Adult Cats Need Love Too

While it was easy to get sidetracked by the massive cuteness exuded by the seven kittens yesterday, I felt it was important to spend time visiting each of the three adult cats in the adoption room at the Pflugerville Animal Shelter. I’ve never seen the cat adoption room so empty but that’s a good thing!

This is Chester. Initially he was mislabeled a girl! He is slow to warm up and, when overstimulated, gets scared and poofy (perfectly understandable). He is decidedly not a fan of the kittens in the condo downstairs.

This is O’Rian, a total love bug and adoration sponge! He was chatty, frequently kneading on his bed, and greeted me by putting his paws on my shoulder when I opened the condo door. He loved to look around while being held and made air biscuits. Also note how handsome he is!

This is Mau. He is rather shy but sweet and loves to be brushed (which he needs, since I don’t think he’s grooming himself much). He was also a little chatty with me, which made my heart melt.

Given that Mau is 10 years old, somewhat timid (he seldom left his box), and has stomatitis, it is easy for him to be overlooked. He and his two housemates (who also have dental issues  and possibly upper respiratory infections, and therefore are currently in isolation) were surrendered by their owner a month ago. Aaron and I have discussed fostering again and I think we could help this boy. I wanna love him!

Aaron and I can’t adopt all the cats but we want to help those who need a respite from the shelter and who might take longer to find a home due to age, need socialization, medical issues, or other factors.

OMG Kittens!

I realized that I had not volunteered at the shelter recently because I had been preoccupied taking care of Boudicca for the last several months. With that in mind, I gathered up several cans of cat food that we weren’t using (Boudicca had not liked the brand or texture) and took them to the shelter for donation. Since their policy changed a bit, I filled out a couple of forms but once that was done, I was ready to go. After all, there were SEVEN KITTENS that were now in the adoption room. Obviously I had to visit them.

Such emphatic little squeaks!

I love black cats so I had to hold this one first. (I totally squeed with joy.) Note: s/he looks concerned because s/he got stuck on my shirt with those needle-sharp little claws!

Being this cute is most exhausting. Note: the all grey one was extra fuzzy-wuzzy. There may have been some swooning over this.

These tabby babies are being held by the cat volunteer mentor extraordinaire, Grandma Jean. (Everyone calls her this.) The tabbies had a lot to say about their nails being trimmed but they behaved well. Grandma Jean had little chats with the kittens in pairs so everyone received proper amounts of adoration. They also had lovely blue eyes but I couldn’t get a good photo because they were rather squirmy.

Day summary: I visited three adult kitties (see forthcoming post) and seven exquisitely cute kittens! Everyone got loved on, smooched, and babbled at, and I had the pleasure of rubbing some full kitten tummies too. I definitely came home on a kitten-high.

Adopt a Cat Month

Kitten season is here and so is Adopt a Cat Month! Did you know that more than 3.2 million cats enter animal shelters annually? Did you know that 860,000 cats are euthanized? Animals being euthanized due to lack of space and overpopulation makes me very sad, since this is a preventable problem. Spaying/neutering pets and catch-neuter/spay-release programs dramatically impact animal overpopulation issues in communities. If you want to add a fur person to your family, please, please consider checking out your local animal shelter or rescue group first. There are so many lovable cats (and dogs!) that deserve wonderful homes.

Moreover, this is Father’s Day weekend! Some shelters may run Father’s Day specials (read: discounts!) as well so be sure to ask about those too!

I’m so happy we adopted these two boys! I think they are quite handsome but I’m probably biased.

Chip Your Pet Month

Like many months throughout the year, May is a bonanza of pet-related awareness campaigns. Among others, May is Chip Your Pet Month!

Having current information on your pet’s ID tag is vitally important should ever your pet get loose or lost. However, collars can easily slip off, especially if your pet is clever enough to take it off by themselves. With a microchip implanted beneath your pet’s skin, you don’t have to worry about that occurring. If your lost pet is found and taken to a veterinary clinic or animal shelter, the microchip can be scanned, revealing a registration and contact number. Through this registry the pet owner will be contacted and be able to recover their pet.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Check out Positively Woof for a video, Merck Animal Health, and One Fur All to learn more information about the benefits of microchipping, where to get them, and frequently asked questions.
When we adopted Garrus and Charlie, the shelter provided and implanted microchips along with their shots. The cost of these procedures is covered by the adoption fee. In our case, the adoption fee was waived because we fostered them during the Clear the Shelter event, wherein adoptable pets were free! The shelter had the microchips already registered; we simply provided our contact information and updated the cats’ names when we changed them from Aristotle and Tink to Garrus and Charlie. It was a super easy and worthwhile process. While my cats are strictly indoors, if they ever were to get out, I’d have peace of mind knowing that they had more than one method of identification and would be returned to us via that information.

