Adventures in Catsitting

My friend has arrived back home after three weeks away and wants her cat back. So I am sad. I am going to miss that guy! He taught me something new about my relationship with cats, and I was surprised by that.

I have had a lifelong love affair with cats. I have been owned by one or more cats for most of my life. And now, I help Cats in Tow to help more cats find their forever homes. I love cats! I love their antics, their personalities, snuggle time, just having them in my home. However, I am not owned by any cats right now. I lost a very dear kitty a few years ago and these few years have meant a lot of changes in terms of living situation.

I have been contemplating warming my home with a furry presence for a while but was not sure my current space would really accommodate a cat – or two as my plan currently involves. I shared this contemplation last spring in a series of posts on this blog. If you would like to refresh your memory or are new, here is a link to the last of the series ‘Time for a New Addition’. So when my friend said she was going away for three weeks and needed a temporary home for her sweet guy, Aldi, I thought it was a great idea to have a house guest.

I have never met a cat I did not enjoy, but as I said Aldi surprised me. I will talk about the surprises and what I learned in the next few weeks. In the meantime, if anyone would like to share their stories of furry house guests, whether caring for a friend’s pet(s) or as a foster home, we would love to hear!

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Make yourself at home, Aldi!

 

Tricks and Treats

While cats have always been associated with Halloween, this can be a stressful and dangerous day for our feline and canine friends.

We may think our pets don’t want to be left out of the party, but they do! Your pet may be the very, very rare exception, but dogs and cats do not like loud noises, boisterousness, having to dodge strangers or disruption to their schedule at all.

Pets are often panicked by the noise, lights and general mayhem which many humans seem to enjoy on holidays. Too frequently, these pets are lost or get hurt.

If you don’t have a holiday pet plan, you need to think about one – the sooner the better.H

Here are some of the things you need to think about:

  • Keep your pet at home indoors leading up to and on Halloween.
  • Parties are, generally, not a fun place animals. Find a room that will not be used, keep it dark and as quiet as possible. A sign on the door asking people to not disturb is a good idea.
  • An escaped pet is not a treat! When the Trick-or-Treaters start, make sure your pet is secure – a closed room out of the way is best.
  • And as a back up plan only, your pet should be properly identified. Microchips with your current information and an ID tag with their name and your phone number are the best methods – and should be present all year but now is the time to make sure the information is up to date. A current photo is good to have in the event that you have to make signs.

Enjoying Halloween is easier when you know you have done all you can for your pet!

Calm, Cool and Furry

Many people get a grin on their face when they think of hot summer days. But we all know that too much of a good thing can be bad, especially for your pets. How do you keep the summer fun for your furry friends? Here are some tips:

  • Water, water everywhere. Some dogs and cats enjoy a few ice cubes to keep it cool and as a chew toy. Some animals do not like ice though, so have an non-iced version available to make sure they keep hydrated.
  • Frozen treats for your pets! Nothing like a frozen treat on a hot day, try this for the kitties: Catsicles.
  • Water Park? Do you have a kiddie pool or sprinkler that you can let your dog enjoy (supervised!) on those hot days?
  • Exercise that Thinking Muscle. Yes dogs need walks, but on very, very hot days, shorter walks are better. Try to find ways to exercise your dogs mind if it is too hot for a longer walk. There are lots of ideas for inexpensive toys across the web – just a little research will give you loads of ideas like a water bottle in an old sock, knots made out of old jeans, tennis balls hiding treats in drink carriers, crumpled up paper with a treat in the middle. Just remember to watch how your dog or cat to see what they like and to make sure that they don’t eat small plastic bits.
  • Walking Cool. Early morning and later evening walks are best in the heat. You may also want to look into doggie boots in your local pet supply store. Pavement can get dangerously hot and burn sensitive paws.
  • Sitting Cool. A pan of ice in front of a fan, a wet towel on cool flooring (such as tile), a spritz of water on the paws and stomach are a few ways to cool down a hot dog. Dogs cool from the bottom up, so the wet towel on the floor and cool paws is more effective than water on their back.
  • And Cool Cats! While cats are quite good at catering to their own comfort, they can use some help on those very hot days as well. First make sure they have a quiet, shady spot to relax. Younger or agitated cats may exhaust themselves running about on a hot day, so you can encourage them to relax with a safe, cool spot.
  • Brush if Off. Brushing out your kitties fur not only helps keep it clean, but keeps the air flowing through it to naturally keep them cool.
  • Damp it Down. If you are concerned about your cat getting too hot, you can use a damp towel to help them get cool. The areas that get the hottest are their bellies, paws, armpits, chins and the outside of their ears. Concentrate on those area as your cat allows.
  • A Bed of Cool. Another idea is to soak a small kitchen towel with water, then place it in the freezer. Let is get quite cool, then place it on the floor. Don’t force your cat to use it, but if she likes it as a bed, great. If it is too cold at first, it will warm up, so try leaving it out even if you get the brush off at first.

And absolutely never, ever, ever leave an animal in a car in the summer. Sadly, this is something that can never be said enough.

