"Fins Over Fur" reads the comical sign in the local tropical fish store. It is true that aquarium keeping is a very popular hobby. The tropical fish at pet shops are expensive. Many are delicate or diseased and doomed to live short lives. It doesn't take long for an enthusiastic beginner to lose interest in a tank of dead and dying fish!

A better solution??? Choose a hardy, native fish. Try a "finned kitty", otherwise known as a catfish (bullhead in the North). Eight long, soft barbels edge the lips, reminding one of a cat's whiskers. These fish are plentiful in the North and South, preferring the muddy waters of ponds and small lakes. They are also extremely hardy. Did you know they can survive in the mud of a dried-up pond?

There are several ways to acquire your water cat. Ask a fisherman to save a small one for you, buy one at your local bait shop, or better yet, fish for one yourself. Any pond is likely to harbor catfish, especially muddy ones with plenty of vegetation along the shore. However you plan to acquire your pet, be sure to plan a comfy home for it in advance. You'll need an aquarium (preferably twenty gallon), enough gravel to cover the bottom to a depth of one inch, a filter, a pump, airline tubing, and a few flat rocks. Your pet dealer will be glad to give you information on the installation of filter and air lines. One note: Do not buy live plants. Your pet will surely eat them. Don't bother decorating with plastic plants, ceramic castles, etc. These will only be uprooted. Keep kitty's home simple.

Use gentleness when introducing your new catfish to its home. Keeping a firm grip on its body so it does not fall, lower it into the water. Be sure to keep the dorsal fin held down tightly with one hand or you may get a painful prick from its sharp point.

Your new pet will be frightened and leery of its surroundings for a day or two, so don't disturb it. Give it rest and quiet. About the third day, offer kitty anything from peas, earthworms, and bits of raw or cooked meat to cooked carrots, bread balls, mealworms, and goldfish pellets. Catfish are greedy and will gorge themselves. Don't worry! These fish are not delicate. It's impossible to overfeed them Just make sure there is not excess food left to foul the aquarium water.

Your catfish will look forward to his daily feeding and will eagerly rise to the surface when you approach. Unlike other fish, he will soon learn to accept food from your hand and will allow you to gently stroke his back.

I keep my own water kitty next to the dining room table where he teases for his favorite treat...PEAS!! He watches all our dinner guests intently and is a constant source of amusement and conversation.

Your own water cat will provide you with the same enjoyment and years of companionship. He is guaranteed to outlive all tropical fish and most goldfish. All he asks is a clean aquarium, good food, and a bit of attention. Best of all, he's a cat with FOUR pair of whiskers, doesn't shed hair on the furniture and is guaranteed not to meow in the middle of the night!

Hey....let's travel to Pennsylvania!!

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