Author: Jasmine Cabanaw (page 1 of 2)

Pets and COVID-19: What You Need to Know

By Jasmine Cabanaw

If your dog has ever tried to lick your face after licking its own butt, you’ve probably had a moment when you questioned how sanitary your fur baby is. Fortunately, dog butt to human face isn’t a known transmission of the coronavirus COVID-19. The ability for the virus to directly transmit from a dog or cat to a human appears to be not possible. However, due to the ability of the virus to live on surfaces, people who have animal companions still need to take extra precautions to prevent the virus from spreading.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests pet owners restrict contact with pets and other animals if the owner is infected with COVID-19. That includes “petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.”

Can Your Pets Get COVID-19?

As of March 17th, two dogs have tested positive for COVID-19 in Hong Kong. This is not concrete evidence that humans can pass the virus to their pets and experts caution that more tests and studies need to be done. The current consensus is that pets are highly unlikely to get COVID-19 from humans.

Sadly, the first dog — a 17 year old Pomeranian — died after returning home from quarantine. The dog belonged to a 60-year-old woman who recovered from COVID-19 herself.  At the time of the dog’s release, blood tests came back negative. The negative results could mean that the original positive was from traces of the virus around the dog’s mouth. The other possibility is that the dog was infected — The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department cautioned that, “It is known in some asymptomatic or mild cases of human infections with other types of coronavirus that antibodies may not always develop.” However, it is more likely that the dog passed away from stress and health complications compounded by the quarantine and old age.

The second dog to test positive is a German Shepherd living in the Pok Fu Lam area on Hong Kong Island. The dog’s 30-year-old owner also tested positive for COVID-19. Health officials are now strongly advising people to take extra precautions with their pets. While it is unlikely that cats and dogs can directly infect humans with the virus, these cases show that the jury is still out on whether dogs can catch the virus from people. While the likelihood of your dog or cat getting COVID-19 is slim, in these uncertain times, it is best to err on the side of caution and to check with sources such as the World Health Organization for updates.

How to Protect Your Pets (And Yourself) During COVID-19

How do we protect ourselves and our fur babies? With many countries already struggling with a shortage of COVID-19 tests for humans, it is unlikely that these countries will begin testing on domestic animals. The best thing a pet owner can do for their animal companions is to take matters into their own hands (mainly, by washing them). The main thing to consider is how coronavirus can survive on surfaces, which includes pet collars, leashes, etc. The information below contains suggestions on how to keep your pets, yourself, and your family protected from COVID-19.

1. Stop Kissing Your Pets

Now is not the time for smooching. With lockdown, social distancing, self-quarantine, and shelter in place orders being implemented in various countries, humans are craving physical affection. A natural solution is to snuggle with the fur babies, but humans need to keep the health of their animal companions in mind as well as their own.

Does this mean that you can’t touch your pets? No. In fact, health officials are urging people not to abandon their pets. Treat your pets as if they were your babies, because in a way they are. Which means you simply follow the same protocols you would for other humans. COVID-19 transmits through droplets, so your pets are most at risk in getting covered in the virus when you are giving them kisses or letting them lick your face. In other words, it’s time to friend-zone your pets.

2. Limit Doggy Playdates

Humans aren’t the only ones who need to practice social distancing. Since the virus can live on surfaces, including animal fur, it is best to keep your pets away from other animals. All that romping around in the dog park gets your dog covered in grass, mud, saliva from other dogs, and potentially, COVID-19. With shelter in place orders in effect, it is also wise to reduce risks to your dog’s health in general so that you can avoid taking a trip to the veterinarian’s office. This goes for other animal companions as well. It’s time to be extra cautious with their health. Save the playdates for another time.

3. Hands Off My Pet!

Taking your dog, cat, bird, rat, goldfish etc. out for a walk is a good way for both you and your pet to get some exercise. As long as you practice social distancing, both of you should be safe from the virus. But remember to treat your animal companion like any other member of your household. People should not be petting your dog right now, even though that was considered normal behavior just a few weeks ago. If someone wants to interact with your pet while you are out, keep a distance of at least six feet away and politely explain that your pet is practicing social distancing, too.

3. Wash Your Hands — And Your Pets

Since droplets containing the virus can land on objects and surfaces, it is important to wash your hands the second you get home from an outing. Consider using hand sanitizer before you even open your door. Depending on where you went with your pet, it would be a good idea to give your pet a bath upon returning home, too. All that hand washing isn’t going to count for much if your dog or cat is spreading the virus throughout your house.

4. Keep Outdoor Cats In

This may be a tough one, but outdoor cats need to remain indoors. Yes, your cat may adopt Garfield-type behaviors and mope about and maybe demand lasagna. This is better than your cat bringing the virus inside and infecting your household. Have lots of toys and games on hand for your newly indoor kitty and be sure to give your cat extra attention to keep them from getting too bored. Just remember — no smooching, scritches and pats only. And wash your hands first.

5. Have a Reasonable Supply of Food, Treats, and Supplies

Pet stores are not considered essential businesses and will be closed in areas that are in lockdown or have mandated shelter in place. Stock up on your pets’ favorite toys, food, and treats while there is time. What is a reasonable supply? Don’t become the pet owner version of a toilet paper hoarder — a month’s supply is considered enough. Also make sure that any pet medication is refilled and that you have a pet emergency kit in the house.

