Guest Post: Seniors, Loneliness, and the Pet Solution

Stock photo, Pexels
Stock photo, Pexels

Pets provide unconditional love, comfort and support, which make them the perfect companions for seniors. The loneliness problem in the senior community is real. According to a recent University of California in San Francisco survey, more than 40 percent of American seniors experience loneliness on a regular basis. The lack of social connection and emotional isolation is as damaging to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. There are even connections between loneliness and the progression of cognitive decline and issues such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Taking care of a pet does more for senior than just reducing loneliness. Pets provide a sense a purpose for seniors as they know that another creature relies on them for care and affection. They also help keep seniors active as they have to get up to feed them, take them outside, bathe them, and play with them. Furthermore, pets reduce stress, anxiety, and can even ease feelings of depression.

When it comes to picking out a pet, seniors do have particular needs. It’s not typically the best idea to get an older person a young cat or dog. Kittens and puppies are needy, rambunctious and more likely to wreak havoc on a person’s home and belongings. In the end, a baby animal may actually cause stress, not reduce it. That’s why it’s best to look for an adult animal whose personality is already established and compatible with the person’s own personality.

Not picking a kitten or puppy is just the start. Consider the following with helping a senior adopt a new pet companion.

  • Purebred animals are cute, but they tend to have more health issues while also costing you a pretty penny. Adopting from a shelter, on the other hand, saves a life and your small adoption fee goes back to helping more animals in the community. Plus, shelters have adoption agents that will work with you to find the perfect pet for your situation.
  • Consider the senior’s living situation when deciding what kind of pet to adopt. A large dog needs a yard or some sort of outdoor area where he can run off leash. Cats tend to do better with smaller spaces and are perfect for people living in apartments. Of course, you can’t convince a dog person to get a cat. Luckily, there are plenty of apartment-friendly dogs out there.
  • Cats are great for people who prefer staying indoors as well as those with mobility issues as they don’t need to be walked.
  • If adopting a dog, be sure to go over dog-walking safety with the senior. Make sure they have the right kind of leash and collar. Provide reflective gear they can wear if walking the pet at night. Finally, go over training the dog and how to let him approach other animals in the street.
  • Help the senior set up their home for the new pet before its first day. Provide water and food bowls, toys, a bed, potty pads/litter box, and any other pet accessories they may need.
  • When it’s time to bring the pet home, let the new companion explore the new place. It can be exciting having a new animal in the house, but be patient.

Pets are perfect companions for seniors as they reduce loneliness, provide a sense of purpose, encourage activity, and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. When helping a senior pick out a pet, avoid a young cat or dog that will only disrupt their environment. Instead, look for an adult cat or dog well-suited for their situation, so they can reap all the benefits of pet ownership without all the headaches.

Written by Aurora James for LAA Pet Talk. Aurora believes there are no bad dogs. She created DogEtiquette.info to share her dog training tips and advice to dog owners everywhere. DogEtiquette.info welcomes and encourages anyone to use its infographics in their writing. It simply ask that you please cite and link to them as the source.

If you’re a pet owner with writing skills, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors would love to hear from you! We’re especially looking for content about birds, exotic animals, and horses. Content may take the form of an advice column or how-to articles. You may even simply wish to act as an expert consultant. If you’re interested, please post in the comments and we’ll be in touch.

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Guest Post: Emotional Support Animals Vs Therapy Pets

Are you like me and thought you knew the difference between an emotional support animal and a therapy animal?  Upon doing some more in-depth research, I found that I did not know much if at all between the two.  Did you know that guinea pigs can be emotional support animals and therapy animals, talk about a win-win!

Emotional Support Animals

An emotional support animal is defined as a companion animal in which a doctor sees beneficial for someone with a disability.  Most emotional support animals are dogs, but there are other animals suited for this task also.

Did you know an animal doesn’t need the training to become an emotional support animal? I’d like to add that in recent years some courtrooms have provided emotional support dogs to those who’ve been on the stand to give a testimony; the dog is right there beside them providing comfort.

Most emotional support animals help a person that has anxiety and/or depression, but they’re not limited to those specific areas. Emotional support animals has even been proven in some cases to be more helpful than medication for depression/anxiety.

Therapy Animals

A therapy animal is defined as an animal that provides treatment for a person. Therapy animals also can be used in providing medical care, behavioral, and emotional care. Therapy animals can be in a wide variety of places such as nursing homes, prisons, schools, and libraries.

