Tag Archives: cats

Saying Goodbye To Your Pet

“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” – John Steinbeck

MorwenA few weeks’ ago I lost my friend of fourteen years, Morwen. I was lucky to have had her in my life for so many years. She beat cancer (twice,) as well as a serious illness in her kittenhood, and, although I would have liked to have had more time with her, she slipped as gracefully from this world as she lived her life the afternoon of Friday, June 1. She had been fading for a few weeks despite four veterinarians and two specialists’ attempts to help her. A few days before she died, a small shadow was found in the bones of her pelvis confirming our fear that cancer had once again returned after a two year remission. We all fell apart, including the veterinary staff, even though we all had known, I think, in our hearts that this was coming and coming quickly.

With forty years at my back, I’ve seen my share of loss. I’ve lost friends and family to age and illness and time, as well as the more insidious drifting apart and loss of contact that we all experience as we grow older. Life is about letting go as much as it is about holding on to things. Change (and its sister, loss) are as inevitable as spring turning to summer and fall into winter.

We prepare ourselves, especially when we’re facing a long term illness or negative diagnosis, for the worst. We tell ourselves that we’ll make every day the best we can and savor each moment. We steel ourselves for the end of the journey and sometimes we believe we’re ready to face it, to let go, and that all our goodbyes have been said.

But loss is more than a moment. In its own way, it never ends. Grief lurks in corner of your mind and slides into every thought, every smile, every joyful moment. It’s the little needle that says that your friend always loved spring best or danced at the sight of the first snowfall. It’s picking up a toy or blanket in a store and thinking “Morwen would have liked this.”

I have several elderly pets, and knowing that death stops for no man (or cat,) I’d put together a folder some time ago with information about burial and cremation services, as well as things like memorial statues and donations. I had hoped, against hope, that it would be many years before I’d have to open that folder, just as hopefully my own will won’t be needed for many years.

Death brings with it not only a painful goodbye, but so many decisions. I have lost pets to accidents and illness, as well as had some who died, peacefully, after many years in their sleep. I’ve also faced the painful decision on whether or not to end a pet’s life who was in great pain – a decision that many pet owners’ will face at one time or the other. There are no right answers. You know your pet best and are the guardian of what they would want, it is your decision to decide when a life is, in essence, no longer worth living.

Regardless of your choice, you will likely be wracked with guilt – especially if a long illness or decline has been involved. You’ll feel a sense of failure and regret for things you didn’t know or didn’t try, as well as a profound sense of guilt for that sliver of your being that is relieved to not be faced with the day in and day out trials and heartbreak of fighting a battle you know has only one outcome. Others may criticize you under the casual callousness of “being helpful,” with comments that “at least it’s over,” “it was only a cat,” or “just get a new one.” They may be equally cruel in making suggestions for care you didn’t try or comments that “we all get old” and “you knew this was coming.”

No matter anyone tells you, you are entitled to your grief. There is no measurement for loss. One loss is not greater than another, one heart more or less broken than its brother or sister. Loss is loss. Pain is pain despite what some people might choose to have to say on the matter. No one can look into someone else’s heart or soul and measure what they are feeling. So if you’re faced with someone who is obviously grieving, please consider their feelings (and not whether they are inconvenient to you or that their grief is something you don’t understand). If you are grieving, then grieve. Take as long as you need. There is no timetable on how long it takes to get over a lost love. In time, the memories that now may cause you grief will bring you joy. But today, it’s fine to own your sorrow. Losing a beloved pet is like losing a child. It’s the loss of something precious and pure, the end of a friendship that let you experience unconditional love.

Fourteen years is a long time. That’s longer than I’ve ever held a job at one company and longer than I known many of my friends. And although love is never really lost because it lives on in our memories and in the joys that we shared with another living creature, I think Edna St. Vincent Millay summed it up perfectly when she wrote: “Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night.”

