Cold Cat Equals Unhappy Cat: How to Keep Your Kitty Safe and Warm All Winter Long

Cold Cat Equals Unhappy Cat: How to Keep Your Kitty Safe and Warm All Winter Long

Anyone who loves and lives with a cat knows that felines are heat-seekers. If there’s a warm spot to be found, your cat will find it, whether it’s a sun-puddle, a windowsill, or a fresh pile of laundry straight from the dryer. Cats are creatures of comfort, and the most comfortable cat is a warm cat. Here are some tips to make sure your cat enjoys a balmy winter.

Q. Should I let my cat go outdoors in the winter?
A. No! In fact, the best way to make sure your cat is safe and comfortable any time of year is to keep him inside. It’s as simple as that. With proper care, attention, and stimulation, an indoor cat will enjoy the best of all possible lives — all nine of them — in the safety and warmth of the great indoors.

At North Shore Animal League America, we don’t adopt cats to people who intend to allow them outside. For their own safety and for the sake of the environment, cats belong indoors with people who are willing to put the time and energy into making them active, safe, and happy members of the family.

Q. I’ve read that cats need more food in the winter. But I don’t want my cat to gain weight!
A. You’re right to be concerned. Feline obesity is a serious health concern. However, indoor cats whose habits are steady from season to season don’t need more food in the winter. A cat might crave food out of boredom — who doesn’t? The best response is to play with your cat, not feed him. You’ll both find the experience immensely entertaining.

That being said, studies have shown that cold weather can increase the appetites of both indoor and outdoor cats, even though the indoor variety lives in temperature-controlled environments. It appears that less natural light and more cold weather stimulate the appetites of all cats. Nevertheless, your cat is an individual. So check with your vet to find out how to maintain your cat’s optimum weight and health in any season. And remember, a balanced, quality diet will produce a healthy, thick coat…all the better to keep him warm.

Q. My cat stays indoors. Do I still have to microchip her? Does it hurt? What if she gets out?
A. Microchipping is absolutely painless and can save you and your cat from disaster. Just imagine that despite your best efforts, your cat scoots out a door during the cold winter months. A microchip will go a long way toward helping her return home.

As soon as you realize what’s happened, walk slowly and calmly around the perimeter of your house calling her name. Frightened cats usually stay close to the warmth and protection of the house, rather than bolting into the open. They also look for sheltered hiding spots, like under the porch or deck, in an open shed, or in a garage.

Next, put food outside to lure kitty home, as well as clean water. Make sure the food and water don’t freeze. Create a safe, warm, temporary shelter on your porch or nestled close to your house in case your cat returns when you’re not there to welcome her home. Or if you think your cat might “fall for it,” bait a humane trap with her favorite food.

And be sure to follow commonsense steps to locate your missing cat. Begin by notifying your neighbors and ask them to check their garages and porches. Make and hang posters everywhere and contact local shelters, rescue groups, and veterinarians. All posters should feature a photo and accurate description of your cat.

Q. I’m trying to save on heating bills this winter, but my cat seems uncomfortable. What can I do to help him without turning up the thermostat?
A. First, create a few warm nooks so your cat can enjoy a variety of comfy places. If your cat has a special windowsill, make sure it’s draft-free. If your cat loves his cat bed, keep it off the floor in the winter. Floors get cold, which is why you wear slippers and socks.

Check out the many products available to help your cat cope with winter weather, including heating pads. Some are electric, others are microwaveable, and still others are thermal pads that use the cat’s own body heat to reflect warmth. Whatever you choose, be sure to use pads designed for pets — and take care to follow directions. Many pads are activated by the pet’s weight and will heat only to a safe temperature to avoid burns. Heating pads are also a great comfort to senior cats who are dealing with stiff joints and arthritis.

Be careful when it comes to fireplaces and space heaters. Flying sparks from a fireplace can hurt your cat, so remember to use a fire screen and keep your cat at a safe distance. As for space heaters, don’t leave your cat unattended in a room with a space heater. One jump could topple the heater and possibly start a fire.

Cats with breathing problems like asthma should never be exposed to irritants like fireplace smoke or wood burning stoves.

Q. I heard that cats shed only in the spring and fall. Does that mean I don’t have to brush my cat in the winter?
A. The fact is, indoor cats shed all year long, with the heaviest periods being the spring and fall. That means year-round brushing is in order to help your cat keep his coat healthy and thick. Shedding is your cat’s way of removing dead fur and stimulating new growth. Gentle, daily brushing not only removes loose hair, it also keeps skin healthy. As a bonus, more brushing means less hair on your clothes and in your vacuum.

If your cat has long hair, it’s crucial to remove hair mats so kitty can grow a warm, protective coat.

Q. Should I take special precautions in my house to protect kitty during the winter?
A. Yes, and most of them apply to every season. For example, if you have a basement or an attached garage that you allow your cat to explore, be careful to store antifreeze, batteries, deicers, cleaning products, and other chemicals securely out of reach. Even a tiny amount of these substances can kill your cat. Call your veterinarian immediately if you think kitty has ingested anything that might be toxic.

For us humans, winter means catching colds and getting the flu, so be judicious about putting your medications safely away. Everything from decongestants and aspirin to Advil and Tylenol can cause seizures and death in your cat. Prescription medications are equally hazardous, so keep that medicine cabinet door closed tight. What’s good for you is probably deadly for your cat.

Houseplants can also pose a serious threat to cats. Very often, when we bring our plants in for the winter, we’re unwittingly exposing our cats to potential poisoning. The list of poisonous plants is long and includes everything from the amaryllis to the peace lily to the tulip. Find out if any of your houseplants or floral arrangements are dangerous and, if so, give them to someone who doesn’t have a pet.

Finally, though it’s not deadly, winter’s dry indoor air can be uncomfortable for both you and your cat. A humidifier will help everyone breathe more easily and also keep skin from drying out. Besides, neither you nor your kitty enjoys the surprise of a caress charged with static electricity. (Some people recommend wiping your cat with fabric softener sheets to eliminate this problem. But veterinarians say “no!” The chemicals in those sheets put cats at risk each time they groom themselves and ingest the toxins.)

Q. I want to put my cat’s litter box in the basement or the garage. Is this okay?
A. You’re not alone in wanting to keep the litter box out of sight, but basements and garages are cold, dank places, especially in the winter — and cats don’t like anything that’s cold and dank. So try to locate the litter box in and out-of-the way spot that’s convenient for you and inviting to your cat. If you make using the litter box an unpleasant experience for your cat, you might have to deal with some unwanted “outside-the-box” behavior in the future. In addition, cats don’t like sleeping in cold, damp places. So treat your cat like a member of the family, and that’s what she’ll become!

Q. I feel sorry for the strays in my neighborhood. Is there anything I can do to help?
A. It’s heartbreaking to see a cat suffering outside on a frigid winter night. You’re right to be concerned. There are a few simple things you can do. First of all, just because you’re a conscientious cat person doesn’t mean your neighbors are. So remember, strays or cats left to roam in winter will seek spots away from the wind and cold. Very often they climb into warm car engines to escape the harsh weather. If you have strays or roamers in your neighborhood, be sure to check around your car, honk the horn, and bang your hand on the hood a few times before starting the engine.

You might also want to leave out food and water in heated bowls for the local cats. If you decide to become more involved with caring for ferals and strays, check with your local shelters or vets. Most communities support nonprofit trap/neuter/release (TNR) programs that would love to have you as a volunteer.

And remember, they’re worth it. The companionship of a cat is one of life’s great joys. Nothing sooths the nerves or centers the soul like the sound of a contented, purring cat. The great French writer and artist Jean Cocteau adored cats, summing up their power in this lovely quote: “I love cats because I love my home, and after a while they become its visible soul.” Keeping your cat warm and happy is surely the least you can do in exchange for such a gift.


Fourth of July Pet Safety Tips

Fourth of July Pet Safety Tips

This holiday weekend is a time of celebration, lounging, fun and fireworks with friends, families and also our four legged friends.  While our friends and families may enjoy the BBQ food, beverages and the fireworks these things can be harmful to our furry family members. To make sure your pets’ holiday weekend is as fun and safe as possible, North Shore Animal League America would like to share some important July 4th Pet Safety Tips:

July 4th Pet Safety Tips

Never take your pets to a firework display or use fireworks around them!