The most used animal for this type of task is a dog, but other animals such as cats, birds, and horses have been certified as ones too. The most important requirements are they like meeting new people and going new places. Therapy animals teams will also need to pass an evaluation.

Guinea Pigs

These little creatures are a compact way to provide comfort either as an emotional support animal or therapy animal. Speaking from personal experience, after my husband or myself would have a stressful day, just petting our boy guinea pigs would help. Guinea pigs can be very loving and entertaining, providing an excellent source of laughter and a feeling of well-being to a person.

To serve as a therapy animal, the guinea pig should remain as calm as possible without a nibbling session. Some handlers during sessions recommend the use of veggies or fruits as an incentive for the guinea pig. For a moment, a person interacting with a therapy guinea pig can forget what’s going on and just enjoy life.

Written by Nikki Harbeston, Creative Stuff, for LAA Pet Talk. She resides in South Carolina with her husband and dog. Her blog features Diary of a Chubby Piggie and Into the Journey of Dog. Copyright August 2013-March 2014.

If you are a pet owner with writing skills, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors would love to hear from you! We’re especially looking for content about birds, exotic animals, and horses. Content may take the form of an advice column or how-to articles. You may even simply wish to act as an expert consultant. If you are interested, please post in the comments and we’ll be in touch.

Dear Miss Behavior: How Can I Teach My Dog to Retrieve?

Dear Miss Behavior, We adopted a Labrador Retriever from rescue. He’s three-years-old and has great house manners. The only problem is he doesn’t retrieve! We toss a toy but he grabs it and runs off. Someone said try two toys and trade one toy for another, but he just hides the first toy and then runs and gets the second. We really love the idea of playing fetch in the back yard. How do we teach him how to retrieve?

missbehavior

Some dogs never learn the idea of playing fetch when they’re a puppy. They don’t realize the game lasts
much longer if you bring the toy back to the human.

It’s not difficult to train dogs to retrieve. They have the instinct to chase and pick up; They just need to be taught that giving the toy back is more important that hiding it.

Start with him on leash in the house and have handy a toy that doesn’t roll away too easily and a small dish of tasty treats. Offer him the toy and let him grab it out of your hand and then present him with a treat. Most likely he’ll drop the toy for the treat.

Pick up the toy and repeat several times. Then hand him the toy and say “Give” or “Drop”. If he drops the toy, tell him what a good dog he is and give him a treat. If he doesn’t drop it, put the food on his nose so he does drop it and go back to step one for a few more repetitions.

Once he’s giving up the toy on command, gently toss the toy away from you. Remember he’s on a leash so only toss it a foot or so.

Allow him to run out and get the toy, and call him back. Use the leash to gently guide him back to you if he won’t come willingly.

Again have him give you the toy and reward him. Keep practicing this way throwing the toy a little farther and eventually dropping the leash.

If at any time he starts to run away with the toy, grab the leash and gently guide him back to you. Make sure the treats are really tasty!

Once he’s doing very well inside. Move outside. Keep him on leash until he understands he needs to
bring the toy back and get a reward. Once he’s reliably bringing the toy back for a treat, begin only
rewarding every other toss, or every third toss.

Eventually you won’t have to reward him with a treat because the game will be his reward.

marcygraybillAfter Marcy adopted her first dog in 1988, she began to research about dog care. Research took the form of checking out books and videos to learn how to train Lady. Eventually, Marcy and her sister began taking their dogs to the dog run and taking formal dog classes. For about six years, Marcy volunteered for the Capital Humane Society, where she performed a variety of jobs, and took time to watch the dogs and learn about their behaviors. Currently, she’s an obedience instructor at GLOC. “I think the most important is to keep up to date on what’s going on in the field.  I try to read articles, blogs and  new books that come out, and watch any DVDs that are available.”

Guest Post: Ensuring Your Dog is a Good Neighbor

Stock photo, Pexels
Stock photo, Pexels

Written by Aurora James for LAA Pet Talk. Aurora believes there are no bad dogs. She created DogEtiquette.info to share her dog training tips and advice to dog owners everywhere. DogEtiquette.info welcomes and encourages anyone to use its infographics in their writing. It simply ask that you please cite and link to them as the source.

Dog etiquette is important. As of 2012, 36 percent of U.S. households owned dogs. That’s 43 million households, with a grand total of 69.9 million dogs. So, there’s a strong likelihood that you own a dog or have a neighbor who owns a dog. If that’s the case, here some etiquette tips for all the dog owners who are also trying to be good neighbors.

Installing a Fence

 A good first step is to install a fence around your yard. According to Home Advisor, the average cost of installing a fence runs between $1,643 and $3,857. However, you’ll probably find that it’s worth the money. A good fence ensures that your dog won’t run away or trample through your neighbors’ lawns. Additionally, it gives your dog a sense of order and place, allowing it to roam while also keeping it safe from thieves, or (especially for small dogs) predators like hawks or coyotes. Make sure to install a doggie door to let your pooch access the backyard whenever it wants. Just like us, dogs need exercise to lose weight and not feel cooped up or depressed.

Picking Up After Your Dog

Another etiquette tip is to pick up after your dog. Leaving your dog’s waste on the sidewalk or the grass is unsightly. Of course, this courtesy is more than just cosmetic. Feces can attract rats or drop into the sewer system, contaminating the waterways. Some of the diseases that fester in dog poop include E. coli, giardia, salmonella, and roundworms. Left out in the open, they have a way of getting into the digestive tracts of other animals, or other people’s dogs, and then into their homes. So keep a doggie bag handy whenever you and your dog pop out for a stroll.

Keep It Down!

For centuries, people have kept dogs because they act as our sentries, pricking up their ears and barking if a trespasser approaches. They can also bay at the moon, howl for no reason, or yap at other dogs. Try to keep the decibel level down, especially at night. Maintain a household schedule to minimize the chance that your dog will yowl out of confusion. Then keep that schedule going into the evening hours, which will calm it down because it’s used to your bedtime pattern. Pet it and play with it throughout the day so that it doesn’t feel like it has to raise a ruckus to get your attention–and wake the whole neighborhood in the process.

Public Places

Perhaps the cornerstone of being a good dog-owning neighbor is teaching your dog how to behave in public. A lot of that education starts with you. Be a considerate dog walker. Always keep your dog on a leash, and pay attention to where you’re going so that your dog doesn’t bump into a child or dash across someone’s yard. Also, be mindful of where you let it urinate. (Avoid parked cars or someone’s lawn or mailbox.) Regularly visit the vet, keep your vaccinations current, and make sure your address and phone number are engraved onto your dog’s collar. Finally, introduce it to the dog park, so it can play with other dogs.

Balancing the roles of good neighbor and good dog-owner isn’t impossible. Just make sure your dog is as well-mannered in public as it is in your house. You’ll know you’ve done a good job if your neighbors bend down and ruffle your dog’s ears when they pass you on the sidewalk.

If you’re a pet owner with writing skills, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors would love to hear from you! We’re especially looking for content about birds, exotic animals, and horses. Content may take the form of an advice column or how-to articles. You may even simply wish to act as an expert consultant. If you’re interested, please post in the comments and we’ll be in touch.

Guest Post: Guinea Pigs and Other Pets

Fruity & Pudding, Photo by Allison
Fruity & Pudding, Photo by Allison

Every living creature at some point in their lives like to have their own space, but in a world with billions of creatures it’s sometimes a little difficult to achieve it. When introducing a guinea pig to your home, you need to consider if you have space enough for it and also how your other pets will react.

When bringing a guinea pig into your house, I recommend buying a large home for each pet (something in the range of $200,000.00!) with lots of yard space to be free in. In all seriousness, I encourage you that whether you have one or more than one guinea pig that you provide them with a big cage. These little fur balls love to run around and need an area to do their morning yoga. Cage space for one guinea pig alone should have at least seven square feet of space, each additional guinea pig should have two to four additional square feet of space. For more information on guinea pig housing, check out info at Guinea Lynx.

Bumblebee & Lucy, Photo by Allison
Bumblebee & Lucy, Photo by Allison

There are other considerations to make too. For example, do you have a place in your home for your guinea pig to live in safely? Your cat may be curious and check out your guinea pig. If you have a cat, make sure the guinea pig(s) cage is not accessible by any means. Dogs can be quite rambunctious and loud. If you have a dog, make sure the cage is in a place where the barking won’t scare your guinea pig(s). Whether you have a cat or dog, they may want to play with your guinea pig and accidentally hurt it. They might also view your guinea pig as prey to eat. In a nutshell, if you have other pets, keep your guinea pig(s) in a safe place so they can enjoy being a guinea pig.

