Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Weight Loss

On the left: Toby as a svelte young cat. On the right: My beautiful currently tubby Toby.
My cat and I are both trying to lose weight. Well, to be more accurate I am trying to lose weight and Toby is really confused at the smaller amount of food showing up in his bowl and me making him actually MOVE for said food as a result of me trying to help him lose weight.

This dual project has me thinking about the similarities and differences between helping a cat lose weight and helping yourself lose weight. Both involve a lot of self-control, common sense, exercise, and some innovation.

For me, it's not buying the Ruffle Cheddar potato chips that sing a siren song from the vending machine at 3pm every afternoon. For Toby, it's not giving into his sad looks and plaintive meows.

To avoid the chips, I tried buying mini rice cakes. Verdict--not buying again. At first, I loved them and thought they were awesome, then realized I had eaten over half the multiple serving bag and had this weird chemical taste in my mouth. To boot, I was craving Ruffles even more than before. I've recently tried oatmeal. Microwaved with a bit of milk and a small amount of heavenly dark brown sugar seems to help get me past the hump.

To deal with Toby's meows...reminding myself, and him in a perky voice, that he is NOT a starving kitty. And then throwing some toys or petting him until he gives up.

Common Sense:
For both of us: smaller portions, more movement. It's so basic, I hate to say it, but it needs to be said. I also checked with his vet about how much to decrease the food.

Bribery and conscious argument with myself works. I know I need to exercise and only need to argue with my lazy bookworm brain in order to get off the cushions and lifting weights.

With Toby...sometimes tossing toys or danging his toy sticks work. Other times he just yawns. So I'm getting sneaky. Some days I toss his food a kibble down the mini foyer of my studio, making a noise when it lands, and he runs for it, then I toss one down the kitchen so he runs in there, "hunting" his food.

I also use most of his meal times as training times. I know it's not a lot of movement to go from standing to sitting, to high fiving, to sitting pretty, but it's some movement and it means I'm not neglecting his training while we're currently swearing off treats.

For me? Not a whole lot. It's all ideas I've read elsewhere or simply finding ways to put different workouts together so I work everything without getting too grumpy (I'm seriously perky at the end, but halfway through I just want to whine and stop).

For Toby this meant finding a way to deal with his habit of eating cardboard and plastic when he wanted food without rewarding him for eating the cardboard and plastic. During the day I can keep an eye out and my timing is good enough to distract him before he's made contact with the cardboard. At night...I wake up about an hour before I need to and he's trying to get to cardboard or paper. It's better than it used to be. At first, he would wake me up at 3am with this. I realized I needed to feed him right before bed and then cover the box with a blanket to make it less appetizing. To deal...I have premeasured baggies of food so I can stumble out of bed, distract Toby, toss some kibbles in his bowl, and stumble back to bed without having fully regained consciousness. Is it perfect? No. Is it the best I can do in a studio where I have foster kittens who would otherwise eat any food I left out overnight and find and devour any interactive toy I left out with food? Yes. So much better than 3am or actually measuring at 6am. I consider this an innovative improvement.

So far we're both making progress. Toby feels lighter and I feel healthier. That's what it's all about, both of us being healthier and better able to play and enjoy our days. That's worth a little effort and self-control.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Big Black Dog and a Cherry Tree

So I know that the actual lyric is horse, not tree, and while a lot of the assumptions do hold true for horses that exist for cats and dogs...my shelter doesn't have any black horses to adopt out.

I went to a seminar tonight about Big Black Dog Syndrome (BBD). It's an observable syndrome in shelters across the country, that big black dogs stay the longest and get euthanized the most in shelters. Black cats also stay a long time.

The talk was hosted by the Washington Humane Society and presented by a smart whip of a Masters candidate from George Washington University's anthropology program. We discussed BBD from a historical/anthropological perspective, as well as how those aspects translate into the everyday at shelters across the country. It wasn't all sad though. We ended by discussing the great success stories of BBDs who, due to their lengthy shelter stays, were able to earn their CGC certificate, learn awesome tricks, and end up in amazing homes as hearing assistance dogs, trekking buddies, and also family pets.

I had known of BBD before but hadn't looked too closely into it and this was an eye-opening reminder of how much of our daily behaviors and choices are subconsciously influenced by our society.

We don't think that we're so affected, but we are and that's why we need to always make sure to communicate with people and push strong, positive messages that encourage smart choices.

Comments like Chris Rock's about how Vick didn't deserve to serve time because it was just pits, who aren't even "real dogs" don't just sicken and disgust me because they're wrong, but because there are people who listen. Because when people hear those comments over and over and over, they see a sweet pittie puppy and think "vicious" "unimportant" and decide not to adopt that dog who needs a loving home.

This weekend is Halloween when many of us will see people looking completely unlike who they really are. This weekend we will automatically look past appearances to see the real people underneath. I wish people could always do that with animals and see beyond Big Black scary Dog and see instead Big Bundle of Fun whose shed hair won't show up on my black suit!"

Friday, July 24, 2009


I've never had kittens. My Toby is 2 years old and I met him when he was almost 1. I've fostered 6-, 2-, and 14-year old cats (oddly all male) and Toby's "sister" was a year older than him.

I'm fostering three kittens now. Two months old. They're cute and adorable but exhausting. Even supposedly on painkillers from their surgeries they're hyper and exploring everything.

They're reminding me to not stop exploring and testing. When I fall I should imitate the kittens and jump back up with more energy and exuberance than one would think possible. They think everything is a toy and something to play with and explore.

I'm also learning...
-kittens can clamp their mouths pretty darn tight when they don't want a pain killer.
-Yesterday's News does not absorb smells as well as World's Best Cat Litter. I can't go back to WBCL until after their stitches heal though.
-Toby is extremely patient
-a kitten "growl" can be heard while the kitten is nomming on a My Little Pony Happy Meal toy
-no bite/lick spray is really attractive to kittens for licking (this was not good!)
-a kitten in an E-collar is ridiculously adorable

I'll post photos as soon as I get my camera working again. Off to TAFA this weekend and pretty excited. Jarrod is going to check on the kittens during the day so they're not going all day without a person. So grateful to him for that.

Oh, the kitten runnig around with the tiny My Little Pony toy in his mouth might beat out the E-collar as most adorable...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New article

Go click!


I tallyed up my earnings...they almost paid for the calming treats I bought Toby to help him deal with fostering.

I should probably apply for a second job at Big Bad Woof (awesome pet supply store in Takoma Park) just for the product discount...
Living Ruff (equally awesome in Silver Spring) isn't hiring so far as I can tell. Still all one totally awesome family.

Monday, June 8, 2009


http://www.examiner.com/x-12366-DC-Pet-Rescue-Examiner is where I'll be doing most of my pet writing in the future.

Go click, tell your friends to click, read, share, pass, click again from a different IP address.

I promise, some portion of the tiny tiny tiny possible amount of money I make (which is based on page views and page view lengths) will go toward treats for fosters. Yes, also for my Toby because he puts up with the fosters so well and actually looked up with my dried birthday rose in his paw instead of proceeding to eat and tear it to bits even though he hasn't been allowed to sleep with his own owner since LeCat came home.

LeCat does have a great application in so cross your fingers it works out and he can go to his new home next week!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What I Wanted at the End of Last Night

Instead I drove back to the conference, had a soda, and read Jennifer Crusie until I felt calm again.

A Foster Cat Always Relies on the Kindness of Strangers

Last night I was almost in tears at my shelter and people helped. No one looked at me and said "Why are you stressing about a cat? You have sick family members to worry about!" They understood and rallied and tried to find a way to help LeCat, my fourteen year old foster who suddenly needed twice daily antibiotics for a miserable looking infection.

The day started at 5:30 am when I put my head to the floor to coax LeCat out from his favorite hiding spot so I could feed and pet him before leaving for a conference in another town to be followed by a wedding in another state. He had jumped down from the bed at midnight with a frightened growl when Toby tried to jump onto the bed with perky ears and an upright tail.

