Wednesday, January 22, 2014

University of Pittsburgh's Pitt's People for Pets Donate to Animal Friends' Chow Wagon

When families fall on hard financial times, finding the means to provide for every family member, two- and four-legged, can be difficult.  Many times, pets are returned to shelters or cannot stay with their families because of financial difficulties.  Since 2007, Animal Friends’ Chow Wagon program has delivered almost 175,000 pounds of food to families in need. The Chow Wagon program currently partners with 23 food banks and a Meals on Wheels group.  Of course, all of this would not be possible if not for the generosity of our community.

Recently, the University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt’s People for Pets group held a pet food drive.  Twelve bins were placed around the Pitt campus to collect food and donations, along with information explaining the need and how Animal Friends’ Chow Wagon program works.  Overall, an amazing 2,090 pounds of food were collected along with a monetary donation of $2014.

But collecting goods is not the only benefit that Pitt's People for Pets provides, says Kannu Sahni, Director of Community Relations.

"It's important to make people aware of this need," Sahni explained. "Some of these families already have trauma, then they lose a pet."

"Pets are another component of the family," John Wilds, PhD, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Community Relations said. "They are companions."

Sahni further explained that educating the community about this need will increase interest, and that is an opportunity to do even more next year.

"We have high expectations," Sahni smiled.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Easy Scent Games for Dogs

Guest Blogger: Suzanne Denk, Animal Enrichment Specialist

Dogs are great at detecting smells!  They can find lost people, locate land mines, diagnose cancer, admire your new perfume, and find suspicious luggage content.  Those superior sniffing noses should have some fun! 

Scent games allow a dog to use instinctive skills.  Using the nose lets the dog think and requires the dog to concentrate.  Scent games are fun for a dog but do not over stimulate him and that can be essential when it is too cold to play outside!  A few minutes of a calming scent game can help a dog relax.  Each game only takes a few minutes and can be played in your living room.   

Bottles in a Box: Drop treats into a large box filled with empty water bottles.  The dog must search in the box to recover the treats.  Because the bottles move and make noise, the game can help build confidence.  For a fearful dog, try crumbled newspaper in the box instead of bottles.  Leave some treats visible on the top of the newspapers to encourage the dog to search.  

Seek and Find: Randomly toss treats or kibble into grass, snow, leaves, around a room or on a blanket on the dog’s bed and let the dog sniff and search.  The challenge is greater when the treats are not easily visible requiring him to use his nose. 

Scent Trail: Lay out a trail of tiny treats, Hansel and Gretel style.  This game may be played inside or outside and in any size space.  Some treats may be placed on a bench, around a tree, up on a branch, on the bumper of your car, up the stairs, around the perimeter of a room, or under a couch cushion.  Use your imagination.  A jackpot (a small pile of treats) should be placed at the end of the trail.   

Twisted Towel Treat Puzzle: Place treats on a towel, roll the towel up, and twist.  Let the dog work the towel open to find the food.  Too easy?  Place the treats in a Kong and roll up the Kong in the towel. 

Snack Time Tubes: Gather 6-12 Pringles potato chip tubes.  Drop treats into one tube.  Pile the tubes together.  The dog must sniff to locate the tube with the treats.  The long tube provides a little more challenge to the dog in removing the treat and provides some salty potato chip flavor!  

Cereal boxes and egg cartons: Dogs enjoy tearing up cereal boxes and egg cartons to find hidden treats. 

After a game that requires thinking and sniffing, you and your dog can snuggle up and relax on a cold winter day!

Monday, January 6, 2014

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, My Cats Gave to Me...

Guest Blogger: Diane Friske

Please do not let the following stop you from adopting a cat or a kitten or several cats or kittens.  You must have a sense of humor and not expect to keep a “Martha Stewart” tree.

Warning: The names contained in this story have not been changed, as they are not innocent.

