Category Archives: pet adoption

The Daily Cat: Special Purr Allows Cats to Manipulate Humans

From the Editors of The Daily Cat

At 5 a.m., my cats want two things: breakfast and attention. Their Plan A is to meow louder than an alarm clock, which usually works. If I take longer than usual to respond, they resort to their no-fail Plan B: climbing on top of my head, butting my chin and purring with hypnotic desperation directly into my ear.

Perhaps you’ve also heard this special purr? Scientists have just named it “solicitation purring,” otherwise known as the purr we humans cannot ignore.

What Is Solicitation Purring?
Karen McComb, a cat owner herself, led the recent study on purring, published in the journal Current Biology. After she and her colleagues analyzed the acoustic structure of recorded cat purrs, they determined one particular type contains an embedded, high-pitched cry. “The high-frequency voiced cry occurs at a low level in cats’ normal purring, but we think that cats dramatically exaggerate it when it proves effective in generating a response from humans,” explains the University of Sussex behavioral ecologist.

The cry, much to a cat’s benefit, is very similar to that of a wailing human infant. “Cats have about the right size of vocal folds to produce a cry that is similar to a baby’s, so there is a coincidental element,” says Dr. McComb. In fact, she believes this cry component of a solicitation purr can sound remarkably like a crying child, and that is particularly effective with humans.

How It Works
If your cat sees you stirring from sleep at all in the early morning, it will immediately switch into giving this solicitation purring and position itself next to your head so you get the full impact. Sound familiar? Here’s what’s really taking place:

First Your cat gets a craving for food, water, attention, playtime or something else. Being relatively small, furry and unable to get to such things alone in your home, your pet sets a strategy in motion.

Second Your cat approaches you while vibrating its vocal folds, or cords, in its larynx. “This is not a normal vocal production mechanism [in the animal kingdom],” says Dr. McComb. “Usually in mammals, the vocal folds are just moved into the airstream and then are blown open and snap shut at their own natural frequency of vibration.” The resulting vibrating low fundamental frequency results in a purr.

Third Your cat doesn’t just continue to purr as usual. It voices a cry, “probably with the inner edges of the vocal folds,” believes Dr. McComb. The cry is superimposed on the regular purr.

Fourth You hear the solicitation purr and instinct kicks in. Studies show that most primates are driven to respond to the sound of an infant in distress, so your brain on some level perceives your cat as though it were an actual human baby, even though you consciously know it’s your needy feline.

Last If you are like most owners, you give in to what your cat desires. Considering cats cannot use actual words, the system is surprisingly effective. Nicolas Nicastro, who studied cat vocalizations at Cornell University, says that although they lack language, cats have become very skilled at managing humans to get what they want — food, shelter and a little human affection.

Have Cats Domesticated Humans?
Cats are domesticated animals that have learned to pull the right levers and make the right sounds to manage our emotions. And when we respond, we too are domesticated animals.

However, don’t confuse cats for little people. “Felines cannot say, ‘Take a can of food out of the cupboard, run the can opener and fill my bowl immediately,’” says Nicastro. They’ve evolved a different, yet no less effective, method of communicating with us.

Four Types of Purrs
Dr. McComb and Georgia Mason, a professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, suggest cats might purr in at least four ways:

  • Contentment purr This is “the relaxing one,” says Dr. Mason. It’s the common low frequency rumbling we both hear and feel.
  • Silent purr Purrs can occur as silent forms that we humans feel but not hear. Kitten purrs are particularly easy to feel, probably because of a kitten’s ability to communicate “all is well” to its natural mother.
  • Solicitation purr This is the newly identified purr with the embedded baby-like cry. “It’s amazing the way certain cries are recognized by humans as needy, even by non-cat owners,” says Dr. Mason.
  • Pain purr Cats also sometimes purr when they’re extremely ill. No one is certain why, but some experts have speculated the felines are attempting to comfort themselves.

If you have heard the solicitation purr, consider yourself lucky. “Not all cats use this solicitation purring,” explains Dr. McComb. “It seems to most often develop in cats that have a one-on-one with their owners.”

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Silent Victims of the Recession

This is Bubba my CFM (chief feline muse).

The Senate’s decision (as of this writing) not to renew an extension of unemployment benefits means I have to seriously consider the possibility of life without my three cats.

