Thursday, May 31, 2012

June is Smitten Season! Priceless Cat Adoptions and More!

June 1 kicks off Smitten Season at Animal Friends! That means “priceless” cat adoptions, $10 neuter surgeries and shopping for cats and their people.

Shelters face tough times this time of year…the dreaded “kitten season.” Kitten season is when the weather warms and cats give birth to litters. Shelters struggle to accommodate the overwhelming influx of kittens that come through their doors every spring and summer. Sadly, many shelters are forced to euthanize unwanted kittens simply because they don’t have the space.

But Animal Friends isn’t most shelters. That’s why they’re holding “Smitten Season” – a celebration of cats! 

Look for these feline festivities:
  • Priceless cat adoptions! Animal Friends would like to encourage adopters to give the more mature felines (who are so frequently overlooked) some special consideration. From June 1-30, cat adoption is priceless! Animal Friends will waive the $75 adoption donation for all cats ages 2 and up!
  • Our Low-Cost Spay/Neuter department is offering $10 neuter surgeries for male cats. Appointments are limited, so please apply via beginning June 1.
  • Animal Friends’ pet supply shop and boutique is offering specials on cat treats, toys, and other supplies plus raffles for cat lovers. 
Smitten Season highlights what Animal Friends does best: They save lives!

Visit Animal Friends at 562 Camp Horne Road, Pittsburgh PA 15237 or call 412.847.7000 for more information.  You can also visit

Friday, May 25, 2012

Remembering all our veterans this weekend: two and four-legged.

This Memorial Day weekend we all remember the men and women who have served and died fighting for our country. I will also reflect, with immense gratitude, on our furry soldiers who charged into battle on four paws. Especially the canine heroes who kept my great friend and brother-in-law, Neal, safe.

Neal served in the Army's Special Forces in Iraq. When two American soldiers were captured by the enemy, Neal's highly trained unit, along with a few German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois, were sent to rescue the men.

Some of the dogs were trained to follow a human scent. The others sniffed out the highly dangerous and deadly improvised explosive devices, also known as IEDs.

"They detected the bombs that were placed by the kidnappers and we were able to avoid being killed," Neal told me.

On a sadder note, the dogs brought the unit to the remains of the soldiers. They were recovered and brought back home to their families here in the US, possibly giving them some closure.

I know I just summed up an extraordinary story in a few sentences, but I want readers to know that I and many others are overwhelmingly thankful for these brave members of the armed forces.

"I have a great deal of respect for these dogs and their handlers," Neal remarked.  Plus, I have a feeling they provide some much needed moral support.  

"I was pleased to have these dogs with us simply because I love dogs," Neal said.

Happy Memorial Day to all of our friends, two and four-legged.

Cat Photography...the outtakes!

By Jeff Geissler, Communications Assistant  
As one of the pet photographers for Animal Friends, I try to make each cat I photograph look as gorgeous, refined and adoptable as possible. Just like professionals who take portraits of babies, weddings, or corporate executives, I feel I need to achieve that perfect photo.

But, as my co-workers will tell you, I tend to chuckle when I edit my cat pictures. Sometimes the outtakes--the photos I don't post and most likely delete--are the most lovable. I often catch a cat in an unflattering expression or mood that we photographers call "an off moment."

It’s in these moments that I see the quirky, fun, and lively side of their personalities. They don't know that the black box in front of my face is a camera, so they don't put up a guard or act proper for the picture. They just keep eating, licking, yawning, playing and sleeping. Many times I think they forget their tongues are hanging out, or that their eyes are droopy with sleep.

So here are a few outtakes taken in those odd, but extremely endearing, moments.





Regal Pepper



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summer is a great time to spay or neuter!

As warm summer months approach, Animal Friends would like to remind pet owners that spaying and neutering is more important now than ever.  Spaying or neutering can curb a pet's instinct to roam and can make your pet less likely to run away. Keep this in mind when you and your pet spend more time outdoors in the nice weather.
By having you pet spayed or neutered, you:
  • help curb pet overpopulation, and prevent unwanted pets from being euthanized
  • reduce your pet’s risk of cancer and infection
  • make your pet less likely to run away
  • ensure a calmer, happier companion.
We at Animal Friends know that surgery costs can be too high for some pet owners. But, our high quality, Low-Cost Spay and Neuter clinic is open to the public and taking applications daily.

Right now, we have very few applications pending so your low-cost surgery will be scheduled promptly! Please consider applying today by visiting

And, Animal Friends' Project Pit Bull is a great way for Pit Bull owners to have their Pit Bulls spayed or neutered. The project was created to address the disproportionate number of unwanted Pit Bulls inPittsburgh’s animal shelters, and in response to the fact that many Pit Bulls are bred in great numbers for dog fighting. This special program offers $20 spay or neuter surgeries to owners who want to be responsible with the breed.

