Rescue Pets Are Priceless, Not Free

You can’t put a price tag on saving an animal’s life, or on the relationship you have with them.   However, adopting one still requires you to dig out your checkbook.   Some people are surprised at the cost of a group’s adoption fee (or that there is a donation fee at all).  They expect it to be minimal because, after all, the pets aren’t ‘for sale’ anyway.    Unfortunately, rescue groups are non-profit, always on limited funds, and without donation fees from adopting families, we would go under in no time.

What Donation Fees Cover

Some potential adopters have the mindset that adopting an animal is basically doing us, the rescue group, a ‘favor’ and therefore we should be grateful, and not ask for fees.  Remember that in rescue no one is out to make a profit.  In most cases, we barely break even.   Adoption fees cover (barely) our basic costs, such as:  spay/neuter, vaccinations (first vaccines for kittens/puppies require multiple boosters), deworming and flea treatment, testing for diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus in cats or heart-worm in dogs) as well as food and litter.   If you were to get these services done at a veterinary clinic, you’d be spending significantly more.  When adopting from a rescue group, you’re really getting a packaged deal and saving money in the long run.

Why No Pet Should be Free

Having adoption fees is important, aside from the fact that they cover a rescue’s expenses.  Most people won’t dole out that kind of cash unless they’ve been planning to adopt and have considered the weight of the commitment.  This deters ‘impulse’ adopters, and reminds people that being a pet guardian is a serious dedication- monetarily, emotionally, physically, and timely- and should not be done spur of the moment.  If someone has trouble affording the adoption fee, it might not be a good time for them to adopt.  Of course, you don’t need mountains of money to be a great, loving pet parent, but you do need to be realistic about the costs and be able to meet those requirements to keep the pet in good health for the rest of his or her life.

It is also worth mentioning, however unpleasant it is, that donation fees help prevent animal abusers from obtaining animals from rescue groups.  Usually (but not always) people who intend to abuse an animal will search for free ones- especially on Craiglist and from ‘free to good home’ ads in neighborhoods and bulletin boards.

Why Fees Can Vary by Rescue

If you’ve been browsing various shelters and rescues in your search for the perfect new addition, you might have noticed differences in the costs and what is covered.  This doesn’t mean that one group is better than another, just that each organization is in a different financial situation, and works on different scales.  Therefore, they adjust the fees to their needs.  For example, a large, county-wide shelter with in-staff veterinarians is typically able to have lower fees because they do higher volume adoptions, get donations that exceed their costs, and aren’t paying someone else for veterinary services.  They might have sponsors, and likely have a larger staff that includes a grant writer to get state and national grants.  Smaller, foster based organizations like Pet Adoption Network, have fewer volunteers, no paid staff, no physical facility.  Therefore, our fees may not always compete with other shelters.  However, you’re getting a great deal, in terms of savings, in either scenario along with a ‘priceless’ happy ending.

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Why Does My Cat… Try to Bury Her food?

Cats sure do some quirky things, as any cat person knows all too well (or any YouTube viewer, for that matter). But many of these behaviors, as strange as they may seem, have perfectly rational explanations.  One such behavior is when a kitty is seen trying to ‘bury’ his food by pawing at the ground around their dish.  This commonly confuses cat parents who are lead to believe their cat is about to go to the bathroom, doesn’t like the food, or some other strange theory.

Don’t worry, your cat has a very good reason for what she’s doing! While it looks like the same behavior she does after going to the bathroom, it doesn’t mean she  thinks the food you gave her is litter-box material!   If anything, it means she likes it and wants to save it for later.

This behavior all goes back to her instincts; her wild, feline roots (because, we all know, house cats are still just lions in disguise!).  Food is a precious resource in the animal kingdom. It is the difference between life or death, between predator and prey.  When your kitty tries to ‘bury’ the food, she is just trying to hide the remaining food in order eliminate the smell which is likely attract to predators.  Other animals might try to steal her spoils, or worse, the food could give away her location and put her life, and that of any kittens she might have, at risk.

If your cat doesn’t do this, that’s fine, too.  Every cat is different and some will show different behaviors more strongly or often than others.  If for some reason this behavior bothers you, try offering your cat less food more often, so there isn’t always food leftover.

Two Cats are Better Than One!

Thana & Tarot sittin' in a tree!  These two are not related, but bonded in their foster home.  They were adopted together and couldn't be happier (or more spoiled!)  Photo Credit: T. Shparaga

Thana & Tarot sittin’ in a tree! These two are not related, but bonded in their foster home. They were adopted together and couldn’t be happier.

Just about everyone who adopts a cat says,  ‘Oh, I wish I could just take them all home!’ If only!   Very few people are in a position to care for a cluster of cats, but opting for a single kitten is not usually the best idea either.   If you are looking to adopt a kitten under 6 months old and you don’t already have another cat, you really should at least consider adopting a duo.

