NOW is the Time!

February 16th, 2009 by crazycatlady

One of the main objectives of the rescue I work with, Save Our Strays, is our trap-neuter-release program for stray and feral cats. If you aren’t familiar with trap-neuter-return (TNR) - we use humane traps to catch stray and feral cats, take them to a vet to be spayed/neutered, then release them back where they were trapped. This is the ONLY humane and effective way to reduce the overpopulation of stray and feral cats - killing them is inhumane (obviously!) and finding homes for all of them isn’t an option, as many of them are truly like wild animals and are terrified of humans. While feral cats can at times be socialized and become great housepets, this is a very lengthy process that no one has the resources to undertake with so many feral cats out there.

It may not seem like simply sterilizing them is doing much for the well-being of the cats, but it actually improves their quality of life in a number of different ways. Just as with pet cats, sterilization has health benefits - such as removing the risk of cancer in the reproductive organs and greatly reducing the risk of mammary cancer in females. Spaying a female cat also removes her risk of pyometra, a usually fatal uterine infection. Beyond that, sterilizing a cat usually reduces their urge to roam, thereby reducing their risk of being hit by a car, attacked by other animals or hurt by cruel humans. Sterilized cats are less likely to contract deadly diseases like feline leukemia and FIV, since they aren’t mating and usually fight a lot less (also resulting in fewer injuries from fighting!) By sterilizing these cats, we are also removing them from the endless cycle of breeding, which is especially beneficial to the females whose bodies get drained by carrying and nursing litter after litter. By preventing the birth of more kittens, we’re saving those kittens from the hard life of an unwanted cat.

If you have stray/feral cats in your neighborhood, the winter is the best time to undertake a TNR effort. Female cats are less likely to be pregnant or nursing kittens during the winter, so you have less concern about taking a mother from her babies who need her or dealing with the ethical issue of terminating a litter of kittens. If you live in the Cincinnati area, contact Save Our Strays by visiting our website at www.soscinci.org. If you live elsewhere, there is almost certainly a rescue group in your area who can help you - the best way to find one is often to ask your local vet.

If every neighborhood, or to break it down further, each street in a neighborhood, could work together to sterilize the stray cats that hang around their area, we could make a HUGE impact on the overpopulation problem. Let’s work together and get it done!

This Crazy Cat Lady

Don’t Leave Your Feline Friends Out in the Cold!

February 1st, 2009 by crazycatlady

As I write this, the temperature outside is in the single digits and there’s a bunch of snow and ice covering everything. My cats and I are warm and toasty in our house, but I can’t help but think of the cats who live outside this time of year. They may have fur coats, but when it gets this cold, that isn’t much protection.

Some people seem to think that outdoor cats are able to be completely self-sufficient. While cats are amazing little survivors, this isn’t completely true. We removed them from their natural habitat (the desert!) thousands of years ago and domesticated them. Now, they count on us primarily for their survival - even feral cats who don’t seek out human contact eat our garbage and find warmth and shelter in and around our buildings. They need us. Our ancestors made it this way, so I think that it’s only decent if we TRY to fulfill at least their most basic needs.

When the temperature outside drops below freezing, a cat without shelter of some kind to provide a windbreak and hold in some of their body heat CAN freeze to DEATH. This isn’t a pleasant way to die. It isn’t quick, and it is painful. If you consider yourself the caretaker of any cat who lives outside, even if it’s a stray or feral cat, please provide them some sort of shelter. It can be very inexpensive and simple, as I’ll explain.

The most inexpensive and effective cat shelter I’ve found is made using a plastic storage bin like ones made by Rubbermaid. It should be big enough for one cat to fit comfortably inside and should have a tight-fitting lid. Cut a hole big enough for the cat to fit through (but not any bigger than necessary) in one side. From here, you can simply fill it with straw for insulation, or you can go a step further and line the inside with styrofoam as additional insulation. Place it outside near where the cat comes to eat, under an overhang of some kind if possible to provide additional protection from the rain and snow. Viola! You have a cat shelter that in most climates should be able to get a cat through the winter.

