Dear Christopher Cat: I know some spring plants are toxic to cats. Since my cats are inquisitive, what flowers should I avoid this Easter?

Christopher responds: Don't decorate with the traditional Easter lily.

When ingested by cats, lilies of all types cause kidney failure and sometimes death. Every part of the lily is toxic, as is the water in a vase of lilies. Even the pollen a cat licks off her fur after she brushes by a lily is enough to permanently damage the kidneys.

Avoid daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and paperwhites, which are less toxic but still cause problems. If your cats munch the flowers or leaves, they may lose their appetites and vomit. Chewing on the bulbs causes vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes seizures.

Fortunately, florists offer many beautiful, cat-safe flowers to brighten your holiday, including roses, daisies, sunflowers and orchids, such as the Easter orchid.

For photos of hundreds of cat-safe plants, from asters to zinnias, visit www.aspca.org/apcc.

°°°

Dear Daisy Dog: Our previous dog was a biter, so we could never trust him around children or family members he didn't know well. After he died, we adopted a new dog, Sam, from the shelter. How can we prevent him from becoming a biter?

Daisy responds: National Dog Bite Prevention Week is April 9 to 15, so start today to accustom Sam to new people, dogs, sounds and situations. Teach him that people are safe and even fun, for example, by occasionally slipping a doggie treat to a friend about to greet Sam.

Enroll him in a group dog training class so he'll learn to walk quietly beside you and respond to basic commands, even when other dogs and people distract him. Training will strengthen his bond to you and help him become a good canine citizen who is welcome in friends' homes and public areas.

Gently handle Sam's feet, ears and mouth daily so he accepts having his nails trimmed, ears cleaned and teeth brushed.

Since most bite victims are children who are bitten on the face or neck, always supervise children, including your own, around Sam. Don't let them disturb him when he's eating or sleeping.

Protect Sam from situations where he feels threatened. Don't let children run up to him, but remind them to stay calm and ask permission before petting any dog.

Teach your children and their friends not to play aggressive games, like tug-of-war or wrestling, with dogs. They shouldn't scream or run by any dog, as these behaviors can trigger the dog to chase and nip them.

Take Sam to his veterinarian regularly and whenever you are concerned that he may be sick or uncomfortable, as illness and pain can make a dog irritable. If the shelter didn't neuter Sam, have your vet do it, as neutered dogs are less likely to bite than sexually intact dogs.

With your help, Sam will become a happy, well-adjusted family member loved by all who meet him.

Ask the Vet's Pets appears Friday in the print edition of the Reading Eagle. The animal authors of the column live with Lee Pickett, V.M.D., who practices companion animal medicine. Contact them at www.askthevetspets.com.