6. What If You Have COVID-19?

The CDC recommends that people infected with COVID-19 should restrict contact with their animal companions, just like they would do with other humans. This doesn’t mean having no contact, but having limited and cautious contact. So, wash your hands before you take the dog for a walk, don’t let your pets sleep in the same bed as you, keep pets off furniture (or you can avoid certain pieces of furniture… we know that with certain pets this will be a standoff), and no smooching.

7. Help a Shelter Animal

People in self-isolation are prone to increased depression, anxiety, and loneliness. This is how shelter animals feel all the time. Consider adopting or fostering a shelter animal during this period to help reduce the blues. You would be saving a life while gaining a companion. Even if you have COVID-19, the grim reality is that animals at kill shelters are more likely to die if they aren’t adopted than they would be from getting coronavirus. So take precautions, and opt for animal snuggles while you wait out your home quarantine.

Pets and COVID-19 — We Are All Connected

If the recent cases of dogs contracting the COVID-19 virus show us anything, it’s that we are more connected to our animal companions than many of us realize. In a rapidly changing world, it is important now more than ever to realize that we are all connected. Every action we take has a cause and effect and sends a ripple out into the world. Take advantage of this time to pause and reflect, with your animal companions safely by your side.

Green Bamboo publishes stories of animal rescue, friendship, and kindness. Check out our selection here and support animal rescue organizations.

Teaching Children the Art of Failure

I once had quite the fun life lesson while trying to make an origami corgi. The evidence is below. One of these photos is how the corgi was supposed to look. The other is how ours turned out.

I was babysitting an eight-year old girl, and we were 15 minutes into the 37 minute tutorial (clearly, an ambitious origami project for us) and feeling so proud of ourselves before it started falling apart. All of a sudden we couldn’t keep up. And after all the work we had been putting into it, too.

We could have gotten upset, frustrated, or disappointed, but instead total hilarity ensued. We could not stop laughing. We kept going for a while, in fits of laughter, until we were satisfied with our creations, which of course looked nothing like corgis.

We did not succeed with our project, but failing was the better experience. If we had mastered the tutorial and created perfect origami corgis instead of our wrinkled-elephant-sort-of-dog-definitely-not-a-corgi creations, I’m sure we would have felt happy and proud. But we would have missed out on all that silliness. And that silliness was the highlight of our day. Plus, it makes a far better story than “we watched a video and made a perfect corgi”.

Sometimes being a failure is better than being a master at something. I’m sure that had occurred to me before, but something about the experience with the origami corgis made this lesson really sink in for me — in a way that had immense gratitude attached to it. I was just so thankful that we failed. The experience of failing, under these conditions, was awesome.

In Western society, we place so much pressure on ourselves to “be the best” at things. And there are usually huge penalties for failing or not being good enough. But by having that attitude, we’re missing out on joyful moments. Our children are missing out on joyful moments. Because despite what we’ve been taught, failure is not always bad. It can even be better than succeeding, depending on the circumstances.

Of course, it is worthy to strive towards success, but if the scales are not balanced and the value of failure is overlooked or disregarded, then this kind of mentality becomes unhealthy and toxic.

It can even be deadly.

Research from the Interamerican Journal of Psychology found that many suicides are the result of a same day crisis, usually from the loss of or failure at something. Let that resonate. The despair and feelings of rejection from failing are so powerful that it can drive people to take their own lives. This is the effect of an unhealthy relationship with failure, usually due to no fault of the person’s own, but rather to years of toxic conditioning that teaches us to be ashamed of failing instead of embracing the value of it.

How to Teach Children the Art of Failure

It is so important that we give children the tools to master the art of failure from a very young age. We often say to our children that it is okay to make mistakes. Meanwhile, they struggle through a Western education system that places huge value on over-achieving and enacts severe penalties on failing. Outside of the education system, there is a constant emphasis through television, sports, advertisements, peers, and entertainment that success is good and failure is bad. I’m sure that most people reading this can think of several times in their lives where they felt defeated because of their failures.

As parents and educators, how do we teach children the art of failure so that they can reduce the risks of having an unhealthy relationship with failure and success?

The answer is not an easy one and will be relative to the unique personality of each child. I wish there could be easy shortcuts but this is not the world in which we live. That said, the tips below are based on 30+ years of working with a variety of children in several countries, including children with special needs and children in foster care. When faced with a daunting task, I like to remember a bit of wisdom I received years ago: doing even one thing to improve is better than doing nothing. So if even one of these tips is something you can add to your experience with children, then you are already one step further ahead than you were before.

1. Start with yourself. Children (and people in general) learn from showing, not just telling. If you have a complicated relationship with failure, your child will mimic your behaviors even if you are telling them to do the opposite.

2. Create joyful opportunities for failure. In order to learn the art of failure, children need to have opportunities to fail, but it is important for them to not associate failure with punishment. Create situations, such as a difficult craft (want to give origami corgis a try?) to give children a chance to experience failure in a safe environment.