Have you made games or toys for your pets to keep them entertained on hot summer days? We would love to hear about them!

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Cats are good at finding cool spots on their own, but they might need some cooling help once in a while.

Hello Amanda (Introducing our Amazing Cats in Tow Volunteers)

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Amanda began volunteering with the Cats in Tow Program Mutts-N-Stuff small dog rescue in order to gain community service hours for school. She is in tenth grade and attends Valencia High school. Amanda has two dogs in her house but she has never had cats of her own. She loves coming in on her day off to spend time with the animals at the shelter. Amanda plays with all of the cats and helps them get their daily exercise. She is very patient and has no problem connecting with different cat personalities.

Even though Amanda originally started volunteering for community service, she has found that she really enjoys working with the cats in the shelter. She has actually finished all of her hours but decided to continue volunteering with us for personal reasons.

We are very thankful for all the help during the weekend adoption shows! Thank you, Amanda!

Holiday Planning

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The 4th of July is almost here. Do you have a holiday pet plan?

We may think our pets don’t want to be left out of the party, but they do! Your pet may be the very, very rare exception, but dogs and cats do not like loud noises, boisterousness, having to dodge strangers or disruption to their schedule at all.

In fact, July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters. They are often inundated by pets that were panicked by the noise, lights and general mayhem. Too frequently, these pets are lost or get hurt.

Of course us humans seem to crave these holiday disruptions, so we are not able to spare our pets the holiday altogether. But we can help them. If you don’t have a holiday pet plan, you need to think about one – the sooner the better.

Here are some of the things you need to think about:
  • Not everybody waits until July 4th to commence their celebrating – fireworks are available now and unfortunately, there are people out there who are not careful with them around people or animals. Put your plan into effect immediately.
  • Do not use insect repellent on your pet! If you need to control pests, use products designed for cats and dogs.
  • Keep your pet at home indoors. Again, waiting until the 4th to do this might be too late.
  • The above especially applies if your are going to a party or public celebration. Fireworks displays are no place for an animal. The least that will happen is stress for your pet. The worst is running away, injury or being lost.
  • And as a back up plan only, your pet should be properly identified. Microchips with your current information and an ID tag with their name and your phone number are the best methods – and should be present all year but now is the time to make sure the information is up to date. A current photo is good to have in the event that you have to make signs.
Enjoying your holiday is easier when you know you have done all you can for your pet!

Time for A New Addition, Part 7: Home Sweet Home

I hope you have enjoyed coming along with me as I contemplated adopting a pet. I have contemplated space in Part 2, time in Part 3, money in Part 4, type of animal in Part 5, and where to find my new companions in Part 6.

Part of the reason that we want to adopt two is that it is so much easier to bring new pets into the house at the same time. But this is not always possible, so what is the best way to introduce a new animal?

New pets in the home should always get a safe space that is just their own for the first few days. A smaller, quiet room is ideal. Then they should be slowly introduced to the rest of the home. A great way to do this is to put the animal in a crate in a high-traffic area of the house. They can still feel safe, but get used the sights, sounds, smells and rhythms. Doing this over several days for longer times each time is idea.

When there is already an animal in the house, another tip is keeping the two (or more) animals separate for several days, then trading the spaces that they are in. That way they can get used to the smells of the other animal without having to worry if they will get along right away.

For me, cats should stay indoors. But this is a debatable topic. If your cat will be outdoors, it is important to introduce this slowly and only after many weeks or a few months. We have all heard the stories of cats traveling for miles back to former homes. And of course always make sure the outdoor area is safe from cars, other animals, etc.

Many of you may remember our series on Jeta (photo below), a beautiful black kitty adopted from Cats in Tow last year. Phil and his family did a terrific job introducing Jeta to a home that was already occupied by Lucy, an older cat. Phil’s most important ‘trick’: patience, patience and more patience! Jeta’s story can be found here: More Than Good Luck for Jeta, Lucy Meets Jeta, Brave Jeta, Becoming Family, Making Friends, Love in Many Forms, and Playtime.

I am sure you are hoping to here my decision on cat adoption, but I am sorry to say we are still contemplating. But don’t worry, any furry additions to our house will be grounds for a follow up post!

In the meantime, we would love to hear your stories of bringing pets into your homes. How did you decide? If you already had pets, how did the introduction go? Please feel free to post comments below.

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Time for A New Addition, Part 6: Finding Our Furry Friend

Decisions, decisions. For those of you following along, We are contemplating a new addition to our household for 2014: two cats. I gave a short introduction in Part 1, talked about space in Part 2, time in Part 3, money in Part 4, and considerations of type of animal in Part 5.

As most of my questions have been unanswerable, I am quite happy to announce that this week the topic requires no decision on my part! My cat or cats will be adopted from a shelter or rescue organization.

Reputable shelters are absolutely the best option when adopting a pet. Shelters are overrun with cats and dogs all times of the year. They are always looking for loving forever homes for their furry charges. No-kill shelters and rescue organizations in particular struggle with not being able to take on new animals when they are over capacity. Most of these are run by people who just love animals and want the best for them. Cats in Tow is a case in point! They have teamed up with PetSmart in Brea, California so that people looking for a new animal companion have a place to visit the animals ready for adoption. Or check out our page of currently adoptable pets.

