All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Puppy and Kitten Trouble

Dear Marie,
Shortly before Christmas, we decided to adopt two pets, a kitten for my twelve-year-old daughter and a puppy for my 10-year-old son. We wanted to get a kitten and a puppy to make sure that the two would get along and that was actually a good call. They get along great and they don’t seem to know that they are the least bit different from each other, which is funny because the puppy is a German Shepherd mix and is huge! But that doesn’t stop them from playing together and snuggling together. It’s adorable. But here’s the problem. They are constantly getting into trouble. They run up and down the hall and into all the rooms while they are playing and things get knocked over and broken. Individually, the kitten is climbing and scratching all the furniture and curtains. The puppy is gnawing on everything and anything. It’s getting to be a financial burden at this point. The kitten is even chewing things! Last week he chewed right through my husband’s phone charger cable. I don’t know how things got so out of control, but my kids can’t seem to manage their pets and I am at my wit’s end. Please help us.

Dear Jan,
I can hear your frustration loud and clear and I am happy you are asking for help. Many people in your shoes would just give up their pets so it’s good to know that you are looking for a way to fix the problem without taking such drastic measures.

Now let’s get to the problem. Puppies and kittens are blank slates. They don’t know any rules but are very smart and able to learn - and it’s never too early to teach good manners. However, it does take a lot of time and a lot of patience.

First, enroll your puppy in basic obedience. Keep in mind that the class is more for you and your kids than it is for your pet. You will all learn how to be consistent with the rules and that’s what your puppy (and your kitten) need. Practice everything you learn in class at your home. Everyone in the family should work with both pets as often as possible.

Of course, you won’t be teaching your kitten to do the traditional dog routine, but you can train your young cat to play on a scratching post instead of your curtains and sofas. And this is accomplished by everyone in the family taking some time to play with him at designated cat-friendly area(s).

Remember, young cats and dogs need to chew on things. Give them both something acceptable to satisfy this basic need. Demanding that they don’t chew at all is not realistic. So redirect them to something appropriate. Chew toys are great for this. And if you have certain personal items that seem irresistible to your pets (phone charging cables, expensive shoes, etc.), it might be a good idea to keep those items in places your pets can’t get to.

Cats need to drag their claws across suitable surfaces. In addition to scratching posts, you can place disposable scratchers in most of your rooms. These are small, inexpensive items that are available at most pet supply stores and if you get the kind scented with catnip, your kitty will happily use them instead of your home’s furnishings.

Puppies and kittens have lots of energy. But it comes in bursts. If you notice that your pets want to play, that’s a good time to stop what you are doing to play with them. Find an area that’s safe for rough and tumble activities. Take your dog outside for games involving running and chasing. Have someone stay indoors with your kitten. That person should use a feather toy or something similar to engage the little feline. Take turns. Everyone should play with all the animals at various times. You’ll probably notice patterns to when your pets want to play. This will work to your advantage and you can get your pets into a routine that you can count on.

Like all babies, energy bursts don’t last very long and soon your little guys are going to want to nap or rest. As they mature, they’ll require less playtime though that doesn’t mean you should cut it out completely. Keep your pets active throughout their lives for excellent physical and mental health; but enjoy the quiet time that will come with your pets’ maturity.

Believe it or not, kittenhood and puppyhood don’t last too long and if you begin training now, you’ll have some pretty well-behaved pets in no time. Just hang in there and remember: consistency is the key to success.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hawks in the City

Q. I was wondering if you could post an article on hawks in Garden
Grove. I am worried about people letting out little dogs and cats that
could get eaten. There is a hawk right outside my house now looking
for food, and I never knew hawks would be around a residential area.
Plus, he got real close to my back patio looking at my bird. I think
he wants to eat him. I think it is very important to be aware so
people can protect their pets. Everyone I spoke to around here did not
know there were hawks, and these are people who have lived here for 55

A. You might be surprised to read this, but hawks (and owls, kestrels,
falcons, turkey vultures and eagles) have lived happily in all of the
residential cities of Orange County for as long as the cities have
existed, and long before that, too.

Often, you'll notice a lot of these beautiful raptors as you drive
along the freeways. They enjoy sitting at the tops of tall light posts
where they can observe the surrounding area in search of small rodents
and birds. They can also be spotted when they are bullied by flocks of
crows and other birds who don't appreciate having a predator in their
midst. These scuffles are usually very noisy; so when you hear some
noisy birds in the air, look up and most likely you'll see a hawk
getting ganged up on by a smaller, very brave birds.