Social Growth Kitten-hood is a crucial time for development, just like infancy is for human babies.  Kittens learn from their mother, their siblings, their environment, and any other cats in the household.  They learn how to hunt, play, socialize, and communicate.  They figure out who is in charge, what is appropriate behavior, and how to perfect their motor skills and physical abilities.  In many situations, a mother is not always present, making time with their litter mates even more important. (Remember, cats are kittens, physically and mentally, throughout the first year or two of their life.)

Importance of Play Playtime is not just fun and games: there are lessons to be learned in every pounce, every stalk, every bite.  One of the most important lessons is that of the inhibited bite.   Wrestling and roughhousing with other cats helps kittens to learn an appropriate level of playtime aggression.   If a kitten bites too hard, the other cat is not going to tolerate it.  Over time, this will teach them how to gently ‘bite’ without any pressure, and also encourage them to play without their nails extended.

Single Kitten Syndrome When a kitten spends the first six months or so of his life alone, he won’t learn what is acceptable, and will often exhibit undesirable behaviors towards people and other cats.  ‘Single kitten syndrome,’  though not a medically diagnosable condition, is the term for such behavior. Of course, not all single kittens will turn out this way, just as not all only-children are spoiled and bratty, but it is commonly seen and best to be avoided. It seems a little counter-intuitive, but a kitten raised alone does not learn independence.  Rather, they are more likely to become overly dependent on a human, distraught during separations, and less able to deal with minor stressors.   Other behaviors associated with single-kittens include chasing and biting ankles, excessive neediness, boredom, and loneliness. Those last few are often coupled with destructive behaviors because, like kids, a kitten left alone for a few hours must find a way to keep himself occupied.  Here at Pet Adoption Network, we’ve heard it over and over again.

Still, someone might say, the kitten doesn’t need a playmate because I’m going to be her best friend; shower her with love and toys and lots of treats.  Isn’t that good enough?  Not really, because a human, no matter how much they offer, can never be a substitute for a feline companion or replicate behaviors crucial to teaching a kitten how to be a well-adjusted cat.

Cats are like potato chips ‘You can’t have just one!’  Have you heard that saying before?  Apparently, it holds true!  In 2012, of all the homes with cats in the United States, 55% of them were multi-cat households.    So, there’s a really good chance you’ll end up with another anyway, but its easier to do it all at once.  The longer a cat stays solo, the harder it is to introduce a second (it’s nearly always possible to do so,  it just takes much longer.)  Having a cat that is good with other cats is important in the unfortunate case that they ever need to be re-homed; it greatly increases their adoptability and makes their experience in a shelter environment less stressful.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to adopt a pair is the sheer cuteness.  A kitten playing alone is pretty darn adorable, but two kittens playing and cuddling together?  Infinitely more adorable; its almost too much to handle.  Almost.

What about the expenses?  Aside from the initial costs of adoption fees (many groups, including Pet Adoption Network, offer discounts for adopting pairs), a second cat is not much more expensive or more work than one, and they can share many of the same supplies like toys, litter boxes, and food dishes.   Kittens separated from other members of their species at a very young age can develop a pathological fear of other animals. No one knows what the future holds for you and your cat. A well-rounded cat that is acclimated to other animals can only have an easier time in life- even going to the vet will be less stressful. 

If you really can’t handle or have more than one cat, that’s OK.   There is still someone perfect for you!  There are always cats that would prefer to be your one-and-only, and while they aren’t babies, they can be as young as 6 months and full of kitten spirit.  Any rescue group will help you find a cat that is a good match for your family and lifestyle, so please take their advice.  That way, you know the cat will be as happy as possible, and you will be, too.

And now, I’ll leave you with some more cuddling cuteness of Thana & Tarot.

 

Cats & Claws

No matter how gentle or docile your cat is, chances are you’ve got a few battle scars from run-ins with those claws.  But with a little patience, practice, and good guidance (which we’re about to give you!) you can master the often-despised task of nail trimming.  It is a wonderful skill that all cat guardians should learn because it creates a happier home.

The only thing cuter than a kitty's paw bouquet is a paw bouquet with trimmed nails!

The only thing cuter than a kitty’s paw bouquet is a paw bouquet with trimmed nails!

Regular trimming ensures that your cat’s claws won’t overgrow and curl under and into the paw pad.  Ingrown nails are extremely painful and can cause nasty infections.  Also, your cat will be less likely to get caught on fabric or screens,  and it will lessen the level of destruction caused by unwanted scratching on clothing or furniture (or, well, people!).

Many cat parents are intimidated by the idea of trimming, but once you know what to do and where to cut, it’s pretty simple.  First, let’s get familiar with the structure of the toe, and why claws are so important.

Anatomy of a Paw

Part of the reason cats are so light-footed is that they walk on their tippy toes; this is called digitigrade movement.  Humans, primates, and bears walk fairly flat footed, which is known as plantigrade.   Because cats are digitigrade, their claws are crucial for comfortable locomotion and balance.  Unlike human fingernails which attach to flesh, cats’ nails grow directly from the bone.  When cats are declawed, part of this bone is removed in order to stop it from growing again.  Afterwards, they are left to walk on what is left of the amputated digit.  Imagine if someone removed part of your foot, how difficult and painful would it be to walk?

When at rest, a cat’s claws are safely sheathed and tucked away.   When he or she wants to utilize them -either for defense, play, or climbing- they protract the nails outward using ligaments and tendons.  Cats have four regular claws on each paw, plus a dewclaw that is set back on the inner side of each front paw, sort of like a thumb.  The dewclaw is awkward: it hangs loosely, doesn’t touch the ground, and is considered a vestigial limb, one that has lost most or all function that their ancestors once used it for.   You should trim this claw anyway because it still grows; you don’t want it become ingrown and infected.

Making them comfortable

A cat who has never had her nails trimmed before will be pretty startled if you just hold her down, grab her paws, and start clipping away.  For this reason, it is important that your cat is familiar with the sensation of having her paws touched and handled, so begin doing this as soon as possible.  The younger you start, the easier it will be in the long run, so if you adopt a kitten, don’t delay on getting her comfortable with this.  But that doesn’t mean an adult can’t get used to it even if you haven’t done it before.   Start by stroking her paw, then gently holding it.  If she pulls away, allow her to, but keep a loose hold.   Eventually, start to put pressure on the toes to extend the nail from the sheath.   It is also a good idea to also allow your cat to see and smell the nail clippers ahead of time.   These techniques are best done when your cat is already in a relaxed or sleepy mood.  Be patient and don’t get frustrated if she needs some time.

Let’s Get Trimming

Where to trimOnce they allow you to handle the paw without fretting, you can start to trim.   Make sure you have the proper tool: a trimmer made especially for cats.  These are inexpensive and sold at all pet stores.  Gently grasp the paw between your thumb and index finger, putting a tiny bit of pressure on the first digit to protract the nail.  Follow the diagram, and remember that you only want to trim off the ‘hook’ of the nail, nothing more.  If you follow this rule of thumb, you’ll greatly eliminate your chances of cutting the quick.  Consider buying a clotting agent, known as styptic powder, to keep on hand in case you cut too close- just apply it to the nail and the bleeding will stop.  Corn starch works, too.

Keep in mind, not every cat or their guardian will be able to make it through a complete nail trim in a single session.   Consider keeping the trimmers readily available in an area where you frequently find your cat relaxed, so you can snip a few here and there. Even if it takes you a week to get them all done, that’s perfectly fine.  If you really feel uncomfortable with this task, ask your vet, groomer, or adoption agency to show you how, or you can usually have it done for a small fee/donation of $7-10.   A full set of nail trimming should be done once or twice a month.

Do You Play With Your Cat Daily? Here’s Why You Should

There are few things more entertaining than watching a cat thoroughly engaged in play, and it is also one of the most vital aspects of a cat’s well-being.  Unfortunately, many cat owners underestimate it’s importance.  Daily interactive play sessions can improve your cat’s overall health and decrease the occurrence of negative behaviors.  Additionally, it can become a bonding ritual for you and your cat.

OCplaying

Both wild and domestic cats sleep most of the day, but wild cats spend nearly all of their waking hours in active pursuit of food.  Since house cats get their meals served to them on a silver platter, it is important to recreate that hunting time to keep them physically fit and mentally stimulated.  Without proper outlets to expend energy, cats become bored, overweight, or depressed.  Often, without interactive and energizing play, cats will find other ways to disperse their pent up energy and stress, typically through negative behaviors like excessive howling, compulsive grooming, increased need for attention (not always a bad thing!), or general household destruction.

First, let’s clarify what ‘interactive’ playtime means.  It does not mean tossing your cat a few fuzzy mice and calling it a day, it requires a teeny bit of work on your part to get your cat moving.  You need a toy your cat will love, usually a pole, string, or dangle type (my favorites include Cat Dancer and Da Bird) to get him or her pouncing, bounding, leaping, and ambushing.

Remember that playtime is as much a mental exercise as a physical one, so it keeps your cat’s mind sharp and body active.   Allowing cats to express their hunting instincts (and to ‘catch their prey’) builds their confidence, so this is a wonderful tool to encourage timid cats to come out of their shell or become more confident around others in a multi-cat household.

How to Play: Playtime should occur on a regular basis, ideally twice a day for 15-20 minutes each time.  When using pole, string, or similar toys, don’t just dangle it in front of their face.  Try to imitate how your cat plays or how she might hunt.  If your cat starts to pant, you’re doing it right! Let her catch and grasp the ‘prey’ sometimes so she feels successful.  Be sure to have a short ‘cool down’ session towards the end, just like you would during a gym workout.  Rotating the toys periodically will make old ones new again, and  keep things fresh and exciting.

Feline behaviorist and host of Animal Planet’s ‘My Cat From Hell, ‘Jackson Galaxy, goes over more about play in this video.

If you don’t think you can commit to regular playtime, you should consider buying a puzzle feeder.  Puzzle feeders require the cat to work a little in order to reach the food, which like playtime, stimulates a cat’s hunting instincts an keeps them active.  As a bonus, puzzle feeders force a cat to eat slower, which is good for overweight cats and those that eat too quickly and vomit afterwards.  The Stimulo Interactive Cat Feeder is a great one, and if you buy it from this link, proceeds will benefit Pet Adoption Network. Other interactive games, like the CatAmazing puzzle-box, are wonderful for keeping your cat or cats kindled while you are at work.

Other Tips:  Don’t do play-time on or around your bed- if you do, kitty will associate physical activity with that area and might keep you up at night.  Also, don’t use your hands or fingers during play, especially with kittens.  This reinforces the idea that fingers are toys- something to go after and teeth on- and will encourage negative biting behaviors.  You might consider following playtime with feeding time to hone in on your cats ‘hunt-kill-eat’ instincts, which is typically followed by grooming and sleeping.  This tip is especially helpful if your cat is keeping you up at night.

Remember, an active cat is healthier and a mentally-stimulated cat is happier; therefore, they will not need to redirect energy into destructive behaviors.  Playtime will benefit not only your cat, but your home and your bond with them.

 

How Pediatric Spay/Neuter Helps End Pet Homelessness

Most people are aware that many, many animals are euthanized each year because there aren’t enough people adopting them, and allowing your pet to have even one litter of kittens or puppies takes away the chances of those in shelters.  Spaying and neutering is an essential step in preventing further animal homelessness, and every pet should be fixed as early as possible.

kittenspay

Cats typically become sexually mature around six months of age, but this can happen as young as four months.  Spay/neuter surgeries are traditionally done around six months of age, but can safely be done much earlier with many benefits.   Although not all veterinarians are trained or comfortable in performing pediatric spay/neutering (also called prepubescent or juvenile spay/neuter),  the procedure is supported by the ASPCA, American Humane, Petsmart Charities, and the American Veterinary Medical Association.  Every year, more and more clinics are offering the procedure.

Pediatric spay, which refers to any procedure performed before 6 months of age and as young as 2 months or 2 pounds, reduces the risk of accidental pregnancies (one healthy, adoptable pet is killed in a shelter every 11 seconds, so why take a chance?)  Additionally,  both the surgery and recovery time is shorter in younger animals, and for females, performing the surgery prior to the first heat cycle “nearly eliminates the risk of breast cancer and totally prevents uterine infections and uterine cancer,” according to America Humane.

Those apprehensive about the procedure cite various concerns, including obesity, stunted growth, and urinary tract issues.  However, studies over the past two decades have disproven any increased occurrence of these in animals who were spayed under 6 months of age.

Claims of short term problems have also proved to be rather inconsequential.  People for Animals (PFA), a high volume spay clinic in Hillside, New Jersey published a study in 2012 of 963 cats and dogs who underwent pediatric spay/neuter.  Of these, 97.5% had no behavioral or physical concerns within 10 days of the surgery.  Minor complications, such as temporary change of appetite, mild infection at incision site, and coughing/sneezing, were noted in 2.5% of the patients.  Major complications were reported in only 0.8% of patients, and not all of these complications were due to surgery.  PFA’s conclusion from the study was “Early age spay/neuter at People for Animals clinics is safe and is not associated with significant postoperative complaints.”

Of course, as with any surgeries, post-operative monitoring is required, and only healthy animals should undergo the procedure.  Whether used in rescue, Trap-Neuter-Return situations, or for pets already in homes, pediatric spay/neuter is both the smarter method of sterilization, and a critical tool that helps us to end pet overpopulation and be more responsible in our care of cats and dogs.

Gimme Shelter: Winter Feral Cat Care

It is hard to imagine that any animal can survive such harsh wind, snow and frigid temperatures.  Most wild creatures, like squirrels and birds, have great adaptations to help them through (nonetheless, they do appreciate extra seed or corn being left out for them!), but our feline friends need more help to ensure survival.  This post will go over ways to give that help to any feral cats that you might be caring for this winter.

GIMME SHELTER 

Some feral and stray cats, such as those that live in the crawlspaces of apartment complexes, have plenty of warm, dry places to sleep,  but most aren’t that lucky.  When the temperature drops, or there are storms or strong winds, outdoor cats need somewhere to cuddle and conserve body heat in order to make it through the winter.  Whether you choose to go pre-made or DIY, there are a few things to keep in mind: whenever possible, two entrances are always better than one. Cats feel more comfortable when they have an extra escape route, and if they feel more comfortable, they are more likely to utilize the shelter. This is not always possible to do, but ideal.


The entrances should not just be basic holes because this will allow rain, snow, and wind to enter too easily.  Be sure the openings have some kind of flap, cover, tube, or awning to add an extra protective element.  Openings should be just large enough for a cat to pass through, about 5 inches, to deter wildlife from entering.


