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My Pet World: Puppy needs frequent walks to avoid urinating in house

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy, How can I teach my cat to sheath its nails when cuddling around my neck?

--Viv, Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada

Dear Viv, It sounds as though your cat is "kneading" your neck. Kneading is a behavior that involves pushing and pulling the paws back and forth on your body, like kneading dough. Cats always stretch their nails when they knead. It's a way for them to mark things and stretch their claws.

I don't recommend any big corrections unless you want to scare her away from cuddling with you altogether. There is no way to train her to stop, but there are three things you can try. First, you can put Soft Paws on her claws. These are little sheaths that go over each nail that will protect you from being scratched.

Second, you can gently apply a two-finger touch above and under her paw and say "stop." This will stop one paw, which will automatically stop the other paw. Cats can't just knead with just one paw. It won't likely stop her from ever doing it again, but it will stop her for the moment.

Finally, you can put a knit scarf around your neck when you are cuddling with her, so her nails can't scratch or prick you. This may sound silly, but it does work. Call it your cat-cuddling scarf.

Warning about a popular plant

Most garden centers don't mark plants with warning labels that indicate a plant could be poisonous to your pets. So, let me warn you about a deadly plant sold in many garden centers: the Sago Palm.

The Sago Palm is a popular evergreen plant found in yards in warmer climates and in pots in cooler climates. The problem is, the entire plant is toxic to dogs, cats and kids, from fronds to seeds. The seeds though, are what most pets chew on or swallow.


"Even half a seed can kill a 40-pound dog," says Dr. Sarah Ford of Blue Pearl Specialty Emergency Pet Hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona. "It's like chocolate. The smaller the dog, the bigger the problem."

For says there's a compound in the plant called cycasin that can cause liver necrosis. Most pet owners might not even know a dog has chewed on the seed until symptoms appear, including drooling, anorexia, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. By then it can be too late, she warns.

Ford has seen several cases of Sago Palm poisoning and says she has witnessed only two cases in which dogs survived. There was one instance when a dog owner saw his 4-year-old silver lab chewing on a seed and spitting it out.

"Most of us would assume the pet was safe since he didn't swallow the seed, but the pet owner went home and learned the seed was toxic and took his dog to the vet," says Ford. "Even with somewhat quick thinking on his part, the dog spent three weeks in the hospital, had a feeding tube inserted and was on fluids to dilute the toxin in his liver."

If you have this plant, get rid of it. If you can't get rid of it, then at least remove the seeds when they emerge (with gloves) and throw them away and put a small wire fence around the plant to keep kids, dogs and cats away from it.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)




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