Shelters work hard to make sure each adoption is a success. Many have foster programs where animals that are not quite ready to be in their forever homes stay temporarily in safe places. There could be many reasons why an animal isn’t ready: females who have just had kittens or puppies, puppies or kittens that are too young, illness, shyness due to abuse or abandonment issues, just to name a few. Many people think that shelter animals all have behavioral issues, but that is simply not true.

Shelters also work with veterinarians to make sure the animals are healthy. Spaying and neutering is required to keep the abandoned animal numbers from continuing to grow.

Some of the expenses that most shelters cover before adoption: spaying/neutering $150-300, two distemper vaccination $20-30 each, rabies vaccination $15-25, heartworm test $15-35, flea/tick treatment $50-200, microchip $50. Those expenses would need to be covered by you if you got a free pet from a friend, advertisement or other source.

This article dispels some of the myths around adopting from a shelter.

And most important for me, shelters are not focused on profit. They are focused on the health, well-being and positive outcome for the animals. An animal is a living being and deserves better than to be commodity. If you are still unsure of shelters being the best option, please do some research, talk with a veterinarian, look into the problems of animal cruelty and animal overpopulation.

Finally, we have our new love or loves (well, not really, but in blog land!) The end? Not quite, next week we will wrap up the series with some tips for successful adoption and introduction of new family members.

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Two lovelies looking for their forever home. Thanks to Hugh Mobley (Hugh Mobley Photography,http://www.hughmobley.com/) for the photographs.

Time for A New Addition, Part 4: All That Money Can Buy

Over the past few weeks, I have shared some of my thoughts over adopting a cat or two. If you want to catch up on the series, here is Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

We’ve talked about space, time and now we will tackle money. How much is enough? Another unanswerable question!

While I cannot answer how much is enough, I can think about the expenses connected to having a pet. First, there may be an adoption fee. Since I will be adopting from a shelter (which I will talk about in the next post), this is usually a small fee just to cover vaccinations, spaying, neutering and micro-chipping. I am happy to pay this as I appreciate all of the work that the many shelters do to try to help homeless animals. Additional donations above and beyond this fee are often appreciated, just ask. They are also often looking for non-cash donations and your time, too!

Then there is bringing home baby, or babies. As I mentioned in an earlier post, our apartment is not very large. We would be looking at getting a climbing tree for the cats, as well as needing to purchase a couple of litter boxes, litter, food and water bowls, maybe even a bed or two. In time we might look into setting up a cage system so they could hang out on the balcony, or even some shelves attached to the walls for climbing.

Yearly veterinarian check ups must be budgeted – we want our furry friends to be healthy! We would schedule a veterinarian appointment shortly after brining them home just to make sure no health issues were needing immediate attention and to get to know the veterinarian, as we have not had a pet in our new home town.

Many people do not want to think about their pets getting severely ill or meeting with an accident. I don’t either, but I believe it is important. Financially would my household be able to handle major veterinarian bills? Since we are looking at two cats, should we research pet insurance? I have not had it before, so it would require further research. It is sad to even contemplate, but it is something that held me back from adopting a pet in my younger years. A pet is a part of the family, and we need to be ready to take care of that family member even in the worst of times.

I can’t say that these thoughts have brought me any closer to a decision. However, I do know one thing I don’t have to decide: I am a cat person.  I like all kinds of animals, but I like living with cats the most. Next week I will explore more about that. Phew, one question that has an answer!

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“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

Time for A New Addition, Part 3: The Precious Gift of Time

An animal is a life commitment. As discussed in our previous post, bringing a dog, cat or other animal into your life means giving them the best. This is not just for now. According to the Guinness World Records, the oldest living cat in the US is currently 31 years old! I would love to have my furry creatures in my life that long. But I also need to think about the fact that that means making decisions about moving (finding pet friendly homes), travel and more.

Another consideration of time and energy is that our household happens to be occupied by one person who is officially allergic to cats. It is an allergy that has been manageable in the past. However, it requires additional work on the part of the the non-allergic household member (me) to be extra vigilant about keeping the pet hair cleaned up. Am I ready for that kind of commitment of my time and energy?

While one of the things I love about cats is their independence, I also know that some cats want attention more than others. I love that too! Lap time, scritches, brushing, play time – all vital for a loving bond with kitty. With full time jobs, language classes, travel, we are out of the house a lot. That is one of the reasons we want two cats, but is that fair to the cats?

In terms of playtime, how much is enough? Another unanswerable question, but this article provides some guidance.

Also, the topic of travel is worth a think. Travel is important to us in our lives right now. But do we have someone who can give our furry family members the care and attention that we give them? We have had varying success over the years with friends taking on the cat care (never harming our cat, but not always up to our standards of time and attention). Having someone that would stay at our place is best, so is that available for us right now? Will it be in the future?

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More questions next week, but this time on the topic of money.