Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Terrible Fate

"I don't know if I have the right department, but maybe you can help me."  That's how the call I took earlier today started.  I get this type of call several times a week.  Sometimes I am the right person for whatever reason it is the caller is contacting HAWS. Sometimes the caller needs to be transferred to the right department.  And sometimes I'm the wrong person, but I still can be of help. 

The caller today continued.  "My neighbor had a puppy that she was going to take to the shelter, but I didn't want that to happen so I took him instead."  She proceeded to tell me that she couldn't afford veterinary care for the puppy, and wanted to know if HAWS could recommend any low cost veterinarians in the area because the puppy needed a wellness check and vaccinations. 

I told her that while HAWS provides low cost spay and neuter of pets for residents who are on some sort of government assistance, we don't provide veterinary services to the public beyond that.  Additionally I wasn't able to recommend any vets who offered discounted services for low income pet owners.  I was sorry I couldn't give her more help, but she thanked me for my time.

Unfortunately there is still a perception by some in the community that animals need to be saved from going to an animal shelter -- a fate thought to be a death sentence at worst, and a horrible, neglectful situation at best.  This perception is left over from the days of the public pound -- where animals went after being picked up by the dog catcher and given days to live before being killed.  The animal's stay at the public pound is one of terror with little attention or love given, and only the basic needs of food and water given. 

While there are still some facilities that resemble this in the United States, most animal shelters are as far from this as possible.  HAWS has worked very hard to make our facility a loving, welcoming place for both people and animals.

Had this caller not "saved" the puppy from the horrible fate of coming here to HAWS, he would have experienced the following. 

He would have been checked for fleas, ticks, mites, and intestinal parasites and been treated for them.  Our staff would have given him his first round of shots and one our veterinarians would have neutered him.  If he had any health issues HAWS would have spent our time and resources treating him. 

Once he'd gone through our behavior evaluation he would have been made available for our volunteers to spend time with him.  The puppy would have gotten three or more walks a day as well as general cuddling sessions. Our Mod Squad would take him out of his kennel for training sessions as well, so that he could learn some basic manners before going to his new home. 

Most likely he would have spent time with some of the kids that participate in our education programs.  Additionally our front office staff would have brought him behind the front desk and spent time cuddling, playing and talking to him. 

As a puppy he would have been very popular with adopters.  He would be the most frequently viewed dog in our kennels, and very fast to find his new home.  His stay at the shelter could have been as little as 4 days from start to finish. 

It's a good thing the woman saved the puppy from coming to HAWS.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cat Litter

When the Education Department talks about litter and cats we generally mean a litter of kittens.  But today we're going to discuss that oh so important other type of litter associated with cats.

On Monday HAWS was lucky enough to host Victoria Pappa from Cats International as a speaker about cat behavior and resolving common problems.  One of the most important topics Victoria covered was litter box issues. 

Victoria talked about the fact that cats are picky and their litter boxes should not be near their food -- which makes sense; who wants to eat near a toilet area?  Boxes need to be cleaned out several times a day since cats are extremely clean animals and will sometimes be unwilling to use a box that hasn't been scooped in a while, instead relieving themselves in a less desirable area. 

What struck me the most was the importance of the boxes themselves.  While we humans like the idea of not being able to see the litter box and so many cat owners purchase covered litter boxes, this isn't optimal for many cats.  While in a very vulnerable situation, cats like to be able to keep an eye out for potential danger and prefer to have a good sightline of their surroundings, making a covered litter box a no no.  This also applies to the placement of the box.  The location shouldn't be behind furniture or in place that makes the cat feel as though he doesn't have an escape route.

The size of the box is also important.  Victoria recommends that the box be one a half times the length of the cat from chest to base of the tail.  This allows the cat plenty of room for their entire body and prevents the back end from hanging off the side of the box.  Attendees noted that it's hard to find large sized boxes, but Victoria showed the audience how she had made a litter box out of a translucent storage container.  Not only was it large enough for the cat to fit inside comfortably, but the sides were high enough so that if the cat dug in the litter or kicked back when exiting the box the litter was contained, rather than scattering on the floor outside the box.  Victoria had cut a section out so that on one side the edge was low enough for the cat to enter without having to jump. 

One more very important thing was having a variety of boxes available to your cat.  Cats International recommends that there be a box on every level of the house, and that there is at least one box plus one per cat in the household.  This prevents multi-cat households from experiencing territorial behavior, and allows picky cats options should they prefer to urinate in one area, and defecate in another. 

This summery of what Victoria presented on is by no means complete.  If you're experiencing problems with your cat not using the litter box reliably some of what I've written will be helpful.  But I strongly urge you to check out the articles on house soiling located on the Cats International website since there is more detailed information there.   And if you're experiencing other behavior issues with your cat check out their articles on behavior problems.