Read an Excerpt
50 Awesome Ways Kids Can Help Animals
By Ingrid Newkirk
WARNER BOOKSCopyright © 2006 Ingrid Newkirk
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDo Unto Others ...
To understand any living being you must creep within and feel the beating of his heart. -W. Macneile Dixon
Be your dogs' angel. Play with them ... take them for nice long walks ... don't ever chain them. -David Boreanaz, Angel in Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Animals have feelings, just as you and I do. Just like us, they feel the heat and cold, the sun and rain. Just like us, they enjoy a comfortable place to live, good food, and loving attention. They miss you when you are away, and they remember things that have happened to them. We think of some animals as our friends. Others we may think of as dangerous, and others we hardly think of at all. But all animals, from the family dog to the tiniest mouse, are like us: living, feeling beings. We can learn more about how animals experience life by trying to better understand their needs and their feelings.
Did You Know?
When Princess Beatrix of Holland was a child, she forgot one day to feed her dog. The next morning she was served no breakfast, on the orders of her father, Prince Bernhard. (What lesson do you think she learned?) The phrase in the doghouse means "in disgrace." This says a lot about how some people care for their dog's living space.
Stars of Fox Network's The O.C., Adam Brody (Seth) and Rachel Bilson(Summer), are proud parents of a puppy named Penny Lane, adopted from a rescue center in Los Angeles. She is now a first-rate cuddle-pup who sleeps on Adam's bed-"she snores so loud," he told Teen People.
Most other-than-human beings have better-developed senses than people. A bloodhound's sense of smell is roughly 2 million times as sensitive as ours, so paint, cigarette smoke, air "fresheners," and cooking smells can really get to them. See how safely you can bring to domesticated animals as many of the pleasures of their natural lives, the fun and fulfilling things, like hopping, flying, splashing, jumping, and playing in the grass and trees, that their free-roaming relatives get to do.
When Teen Vogue asked One Tree Hill heartthrob Chad Michael Murray what specifically about his fellow castmate Sophie Bush he was drawn to, Chad said it was her big heart. "She took in a stray dog with seven puppies, which was a little bit of a nightmare since we already had five dogs, but I loved her for it." The pair were so devoted to helping animals that they didn't let a little thing like a honeymoon get in the way of their support of their four-legged friends-they were spotted attending an animal-adoption fair the day after their wedding.
THEY SAID IT!
Here's what some of our fave celebs say about their animal companions:
"My animals are my life! They remind me always of unconditional love and to just be in the moment." -Christina Applegate, PETA Celebrity Cookbook
"When I feel like playing, they are always willing to play.... If I'm in a bad mood after a game, I know my dogs will always bring me up." -Adrian Klemm, New England Patriots offensive lineman, on his dogs, USA Today
"'I am at his service,' she says of her cat, Playdough. 'Whatever he wants me to do is what I do.'" -Halle Berry, People Magazine
What You Can Do
Keep a journal about the dog or cat or gerbil in your own home or in the home of a friend or relative. Watch whenever you can-being sure not to disturb his or her normal habitat or routine-and note how much time this animal friend spends doing different things. What signs does she or he make to display feelings, just as you might? How does his or her behavior change as the things around him or her change? How would you feel in his or her place in different situations? You might imagine how your dog experiences a walk in the park ("I'm free, I'm free! Ooh, the smells! Oh, no, let's not go back inside so soon"), or what your cat thinks when she sees you preparing her dinner (Do you think they believe we go out hunting during the day and come home in the evening to share what we have found?).
Cats and Dogs
As a cat and/or dog guardian, there are lots of things you can do for your animal friend. Since animals in our lives can't turn on a tap to get a drink or drive themselves to the vet, it is up to you to make sure you:
Give them fresh water in a very clean bowl every single day.
Let them sleep inside with you or in a safe, snug shelter. They should have a soft, dry bed to keep them off the drafty floors and should never sleep outside when it's cold!