Garrus and Charlie’s Story Part Eight: Adopted!

After we had the boys for two weeks, the animal shelter called us to let us know that someone had submitted an application for Tink (Charlie). However, as foster parents, we had first dibs. I did not want to break up Garrus and Charlie’s adorable bromance and I was fully aware that the latter had been adopted and returned three times before he came to us. I did not want that to happen again or for him to regress back into himself.

I immediately spoke to Aaron about it to verify that he was on board with adopting these two cats. He responded with an affirmative “Let’s do it.” So I told the shelter we wanted to keep both. Since we took them home as fosters during the Clear the Shelter event, the adoption fee was waived. Yay free cats!

This is the last post in this series describing how we went from a single-cat household to a three-cat household. Now we have a little clowder! If you haven’t already read the previous posts, be sure to check out Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and Seven!

Want to know more about fostering and the boys’ progress? Stay tuned to Purry Home Companion!

Garrus and Charlie’s Story Part Seven: Building Trust

Now that the immediate medical needs had been dealt with and Garrus was set on a progress to health, we turned our attention to our other goals: building their trust, coaxing them out of their shells, and socializing them. It’s a tall order to work with incredibly shy cats but I was confident that with patience, love, and time, we could help the boys.

The boys explored our foster area (Aaron’s office) thoroughly. Garrus in particular liked the chair (a refurbished car seat).

Evidence that the boys started to feel a bit more comfortable after a couple of days.

Stay tuned for Part Eight! If you have not already read the previous posts in this series, be sure to check out Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six!

Garrus and Charlie’s Story Part Six: Trip to the Vet

I also wanted both cats to be checked out by a vet just to be on the safe side. When I brought them home, I had two immediate concerns:

  1. I wanted to get Garrus on the road to health. While we provided Garrus with wet food, as the shelter had suggested, we noticed that he did not eat much. I wanted to know if he had an underlying medical problem explaining his lack of appetite and resulting bony physique.
  2. Charlie’s left eye weeped occasionally, and I worried that he had an eye infection. If that was the case, I did not want (a) the infection to get worse or (b) to be spread to Garrus.

Having received permission from the shelter to take them to the vet, I made an appointment with the veterinary clinic the shelter used. They had a cat specialist (Dr. R), and my good friends Tracey and Sam brought their clowder of five cats there. Both of these were boded well. Of course, getting cats into carriers and to the vet is rarely a simple or stress-free experience.

Cue complete feline panic. Charlie was so utterly terrified of being taken to the vet that he had a near meltdown while we put him in the carrier, let alone when he was brought into the actual exam room. He was so stressed that he needed to be sedated for his and the staff’s safety. I was a bit mortified since I had just met this vet (Dr. R) and her staff but assured me that they were accustomed to dealing with scaredy cats. I was also a bit thrown since I had never needed to sedate a cat at the vet’s office. Charlie was a sorry sight, though, since he was not at all aggressive but clearly scared witless, highly stressed out from his time in the shelter, and in need of lots of TLC. Thankfully, Dr R deemed Charlie healthy and determined that he did not have an eye infection. A clogged duct was the cause of his weepy eye; it occasionally weeps now but does not hurt him.

After we brought Charlie home from the vet, he regressed back into his extreme hidey self for a day or so. We gave him time and space, offered him treats and toys, and provided him with plenty of safe spots to hide in if he was so inclined. Garrus immediately came over to give him a comforting lick and snuggle, so that helped Charlie calm down. He started to emerge from hiding once he felt safe again. Fortunately, he did not seem to hold a grudge against us for taking him to the vet.

Looking down at Garrus from above, you can see how gaunt he used to be.

Garrus, by contrast, was relatively docile at the vet’s office. Dr. R immediately discovered the cause during the exam: his teeth were in terrible shape and his gums were quite inflamed. He probably had been living with chronic dental pain for some time. No wonder why he wasn’t eating! By nature, cats are pretty stoic and tend to hide pain or medical issues as much as possible but we could not ignore this problem. I immediately informed the shelter and the generous Friends of the Shelter arranged necessary funds to cover his medical expenses since he was in foster care. Garrus underwent emergency dental surgery the next day. Five teeth were resected, four of them on one side of his mouth. Fortunately, the surgery went without a hitch and, after a period of observation, I took my drowsy foster kitty home.

Understandably, he was a bit out of it so I have him space and let him snooze. After he had a well-deserved nap, I came to check on him and sat on the floor. Garrus stretched, walked over to me, and gave my hand a gentle head bunt. My heart melted. Just by watching his more relaxed body language, I could tell that he clearly felt better. I took cues from him. Was he hungry? Thirsty? Did want to go back to sleep? Did he feel up to playing? I did not want him to overexert himself only hours after he had surgery.

He let me know that he was hungry by sitting tall beside the food bowl with his tail wrapped primly around his paws. He gazed levelly at me with those enormous, sad, yellow moon eyes. That was also the first time that he really looked up directly at me instead of with a lowered, shy, indirect gaze. He seemed to say, “Beg pardon but I trust that you can arrange sustenance for me? I would most appreciate it. I am a wee bit peckish.” Even after surgery, which must have felt something akin to an alien abduction to him, he was nevertheless unfailingly polite.

Following Dr. R’s advice, we gave him wet food for kittens (which has higher fat and protein content than adult cat food) for a few more days as his mouth healed. To our relief, he had no complications and his appetite slowly increased. After his recheck appointment, we were encouraged to transition him to kitten kibble so that he could get back to a healthy weight. Dr. R said he needed to gain about 2 lbs (he had lost muscle mass as well) and estimated that it would take him at least a year to gain that amount. She also suspected that he had food anxiety, given that he had been bullied by his food-guarding previous housemates, and that contributed to his scant appetite. Getting him calm and comfortable in an established safe environment would be our immediate task.

The boys would only eat together, not by themselves. They were also seemingly perplexed the first time we offered them treats. It took them both a little while to get the idea that treats were edible. Once they grasped this concept, they were soon on board.

Stay tuned for Part Seven! (If you have not already read them, check out Parts One, Two, Three, Four, and Five.)

Garrus and Charlie’s Story Part One: Considering Fostering

In January 2017 Nala, my 16-year-old cat, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. It was incredibly difficult saying goodbye to Nala but it was the best thing for her. I had Boudicca, then approaching 17, but I had to realistically start thinking that I would eventually have to say goodbye to her as well since she, too, was not immortal.

Aaron and I started discussing the prospect of fostering cats or kittens as an extension of my volunteer work but had so far never done it. Animal shelters frequently need fosters to take in animals, especially expectant or new mothers, puppies, kittens, or animals with special needs. I was familiar with how the library fostered cats and the occasional guinea pig and rabbit. With the help of my aunt and mother, I had successfully bottle-raised Nala. In the same vein, I was interested in deepening my volunteer work as a foster and expanding my knowledge of pet care.

One of my good friends, Christine, is a foster mom extraordinaire, as she devotedly takes care of countless shelter kittens. I regularly ask her for advice on cat matters and had conversations with her about the ins and outs of fostering.

Aaron and I discussed at length what we had to offer if we decided to foster a cat. This is what we came up with:

  • Quiet household. No kids. 🗹
  • Stable routine. 🗹
  • Moderately experienced cat owners. 🗹
  • Patience. 🗹
  • Safe spaces. 🗹
  • Time. 🗹
  • Abundant love. 🗹

(Don’t worry. I’ll discuss things to consider before fostering and how to foster cats specifically in a subsequent post.)

But who would I foster? A kitten? A cat that needed socialization? A pregnant mama cat that needed a safe place to have her kittens? There were so many possibilities.

In the summer of 2017, I was quite surprised when two tabby cats pulled at my heartstrings…

This was Charlie’s shelter profile picture. At the time he was called Tink.

This was Garrus’s shelter profile picture. At the time he was named Aristotle.

NB: I realized that the boys’ story would be long so I broke it down into a multi-part series of posts. Stay tuned for Part Two!

Animal Care and Control Appreciation

Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week occurs every year during the second full week in April. This effort was created by the National Animal Care and Control Association to recognize and promote professionalism in the field of animal care and control. Agencies and individuals that provide these valuable community services should be commended for all their hard work.

When I see shelter employees out and about, whether I see them at the vet’s office, shelter, adoption event, library, or somewhere in town, I usually try to say hi and express my gratitude for all that they do.

What can you do today on behalf of your animal care and control agencies? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Express your thanks.
  2. Recognize and celebrate their accomplishments and, if warranted, nominate individuals and shelters for awards.
  3. Become involved in a Friends of the Animal Shelter or rescue organization.
  4. Donate.
  5. Volunteer.
  6. Foster.
  7. Adopt.
  8. Spread the word about the wonderful services your shelter and animal control agencies provide to your community.
  9. Raise awareness about the importance of and educate others how to be responsible pet owners.

