Monday, February 28, 2011

Wait - You WALK Your CAT?!?

You may recognize Mia from our website. She's currently starring in our FLASH rotation with a cat fact.

Today, we bring you an interview with Mia's person, Melissa!

What is your cat's name?
My cats actual name is Mia Sidewalk but we just call her Mia.

How old is she?
She'll be two years old in a couple of months.

Does she have a favorite toy?

Mia plays with absolutely everything, even my books. She entertains herself very easily so it's hard to know what's her favorite. If I had to hazard a guess though, I'd say she doesn't love anything more than cardboard. But especially cardboard
boxes. She meows constantly if I don't keep her cardboard box on my bed.

Favorite nap spot?

I'd say the cardboard box on my bed or on my fuzzy blanket (which she thinks is hers).

Favorite food?
Mia absolutely loves these flash frozen chicken treats that I buy her. When she sees that red bag filled with chicken goodness, she runs as fast as she can to whoever's holding it.

We heard a rumor that you walk Mia. Is this true?
Yes. It's true. (Don't feel bad if you're still skeptical, everyone Mia and I see on our walks either goes "Awe!" or stares in utter disbelief.)

Why did you start walking her?
I started walking her because Mia lived outside on her own for about two months when she was a kitten (she ran away from an abusive home) before a friend of my sisters captured her and my family took her in. She was used to being outside but we have so many coyotes and other wild animals in our area that it's really dangerous for a cat to be outside on their own. I tried to let her outside without a leash and just keep an eye on her and follow her around but she'd get spooked from a car passing by or other people and I'd have to run after her. After several failed attempts at that, I tried keeping her inside but she'd wail and she was miserable. I really didn't see any other option.

How often do you walk?
I try to walk her everyday. (If I don't or forget for even a moment, she'll sit at the door and meow.)

Was it easy at first? Or did it take her awhile to get used to the leash?
No! It definitely wasn't. She freaked out the first time I put the harness on. I left it on her for about a minute before taking it off. I had to keep putting on the harness and increasing the time with it slow enough she didn't get upset. Once she was used to the harness I added the leash. When I first started taking her on walks she'd crawl along the ground. Back then our walks mostly consisted of me picking her up, walking for a bit and letting her down where she'd sniff things and not really move. We developed a reward system. If she sniffed for more than a couple seconds I'd pick her up and wouldn't let her back down for a couple minutes. Eventually she got the gist and started walking for longer and more. The last couple months she's actually been running on the leash.

It took a while but it's worth it. She gets to be outside and I get to know that she's safe.

Tell us your favorite thing about Mia...
My favorite thing about Mia is that she is so expressive. She has a different meow for everything: when she wants food, her litter
changed, attention, a walk, etc, etc, etc.

Our favorite thing about Melissa's cat? Her hidden talent. She's very good at making signs. Here she is caught in the act.

And here she is posing for a picture with the final product.

Now THAT is one sweet cat. Our pets are what we make them, though, so at least partial credit has to go to Melissa.

Mia wants to know...
Do YOU have a favorite pet?

Friday, February 25, 2011

FuN FrIdAy

Happy Friday, everyone!

This week, moved as slow as a tortoise. I felt like the kitten in this video.

What I wouldn't give to have this little dog:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Bob Saga

I was disappointed that I didn't get Bob in a trap or a carrier this morning. That poor old guy needs some vet help. Instead, one of my cats had to take one for the team and go to the vet appointment this morning. My vet was kind enough to discuss Bob's situation with me. She decided the best course of action at the moment would be oral antibiotics in drop formula to be mixed in with a little food.

Naturally, he turned his nose up at wet food today. He did eat some Friskies kibble, though. Now before you chastise me for feeding this horrible quality food, let me explain. My own cats eat high quality kibble. Bob gets to eat whatever he wants because he weighs maybe five pounds and is an adult cat. At this point, I need to get whatever meat on his little bones that I can. If this means I have to feed him junk food, so be it. I can make the switch to higher quality kibble later on down the line. I was able to get one dose of Clavamox down him this evening by mixing the Friskies kibble with wet food and the medication. It was heavy on the Friskies.

On the exciting front, he rubbed me when I bent down next to him this afternoon. He also let me pet him twice! When I came into the house, I would look out and he would be in my front yard waiting. He walked me halfway to my car when I ran an errand and waited for my return. Then, the gardeners came...and there went Bob into hiding. I've been able to coax him out briefly to eat but the sky has dark clouds and it's starting to feel like rain. I fear that he is hunkering in for the night.

I will give off trying to trap him for the moment. The important thing now will be to gain his trust and get some weight on him. I think if I work with him daily, I can have him trusting me enough to get him into a carrier on his own next week. If all else fails, I can drop a laundry basket on him, slide some plywood under him and duct tape it. It's an old trapping trick when all else fails. The problem with this method is that the cat might be so freaked out (yes, that's a technical term) that we have to sedate him for the examination. This runs risks given his age and health. We'll be weighing all the options more next week.

For now, keeping sending good vibes, mojo, prayers Bob's way. The poor little guy needs all the luck he can get. He's relatively safe but he could be much safer. He's out of the wind and rain under a house, but he could be warmer inside mine with the heater on. He deserves no less!

On a side note: I got Pip microchipped at the vet today. Bob has reminded me that sometimes accidents happen. Cats get out, get lost and need some help getting home. It cost a whopping $65. If you get a cat from the shelter for $80, they come spayed/neutered, shots and microchip! Quite the bargain. If your pet isn't microchipped, you can sometimes get a deal on weekend clinics at Pet Smart/Co or your local shelter should do one for $25. If your cat lives 15 years, that's a little over a dollar a year to be sure they get back to you. Only 3% of cats who get lost ever make it home. By microchipping Pip, I've given her a great shot at being one of the 3%. See Al's story here to find out how microchips save lives.

Wednesday Postponed

I'm taking Bob the stray kitty to the vet this morning. We have an 11am appointment. I'll be blogging about the first day of the rest of his life when I get home!

Stay Tuned!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Our outdoor thermometer tonight reads 48 degrees. That may not sound cold to you, but the animals who will be outside in that overnight might disagree. Contrary to popular belief, their fur coats don't keep them warm anymore than us standing outside in a thin jacket overnight would. They feel the cold just as much as we do. Some of them feel it more.

During these cold months, it's hard for us to stay warm. Imagine how much harder it is for a dog or a cat. They can't go slip on a jacket when the temperature drops or grab a throw blanket for their back. The cooler weather aggravates joint pain so older dogs and cats suffer more, especially if they are outdoors overnight in this weather.

Many people think the garage will shield them, but the cold seeps and they get extremely cold during the winter. Cement floors are more like ice blocks, locking in the cold. Dampness permeates blankets even in a garage. Once damp, they don't dry out completely, offering no comfort to the animals who need them. Pets can suffer and die from exposure to the cold after being left in the garage. Garages often harbor other dangers as well. Sharp tools and poisonous chemicals are stored in the garage. A bored dog looking to fill his time may get injured investigating these things. Your dog could get loose when you open the garage door or you might accidentally run over him while parking your car.

Some people think their dog house is enough shelter for their dogs. Again, blankets get damp and don't dry out. Some dog houses, like igloos, leak during the rain. Your dog ends up opting for the cold concrete or ground next to his dog house instead of the cold, wet blankets inside them. Some breeds are more susceptible to climate change than others. Small dogs and short-coated breeds such as Chihuahuas and Pit Bulls don’t tolerate cold weather very well even with an insulated shelter.

If you are caring for feral cats, below are some links to help you get them through the winter months:

Coming in From the Cold
Feral Cat Winter Shelter Ideas

It's best to bring your pets inside the house with you at night. They deserve to sleep where it's warm. This will also prevent illness, saving you on vet bills.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Give Your Dog a Raw Bone!

Big, meaty marrow bones can be essential to your dogs health. When picking out a bone, we recommend a raw knuckle bone. Knuckle bones are large enough that your dog can't get the whole thing in his mouth, which would be a choking hazard. Though they may sound gross, raw bones are great for your dog's overall health - dental, physical and mental.

