Book Review: Ask Your Animal

Marta Williams

Marta Williams has a BS in Resource Conservation from the University of California at Berkeley, and a MS in Biology and Systematic Ecology from San Francisco State University. She spent many years studying wildlife in the field, rehabilitating ill and injured animals, and working as an environmental scientist.

Vanessa Williams

This book, by animal communicator Marta Williams, contains a forward by actress Vanessa Williams.  Vanessa describes a harrowing experience in which her dog was stolen by a ring of dog thieves, and she was only able to find him with help from Marta.  Marta was in contact with Vanessa’s dog for several days, during which she was able to relay that her pet was well, had been taken by a man and a woman…and eventually his exact location.

Marta Williams now teaches animal communication, and her students have also had amazing experiences: one of which involved someone who was able to communicate with their newly adopted dog, and convince him that continued biting would only mean his eventual death.  Another communicated with a lost and injured dog on the way to the vet, and was able to correctly identify his owner when she arrived by his description.

White Stork bill-clattering

Among other advice on animal communication, Marta also shares insight on talking with wildlife, managing garden pests and working with herbs.

The first step, she says, in learning animal communication is to tune in to your own intuition (those feelings we sometimes ignore about others, and label them unreasonable).  And she tells stories: a friend whose Malamute refused to let her walk down a certain section of beach where, in the morning it was discovered a murder had taken place; another who sold her horse to someone she thought she could trust–only to find it had been sold seven times.  During the time she was trying to track the horse down, she had dreams of her, which she now believes corresponded to times the horse was being mistreated.  Eventually, she was able to buy her horse back.

dog and girl

Animal Communication and Quantum Linguistics

Marta’s science background gives the tone of this book a very practical, down to earth (not spooky or woo woo) kind of feel.  And she talks science for a good portion of it, citing terms like “quantum linguistics” and “zero point field”.  But that in no way makes the book hard to follow.  If anything, quantum linguistics lends credibility to a subject some might fight challenging to accept has any validity.

Marta’s theory is that if we had not been conditioned since childhood to suppress our intuition, that everyone could easily understand animal communication.  And she provides exercises in the book that teach you things like how to really talk to your animals as if they understand you–because they do!

As many others have said, not only does Marta say animals have the same emotions we do, but also with the same intensity.  So there are also exercises to do with sending feelings and images to animals.  In much the same way people-oriented psychics have explained, Marta gives a quick course in clairaudience, clairsentience and clairvoyance in order to communicate with animals.  But she also encourages you to reward and even use your logical inner critic to help in the process.

The stories of people communicating with animals in random places are really quite enchanting, and even if you don’t believe in animal communication at all, this book places the very gentlest wedge in the mind about being kinder and more thoughtful of animals.  Marta even encourages you to ask your own animals to question YOU.

“The Pack Of Two” was a new concept to me, but basically what it comes down to is that a bond is formed between each individual pet and you–and that this is all our pets really want, is this connection.

friendly horse

Incidentally, horse lovers will appreciate this book, because there are tons of great stories of horse owners having successful communication and solving problems.

She Uses Techniques That Dog Experts Like Cesar Milan Recommend

If you have problems with your pack getting along with each other–or even other human  members of your household!–this book is also for you.  Marta incorporates many of the techniques that dog experts like Cesar Milan recommend, such as keeping calm and using assertive energy, and even offers advice on using complementary treatments such as herbs and flower essences to calm stressed pets.

dog meets cat

Learn How To Introduce Animals To Each Other

There’s a section on how to communicate with animals you’ve just met–such as when you’re adopting a new pet, to see if you’re a good fit for one another.  And here you can also learn how to introduce animals to each other.

Instead of advocating the methods some other experts do, such as dominance theory or establishing yourself as pack leader, Marta believes that establishing yourself as an encouraging guide–or coach–to your pet works better after learning to communicate with them intuitively.

Marta gives super advice in this book about how to tell if what your pet is doing or saying to you is better served by a vet or trainer than an animal communicator–what is a training issue and what is a medical one.  There’s even a section on interviewing your animal!

Dealing with aggressive animals, animals in distress–even some Hurricane Katrina stories!  They’re all here.  Dealing with feral animals is discussed as well.

cat handshake

Sometimes, Marta works with animal spirit guides. This can be useful in cases involving physical or emotional trauma to an animal, severe illness, or even assisting with passing into death.

Animal communicators have long been sought to help lost pets get home.  So there is an awesome research section in this book, made for the purpose of leaving no stone un-turned.

pet memorial

Helping Your Animal Say Goodbye

Of course no such book would be complete without a section on helping your animal say goodbye at the end of its life with you…but Marta also spends a respectable amount of time discussing the grief that comes afterward, and how to honor the feelings and take care of yourself during this time.  She also has come to believe over the years that animals can and do re-incarnate, just as some believe humans do–and it’s possible for them to return to you.  She even suggests that you communicate with your animal before death and ask them to return!

According to Marta, you can also talk with household pests such as insects or rodents, and ask them to refrain from coming into your space.  You may laugh, but the old peoples of this planet routinely did such things, she explains: and regularly spoke with plants, trees and animals as well.

So–basically, no matter what your question or skepticism is about animal communication, this book has a thoughtful, scientific approach to it.  I’d love to hear from anyone else who has read this or any other books by Marta Williams.  And if you want to get a copy yourself, the link is here:

Joy Jones

Joy Jones, our Editor In Chief, is a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave in Las Cruces, New Mexico. When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at as well as follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Product Review–Top Fin Aquarium Gravel Vacuum

We are required to let readers know that we are compensated for our product reviews. We personally test the products to be able to provide the honest reviews you will read of products offered through our website.

fish tank

In this product review you’ll learn (among other useful tips) that goldfish take quite a lot of water to get clean–and how to handle cleaning if your fish have longer tails and fins.