3. Talk through emotions. Once a child experiences failure, the adult needs to lead by example by setting a positive tone, but also needs to not force these emotions on the child. Help children process the emotions that arise from failure. Have them name their feelings, ask them why they think these feelings are present. This processing helps them to understand the complexities of failure and of emotions in general, so that they can feel less confused and more grounded.

4. Learn through play. A Washington Post article that went viral in 2016 unveiled that research undoubtedly proves that humans learn faster through play than by any other method.

5. Practice tough love. We don’t like to see our children suffer. When they get sad because they are losing or have failed, instinctively we often want to “let them win”. This will not help your child master the art of failure and can even leave them unprepared for being in the real world, where they are very much going to have moments of failure. It’s okay for your child to be sad. This is part of the art of failure — honoring the difficult emotions as well as the positive ones.

6. Find a balance. Of course, we also do not want to create a situation where we never allow a child to succeed. Balance lessons of failure with lessons of success.

7. Teach the big three. As an educator and a mentor, I’ve found that the three main skills that will most likely help a child succeed in life are critical thinking, discernment, and self-worth. The experience of failure is an opportunity to teach all three. Help children identify and strengthen these traits during the process.

8. Reward children for trying. An ‘A’ for effort can be well-deserved. Are there little rewards you can offer when a child doesn’t quite succeed but has truly tried their best?

9. Tell stories. Someone I know once broke his arm from winning an arm-wrestling match. He succeeded in winning, but it would have been much better if he had failed. This story has stuck with me ever since I heard it and I use it to remind myself that success is not always worth the cost. There is power in stories; they stick with us, they resonate with us. If there are stories you can share about yourself or from people in your family — ones to which your child will relate — use them for teaching lessons about failure.

10. Make it a practice. It takes several repetitions to learn a new behavior and it is theorized that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Embrace the journey and make the art of failure a regular practice. If your child can start the hours required for this practice early in life, they will have an advantage and be further ahead than most by the time they reach adulthood.

I am certain that there are points in this article where I have failed. Perhaps failed to communicate effectively or not elaborated enough on a piece of advice. There are definitely way more than ten tips I could provide. That’s okay. This is a blog post, not a book or peer-reviewed essay. I welcome you to build upon the information I have outlined here. Tailor it to your experience and even correct me if you think I’ve got any parts of it wrong. It’s all just part of the process.

And I hope you enjoy the photo of our wrinkled-elephant-sort-of-dog-definitely-not-a-corgi creations. I think they’re pretty awesome.

5 Inspiring Children’s Books About Animals by Black Authors & Illustrators

Representation is an important element for a healthy childhood. Children who see people who are similar to themselves succeeding are more likely to believe that they, too, can be successful. Representation in children’s books and literature — both of the authors and of the characters featured in stories — provides a sense of inclusion and belonging. Diversity is an accurate reflection of reality, which is why the children’s books at Green Bamboo Publishing feature stories about many different types of animals. The books we publish also feature a diverse range of authors and illustrators. In honor of Black History Month, we are recognizing five children’s books by black authors and illustrators, including one of our own, the Canadian author Candace Amarante.

5 Inspiring Children’s Books About Animals by Black Authors & Illustrators

The Pheasant’s Tale… or was it its Tail?
Candace Amarante/Veronika Gruntovskaya
A young pheasant explores the themes of self-expression when she desires something more for herself… a tail as beautiful and vibrant as a peacock’s. She gets by with a little help from some unexpected friends and lets her true colors fly. We love the quirky humor and comedy in the book — qualities that often pop up during journeys of self-discovery.

Rice & Rocks
Sandra L. Richards/Megan Kayleigh Sullivan
A little boy named Giovanni goes and a world-wide adventure with his aunt and pet parrot, Jasper, to discover the many places that serve the traditional dish of his country. He soon learns that rice and beans is a dish to be celebrated and that he can be proud of his heritage. We love the diversity, and positive message of self-love that permeates the book.

Anna Carries Water
Olive Senior/Laura James
The character Anna struggles with sibling rivalry, the struggle to be more grown up than she is, and a unique phobia of cows. She is tasked with fetching water every day, but is unable to carry it on her head like her older siblings. As Anna overcomes her fear and learns how to persevere, young readers are taught the lesson of determination and trusting in one’s self. We love the creative characters and the sense of empowerment this book instills in its readers.

How the Leopard Got His Claws
Chinua Achebe
Told in the tradition of fables, this story examines the potency and dangers of power taken by force. The theme of justice is seen in the journey the leopard king takes to become a leader, gain his claws, and restore harmony to the jungle. We love the concepts of friendship that appear between the animal characters and in the message that we can all live together in harmony and peace.

Whose Knees Are These?
Jabari Asim
The cast of cute animals in this book entertain and delight as young readers discover the silliness of knees. The text is designed to be playful and simple, but the message of body positivity is strong. We love the easy flow of the book and nurturing quality of love that is present throughout.

Themes of Love in Children’s Books

At their core, what all these children’s books by black authors and illustrators share is a unifying theme of love. Whether it is love for oneself, love for animals, love for your family, love for the world, or love for friends, the reminder to be loving is always a good one to embrace.

Browse through our collection and choose a book that supports making the world a better place.

Exploring the Themes in the Children’s Picture Book The Pheasant’s Tale

Do you ever long to be different, to embrace the many colors of who you are? Author Candace Amarante explores this theme of self-expression in the children’s picture book The Pheasant’s Tale or … was it its Tail?

