If you have a question, Martha has the answer! As an avid animal lover herself, Martha spends plenty of time with her dogs and cats. So whether you have a messy-eating mutt or a scaredy cat who doesn't like getting her pet-icure, she has the answer for you.
My pet sheds everywhere. How can I remove the hair more effectively?
The answer: Regular grooming will help cut down on your pet's shedding but won't completely stop the fur from flying. To pick up your dog or cat hair, choose the method that’s best suited to the surface you want to clean. An electrostatic mop will trap hair on wooden and other hard floors better than a vacuum, which can blow hair around. For clothing and fabrics, use a tape roller, lint brush, or dry sponge (sold at pet-supply stores). On upholstery, use a hand vacuum with a motorized beater-bar attachment.
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How do I stop my dog from tearing up his bed?
The answer: Dogs are always going to chew, but you can make sure they gnaw on the right things, says ASPCA animal behaviorist Kristen Collins. If your pet is chewing on its bed, redirect it to a bone or toy, and provide positive reinforcement to help it learn what's permitted and what’s off-limits. Offer several toys and treats, and rotate them to keep your dog interested. Spray taste deterrents, available at pet stores, on the fabric to teach your pet that its bed isn't to be chewed. Also, make sure your dog is getting enough exercise, so it's too tuckered out to chew when it goes to bed.
The answer: The key is to take your time. "In feline handling, if you do things too quickly, it takes longer and sometimes never gets done," says Jane Brunt, a vet with the American Veterinary Medical Association. Follow these steps:
Massage each of your cat’s paws generously, moving slowly so you don’t startle your pet. Immediately after touching all four paws, give your cat a treat to establish a positive association with the activity.
Introduce the clippers once your cat is accustomed to your touch. Press gently on the cat’s paw pad to extend one nail, then trim just the white tip above the quick (the flesh-colored V). Reward your cat afterward.
Continue to acclimate your cat to the practice gradually. Cut more nails each time, until you can do all four paws in one sitting. If your cat panics, stop immediately and consult your vet or groomer.
The answer: It's important to give your pup the mental and physical exercise it needs to stay healthy throughout the winter, but you don’t necessarily have to go outside to do so. Consider these tips:
Keep your dog's blood pumping with high-energy activities, such as fetch or tug-of-war. (Save the leisurely walks for when the ice thaws.)
Play a game indoors, such as hide-and-seek, says K.C. Theisen, director of pet-care issues at the Humane Society of the United States. Ask the dog to stay, then hide a toy or treat. Release the dog and say, "Go find it!" As the dog gets the hang of it, hide treats progressively farther away.
Enroll in a group class or doggie day care. Your dog will burn off extra energy with canine playmates.
Stay warm when you do step out -- make sure you and your dog dress the part. Protective pet clothing (jackets or booties) add insulation and shields paw pads from harmful deicing chemicals.
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My pet is a messy eater. How can I prevent mealtime spills?
The answer: Dogs often gobble down their dinner. If you have a multicanine household, try feeding the pups in separate areas. (When they sense competition, many dogs eat more frenetically, creating a bigger mess.) Pamela Barlow, an animal-behavior counselor at the ASPCA Adoption Center, offers more ideas for a tidier mealtime.
Create a slow-feed bowl by placing a tennis ball in the center of your dog’s dry-food dish. The ball will force the pet to eat around it. If you are looking for a new bowl, purchase one with a raised center -- it has the same effect.
Set a plastic place mat, tray, or old towel under your pet’s food bowl. When mealtime is over, simply dump the spillage into the trash and wash the tray or towel.
Ditch bowls altogether. A puzzle feeder, like the Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble ($14, petsafe.net), distributes dry food one kibble at a time to prevent a mess.
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How can I keep my cat and dog from fighting?
The answer: Tension between cats and dogs is instinctual. But with a slow and patient approach, a lasting truce is possible, says ASPCA animal behaviorist Sharon Wirant. The key: reintroducing your pets to each other in a calm, controlled setting.
Establish mealtime as a positive activity that they share. Start by feeding your cat on one side of a baby gate and your dog on the other side. They should be far apart but within view of each other. Gradually move their food bowls closer until both pets seem relaxed. Then remove the gate.
Reintroduce the pets to each other, room by room. With your dog on a leash, practice the "come" command in your cat’s presence. Make sure your cat can hide or escape at any time. Once both animals are comfortable in this scenario, remove the leash and practice the command. When they've mastered being with each other without fighting in the room, move on to another room and repeat the process.
Praise your pets for ignoring or appropriately interacting with each other. This works better than punishing them for negative behavior. Never leave your cat and dog alone together until they're fully acclimated to each other's presence.
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Is it safe to put my pet in a costume?
The answer: Yes, depending on the attire. "Costumes shouldn’t limit the animal's movement or sight, or its ability to breathe, eat, drink, or relieve itself," says Katherine Miller, a certified applied animal behaviorist at the ASPCA. Also avoid choking hazards, such as dangling beads. Ultimately, if your pet seems distressed, remove the costume right away -- no matter how cute it looks!
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I'm a first-time fish owner. Any tips for tank setup?
The answer: Arranging your tank properly ensures that your pet has a smooth transition to its new home. Follow these steps from Stephen Zawistowski, science advisor emeritus for the ASPCA:
Buy a 20-gallon tank. Not only will your fish have plenty of room to swim, but it’s easier to maintain healthy water conditions in a larger aquarium.
Fish like to hide and have a place to relax. Use plastic plants or other tank decor, such as a treasure chest, to add camouflage.
You'll need a filtration system to keep the water fresh and eliminate waste. Choose either an easy-to-clean filter that hangs on the tank’s side or an invisible version that hides under the gravel (but is admittedly a little more trouble to clean).
Fill the tank to one inch below the rim with tap water (65 degrees for goldfish; 78 for tropical fish). Most fish thrive in water with a pH of about seven -- neither acidic nor alkaline -- so test the pH with a kit and use a chemical neutralizer to adjust the level. (Both are available at pet stores.) Then let the water sit for a few days before introducing your new pet.