DEAR READERS: New year, new “leash” on life! Let’s look at what we can do to keep our pets safe and healthy in 2020:

1. Microchip. Make sure it’s up to date. Collars and ID tags can break or fall off.

2. Spaying and neutering. The stray animal population is much too high.

3. Shots. Diseases such as distemper and parvovirus are preventable with vaccines. Also inquire about booster shots.

4. An all-over physical, sometimes called a wellness exam. Don’t wait until your pet is ill.

5. Dental health. Don’t you hate having a toothache? Your pet does too, so get the teeth checked at least once a year.

6. Finally, fleas and ticks. Your pet should be on a year-round preventive medicine.

Visit with the veterinarian in order to keep your pets in tiptop shape! — Heloise


DEAR READERS: Meet Cuan. Owners Robert and Marilyn in Papillion, Neb., caught sheltie Cuan in a big smile!


To see Cuan and our other Pet Pals, visit and click on “Pet of the Week.” Do you have a funny and furry friend you’d like to share? Send a picture and description to — Heloise


DEAR HELOISE: More households are buying almond, soy, cashew and coconut milks in the half-gallon cartons with plastic lids on the side of the cartons. These lids are generally not recyclable because they pose a health threat of eye injury when they go through the machines in recycling centers.

My family goes through about five cartons a week, and by the end of the year we have trashed 260 plastic lids. Please advise manufacturers that we are perfectly able to open cartons at the top ends like we did for decades, before they decided plastic lids provided easier access. If we want to be environmentally friendly, can we start with the small, attainable things? — Bernie S., Colorado Springs, Colo.


DEAR HELOISE: Reheating food can be tricky — the food often comes out unevenly heated, with cold spots. I’ve solved this. I create a circle in the middle of the plate of food. This allows for more equal heat distribution. — Tamara W., Kansas City, Mo.


DEAR HELOISE: When I receive furniture that has to be put together (end table, etc.), if it comes with a tool such as an Allen wrench, I always tape the tool under the piece I put together. If the screws come loose, I always have that tool to fix it. — Johnna T., via email


DEAR HELOISE: Of all the places in San Antonio to get an oil change, I happened to pull into the one that had found a tiny, black NEWBORN KITTEN that morning. He couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3 days old. An abscess had formed on his neck, and I knew a feral mother cat would not waste her time, attention and milk on a sick kitten. In the world of feral cats, only the strongest survive, so when the mother cat moved her kittens, she left this one behind to die.

The men who worked there had heard him crying and found him in the hollow of a tree behind their building. Although they had tried to feed him with a straw and cow’s milk, the kitten would not drink. I couldn’t leave him, and I knew I’d need a nursing kit and the proper formula to keep the little guy alive. So, on the way home, I picked up a nursing kit at a pet store, and the following morning we made a trip to the vet’s, where the abscess on his neck was lanced and drained. The vet gave me some medication for him and asked what his name was. Without thinking, I blurted out, “Batman.”

As I was leaving, the vet warned me that this delicate ball of black fur was too small and too sick to survive without his mother. He told me: “There’s a good chance he won’t pull through. I just want you to be prepared.”

“If I can keep him alive until his eyes open, he’ll be OK,” I told him.

I had to feed him every two or three hours, which meant I had very little sleep. He slept so deeply that occasionally I’d pet him to make sure he was alive, still fighting for his life. When I fed him, I’d pick him up, hold him next to my heart and slowly rock from side to side while he drank his bottle of formula. “Hang in there, baby boy. Don’t give up,” I’d whisper to him.

On the 12th day, I saw two little blue eyes looking up at me. I picked him up and cuddled him while he drank his breakfast. “Welcome to the world, Batman!” — N.R. in Texas


What a wonderful, happy ending. Against all odds, Batman survived, but not all tiny newborn kittens have the good fortune to be rescued. Readers, we can’t rescue every stray, but we can donate to animal rescue organizations and shelters. — Heloise


DEAR HELOISE: I saw the recent hint about a reader taking photos of his luggage when getting ready for a trip. I do the same. I also made up a list of every item that I might need while traveling. I saved the list on my computer, and when it’s time to pack, I print the list. When I pack an item, I mark it off the list. — Trena in California