Her golden eyes beckoned me, like a sultry look from Brigitte Bardot. I cautiously approached. She extended a slender front paw between the bars of the cage, as if to shake hands – certainly to vie for my attention. Her round face and lavish, orange and white fur gave her the appearance of royalty. “You’re a princess,” I murmured as I softly stroked her outstretched leg. I then reached between the cage slates to scratch between her ears and under her chin. The diminutive cat responded with a low purr and a subdued ‘mew.” She didn’t belong behind those bars, so I paid her bail and took her home. Her previous owners gave her the name “Ama.” No one knew what it meant or had ever heard such a moniker. A unique name for a princess-like cat. Loving and quiet, Ama settled into her new life with grace and tranquility. Her best friend became a cocker spaniel named Sam, whom I had adopted from the same shelter a year previous. They often cuddled together on the couch by the fireplace. Sam and Ama shared a composed camaraderie, rarely, if ever, spatting over space, food, or attention. If Garfield and Odie had never quarreled, Ama and Sam could have been their stand-ins.
So starts a short story I wrote a few years ago about this sleek, amber-eyed kitty I adopted in 1990; the tale is part of my book Tail Tales. I mentioned Ama in last week’s blog, and since June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month, I wanted to talk more about cat adoption and other programs which help cats – and how we can get involved.
Why do cats make great companions? Here are a few reasons:
Ama and I shared life for more than 15 years; she passed in 2006 at nearly 19 years of age. Both she and our mutual dog friend Sam came from the Bozeman, Montana humane society, adoptions that strengthened my resolve to always provide a home for rescued pets.
Every year, more than three million cats enter animal shelters across America. Many are stray, and sadly, only about 5% are reunited with their owners; nearly 1 million cats that come into shelters are killed due to lack of reclaiming strays and lack of cats adopted. This month shelters and rescues around the United States promote cat adoption and reuniting with owners since June is designated as Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month. In addition to the strays and the owner relinquishments, this time of year is known as “kitten season,” when pet adoption organizations become overwhelmed with mamma cats and their babies. Spaying and neutering are critical to keeping cat populations down. Additionally, the numerous community cat situations (also known as feral cats, those living in cities, suburbs, and rural areas on their own) adding to that feline overpopulation, the need for Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs is rampant.
There are several ways we can help:
By helping organizations and programs that help cats, you are helping kitties in need – and making special friends in the process.
During the past month or two, I’ve honored people in my life who have had birthdays. Friends, colleagues, family – those milestones of years, experiences, and relationships are important, and therefore, should be recognized.
My husband's birthday is next month, and my birthday occurred on Sunday. My husband, dogs, and I took an outdoor adventure on Saturday (the nicest weather day of the weekend), traveling nearly 200 miles total to experience the spring migration of sandhill cranes through eastern Wyoming. We also visited Kindness Ranch, a livestock and pet sanctuary for former research animals. Both were grand experiences!
My husband and I don’t just celebrate people’s birthdays. Our springer/cocker mix Mary had her 12th birthday in early February. We celebrated with a cake – white with cream icing. This is a tradition in our household; it began more than 15 years ago with our blind springer, Sage. Greg started the tradition, deciding to purchase a dog-shaped cake to honor Sage’s birth. Such celebrations have been part of our life with canines in our home ever since.
We’ve also honored our pets by cooking or buying hamburger and feeding the treat to them, in particular our dogs. For the cats, tuna is the food of choice for their August birthdays.
Various websites provide ideas for celebrating our furry friends’ special day. Some of those thoughts include:
According to the UK’s Daily Mail, nearly 75 percent of pet owners celebrate their furry family member’s birthday. Do you? If so, how do you celebrate?
PersonalCreations.com provides a guide and some recipes on cakes that are edible for dogs and cats (the meat cake is thought to be best for cats; but, there are many varieties of special treats which pets can enjoy). Visit their website for ideas: https://www.personalcreations.com/blog/dog-cake-recipes. Writers for this site also give thought to what types of foods are NOT good for our animal pals, which is also important information. Check it out.