If you want to get fancier and have the money to spare, insulated dog houses work well also. Some of them are even heated!

Also important this time of year - add some extra food to the food dish! It takes more calories to keep a body warm in cold temperatures, and some extra body fat helps too.

Remember - spay and neuter! If we didn’t have this overpopulation problem, there wouldn’t be so many cats out in the cold!

Stay warm!

This Crazy Cat Lady

Come on people now, let’s everybody get together right now

January 11th, 2009 by crazycatlady

One of the things I find absolutely frustrating about animal rescue is when personal EGO gets in the way of the work at hand. As a rule, most rescuers are working toward the same goal - lessening the suffering of animals. We may feel there are different ways of going about it, but we all want the same thing as an end result.

This is why I find it just ridiculous when rescuers allow personal differences, opinions, whatever, to get in the way of working together. To state that YOUR way is the only RIGHT way is simply egotistical and short-sighted. If you don’t even listen to others’ thoughts, you’ll never learn a better way. And there could be a better way, which could lead to helping more animals - and wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing? Shouldn’t that be the most important thing of all? More important even than your own sense of being the end all and be all of the rescue world? Success in rescue is defined, after all, by helping the most animals you possibly can.

Methods of TNR (trap-neuter-return) seem to be a point of major contention in the cat rescue world. It’s hard work, exhausting physically and emotionally, so those who do it regularly tend to be very dedicated to the cause and very passionate about it. Dedication and passion are crucial to our work, but if allowed to run amok, well, things can get ugly really quickly. Just for example, one person believes trying to socialize feral cats is cruel, while another has had success at it in the past and wishes to try to get as many of these cats off the street and into homes as possible. Their methods are at odds, but isn’t their goal really, at its root, the same? They both want to help cats, in their different ways, to have better lives. If they listen to each other, and treat each other with respect, the end result will be more cats being helped. Period.

Just because we rescue cats doesn’t mean we have to be catty with each other. Cat fights aren’t pretty, and if you spend any length of time around groups of cats, you’ll know that they only ever really fight over things that matter to their survival. They don’t get into the petty stuff. We should take our cue from them. There are enough cruel and ignorant people in this world who we have to work against - the people who abuse and neglect, the people who breed indiscriminately, the people who abandon or collect - we definitely don’t need to be fighting amongst ourselves and wasting energy that way.

Group hug now,

This Crazy Cat Lady

Farewell, Little Leema, & Rest In Peace

January 10th, 2009 by crazycatlady

Yesterday, when I got home from work, I went upstairs to check on the foster kitties in the Senior & Special Needs room. Sadly, I discovered that Leema had passed on sometime while I was gone. My first reaction was, of course, sadness. Leema had grown on my heart even though I’d only had her with me for a couple of months. She was a tiny, cute little thing with a HUGE personality. She greeted me every time I saw her with her “creaky” meow - it sounded like it needed a good oiling! I would pick her up and cuddle her, and she would purr her wonderful loud purr. She was a loving, funny presence - the true grumpy granny who was soft as mush on the inside. Sometimes I called her Slappy the Squirrel - those of you who watched Animaniacs will know who I mean. That was Leema.

I cried and said goodbye to her. I’ve been going through the usual routine of beating myself up, wondering if I missed some sign that she was sick. The truth is though, I really don’t think there were any signs. She was eating with gusto, very alert and seemed quite content with her life. She wasn’t sick in any visible way. This leads me to believe that what took her was something sudden, like a heart attack perhaps. And I’ve decided to be glad that she didn’t have a drawn-out illness or suffering - that it appears she just went to sleep and didn’t wake up.  Not a bad way to go, all in all. And she was somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-17 years old, which is a good long lifespan for a cat.  I believe it was just her time, and now she’s gone on to better things.

This post is in honor of Leema. Farewell, little granny cat. Purrs and headbutts and scritches behind the ears to you. You may never have been adopted, but you DID have a home here with me, and always will in my heart.

This Crazy Cat Lady

SOS News! Fun Fundraisers!

January 3rd, 2009 by crazycatlady

On a “business” note, I just wanted to let everyone know about some really cool new items SOS is selling to raise money for the animals.

Thanks to Linda Turner, one of our awesome new volunteers, we have catnip bags for sale! At just $1 each, they’re a steal! One bag provides hours of fun for your cat!

We’ve also got a TON of new designs in car magnets. The top-seller so far is one that shows a cool cat in sunglasses and says “Cattitude” - something all cat lovers know and love! $5 each, very durable.

And, we also have Entertainment Coupon Books! There really are a LOT of great valuable coupons in these books - especially for dining out and fast food, but lots more too.  At $20 each, they pay for themselves very quickly. At our office, we all pitched in money to buy a “shared” book to keep at the office - so we paid about $2 each and there are plenty of coupons to go around.

If you’re interested in any of these items, contact Jen at silkypaws “at” donet.com.

A New Year’s Resolution

January 3rd, 2009 by crazycatlady

Everybody makes New Year’s Resolutions. It’s a natural time, at the end of one year and the start of another, to look back and forward at the same time. You look to the past, at mistakes or hurts or bad decisions that have held you back, and then look forward to the future, to what you need to do to change those things and grow. The very cycle of nature reflects the same thing if you think about it.

My New Year’s Resolution this year, one of them anyway, is to make use of this blog and other means at my disposal to educate, educate, educate. Ignorance is what primarily led us to the overpopulation crisis we find ourselves in now. Most people aren’t cruel, not intentionally anyway. I believe in my soul that most people are basically kind, or try to be. And the statistics don’t lie - most people have pets, and most people love their pets an awful lot. What’s missing is information. A lot of people still don’t really know WHY they should spay and neuter. A lot of people don’t know about the benefits of Trap-Neuter-Release programs when dealing with a population of feral and stray cats. A lot of people don’t know the evils of puppy and kitten “mills” or of their connection with pet stores. I’d venture to say even that MOST people just simply aren’t aware of the scope of the problem, the vast number of animals who die all the time because of overpopulation. I feel one of the jobs of Rescue is education. If people understand and know how they can help, I’m betting most of them will want to help.

So, while still hoping to make this a fun place, I also want it to be a place of teaching and sharing ideas as well. If I post something, feel free to comment and contribute your own wisdom to the circle. If you’re involved in Rescue, I KNOW you have stories to share!

Here’s hoping we all have the will to stick to our resolutions and make positive changes in our lives and the world!

This Crazy Cat Lady

The Death of a Christmas Tree

December 16th, 2008 by crazycatlady

I’m a huge dork when it comes to holidays. I love to decorate - the cheesier the better! Having cats has seriously limited the type of decorations I can have - nothing breakable, nothing that might appear edible and then end up wrapped around kitty intestines, nothing that burns or electrocutes (remember the cat in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?) Since most decorations seem specifically designed to maim and kill cats, this is seriously limiting! Still, I persist. I just can’t help myself.

This year I bought what appeared to be a sturdy Christmas tree. Fake - they knock all the needles off a real one in about 2.5 seconds.  I attempted to “anchor” it to the wall with twine to prevent tippage. I bought ornaments that were supposedly “shatter-proof”. And I actually thought this would survive the Christmas season. I conveniently forget every time how insanely adept cats are at destruction when they choose to be. This year what I didn’t figure into the equation were two “teenage” kittens named Butters and Waldo who have joined my little herd of furry barbarians.  Critical mistake on my part.

Before the tree was even fully assembled, Butters had scaled it and sat looking at me with adoration from within the branches - what a spectacularly awesome toy I’d just given him! As quickly as I hung ornaments, he and Waldo knocked them off. I devised a way to secure them to the tree, somewhat, but they later learned how to chew through the string attaching them so they could play “ornament hockey” with them. They also chewed through the twine anchoring the tree, then climbed all the way to the tippy top. Helplessly I would watch the tree sway thiiiiis way, then thaaaat way while they clung obliviously batting at each other and chasing each other’s tails. They didn’t even have the good graces to act startled when the tree would fall, with a crash that sounded like the whole house was coming down around our ears. They didn’t even try to look innocent. Oh no, if cats could laugh, I’m convinced they would’ve been busting a gut!

Shatter-proof is a joke when you’re dealing with cats who are hell-bent on “the hunt”. As far as they were concerned, the ornament was “prey” and needed to die. And die they did, one by one, until my tree was nearly bare. They even most cruelly beheaded the angel who once sat so prettily atop the tree. It’s quite disturbing to find a beheaded angel on your floor, even if she’s made of porcelain.  Still, I thought to myself, a bare tree was better than no tree. Right?

Oh no. Once they’d finished off the ornaments, they moved onto demolition of the tree itself. Each day, another branch would bite the dust. Finally, the other day, I looked at my sad little tree and decided that it now made Charlie Brown’s look positively *lush*. I put her out of her misery, tucked away in her box til next year, when I’ll surely forget this year’s ordeal and try again. She’ll be held together with duct tape and prayers after the beating she took this year though!

You might be wondering why the cat lady couldn’t train her cats to leave the tree alone. Good question. The problem was, I couldn’t keep a straight face long enough to scold them. They were having so much fun - and after all, isn’t that really what decorations are all about?

Here’s hoping your tree fares better than mine,

This Crazy Cat Lady

Some Days Are Harder Than Others

December 13th, 2008 by crazycatlady

I try very hard to maintain a positive outlook - about rescue and my life in general.  I don’t see much point in moping around feeling sorry for myself. Just makes me and anyone around me miserable. Some days though, staying positive is harder than others.

Last night, I got an urgent call from someone who needed to get rid of 4 kittens. They wanted them out by today or they would be going to a kill shelter. I missed the call because I didn’t hear my cell phone ring, but I called back within 20 minutes as soon as I listened to the message left. The number went straight to voicemail, so I left a message saying I could help, to call me back. When she hadn’t called back after about an hour, I tried to call again and again got just the voicemail. By the time I went to bed, I hadn’t heard back from anyone.

This afternoon, I finally get a call back - telling me that since she couldn’t reach me, she took the kittens to the kill shelter. She basically laid it all at my feet, like I hadn’t called her back at all. I don’t know if she didn’t bother to listen to her messages or what, but I DID try to help this woman (more importantly, I DID try to help those kittens!) Now, in spite of common sense, I feel guilty. I don’t know what else I could’ve done, but I hate that those poor kittens ended up in some kill shelter. Since they’re kittens, they might have a chance at getting adopted - it just depends how full the shelter already is. And if they’re given space, it means other cats have to die. It just sucks no matter how you look at it.

I know I can’t save them all. Truth be told, we shouldn’t have taken in the kittens anyway, being as full as we already are. Doesn’t make it feel any better though. I wish now that the woman had never called me in the first place.

Since I’m venting as it is, I might as well add that I REALLY can’t wait until the Senior & Special Needs Shelter (aka my upstairs) has the funds necessary to get the vinyl flooring! I’ve been steam cleaning the carpet up there regularly, but the special kitties have a lot of accidents. It’s just a pain in the butt and will be much nicer when all I have to do is mop!

Enough with the negativity.

See ya next time,

This Crazy Cat Lady

Cats & Babies & Kids, Oh My!

December 7th, 2008 by crazycatlady

In my last post, I mentioned that people often get rid of their cats because they’re having a baby. Having received yet another call from a couple who are looking to rehome their cat because they’re expecting a baby, I decided this issue desperately needs to be addressed.

First of all, let’s get the old wives tale out of the way. Cats do NOT “steal a baby’s breath”. This myth probably originated from a cat’s penchant for sleeping in warm, soft places - and what’s warmer and softer than snuggling up with baby in the crib? Obviously, although the cat means no harm, this could be dangerous for an infant who can easily be suffocated. The easiest solution to this problem is to close the door to the room where the baby sleeps so the cat can’t get in. Baby monitors make it so you don’t have to worry about not hearing your baby cry with the door closed. They also make nets that fit over the top of a crib, preventing the cat from getting into the crib.

The addition of a new baby to the house can be very stressful to a cat - they’re noisy, they smell funny, suddenly they’re taking a lot of the attention that the cat is used to receiving - so sometimes cats will develop negative behaviors as a result of this stress. They don’t hate the baby, and they aren’t doing anything out of spite - their minds don’t work that way. With some simple preparations, you can ease this transition period for your cat and avert a lot of problems.

First of all, prepare a place in your home where your cat can go to get away from the new baby and feel safe. This may be a spare bathroom, bedroom, the basement - wherever you can put a litter box, a bed, maybe a cardboard box to hide out in, and some of your cat’s favorite toys.

Next, start teaching your cat as soon as possible that baby’s things (crib, changing table, high chair, toys etc.) are “off limits”. If you let kitty play with/lay on these things before the new baby arrives, then expect them to understand they have to stop once the baby comes home, you’re going to have a confused cat. Start off by firmly telling kitty NO and distracting them with something they are allowed to use/play with. If they continue to go back to the off limits items, you can deter them with a squirt bottle filled with water, by shaking a can filled with pennies or pebbles to startle them, double-sided sticky tape (they don’t usually like walking on it), or by placing a citrus-scented candle or air freshener near the items (they don’t usually like the smell of citrus). If you start early enough, by the time your new baby comes home, your cat should know that baby’s things are off limits.

You can also do things to get your cat used to the presence of an infant in their home before your baby comes home, so there’s less stress for the cat when the real thing happens. They make cds that play the sound of a baby crying specifically for the purpose of getting an animal used to that strange new sound. You can also “borrow” a friend’s baby for short visits if feasible, so your cat can get used to the sounds and smells and presence of an infant. When your baby is born but still in the hospital, have a family member take home a blanket or some item of clothing the baby wore and leave it there for the cat to investigate, so they can start getting used to your baby’s smell in their home. Cats are especially curious about new smells, so you can trust they will investigate it thoroughly!

After the new baby comes home, don’t force your cat to meet the new little one until he’s ready to do so. Some cats are more timid and will want to hide out for a while after the baby arrives - this is why the “safe zone” you created earlier is important. Other cats are bolder and will want to check out the new arrival right away. Let your cat set the pace - if you force it, the cat is likely to associate the new baby with something unpleasant and frightening. When your cat does decide to come meet the new baby, try to stay calm and let him do his investigating without interference (within reason of course!) Pet him and reassure him. Don’t be upset with him or scold him if he hisses or growls - he’s scared, and scolding him will only frighten him more and reinforce his impression that the baby is a threat - just move the baby away calmly and reassure him some more. Be patient! Don’t expect your cat to get over his apprehension for the new baby overnight. This is a big change for a cat to adjust to - just keep reassuring and showing him that you still love him even as you love this new little creature in the home.

As the baby grows and begins to crawl and walk, and as curious little hands start going after kitty’s tail and ears and soft fur, begin teaching your little one how to respectfully handle animals. Babies have an amazing capacity to learn - so teach them to pet gently and not pull ears or tails. Teach them not to chase if kitty decides to run away. At the same time, reassure and praise your cat when he allows your child to pet him. You’re teaching them both how to interact with each other - be patient with your cat as you are patient with your child and you’ll see amazing results.

Older kids can be taught to play with kitty with his toys, which can be a lot of fun for both the child and the cat and can build a bond between them. They can also be allowed to be the one to feed kitty, so he starts to see them as one of his caretakers.

Just remember… Even though your child is the most important thing in your life (and rightfully so!), before that child came along you made a commitment to this trusting little cat to care for him for the duration of his life. He only knows you and your home. He needs you. It is your responsibility to do everything you can to make it work for him to stay in the home he knows. Also, I’m convinced it’s healthier for children to grow up in homes with pets. There’s a lot to be learned from caring for animals - compassion, patience and  responsibility just to name a few.

Holy Ringworm, Batman!

December 5th, 2008 by crazycatlady

Yes. I uttered the word possibly most-dreaded in a cat rescuer’s vocabulary. Ringworm. We hate it because it spreads. We hate it because it just sounds icky. We hate it because people can catch it too, and nobody wants to have ringworm. Blech.

I believe one of my foster cats at the animal hospital where I work has the hated RW. Which, by the way, isn’t a worm at all, but a fungus. Don’t know if that makes it better or worse, but I think it needs a new name.  FunRing? Maybe we would hate it less if it didn’t sound so gross, but I doubt it.

Poor Scout, a handsome brown tabby cat, just can’t seem to catch a break. He got adopted 2 years ago, but then a couple of weeks ago he found himself back with Save Our Strays when his family had a human baby. A lot of people seem to find having a baby an acceptable reason for getting rid of their pets. Just a sidenote - babies and animals can live quite happily in the same home with a modicum of supervision and some common sense. But I digress.  Scout has been staying at the animal hospital where I work for the past couple of weeks. The first week he spent in complete terror, hiding behind the litter box in his cage and trembling if anyone touched him. The second week he started to settle in and accept his new surroundings - and then today I discover suspicious scaly, crusty patches on his face. The verdict from the vet isn’t in yet, but I’ve seen ringworm a “few” times before, and I’m pretty good at spotting it now. If it is ringworm, Scout will have to endure baths and daily bouts of being smeared with medication that he’s surely not going to enjoy - especially in his current stressed out state.

Sigh. Perhaps worst of all is that this will set back his chances for adoption, since we can’t very well adopt out a cat with ringworm. He’ll have to get better first, which can take weeks. He’ll have to be isolated from other cats, alone in a cage. I just hate it for him.

Often, being a rescuer means dealing with a lot of sickness. These cats come to us from all kinds of situations, where they’ve been exposed to all kinds of things. Currently I’m treating my own cats for giardia, which they picked up from a foster cat of mine. Pills twice a day. I’m treating a couple of my senior cats for upper respiratory infections. Liquid meds and eye drops twice a day. I have two unpleasant holes in my thumb where one of them chomped down on me while vigorously opposing the medicating process, and my arms look like a roadmap of scratches.

Yet, I still love what I do. Yep. Love it. Don’t ever plan to give it up. The rewards are worth catching ringworm and having my doctor ask me if I have a cutting problem (yes, both have happened). It’s even worth cleaning litter boxes twice every single day. And that’s really saying something!

Anti-fungal wishes to all,

This crazy cat lady

Update! Scout *may* not have ringworm! The vet thinks it might be a skin infection, which isn’t exactly great either, but preferable to ringworm in that it’s not so contagious.  He’s still being isolated for now just in case while we see if the antibiotics clear up the lesions.

A bit of education… If a cat in your care is diagnosed with ringworm, the first step is isolating them from any other pets in your home. It’s also best to keep children away from them since it is contagious to humans. Your vet may prescribe a variety of different treatments, from baths to anti-fungal creams to oral medication. It’s important that you follow your vet’s instructions to the letter, since ringworm not treated properly can worsen and make your cat very uncomfortable. To prevent the spread of ringworm to yourself and others in your home, it’s best to keep a smock right inside the door of the isolation area that you can wear while handling the infected cat (disposable latex gloves are a good idea too). Ringworm is spread by spores which are shed by the infected cat, and these can cling to clothing or shoes or human skin. I also buy a cheap pair of slippers that I can wear in the isolation area, then just throw away after the ringworm is gone. As soon as you are finished handling the infected cat, be sure to wash any exposed skin thoroughly with soap and water. Also because of the shedding spores, it’s a good idea to vacuum the isolation area daily if carpeted (and throw away the bag/empty the canister outside your home). If not carpeted, cleaning the isolation area with a 1:10 bleach/water solution daily can kill the spores and prevent their spread. Of course be careful kitty is contained safely away until the bleach-water is totally dry!