The problem with placing adult cats, says a friend of mine who has found homes for dozens of them, is that everyone who wants a cat usually has one already. And many of the people who are in the market for a cat would rather start with a kitten.
That's a shame on both counts. First, because most cats enjoy the company of others of their own kind, especially if left alone inside all day while the family is at work or school. As for kittens, well, what's not to love? But an adult cat can often ease into a household more quickly, and without the sometimes over-the-top behavior of an energetic youngster.
The first step to placing an adult cat may be convincing prospective owners that two cats truly are better than one, and better yet if the second is a loving adult. Is it a hard sell? It can be, as any shelter manager can attest: Adult cats have low adoption rates when compared to kittens (and even to adult dogs). But if you've ended up with an extra adult cat -- a stray perhaps, or a cat left behind by the death of a friend or relative -- you don't have to write off the animal as a lost cause. If you're patient and persistent, you'll likely find a home. Here are some tips to follow:
-- Do everything you can to make the animal more adoptable. The pet has a better chance for adoption if her vaccinations are current, she uses her litter box reliably, and she's altered.
-- Don't lie about the pet's problems or why she's being placed. Although finding a new home for a pet with problems takes longer, you can usually still do so. But the person who gets such a pet without warning is likely to bring her back, take her to a shelter or give her away -- maybe to a horrible situation.
-- Spread the news. Make up fliers, and take out an ad in your newspaper and on the Internet. Post the fliers everywhere you can: bulletin boards at work, pet-supply stores and your veterinarian's office. Give some to your friends and family to post where they work, too. Talk up the cat (at least briefly) with everyone you know. Even people who don't like cats (or don't want one) may know someone who is looking for a pet. The more exposure you can get, the better. If a thousand people hear or read about the animal, you probably will get no interest from 999, but you need only one person to provide a good home for the cat. And that's the one you need to reach.
-- Ask lots of questions and verify that the answers are true. Don't forget to ask prospective adopters whether they've had pets before and what happened to them. Make sure you're dealing with people who realize that owning a pet is a long-term commitment. The person who has had a lot of pets who disappeared, died young or were given away is probably not your best choice. My favorite question: Who's your veterinarian? Someone who cannot at least name a vet or a veterinary hospital may have pets who don't go there very often.
Above all, don't give up! It may take weeks to find the right home for a pet, but it's always worth the time it may take to get it right. The goal here is not to "get rid of" an animal, but to find a loving, caring and, most of all, permanent home for a pet who needs one. They're out there, and if you keep looking, you'll likely find the home that's just right for the cat you're trying to help.
Closed doors keep cat from going 'home'
Q: We've long had our eye on a bigger house in our neighborhood, so when we saw what we wanted come on the market, we bought it and moved. But our cat, Malone, doesn't seem that impressed with the new house. The old house is just a few couple of blocks away, and he insists on going "home." The people now in our old house are cat lovers, and they have been pretty good about bringing him back or calling us to some get him.
The last couple of weeks, though, they haven't been calling, and Malone doesn't come home unless we go and get him. I know he shares food with their cat, and I think he is adopting the new family permanently. But this is our cat, since he was a little ball of fur, and we don't want him to live with another family. Do you have any suggestions to make Malone accept the new house as home? -- H.M., via e-mail
A: Because cats bond to places as well as to people, some cat lovers find that their free-roaming pets keep showing up at their old home after a move, especially if the new home, like yours, isn't very far from the old one.
My best suggestion for you is to convert your cat to an indoor pet, because crossing streets to go to the old house considerably ups his risk factor for getting hit. You could also look into securing your yard with cat fencing, such as from Purr-fect Fence (www.purrfectfence.com, 888-280-4066), Cat Fence-in (www.catfencein.com, 888-738-9099) or Affordable Cat Fence (www.catfence.com, 888-840-CATS).
If permanent confinement is not something you'd consider, bring your cat inside for a couple of weeks. When he seems settled, take him out for short periods into your yard with you, and bring him back inside with you. You should be able to get a feel for when he's starting to recognize the new digs as his home, and then increase his freedom accordingly.
Ask the new people at your old home to discourage Malone from hanging out -- no feeding, no petting. They can discourage Malone by using a squirt bottle on him if they see him in their yard.
If he immediately goes back to his old digs, though, it's a sign you haven't kept him in the house long enough. Confine him for another two weeks, at least, before giving him another taste of the outdoors.
HED: Sweaters benefit some dogs
Q: Tell the truth: Do dogs really need sweaters? I don't see any wild dogs or wolves wearing them. -- P.S., via e-mail
A: We've bred dogs a long way from their wild ancestors, and some of the breeds we've produced really could use some help with the cold. Small dogs, especially those kept trimmed for cleanliness, would benefit from sweaters in the winter, as would greyhounds, whippets and other breeds of similar build. On the other hand, your average Alaskan malamute or Samoyed isn't going to need any help at all to stay warm.
