Millennium Post

Of love and dog bites

Of love and dog bites
My friend has a dog who has, after 4 years of being loving and well behaved, become short tempered, growly and has bitten the maid. He has also started urinating wherever he feels like. They are contemplating throwing him out or putting him to sleep.

Some of the saddest letters I get are from people who are throwing out, punishing or even contemplating ending the lives of formerly well-mannered pets with new behaviour problems. No, the animal is not badly behaved or vicious suddenly. He is simply unwell. The dog is sick. It's a medical problem, one that will be resolved only with proper diagnosis and treatment. To throw the dog out on the street or kill it would be the most evil act possible.

Can indoor cats really be happy? I want to keep my cat indoors but my friends tell me that cats are free spirits and need to go out and roam around.

If you were in a wilderness with no neighbours or cars, I would agree that the cat could be let out. But a free-roaming life can be dangerous for a cat. Cars, poison, mean neighbours, cat catchers that sell the fur for toys… the outside is a dangerous place – which is why there are so few cats in India. Indoor cats are statistically likely to outlive free-roaming cats by about a decade. The life of an indoor cat is relatively risk-free.

What are the odds that my child will get bitten by a stray dog? There are so many on the street. 
If there is sterilization being done in your area then the statistical chances of being bitten by a stray dog are less than 1%.

Many people imagine that the biggest threat to their child's safety is an attack by some vicious neighbourhood dog. These are so rare that when they happen they hit the newspapers. In actual fact children are bitten by dogs they know, animals belonging to family or friends.

We have three cats and have recently adopted a puppy from a shelter. She is lovely and we all love her but we are fed up with one habit. The problem is she eats cat faeces from the litter box .This is appalling and I have no idea what disease she can give my children. I punish her and sometimes hit her but she does it anyway. What should be done?

Cat Litter boxes are irresistible to many dogs: They're drawn to the undigested protein that remains in feline faeces. Faced with ready access, no dog can resist which is why efforts to train your pet haven't been successful. You need to restrict access:
Get covered litter boxes and see if your cats will use them. This might fix the problem. Change the litter box location to a place beyond the dog’s reach. Make any change slowly, so as not to discourage litter box use by your cat. Provide barriers. One way is to rig a door so it stays open wide enough for the cat but not for the dog. You can do this by putting hooks on the edge of a door and the door jamb, and then by putting a length of chain between them to allow the door to stay open wide enough for the cat, but not for the dog. Another possibility is to put a baby gate: The cat can jump over, but the dog cannot.

Are there any institutions which train dogs?

We should have an institution that trains children and dogs to exercise their minds and bodies together. Dog Shows are the most boring thing on earth because they simply show dogs for breeding. Someone in America has come up with the brilliant idea of Dog Scouts of America with all sorts of activities, training and merit badges for dogs. It even has a website which you can look at and start something of your own. The idea behind the site is that dogs don't get enough exercise and that doing things with your pet can be great fun for you both. Some countries have already taken this up. Perhaps you could start the idea in your own hometown.

We have dog shows in India. Why not Cat Shows?

Good idea. A cat show is an opportunity to see dozens of beautifully groomed cats. Start one. You can get it to pay for itself with entrance fees for exhibitors and tying up with shops that sell merchandise for cats. Just make sure it is not a breed show. All cats are beautiful. The Cat Fanciers' Association and The International Cat Association are the two most dominant organizations in the cat-show world.

I have just recently bought Macaws and the pet shop tells me that I should only feed the birds pre-made pellets?

You should not have bought the birds. It is extremely cruel to keep such large active birds in cages for the rest of their lives. Good quality pellets are a blend of foods, such as grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits and various protein sources. Manufacturers mix the ingredients and then either bake and crumble or shape them – ending up with pellets of a proper size for any given species. Some manufacturers cheat by putting sawdust, stale food and other bits of rubbish into the pellet.

If the pellets are good, they work to a certain extent in keeping the bird fed. And they are convenient. But remember, in the wild, birds eat fresh food. These pellets need to be complemented with a variety of vegetables, fruits, seeds and "people food," such as whole-grain bread and pasta.

I don’t want to be a vet but I do want to earn money working with animals.

There is a desperate shortage in India of animal trainers for pet animals. We are always looking for people whom we can recommend to owners that need their dogs calmed down or retrained. You should learn professionally and then perhaps teach as well so that you can start your own company of trainers.

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