Now that warm weather is here, I cannot stress how important it is to provide fresh water served in clean receptacles at all times. This is the most important thing for pets, apart from keeping them out of the sun to prevent heat stroke.

One of the biggest differences between pets and wild animals is that the process of domestication has reduced pets' ability to drink dirty water without getting sick. I always find it amazing when I watch nature shows on TV and see a wild animal in Africa walk up to a mud hole full of who knows what and take a long drink from it - and walk away unscathed.

If any pets drank from that, it would result in an emergency trip to the vet. Any bowl of water left sitting out in hot weather can grow bacteria that can be just as deadly as the water in that mud hole.

My rule is: If you wouldn't drink water from that particular bowl, then don't expect your pets to drink it.

Question: I had my parakeet's cage hanging outside last week. Much to my surprise, another parakeet came down out of nowhere, landed on the cage and started to chatter to my bird through the bars. I went over to the bird with some seed in my hand and he flew to my hand and started eating so voraciously that he did not even notice me grab him with my other hand. I then put him in the cage with my bird. It has been a week now and they are fine together, but I would like to find this bird's owner. I put posters out in the area, but nobody has called. I cannot imagine the bird flew here from an area much farther than a mile or so. The bird has a band on its leg with a series of numbers. Might those numbers help me find the owner?

Answer: Leg bands on pet birds have no central registry behind them that would allow you to trace the number. They have meaning only to the breeders, usually signifying in their personal record-keeping system which bird is related to whom. If you have not been able to find the owner by now, it looks like you have another pet bird. Take the bird to an avian vet to be examined and cultured in case it picked up some bacterial infection or parasites during its adventures in the wild. The right vet can treat anything the bird may have picked up before the bird spreads it to your other parakeet.

Question: We were at the lake the other day and saw a little yellow duckling wandering back and forth along the shore. It seemed lost. We looked all over to see if there were any adult white ducks that may have been its parents, but all we saw were mallards and geese. So we took it home and it is in a box in our kitchen and is eating dry dog food and seems quite happy. Is there any safe place we can take it? We could keep it as a pet in our backyard if there is no other choice, but we are not quite sure if the dog food is an OK diet for him.

Answer: Well, you certainly saved this little yellow duckling's life, as most likely it was an Easter duckling or a leftover from a school hatching project that got dumped in the lake.

White Pekin ducks like you have cannot fly and almost always starve to death in the winter when the pond or lake freezes over. If there is open water and people feed them, they can survive the winter, but they pollute the water quality and will cross-breed with the wild mallards, thus ruining their gene pools.

There are few farms where these ducks can live out their natural lives without ending up in a dramatic situation, so you would be doing it a service if you built a predator-proof pen in your backyard with a small kiddie pool to splash around in and just kept it as a pet.

They really are quite friendly and clever. I have kept ducks as pets all my life. But, the dog food has way too much protein. Put him on a diet of pellets made for ducks.

Question: We just got a kitten from the shelter, and my 7-year-old golden retriever has become quite fond of her. She shows her affection for the kitten by taking it between her paws and licking the kitten over and over again until it is wet and dripping. The kitten does not seem to mind and dries off after these sessions, but the dog does it about five times per day. When we see the dog doing it, we stop her, but many times when we come home from work we see the kitten all wet and slimy and it is obvious this goes on all day long. The kitten just got its shots and the vet said it was perfectly fine and healthy.

Answer: This sounds like one of those pet videos you see on YouTube. If the vet said all was OK with the kitten, then at least you do not have to worry about any health issues.

I personally think that as the kitten turns into a cat, it will not tolerate this from the dog. Until then, do your best to stop the dog from doing it and dry the kitten off when you don't catch her in the act.