Does your cat favor your toes over his new catnip ball? Are you drained after walking out to the mailbox in the 100 degree-plus weather? Does your 10 minutes of shut eye turn into sleep-a-thon?

Don't waste your time writing to "Dear Abby" for the solutions to these and other of life's pesky little problems. Some of the newest inventions in Utah can solve them - and the inventors are only 8 and 9 years old.Throughout July, 300 students from the Granite School District's gifted and talented classes are enrolled in a special program, called "Beyond the Basics," that offers everything from geology and entomology to space and art. The program is by invitation only.

"We try to extend beyond the curriculum and really challenge these gifted students," said teacher Susan Bunker.

Bunker's class, which has been looking at problem solving from every angle, gave parents a chance Friday to see what their talented children have been doing. The kids held an invention fair to show off their ingenious creations.

And they were eager to demonstrate and talk about how they solved the problems in their little corner of the world.

With a salesman's zeal, Jonathan Smith, 8, along with Sunny Gill, 9, and Ryan Atkins, 8, pitched a "Handy, Dandy Dog Alarm" to every parent and student who passed by their table.

"We'll bargain with you until we, buyer and seller, meet a fair price," their poster read.

Their invention sounds an alarm when a dog removes food. Jonathan hit upon the idea because "I was tired of spending hours cleaning out the garage."

Actually, explained Jonathan's dad, Phil, their dog hasn't been leaving surprises all over the garage floor. Phil is allergic to dog hair, so when the animal sneaks into Phil's garage workroom for a romp, Jonathan gets clean-up duty. Jonathan hopes his "Handy Dandy Dog Alarm" will prevent future hairy problems - and will save dad's sinuses.

Hilary McKinnon, 9, went to work on her invention to rescue her baby sister. "We have a mean little cat at home who likes to play with my baby sister's legs, and she always ends up crying," Hilary reported.

So Hilary put on her problem-solving cap to devise a cat entertainment center for Spike (what else would you name a mean cat?). She decked out one of those popular, plastic sunflowers that turns in the wind with colored strings and bells. Spike now heads for the sunflower, not baby sister.

Sarah Porter, 8, admitted to liking her catnaps, but "I have trouble getting up." She sewed herself a colorful pillow, inserting a timer to prevent over-sleeping.

Craig Kartchner, 9, hates walking down to the mailbox. "My mom always make me go," he said. So Craig solved his problem - with a vacuum cleaner.

Using a powerful wet-dry model, he attached a long black tube to the vacuum. To demonstrate, his friend, Richie Clark, 9, slipped a letter, which was in a sawed-off piece of PVC pipe, into the tube. Craig flipped the vacuum's switch and - swoosh - the letter sailed up the tube, stopping at a strategically placed bolt.

Craig admitted there was one flaw in the invention - convincing the letter carrier that he should cooperate.