The Secret To Sucking Up Goldfish Gunk

Having goldfish, who are massive waste producers, I am constantly in search of a way to keep the gravel of their tank as clean as possible. Being a teacher, I need to keep price and storage in mind when finding a product. For these reasons, I recently purchased Top Fin’s gravel vacuum, which is basically a simple tube with a bulb that you hand pump and let gravity do the rest. With all of the more expensive options out there, I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing, but I eventually decided that if it didn’t work, I was only out about $10, so what did I have to lose?

I am actually very glad that I bought it. When properly assembled, the pump works just as it should and does a fairly good job at sucking up the gunk, and when you are finished you simply store the tube. What could be easier? Still, for the sake of review writing, I will try and break down the various aspects of this product for curious consumers.

gravel vacuum for fish tank

How To Assemble The Vacuum

Let’s start at the beginning, with the assembly. Yes, some assembly is required, but it isn’t a complicated thing to do at all. There are only a few parts to your kit, the tubes, the bulb, the strainer, and a clip to hold the tube in place once you put it in your bucket. The strainer connects to a short tube, which connects to the bulb. From the bulb extends a long tube, which can be easily slipped into the black tube holder that clips onto whatever bucket you choose to catch the dirty water in. Tada! It’s done. Some people have complained that the tubes don’t fit properly on the devices and that they slip off or leak easily. The only way I can see that happening is if you aren’t pushing the parts together well enough, because mine were a proper fit, which was a tight squeeze, as it should have been.

gravel vacuum fully assembled

Goldfish Take Quite A Lot Of Water To Get Clean

Once you have your tube assembled and the long end down in the bucket, you’re ready to let gravity work for you. Keep in mind that this is only a vacuum, it doesn’t recycle the water, only drains it from the tank, so you will need to have new, fresh water ready to replace the water that you take out. Some tanks will require removal of more water than others. My goldfish take quite a lot of water to get the gravel clean again.

aquarium with vaccuum

Temporary small tank for Nix and Hydra. They now live in a 60 gallon tank, appropriate for their size.

How To Use The Vacuum

To use the vacuum, simply put the larger strainer end into the water and squeeze the bulb a few times. After a couple of squeezes you should have water flowing down into your bucket. Several other product reviewers have said that they have had trouble with this process and that reassembling the bulb to the tubes worked for them. Some have said that they put the bulb on backwards, though I’m not certain there is a “backwards” for this simple bulb. Personally, I have had no issues what so ever, until the water level gets to a certain point where the angle of the strainer prevents proper suction. At that point, just add more water and continue cleaning if needed.

Sucking Up Goldfish Gunk Can Take Time

The amount of waste in the bottom of each tank will be different depending on the type of fish you have, the number of days you go between cleanings, and so on, so the amount of time it takes to clean your tank will also vary. Me, I’m just fussy about my fish, so I usually do a thorough water change every time rather than just a quick sweep, making the process a lot longer than it typically needs to be.


Pluto And Charon


If Your Fish Have Longer Tails and Fins

Oh, and don’t worry about taking your fish out of your tank when you clean it. Simply unplug your filter, leave the fish as they are and let the water drain. The business end actually does have a strainer in it that prevents anything like fish or their gravel or toys from being sucked up and away. Some fish take better to this process than others. Our Charon doesn’t ever seem to mind having the tube follow him around the tank, Nix tends to race around the tank trying to get away from it, and Hydra, our moody little thing, usually tries to slap at it with her tail and smack at it with her mouth. We have never had an accident or mishap while using this, but I would suggest that if your fish have longer tails and fins that you be careful where you place the tube, so that the tail or fin doesn’t get trapped between the tube and the gravel.

DSCF8739 (225 x 300)

Tips and Tricks

Charon, Nix and Hydra use large rocks in their tank, so I have found that the best way to clean to the bottom is to put the tube all the way down into the bottom of the gravel and shift it around, which stirs up the gravel a little bit, releasing more of the debris that will get sucked up with the other dirty water. They have a pagoda type hiding place in their tank, which tends to collect junk inside the base in a nice little clump. For that area I push the tube straight down and squeeze the pump while the water is still flowing because it helps to quickly pull most of the debris out of the rocks that fill the base of the tube.

And that’s all she wrote! This is a simple pump that is easy to use and worth the money that you put in. You aren’t getting your hands wet and you aren’t sucking on anything to get the water flowing. The bucket clip is a nice bonus that I wasn’t expecting, but is wonderful to have, since it seriously reduces hose movement in the bucket, preventing massive spills. I would put up a list of pros and cons, but I don’t know that I can think of one thing that would go into the “con” category. If you are looking for a simple manual vacuum, look no further.

goldfish in tank

Writer’s Update: As of the posting of this review, we lost our beautiful Charon. Nix and Hydra are about to embark on a journey to a strange new world called Preschool, where a new (and very large) tank awaits them. The product I describe in this article is the smaller of the two vacuums. If I end up purchasing the larger one for the larger tank, I will be sure to let you know how it goes.

Where To Buy

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff Member

Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has purchased, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at

Book Review: The Call Of The Wild

husky face

photo courtesy of Asia Jones of Canada.

Re-Reading A Beloved Pet Story

These days when it seems as though reading an actual paper book is a lost art, I’m feeling a wee bit like a schoolchild, writing a review of this classic novella that I first read when I was young.  But, on the off chance that some of you out there may never have enjoyed it, here goes…

The Call of the Wild is a novel by Jack London published in 1903. The story is set in the Yukon during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush—a period when strong sled dogs were in high demand. The novel’s central character is a dog named Buck, a domesticated dog living at a ranch in the Santa Clara valley of California as the story opens. Stolen from his home and sold into service as a sled dog in Alaska, he reverts to a wild state. Buck is forced to fight in order to dominate other dogs in a harsh climate. Eventually he sheds the veneer of civilization, relying on primordial instincts and learned experience to emerge as a leader in the wild.

This, of course,is the book jacket blurb of the story–what I was amazed by as I re-read it, was how much I remembered of the original book.  Because of this, I know it affected me deeply.  And I suspect that it was the first book I read that made me fall in love with the survival story, as a genre.


Books From The Point Of View Of Animals Always Appeal

Similar to Black Beauty, this story is told from the dog’s point of view.  Written in 1903, it is filled with the careless, mostly cruel attitude of the times about animals, and dogs in particular.  And yet there are brief, warming passages of kindness, as well.  In some places, the outright stupidity of man is heart-breakingly displayed.

jack london quote

A Pet Story About Dogs In A Harsh Climate–In More Ways Than One

As I have mentioned in previous articles, the American Humane Association was originally formed to champion abused and neglected children.  However in 1894 (about the time in which The Call Of The Wild is set), they began to speak up about the link between domestic violence and child abuse and that of animals as well.  In 1898 they were then instrumental in influencing Congress to pass a bill making it unlawful to dissect live animals in schools.  This bill also at that time placed scientists practicing vivisection under supervision of the government.  No doubt, being as well read as he was, Jack London was aware of these changes in how people were just beginning to see animals.  And this comes through clearly in his writing of John Thornton, an important character to Buck in the story.

st bernard dog

Buck is a St. Bernard/Collie mix, a big strapping boy, who easily outweighs the local timber wolves he encounters–and yet Jack London writes the dog’s attitude toward them with a respect and awe that bleeds through as obviously his own.  Since he lived most of a year in the Yukon himself, London knew the wildlife and the environment.  The character of Buck was based on a real dog London knew, owned by a friend in the Klondike.  Likewise, the ranch Buck is stolen from in the story is based on the friend’s family home.

photo courtesy of Asia Jones of Canada.

photo courtesy of Asia Jones of Canada.

Books From The Point Of View Of Animals Were Not The Norm

When The Call Of the Wild was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post in 1903, London was accused of “attributing unnatural feelings to a dog”.  But he was followed later in the 20th century by such greats as Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, in his theme of man (or beast, in this case) throwing aside social convention and going back to nature.

Greenland Dog

A Pet Story That’s Easy To Read

Despite all those literary names, the book is an easy read–most likely due to Jack London’s simple-man writing style.  The book was a smash hit from the moment it was published, and has been re-made as a film many times: by D. W. Griffith in 1908; a second silent film was made in 1923. The 1935 version starring Clark Gable and Loretta Young expanded John Thornton’s role and was the first “talkie” to feature the story. The 1972 The Call of the Wild starring Charlton Heston as John Thornton was filmed in Finland.


The Characters Of Dogs In A Harsh Climate

Not satisfied with Buck having a personality supposedly unwarranted in a dog, London also introduces each dog in the book with its own special personality:  Spitz, a huge white dog and Buck’s arch-rival, is as treacherous as they come.  Dave, a dog described like a Malamute, likes to be left well alone, but loves pulling in the traces.  He teaches Buck how to be a sled dog.  Curly, a friendly Newfoundland, is Buck’s best dog friend.  Billee and Joe, brother Huskies, are as different in temperament as night and day.  Sol-leks, an older Husky and rather anti-social, is always hulking in the background.  And Pike is the camp thief.  Later, a motherly Irish Setter named Skeet is introduced as one of John Thornton’s dogs, along with her sidekick, Nig, a Bloodhound/Deerhound mix.  Was this author a dog lover or what?

owl and books

More Books From The Point Of View Of Animals

If you like survival stories and/or books from the point of view of animals, you may also like: White Fang, also by Jack London (about a wolf-dog with the opposite story of Buck’s, as he moves from being wild to being tamed), The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein (about a dog), Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (about a horse), Watership Down (about rabbits), The Plague Dogs and Shardik (about a bear) by Richard Adams, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien and Warhorse by by Michael Morpurgo.

sled dogs

Today’s Dogs In A Harsh Climate

It’s also interesting to note that even with the advent of snowmobiles, sled dogs are still used today by some rural communities, especially in areas of Alaska and Canada and throughout Greenland. They are also used for recreational purposes: events known as dog sled races, such as the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest. Numerous sled dog breeds are also kept as pets or raised as show dogs.

Canadian Inuit dog

Canadian Eskimo dog, ”GRIZZLY”–photo courtesy of Beverley Arseneau of Arctic Ice Kennels of Canada.

To learn more about the sled dogs of today, you’ll want to find out about breeds such as the: Alaskan Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Canadian Eskimo Dog, Chinook, Greenland Dog, Samoyed and Siberian Husky.  And you might be surprised to know that breeds such as the Poodle, Irish setters, German Short-Haired Pointers, Labrador Retriever, Newfoundland and St. Bernard have also been trained as sled dogs.

A good place to start learning about the dogs of the time is Jack London’s The Call Of The Wild.  And even if, like me, you’ve read it before, try it again–I think you’ll be drawn in right away with Buck, the dash of snow against the runners of the sled…and the distant voice of wolves.

 Joy Jones, our Editor In Chief, is a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave in Las Cruces, New Mexico. When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at as well as follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Product Review: Cat In The Bag

two cats travelling

Cash (the cat in black) and Little Dingle saying, “We be trippin!”

A Cross Country Trip With Cats

My wife and I drove 1600 miles across the country – a twenty four hour trip – with three dogs and two cats.  The plan was to drive three or four hours, take a break to give the dogs a chance to run, then back on the road for another three or four hours before stopping for the night.  Managing the dogs seemed like an easy task.  They would ride just behind the front seats of the Honda Pilot in the cargo area.  Getting the dogs in and out of the vehicle without losing one seemed pretty easy, too; we would simply put them on a leash before opening the door.

But What About Cat Travel Safety?

The cats were another story.  They would be in a 24 x 36 dog crate for the journey.  This would give them enough room to lay about and still fit a litter box in the same crate.   Getting them from the vehicle to the hotel room would be a challenge, though.  They might dash when the crate door opened, or squirm out of our arms while being carried to the hotel room.  This is where Cat in the Bag came in handy for a cat travelling in a car.

Cat in the Bag is a fabric bag with a large opening at one end that can be zippered closed, and a smaller opening at the other end for the cat’s head.  Using it is a snap!  With the zippered end wide open the cat walks into the bag and puts his head through the smaller opening at the other end.  You zip up the large opening, then tighten the Velcro around the cat’s neck so he can’t slip out.  The Velcro acts as a collar and you adjust it as such.  That is, leave room for one finger so it isn’t too tight around the cat’s neck.  Once the cat is in the bag you can pick the bag up by the convenient sewn-in handle and away you go.  Viola!  It is just that easy.

Okay, maybe not that easy.  When we tested it on Cash, (our “cat in black”), he did not want to go in.  It was a bit of a struggle and he was scared until he realized his feet were under him and his head was free.  After that he did not mind going into the bag.  Our other boy, Dingle, was another story.  It wasn’t until his very last trip in the bag that he went in willingly.

A Cat Travelling In A Car Is Like…Well, Nothing Else You’ve Tried!

You may be asking why we didn’t use a traditional cat carrier.  There are two reasons.  One reason was  where to put it?  We knew that storage space would be limited.  Cat carriers would never fit in the Pilot with the dog crate and the dogs.  And our moving truck was full to bursting!  The biggest reason we did not want to use a traditional crate style cat carrier, though, was comfort.  This trip would be stressful on the cats as it was.  Can you imagine trying to get them in a cat carrier twice a day?  My cats, like most cats, hate carriers because they have a fear of forced confinement. They will brace, struggle and scratch in a desperate attempt to avoid being put in a crate.  I didn’t need that stress any more than they did. Getting the cats from the house to the car, then car to hotel, hotel to car, until at last car to house would have been a total of eight trips.  Can you imagine putting a squirming cat into a cat carrier eight times in four days?  Torture for both man and beast!

cat in the bag

The Cat in the Bag took the stress out of the equation of cat travel safety.  A cat does not fight the bag carrier like he fights a crate. When your cat is in his Cozy Comfort Carrier, his head stays outside the bag so you can hold him, pet him and calm him. He doesn’t feel isolated or trapped. The loose, soft cotton bag gives him plenty of room to stretch, sit up, stand up, lay down and curl up.  And with his head outside of the bag he does not feel confined.

But, once you have properly fastened the adjustable Velcro collar around his neck, he is secured in the bag and it is safe to take him outside. You will be able to carry him without him scratching you or getting away and getting hurt.

I mentioned earlier that Cash went into the bag with no problem, but Dingle resisted. So how do you get the cat into the bag?  Start by seeing that the small opening with the Velcro is fully opened.  You need enough room at that end for the cat to easily stick its head through the opening.  Unzip the other end so that the bag is fully open.  Gather the material together and slip the cat’s head through the small opening.  He may able to get a paw out but there is no getting its whole body through that hole.  Pull the bag over the cat’s body and zip shut.  (watch the tail!)   It is just that easy. At least it was with Cash.  Dingle wasn’t so willing.  To get Dingle into the bag I had to kneel, and hold him against my legs.  Using my forearms to hold him in place, I put the bag over his head and he quickly stuck his head through the small hole.  He thought it was a way out and kept going which helped me to draw the rest of the bag over him and zip it up.  You would think he would figure that out, but it worked this way every time I needed him in the Cat in the Bag.  Eight times!  So it really wasn’t all that hard after all.  And as corny as it is, once you arrive at your destination you will not be able to resist letting the cat out of the bag.

Dave Jones, the cat man

Dogfather…or Catman?

The bag is made of tightly woven cotton, is soft on the cat, and it will not rip or tear.  The cloth handle attached to the bag is solid and long enough to put over your shoulder.  This made carrying multiple cats easy for me. The bag carrier does not add any weight to the cat and is not as awkward to carry as the crate. The cat does not slide or scrabble back and forth like he would in a crate — the hammock-like bag keeps him in one spot-which made it easy for me.

A Cross Country Trip With Cats Can Be A Snap

The Cat in the Bag is a great way to move cats without the stress of a traditional cat carrier, and the Cat in the Bag can be used for so much more.  Giving your cat medicine, dental care, nail trimming, and even baths are much easier when the cat is in the bag.  Have you ever given a cat a bath?  In my experience – they don’t like it.  Cat in the Bag makes the process easy.  You can soap them up, wash them, and rinse them thoroughly while they are in the bag.  And you get the job done without getting scratched!

Go to the Cat In The Bag website for more detailed information on the product.

I am Cash, and I approve this message. Cash 300

dave-with-castle 300

Dave Jones, our Video Editor, is president of Your Pet Space by day and a professional magician by night. He lives with his wife Joy in Las Cruces, New Mexico, but grew up on a farm with pigs, chickens and cows as well as dogs and cats in Ohio. You can e-mail Dave at as well as follow him on Facebook.

Living World Teach N’ Treat Product Review

Teach N Treat

Living World: Giving Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, and Other Small Animals A Fun Foraging Experience

We have had this Living World product in our house for several years and have included it in our rotating variety of stimulating toys for some time now. Having rats, I can only speak from the experience of their interaction with it, but I expect that animals like guinea pigs and rabbits might get more out of it than even the rats! All of our rats have been too quick to learn the trick of the toy to really spend a lot of time with it, even if they love using it.  However, you can make the game more challenging for pets.

The treat tray consists of a base and various removable buttons which combine in several different ways to give three levels of training in all, with only one or two minor adjustments to the toy itself. The directions are multilingual and easy to follow, with clear illustrations and suggestions for further training. The main platform also has suction cups for stabilization, which comes in handy for larger small pets, like guinea pigs and rabbits. My only instant advice is to KEEP THE BOX. The toy has multiple parts that you won’t be using all at once and you will need to keep the unused knobs and pieces in a safe location. None of the parts are tiny, but each is needed in various steps in the training process, so it’s important to keep track of them.

North And Whisper, pet rats

North And Whisper

How To Know If This Toy Is Right For Your Pet

As I said, we have rats, so my experience with this toy will be slightly different from those with guinea pigs, rabbits or other small animals, but most small animals should enjoy this product as it helps to stimulate their natural foraging behaviors. Our rats Whisper and North helped us break down the various stages of the Living World Teach N’ Treat to help you decide if this toy is right for your pet.

Stage one requires the base, the flat center button (which covers the hole in the center of the base, needed in the third stage), and the one, large disc. You plug the center button in place, fill the treat pockets with something yummy and simply slide the large disc into place to cover the treats. The point of this stage is to teach your pet that this is a treat tray, with a little fun added on the side. It isn’t long at all before curious critters discover that something yummy hides under the disc. North, who loves food, found his treats right away. Whisper took a little coaxing, but once I shifted the disc a little for him, he worked out what he was meant to do. All together the first day of this stage took about eight minutes until the rats completely lost interest, once they had eaten up all the food, of course. We waited a few days and introduced the toy again. Each time we brought the tray back the play time shortened until it got down to a little more than two minutes. Then we moved on to phase two.

guinea pigs with teach n treat

How To Make The Game More Challenging For Pets

In the second stage you keep the base as it is, take out the big disc and put the four small knobs over some of the treat pockets in the base. The point of this stage is to play hide and seek with the food. You can make the game more challenging by putting down all four knobs, but hiding treats under only a few of them, though to start with you should put food under all of the knobs to prevent your pet from getting discouraged in their hunt. Whisper loved this stage and actually lifted the knobs with his teeth, as the directions state is the intent of the exercise. North, however, simply pushed everything over like the bulldozer he is. This phase wasn’t at all stimulating for him. For most of our rats in the past, this has been the least stimulating of the phases. They simply crave a more difficult mental challenge. The instructions do give further ideas for training on this stage, such as teaching your pet to put the knob in a box nearby or to put it back in the hole where they found it, but we haven’t done this with our rats. A helpful note for guinea pig and rabbit owners: the knobs have holes on the top for you to stick a piece of hay in, to encourage them to hunt inside for more food. You can stop using the holes to make this phase more of a challenge.

With the second stage quickly completed, it was time to move on to stage three, which requires the square “center guard” instead of the small, flat middle button of the first two stages. Switch those out, put the knobs back and you have an instant knob track that you can hide treats under. This is a great stage to watch because your pets already know there is food to be found under the knobs. Now they quickly discover that the knobs can make a traffic jam and it takes more effort to get those last few treats once the knobs are all pushed together into a compact group. Whisper was still trying to lift the knobs after the first few days of stage three, but North picked up on the pushing skill very quickly. They started out with a five minute interest level and worked it down to about two or three minutes. A simple way to make this game more challenging for pets is to provide only one or two treats. While the small animal is foraging , the knobs get bunched together and they need to work out how to get to that one treat that ended up under all those knobs.

ferret with teach n treat

Variety Is What’s Best For Your Pet

It is important to point out that variety is the key with these types of toys. North and Whisper tested this Living World product over a series of months to see if the toy is right for your pet, and never used it two days in a row. You don’t want them to forget all about the toy, but you don’t want it to be to them what a vending machine is with us. How many of us actually get excited about watching those people-treats drop down into the tray once we’re all grown up and know how it works? Switch stages on your pet once they have worked out how each one works. Maybe jump from one to three and back to two. Maybe give them a week away from it and then pull it back out again, just for kicks. You might also want to try a variety of treats. We use small treats for our rats, but you could put chunks of carrot or other animal food into your tray. The tray is easy to clean and solid plastic, so even animals who eat soft foods as a part of their diet could find a yummy berry inside one day.

Teach N Treat Toy

There are so many small animal toys that help your rat, rabbit or guinea pig to chew, burrow, or hide, but there are very few that make the game more challenging for pets, and remind us that these animals forage for food. In our household, we have found that this is an excellent substitute for the large box full of shredded paper that we once used. Sure the rats could forage in there, but within a minute they figured out that all the treats settled to the bottom of the box, and it wasn’t any different than covering up a carrot with a blanket and having them find it. This toy provides the stimulation your pet requires and the easy clean up that pet owners love. It comes highly recommended from our household–and Living World!

Conclusions On The Living World Teach N’ Treat


  • Easy to Clean
  • Easy to Assemble
  • Stimulating for Pets
  • Stabilization Enhancements


  • Keep track of the parts you aren’t using!

This toy is right for your pet! Follow this link to purchase:

 Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has purchased, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at

What Kind Of Cat To Get–And More!

What kind of cat to get is just one of the many questions new cat adopters have. But there are many more questions, such as what are common household dangers for cats…and what do I do about that first trip to the vet?  Here’s a great book with all the answers about cats…


Book Review: Good Owners, Great Cats

A Guidebook for Humans and Their Feline Companions

by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson

owl and books

Required Reading In This Book

What Kind Of Cat To Get

I see many people agonize for months over what kind of cat to get: male or female, long or short-haired, pure or mixed breed, kitten or adult? And what about coat color? So many decisions! Here you can learn about all kinds of cats, as well as how to choose a pet that would be rejected by a breeder as “not quite perfect”, when they’re really the perfect cat for you!

Litter Boxes and Litter

Again, so many decisions, so little time! For those that have never owned a cat, you have no idea of the plethora of litter box types and litter types out there: choosing everything from the shape and height of the box to whether it should be covered or not can be overwhelming in itself. Getting into choosing types of litter gets crazy too, when you’re deciding between clay or clumping, recycled paper, pelletized corn cobs, wheat hulls or wood shavings—and forget about liners and scoops! This section will explain and help you narrow down your choices nicely.


image courtesy of Krzysztof Szkurlatowski of Poland, website:

Common Household Dangers For Cats(Holiday Hazards)

I’m a natural worry wart, but when you have a new fur baby in the house, who wouldn’t be?  Here you can learn about kitten-proofing your home, with special attention to common household dangers for cats like clothes dryers, household chemicals, antifreeze and unsteady furniture.  Windows and balconies, fireplaces, car engines and even string hazards are also covered.  In a separate section you’ll find special cautions pertaining to Christmas, Halloween, The Fourth Of July and Thanksgiving.

Feline Communication

Unlike humans, cats communicate in a variety of ways we hardly or never use, such as movement, body posture and scent, as well as voice. This book begins by teaching you how to watch your cat’s ears, eyes and tail for clues as to his mood and messages to you.



The First Day/The First Night

You’d be surprised at how complicated it can be just getting your new kitten home! I remember one harrowing trip to the country to pick up our cat Little Dingle as a kitten, and him crying piteously all the way back. You will need supplies and this section tells you what and why.

cat eating

Feeding Your Kitten

There are plenty of folks out there who know that kittens need different food from adult cats.  But here you can learn which foods have more colorings, flavorings and additives, how often to change your kitten’s water, and what to look for in a teething kitten.

cat at vet

First Trip To The Vet

If you’re adopting a kitten, you’ll find here some tips on choosing a great vet, as well as the essential vaccines you’ll want to know about on that first trip to the vet.

Tried and True Toys

Again, get ready to be overwhelmed by the incredible numbers of things that amuse felines! This will help you begin to narrow down categories of cat toys and even suggest many you can make at home, as well as what dangers to watch for when cats are playing.

Preventing Bad Habits

There’s very little worse than a bad habit any pet develops that could have been prevented by simply thinking ahead. This section goes over the most common feeding and grooming mistakes, as well as correct play and how to teach kittens to use a scratching post.

siamese cat



I can’t tell you how many jokes are out there about the proper way to groom a cat! But here, there’s no joking going on. Just common sense tips about grooming long or short-haired cats, and even tips on removing mats from fur. You can also learn about how to care for the skin of the varieties of hairless cats, the best way to clip cat nails and how to bathe a cat—no, really!

Cat Training

One way to strengthen the bond between you and your cat is with training. Help with tone of voice and your body language is in this section, as well as learning how to motivate your cat. You can also read about whether positive or negative reinforcement training is best, and all about training your cat to a carrier. And yes, there are even tricks you can learn in this section, such as sit, stay, down, come when called—just like dogs!

cat and dog fighting

Dogs and Cats

Speaking of dogs, if you already have a canine when you get your cat, is that a problem? Not if you have this book. Here, the writers handle common problems such as scratching at eyes, stealing of each other’s food, litter box raiding, or your dog playing too roughly. You can also learn how to handle when your cat intimidates your dog, and jealousy between the dog and cat.

cat claws

photo courtesy of Sofi Gamache of Canada,

Solving Feline Behavior Problems

Your Behavior Changing Arsenal

You’ve heard of them all, these deterrents to feline misbehavior. But how are they used? Learn how to use items like spray bottles, shake cans, air-horns, pressurized air—even contact paper and mousetraps to keep your kitties in line.

The Great Declaw Debate

Here, learn the facts about whether to declaw or not. Then, move on to causes of and dealing with feline aggression, as well as treatment of abscesses which can develop from fighting among cats.

cat eating plants

Plant Eating

Even in the wild, cats eat more than meat. But this section will help you deal with finicky eaters as well as keeping kitty off your houseplants. There’s even a recipe for cat salad!

Making An Outdoor Cat An Indoor One

Our cat, Cash, lived the first six months of his life outdoors…so I can tell you this can be a tedious process.  This section explains the entire transition process, though, including using positive reinforcement to correct the cat, dealing with his stress, and keeping his mind active.

About The Authors Brian Kilcommons has had pre-veterinary training at Iowa State University, and now owns a training and obedience school in Gardiner, New York. Sarah Wilson graduated from Lesley University with a Master’s degree focused on the human-animal relationship.

More About The Book I have only highlighted the bare bones of the wealth of information this book contains. But I find it such a comprehensive guide to cats that if you want to know if your question is in this book, feel free to e-mail me or ping me with our new chat feature here on the site.

Buy This Book At Amazon

Joy Jones, our Editor In Chief, is a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave in Anderson, Ohio. When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column called The Midwestern Buddhist as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at as well as follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Product Review: My Dog Loves Squirrels!

pet toysWhen our greyhound, Seba, retired from racing and came home to live with us, we quickly discovered that although she’d been taught to walk on a leash at her foster home, she would go crazy at the sight of a squirrel.  In the process, this seventy pound plus dog would buck around and pull so hard on the leash she could easily have hurt herself.   This was a real problem–because our home in Ohio is surrounded by trees, and squirrel colonies abound.  They can often be seen in groups, playing by the sidewalk, under trees and skipping over parked cars.  They aren’t afraid of much, and will wait until a dog or cat is almost upon them before turning tail to leap or bound away.

Lucky for us, we were able to distract Seba in two ways from dangerous twisting and pulling on the leash.  First, we carried bacon flavored treats with us at all times.  Each time she saw a squirrel, we were quickly alerted by Seba’s ears coming up straight and the way that greys have of lifting onto their toes to prepare for the chase.  We would then quickly pull out a treat and offer it to her instead, praising her for seeing the squirrel, but not chasing it.  Seba quickly learned that the real treat was with us, and not dashing up a tree trunk.  😉

But the second way we solved our sighthound’s love of squirrels, was when I began to look for dog toys on sale, and discovered Kyjen, and their interactive toys dogs love.

kyjen logoMy Dog Loves Kyjen

Kyjen Co. began in 1988 as a wholesale distributor of pet supplies in Southern California.  Now based in Colorado, their website reads:

It is our mission to make unique products that will keep dogs active and engaged. We have a passion for dogs, and feel that they deserve fun, functional products—products that last longer, challenge their minds, and stimulate their instincts. With their companionship, playfulness, and affection, our dogs keep us feeling healthy and happy. Our goal, in turn, is to design products that will enrich our dogs’ lives as much as they enrich our own.

dog toys on sale hide a squirrelToys Dogs Love: Interactive and Puzzle Toys

Hide A Squirrel (pictured above) can withstand normal chewing, comes in various sizes to fit the size of your dog and comes with several squirrels.  They even sell replacements!  (Which became necessary for us when Seba’s sister, Castle–you remember her, right, El Destructo?–chewed some of the squirrel’s heads off.)   The wee little squirrels squeak–and when Seba even sees this toy lying around as she walks by it, her prey drive engages and her lips come back over her teeth–then she pounces!  🙂  Usually, we pick up the mauled squirrels and put them back in their little log as we clean up around the house.  So it isn’t uncommon to see Seba grab the squirrel filled log, shake it and send them all flying out.  Seriously, my dog loves this toy!

easter egg dogOther Puzzle Toys Dogs Love By Kyjen

Kyjen’s Egg Babies line also seems to be particularly exciting to pets.  It features everything from fish to ducks to bald eagles with eggs inside that your dog can pull out.  Talk about how to give your dog a great Easter egg hunt, right?  🙂

playing dogInteractive Toys In General

The smartest thing you can do to keep your genius dog out of trouble is get him a puzzle toy of some kind.  When dogs love their toys they do not exhibit behaviors like chewing shoes, furniture or peeing in the house.  They’re just too happy and engaged.

Watch this!

Here’s a fun video we found, showing another dog enjoying Hide A Squirrel, the toy my dog loves…


Looking for Kyjen dog toys on sale? Go here.

seba 300

I am Seba, and I approve this message.

Pet Book Reviews: The Dog Listener

The other day I was asked about puppy bonding techniques.  And I was pleased, because it at last gave me a chance to do one of my favorite pet book reviews.

And on the amichien bonding method, no less!

Jan Fennell

Jan Fennell

Jan Fennell is the international best selling author of “The Dog Listener” and her training, the amichien bonding method, is used by dog owners worldwide. The success of her method has resulted in six books being translated into 27 languages and published in 34 countries! Jan has had two national television series in the UK and Australia, television appearances in the UK, New Zealand, the USA, Poland and Australia, countless radio appearances in many more countries and has given talks and seminars in twenty six countries- to date.

I began reading Jan Fennell’s The Dog Listener just after speaking to an animal communicator about our young dog, Castle.  We were having some behavior problems with our little Brittany, among them mouthing, jumping and border running (incessant barking at the fence line).

Never having heard of the amichien bonding method myself, I’ll explain a bit here:

The amichien bonding method, simply put, is one of respect and understanding rather than a form of dominance or force.  By intuiting how dogs treat each other, we can key into how they choose freely to follow a leader, instead of being made to.


Jan Fennell’s teachings are based on four times in wolf families where the pack members re-establish who is leader:

  1. When the pack hunts.
  2. When the pack eats.
  3. At times of danger.
  4. When the pack reunites.

It is at these times that dog owners must understand how to make dogs want to do what we expect of them of their own free will.

puppy bonding techniques french bulldog leashedWhen the pack hunts translates as walking in the modern dog world.  Jan tackles subjects in this area such as dogs that run wild off leash and don’t return, chaos in the car, and so on.

pet book reviewsWhen the pack eats is handled in many different ways, including eating first (or at least “fake eating”, since in wolf packs the alpha pair eat and then the rest of the pack) and dealing with problem eaters as well.

I can tell you that Dave and I personally have mastered mealtimes using Jan’s techniques with our three dogs.  We simply establish our leadership by waiting until all three have given us a “down stay” to put food down–and although this was tricky at first, we now have it down to less than 60 seconds per mealtime!

Dog Danger: pet book reviews“At times of danger” could cover a lot of territory–but certainly for us, border running was equivalent to this issue.  Castle was once attacked by a dog only blocks from our home, and its clueless owner continues to walk him right by our house every day.  Castle would begin fear barking and racing all around the yard to confront her nemesis approaching from all angles every time he passed.  And when we did force her back inside by using a leash, she would still bark and pace agitatedly for some time after.

Thanks to Jan’s book, and the amichien bonding method, we rarely now have trouble getting her to be more interested in coming in than barking at the fence.  But she also covers things like canine confrontations, fear of noises and dogs that bite. running dog pet book reviewsWhen the pack reunites, for us, took a little longer to understand–until we realized that it meant every time we re-entered the room, to a dog!  But this was the reason for Castle’s jumping–and the solution much simpler than you might expect.

Other situations Jan covers in this book include: nervous aggression, separation anxiety, puppy bonding techniques, potty training problems, multiple dog issues, dogs that are too possessive (of owners and/or toys), nervous dogs in general and problems specific to rescue dogs.

The book also includes a 30 day training guide–how cool is that?  And she even got her horse training hero, Monty Roberts, to write the foreword!

In short, we highly recommend The Dog Listener, and the amichien bonding method!

Here are some words from Jan, also, taken from her website:

“The absolute joy that dogs have brought into my life, from a very early age, made me wonder if it were possible to repay this gift in any way.

Like a lot of dog owners, I was less than happy with traditional training of dogs, which involve jerking, pushing and punishment but knew of no other method. There was also the widespread acceptance of the notion that to successfully work with a dog demanded a knack or special gift, a belief that prevents many loving owners from ever succeeding.

Also, like most people, I knew that dogs had an excellent communication system of their own but as a human, with a completely different method of communication, failed to see how I could bridge the gap and make real “contact”. Then in 1989 a good friend, Wendy Broughton, introduced me to the work of the acclaimed horseman Monty Roberts, and I saw, for the first time, how it was possible to not only learn the communication system or language of another species but more importantly, find a way of responding in an acceptable, kind way to that animal and thereby open true conversation, with the emphasis on working with the true nature of the animal, gaining its trust and willingness to co-operate, of its own free will.

This gift of understanding means that we are all now able to quickly identify, understand and consequently, resolve all type of undesirable behaviour. We can do this (no matter what the breed or age of dog) without the use of force, fear, frustration or gadgets, and it can be achieved by anyone who chooses to adopt my method ‘Amichien® Bonding’.

There is only one thing better than finding something so special and that is being able to share it, which I have been able to do through the books, DVD’s and courses for many years now and how wonderful it is to have a team of highly qualified colleagues, worldwide, passing on this information in such a way that empowers all dog owners.

I wish you joy on your journey of understanding and promise that you can do this too.”

Jan Fennell

Click here to buy: Books By Jan Fennell

 Joy Jones, Publisher, is also the Vice President of Your Pet Space, a cage free dog boarding facility serving the greater Las Cruces, NM area. She is also a syndicated columnist living with her husband Dave (below). When not working on Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as urban fantasy and humor. You can e-mail her at as well as send her a friend request on Facebook.

Adopting A Puppy: A Book Review

puppy schnauzerIf you’re thinking of adopting a puppy, we highly recommend the following book:

How To Raise The Perfect Dog

by Melissa Jo Peltier and Cesar Millan (audio version narrated by John H. Mayer)

As I listened to the Audible edition of this book, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to work for Cesar Millan, and be able to sit around my office watching puppy cams whenever I wanted.  In fact, this entire book is an oblique look at how things are run at the Dog Psychology Center–which makes it a fun and interesting read/listen.

In the introduction, Cesar Millan states that the purpose of this book is to teach that adopting a puppy and raising it is a learned skill, not innate–and that although we often think of our dogs as our babies, it’s a very different thing to raise a puppy than a human baby.  He calls puppies “little survival machines”, and calls upon us to see that dogs themselves are the best teachers of how they should be raised with rules, boundaries and limitations in order to thrive and become perfect pets.

Although this book starts with Cesar selecting four very different dogs to follow along the path from adoption to adolescence, the book is super useful for owners with dogs of any age.  It’s important to note as well that dogs are considered:

Puppies–until 8 months old

Adolescents–from 8 months to 3 years

Adults–over 3 years

labradorThere are four dogs featured in the book, varying in age from puppyhood to adolescence.  Some came from breeders, some from rescues.  The dogs are:

Junior–a Pit Bull

Blizzard–a Labrador Retriever

Angel–A Miniature Schnauzer

Mr. President–an English Bulldog

Those readers familiar with Cesar’s former show The Dog Whisperer will know that pit bulls are one of his favorite breeds–in fact, in this book he says that he recommends people with children seek a puppy of this breed which has balanced energy and is well socialized, as the breed’s very characteristics of toughness and stamina make it a perfect choice for children that want to climb on the dog and pull on its ears, etc.  His 16 year old pit bull, Daddy, was famous for calming the energy of unstable dogs on Cesar’s show, and actually helped him select Junior!

Cesar has worked with John Grogan’s family, but was determined that Blizzard not be another “Marley and Me”.

He worked with each dog individually to raise them more as dogs first, and then to honor what they were actually created to do as breeds.  Cesar believes that adopting a puppy and raising it as naturally as possible creates a natural balance in its energy, and makes it the perfect pet!

So–if you’re looking for a comprehensive guide for adopting a puppy, we highly recommend this book.  Follow the link below to buy this one and more at Cesar’s Bookstore!

adopting a puppy perfect dog Get great Books and More from

Pet Products Review: SafetyGlo Dog Collar

Pet Products: SafetyGloDogCollar

As pet products go, this is a great idea, especially for families like ours that live out of town without security lights, where it’s very dark at night.  The collars we had did not come with any form of instruction, however, and we have seen others remark on this as well.

The first collar we ordered had a buckle and holes, like a belt, making it easy to adjust the size to fit our dog’s neck comfortably.  The glow from the collar was as bright as promised, but the charge only lasted a few days.  Granted, we did not leave the collar turned on for any length of time, we only turned it on for the short periods we are outside at night with Sahara, so it might be that the collar simply doesn’t hold a charge well when not in regular use.  The charge pack appears to be detachable from the advertisements, so we detached it to set it in the window to charge.  Leaving the pack out from noon until sundown we tested to see if the collar was charged.  No power.  In the end, we chose to use the USB cable whenever we next turned on the computer to check emails.  That worked quickly.

Sadly, once we reattached the battery pack to the collar we had major issues.  The pack is held on with a combination of snaps and Velcro, I assume the snaps make the connection to the electric parts of the collar while the Velcro holds the pack in place.  The battery pack is flat, a dog’s neck is curved, so once you reattach the pack to the collar, it is no longer a tight seal, the connections are iffy at best.  After two days, either because of the way the collar was shipped to us or because of an actual flaw with the power pack itself, the collar stopped working altogether.

I contacted SafetyGlo with some questions about charging the collar.  Had we done something wrong?  Was this typical behavior for these power packs to not fit properly?  My questions went unanswered, but I was offered a replacement collar at no cost to me.  I was even allowed to keep the non-functioning one.  This all sounded good to me, so I agreed and gave up hounding them for answers.

The new collar was not identical in make, the buckle was now the clip type, like ones used on fanny-packs and backpacks for children, which changed the sizes available.  Gone were the easy adjustments to fit our dog’s neck.  Now the collar only closed to a certain size and because of the clip there was an extra length of collar that was not adjustable, making our new collar just slightly too big for our Sahara, even though it was listed as being the same length as the one we replaced.  The battery pack is still working after a year of occasional use, however, so I give them credit for that, at least, however, we have not removed the pack from the collar this time and we charge it with the entire unit plugged in to the computer.

We continued to use the non-functional collar for Sahara’s daily use because it was a very sturdy and nice looking collar.  We loved the belt-like adjustment closure and the whole package (beyond the battery pack) worked well for our outdoor lifestyle.  It lasted through many rolls in the mud and all of the washes that followed as a result.  We only replaced it as her regular collar when she scratched at her neck (as all dogs do on occasion), which created an opening through the orange fabric, exposing the lighting fixture beneath.

Overall, I can’t remind dog owners enough that as for pet products, this is a wonderful idea and I really loved the color choices that were available.  The price was good for what we got and the customer service, while willing to replace the product, weren’t exactly friendly or helpful in solving our problems or answering our questions.  These things could have changed in a year’s time, however.  I would willingly try out the leash or harness at some point, if we ever come around to needing those items.  I wish that we were able to continue with the better quality product that we were sent the first time and that it had worked better for us.


  • Buckle fastening (if you get it)
  • Bright glow is attention getting, but not distracting (unless you have it on blink mode)
  • Charges with solar and USB power


  • Fanny pack clip (if you get it)
  • Length of time the battery holds a charge
  • Fabric eventually rips to expose glow tubing.


pet products sahara

I am Sahara, and I approve this message.


Where to Buy The SafetyGlo Dog Collar