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Whisker Wednesday: Pet ‘Net & Cat Intros

Tímon að hugsa um systur sína

Adoption love...a beautiful thing! (photo courtesy of Maria Magnus)

Yes, it’s time for the 4th Annual Pet ‘Net Event, yee-haw! And this year we’re re-visiting the first topic, and a fav of one and all–PET ADOPTIONS!

Pet ‘Net 2011 joins pet bloggers (including me!) all across the country to spread the furry word on November 16 about the many advantages of pet adoption. There are even ways you can donate and help promote all adoptions.

Since November is also National Adopted A Senior Pet Month, I’ve already blogged aboutpuppy-to-senior-dog-adoptions at my Puppies Site. That means today’s Woof Wednesday blog has been hijacked by the kitties. Mee-wow!

Kitten to Old Fogey Cat Intros

Cat lovers often decide to adopt a new pet without consulting the old-fogey feline. Maybe you’ve recently lost a beloved old cat and believe the surviving feline is lonely, or perhaps you worry that the singleton kitty is bored without companionship.

Maybe. Or maybe not.

Here’s the deal–would you want to have a funny-smelling stranger come into your home, sleep in your bed, eat from your place, poop in your toilet (without flushing!) and go cheek-to-cheek with your beloved? Proper intros work wonders to smooth the hissy fits.

Kittens Don’t Count

Well, they do, but not so much in terms of social standing. Your senior citizen kitty already “owns” your pillow, the top of the TV, the litter box and food bowl–and your heart. A kitten due to age won’t challenge the older cat’s authority nearly as much as an in-her-prime adult feline. So when thinking about adopting a new furry wonder, a baby cat won’t be as big of a threat or challenge to your resident feline’s status quo.

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Shelter kittens smell like...well, shelters.

Stranger Danger

Getting hissy with strange cats is a NORMAL cat behavior. In the wild, the feline that’s too friendly with a weird interloper risks getting eaten. Cats identify safe people (or other pets) by their familiar smell. A fresh-from-the-shelter a new pet that hasn’t been kitty-groomed by the group with licks and cheek rubs might as well be Frankenstein-Cat.

Tolerate THIS!

The sight, sound, and smell of a strange cat pushes kitty buttons to extreme. But blocking one sense (sight of each other for example) reduces arousal. That helps enormously during cat-to-cat intros, which is one reason my must-do list includes initially separating the cats. That also allows your older cat to maintain run of the house and ownership of all the prime kitty real estate.

Shut The Door

Confine the new kitten in a single “safe room” so the resident cat understands only part of his territory has been invaded. Young kittens that haven’t a clue anyway won’t care. But if they’re the least shy, being sequestered offers a safe, soothing retreat with a litter box, food and water bowls, toys, scratch post and other kitty paraphernalia. Being the “new kid” can be stressful for shrinking violet kittens so build the baby’s confidence with a room of his or her own before the whisker-to-whisker meeting.

Keep the solid door closed for at least a week before risking a face-to-face. Watch for your resident cat’s reaction. Hisses are normal. Trust me on this! It may take more than three weeks before those growly-sounds fade.

See, if you try to intro them too soon and the fur flies, the cats will remember that AWFUL-NASTY-TURRIBLE-DEVIL and bring a bad c’attitude to future meetings. It’s better to take it slow and avoid having the kitties practice bad behavior. They’ll have a lifetime together so what’s a delay of a few days or weeks?

Feed the cats on opposite sides of the door, to associate each other’s smell with good things. After each cat has had a meal, switch out the plates temporarily so that they can sniff the bowls and become even more familiar with each other. It’s even better when a bit of food is left, because that helps the cats identify good stuff—food—with the other animal.

Try some playtime on opposite sides of the door, too. Have another family member deal with the kitten while you (or whoever your aging kitty ADORES THE MOST) interacts with the resident feline. Catnip could be helpful–sure, get the old guy drunk. If he sniffs the kitten and gets a bit of a buzz, that could be a very positive association.

Sniffing and paw pats underneath the door are positive signs. The cats should “know” each other by scent before they ever set eyes on each other. Expect normal posturing, fluffed fur and hissing and when that begins to fade, you’re ready for the next step.

Trading Spaces

Swap out the cats after a few days. That gives the old cat a chance to get up close and personal sniffing where the devil new cat has been. And it allows the newly adopted baby to scope out the environment.Kitties have no interest in meeting new people or pets unless they feel comfortable with their environment.

Reduce any potential kitty controversy by creating a house of plenty. Your home should have so much good-kitty-stuff that there’s no need for the kitten and old cat to argue over it.

Place multiple litter boxes and feeding stations in different locations so that one cat can’t own and “guard” the facilities. Increase territory with cat trees, shelves to lounge, tunnels and boxes to hide, and toys galore. It doesn’t have to break the bank, either. Cheap thrills like empty paper bags or wads of paper serve as irresistible toys that often appeal more than the high dollar versions. Cardboard boxes, a cleared shelf on the bookcase, or a soft blanket under a lamp really get the purr-motor rumbling.

Nose-To-Nose At Last

Once the BIG DAY arrives, just open the “safe room” door, stand back, and let the cat’s meet. Supervise, of course, but don’t force interaction. You can feed them on opposite sides of the room or play interactive games at a distance to smooth this first meeting. The cats may ignore each other for hours or days and that’s fine, too.

A bit of posturing with hisses, cautionary swats and other snark-icity is to be expected. Do stop the interactions if growls start rumbling. You may want to replace the closed door with a baby gate so the cats can sniff and meet through the safety of a barrier but still be segregated. Until you’re sure the old cat won’t mangle the baby, or the baby won’t terrorize the oldster, supervise or keep the new kitten segregated when you can’t. It can be love at first sight, or may take weeks or months to accept somebody new into the family.

For all you new kitten adopters out there–conCATulations! You’ll find many more kitten-specific tips in my Complete Kitten Care book.

SPECIAL THANKS

This month as a special “thank you” to all my furry-fantastic-followers, I’ll give away a paw-tographed copy of Complete Care for Your Aging Cat and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog. To get in the running, simply post a comment in the blog about your special pet (old fogey or not) and I’ll draw two names at the end of the month. You can use these award-winning updated books as a resource for yourself or wrap up for a pet-friendly holiday gift to a fur-loving friend. And as an EXTRA-special incentive–and to encourage all of y’all to mentor each other and spread the blogging/twitter/Facebook love–the two winners get to name one purr-son who gives them wags of support and deserves a book, too!

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting. We’ve become a great community including those in the #MyWANA social network twibe hosted by the awesome @KristenLambTX.  So I’m stealing borrowing Kristen’s methods and creating my own hashtag. Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Monday Mentions: PUBSlush, Dolphin Tale & Birdbrain Video

Greta

Greta, a lovely girl--image copr. Ryan Chronister Photography/Flickr

Monday Mentions is the mash-up-day of all the neato-torpedo links and blogs and writer-icity crappiocca collected over the past week. Get a load of that GORGEOUS dog in the photo! Today we’re celebrating lots of doggy AND kitty content, plus some interesting writer tips and links. As a treat, there’s even a clever parrot video, enjoy!

Please don’t be shy about sending me your own links or suggestions for others to highlight. I love doing a SNOOPY-DANCE-’O-JOY! in celebration of all the savvy writers and animal advocates doing the work of the angels–and to a few angels as well.

WRITER SCHTUFF

Copyright Violation Protection information in this detailed article about what to do and how to do it. An additional tip that can help is to BLOG about your article as soon as it’s posted and include a link to that article. Apparently Google registers blogs quicker than articles so this can help the author get “first dibs” on the content you create.

PUBSlush PRESS is an interesting alternative pub opportunity but there are still questions–as the fine folks at Writer Beware point out.

FUN PET LINKS, BLOGS & INFO

JACQUIE LAWSON Animated E-cards are simply a treat to view and to send. They often feature animals (especially dogs and cats) and are appropriate for any age or occasion from funny, celebratory or poignant. You can subscribe for a nominal fee. Here’s one of the newest–featuring Fluff the kitten.

The Hero Dog Awards Celebrity Auction is live! The auction will run from September 19, 2011 to October 7, 2011, with proceeds supporting American Humane Association’s mission to create a more humane and compassionate world by ending abuse and neglect of children and animals.

Cat Therapy Helps Jail Birds from Petside.com Blogger Jo Singer.

NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED Review Blog from American Humane (check out Winter the dolphin’s story here!)

Shakespeare’s Cats, a whimsical blog-look at the Bard’s roles played by felines. If you liked that, you’ll also enjoy the pictures of Yoga Kittens as well as Yoga Puppies, aroooooooo!

Snakes Are Snacking and wreaking havok on dogs and cats–know the signs and get them help! Great info from Raya-the-Vet’s blog.

Adoption Pictures MATTER!  Improved pet photos increase adoptions–a Texas photographer shows you how, very kewl!

Partnership Launches Cat Health Initiative, with some movers-and-shakers in the world of vet medicine research.

Musings of Natasha Finkel, the Fashionista Felina–fun blog your cats will want to read.

CAT HERO–DIABETIC ALERT FELINE, you’ve heard about the dogs–well kitties care, too. Lovely touching story from blogger Angela Wallace.

Houses Designed for Cats! Warning…don’t let YOUR pets get a look.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Benefits of “Old Fogie” Pets

I’m delighted to be part of the PetNet Family Event sponsored by Petside.com linking many bloggers together celebrating pets as part of the family. This coincides with my “Golden Moments Senior Pet Blog Tour” featuring excerpts from my two “aging pet” books, since November also is Adopt A Senior Shelter Pet Month. Isn’t it GREAT how everything falls together?! Bottom line, pets are good for us, and we’re good for them. I hope you enjoy this combined excerpt from Complete Care for Your Aging Dog, and Complete Care for Your Aging Cat. Also check out my cats.About.com article on introducing cats to babies and toddlers. And I’ll be at Pet Hobbyist.com on Nov. 27 at 8 pm for a telephone chat.

BENEFITS OF SENIOR PETS

There’s nothing more endearing than a kitten or a puppy. But they also can be nonstop dynamos, frustrating to predict and a magnet for trouble. Although kittens and puppies can be wonderful fun, nothing matches the deep bond we have developed with our old cat buddies over a period of years.

Mature cats and dogs have many advantages over babies. Probably the biggest advantage is that together you have created a partnership, and already know each other and have adjusted to individual needs and foibles. All the hard work is done. She’s been trained to scratch the scratching post and use the litter box. You trust her not to swing from the drapes or empty the potted palm while you’re away. The dog’s been housetrained and tells you when she needs to “go”—and you know just how many hours you can be away from home before she’s in dire straits. She’s learned not to chew the TV remote control or your shoes, except for the old house slipper she’s carried around like a teddy bear since you brought her home 10 years ago. She’s learned to wake you promptly at 6:45 for work, and meets you at the door each evening. She no longer climbs the Christmas tree, unrolls the toilet paper, and only rearranges your sock drawer if you’re gone overnight and she’s lonely. She reminds you when it’s time for a pill and afternoon nap—for both of you. And she acts like the new grandbaby is her own kitten or puppy, and showers the infant with attention, gentle play, and protective care—dropping favorite toys in the crib, and even putting up with toddler tail tugs with a patient feline purr or doggy wag. Countless children have learned to walk while reaching for the furry shoulder or tempting tail of a cat or dog friend.

In fact, one of the best ways to introduce young children to the positive aspects of dogs cats is with a calm, patient adult animal. Parents already have their hands full dealing with infants and toddlers, and don’t need the added stress of an in-your-face kitten. Children can share birthdays with the aging pet and still be relatively young when she enters her golden years.

It’s not unusual for young people to say that one special cat or dog has always been a part of their life—and in times of family crises or emotional upset, the pet can ease the tension and help heal the pain simply by being there to pet and talk to. A broken heart, disagreements with siblings or parents, even physical or emotional trauma can all be helped by the mere presence of a cat or dog that the child loves.

An older pet can be a stabilizing influence on children, teach responsibility and empathy for other living creatures, and even act as a social bridge toward making friends with their peers. For example, a child shy of interacting with other children because of a perceived disability often comes out of her shell when accompanied by a furry friend–the dog or cat remains the focus of interaction rather than the child’s “different” look or behavior. Older cats and dogs often are ideal for such relationships, because they aren’t as active as younger pets, may be more patient and have learned what to expect. There’s a benefit to the old pet, too—playing and interacting with children keeps the pet’s brain and body active and youthful.

The advantages of loving an older cat are not limited to children. Studies have shown that contact with cats and dogs offers great physical and emotional health benefits to people, from children and adolescents, to adults and senior citizens.

Couples whose children have left for college and are recent empty nesters can receive great comfort by the presence of a furry companion. People of any age who lose a spouse from divorce or death—but particularly older owners—benefit greatly from a pet’s nonjudgmental love. For instance, petting lowers the blood pressure; and caring for a pet gives owners a purpose to concentrate on beyond the hurt and pain. Playing with and grooming the pet, shopping for litter and food, giving medicine to an old kitty or doggy friend, keeps people connected to the world and other people around them.

Old pets are often the companions of aging owners because that old pet has the same problems they’ve got, says William Tranquilli, DVM, a professor and pain specialist at the University of Illinois. “They don’t necessarily want a young pet, they want to do what they can to help their old buddy.” They’re willing to spend the money and often have more time to treat chronic disease to try to make the old animal more comfortable. And because the pets that we love are good for human health, just having a cat or dog around can reduce the trips owners take to their own doctors. Some physicians recommend that heart attack survivors keep a pet, because it increases their survival.

People of all ages, whose human family members live far away, become even more emotionally dependent on the cat. “I’ve met many elderly people whose cat has become the most important thing in their life. It’s a family member, and it may be the only remaining family member,” says Susan Little, DVM, a feline specialist in Ottawa, Canada. Of those pet owners who have a will, 27 percent have included provisions for their pets. Prolonging the pet’s life touches on a host of social and emotional issues. 

Pets who have spent a decade or more with us have learned what we like and expect—and we’ve learned to anticipate the senior cat’s needs, likes, and dislikes. Over the span of years, we build and then enjoy a comfortable companionship together. Our aging pets share with us our life experiences, successes and failures, joys and sorrows, and they represent milestones in our lives, says Signe Beebe, DVM, a veterinary acupuncturist and herbologist practicing in Sacramento. They may have celebrated with us when we graduated school, married, and had children or grandchildren—or comforted us when we divorced, retired, or lost a spouse. They have been there for us, through everything. The more time we spend together, the greater our affection grows. Our compassion, love, and empathy for each other reach a depth that has no parallel in human existence.

“We share our secret souls with our pets in ways we wouldn’t dare with another human being,” says Dr. Wallace Sife, a psychologist and president of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement. “We’re human beings, and love is love. Love for a pet is no different than love for another human being.”