When you bring your guinea pig(s) home, your other pets are going to either be curious, afraid, or not care about it. Do you have a plan of introducing your new guinea pig(s) to your current pets? I don’t recommend bringing your guinea pig(s) and other pets face to face for a while; it can either go well or be a disaster.

Bumblebee & Barnaby, Photo by Allison
Bumblebee & Barnaby, Photo by Allison

Give all of your pets a while to get used to each other, then introduce them from far away. Perhaps, bring your other pets into the area your guinea pig(s) are residing in, but from a distance! Please don’t put your pet(s) right up to the cage; it’ll frighten the guinea pig(s) and possibly your other pet(s).

If your take your time and properly introduce your pets, chances are the introductions will go well and there will be nothing to worry about. The important part is, to make sure that you stay calm and the animals may stay calm as well! For more info on guinea pig introductions, check out Pawsperous Pets.

Finally, when thinking of incorporating guinea pigs into your home with multiple pets, check to see if you have the space. If you live in an apartment, you may only be able to keep two pets at a time or your lease may include no “exotic animals.”

Multiple pets in a home can be a wonderful experience! Guinea pigs love to be social and can get along with all kinds of animals. Just make sure you do your research before thinking of adopting a guinea pig or two. Guinea pigs deserve a safe and loving home too.

eclipse

Written by Nikki Harbeston, Creative Stuff, for LAA Pet Talk. She resides in South Carolina with her husband and dog. Her blog features Diary of a Chubby Piggie and Into the Journey of Dog. Copyright August 2013-March 2014.

If you are a pet owner with writing skills, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors would love to hear from you! We’re especially looking for content about birds, exotic animals, and horses. Content may take the form of an advice column or how-to articles. You may even simply wish to act as an expert consultant. If you are interested, please check out our Author Guidelines.

Dear Miss Behavior: My Dog Bites When She Plays

Dear Miss Behavior, My Siberian Husky is a great dog. She only has one problem. Sometimes she gets really excited and starts biting my hands, my arms and even pulling on my clothes. I try telling her “NO!” but it doesn’t seem to make a difference to her. She is about a year old and we take long walks every day. Can you help?

missbehaviorI’m sorry to hear that Angel is trying to use you as a toy. This is a behavior that needs to stop. Not only is it dangerous; rips in clothes are definitely fashion faux-pas.

It sounds like Angel has had quite a bit of practice with the mouthing, so you’ll need some patience in stopping it. Whenever she starts to grab you, say “Ouch “in a loud voice with feeling. It doesn’t matter if she hurts you or not, we’re creating a word that she’ll learn means stop mouthing you and calm herself.

When you first say the word and she stops, you’ll quietly praise her. Tell her she’s a “gooood doooog” in a low and slow voice. You can give her a small treat if you have one handy but don’t pet her. Petting or touching her will encourage her to start mouthing again.

After a few times, she’s going to start testing you by trying to nip you again. When she does, you’ll move onto the next step. As soon as she grabs at you or your clothes say “Ouch,” and cross your arms and turn your back on her. When she calms down, verbally praise her as before.

Angel is quite smart, so she’ll soon figure out that mouthing you means you’ll stop interacting with her. The problem is she’s been rewarded for biting in the past. Anytime you pushed her away, grabbed her muzzle or wrestled her to the ground was probably viewed as a reward. Not only did you touch her but, in her opinion, you actually played with her.

So she’s going try to push you into ‘playing’ with her again. The next step requires her to have a flat buckle collar on and her crate nearby. You said you crate her at night so that’s great. When she begins chewing on you say “Ouch” but instead of ignoring her, you gently take hold of her collar and lead her into her crate. Close the door and leave her alone for a short time. Don’t get angry, don’t yell at her, or be mean when you put her in the crate. If her crate isn’t handy, you can take her to the laundry room or if you’re outside go inside without her. The end result is Angel spending a few minutes alone.

(I’ve been asked if that will make her hate her crate and I say no. Dogs learn to dislike their crates if they’re forced to spend too much time in them or if they’re frightened or teased while in the crate. I loved my cr—room as a child, even though I was sent there when I did something naughty.)

