As summer winds down, so does kitten season, but there are still lots of kittens looking for homes. People love kittens, and it's impossible not to: Their cuteness factor is off the charts.
But during "kitten season," it's harder for an adult cat to find a home. Competing with cute and fuzzy is tough even for the sweetest, prettiest and most well-mannered cats.
Being overlooked at the shelter is bad news for the cats, of course, but it's also unfortunate for many people who don't realize that an adult cat, in many cases, may be a better choice than a kitten. Sure, kittens are cute, but they also can be a bit of a trial as they grow up. They need extra time, extra training and extra tolerance for all those crazy things that kittens do.
An adult cat can slide quickly into your life. You know pretty well what you're getting with a grown cat -- activity level, sociability, health, etc. Given time in a loving environment, a grown cat forms just as tight a bond with his new people as any kitten can.
With an adult cat, knowing a little of the animal's background is important, especially if your family has other pets or children. (A cat who has never experienced them may have a more difficult time adjusting to a new family that includes either or both.) You can ask questions directly about the cat's background if you're adopting from the original owner. And most shelters or rescue groups also try to provide some basic background information, which they ask of the people giving up their pets.
What if the information isn't flattering to the cat? For example, what if he became available for adoption because of his failure to use a litter box? Give the cat the benefit of the doubt -- if you have the time and patience to work on solving the problem. And remember, too, that you don't know the contributing factors. Maybe the litter box was never cleaned or was left in a spot that was convenient for the owner but disconcerting for the cat.
If at all possible, take each adult cat you're considering away from the caging area of the adoption center. Sit down with the animal in your lap, alone in a quiet place, and try to get a feel for the cat as an individual. Shelters are stressful places, so the cat may need a few quiet minutes to collect herself. A calm, confident and outgoing cat will respond pretty readily to your attention, relaxing in your lap, pushing for strokes and purring.
No matter how promising the initial meeting, remember that cats don't react well to change, so be prepared to give your new pet time to adjust to new surroundings once you take her home. Experts advise starting out your cat in a small, enclosed area -- a spare bathroom or small bedroom equipped with food and water, litter box, toys and a scratching post. A few days of quiet seclusion with frequent visits from you will relax your new pet and re-establish good litter-box habits.
If you're considering bringing a pet into your life, why wait? This is the time of year when adult cats in shelters need to shine a little extra, and there are enough of them around to give you a great chance to bring home a pet you'll adore for years to come.
String and things
dangerous for cats
Q: Something was wrong with our cat, but we couldn't figure out what. She wasn't herself -- she was listless and uninterested in eating. We took her to the vet. Long story short, she had swallowed a piece of ribbon, and it messed up her intestines. She had to have surgery, but she's fine now.
We had no idea this could happen. Would you tell others that cats who like to play with ribbon, yarn and string need to be watched carefully? -- via e-mail
A: What would you call a kitten with a ball of yarn? A perfect time to reach for your camera? How about an accident waiting to happen? For too many cats, it's an accident -- and maybe a surgery -- waiting to happen, as you've found out. And you're right that people just aren't aware of the danger.
Kittens and cats love playing with yarn, as well as string, ribbon and anything that twists and dances. They like to stalk, to pounce, to flip their slender prey in the air, and to start stalking again. That's all good clean fun, but there's always a chance that your cat won't stop with play and will decide to eat her plaything. And that's where the fun stops, because any sort of yarn, ribbon, Christmas tinsel or string can cause havoc in your cat's intestines -- a problem that may need to be surgically treated.
If you knit or sew, put your supplies securely away after you're done with them, and if you're opening or wrapping packages, clean up after you're done. Packing material such as foam peanuts can be a health hazard for your pet, too.
Chewing on electrical cords is more of a risk for inquisitive kittens, but protecting your grown-up cat against them wouldn't hurt either. Tuck all cords out of the way. And if you notice some that you can't hide that are attracting kitty teeth, coat them in something nasty, such as Bitter Apple (available at pet-supply stores), to convince your cat or kitten to chomp elsewhere.
Even if your pet's not really the playful type, she may find one kind of string irresistible: the juice-soaked strings from a roast or turkey. Dispose of these tempting dangers carefully, putting them in a container that your cat can't get into.
For the cat who loves to chase things, get a "cat fishing pole" and play with her. It's good bonding for you both, and good exercise for your cat. When you're done playing, though, put the toy where she can't get it. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.
Bulldogs face danger
in traveling by air
-- If you're considering checking your short-nosed dog into cargo for your next trip by air, you might want to reconsider. The nation's airlines report that in the last five years, 122 dogs died in cargo, and half of those deaths were dogs of breeds called "brachycephalic" by veterinarians and "pug-nosed" by the rest of us. Bulldogs were the short-nosed breed that died most often in transit, followed by pugs and French bulldogs. These breeds have been bred for the round heads and flat faces people find cute, but the shape of their skulls makes it harder to breathe and harder to keep cool, both of which can have serious implications when flying.
-- Yoga tunes may be just what your cat needs to relax, according to a study in Wales. The yearlong study focused on the reactions of cats exposed to meditation music vs. those who weren't. Cats who listened to the calming music had a lower respiration rate and relaxed much more quickly than those who didn't hear the music at all.
-- If you love to talk to your dog, you're not alone. About a fifth of pet-owning women tell their dogs their deepest secrets, according to an informal poll by a U.K. dog food company. Some pet owners -- 14 percent of women and 10 percent of men -- believe their pets can read their minds. Most owners surveyed describe their dog as a "trusted companion," and one-third believed their dogs to be their most most loyal companion. Not true of you? Maybe in the future: Half of all dog owners said their pet makes them feel more optimistic. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.