  • Firework displays can be great fun, but not for your pets. The loud noises and bright lights can terrify an animal. Even the best-behaved dog may react with fear and try to flee from the scene.
  • Exposure to lit fireworks can possibly result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws.
  • Many fireworks contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.

Give your pets a safe and quiet retreat.

  • If your pet gets spooked by the Fourth of July festivities, it’s important that they have a safe and quiet place to relax. Whether you can secure a room of the house or blanketed crate, they should have someplace to retreat to.
  • Draw the curtains to block out the lightshow, and try putting the TV or radio on at a low volume as a distraction or as company for them if you go out.
  • Make sure to KEEP THEM INSIDE for their own protection.

Monitor what your pet eats and drink. 

  • If you are entertaining guests, make sure to let them know not to feed your pets party food or beverages of any kind. Many foods are harmful to pets, and your guests might not be aware of this.
  •  It is also hard to monitor how much your pets are eating in a social setting.
  • Alcoholic beverages can be poison to pets. If ingested, your pet can become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed or could go into a coma.  Also any change in diet can give your pets severe indigestion and diarrhea.

Make sure your pet is identifiable.

  • In the instance that your pet runs off, it’s imperative to make sure their collar is on with their identification tags.
  • Secure the collar so that your pet can’t squeeze out of it. You should be able to fit two fingers underneath the collar so that it’s roomy enough for comfort and snug enough for safety.

Watch out for Independence Day debris. Matches, lighter fluid, citronella candles, insect repellants, and oil products should all be kept out of reach. 

  • Certain types of matches contact chlorates, which could cause your pet harm by potentially damaging blood cells which can result in difficulty breathing.
  • Lighter fluids, citronella candles, insect repellants, and oil products can be irritating to your pets skin and if ingested can cause gastrointestinal irritation and central nervous system depression. If inhaled the lighter fluid can cause aspiration pneumonia and breathing problems.
  • When you let your pets our or take them for walks the day after, remember that the streets and your yard are likely to be littered with fireworks debris. These may seem like tasty treats or fun things to nibble on to your pets. Make sure to clean up before letting your companions out to rummage through it.

Give Your Pet a Spring Tune-Up

Give Your Pet a Spring Tune-Up

Spring is here and it’s a perfect time to think about the benefits of a “Spring Tune-Up” for your pet. Here are some tips from our experts on how to get your pet ready for all the wonderful things this season has to offer.

Vaccinations: Pet owners who spend time outdoors with their best friends should make certain they are up-to-date with all vaccinations, as well as be protected with flea, tick and heartworm treatments. Commit to a regular veterinary check-up for your pet and create a log that tracks treatment and vaccination dates.

Identification: Think “safety” and check that your pet’s identification tags are updated with your accurate phone numbers and/or email information and securely fastened. Perhaps get a new collar, after all even pets love updating their spring wardrobe. For optimum peace of mind, consider microchipping your pet as a way of permanently ensuring that if you and your best friend are separated, he or she can be returned to you.

Dental Exam: Dental hygiene is another effective “Spring Tune-Up” tool, so have your pets’ teeth checked and cleaned by a vet. Plaque, gum disease and decay are known to lead to other ailments, thus, having a clean, well-maintained mouth can add years to your pets’ lives.

Grooming: Schedule a professional grooming that includes a bath, haircut if needed, and nail trimming. Often, a groomer can spot a skin condition or growth that might be missed during a routine veterinary exam.

Weight: Did your pet put on a few pounds over the winter? A little weight gain can be normal over the colder months, but knowing your pet’s proper body weight is key. Check with your vet to see if a special diet is in order. As warmer weather approaches outdoor exercise can aid in controlling a dog’s body weight. For felines, monitoring their food intake can make a healthy difference, plus some extra indoor play is never a bad idea.

And most importantly, at any time of the year, resolve to spay/neuter your pets. It not only controls the overpopulation of unwanted pets, but it’s best for the overall health of your pet. For more information on affordable spay/neuter services in your area, visit SpayUSA.org.


Cold Weather Tips to Protect Your Pet

Cold Weather Tips to Protect Your Pet

Dogs and cats can withstand cooler weather when certain conditions are met. Some breeds are even known to develop heavier coats for colder climates. There are however, some breeds that are not equipped to handle drastic changes in temperatures. Pet owners need to use common sense in order to protect their pets during colder seasons. If you and your pet enjoy the winter months and wish to spend time out of doors, the following information can help you protect your pet from the cold.

