Backyard Bird Watching

You don’t have to hike through the fields and woods to enjoy bird-watching. Most of my bird-watching is through my home office window. I have taken a variety of photos of many different kinds of birds through my window. The secret is to provide an inviting habitat for the birds.


Bird feeders are a must. I use tube and platform feeders. Some birds like to ground feed and they will go to the platform feeders. It is not hard to make your own platform feeder. Nail wooden sides together and put a fine screen mesh for the bottom. This will allow drainage if it rains or snows. Attach four wires near each corner and use a hook such as a carabiner to hang the feeder. I hang my feeder from a garden shepherds hook. It does not have to be fancy, the birds don’t care.


The tube feeders that I use are the only truly squirrel proof ones that I have found. They are made by Brome, last forever and the birds love them. What is neat about Brome is that you can subscribe to their site for free. They offer contests and random drawings for a bird feeder as well as a lot of information. I have three Brome feeders for my birds. I use Black Oil sunflower seeds in the tube feeders and a mix for the platform feeder.


Next provide a heated bird bath in the winter and a non-heated one for the summer. Water is just as important for birds as food, especially in the winter when it can be hard for them to find water to drink. I have found that a heated bird bath with the heating element built into it is best. The ones that you place at the bottom of a bird bath short out if the water level drops. Even though the kind I use cost more, my birdbath is over 10 years old and still works well.


I also provide a suet feeder for the Woodpeckers. I buy suet from the local butcher in the winter. You can cut the suet into pieces and freeze them. In the summer and also in the winter I use pre-made suet cakes. A variety of birds like to eat the suet.

What is also very important is to place your feeders in an environment where the birds feel safe. Feeders placed under or near trees and bushes will attract more birds then ones placed in the open. If you have the room, plant flowers and trees that provide food for the birds as well. I have a collection of butterfly and hummingbird plants. In the summer to late fall I also put out a hummingbird feeder.

Another way to keep birds coming back generation after generation is to provide nesting areas for them. Bird houses are great and the lint from your dryer placed in bushes or a suet feeder gives the birds plenty of nesting material. It is fun in the early spring when it is time to clean out the bird houses to see how much of your nesting material they have used. Some people put short pieces of yarn out for the birds.


With a little effort you can enjoy the wide variety of birds that migrate through your area in the spring and fall as well as those who stay all year around.

Cat Aggression Toward Humans

Cats, like humans and other animals have a wide variety of personalities. Some cats are very cuddly with their owners and other people, while some cats are aloof and do not care to be touched.

Often the cats that are aloof were not handled and socialized as kittens which could contribute to this type of behavior. Therefore the best thing a person can do is to handle and socialize their kittens to prevent problems later in life.


The most critical time to handle kittens is between five and twelve weeks of age. This is the age where it is optimal to get your cat used to grooming, nail trimming, teeth cleaning and any other handling needs you have or anticipate. This includes learning to ride quietly in a vehicle and different modes of travel. Walking on a leash and harness and feeling comfortable in a carrier. Since cats do not like change, this type of handling should be done on a regular basis, ideally once a week if not more often for the rest of the cat’s life.

Do not encourage kittens to pounce or claw your hands or any part of your body. Redirect this behavior toward toys that are acceptable. This way your kitten will learn that humans are not playthings to be bitten or scratched.

In the event that a person adopts an older cat, or did not socialize their kitten and the adult cat starts to exhibit aggressive behavior, there is still hope.

If the cat has been adopted it is best to leave the cat alone for a few months. The cat has no idea why he was re-homed and has not had a chance to bond with his new family. Be there for the cat but let the cat make all of the advances. Talk soothingly to the cat but avoid handling, petting, or any other physical contact. Do play with the cat but let the cat set the rules. If you try and force handling at this point you can start a pattern of aggressive or fearful behavior in your cat.

To avoid being bitten or scratched it is important to recognize the warning signs of aggression in cats. If the cat is frightened they will often crouch, ears are back against their head, their tail may be curled inward toward the body and their body tilts away from the object that they are afraid of. Often their eyes will be dilated and they will hiss, show their teeth and raise the hair on their back and tail. If the cat changes his body position to a forward stance, he is likely to move forward to attack.

If the older cat is not socialized, the first thing to do is to establish a play routine so that the cat can learn how to interact with a person in an acceptable fun manner. When you find the toy or object that the cat likes to play with (my cat loves to chase and attack belts that are snaked along the floor) you can do this a few times a day. This will allow your cat to associate having fun during human interaction.