Red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, Cooper's hawks and American
kestrels are some of the more common predator birds in the area. If
you're really lucky, you might see a beautiful Osprey in the spring,
when they sometimes nest in coastal parts of Orange County. Turkey
vultures, though not predators, can be spotted soaring in the skies.
Their long, two-toned wingspan is noticeable as they glide in big
circles, searching for roadkill. Golden eagles, which are often
confused with hawks, are rare in the cities, but are still seen on
occasion. If you'd like to get a good look at a golden eagle, your
best bet is to take a trip into the foothill areas of Orange County.
They are a majestic and beautiful sight to behold.

Large owls and hawks can indeed carry away small cats and dogs. This
is yet another reason why cats should be kept as indoor pets and dogs
should not be left alone in back yards all day and night.

Owners of pet birds should ensure that their feathered companions are
placed in fully enclosed aviaries when allowed to enjoy the outdoors.
Not only does this protect them from predator birds, but it also keeps
them safe from neighborhood cats and wild birds that could be infected
with parasites or diseases.

Hawks and other birds of prey are important to the ecosystem. They do
an amazing job keeping rodent populations under control, which in an
urban setting is really helpful. They rarely have an interest in dogs
and cats; however, this isn't an issue if pet owners make sure that
their pets are maintained responsibly.

Sadly, most of our local birds of prey seem to be having a tough time.
Ornithologists who have been studying local species have noticed a
steady decline in their numbers. Though there is a lot of speculation
as to why this is happening; drought and loss of habitat because of
wildfires and human activity are likely the main causes.

One species, the Cooper's hawk, seems to be adapting to all of the
changes – and thriving. This particular species has figured out how to
live well in the urban setting, and its population is growing. I
wouldn't be surprised if the hawks you've noticed in Garden Grove are
Cooper's hawks. From late September to March, Cooper's hawks from "out
of town" fly to the county because of the mild climate, so the species
becomes even more noticeable.

If you'd like to learn more about local birds, I would recommend
getting your hands on a field guide with color pictures and a pair of
binoculars. Once you spend some time watching these creatures, you'll
realize they are great and interesting neighbors to have.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Finders Keepers Does NOT Apply

I work in a very animal-friendly office. We don’t have an official bring-your-pet-to-work policy, but my coworkers occasionally do bring in their little four-legged friends from time to time and everyone loves those visits. A week rarely passes by when something animal related doesn’t come up. Last week was no exception. An office mate forwarded an email about a little found dog that needed a home right away because the nice person who rescued the dog from the streets could not keep it.

This was the second “found dog” in a relatively short amount of time that my friends at work wanted to assist in placing into a new home. I am thrilled they are all so happy to help an animal in need; but as good as these intentions are, they are also unlawful.

It might be hard to believe, but no one is allowed to keep a pet they find roaming, even if it is not wearing a collar or tag—and pretty much everyone I know has kept a found pet at some point in their life. The reason for not keeping a found animal is because every pet must be assumed to have a home somewhere and every effort should be made to return it to its owner.

Last year, through a series of mishaps, an acquaintance of mine lost her little poodle. He had been a therapy dog and visited children’s hospitals regularly; he was loved by a lot of people. Unfortunately, he was not wearing a collar and tag. For months, his owner checked every animal shelter and rescue in California on a daily basis. She also hired a pet detective agency. A number of witnesses saw the dog at a local school yard and observed a man putting the dog into his car. Nearly a year later, the dog is still missing and was never turned over to a shelter. Someone clearly assumed that since the dog had no identification, it needed a home. That assumption led to heartache.

Even if it seems like a dog or cat couldn’t possibly have a home somewhere, it must be turned over to the animal shelter that has jurisdiction over the area where the pet was found. I remember an occasion many years ago when I found a matted, filthy, starving, injured dog roaming the streets of Lake Forest. I brought him to the County Shelter where he received veterinary care and was reunited with his elderly owner who was overwhelmed with emotion to have her beloved dog back. He had been missing for several months after escaping when workers left a door open where he lived.