As your dog chews on the marrow bone, it cleans the teeth. The act of chewing will massage the gums, preventing gum disease and infections. It will clean off plaque and help keep the teeth white. As your dog rips the tissue off, the tissue acts as a natural floss for the teeth. It's also a great workout for the jaw.

Raw bones contain essential minerals and nutrients. The marrow is a great source of fat, protein and iron. The bone itself contains calcium and phosphorus. Given a few times a week, this can be of benefit to your dog's health. However, this is not the same as feeding BARF or RAW diet. Those are complete diets and should be researched fully before you give them. We have Lily on Stella & Chewy's Raw Beef Patties. These contain ground bone powder so she gets her calcium and phosphorus needs met with her daily meals.

A raw bone gives your dog hours of enjoyment as they rip and tear at the tissue, teeth scraping at the bone. The mental stimulation relieves anxiety. Extracting the marrow from the bone will help keep him entertained. They can greatly reduce boredom and keep your dog occupied.

We don't recommend giving your dog ANY bone unsupervised. I usually give Lily a bone in the yard on the weekends after a long hike. As I'm cleaning the house, I'll peek out at her to watch how she's doing with the bone. After a few hours, when the marrow is gone from the inside and the tissue/meat from the outside, I will pick it up and toss it in the trash.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Give Your Dog a Bone?

"How many bones can my dog have before she dies? Because I think my mom has given her like five already in her lifetime."

This was the question posed to me from a 3rd grader this morning. Just as important as what our pets can eat? What they can't eat. Cooked bone is one of them.

Many people grew up giving their dogs cooked bones, not realizing the danger. Bird bones like chicken and turkey are too small. Our dogs can easily choke on them. What about bones from bigger pieces of meat?

"Some people think it's safe to give dogs large bones, like those from a ham or a roast," says Carmela Stamper, D.V.M., a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the Food and Drug Administration. "Bones are unsafe no matter what their size. Giving your dog a bone may make your pet a candidate for a trip to your veterinarian's office later, possible emergency surgery, or even death."

When we cook our meat, the bone hardens. As our dogs chew on them, they splinter off into sharp, tiny pieces that can lacerate their throat, stomach or intestinal tract. Larger chunks can get lodged in the esophagus, windpipe, stomach or intestines. It can cause constipation and your dog may have a hard time passing the bone fragments because they're very sharp. If they scrape the inside of the large intestine or rectum as they move along, they can cause severe bleeding. Perotinitis is also a danger - caused by puncture holes in the stomach or intestines, this bacterial infection is hard to treat and can be deadly.

"Six could be the unlucky number," I told her. "You never know which cooked bone is going to do it. It's not worth the risk, is it?"

"No way. I'm gonna tell my mom to stop!" She paused, her brow furrowed in thought, then asked. "What about raw bone?"

What indeed. That will be our Friday post.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Showing Compassion

We hear all the time, "I want to help, but..." If you want to help, you do it. There are no 'but's. This little guy showed up under the neighbor's house last week. He's the skinniest cat I've ever seen, including my decade of caretaking a feral colony. To me, this says he was someone's pet. Ferals usually find a food source and stick close to it. They're on the skinny side, but not bones like this poor guy. This guy was used to being fed and, once on his own, had no idea how to fend for himself.

There is a common myth that cats can fend for themselves. People turn them loose all the time when they move, when they no longer want them, when they have too many kittens. "It's a cat, they can take care of themselves." Not when you've been feeding him. Not when his meals have been set at his feet daily for the past two years. This is simply not true. It's cruel to throw your cat out or leave them behind.

When I saw his bony little body and his tiny face peeking out from under the house, I knew I had to help. I had a week full of medical tests so I knew I wouldn't have time to trap him this week. Instead, I've been feeding him. Slowly, I up his daily rations. He's put a little weight on. He'll come out as soon as he hears my voice now. I haven't pet him yet. I'm taking it slowly. We live in coyote country so I have to shut him in every night for his own protection. I open up in the morning and feed him, then he gets a few more meals during the day.

