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A Cat Tale

posted November 14th, 2015 by
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by Camille Hulen

 

Here We Go Again!

As I sit here and watch this kitten gaze into my eyes, I cannot help but think: “Here we go again!” This little girl came to me on Thanksgiving Day from a litter of three orphans. One kitten was already dead, with mama cat nowhere to be found. As spring approaches, this scenario will play out all too often.  Fortunately, this girl and her brother were in good shape and readily took a bottle. Others will not be so lucky.

What can you do? Spay and neuter now before the major mating season begins!

You, the TulsaPets reader, probably think I sound like a broken record because you care about your pets. However, the Tulsa area still has a problem with pet overpopulation. Statistics for 2014 are incomplete as of this writing, but here is the depressing news for 2013 from Tulsa Animal Welfare: 3,785 cats were taken in, and 2,562 were euthanized! This doesn’t even include dogs or animals from suburbs such as Broken Arrow, Sapulpa or Owasso.

Nationally, some progress is being made on pet sterilization. I was excited to read recently in a Wall Street Journal article, “Too  Many Dogs: A Simple Solution,” about a new chemical method for males which could be significantly cheaper—as low as $1 per animal. It consists of an injection of calcium chloride into the testicles and requires only a light sedative with  no need for anesthesia or incisions. This method has been studied primarily on dogs but could be applicable to cats as well. An extensive study was done in India, and calcium chloride has been used on dogs on the Sioux Indian reservation in South Dakota. Closer to home, an animal shelter in Lawton, Okla., has been using it since last spring.

Although the calcium chloride research goes back to the 1970s, it has not been approved by the FDA. It is such a common chemical that it cannot be patented, so drug companies have no motivation to invest the money ($10 million, according to the Wall Street Journal) for FDA approved trials. A few local veterinarians with whom I spoke seemed somewhat ambivalent.

Ruth Steinberger of SpayFirst! says her organization uses calcium chloride, but did not run blindly into the method without first conducting research. They had testosterone tests run at the endocrine lab at Colorado State University.  After reading all of the already conclusive research, they    still worked on this for months before feeling that they had enough data to support using      it in the field. On another front, an approved sterilant called Zeuterin should be available for about $20 per animal to nonprofits.

Regarding feral cats specifically, most experts feel that sterilizing females is more effective than working on males. If a female goes into season, it doesn’t matter how many males in the colony are fixed; one from somewhere will likely find her. Neutering colony males only stops that particular male from being the father; it may not prevent a litter. But another chemical, megestrol acetate, is being tested on female cats. This is added to canned food on a weekly basis. It could be beneficial when a feral colony is being  fed but cannot be captured. Apparently this method has been known about for decades, but is being ignored because there is no profit in it.

While a few dedicated researchers continue their studies in new methods, education of the public is the biggest challenge. Not everyone knows about the low-cost spay and neuter clinics available. What’s worse, not enough people care! My hope in writing this article is to bring   this problem  to your attention once again.  When I tell people the sad story of how many cats are euthanized (I prefer the word “killed”) everyday, they are shocked. They cite rescue societies without realizing that they are always overloaded.

Locally, SpayOK is a great resource, with two locations in Tulsa, and StreetCats issues vouchers for low-cost spay/neuters. Both Oklahoma Alliance for Animals and StreetCats have traps available for loan. Please spread the word. We do not need more homeless orphans like the kitten pictured here. Let’s continue to speak out  for her and others who cannot speak for themselves.

A Cat Tale

posted September 12th, 2015 by
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A Cat Tale

by Camille Hulen

 

A Tale of Two Kitties

 

 

~ Introductions ~

So you think you want a cat. There’s so much to consider. How do you find the right cat? How do you introduce yourself? How do you introduce a new cat into your home? Every cat and every situation is different as the following stories illustrate.

Duke and Thunder were litter mates. Although both would romp and play with other kittens, they behaved distinctly differently toward humans. Duke loved everyone, and his curiosity brought him to every stranger. Thunder, on the other hand, was fixated on his foster mom. He followed her everywhere, demanding attention but would run whenever a stranger came into the room.