The culprits:    

        Sally and Bowie – two 10-year-old tuxedo cats
        Athena and Apollo – two 4-and-a-half-year-old, part Siamese cats. Animal Friends alumni.
        Bobette – 3-year-old gray cat. Animal Friends alum and foster fail.
        Cocoa Puff – 5-month-old chocolate kitten. Animal Friends Alumni and foster failure.

The tree is being decorated. All six Friske cats and two of the foster kittens are all lined up, eying which lights to lower to the floor and deciding who gets to bat which ornaments off the tree.  They can hardly wait until we turned the lights out and went to bed.

Day 1: One string of lights and five ornaments down!  One sea gull ornament, kill and dissected by the most beautiful cat in the world, Athena.

Day 2: Three ornaments down. One wise man down. One cat sleeping on the tree skirt. One cat sleeping under the tree skirt.

Day 3: Lower string of lights even lower to the floor.  One wise man down. Tree skirt is a mess, all crumpled up.

Day 3 ½: Went to dinner last night. Returned to all 3 wise men and a shepherd boy down for the count.

Day 4: 3 ornaments down. Tree skirt situation worsening.

Day 5: Five (isn’t it cute how they match the number of ornaments with the day?) ornaments down, one never to return. One wise man down. Same wise man as always. They must not like him.

Day 6: One shepherd boy down. Tree skirt a mess again. Rubber lizard placed under the tree. Hairball also placed under the tree. If you have Christmas table runners with tassels on the ends and 6 cats, do not let the tassels hang over the edge of the table.  You will be sorry. Gifts have been placed under the tree and cats are currently chasing each other over the gifts and around the tree.  We may not have to unwrap any gifts come Christmas.

Day 7: Only one shepherd boy down today. However, someone either chewed, jumped on or ran over a gift. Wrapping paper torn in two places. Fixed with masking tape. Recipient has cats and will understand.

Christmas Day: Found one ornament under the pie safe. White cat (aka: The Most Beautiful Cat in the World) found chewing the wires of the tree lights just like the white cat in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. One bow chewed. Rubber lizard placed carefully in the water bowl.  White cat’s brother (also an Animal Friends’ alum) chewed open a box of cookies and threw one he didn’t like on the floor.  He also took a bite of the coffee cake. Can’t believe Santa left them treats and toys!

The day after Christmas: All is calm with the cats. Excitement is over and they are recovering from a catnip hangover. It’s been fun.

Turn Your Pooch Into a Super Dog with Superfoods

Guest Blogger: The staff at Petagogy

It’s a new year, which always comes with new resolutions to eat healthier! One way to eat better is to incorporate superfoods into our diets, which can lead to healthier immune and digestive systems, as well as make us look and feel better. Our pets can also benefit from superfoods, and it’s a great time to start incorporating superfoods into their diets as well. Many of these foods can be found in high quality commercial pet foods and treats, or can be added as supplements to your furkids’ diets. For 2014, resolve to add these superfoods to your pup’s meals and snacks and you just might turn your regular dog into a super dog!

Chia Seeds
Chia seeds contain B vitamins, antioxidants, fatty acids, protein and fiber. The nutrients in chia seeds support your dog's skin, joints, vision, immune system, brain development, blood sugar levels, healthy digestion and weight maintenance. Try sprinkling a small amount of seeds onto your dog’s food or switching to a kibble that contains chia seeds, such as Solid Gold Sun Dancer. 

Eggs are an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals for both humans and dogs. The extra protein will keep your pup feeling full longer and will help maintain joint and muscle health. Many high quality dog foods, such as Fromm, Now Fresh and Holistic Blend, include eggs as an extra source of protein on top of high amounts of animal protein. 

Fish that is rich in Omega-3 fats is just as beneficial for your pup as it is for you. From joint health to skin and coat conditioning to fighting cancer, adding fish and fish oil to your dog’s diet can only benefit his or her health. Try switching to a dog food that features fish as the main protein, such as Acana Pacifica, Orijen Six Fish or Zignature Trout & Salmon, let your pup snack on fish skin treats like Beams from The Honest Kitchen or add a few squirts of salmon oil to your pup’s breakfast or dinner.