All shelter floors should be lined straw, which allows cats to burrow under and stay warmer. Do not use hay- it has no insulating properties!  Remember it like this: HAY is for HORSES, STRAW is for CATS.   Newspaper and blankets are not effective insulators either,  and can actually causes cats to lose body heat.  Heated blankets and pads are wonderful additions if you have an electrical outlet nearby. 

Easy DIY Options

Although DIY options aren’t as aesthetically pleasing as the pre-made designs,  they do the job just as well and cost significantly less.  Most can be made with items easily found at any hardware store.  Please note, cost estimates often include the cost of buying extra, so if you make a second or third shelter, you won’t pay as much for them.  For example, if insulation only comes in 20ft rolls, the cost estimate will include that, even though you’ll have extra left over to use for a second shelter.  Thus, your first shelter might cost $50, your second only $30, etc.

Rubbermaid Bin:

Buy two rubber-maid bins, one slightly smaller than the other.  Place the smaller one inside the bigger one, add insulation material (see below) in the dead space, add straw (you can also add reflective material such as Reflextic tape to the inside walls and bottom to reflect a cat’s body heat back onto his or her body).

Easy, affordable, sturdy.  Note the tubing at the entrance.  Visit Spay & Stay's website for instructions.

Easy, affordable, sturdy. Note the tubing at the entrance. Visit Spay & Stay’s website for instructions.

Coleman Coolers:

Coolers are wonderful because they can be bought cheaply at thrift shops or garage sales, and are already insulated, so there is less work for you.  Simply cut openings and fit them with flexible rubber tubing or flaps, add straw, and you’re good to go!  The lids allow for easy cleaning and maintenance.  Again, using reflective tape or Mylar blankets add extra warmth protection.

This cooler was purchased for just $5.00 at a Goodwill.  The metal tubing for the entrance was only another $5.00 from Home Depot.

This cooler was purchased for just $5.00 at a Goodwill. and the metal tubing for the entrance was only another $5.00 from Home Depot. Remember, having two entrances is ideal.


Styrofoam Cooler:  Styrofoam material is often used as shelter insulation, but in some cases, a Styrofoam cooler can be used on its own.  Because they are not weatherproof, they would need to be used only in or under another protective
element like a deck or shed, and only if they could be replaced when needed.   These are easy and very inexpensive.

Small, but cozy and easy.

Faux Rock shelters: These are expensive and can be difficult to cut an opening in, but are a great alternative to use when cat shelters, for one reason or another, need to be camouflaged.  Prefabricated faux rocks can be purchased at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and garden stores.

fauxrock

Perfect when shelters need to be hidden from neighbors!

Ashot’s Insulated Shelter Design:  Made from a 2ft x 8ft x 2 in sheet of hard Styrofoam, it is pretty affordable, but does require a few tools: table saw, utility knife, caulk gun, etc.  Directions for building available here, or if you are in the NYC area, they are available for purchase from someone who makes them (pricing not currently available).

This is a great design for people that are handy- instructions can be found here: http://www.nycferalcat.org/CatWinterShelterBuild.pdf Also available for purchase in NYC.

This is a great design for people that are handy- instructions can be found here:
http://www.nycferalcat.org/CatWinterShelterBuild.pdf

Insulation choices: spray insulation (kind of messy), Styrofoam, bubble wrap/solar pool cover type material, egg cartons with Reflectix tape (see the ’18 Gallon Tub’ instructable from the Maryland Feline Society), etc.  These options are used in the ‘dead’ space of a shelter’s walls, or to line the inside of the shelter.  Additionally, lots of straw should be added inside the shelter to allow a cat to burrow.

Pre-made Options  These ready-to-use options are perfect for people without building skills or the time to make them, but typically cost more than the DIY options.


Dog Igloo:

dogigloo

Sturdy and easy to find at pet stores (and at garage sales for much less), but they often do not have a flap or covering on the wide entrance which means they need to be placed under a deck, in a shed, etc. unless you fix on a weatherproof flap.

Feral Cat Cylinder:

Cylinder Shelter

These are pretty cute and cost $99.00 plus shipping at Amazon.

Feral Villa

FeralVilla

These come in two versions: unfinished for $48.95, which needs paint, roofing, etc. and a completed style for $72.95.

Thick-n-Thistle

thickandthistle

Comes in two sizes including a heated option. Price for small/non-heated starts at $159 with free shipping.

Remember, if you are caring for outdoor cats, shelter and food is not enough.  These cats MUST be spayed and neutered, or you are doing a great disservice to the local rescue community, not to mention, you’ll spend a lot more money feeding the babies than you would paying for the spay/neuter surgeries.  For general information on Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), visit Alley Cat Allies, the nation’s leading feral cat advocate.  For local TNR resources and clinics in the Monmouth County area, please visit Pet Adoption Network’s ‘Helping Stray’s’ section. 