What the recession has meant to so many animals and their humans is beloved pets ending their lives in shelters with little chance of adoption, or pets abandoned in foreclosed home. For others, barely scraping by, it may mean their four-legged companion might have less to eat or shredded newspaper instead of cat litter. Senior pets have an incredibly low adoption rate and special-needs pets are all but out of the running when placed in cages next to fluffy, energetic young’uns. In some ways it is far worse for seniors — especially when they have known a lifetime of care and affection. Just the shock of being torn from familiar surroundings could be fatal.

I have been fortunate enough to provide for my little fur family during a yearlong job hunt but now I can barely look at Bubba, Chyron and Stanni without fear of what the near future will bring and how to keep them out of a shelter, if possible. It’s just the four of us, no friends, family or resources. I write that not out of self-pity but from a realistic assessment of options.

Chyron the cat.

Even in the best-case scenario of finding homes for one or all of them, knowing that they would have to be split up is sad. Bubba is 22 and more than anything, I want the rest of his life to be one of comfort and kindness. Chyron is about 14 and Stanni is 9, so they still have a few more years left to chase each other and compete for Bubba’s affections. It is the least I can do for them.

Undoubtedly there are many more people out there facing the same dilemma. As I wonder whether I will be on the street, it is crucial to keep these three devoted friends from suffering due to my misfortune.

Who will love them when I’m gone?

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The Paws That Refreshes

We took time out from a fruitless job search to meet some of our Facebook friends and attend a fund-raiser for New York City’s Animal Care and Control. Coincidentally, Friday night’s event was the first anniversary of being laid off, so a distraction would probably help.

And it did.

First up was cocktails with I HAVE CAT and meeting new friends, Sharon, Damon and Kira at the Bowery Wine Company. A low-key, friendly vibe and Happy Hour specials fueled a fast, fun get-together — and was the perfect opening act for the AC&C soireee.

As I HAVE CAT noted, we went to the dogs. Various terriers, a pit bull and Bocker the Labradoodle were the main (mane?) attractions.  We fussed over the pooches (convinced our cats would give us hell for it later) and talked to other animal lovers. Two folks from the Long Island Happy Cat Sanctuary got my attention because the founder was a guy (yes, a man!) who started rescuing cats on his own. Before he could say meow, he had a miniature wild kingdom. Now he was trying to turn it into a full-fledged organization. They don’t even have a website, so I can’t give you a link.

Coming from the world of TV, I couldn’t resist shooting a little video, including I HAVE CAT cuddling some pooches. It’s on OCR’s Facebook page.

But I’m sure the feline world will forgive IHC because she scored a Harper’s Baazar lithograph worth $1,200 and plans to use it to raise money for the animals. The kicker is the man who won it in the AC&C raffle didn’t seem to thrilled, so IHC marched right up to him and asked for it. Good job!

Speaking of jobs, I still don’t have one but went home glad that I got out of the sweatpants for one night.

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The Daily Cat: Dating Services for Cat Owners

Purrfect love.

“SINGLE FEMALE CAT OWNER: Seeks male companion who likes cuddling, playing ball and doesn’t mind hearing the occasional “meow” in the middle of the night.”

It used to be that lonely-hearted, pet-owning singles would take out personal ads, hoping a potential match wouldn’t end up being allergic or averse to their cat. Now there’s a way to cut to the chase: A variety of cat-themed dating Web sites and social networks have launched in the last few years on the premise that pet owners share a special something that they seek in a spouse — or even in a good friend. That special something can be summed up by the feel of soft fur rubbing against one’s leg, the purr after a satisfying neck scratch, and friendship of the feline sort.

“There are a lot of people out there who want to meet others who share a common interest like pets,” says Robert Yau, who founded DateMyPet.com five years ago and more recently started the social networking site MyCatSpace.com.

Cat-themed Social Networking Sites
Joining a pet-centered Web site can help ease tensions on the dreaded first date. “Nobody can tell whether or not you’re going to have chemistry based on something like a common interest in pets, but if you have a dog or cat, it’s a great way to break the ice,” explains Michael Carter, president of PetPassions.com, a pet-themed dating and social networking site.

These pet lover Web sites also allow your sense of humor to show through — in your profile and postings. DateMyPet.com asks members to describe their pet’s perspective on the ideal date. “It brings out the tongue-in-cheek,” says Yau. People sometimes write quips such as, “If I was a cat, I’d just want to stay in my bed” or “If a member of the opposite sex comes to the house, I would hope they would have a big lap so I could sit on it.”

But, as with meeting any strangers, it’s important to be cautious. Experts advise that you guard personal information and go to a public place for initial get-togethers. Here is a rundown on a few pet-themed dating and/or networking Web sites:

  • The Right Breed This Web site features instant messaging, chat rooms, topic forums, streaming video from webcams, and an online magazine about pets and dating. Singles can search for prospective partners by region, age, animals and even by cat breed. The service is free for the first 60 days. After that, it’s $14.99 per month.
  • Pet Passions This free online dating and social networking site was started in 2004. It features photo personals, blogging, email, text chat, audio chat and webcam chat. Inside, the site is segmented so that cat lovers can stick with their own kind while fish and horse lovers mingle among themselves.
  • Must Love Pets Members use personals, chat, matchmaking services, forums and photo galleries to get to know other cat lovers. You can meet feline fans from around the country or those in your neighborhood. Basic membership, during which you can create a profile and post pictures of you and your pet, is free. If you want to contact other members, you can sign up for a premium membership, which costs a one-time fee of $44.95.
  • Date My Pet Members fill out two profiles — one for themselves and one for their cat(s). The site can be used for romance or friendship. The basic membership is free and allows you to post a profile. The next level of membership costs $15 per month and allows you to initiate contact or a chat with another member.

Remember Your Cat
While searching for a new friend or date, keep in mind that your cat still needs companionship too. Consider adopting another cat, but if that’s not for you or your kitty, make sure to set aside time each day to play games with your pet, enhancing the fun with soothing and comforting banter. Remember, cats can’t directly post personal ads.

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Adoptapalooza Comes to New York City

Start spreading the news… Washington Square Park is going to the dogs, cats and pet lovers on Saturday. Adoptapalooza will be the place to meet your four-legged soulmate — and have a lot of fun.

The fur-in legion will be ready to roll at 11 a.m. and beginning at noon raffles will be held every half hour. You could win cool stuff from  Camp Bow Wow, Desert Essence, Elmo’s Closet, Eskayel, Fido Friendly Magazine, FUR by J Mikel, Greener Pup, Kipling, Pet Central, The New York Dog Shop, Rescue Chocolate, Sequoia Paris, ShoptheLook.net, S’more Smoochies, TD Bank, W Hotels, and lots more.

But first and foremost, find your new best friend. Adoptable cats and dogs from Animal Care & Control of NYC, Sean Casey Animal Rescue and the Picasso Veterinary Fund will be on three North Shore Animal League America adoption vans.

courtesy: Mayor's Alliance for New York City Animals.

Each person who adopts a dog or cat at Adoptapalooza will receive a free gift bag.

Among the events: a Dog and  Cat Trivia Quiz hosted by Andrea Arden of Andrea Arden Dog Training and Animal Planet’sDogs 101,”Cats 101,” and “Underdog to Wonderdog.”

Petographs will offer photo sessions with dogs and owners (what about cats?).

For peoplewatchers: “High Society” realty star Tinsley Mortimer; NFL Insider and ESPN contributor, Adam Schefter; Shallon Lester and Sarah “Klo” McLynn from MTV’s “Downtown Girls”; and indie-rockers Care Bears on Fire are scheduled to appear.

Complete list of Adoptapalooza events.

Adoptapalooza is sponsored by the Mayor Alliance for NYC Animals.

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The Daily Cat: Give Second-home Cats a Second Chance

Ten thousand humans are born each day, and for every human birth, 45 cats are brought into the world, according to the Animal Rescue League of El Paso. The result? Three to four million cats and dogs euthanized each year due to overpopulation.

“The last thing we want to do is to put the animals down,” says Richard P. Gentles of New York City’s Animal Care & Control (AC&C). Opening your home to just one shelter cat can help wipe out the discouraging statistics.

To Adopt or Not to Adopt
When you decide to share your home with a shelter cat, you not only save a feline life and free up shelter space; you also gain a loving companion. “Adopting from a shelter was a no-brainer,” says Cara Anselmo, a nutritionist who brought home her own cat from the AC&C in 2002. “I wanted to adopt an animal that might not have otherwise had a chance at a life,” she says.

After a few visits, Anselmo noticed that only kittens were getting adopted; that’s when she spotted the perfect older cat, Maggie.

