Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Truth about Cats and Dogs—and other animal companions

Me and Ivan.
Photo: Ken C.
My parents visited us a couple of weeks ago. They have never had an indoor pet, and were fascinated by our Russian Blue cat, Ivan. Clearly, though, we were spending too much time talking with each other and too little playing with Ivan, so he sat on his cat tree with his back to us and his tail flicking in an annoyed manner. I mentioned Ivan’s favorite treat, and brought a can over to show my parents. Once Ivan caught sight of the can, he turned around and watched me, ears flicked forward. “I guess since I brought it out, I better give him some,” I said to my parents. I went into the kitchen where Ivan’s dish is. The second I opened the can, he came running, meowing. My mom remarked on how smart Ivan was. “That’s why we call him ‘Mensa cat’” I replied.

I like to brag about the two handsome German Shepherd dogs, Bowie and Archer, that my brother David and his wife Sarah have rescued. The dogs enjoy a rural life of paddling in the creek, chasing chipmunks (wearing their brightly-colored vests during hunting season so they aren’t mistaken for deer), and playing “tug” with their favorite toy—an old garden hose. One weekend, Bowie was acting strangely. Sarah recognized the symptoms of a dangerous condition called bloat or gastric torsion, sadly common in large, deep-chested dogs such as German Shepherds. They rushed Bowie to the emergency veterinarian hospital, where the staff literally saved Bowie’s life.

Bowie and Archer in their safety vests.
 Photo: David used by permission.
Many of us share our lives with animals we adore—not just dogs or cats but an array of other furry, feathered and scaly friends. Some people are fascinated by snakes, love their beautiful and chatty birds, or enjoy the surprising cuddliness of pet rats. An animal-loving colleague of mine has an allergic spouse, so they share their home with hedgehogs. Fish are permitted in apartments and other places where many pets are not allowed—there are even fishtanks in some of MCPL's children's rooms! We want to understand our animal companions and care for them properly. But how?

Books are one of the first places you might think I’d mention, being a librarian. Two wonderful books for understanding more about how two favorite pets act, and why, are Dog Sense and Cat Sense by animal behavior researcher John Bradshaw. Several library branches carry Catster and Dogster (formerly Cat Fancy and Dog Fancy) which cover general info on those pets as well as features on specific breeds. One of their articles on Russian Blue cats taught me I was using the wrong grooming method for Ivan’s two-level fur coat. If you're a bird lover and want try an e-magazine, you can download Audubon, which often has articles on pet birds, from Zinio.

What if your animal companion is sick, or you have a quick opportunity to adopt a pet you don't know much about? All too often, that happens when you can’t get to the library. If you have an Internet connection, you can get reliable information any time of the day or night from the National Library of Medicine’s pet website. It provides information on symptoms, specific diseases, and particular domestic animals including fish and horses. The ASPCA also has a pet-care website that provides information about numerous species in addition to cats and dogs.

You might want to look for or request one of our newest titles on pets:

Book Cover: The Secret History of Kindness: Learning From How Dogs Learn by Melissa PiersonBook cover: The New Aquarium Handbook by Ines ScheurmannCover image for Guinea pigs : keeping and caring for your pet / Angela Beck.

Enjoy learning more about the nature and proper care of the animal companion of your choice!

Beth C.

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