Best Rescues of 2013 from Pet Adoption Network

As we prepare for another busy and rewarding year of rescue, it is inspiring to look back at the rescues of 2013.  
Here are some of the most memorable stories:

Clive and Callum 

Callum & Clive, full of love.

Callum & Clive, full of love.

These one-and-a-half year old brothers came to us from a horrific situation: a mentally ill person had kept them confined in small pet carriers from the time they were very young. He had found them as babies living outside, and thought he was doing the right thing by taking them in.  Unfortunately, these sweet tabbies spent over a year with barely enough room to turn around, let alone the room to play, chase things, or stretch.  Although their hind quarters were weakened from lack of exercise, their spirits were strong.  Callum, long haired and regal, was immediately excited to play with new things, like feather wands, but Clive, sweet and gentle but coy, was afraid of toys at first and took a bit of time to find his light-hearted side. Both are friendly loving despite their struggles, and have recovered physically and been adopted. Humane Law Enforcement officers, local animal control and Pet Adoption Network volunteers participated in this rescue.

Bright-eyed Burlew (and his sisters, Chalice and Ambrosia) are all still looking for their furever families!

Bright-eyed Burlew (and his sister, Chalice) are all still looking for their furever families!

Burlew  A 9-week old copper-eyed, orange and white tabby named Burlew, and his siblings, were eating from a dumpster in Ciffwood Beach.  They were all captured in humane traps and taken in to one of our foster homes.  After a week or so, it was clear that Burlew had come down with a terrible virus – he stopped eating and would vomit immediately if force fed.  He quickly wasted away to nothing but bones and was extremely dehydrated. A trip to the vet confirmed our suspicions: there was no cure, no panacea for his condition.  His only chance was intense and round-the-clock supportive care to keep his body strong enough to fight this off.  His dedicated (and experienced) foster family gave him subcutaneous fluids three times a day to  stave off dehydration and force fed him in tiny amounts every hour or so to keep him from starving, in addition to administering antibiotics by injection.  Despite all the needles and discomfort, Burlew remained high-spirited and affectionate- a real survivor.  After more than a week of refusing food, he finally took a few tentative licks of wet food.  Everyone was overjoyed; this was the start of his recovery. Strong and healthy for months now, Burlew is still waiting for his forever home and someone to share a pillow with at night. (UPDATE: Burlew was adopted in February!)

Sunfish

This is what a silly, sweet Sunfish looks like!

This is what a silly, sweet Sunfish looks like!

In one of the areas where we do trap-neuter-return (TNR), there was a single elusive kitten that we were unable to catch.  For weeks we tried to trap or net her, but we could never get close enough to her because she had a really good hiding spot: an abandoned sailboat stored upside down  that was too heavy to lift or move by hand, and set on the ground in a way that made it extremely difficult to reach the cavity where she was hiding.  It’s likely that she was born in this very spot.  Finally- when she was old enough to start enjoying wet food, and we were exhausted from failed attempts- we lured her out and into a trap.  Success! And so the kitten was named Sunfish to remind her- and us- of her unique, nautical beginnings.

 

Always has his eyes on the sky!

Always has his eyes on the sky!

Teak  One March night, a Keansburg resident noticed a beautiful tabby cat high up in a tree- who would not (and likely could not) come down on his own.  After being turned down by the local fire department, the woman hired a tree-cutting service to rescue him!  Some PAN volunteers lived in the neighborhood and had gotten involved, and this is how the high-flying cat was brought into foster care with P.A.N that night, and named ‘Teak.’  His new adoptive family, including two sweet children, decided to rename him Tarzan. So appropriate and so adorable for this branch-swinging feline!

Doc & Flashlight 

Getting life-saving fluid therapy, too weak to move.  Then, after a full recovery.

Getting life-saving fluid therapy, too weak to move. Then, after a full recovery.

These two 3-month old tuxedos were found in a cardboard box in Red Bank on the hottest and most humid day of 2013. They were suffering from heat exhaustion, starvation and dehydration. They were lying in their own waste and circled by flies. We rushed them to one of our foster homes and discovered that the female was too weak to even stand, and her body temperature had dropped dangerously low (a sign that she was losing her battle for life). We gradually warmed her and then hooked her up to a bag of fluids. After she was treated, the male got his turn with the lifesaving fluids. Once they were properly hydrated, we offered these weak little souls some puréed food and they ate desperately. It had obviously been a good while since their last meal. It was another 24 hours before the female could get her legs under her, but within a few days the pair had their strength back and were putting on weight and starting to play. In spite of the fact that they were obviously mistreated and abandoned by humans, Doc and Flashlight, now about 8 months old, couldn’t be more cheerful and lovable (not to mention cute). They are both lap cats, and get along great with other cats and dogs, too! They are still waiting for a forever home. They do not need to be placed as a pair, as they will make new friends where ever they go.