Photo credits courtesy of Pexels

Change a Pet’s Life Day

Egads! I missed Change a Pet’s Life Day! (Things have been a little hectic because Boudicca was sick on Tuesday. Thankfully, she is getting better now.)

Change a Pet’s Life Day (belated) is a pet holiday celebrated on January 24 and intended to encourage adopting pets from shelters and consequently, raising awareness for animal shelters. As a shelter volunteer, I can testify that there are so many wonderful animals that need loving homes. There are pets that would do well with new pet owners and others that would thrive with experienced pet owners. There are young, old, middle-aged, everywhere in between. If you are not a cat or dog person, shelters often have other pets that might strike your fancy such as guinea pigs, hamsters, birds, rabbits, and even pigs and chickens. Here is how you can change a pet’s life:

  1. Adopt. Head to your local shelter and adopt a pet! Many shelters offer special discounts on January 24th while others will hold adoption events throughout the week or on the weekend. Rescue groups will probably have similar events so be sure to look for these. (NB: Adoption is a commitment. One should not adopt a pet without really being sure that this is what you want and that you will be able to care for this pet.)
  2. Foster. Unsure if you want to commit to having a pet? Does your shelter need temporary homes due to space or other needs, such as a pregnant cat or dog? Giving a shelter animal a foster home is a demonstration of compassion and generosity. Whether you foster one time or do it regularly, it does make a difference in pets’ lives!
  3. Donate. Find out what your shelter needs. Does the shelter have a wish list or a Friends of the Animal Shelter organization that could provide this information? Food, toys, collars, leashes, scratch pads or poles, and carriers are commonly asked for items. Money, of course, is always immensely appreciated because it can be used for whatever the shelter needs at the time or for future use.
  4. Volunteer. Do you like to be involved in your community? Do you love animals? Volunteering is a fantastic way to change pets lives on a continuing basis. I enjoy having the opportunity to love on and socialize cats and help out at adoption events so that these lovely kitties get matched to the right homes.
  5. Transform your pet’s life. Would your pet benefit from more exercise or attention? Would a play date with another cat or dog or a new toy make your pet’s day? I’m fairly certain that one of the highlights of Boudicca’s day is when she gets her lap time session in the evening. The boys are equally thrilled by visits and play time.

Rescued Pets in My Life

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This is Chiya! She is one of my parents’ two rescue dogs. She is a sassy and independent Tibetan Spaniel. Originally her name was Holly but my mom changed it to Chiya, which is Spanish slang for “crier,” in honor of her distinctive shrill alarm bark. (Tibetan Spaniels were bred to be watchdogs as well as canine companions.) She excels at being a foot warmer too.

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Here is dog #2, Chiquita! (We call her Chica for short.) She is a Kooikerhondje, which I promise is a dog breed that I did not make up. My parents took her in after her previous owner became very ill with cancer and shortly thereafter passed away. Look at those marvelous ears and that tail! She is such a well-behaved dog and an excellent snuggler as well.

Last year, I volunteered at the Clear the Shelters event on August 19 at my local animal shelter. I intended to show cats and match them to new owners. I did not intend to take home a new cat, let alone two, but I am SO GLAD that we decided to foster and later adopt Charlie and Garrus. They have made a lot of progress since then and both are happier, healthier cats.

In this photo you can see hints of how skinny and scraggly Garrus (then known as Aristotle) was. When he stood up, swaths of fur along his sides were missing (licked it off due to stress in the shelter) and in general his coat looked haggard. He was so skinny that his ribs and knobbly spine were clearly visible. Both he and Charlie looked SO pitiful at the shelter. We quickly learned that Garrus was not eating much and in a lot of pain due to dental issues, which we promptly fixed.

This was the first time Charlie (then known as Tink) emerged from behind or underneath furniture for a significant length of time. A huge scaredy cat when we brought him home, he was highly reactive to people (us), sudden movements, many noises, new objects, and any change. Both boys bolted whenever we stood up; they would only timidly approach if we sat down on the floor and remained very quiet.

Fast forward four months: here are the boys sprawled in the sun. (I took this photo in late December 2017.) Rather than fleeing when I approached, they stretched, slow blinked, trilled and squeaked (Charlie), welcomed scritches, and purred.

Lastly, look at Queen B! In November 2000, a lovey five-month old tuxedo kitten chose ME as her person at the ASPCA. Seventeen years later she is still my girl!

How can YOU change a pet’s life today?