When LeCat came out, his usual tear streak was normal on one side but white and oozing from the other eye. I freaked out but assured myself it was 5:30, I was overreacting, late, and everything would be okay. I stayed on the floor longer than I should have, playing with and petting LeCat as he lapped up his favorite wet food (seriously looks like the shepherds pie I love)and headbutted me.

When I had a free moment during the conference I emailed the foster coordinator, a vet tech friend (who works at the shelter), and the adoption events coordinator just because she's helpful and a friend.
The response to the symptoms was that he needed to see the vet tech for antibiotics right away. I flipped out and desperately tried to call friends who could take him the vet because I didn't think I could leave. Right when I was about to cry, my boss told me to go home and take care of the cat and let her know how it worked.

The verdict, once I got LeCat to the shelter, was that he might have conjunctivitis and certainly needed twice daily medication. I had a cat sitter but she wasn't able to come by twice a day, let alone medicate. I called my entire phonebook, near crying. I asked my allergic sister and Cleveland friend for suggestions.

The shelter staff called people and begged for me. They assured me they would figure something out. Finally a volunteer training to be a vet tech got permission from her mom to take LeCat. I almost cried in relief.

I got my first update this morning and hear that he's doing well and enjoying exploring his temporary digs. It's easy in pet rescue to feel that we need to be able to do everything ourselves Don't. Remember that shelters and foster groups and just kind individuals are often willing to help in whatever way they can.

I still feel a little guilty that I'm not with LeCat while he's sick. But I know I did the best I could and it's good for him to recover away from Toby (who still tries to play with him when LeCat wants to be left alone). Thanks to the kindness of friends and strangers, LeCat is going to be okay.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thoughts on Michael Vick

I'm still processing and the dogs are still healing (those who survived) but Michael Vick is now out of prison.

Part of me hates him and will always hate him and thinks he deserves nothing.

Part of me does see the merit in The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) having Vick work with them to reach youth who might become involved in dog fighting. Oddly enough my boyfriend brought up that possibility when I was horrified at the idea of PETA collaborating with Vick. I have other issues with PETA though (n.b. they're not really into rescuing pets--they wanted all the dogs put down without evaluation).

Then there's the part of me that has always believed that a man can change if he so wants and that we need to allow for the possibility of change and also forgive past sins.

I don't know how to forgive someone for being so hateful toward animals. Bad Rap had this video from CNN:

and you can see what a sweet dog Jhumpa is.

I guess if her new mom can support Vick having his own second chance, I can, too.

I'll support him working with HSUS as long as he acts sincere and doesn't treat it just like a PR stunt. I will not support the NFL hiring him back. Part of why he will be effective with those kids is because they will see that dog fighting does not fit into a high rolling lifestyle. That, instead, dog fighting leads to losing your dreams, going to jail, and spending the rest of your life trying to atone for your evil.

Because yes, I still believe what that man did was pure evil.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Who's a Good Kitty/Doggle?

From XKCD (xkcd.com) and totally true.

LeCat and Toby hear a lot of "Who's a kitty?" "You're a kitty! You're a fluffy kitty!"

I believe this also happens with dogs however I have not yet found a comic with a graph for dogs. Does anyone want to provide me with one? You'll get karmic kitty hugs...

LeCat's Special PSA: Pets Who Survive Us

LeCat spent fourteen years with the same man, growing from a tiny kitten to a still small adult. He was obviously loved and indulged. He loves laps and scritches and gets so excited with his toys. He snuck up while I was dangling the wand toy for Toby and leaped and batted at it like a young kitten.

His owner had not wanted to give up LeCat. The man had to go into a nursing home and his relative brought us the cat. Normally I feel more sadness for the animals than the people who gave them up, but from everything I know this was not voluntary for the man and I feel awful for him. It has to be hard enough to move into a nursing home, how much worse must it be to do so while worrying about the fate of your beloved companion? I hope that man somehow knows in his heart that his little cat didn't spend long in the shelter and is now making feline and human friends and being cherished by a young lady. LeCat is safe and loved. I hope the man knows that somehow. Fate, God, a little bird, just somehow. My heart would be breaking if I ended up in the hospital (too young for a nursing home) and my family gave Toby to a shelter instead of finding a friend to take care of him.

While hospitalization/nursing homes aren't at all the same as death, they are an instance where a beloved pet can no longer be with their owner through no fault of said owner. We get a fair number of animals whose owners passed away and no one was willing to take the pet. I thank the heavens that I have multiple friends who have stepped up to say that they would take care of my cats should anything happen to me and they need a home (at some point Toby *will* get a permanent friend). Casey, Meg, and Jarrod have all offered to take them.

If you have pets, do you know who would take care of them if something happened to you? I know it could seem morbid, but it's important to think about. We've all seen those life insurance ads that ask "who would take care of your family?" Well, I'm not married and I don't have kids. I do have Toby. I feel better knowing he'll be taken care of no matter what happens to me. Don't you want the same peace of mind?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

DOGA on Saturday at Rose Park

This Saturday, WHS is teaming up with the creative director of Tranquil Space Yoga Studio to offer a DOGA class for people, pooches, and those who love them at Rose Park in DC. There will be treats for both humans and canines as well as a fun yoga class using your dog.

I'll be there with an adorable adoptable dog from Washington Humane Society and there will be other volunteers with other adorable pups in need of homes.

Come out, have fun, pet the pooches, and perfect your downward dog.

There is a suggested donation of $10 to help the shelter.

Also, WHS is still offering half off our usual low adoption fees!

Thursday, May 7, 2009


WHS adoptions are currently 50% off the prices listed in my guide.

We're overrun with puppies, kittens, bunnies, and gerbils.

Let your friends know!!

My Guide to Adopting in the DC Area


All the photos are of real shelter/rescue animals. All the information was correct as of two months ago. That was why I was so negligent in posting for awhile. Researching and writing that took some time!

Let me know if you like it :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

LeCat is a Lap Cat

I picked up my new foster cat, LeCat, last night and he is a cuddler! I'm keeping him in the bathroom for the quaruntine period and he is already trying to break free.

I have a routine when introducing a new cat to my home where I bring the carrier into the bathroom, close the door on curious Toby, and sit on the floor with the carrier open. I prefer to let the cat decide when to come out of the carrier and when to say hi to me. LeCat quickly climbed out of the carrier and began exploring. He found his litter box, drank some water, sniffed the garbage (thankfully didn't tear it apart because it's full of allergy tissues), and then proceeded to explore the new human who was sitting and watching him. I had my back to the door and my legs curled up to take up as little space as possible (it's a tiny bathroom) and he started sniffing next to me and trying to push behind the small of my back. Within a few moments he had climbed into my lap and was head butting for pets with a noticible happy purr. LeCat's eyes were half closed and his body relaxed. I stayed in there for about 30 minutes and was reluctant to leave when I did but my dinner was knocking on my door and I knew Toby needed to see me. Toby had meowed at the door a little in confusion.

I went back to visit with LeCat a few times before I turned in and he was delightfully cuddly every time. Surprisingly so when I sat down to brush my hair and he jumped into my lap! I'll need to give him some good brushings because he's still shedding a lot from shelter nerves, but his coat is lovely and soft. He's mostly a grey and white tabby but the fur is tinged with dark brown on the tips and the stripes on his tail are almost black instead of white. A good pile of his fur is now in my garbage and more scattered around the bathroom tile. Once he calms down he won't shed as much, but last night hair was coming up with almost every pat.

When I left the shelter with LeCat, our coordinator said thank you and joked that I'm their "Pathetic Cat Lady." She then stopped, realized how it could be misconstrued, and started explaining "Not that you're pathetic, you just do so well with the more pathetic cats." I laughed and assured her that I'd understood. The thing is, yes, Nikolai's story was sad and pathetic, and having a 14 year old cat end up in a shelter is awful. But these are the cats who need love and patience to show their incredible natures. LeCat seems like he'll be pretty easy once I get Toby not to be jealous (he had his jealous stance last night every time I came out of the bathroom). For a 14 year old, he's still beautiful and quite affectionate. I don't understand how he came to be in the shelter, but I'm so happy I can share my home with him until his forever home arrives.

