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pick on someone your own kind
caring for, and about, your pets
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)

As a former farm girl, I have a real tender spot for animals. I like wet-nosed cows, silky soft foals and puffy bunnies. I adore mischievous ferrets, furry dogs with deep barks and playful cats.

If asked to choose sides, I’m more of a cat person. Dogs are loyal, sure, but cats don’t slobber. I love the way cats narrow their eyes at you, size you up, and then take over your lap like it’s a rent-controlled unit in Manhattan. I relate to their purring, pouncing, persnickety attitude, because once a cat accepts you, you’ve arrived.

Cats also understand the importance of a good nap.

If I could, I would live on a big country estate filled with all the animals I love. However, Karma, trixy wench that she is, sent me the perfect man to marry –-

–- who happens to be deathly allergic to most furry creatures.

It was a difficult decision, but dogs and cats don’t have unlimited earning potential. And yes, I hear that female dog Karma cackling over it. Nevertheless, I miss having an animal to snuggle. Oh sure, we could get a hypoallergenic terrier or a hairless kitty, but without a full guarantee my husband won’t break out in a bumpy rash and stop breathing, it’s just better to go without.

And more responsible. I had to give up an animal once –- I’d hate to do it again. At least I knew my darling cat Cleo was going to a loving home. Her new owner understood my situation (fiancé with evil allergies) and vowed to take good care of her. A week later, when I called to check on Cleo, the owner gushed over their already close bonding, confirming my finicky feline of five years was fine with her remodeled lap unit.

But I still long for kitty love, and worry about the abused and abandoned animals that once trusted their human companions. As a matter of fact, I’ve decided to strap on public service announcement stomping boots because unfortunately, responsibility and pet ownership do not often walk paw in paw. For example, every year, between six and eight million dogs and cats enter U.S. shelters. Some three to four million of these animals are euthanized because there aren't enough homes for them.

Three to four million animals killed, simply because no one cared to think in advance about what the animal needs.

But the beginning of life is just as terrifying for some animals. “Puppy farms” are mass breeding facilities at which the mother produces two to three litters a year, resulting in low quality of life, numerous health problems or even early death for the mother and offspring. Puppies are continuously caged in dank and dusty conditions and receive little human contact.

Lately, puppies have become the hot cash crop for Amish farmers in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Numerous investigations have been conducted on the care the animals receive in the hands of certain individuals who believe in “man’s God-granted dominion over animals.”

"Kitten season" is the time between spring and fall in which female cats go into heat. The hormones of a cat give new meaning to “call of the wild” for male cats within a three-county radius. One slip of an unaltered female can result in the birth of six to eight kittens.

If you thought one cat was demanding before…try caring for nine lives. Most people don’t. If not horribly killed, random birth cats turn feral and continue to breed.

Many believe that a pet is a perfect gift –- and it is -– but it’s also another life. About now is when that wiggly, furry holiday stocking stuffer has become another major responsibility of the household. Once a baby animal loses that “awwww, so cuuute!” factor, it's still hoping for a healthy, happy co-existence with us. So before you’re convinced you need to hear the pitter patter of fuzzy feet, consider the following:

-Examine the reasons you want a pet. This should be a no-brainer, right? But that’s the problem –- no brains involved in the decision-making process because of the aforementioned awwww factor. Animals give love unconditionally; can you say the same?

-Understand the lifespan of your pet. Dogs and cats –- maybe 10 or 15 years. But a parrot? On average, parrots live 70 years! So who inherits the parrot? The type of pet for you and your lifestyle is in direct correlation to the health and well being of the animal.

-Children will not take care of an animal unless they are taught to do so. Between soccer practice, piano lessons, Mommy and Me classes and their friends, kids barely have time to brush their teeth, much less walk the dog or clean the litter box. The pet ends up being another chore kids don’t want.

Better to first volunteer at your local shelter. For families, it teaches the value of volunteering and responsible pet ownership before bringing Snowball home. For busy individuals, it's a great way to have animal love without worrying if the Mastiff fits comfortably in a loft apartment.

Many shelters are in dire need of assistance with day-to-day care, foster families and people to take dogs to the park or to play with cats. Even families with busy schedules can find time to do a good deed. Then, if the children show genuine care for the animals, you’ll know they won’t just end up playing with the box the critter came in.

-Don’t buy animals online. Yes, there are many reputable Web sites that can direct you to legitimate breeders. But without going to the source, you don’t always know the living conditions of the animals. Arrange a visit with the breeder, especially if you can meet the parents of your prospective pet or, better yet, adopt a pet you’ve been getting to know at your local shelter.

-Spay or neuter your pet. Waiting for Cleo to finish her first heat cycle was horrific, because her eyes turned red and her head spun around and there were tomcats outside my screen door at 3 a.m. throwing dollar bills in her direction. But with a little catnip for her and a bottle of vodka for me, we made it through and she was spayed.

Cleo made me feel like Hitler after her surgery, and milked the guilt situation for all it was worth. I broke out the velvet cushions, the Pacific wild salmon, gave her balls of silk thread to play with. Flick. Swish. Yawn. Claw. For weeks, she tortured me.

But neither one of us had to worry about her taking a morning-after pill.

It’s not inhumane to spay or neuter your pet: it’s inhumane to allow unwanted animals into the world or let the animal have “just one litter” so your children can see the miracle of birth. Let the professional and ethical breeders take care of the birthing. You just take care of the loving.

The human spirit is greatly enhanced by animals of all kinds. More and more hospitals and senior centers have adopted furry and feathered friends to provide peace and love for inhabitants. Dogs open a door to independence for many people with disabilities and assist in search and rescue missions. Horses are used as gateway communication therapy for autistic children.

Cats sit atop the phone book for you and clean themselves. Hey, you know, it’s a start.

Demonstrate your humanity by caring for all creatures. Even if you can’t have a pet because you live with a mutant allergic freak, get involved in animal rights through organizations that really make a difference. Volunteer with a rescue mission. Don’t gamble on dog races. Provide extra foodstuffs for an animal shelter.

Remember, some believe dog is God spelled backwards, and who's to say otherwise?

source: The Humane Society of the United States


Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

more about tracey l. kelley


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published: 10.31.03

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by tracey l. kelley
topic: general
published: 5.28.12


lisa r
1.30.06 @ 12:50a

Excellent article, Tracey. Sorry Matt is allergic to all things furry, but it sounds like critters still have a champion in you even if you can't cuddle them anymore.

Folks, let me second Tracey's urging to spay and neuter your pets. Not only does it cut down on unwanted pregnancies, but it also has the added benefit of preventing some forms of cancer. Having lost 2 beloved cocker spaniels to lymphosarcoma, I can honestly say I wish that neutering or spaying would have prevented that particular evil. Unfortunately, it does not. However, rendering animals unable to reproduce DOES prevent reproductive cancers, so stop wincing at the thought of depriving your 4-legged children of sex and get them to the vet posthaste if you have not done so already.

Other advantages of spaying and neutering:

1) reduces the urge to roam.

2) reduce the urge to fight, especially male territorial behavior.

3) reduces territorial marking behavior--although having a male cat back up to an electrical outlet is also effective in this regard. Neutering, however, is more reliable in this regard than propitiously placed outlets.

And if those things and Tracey's words don't convince you...watch Animal Cops just once.

robert melos
1.30.06 @ 2:38a

I agree 100% with this column. I wish the human animal would think before reproducing as well.

I don't know about the reducing the urge to fight in male dogs. I was told this by th evet who "fixed" (I've never liked that term) my dog, and 6 years later he still is aggressive. It just may be his breed as well.

Another thing about knowing when you're ready to adopt is accepting the fact you may be more than ready to handle it all and still know in your heart you just don't want to do it again. I went 18 years between dogs.

lisa r
1.30.06 @ 11:53a

Robert--breed and individual personality does play a role in aggression. Some of that may simply be dominance behavior. Remember, dogs are pack animals by nature. So the need to fight to establish dominance hasn't been bred out of them despite 10,000 years of domestication.
Territorial fighting is reduced by neutering.

tracey kelley
1.30.06 @ 12:30p

Lisa needs to make the talk show circuit.