Give them a variety of healthy foods they enjoy. (Some dogs adore steamed broccoli and carrots. Some cats like chickpeas and melon. Do some taste tests as long as it isn't chocolate or cheese or other foods that are dangerous for non-humans.)
When they're out in the world, dogs have to follow all sorts of rules. This is funny sign for dogs (and their companions!) from North Vancouver:
So when at home, let your dog be a playtime rebel and enjoy a bark-a-thon once in a while-a dog's gotta have some freedom to be a happy dog 'cause no one likes taking orders 24/7, not even people in the Marine Corps!
Allow them plenty of playtime with you and other household and neighborhood companions.
Give them plenty of chances to relieve themselves (at least four to five times each day and whenever they ask you to be let out, of course). If you want to really feel what it's like not to be able to "go," put yourself on exactly the same schedule as your dog and see if you could do that without feeling awful!
Keep the cat's litter box or yard very, very clean (I won't ask you to imagine what that would be like if you had to put yourself in their paws!). The fact is that, nowadays, with dogs and cars and strangers about, cats should be kept indoors unless you are out there with them, keeping an eye on their safety.
Teach the animals you share your home with the rules, using great patience and kindness, especially because they are trying to understand human language and human wants and we don't speak a word of their lingo. They should never be hit or scolded, as you know. Some humane societies have dog-training and cat-care booklets you can get for free.
Feed them before you sit down to eat. Clearly, it's never polite to eat in front of anyone who hasn't already been served! When they're finished, say, "All gone," and make an "empty hands" signal with upturned palms, followed by a pat, so they won't expect food while you're eating. Oh, and they can't help it if they drool-that's a reflex!
Make sure their collars are the right size. (Three of your fingers should fit under it.) Check it often, especially if your companion is still growing, or your pet could be quietly choking!
Gently groom your friends every day if they need it. They should get brushed and combed and their coat checked for fleas and ticks. Powdered brewer's yeast and garlic in their food can free them from harsh flea powders, sprays, and flea collars. A flea comb catches fleas in its teeth so your companions won't have to use theirs.
Give signs that your friends are loved often, like a friendly word or two, a scratch behind the ears, kisses, and treats.
Birds shouldn't be kept in homes, as they normally live in large flocks (meaning that they love to play with many other birds) and, as you know, they have wings so that they can fly! That means a lone bird in a cage is a sad sight. Parrots may even pluck out their own feathers when they are unhappy or stressed; some birds will rock back and forth endlessly as if dreaming of the outdoors and their bird friends, which they probably are. So make sure that any birds in your care have, at the very least:
One bird companion (from a sanctuary, if possible, never a pet shop because then they breed more and more and ...)
Room to fly about in, such as a whole room or an outside aviary
Windows (to see out of-not go out of-that's too dangerous for them!)
Lots of perches that are big enough for them to wrap their feet around, just so their toenails touch
A seed dish always full of food (not hulls-the outer casing- which they tidily spit back into their dishes)
Something to sharpen their beaks on, such as a heavy, nonsplintering piece of wood
Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables (carefully washed in case of insecticides or other chemicals and waxes), and clean water
Gravel (to help them digest their food)
A separate bowl of water to splash and bathe in, as well as to drink (some birds love a mist spray)
Toys (parakeets love measuring spoons) and gentle feather stroking
And make sure no one turns on a self-cleaning oven; the fumes can cause serious breathing problems for birds!
Gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, and mice should have:
A private space they can call their own, like upside-down boxes with holes cut in them
A clean, comfortable cage (a metal tray floor covered with newspaper sheets makes the best floor-wire mesh is quite painful to stand and walk on, and wood is hard to clean)
A cage large enough so they can scamper around (store-bought cages are ever so tiny-write to PETA to learn how to make a more suitable cage)
Things to climb and play in, like paper towel rolls, shelves, and old socks
An exercise wheel and tummy tickles with your little finger
Things to chew on, like tree branches or other hard, chemical free wood, to help keep their teeth in good shape
Raisins and other food treats hidden in the cage
Rodents' cages should be cleaned at least once a week (more often if you imagine yourself small enough to live in there and think, "Pfew!"). And your small friends will love some supervised time outside of their cage every single day, although, before taking them out, search the room and floor boards to make sure there are no openings they can squeeze into and get stuck or lost.