When did you realize that you were a writer?

I realized I was a writer when all I could think about was getting my other duties and obligations out of the way, so I could write creatively. I discovered my love of writing children’s books while working on my dissertation in political science. Upon completion of a chapter, I would treat myself by writing a story. By the time I finished my thesis, I had six children’s book manuscripts under my belt, three of which have been published.

What inspired you to write a children’s picture book?

A rather amusing misunderstanding that occurred with my daughter. She was and still is a clear and articulate chatterbox. A few years ago, she came home from daycare speaking incomprehensible words. I thought something had gone awry with her verbal ability and was about to call the doctor, when my husband stopped me and suggested that I talk to our daughter more and tell her stories. I did just that, making up stories on our metro rides to and from daycare.

Shortly thereafter, my husband and I found out that there was absolutely nothing wrong with our daughter’s verbal ability; she had been repeating words and phrases from a little girl in her class from Hong Kong and was actually speaking to us in Cantonese! From this serendipitous experience, the seed for storytelling was planted in me and has been growing ever since.

What are your favorite things about children’s picture books?

Imaginative stories with vivid illustrations from author/illustrators like Phoebe Gilman, Camille Garoche (Princesse Camcam), and Brian Selznick; stories with lots of lyrical descriptions like those by L.M. Montgomery and E. B. White as well as stories that touch on social subject matters and are written in an uncompromising and honest manner by authors such as Harper Lee, Virginia Hamilton, Zilpha Keatly Snyder, and Jacqueline Woodson.

Historical fiction is another one of my favorite genres in children’s books, and I’m partial to authors like Mildred D. Taylor, Paula Fox, Jack Gantos, and Avi, to name a few. I also like quirky and wacky stories from authors like Roald Dahl and David Walliams. I’m a sucker for charming and endearing stories by writers like Katherine Applegate and Rob Buyea. Another thing I truly appreciate in children’s books is originality, which I’ve found mostly in the tales of my all-time favorite children’s book author, Gianni Rodari.

In your opinion, what are the benefits of reading?

Aside from improving writing skills, I’m hardly ever bored when I read. I carry a book with me everywhere I go, so when I’m on the verge of boredom, I preempt it by reading.

Did you have a concept for the illustrations in The Pheasant’s Tale or … was it its Tail?, or did your illustrator come up with the concept on her own?

Veronika Gruntovskaya, my illustrator, came up with the concept on her own. She had me choose from two styles: one that was more artistically elaborate and detailed, and another that was more comical with vibrant colors. I opted for the latter as I felt that it would be more appealing to children.

What is the main message you are communicating with your book?

I really didn’t have a message in mind when I wrote the book. My sole intention was to tell a story that would delight children. However, if a message could be derived from The Pheasant’s Tale or … was it its Tail? it would be one that encourages cooperation, teamwork, and friends making sacrifices to help each other, along with the pursuit of self-expression.

Do you have aspirations to write another book?

Yes, I do! In fact, I have several manuscripts for which I am currently seeking publication. They include a short chapter book, a historical fiction novel, a project in the medical humanities — which consists of writing stories that incorporate the voice of children with chronic illnesses — and a picture book series for reluctant readers.

Interested in reading something by Candace Amarante? Get a copy of The Pheasant’s Tale or … was it its Tail? here!

A Commission Portrait Artist Goes Wild for Animals

Guest post by Calvin Lai

When Jojo first came into my life he was small enough to fit in my hands. He couldn’t make a sound when he meowed, and he was a little frail, but he was full of love. I adored the little grey patch on his chin and the fur behind his ears. He was actually one of the softest kittens I had ever petted, and he was my buddy from day one. Eventually, he found his voice, and his health started to improve. I taught him how to come to me when I called his name. I played fetch with him with a toy mouse. He liked to cuddle. But not all the time. Though Jojo was a very friendly kitten, he also had a wild side to him, and he let it out whenever he was in an ornery mood. I’m not sure what set him off, but there were times when you could see the look in his eyes and you had to tread carefully. He was an energetic kitten, and kittens go crazy sometimes. Or at least this one did.

Seven years later, Jojo has been my constant companion. I’ve seen him grow, change, and become one of the most unique little creatures I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I’m always amazed by how much personality he has and how different he is from other cats I’ve known. So it made sense to me why I decided to do an oil painting of him even though he wasn’t my typical subject matter. But as a commission portrait artist, I’m always looking for a challenge, and I was surprised by how much the rules of painting changed and stayed the same even in the wild world of animals.

Jojo’s Time to Shine

jojo banner (1)

Earlier this year I was asked to participate in a group show called Cats Vs. Dogs. This exhibit, which will be on display through December 2017, is sponsored by The Vendue in association with Robert Lange Studios. The Vendue is a historic hotel in Charleston, South Carolina. It is the city’s premiere art hotel featuring high end pieces set within a first class establishment. I was honored to be asked, and I naturally thought of Jojo to be the subject of my painting.

I immediately wanted the piece to have two components; to show a glimmer of Jojo’s character, and to make it more than just a portrait painting of my special friend. I decided to expand upon the fine art genre of still life oil painting. This subject matter has been a longtime favorite of artists throughout history. Adding my cat into the composition gave this time honored form a twist. Still life with life! With all the objects placed on my desk, Jojo’s curiosity got the better of him, and he checked out everything. He especially liked to push the lemon and paw underneath the dish. Jojo played a lot with my setup as he was excited by the new change in his environment. Eventually, he became tired and decided to curl up and nap.

I took a lot of photos that evening, but most either came out too blurry, because Jojo kept moving around, or too boring, because Jojo was sleeping. I eventually settled on a reference photo of him looking intently at the fruit. I felt the shot exposed Jojo’s mischievous and sweet sides all mixed up within this one contemplative moment. What was he observing? What was he planning on doing? Was he just spacing out after being so playful? I gave a viewer the ability to come up with a narrative by creating a scene around Jojo. It’s fun to imagine what’s going on within his mind. It makes the painting more interactive.

The Difference Between Animals and People… Fur!

One of the amazing things about oil painting is its ability to create textures. As a commission portrait artist, I am constantly working to make what I paint feel like what it is. When I render skin, depending on who the subject matter is, my goal is to make it seem smooth or rough to the touch. Hair needs to feel bristly or silky. Metal needs to feel cold. Jojo is a cat who has the softest fur I’ve ever felt (except after he roles in the dirt). To make something appear soft is tricky to say the least.

When I paint I don’t like to smooth out my brushstrokes too much. Blending is one of oil paint’s great assets, but I find it needs to be done sparingly in order to be effective. In fact when it is done minimally it becomes more effective. So the solution for fur like Jojo’s is not to blend out all the rough lines. It is necessary for some parts, but blending out all the fur in order to make it appear soft makes the piece look flat.

In the beginning of the painting I started with large sections of color. I blocked out Jojo’s form and made sure to sketch out the objects within the composition. I then started to add more detail to areas I wanted as focal points, and I developed the background. It was important to make sure that Jojo, the objects around him, and the background all had a consistent sense of lighting. As the painting progressed I laid brush marks that would simulate fur. The combination of large areas of color and select brushstrokes on top made it appear as if the fur had volume and layers. The most blending I did was on some of the edges around the body in order to work well with the background. All this created the illusion of fur that was soft to the touch.

But the softness of Jojo’s fur is also enhanced by the way the objects are painted around him. The bottle, vases, dish, lemon, and apple are all hard. Of course there is variation among their textures, (glass and porcelain are smooth, lemons and apples generally have a waxy surface to them), but when you touch them they are solid. It is the contrast between these objects and Jojo that helps to bring out the softness of his fur. The contrast helps with the effect.

As I write this Jojo is lying on top of the blanket draped over my legs and curled up in a U. It’s a cold early afternoon, but my cat keeps my legs warm. He does this often, and I’m surprised he’s not pawing underneath my computer. He’s a diverse and complex little creature, and he’s been a good friend. I’m lucky to have him in my life.

A Commission Portrait Artist for Your Pet

If you are looking for a commission portrait artist in order to paint your own, or a loved one’s, cat, dog, bird, fish, hamster, or any animal, click here to find out more.

Calvin Lai’s art is a mixture of medicine, meditation, and personal growth. He found early on that drawing was something he loved, and to make a picture appear lifelike became his goal.

Things to Consider Before Getting a Pet for Your Child

Guest post written by Kevin Davies from

Children and pets just naturally go together, right? That may be true in some instances but certainly not in all. There are many things to consider when deciding whether to adopt a pet for a child. First and foremost, realize that, as the adult, the ultimate responsibility for the pet lies with you, not your child. It’s perfectly fine to ask your child to help with pet chores as appropriate but don’t assume that your child will not need help and/or supervision in these tasks. If you wouldn’t entrust the care of your child to another child, and the same goes for an animal companion.

When choosing a pet, dogs and cats are often the first species considered. However, there are many other species of animals that make also make good animal companions. It was with interest that I read a post detailing ten pets that are not suitable when you have children featured on Babysitting Jobs. The list brings up some great points. It’s well worth the time to read through it if you have children. I would like to add a few more thoughts regarding the list.

●       I agree that primates and big cats (i.e. lions, tigers, etc.) are not appropriate pets for children. In fact, these animals are not suitable as pets even in a household without children.

●       Turtles certainly can and frequently do carry salmonella. If a turtle is chosen as a pet, attention to hygiene is essential. However, the same is true with any pet. Even with dogs and cats in the household, proper hygiene protocols should always be followed (frequent hand washing, etc.). Even without pets in the picture, these procedures are warranted to prevent influenza and other infections.

●       Like many other species of animals, each hamster has its own personality traits. Some are more friendly by nature. The issue of their nocturnal activity having the potential to affect a child’s sleep is well-taken. As a child, my brother had hamsters as pets and this was an issue in our home also. Moving the cage into another area of the home is a potential solution to this problem that is pretty simple to implement though.

●       The post mentions snakes as unsuitable pets for children also. I agree that the feeding habits of many snakes may be traumatic for some children to witness. The concerns mentioned about the ultimate size of some species is valid as well.