My preparation folder ended up being a godsend since I was basically a puddle after Morwen’s death. Thankfully, my veterinarian’s office handles death services (like cremations, memorial paw prints, and containers/boxes for burial). But it’s always a good idea to create a folder and have information on hand, as well as some idea about which you prefer (cremation or burial) before you need it. I chose cremation and now Morwen’s ashes are in a small rosewood box awaiting transfer to a beautiful urn crafted by the Pet Memory Shop. They offer small caskets, as well as urns and other memorial items and are very thoughtful and compassionate.

I also opted for a memorial statue of Morwen sculpted by My Pet Sculpture. Because Morwen was a very small cat, a sculpture which could include her urn wasn’t a possibility. But if you have a dog or other larger pet, then My Pet Sculpture offers life-sized statues that can accommodate your pet’s ashes and can be placed indoors or even outdoors at a gravesite in lieu of a headstone.

There are many companies that offer pet memorial stones and statues. A quick search online will give you a list of those with nationwide, as well as local services. I highly recommend having a discussion with your veterinarian, as well as your friends who have lost pets in the past so that you can choose a service that is highly recommended and kind to those in grief. Faithful Friends Pet Memorial here in Nashville were not only very professional, but went out of their way to treat my grief with respect. They are also spoken of kindly by my vet, as well as by several of my friends.

If you do choose to cremate, you may decide to scatter your friend’s ashes in a place they loved. If you do, just remember that there are often city regulations of scattering remains of any kind. So be sure to make sure that are no issues with your ceremony before you start. A quick email to the park where you plan to scatter ashes or to the city chamber of commerce is usually all you need.

Whether you are grieving or have a friend who has lost a pet, a memorial gift is a wonderful way to celebrate a pet’s life. Many animal rescue society’s offer memorial giving, including Best Friend’s Animal Sanctuary which will place a special message in their Angels’ Rest Memorial Garden for your pet or as a gift to a friend who has experienced a loss. There is no better way to celebrate your pet’s life than to donate to a cause that gives other animals a chance at life.

If you’re looking for other ways to comfort a friend or memorialize your pet, then you might want to consider a pet portrait. Many artists offer them. I can personally recommend Digital Teahouse. They’ve created both digital and painted portraits for several of my cats. There are likely artists in your area who offer this service, as well as many online.

Finally, you might want to consider opening your home and heart to another pet once you and your family (including your other fur babies) have accepted your loss. This isn’t an option for everyone. For some seeing a new pet “in the place” of their lost pet increases their grief. Certainly never give anyone a dog or cat as a “replacement” for their lost pet. But it has helped me, over the years, to know that I had other pets who needed my love and care. And I’ve always found that there’s no better way to lose yourself than in helping others. Foster kittens and puppies can be a great distraction and a chance to open your heart and home to an animal in need. When (and if) you do decide to bring another pet into your home, consider a rescue pet as an option. You’ll be giving an animal in need a chance to experience the love you shared with your lost pet.

I hope if you’re experienced a loss that this article is of some help to you. Please know that you are not alone and your grief is real and valid. And remember: “What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” – Helen Keller

 


Good News For FIV+ Kitties And Those Who Love Them

cat wellnessFinally, some good news for FIV  (the feline immunodeficiency virus) positive kitties and those who love them:  Dr. Annette L. Litster of Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine conducted a long-term study which shows that FIV+ cats can live with negative kitties without infecting them and that mothers infected with FIV do not pass their virus on to their kittens.

This is big news to shelters and many veterinarians who regularly recommend infected cats be killed, but not for those who love and care for FIV+ kitties. Even those shelters who do accept special care kitties like those with FIV often recommend that they only be adopted into homes with other positive kitties or that they be the ‘single’ cat for a family. This study clearly shows that there’s no need for these precautions.