Here's a tip: If you have both males and females, keep them in separate cages so you don't end up with a tribe of small animals. Female rodents can live nicely together, except for hamsters, who really do prefer to be alone. Most male rodents will fight, and no one wants that.
Rabbits love to be inside, just as cats do, although they'll let you know by stamping their feet if you are doing something they don't approve of. If you have rabbits who are kept outside, check that their hutch is totally dog proof and weatherproof and is raised on legs at least two feet off the ground. The hutch should have:
A large screened outdoor area for stretching out and fresh air
A snug nest box of solid wood
Lots of hay for burrowing
Roofing shingles attached on the outside of the box to protect it from bad weather
Here's a tip: Avoid bringing rabbits in and out of the house if the air-conditioning or heat are on, since rabbits are very sensitive to dampness and changes in temperature. Be sure to switch the hutch from outdoors to indoors before cold weather comes and if you see bunny tilting his head or scratching his ears as if they hurt, take him to the vet as fast as you can. If you have small caged animals, put a star by the things in this chapter you'd like to start doing to improve their lives.
How Do You Rate?
Take this quick quiz and find out how much of a friend you are to animals:
1. It is almost summer and your cat starts to shed her winter fur. It gets all over the sofa, her favorite hangout. You decide to:
a. Hit her and scold her whenever she hops up on the sofa, then lock her outside for a time.
b. Comb and stroke her carefully every day to rid her of loose hair and cover the sofa with an old sheet for however long it takes.
c. Ban her from the sofa room for a few weeks but make her an alternative bed with cushions in the garage.
2. You've only had your bird for a few weeks when he becomes quiet and won't touch his food much. You decide:
a. He is easier to handle when he is quiet-and you'll save money on birdseed if he doesn't eat.
b. To find him a companion from a sanctuary so that he's not lonely anymore, buy or make him some new toys, and let him out to fly around the room at least once a day so he doesn't get bored.
c. To let him out of his cage once a week to fly around part of the room.
3. You have just been given a tame rat. When you get her home, you:
a. Release her somewhere in your house, near where the cat sleeps.
b. Ask your dad to help you build a big comfortable cage for her, with ladders, exercise wheels, and a private sleeping box filled with cozy old socks. Then you set about researching all the foods rats love to eat.
c. Find an old birdcage in the shed and put her in that, with some shredded newspaper and food pellets, and go back to watching TV.
Mostly a's There's an animal emergency in your house! You're not totally aware of how to care for animals in the way they need, so sometimes you cause them harm. You need to keep right on reading, starting with this book! Then your cat-and every other animal in the world-is guaranteed to think very highly of you.
Mostly b's Congratulations! You're one super-sensitive and totally kind kid. You're aware of how fragile animals are and how they need to be cared for, and your animal pals love you for it. Share your caring ways with friends and family-most of all, keep it up!
Mostly c's Here's the good news: you're halfway to being the compassionate person you could be. You know what you need to do to care for animals, but the bad news is that you don't always follow through with it. Keep reading and learning about animals' needs, and you'll definitely get there!
Check It Out
Make a list of everything you can do to make life great for each animal in your household. Tape the list where you can check it every day. This way, you won't forget they're depending on you to look out for them, always!
If you have hamsters, other rodents, birds, or rabbits, write to PETA at 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510, or log on to petakids.com for some the great tips on keeping your best animal buddies happy.
Excerpted from 50 Awesome Ways Kids Can Help Animals by Ingrid Newkirk Copyright © 2006 by Ingrid Newkirk. Excerpted by permission.
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