Tripe is a delicacy for both humans and dogs! Green unbleached tripe contains a plethora of digestive enzymes that both aid in digestion and purify and cleanse the blood and remove toxins, parasites and fungus. The digestive enzymes found in tripe also improve metabolism, hormone function and boost the immune system. Tripett is a great canned green tripe that is available in a variety of different proteins, including beef, duck, salmon, bison, venison and lamb, that can be added as a supplement to you dog’s kibble. 

The prebiotics in yogurt help our digestive systems produce friendly bacteria, which aids in digestion and helps ward off a multitude of problems ranging from constipation to other more serious conditions. Try adding a dollop of plain yogurt (with no sugar added) to your dog’s meal or give your dog a yogurt-based treat like YoPup’s probiotic blend cookies. 

Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is about 50% lauric acid, of which the only other abundant source found in nature is in human breast milk. The fats in coconut oil are similar to fats in mother's milk and have similar nutritional effects. When ingested, coconut oil has been known to improve digestion and nutrient absorption, as well as alleviate digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers and colitis. The bonus: it’s also great for skin and coat and immune health.

The recommended amount to give your pets is 1 teaspoon per 10 lbs of body weight, or 1 tablespoon per 30 lbs of body weight. Too much coconut oil can actually damage your pet’s pancreas, so it’s best to give it in small doses (about a quarter of the recommended amount), gradually building up your pet’s tolerance overtime. Any virgin coconut oil from health food stores can be fed to pets, but we love CocoTherapy’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil and Chips.

Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin
Not only are they loaded with antioxidents, but sweet potatoes and pumpkin also help improve your dog’s digestive system. The high amount of beta-carotene that gives both vegetables their orange color is greatly beneficial for helping to stabilize a dog’s blood sugar. Sweet potatoes and pumpkin also contain soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps eliminate waste from the body and absorbs water to slow digestion and aid in nutrient absorption. Insoluble fiber is considered a gut-healthy fiber that adds bulk to your pet’s diet, helping to eliminate or reduce constipation. Try giving your dog a Sam’s Yams chew made only of dehydrated sweet potatoes or simply add a tablespoon of pumpkin to your pup’s meal (the suggested serving size is 1 tablespoon per 10 lbs of weight as a daily food supplement).  

Petagogy (pronounced pet-uh-go-jee) specializes in premium and natural pet foods, treats and supplies. 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. Learn more at

Thursday, January 2, 2014

How to Build a Feral Cat House

Materials needed are: a large Styrofoam cooler or sheets of one-inch thick hard Styrofoam, a large box or Rubbermaid storage bin, a box cutter or utility knife, black plastic sheeting, Gorilla tape and straw. Then assemble as follows:

Place the large Styrofoam cooler in a box that is about the same size and tape closed or line the box with sheets of Styrofoam cut to fit.

Cut a round doorway about six inches in diameter in one of the long sides of the box, cutting through the box and Styrofoam (Do not cut the hole in the center as the wind will blow straight in).  Make sure to cut the circle towards the side and high enough so that the bottom of the doorway is several inches above the ground. 


Cut a piece of the plastic sheeting to completely cover the box.  Wrap the box as tight as possible and secure all loose ends with Gorilla tape.  Make sure to cover all openings with tape to make the house as water tight as possible.

Cut the plastic sheeting that is covering the opening like you would cut a pie.  Use small pieces of Gorilla tape to secure the plastic and make a nice smooth opening.

Stuff the bottom of the box with straw.

When placing the shelter face the opening away from the prevailing wind direction.  The shelter is fairly lightweight and may need to be weighed down.   Catnip can be sprinkled inside at first to attract the cats.