As someone who has cared for a FIV+ kitty for many years and whose vet not only deals regularly with FIV+ kitties, but has one of her own, I can bear out the truth in these numbers. Not only have I never personally seen a FIV+ cat pass their infection on to another cat through day-to-day space sharing and interactions, but I’ve never heard of it being done from anyone else who cares for these cats. FIV is hard to transmit. Infection is primarily confined to male, free-roaming cats who fight and is transmitted through deep bites. Casual “play” bites that you see from cats who are housemates do not lead to infection. FIV is not spread by sharing food dishes, grooming, or other close interactions.

Although the two are often confused, FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) is a very different disease from FeLV (feline leukemia virus) which is easily transmitted through casual contact. These two diseases are retroviruses. Both affect the immune system, but the feline immunodeficiency virus does not easily cross the mucous membranes. This means that a cat can’t catch FIV through things like sharing a water dish or grooming another kitty.

FIV kitties can, but don’t always, require extra care. Basically, a FIV+ cat has a compromised immune system. That can mean that they catch things like colds more easily, but it doesn’t always. I’ve known FIV+ kitties who have lived very long lives (18+ years) without any complications. FIV+ cats need to avoid stress and have a healthy diet and exercise (as do all kitties). They can be prone to respiratory and gastrointestinal issues, as well as dental health issues so they need regular teeth cleanings. But their overall health risk is no greater than that of certain breeds of cats with genetic predispositions to certain illnesses. Best Friends Animal Society, who has a great deal of experience with special needs cats of all kinds, has recommended mixed households with FIV+ and negative kitties for many years.

Hopefully, these new and highly-publicized findings will make the world brighter for kitties with FIV and give them the same chance of adoption as other cats. So if you fall in love with an FIV+ kitty at a shelter or a cat that you are caring for tests positive, please don’t hesitate to give them a home with your other cats. And please spread the word that FIV+ kitties deserve a chance to live to your friends, family, and other cat-care providers!

 


So Your Cat Has A Heart Murmur

cat wellnessThere’s probably nothing more frightening for a pet owner than hearing that little “humpf” from their veterinarian while they’re listening to their kitty’s heart. But just because your cat has a heart murmur doesn’t mean that something is seriously wrong with your cat. Heart murmurs are common in cats of all ages and something that vets encounter on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

 
Simply put, a heart murmur is just an out of the normal sound heard through a stethoscope. They’re the result of turbulent blood flow which can be caused by a lot of reasons including fear and stress. So that instead of producing the normal “lub-dub” sound that your kitty’s (and your own) heart normally makes, a heart murmur will have a whooshing sound that some vets refer to as being “sloushy.”

Heart murmurs in cats are graded on a scale one to six. A grade one murmur can barely be heard even with a stethoscope and can be very hard to detect. The grade six murmur is the easiest to detect and can sometimes be so loud that it obscures normal heart sounds. With severe heart murmurs, you can feel the murmur through your kitty’s chest.

Heart murmurs are very common in cats. Many are undiagnosed and maybe as many as one third of cats may have this condition. Although a murmur may signify a problem with the heart or its blood vessels, around half the cats diagnosed with a heart murmur don’t have any underlying heart disease, and many of those who do may not develop symptoms.

The turbulent blood flow that causes a murmur is usually caused by a structural defect in the heart.  In younger cats, it could be a congenital condition, a defect with which they were born.  In older cats, it is usually a defect that they acquired over time.

Unfortunately, sometimes kitties with heart disease show no signs of illness. That’s why it’s important to investigate a heart murmur or any signs of illness in your cat.  The problem with murmurs, especially low scale ones, is that they can come and go. You vet may hear one during an exam, but not on a recheck or even a few minutes later. Murmurs are easiest to notice when a cat is stressed and their heart rate is elevated, but may be gone a few minutes later when a cat has calmed down. Some kittens may have a heart murmur when they’re first seen for testing which may disappear over time. But with older cats, it can be harder to determine just what a murmur may mean.

On its own, a heart murmur is not a reliable indicator of heart disease and can be found in sometimes even in healthy cats. If the murmur does not appear to be due to a functional problem, your kitty may not need any treatment. But depending on your cat’s age, the grade of the murmur or other symptoms, your vet may want to do some extra testing.

If your kitty has other signs of illness like as weight loss, poor appetite, vomiting, or increased thirst, your vet will likely recommend a blood profile and/or a series of x-rays and echocardiogram to help determine if your cat has a non-heart-related problem that may be causing the murmur. A predisposition for heart conditions are hereditary in some breeds like Maine Coons, British Shorthairs, Ragdolls, Rex and Persian cats, but the disease can also affect other breeds including mixed breed kitties.

If you see any of these signs of illness in your kitty or if your vet detects a heart murmur, it’s always best to check it out with additional testing. Signs of heart disease in cats include:

  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain and inability to walk on the hind legs caused by thromboembolisms, a type of blood clots. One of the first noticeable signs of thromboembolisms in some cats is weakness or inability to walk on the hind legs.
  • Depression, fainting, or weakness
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss or gain/swollen abdomen
  • Restlessness

Most heart murmurs are identified during routine checkups and many healthy cats with a heart murmur never develop any problems with the heart’s function. Even kitties with a mild heart condition may never develop symptoms. Cats with mild cardiomyopathy may not need any initial treatment although in time they may need beta-blocker medications and other vitamins and supplements.

Remember a heart murmur doesn’t necessarily mean that your furry friend is doomed. And even if they are determined to have an underlying heart condition, there are still plenty of things your vet can do to help your kitty live as healthy and long a life as possible. So if you do hear this diagnosis, don’t stress. Get the facts, investigate, and help your vet make sure that your kitty has the best care possible.


Help Your Pet Beat The Summer Heat

Summer is a great time to bond with your pet. Long summer drives, time spent in the park, hiking, gardening, and even taking a few pet-friendly road trips. But the summer months can also be dangerous for pets (and people). Here are a few tips to help your pet beat the heat this summer.

Keep An Eye On the Thermometer And Watch The Heat Indexresting2

Extreme humidity can be as dangerous heat to pets. Since animals pant to cool themselves (instead of sweating,) high humidity can prevent them from cooling down. If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, get them into a cool area immediately, apply cold towels or ice packs to their head, neck and chest, give them small amounts of cool water to drink, and take them to a veterinarian. Pets with short muzzles are particularly prone to heat stroke.

Practice Summer Style

Pets are just as susceptible to sunburn as you are – especially light breed dogs. Fur is one of the ways that pets protect themselves from winter’s cold and the dangers of extreme sunlight. So if you do shave your pet in the summer, please be sure to leave enough fur to protect them from the summer sun. There are some pet-safe sunscreens on the market if you and your dog plan to hit the beach this summer. My favorite is Petkin’s Doggy Sunstick, but there are many other good all-natural products available.

Spent Some Time In The Shade

If you plan to spend the day outdoors, be sure to take time in the shade. Whether you’re running, playing, or just hanging out at the beach, your dog (and you) could benefit from some time out of the sun, as well as some fresh, cold water. Be sure to pack plenty of water (and ice) for you and your furry friend along with your sunblock. If you’re packing a picnic or lunch to go, consider a frozen treat for your pet like Frosty Paws or DIY peanut butter popsicles for dogs.

Be aware that many products that are safe for dogs and even for horses are not safe for other pets, like cats. So be sure to read carefully. This goes for sunscreens as well as products like flea and tick repellent.

Don’t Let Summer Storms Get You Down

Be ready for summer weather. Summer storms can put a real damper on summer fun – especially if your A/C goes down during a heat index warning or if you live in areas prone to flooding. Have a pet emergency plan in place just in case.

Pets And Parked Cars Don’t Mix

Never leave your pet in a parked car under any circumstances – even with the air conditioning running for a few minutes. On an 85-degree day the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees.

If you see a pet trapped in a locked car, get help immediately. Call your local police department’s non-emergency number and/or animal control, and wait by the car until they arrive. If you have bottled water, you may be able to help the pet if the window is cracked and they are in distress. Some states do now allow police, animal control officers, and good Samaritans to break car windows to save pets.