ALL PETS NEED TO BE INSIDE IN WINTER. Never leave your pet outside for extended periods of time in the cold, even in a doghouse. When the temperature drops, your pet can get frostbite or even freeze to death. *If you notice a pet being locked outside in the winter, be sure to report it to your local law enforcement and humane officers.

Walks should be brief in frigid weather (25 degrees or less), time out side should be limited to the absolute necessities.

  • Large breed and longhaired dogs that are well acclimated may need or wish to spend more time outside. Dog kennels provide temporary shelter, but prolonged periods of extreme cold are still unwise.
  • Small breeds, thin dogs, shaved or short coated dogs are especially vulnerable to the cold. They should wear a sweater or coat outside and shouldn’t be outside unattended or for too long.
  • Animals under the age of four months cannot regulate body temperature well and will need to be kept indoors.
  • Dogs with thin ear tips may also become frost bitten, resulting in the tips of the ears potentially falling off. Be mindful of the time they spend outdoors.
    veterinary team.

Be sure to wipe your dog’s feet (and stomach in small dogs) after a winter walk. Rock salt or other ice melting chemicals can cling to your pet’s fur and they can ingest these harmful chemicals when cleaning themselves.

Check your dog’s paw pads for ice balls. If your dog is lifting his feet a lot or seems to be walking strangely, his feet are probably too cold or ice may be forming which can cause frostbite.

Keep your pet groomed. Believe it or not, knotted or matted hair doesn’t insulate properly. Brush your dog’s hair regularly in the wintertime.

Antifreeze is poisonous to your pets. Make sure to wipe up any spills and keep these and other harmful chemicals out of your pet’s reach or path.

Feral and stray cats often take winter refuge under cars and can sometimes even make their way under the hoods. Make sure the coast is clear before starting your car by tapping on the hood and sides to give felines a chance to get away.

Keep an eye on your pet’s water dish to ensure it doesn’t freeze.

Pets should not be left in the car. Most people know not to leave their pets in a car in the summer, but the same goes for the winter. A car interior can get as cold as an ice box and a pet can easily freeze.

Adjust your pet’s diet as necessary. If your dog spends a lot of time outside, he may need more calories in the winter to produce body heat. If your dog spends most of his time indoors and has a decrease in activity, he may require fewer calories. When in doubt, always ask your vet about seasonal diet changes.

If, despite these precautions your pet suffers from exposure to the cold, wrap them up in a blanket and go to your veterinarian as soon as possible. DO NOT immerse your pet in warm water and avoid heating pads that may cause thermal burns.


Protecting Your Dog from Heartworm

Protecting Your Dog from Heartworm

Puppy mill rescues highlight the importance of preventative measures for this common (but potentially fatal) parasite.

Puppy mills are notorious for their inhumane conditions, housing dogs in tiny wire cages and providing them with little if any medical care.

As a result, the dogs that we rescue from these mills often have various medical issues, with dental disease, eye and ear infections, and skin disease among the most common. One such mill rescue had an especially high number of dogs with heartworms—a potentially deadly parasite that can be easily transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito.

One of these dogs was Dakota, an adorable Pomeranian. Dakota, about five years old, had lived his entire life in a puppy mill, used as a “stud” to impregnate female breeding dogs. As with most mill dogs, Dakota had likely never had any medical treatment—even such basic care as heartworm preventative, a simple and inexpensive monthly pill regimen that protects dogs from heartworm disease.

Upon examining Dakota, staff veterinarians at our Alex Lewyt Veterinary Medical Center discovered that he had one of the worst cases of heartworm disease they had ever seen. The entire area around his heart, lungs and major arteries was infested by heartworms, making it difficult for Dakota to breathe and putting his life at risk.

“Once a dog gets heartworm disease, it can be difficult to treat, painful for the pet, and extremely costly—if it works at all,” explains Dr. Megan McGlinn, Technical Services Veterinarian with Merial, makers of Heartgard Plus. “Yet research shows that only 15 percent of dogs that are regular veterinary patients receive 12 doses of heartworm preventative per year, and 64 percent of dogs receive no heartworm preventative at all.”