Let me know if you're interested and please, pass the word to any friends who want an easy going, super affectionate little cat. I'll try to post a photo by the week's end. I thought about it last night when he was being cute, but figured a flash photograph on his first night might be a bit much.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Kitty Welcome and General Update

First, I would like to state how wonderful it is to be welcomed home by my Toby. I was out of town for a wedding this weekend (the happy couple fosters dogs in the Cleveland area and are an inspiration to me with their genuine kindness and love) and stopped by my apartment before heading to the office this morning.

Toby started meowing as soon as I got near the door. He squeezed through as I opened the door and started rubbing my ankles and headbutting me with super loud purrs. When I bent to take off my shoes he rose on his hind legs to headbutt my face! He then proceeded to follow me around as I dropped off my suitcase and grabbed a quick plain quesadilla from my fridge. He had food so I'm pretty sure he wasn't hungry.

When I sat down he immediately crawled into my lap and sniffed my head and headbutted me a few more times before crawling behind me on the cushion and curling up around me.

For all those who claim cats can't be affectionate--I counter with Toby's obvious happiness in having me home.

In a general update--Nikolai is doing well in his new home. The adopter was wonderful and sent me an update to let me know how his first night went which made me so happy. He seemed to be settling in and she seemed okay with his nervous tummy (he threw up the first night on her boyfriend while he slept). She's planning to continue his command training and promised photos and updates as things progress.

Tomorrow I will be picking up a new foster friend for Toby--14 year old grey and white tabby LeCat. He's an older male and pretty calm so I don't expect too much trouble. I met him the other week and he seemed sweet. I'm glad I'm not getting him tonight though. In a selfish way I really want to just curl up with my Toby tonight and not have to deal with keeping two cats separated on my first night back. It's an efficiency so the new cat lives in the bathroom for a few days. Toby again dragged a towel off the rack and into the litter box (like he did while I was in Europe) so I need to clean more than my super quick "sweep, spray, wipe!" while I was home for lunch. Thank God for flushable litter at least.

Cross your fingers that LeCat settles in well and isn't too scared by another cat and a new environment. I'll post a picture once I'm able. I hope Toby will enjoy his new friend. He prowled the apartment the night Nik left, meowing for his buddy.

Cleveland Zoo Adoption Event!

My parents mentioned this while I was home and it sounds awesome. I know at least one or two readers on here are in the Cleveland area so I wanted to spread the word.

20 local shelters will be bringing dogs and cats for same day adoption to the ticket tent at the Cleveland Zoo. See the wild cats and then bring home your own smaller furry friend!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hope in a Rough Day

Nikolai is going to his new home tonight which, while I'm totally thrilled by that, is a little bittersweet since I'll miss having a fuzzy cushion drying my feet as I brush my teeth. I'm happy for him though and excited to get my new foster kitty next week--14 year old grey and white male tabby named LeCat. Send well wishes to Nik at his new home and hope his new mom sends me some updates every so often :)

For once I'm going to write about people here though for the main post. Specifically, the kindness of strangers. There's a community on LJ, Cats_with_Claws in which I participate. I wrote a post there about a declawed older kitty with a health problem who was dropped off at my shelter over the weekend and how this upset me. A girl from Pennsylvania wrote back offering to make fliers and ask rescue workers she knew if they'd be willing to take the poor cat.

Now, I had written the post because I was upset over the human behavior that led to this cat being given up (wealthy couple with a dog who had declawed the kitty and then let her outside who were giving her up because, ohnoes! she needed daily medication after ten years). This girl's natural kindness helped balance that.

It's also a rough day for me because my grandmother got worse and is in the hospital. My normal reaction to this is to cry a bit, shove it down, get through the work day, and then cuddle my Tobycat. However, in a weird way, unrelated as it is, I can't help but think that if strangers are helping care for cats and making things better on that level, surely there's enough good energy in this universe to help my grandmother in whatever way she needs right now--faith, courage, strength, etc.

So the next time you do something nice for an animal, realize that you may be helping a person feel better, too.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NIH News: Fewer Test Animals


Not only did the EU and Canada sign an agreement to reduce animals used in product toxicity testing, Japan and the US signed, too!

I've long tried my best to buy products that weren't tested on animals (oddly enough super cheap Suave doesn't do animal testing according to their website) but it's great to know that fewer animals in general are going to be used for testing.

I know plenty of people who don't give two cents about animal testing (worth even less than two years ago). While I will still try to gently encourage animal-friendly products, I don't have to feel as guilty when I fail because at least our government (and other governments) are recognizing the other options out there and committing to reducing the number of animals used. I know some products right now need to be tested on something alive, but this should push more animal-alternative systems to be used which is great news for everyone.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Animals At Least Know to Be Cute if not Polite

I have a vocal tic that sounds like a baby panda hiccuping (or sneezing as this copy of the vid described it)

There are certain common responses to it.
1. Subtle rudeness: the well-coiffed girl giving me a dirty look
2. Unintentional awkwardness: "Ma'am, do you have any ferrets in your suitcase?"
3. Intentional kind humor: my brother-in-law joking that, because I eep during both Christian and Jewish services, it shows I find the divine equally in both
4. Intentional rudeness: "How long have you been at Adoration? You should have left early on."
5. Concern: "Are you okay? Those sound painful"

I have great responses for all of those reactions and genuinely appreciate #3 and, in moderation, #5. However, the reactions I love the most come from animals. Those vary greatly. Here are examples of the ones I remind myself of when dealing with 1, 2, and 4 from the people categories:
1. Toby's occasional concerned headbutts to make sure I"m okay if I have a particularly violent tic.
2. Nik's original fright (he was a very easily startled kitty), now replaced by not even noticing it.
3. The mouthy teething puppy who happened to have her mouth (gently) on my arm just as I eeped. She looked at my arm quizzically and then gently gave it a test squeeze. I am convinced she thought I was a squeak toy. She tried this again a few times that day whenever I would eep when her mouth was near me.
4. The horse who makes a similar noise when he's about to buck just flicks his ears back and suddenly pays closer attention to my signals.
5. The dogs who look up at me and give me another sniff investigation. (many dogs do this and it always makes me laugh. One friend at the shelter thinks they aren't sure if the noise means I'm a dog).
6. The guinea pig who squeaked back.

We all have traits that make us stand out for reasons we wouldn't choose. The animals I encounter help me laugh at my own obviously odd trait. When I get tired of laughing and saying "oh, it's fine, everyone asks me if I have a dog or ferrets, but it's just me!" -well, thinking of those animals makes the fake smile real. So if you have a squeaky voice or something else odd, think of how an animal reacts to it and how they're confused. It makes it easier to forgive people reactions we don't like.

Also, I try to remind myself that everyone wishes they were as darn cute as a baby panda while also sounding like puppies, ferrets, and bucking horses--it's like a completely useless superpower!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Pick Me Up

I do not advocate animals as replacements for people. However, I do think animals are a blessing and help us deal when we miss people, the same way human friends can help us.

Well, before my boyfriend flew off to spend six months teaching in the Holy Lands, there was a day I was having a bad time at work--nothing was going well and I was so frustrated and upset. Jarrod's response was to go over to my apartment (he lived in the other side of my building and had a key for feeding Toby) and take a video of Toby being well, Tobycute. That is the video I believe I uploaded. He actually took two but would kill me if I showed the other one where you hear him encouraging Toby to "talk" to me and meow for the camera.

The videos made me smile and I saved them to my computer because everyone needs a pick me up every now and then.

Well, today I was feeling tired and I missed my boyfriend more than usual. I had read upsetting news on Bad Rap about a man in MI pushing for pit bulls to be banned and made the mistake of reading the comments on the newspaper articles (both about the Michigan man and another about an awesome rescued pittie who had just passed away in the Bay area). Comments on newspaper articles always depress me. When Cleveland helped out feral cats (which totally does help resident people, too) all sorts of ignorant and nasty comments were posted in response to the article. Same thing here. On the one about the great pit bull, people wrote in with the same awful bull about pitties. I'm a bleeding-heart sort of girl and not even having the person I wanted most around to give me a hug when I felt down just sucked.