When the cat is calm and contented, start scratching gently around the ears and under the chin. Do this for very short periods at first. If the cat does not like your hand going near his face, try using a soft bristle brush and gently rub under the cat’s chin. As the cat becomes used to being touched and enjoys it, you can slowly rub/scratch other areas of the body, such as the top of the head, the cheeks and behind the ears with your hand. The key word here is slowly, over a period of time. Finish each petting session with a treat.

If the cat exhibits any type of aggression toward humans, the first thing to do is to determine what causes the cat to become aggressive, what is the trigger? Even the most social cat may become aggressive if they are frightened. If this is the case then the owner should pay close attention to what frightens the cat and try to avoid those circumstances. If the fear is a visit to the veterinarian, ask the veterinarian if there are calming medications that might help the cat relax before he is taken to the veterinarian.

If there are objects or circumstances that frighten a cat it is possible to desensitize the cat to the troublesome object. In these cases the best thing to do is consult with a certified feline behavior consultant for a specific plan for your cat’s needs. You can find a certified feline behavior consultant at

Cats can also exhibit redirected aggression. For example if a cat sees another cat outside of a window and the owner tries to pick the cat up, the cat might bite or scratch the owner. If this is the case, do not try to handle the cat until he has calmed down. When cats redirect their aggression, it is a reaction and not a premeditated act to be taken personally. If possible, remove or chase away the object that has upset the cat.

If your cat sees the object through a window, try lowering the shade/blinds or otherwise blocking the cat’s view. Holding a towel over the window until the cat calms down can also work. Once the cat has calmed down, try to gently interact with the cat by offering a special treat or toy. It is important to reestablish your relationship with the cat if the cat attacked you in a redirected situation.

Sometimes a cat will solicit petting and scratching but after a period of time, will bite the person petting him. This is because the cat has had enough. The person should watch for any signs that the cat is becoming annoyed and stop while the cat still enjoys the attention. Some of the signs are a twitching tail, flattened ears, twitching ears and they may even move their head toward your hand. One of the things that makes it difficult for cat owners to spot the point where the cat has had enough is that the cat may purr up until it bites. The signs can be very subtle and easy to miss.

Some cats do not like to be touched on certain parts of their body, such as their tummies. Once you understand where you cat likes to be petting and where the cat does not like to be touched, respect your cat’s wishes.

If the cat is not neutered or spayed, too much tactile stimulation can arouse the cat sexually and they will sometimes drool and then bite because the mating ritual between cats involves biting.

Some cats can be territorial and will attack someone who comes to visit that does not come to the house often. In many cases the solution is to make the entrance of the non-resident person a special treat for the cat. If the person who comes to the door offers a treat to the cat, the cat will soon realize the special treats are rewards for letting someone enter the home. This is best done in a controlled, planned manner. To start, the owner can direct the cat’s attention to the treat just before the visitor comes to the door. Just as the visitor opens the door the owner will give the cat the treat. As the cat comes to expect the treat, the visitor can offer the treat to the cat. The owner can also use a calming pheromone such as Feliway before a visitor comes to the door. Your veterinarian can recommend products to use.

Some cats can display dominance aggression toward humans. This is when a person will try to move a cat out of a chair or bed and the cat will attack the person for trying to move him or share space with him. Sometimes the cat will block a doorway showing signs of aggression.

The best way to handle bossy cats is to withhold all affection, treats and play until the cat is calm and pleasant. By doing this you are rewarding good behavior and the cat will learn to associate the good behavior with the things he likes. Products like Feliway that are used around the house may help the cat stay calm.

If your normally passive, pleasant cat becomes aggressive or aloof for no apparent reason, it is time to take your cat to the veterinarian. In almost every situation like this, there is a medical reason for the change in your cat’s behavior. Cats will often hide their illnesses until they become critical. For this reason, even if your cat is not old, a yearly check with the veterinarian is essential. As your cat ages, six month checkups and tests are the best preventative thing you can do.

Feeding your cat a good diet is also essential. Cats can feel poorly when they are fed low quality food which over time can cause aggressive or aloof behavior in a cat. In my experience discount stores and super markets do not carry the high quality food that a cat needs.

The three most important things to remember when dealing with any type of aggression in cats is to 1) never yell, punish or treat the cat harshly. The only thing this will accomplish is to make the aggression problem worse and destroy any positive relationship you have with your cat. Remember, aggression + aggression always = aggression! 2) Never give up. Changing an aggressive cat can take a long time, but persistence almost always improves the situation. 3) All cats need exercise. Do your best through play or controlled outdoor activity, to have your cat exercise daily. There are special cat containment systems that can allow a cat to exercise outdoors safely. Exercise can help reduce frustration and pent up energy that can contribute to a cat’s aggressiveness.

