Q: We just got a bearded dragon for our son, and it is a great pet, as my son is allergic to any pet with fur. The dragon seems as interactive as any guinea pig or rabbit. However, we have issues with how hot to keep his tank. Every website about bearded dragons seems to have a different recommended temperature. Even with the heat bulbs that came with the setup, we cannot seem to get the temperature in the tank as high as some of the websites recommend. When we replaced the 100-watt heat bulbs with 150-watt bulbs, the lizard seemed very uncomfortable. So we put back the 100-watt ones. He seems much happier and is eating well and is active. Can you tell me the correct thing to do in this case? --Billy Wagner, Farmingdale
A: If the 100-watt heat bulbs keep your pet comfortable and he is eating well and digesting his food, then that temperature is just right for him. By observing your pet's behavior and adjusting his environment to make him more comfortable, you did the correct thing.
A: Neutering the dog will remove his instinct to lift his leg and mark his territory, but it will take a while for all the testosterone to leave his system. Since he has marked those spots in your house for such a long period of time, it may now have become a habit. So it is your job after he has been neutered to prevent his access to those areas using gates and blockades so he can't get to them for a few months. Eventually, he will forget that he ever marked those spots, and he will lose the desire to do so.
Q: In a recent column, a lady wrote that backyard birds were being killed by a cat, even though the cat's owner put a bell on it. We allow our cat outdoors, and we have a small cowbell on her collar. She does not seem to catch any birds at all. Most cat collars have smaller jingle bells that make less noise on them. Perhaps that is the reason why the bell did not work on that particular cat. --Shari Rosenthal, Hewlett
A: The situation with a bell on a hunting cat is not that cut-and-dried. Perhaps your cat is just not as good a hunter or as motivated as the other reader's cat. Plus, birds do not have the powers of observational learning, so they can't really figure out that a bell ringing in the bushes means a cat will momentarily attack. A bird's world is full of bells, sirens and car alarms. Suburban birds are pretty much desensitized to such sounds, so it would take quite a number of experiences of being stalked by a belled cat for a bird to figure out that a ringing bell means danger. And it is rare that the bird gets stalked by a hunting cat more than one time before getting caught. Although your cat seems to be fine with the cowbell on her collar, I know cats that would not be. The bell could get caught on a branch or some other object, causing all sorts of drama for the cat.
Keeping cats indoors is really the best way; both the cats and birds live longer and more uneventful lives.