Then I remembered this video. I went, watched, and smiled. I'm headed to the shelter tonight to walk and hug the pitties there. The video reminds me that while I don't do a lot, I do provide a loving home for the kitties I can and also, importantly, that other people are doing what they can to improve the world and make it a happier place. Even if that's just videotaping their girlfriend's cat when she's having a bad day. It's little, but it's something nice that one person did for another. Humanity has a lot of faults but if we all keep trying to do little nice things when we can, those will build up and we won't have awful comments bogging down newspaper articles and ignorant people calling for the destruction of a breed.

So if you need a smile, watch the video, see my cute Tobias, and go do something nice for someone else. No matter how small the acts, they matter and they do add up.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Have You Heard the Good News?

Nick has a very strong potential adopter!! She wants to fill out the paperwork, pay, and pick him up next week so that she can buy all the supplies and be around the house for his first few days. I'm super excited for my Nikolai. I'll miss him, but I'm so glad he got a home.

(Yes, this was a post title that's been in my head since I noticed that Nik cannot help beelining for my cross necklace, I know it's probably just that it's shiny and hanging, but seriously, he was originally "Saint" Nick...I think he's some form Eastern Orthodox)

In other good news, ESPN is starting their series on fight dogs tonight. I won't be able to watch because I'll be at family dinner, but BadRap said it should be available online soon. Sports Illustrated had a wonderful article in December/January about how wonderfully the dogs who survived the bust are doing. Hopefully E-60 (the show) will help more people see how amazing this breed is in general, and also help push the idea that just because a dog was a fight dog doesn't mean he needs to be put down without evaluation (*cough* PETA wanting to euthanize all the dogs from the bust *cough*). HSUS recently changed their position to one in favor of evaluation and I'm excited for positive publicity to help more of the population see how great these dogs can be. Dogs really are individuals and just like some people can bounce back, so can some dogs.

If you get a chance to watch ESPN, I hope you enjoy the show. If not, say something nice about pitties to someone. They need people on their side.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Tough Part of Fostering

Nik came to the shelter after living with a woman who was unable to take care of him. She gave him a ton of food and very little attention/exercise so that he ate so much he grew too fat to clean himself. Because he couldn't clean himself, Nik developed mats in his fur and had to be partially shaved when the woman's family finally took the cat from her (why none of them could take care of their "beloved" relative's cat, I don't know).

He spent from early December through February at the shelter being overlooked because he was a large black adult cat (already three points against people immediately choosing him) who was overwhelmed and had weird shaved patches in his fur along with dandruff from the stress (three more points against him).

Then I brought him home. He's learned to sit for his food, gets along with Toby, climbs onto the bed to cuddle with my feet, and trots to the door when I get home at night. We've figured out his digestive issues, brushed his coat, given him supplemental oil and so much attention that his fur is looking healthy.

It's now late April. He hid during Thursday's Meow Mixer while I was at class. His little heart beat furiously when we sat in the air conditioned RV during today's Bonnets and Bones. He got an application at his first Meow Mixer but then the girl wasn't ready to commit to a cat.

Nikolai is a great little cat. He does silly, funny, sweet things all the time. He tried to chew on my W2 when I was doing my taxes. He still sometimes slips backward when he tries to jump on the bed. He gives me the most intense, serious look when he makes it to the top of the bed. When I was sick this week, he curled up and slept with me all day and then climbed onto my lap when I tried to get up, like a good mom saying "no, you need to rest."

It's tough having this beautiful, wonderful cat and worrying that he'll never find his forever home When the girl said she wasn't ready to commit after applying and seeming perfect (Nik jumped out of another woman's arms to cuddle with this girl), I felt like the mother of the girl who the boy leaves at the alter. Not ready to commit? To the kitty who liked you so much? To this sweet wonderful kitty?

My riding instructor is going to ask around and post a flyer about Nik (with an adorable photo of him). I wrote a new description and took a new photo for the shelter foster page. I know that Nik lives in the now and is happy in my home and I know that he doesn't understand that some girl couldn't commit to him. But I'm a bleeding-heart and I feel sad for him. He should be wanted and adored and told that he will never have another owner for the rest of his life.

I know, I could adopt him. I've been asked why I don't by people who meet him who don't understand fostering. And believe me, I'm not giving Nik back to the shelter or adopting him to someone who wouldn't be right for him just so I can foster another cat. But, right now, I have my reasons for not adopting him.

I live in a small efficiency. I already own one cat. I am only allowed to have two in the apartment. If I adopt another cat, I can't foster. Nik and Toby get along, but they're not great friends. They're male cats and Nik is four years older than Toby. I don't mind cleaning up nervous cat vomit or dealing with a cat who hides or brushing a cat who can't clean himself. I don't mind all the things one deals with in a cat who isn't quite up to standards of easy adoptability. Nik now doesn't vomit regularly or have crazy dandruff from stress and lack of grooming. He has an environment where he is comfortable and can run around and work off some of his extra weight. I'm no cat whisperer, but I did help Nik. There are other kitties who need someone like me.

No matter what gets knocked over broken, attacked, vommitted on, or scratched--I don't get mad. There is a children's book, The Very Bad Bunny that I loved as a child because it seemed to describe me. The Very Bad Bunny didn't mean to be bad and didn't mean any harm, but always caused messes and trouble and problems just by trying to be good or helpful or friendly. I think this is why I don't mind the oddities one deals with in a stressed out kitty. I was lucky enough to have parents who loved me no matter what I broke, colored on, or messed up. Every animal deserves unconditional love. Nik has unconditional love from me, I just want him to find his forever family. He'll make some family so happy. It's hard to not go and push him in people's faces and demand they notice what a wonderful cat he is. I love him so much. It's hard to see people pass him up for younger, thinner models.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yay for Cleveland Cats

I'm celebrating more than Cleveland's trouncing victory over the Yankees tonight, I'm also celebrating the great news my friend Emily sent me.

Cleveland has successfully neutered over 300 feral cats since starting a program where the city pays $30 of the $40 neuter fee for feral cats brought into the Cleveland Animal Protective League. Following examples of programs like Ally Cat Allies and Washington, D.C.'s CatNIPP, Cleveland has shown its desire to be part of the modern movement of animal control by humanely Trapping, Neutering, and Releasing feral cat colonies instead of leaving them be for residents to poison, kill, and complain about.

Neutering colonies has proven more effective than killing or relocating colonies around the country. If feral cats are removed from an area, new ones will move in, fight for territory, and establish new breeding colonies. However, if feral cat colonies are simply neutered and then returned to their living area, they will continue to keep down resident rodent populations and keep out new unfixed colonies while exhibiting fewer disruptive behaviors than before the surgeries.

Cat calling (the kind done by cats, not unruly boys), fighting, territorial marking, and climatic screaming are all behaviors associated with the instinct and act of breeding. Once the relevant organs are removed the instinct to engage in such an act dies down and the associated behaviors to allow, encourage, and mark such an act die down as well. It is much easier on surrounding residents to live near a quietly neutered feral cat colony than by a caterwauling, hormone-fueled one where other neighbors try to inhumanely kill the poor creatures.

We created feral cat colonies by over-breeding and under-sterilizing house cats. Unfortunately, feral cats cannot usually be rehabilitated into homes with humans. They do not understand how to live with people and will not act like house cats. The most effective solution is thankfully the most humane in this case--trap, neuter, and release feral cat colonies to take care of the areas where they live and dramatically decrease the new kittens born, unwanted and uncared for, into the world each spring.

Kittens are cute, but kitten season is full of more death than life in our current world. Let's get breeding down to a manageable amount so that every new kitten can be celebrated, cherished, and cared for her entire life.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

good news

Sometimes you find out great happy news when you wake up too early and browse the internet.

The HSUS has changed their policy on pit bulls :) They now agree with rescues that dogs from fighting siutations need to be evaluated and have just as much of a shot as any other animal for being adoptable or rehabilitated.

Giving my kitties a pat and going back to sleep for a bit, but wanted to share this.

Soon I'll post photos of the super sweet animals the winery/b&b where we stayed in Italy had taken in when they were found wandering the vineyards as strays. Super sweet and obviously well-loved.

