Points on Pets

Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Happy Bird Day to You!

By Jane Koska It’s World Migratory Bird Day! Created in 1993 by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and now observed on the second Saturday in May, World Migratory Bird Day is a celebration of the billions of birds that migrate worldwide. WMBD 2022 will be observed on May 14. The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology defines migration as an annual, large-scale movement of birds between where they breed in summer and their nonbreeding (winter) grounds. In the Northern Hemisphere, spring brings a northward migration as species return from their winter homes in the tropics to northern regions where they raise their young. Several factors contribute to triggering migration, including changing day length, temperatures, and food supplies. While scientists still don’t fully understand how birds navigate, it seems to be a combination of using the sun and stars as a compass, sensing the earth’s magnetic field, and even using landmarks. Many of us associate migration with V-shaped flocks of geese flying south in the fall, but geese are just one example of migratory birds. (But note that as lawns, parks, and golf courses have proliferated, some Canada geese have become non-migratory, breeding and overwintering in the same area.) Of the more than 650 species of North American breeding birds, more than half are migratory. Long-distance migrants range in size from the tiny ruby-throated hummingbird, weighing less than half an ounce, to the elegant tundra swan with its more than five-foot wingspan. Songbirds like the Baltimore oriole and birds of prey like the osprey all migrate south in the fall and north in the spring. Migration is a truly amazing natural phenomenon. That tiny hummingbird visiting a backyard feeder in summer may have flown non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico during its migration. Tundra swans winter on the Chesapeake Bay and raise their…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Running Into Spring: How to Keep Your Pets Active

By Kristin Bieling In the DC region, April brings the first real sign of spring after a long and cold winter. April means longer days with more sunshine and time for people to play in our expansive network of parks and trails. It also signals it’s time for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll and the blooming of our world-famous cherry blossoms. For runners and fitness enthusiasts in the area though, April means one thing: the Boston Marathon. Every year on the third Monday of April, thousands of runners toe the start line for the renowned marathon, which is 26.2 miles. According to the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), which owns and sponsors the race, over 30,000 people are entered for 2022 and they expect over 500,000 spectators. Runners train for months, sometimes years, to qualify. While training for a marathon or engaging in other forms of exercise will keep us fit, we also need to ensure our furry friends stay fit too. Refer to these tips for exercising with your dog, according to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): Ask an expert. Always consult your vet before beginning a fitness regimen for your pooch. Rule out any health concerns and watch for pain or discomfort during or after exercise. Younger dogs: Remember that pups under 18 months old shouldn’t participate in long periods of jogging or running as their bones are still forming. Brisk, shorter walks are a good substitute during this time. Also consider a less intense game of fetch in your yard or at a local park versus long runs. Training time: Runners crossing the finish line in record times at the Boston Marathon certainly didn’t jump off the couch and into their running shoes. Just like humans, dogs need sufficient time to…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Saying Goodbye: Reflections on the Loss of a Pet

By Cheryl Burns It wasn’t all that long ago that I was writing an article for this very column. It was a piece about pet adoption featuring stories about how our two cats joined our family. As I sent it off, I hoped it captured some of the love and joy that pets can bring. Between the time I wrote the article and when it ran, our world had shifted dramatically. It was an otherwise unremarkable day in May when my husband noticed some swelling in Smoky Tiggs Burns’s neck. After checking to make sure that it wasn’t something normal (we later thanked Sweet Potato Bailey Burns for serving as the “control group kitty”), we called the vet. She saw us that day. After examining our sweet grey girl, she uttered the words we all hope we’ll never hear from a doctor, whether they’re caring for a beloved person or a pet: “it’s cancer.” The next week was a whirlwind. Smoky deteriorated quickly. She needed her lungs drained. Twice. Just seeing her shaved coat was enough to start our tears. The initial test confirmed cancer, but we had to wait a few days for the details. Was it bad, or was it worse? It was worse. Large cell lymphoma, especially when it affects the T-cells, can be rapidly fatal for cats. It can kill in a matter of days. I remember telling the vet who’d diagnosed Smoky that we’d made an appointment to see a feline oncologist. Our appointment was less than a week away, which seemed pretty fast for such specialized care. She told us to get in sooner. In some ways, we were quite lucky. We were able to make decisions based more on our hearts than on our wallets. We knew from the start that we could…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Love and Loss in the Animal Kingdom