Seems I can still have a pet, even if it's not the furry/feathered kind:

Virtual Pets

However, even this can get a little strange. While in a mall during the holidays, a kiosk was selling slippers, mittens, hats...

...and stuffed animals that looked like they were breathing. Some little battery-operated pump inside the body made the stomach move up and down, and the stuffed animal was curled up like it was napping.

That's just wrong.


lucy lediaev
1.30.06 @ 12:35p

Great article. One other point I would emphasize:

Shelter animals can make wonderful family pets. Adopt from a shelter.

Mixed breed dogs and cats tend to have fewer health problems that are the result of in-breeding. I have never bought a cat. I have two cats (brother and sister) now who were given to me by someone with an unplanned litter. The cats are half Siamese and great companions (both were neutered as early as possible). Before that I had a Russian blue mix (from a friend's mother cat) and a darling calico from the shelter. They lived 21 and 19 years, respectively.

stacy smith
1.30.06 @ 12:42p

I love the humans that have issues with spaying and neutering. Those are the people that walk around stating "I refuse to have my dog neutered as it's torture!" or something even more ridiculous.

How about those guys out there that seem to feel that their pet will be less manly? Hello...these are animals although I can think of a list of human males that should also be neutered.

I live with 2 male cats. Both of them are neutered and they fight atleast once a day.

I have 4 dogs in my house. 2 are female, 2 are male. All of them are spayed or neutered and they still get on each others nerves.

Yes people should have their animals spayed and neutered to prevent unwanted litters, and prevent various forms of cancer, however it is not cure all for behavioral issues. A majority of bad habits amongst pets are really human problems.

Let Great Dane puppy sleep on the bed,when puppy grows up, he/she will want to continue to sleep on the bed despite weighing 200 pounds.

Let puppy chew on the cute, fuzzy stuffed toys at the pet store. The female human in the house gets pissed off because puppy chewed her fuzzy slippers.

Puppy doesn't care if they are slippers. All puppy knows is that they are fuzzy, just like the toy at the store which was considered acceptable to chew on.

Examples such as these go on for what seems like forever.

If you thought one cat was demanding before…try caring for nine lives.

I don't have 15 cats, but I do have 15 furry, feathery, or scaly lives to care for.


lisa r
1.30.06 @ 12:50p

Lisa needs to make the talk show circuit.

I don't know about that. An awful lot of talk show hosts aren't housebroken.


robert melos
1.30.06 @ 5:58p

Lisa, you're right about breed and personality. I have a chow with alpha dog issues. I personally believe in talking with my animal companion to get him through his issues. Yeah, it doesn't work. I used to say I got a dog so people wouldn't think I was talking to myself.

dan gonzalez
1.31.06 @ 12:02a

Demonstrate your humanity by caring for all creatures.

This is probably the best argument for this that I've ever seen. PETA errantly blurs the line between sentient and sapience to a point where they fallaciously argue animals are somehow equal and have the same rights. Baseless absolutism, destined to fail.

We have very many problems, some much worse than the suffering of animals, but they all seen to come down to inhumanity, so perhaps the remedies are not disparate?

robert melos
1.31.06 @ 12:46a

I don't exactly disagree with Dan, but I see it as we are all in the same lifeboat so to speak, and allowing the suffering of animals lessens our own humainty. Of course I like aminals more than most people, so given the choice I'll help the animal first and let the human being drown.

stacy smith
1.31.06 @ 8:33a

Why would you listen to the freaks from PETA anyway Dan?

They like to shoot/kill people, burn buildings down, make threats they cannot keep, indulge in tax fraud, spread bogus propaganda that has no actual facts behind it, ect...

Just because a person is an "animal person" does not mean they have some bizzare attachment to PETA. Hell, if I could find a way to make all of the disappear forever, I would.

No, animals are not equal to humans. However, pets should not be sold, adopted to, or handed over to the the people in this society (or any other for that matter) that are not capable of taking care of them.

Allowing a cat to have litter after litter of kittens for the sake of not wanting to deal with vet expenses is f-ing lame!! Part of being a pet owner is taking responsibility.

How about them dog owners out there that won't get a handle on their pets? The media loves to dig it's meat hooks into breeds like Put Bull's, Rotti's and German Shepards. Funny thing about it is they never actually look into what they owners have or have not been doing with the animal.

Most of these animals are being allowed to "rule the roost" and that's all fine with the owners. Problem is when somebody new comes in, (usually a child) they get their faces torn apart as the newbie doesn't understand the dogs rules.

How about them small breeds like a silky haired terriers as an example.

They are cute, however the human problems begin shortly after the dog enters the house.

The owners never let the dog walk around on the 4 legs it was born with. They don't teach the dog any manners, and feel as though their prized 4 pound pet can do nothing wrong. Even if the dog bites somebody, it's okay as it had to have been provoked. These are usually the same animals that have a fit over having their nails clipped. Why? Because they owners feel bad as Fido doesn't like his feet touched, so they don't don't. Too bad for Fido! He's a dog and will survive having his feet touched.

I have put my own life on the line in order to scrape somebodies dog off the street that was going to be left for dead. So yes, in a sense, I am all for animal rights, but not the kind that PETA throws out there.

Animals should live in an abuse free home. They should be fed atleast 2 meals a day and be provided with fresh water at all times.

Pets shouldn't have a suffer a miserable, long, drawn out death because the owners are too selfish to let go.

If an animal is not going to be bred, there is not reason why they should not be spayed or neutered.

People should spend just as much time doing research and learning about a new pet as they do about a new car or computer. Many animals die because asshole owner won't do their research and listen to the moron at the petstore.

Puppy Mills need to go out of business, just as much as the backyard


stacy smith
1.31.06 @ 8:34a


breeders. Unfortunately, the backyard breeders will not go away until dog breeding is consindered a occupation versus a hobby which is what is now.

I should write a book about this stuff...

stephen cook
1.31.06 @ 8:56a

Great job Tracey. I'm gonna go pet my cats now and give them a shrimpy treat!!

maigen thomas
1.31.06 @ 6:51p

I've been begging my fiance to get a cat. Adopting is what we know we'll do. However, he has to be the 'hard-ass' on this topic, since we're both still up in the air, job wise. When we hit our desired threshold of income for a couple of months, we'll know we're okay to support a pet. It's only fair to know that we can provide for their quality of life as well as ours.

That said, I can't wait for a kitty!

When I moved out of my apartment (and for a short time into my grandmother's house) last year, I found a loving home for my favourite pet ever - my ferret, Bingo. Two aides at a Veterinary office wanted him, and I couldn't say no. I know he's happy and healthy and making friends in their menagerie of an apartment.

But damn do I miss his antics.

tracey kelley
2.1.06 @ 2:44p

Ferrets! Cool! I think they're awesome. Could it do neat tricks?

We can't even have a ferret. sniff

tracey kelley
2.6.06 @ 4:47p

Okay, I'm a bad wife.

M read this column and said, "I'm sooorrry! It's not my fault! I'd love to have a dog!"

So I go to a friend's house the other day, and she says "Oh, the cat never goes to anyone. He's really..."

and stares as the cat jumps right in my lap. I told her they know I have no kitty love and thus, sympathize with me. My "kitty kitty" call can herd all cats within three city blocks.

lisa r
2.6.06 @ 5:30p


That happens to me all the time with animals, too. A friend of mine has a cat that has anti-social tendencies. I was at her house for Easter, and Lilly hopped up on the couch beside me. Being me, I naturally reatched up and started scratching under her chin and talking to her. The room went completely silent, then my friend's mother goes, "She NEVER lets anyone but my daughter and her husband do that!"

Same thing happens with dogs, horses, and children. Now if it would just happen with eligible men....

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