Duke had no problem adjusting to his new home when he was adopted. Yes, he hid under the bed and was shy at first, but by the second day he was out and playing, claiming a blanket and empty boxes as his own.

Thunder was another story. Most potential adopters would simply look at Thunder and admire his beauty but then move on, saying, “He doesn’t like me.” One visitor, however, would not give up on Thunder. Although Thunder sought the highest shelf, almost out of reach, Rita followed him around, speaking to him softly. She showed him toys and offered him treats. Eventually, Thunder relented and let her touch him, so she filled out adoption papers and gave him a chance at a new home.

At first, Thunder hid under the bed in the guest room designated as his and refused to come out when his new human came near. However, when left alone, he would come out to eat and use the litter box, and they could hear him rummaging around at night. Throughout this time, Rita went into the room regularly to talk to him so that he would learn her voice. Then, after about three days, she found him on top of the bed! Progress!

From the guest room, Thunder moved into the office but would still seek the highest shelf, just out of reach. He would venture out when no one was looking and “steal” things to take to his hiding place. He was moving in and claiming territory. Next he would do “run-bys” trying to check out the humans, and sometimes sit within 3 feet of them, just observing. At other times he would follow Rita around to get a closer look. Fortunately, the new owners were amused by his behavior and did not get frustrated. Finally, one night he came to Rita as she was having a midnight snack and begged for food.  More progress!

As of this writing, after three weeks, Thunder is not yet a lap cat, but he is loved. I have no doubt that, in time, he will reciprocate with his love and purrs.

These stories illustrate the introductions of two different cats to their new homes, but here are some general tips for introducing a feline into a new environment/home:

  1. When you meet any cat, do not force yourself upon it. Speak quietly and touch it gently on the back of the neck or scratch it behind the ears. Do not attempt to pet it “head-on,” and give it an opportunity to bite. You cannot “pat” a cat like a dog.
  2. Do not attempt to pick up a strange cat! Above all, do not try to cuddle it to your face; this can be dangerous. It does not know you, and you cannot expect it to react like your own cat does. When you do pick it up, confine its front paws and hold it at your hip. Yes, you can scruff a cat by holding the skin at the back of its neck, but this takes practice, and it is not the best way to endear yourself to it.
  3. When you take the new kitty home, keep it in a confined space. A small bathroom is probably best because there are fewer places to hide. Provide water, a soft place to sleep and a litter box.
  4. Spend time in the room with the cat. Rather than leave food in the room, offer food while you are there, then take the food away when you leave. This way, the cat quickly identifies you as its food source. And, by all means, talk to the kitty and call it by name.
  5. Don’t panic. The cat may not eat for the first day because it is scared but continue to offer food at regular intervals. Play with it. For example, tease it with a toy on a string.
  6. When the cat is comfortable with you, release it into the rest of the house. Note: it’s probably better to keep bedroom doors closed at first unless you enjoy crawling on hands and knees, searching under beds.
  7. Relax and let the cat explore at its own pace. Continue to offer food in a designated place but do not keep food available all the time.
  8. If there are multiple cats in the house-hold, the idea of keeping the newcomer separate in its own room is even more important. Keep it in the room until it is comfortable and curious enough to come out. The resident cats will probably become curious as well and maintain a vigil by the door. Curiosity in a cat is a good thing!
  9. Exchange spaces for the cats. Allow the new cat to explore the house while the resident cats check out the smells where the new cat has been confined.
  10. When introducing cats, let them introduce themselves to each other. Do not force one upon the other. Chances are, they will hiss and growl at each other, then retreat and observe each other from a safe distance.
  11. If a scuffle develops, clap your hands and speak sternly. Do not yell and panic to protect your favorite. If necessary, a squirt from a spray water bottle works wonders.
  12. Mutual play with a toy on a string is a good icebreaker, as is a laser light. When the cats focus on the toy or “prey,” they tend to forget about each other.
  13. If you are uncomfortable leaving the cats alone with each other, continue to confine the newcomer in a separate room when you are not home. Eventually, the cats will find their own spaces. They may not become buddies but will usually learn to coexist.