Visit or call 1.800.SPAY.PGH to apply for a low-cost spay or neuter surgery today. 

If you are a city of Pittsburgh resident, the City is offering free spay/neuter surgeries.  Visit for more information.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

In Loving Memory: Trixie

By: Toni DiBernardo-Jones

I rescued my furbaby from Animals Friends on November 20, 2001. I remember the exact day as it was one month to the day that my mother had passed away. My youngest son Joey had said to me, "Mom, lets get another dog.  It’s lonely at home since grandma passed away.” I told him I didn't think that I wanted another pet as I had not had any for a couple of years. I also figured that no matter how many times Joey told he would be responsible for the pet; I knew ultimately that I would be the caregiver.

So after much thought and soul searching, I heard on the radio that a pet fair was going to be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. My son and I decided to go. We looked for a puppy the whole afternoon and couldn't find one. On the way out, there was a booth with a Schnauzer that caught my eye but we soon found out that the dog already had an owner. The woman informed me that Animal Friends had some puppies at their shelter so Joey and I made the trip there in search of the perfect pet for our family.

As we walked through the shelter, I spotted this beautiful little Terrier puppy that I just had to have a look at. I asked Joey to get someone so we could find out more about the Terrier. However, in the next stall, a black Lab/Boxer puppy was doing anything and everything she could do to get my attention. Joey said," Mom, look!  This puppy is trying to get your attention!" So I looked over and there she was standing in the back of her cage wagging her tail as fast and as hard as she could. Trixie, the puppy’s name, came to the front of her cage and stuck her nose between the bars of her kennel so I could pet her nose.

I told Joey she was beautiful and sweet but not exactly the type of puppy I was used to. I love little furry lapdogs and Trixie was certainly not a lap dog. I asked again for Joey to get someone so we could take the little Terrier that I had my heart set on for a walk. When the volunteer came with the adoption papers, it was for Trixie and not the Terrier I wanted. From the second I was handed the leash, I knew Trixie was the right puppy for my family. 

I say that I rescued Trixie but to be honest, she rescued me in many ways as well. She was my best-friend for almost eleven years. She was a healthy dog until the last month of her life. I had a hard time deciding to have her put down, after all, how do you do such a thing to one so true and faithful? How do you say goodbye to one who means the world to you? Trixie had protected me more than once with her own life. I knew I had to though. I could not stand to see her suffer and struggle the way she did.

It's been two weeks since I had to put her down but had her cremated and have her home with us again. I will always love and miss Trixie.  She was the best dog anyone could have ever hoped for or wanted. Rest in peace Trixie until we meet at The Rainbow Bridge where I know you will be whole and new again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Big Surprises Sometimes Come in Big Packages Too

By: Stephanie Buckley, Adoption Counselor

As a part of the adoption team at Animal Friends, I get to spend time with many different animals that have many different personalities.

Two potential adopters stopped by the adoption desk today and asked about one of our resident dogs, Tucker. While reading through Tucker’s file, I discovered that he was about 110 pounds (whoa!), very playful and more than a little hard to walk. I thought, with more than a little worry, to myself, “Well, these people are very interested in him.  I’ll give it a try!”

So, after taking the potential adopters into a room and discussing Tucker’s medical and behavioral history with them, they decided they would absolutely be interested in adopting him. Grabbing my leash and putting on a huge smile to mask my "Oh, this dog is going to walk ME" thoughts, I went to his kennel to get Tucker.

This is when I met a dog that sat on command and even gave me his paw when I asked him. All he wanted in return was a treat. After putting a harness on him to make for an easier walk, he surprised me by walking very sweetly down the hall to the adopters. I walked into our meet and greet room with what I'm sure was a surprised face and introduced this miniature horse, I mean…overweight Labrador Retriever to the potential adopters.

They loved him! He was playful, sweet, affectionate and very curious until he became a little bored with the whole process of meet and greet. He stuck his nose directly into his potential mom’s purse and snatched her water bottle in his big mouth. He had decided it was his new toy! It was love at first steal!

I'm so glad I got to know Tucker a little better after spending more time with him today and it is refreshing to see such a big man have such a big heart and such great manners! One of my major job perks: meeting truly wonderful animals that surprise me every single day.

The family in this story is still considering adopting Tucker.  We hope it works out!  Either way, we at Animal Friends are committed to finding each and every one of our animals a loving, forever home.

Want to meet more adoptable animals? Visit to take a look at all the animals available for adoption or drop by and visit us at 562 Camp Horne Road, Pittsburgh PA 15237.

Eliminate Your Pet’s Allergies with a Healthy Diet

By Toni Shelaske, Healthy Pet Products
Many people suffer from allergies, but few realize that our pets can have allergies too. We at Healthy Pet Products get questions about pets’ allergies almost every day.

