Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fingers & Toes Are Not Cat Toys!

Hello kitty cat friends,

I have a feeling I'm about to burst a lot of people's bubbles here. I actually burst my own over this too. It's so difficult not to do and it actually is almost an instinctual response. Your kitten or cat is in a playful mood so you dangle your fingers in front of them and let them chase or play with your fingers. You also may let your cat/kitten gnaw on your fingers because isn't it absolutely precious? It is absolutely precious, but you're also teaching your cat/kitten some pretty bad behaviors.
Do you ever wonder why your cat will dart toward your hands, fingers, toes, and even ankles and bite them? One of the reasons is probably because they were taught at a young age that your hands, fingers, toes, and ankles are toys. In a cat's mind though, your hands, fingers, toes, and ankles are not toys, but prey. You've trained your cat to treat you as prey!

Cats are hunters and it's a very natural and normal behavior for cats to chase, dart, pounce, and catch prey. These wild behaviors will never leave the domesticated cat, it's part of their makeup. This part of their behavior should absolutely be encouraged and never discouraged. This keeps your cat's mind sharp and stimulated. You want them to engage in these hunting behaviors but with appropriate prey-like toys, not you yourself. Cat teaser toys, toys they can bat and chase, and even interactive toys are ideal prey-like toys for your cat to play with that are not human extremities!

 If your cat is using you as its play toy and is used to that now is the time to train them away from doing that. Redirect your cat's play with your hands, fingers, and etc. by immediately using a teaser toy for them to play with instead. If your cat is engaged, playing, and catching the appropriate toy give them a treat. Do not swat, yell, or squirt your cat with a water bottle if they try to lunge or bite at you. Punishment does not work with cats. I will get into this more in a separate post. Continued and consistent redirection to an appropriate prey toy and reward with treats will be most effective.  Positive association and reinforcement work very well with cats!

This I know on our human side is a difficult habit to break. I still catch myself using my fingers to play with a kitten every now and then. I'm there with you all in this and you're not a bad cat owner or person for doing this with your cat. We're trying to give them what they need and it's so easy because our fingers are attached to us! We don't want our cats treating us like prey and even more so we don't want them treating our family, friends, and guests to our home like prey either!

That's all for meow 😻,
Stephanie

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Volunteer Series: How Do I Emotionally Handle The Shelter Environment?

Hello kitty cat friends,

I'm often asked how I'm able to work in the shelter environment and not get emotionally distraught? It's a very valid question. Working in animal welfare, rescue, fostering, shelters, and etc. is not for everyone. Below, I'm going explain the reasons I'm able to work in this field and how I make that possible for me.

I want to say preface this with everyone will be different. I have limitations on what I choose to open myself up to. Some people have a higher tolerance than me and some people have a lower tolerance than me. No one is better or worse of an animal advocate either way. If you're someone who can only donate money/items that all makes a difference! You should not feel guilty or be made to feel guilty because you're not emotionally/financially/physically able to do more for animal advocacy. What you can and want to contribute is enough and appreciated!
The Shelter Itself

This is the main reason. The Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando is a wonderfully run and maintained shelter. The facility is clean, the animals are healthy and cared for, and the staff is hard working. Walking into PAGO you feel that warmth, love, and positive energy. It's not a sad place like many shelters can be. The dogs and cats at PAGO are owner relinquished animals and PAGO does not euthanize for space or time. Every cat I see out for adoption will stay out for adoption no matter their age or how long they've been there. I also know how well the animals are cared for by staff and volunteers. Every morning the facilities are fully cleaned, animals get fresh bedding and food/water, and animals that are on vet check are assessed and treated. In addition to that a variety of volunteers spend 6 hours every day socializing and loving on the cats and dogs at PAGO. I know the animals there are loved to the greatest degree and to know I just add on to the love makes wonderful and positive atmosphere to be in.

Creating Emotional Boundaries

I'm able to create boundaries mostly due in part to volunteering with PAGO. I do my best to keep my realm of animal advocacy within the PAGO realm. If I start to venture into looking at what's going on at other shelters I'm done. I can't emotionally deal with the timelines animals have at other shelters or the horrors I see in photos of animal abuse and neglect posted on other animal rescue sites. Guilt is something I struggle with in general, and I do struggle with it in this too at times. I question if I'm doing enough or if I'm selfish sticking to this one thing? Yes, these horrors are realities in animal welfare, but I have to realize that I can't be everything and do everything or I'll fail at everything. I have be my best self in order to do what I know I can do where I'm needed.

Taking Breaks 

As great as PAGO is that doesn't mean there are some cats there with backstories that upset me, frustrating things I can't change, or ignorant people. It's difficult to see a cat in our shelter whose owner passed away. I can sense their sadness and feel their pain. I hurt with them and for them. There are cats who are completely unsocialized due to being in home with too many other animals and it frustrates me because now they have difficult behavioral issues. Sometimes it's a busy chaotic day and I just can't focus or think straight enough to accomplish what I want to accomplish. There are some things I want to change or do better, but due to lack of resources and funds I can't. Compassion fatigue and shelter burnout are real and that's why taking breaks is healthy and important. Sometimes I'll bypass one of my normal shifts if I'm really feeling bad, but most of the time I'll take mini breaks within a shift. I'll go into quiet space of the shelter or in a free roam cat room and just have a few moments to myself. It's difficult to sometimes recognize when I'm at my limit and even more difficult to give myself permission to take a break, but I'm working on being more aware and being kinder to myself.

Recognizing If I'm Being My Best Self

I often ask myself "Am I being my best self right now"?  I can't be my best self if I'm trying to expend myself too far or in areas I know are too emotionally difficult for me. I know I'm my best self when my focus is on helping PAGO kitties get comfortable in their environment, feel loved and appreciated, and find a home. I'm my best self also when I'm educating potential adopters, cat owners, and friends on how to be better cat guardians. These are the areas where I excel and I know make a difference. Sure, they're two tiny areas on a vast spectrum of animal welfare, but they're needed too. Everyone is needed in any capacity they see fit whether it be fostering, TNR, education, and etc. but we can't be our best selves if we don't recognize our limitations and forget to be kind to ourselves.

These are all ways I manage working in shelter environment. It's not always easy, but it's always rewarding for me to know I've improved the life of a cat. If volunteering at a shelter or doing work with animal welfare is something you're interested in but afraid of the emotional toll do some research. There are so many ways you can make a difference in this area without having to take too much of a toll on your heart. You're not selfish or weak for having limitations on what you can handle. I've been made to feel guilty for this and I've made myself feel guilty for it as well. It's such a waste of your time and skills when you get sucked into feeling guilty. No one is a better or worse person for doing more or doing less. No matter how small you think your contribution is it's needed and appreciated so don't let that stop you from doing what you want to do!

That's all for meow 😻!
Stephanie

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Adoptable Cat Caturday

Happy Caturday 😺!


Here are some of the adoptable cats I got to know better this week at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando. I've linked their adoption profiles to their information. I'll be updating this along with the other Adoptable Cat Caturdays as these cats get adopted!




That's all for meow 😻!
Stephanie

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Cat Enrichment Garden

 Hello kitty cat friends 😸,

I can tell you off the bat cats don't *need* greens in their diet. Cats are obligate carnivores which mean they are meat-eaters out of necessity. They need meat. Cats are not meant to be vegetarians or vegans. Cats need to be eating meat! I'll do doing many future posts on feline nutrition so stay tuned!

That being said, cats do like some greens and at the shelter, we often provide cat-friendly greens to cats for enrichment purposes. Greens can sometimes aid in digestion with cats, but it's mostly used for enrichment purposes. What I mean by enrichment is to make their quality of life better. In terms of cats, enrichment can help provide them stimulation or help them utilize some of their cat-like instincts (i.e. hunting). Enrichment is critical for shelter cats especially because they're often confined in cages and are not receiving the same amount of consistent attention from an owner in a home. Enrichment is important for cats in homes too because cats can get lazy or become under-stimulated and agitated if they don't have anything to do or a way to release energy.

