Tonawanda News

December 17, 2012

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Gift guide for the animal lover in your life

--
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Present-giving time is here. If you are hurrying around looking for something great to give to your animal enthusiast, here are some of my favorites this holiday season.

“Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine” by Marion Nestle (chapter head)

I just got the book, though it is a few years old now. This book is a serious, yet important book about one of the largest recalls in the food industry. In March of 2007, Menu Foods — a pet food manufacturer, after a month or so of deliberating recalled 60 million cans of wet cat and dog food. 

The book is 173 pages long plus a lot of notes, appendix, lists and tables. It is a quick story, because the reader is interested in what is causing this horrible epic recall. I would like to share this with my pet caregiver friends, but I wouldn’t necessarily read it over and over.

The most disturbing excerpt from the book is its mention of the brands that were recalled. 

“These ranged from the cheapest brands, such as the Ol’ Roy foods sold at Walmart stores, to P&G’s premium Iams and Eukanuba labels…Yet here these brands were, all lumped together in one recall, all made at exactly the same place, all with virtually identical ingredients, and all made by one manufacturer.”

“Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle” by Thor Hanson 

This book just came out in August and is written by a conservationist. His experiences studying birds from Africa to Antartica are aided by art historians, paleontologists, biologists, engineers and even fashion designers, to figure out the evolution, flight, fancy and function of feathers. 

I have this strong fascination with feathers and eggs, so this book was perfect for me.

The book starts with a discussion of the famous fossil Archaeopteryx. This was an ancient animal that looked part reptile and part bird. It was discovered in 1861 and instantly sparked debates about whether it was the “missing link” in the evolution of dinosaurs to birds. 

One story that I really enjoyed was how the fossil was used as a payment for the quarryman’s health bills. The discoverer had a serious chest infection from working in the mine and used the fossil to see the doctor. If he only would have known how important that fossil truly was he could have paid for a lot more than an office visit.

The book is 272 pages. In later chapters Hanson, discuses why vultures have featherless heads and why some birds have long trains of feathers and why some human models like to mimic birds, like the showgirls of Las Vegas.

“I could Pee on this: And other short poems by Cats” by Francesco Marciuliano

It is only 4.5 by 6 inches but it packs a punch. I literally cried during a few parts of the book because it was so funny. Titles include “Who Is That on Your Lap?,” “This Is My Chair,” “Kneel Before Me,” “Nudge” and “Some of My Best Friends Are Dogs.” 

They are all short poems by cats. How can it not be good? My favorite is the poem about the cat that walks on your computer and deletes or sends flawed emails. The book hit close to home.

This book also came out in August this year and is 112 tiny pages. All the poems are accompanied by full-colored pictures of cats next to them. I try to share this book with as many coworkers and cat lovers as possible. I will not be lending my book out, because it must be at my house for easy access. You can most likely pick up a copy for under $10. Great stocking stuffer. I hope there is a sequel, maybe “I could Pee on this ‘2.’ “

•••

For a Christmas treat for your feathered friend, Vitakraft Kracker Sticks for Parrots were sampled by my cockatoo with great pleasure. It took her a couple days to get through it, which was good enrichment. 

She tried the African flavor (I am trying to expand her culinary repertoire — her ancestors are from the Molucca islands after all.) These honey sticks, with dried fruit and seed on them are great treats for the holidays and can be found at all major pet store retailers. 

One funny thing I saw at Petco said “Our wholesome mouthwatering recipe…” I would like to call that bluff, as some birds and a lot of parrots can’t truly salivate. This is why they dip their pellets in water often. So these recipes might be mouthwatering to us, but to birds they are just good eats. 

Vitakraft also makes many other small animal diets and treats. Vitakraft Dandelion Drops for Chinchillas were also readily enjoyed by a chinchilla named Nala.

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