Next week, I will trap him. There are many different sources to help you help animals. If he were feral, I would trap him and take him to a local clinic. If you live in Los Angeles, FixNation is a great resource. They spay/neuter, deflea, deworm and give shots for free. If the cat is sick, they will euthanize. If it has an infection, you can get an antibiotic shot for $25 that will help. They are such a great organization. Instead of taking him there, I think I will opt for my own vet. More expensive, but I want to make sure he is healthy, know his approximate age, have him scanned for a microchip. If he's more comfortable outside, Erik and I will build him a nice, cozy box to sleep in off the ground so that he is safe at night from predators in our yard. We have fencing all the way around, but that didn't stop a coyote from jumping it one morning last year. If he seems to prefer being in the house, I have several people interested in adding him to their family.

People tell me all the time, "You're such an angel." I'm not. I'm a regular human being like you. I just have compassion and can't turn my back on an animal in need. If I don't help that cat, who will? I have the means to help him. That doesn't make me an angel. It makes me a kind, compassionate person. Everyone is capable of this. It's a choice that we make when we see that dog running down the road with no owner and keep driving, when we see that cat drinking out of a puddle and keep ignoring it, when we watch the kittens born year after year after year outside our home/apartment/condos. We can all help. We have the power. Do you choose to help? Or do you ignore the suffering that you can help end? If everyone stepped up and helped only the animals they came into direct contact with, can you imagine how much suffering would end? How much better this world would be?

The feeling that you get from helping is beyond description. Try it. Just once. And see if you don't continue to do it each time you see an animal in need.

Friday, February 11, 2011

FUN Friday

For this FUN Friday, we want to send you into the weekend feeling good with some great animal videos!

How cute is this kitten??

The sneezing baby panda...I react like this when my husband sneezes sometimes.

This is Disc Champion, Wallace the Pit Bull. Wallace is an amazing dog. Andrew "Roo" Yori is an amazing owner! See what it's like to be in the driver's seat as he is when playing disc with Wallace!

We hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On Leash Greetings

When Lily was a puppy, I was anxious to socialize her with every dog we met. I knew with her breed, American Staffie Mix, that we could do all the work for the first two years and she still might become dog choosey when she hit maturity. What I hadn't counted on was how little owners actually know THEIR dogs. Before Lily was six months old, she'd been bit more than half a dozen times by neighborhood dogs. The little ones. Lily is incredibly tolerant. I am not. After the first two times, I realized "my dog is friendly" meant "I think my dog is friendly but I have no clue". I stopped letting her greet on leash for her own safety. She still got bit. It turns out people with little dogs in our neighborhood not only don't train or socialize, they also use flexie leashes but have no clue how to control those. Lily would be in a sit-stay ignoring them when they would rush up and bite. She has scars.

This is a perfect example of why I don't let other dogs greet her (for her own safety) - Great Dane attacks English Bulldog. Dog-dog aggression isn't limited to a few breeds. It can happen in any breed - any dog, any size. Not every owner knows how to read their own dog's signals. Not every dog that is friendly off leash in the dog park enjoys being greeted in the park when they are on leash. Some owners learn the hard way - at the expense of their dog. I'm not willing to let Lily pay the price for someone else's lack of knowledge.

As we were sitting outside Starbucks last weekend, Lily was lying at our feet. A Chocolate Lab was pulling his owner toward us. The dog lunged at Lily with his teeth bared, snarling. Lily didn't react, choosing instead (thank you, training) to look to us for a treat and reinforcement. The dog's owner chirped, "Oh, I know, Brownie. You just want to say hi." I can assure you, that dog had no desire to greet, but the owner didn't realize that.

I had a trainer point out to me that it's not normal for dogs to greet every dog they see, and she finds it weird that owners feel the need for them to. Do you greet every single person you pass on the street? I certainly don't. Our dogs shouldn't either.

Socialization is important. Socialization with well behaved, dog social dogs. This can be done through playdates instead of on our street, with our dogs off leash instead of at the end of one. It's better for all involved.