Most allergies stem from either food or the environment. Classic signs of food allergies in pets are excessive scratching, paw licking, face rubbing and biting at the base of the tail. When customers come to us with pets that show these symptoms, the first issue we advise them to address is diet.

If a pet has a food allergy, it is most likely the result of the protein or grains found in their food. Typically, we start off by recommending a diet with more “novel” protein and “grain free” food.  We recommend avoiding beef and chicken because these are the two most common protein allergens.

The top grain allergens are wheat, corn and soy. While none of the foods that we carry at Healthy Pet Products contain wheat, corn or soy, we also have kibble that is completely void of all grains. They have potatoes or tapioca as the binding agent.

Our last recommendation is feeding a raw or dehydrated raw diet, which will eliminate carbohydrates from your pet’s diet completely, thus eliminating most of the allergens found in kibble type products. If you’re considering a raw diet for your pet, we’d love to give you more information.

Once you select a food, which is just the first step, we recommend sticking with that diet for eight weeks in order to have a true food trial. Remember that treats are also part of a pet’s diet, so you should look for treats with ingredients that are similar to those in their food.

Understand that symptoms can actually get worse before getting better. This is because your pet will need to detoxify before seeing any major health improvements.

After your pet has been on the new food for a week or two, we recommend supplementing their diet with fish oil. Adding fish oil to the daily diet provides the pet with additional Omega 3 fatty acids. It's also a natural anti-inflammatory and will help boost the immune system and help the pet’s overall health.

After your pet has been on the fish oil for about a week, the next step is to introduce probiotics. Probiotics allow for an increase in “good bacteria” in the digestive tract. Because 70% of the immune system is located in the digestive tract, we want to boost the cells in the tract so that your pet can better handle the allergen. Medications such as antibiotics, prednisone or steroids affect the “flora” or balance of the digestive tract, thus causing a drop in the pet’s overall immune system, which in turn increases the pet’s reaction to the allergen.

We focus on boosting the immune system to combat environmental allergies too. We can't always make environmental allergens go away, but we can get your pet’s immune system in top working condition to better handle the allergies. Typical symptoms of environmental allergies are similar to food allergies, plus red, irritated eyes and runny noses. We may recommend a food change depending on what type of food the pet is currently eating. Fish oil and probiotics are also beneficial with environmental situations as well.

In the end, our goal is to help you eliminate the problem, not just treat the symptoms. Our customers typically see immediate improvements, but not all of them and certainty not right away. The key is to understand that through this step by step approach to fighting allergies, we can find the right food for your pet so that you can lead a healthy, allergy-free life together!

Healthy Pet Products is located at 9600 Perry Highway in McCandless. Visit


Monday, May 7, 2012

Dry vs. Canned: The Basics of Feline Feeding

By the staff at Petagogy

Many people feed their cats dry food, and it’s easy to understand why: it’s simple, clean and convenient. You can just plunk down a bowl of kitty kibble and let your cats eat as they like. But what many people don’t realize is that, while a cat will survive on a dry food diet, it is not the optimal choice compared to other available options.
When deciding what to feed your cat, you should primarily consider three key attributes: high levels of animal-based protein, low levels of carbohydrates and high water content.
Cats are strict carnivores, which means they are designed to get their protein from meat, not plants. The protein in dry food, which is often heavily plant-based, is not equal in quality to the protein in canned food, which is largely meat-based. Cats have no dietary need for carbohydrates, which can be detrimental to their health, as they can wreak havoc on many cats’ blood sugar/insulin balance. The non-protein elements of dry foods act as little more than filler.
In the wild, your cat would be hunting and killing prey, eating a meat-based diet high in protein and moisture with carbohydrates levels as low as 3 to 5 percent of the total meal. The average dry cat food contains 35 to 50 percent carbohydrates, while many of the better canned foods contain the appropriate amount of carbohydrates (3 to 5 percent) as well as a substantial amount of water.
Water is such an important ingredient for cat food because cats are not naturally water-seeking animals. A cat consuming a predominantly dry-food diet will drink more water than a cat consuming a canned food diet, but the dry food diet cat will still only be consuming about half the water compared with a cat eating canned food. Many experts believe that the commonness of kidney and bladder problems among cats is due in large part to dry food diets. In a sense, a wet food essentially cleans out your cat’s bladder and kidneys, which may help keep kidney and bladder problems in check.
Dry foods only contain 7 to 10 percent water, whereas canned foods contain approximately 78 percent water. Canned foods therefore more closely approximate the natural diet of the cat and are better suited to meet the cat’s water needs (a cat’s normal prey is approximately 70 to 75 percent water). The cat’s lack of a strong thirst drive can lead to low-level, chronic dehydration when dry food makes up the bulk of their diet.
Transitioning to canned foods can take time if your cat is used to eating kibble. It’s best to introduce any new food slowly, a little at a time, mixed in with the regular food until you can remove the old food and only feed the new food. Also, adding tuna water or shaved fish flakes can make a new food smell and taste more appealing to cats.
Despite these facts, there are many reasons why someone would choose to continue feeding a kibble-based diet to their cat such as convenience, lack of mess and price. Additionally, many of our customers try feeding their cats wet food but find that their finicky cats prefer the dry. Should you decide to continue feeding your cat a dry diet, make sure you seek out a food with a high protein content (30-40% crude protein derived from animal-based proteins), ensuring that your cat is getting as much protein as possible. Try adding some water to the kibble; it will bring out the food’s natural tastes and aromas, as well as provide added moisture for your kitty.
This post was written partially from information available at Please visit their site for additional information.

