help.

    And it's a tough time for them, too. Animals often pick up on anxious vibes in their homes, and may respond by acting out, hiding (in a box you're about to seal with tape, sometimes), or running away. On the other hand, Fluffy may not be bothered at all – but God forbid she gets underfoot while the piano's getting loaded onto the truck.

    You have a lot of planning to do already, but a little pet-related preparation before moving day will save you a lot of stress during it. Our tips:

    Keep pets out of packing areas. If you can, pack one room at a time, which minimizes literal and emotional upheaval, and close

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  • Housecats deadlier than we thought

    When your cat leaves you the occasional "gift" on the back steps, you probably don't think much of it. He's a cat, after all – a hunter. Catching mice, birds, even the occasional garter snake is just what he does (even if you sometimes wish he'd hide the evidence).

    But Tigger may kill more than four times as much as what he brings home. Kittycams attached to house cats by researchers at the University of Georgia revealed what USA Today called "a secret world of slaughter," and while only 30% of roaming domesticated felines kill small prey – averaging about two animals a week – the feline population is responsible for a significant decline in U.S. bird species. "One in three" of those species is on the decrease, American Bird Conservancy president George Fenwick told USA Today, and "cat predation" is one reason why.

    Why didn't we know the extent of said "cat predation" before? U of G researcher Kerrie Anne Loyd explained that "previous estimates were probably too conservative," because

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  • Dog thefts on the increase

    The American Kennel Club has found that pet theft is on the rise. In a seven-month period in 2011, 224 dogs were reported stolen, compared with 150 stolen-pet reports from the same time period the previous year.

    The AKC recommends not leaving pets outside unattended, as some dogs get stolen out of their yards, or untied from trees outside of stores in which their owners are shopping. spcaLA's Ana Bustilloz suggested to KABC in Los Angeles that pet owners "buddy up" to prevent these thefts, but we've noticed that pet thieves will target pet stores, too – often sending kids to distract store personnel, or just stuffing puppies down their pants.

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    Why the increase in pooch-pinching? The economy is probably at least partly to blame; yoinking a Yorkie from a pet store, then reselling it to a clueless consumer on a street corner or over the internet, can net thieves hundreds (and won't take up much space). Some even call the owners, using the Read More »from Dog thefts on the increase
  • Cat photos cheer up teen cancer patient

    Cat-loving cancer patient Maga couldn't leave her hospital room – which meant she couldn't see her beloved feline, Merry. But doctors and nurses at Seattle Children's Hospital, where Maga is receiving treatment, decided to do the next best thing: a "cat immersion room" where Maga could look at footage of Facebook felines.

    An adorable video shows Maga looking touched and happy as thousands of cat photos clicked by, accompanied by an audio track of Merry purring.

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    How'd the hospital staff pull it off? They built a custom tent inside Maga's treatment room that arched over her bed, and projected the cat photos – more than three thousand of them! -- onto the tent's canvas. The photos were collected from the hospital's Facebook page; the staff asked the page's "fans" to send in their cat photos to cheer Maga up.

    Maga is at the hospital for post-procedure treatment following a bone-marrow transplant – which demands that she remain in isolation to protect her

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  • Mutt adopts white lion cub

    Cub Jojo tells canine stepfather Lejon a secret.A sad-seeming story out of Germany has a happy (and cute) ending: a two-year-old pointer mix, Lejon, has adopted Jojo the lion cub after they met at Stukenbrock's Safari Park.

    Jojo, who's not quite a month old, was separated from his mom shortly after his birth thanks to an umbilical-cord infection; when park staff tried to reintroduce the lions, Mom "shunned" her baby. Staffer Jeanette Wurms said in the Daily Mail that Safari Park workers weren't sure "whether the mother would accept her baby," so "for safety reasons," they were "handraising and bottle feeding" the little cub – and apparently Jojo formed a bond during that time with Wurms's hound, Lejon.

