Tonawanda News

April 7, 2014

Dear readers, it's me, Kenny

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I have bad knees. I have been told to blame my grandmother. I have also been told to blame her for my love of animals. Today, we celebrate the 100th Critter Companions column.

I would love to give you 100 reasons on why I write this column or 100 ways to be the best pet caregiver, or even 100 best pet treat recipes. Sadly, however, editors put word and space limits on columns. By the time it would take me to explain that it was the 100th article and what I was doing,

I would be down to five or six words per item and that seemed difficult. So instead I will give you just a few.

Last night, my cat Julian finally decided to sleep on my legs. It is something I’ve wanted for a long time, even though I have a bad knee and it gets stiff after just a little bit. I wanted him to voluntarily snuggle with me since the day when I first brought the soft, affectionate kitten home. The dilemma was that I had to turn the night light out and yet I didn’t want to disturb Julian. I reached my arm as far as I could towards the night stand and then crawled my fingers up the side of the light. I tilted the lamp down so I could shut it off without moving my stiff knees and legs, as to not disturb the cat.

I remember growing up reading a story about the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s favorite cat.

Muhammad woke up one day to the sounds of the daily call to prayer. He was getting ready and started laying out the clothes he was going to dress himself with. He soon saw that his cat Muezza was sleeping on the sleeve of his prayer robe. Rather than waking her, he cut the sleeve off, leaving the cat undisturbed.

Growing up, I saw no problem with this story. It made perfect sense. That ideal way to treat an pet still persists in me, and that is one of the reasons why I wanted to start writing a weekly pet column.

To become the best pet caregiver, I have one large piece of advice: Learn as much as you can about training. Pet caregivers know that they have to feed their animal a balanced diet. They understand that they have to give them shelter and water. Some pet caregivers even give their pets the proper amount of exercise. One of the biggest reasons people surrender their pets to a shelter or post them on Craiglist — or worse — is because of behavioral problems. If pet caregivers knew the importance of animal training before acquiring a pet, many of these problems could be fixed within the home.

Training can mend many behavioral problems. When many people think of training, they think of secondary reasons like agility, or cute things like retrieving a beer can from the fridge or showing off your pet to your friends.

The main reasons why we should train our pets include mental stimulation, physical stimulation and cooperative behavior, like teaching animals to cooperate in their own care.

Since we take such good care of our pets, they do not need to use energy to hunt for their food, seek out mates or gather nesting materials. We give it all to them. They still have these innate urges, but since we give them everything they would ever need, they start using their energy on things we may not like. Luckily, training can redirect those behaviors

Training cooperative behaviors — like walking down a busy street without barking or lunging at strangers, voluntarily offering their foot for nail trimming and going in a kennel for safe transportation — are essential as feeding them daily. When we say we don’t have time for training, we are saying we don’t have time for our pets.

I hope this column in the past 100 articles has shown you that training can be quick, fun and easy. I will try to continue to offer my latest, most positive training advice for the companion animals that share your home for the next 100 articles.

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior and is a certified professional bird trainer through the International Avian Trainers Certification Board. Please email your questions to, or search for “Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan” on Facebook.