For more on the HSUS reversal http://badrap-blog.blogspot.com/2009/04/no-more-excuses-bust-dogs-are-on-bus.html

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cutest Thing Ever

Toby and Nik finally actively playing with each other. So darn cute.

I'm leaving the country for a week-ish on Wednesday and have been insane trying to get everything ready. Thankfully very kind neighbor has agreed to feed and play with the kitties while I'm gone so I'm less stressed.

Okay, back to cleaning so I'm not red faced when my neighbor sees my apartment...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Busy Week

I have my final project presentation tomorrow in my technical writing class (I made a guide to adopting an animal in the DC metro area--planning to figure out how best to translate it to the web, seriously so proud of the finished project, there are so many different shelter procedures that it took work to figure out the commonalities--duh, love of animals).

Then I need to give Nikolai a bath when I get home because Thursday is his first Meow Mixer! If you're in the DC area and want to meet Nikolai (and other awesome kitties who need a home) come to the Washington Humane Society on Georgia Ave at 7pm for Mexican appetizers (yay for donors!), information, and great cats.

I love these events and I'm even more excited now that Nik will be there. It'll be his first event since the one I signed him up for the other week got canceled due to weather :(

If you can't come to the Meow Mixer, send good prayers/vibes/wishes/etc that Nik and the other cats meet awesome families and have fun. I'm a little nervous for how Nik will do but his coat is looking a lot better than when I first got him (guess that salmon oil really does work) and he's so outgoing now that I'm certain it'll be a positive experience.

Wish him luck!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


By the way, my mom isn't just an awesome author, she also made the cute shirt in that photo.

I don't have the patience to sew like she does but I am good at patience with cats and dogs--maybe they come from the same place and she really is the source of my talent :)

Attempt at a photo shoot

After a bad shin splint forced me to cancel hitting Dupont with my friends, I was inspired by the photo of a lovely shelter dog (who has since been adopted) and me in my mom's article "Help Wanted: Dogs" (about working dogs) in the March/April issue of Yes Mag, the Science Magazine for Adventurous Minds (Canadian, hence the spelling). Unfortunately the results weren't what I was hoping for!

I was hoping for a really great recent photo of Toby and me to go in the sidebar. I got a photo where Toby looks cute but I'm far too vain regarding my own self to put it in the sidebar. It's at the top for those of you who want to see the reject photo. If I cropped it to just Toby's cute expression, it'd actually be pretty good (in my nonphotographer opinion).

I did get a photo where I'm holding Nikolai who cuddles much more than Toby. However, in the photo where I got the light correct, Nik ended up moving and looks a bit like a furry blur. He's a cute furry blur though, so I'm using that as my photo for now because, well, I am vain :)

I should have learned my lesson with the magazine photos. A professional photographer friend (who is also a vet tech and awesome with animals) and another shelter volunteer both helped me try to get a good photo with one of the shelter dogs. My mom was writing her article and the editor (who seems incredibly sweet and who my mom always loves to write for) had suggested a photo of her daughter with a shelter dog since my mom doesn't play with them herself (this has been explained elsewhere in this blog). I am in awe of animal photographers. We tried two different dogs both inside and outside. We ended up getting a cute photo of Nya and me where she's looking away but still adorable.

I've since learned that patience, treats, a friend, and lucky timing are the key to great human/animal photos. Animals on their own are always cute. It's just more difficult with a person involved!

We humans always mess up a good thing with our vanity.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lesson from Toby (and other animals)

I have scared Toby (on accident!) before and I have given him the indignity of a bath. I have caused Toby to be upset with me.

However, within ten minutes he's always back to being a happy loving kitty who wants me to know how much he loves me by purring as loudly as possible. Even when I brought him to the shelter to be microchipped and he was terrified of the noises and strange smells, he was back to his usual self shortly after we returned home.

Why do I mention this?

Because it's been on my mind from the moment I woke up and debated whether I could wear silver flats with chocolate pants.

I had a bad day yesterday and was nervous. I've known plenty of people who hold grudges and I get nervous when I think someone might hold a grudge against me--regardless of whether I think they deserve to be mad at me. However, I resolved to be cat-like, not catty today.

You know what, it worked. When I started to get irritated I just thought of how Toby always gets past it when I frighten him, how Nik who wasn't used to so much attention has recovered and doesn't hold a grudge against humanity, and how Brody (a badly abused pit) was always full of love toward people.

Now, this is not to say we can't psychologically scar animals and that they don't remember. Anyone who has seen a dog or cat scared of a certain type of person or even people in general, knows that something awful has happened. But for the most part--pets just get over it. You're nice to the puppy now, he'll wag his tail as though you never accidentally stepped on it because you were in a rush and not watching where you were going.

I'm trying to do this in my life and at least today it worked. I'll see if I can keep it up for the second part of Lent--approaching compassion by just getting over it like the cats and dogs I love can do.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I Think It's Progress...

Nikolai now can get to the top of the bed directly from the floor without using my ottoman as a stepping stool. He still scrambles a little and it's utterly adorable to watch. I ended up giving his butt a boost the first time because he looked like he was about to fall back to the floor tail first.

I think this is progress.

However, now Toby has to share the bed with another cat at night, which makes him look at Nikolai a little differently. I'm sure Toby will eventually get used to this--he accepted Bella sleeping next to me while he was at my feet--but right now it doesn't make him happy.

And it doesn't let me get a lot of sleep...

When I turned in Nik jumped up on the bed while Toby watched from the foot of the bed (and I supported Nik's bum). After a few sniffs, he jumped back down and headed for the shelf where he's been sleeping lately.

I woke up at 3am to a kitty altercation in the hallway where the one of the waterbowls is located. Also, where there may be some random kibble from when we play "chase the kibble!" as suggested by my vet (I throw the kibble, Toby races happily for it, eats it, and then looks at me for more to be thrown). When I got out of bed to check, Toby raced to the bed and leaped up with wide eyes and some mewing. Nik then trotted over to me and rubbed my ankles. I checked both for scratches and went back to sleep with Toby on the bed and Nik on the shelf.

At 6am I woke up to Nik jumping up on the bed and Toby scooting over to the side.

When I woke up again at 7:30, Toby was staring wide eyed from the radiator (4 feet away behind my desk) while Nik cuddled my feet and staring at Toby.

I'm okay with Nik being on the bed, but I don't want Toby feeling scared as a result. Now, I do understand that Toby is a bit of a scardey-cat and knows that he's smaller than Nik. I also am somewhat proud of Nik for no longer being scared of Toby and seeming to gain some self confidence.

Even more so my selfish side hopes that they figure out the bed thing so I can get some sleep tonight.

Every girl thinks she wants two males to fight over who gets to sleep with her, but really, only Angela of the Office wants it to be two cats.

Good thing they're so cute I can't stay mad at them.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cats > Negative People

I got home today, my comparatively-short commute having been tripled in length by drivers doing apparently everything except driving, my headache seeming unlikely to improve given the blaring bass from my neighbor's apartment, and the frustration of a long day at the end of the long week making me extraordinarily cranky.

And Nikolai came up to me and mrowed? and headbutted my legs. And leaned into me. And showed me that I had been missed and was loved even though I wasn't perfect.

It helped. It helped a lot.

I made my dinner (sweet potato fries), discovered that my phone still wasn't working, and that the pattern of inconsiderate people was not abating.

And Nikolai began playing with his little bell bll and a stuffed mouse at the same time and I just had to laugh.

Inconsiderate and selfish people are totally trumped by this adorable kitty's antics and affection.

And lest you think Toby wasn't being cute--he meowed his demand for pets after Nikolai had gotten his. And is currently happily playing with his food ball (he has figured out that if he rolls it back and forth like a soccer player he still gets the food inside to fall out, but with far less effort than actually chasing it--not the intent, but it's still at least some activity, and it's darn cute to watch his determined little kitty face).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Training a Cat

Poor Nikolai has some scruffy patches in what will eventually be a beautiful, shiny black coat. Because of this, I'm hoping some special "tricks" will help him be more adoptable, plus give me a way to calm him at adoption events.

I started working with him today and found that he likes food but won't eat from my hand. However, thankfully, he will follow my hand with his eyes when I'm holding delectable chicken. Plus chicken will help his fur.

He seems to be getting it. I'm doing very short spurts, just two or three times so he doesn' t get bored. It took awhile the first time to get him to go from looking up to putting his bum on the ground. After that it seemed to come pretty easy for him. His "first response" (response to the first attempt in a new session) is getting faster each time though still not as good as his third response of a session, but I'm hopeful. He now knows the concept and we're just working on faster recall. I don't think he'll be a candidate for "high five" since it doesn't come natraully to him. Maybe "Lie Down" would work since he loves to do that...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What's New

Apologies for writing so sporadically lately. I've been working on a complete guide to adopting in the DC metro area which is keeping me rather busy.

Also, I've been learning about fostering and now I have a foster kitty! Two cats, one Beth, the inmates will be running the asylum. Right now there's just a lot of purring.

Nikolai was surrendered to Washington Humane Society when his owner got too ill to care for him. However, it was obvious he'd been neglected for a good while. He had been allowed to get so fat he could not groom himself. Instead of grooming him with a brush, his owner just let his hair mat. Matting forms dreadlocks, which while great for people, can pull apart the skin of an animal.

Poor Nikolai had to be partially shaved when he came into the shelter. He was confused and lonely. He still seemed sweet but totally lacking in confidence. He's now lost a lot of weight and can groom himself again but still could stand to lose more to keep his heart in good shape. At the moment he's exercising by winding around my feet and purring up a storm.

He yowled mightily in the car to show his unhappiness and this strange motion but as soon as I set him down and opened that crate he began to purr and show his loving nature. I'm quite smitten with this love bug and hope he finds a home soon

If you or anyone you know in the DC area wants a sweet black kitty, let me know! I'll try to get a picture of him up soon so you can see his smart eyes and adorable face. Once his fur evens out he'll be quite the looker.

I'll let you know how introductions go with Toby when they occur.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Not So Capital in the Capital

DC's city council is considering a bill that would ban pit bulls. Not only are these bills an ineffective waste of money (as Baltimore County demonstrated), these bills hurt people, shelters, and dogs.

They hurt the people who love their pit bulls and know what great dogs they are. They hurt the kids who grow up fearing a wonderful dog because their government tellsthem it's okay to be prejudiced without any acknolwedgment of facts. They hurt the people who are still going to get bit because biting is not about breed, but about temperment, training, and the situation.

They hurt the shelters who end up taking in all the pit bulls who are banned as people try to keep them from being destroyed. The hurt the shelters desperately trying to adopt out wonderful dogs without interference of the worst sort from our goverment.

They hurt the dogs who are American Pit Bull Terriers and are wonderful, loving, and loyal companions. They hurt the dogs who look like but aren't American Pit Bull Terriers but will be confused for such. They hurt the other dogs who need space in the shelters. They hurt the dogs who love to play with American Pit Bull Terriers. They hurt the pits who will now be bred illegally without socialization or proper medical care. Outlawing something doesn't eliminate it, it just makes it dangerous and illegal.

The bill has been assigned to the Health Committee and the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. Here are two links to both committees which contain contact information for the members:
Public Safety

Please contact the members and tell them not to support B 18--0052. Shelters in the DC area do not support this bill and neither should you.

Breed specific legislation has been shown time and again to do nothing to curb bite incidents. It pushes breeders underground and prevents healthy socialization of pit bulls. DC City Council just passed a great aggression act that just needs time to take affect. Don't sit by and let DC make a great mistake. We're the nation's capital, let's stand against prejudice and profiling. Dogs are individuals and deserve to be judged as such.

Please take action before more dogs and people get hurt by fear turned into law.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I'm excited that tonight my old apartment community is having another of the cat adoption events I started while living there. It was my first time setting up such an event but I talked to the right people, pointed out how it was great for the community, connected people with each other, and set in motion events that led to multiple cats being adopted from a two hour event.

Your local shelter or rescue group probably holds adoption events, too. If you live in an apartment community that allows pets--cats or dogs--consider asking your community to host an event. If you don't live in a community like that, consider asking your favorite local business. My favorite cafe recently agreed to talk to our event coordinator about scheduling an event after I pointed out how perfect it was for them. The economy sucks right now and this is free advertising.

Top Three Reasons for a Business to Host a Shelter or Rescue Group

1. It's a social event that encourages members/patrons to connect with each other. Loyalty is good for any sort of business.

2. It associates the host with adorable animals and charitable works. Even though all the host needs to do is open its doors, people see the organizations that host events as caring and generous.

3. It's essentially free. While some hosts give discounts to volunteers or those who donate to a shelter (my favorite bar gave free nonalcoholic drinks to volunteers during the event and a discount on other drinks after), the vast majority give us water and access to restrooms. One didn't even give us water!

Just by speaking up you'll be helping the business, community, and animals. I'll admit I'm selfish and care mostly about the dogs and cats that get adopted. Whatever you value though, you're earning good karma just for a suggestion.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The downside of catsitting

After falling for a beautiful squeaky kitty 1/3 Toby's size, you have to give her back to her mom and watch your cat look in all her hiding spots wondering where the little one went. He spent the past few days trying to play with Bella while she ran away (she was a little shy with other kitties) but was a fluffy cuddle cat.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Capital Cats Make Waves Across the Pond

Washington Humane Society's Kittengarden (which sadly my Toby is too old to join) got a spot on the BBC!

In these classes, people learn how to work with their cats and make life fun and interesting while also safe for them.

The video does note a difference I've seen in books regarding American/British views on indoor/outdoor cats. In Britian, people are encouraged to let their cats roam and be as "natural" as possible. In America, especially in D.C., we encourage cats to be kept indoors.

Why? It's safer.
Outdoor kitties face a lot of dangers, especially in urban areas. Cats were not meant to run from cars or deal with catnappers (I have heard from respectable people that cats really do get, well, catnapped in the DC area, I haven't done research myself though so don't take that as pure gospel). It gets awfully cold and hot outside, too. Plus you run the risk of a neighbor just not liking your cat and doing something awful. Those are just the immediate large dangers.

There are also the microscopic dangers which can be more deadly. FLV is generally picked up by outdoor kitties or those who are exposed to outdoor kitties. Outdoor cats are more likely to get into fights and then catch infection through their wounds.

Science backs this up. At least in the United States, indoor cats live significantly longer (several more years) than outdoor cats. I want my Toby to live a long time and be around through different life stages. That's why I keep him indoors :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

North Carolina Potential Tragedy

While I join in the applause for shutting down another pit bull fighting ring, I am appalled at the judge's decision to ignore the rescue groups offering to take in and rehabilitate these dogs.

Bad Rap has a great write up of the events and is how I first heard about it http://badrap-blog.blogspot.com/2009/02/updates-news-release.html

I'm a little speechless. I knew HSUS had bad pit policies and I had hoped I could ignore them because my local humane society is awesome about pits. This is just wrong.

Whether you like pit bulls as a breed or whether you think that fighting dogs can be rescued, there are puppies involved. Puppies who are little and haven't even been in a fighting ring. And because of fear and prejudice they are going to be destroyed.

The short story:
A fighting ring in North Carolina was broken up. The dogs were collected. Only one shows signs of having ever been in a fight. The one good aspect of the Michael Vick case was public proof that fighting pit bulls can be rehabilitated. Rescue groups have offered to take these dogs. There are recently born puppies.
The judge still decided to have them all destroyed and taken to the landfill because it's cheaper.

Bad Rap and other organizations are asking for people to call, email, and fax the following to try and halt the destruction of these animals. They had no representation at that case. It was not justice in the least, it was not even a fair case.

