Q Why is it when you go into a pet store, you can find lots of items relating to dogs, but very little relating to cats? I'm not talking about food, but items that keep them active. My cats find most cat toys boring. They love a small ball that really bounces but usually lose them. The more I throw them, though, the faster they wear themselves out and seem to enjoy life. It would be nice to keep them away from the soft stuff like toilet paper. What's on the market that keeps a cat's interest, and that I don't have to necessarily take part in?
— Denny, Tucson, Arizona
A Even though cats are the most popular pets in the United States, they have always had to play second fiddle to dogs when it comes to pet products. But that's changing, and while you may not find everything that's produced for cats on store shelves, you can find lots of products and toys for them online.
If you want to keep a cat's interest when you are not around, step up their game by searching online for puzzle or interactive cat toys. Just like with dogs, cats need to be mentally stimulated and physically active to stay healthy and happy, and these types of toys engage them on many levels and result in long-lasting play. For example, there are mazes and circuit tracks in various shapes (circular, S-shaped and stacked tracks) where a cat can push around a loose ball that stays inside the toy, which keeps the ball from rolling under the sofa.
There are puzzle games with increasing levels of difficulty, depending on your cat's aptitude, where he or she can try to retrieve a treat or remove a ball or toy from an opening inside the toy. Kong makes several circular toys for cats that have lights and sounds and roll across the floor while cats bat balls circling tracks or fishing with their paws for treats to eat. Also, look for toys that have built-in feather teasers. A cat can hardly walk by a feather teaser without giving it a smack.
You also will find automatic rotating laser lights with multiple patterns, multiple speeds and 360-degree play so your cat can swat the laser light materializing on your floors and walls.
So, check out these options online and see if you can find something your cat will approve. Of course, cats love cardboard boxes, too, so you could simply put one of those bouncy balls in a box so your felines can chase it around the bottom.
Q Wouldn't it be better on a dog's neck to use a harness versus a collar when walking your dog? I realize some dogs may not need one because they are good walkers. I saw one gentleman jerking on his dog's regular collar. It seems like it's a no-brainer to switch to a harness.
— John, Las Vegas, Nevada
A Yes, it would be better, since yanking on the leash/collar may cause undue pressure and damage to a dog's windpipe — not to mention the stress on your shoulder from the dog yanking on the leash.
But what type of harness you select depends on the breed of the dog and the extent of the problem during the walk. If a dog is a good walker, a regular collar works great. If a dog is a decent walker but pulls only occasionally, then a Martindale collar (limited cinch collar) or a harness along with additional training to learn how to heel will improve the walk.
However, if a dog constantly yanks with these collars or regular harness, then opt for a "no-pull harness." These harnesses offer better control of dogs and keep them from jumping or pulling during the walk. There are a lot of no-pull harnesses on the market, so read about them, check reviews and decide which one would work best for your dog. A no-pull harness also is the best option for a short-nosed dog, like a pug, or a dog with respiratory issues.
Another option is a head collar, which fits over the dog's head and snout area, resembling a horse halter, and which allows for easier control of your dog. Your dog may paw at these collars at first and require some supplemental training to accept.
While all these harnesses and collars are intended to make walking your dog easier, combining them with reward-based training ensures your dog learns how to walk well on a leash.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.