Chara noming some wheat grass.
Some cat-friendly greens you can grow yourself are wheat grass a.k.a. cat grass, lemongrass, catnip, and mint. Catnip and wheat grass are the most popular among our shelter kitties. Fresh catnip is incredibly fragrant. The shelter kitties perk up when I step into our cat room with it because they can smell it a mile away I'm sure. They love to roll around in it and some like to eat it. It's safe for cats to eat catnip. As we know some cats are totally unaffected by catnip too. The shelter kitties love to gobble up wheat grass. I'll put few pieces of grass in their cages and some whoof it down fast. These greens are just ways to get these kitties senses going. They can experience different smells, textures, and even tastes with these kitty greens which enriches their lives a bit more than the daily routine.
Lemongrass, Wheat Grass, and Catnip at PAGO's shelter enrichment garden
Our shelter enrichment garden is rather large, but you can create a mini one wheat grass for inside your home or grow catnip outside. One very simple way to grow wheat grass is to buy a cat garden kit. Here is one on chewy.com, but you can find these in most pet stores. Catnip is even easier to grow than you think. Do you have dry catnip around? Sprinkle some of that into some dirt and water it. There are typically tons of catnip seeds in dried catnip itself so you don't have to go out and buy seeds themselves. Catnip is best grown outside and you can cut the leaves off and bring it to your cats indoors. Both wheat grass and catnip grow like crazy! You shouldn't have any problem growing these and they grow quickly too. You will never be without either once you start growing them!

An enrichment garden of kitty greens is a great way to spice up your cat's life and give them some stimulation. This isn't anything they *need*, but it's fun and something different for them to engage in which is great. Cats need stimulation to keep their minds active and engaged!

That's all for meow 😻!
Stephanie

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Adoptable Cat Caturday

Happy Caturday 😺!


Here are some of the adoptable cats I got to know better this week at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando. I've linked their adoption profiles to their information. I'll be updating this along with the other Adoptable Cat Caturdays as these cats get adopted!




That's all for meow 😻!
Stephanie 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Adoption Series: Should I Adopt A Kitten, Adult, or Senior?

Hello kitty cat friends,

I want to preface this post that it is meant for first-time cat owners and/or people who do not have another cat or dog in their home. I will be writing posts on how to introduce a new cat to your home if you already have another cat or a dog in the future.

The age of cat you adopt is something you should be taken seriously into consideration. Working at the shelter 9 times out of 10 a potential adopter will come in and ask about kittens. Kittens are hands down the most popular choice in age for people looking to adopt, especially people who are new to cat ownership. There is nothing wrong with kittens, but they have their own set of challenges that many people new to cats may not understand or have the patience to deal with. Adult and senior cats make wonderful companions as well and may very well be better suited to a new cat owner than a kitten.
In this post, I will be discussing the benefits and considerations you should take into account when adopting a kitten, adult, or senior cat. What age of a cat you choose for your life or your family will be very dependent on your personal preferences and your lifestyle. I want this to be a guide to help you determine the right fit for you so both you and kitty can live happily together!

Kittens
Most everyone loves kittens. When you get a kitten outside of unforeseen circumstances you know you can have an average of 14-16 yrs with that cat. That's definitely very reassuring for a lot of people who are looking for a pet. They want to know they have many years ahead of them with that cat. Kittens are also fun, energetic, and absolutely adorable. It's hard to resist a tiny cuddly ball of fluff! The cuteness factor is a major draw for potential adopters when it comes to kittens. Kittens also are also going to be the most adaptable as far as comfort going into a home. They will adjust quickly to living in a home and being with people because they're so young and still developing socially and mentally. Most kittens are allowed to be adopted out of shelters once they are at least 2 months, 2lbs, and are able to be spayed or neutered.

That being said, kittens can really be a lot more than you bargained for. Across the board, by cat enthusiasts, experienced cat owners, and cat behaviorists it is really ideal for kittens to be adopted in pairs. Why? Kittens require a lot of attention, play time, and handling when they're young to continue to be properly socialized and for them to be well adjusted. If you adopt a single kitten and you cannot commit the time to play with and handle that kitten multiple times a day every day during its kittenhood and teenage years you're most likely going to end up with a cat a with behavioral problems. Cats don't reach social maturity until they're 2-4 years of age, so the type of interaction and attention they receive from humans and/or a sibling kitten during their early years is very critical to their development. This also means that when you adopt a kitten the temperament they may have at weeks old may not be the temperament they end up securing as they get older. The behavioral problem I hear most about with single cats adopted as kittens is they can turn into a very understimulated cat who turns either your house, you yourself, or both into their personal jungle gym.

The solution to this is to consider adopting two kittens, preferably a sibling from the litter. The kittens will often play with one another and entertain themselves taking a lot of the pressure off of you. That's not to say you don't handle or play with the kittens yourself, but you will not have to devote as much time to the process. Kittens learn a lot of boundaries behaviorally and socially from their mother at first and their siblings second. Kittens often play fight with one another and they will tell each other in their own cat ways what is enough. Without a sibling to play with you often become the punching bag and kittens learning boundaries from other kittens are far more successful than a human trying to teach them!

This all doesn't mean you cannot get a single kitten if you want one, but I would really strongly consider if you have the time and patience you would have to commit to in raising it properly so it's a happy and well-adjusted cat. Also, you should always consider your finances if you want two kittens. They will cost more long term than just one. If either the time commitment or the finance of having two kittens is a deterrent for you there are always adult and senior cats who need homes.

Adults
There are various age charts that will have different age ranges for adults, but I'd consider adult cats to be ages 2-9. The wonderful thing about adopting a cat in this age range is by these ages they will most likely have an established personality and temperament. When you interact with a cat at this age before adopting them you're going to get baseline idea if that cat is laid back, playful, affectionate, independent, or so forth. What qualities in personality you like most is all up to you. Some people love lazy lap cats (me!), some people love high energy playful cats,  and some people even love a sassy cat with some attitude. That's all up to you, but it's a good bet you're going to know what type of cat you're getting if you adopt an adult. Adult cats can have long lives too even a 9-year-old can have a couple years left in them!

The major consideration I find with adult cats is their adjustment level. A lot of adult cats you adopt have either lived in homes before or were strays. This can make adjusting to a new home difficult for them depending on their circumstance. They could have come from an owner who passed away or they could have come from a home that was a hoarding situation and never got a lot of attention. These are two vastly different scenarios that can make it difficult for a cat to adjust to new home and environment. It can take an adult cat weeks to months to feel comfortable and confident in a new home. They may do a lot of hiding at first, so it's great to set up a safe space for them. You will need patience but it is well worth it. These cats want to be loved even if they're not sure how to ask for it and will appreciate your love and respect for them.

Seniors
I'd consider a senior cat 10yrs +. We've even had 16yr old cats up for adoption at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando that go to find homes! Senior cats are definitely the most overlooked cats of any of these age ranges. The longer a cat is at a shelter which usually ends up being our older cats the more likely they are to become stressed, depressed, or stir crazy. These behavioral issues they develop from being in a shelter long term are definitely the most challenging cats I work with. That's a reason in itself to consider a senior cat. They need the homes the most!

A senior cat like an adult cat will also have an established personality and probably even more so. Also, they're probably going to be more interested in lounging around napping than running around your house requiring your undivided attention 24/7 like a kitten or a younger cat. Senior cats just want a nice kitty retirement home where they can find a comfy couch or even better your lap that they can snooze their days away on. Senior cats make excellent cats for someone who wants a lovey dovey lazy lap cat or an older person or couple who are looking for companionship. They will prefer a quieter home with a family or person who can respect their need for peace but will still provide them with affection and love.  Senior cats will be low maintenance when it comes to social and behavioral needs and will be easier to please because they are set in their ways.

The considerations with a senior are similar to an adult cat. They also will probably have an adjustment period coming from another home and from an unknown circumstance. Senior cats are also going to require more veterinary care. This is where a senior cat is more high maintenance. As cats age, they may have more health problems arise that may require more well-visits, medication, and sometimes long-term care for chronic conditions. The obvious kicker with a senior cat is you may only have them for a few years. Every day though I hear a new age of a cat that surprises me. The most recent is 23! I've heard well over a handful of people tell me they have 16-18 year old cats, so even if you adopt a 12-year-old you could still have a few years left in them. Senior cats make wonderful and loving pets and shouldn't be looked over because you're afraid of loss. Loss is a part of life, but the love we share and give is a powerful gift that we can give to a cat.

I hope this gives you some insight into what age of cat you might consider adopting. You really can't go wrong here if you consider your preferences and lifestyle. When I receive my certification I hope to add adoption counseling as one of consultation services I offer. I would love to be able to help match cats to families and individuals based on their preferences and needs (cats and humans alike!). Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions! Stay tuned in the future for posts on how to introduce a new cat to your home with other cats!

That's all for meow 😻!
Stephanie

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Adoptable Cat Caturday

Happy Caturday 😺!


Here are some of the adoptable cats I got to know better this week at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando. I've linked their adoption profiles to their information. I'll be updating this along with the other Adoptable Cat Caturdays as these cats get adopted!


Curly Wurly, F, 4yrs 
*Adopted 5/2017




That's all for meow 😻!
Stephanie