Why Adult Cats Are Truly Awesome

by Chrissy Reese

Sunny, a 5-year-old currently adoptable at Paws & Prayers

Sunny, a 5-year-old currently adoptable at Paws & Prayers

When choosing a cat to adopt, it is often difficult to see anything past the adorable kittens – their plaintive mewling draws you in, their tiny paws reach out to you from behind the bars of their cages, and their sweet playfulness seals it. Who wouldn’t want a kitten in their home, making their lives brighter? However, if you’ve never owned a kitten or haven’t owned one in a few years, you may forget that they’re not sweet, cuddly creatures 24-hours a day. Your furniture, curtains and toilet paper may often be mistaken for a place to sharpen claws. Everything that you own is a potential toy – around our house, favorites include glasses of water, any type of lip balm, my skin care and my boyfriend’s cough drops. And then there’s the unexplainable running around the house, yowling, at 4 a.m. There is no place that they won’t climb, wiggle-into or otherwise explore – whether you approve or not. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that kittens are babies, and at times, cat babies can be almost as difficult as human babies.

So if you haven’t got a lot of time and patience to lend to a kitten, stroll past them and look at the cats that may be a little less vocal and playful – the adults and seniors. If they seem a bit shy or scared, it’s most likely because they’re in an environment they’re not used to – they most likely grew up in a warm and loving home and were unfortunately given up due to circumstances well beyond their control. Or perhaps their past has been a little bit rougher and they just haven’t experienced a true bond yet. Whatever their story, these cats often spend the longest amount of time at shelters – and they are just as deserving of your love. Beyond that, there are plenty of advantages to older cats!

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Canine parvovirus

by Shauntelle Zimmerman, Paws and Prayers Medical Director

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Paws and Prayers’ most recent litter of puppies affected by Parvo.

Parvo: you may have heard it whispered around the office or neighborhood. You may not know what it is, but you have the suspicion that it’s something bad. For those unfortunate enough to have had a puppy suffer from it, they know that it is AWFUL!

Canine parvovirus is a viral infection that affects a dog’s gastrointestinal tract (the stomach and intestines). While this virus only affects dogs – particularly puppies – cats have their own version known as feline panleukopenia. The virus manifests itself as an inability for the dog to get enough fluids in them to keep them from dehydration. The typical signs are lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea. When a dog is infected with the virus, the virus can pass through the dog’s digestive tract with no signs. It will take 7-14 days for the virus to take over and then it will make the dog very ill, very quickly. At the time when signs are presenting, the dog is typically in critical condition. The dog will be unable to eat or drink and will have uncontrollable diarrhea, usually containing blood.

Have I scared you yet? You are wondering, “How can my dog get parvovirus?” It is transferred much easier than you might think. It is transmitted through a dog’s feces. When a dog ingests contaminated feces, the virus will start spreading through the digestive tract. You may be thinking, “Well, my dog doesn’t eat poop so I am safe.” Unfortunately, no dog is completely safe. Any dog can shed the virus. When wildlife pass through your neighbor’s yard and then into yours, the feces can be brought into your yard. Any dog at a dog park or hiking trail can be spreading the parvovirus. Just because a dog doesn’t look sick, it doesn’t mean they aren’t carrying the virus. Remember: it takes 7-14 days for the virus to incubate and thrive before the signs will show. While the virus is most common in puppies, older dogs can also shed the parvovirus as well. Their immune system can fight it off, so signs may never appear – however, they can still be carriers for the virus. All it takes is for your dog to walk through a contaminated patch of dirt — your dog now has the virus on his or her paws and may go home and clean themselves, licking the virus off of their fur. It is that simple.

How do you protect your dog? The only way to protect your dog is through vaccinations. As a puppy, it will take a series of multiple vaccinations. Just because your dog has had a vaccine once, it doesn’t mean your dog is protected. It will take a series of shots at a specific schedule to build your dog’s immunity. For a puppy, it is usually recommended that the vaccines start at 6-8 weeks. The vaccines will then need to be boostered every 3-4 weeks until the puppy reaches approximately 4 months of age. For adult dogs over six months of age, the first vaccine will only need to be boostered once, administered approximately 3-4 weeks after the first vaccine. Your dog should then be boostered every year. No vaccine is considered 100% effective. It is the best way, however, to protect your treasured pet.

For more information, check out this in-depth post on the topic from The Humane Society.

Cat Communication: Getting Scent-ual

by Chrissy Reese

A series on the three most important ways in which cats communicate with their humans – body language, scent communication and vocalization.

