inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #0 of 101: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 13 Oct 06 13:14
    

Joining us today is syndicated columnist and author Gina Spadafori.

Gina is a lifelong animal-lover who has been writing about pets almost as
long as she has been sharing her life with them.

She started writing a pet-care column for The Sacramento Bee in 1985.
The column was picked up a decade ago by the Universal Press
Syndicate, and is now a weekly pet page in newspapers across the United
States and Canada.

Gina has written five books, including the first three in the "… For
Dummies" pet-care series.Her news books, written with "Good Morning,
America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, are "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of
the Toilet?: 101 of the Most Perplexing Questions Answered About
Canine Conundrums, Medical Mysteries and Befuddling Behaviors" and Do
Cats Always Land on Their Feet?: 101 of the Most Perplexing Questions
Answered About Feline Unfathomables, Medical Mysteries and Befuddling
Behaviors."

Her Web site and Web log are at <http://www.PetConnection.com>
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #1 of 101: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 13 Oct 06 13:17
    

Co-leading the conversation with Gina are The WELL's <pets.> conference
cohosts, Fawn (fquared) Fitter and Christine (cmbegle) Begle.

Christine is  a long-time dog lover, first time dog-owner. She lives with
Prunella, a 9-year-old rescued lab-shepherd mix.

Fawn says that though she grew up with a dog and still stops to coo over
every pup she passes, she is officially a cat person. She used to volunteer
with the feral kittens at the SPCA, but stopped when she realized she
couldn't adopt them all. Her current feline-in-residence is an 11-year-old
tuxedo kitty named Surely, who's having a much better life than she could
have expected when she was born in a parking lot in Brooklyn.
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #2 of 101: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 13 Oct 06 13:18
    

Welcome, Gina, Fawn, and Christine! I'm looking forward to this conversation
(especially the "cat" part, being a lifelong cat person).
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #3 of 101: Gina Spadafori (giori) Fri 13 Oct 06 14:49
    
Thanks for inviting me in. The books are lightweight fluff laced with
serious information on best-practice in dealing with health and
behavior. We were trying for something entertaining -- I hope we
achieved it -- in the "spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down"
way. 

The books popped up kind of suddenly for me. I was moping around the
house and Dr. Becker called. We've known each other for more than a
decade, and really enjoyed bumping into each other at conferences and
such. He had a great idea for a pair of books -- these ones -- but was
on publicity tour for a previous book, "Fitness Unleashed." 

We needed to get the books done in time for Christmas sales, so he
asked me to come on as a co-author. I loved the idea, so I did. 

We wrote the books in four months, during which I continued working
full-time (I work as an editor/writer for Sacramento's public utility)
and producing a weekly syndicated pet page for Universal Press. 

I was ... a wreck when we finished! 

But I think the books turned out just the way we imagined them, and
we're happy. 
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #4 of 101: Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Sat 14 Oct 06 22:05
    
Gina, I have a cat and I like dogs. Christine has a dog and she likes cats.
Is there really that much of a difference between cat people and dog people?
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #5 of 101: Gina Spadafori (giori) Sun 15 Oct 06 09:11
    
At the extremes, yes! There are cat people who loathe dogs, and vice
versa. But in the great middle, there are people who just flat like
animals, dogs and cats both. Plus, I find a lot of people would love to
have a dog, too, but the time and space involved in keeping one just
doesn't fit with their lifestyle. 

I definitely lean more to the "dog people" side of the spectrum,
because for me one of the joys of having a pet is the training and
"getting out with" aspect. (I like training so much that I've also
trick-trained my parrots -- which is easy, they're so smart! -- and
tried a little with the rabbits, too. 

But my lifestyle is all wrapped around training, competing and travel
with the dogs, or even just going to the river with the dogs. The flip
side of how adaptable cats are to busy and urban lives is that they're
not really interested in doing things with you. 

I do find cats infinitely more interesting than dogs in a health and
behavioral way, though. They're so much more of a mystery, because of
their ecological niche as both predator and prey. Sitting at the top of
the food chain, dogs aren't as difficult to read. 
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #6 of 101: Gina Spadafori (giori) Sun 15 Oct 06 09:14
    
By the way, I'm really not trying to sell books here, but if you're
interested in buying, Amazon currently has them marked down to $7.77
each, because we're deep into promotions -- my co-author was on "Good
Morning, America" last week, etc.

If you go through petconnection.com, you can also get more than $100
in bonus gifts with the purchase. That deal will run through the 24th. 

Not pushing, just saying. 
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #7 of 101: Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Sun 15 Oct 06 10:11
    
Bonus gifts! We like bonus gifts!

As a pet columnist, you obviously get lots of questions from all over about
both cats and dogs. What's the most common question, and why do you think it
keeps coming up?
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #8 of 101: Gina Spadafori (giori) Sun 15 Oct 06 11:17
    
That's an easy one! My co-author, Dr. Marty Becker, is also a
syndicated pet-care columnist. We both get more questions on cats who
won't use the litter box. It's not even a contest. 