Remember that even though the summer can be a fun time, it can also be very stressful for pets. Your pet may have a tendency to “overdo” summer fun so it’s up to you to make sure they stay safe. Have a great summer and please be sure to check out the resources below for more information.

Resources:

Humane Society of the US: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pets_safe_heat_wave.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

ASPCA: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/hot-weather-tips

Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/pet-safety/protecting-pets-from-heat


Caring For Stray & Community Cats In Summer

feral save summerIt’s hard to be a feral or community cat. Spring and fall seem to last no time at all compared to cold, wet winters and scorching summers. For caregivers, summer brings a relief from worrying about ice, snow, and below zero temperatures, but has its own set of challenges including summer storms, heat advisories, and parasites. Simple kindnesses like providing shade and cool water and making sure that shelters are tick and flea-free can not only make feral kitties happier, they can save lives.

If you’d like to give your ‘community critters’ a helping hand this summer, here are a few things you can do to help:

Provide Shelter

There’s no better way to beat the heat than a little shade. Offering feral and community cats a way to shelter from the sun is a great way to make their lives easier. Many pet and online stores offer shelters that are both insulated from the cold and reflective of sunlight and heat. But if you’re making your own warm weather shelters, you’ll want to find material that is reflective of sunlight (light colors work best) and weatherproof.

Although you can find ready-made dog and cat houses at your local pet store, it’s easy enough to make them yourself and much cheaper. You might even want to make a day of it with friends or your children. Lots of websites offer great tips on crafting ‘cat houses’ for feral kitties or strays who might need a little TLC this summer. For a few examples check out the Humane Society’s website, as well as Neighborhood Cat’s website and Alley Cat Allies. Although some of these designs are specifically for winter shelters, they can be used in summer as well.

If you do decide to use bedding or straw, you will want to change it every other week to keep the shelter clean and free of parasites. The most important thing is that the bedding be kept dry. So be sure to place your ‘cat house’ in an area sheltered from the wind and rain. Shaded areas will also help keep the heat to a minimum.

cat tryFresh Water & Kibble

Be sure to place fresh water and kibble near (by not right beside) the shelters. Leaving food right beside the shelters will attract predators and make the shelters less attractive (and safe) for their occupants.

Place water bowls in the shade and make sure you choose light colors to reflect heat. You may even want to place a large block of ice in the center of the water dish so it can melt throughout the day and provide your community kitties with a cool treat. I’ve seen a few kitties who enjoy playing with ice chips in water, as well as licking ice.

As for food, dry kibble is the easiest to provide (cost-wise and because it doesn’t attract insects like ‘wet’ food). But if you can afford some canned cat food, it is always a welcome addition to a feral or stray cats’ diet. If you feed your feral community at a set time each day, the cats will quickly adjust to your schedule and show up while the food is still fresh from the can.

As a warning, the strong smell of ‘wet’ food does tend to attract hornets and other stinging insects, as well as flies. So be sure to clean up any food left after your feral kitties have had their fill.

You can find many more tips on feeding and caring for feral and community cats on Alley Cat Allies website: http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=295. They also have a great network for people who care for stray and feral animals in case you’re looking for help or just a sympathetic ear.

feral help3Summer Precautions

There are also some very simple things you can do to protect outside cats, dogs, and other critters year-round like knocking on the hood of your car to warn animals who may’ve taken refuge there that you’re about to start the engine. You may also want to honk your horn once so they can take flight before you do. This is good advice summer and winter. Your car is an attractive patch of shade to critters who are trying to beat the heat.

If you chose to use fertilizers, mulch, or other garden care supplies, look for products that are pet-friendly, as well as plants that both you and your furry friends can enjoy. Many fertilizers, insecticides, and even mulches are toxic to animals and harmful to people. You can find animal-friendly products at most larger garden stores or you might want to consider organic, do-it-yourself options, as well as plants that are pet (and child!) safe.

Summer pests like fleas, ticks, and mosquitos are another hazard to consider. You might not have the resources to apply tick/flea repellent to an entire colony of feral cats, but if you can afford Frontline or another similar product and heartworm products that protect against heart worms like Heartgard, they are the best option. In addition to repellents, you can help keep feeding and rest areas free of parasites by encouraging parasite-predators like birds and ‘possums. Consider setting up a bird and/or a bat feeder. Both will help cut down on ticks and mosquitos, as will changing water frequently. Stagnant water attracts lots of unsavory biting creatures including mosquitoes. If you live in an area with ‘possums, they’re going to show up for the kibble you leave out and will probably munch a few ticks while they’re visiting.

Consider a Donation

cat fosterSummer is kitten season. So it’s not only a hard time of year for outdoor animals, but also for those who care for them. You might want to consider donating your time or extra cash to a local organization that cares of stray and community animals or volunteer to become a kitten foster. At this time of year, volunteers are always needed to help socialize and feed kittens and pregnant cats, clean and clear out bedding, and provide food and water to the feral communities that sometimes double in size as kittens are born into the colony. Even donations of old (but clean) bedding, cleaning supplies, and wet and dry food are welcome.

Summer can be a beautiful time of year. Let’s make sure that it’s a safe and happy one for feral communities too.

P.S. If you’re a little confused about the difference between a feral and a stray cat, here’s a quick primer. But, in general, a stray cat is an animal who has had a home at some point and who is socialized. A feral cat is a wild creature who may or may not seek human attention.

Feral cats often live in colonies with other cats. These colonies, if given a little help, can be safe and stable places for the cats to live out their lives. TNR (trap-neuter-release) helps control the colony population and cut down on disease. Some feral cats may choose to become socialized and may find homes. Others prefer to live their lives ‘wild’ accepting help only when they need it.

Best Friends Animal Society maintains a very happy and successful feral colony in addition to providing support for other animal care networks and adoptions. To learn more about how you can help stray and feral animals near you, you can visit their website.


Ten Ways You Can Make the World Brighter For Animals

sleepysweetiesWhen it comes to making the world a better place for animals (and humans) the task can seem overwhelming. Everywhere you look, there’s a sad story. Although it might not seem like it, many of those stories are a chance for a happy ending.

Thanks for Facebook and Twitter (and Instagram and Tumblr and so many other sites,) stories that once would’ve only reached a few people locally are now being read by animal-lovers around the world. And because of it, lost dogs and cats (and even teddy bears) are finding their way home, programs like Pup My Ride are able to organize volunteers nationwide to transport  homeless pets to their forever homes, and people around the world are able to reach out to support the animals and people affected by global disasters.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” Whether that kindness is volunteering locally in a very hands-on way, donating to a charity that can help animals nationally or even globally, or simply spreading the word in your community about animals in need, your act of kindness is literally only a click, call, or perhaps a short drive away. The most important thing is that we all get out there and do something. Every act of kindness counts, no matter the size, and, together, the amount of good we can do for animals (and for each other) is limitless.

If you’d like a few ideas on how you can make the world a little brighter for animals, here’s a short list:

  1. Volunteer at a local rescue or sanctuary: Your community shelters and sanctuaries need you! Sign up to walk the dogs, pet the cats, or get really hands-on and clean animal living areas monthly, weekly, or daily. Most non-profits rely on volunteers so that they can use the money that would be spent on employee labor to help the animals. If you’d like to help out but you don’t feel like you work well with animals, you can always offer to work in the front office or at animal fairs. There are probably more opportunities than you realize. Just give your favorite shelter a call or shoot them an email or message on Facebook to see how you can help.
  1. Volunteer your talents: Even if you can’t volunteer your time or money to a local shelter, you can still support them by offering to donate your skills. Photography, marketing, writing, accounting, and even office skills like filing are needed. Groups like VolunteerMatch connect charities with the volunteers who need them. Volunteer a few hours a week, a month, or a day. You can also find volunteer wish lists posted on some larger organization’s websites that allow you to volunteer from home or from your neighborhood.
  1. Donate: Don’t knock monetary donations. Sometimes your time is at a premium. Donating a few dollars when you are able can make a big difference. You may even want to set up a monthly donation, and be sure to check with your employer to see if they match charitable contributions. You may be able to double the amount of your donation. 

trioMany animal groups also have wish lists that range from pet food and toys to cleaning supplies to gently-used towels and carriers. These items are huge help to animal aid organizations.

  1. Spread the word: It might seem like a small thing, but a like or a share can save an animal’s life. Consider devoting a few posts or tweets each week to messages of hope. Share that pic of a cute pup looking for a home on Facebook. Retweet your favorite animal charities’ fundraising messages. And ask your friends to do the same!
  1. Volun-cation: Consider using your vacation time as a way to help animals. Many larger sanctuaries like Best Friends Animal Society welcome visitors who are willing to volunteer. You can stay on site and offer to help out for a few days, a week, or more. Or you can stay closer to home and simply volunteer a day or a week during your time off to your local shelter. Kitten season and winter are always a busy time at shelters and sanctuaries.
  1. Start your own shelter/sanctuary: Look for opportunities to help the feral and community critters near you. Stray animals are everywhere once you take the time to look – including unsupported feral cat colonies. Providing food and water and shelter (especially in winter,) can be the difference between life and death for some animals. And access to neutering and health care can change a struggling colony into a safe space for animals. You may even be able to find homes for some feral kitties as barn cats – or as pets. Your local pet community center will be able to provide you with more information on how you can help – and let you know about local laws. And there are national organizations that also offer help like Alley Cat Allies.
  1. Make caring a community project: If you do find a feral colony in need, consider enlisting likeminded co-workers or neighbors to help. Taking care of a colony is very hard work and it helps to have support – even if that’s just others donating food, transportation for animals that need neutering or health care, or repairing shelters seasonally. You can bond over your love of animals and your commitment to caring for others. Community projects that embrace kindness are a great way for children to learn to respect animals and work with others.
  1. Wild critters need love too: Most people think first of domestic animals like dogs and cats when they think about helping animals. But your local “critters,” including birds and bees, could use a helping hand too. There are simple ways you can support local wildlife like planting for bees and birds (and raccoons and ‘possums,) offering water with a bird bath or water basin, and choosing native plants that support local creatures.

happy_mouse_flowers1You can turn your yard and garden into a sanctuary by providing nesting places for birds, partially burying terracotta pots for toads who need a little shade, and planting berry and seed-bearing plants. You’ll be helping yourself, as well as the critters. Birds and ‘possums decrease dangerous pest populations like ticks.  Creating a thriving eco-system in your yard and garden, is helpful to everyone involved, as well as being a beautiful addition to your community.

  1. Shop kind: Even if you aren’t ready to become a vegan or even a vegetarian, consider skipping meat for a single meal or for one day a week. By doing so you’ll be reducing the number of animals who suffer as part of the meat and dairy industry. You can also support local farms that you know allow their animals a free-range lifestyle and companies who promote ethical treatment of animals and their employees. Steer away from companies who aren’t upfront about how they treat animals or people. Companies with a commitment to ethics usually include it on their website and are more than willing to tell consumers about their practices.
  1. Know that even small acts of kindness do change the world. It may seem, sometimes, that small acts of kindness don’t make much of a dent, but they really, really do. Every act of kindness counts – no matter the size. As Margaret Mead wrote many years ago, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Have An Emergency Plan For Your Pet

pet emergencySpring is a stormy season. Here in Tennessee, flash floods, thunderstorms, and tornados are all too common. So having an emergency plan for your family, including your pets, is important. Just like Daylight Saving Time is a good reminder to change the batteries in your fire alarms, the start of spring is a great time to update your emergency plans.