Yes, when you adopt a cat, it finds its own space, both in your home and within your heart. And, I might add, the virtue any cat most assuredly teaches us is patience.

End-of-life care is not a topic to avoid

posted May 20th, 2015 by
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With five senior pets in my home (they are all 10 years and up!), end of life care is something that is very much front of mind. One dog has a heart tumor and has had heart surgery among a variety of other procedures. Another dog just started taking medication for arthritis. My three kitties are faring better at the moment but are the oldest animals in the house.

So, some recent articles that popped up in my Facebook feed on euthanasia for pets caught my eye. It’s a topic I really don’t want to think about, unfortunately it is one that will need to be addressed whether I stick my head in the sand or not.

I took a deep breath and clicked on the first link. “A Vet’s View of Home Euthanasia for Pets” actually provided some relief and presented an option I hadn’t considered because I hadn’t spent much time considering any options at all.

The idea of keeping my babies in the surroundings they are most comfortable and familiar surrounded by the family who loves them was comforting to me and would hopefully be a comfort to them. It would mean at a time they were most likely in pain, they would not have to take an uncomfortable car ride to a place that already causes them anxiety.

At my latest vet visit, I made sure to ask if this was a service that could be provided. I was relieved to hear that it absolutely is something that I can plan on for my babies when the time comes.

The second article that I noticed flipped the tables. A woman who died last November requested in her will that her healthy dog be put down, cremated and buried with her.

Currently, it appears that the euthanasia has been put on hold. But here was yet another topic that I had avoided instead of facing. What would happen to my animals if I died before they did?

While I would never consider having a healthy put euthanized just because I had died, what would happen to them if I didn’t make a plan? Would they potentially end up in a shelter and put down because of their old age? My love of animals came from my parents, who have a small menagerie of their own. If godparents for pets are a thing, I need to secure some.

Both articles have given me some things to think about and I definitely have some planning to do when it comes to end-of-life plans for my pets and myself. Not pleasant, but it is something that is important to prepare for.

Have you made decisions about how you will handle your pet’s last day? Or made plans for your pets in your will? Let me know in the comments below.

– Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

Bentley – A Cat Tale

posted January 11th, 2015 by
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Bentley

Bentley

A Main Coon with Purr’sonality

 

By Camille Hulen

 

It was love at first sight when Jean saw the picture of the Maine Coon with his quizzical face. Then, as soon as Bentley met Jean, he began talking to her, and she fell further in love.

He had such a unique way of expressing himself, not with purrs but with squeaks and grunts.

 

“He has issues,” the counselor warned her as she filled out the adoption papers. (It seems that Bentley had been adopted twice before and returned.) However, Jean felt that every cat deserves a loving home, and this cat was special.

Bentley investigated every corner of his new home immediately. Soon he became very active, tearing from one end of the house to the other. “Don’t you think I’m adorable?” he seemed to say, as he jumped from chair to sofa to bookcase. “Who said you should walk on the floor?  It’s much more fun up here!” And then he would come and whisper to his new owner, endearing himself further, “You didn’t really like that antique vase, did you?”

A week later when the adoption center called, they did so with trepidation, afraid that he would be coming back again. They breathed a sigh of relief when they learned he finally had a permanent home.

You see, his new owner was willing to work with him, in spite of his “issues.” She had made a commitment, and it was for life. Besides, Bentley made her laugh!

Every day held new surprises. Sometimes Bentley would make a mad dash across the room, climb the door jamb then slide down like a fireman on a pole. Over and over just for fun, of course! The other cat in the household just watched in amazement at this unruly fellow.