Rodent Control – Works Best If You Use Both Dogs and Cats

A new study shows that dogs and cats used together provide the best rodent control. Rodents can spread disease, eat crops and invade homes. The study used four established homesteads. One used dogs alone, cats alone, dogs and cats together and the absence of both dogs and cats. They found that dogs or cats alone would not control rodents, but dogs and cats together did reduce the amount of rodent activity. They also observed that the rodents were more afraid to go to the homestead that had both dogs and cats. While this study is interesting, it did not elaborate on the breeds or types of dogs used or how many were used in the study at each homestead.


I think that it goes without saying that the breeds that are traditionally used to hunt rodents would work the best, but that is an assumption on my part. (Photo – Riley treed a squirrel.)

The Five Most Common Diseases for Cats

Cats, like dogs, suffer from inherited diseases. Understanding what these diseases are can help the cat owner work with their veterinarian to insure that their cat lives a long, healthy life. This article will briefly explain the five most common diseases. It is important to note that although many inherited diseases may be more common in certain breeds of cats, all cats can suffer from them.


Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Affected cats can experience heart failure or sudden death at 6 months to 7 years of age. This disease is more common in Main Coon Cats and Ragdoll cats. There is genetic testing for this disease which should be done to all cats of these breeds, including kittens before they are sold.

It also appears in Sphynx, Norwegian forest cats, Persian, Chartreux, Bengal, and Birman cats.

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)

Is common in Persian cats as well as in high frequencies in Himalayan and other Persian-derived breeds. All longhaired cats that are suspected of having a Persian background should be suspect. Most affected cats develop kidney failure at an average age of 7 years (range, 4-10 years).

Suspect cats and kittens should have a PKD DNA test to determine if they carry the gene for this disease. There is no cure for kidney failure which results from the disease. Note that the old method, ultrasonography is not reliable and should not be used as a means of testing cats. I owned a Turkish Angora cat that suffered from this disease and died at a young age.

Lymphocytic or Plasmacytic Inflammation Disease

Also known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This is more common in Siamese and other Asian breeds. This disease can be controlled with dietary changes, anti-inflammatory or immunoregulatory drugs, minimization of environmental stress, and dental extraction in cats with severe gingivostomatitis.

Diabetes mellitus

This is a common diagnosis in cats and can be controlled with insulin and diet. Although it is common in all cats, it is often seen in Burmese, Siamese, Norwegian forest, Russian blue, and Abyssinian cats and overweight domestic shorthaired cats. Weight control is a good preventative measure for diabetes.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

Persian cats seem to be at greater risk for this disease, but it affects all cats. It does not appear to be infectious. Owners must be diligent in treating and preventing this by minimizing environmental stress, maintaining anti-inflammatory or behavior-modifying drugs that decrease likelihood for bladder inflammation, and maintaining dietary control for cats predisposed to crystalluria.

Other common inherited health issues are:

Bladder stones, allergic skin disease, mammary tumors, and lymphoma. Hyperthyroidism is frequently seen as well but it does not seem to be inherited.

In conclusion it is best to have suspected cats tested for the various diseases that they may be susceptible to. This can be done through the Canine and Feline Hereditary Disease (DNA) Testing Laboratories at


Studies offer new hope for diagnosis of Chiari-malformation in toy dog breeds


The public demand for certain toy dogs to have rounded head shapes and short muzzles have caused them to suffer from Chiari malformation and Syringomyelia disorder.

Chiari malformation is when the bones in the skull fuse too soon and causes fluid pockets in the spinal cord. The fluid pockets which are called Syringomyelia can cause permanent damage to the spinal cord and pain for the dogs. The most common breed that is affected by this is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua and the Affenpinscher.


A new study using an MRI mapping technique has allowed scientists to study how this happens and hopefully will help them develop ways to correct this painful condition.

It goes without saying that breeders can help by carefully breeding dogs who do not suffer from this condition and not breed for a style or look but rather for the dog’s health and opportunity for a pain free life.

Read more at:

K9 Drug Detection: A Manual for Training and Operations

K9 Drug Detection: A Manual for Training and Operations by Resi Gerritsen and Ruud Haak, Brush Education, Inc., ISBN: 978-1-55059-681-6, $44.95, 296 pgs.


This is another great book by Resi Gerritsen and Ruud Haak that consists of 8 chapters with four appendices, a bibliography, notes and an index. The Appendices list the laws concerning drugs in Canada and the USA.