Petagogy specializes in premium and natural pet foods, treats and supplies for dogs, cats and small mammals. Petagogy is located at 5880 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Adopt A Pet. It's Good For Your Health!

By Jill Harlan, Adoption Counselor 

We all love our animals and they love us back, but have you ever wondered why you feel so good hanging out with Fido in the dog park or cuddling with Fluffy on the couch?  Medicine can't tell us for sure, but we do know that our pets can bring health benefits beyond just a simple smile!  Listed below are some fascinating findings.

Asthma and Allergies
If you are expecting a human addition to your family, consider this.  A review in Clinical and Developmental Immunology, states that the majority of current studies agree that prenatal exposure to either cats or dogs reduce the likelihood of lifetime allergies to an animal.  This is particularly true with dogs. Full article here.

Coronary Artery Disease
A recent study completed in 2012 in the American Journal of Cardiology, utilized 224 participants, half of those being pet owners and the other half, non-pet owners.  These patients all had coronary artery disease, meaning that the blood vessels surrounding their heart were partially clogged causing the heart to work less effectively and cause possible serious or fatal health consequences like a stroke or heart attack.  With all other factors being equal, the pet owners were shown as having a 1-year survival rate more so than the non-pet owners.  

Full article here

Another study in Geriatric Nursing, completed this year, looked at 159 elderly women comparing pet support and human support with depression and loneliness. Surprisingly, the human support had no significant impact on measured levels of depression; however, the pet support had significantly decreased the levels of depression and loneliness reported by these ladies.  Full article here

Additionally, Journal of Pediatric Nursing, looked at 258 adolescents in a rural setting both with and without pets in their household.  The teens with pets in their household reported feeling less lonely.  Full article here.

Not that you need another reason to own your pet, but if you ever need to convince someone, this is definitely sound evidence that a dog (or cat or bunny) can be man’s best friend!  Why don't you come visit some of our furry friends and start feeling good! 

Can't live with a pet?  Think about volunteering as a cat cuddler or dog walker!  Click here to meet adoptable animals, and click here to learn more about volunteering!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Bittersweet Morning at Animal Friends

By Jeff Geissler, Communications Assistant

Many of us say goodbye to our pets when we leave our homes to go to work in the morning. I sometimes even explain to my fuzzy felines that I need to earn a paycheck so I can keep their bellies full and a roof on our heads. They still strike me with a guilty glance as I grab my car keys.

But not like many others, I get to say “good morning” to many cuddly creatures when I get to work here at Animal Friends. I walk past the cat condos when I arrive at 9 am. The lights are still dim, and the cats haven’t had their breakfast yet. Many are still enjoying a morning siesta, or maybe still asleep from the night before.

But we do have a few early risers who regularly beam with bright eyes at this early hour. They scan the world outside their condos for life, love, affection and of course, food.

In the past, Ellie, a rather well-rounded long haired cat used to rub her plus-sized frame against the back window of her condo, begging for a scratch. Miles Davis, a very regal and statuesque gray cat, used to meow “How ya doin? Grab your trumpet and let’s jam.” (Sometimes I’m a little hazy before my coffee knocks my brain into full gear.)

So for almost a year now I've been paying a morning visit to a few early risers--a happy prelude as I head to my office. But sometimes a visit can turn into a bittersweet moment.

This morning Wei was gone. He’s a gorgeous black and white cat with pink ears and extremely expressive yellow/green eyes. I’ve been greeting him since he was a pint-sized, extremely shy kitty who was rescued from a hoarding situation. I watched him grow into a playful, robust cat full of love.

I missed his round, inquisitive eyes this morning with a tiny touch of sadness. But I’m overwhelmed with joy that he found his forever home last night with an extremely lucky family.

And it’s with those same feelings that I’m looking forward to not saying “Good Morning” to Woofer and Porsche, my current morning bright eyes.

And if Wei’s parents are reading this, tell him Jeff said hello.

(Click here to meet adoptable cats...and maybe your new feline friend!)