Happy Spring, and Happy Birthday to you and your pets!
Last week I wrote about loss of hearing and deafness in dogs. This week, we’ll explore the same afflictions in cats.
I have two cats. My husband and I adopted these sisters more than a decade ago. Always curious, they have brought us great joy. This summer they will be 13 years old and have slowed down since becoming seniors. I once had a cat who lived to be almost 19; in fact, cats 20 years and older are not uncommon. However, with age, just as with humans and canines, come health issues. One of those concerns is loss of hearing, even deafness.
Feline Hearing Loss
According to VetWest.com, an Australian veterinary clinic, hearing loss in older cats occurs “as a result of damage to the ear system and nerves. Normally sound waves vibrate the ear drum between the outer and middle ear. The tiny bones in the middle ear transfer the vibrations into nerve impulses within the inner ear. When any portion of this system is damaged hearing will be affected.”
According to veterinarians at Cornell University, there are a variety of reasons for loss of hearing in cats, in additional to aging. Those include: tumors, polyps, and other growths in the ear canal; hypothyroidism; medications, including antibiotics; infestations of yeast, bacteria, and ear mites; and household chemicals that are ingested or somehow seep into the ear. Additionally, hearing loss and deafness is hereditary, especially in white cats with blue eyes. In fact, researchers believe 65 to 85 percent of all-white cats with two blue eyes are born deaf, or at least become totally deaf as young kittens, and white cats with one blue eye generally have a 40 percent chance of being deaf.
How You and Your Cat Can Cope
As a cat owner, there are some things you can do to help both you and your cat adjust to hearing loss and deafness.
Learn more about deaf cats and how to help and communicate with them at these websites:
Living with a deaf or hard of hearing cat presents challenges, but nothing that a loving pet parent can’t handle. With plenty of patience and positive resources, including tips from your veterinarian, you and your feline friend can enjoy many happy years together.
Although June is drawing to a close, this week is still a great time to remind pet parents that the month highlights the importance of being prepared for an emergency, not only for you and your human family, but also for your four-footed family members. June is Pet Preparedness Month, and whether the disaster is flooding, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, or other natural calamities, being prepared is critical.
The federal government provides a website regarding preparedness and pets. Visit https://www.ready.gov/animals to learn about making an emergency plan for you and your pet, creating a shelter for your animal, and caring for your furry friend after an emergency.
The primary tip to get you started with emergency pet preparedness is to create a bag or pack (known as an “evac-pack"). Here are some of the things you should have in that “go-bag:”
The ASPCA provides further information on evac-packs as well as gives more disaster preparedness information. Visit their website at https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/disaster-preparedness to learn more.
Additionally, AKC Reunite offers opportunity for county emergency management officials to obtain trailers to help pets during a disaster. Sadly, many states do not have a disaster relief trailer yet, especially those west of the Mississippi. Last year, my community received one of these important vehicles, the first and only one in the state; read the story here: http://casperjournal.com/community/article_02aad1db-1ae5-53d5-a5b8-b0822782a248.html
As rain falls, tornadoes and hurricanes break out, and wildland fires begin to crop up, let all of us who are pet parents think of our furry children as we plan for emergency situations.
Last week a friend of mine lost her dog. The black pug escaped out of a backyard gate that hadn’t been latched correctly. Her case is not unusual. Dogs frequently escape. Some dig. Some jump. Some look for those unlatched gates. And some dogs are just prone to wander. For example, the working breeds, from hunters like retrievers to herders like heelers, these types of dogs are bred for different jobs… and they may go looking for that work.
Cats also are known to roam. Many people don’t like to keep their cat “cooped up,” recognizing a feline’s instinct for hunting. However, whether cat or dog, a loose pet can be a dead pet. Every day, dogs and cats are hit by cars. Sometimes they’re caught in traps. Maybe shot, stolen, or fall prey to predators like owls, hawks, foxes, and coyotes. Therefore, the best idea is keep your pet at home. Cats can easily become indoor pets. Between carpeted towers, windows to look out of, toys that engage their stalking and hunting instincts, and healthy food, a cat will find contentment inside her home.
