Dear Cathy,

I read your great pet column in the Las Vegas Review Journal every Sunday. It’s always interesting. I am writing because our son has four cats, and seems to be very adept at their overall care. My question is, can you recommend a good cat medical guide, which would be a handy thing for him to use now and then? An A-Z guide covering as much as possible? No doubt there are several on the market, but I wanted to ask the expert. Christmas is coming soon, and it would be a good gift. — Geoffrey, Las Vegas, NV

Dear Geoffrey,

Reference books on pet care make great gifts for people with pets of all ages. While there are lots of books with great information on pet care, health and behavior, I tend to go for the classics. My favorite books include “Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats” by Susan Hubble Pitcairn and Richard H. Pitcairn. It’s been around for about 20 years, but was recently updated, so get the updated version. It focuses on natural health.

The other book I like, and is more in line with your question, is “The Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” by six veterinarians. This is a good all-around reference book that focuses on health issues. Make sure you get the recently updated version, too.

If your son is interested in understanding more about cat behavior, check out books by cat experts Jackson Galaxy and Pamela Bennet Johnson. These authors offer lots of insights into feline behavior that can helpful in a multi-cat household.

Dear Cathy,

We wanted to tell you about a new pet that is making the rounds in the pet therapy world — miniature horses. We have 30 minis and have been working with them for 25 years. Miniature horses live about 25 years, but many of ours are into their 30s.

We believe the minis are ideal as pet therapy animals for many reasons. They are quiet, intelligent and well-behaved. They can go most anywhere, even in elevators and have no hesitation in navigating the slippery floors of a long-term care facility. If they poop, it can be handled with a minimum effort. They are curious and want to greet each visitor. And they don’t need a large paddock.

Some people visit our herd at our farm where we cater to senior groups with varying needs and children with special needs. Many of the special needs children who visit seem calmed by the horses. We also take the horses to visit various senior facilities. The seniors always want to leave their rooms to touch and groom our horses. Even those who no longer communicate may smile or reach out to touch a horse.

In addition, we take our horses to some facilities for extended periods where they are looked after by the faculty staff and become part of their recreation programs. (Our programs are discussed in more detail in “The Big Book of Miniature Horses” by Kendra Gale.) Our horses are treated kindly and the frequent handling has a payoff. They thrive on the added attention and come home from those facilities calm, relaxed and well-groomed. These programs ensure regular working of the horses and ultimately better conditioning and performance.

We realize miniature horses are not for everyone, but we wanted to let you know that they do make wonderful therapy pets, driving horses and equine friends. — Pete and Terry, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Dear Pete and Terry,

Thanks for sharing your story — and another book recommendation for people shopping for their equine-loving friends for the holidays. Equine therapy has been around for many decades in outdoor settings, so I can see how miniature horses might benefit both adults and children in many positive ways. Study upon study confirms the benefits of animals in our lives, from lifting depression and calming anxiety to helping us live longer lives. It’s great that so many people are willing to share their dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and, in your case, miniature horses in pet therapy settings for the health and well-being of others. Kudos to you for giving joy to so many people.

Just a quick note on giving pets as gifts. It’s fine if you’re a parent giving to a child, a spouse giving to a partner, or a child giving to a parent who says they want a pet. Otherwise, buy your friends and family a gift card for pet supplies or give them books on pet care instead.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal