Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Got Summer Vaca and Warm Weather on the Brain? Your Pets Do Too! Make Sure Both of You are Safe this Summer!

Now that the weather is warm, it is reminding everyone that summer vacation is just weeks around the corner. The birds are chirping, neighbors are outside cutting their lawns and people are walking their dogs more than ever. We all have spring fever and so do our pets. This combination can be a deadly one if we let our guard down and become lax with the way we treat our animals.

My family cat, Sassy, enjoying the good outdoors.

The arrival of nice weather does not mean that our brains should go on summer vacation mode as a pet-owner. For instance, I cringe every time I see a person riding their bike while walking their dog at the same time. This is a recipe for disaster. This is a scenario in which the pet and its owner could get seriously injured. For one, the dog leash could get twisted in the bike tire, causing the person riding the bike to flip over the handlebars. The bike or person could fall on the dog and cause serious harm. The dog may also take off running down the street, dragging the bike behind him which would be a path of destruction. The dog or person may fall into traffic. Each time that I see this, I think of the various scenarios that could take place, all of which are never good. Make separate time for your hobbies and your pets.

 While walking your dog, it may be tempting to let him or her off the leash in parks or on trails. Please understand that there are leash laws set in place to protect you and your dog from being sued during a possible altercation. If a person or another animal scares your dog, this could lead to a dog bite and other injuries. Then, you may be sued and the court may order your dog to be euthanized. This horrendous scenario can be prevented by using common sense.

As our pets may want to go outside more often, it is critical to protect them against fleas and ticks this spring, summer and fall. Because we had such a mild winter in upstate New York, some fleas and ticks never died. Thus, they will be out with a vengeance this year. Popular flea and tick preventatives like K9 Advantix, Frontline, etc., are readily available and recommended by veterinarians. If you see a tick embedded in your pet's skin, it is important to be prepared. Check out ARCANATURA's all-natural tick removal kit here. After walks with your pet, make sure you do a basic fur check to see if there are any wandering ticks. Flea combs are available for both dogs and cats.

If your pet spends any time outside without supervision, be that a dog in a backyard or an indoor-outdoor cat, it is very important to provide proper shelter, food and drink for the animal. As we all know, the summers easily reach 80 degrees and your pet will drink abundantly and dehydrate quickly. Check on your pets often and monitor food, water, and proper shelter that provides shade from the hot sun. Do not leave your pets outside for extended periods of time without supervision. It's easy to forget that a pet is outside when we are doing laundry, homework or other chores; don't assume that your pet knows right from wrong when you aren't there or that your pet won't be affected by the heat.

For cats and dogs that spend any time outdoors, please make sure to microchip them or fasten a pet ID to a break-away collar. If your indoor-outdoor cat gets lost or injured, it can be identified at a shelter or veterinary clinic. If your dog finds a way to escape out of the yard, he or she can also be identified quickly by animal control or neighbors. Make sure to list the pet's name and owner contact information on the ID tag. 

Overall, the summer does seem to be the time to relax and unwind with family and friends, but it is important for us to stay diligent with our pets. With proper precautions, our pets can relax and unwind too---safely.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Most Painful Mani-Pedi: Consider an Alternative Before Declawing Your Cat

When I moved into my first apartment after graduating college last year, I faced a lot of decisions regarding outrageous pet fees. Although I lamented these fees and still continue to do so, I understood why paying a deposit was necessary. Just in case my ten year old cat, Cady, decided to destroy the place, my landlord would be able to pay for repairs. However, the odds were in my favor. Cady does have anxiety, but luckily, (or not so luckily,)  he takes it out on me and not my rugs and furniture. My landlord requested a deposit along with a large (and crazy) non-refundable payment because my cat was not declawed.

There is a downside to losing a lot of money as a new college grad who is paying off loans and making entry-level pay; but, it is also critical to weigh-in on another issue at hand: the excruciating pain that cats endure during the declawing process that can affect the rest of their lives and personalities.

Paws off! 
It is easy to forget or displace the fear, anxiety and pain an animal feels when it is declawed because as humans, we drop our pets off at the vet and then they come home to us in one piece. And even better, they can't destroy the house! But wait-it's never that simple, at least not for the animal. First off, declawing a cat is similar to cutting off the first segment of the human finger. Just imagine how painful it would be to lose all ten of your finger-nails and the top parts of your fingers. You would never feel normal sensations on the tips of your fingers again and the process would be extremely painful. Not only would you have to endure that suffering physically, but you would also have to cope with the fact that you can't grasp objects as easily and would have to modify your daily lifestyle.

When cats are declawed, they lose an integral part of their being. They are unable to satisfy both physical and psychological needs. According to, cats scratch as a way to expend energy, to play and to mark their territory inside and outside. Cats become very attached to scratching posts and even card board once they understand that they are allowed to scratch certain things. It all stems from the feline's primal urge to scratch their nails and mark their territory on trees in the wild. Humane organizations, including PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,) fight against declawing because limiting a cat's natural urge to scratch may make them more aggressive, shy and nervous because they lose the ability to defend themselves. It may also cause other behavioral problems,  such as using the bathroom outside of the litter box. I don't know about you, but my cat thoroughly enjoys scratching around in his litter box while marking his territory.

Lastly, a cat may suffer from severe medical complications that could lead to heavy bleeding, infection or death.The process overall is very painful and a cat may never recover psychologically from this trauma.

I am against declawing cats, especially because there are healthy and easy alternatives that allow you to live your life while your cat doesn't have to suffer the consequences of a painful procedure. For one, provide your cat with plenty of toys, like cat scratching posts, that allow for climbing, clawing and scratching. Buy a blanket and bed specifically made for your cat that allows for kneading without it being an issue. Walk your cat on a harness outside so that he or she can sharpen nails on trees. Bring home old card board boxes for your cat to shred. Consider using Feliway Pheromone diffusers, sprays and collars to curb scratching and anxiety associated with it. For more serious situations, check out Soft Paws' plastic cat nail caps or talk to your vet about behavioral or medical treatment. And always remember to cut your cat's nails often!

I urge you not to declaw a cat because of apartment fees. If you are an animal lover who cannot live comfortably with apartment animal fees, consider waiting to adopt a feline friend or adopting one from a shelter who is already declawed. That way, you don't have to be a direct supporter of this horrendous process and you can still give a cat a loving home. Research all options before making any rash decisions; there are apartment complexes out there that offer more affordable pet fees. Most animal rescue and placement websites, such as, allow you to search specifically for declawed cats if you are interested in adoption.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Buy Your Kids Candy for Easter, Not Bunnies or Chicks

I've dyed Easter eggs every year since I can remember with my family. As a child, I was mesmerized by these decorated eggs and also with the surplus of baby bunnies and chicks in pet stores in the mall. I begged my mother each year for a bunny around Easter time and she always refused. Besides the fact that she knew I had no time or inclination to care for this animal as a 7 year old, we already had 2 cats at home that would love to have a personal meet and greet with this new animal. And that would be the end of my own Easter Bunny.

As an adult, I've seen the overpopulation of bunnies and chicks around Easter time and have noticed another sickening trend: dyed chicks. Chicks are dyed pretty pinks, yellows, blues, greens and other spring colors to catch the eye of children and parents alike. What is better than dyed Easter eggs!? Obviously, dyed Easter chicks! Not. Although I find this tradition completely inhumane and repulsive, I find it hard to believe that parents think this is an OK practice to be involved with. According to this article, by Jennifer A. Kingston, chick eggs are injected with a supposed non-toxic dye in order for the actual chick to be born with wildly colorful feathers, festive enough for the Easter holiday. Kingston adds that most egg hatcheries do not admit their participation in this Easter tradition. I wonder why...

It is also important to note that over-breeding chickens and rabbits in preparation for the Easter Holiday is always a bad idea. The breeding of these animals adds to the over population problem and most parents who buy these pets for their children will get sick of them and will end up returning them, giving them away to unfit homes or not properly caring for the animals themselves. Remember, a pet is forever, not just a temporary purchase. Even these beautifully (and artificially) colored chicks have needs; they are not toys. 

So, I would suggest buying kids candy and other toys for Easter instead of live animals who need constant attention and care. Or better yet, buy them a stuffed animal of a furry friend. Don't support the over breeding and inhumane animal treatment that comes with pet store purchases. Not only will this help the animals, but I'm certain that the Easter Bunny will not be pleased if he sees his fellow bunnies being mistreated and neglected within the home as presents. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Who Says Your Pet Can't Rock Out to Music?

Silence can be terrifying to humans-and their animals, alike. Not only does it allow us as humans to take the time and think about the stresses of our days, but it can also be very lonely. While us humans are working and socializing all day, our pets may be dreading the moment we turn the door knob to leave because of the continual silence.

Cady falls asleep listening to my music. 
It's easy to assume that cats enjoy silence. Why wouldn't they? They love to take naps and why would they want to sleep in a noisy house? To some extent, this holds true. However, while we are out all day, even cats prefer some background noise. Just as we like music in the car while we drive alone, background noise in the house allows a cat or dog to relax and believe another presence is around-even if we are at work.

Through recent studies, it has been suggested that house pets appreciate music in their own way. Not only does it create the illusion that they are not alone, but specific rhythms are soothing when they simulate animal heartbeats. Within Natalie Wolchover's article, "Pets Do Like Music, But Prefer Their Own Picks," she explores what types of music house pets enjoy. Unfortunately, our pets may not enjoy Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Kenny Chesney, Nirvana or Nine Inch Nails. They may not even enjoy the soothing rhythms that come along with classical ballads, according to Wolchover. She claims that it is proven that cats and dogs enjoy music that contains specific pitches and rhythm that mock their species' heart beat, calls and other nature sounds.

If you have cats and are gone during the work day, check out the Music for Cats website here. Listen to the samples with your feline friend. If you want to introduce your canine buddy to a new genre of music, check out this website. Not only will it be entertaining to see your pet's reaction, but it will also mask the silence during the work day.

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Cat is Houdini: When You Think You've Tried It All...

As I've mentioned before, my cat, Cady, is not your average feline. During the day, he lives a pretty typical life. He enjoys sleeping as the sun shines through the windows and warms his fur. He sleeps soundly on my bed and when I walk by, he may lift his head to acknowledge me if he feels ambitious. Obviously, I can only monitor part of his days when I'm working full-time.

What I do know is that his relaxing schedule changes once I walk through the door at night. I am instantly greeted by a friendly chirp from the top of the stairs. As I put my bags down, that friendly chirp evolves into a loud screech and then soon after, an ear-piercing yowl. It's not long before I know what he wants: to go outside. I don't know a great deal about what happened to Cady in his past. What I do know is that he's just about 10 years old and has a great yearning for the outside.

I've tried to teach Cady that I will not respond to him until he stops yowling. To a certain extent, this does work and he understands after awhile. According to many cat behavior websites, I have learned that a cat's excessive meowing will be reinforced by anything-even if you yell at him or her to stop. To a needy cat, negative attention is still attention. So, I try my best to ignore him when he gets loud, even when my ears almost start to bleed.

Once Cady has calmed down a bit, he slips into his harness and drags me out the front door. He cannot wait even one second to get outside; I have all to do to lock the door before he takes off. As we approach the lawn,  he starts to sprint (and I try to keep up,) and gets enough leverage to jump half way up a tree while attached to the harness. This is an art that I have adapted to more than he has. He's a natural at climbing trees and I'm a natural at being dragged across the lawn.

What is funny about Cady is that he is at his calmest when he is walking outside. He literally walks about a mile per day. I take him out for 25 to 45 minutes daily and he enjoys every moment of it...that is, until we make the trek home. He tries to chase birds, he smells the air and trees and even bonds with the neighbors. The only con to these journeys is that he never wants to turn around. I have to carry him most of the way home. Cady's innate longing to go outside just compacts his ever-present anxiety.

Once I bring Cady back inside, he may or may not continue to yowl for awhile to go back out. Tonight, I tied a long leash to one of my balcony chairs and he laid on the deck looking around contently. The leash was long enough for him to wander around comfortably, without him getting close to the railings. The last thing I need is for him to jump off the second story deck (and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he tried to do that!). I left my back door open and checked on him every few minutes. Just as I poured myself a glass of juice, I heard a clanging outside. I looked out the door and saw Cady sitting on top of the table, without his harness on! The rascal escaped from a buckled harness. It was as if it were a magic trick. It also hit a nerve in my head.

Cady being a goofball. 
I've tried to help Cady's anxiety for almost a year now through pheromone diffusers, collars, toys, games, outdoor walks, etc. But now, I have reached a point where his anxiety truly worries me. Beyond wanting to go outside often, if I'm gone for longer than usual, (which is never very long,) Cady throws up on the carpet out of worry. If I break his routine even slightly, he is all out of sorts. And recently, his meowing has gotten worse during the night time, because of his strong desire to go outside when he pleases. I brought Cady back to the vet, who recommended that Cady go on a low-dose Prozac to help calm his nerves, especially at night time. It is unhealthy for both Cady and I to be up all night long. And I cannot be the pet owner he needs me to be if I am tired all the time. I ordered the Prozac in liquid, chicken-flavored form. I will continue his walks and routine and see if the medication helps.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by being unable to help your pet, try Googling some pet behavior websites or visit your vet for some help. It is OK to need help from others; for certain situations, you cannot help your pet alone and it is very easy to become frustrated when it impacts your daily life. With the help of a vet, a behavior specialist, books, websites, family and friends, I believe it is possible to trick even my Houdini of a cat into enjoying his life a little more. No pet owner is perfect, but it is possible to keep the magic alive for an animal who loves the outdoors, while providing a stable life in the home.

Click here for some helpful pet behavior tips.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Beauty of Aging: Consider Adopting an Older Pet

It goes without saying that families prefer puppies and kittens to older dogs and cats who have already grown out of the adorable fluff-ball stage. But it is very important to remember that all puppies and kittens mature quickly and grow to be the adult animals you see waiting to be adopted at the shelter.

My 15 year old family cat, Spunky. 
It might be nerve-wracking to adopt an older animal because they may already have emotional, physical, medical, psychological or behavioral problems. However, when given a chance and patience, most adult or senior shelter animals usually adapt quite well and adjust to life in a new home. In fact, they greatly appreciate the attention. Despite doing a good thing by saving an adult or senior shelter animal, when they are often looked over and displaced, you might be pleasantly surprised by the companionship of an older animal.

For one, older animals are often calmer and less destructive. With a younger dog or cat, a pet owner may worry that the animal will rip up the carpet or chew on things during the day when no one is home. Older animals will be more mellow in the home during the work day if toys and stimulation is provided. Also, house training takes patience and consistency so it is important to be home often for puppies. For kittens, they may have accidents outside of the litter box at first. With older animals, they may take some training to get used to the schedule in a new home, but more than likely will have house training down. Shelters try to house break all animals in order to place them in homes quickly.

Also, for families with young children, it is not always recommended to adopt puppies and kittens because just as kids are rambunctious, so are baby animals. The two mixed together can create a dangerous cocktail resulting in scratches, bruises and bites-not because the animal or the child are bad, but because they don't know how to properly interact with each other yet. A child may be better suited with an animal that has matured a bit and won't be so hyper. Overall, an older animal may fit your lifestyle better when you don't have the time to worry about the behavior of a puppy or kitten when you leave them alone or if you already have young children at home full of energy.

Beyond all of this, there is a true beauty and compassion that comes with adopting an older animal. They are eternally grateful and show us what they have already been through in life with their actions, likes and dislikes. Older animals who have been abused, abandoned and neglected have the incredible ability to bounce back and live enriched lives with people who show them love and trust. To see a truly beautiful portrait of aged animals, check out the photography of Isa Leshko here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Don't Play Favorites.

Ryan Klaeysen's Beagle, Miles.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC,) the beagle may be the new star of the show this year as far as being ranked among Americans' favorite breeds of dogs. Naturally, the cuddly lab is ranked as number one, being known as a suitable family dog for decades. The German Shepherd ranks a close second by the AKC for its regal demeanor. The rottweiler has also raised in popularity within American homes, ranking number ten on the AKC scale. The rise in popularity of larger dogs among AKC members and Americans in general seems promising and is very exciting due to the unfair stereotypes that are usually associated with these breeds. Check out other rankings here.

Alex Romano and her Akita, Misa.
Although this is wonderful that larger dogs are finally being recognized as great family dogs, it is always important to remember not to play favorites, no matter how big or small the dog may be. From the beefy, muscular, elegant rottweiler to the spunky, shrimpy, adorable Chihuahua, it is crucial not to make assumptions about what dog breed is better than the next. All dogs who are not trained properly or who are put in a stressful situation may bite. By choosing and listing "favorites," it reinforces behavioral stereotypes about all dog breeds and it gives certain dogs an advantage over others. It is important that all dogs, regardless of breed, get adopted from shelters across the country and are given a fair chance.

Kristen Schindler's Pitbull Mix, Kira, with Red Heeler Mix, Emma.

So, when you are deciding to add a dog to your family structure, do the research and consider what dog breed would be most suitable for your life. Do not base these decisions on misleading breed discrimination. And please, do not forget to consider those dogs who really need our help, like Pitbulls, who are on their way to euthanasia, just because their breed is stereotyped as the "dangerous dog" in the media. In reality, with proper training and care, these dogs are just as family oriented as any other breed.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Why A Tiger Should Not Live In The Living Room

We hear about it all the time in the news: Lion Trainer Mauled by Own Lion, Killer Whale Violently Attacks its Trainer, Man in Critical Condition After Chimpanzee Attack...Then, we hear a media frenzy about it for a week detailing how a docile animal went "crazy" and "violently attacked" the loving people around them. These are unfortunate events that occur when animal trainers and us average joes forget that wild animals are wild.

When wild animals are kept in small zoo or aquarium enclosures, in random backyards or in someone's living room, this may provoke an animal to attack due to the lack of space, resources and necessities to live a normal life. Wild animals will become agitated and may act violently due to stress and mania. When we have gone to the zoo as children, it is a "normal" sight to see the big cats pacing back and forth in their enclosures. This is in fact, not normal animal behavior. This is a sign of major stress and is common among animals that are caged in an unnatural environment.

It may seem horrendous and out of line when a wild animal attacks the people who have provided food and a place to live. But, when we as people are not allowed to exhibit our natural behaviors and feel trapped, it is normal for us to lash out. So why wouldn't animals do the same? At least we can voice our complaints; the animals cannot tell us that they feel anxious and quite often, their warning signs are ignored.

So when I hear that a chimpanzee attacked its owner, it comes down to the notion that maybe exotic animals do not belong anywhere but the wild. For those people who decide to own an exotic pet in their homes or own backyards, they are liable for animal attacks just as zoos and aquariums are. It is important to be aware of state laws that dictate whether or not owning exotic animals is prohibited. (For more information on state laws, check out the following link:

 It is a huge decision to care for an exotic animal, even when it is legal state-wide. Not only is this situation unfair for the exotic animal, it places a danger on the person's family, friends and neighbors if this animal were to act out. Check out the following article that features just that:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Where Did You Go? Make A Life Plan For Your Pets

While working at pet adoption centers, many animals come in without homes due to divorce, financial issues and death of family members. Quite often, the animals are distraught and are unable to cope with their new surroundings right away. I've worked with some cats who have been surrendered due to the family's life change and have not been able to adjust well without the use of calming collars, spray, diffusers, a lot of patience and understanding. After their elderly owner passes away or their family of many years decides to split up and move without them, the animals do not understand why they are left alone in a strange environment. 

Just like Aunt Sally and Uncle Joe, pets are also our family members. We need to make a life plan for our pets, just as we do ourselves. We spend so much time worrying about protecting our assets for children and other family members in case of an emergency. It should also be priority to protect our pets. I recommend planning ahead for emergencies by asking trustworthy family members or friends to adopt your pets if you are unable to care for them anymore. Write all of this information down so that if a problem were to arise, your pets wouldn't be surrendered to a shelter. For more information about this, check out The Humane Society of the United States' recommendations: . 

In the case of a divorce, animal custody can get sticky. Some families may work it out and designate which household should keep the animals, while others may decide to surrender the animals to the shelter during the chaotic time. But, some divorcees are really battling it out for their pooches and feline companions. In the link below, it is apparent that it becomes just as important to plan ahead for life changes of this nature as well, because who wants to see their pets at a shelter thinking Where Did You Go? 

For more information about animal custody battles, check out this link:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hello! Get Off The Couch!

Today, it is highly recommended by vets and shelter management that all cats be kept indoors. Many cats enjoy the stimulation of the outdoors and may find living inside all the time stifling. Other cats may be so curious of the outdoors that they try to run outside. So, what happens when we are put in the position when we have to keep our cats indoors?  This has been a huge challenge for me living in a two-bedroom apartment with Cady, who was originally an indoor/outdoor cat for the 9 years prior to his adoption.

Right after Cady jumped up the tree! 
If you happen to find yourself in a similar situation, it is crucial to create an environment in which your feline friend feels like he or she can hunt, chase, watch, run and in some instances, climb. When you come home from work, it is easy to sit down with your cat and watch some TV. But, I understand why Cady glares at me from the floor as if to say, "Get off the couch and entertain me! You've been gone all day!" If you've run out of ideas (like many of us do when we are already running on fumes,) here are some suggestions that I've attempted:

1.) If your indoor cat is properly vaccinated (including  the vaccine for Feline Leukemia,) then consider taking him or her for a walk daily. I walk Cady for 20 to 30 minutes after work on a harness, and this may be his favorite time of day. He gets to socialize with my neighbors, run up trees, smell the grass, watch the birds, and run around. If you decide to do this, understand that it is a slow process. For the first 2 weeks, Cady only walked 4 feet off of my front porch and then jumped back to the door. Quite often for felines, a slow introduction is the best way to ease them into something new. Now Cady can't wait to go outside.

2.) Buy a window perch. This is one of the easiest things you can do to improve quality of life for a bored cat. Pick a window in your house or apartment that faces a tree or an active area outside and give your cat the best seat in the whole place. Some people even install bird feeders outside the window so their cats can watch the birds.

3.) Consider installing a climbing perch on the walls. I just ordered "The Cat Cloud," which is a 2 step climber that you can place high on your walls to give your feline friend a challenging climb. Check out the website: . For a cheaper alternative, you can build your own shelving and walkways.

4.) Make sure that you always have cat scratching posts. No matter how small, they allow your cat to scratch their nails without getting yelled at. And hey-better that than your leather couch! :)

5.)  Provide your cat with a variety of toys and set aside time each day to play. Some cats enjoy toy mice while other cats enjoy feathers and bouncy balls.
Cady enjoying the sun. 

6.) If you have a screened in porch of some kind, allow your cat to walk around out there to take in the sights and sounds.

For more ideas, check out the link below:

Friday, March 2, 2012

We All Have Instincts-Not Just Your Pet

When I was 5 years old, I remember my mother screaming at me: "Don't let Bootsey get too close to your face!" Bootsey, my gentle tabby cat and first pet, would really never hurt a fly. But as a rambunctious child, I had scratches all over me from aggravating the cat. Luckily, I did listen to my mother for the most part and didn't let him get his claws too close to my face.

Although I was only 5 years old, this story still holds true for a person of any age. We trust our pets, we love our pets, and we certainly do not think our pets would ever do us intentional harm. And most animals won't. But it is always a good idea to remember that animals do not have the ability to say to you: "Hey! Get out of my face. I'm in a bad mood today. I'm feeling threatened." Sometimes, animals may bark, growl, yowl, hiss, etc. to let you know they are not content. It is important to watch for these warning signs. But, accidents can happen in a split second.

Because I've worked with rescue organizations for awhile now, I've been around animals who have had good homes all of their lives, and animals who have been rescued from neglect, abandonment and abuse. Regardless of the situation, it is crucial that as humans, we know our boundaries. Just like animals, we need to use our instincts. I recommend to all current and future pet owners that you research animal behavior in order to truly understand the warning signs. Unfortunate events occur when people let their guard down around their own animals and around animals they do not know well. Not only do people end up badly hurt, but in many cases, the animals are euthanized. Then, there is usually a media frenzy centered around big, "vicious" dogs that attack when the incident was merely an accident on both ends. In order to avoid these situations, it is important to treat your pets with the same respect that we do people-give them space, watch for warning signs and understand your boundaries.

Check out the link below regarding a news anchor who was unfortunately attacked by an Argentine Mastiff. Clearly an accident, the anchor is in the hospital and the dog may be on his way to euthanasia. Keep in mind that the dog was on the live interview because he was just rescued out of an icy lake the day before. In my opinion, the stress from that situation alone and being surrounded by people close to his face probably prompted the attack. The following account of the situation, labeling it as a "vicious" attack, is unfair:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rescue Pets Rescue People

For those of you who already know me, forgive me. I've said this time and time again: ADOPT A SHELTER PET. Don't spend $2,000 or more at a "local" breeder or pet store. Isn't there something odd about a business making a profit from breeding dogs? Sounds unnatural to me-and it certainly is. Not to mention inhumane. It also just doesn't make sense-EVERY 8 SECONDS, ONE SHELTER ANIMAL IS EUTHANIZED IN THE UNITED STATES ( That is a devastating number of animals and that doesn't even account for those animals who die living on the streets without homes.

With that said, adopting a shelter animal is not only giving a furry friend a second chance at life (or maybe even a first chance,) it also allows you to create a bond with an animal who has often been next in the euthanasia line, neglected, abandoned and displaced by society. And believe me, rescue pets are so grateful. You can see the love and compassion in their eyes and through their actions. And just as you help them, they want to help you too.

The saying, "Who Saved Who?" is catchy and something that I support. The animals who have been rescued literally minutes away from euthanasia seem to recognize this second chance at a new life with someone who loves and cares for them. And they give back. Rescue dogs and cats are often certified as Therapy Pets who visit nursing homes, hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Other animals do this as well, such as minature horses. They are able to interact with people who need extra TLC and comfort. Animals who work with the disabled, the elderly, U.S. Veterans, the terminally ill and others in need often create deep bonds that have a lasting impact. If you think your pet could help others in need, search the internet for some local training classes. For dogs, the K-9 Good Citizen training is a great way to get started.

Check out the story below about a dog that provides comfort, moral support and friendship to a young, terminally-ill boy:

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When You Hear a Bump in the Night

When I hear a bump in the night, it usually doesn't frighten me. Why? Because I already know that it's my cat climbing on my dressers, purposefully batting my bracelets onto the floor and watching meaningful pictures fall to the floor one by one. I hear him pacing the floors, opening doors, doing his 2am sprint from one room to the next. Open closet door, shut closet door. Paw at bed. Check. Knock glass of water off of night stand. Check. Finally settle down...possibly. On a good night.

