Articles about Cats & Kittens

Who Has Your Vote? – 10 Presidential Pet Facts

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Bo, President's Obama's dog, sitting in front of the White HouseThe most powerful leader in the free world has many responsibilities. The President of the United States tends to many tasks: writing policy and discussing legislation, signing bills into law, and working with other nations for the benefit of both countries’ people. Most presidents and their families also take on the added responsibility of housing and caring for animals. Many of the pets were companions and farm animals from the president’s previous residence. So let’s take a look at some of the unique critters and happenings with animals in the White House.

  • John Quincy Adams received a pet alligator from a French friend! The gator lived in the East Room bathroom, but two months later Adams returned the gift. This was not the last White House resident to have such a reptile, as Herbert Hoover’s son had two alligators!
  • America’s 7th president, Andrew Jackson, had a parrot named Poll, who had a penchant for expletives. When Jackson died in office, the parrot had to be removed from the funeral, because he wouldn’t stop swearing.
  • In 1863, Tad Lincoln became friends with the turkey intended for Thanksgiving meal. He begged his father, and Abraham Lincoln pardoned Jack the Turkey from that fate. He lived the rest of his days on the White House grounds.
  • Andrew Johnson had a tough time during his impeachment proceedings in 1868. He befriended mice in his bedroom during this time, and he fed them biscuits.
  • Rutherford Hayes had the first Siamese cat in the United States; she was named Siam.
  • James A. Garfield had a dog named Veto. Though Garfield never vetoed a bill in office, as he was there for only four months before he was assassinated.
  • Teddy Roosevelt was a larger-than-life man, and he kept pets in the same manner. Over 40 pets were in the White House during his term. Some of the notable ones are a macaw parrot, a pony, a one-legged rooster, guinea pigs, and bears!
  • Dogs are by far a popular pet choice. 31 of the 44 presidents had canines, and all presidents since 1989 have had a dog in the White House.
  • John F. Kennedy was the first president to have hamsters in the White House. Their names were Debbie and Billie.
  • Gerald Ford took his rescue dog Liberty out for a late night bathroom break. He forgot to tell the Secret Service, and they were locked out of the White House. President Ford banged on a stairwell door until some of the staff heard and let them back in.

Fact or Myth? Animal Tales of Halloween

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Tarantula standing exposing fangsCandy, costumes, and mischief are normal fare for the Halloween season, a holiday enjoyed by young and old alike. The holiday’s history is traced back to Europe more than two millennium ago, and mythicism and perceptions of animals are woven into the holiday. Let’s take a look at what is accurate, and what is myth.

Black cats get a bad rap on Halloween because they were once believed to be witches’ subordinates, who protected their master’s dark powers. It is also believed that witches can morph into cats to move through the night. In the Americas if a black cat crosses your path, it is bad luck. In England and Ireland, it’s bad luck if a white cat crosses your path.

Frogs and toads have long been blamed for warts on humans. Again this is a myth, as warts in humans are passed by a virus. This is not to say touching a frog is always safe. Some species of frogs secret a poison from their skin when they are threatened. This will be irritating to a person, especially if the poison is rubbed in the eyes or gets in a scratch. Be careful, as some frog poison is so potent, that paralysis and even death can occur!

Some myths do not have a negative nature. Spiders and their webs are a de facto sign of any haunted house. If you see a spider on Halloween, it is said to be the spirit of a loved one watching over you. Did you know the tarantula does not make a typical web? They do produce silk, but they use the silk to line the floors and walls of their borrows, alerting the spider of any guests.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Cat Myths Busted – Purfect Performances on Stage!

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Cat walking on top of red ballOur cat companions have many reputations. They are amazing pets, who can’t find enough time in the day to sleep. They enjoy a cuddle or play, and their independent actions don’t lend themselves for games or learning tricks. That last stereotype is not the case in Russia. This region has a long tradition of cats safely trained to perform fun and amazing tricks for the amusement of all ages.

The Creative Director of the Moscow Cat Theatre, Vladimir, trains all the cats as he’s done for over 30 years. He teaches them amazing feats of feline tightrope walking, ball walking, and even performances for tickling your funny bone. His daughter Maria is following in Vladimir’s footsteps, and is excited to do so. “I’ve been learning from him ever since I was a child. I was born into a circus family so this is very natural. I still have a lot to learn. I am the student and he is the Master. I want to do what I love. And that is the Circus.”