That’s a big mistake. It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito for a dog to contract heartworm disease (cats can catch the disease, but it is far less common and typically more mild).

Despite conventional wisdom, the risk of heartworm infection is in all 50 states and is year-round in many locations, even in Northern states, according to Dr. McGlinn. Current industry guidelines from veterinary medical organizations such as the American Animal Hospital Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Heartworm Society, and the Companion Animal Parasite Council call for 12 monthly doses of heartworm preventative and annual testing for heartworms.

Dakota’s case was so severe that he required surgery by a veterinary cardiologist to manually remove the heartworms. He also had secondary changes to the size of his heart due to the disease, which could impact his health in the future.

Unfortunately, Dakota required additional treatment in the form of three injections, given over a period of one month, to kill the remaining adult worms that were not removable during his surgery. For any dog—and especially one that was as severely affected as Dakota—each stage of treatment is risky and could result in a fatal reaction to the dying worms.

The sad fact is, none of this ever had to happen. “Dakota’s disease could have been easily prevented,” says staff veterinarian, Dr. Christina Buchter, “An inexpensive once-monthly chewable tablet is all that’s needed to protect your dog from heartworm disease.”

The price of the preventative pill is minimal compared with the expense, discomfort and danger of treating the actual disease, she adds. “Treating heartworm disease can not only be difficult, as illustrated by Dakota’s case, but can also be expensive—potentially more expensive than a lifetime supply of heartworm prevention,” says Dr. Buchter.

Luckily, Dakota had North Shore Animal League America to help him get a second chance. But his story drives home a crucial point for all dog owners: Safeguarding your precious animal from this dreadful disease is simple—and it’s an absolute must!

To learn more about the medical services available at North Shore Animal League America’s Pet Health Center. To find our more about heartworm prevention, visit www.heartgard.us.merial.com.


The Pet Trade

The Pet Trade

Breeders, pet shops, and puppy mills fuel the companion animal overpopulation crisis by bringing more animals into a world that is already bursting at the seams with unwanted ones. Every newborn puppy or kitten means that there is one home fewer for a dog or cat awaiting adoption in an animal shelter or roaming the streets.

The pet trade treats animals as mere moneymaking commodities to mass produce and peddle for profit. Animals are routinely denied socialization, exercise, and even basic veterinary care in this cruel, money-hungry industry. Worst of all, the pet trade encourages the public to view animals as impulse purchases no different from fashion accessories that are acquired on a whim and discarded when the novelty wears off—rather than thinking, feeling beings who deserve love and respect.

Breeders run the gamut from “professionals” who continuously produce “pedigree” puppies and kittens in hopes of winning show titles and making money off the animal’s offspring to “backyard breeders” who mate their animals indiscriminately to make a quick buck by selling puppies or kittens.

In addition to contributing to animal homelessness and suffering, many breeders endanger animals’ health by breeding dogs who are related to each other, which can cause life-threatening genetic defects, and manipulating animals’ genetics for specific physical features, such as “pushed-in” noses (which can cause serious breathing difficulties and discomfort) and unnaturally long spinal columns (which can cause disc disease and severe back problems).

Puppy mills, which supply the majority of pet shops with puppies, treat dogs like breeding machines. Mother dogs are kept in tiny cages and hutches and are bred over and over again until they can no longer produce puppies. Then they are usually auctioned off to the highest bidder or killed, without ever getting to experience a kind word, a gentle touch, or simple pleasures like the sun on their backs and grass under their feet.

PETA’s undercover investigation at Nielsen Farms, a puppy mill in Kansas, revealed that the dogs had no bedding or protection from the cold or heat; they were suffering from untreated wounds, ear infections, and abscessed feet; and some mother dogs had gone mad from confinement and loneliness. Oprah Winfrey’s puppy mill investigation revealed similarly dire conditions.

Every year, people succumb to the temptation to purchase “exotic” animals like hedgehogs, macaws, lizards, and monkeys—even tigers and bears—from stores, auctions, or the Internet to keep them as “pets.” But often, life in captivity rapidly leads to pain and death for these animals, who can easily suffer from malnutrition, an unnatural and uncomfortable environment, loneliness, and the overwhelming stress of confinement. The exotic animal trade is also deadly for animals we don’t see: For every animal who makes it to the store or the auction, countless others die along the way.