By Jaime Stephens Love is in the air this month and thoughts turn to love, not just for humans, but in the animal kingdom as well. Unlike birds, where nearly 90% partner for life, and like some humans, not all mammals are monogamous. In fact, only 3-5% of the approximately 5,000 different mammals in existence today form life-lasting bonds with a partner. Swans mate for life. If they lose their mate, they go through a grieving process as humans do and either keep to themselves and remain alone, find another place to live, or join a new flock (and hopefully find a new mate). In addition to helping their mates build nests, the males are also good fathers. They are one of only two male birds in the Anatidae family, the biological family of water birds that includes ducks, geese, and swans, that share egg incubation duties. Coyotes are dedicated to their mates, including those now frequently seen in urban areas (and frequently sighted in Alexandria, at least in the West End!). Only the alpha pair in a pack mate, with the remaining herd helping to raise their young. Bonds between alpha pairs are only broken upon the death of one of the pairs. Researchers from The Ohio State University followed 236 coyotes in the Chicago area over a six-year period and found no evidence of polygamy or of a mate ever leaving its partner while they were still alive. Gray wolves, rare in most of the United States and Europe but found in Canada, Asia, and Alaska,  are similar to coyotes, with the alpha female and the alpha male usually only the two that mate. In a larger pack, it is not unusual for a second pair to mate as well. Beavers are also monogamous and mate for life, raising…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Patience is Truly a Virtue and a Gift – Introducing a New Pet to Your Home

By Lisa Velenovsky Patience is Truly a Virtue and a Gift – Introducing a New Pet to Your Home It’s 2022, and you’re determined that this year will be better than ever! Perhaps your personal happiness plan includes adding a new pet to your family. Whether you’re a first-time pet owner or a seasoned pet parent adding another furry (or not-so-furry) friend to the household, the road to success begins well before a pet crosses your threshold. What’s Your Perfect Pet? Of course, step #1 is deciding what type. It’s important to be realistic about your lifestyle and what’s required to responsibly care for a specific pet. Longing for a puppy, but no time for training, regular exercise, and dealing with a high-energy ball of fur? Maybe a mature, independent cat is a better fit. Or perhaps it’s really a goldfish you need. If you’re not sure, head to Chewy’s “What Pet Should I Get” quiz – https://be.chewy.com/what-pet-should-i-get-take-our-quiz-and-find-out/ – or check out Best Friends Animal Society’s list of questions to ask yourself when choosing a pet – https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/choosing-pet. Whatever you decide, everyone who will be living with the pet, including children and other pets, should be part of the selection process whenever possible. And while you may be tempted to surprise someone with a new pet as a gift, consider giving a gift certificate for the pet instead, allowing the recipient to be part of the selection process since a pet is a lifetime commitment. Next, you need to prepare for their arrival into your home and life. Patience is key, especially if your new pet is a cat or dog, which the overwhelming majority are. Even if you’re an old hand at this, every pet will have different requirements. Have a safe room or space already set up with…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Keeping Your Pets off Santa’s Naughty List: Pet-proofing and Other Holiday Tips

By Kristen Bieling  Keeping Your Pets off Santa’s Naughty List: Pet-proofing and Other Holiday Tips Despite spending the last year jumping on the kitchen counter, scratching the sofa arms, chasing each other up and down the stairs at 3 a.m., and harassing the neighborhood birds, my cats are positive they’re on Santa’s nice list (and they aren’t wrong…). The holidays can be such a joyful and fulfilling time spent indulging with friends and family but can also be stressful when you have pets in your home. With the proper precautions though, you can keep your sanity and keep your pets off Santa’s naughty list. Munchies and Liquid Holiday Cheer. Just like we feebly attempt to watch our waistlines around the holidays, we should watch what our pets ingest too. Table scraps in general should be avoided, but especially any items containing chocolate or xylitol as those are especially toxic to animals. Other toxic or harmful items include onions, grapes/raisins, coffee/caffeine, unbaked bread dough/yeast, salt, raw eggs, and nuts. Also take special care to discard bones and produce seeds/pits. Turkey bones, for example, can splinter when ingested and wreak havoc on our pets’ internal systems. Additionally, the essential oils in peach pits and apple seeds can cause nervous system depression if a high quantity is ingested. Secure all trash away from pets to avoid any accidental harm. Although wine, beer, and other liquid holiday cheer flows freely at many holiday parties, pets should not partake even by accident. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), as little as 1 ounce (less than a standard, bar-sized shot) can kill a pet and PetMD indicates that, for cats, even a little over a tablespoon can kill an adult. Santa’s Helper Tip: If you’re hoping to treat your…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

How to Hire a Pet Sitter During a Pandemic

How to Hire a Pet Sitter During a Pandemic By Steph Selice The COVID-19 pandemic continues, and life goes on. As we adapt to what the new coronavirus variants will bring, people with pets will still need to plan around their work and school schedules, holidays, travel, and family emergencies. Pet sitters have ridden the roller coaster of the last 20 months along with the rest of us. Here are a few things they might want us to keep in mind. Get Vaccinated and Stay Healthy It’s essential that you, your pet sitter, your family, and your pets stay healthy, so please get vaccinated and take care of yourselves. Your pet sitter will want to know that you and your pets have had your shots and are in good health. Because pet sitters visits dozens of homes during the year, knowing your home is safe to work in is important. They will have guidelines for vaccinations and health status, social distancing, and use of masks, so they can help keep your pets and your home clean and safe. You’ll want everyone to be healthy and your home to be clean enough for a visitor. If you or one of your humans or pets is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or another illness, let your pet sitter know, just as you would expect them to tell you. Decide What Pet Sitting Services You Want Before hiring, think about what services you’ll need. Do you want someone to check on your pet regularly during the workweek, walk your dog, or care for your pets while you’re away from home? Do you want someone who’s affiliated with your vet’s office (many in those offices also work as pet sitters)? Do your pets take medication, eat prescription food, or have special needs? What else does…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria Announces New Junior Volunteer Program

Submitted by the AWLA The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria Announces New Junior Volunteer Program   The Junior Volunteer experience kicks off with an eight-part program led by the AWLA’s Humane Educator. Through this program, Junior Volunteers – ages 16 and 17 years old – will learn all about the AWLA, shelter operations, fundraising and social media, animal body language, training and more! Each eight-session semester will consist of a mix of virtual and hands-on elements. In-person sessions will be held in small buddy groups at the AWLA in order to give Junior Volunteers a safe and personalized experience. Upon completion of the program, Junior Volunteers will be able to volunteer at the AWLA during regularly scheduled shifts during a variety of days and times with a program partner.  We ask Junior Volunteers to commit to at least four hours of regularly scheduled volunteering per month.  After the age of 18, Junior Volunteers are also eligible to participate in the standard volunteer program. Junior Volunteers will start with an eight-session training course in September that will run through December and offer a mix of in-person and virtual trainings. Trainings will teach animal safety, body language and handling, as well as other facets of animal sheltering like social media and fundraising. Volunteers who complete the program will then be eligible to volunteer regularly at the AWLA in a variety of roles. Participants will be expected to attend all of the scheduled training sessions, and we will offer new training courses every fall and spring semester. Whether your student is looking to meet a service requirement or just wants to learn more about animals, the AWLA’s Junior Volunteer program has something for everyone. Space is limited, so register today! Registration Details All participants must be 16 or 17 on the date that their session will start….

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Enjoying the Pleasures of Autumn with Your Pet …Safely!

By Carolyn Cockroft Enjoying the Pleasures of Autumn with Your Pet …Safely! In the early days of autumn, just as most of us welcome the cool relief from the heat of summer, furry animals also enjoy what it has to offer. Moderate temperatures are a boost to outdoor activity with our pets; however, this increase in outdoor activity can create safety concerns. To keep your pet free from sickness or injury, keep these tips in mind. Supervise Exercise in Reduced Daylight. As the days grower shorter, owners who walk their pets in the early mornings and evenings could find it more difficult to see other animals, people, and cars in driveways, sidewalks, and roads. People working in emergency veterinary practice have noticed an increase in the cases of dogs and cats suffering injuries from being hit by a car during daybreak or twilight hours. If you exercise your pets during these hours, wear reflective gear and keep control of them with a leash or harness. Always make sure they are microchipped, and that their tags are current in case they go missing. Keep Shedding at Bay. Shedding is natural process, especially in the fall due to an animal ridding itself of old hair to make room for its winter coat. To minimize pet hair on furniture and clothes, brush your pet weekly, if not daily. Excessive shedding, however, is not normal, and can be a sign of an allergic reaction. If you suspect your pet is suffering from an allergy, consult your veterinarian. Watch for Signs of Allergies. The fall’s refreshing relief from summer’s heat is an ideal time to increase outdoor exercise for your pet. Open air activity also creates unavoidable exposure to trees, grasses, and pollens which are the major source of allergens. The following are signs that your…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

“DOG” DAYS OF SUMMER

By Alberta Frost  “DOG” DAYS OF SUMMER Summer is here and many of us are ready to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror by planning a vacation.  Maybe it will just be a long weekend road trip or maybe it will be two weeks in Europe.  Wherever you roam, you need to have a plan for taking care of your cat companions while you are off having fun. I will be spending a couple of weeks in western New York State.  My cats, Beau who is twelve, shy, and needs medication and his buddy Mickey who is seven, outgoing, and playful, will not be coming with me.  The place I will be renting does not permit it and the seven hour drive would probably drive all three of us around the bend.  I got both these furry companions from King Street Cats years ago, and whenever I go out of town I have found either a pet caregiver who comes twice a day, or more recently a house sitter who can keep an even closer eye on them.  I am telling you a bit about my own cats because how you decide to care for your cats in your absence depends not only on your personal preferences and what you can afford, but very importantly on the personality, eating habits, and physical health of your felines.  One thing for sure; DON’T LEAVE YOUR CAT HOME ALONE for more than a day.  Two at the very most.  According to Vivien Bacon, President of King Street Cats, “cats may appear to be self-sufficient and independent, but even the most aloof among them depend on us for water, food, a safe roof over their heads and daily attention.”   Moreover, according to the website Spruce Pets, cats “adore routine”.  A different feeding schedule…

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