Sweet Mau

Mau is a pretty cute cat, though I might be biased. It’s now been about 10 days since his dental surgery and being toothless hasn’t negatively affected his quality of life.

“This bed is so cozy!”

Aaron and I have noticed that he has become more playful and bats both crinkle balls and plastic springs around the house. Mau’s favorite toy might be the laser pointer, however, as he chases after the red dot with more gusto and stamina than either Garrus or Charlie. It’s highly amusing and delightful to watch all three cats skitter about the house trying to pounce on the elusive red dot. If I can, I’ll record a video of a play session and share it here on Purry Home Companion!

“Mama, I found a box! It’s such a nice box.”

Look at these handsome boys! I couldn’t resist snapping a photo when I saw them lined up like this.

Garrus and Mau demonstrate their nightly ottoman sprawl. Mau recently adopted this habit of flaunting his fluffy belly like this. It’s not a trap. I repeat: it’s not a trap!

Foster Anniversary

At last year’s Clear the Shelter event (held on Saturday, August 19th), our lives changed when we decided to foster two tabbies. We had not fostered before but Aaron and I decided jointly that these boys really needed us.

Aristotle was gaunt, pitiful-looking, and had patchy fur due to overgrooming. Because of his severe stomatitis, he had (understandably) a poor appetite.

Tink, then two years old, had spent cumulatively 18 months at the shelter (partly in foster care). He had been adopted and returned three times, and had recently lost his buddy cat Pan. While he had been successfully paired with a new buddy, Tink was decidedly not doing well in the shelter and spent 95% of the time hiding.

Both cats were skittish, extremely shy, and wary. They needed a lot of TLC and a quiet respite from the shelter. In our care they made noticeable improvements, especially because we were patient and made an effort to gain their trust. Only two weeks later they moved in! Since we brought them home during the Clear the Shelter event, the adoption fees were waived.

A year later, they are very different, and much happier, cats. They are no longer so skittish and timid. Charlie (formerly known as Tink) blossomed into a perpetually sunny, friendly, and affectionate cat. He squeaks! He flops! He snuggles! Garrus (formerly known as Aristotle) underwent dental surgery to treat his stomatitis and is now a much healthier cat with bunny-soft fur. While still on the reserved side, he now asks for visits, bats at crinkle balls, and chases after the red dot with gusto.

As you can see, Charlie and Garrus are not concerned. They may, however, be only slightly overloved in our house.

Toothless

Last week was a rather hectic. I was out of town for several days, and during that time Austin Pets Alive! contacted me to schedule Mau’s dental surgery. Aaron dropped him off on Thursday evening and we picked him up the following day. All things considered, Mau’s surgery went well. Due to the severity of his dental disease and multiple abscesses, all of his teeth were extracted. Now we have a toothless cat!

When we brought Mau home, we gave him some peace and quiet by putting him in Aaron’s office for a few hours so that he could get his bearings. He walked a little unsteadily and seemed subdued, which was totally understandable, so we kept an eye on him. At the same time, he was not interested in having lap time or a snuggle.

Mau insisted on claiming the cat tree cubby as his R&R spot and being a hidey cat. Charlie seemed to be thrown off by Mau being so close to “his” spot on the platform above the cubby.

Mau seems to be recovering well after his surgery (or weird alien abduction, as it must have felt like to him). We’re continuing to give him wet food but no longer with antibiotics or other foul-tasting meds, which makes him a happy boy. We think that the antibiotics caused diarrhea, so we are giving him probiotics (Fortiflora) mixed into his food to counter that. Although he’s supposed to be on wet food for the immediate future, he still beelines toward kibbles and tries to eat them whenever possible. We separate Mau from Charlie and Garrus at feeding times or else everyone attempts to eat all other food except their own!

Mau appears to be feeling better and hides less in the cubby. Now we can all adore his handsome face!