My cat, Cayden, affectionately "Cady," is a ten year old tabby cat mix who may be the friendliest cat I have ever encountered. He greets me at the door every day after work and he is the only creature on Earth who wants to be around me in the morning. He rests his paw on my arm while I sleep at night to wake me up and give me attention. And of course, to demand it too. He purrs so loudly when I get home that I really do feel special and important, which is really nice after a long day of work at the office. Having him around as a companion does make me feel good and loved. 

Cady, who I adopted last July of 2011, was brought to a shelter by his owners of 9 years because when they relocated to a highly-trafficked area, he was unable to adjust to his new indoor life. He was allowed to go outside to a certain extent at his original home. His original owners loved him dearly but were not able to cope with the bad behaviors he developed and felt guilty that he was not enjoying his life there. This has been a challenge for me, as well. Not knowing about these issues at all (after another family adopted him from the shelter and were going to drop him off on the side of the road when he didn't fit in with their situation...dropped him off at the rescue barn where I volunteer,) I took him in when I moved into my first 2 bedroom apartment after graduating college and starting my first "real" job. 

This furry feline has been one of the greatest gifts in my life, as well as one of the largest challenges. Cady is one of the most well-behaved cats I've known. He doesn't scratch, spray, have aggression toward humans or other animals. He eats well, cleans well. What is there to complain about? Why would two different owners surrender this adorable animal? I found out about a week after the adoption that Cady is not only destructive at night, but meows excessively to the point where I could go insane. If I shut him out of my bedroom door, he meows outside my door so intensely that he will make himself physically ill. My thought is that Cady cried to go outside once his original family moved, and the situation was unable to meet his needs. Now, he cries for attention in the middle of the night and it has become quite a problem in my own life. Surprisingly, Cady is extremely well behaved during the day time. 

I have tried just about everything to calm this kitty down. I play with him 30 minutes before bed-time, feed him a larger meal as I am about to hit the sack, use Feliway Cat-Calming Pheromone Diffusers, Spray and Collars. I even walk him on a harness for at least 20 minutes a day after work and on weekends to give him outdoor stimulation. All of these things have helped a bit here and there, but his behaviors are very inconsistent. Some nights he will hop into bed with his token meow and sleep the night away until my alarm goes off. I appreciate nights like these like parents do when they have young children. Other nights, he runs around the apartment frantically looking for something-not that I know what that something is. He has 4 or 5 distinct meows. And man-he uses them all! And he is LOUD. Personally, I've never heard anything like it. 

As I sit back and think about Cady's interesting and sometimes irritating night time behaviors, it is easy to forget that cats are nocturnal creatures by nature. But even beyond this, it is so easy to forget that within today's society, even the most dedicated of pet owners can sometimes forget that while they are at work interacting with people for 8 to 10 hours a day, the domesticated dog, cat, horse, ferret, guinea pig, etc. are at home waiting and anticipating their owner's return. According to my roommate, Cady sleeps most of the day away. When he greets me so readily and joyfully at 5 o'clock at night, he is anxious to go outside and to have people time. 

Along with other pertinent animal issues, my blog will focus on my trials to be the best pet owner that I can be. I've always been an animal person-I don't return animals once they are in my life. You don't return children; you shouldn't return the animals who are also your family unless their lives in your home are not what they should be. I will willingly and desperately try to help Cady feel more satisfied with his daily life. And I will try my best to give good advice about being a responsible pet owner and an Animal Advocate...because we are their only voice. 

In a society where you may not even have time to take care of yourself, it becomes even more difficult to set aside time for a pet. That bump in the night, or in some cases, the loud meow, might mean something that we all sometimes forget: we are our pets' life lines and we directly impact whether they will have an enriching life or not. It may be challenging, and sometimes exasperating to fix a problem relating to your pet, but it is worth figuring out. Because hey-when life gets you down, who is the one always there for you? Your pet.