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MOVING? TAKE YOUR TIME WHEN CHOOSING A NEW VET

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Dear Matthew: I just moved to a new city with my dog, who has some medical problems. I really trusted the veterinarian I went to back at my old home, and I feel like I was really lucky to wind up with him.

Now, I'm afraid that I might get stuck with someone who's not as good. Do you have any tips on how to find a good veterinarian?- Percy in Chico, Calif.

Dear Percy: Since your veterinarian could easily become the most important person in your dog's life (besides you, of course), it's essential that you put some time and research into picking the right one. Fortunately, you're taking this choice seriously, which bodes well for your pet.

The first thing you should do is call up some of the local vet offices and talk to the receptionists. A friendly receptionist is usually a pretty good indicator of the overall mood of the office.

Find out what kind of emergency service the office provides. If your dog has a serious accident, is there a vet on duty even at night? Sometimes, you won't be able to wait until morning. Ask how many years the office has been open and how long the vet has been practicing. The longer, the better.

Once you've narrowed your choices down, go and visit the offices yourself. First impressions mean a lot, so trust your instincts. If you have a bad feeling about the place, there's no sense putting your dog's life in their hands. A few tangible things to look for are overall cleanliness and the way your prospective veterinarian treats you and your dog. If he's friendly, answers questions and gets along well with animals, that'll make all the difference.

And most importantly, once you've chosen a vet, if you don't feel comfortable with your decision, you should start looking for someplace else. After all, does your dog deserve anything less?

Dear Matthew: Ever since I moved in with my friend, things have been going great. Everything, that is, except for his cat. Not only does the animal not seem to like me, whenever she sees any of my stuff, she shreds it to pieces with her claws.

I know this sounds silly, but I think the cat is trying to send me a message. I think she wants my out of her life. Do you have any suggestions? I don't want to have to say that it's either me or the cat, but I'm running out of options.

- Living With a Psycho Cat

Dear Living: So, you figure the cat's jealous, huh? She sees you spending all this time with HER man, and she's trying to get you back. Filled with feline envy, she'll stop at nothing to drive you from the house and out of her life.

Hmmm. That's certainly a dramatic theory, but I think there's probably another one that's slightly more realistic. Basically, your boyfriend's cat has had its daily routine interrupted. She's probably been in the middle of a great deal of commotion, what with you moving all your stuff in and all. Cats are very pattern-oriented, and even the slightest change can put them into a tizzy.

What can you do to help calm your the cat down? The first thing to do is try to keep things calm around your place for the next couple of weeks. If you've been throwing a lot of parties or inviting friends over all the time, you might want to cut back a little. Or, if you are having company over, you may want to keep the cat in a room that will remain calm and quiet.

You should also try to build a relationship with the cat. Take over the cat's feeding duties, and spend some time playing with her. If the cat knows who you are, she'll probably be more relaxed around you and less likely to stir up trouble.

As for her shredding tendencies, make sure the cat has a scratching post she can get to easily. Whenever you catch her tearing into your belongings, pick her up and move her over to the post. You may even want to rub some catnip on it to encourage her to use it.

So, before you start a battle for affection, give the steps I suggested a shot. That way, you'll entirely avoid the possibility that, when your friend is presented with the choice between you or his cat, he'll pick the latter. Then the cat would really have won.