Mau is Sick

On Wednesday morning, we received an unwelcome present: cat barf. Mau had puked overnight. Sometimes cats puke and they occasionally cough up hairballs as well. It’s gross and you have to clean it up. It’s the unpleasant part of cat ownership. If it’s a one-time or occasional thing (especially with hairballs with long-haired breeds), it’s not usually anything to worry about. But Mau puked up his breakfast, and vomited three more times after that over the course of the morning. Normally he has no trouble chowing down on the wet food we give him. His stool was also looser than usual, another indicator that his tummy was unhappy. We have no idea why we became sick, especially since he’s been sequestered from Garrus and Charlie.

I emailed the Austin Pets Alive clinic, described the symptoms, and asked if we should bring him in for an appointment. The answer was yes, although Mau was not happy about this decision. That afternoon we put him in the carrier without much trouble but once inside he started crying. He has a most pitiful mew. In the clinic lobby he wanted everyone to know his name most emphatically. In the exam room Mau received intravenous fluids, since he was dehydrated from vomiting, and an injection of Cerenia to him less nauseated and hopefully stop the vomiting. We were sent home with a regimen. We’ll keep a close eye on Mr. Mau to check his progress.

A few hours after we returned home, Mau appeared to have decompressed enough to come out and ask for cuddles. He climbed into Aaron’s ask and was positively delighted to be brushed. There was much showing off of his tail, licking, and air biscuits.

Mau the Beautiful

Mau is doing well on his regimen of antibiotics and painkillers. His coat is getting healthier and he eats up to two cans of wet food a day despite his dental issues. We brush him frequently and there are far fewer mats as a result.

Much to our delight, he has started to show a more playful side by chasing after the red dot and batting the crinkle ball and spring around. Oddly though, he only plays with the latter toys when no one else is around! When he wants to explore, though, there’s no stopping him. He really wants to be friends with Charlie and especially Garrus. In a few ways, he does not act like a senior cat! Above all, Mau is a lovey-dovey lap cat who complains when he is left alone or denied access to said lap.

Aaron took two fantastic photos of Mau. Of course I immediately wanted to share them because they show how beautiful Mau really is.

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“Hello. I am Mau and I am incredibly gorgeous. You should pet me.”

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“Oooh! What’s over there? I wanna go on an adventure!” I love the expression on his face in this photo. Mau really is a darling cat and not just in terms of looks.

Nuts and Bolts of Fostering a Cat

Say you’ve decided to open your home and foster a shelter cat for a while. This period can be a weekend, a week, a couple weeks, a month, or longer, depending on how long you are willing to foster, if and when the fostered animal is adopted, or, if space had been an issue, space becomes available. I have only listed a few of the many factors here.

Before bringing home a foster cat (or dog, if you choose to do so), ensure that everyone in the household is on the same page. Introductions may go slowly, and this goes for resident pets too. Discuss with children that this new fur person may be scared when he or she is first brought to your home and must be handled respectfully. If you have not already done so, pet-proof your home.

NB: Each shelter and rescue group have their own rules and policies regarding their fostering process. Be sure that you are acquainted with these and ask questions if you are unclear about any part of these protocols.

What do you do once you bring your foster cat home? What do you need? First and foremost, you will need several crucial intangibles: love, compassion, patience, and time. These cannot be overstated enough. As a foster parent, you need to provide a safe and clean environment, and you may need to make some additional considerations for your individual foster cat’s needs. Second, you will need a few supplies to provide the best foster environment:

  1. Essentials. Food, water, and a clean litter box. Ask the shelter beforehand if the cat has any special needs that you need to know about, such as dietary considerations or medical conditions. It is important to know (or find out) if the cat has house manners and knows how to use a litter box without issues.
  2. Comfort. Add a cozy cat bed, a box to hide in, toys, and a scratching pad or post for enrichment. A window is a great way for cats to engage with their environment (look outside if they wish) or sunbathe. Note that some cats feel safer if up high while others feel that sense of security down low in a carefully chosen hiding spot, such as under the bed. If you know or learn early that your foster cat is stressed out, try using Feliway diffusers or collars to help them feel more at ease.
  3. Space. Changing from a shelter to a new home can be a jostling, bewildering experience for a cat, and it’s perfectly normal for a cat to hide when introduced to a new environment. A large space with lots of stimulation (new people, sights, sounds, smells, etc.) can be overwhelming and cause a cat to shut down. Keeping a cat in a smaller space, such as a guest room with the door shut, is less intimidating and less overwhelmed by fewer stimuli. This enables the cat to feel contained and safe. It’s important to remember that physical space is most important to cats; to dogs it is social place.
  4. Routine. Cats are creatures of habit and like predictability. Routine = security to cats. Feed, refresh water, and clean the litter box at the same time each day. Spend time to visit too.
  5. Quality Time. Take time to hang out with your foster cat. If your cat initially hides under the bed and doesn’t want to come out, don’t force it. Speak gently and be patient. Sit on the floor. Let the cat choose to come to you. Some cats may want to interact with you first via toys before letting you pet them. Others may be snuggle bugs whenever you visit. Cat personalities and behavior will vary widely.
  6. Play. Bringing toys out and enticing treats are excellent ways to build a positive relationship with your foster cat. Again, cats vary widely in their preferences. One may live to catch the red dot while another likes to bat around a rattling ball. These kinds of interactions allow the cat’s personality to shine through, which can help them get adopted.

Want more information? Check out Petfinder’s How to Be the Best Cat Foster Parent (a true life goal) and 8 Things I’ve Learned Fostering Cats from The Humane Society from Reader’s Digest for tips. Austin Pets Alive and the Bestfriends.org Cat Foster Care Manual are excellent resources that offer comprehensive and detailed information.

To Foster or Not to Foster

Fostering an animal from a shelter is a great act of compassion and love. By bringing a homeless animal into your home, you agree to give that pet love, care, and attention. Usually when you foster an animal, it is for a predetermined period (which can be a few days, a week, a few weeks, or even a month or longer, times vary) or until the pet is ready to be adopted into a forever home.

Why is there a need for foster homes?

  1. Space issues. A shelter or adoption group may lack sufficient space to house all the animals brought to them. Fostering an animal frees up space in the facility, enabling the organization to take in another animal in need of care and a home.
  2. Special needs. There are many reasons why a foster home would be a safer place than a shelter: an animal recovering from surgery, illness, or injury; animals requiring subcutaneous fluids; animals requiring a course of medicine; motherless kittens or puppies that need to be bottle-fed; expectant mothers; stressed out or shelter-shocked animals.
  3. Too young. Kittens should be at least 2 lbs. and eight weeks of age before going up for adoption. If taken from their mothers too early, they should be socialized with other cats as well as humans. They need to learn what it is to be a cat.
  4. Socialization. Kittens born into feral or semi-feral cat families will need to slowly be introduced to humans. This should happen between four and eight weeks of age. Puppies also should be introduced to other dogs and children with supervision.
  5. Training. Puppies and dogs are more likely to be adopted if they have received some basic training. The better behaved and house trained, the more likely they are to find a home.
  6. Emergencies. For example, when Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit Texas, Louisiana, and Florida in 2017, thousands of pets were displaced. Animal shelters, the ASPCA, the Humane Society, and other groups remained in flooded areas rescuing animals trapped in very precarious areas, including horses, pigs, cattle, dogs, and a hawk. Many of these animals were temporarily housed in shelters (some across the country), rescue groups, numerous facilities, and foster homes. In the event of natural disasters, many rescue groups and shelters are in desperate need of fosters to free up much-needed space. This ensures that all animals, both shelter and displaced alike, can receive care until they are reunited with their owners (in the case of evacuated animals) or adopted.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Reasons to foster

  1. Time. Shelter animals need time to be ready for adopted.
  2. Behavior. By fostering, you learn more about the animal’s needs and personality. Many shelter animals act differently in a shelter than they would in a home, and this is especially true for shy critters. This information is crucial in helping that animal find a truly suitable home.
  3. TLC. Placing an animal in a home environment presents opportunities for much-needed socialization, love, and individualized care. Animals need time to be exposed to and accustomed to new people and pets. It is worthwhile to know, for example, whether a dog or cat does well with children or other pets or would be better suited to a single-pet or child-free home.

Do you need additional reasons to convince you to foster? Check out Petfinder and Vetstreet for more questions to consider.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Brownie points if you know where the following quote comes from: “…Dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!” 😉

Monday with Mau

In an effort to try to make Mau more comfortable, the APA vet prescribed him a painkiller and an antibiotic. We were quite pleased that we were able to mix these liquid medications into his food, which he ate without a problem. Hopefully these help him.

This morning I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mau didn’t stink! I picked him up and he smelled like mostly normal cat. I didn’t sense an overwhelmingly fetid whiff of bad breath! Amazing! I hope that’s the antibiotic at work.

Mau does not like being sequestered, and I don’t blame him. While he spends a good chunk of the day sleeping like any other cat, he mews pitifully for attention when he’s awake. I decided to help him embark on a mini-adventure by picking him up and bringing him to my office. I shut the door so he couldn’t get out and the boys could not get in. This experiment had mixed results. He got to explore and briefly settled for lap time but did seem a bit overwhelmed after a while. He also started asking most persistently for food. Mau is a sweet old man of a kitty but has a low threshold for hunger!

Look at that curious, handsome face!

“Outside!” I’m not sure if Mau ever looks out the window in Aaron’s office.

Mau found a hiding spot under one of my bookshelves.

Mau thought I could not see his magnificent tail.

Mau’s Adventure

For several reasons, we’ve kept Mau sequestered in Aaron’s office, which is our foster area. (Don’t worry, we visit him often.) On a few occasions, we’ve put Charlie and Garrus in the bedroom and let Mau slowly explore different areas of the house. He can be on the skittish side when exposed to something new, so we keep tabs on him so he doesn’t get too stressed out and overstimulated. The last time he explored the living room, he canceled lap time and put himself back up into the office, thus ending his little expedition.

Today Mau channeled his inner ninja and stealthily climbed over the two baby gates we put in the office doorway. Jailbreak! I didn’t hear him get out and only saw him when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a cat in my office. Initially I thought it was either Garrus or Charlie until I looked and saw Mau! Then he sped off into our bedroom, where he camped out beneath the bed all afternoon. He sat too far back under the bed for me to reach him and, since he wasn’t bothering anyone, I let him be.

For their part, Garrus and Charlie were exceptionally well-behaved. They knew something was up but they kept their distance from Mau and did not bother him at all. Garrus followed me once when I went to check if Mau was still under the bed; Garrus calmly sat in the doorway and looked in Mau’s general direction. No foofing, no hissing, no spats. I don’t even think that the boys acknowledged Mau when he did, briefly, venture into the hallway or kitchen. Garrus and Charlie proceeded to the afternoon adhering to their usual routine: sunbathing and snoozing.

When Aaron came home, Mau started talking and came out. He was apparently quite excited to see Aaron that he started drooling (which, by the way, is REALLY gross and stinky)!

Blep!

So much exploring!

Mau made like Bilbo Baggins and had quite the adventure! He did seem a bit overwhelmed and nervous, though, so Aaron picked him up and brought him back to our foster area. We fed him (om nom nom), after which he had a well-deserved chill session in Boudicca’s (former) pink bed. I don’t think he slept at all this afternoon; usually all three boys sleep for a while in the afternoon and wake up for dinner.

Mau likes to show us his paws. During lap time, he makes semi-biscuits.