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Peggy Peterson's cat Sunny performs a balancing act while chasing a moth in Gautier, Miss.

Dear Readers: Thinking of adding a bird to your household? Know its needs and life span beforehand. A parakeet can live from seven to 15 years with good care, while a parrot or macaw can become a lifelong buddy, living 50, 75 or even up to 100 years. The more you study up beforehand, the better fit your feathered friend will be! Here are a few hints to help you find the right bird for your family:

• Buy a bird only from a respected dealer or pet store.

• When you get a bird, have it checked out by a vet who specializes in caring for birds.

• Purchase a cage big enough for the bird to fly from one perch to another. Put it far away from heating ducts, direct sunshine, air conditioning and drafts. Since many fumes can be fatal to birds, the kitchen may not be the best place.

• Birds do need to see an avian vet if they don't appear to be well, so it's important to know your bird's behavior; if it changes, don't hesitate — take it to the vet ASAP.

• Birds need regular feeding times.

• Birds need companionship with people or preferably another bird. If they are bored or lonely, they may show bad behavior. So be sure you have the time to spend with your new feathered friends. —Heloise

Dear Readers: Peggy Peterson of Gautier, Miss., sent a photo of her cat, Sunny, who is doing a great balancing act while trying to catch a moth.

Peggy says: "Sunny is trying to catch the moth on the wall above the door. He jumps onto the buffet, then onto the bookcase. He realizes if he lets either foot loose, he will fall to the floor." —Heloise

Dear Heloise: Old newspaper has several uses at my home, which I share with several cats — some of which are foundlings and using the litter box for the first time. I put a sheet or two of newspaper on the bottom of the litter box to absorb excess fluid that might leak through the liner, and I secure the litter liner over the container. Then the litter is poured in.

Sometimes, there is a shortage of cat litter, especially if I am fostering a new arrival or if the weather is inclement, making a trip to the store a hardship. I put the newspaper pages in the shredder and use the shredded paper as litter. This works well, too, if there is a feline friend that has undergone paw surgery and needs the softness of paper.

—Margarette M., Temple, Texas

Dear Heloise: Here are two hints to help our beloved outside pets weather the summer. Put ice in their water bowls, and use the hose to wet a shady area under a tree where they can lie down and cool off.

—Jessica from New Mexico

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