When you go back to her, be sure to keep it low-key when you let her out. Don’t encourage her to become excited. She needs to sit before the door opens. She’ll soon learn when you say “Ouch” to calm herself or she won’t have any playmates.

Remember, Siberian Huskies are very intelligent and have boundless energy. It sounds like you’ve got a good start with the long walks, but don’t forget to exercise her mind as well as body. Take an obedience class and train her every day, not only will she be better behaved but she’ll have less energy. Once you’ve taken her through a couple of obedience classes, the sky’s the limit. Consider agility, flyball, and/or even tracking to engage her.

Thanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.

marcygraybillAfter Marcy adopted her first dog in 1988, she began to research about dog care. Research took the form of checking out books and videos to learn how to train Lady. Eventually, Marcy and her sister began taking their dogs to the dog run and taking formal dog classes. For about six years, Marcy volunteered for the Capital Humane Society, where she performed a variety of jobs, and took time to watch the dogs and learn about their behaviors. Currently, she’s an obedience instructor at GLOC. “I think the most important is to keep up to date on what’s going on in the field.  I try to read articles, blogs and  new books that come out, and watch any DVDs that are available.”

Guest Post: A 21-Year-Old Cat is Found!

She was 21-years-old and lost!

Sage became part of the family when Megan was just three. They literally grew up together. She was there to see Megan walk out the door for the first day of kindergarten, when Megan came home from her first date and when Megan headed out into the adult world.

Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

Then the unthinkable happened. Seven months ago, Sage was lost during a move.

Nearly 21-years-old, she had the thin appearance of a very old cat in declining health. Megan looked for her, but she had literally vanished.

Losing a loved one is hard, and the hardest part about losing Sage was not knowing what happened, so Megan concluded that a coyote had snatched her while she was lost in the woods. It was hard to think about, but one can’t begin to heal from a loss until one acknowledges it. Believing her to be gone forever was less painful than dealing with the unknown.

Sage’s family thought she was gone, but the opposite was true. Last May, 14-year-old Daynika found the emaciated tortoiseshell and took her home knowing that her mom would have some ideas on how to help her.

There were allergies in the family, so Daynika couldn’t keep her, but her mom asked her friend Shannen to foster her. In the meantime, Daynika posted flyers, checked for a microchip and listed her on the local Lost Cat Facebook page.

Because Sage was only four pounds, Daynika posted her as a found kitten. How could an adult cat be so tiny? Sadly, Megan didn’t see the flyers. In addition, because she believed Sage to be gone forever, she wasn’t looking on Facebook for her.

Enter the next person in Sage’s tale. A Community Cats Coalition volunteer named Lisa saw the post about the emaciated kitten and offered to help. Dehydrated and underweight, Sage received her fluids and told Shannen to contact her if she needed anything else.

After caring for Sage for a month and not finding her home, Shannen took Sage to a local no-kill shelter. under the assumption Sage would be safe there. But the shelter called Shannen to say that Sage was going to be put to sleep if a foster home wasn’t found by the next day.

Lisa and Sage, Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Lisa and Sage, Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

Shannen didn’t realize that a shelter can be considered no-kill if healthy, adoptable cats aren’t euthanized. While Sage looked to be a kitten with her small frame, the shelter recognized that she was an old cat. Old cats, sick cats, shy cats, and scared cats are considered unadoptable in many shelters. Sage’s time was up.

Shannen contacted Lisa, who felt sick upon hearing the news. After only a few minutes of thought, Lisa changed her schedule to pick up Sage and, once again, the elderly cat was safe.

But Sage had obvious health issues, so Lisa took her to the vet. $550 later, it was determined that Sage was a very old cat with hearing loss, arthritis, hyperthyroidism, and Irritable Bowel Disorder.

Some people would have quit at this point, but instead the volunteer took her home and set up a spare bedroom with a heated bed, nutritious food, and toys. Daily medications, special food, Vitamin B12 shots and lots of love changed Sage. She jumped from four pounds to seven pounds.

Sage did not like the other cats in the Lisa’s home. Wanting something better than a spare-bedroom existence for her, Lisa posted her for adoption. Months passed and nobody wanted her.

Megan and Sage, Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Megan and Sage, Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

Then the miracle. Megan, the girl Sage grew up with, was ready to get another cat. She wanted to rescue an old cat in honor of Sage, the cat she had lost. Looking on Craigslist, she saw a post for a senior cat and clicked it open. Maybe she would adopt this cat. But wait, this cat looked like her Sage! Could it be? She pulled out childhood photos and matched every patch of orange and black and tan. It was her! She quickly contacted Lisa and sent photos. As Lisa matched the markings and heard the story of when and where she was hopeful that Megan was the owner. When Megan came to visit and Sage recognized her immediately, it was obvious that this was her cat.

We love the miracle of Sage’s story and are so thankful for those who helped her on her journey home. For Dr. Gawley who provided wonderful vet care. And for Lisa who literally saved Sage’s life, fostered her for over six months, and continued to post on Craigslist long after others would have given up.

For everyone out there who has lost a cat, don’t give up. Miracles happen and they do come home. Welcome home Sage!

Reprinted with permission from Nancy Wahl, Community Cats Coalition. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright January 5, 2016.

The mission of Community Cats Coalition, located in the Pacific Northwest, is to enhance the lives of community cats by promoting spay and neuter and providing training and mentorship in Trap-Neuter-Return. Education is their number one goal and to that end it publishes a variety of posts on Facebook related to community cats. A Best of Facebook can be found at the CCC website.

Guest Post: A Lost Blind Cat is Found!

She’s blind and she’s lost outside. Is there hope?

Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

Buggie is a beautiful little ticked tabby cat who slowly lost her vision, and a year ago had to have both eyes removed for a chronic eye condition. She lives with her mom and dad, the dogs, and a bottle baby she helped raise in a very small home. Like most blind cats, she has adapted well to her environment and knows

Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

her surroundings but, obviously, she does not go outside.

So it was with a sense of horror that Bruce and Karen realized she somehow slipped outside without them knowing it! Buggie is very social with her humans, loves her baby Ebony, and the family dogs, but now she was outside in total foreign territory.

What would YOU do? Obviously, Bruce and Karen looked for her, called for her, searched the immediate area. They went on to post her story on the Lost Cats of Snohomish County site and ask for help. They got advice and followed so many tips: Put out items that smell like home, traps with stinky food, cat litter, talk to neighbors, post/pass out flyers, place a baby monitor outside to watch the area and be able to talk from inside!

A week passed; the next step was hiring a pet detective. Because money was tight they had to sell personal items first. Happily, before that step was taken, Buggie came home!

What was the trick that worked? Karen credits the idea given to her of recording the crying sounds of the kitten she loves with bringing Buggie home. “I know that’s what brought Buggie home,” Karen said. “She HATES it when Ebony cries!” By recording that cry and having it play outside, in the area with all the familiar smells and other sounds, Buggie was drawn back to her home.

But no one trick can be counted on to work. It’s perseverance and the willingness to keep trying that brought Buggie home. Our thanks to Karen and Bruce for not giving up!

Please remember, if you’ve a lost cat, take action immediately. Get a trap asap because that is your best chance of a fast recovery. (There are traps available for loan from many shelters and rescues. The majority do NOT charge a fee, but will simply ask for a refundable deposit) Talk to ALL the people in the neighborhood. Make a flyer and take door to door, because handing out flyersis much more effective than posting on a pole–but do that too! The most critical part is don’t give up.

Welcome home, Buggie! You made our day.

Reprinted with permission from Nancy Wahl, Community Cats Coalition. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright March 11, 2015.

The mission of Community Cats Coalition, located in the Pacific Northwest, is to enhance the lives of community cats by promoting spay and neuter and providing training and mentorship in Trap-Neuter-Return. Education is their number one goal and to that end it publishes a variety of posts on Facebook related to community cats. A Best of Facebook can be found at the CCC website.

Guest Post: Why Your Lost Cat Might not be at the Shelter

Stacy lost her cat last summer. An indoor-outdoor boy, he simply vanished. He wasn’t at the local shelter, and there wasn’t any evidence that he’d been hit by a car or taken by a predator. She had no idea what to do or how to find him.

Less than 2% of cats entering U.S. shelters are reunited with their owners. Yet for many people, shelter searches become the main focus of their search. They devote so much time to checking shelters, that they leave little time for search methods that are more likely to bring their cat home. The advice to check shelters is popular because it works well with dogs. Dogs are more visible and generally easier to catch. People tend to believe a free-roaming dog is lost and intervene to help. A free-roaming cat is more likely to be viewed as a stray. Even when identified as a possibly lost, the cat is likely to require a trap or extended time earning its trust before it can be placed in a carrier for transport.

What becomes of these lost cats and why don’t they end up at the shelters?

People who find lost cats are often reluctant to take them to shelters. One study reported in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that fewer than 8% of found pets were surrendered to a local animal agency when found. The most common reason stated by the finders was that they were afraid the cat would be euthanized. In many parts of the country, this is true. Some of these lost cats become free-roaming cats. They feed at feral colonies, on back porches, and behind restaurants and businesses. Others are adopted or re-homed by their finders. Some do eventually end up at a shelter, but this is a minority and often occurs after the owner has stopped looking for them.

Let’s work on changing people’s mindset on stray cats. If you find a cat, it might be someone’s lost pet and YOU are their best chance for getting back home.

  • Take the cat to a local vet or rescue to be scanned for a microchip. You may need to borrow a trap to catch him. Lost cats can be shy and difficult to catch.
  • Post the cat as found at the shelter. Include a photo and contact info. Many shelters have online places to post found cats as well. If possible, foster the cat while searching for his owner. This will buy the cat MORE time to be reunited with his owner because many shelters place cats for adoption after a three-day hold.
  • Post flyers around the neighborhood and at local vet clinics and rescues.
  • Ask your neighbors if they recognize the cat.
  • Post the cat as found on Craigslist, Facebook, and other social media sites. Newspapers usually offer free posting for found cats.
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

One day, Stacy had the surprise of her life. After being gone for seven months, her big black cat waltzed in the door as if nothing had happened. And he wasn’t just a big black cat, he was a bigger black cat. Fat and warm and looking quite happy. Turns out, he wasn’t at the shelter, but at a neighbor’s home all this time. She sent out this jubilant reunion photo to her Facebook group.

NOTE: If you decide to leave the cat at a shelter, please ask to be notified if the cat is unadoptable or will be euthanized. It is kinder to fix the cat and release it in his home territory than to leave it to be euthanized at a shelter. Shy and feral cats often have people who feed and care about them, but they may not think to look at a shelter.

Reprinted with permission from Nancy Wahl, Community Cats Coalition. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright February 6, 2016.

The mission of Community Cats Coalition, located in the Pacific Northwest, is to enhance the lives of community cats by promoting spay and neuter and providing training and mentorship in Trap-Neuter-Return. Education is their number one goal and to that end it publishes a variety of posts on Facebook related to community cats. A Best of Facebook can be found at the CCC website.

Guest Post: Why Lost Cats are Rarely Found at Shelters

The American Humane Association estimates that over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen each year and that a whopping 1 in 3 pets will be lost at some point in their lives. Nobody knows how many of those end up at shelters, but the ASPCA statistics show that of the 3.4 million cats brought into public shelters each year, 1.4 are euthanized and only about 2% are reunited with their owners. The reunification rates for dogs are much higher at 25 – 30% . How can we use this information to get more cats home?

Why is it so low for cats?

  • When cats are lost in an unfamiliar area, they hunker down and hide in silence. A cat who comes to his name inside the house, will typically not respond outside. This is a survival instinct; they’re scared and don’t want to attract predators to their location. Cats that hide don’t get taken to shelters because nobody knows where they are.
  • Cats are far less likely to allow a stranger to approach them and take them to safety. It can take days, weeks or even months to coax a lost or stray cat into allowing handling. Some end up needing to be trapped. By the time cats like this end up at a shelter, their owners have often stopped looking.
  • Cats are less likely than their canine counterparts to sport a collar with identification. Without visible identification, they are less likely to be identified as a lost cat with a potential owner.

How do cat owners reduce chances of shelter recovery?

  • Not microchipping: Home Again Microchips reports that Less than 25% of cats are microchipped. Of those micro chipped cats, only 58% have been registered in a microchip database with owner contact information.
  • Only checking the shelter just a few times: Owners often check the local shelters right after their cat goes missing, but rarely do they continue checking for the weeks or months needed. Lost cat behaviors make it more likely for the cat to end up at a shelter long after it went missing.
  • Checking the wrong shelter: Cats can end up at a shelter that is different from the one checked by their owner. Owners need to check and post their cat as missing at all local shelters.
  • Having unrealistic assumptions: If the shelters have been notified, owners assume that the shelter will notify them if a similar cat comes in. That may happen if the cat is unique looking or if the cat is brought in soon after the report, but few shelters are going to call every time a black cat or tabby or tuxedo comes in. There are simply too many.
  • Giving up: Grief avoidance leads some owners to just give up and go on with their life. Psychologically, it is easier for owners to conclude that their cat is dead, but it doesn’t help the cat when they show up the shelter months later and nobody is looking for them.