Old dogs, too, could use a little help staying warm when they head outside for their daily constitutionals.
You don't have to spend a lot of money to make your pet more comfortable. Nearly every pet retailer has machine-washable sweaters that should last for years.
The benefit of pet clothing isn't solely for the pet. I have a friend who puts raincoats on her gorgeous collies before their walks. A collie's a dog with a coat thick enough to brave all elements, and in this case the garments are for the owner's benefit: When she gets home with the dogs, they're pretty much dry, sparing her hours of wet-dog smell.
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.)
Pets on the Web
Fine art auction Goes to the dogs
Every year I hear from Doyle New York, drumming up publicity and business for the company's annual auction of fine art with a canine theme, held in conjunction with the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.
Most years I look at the offerings, sighing heavily both in appreciation and resignation -- I adore looking but, like most of us, I'm not one of those folks who can write a check for tens of thousands of dollars for a 19th-century portrait of some long-dead English duke's spaniels. This year, though, I noticed quite a few offerings in lower price ranges, such as figurines and jewelry with estimated value of $100 or so. Now you're talking!
The folks at Doyle have put the entire collection online, in hopes of attracting those who can buy (www.doylenewyork.com; look for Dogs in Art). The auction starts at 1 p.m. EST on Feb. 15 in Manhattan.
Know normal weight to keep your cat healthy
The hardest thing about weighing your cat is weighing yourself, but you must. Step on the scale with your cat, note the weight, and then step back on alone. Subtract your weight from the total to get your cat's weight.
A normal cat weighs about eight to 10 pounds, but the range is wide, depending on gender and breed. Really big cats, such as the Maine Coon, can be well over 11 pounds and be perfectly normal.
Your cat is normal for his body type if a comfortable pad of fat lies over his ribs, but you can still feel the ribs if you press your hands gently in. Your cat should not be "ribby," nor should he be too fat and have a visible, swinging belly hanging down. You may think it's cute, but it's not healthy.
After you determine your cat's ideal weight, write it down, and re-weigh your pet every month or so, sooner if he appears to have gained or lost weight. A difference of a half-pound up or down is normal over the course of a few months, anything more rapid or more weight lost than that half-pound is reason for concern.
Talk to your veterinarian if your cat is too fat, too thin, or especially if his weight changes rapidly.
(Pet Rx is provided by the Veterinary Information Network (VIN.com), an online service for veterinary professionals. More information can be found at www.veterinarypartner.com.)
Hit the road with a canine companion
Are you looking for a canine running partner? So many breeds and mixes would thrive on a 30-minute daily run that it's actually easier to list those that aren't as suitable.
Among those groups of breeds that aren't well-suited to major mileage at a fast clip: toy dogs (Yorkies, Chihuahuas, pugs) and short-legged ones (basset hounds and corgis). Heavy, giant breeds, too, aren't built for serious running, so you can probably rule out the St. Bernard and Newfoundland. Dogs with short muzzles -- such as the boxer -- don't breathe as efficiently when exercising.
If you're more of a plodder or walk/jogger than a serious runner, though, any dog in good shape may well work out fine.
For more serious runners, plenty of canine choices remain. Anything from medium-sized dogs, such as Shelties and cattle dogs, to large and leggy, such as greyhounds, would do just splendidly. The larger hunting breeds and hounds are especially well-suited to running. Sled-dog breeds can certainly put in the mileage, but their thick coats might be a problem in a warm climate. And don't overlook the breed that was born to the road: The Dalmatian, a dog that was developed to run alongside a horse-drawn carriage.
If safety is an issue, you might want to consider a breed that would by looks alone give a would-be attacker pause. In this category, place the Doberman, Rhodesian ridgeback and the German shepherd.
Mixes of any of these more athletic breeds would be a good match, too.
If you choose a purebred puppy, be sure to find a reputable breeder who can provide certification that the parents are free of hip or elbow dysplasia, crippling congenital defects that will doom your dog's future as a runner.
Don't push a pup into running. Work on his leash training as he's growing, but give his bones a chance to get fully developed before putting any roadwork on him. Better yet, look for an adult dog who, with a little training, can get immediately on the road with you. -- G.S.
Ask for papers with pedigreed pet
If you purchase a purebred puppy or kitten, make sure you get all the registration paperwork at the time you take your new family member home. People ask me all the time for advice on getting registration papers after a breeder has disappeared or has decided not to part with the papers unless an additional fee is paid.
Mind you, any breeder who'd do either is likely not someone you should have been buying a pet from in the first place. But that won't help you much when you've already fallen in love, will it?
If you don't get the paperwork, reputable breed registries such as the American Kennel Club or Cat Fanciers' Association will try to help. But in many cases they can't do much, since pet lovers rarely have enough information on the breeder or the animal's parents to get the matter cleared up.
Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies," "Cats for Dummies" and "Birds for Dummies." She is also affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read her frequently updated Web log or view her column archives at www.spadafori.com.
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