Blaine

This past fall, during one of our usual Saturday adoption days, a man stopped in and asked if we would help him find a loving home for the 8-10 week old orange tabby he had been fostering for about two weeks.  Of course we said yes, and then we heard this baby’s incredible rescue: the man and a friend had been driving on route 35 one evening and saw something hovering on the top of the cement median.  They safely pulled over and ran out- it was indeed a kitten, a fiery orange tabby with one of the most boisterous, dare-devilish personalities Brave Blainewe’d ever seen. We thought Blaine, after the stunt artist, would be a fitting name.  What an incredible story! We won’t ever know how or why Blaine got to the median, but we are grateful that everyone worked together to save him.  He found a home the very first day he was shown at Petsmart.

Balthazar  Balthazar (who goes by many names, including Mr. Big and now Charlie) is a big, black, long-haired cat who was found living in a feral colony.  His appearance- ragged, scarred, beat up- had MrBigCollageearned him a reputation in the neighborhood as a tough and mean street-cat, but after he was captured and was recovering from his neutering surgery and his wounds, we discovered he was far from a tough guy.  Instead, he was a sweet and gentle giant who was most likely dumped there and was not fit for living such a tough life.  After some time and lots of TLC, his true look- gorgeous and regal- finally surfaced.  Balthazar had a wise, wizardlike sense about him, like he had seen more things than we could ever know.  Now he is living the luxurious life, one of sunbeams and comforters and windowsills.  His new mommy sends us regular photo updates on Facebook (which makes us happier than you could ever know!).

Merry Catmas, the Best of the Best

Christmas is near and there’s nothing I love more than festive animals that add extra cheer and merriment to the season.  Here is a collection of some of the best Christmas-themed cat videos, pictures, posts, etc.  Enjoy!

Animals of YouTube singing ‘Jingle Bells’

This is my favorite of Klaatu42‘s holiday compilation videos.  He has made newer ones, including ’12 Days of Christmas’ and ‘Jolly Old Saint Nick,’ but this early one is definitely one of the best.

Simon’s Cat

Like Klaatu, Simon’s Cat has multiple Christmas/winter themed video shorts.  This one titled ‘Santa Claws’ is one most cat owners can relate to!

Cats In, On, and Around Christmas TreesIn, On, Around Christmas Trees

Anyone with cats knows that mixing Christmas trees and cats can end in one of two ways: adorablely photogenic, or like the Simon’s Cat video above.  Or, I suppose it most often starts out adorable and then goes terribly wrong.  Here’s a nice assortment of cats in, on, and around Christmas trees- before things get ugly!

Dear Santa… A Cat’s Christmas List

Dear Santa

Okay, we know no matter what we get for our cats at Christmas (or any time of year), they’re going to prefer the box it came in, hands down.  But this post of a cat’s Christmas list is funny and adorable at the same time. 

Cat-friendly DIY Christmas tree

Perhaps your cat has knocked over your tree, chewed the lights wires, or broken ornaments one too many times, and you’re through putting up a decorated tree, then maybe this idea is perfect for you!  This affordable and relatively easy to design cat friendly and climbable Christmas ‘tree’ is rather neat.

Climbable Cat Christmas Tree

Click for more pictures and DIY instructions, via Hauspanther.

I’d like to make it just for fun, even though my cats are pretty well behaved around my tree anyway.

The Alternate ‘Catmas Tree’

In case the DIY one, with all its cutting and measuring, is too much work, this is an easier option. 

Merry Catmas, everyone- tis the season for peace and love!

Hope you had as much fun with this list as I did and that it helps you get into the spirit!  Remember to include your fur-kids in Christmas gifting, and no matter what you do, know that Santa doesn’t support puppy mills or breeders (or buying any animal from a pet store for that matter) so always, always choose rescue and adoption.  Also, please don’t give animals as gifts- they are a lifetime commitment so everyone needs to be involved and dedicated to the adoption- there should be no surprises.

Importance of Word Choice in Animal Rescue

Language is possibly the most important tool of human interaction.   As the primary way of communicating, it can become casual, second nature; something we don’t give much thought to doing because it comes so freely.  But word choice is crucial and can change the whole meaning of a sentence and, more importantly, how a person receives it.

What are your words implying?

What are your words implying?
From Best Friends Animal Society’s campaign.

In this post, we’re going to analyze connotation: (the suggesting of a meaning by a word apart from the thing it explicitly names or describes) behind common rescue-related phrases.   Linguist Keith Allan, PhD of Edinburgh explains connotation as being ‘effects that arise from encyclopaedic knowledge’  and ‘from experiences, beliefs, and prejudices about the contexts in which the expression is typically used.’  In his peer-reviewed article The Pragmatics of Connotation Allan said that to identify a connotation of a term ‘is to identify the community attitudes towards it.’

In rescue, our entire mission focuses on changing how our communities see animals and how they treat them, so our messages should be strong, consistent, and send the right message.   Let’s look at a few of these terms and expressions.

