The Vets Will See You Now
ANSWERS TO YOUR HAIRIE ST PET QUESTIONS
Pet problems, solved
I’m planning to get an African gray parrot. I’ve heard they’re usually pretty chatty. Do I need to train my bird to talk, or will talking come naturally?
African gray parrots naturally mimic animal sounds in the wild and are known for picking up humanlike sounds as well. With a little encouragement from you, your parrot may talk even more, says animal trainer Barbara Heidenreich. Talk to him daily, and play music you enjoy as soon as you bring him home. If you really want to get him talking, play recordings of other African gray parrots once a day for about 45 minutes to encourage him to replicate similar sounds (search for “Einstein the Talking Texan Parrot” on YouTube). While there’s no guarantee that a parrot will copy these sounds, positive reinforcement—treats, head scratches, and toys—should increase the likelihood.
My dog gets nervous when a lot of people are around. How can I keep him calm during holiday gatherings at home?
You can probably tell when your dog is stressed, but if you’re not sure, look for cues such as lip licking, drooling, and excessive panting, says animal trainer Melissa Munoz. Set up a sanctuary space, like a bedroom with a closed door, a crate, or a spot behind a baby gate. Starting a few weeks before your party, give him a kibble-stuffed toy (such as the Kong Classic Dog Toy,
$7; jet.com) once a day in this space. Let him hang out there for 10 minutes, offer him praise and food-based rewards, and play music or a movie in the background to see if it soothes his nerves. After a few days, increase his time in the space to up to an hour. The day of your party, bring your dog to his comfort zone 15 minutes before guests arrive and make partygoers aware that your dog’s area is off-limits. Let him out once the guests have gone.
My cat eats her food too quickly and gets sick. How can I teach her to slow down?
Some cats’ drive for food makes it nearly impossible to train them to eat more slowly, so the key is to reduce the amount that’s available at any given time, says Ann Hohenhaus, DVM. Cat-specific slowfeed bowls (like the Northmate Catch Interactive Cat Feeder, $35; chewy.com) challenge cats’ inner hunters by requiring them to drag food out with their paw. You can also feed your cat smaller portions multiple times a day with an automatic feeder (like the Aspen Pet Lebistro Portion Control Programmable Pet Feeder, $48; amazon.com). Or place small amounts of wet and dry food in each cup of a muffin tin; moving between cups will force her to slow down. If she’s still vomiting after a week on a new feeding routine, consult your vet.
OUR EXPERTSBARBARA HEIDENREICH, BARBARA’S FORCE FREE ANIMAL TRAINING, AUSTIN, TEXASANN HOHENHAUS, DVM, ANIMAL MEDICAL CENTER, NEW YORK CITYMELISSA MUNOZ, PAWSITIVE PERSPECTIVE, BURBANK, CALIFORNIALISA RADOSTA, DVM, FLORIDA VETERINARY BEHAVIOR SERVICE, WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA