Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Does My Misbehaving Cat Need A Friend?

Hello Kitty Cat Friends,

This is a question I hear time after time at the shelter. Someone has an adult cat that is acting out in terms of being overly active, destroying the house, and/or playing aggressively and they think a playmate will help curb their cat's unwanted behaviors. These people have not intended to add another cat to their family, but think their cat needs a friend. This does seem like a logical solution in our own human minds because the thought is the unwanted behavior will cease because the cat has a playmate to take it out on. That's the problem though we're thinking like humans, not like cats!

Please take note that I'm talking about to adult cats here, not kittens. We'll talk about kittens and playmates in another post!
First and foremost it's my rule of thumb that you shouldn't add another cat into your home unless you want another cat. When you add another cat to your home you're adding more to your budget which is something you should always consider before adopting any animal. If you want to add another cat to your home this is a different scenario. I will be writing a post on proper cat introductions in the future, but let's get back to the topic at hand.

Cats are very territorial. Cats territorial drive kicks in when they reach social maturity which is between ages 2-4. When adding another cat into a home with a socially mature cat you're going to be exacerbating your problem, not fixing it. You started out with a cat who is understimulated and play aggressive, but if you add another cat into this scenario your cat's territory is now threatened on top of it's other stressors. Cats who are territorially insecure may start to spray to mark their territory, urinate/defecate outside the litter box, and/or become more aggressive to you or the new cat! You've also changed their daily routine and their environment by introducing new foreign smells from another cat. Cats are creatures of habit too and can be resistant to change. Yes, cats are complicated! This is all a recipe for disaster and especially not wanted if you didn't want to add another cat to your home in the first place.

When people share with me that their cat is destroying their house and aggressive during play my first question to them is if they have "catified" their house? Cats need scratching posts, cat trees, cat safe spaces, and more to be able to engage in their normal cat behavior (hunting, stalking, hiding and etc). My second question to them is are they actively playing with their cat every day (using a teaser toy etc)? Usually, the answer is no to one of these questions or both.

Cats need outlets for mental and physical stimulation and if you're not providing that your cat will find other undesirable ways to get that energy out. If you have an adult cat who is engaging in these behaviors make sure to invest in cat furniture and play with your cat twice a day for at least 10 minutes each time. The solution is usually you need to put more into your cat not add another cat into the mix. Try these methods consistently for a month and then re-evaluate. If you still find your cat isn't getting what they need, then you might consider adding another cat, but only if they are introduced slowly and thoroughly which I will explain in a future post.

No, a misbehaving adult cat doesn't need a friend especially if you do not want another cat. You're not solving your cat's behavioral problems but adding another cat, you're adding to those problems. Cats who are understimulated and play aggressive need more from you in forms of "catification"and play therapy, not another cat impeding on their territory. Buy them some cat furniture and spend some time playing with them. That's what they need and they'll love you for it!

That's all for meow 😻,
Stephanie

Saturday, June 24, 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!

Cletus, M, 7yrs
*ADOPTED 

Martha, F, 2yrs
*ADOPTED 6/2017 

That's all for meow 😻!
Stephanie

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!



Rusty, M, 10yrs
*ADOPTED 7/2017 

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!

Fufy, F, 5yrs (blind) 
*ADOPTED 6/2017

JJ, M, 3yrs 
*ADOPTED 6/2017


That's all for meow 😻!
Stephanie