Printer Friendly

Picking the perfect pet; the search should begin only after you've decided on the best breed, sex, and age to suit your lifestyle.


For years cats and dogs have been running neck and neck in the race for pet popularity, but for the first time, cats appear to be ahead by a whisker. There are good reasons for this trend: The exercise and social requirements of cats are fewer than for dogs. Cats can be left alone in the house with a litter box, and most prefer a solitary lifestyle. Cats can thus the logical get choice for full-time workers or frequent travelers. But because logic often has little to do with pet preference, I recommend that those who prefer canine company make sure--before they get a dog--that they can supply the continual attention a dog craves. Some busy people I know should have selected a pet rock instead of a boisterous puppy.

When choosing a particular breed of dog, consider its exercise, space, training, and grooming requirements, as well as its watchdog potential, if need be. Many dog books describe different breeds' behavioral tendencies, including aggressiveness. Check your local library for books about breeds you are considering, and try to match breed "personality" to your lifestyle. (I don't wish to imply that you should consider only purebreds, for mixed-breed dogs and cats are often the best pets.) Is the animal destined to be the "only child" of a single workingman, the family pet of a household with small children, or the companion for a sedate, elderly couple? A dominant, aggressive animal might be desirable as a watchdog but entirely unsuitable for older people or small children. A vocal animal would obviously be undesirable for apartment dwellers.

Decide if a younger or an older animal would best fulfill your desires. Older animals may not be as cute as tiny puppies or kittens, but they give you the advantage of seeing just what you're getting in size, looks, and personality--and they are usually house-broken. (For a glimpse of what a puppy or a kitten will be like as an adult, study the mother, which it will probably resemble.) Consider, too, the differences between males and females: Males, generally larger and more aggressive, are more likely to compete with their owners for control, Unless altered, males tend to roam more than females.

After you have decided on the best breed, sex, and age for a pet, the real search begins. Most people select pets from humane societies, pet stores, or private owners. Humane societies do a laudable job of placing unwanted animals in new homes; be aware, however, that the more animals with which your prospective pet has come in contact at such a shelter, the more likely it will be to have infectious and parastic diseases.

If you buy an animal from a breeder or a pet store, ask for a money-back guarantee in case your new pet becomes sick or shows a serious temperament problem within the first 48 hours under your care. During this period, have your animal examined and its vaccinations brought up-to-date by a veterinarian. If you are considering a purebred animal of a breed susceptible to hip dysplasia, such as the German shepherd, ask to see papers certifying that neither parent had the condition.

When possible, the prospective pet owner should select a puppy or a kitten from a healthy litter that has been receiving adequate nutrition and medical care. Avoid adopting a dog or a cat raised as an orphan, because of the greater likelihood it will display undesirable emotional behavoir. The same recommendation applies to runts, which may have suffered from harassment by litter mates and from health problems.

It's best to take a puppy from the litter between its sixth and eighth weeks, the optimum time for socialization to other animals and people. If you want a new puppy to relate well to cats, introduce it to feline friends in a positive and nonthreatening manner during this period. The same principle applies to relationships with youngsters. If you are childless but you do anticipate having children, introduce the pet to your neighbors' children during this critical socialization period. Because cats have a similar socialization period, be sure to handle kittens during their fourth to eighth weeks if you want them to become companion pets.

When you take a new puppy or a kitten home in an automobile, have someone sit beside it. Pay no attention to any whining or meowing. At home, introduce the pet to its bed and its elimination place; don't isolate it on its first night in the new environment.

The first weeks at home are critical for behavior training. Use only positive reinforcement during this critical "fear imprint" stage in the pet's development. In particular, avoid physical punishment during house training, and try to use good timing.

Time will tell if you have made the right pet choice. Your odds are good, especially if you had the right motives to begin with. People who get a pet simply for status or for protection may find that a diamond ring or an alarm system would better suit their needs.

Questions for the Vet Dear Dr. Whiteley,

I have a ten-month-old spayed terrier named Daisy. I understand it is wise to have two dogs rather than one so they can play with each other while I'm at work. My neighbor's dog will have a litter of miniature poodles in about three weeks, and I am thinking of adopting a puppy. Should I select a male or Female? What can I do to make sure that Daisy is not jealous?
 Emily Morrison
 Vicksbury, Mississippi

Dear Emily,

Dogs are by nature social animals. You are wise to consider adopting a second pet.

Our animals pick up our "vibes" easily; make sure you accept the new puppy positively. If possible, take a few days off from work when the new puppy arrives and ensure that Daisy receives more, not less, attention at this time.

I think a female dog adapts faster to a male dog than to another female, and vice versa. And altered animals are more likely to get along well together. A final point to consider: Dogs naturally form dominant-subordinate roles. Often the original pet is the dominant dog, although the new pet may obtain the dominant position in time. You should reinforce the established dominant-subordinate roles rather than stick up for the underdog. Teach both dogs basic obedience commands.


Dear Dr. Whiteley,

I am the proud "mother" of a delightful male Siamese cat named Fonzie and a mixed collie dog. I recently brought home a female calico cat I found wandering around the neighborhood. My dog accepts the new cat well, but Fonzie seems terribly disturbed and has even started spraying urine in the utility room, where I keep his litter box. What can I do to remedy this problem? I am too attached to the new cat to just throw her out.
 Mary Lou Blatten
 Charles City, Iowa

Dear Mary Lou,

You are to be commended for your compassion. Obviously, Fonzie is experiencing an emotional upheaval with the new cat. I hope the spraying will be temporary, until he adjusts to the new cat. Because urine spraying usually has a territorial and sexual origin, altering both cats may alleviate the problem.


Dear Dr. Whiteley,

I have a six-month-old kitten and a parakeet. Do you think I should get another cat to keep Toby, my kitten, from getting lonely?
 Robert Harris
 Alexandria, Louisiana

Dear Robert,

Most cats tend to be solitary animals. Unlike dogs, they do not need the companionship of their species. Of course, there are exceptions. If you decide to adopt another cat, I would recommend one of Toby's sex, for the urine spraying described above seems more frequent in households with cats of different sexes.


Dear Dr. Whiteley,

I am blessed to own a blue-and-white parakeet who obviously is one of the few with a large vocabulary. And I do mean large. As Pepe sits on my head or my shoulder as I prepare for work, he runs through part of his extensive repertoire--for about a minute without stopping. It goes something like:

"I've gotta go to work but I'll be back. . .I just love you. . .you're so precious, precious. . .I'm going to the store, I'm gonna wash the car . . . gonna get the mail. . .gonna wash the mail (or the store). . .where's my kiss. . .where's my Pepe. . .where's my dinner. . .gotta find my shoes, gonna put on my shoes. . .let's call Aunt Jackie. . .Aunt Jackie's coming on Saturday. . .here's your little tub. . .hello, bird. . .you're my precious darling. . .you're my little spoiled darling. . .I love you little tub. . .Nanner said gimmer kiss. . .where's my shoes. . . ."

Sometimes the only thing he says when he light on my shoulder is "I just love you, yes I do," which really breaks me up!

Two associations: When I let him out of his cage in the mornings, he flies to his favoriet spot on the kitchen counter, saying "Where's your little tub" or "Here's your little tub" as I bring out of hiding three or four birdbath tubs, a toy truck, etc. He soon picks at all of them until they land on the floor. Pepe then waits until I pick them up and line them back up on the counter so he can push them off again.

The other association is he usually only says "peekaboo" when he lights on my head and peers down on my glasses. Interesting combination: I said, "See you later, alligator"; Pepe's rendition: "See you ralligator." He has never said, "Please let me out" (of the cage), though I've said it dozens of times.

Pepe was purchased from the San Bar Pet Shop, Costa Mesa, California, in November 1982, while quite young. In the spring his cattering included a few words. As I told him what I was going to do, he picked up so much of it, with my inflections, and he also giggles and laughs like me.

Pepe is absolutely delightful. God surely meant for him to belong to me, at a time when I needed a special pet.

A client of mine read somewhere that some people's voices can be more easily heard and imitated by parakeets.
 Rene Smith
 Newport Beach, California

P.S. Pepe picked up the first and last digits of my phone number; on occasion he pipes up: "Six three." Dear Rene,

Pepe does indeed sound delightful. Parakeets would make great Christmas presents, wouldn't they?


Dear Dr. White:

Can you please give me any advice on my year-and-a-half-old dog? He gets so carsick every time we take him in the car. He loves to go, but before we go a mile he is slobbering and frothing something awful and cries; sometimes he vomits. Since we travel often, this really makes it difficult.

Any help will certainly be appreciated. He is a happy, healthy dog--part German shepherd and part Doberman.

 Mrs. Albert W. Crumb
 Colorado Springs, Colorado

Dear Mrs. Crumb,

Do not feed or water your dog just before taking him in the car. If the trip is long and you must give him water en route, pack ice cubes for him to lick at rest stops.

Your veterinarian may prescribe a mild tranquilizer to be given 30 to 60 minutes before departure. Antimotion drugs sold over the counter for people have been utilized for dogs, also.

COPYRIGHT 1986 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Whiteley, H. Ellen
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Dec 1, 1986
Previous Article:Subliminal shopping.
Next Article:Dr. Heimlich: the man behind the maneuver.

Related Articles
Experts Urge Smart Pet Selection During Dalmatian Mania PEDIGREE SELECTADOG Now Available on the Internet to Help Potential Pet Owners Choose Ideal...
Man's best friend and his worst pal; YOUR GUIDE TO PICKING THE PERFECT POOCH.
'The pet man' who had a liking for cruelty.
BSPCA'S Pet of the Week.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters