The kitten is purring in your lap. The beagle is curled up at your feet. This is a good thing. Studies show that pets generally help people live better, longer, less-stressful lives.
The bad news is that there are times pets' behavior drives us up the wall.
If you've had pets for a long time, you know that some are more problematic than others. They're diggers, scratchers, chewers, barkers, howlers, jumpers, swimmers or wanderers.
Weighing in on the dilemmas posed by cats and dogs are pet owners and professionals Kathy Huxtable, a Fresno, Calif., dog behaviorist and nutritionist; and Brenda Forsythe, a veterinarian in Fresno.
Huxtable empathized with people whose neighborhood cats use their planting beds as litter boxes. She's experienced it.
"What I have found that works best is a mixture of lemon-scented Pine-Sol and water," Huxtable said. "I mix the solution according to directions on the bottle for mopping, then I sprinkle the mixture on the ground around the plants. Cats don't like the smell."
Going to the dogs
Professionals agree that many dog behaviors can be modified by spending a lot of time with the animal, supplying it with chews stuffed with peanut butter or other food, training the dog to do its business in one area of the yard, giving it one place to dig and walking the dog frequently.
Dogs dig and bark and chew because they're bored, want to escape, are curious and/or lonely, said Forsythe, who has three dogs.
"They need a rich environment," she said. "And, the reality is, you have to be flexible. If plants or a tree are important to you, erect barriers to them until they, and the dog, are more mature."
To discourage excessive barking, the professionals recommend using citronella bark collars. When a dog barks, citronella -- a scent dogs don't like -- is sprayed. This approach is considered more humane than using electrical shock collars.
When dogs continually jump on people, fences or screen doors, Forsythe said to use the element-of-surprise approach: load a squirt gun with water just tinged with vinegar (not pleasant to dogs), squirt the dog in the act and say forcefully, "No."
If you see your dog eating grass frequently, it could be a sign it has an inflamed stomach and needs to see the vet.