Pet shops acquire most of the puppies they sell from puppy mills. The puppies are typically taken from their mothers at an early age, packed into crates, and trucked for days or flown hundreds of miles to dealers and then to pet stores, often without adequate food, water, or ventilation. Pet shops sell animals to anyone who can pay, often sending animals home with unprepared, incompetent, or even abusive guardians. This, combined with the fact that puppies and kittens from pet stores are notoriously difficult to socialize and train because they have been deprived of regular, loving human contact, means that many animals who are purchased from pet stores are later relinquished to animal shelters when people grow tired of them.


Why Adopt? Adoption vs. Pet Store

Why Adopt? Adoption vs. Pet Store

When you Adopt, you find your New Best Friend and you Save a Life.

Tragically, 4,000,000-5,000,000 animals are destroyed each year in the U.S.  That’s a shocking and little-known statistic.

As the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization, we continuously take animals out of harm’s way—whether it’s rescuing them from other shelters where they would be destroyed; pulling them out of national emergency areas, saving them from the perils of puppy mills and so many other places where they would be abused or euthanized.

Adopt a Dog or Cat!

Please enter your ZIP to find a pet nearest you.

Search for a Dog
Search for a Cat

What’s a Mutt-i-gree®?

Adoptable animals are often mixed breed pets, animals that we call Mutt-i-grees®, and when it comes time to obtain a pet, unique, healthy shelter animals are an amazing choice.

Say NO to Pet Stores

We’re able to save almost 20,000 animals each year because caring people like you say NO to buying puppies and kittens from pet stores, and open their hearts and home to a remarkable shelter pet.

Adoptable animals are often mixed breed pets that we call Mutt-i-grees®, and when it comes time to obtain a pet, these special, unique, and healthy shelter animals are an amazing choice.

What’s so bad about a Puppy Mill?

When someone buys a puppy or kitten from a pet store, they’re unknowingly supporting Puppy Mills, which are large-scale breeding operations that put profit ahead of animal welfare. Female breeding dogs are forced to produce litter after litter until they can no longer breed—at which point they risk destruction.  Many puppy mills dogs have never been out of their cages, have never felt grass under their feet—never been hugged in a way that makes them know that they’re cared for. By saying NO to a pet store pet, you’re saying NO to animal cruelty.


Puppy Mills

Puppy Mills

Puppy mills are a well-kept secret of the pet-trade industry. They supply animals to pet stores and purebred enthusiasts without any concern for the millions of animals who will die in animal shelters as a result. It’s standard practice for puppy mills to keep animals in cramped, crude, and filthy conditions without proper veterinary care or socialization.

Puppy-mill kennels can consist of anything from small cages made of wood and wire mesh to tractor-trailer cabs or simply chains attached to trees, where mother dogs and puppies spend every day outdoors in the same small patch of dirt in all types of weather.

Female dogs are bred over and over until they can no longer produce puppies—at which point they are auctioned off or killed. Mothers and their litters often suffer from malnutrition, exposure, and a lack of adequate veterinary care.

Undercover investigations of puppy mills have revealed that dogs often had no bedding or protection from the cold or heat and no regular veterinary care even when they were ill. Health conditions such as crusty, oozing eyes, raging ear infections, mange that turned their skin into a mass of red scabs, and abscessed feet from the unforgiving wire floors all were ignored or inadequately treated. Investigators have observed dogs circling frantically in their small cages and pacing ceaselessly back and forth, oblivious to anything around them—their only way of coping with despair.

Since puppy mills breed dogs for quantity, not quality, genetic defects are rampant. These can include physical problems that require costly veterinary treatment as well as personality disorders that often frustrate guardians into abandoning their dogs.

With millions of unwanted dogs and cats (including purebreds) dying every year in animal shelters, there is simply no reason for animals to be bred and sold for the pet-shop trade. Without these stores, the financial incentive for puppy mills would disappear, and the suffering of these dogs would end.

You can help. It’s as easy as ABC—Animal Birth Control. Always have your animal companions spayed or neutered and never buy from a breeder or pet shop.


Pet Shops

Pet Shops

Pet shops treat puppies, kittens, birds, hamsters, mice, rabbits, and other animals as if they were fashion accessories and sell them to anyone who plunks down a credit card. Selling animals denies homes to homeless and unwanted animals who await adoption in animal shelters.

Most animals sold in pet stores come from mass-breeding facilities called puppy mills, where they are denied socialization, exercise, and veterinary care. The puppies are typically taken from their mothers at an early age, packed into crates, and trucked or flown hundreds of miles to brokers and then to pet stores, often without adequate food, water, or ventilation. Some puppies don’t survive the grueling journey.

Conditions at many pet stores are inadequate at best; at worst, they are outright abusive. Puppies are often kept in wire-bottomed cages; small animals such as mice, hamsters, gerbils, and rats are often crammed en masse into small, filthy, crowded cages; fish who were meant to swim freely in their ocean, lake, or river homes are reduced to circling the same few cubic inches of water in tanks that are often dirty and crowded; and exotic birds are typically kept in tiny cages, which prevents them from satisfying their natural needs to fly and socialize with others of their own species.

Deprived of regular, loving human contact, puppies and kittens bought at pet stores are notoriously difficult to socialize and train. Compounded by the fact that, unlike good animal shelters, most pet stores don’t bother to screen potential animal adopters, this means that many animals who are purchased on a whim by unprepared people end up at animal shelters.

You can help. It’s as easy as ABC—Animal Birth Control. Always have your animal companions spayed or neutered, and never buy from a breeder or pet shop.


Small pet stores see healthy growth of organic food sales

Small pet stores see healthy growth of organic food sales

Sales of premium-priced organic and natural pet food are expected to grow three times as fast as pet food sales overall through 2015.


Organic, raw and even gluten-free food choices aren’t just for people anymore.

These options are showing up at local pet shops that are looking to distinguish themselves from big-box competitors. After a slowdown in sales of premium-priced food during the recession, independent pet shops said the sector was recovering.

At the Modern Dog, a boutique in a Venice bungalow, co-owner Lance Castro was looking to add two new brands of freeze-dried raw food and premium kibble to the seven he already sells.

“It’s done wonders for our business,” said Castro, who opened the Abbot Kinney Boulevard store with Guy Miracle five years ago.

The store’s popular Sojos dehydrated dog food mix of sweet potatoes, turkey, apples and flax meal, among other ingredients, costs $21.99 for a 2-pound bag, to which water is added to make 10 pounds of food.

Castro said he was looking at sites for a second location where he plans to have a refrigeration unit for fresh and frozen raw-food brands.

Nationwide, annual retail sales of organic and natural pet food are expected to grow three times as fast as pet food sales overall through 2015, according to an industry report to be released this week by the Packaged Facts market research company.

Industry analyst David Lummis, who wrote the report, estimated that natural and organics would grow 12% a year on average, hitting $2.8 billion in 2015. By comparison, he expects an average 4% annual growth rate for the entire pet food market over the same period. Overall pet food sales will reach $22.1 billion in 2015, Lummis said.

“People are treating their dog food like some people are treating their baby food,” said Todd Martin, vice president of marketing for Castor & Pollux Pet Works, a Clackamas, Ore., company that makes organic pet food and treats. “They want to know it’s safe, and they want to know it’s quality.”

Still, organic pet food — which costs as much as 30% more than non-organic — remains a tiny part of the overall market.

Many independent shops, which are in the vanguard of the organic food sector, got a boost in business in 2007 when pets died from eating food that contained imported wheat gluten and rice protein contaminated with melamine. The poisonous contaminant even showed up in some brands sold as being natural.

As with food for people, there are no regulations governing the word “natural” on pet food labels. But pet foods marketed as organic must meet the same U.S. Department of Agriculture standards as human food in the category, according to USDA spokesperson Soo Kim.

Annual sales of organic pet food increased tenfold from 2002 to 2009, when sales hit $84 million, according to the Organic Trade Assn.

Now that organics are becoming more popular, some large pet store chains are also carrying them, said Joan Storms, an analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

But the more exotic raw and organic pet food is still mostly the province of independent shops.

Neal Massa is co-owner of My Pet Naturally in West Los Angeles, where customers can find raw elk meat for $7.49 a pound and raw chicken and lamb for Fido for about $4 a pound.

“My clientele are probably mostly single, more single women than not, and what I am finding is that these are their kids,” Massa said, referring to his customers’ pets. “So you are going to spend a little bit more money for pet food.”