Welcome back! For part two in this series (if you missed it, you can check out part one right here) we’ll take a look at how cats communicate using scent. Scent communication is one of the more interesting and important means of cat communication – and yet it’s the one that we, as humans, miss the most. For the most part, we’re unable to detect their pheromones and scent markings. Cats have about 200 million scent receptors in their nostrils while humans have about 5 million. Effectually, we are disabled when it comes to our fur babies’ favorite method of communication. However, when you know how to look for them, there are many physical signs that our cats are trying to use their scents to communicate with each other as well as with us.

 

THE SCIENCE

By definition, a pheromone is “a chemical substance that is produced by an animal and serves as a stimulus to other individuals of the same species for one or more behavioral responses.” They’re most often brought up when discussing a mammal’s use of scent to attract a mate. Even humans are chemically calling out to one another – while we can’t physically smell them, our bodies still sense pheromones and react to them. However, cats use pheromones for much more than just attracting a mate.

The vomeronasal (vuh-mare-oh-nasal) organ is found in the base of the cat’s nasal cavity (at the roof of its mouth). This organ is primarily responsible for sniffing out and analyzing pheromones. “The flehman response” is your physical cue that your cat is using this organ. Described as “a behavior whereby an animal curls back its upper lips exposing its front teeth and inhales with the nostrils usually closed” which “may be performed with the neck stretched and the head held high in the air,” you’ll immediately notice when kitty is trying to get more information from the air around it. I love watching my cat, Varro, do this – he extends his neck out and bobs his little head up and down as he takes great, heaping breaths in through his mouth. It looks hilariously overdone, but it’s giving him more information in seconds than I could get by taking a walk through the whole apartment.

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Etymology: The word originates from the German verb ‘flehmen’, to bare the upper teeth or the Upper Saxony ‘flemmen’, to look spiteful.

 

THE BEHAVIOR

Cats have special scent glands on their paw pads, their cheeks, their foreheads and near the bases of their tails. The scent organs on the face are the “friendly” scent areas. Kitty often uses these to communicate with you. When you see a cat rubbing its cheeks on a person or an object in your home, kitty is rubbing her scent on the object to mark it as its own territory. When I come home from work every day, my cat Madeline greets me at the door and immediately offers her cheek to me. When I reach to pet her, she rubs her cheek from the back of her gums up over the cheek bone. It’s how she communicates that it doesn’t matter what happens when I’m outside that door – when I come home, I’m hers.

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Introducing A New Cat Into The Household

by Kristy Chestnutt

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Adding a new kitty to your family can be fun and exciting to everyone involved – except the existing cat. Going from being a solo leader to having a partner in crime can be very stressful on your lovable feline friend. Cats are normally very territorial, and let’s face it,  they definitely do not like to share. Introducing your two pets is critical to their relationship with each other as well as you.

Be Realistic:

Making your new pet comfortable in your home is going to take some time. You cannot force two cats to like each other just as you cannot force two people to like each other.  Our feline friends are less receptive to change than we are and adding this new addition upsets their routine. While choosing a new kitty, try to keep in mind your current cat’s personality. Some cats can be more social while others are more reserved. Go into this knowing that introductions do not happen overnight. It can take weeks or months to make a friendship happen between your two cats.

Confinement:

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Instead of having your cats meet face to face right away, give your newcomer a room to herself. Keep her food, litter, toys, etc. here to help her adjust. Once she is adjusted to the room, start feeding your new kitty and your old kitty on each side of the door. This helps them associate something good – which is eating – with the smell of the other cat. Gradually move the food dishes closer and closer to each other. You can also try finding a common bond in a toy they can both play with. Be sure to spend plenty of time with your new kitty, but do not ignore your current cat.

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The More You Know: Pit Bulls

by Kristy Chestnutt

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The other day I was having a conversation with my mom about the Pit Bull next door. She was afraid it would get through the fence to attack her two dogs or possibly her, which then lead to the conversation of how Pit Bulls always seem to be labeled as “bad dogs.” I see Pit Bulls almost every weekend and they are always extremely sweet to me. So… why do these dogs have such a bad rap?

Let’s Get to the Roots:

“Pit Bull” is not necessarily a breed; it is more of a term used to describe different breeds with similar traits. Some use this term to describe as many as five breeds (and all mixes) or as little as two. The three breeds that clearly fit into this label are the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier – I will be using the term “Pit Bull” to not leave out any of the mixed breed. Pit Bulls came to America from England, Scotland, and Ireland where they were originally used to help control livestock. Immigrants brought these dogs over to America and soon began to breed them for the unfortunate sport known as “baiting.” These dogs were used to attack other animals while people watched for entertainment. Cruel, right? It gets worse. The sport was banned in the early 1800s; however, people then began to have the Pit Bulls fight against each other, hence creating the inhumane sport known as dog fighting. People began to breed Pit Bulls that would make a faster, more agile opponent in the ring.