Please contact:

Mike Inscore - Mayor mayor@wilkesboronorthcarolina.com
Email: townhall@north-wilkesboro.com

Wilkes County Board of Commissioners: 110 North StreetWilksboro, NC 28697
Phone: 336-651-7346
Fax: 336-651-7568

Wilkes County Attorney: Tony TriplettVannoy, Colvard, Triplett & Vannoy
922 C Street P.O. Box 1388
North Wilkesboro, NC 28659
Phone: 336-667-7201
Fax: 336-838-7250
E-mail: ttriplett@vannoylaw.com

District Attorney Tom Horner
500 Courthouse Drive Suite 2022
Wilkesboro, NC 28697
Phone: 336-667-6361 or 667-2994
Fax: 336 667-7999

Monday, February 9, 2009

Narcissistic Kitty

Yes, the caption on the book does say "Parlez-vous Doggish?" I guess Toby was trying to educate himself when he got distracted by the handsome kitty in the mirror.

Let's hope this ends better than the myth...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cat Cafes?

Apparently there is a trend in Japan (at least 8 cafes in Tokyo) where people pay $8-$12 an hour to sip tea and play with cats. The cafes require handwashing and often have previously-homeless cats as their resident cats.

I'm not sure what I think about this. On the surface it seems okay--it gives some cats a home and lets people interact with animals who for some reason or another, don't have one at home. On the other hand, I hope it doesn't encourage these people away from pursuing actually owning a cat because they know they can always just visit one.

It also reminds me of the rent-a-dog trend that started to take off in NYC a few years ago. What happens when these cats get older? Who will take care of the cat who gets sick? Yes, it's probably a better life than on the street but let's hope that these cats are loved and cherished even when they aren't so cute. Pets aren't robots and should be treated as more than just commodities.

I do like the idea of Arlington's Stray Cat Cafe. There aren't any real cats there, just paintings and photographs of strays, but their website links to an adoption site and the restaurant (along with its sister "The Lost Dog Cafe") supports adoptions. I've never eaten there so I can't say anything about the food, but for a place that came up when I was looking up cat cafes in Tokyo, it sounds pretty cool.

(For another photo of a cat cafe that won't display here, go to: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28862190/displaymode/1107/s/2/framenumber/5/)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

From the Post

The Washington Post had an article this morning about raccoons on the White House grounds. Now those animals are really living in capital style!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Great Moment at the Shelter

I spent a good part of Sunday at my shelter. A recent outbreak of upper respiratory infections had finally calmed down and the cats really needed some TLC. There were two overweight scared-looking cats who had come in together. One, Cloud Fluff, looked like Toby if he were 10 pounds heavier and my heart just about burst. All homeless kitties affect me, but these cats were overweight, scared, and had been surrendered by their owner. I pulled up a chair and started talking to them. Cloud Fluff came right to my hand and started head butting it and rubbing and purring up a storm. When his sister finally came out and walked right onto my lap, one of the staff people looked at me in amazement. "I've never seen those cats be affectionate with anyone. You've got a touch," he said and I felt more pride than any A+ in school ever caused.

I'm an editor, a writer, and an assistant. None of those bring me more pride than helping a nervous cat open up and purr.

5 Tips for Dealing with Anxious Animals:
DISCLAIMER: please have someone knowledgeable with you if the animal hasn't been screened for aggression and never approach a strange animal. They may bite or be infected. In that case, call someone with training. Do not put yourself in harm's way. If you feel worried, don't push yourself into a situation you may regret.
Otherwise, if it's a rescue dog or your friend's pet who is frightened, or yours just got upset, please try the following.

1. Be calm yourself.
2. Approach the animal like you would a terrified teenager. Children can't run far so don't pretend it's a two-year old. Think of how you would approach a teen who might run away or hurt herself.
3. Use happy tones at a quiet volume.
4. Don't push too hard. Cloud Fluff loved snuggling my hand and being petted. He did not want to come out of his cage. I gave him the option, he refused, and I continued to show him affection. Eventually, if I do this often, he'll become comfortable enough to let me take him out of his cage. Watch their body language and respond appropriately. If the cat bats at you with his claws, back off and try again later.
5. Use treats. Treats are a useful training aid. They provide positive associations. If the animal learns to associate your company with treats, he'll see that you provide good things, not bad, and become more comfortable with you.

Overall, have empathy with the animal. Love the shy animals because they need that love and attention to come out of their shells. Just love.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Ad for Adoptions

I'm not a huge football fan. I like high school games with my old friends. And the few college games I attended were great. Somehow though, I have never gotten into professional football.

Because of that, I do not usually attend Super Bowl parties or watch the game. This year, I did flip back to check the commercials, looking for a Pedigree commercial I'd heard about first through HSUS's blog. The magic of the interwebz let me watch the ad on youtube, (Here is the ad in case you missed it during the game) and I genuinely liked it.

I want people to adopt cats, too, but adoption in general needs to be promoted. If all the dogs find homes more quickly, shelters will have more resources to spend on cats.

There tend to be more homeless cats than dogs for a two major reasons.

1. A feral breeding population. In the United States, we do not have packs of wild dogs roaming our cities. We do have legitimate feral cat colonies. These are cats whose moms or dads were house or barn cats, but ended up on the streets. These cats bred with other loose cats, the offspring were not brought back inside, and after a few weeks became feral. Feral cats are behaviorally different from homeless domestic cats, but they still breed together. If the female is a homeless domestic cat, those cats could have good lives if they were brought inside. They would be able to adjust to a home and people so easily, but their mom is homeless so they are. Or, even if their mom isn't homeless, a lot of owners whose cats have unexpected litters just leave the litters somewhere without caring that those kittens will likely either die from the elements, or if they do survive, lead harsh lives producing more litters of kittens to compete for resources. People have a hard enough time controlling their impulses to cut down on unwanted human pregnancies. It's not fair for us to expect cats to do better.

2. Physically, cats are set up to breed quite a bit. Feline pregnancies are about nine-weeks and females tend to have two or three litters of kittens per year. Cats can become sexually mature at the age of four months. Mix these together and that's a lot of kittens being born, growing up, and bearing even more kittens.

I think there's a third reason, but it's based more on anecdotal evidence than science. People seem to give cats up more easily than dogs and less people are willing to adopt a cat. They don't understand that if given attention, cats can be just as affectionate and trainable as dogs. Toby sits on command and is learning to give a high five (velvet paw touch to my left hand). He loves to play fetch. He is not an anomaly in the world of cats. Yes, they do all have their own personalities and cats can be more independent than dogs. I would never leave a dog home for a weekend with bowls of food and lots of water. I have left Toby for a day or two with bowls of dry food around the apartment and multiple bowls of water (I do two bowls of water for each day I'll be gone, at some point I need to give in and purchase a fountain for him if I start traveling regularly).

So please, watch the ad and think about adopting. If you want a dog, think about a dog. If you don't lean either way, please consider a cat. They can be very sweet and there are loads of products out there for allergy sufferers.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Star Struck

Victoria Stilwell from "It's Me or the Dog" is amazing to me. She is so patient with animals and so good at helping people understand and work with their pets. Plus, so put together while dealing with stressful situations... yes, she is up there with Jenna Fisher ("The Office" star who often talks about how she used to work with homeless cats and has done fundraisers for them) in my mind, even though I haven't seen Victoria Stilwell on the cover of Entertainment Weekly.

Why do I mention this? Just to gush? No, because she is a honorary cochair of the Washington Humane Society's Third Annual Fashion for Paws, taking place March 28, 2009.

I was already planning on volunteering for the event just because it's a great fun fundraiser for WHS. Now I'm a little starstruck that I might get to be in the same room as such a fantastic dog trainer. I wonder if she'll ever do a show with cats. I use some of her tips when working with Toby.

I Call Bull

The Washington Post is running an article from AP which presents ignorant views.

I'm sorry that Ms. Sedler's daughter wasn't raised to know better than to peer over people's fences. I do think the owner of the dog should have trained the dog better or put a sign to not trespass. However, Jacquline Sedler shows ignorance when she states a false reason for why pit bulls were bred. Please, before you speak out on anything, do some research and train your own daughter. She was in the wrong. Don't go pushing to punish an entire breed. Pushing your city council to ban a particular breed of dogs won't erase your daughter's scar.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

From the Interwebz: Baby Otter

The BBC reported today on the rescue of a baby sea otter by a kindly Scottish post officer. The photos that the BBC has are cute, but the one below from the Arthurshiel Rescue Centre blog (Arthurshiel Rescue Centre Diaries) just about made me melt.