It keeps coming up because ... well, it's not really natural for an
animal who should have the choice of a whole neighborhood to have to
confine his elimination -- which is something that also has
communications aspect for animals -- to a single small box in a place
not of his choosing. 

Litter box use is all about compromise for a cat, and humans are
notoriously unwilling to make compromises for behaviorial problems. I
can't tell you how many people WILL NOT BUDGE when it comes to what
kind of litter they like to buy and where the box goes. 

I tell them, "If the cat's not happy, nobody's happy," but many people
just don't want to hear it. 

Of course, it's an issue that's also complicated by health problems --
UTIs, diabetes, hormonal disorders -- and other factors. But the basic
thing is that it's really good of a cat to use a litter box at all,
and it's no surprise that many of them don't want to, for whatever
reason. 
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #9 of 101: Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Sun 15 Oct 06 12:26
    
What about the most common dog question?
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #10 of 101: Gina Spadafori (giori) Sun 15 Oct 06 19:13
    
Skin conditions. They're pretty hard to answer, because a lot of the
skin problems are congenital, and many of the ones that aren't are
because ... well, it gets into a lot of nutrition stuff, and my basic
belief that dogs and cats weren't designed to eat processed food any
more than we were. 

Vets don't have good answers for those questions, either, and so
scatter-shot the problem with steroids and antibiotics, treating
symptoms not causes. Referral to a derm specialist is more expensive
than many can afford, so ... skin issue questions are hard to answer in
any helpful way. 

Saying, "your vet's taking shortcuts, your dog's food is crap and you
shouldn't have bought a puppy mill Westie" doesn't seem a particularly
good idea for a pet-care columnist.  

I hate skin questions. 
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #11 of 101: Gina Spadafori (giori) Tue 17 Oct 06 05:33
    
A perfect example in the e-mail this morning: 

--

She has been constantly scratching and licking herself to the point
that she lost most of her hair.  She was also emitting an awful
smelling ooze from her skin that caked up when it dried.  She has been
to a vet several times, been given shots of antibiotics, been bathed in
sulphur/lime, (several times) and she still wants to scratch and lick.
 She is eating purina dry dog chow and is also on the joint medication
for her hind legs.  She does have 90% of her hair back, except for her
belly that she keeps scratching.  Also, before any of the shampoos,
etc., her skin was tough like an elephant, but not now. 
Is there anything else that I can do for her????  I cannot stand to
see her constantly scratching, as I am sure she is very uncomfortable
doing also.  It seems that her hind legs just do it automatically now. 
 This has been going on for the last 6 months or so and I really hate
to keep her like this.  I have in the back of my mind to put her down,
which I really DON'T want to do.  The vet did check for mange, scabies
and yeast infection.  As far as I know, the yeast infection was the
most likely.  She is just a sweet, loveable dog, and I need to try and
correct this problem one way or the other. 
Can you help????  Any kind of supplement, or any other remedy I can
try?  

--

The shots are probably steroids AND antibiotic. Poor veterinary
practice. So there you have it: Miserable dog, vet treating symptoms
not cause, crap food, and a person who wants a "magic wand" home remedy
and would likely never take the dog to a veterinary dermatologist,
because of the expense. 

What can you tell readers with such problems? I'm completely helpless,
because they don't want the answers I give them. And the animal will
continue to suffer. 

Damn. 
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #12 of 101: Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Tue 17 Oct 06 19:01
    
THat does sound frustrating!

On the other hand, what kind of questions make you happy?
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #13 of 101: prunella (cmbegle) Tue 17 Oct 06 19:08
    

That letter is just awful... do you sometimes feel like the animal's life is
in your hands -- like if you don't answer quite the right way, they're going to
put their pet down?  That's almost the feeling I get from that letter.
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #14 of 101: Gina Spadafori (giori) Wed 18 Oct 06 10:20
    
I can't think that way. I'm not responsible for what other people do.
I'd go crazy if I took on that burden. After 20-odd years of this, I
just developed a tough skin. I do what I can and then move on. People
threaten me all the time with the euthanasia of their pets. I put it
back on them, and make it clear that THEY need to do something, not me.


As for e-mails I like, oh yes, there are many! People write with
ideas, suggestions and stories. Love to hear all of these. And I like
when people are clearly thinking before they make a pet decision, so
they can make the best one possible. 

 
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #15 of 101: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 18 Oct 06 11:49
    

(Note: Offsite readers with questions or comments may have them added to the
conversation by sending them to <inkwell@well.com> )
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #16 of 101: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 18 Oct 06 12:01
    

I'm marvelling at this statement:

>  We wrote the books in four months, during which I continued working
>  full-time (I work as an editor/writer for Sacramento's public utility)
>  and producing a weekly syndicated pet page for Universal Press.