Creating (Or Updating) Your Emergency Travel Kit

Having an emergency travel kit is important for everyone – whether you’re on your own with a single cat or dog or a family of four with pets in tow. The kit should be kept up-to-date and in a place that you can easily access it – whether that’s in a hall closet or in your go-to vehicle. What it contains is really up to you since everyone’s needs are a little different, but here are a few ideas:

  • A sturdy carrier that can double as a bed – one for each pet
  • Blanket and/or Evacsak
  • A week’s worth of canned or dry food (Be sure to check the expiration dates yearly for canned food and monthly for dry food.)
  • Bottled water for you and your pet (Replace every month.)
  • Food and water dishes (Some carriers and crates have built-in spaces for these.)
  • Your pet’s vaccination records and contact information for your veterinarian in a waterproof container
  • A pet first-aid kit (You can buy these at any pet store or make your own.)
  • A pet first-aid book (Even if you are a vet tech or have experience with pet emergency care, they’re always good to have in a pinch.)
  • Collar with contact information and leash
  • Toys
  • Disposable litter trays (like Nature’s Miracle and Kitty’s Wonderbox)
  • Baby wipes and pet-friendly cleaner
  • Flashlights – at least two – and batteries
  • Emergency radio
  • Mobile Hotspot
  • Extra cash
  • First Aid kit (Some of the items in your pet’s kit can do double duty like gauze, hydro-peroxide, and rubbing alcohol.)
  • Multi-tool or small tool kit
  • Duct-tape (in a fluorescent color if possible)
  • Waterproof boots, raincoat, and/or poncho
  • Tarp (just in case) with rope
  • Medical and insurance information
  • Spare glasses, contacts (if you wear them)
  • Medications (if you need them)

 

Have a Plan

Think about where you and your pets would go in case of emergency. Many shelters do not accept pets. So be sure to do a little pre-emergency research. Make a list of hotels that allow pets in your area and that are likely to remain open in an emergency situation. If you have multiple pets, this is especially important since some establishments only allow a single pet or pets up to a certain weight limit.

Some animal shelters also provide emergency shelter for pets, but they tend to fill up very quickly. Likewise, kennels that may shelter pets may not have emergency staff on hand – so plan on keeping your pets with you. If you are evacuating to a friend or neighbors’ home, be sure to let them know that you’ll have your pets in tow.

MicrochipYour Pets

If you haven’t already, please microchip your pets. Collars with ID and up-to-date contact information are important, but it’s easy for a pet and its collar to become separated in an emergency situation. GPS collars for pets are great – but only as long as they are on your pet.

Most microchip companies include a pet profile that will allow you to list your pet’s medical conditions, and, since all microchips now use the same frequency, any veterinarian will be able to identify your pet’s chip and contact you. If you do microchip, have the chip tested yearly during your pet’s annual check-up to make sure it is working correctly.

Have a Safe Haven In Your Home

Even if you aren’t evacuating, you may need to take shelter in your home during extreme storms. Be sure to move your pets into the “safety zone” well ahead of time – preferably during a storm watch instead of a storm warning. You’ll need to move your emergency kit, including food and water into that area, just in case you need it. Make sure you have at least seven days’ worth of water stored for you and your pets.

Basements, utility rooms, and bathrooms are good choices as safe havens. You want to choose a window-less room, below ground if possible in case of a tornado or other storm. In the case of flooding, choose the highest point in your home.

Since fresh water may be an issue, consider filling sinks and bathtubs with water before you move into your safety zone.

If your pets are frightened, you may want to keep them in their carriers/crates for the duration of the storm.

Stay Calm

During an emergency, your pet will be taking his or her cues from you. Having a plan and sticking to it will help you master the situation or at least roll with the punches. Hopefully, you’ll never need your emergency plan. But having one will give you and your pet peace of mind as we roll into the stormy season. Stay safe and have a great spring!