    Wurms reported that her little family is teaming up to get Jojo's needs met: "Now he gets fed by hand by me and gets the paternal affection he needs from Lejon." Jojo is a rambunctious youngster; Wurms described Jojo as clambering on the dog, jumping on his head, and biting his fur, but said that Lejon "is very patient" and doesn't

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  • Why your dog stinks

    We don't like to compare cats and dogs – both pets have so many lovable qualities! it's not a competition! – but we will give the edge to cats in one respect: they're self-cleaning. We adore dogs, but there's no denying that, when it comes to smelling bad, they've got cats beat paws down.

    But why do dogs get so smelly sometimes?

    Well, let's start with the obvious: they get dirty. Most dogs spend a decent amount of time outside, and they may spend part of that time rolling around in trash, poop, or other icky things (they do this to camouflage their own smell). Not every dog likes to do this…but yours may love it.

    Or maybe Rex just got caught in the rain; a wet dog is a notoriously stinky proposition. That smell comes from bacteria that feed on the oils produced by a dog's skin, so the best way to beat that odor is to bathe the dog regularly; dry him thoroughly after baths; and keep him dry in between.

    Groom your dog each day, too. Even a quick brushing before bedtime can get help you spot

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  • Cat allergies twice as common as dog allergies

    We barely glanced at the headline – we kind of already knew that, when it comes to pet allergies, usually "pet" means "cat." And we thought we knew why; we thought that cat dander led to itchy eyes, sneezing, and sometimes worse.

    Not exactly. Among the estimated 10 percent of people who suffer from household-pet allergies, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says that allergies to cats are twice as common – and those allergies occur in about 15 percent of children (one in seven) aged 6 to 19. But it's not cat FUR or even cat dander that gets the mucus flowing; it's a protein found on a cat's skin called Fel d 1. Remember when we mentioned that hairless cats may not be a solution to cat-allergy problems? Yeah, that protein is why. So, we already knew that too.

    But we did learn a few things about how it works its sneezy magic. Fel d 1 is a crafty little fella. It's very tiny and light – a tenth the size of a dust allergen – and as a result, it can float around for

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  • Do wild animals keep pets

    Koko and her new kitten friend, 1985.It's fun to attribute human behaviors to animals – to imagine that the cat has a "favorite" toy, or to call the dogs "sisters" even if they came from different litters of puppies. We even dress up our pets sometimes. But as amusing as it is to think of pets as furry people and treat them accordingly, most of us understand that there are some human behaviors pets don't engage in. They don't read movie reviews, or drive (Toonces excepted), or keep pets of their own.

    Or do they?

    In his piece on HuffPo, Professor Hal Herzog admitted that, despite his unequivocal claim that "The human being is the only animal that keeps members of other species for extended periods of time purely for enjoyment," recent evidence may induce him to revise the next edition of his book, "Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard To Think Straight About Animals." Turns out a friend forwarded Herzog an article from the American Journal of Primatology, which described a group of bearded capuchin

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  • Why does your cat insist on drinking out of the sink?

    You wash and refill the cat's water bowl twice a day. You've experimented with plastic bowls, ceramic bowls, plain bowls, bowls with cute little fish skeletons painted in the bottom. So why is her water dish the last thing Fluffy wants to drink out of? Why do you find her sitting impatiently at the edge of the sink, or in the bathtub, waiting for you to turn the water on for her – or dipping a paw (which you know just climbed out of the litterbox: yechh) into your drinking glass?

    It's tempting to conclude that our cats just like to make us do things for them and/or annoy us, but in case the felines have a logical reason for occasionally sticking their heads into the toilet for a cocktail, we decided to ask some experts.

    Turns out, cats have pretty good reasons for this particular picky behavior. According to a recent column by Marc Morrone in Long Island's Newsday, at least in cases where the cat is quaffing from the potty, the other water available to them probably isn't clean enough,

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