Tonawanda News

April 8, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Spring cleaning for your pets

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Spring has sprung. Birds are migrating back to Western New York, trees are waking up and the refreshing spring rain is coming down to push up those May flowers. 

Of course, this means that allergens are at an all-time high and kitchen floors have so much mud from (human) children’s boots and our (canine) children’s paws that some times you wonder if your eatery is in fact outside.

Spring means different things to different people and animals. Some may look forward to obtaining natural vitamin D, while others try to avoid the weeds popping up around the garden. Much like other seasonal changes of the year, you and your companion critters need to adjust.

Springtime in our house always meant fresh air. Windows are opened and new enriching smells enter our home. Secure screen windows to prevent cats from falling out and check for damages in the screen that might have occurred during the winter months. These holes can let in nasty little critters like ticks, mosquitoes and fleas.

In addition to securing your windows, making sure your pets have proper identification is important. A screened window might not be enough to prevent a tom cat from chasing a wild cat it smells in heat. Microchips and leashes for mammals and leg bands for birds are basic ways you can identify and get your pets returned if they become lost.

Other ways your pets can feel the warm spring breeze is in the car with the windows cracked open. It makes me angry when I see those pets on the drivers lap (legal!) and in the bed of a truck (legal!). I called the Town of Tonawanda Police to verify. Although our lawmakers believe that texting on a phone is too distracting, having a grown dog on your lap or around your feet is apparently okay. I do urge for the safety of others to secure your pets to the back seat, either in a kennel or in a seatbelt harness.

In addition to improving driving, this will prevent your pets from having flying debris and insects caught in their eyes, ears or mouth. Having a secured pet will also aid in their overall health if you need to stop quickly, make a sharp turn or get in an accident. Be smart, safe and proactive.

In addition to weeds, plants could be growing in and around your house, which be poisonous to your pet. Azalea, Caladium, Daylily, Lily of the Valley, Morning Glory, Tiger Lily and Tulips are some spring flowers that have been reported as poisonous to dogs, cats or rabbits. The ASPCA includes a more comprehensive list if you are concerned about your landscaping plans. In addition to listing what is toxic, they also list what is safe and lists can appear specifically for cats, dogs or horses. Both common and scientific names are available.

Fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides keep our gardens vigorous and lush, but their ingredients could be deadly to our pets. Always store these poisonous products in common sense areas like closed shelves or cabinets. The USDA checks at their yearly inspection of zoological institutions if cleaning products are in the same area as animal food. It is okay if they are, but everything must be labeled and if on shelves, animal food must be designated to the higher shelves, with cleaning supplies below. This is an easy and important fix to ensure no contamination. 

Pet safety and spring cleaning can be your excuse to re-do your closet.

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior. Please email your questions to, or search for "Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan" on Facebook.