Lessie Raines, 87, holds her 15-year-old cat, Conway Kitty, named after the country singer.

Dear Heloise: Now that the days are getting longer and the sun will be out, we'll be spending more time outside with our pets. But that warm sun we've been waiting for all winter can be a mixed blessing.

Although a little sun is good for both you and your pet, too many ultraviolet rays can cause sunburn and eventually skin cancer. Excessive sun can also create problems for pets with existing skin conditions. What can you do? Get some pet sunscreen or use one made for babies (nothing containing zinc), and put some on the skin areas of your pet, like the tips of the ears and the nose. You can put it on the abdomen, too, but usually this is rubbed or licked off. Certain breeds and light-colored dogs and cats are most susceptible.

Skin cancer is one of the more common types of cancer in pets. Skin tumors are very common in older dogs, although they usually are benign. Cats are more likely to develop the more deadly kind, so be sure to have your pet examined by a veterinarian for any signs of abnormalities. — Heloise

Dear Readers: Karen Bruce of Gastonia, N.C., sent a photo of her 87-year-old grandmother, Lessie Raines, and her 15-year-old cat, Conway Kitty, nestled in her arms. Karen says, "My grandmother loved the famous country singer so much that she named her cat after him." — Heloise

Dear Heloise: I am a new cat owner and was wondering how often to change the cat's litter box. What do your experts say? — A New Kitty Owner, via e-mail

Well, ask your cat! Solid waste should be cleaned up every day. The litter should be replaced when wet or you can smell it! Kitties like clean boxes, and sometimes they won't use them if they are too dirty. Would you want to? — Heloise

Dear Heloise: When adding new fish to an existing aquarium, don't put them right into the tank. Keep them in the bag and float them on the top of the water until it is the same temperature as the aquarium water. When the temperature has regulated, the fish can be added to the aquarium. — Adrienne from Texas

Adrienne, this is true. Just dumping the fish in could cause them to be stressed, and they might not make the move. Also, if you have territorial fish, move the aquarium ornaments around before adding new fish — it makes them less aggressive in protecting "their" home. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: I have finches, and cleaning cages takes time. When I cut newspaper for the bottom, I cut several pieces and lay all of them on the bottom. When I remove the soiled paper, there is another sheet underneath, making the whole process easier. — K.M. in Texas


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