Adoption vs. ‘For Sale’ or ‘To buy’

This is probably the most important as far as word choice, as it sets the tone for the everything that revolves around the rescue movement.   Many people come up to me during Adoption Days at Petsmart and say,  “Are these for sale?”   My response is always  ‘No, these kitties are not for sale, they are up for adoption to good homes.’  Although many of these people do, in fact, realize that the cats are rescued, it is important that we don’t allow people to talk about them as though they are products.

‘For Sale’ implies there is inventory; products to be bought and sold for profit.  Animals are not either of these things, but of course breeders and pet stores do treat them as such.  If we don’t create a definitive line between the rescue of animals and the sale of animals, our movement is weakened.   The difference needs to be clear: animals are sentient beings that are to be ‘adopted’ into forever families, not bought.

Make it official! Many adoption groups include congratulatory 'Adoption Certificates' to make the adoption official.

Make it official! Many rescue groups include congratulatory ‘Adoption Certificates’ to officially welcome the new family member into their forever home.

Cost vs. Donation

This goes along with the previous one.  ‘Cost’ typically indicates a markup on a product where profit is to be made, which is far from the truth.  Explain the adoption ‘cost’ as a donation fee or adoption donation.  It may also be helpful to briefly explain what the donation covers and what it goes towards.  For example, I usually explain it like this:  ‘The adoption donation for this cat is $100, which covers her spay surgery, vaccinations and FIV/FeLV testing.  It also helps us to care for the nearly 60 other cats and kittens that are currently in our care.’  This makes people more receptive and defers from the idea that anyone is ‘profiting’ from rescue.

Euthanize vs. Kill

Euthanasia: ‘the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.’

Everyone is familiar with this definition, yet it is used, almost always without question, to describe the murder of three to four million companion animals each year in the U.S alone.  This is a euphemism that helps distance humans from the guilt and involvement of these deaths, and anyone who supports rescue should avoid the term.  (Please note I am not referring to the decision to euthanize a suffering animal companion when they are ill or elderly.)

The 'Declaration of the No kill Movement' requires that we discontinue using words that mislead the public, including 'euthanize' and 'putting them to sleep' which downplay the gravity of ending life and make the task of killing easier

The ‘Declaration of the No kill Movement’ requires that we discontinue using words that mislead the public, including ‘euthanize’ and ‘putting them to sleep’ which downplay the gravity of ending life and make the task of killing easier

Animals that enter shelters because they are stray, abandon, surrendered or otherwise unwanted are not put to death as a mercy killing.  It is murder, no two ways about it.  I don’t mean to say that people who work at kill shelters are horrible people who are responsible for the killings.   In truth, the guilt and the responsibility to end the killing is shared by entire communities.   To call it euthanasia only encourages people to feel better about it; its a hard truth, of course, but if people think of these deaths are merciful- and the euphemism encourages this- they aren’t going to feel compelled to do much about it.

Owner vs. Guardian

The term ‘owner’ implies that animals are property; belongings rather than feeling creatures that are part of a family.  It may be a subtle connotation, but there nonetheless, and sustains the concept that when humans are done with an animals, they can disown or dispose of ‘it’ like an old television or vehicle: leave it behind, pass it off to any willing taker, dump it at a shelter to make it someone else’s problem.

Guardian, on the other hand, suggests that we are their caretakers, protectors, sentinels for their well being.  Our job is not to own like property or control our companion animals, but to shower them with love and affection, tend to their needs, and look out for their interests for as long as they are with us.   Changing this one term has the potential to create a new level of ethics when it comes to our furred/feathered/scaled family members.

Declawing: Routine Procedure or Cruel Amputation

Declawing is slowly getting the terrible reputation it deserves, but many people still think it is acceptable because veterinarians offer it as a service.   Even though some veterinarians will do it, it is far from a routine or ethical ‘procedure’ and is in fact extremely painful with many adverse affects, some that last for the cat’s life.   In actuality, declawing is the amputation of the first digits of the paws, like cutting off the first joints on your fingers and toes.  It is a mutilation.  What’s worse, it is done because people care more about their furniture’s appearance than the well being of their cats.

It is important that when we discuss this topic with the public, we don’t speak of it lightly.  It is not done in the best interest of the cats, like a spay/neuter surgery, and is nothing short of cruelty.

Wild or Feral

Wild or ‘feral’ cats and strays are two different things (see here), but when talking about feral/wild cats, feral is the ideal term.  ‘Wild’ implies that they are relatives of wild species, when they are actually the descendants of domesticated house cats.   They have become unsociable, but are not a different species than those we keep as companions.  I also try to incorporate the phrase ‘community cats’ when talking about feral colonies because it suggests- rightfully so- that feral cats are not the problem or responsibility of a single feeder or property owner, but of the community as a whole.   For more feral cat terms, visit Alley Cat Allies’s ‘Speaking of Cats’ page.

If you have thoughts or experiences on this or a related topic, please share in the comments!