Q. My guinea pig only eats celery -- she actually squeaks for it when she wants more -- and snubs her dry food, fruit and other veggies. Can she live on celery alone?
-- Audrey Chase, Parry Sound, Ont.
A. Guinea pigs are vegetarians, but they cannot survive on celery, so you need to practice tough love. Serve celery just twice a week and ignore the complaints. Provide several choices of diced fruits and vegetables, including cabbage and kale. Continue giving guinea-pig pellets and try some good-quality dry hay as well. Keep her food fresh, putting it in a covered rack to keep it clean, and remove any old food before it spoils. Like us, guinea pigs need vitamin C, so mix 50 milligrams of vitamin C in 250 millilitres of chlorine-free water and serve this fresh each day. Your persistence will help your little pet kick the celery habit.
Q. Which is better for my cat: wet or dry food? I've been told that wet would keep her slimmer and healthier.
-- Ann-Marie Gibson, Pickering, Ont.
A. Except for water content, there is no nutritional difference between good-quality dry and canned food. Dry food is convenient and credited with keeping teeth cleaner. Canned food, on the other hand, encourages cats to eat regular meals rather than nibble throughout the day. This, combined with the extra water content, may reduce the risk of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), but preventing this complex disorder depends more on the quality than the type of food. Whichever you choose, measure her daily ration and monitor her weight to prevent obesity.
Q. What are dogs and cats telling us with their ear and tail movements?
-- Toby Ben, Thornhill, Ont.
A. Most of us know, for example, that a cat with its ears pinned back is angry. Anger, happiness, fear, curiosity -- cats and dogs signal all these and more using their ears, tails, posture and facial expressions. Unfortunately, sometimes we misunderstand and get the scars to prove it. Supported by the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians, the Be a Tree program teaches kids how to recognize signs of friendliness and aggression in dogs -- and react appropriately. To arrange a seminar, contact your local veterinary hospital or visit www.doggonesafe.com.
Q. My 11-year-old son wants a lizard, but my wife and I aren't keen. What care would it require, and could my son provide this himself?
-- Tom Craven, Saskatoon
A. Lizards may look low maintenance, but -- like all pets -- they need devoted caretakers. Sadly, they are often bought on impulse with little thought given to their long-term needs (some live to 25 years in captivity), then, through ignorance and neglect, most die. Your son is old enough to provide proper care, but make sure he does his homework and chooses a suitable pet.
Don't rely exclusively on store staff for information on different species (visit www.centralpets.com for info on reptiles as pets). Only purchase a captive-bred lizard (or consider adopting from a rescue organization). And choose a roomy, smooth-sided, easy-clean container that is -- need I add? -- escape-proof. The lizard, housing and furnishings (basking rocks, climbing branches, heat source and a special, essential UV light) will cost from $200 to $400. Ensuring the proper temperature and diet, and constant fresh food and water, is critical, and even if it's not burned out, the UV bulb must be changed regularly. You may also need to find a vet who can treat your pet (check out www.anapsid.org/vets).
Q. My cat eats grass, then brings it up. Is it OK for him to eat it?
-- Bonnie Graham, Whitby, Ont.
A. Grass isn't harmful to cats or dogs unless it has recently been sprayed with herbicides, pesticides or other chemicals. Pets seem to enjoy grazing, but often throw up afterward (invariably aiming at carpet or upholstery). In fact, a sick animal may instinctively and obsessively consume grass in order to induce vomiting. That said, grass can contain bacteria or parasites; let your cat eat it, but get his stools checked regularly for parasites and ask your vet about "strategic" deworming.