With all these years of training, Vladimir doesn’t have a perfect cat in mind for training. If the cat has a desire to please and is lively, those are good traits for performance. Sometimes Vladimir relies on his feline companions to develop a trick!

Want your cat to listen to commands and perform tricks? Check out our blog on Training Your Cat or Kitten and get started!

The Last Kid on the Block—
You have chosen. . . wisely

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

The Knudsens celebrate their choice of pet.

Honestly? I like when I’m right. Not in a prove-other-people-wrong kind of way, but rather a plan-has-come-to-fruition kind of way.

About this time last year, we were entertaining our son’s request for a pet fish. Much hemming and hawing ensued, and in December we welcomed four tropical fish into our home.

We’d lose three fish before our tank completely cycled, and introduce our son to loss in a way he hadn’t experienced before—for better or for worse. We would go on to add 10 more fish with great success, save for one sickly tetra, and find our groove as pet owners.

I’ll admit we thought we were ready to take on a bigger tank this past summer, but then that whirlwind called “the school year” began again, and our family became engrossed in all of its associated activities. Even our son hasn’t asked about a larger tank in weeks.

For now, I think our 10-gallon community is perfect for us: the kids appreciate the fish, and love to watch their antics at feeding time. My husband and I enjoy them, and strive to keep them happy and healthy (both the kids and the fish!). As an added bonus, I manage to make time for the minutes of maintenance each week, with help from my son.

A happy status quo is where being right comes in—we’ve actually managed to make decent (but hardly perfect) decisions. It’s a good place to be. I feel for friends—and their pets—who are less than happy with their choices. And I like to think we did something right, in addition to being lucky.

This is where we end our initial journey to become pet owners, and if we haven’t already, shift to the journey of pet ownership. I’m not sure whether we’ll pick up more fish along the way, nor am I sure how long we’ll keep pets. But I’m certainly better for having had the experience, and I know my family is, too.

“The Last Kid on the Block” has been a series following the Knudsen family’s progress selecting and caring for their first pets. Andrea Knudsen lives in suburban Chicago with her husband and two children.

The Last Kid on the Block—
Food safety for the entire family

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Feeding your pets has become a little safer with the adoption of the PETNet system.

Feeding my family is a big deal. We eat a vegetarian diet and make natural, organic food a priority. But for all my effort, I still worry about the safety of our food. Vegetables are susceptible to E. coli, too!

While there have long been national resources to protect humans, a 2007 melamine contamination of cat and dog foods was a tragic example of how powerless pet owners were. Within a month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration received several thousand reports of cat and dog deaths from renal failure after eating contaminated food.

Companies began to voluntarily recall their products, but in a self-regulated industry, there was no way for owners to ensure their pets’ food was safe.

We didn’t have pets at the time, but we watched helplessly as friends lost their beloved cat. The media reported they weren’t alone, but deaths continued. It felt like a crime.

Four years have passed, and earlier this month, the U.S. government’s Partnership for Food Protection and FDA announced the launch of the Pet Event Tracking Network, or PETNet (clever, eh?).

The network will allow the FDA and Federal and State agencies to exchange information about pet-food related incidents. The result is a real-time means of sharing critical information about pet-food contamination or other defects. The hope is that many fewer pets will die before a problem is identified.

While PETNet is working in your favor, you can be proactive as a pet owner. The Humane Society posts a listing of recent recalls. If you find your pet has consumed a recalled product, call your vet—even if your pet isn’t exhibiting symptoms.

You also can protect your pets by cleaning their food dishes between meals, and water dishes every day or two.

We have fish, who we feed tropical fish flakes. Unfortunately, if the flakes were contaminated, I doubt their little bodies could survive poisoning. But it’s good to know that if a problem arises, a system is in place to help before it becomes a national or global problem.

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If you’ve been following our adoption of 11 fish, I don’t have much news to report. All are healthy and happy, but our new tank acquisition has stalled. Hopefully we’ll get our act together and I’ll have something exciting to share soon!

“The Last Kid on the Block” is a continuing series following the Knudsen family’s progress selecting and caring for their first pets. Andrea Knudsen lives in suburban Chicago with her husband and two children.