  1. Selecting the Drug-Detector Dog and Handler
  2. Basics of Drug-Detection Training
  3. Accidental Drug Uptake: First Aide for Your Dog
  4. Reading Your Dog
  5. Influence of Air Currents in Search Work
  6. Planning a Search Action
  7. General Information on Drugs, Drug Laws and Penalties
  8. The Different Drugs
  9. Conclusion

There are a lot of training tips covered in the book that apply to other disciplines. For example, the authors point out that yelling at your dog sounds like punishment to the dog.

They cover handler requirements as well as dogs. For example, they explain that the handler must learn to trust their dog since they depend on the dog to find the scent. This is true for all working dog situations. They explain that the drug dog must be able to work independently yet also be obedient. Again, this is true for all working dog situations. It is called intelligent disobedience since the dog must alert or lead the handler to the scent source even if the handler does not think the source is located where the dog indicates.

The authors give an excellent description of how the wind and buildings affect scent by explaining outdoor wind currents and indoor air currents. They give extensive details about how to search a building and where to look. They also cover other types of searches such as vehicles, RV’s, packages, luggage, airplanes, boats, and the list goes on. All of this applies to SAR work as well.

They cover training methods and explain the pros and cons of controlled searches and blind searches. They also cover situations where there are multiple scents involved. Like any good scent book they explain how the dog’s nose detects scent.

The dog training part of the book is excellent as well as their description of innate, acquired and learned behaviors. They explain how the handler must recognize each and use them in training.

Over all this is an excellent book that can help anyone who wants to do any type of scent work with their dog. It is also a good refresher for those who already use drug dogs.

Alaska, The First State to Treat Pets Like Children in Divorce Situations

Divorce is traumatic in of itself. Settling who gets what, custody of the children and the financial aspect is difficult and often causes a lot of stress for people. In the past, pets were considered property and not given much thought.

In a first ever, Alaska has passed a law that now considers pets more like children. The law allows judges to take into consideration the well-being of the pet and even to rule that couples can have joint custody of the pet.

While this is a good law, and long overdue, it will pose some difficult problems when determining what is best for the pet. It will have to take into account the pet’s physical and mental health as well as the affect it will have on the family who is getting the divorce. It remains to be seen how this will all play out. But there is no question that it is a step in the right direction.


How Smart Are Birds? Pretty Smart!

While the structure of a bird’s brain is different from that of a mammal, some birds appear to be as smart as apes. So far research has shown that some birds have diverse cognitive skills, are capable of thinking logically, recognize themselves in a mirror and can show empathy. Some birds have also used objects as tools.

Many bird owners have made this claim for years, but now research conducted by Onur Güntürkün from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum and Prof Dr. Thomas Bugnyar at the University of Vienna have illustrated that birds are much smarter than previous theories.

I experienced this with my Parrotlet when I taught him to pick up paper clips and put them in a box. When he learned that he would get a treat for putting the clip in the box, he would pick up a clip from the box and slam it down into the box, instead of getting one outside of the box, then look at me as if to say, “You didn’t say which clip I had to put in the box.” Birds are such fun!





A New Study Shows that People “Baby Talk” To Their Dogs


Dr. Nicolas Mathevon from Hunter College (CUNY) conducted an international study showing that people talk to their dogs, both puppies and adult dogs, the same way they talk to human babies. They use higher tones and speak slower. Interestingly people tend to talk this way to elderly people and people who do not speak their native language.


What the team noted is that puppies do respond to this type of speech whereas adult dogs do not. It seems as though people talk this way when they think the animal or person they are talking to does not understand or has difficulty understanding what is being said.

It would be interesting to research this further to see if people talk this way to other animals such as birds and cats. It could be fun for my readers to watch people and see if you notice that they do this or even if you do it yourself.

Read the full article at:

Are Chickens Really “Dumb Clucks?” New research says No.

Recent tests have shown that chickens have individual personalities, can function in a group, can reason by deduction and understand their place in the flock.  Not only that, but chickens have a sense of numbers and self-awareness.

It turns out that chicken communication is also much more complex than previously thought, including visual and auditory forms of communication. They are able to make decisions based on what they determine is best for themselves.

The study also showed that chickens experience both negative and positive emotions. Mother hens display maternal feelings for their chicks and influence how the chick behaves.

How interesting chickens are. Many people keep chickens for pets so this study should be of special interest to them. Chickens have been used for years to hone clicker skills for dog trainers and potential dog trainers.



My son Tom and my araucana chickens (many years ago)