One never knew where he might turn up. One day he was lost for hours. Where was Bentley? Aha, in the cupboard over the refrigerator. Of course, when feeding time came, he was in the refrigerator. Bentley was always hungry—a cat with this much energy needed lots of food. He was not at all fat; he burned off the calories with all of his antics.

At home, Bentley could watch his food being prepared, but when he went to board at the kennel, it was done in an adjacent room. When he heard action in the food prep area, he would repeatedly bounce 3 feet in the air, as if on a pogo stick to look through the window. The other cats waited patiently, but not Bentley.

At the kennel, he refused to be caged. He would first trash the cage and then manipulate the latch until he got out. This is not unusual behavior for a Maine Coon, but Bentley was better at it than most. Next, Bentley deftly demonstrated how to open the screen door, separating two sections of the kennel, earning the nickname Houdini.

When the owners adopted a black Lab who showed up on their doorstep, this was more entertainment for Bentley: another animal to tease. Why not deposit cat toys in front of the dog, let him eat them, and then watch him throw up? Why not sit on top of the dog’s crate and drop things on him? Why not shred papers for the dog to eat? (Bentley had already been outlawed from the office for unnecessary paper-shredding.)

As you can see, there is never a dull moment with Bentley around. So how does one describe Bentley?

Words from “The Sound of Music” come to mind. Like Maria, Bentley makes you laugh. As the song says, he truly is “a flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!”

Cat holds family hostage

posted March 16th, 2014 by
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This photo provided by Lee Palmer shows Lux, a 22-pound Himalayan cat that attacked a seven-month old baby. Portland police had to be called in to subdue the 22-pound  house cat that trapped its owners inside their bedroom after attacking their baby. The baby was not injured in the Sunday, March 9, 2014, incident. (AP Photo/Lee Palmer)

When the following headline popped up in my newsfeed on Facebook, I had to click it: “22-pound pet cat holds family hostage until police arrive“.

As the momma of both a 22-pound cat and a seven-month-old baby, this article makes me shake my head. No, no one was seriously injured and yes, I do find it somewhat absurd that two grown adults needed to call 911 for help with their cat…

But what really bothered me about the story was that it would appear that an infant’s interaction with a family pet wasn’t very well supervised. And on top of that, the parent’s reaction once the interaction went poorly was to kick the family pet. Yikes!

No wonder Lux held his family hostage!

In all seriousness, our pets and children cannot learn how to treat each with other without parental guidance and example. If you kick your pet, so will your kid. And pets can’t be held responsible for their animal reactions when they are allowed to be mishandled and mistreated.

While the story has spread on the internet as somewhat of a joke, there is a serious lesson to take from it. For a great resource on pet and child safety, visit familypaws.com.

-Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

Natura Pet issues recall

posted June 18th, 2013 by
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Natura Pet Products is voluntarily recalling some lots of dry pet food because they are potentially contaminated with Salmonella, according to an FDA press release.

Not only can this impact the animals eating the products, but there is also a risk to the people who are handling the contaminated products. Especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands, according to the release.

The release also states:

“Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

“Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.”

Consumers who have purchased any of the following dry pet foods should discard them:

Innova Dry dog and cat food and biscuits/bars/treats All Lot Codes, All UPC’s, All package sizes All expiration dates prior to 6-10-2014
EVO dry dog, cat and ferret food and biscuits/bars/treats All Lot Codes, All UPC’s, All package sizes All expiration dates prior to 6-10-2014
California Natural dry dog and cat foods and biscuits/bars/treats All Lot Codes, All UPC’s, All package sizes All expiration dates prior to 6-10-2014
Healthwise dry dog and cat foods All Lot Codes, All UPC’s, All package sizes All expiration dates prior to 6-10-2014
Karma dry dog foods All Lot Codes, All UPC’s, All package sizes All expiration dates prior to 6-10-2014
Mother Nature biscuits/bars/treats All Lot Codes, All UPC’s, All package sizes All expiration dates prior to 6-10-2014

 

Read the complete press release at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm357630.htm?source=govdelivery.

- Lauren Cavagnolo, [email protected]

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