Q: Which pet lives the longest?
A: The pet with the potential to live the longest is probably the parrot, which generally has the same life span as humans -- 60 to 70 years, with some living to be 100. Some fish, such as goldfish, and their close relations, koi, also count their life spans in decades.
The key to such a life span, though, is proper care, and neither goldfish nor parrots seem to get it very often.
Parrots, especially, die from owners' misinformation as much as anything else, although this is changing as we learn more about correct care -- and especially feeding of these expensive and affectionate pets.
A parrot's best friend is an avian veterinarian, and any new bird owner is well-advised to seek out a good one. He or she can help you with reference materials, diet and medical treatments to ensure your pet is with you for a good long time.
Cats and dogs usually live 10 to 14 years, although many live a few years beyond that. Giant breeds of dog, such as Irish wolfhounds, often live only half of that normal life span.
We are just now beginning to learn how important geriatric care is for dogs and cats, and one part of that regimen -- routine veterinary dental care -- shows considerable promise not only in extending the lives of our pets but also in keeping them healthy enough to enjoy those extra years.
CQ: This probably seems like a silly question, but how can I tell if my cat is too fat? She's definitely not bony, but my husband thinks she's fat, and I don't.
A: According to the excellent "Cornell Book of Cats" ($24.95; Villard Books), a healthy adult cat weighs 8 to 10 pounds, although studies indicate that about 12 percent of cats seen by veterinarians are at least 15 percent overweight.
At normal weight, a cat's ribs are hidden but can easily be felt. In overweight cats, the ribs are hard to find, and sometimes impossible.
Just as in humans, obesity has a wide range of health risks for cats, including increased strain on joints and ligaments as well as internal organs.
If your cat is overweight, seek advice from your veterinarian on the proper course of treatment for gradual weight loss.
Ms. Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o At Home, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278