●       Birds are not listed in the post. However, birds do not always make appropriate pets for children either. Larger bird species can cause severe injuries. Their beaks are designed for cracking nuts and seeds. Imagine the damage that beak could do an unsuspecting child that wanders too close. Smaller species of birds can be fragile and must be handled with care. Birds also have special care and diet requirements that must be met .

●       Special environmental and care needs are mentioned as drawbacks for several animals on the list. However, it is important to remember that, whatever the species, parents must be able and willing to provide for that animal’s care and well-being for the entirety of the animal’s life. It’s true that some species are more difficult to care for than others. But it is never acceptable to ignore the needs of any pet. For instance, cats require environmental enrichment in the form of perches, scratching posts, toys, and more. Ignoring these needs can result in a pet that becomes bored and destructive. In some cases, the pet may even become ill and suffer as a result. Always do your homework before you bring a pet home and make sure you can meet that pet’s needs, regardless of species.

●       Another important point to remember is that all young children need to be supervised by an adult when interacting with a pet, regardless of species. This is for the protection of both child and pet.

When children are involved, choosing an appropriate pet is an important consideration. There are some species that are not suitable as pets under any circumstances. However, in many cases, parents will need to take into consideration the likes and dislikes of the individual child as well as the family’s ability to care for the pet in question and the compatibility of the pet with the child.

Lastly, we always recommend to adopt, not shop, when considering an animal companion.


6 Fun and Healthy Activities to Do with Your Dog in the City

Do you or your dog need a quick mental boost? Then spend some time outside doing activities together. You’ll both benefit from being active outside, feeling healthy, and interacting with other people.

You don’t need to live in the countryside to feel active outside and do healthy exercises together. City dwellers and their pooches have many options available to them.

  1. Dog Parks

Many cities have dog parks which allow dogs to either roam free or ramble around on-leash. With many interesting smells to explore, your pet will love to walk, run, or play in the park with you.

Off-leash parks are perfect for playing ball or Frisbee. Before you buy a disk, though, make sure your dog is fit enough to play Frisbee. Since it involves a lot of jumping, this activity may not be ideal for older dogs. Should you opt for running or playing Frisbee, always increase the exercise level gradually for newly active dogs.

  1. Urban Hiking

There are many sights to see in the city, whether you choose the concrete or green areas, and what better way to enjoy it than with man’s best friend. Grab a local map and mark off a path you’ve never traveled before. Go on a fun adventure with your dog!

  1. Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails

Many cities have hiking trails or wooded areas that allow four-legged hikers. Connect with your pup and nature at the same time, soaking in the beautiful views, fresh air, and lush green beauty. Hiking with your dog is like food for the soul.

  1. Dog Beaches

If you live in a city next to the ocean or a lake, make sure you find out whether there are any doggie beaches nearby. Some beaches will camp off a specific area for dog lovers and their pets to play, either on- or off-leash.

On warm days, swimming is an ideal pastime. Swimming is a fun and low-impact exercise – perfect for dogs with arthritis or recovering from injuries. Make sure you pack sunscreen, for yourself, and a life jacket for your dog, and stay hydrated.

Not all dogs like swimming. Don’t force your dog to swim and always go into the water with him. It’s more fun swimming together.

  1. Running or Cycling with Your Dog

If your dog is fit enough, you can teach him or her to run alongside you or your bike. There are special leash hooks available that can be attached to the bicycle frame, allowing your pup to keep close without the leash getting entangled in the spokes or pedals.

  1. Winter Activities

Don’t let winter slow you down. Go for a walk outside if the weather permits – most larger dogs love the snow. Indoor options include:

  • Running on a treadmill. Go at a slow pace at first to help your dog get familiar with the strange machine. Before long, he’ll love to run with you.
  • Indoor games, such as playing hide and seek, can keep your furry friend busy and active for a while.
  • Running up your building’s stairway is a great way to stay in shape. First, start at a slow pace and increase your speed over time. Don’t run down the stairs as it can be heavy on the knees and easy for dogs to slip and fall.

Safety Measures When Taking Your Dog on an Urban Excursion

Make sure you take the necessary precautions to protect your pup and the people and animals you get in contact with when going out:

  • Make sure you know how to control your dog. If he gets into a fight, will you be able to break up the fight with your voice commands? If not, make sure you and your dog go for training to learn the essential skills.
  • Always clean up after your dog. There’s nothing worse than stepping into poo unsuspectingly when walking in the park.
  • Make sure you always have a leash handy, even if you’re at a park that allows free roaming. You never know when you might need it.
  • Keep you and your dog hydrated and remember that you may need to drink more water than usual on hot days and when you’re active.
  • Research the dog-friendly area before you visit and make sure you understand the rules of the urban area. Always follow the regulations – that way we can keep dog-friendly areas open.

Who said being healthy and active can’t be fun? Scout out your local dog-friendly areas so you and your pet can get some fun, active time together.

About the Author

Payal Bhandari M.D. is a holistic family physician at her practice, Advanced Health. She provides personalized, comprehensive primary care to families and individuals of all ages in San Francisco since 2005. Her integrative style blends the best in western and eastern medicine to effectively transform health.

