were, according to experts, domesticated between 12,000 and 25,000 years ago–and that all dogs evolved from the wolf. Since then, humans have selectively bred more than 400 breeds, ranging in size from four-pound teacup poodles to Irish wolfhounds, whose three-foot stature earns them the title of tallest canine. But the most popular pooches are non-pedigree–the one-of-a-kind dogs known as mixed-breeds.

  • Basic Diet Care: Puppies 8 to 12 weeks old need four meals a day. Puppies three to six months old three meals a day. Puppies six months to one year two meals a day. When your dog reaches his first birthday, one meal a day is usually enough. For some dogs, including larger canines it’s better to feed two smaller meals.

Premium-quality dry food provides a well-balanced diet for adult dogs and may be mixed with water, broth or canned food. Your dog may enjoy cottage cheese, cooked egg, fruits and vegetables, but these additions should not total more than ten percent of his daily food intake. It is smart to limit “people food,” however, because it can result in vitamin and mineral imbalances, bone and teeth problems and may cause very picky eating habits and obesity.

  • Exercise: Dogs need exercise to burn calories, stimulate their minds, and keep healthy. Exercise also tends to help dogs avoid boredom, which can lead to destructive behaviors.

Supervised fun and games will satisfy many of your pet’s instinctual urges to dig, herd, chew, retrieve and chase. Individual exercise needs vary based on breed or breed mix, sex, age and level of health–but a couple of walks around the block every day and ten minutes in the backyard probably won’t cut it.

If your dog is a 6- to 18-month adolescent, or is an active breed or mixed-breed from the sporting, herding, hound or terrier groups, exercise requirements will be relatively high.

  • Housing: Your pet needs a warm, quiet place to rest, away from all drafts and off the floor. A training crate is ideal. You may wish to buy a dog bed, or make one out of a wooden box.
  • Licensing: Follow your community’s licensing regulations. Be sure to attach the license to your dog’s collar.

This, along with an ID tag and implanted microchip or tattoo, can help secure your dog’s return should he become lost.

  • Behavior/Training: A well-behaved companion canine is a joy. But left untrained, your dog can cause nothing but trouble. Teaching your dog the basics–“Sit,” “Stay,” “Come,” “Down,” “Heel,” “Off” and “Leave it”–will improve your relationship with both your dog and your neighbors. (See next feature for more tips.)
  • Health: Your dog should see the veterinarian for a full check-up, shots and a heartworm blood test every year, and immediately if he is sick or injured. Dental plaque caused by bacteria results in a foul smell that requires professional treatment. Your veterinarian can give you more tips on minimizing dental disease and bad breath.

Females should be spayed–the removal of the ovaries and uterus–and males neutered–removal of the testicles–by six months of age.

Puppies should be vaccinated with a combination vaccine (called a “5-in-1”) at two, three and four months of age, and then once annually.

This vaccine protects the puppy from distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza. A puppy’s vaccination program cannot be finished before four months of age. There are a variety of vaccines that may or may not be appropriate for your pet. Your veterinarian can tell you about them.

You can help keep your dog clean and reduce shedding with frequent brushing. Check for fleas and ticks during warm weather.



were domesticated sometime between 4,000 and 8,000 years ago, in Africa and the Middle East. Small wild cats started hanging out where humans stored their grain. When humans saw cats up close and personal, they began to admire felines for their beauty and grace.

There are many different breeds of cats–from the hairless Sphinx to the fluffy Persian. But the most popular felines of all are non-pedigree–that includes brown tabbies, black-and-orange tortoiseshells, all-black cats with long hair, striped cats with white socks and everything in between.

  • Basic Diet Care: An adult cat should be fed one large or two or three smaller meals each day. Kittens from 6 to 12 weeks must eat four times a day. Kittens from three to six months need to be fed three times a day.

You can either feed specific meals, throwing away any leftover canned food after 30 minutes, or keep dry food available at all times. Although cat owners of old were told to give their pets a saucer of milk, cats do not easily digest cow’s milk. Treats are yummy for cats, but don’t go overboard. Some cats like fresh fruits and vegetables, like broccoli, corn or cantaloupe. Offer these once in awhile.

  • Grooming: Most cats stay relatively clean and rarely need a bath, but you should brush or comb your cat regularly. Frequent brushing helps keep your cat’s coat clean, reduces the amount of shedding and cuts down on the incidence of hairballs.
  • Housing: Your pet should have their own clean, dry place in your home to sleep and rest. Line your cat’s bed with a soft, warm blanket or towel.
  • Litter Box: All indoor cats need a litter box, which should be placed in a quiet, accessible location. In a multi-level home, one box per floor is recommended.
  • Behavior Information: Cats delight in stalking imaginary prey. The best toys are those that can be made to jump and dance around and look alive. Your cat can safely act out their role as a predator by pouncing on toys instead of people’s ankles.

Cats need to scratch! When a cat scratches, the old outer nail sheath is pulled off and the sharp, smooth claws underneath are exposed. Cutting your cat’s nails every two to three weeks will keep them relatively blunt and less likely to harm the arms of both humans and furniture.

Provide your cat with a sturdy scratching post, at least three feet high, which will allow them to stretch completely when scratching. Many cats also like scratching pads. A sprinkle of catnip once or twice a month will keep your cat interested in her post or pad.

  • Health: Your cat should see the veterinarian at least once a year for an examination and annual shots, and immediately if she is sick or injured.Flea infestation should be taken seriously. These tiny parasites feed off of your pet, transmit tapeworms and irritate the skin. Carefully check your cat once a week for fleas and ticks. If there are fleas on your cat, there will be fleas in your house.

Female cats should be spayed and male cats neutered by six months of age. Neutering a male can prevent urine spraying, decrease the urge to escape outside and reduce fighting between males. Spaying a female helps prevent breast cancer, which is usually fatal.

Kittens should be vaccinated with a combination vaccine (called a “3 in 1”) at 2, 3 and 4 months of age, and then annually. This vaccine protects cats from panleukopenia also called feline distemper. There is a vaccine available for feline leukemia virus. This is one of the two immune system viruses that infect cats. The other is feline immunodeficiency virus. There is no vaccine available for FIV. Cats can be infected with either virus for months, even years, without any indication that they are carrying a fatal virus. All cats should be tested for these viruses.