How do finders of cats reduce shelter recovery?

Desensitization: Free roaming cats are all around us, and so a new cat in the neighborhood may not be identified as lost. For some, stray cats are just part of the landscape and their presence isn’t noticed unless the population gets too high or they become a nuisance.

Stray cat mentality: Finders fail to notify all local shelters when they see an unfamiliar cat because they assume it’s not owned. About a third of the owned cats in the United States were obtained as strays, and in many cases the finders made no effort to notify shelters or scan for a chip.

Rehoming too fast: Finders assume that an owner will be found in a day or two if the cat has a home. When this doesn’t happen, the cat may be given away or posted for adoption on Craigslist or other social media sites. The reality is that it can often take weeks or even months to find an cat’s owner.

Shelter phobia: People who find cats often state that they are afraid that the cat will be killed if they take it to a shelter. While this is true in many areas, most shelters allow finders to post animals online on the shelter site or maintain a “found cat” book or poster board in the shelter. Posting the cat as found and then fostering the cat greatly increases the chance of it being reunited with his owner.

How do shelters reduce owner recovery?

Limited resources = limited holding time: Most shelters will hold strays for 3 days or more, but after that the cat is put up for adoption. Given the limited space, most shelters lack the resources to hold them longer.

Shelter staff training: Shelters workers may lack the time or technical skill to post found cats online. There is no central registry for lost cats or found cats, and so it is difficult to train staff to use the ever-changing social media, neighborhood groups, or classified sites that are popular in a certain area.

Cat assessment in stressful environments: Most shelters are not equipped to assess or hold scared or feral cats. Shelters are often noisy and stressful places for cats. Since lost cats often take on feral behaviors in order to survive, they may be misidentified as feral and either killed or inappropriately placed as barn cats.

What can we do to improve these numbers? Educate!

  • People need to notify all local shelters as soon as a cat is lost or found. For many people, the shelter is the only place they will think to look. Language or technical barriers may prevent them from using online sites for pet recovery. Help the shelters find the owners by letting them know when you have lost or found a cat.
  • In metropolitan areas, it can be difficult to determine which shelter takes animals from which area. Take time to educate yourself on the jurisdiction of all local shelters. Then make this information accessible to all. Post it online and share it among all your local rescue and lost and found pet groups. People won’t find their cat if they go to the wrong shelter.
  • Many cat lovers want to help, but don’t have the ability to get out and do the physical work of searching for a cat. Seek volunteers to check shelter listings online and pair them with lost and found pet listings online.
  • Encourage your shelter and tech-friendly cat lovers to help with shelter intake listings and posting. The timely online posting of lost and found cats will get more cats home.
  • Spread the word on microchipping. Find low-cost microchipping opportunities in your community and make sure low-income pet owners know how to access this resource. Every cat microchipped will help raise the shelter reunification rate.
  • Volunteer at your local shelter. Most are tax-payer funded and they can accomplish more with your help. Be the solution instead of the critic because THAT is what helps the cats.
  • Two years later, the rescuer gets a call: “I’m so sorry. We’re moving across country and cannot take Bitsy, and I remembered you said you’d always take her back.” The problem was a prolonged road trip, too hard on a cat who would be confined to a carrier for most of six weeks. The rescuer offered to not only foster for the 6 weeks, but to PAY THE AIRFARE to reunite Bitsy with her family, but her family said, “It’s just not going to work, but it just kills us to give her up.”

Reprinted with permission from Nancy Wahl, Community Cats Coalition. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright March 20, 2016.

The mission of Community Cats Coalition, located in the Pacific Northwest, is to enhance the lives of community cats by promoting spay and neuter and providing training and mentorship in Trap-Neuter-Return. Education is their number one goal and to that end it publishes a variety of posts on Facebook related to community cats. A Best of Facebook can be found at the CCC website.