Cycling Safely with Kids and Pets

Guest Post By Bay Area Bicycle Law

Autumn is a wonderful time for cyclists. In many places, the oppressive summer heat is letting up, giving way to a crispness and clarity in the air, and the paths and trails are emptier, save for the gentle dusting of leaves. For many cyclists, this is the best time of year. Add to that the children starting school one grade higher, and the pets (like their owners) busying themselves answering an evolutionary memory of the preparations for the coming winter, and many cyclists will find themselves biking with dogs leashed around their waists, or children towed in wagons, or even learning to ride alongside their parents.

Cycling is freedom, a blending of man with machine, and sharing that experience with a child or a pet is an unparalleled bonding experience.

However, all of that freedom must be matched by cognizance and responsibility on the part of the experienced cyclist. Sharing the road with cars (bicycles are vehicles, remember, and obey all traffic codes) can be a dangerous compromise, and a responsible cyclist will be able to ride safely, confidently, and proactively in order to participate smoothly in traffic.

While many cities have begun to develop bicycle lanes (with varying degrees of success), or even bicycle-first streets or districts, a cyclist will almost undoubtedly have to negotiate traffic with drivers as well. For instance, even with a dedicated cycling lane, drivers will have to block that lane to turn right. Similarly, cyclists will have to lane-change to the left, perhaps more than once, to make a left-hand turn. Even if every party is driving or cycling in good faith, it can be a tricky system. Consider the chaos that would ensue if drivers were able to turn right from a center lane, blocking traffic on their right. This is the daily reality for cyclists. Still, a dedicated bicycle lane is well worth the trade-off, since it keeps a clear path for cyclists who might otherwise have to weave in and out of the flow of traffic to avoid parked cars.

Ultimately, it’s every party’s responsibility to be watchful, methodical, and aware of his surroundings, but, since cyclists will be approaching the car’s flank in the case of a right-hand turn, it’s incumbent upon the cyclist to slow down, or yield the lane to the car if the car has already entered into the turn. Simply put, respectful cycling is about knowing where, when, and how to position oneself to ease traffic flow – just as it is for cars.

It’s the “how” that gets tricky. Cyclists should have a bell or horn, to announce themselves as appropriate, and to signal their moves with gestures (as was common for drivers prior to the advent of the illuminated turn signal.) For a right turn or lane change, the left arm is to be extended, bent at the elbow with the fist straight up, while a left-hand move is signaled by the left arm extended, unbent, perpendicular to the cyclist and to the bike. An unsignaled turn or lane change is an illegal turn or lane change, and a cyclist is as responsible as a motorist for obeying all applicable traffic laws.

But enough about roads. Traffic laws are dry and procedural, and, in this fine autumn weather, you’d much rather get out on the trails and paths, with your dog at your side, and your children in tow. Still, a cyclist is responsible for more than just obeying traffic laws. Cycling with pets brings on a whole host of unexpected complications and risks, and it’s up to the cyclist to anticipate them.

Cycling Safely with Dogs

Dogs love to run, but many cyclists do not consider the turf or terrain that they will be leading their dog to run on. Cement, concrete, asphalt, gravel, and so on can be seriously harmful to the pads of a dog’s paws, especially at cycling speeds. If your dog is allowed to run freely, this may be less of an issue, especially if there is grass alongside the bike path, but a leashed dog may not be given sufficient scope to avoid road hazards and may be unintentionally suscepted to injury. Further, a dog on a leash, if the cyclist is unmindful, may be overrun and overexerted, which can cause cardiovascular or respiratory distress. A responsible cyclist will attend the environment, the conditions, and the state of the animal in his care.

Conversely, an animal may unintentionally unseat a cyclist, if the proper precautions are not taken. An ill-trained dog, leashed to a cyclist’s waist but suddenly chasing a wayward squirrel, can topple even the most seasoned rider with ease. Leashes are sold with embedded springs for exactly this sort of purpose, to limit the suddenness of the dog’s pull. It’s kinder to the dog, who is granted a limited scope to pull, and to the cyclist, who is less likely to be suddenly and unexpectedly destabilized.

Cycling Safely with Children

As for children, while many parents make certain allowances when it comes to bicycle etiquette, like letting children cycle on sidewalks, any cyclist, even on training wheels, should employ the full suite of safety features. That means bells, reflectors, functioning brakes, safety-certified helmets, and a clear understanding of traffic rules.

For parents, children, or both, or just cyclists in general, it’s often best to plan a route that bypasses major streets, or takes into account difficult intersections. On smaller streets, the traffic etiquette is considerably less intensive, and there is much more leeway for pets, slower cyclists, wagons, children, and so on.

Still, despite the best of precautions, accidents do happen. A proactive cyclist is aware of his legal responsibilities, and his legal recourse in case of crash, mishap, accident, collision, or other damages. For those in California, Bay Area Bicycle Law is the leading bicycle –crash law firm, exclusively specializing in bicycle crash cases. If you have any questions about laws governing traffic, bicycles, or cyclists with pets and children, give us a call, and if you’ve been involved in a bicycle crash, our team of bicycle lawyers, with extensive experience working bicycle accident cases, can get you the help you need. Give us a call today, at (415)-466-8717, or look us up on the web at

How Pets Can Be Reading Buddies

Guest Post By: Emma Lawson

Recently, many people and constitutions have implemented reading clubs, in which children read books to animals, as a way of promoting literacy among youngsters and creating a valuable bond between children and their pets. This is the general idea:

The Goal

The programs are designed as a two-way idea that would help both children and animals simultaneously. The idea began a couple of years ago in different locations and with a different purpose. Certain programs were made as therapy sessions in schools for children who are mentally undeveloped, because the furry companions managed to create a relaxing and stress-free environment where children could practice learning. There have also been other programs focused solely on reading to abandoned animals in shelter homes, as a way of helping these furry friends get accustomed to people, their new environment and helping them get ready for a new home. The general idea is to encourage children to improve their literacy skills in a safe, non-threatening environment, all the while helping animals become more sociable.