Wow, and congrats!
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #17 of 101: Gina Spadafori (giori) Wed 18 Oct 06 12:27
    
Thanks! Honestly, I have no idea how I accomplished this. I do know it
required the judicious use of some prescription medication. 
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #18 of 101: caper fields guarded by decapitator bunnies (cjp) Wed 18 Oct 06 15:31
    
I devoured your "cat" book and am impressed by how it answered even my
weirdest mental meanderings, like why cats' eyes are different from
lions', why cats try to return to their old homes, and so forth. 
Thanks so much for writing this!

Okay, my question would be, what was the weirdest question you ever
got in re cats and/or dogs?
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #19 of 101: Gina Spadafori (giori) Wed 18 Oct 06 16:14
    
My favorite question from the cat book is, "Why do cats always head
for the one person in the room who doesn't like cats?" The answer is
that cats find direct eye contact intimidating, and so a friendly cat
will avoid all those people who are staring at them (the cat-lovers)
and head for the one person in the room who is politely not. 

As for weird ... a great many people evidence a lack of knowledge
regarding feline and canine genitalia. Like those who think their
veterinarians pulled a fast one or screwed up because it appears a dog
who has come home from neutering still has his "package." What he has,
of course, is the scrotal sac -- the testicles are gone. The sac will
eventually reduce in size and virtually disappear, but people don't
know that, and often ask why their neutered dog still appears to have
all his attributes.

I also get a smile because of people who don't realize their parakeets
and cockatiels aren't snuggling with them -- they're masturbating
against them. It is a challenge, however, to tactfully impart such
information. 
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #20 of 101: Michael Zentner (mz) Wed 18 Oct 06 16:22
    
>>> a great many people evidence a lack of knowledge
regarding feline and canine genitalia

Our society doesn't exactly encouraging exploration for that
knowledge. 
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #21 of 101: Gina Spadafori (giori) Wed 18 Oct 06 16:46
    
My co-author, veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, often points out that
some of the reason we don't know so much about how animals really are
is that we're more removed from nature than we once were. 

Growing up as an Idaho farm kid, he was well aware of how animals
reproduced -- everything from the barn cats to the cows. More familiar
with the concept of death, too, in a real way, not as a video-game
abstraction. Animal behavior? You needed to know that as a farm kid,
too, or you'd stand a good chance of being hurt. 
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #22 of 101: Elaine Sweeney (sweeney) Wed 18 Oct 06 17:06
    
>we're more removed from nature than we once were

It may be part and parcel of that...how people (including myself)
anthropomorphise their pets has always fascinated me.  The litter box
example is part of that, viewing the problem as cat "being bad", but
also when people introduce a new cat into their already cat-bearing
home, they'll have this mindset that "they'll be friends!" and they
plop the cage down, open the door, and watch the explosion with kind of
a giggle.  In their dreams, "friends", and now guaranteed to not
tolerate each other in the least going forward.
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #23 of 101: prunella (cmbegle) Wed 18 Oct 06 18:48
    

Ack, sweeney. I hope people don't try that, well, more than once,
anyway!

I anthropomorphize a whole lot.  I actually believe my dog loves
me when she gives me kisses, no matter what the book says!

I love that reason for why cats always go to the person who 
doesn't like cats!!

Is there actual animal behavior research that this information
comes from, or is most of the information from lots of experience
with animals?  Just curious.

OK, I know that the books are not about birds, but since you 
brought them up -- is there any way to know whether you have 
a male or female bird, if sexes look alike for that type of
bird?
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #24 of 101: how many butt rolls do you want (ray-coshow) Wed 18 Oct 06 19:33
    
Hi. 

A dog person here. I read the Dog book. Gina, I want to say right off
the bat, your anecdotes were my favorite part (those little narratives
with the gray background.) Not too far into the book, I found I was
able to tell whether one of those was yours or Dr. Becker's usually
within the first paragraph. I really enjoyed them and kind of wish
there had been more of those. 
  
inkwell.vue.284 : Gina Spadafori, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" & "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?"
permalink #25 of 101: Gina Spadafori (giori) Wed 18 Oct 06 19:59
    
I liked those parts, too! We're going to do another round of the books
next year, because we left out so many good questions. We have plenty
of stories to tell, believe me! 

Yes, there's a lot of behavior research going on. Some of it's
academically drive, and some is profit-driven. If you know what makes
pets tick, people will be happier with them and will buy more for them.


As for birds, gender typing is handled with a simple DNA test
following a blood draw by the avian vet. When I got my caique, Eddie, I
didn't know until I had him a couple of months and got down to Oakley
to see my "Birds For Dummies" co-author, avian specialist Dr. Brian
Speer, if Eddie was a Eddie boy or Eddie girl. A week later, I knew:
Eddie boy.

The MOST sexually dimorphic parrot species in the pet trade is the
eclectus. The females are red and purple; the males bright green: 

<http://www.modernrenaissanceink.com/tom/eclectus.jpg>
  

More...



Members: Enter the conference to participate

Subscribe to an RSS 2.0 feed of new responses in this topic RSS feed of new responses

 
   Join Us
 
Home | Learn About | Conferences | Member Pages | Mail | Store | Services & Help | Password | Join Us

Twitter G+ Facebook