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Feeling at Home with Your Pet

Whether you’re a new pet owner or simply thinking of inviting one into your family, there are a lot of things to consider. Some animals can be more difficult than others, some just harder to understand. This article outlines how to make the best out of being a new owner, for you and your pet.

Vacation with your pets

This tip isn’t going to make the local kennel happy, but Spot and Fifi don’t have to be boarded while you go on vacation. Plan ahead and find one of the many pet-friendly hotels that have sprung up, suggests Dr. Kim Langholz, a community practice veterinarian at Iowa State University in Ames. Just think through the details, she says. And plan early, since it could take six to eight months to get all your paperwork in order before traveling to some locations abroad. Other things to consider:

  • What, if any, health papers do you need for your pet, including vaccinations? Take your pet in for an annual checkup and ask the veterinarian which shots need to be updated.
  • If you’re traveling by plane, where will the airline put your pet? Can you carry him in the passenger cabin, in a carrier, or must he travel in cargo? If it’s the latter, make sure the cargo area is pressurized; while typical on larger planes, it’s not always available on smaller commuter flights.
  • Make sure the contact information on your pet’s ID tags is current, including your cell phone number.
  • If you haven’t already, have a microchip implanted in your dog or cat. If she runs off while you’re away and someone finds her, the microchip contains information that will get her back into your arms.
  • Check the legal requirements at your destination. Some municipalities won’t allow pit bulls or ferrets, for instance.

Pack for your pooches and kitties

If you’re taking Fido to your mother’s for Christmas, make sure you take all the necessary accoutrements, says Langholz, including:

  • A health certificate, along with information about vaccines, medications, and your vet’s telephone number. In fact, why not just ask your vet for a copy of the past two years of your pet’s medical records?
  • Enough medication for the entire trip. Make sure this is in your carry-on bag.
  • Your pet’s regular food, unless you’re sure you can find it at your destination. Switching food abruptly could give your pet diarrhea-not exactly the best way to endear yourself to Aunt Mabel.

  • Pet favourites, including toys, bedding, and kitty litter. Some people even take along tap water from home!

Distract them for nail clipping with peanut butter

Nobody enjoys clipping a pet’s toenails, but it’s a must if you want to save your floors, clothes, and furniture. Kayce O’Brien, a project manager at Johnson & Wales University in Denver, found a way that works for Finnegan, her two-year-old Lab-retriever mix. She smears natural peanut butter on the lower part of her refrigerator (stay away from chunky), and as Finnegan licks away at the luscious treat, she quickly lifts his paws and clips away. This also works, she says, for ear cleaning and fur brushing.

Show your cat who’s boss

To do that, you need to do some serious training to make sure your cat doesn’t destroy your house. Amy Osete, vice president of marketing for pet products manufacturer Bamboo, suggests the following:

  • First-aid kit for your pet, available in most pet stores.
  • Get a scratching post covered with sisal rope, corrugated cardboard, or carpet turned wrong side out (if you have the same stuff on both the scratching post and the floor, your cat may think scratching on the floor carpet is okay).
  • Spread a paste of cayenne pepper mixed with water or dried orange or lemon peel with water on electrical cords to keep kitty from chewing them.
  • Temporarily cover counters and furniture with double-sided tape so that kitty learns not to jump up or curl up on them.

Let someone else handle the mess

Tired of arguing over whose turn it is to scoop up the backyard poop? Just hire it out. Today even the smallest town has at least one poop-scooper for hire.

Give your cat a sense of the outdoors

Even though Buttercup is an indoor cat, she can still get a taste of the outdoor life. What about giving her free rein on the screened porch? Or you could purchase a large dog crate and pad it with soft pillows for sunny afternoons in the backyard. And, of course, you can always put her on a leash. If you want to try walking your cat (and yes, many people do), Belinda Mager, spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States, recommends the following:

  • Use a harness, not a collar.
  • Begin the training in the house, when she’s hungry. Why the hunger? You’ll be using treats as an incentive.
  • Start by putting her on the leash for one minute, then increase the time during each training session.
  • Once she’s comfortable on the leash in the house, it’s time to venture outside.
  • Stay in the yard and don’t go far. This also reduces the risk that you’ll run into dogs and other animals.

You can have a pet if you are allergic

Don’t instantly blame your pet for all your bouts of sneezing and watery eyes. Sure, you may have a reaction when you are around the cat, but many if not most allergy sufferers are sensitive to more than one allergen. If you react to animal dander, chances are good that you are also sensitive to other common allergens such as dust, cigarette smoke, and pollen or any combination of them. And the effects of these allergens are cumulative. So before you go bundling the family pet off to a shelter, try lowering the overall allergen level in your house. Basically this means controlling dust by cleaning thoroughly and frequently, keeping out pollen by closing windows and running the air conditioning during peak seasons, and by banning smoking inside the house. Consult with your doctor about allergy shots, antihistamines, and other treatments that may reduce your reaction to dander and other allergens.

To specifically reduce allergy symptoms from a pet-provided they are “simply miserable but not life-threatening”-here are some suggestions from the Humane Society of the United States that may let you keep that furry creature that has won your heart:

  • Make your bedroom an allergy-free retreat that the animal is never allowed to go into. Install a high-efficiency HEPA air cleaner. Put impermeable covers on mattresses and pillows to keep them from picking up dander brought in on clothes.
  • Use HEPA air cleaners throughout the house and cut back on dander-collecting fabric furnishings such as curtains and carpets.
  • Vacuum frequently using a HEPA-filter machine or a microfilter bag. Launder slipcovers, pillow covers, and pet bedding regularly.
  • Bathe your pet weekly. It’s more effective than any dander-control spray. Even cats can be trained to tolerate bathing.
  • Some but by no means all allergy sufferers are less irritated by animals with constantly growing hair, such as poodles and bichon frises, so you might want to consider one for your next pet.