It's cold and gross outside, but this interspecies friendship made possible by a helpful human brings about the warm, cuddly feeling inside.

Alternative to the Super Bowl

Most people love the Super Bowl or at least love the commercials. For those of us who don't...there's Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl with adorable adoptable puppies playing and kittens doing the halftime show. Puppy Bowl is in its fifth year but it'll be my first time watching it. I've gone without cable for a long time so I'm really entertained that there is a day when I can just watch hours of cute puppies. Oh, and don't forget thirty minutes of kittens playing.

One aspect that I find really neat is that all the puppies and kittens are from shelters and are looking for homes. I hope they all get adopted quickly after their big day!

Apparently Puppy Bowl was inspired by the Christmas Yule Log program which I remember my dad playing on the kitchen tv while making Christmas breakfast. I usually have writing to do Sunday afternoon and the puppies and kittens will be a good distraction from any housework I need to do. I'm curious to see how Toby will respond to the noises and sights. I'll admit, I might flip over to check the score of the traditional big game during the commercials...or just dangle toys for my own hopelessly cute bundle of fur.

Above is a puppy from D.C. who should be going to his forever home soon, exactly what the Puppy Bowl puppies and kittens want.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Learning from TV, Practicing with Puppies

In a conversation with my brother today,I heard about a sweet dog who jumps a lot and whose human has a hard time handling him. Our conversation made me think of how I had tried out a technique I had seen on "It's Me or the Dog."

Basically, the episode showed two dogs who always jumped on people when they entered a home. A lot of dogs do this and a lot of the owners I know just put up with it or pull the dog away. I've always just let the dogs jump because it didn't bother me to have dogs jumping on me. However, it can be upsettin for people like my mom who are afraid of dogs. If I get a dog some day, I want my mom to feel comfortable visiting me so this particular technique really interested me.

Victoria started with teaching the dogs to "wait" to the side of the door with enough room for a person to come in. This involved training the dogs having someone come to the door, ring the doorbell, and wait patiently for the dogs to sit and wait properly. Then, when the dogs were calm, the person came in and the dogs were allowed to politely sniff (not sure if my mom would deal well with this, but if I promised sniffing instead of jumping, it might help). If they started to jump, the person was to turn around so they were jumping at the backside of the person. The dogs miraculously would return to the ground when the person's back was turned.

I was handling a sweet one year old Pit Bull/Bull Dog mix. She was a sweetie but kept jumping on me and other people. Thankfully most potential adopters understand that shelters dogs often have basic training, but not the greatest manners. I did try the turning trick though whenever my dog would jump. What was really cool--it worked! Whenever I turned, my dog returned to her feet and would stop jumping on me.

So today you get advice. If a dog is jumping on you and you don't want him to do so, try just turning around. They'll lose interest and stop. I tried it with two of the other dogs and it worked. Let me know how it goes for you!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Feline Intelligence

Speedy is the cat of two awesome Ph.D. students. Would you expect anything less of a cat who wins at chess?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Spay Day Photo Contest

The Humane Society of the United States is holding a pet photo contest to promote their fifteenth annual Spay Day, February 24, 2009.

I entered the photo above. I wanted to enter one that was a little different. He's purring on my feet at the moment. Maybe he's hoping to help me not eat Ben&Jerrys tonight by being extra affectionate. He's at least succeeding by making me not want to move and disturb him. If he keeps up this level of affection, I may succeed in getting down to my summer weight before May!

More seriously, please enter a photo of your pet and/or donate and vote for Toby. With each dollar you donate, you get one vote to use on whatever pet photo you find to be cute. Every owner has decided between three charitable options for where they want the money to go. I chose a 50/50 distribution between HSUS and local spay/neuter organizations for any money raised via Toby's undeniable adorableness.

Spaying and neutering helps control the homeless animal population and cut down on the rate of growth. If you can't donate now, please tell your friends to fix their pets and be sure to fix your own. It's a basic tenet of animal welfare but it bears repeating. Fixing is good. In addition to helping control the population fixing a pet will often make it easier to train a pet and decrease aggression and marking behaviors. It's safe, effective, and the best way to control pet homelessness.

Support Spay Day '09. Donate if you can, spread the word if you can't :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

People are Animals (and that's not a bad thing)

I told a friend on Wednesday about an awkward conversation with my boyfriend's mom wherein I compared children to dogs. Tamika's response: "How could you? Kids aren't dogs!" This of course led to me defending my position that, up to a certain age, it is perfectly appropriate to raise kids on the same principles I raised my cat and would train a dog. Motivation, positive rewards, patience, and boundaries. There have been movies about women training husbands according to puppy books and even Animal Planet's It's Me or the Dog seems to have the same basic principles as Super Nanny.

When Toby is afraid, I comfort him. We give timid dogs and cats small tasks they can learn to do and feel proud about. This is the approach I plan to use if I ever have kids. I want my cat to know that he is a smart kitty who is capable. Why wouldn't I want any theoretical kids to feel the same?

When I want Toby to exercise more (he has a small bit of a tummy pouch because I didn't notice he had figured out how to get into his dry food), I motivate him with interesting activities and toys that encourage him to play and move instead of lay about the apartment. I understand that parents do the same. Parents play catch with their kids. I play fetch with my cat.

Wednesday's Washington Post chat on pet obesity even noted that cats substitute food for affection and this often leads to overeating. I'm pretty sure this is why my Ben&Jerry's consumption jumped when my boyfriend moved away. This is why sometimes petting Toby when he whines near the food dish quiets him without a single piece of kibble coming out and why I can avoid the ice cream when I get a sweet email.

I know that Toby is food motivated and does well with positive reinforcement, this helps me teach him to sit, come when called, or put up with brushing. My boss figuring out that I'm motivated by editorial work and positive comments, gives her a way to encourage me to invoice, copy, or file when I don't otherwise enjoy those tasks. Me knowing that I'm food motivated helps me get to work on time by bribing myself with chocolate pudding cups for breakfast.

Realizing that people are animals doesn't mean just acknowleging where we act less than civilized, it also means realizing all the ways to helps ourselves and others act in civilized fashions. A three year old doesn't understand how to not grab toys away from others unless he has been trained to share. I don't work out unless I find a way to motivate myself. Toby doesn't come unless I train and motivate him Understanding pets isn't just a way to help ourselves get them to do what we want, but it helps us understand how to help ourselves do what we should.

And doing what we should helps everyone sleep better at night.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Toby met the roomba. Not his favorite cleaning apparatus. He seemed less scared when above it, but still kept a watchful eye the entire time it was cleaning. Maybe someday he'll be one of those cats who tries to ride the roomba.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Daily Dose of Cute

Most of the communicable diseases we worry about in the shelter can't spread across species. So when there was one lone beagle puppy, Gulliver, and a litter of active kittens in the shelter yesterday, my friend and I were encouraged to take them all into the play room.

Gulliver loved the kittens and just wanted to play with them. He would lean down (demonstrating why Downward Dog is called such), wag his tail, and give a happy puppy bark of "let's play!" The kittens usually responded by curving up, raising their fur, and running backward with a bit of a hiss. They did not know what this strange creature was and were not sure if they liked it.

Thankfully Gulliver didn't seem to mind and began to play with the kitten toys. One brave black kitten began to follow Gulliver around, sniffing at him, and seeming interested without being aggressive. The other kittens came out from under the futon or behind the chairs as they saw the cat toys come out.

While Gulliver and these kittens won't be best friends for life (Gulliver should be going to his forever home within the next two weeks), their small interaction helped all those animals to be a little more comfortable with other species. Dogs and cats can have similar body movements with opposite meanings. Exposure to the other species while young, helps an animal learn to read even those opposite meanings and interact successfully with others.

Today was the Inauguration of President Obama. It seems that everyone throughout the District is talking about change, bipartisanship, and getting along. Those kittens were afraid of that puppy at first, but they learned they can coexist peacefully. Let's hope that people can learn the same lesson.