Leaving music on for your pet

A rescued rabbit feeds at The Bunny Bunch,

A rescued rabbit feeds at The Bunny Bunch, a rabbit shelter in Montclair, Calif. (July 26, 2010) (Credit: AP)

Q: We have a beautiful black-and-white Dutch rabbit. She has given us much joy. When we leave the house for eight hours, should we leave the radio on for her? Some people with dogs do that. --Jane McCabe, Rockville Centre

A: This question has no scientific answer. All I can offer is my opinion. Some animals respond to music. YouTube is full of birds dancing to a beat or a rhythm, and anyone who has seen a dog respond to organ music knows the dog realizes this is not a sound it normally hears. Bunnies can hear much better than dogs can, so I am sure your pet would appreciate hearing some type of music. Classical music seems to be what most animals respond to best. Even cows are said to be more relaxed when they hear it, so a classical music station would be better to use than a talk station, as the animals do not understand the words.

I also would advise you not to leave the music on for the bunny for the entire eight hours; as time goes by, it will become white noise to her. Best to hook the radio or tape player to a timer so the music goes on for an hour and then off for an hour or so. This will help keep her interested.

Q: I am curious about the behavior of our 11-year-old tuxedo cat Mr. Utley. Each morning after I sit down at the dining room table for breakfast and the morning paper, Mr. Utley insists on flopping down directly on my paper and refuses to move. I have experimented with placing other sections of the paper by the other chairs, but he only wants to sit on mine. He won't even sit on my wife's open paper. My wife insists he is marking me as his property. Your thoughts? --Michael J. Moonitz, Massapequa

A: I have no idea why cats do this. The exact same thing happens to me and has always happened to me my entire life: Every single time I open up a book or read a paper at a table some cat in my house will do his or her best to curl up on the paper in front of me. Even as a kid, when I was doing my homework, my cats would do it, and my papers would be turned in with cat hair ground into them.

I could be reading a little paperback and the cats will do their best to squeeze onto the open book. Cats mark their territory in more biological manners, so this is probably not the reason. All I can say is that it is well-known that many cats have paper fetishes.

Q: We are going on holiday and leaving our 2-year-old female poodle with my sister, whom the dog knows. Should we just up and leave? Or is it better to say goodbye to her and pet her just before we drop her at my sister's house? I will miss her, but I want to do whatever it takes to prevent her from feeling anxiety. --Helen Ryan, Garden City

A: When I was a little kid, none of the adults in my world ever felt the need to explain anything to me nor apologize to me for anything they did, and, quite frankly, life seemed much easier this way, as my simple little mind was quite content to just follow along and blindly accept whatever it was the trusted adults in my life decided for me.

Of course, things are different nowadays in our relationships with children -- but this is still the best way to deal with pets. There is never the need to explain what you do to them or why you do it. Pets accept such events the same way they accept changes in the weather.

If you are going to leave her at your sister's house, then just bring her there, sit down and spend a bit of time with your sister and then leave. The dog will be confused at first, but then will settle down. If you sit there petting the dog and telling her how much you will miss her, the dog will think something bad is going to happen and will feel anxious when you leave.

If you want to make things easier on the dog, then a week before your vacation, bring her to your sister's house and leave her for a few hours, then pick her up again with no fuss. The dog will quickly learn that this random event seems to happen in her life regularly and there is nothing at all to worry about. This makes all the difference in the world to an animal.

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