Anyway...back to my current story...The latest email that circulated at my office described the dog as a purebred—healthy, young, and sweet. Here's the thing: A sweet dog is generally a loved dog, which means someone, somewhere was out looking for him. It’s just not right to deny its owners the opportunity to get their dog back.

I know it’s not easy to turn a dog over to a shelter. But it’s the best possible outcome. Animals in shelters receive all needed veterinary care, are scanned for microchips, and checked for any other identification. If an owner cannot be located and the dog is a purebred, it can be transferred to a breed rescue organization that will find a good home for the pet; or placed in a home by the shelter itself. Further, by going to a shelter first, it will be spayed or neutered, will receive all needed vaccinations, and at most shelters, will also receive a microchip.

Shelters also offer some type of “hold” system that allows the person who turns in a found pet to adopt that animal in the event no owner can be located. This is actually a great deal because when one considers the cost for spaying or neutering, licensing, vaccinating, microchipping, and other vet care, the adoption fees are going to be far less than the grand total of those items if paid for outside of the shelter system.

This advice does not just hold true for dogs and cats. All pet animals that are found “stray” should be turned over to a shelter. That means rabbits, snakes, iguanas, exotic birds, etc. The “Finders-Keepers” rule didn’t work in Kindergarten and it doesn’t work now.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dog Eats Inappropriate Items

Dear Marie,
Our 10 month old Labrador retriever, Rocky, just spent a very expensive week at the vet’s which included major surgery. We are bringing him home today and he is doing fine but I don’t want a repeat of this incident. Here’s what’s been going on. He has always eaten inappropriate stuff. He has taken charred wood out of our fireplace and chomped it down. He eats plastic items. He’s even eaten part of our carpet. But this time, the thing that landed him in the hospital was rocks! I can almost understand the other stuff…but rocks? I can handle the fact that he’s ruined some of our things. They are just things. But he is our dog and we love him. Next time, he can eat something that kills him, especially if we don’t catch it on time. Please help us figure this out.
Rancho Santa Margarita

Dear Celeste,
Rocky’s inappropriate eating behavior is not unusual, but he has definitely taken it to an extreme with his latest menu items. And as you have pointed out, this can be life-threatening.

Being a young dog, Rocky is still in his teething phase, so it is possible that he was chewing rocks to satisfy his teething urge. It is very important that he has plenty of sturdy, well-made chew toys in every room of the house and outside in your yard. The reason for having multiple toys everywhere is that he’s not going to think about where he left his one and only plaything and will pick whatever is close when the chewing urge strikes.

I am sure Rocky is a huge dog and seems like an adult. But he is, and will be a puppy for at least another year. This means he needs constant supervision or he is going to get into trouble. Needless to say, no one can watch their pets 24-7. However, you can make sure he is in a safe environment when you can’t be around.

I have advocated the use of crates for many behavior issues, and this is a perfect example of where a crate comes in handy. Contrary to popular opinion, crates are a place of comfort and security for dogs. They just need to be used appropriately. For Rocky, make sure you get a crate that is big enough for him to stand up and turn around in easily. Put his dog bed inside (unless he eats dog beds!) and give him a fun toy once he enters his crate. Praise him when he goes in and make the whole experience positive.

As soon as you are able to watch him again, let him out. You don’t want him to be in a crate for hours on end. It should only be used when he cannot be directly supervised.

Make at least one room in your house “puppy-proofed.” This could serve as his safe space for when you go to work or have to be away for long periods of time. But keep in mind that boredom may be the underlying reason for Rocky’s odd eating habits. You might want to look into a doggy day-care if you are gone long hours each day. If you have a friend or neighbor who already knows and loves Rocky, you can even see if that person wouldn’t mind being a dog-sitter.

Did your veterinarian discuss pica disorder with you? That is the scientific term that basically describes the craving and eating of things that are not food. Sometimes it is triggered by dietary imbalances. I’m sure your vet ran a number of blood diagnostic tests before your dog’s surgery and those results would have indicated if there were any underlying conditions that may be responsible for this disorder.

In any case, schedule a follow-up visit with your vet. Talk about diet and behavior modification. There are some new prescriptive medications for dogs that may be very helpful in treating this disorder if your veterinarian believes behavioral medication is necessary. Hopefully, this is just puppy chewing behavior that can be monitored and directed until he grows out of it. Best wishes.