What Are the Benefits?

There have been a lot of speculations about whether these programs are actually effective or not, and in what way can they benefit children and their pets. In a recent study, children were asked to read in front of three groups: adults, other children and, lastly, animals. Researchers have shown that stress levels of these children were significantly lower when reading to animals, presumably because pets make great listeners and actually provide excellent interactive feedback. This results in higher confidence levels in children, helps them develop their communication skills, motivation, and creativity but also the will to learn and develop further. Animals, on the other hand, can benefit from the mutual acceptance, feel encouraged to interact with their human buddies, and learn about the value of companionship.

Who Is It Intended for?

While these programs are not strictly limited to a specific group, they are generally designed for children aged 6 to 15. This is the period when children grow the most, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. That is why this experience can greatly help them in their future development process, especially during this age period. On the other side, most people believe that these reading clubs are focused solely on dogs and cats. While there are a lot of initiatives for reading in dog and cat animal shelters, studies have shown that other animals (such as birds, hamsters and rabbits) can also be great reading buddies.

So Far So Good

A study conducted at the University of California has showed remarkable results – in terms of improving children’s literacy skills, confidence levels and class participation – in children who have spent 2 months reading to animals at least once a week. These programs are gaining global recognition and many people have been inspired to take the initiative in their own surroundings. Of course, if you are willing to start something on your own, Stefmar offers a wide array of pet supplies and advice about animals, that you could find useful in your new venture.

For centuries now, people have been spending their lives in the company of these furry friends, whose presence has made significant impact on our lifestyle. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits and birds have become an integral part of our lives for a number of reasons. Not only do these animals count as loyal companions, but they are known to provide excellent comfort during hardship, protection in times of need and now they are even praised as amazing reading buddies.

Benefits of Coconut Oil for Your Dog and Cat

Guest Post By Payal Bhandari M.D.

There’s been a lot of buzz about the health benefits of coconut oil lately. It’s not just a marketing stunt; over 1,500 studies support this trend. But as a pet owner you may wonder: is it really healthy for my pet, too? Absolutely! As long as you don’t overdo it, your pets can also reap the benefits of this amazing fruit.

Coconut oil contains more than 85% Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) which are easy for the body to burn and convert into energy. This plant-based oil doesn’t contain any cholesterol, and helps us maintain a healthy weight.

Coconut Oil Benefits

Here is a list of some of the benefits your pet can gain from eating coconut oil:

  • Coconut oil is good for the digestive system. It’s easy to digest, increases the absorption of nutrients, promotes the growth of healthy bugs, successfully treats inflammatory bowel disease, and even improves bad breath.
  • Coconut oil successfully treats skin allergies and irritations while it soothes wounds and helps them heal quickly. We all know pets like to lick their wounds, which can be a problem when ingesting some salves, but with coconut oil, there is no risk.
  • If your pet suffers from arthritis or ligament problems, coconut oil can help soothe the pain.
  • Coconut oil can give your pet a healthy skin and coat. Apply coconut oil directly to the coat and skin, let it absorb for five minutes, and then rinse. This will leave the coat sleek, soft, and glossy. This treatment also minimizes odor.
  • The MCTs in coconut oil support weight loss, improve metabolism, and help to burn fat. MCTs also balance insulin levels which can prevent and control diabetes.
  • Coconut oil is a natural energy booster. The quick acting MCFA fats in coconut oil increase a pet’s energy level.
  • Coconut oil can prevent infections by fighting against parasites, bacteria, and fungi.

How Much Coconut Oil Does My Pet Need?

It will take some time for your pet’s body to adjust to coconut oil, so start slowly and build the dosage up over two to three weeks. If you give your pet too much coconut oil, it will cause diarrhea and a greasy stool. If you see that happen, cut back on the dosage.

Suggested dosage for your dog: Start your small dog or puppy off with ¼ teaspoon per day, and 1 teaspoon for larger dogs. The optimal dose is 1 teaspoon of coconut oil daily for every 10 pounds of weight.

Suggested dosage for your cat: To start with, feed your kitten ¼ teaspoon of coconut oil per day. An adult cat can start with a ½ teaspoon. The optimal dosage is 1 teaspoon for a kitten, and between 1 and 3 teaspoons for an adult cat.

Why not try coconut oil out for your pets? Your pets will thank you when they feel more energetic and have the sleekest coats on the block.

About the Author
Payal Bhandari M.D. is a holistic family physician at her practice, Advanced Health. She provides personalized, comprehensive primary care to families and individuals of all ages in San Francisco since 2005. Her integrative style blends the best in western and eastern medicine to effectively transform health.

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