Q: I'm a feline and canine behaviorist in France and want to know more about Kitty Kindergarten classes for a report. Can you tell me more about these classes, and how they came about? -- A.R., Alsace, France
A: Just as dogs go to puppy classes, some veterinarians and certified cat behavior consultants offer similar socialization classes for kittens, which when I offer them, I call "Kitty-K." Enrollment is far more limited than for puppy classes. Kittens must be between 8 and 15 weeks old. Classes generally meet over two consecutive weeks (while puppy classes typically continue weekly for at least a month).
Eight years ago, I first heard about the kitten socialization classes offered by Dr. Kersti Seksel, a veterinary behaviorist in Sydney, Australia. She'd been teaching the classes Down Under for several years. Even then, veterinary visits for cats had begun to decline. However, I instantly realized that when owners enroll in a kitten class, they must first take their pets for a veterinary exam. At least that's one veterinary visit!
Also, since instructors teach clients how to train a kitty to use a carrier and to enjoy travel, when classes are conducted at a veterinary clinic this creates a positive association. How different is that compared with the response of most cats, who run and hide when a carrier appears? If visiting a veterinarian is less traumatic, the hope is more people will take their pets to a veterinarian for preventive care. Preventive veterinary care saves lives - period.
While puppy classes are hugely important for socialization and to help teach dogs (and their people how to teach dogs), cats don't generally need to learn how to act in public. However, as in puppy classes, kitten classes offer an opportunity for owners to ask questions -- from where to position scratching posts to how to clip a cat's nails and how to use interactive toys for play.
Happily, puppy classes are offered everywhere. While kitty classes aren't nearly as common, in my opinion they're just as important.
Q: Whatever happened to that dog who starred in the silent movie, "The Artist"? -- C.G., Chicago, IL.
A: Few (in America) may recall that the 2011 Oscar for Best Actor went to the film's star, French actor Jean Dujardin. However, many remember Uggie the Jack Russell Terrier, who arguably upstaged all the actors with two legs. ("The Artist" also won the 2011 Oscar for Best Picture.)
Uggie enjoyed a distinguished show biz career, including his breakthrough role as Queenie in "Water for Elephants" in 2011. No doubt wanting to leave while on top, Uggie officially retired last year. However, he did do a cameo, playing himself, earlier this year in "The Campaign" with Will Farrell.
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