However, should your pet escape the house or yard, there are ways to increase its chances of returning home. A collar with id tags is very helpful. For those concerned that a collar will hang up on a fence, or for some other reason not a collar on your pet, then please consider a microchip. It's an easy procedure done by your vet; and sometimes shelters offer microchip clinics for reduced fees. iThat way, no matter what happens to the collar (perhaps someone takes it off or the pet slips out of it), you have another way for someone to help your pet get home. Many animal shelters have a microchip scanner and will check stray animals for a chip. Both id tags and microchips need to have up-to-date information – people can’t return your pet if the address and phone number are no longer valid.
To help find your lost pet, here are a few other ideas to consider:
Before you find yourself in my friend’s situation with a lost pet, take proactive steps, such as collar and id tags, microchip, and regularly checking your gates and fences for closure and holes. Also, be vigilant when opening the doors of your home as well as the gates in your yard. And, if your pet does go missing, do everything you can, employ all types of actions, to get your furry friend back home.
For many people, pets are family, and when the holiday season rolls around, they purchase Christmas gifts for their furry companions. So, what gifts can you give your furry family members? Here are four ideas:
“Stockings hung by the chimney with care…” Treats, toys, collars, and other items can be slipped into a stocking for Fido and Fluffy just like candy is given to human children. Even wrapped gifts, like sweaters, beds, books, or large rawhide bones, can be found under Christmas trees with the pet’s name on the gift tag. I had a dog more than 20 years ago who loved tearing into his Christmas present under the tree – it was fun to watch him “open” his special gift!
A recent article in Woman's Day provided gift ideas under $50 for the pet in your life. Read the article by clicking on this link: http://www.womansday.com/life/pet-care/g946/pet-gifts/.
Most pet-lovers I know give their furry friends Christmas gifts (some also provide birthday presents and parties for their special fur-balls) -- how about you? Do you give gifts to your animals during the holiday season?
In about a week the goblins and zombies will take to the streets. It’s the spookiest of holidays, and Americans love to spend money on their kids – including their furry ones. According to the National Retail Federation, the average amount spent on Halloween is about $75, on candy, decorations, and costumes.
Halloween Express lists the top 10 pet costumes. Those include Superman, Ghostbusters, bees, spiders, and lions. The NRF estimates people spend about $350 million on pet costumes, spending $1 for every $3 spent on children’s outfits.
According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent more than $60 billion on their furry friends last year, and will likely spend more than that in 2016. From sweaters and raincoats to sporting team t-shirts and holiday costumes, pet clothing is big business. Practical wear is just as important as fashionista statement, maybe more so. Booties to keep paws clear of snow and ice and life jackets for outings on the boat, clothing and outdoor wear
For a fun, informative article on pet fashion, visit http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/fashion/dog-fashion-moves-novelty-sweaters-practical-outfits-article-1.2048335.
For a look at some cute pets in interesting Halloween costumes, see http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/halloween-ideas/g1784/popular-pet-halloween-costumes/.
The ASPCA offers some important Halloween holiday pet safety tips. See this list at http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/halloween-safety-tips.
I once dressed my cocker spaniel as a fireman for Halloween, complete with a red hat. He wasn’t terribly thrilled, but he sure looked cute!
Pets may not be very cooperative for playing dress-up. If you plan to take your dog trick-or-treating or have your cat participate in your Halloween party, make sure you “practice” prior to the big night. Also, make sure the costume properly fits your pet, and consider breed, weight, and measurements before purchasing, and ensure your pet can see, breathe, and drink normally with the outfit on.
Some people create their own pet costumes. For ideas, visit this HGTV website: http://www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/handmade/15-diy-pet-costumes-for-halloween-pictures.
Have you ever dressed your pet for Halloween? Do your furry friends regularly wear clothing?
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.