Temperament:

Like humans, all dogs are different and have different personalities. So, first the negative traits – normally when dogs fight, it is not with the intent to severely hurt or kill an opponent. It’s more of an argument with circling, growling, possible nipping, and teeth showing instead of shouting. Just imagine a Cleveland Browns fan and Pittsburgh Steelers fan fighting over a game (kidding!). Since these dogs have been bred to fight for their lives, they may go through the standard stages of agitation other dogs do. Instead they may lash out without warning, are less likely to back down and could become quick to aggression when provoked. Now for the positive – Pit Bulls actually make great family pets. They are extremely loyal and protective of their master. They are also fantastic with children – which led to their nickname “nursemaid’s dog.” Many Pit Bulls work as Registered Therapy Dogs as well as compete in agility contests. These dogs have an uncanny ability to know when to protect their owners; however, because of their intelligence and courageousness they can sometimes be unruly with submissive owners. Pit Bulls are love to please their masters; which can be positive and negative depending on the type of owner. People have a huge part in developing a Pit Bull’s temperament. The type of situations we put these dogs in could determine on whether the pup becomes a friendly family dog, or a dog fueled off of anger and fear.

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The Importance of Having A Cool Dog

by Kristy Chestnutt

CoolDog1

Winter is finally over and summer is just around the corner. While our minds instantly think of all the outdoor activities we can now do with our furry companions, planning too many activities can sometimes plan out danger for them. We are constantly told to protect ourselves from the sun and to hydrate – the same goes for our loveable best friends. The sun and heat can be just as dangerous, if not more, to our pets than it is to us.

Overheating:

Dogs can easily become overheated during the summer months and this can become life-threatening if left unattended. Unlike humans, dogs cannot sweat through their skin. They sweat through their paw pads; however, panting is how they really cool off. When a dog pants he circulates air through his body to help maintain a healthy body temperature. When put into warm environments, panting becomes quicker as a dog’s need to cool down becomes more essential.

Warning Signs:

If you plan on being in the sun for long periods of time, watch for the following signs:

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Cat Communication: Body Language

by Chrissy Reese
A series on the three most important ways in which cats communicate with their humans – body language, scent communication and vocalization.

For part one of this three-part series, we’ll take a look at cats’ body language. While it’s often too subtle for humans to notice, there are some more obvious communicatory signals that are important to pay attention to. Whether your feline friend is happy to talk your ear off or more of the strong and silent type, all cats communicate best with their body language. While a cat may seem content to communicate with you through vocal signals, it’s like a human speaking a second language – they can do it, but it’s not always their most effective way of communicating.

CatCommunication

Body language is somewhat complicated. Just like with humans, there are several different communicatory areas on the cat including the face, the posture and the tail position. However, their messages are more about the sum of these parts than what each one says individually. If a person has his arms crossed, is he angry? Bored? Cold? It’s difficult to tell until you take signals from the rest of their body. The same goes for cats – an arched back could be from fear, anger or just a relaxed stretch. The only way to tell is to take in all of the context clues.

“I didn’t know that Cheshire cats always grinned; in fact, I didn’t know that cats could grin.” “They all can,” said the Duchess; “and most of ‘em do.” “I don’t know of any that do,” Alice said very politely, feeling quite pleased to have got into a conversation. “You don’t know much,” said the Duchess; “and that’s a fact.”

“I didn’t know that Cheshire cats always grinned; in fact, I didn’t know that cats could grin.”
“They all can,” said the Duchess; “and most of ‘em do.”
“I don’t know of any that do,” Alice said very politely, feeling quite pleased to have got into a conversation.
“You don’t know much,” said the Duchess; “and that’s a fact.”

While you can always tell a Cheshire cat by its grin, the rest of the feline population isn’t quite so transparent in their expression (pun intended… sorry). The most important parts of a cat’s face to pay attention to are its eyes and ears. We humans love eye contact – looking someone in the eyes means that you’re present, you’re open and you’re trustworthy. In cat language, it means quite the opposite – looking a cat in the eyes for any length of time is considered rather impolite. Cats have excellent peripheral vision, and they use it much more than we realize (think kitty is daydreaming? She’s actually taking in large amounts of information through her periphery). When a cat stares directly at something, it may mean that they’re considering attacking.

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