Could a match with a cat like Maggie work for you? Consider the following pros of adopting an adult cat. Older cats:

  • Require less supervision Older cats are less destructive than energetic kittens. They are litter box-trained and don’t do a lot of scratching. “Staff and volunteers socialize the cats before they get adopted,” says Gentles, so a cat that has been at the shelter for a while will already have basic social skills.
  • Make great companions If you spend a lot of time at home, an adult cat is more likely than a playful kitten to sit on your lap while you watch TV. If you are usually away, consider adopting two cats: They will entertain each other without requiring your full attention when you return.
  • Have a fixed personality Adult cats have already grown into their personality, so no new traits will surprise you along the way. A kitten, on the other hand, may evolve into a very different creature than the one you originally fell in love with.
  • Are safer for children An adult cat is more likely than a kitten to have been exposed to children and other pets, and therefore may adapt more easily around them. A kitten that hasn’t learned to be around people yet may get frightened easily and scratch your over-eager child.
  • Save you money Aside from needing initial vaccinations and spaying or neutering, kittens have weaker immune systems, which may raise your veterinary bills. Adult shelter cats, however, are usually up to date with their shots and are already spayed or neutered. Some organizations, like the AC&C, even waive fees for adult cats. “It doesn’t devalue the animal’s life in any way; it’s just a creative way to get them adopted,” says Gentles.

The Matchmaking Process
Are you ready to take the leap and welcome an adult shelter cat into your home? Here is a suggested five-step process:

  1. Explore your resources Locate shelters and rescue groups near you through the Petfinder Web site. For a larger selection of pets, visit various shelters and rescue groups.
  1. Consider your needs Since adopting a cat will affect everyone in your household, “do your research and understand your lifestyle and the needs and interests of any family members,” advises Gentles. Consider personality type and such preferences as gender, color, breed and hair length.
  1. Get to know kitty Before you adopt, spend some time with your potential pet. Ask the shelter staff if you can visit with the cat in a more private area, and bring your family to make sure they get along with the cat.
  1. Be patient The approval process may be lengthy at times and may include an application, interview, references and fees. “Don’t get discouraged; it’s worth it,” advises Anselmo.
  1. Know your cat’s health Ask if the cat you want to adopt has a medical condition. If the condition is long-term, be sure you’re ready to attend to special needs. Also, get a copy of the cat’s health records. A few days after adoption, introduce your new pet to the veterinarian, who will ensure its health and administer necessary shots.

By advocating adoption, Gentles hopes that one day, euthanasia will come to an end. “It’s going to take a lot of work and community involvement,” he says. As for Anselmo, she and Maggie are still a happy pair. Says Anselmo: “Maggie is brave, affectionate and intuitive. She is my all-around best little friend.”

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The Daily Cat: Cat Health Care on a Budget

During the economic meltdown, families are looking to cut expenses, including their pets’ health care costs. But Arden Moore, editor of Tufts University’s Catnip magazine and author of Happy Cat, Happy You (Storey Press 2008), learned firsthand why it’s sometimes a good idea to pay a little more up front and avoid costly veterinary bills later.

Moore had purchased pet health insurance for her two dogs and her youngest cat. But when her 12-year-old cat, Callie, had to undergo radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism, it cost $1,500 from her pocket. “Because of her advanced age and preexisting condition, the insurance policy would only cover accidents — not medical conditions,” Moore says.

The lesson she learned: get a health insurance policy when your cat is young, before it develops a health condition. “We love our pets,” Moore says, “but medical procedures can be very expensive.” Here are some other pointers on how to best maintain your cat’s health during the recession, without it costing an arm and a leg:

Tip No. 1: Don’t Skip the Annual Checkup
While it may be tempting to skip your cat’s annual or biannual veterinary appointment, you may end up paying more in the end. At a routine checkup, your veterinarian can spot signs of illness so that you can treat them early, potentially saving a bundle on bills later on and possibly saving your cat’s life.

“When talking about pet health care on a budget, treat it like your child’s health care — it’s the one thing you don’t want to skimp on,” says Pam Johnson-Bennett, certified animal behavior consultant and author of several books on cats, including Psycho Kitty (Ten Speed Press 2007). “Your cat should be going to the veterinarian a minimum of once a year for a checkup and whatever else the cat needs for its stage of life. The sooner you find out about something that might be wrong, the easier and cheaper it is to correct.”

Tip No. 2: Shop Around for Vaccines
Vaccinations are one form of routine care that your cat needs on a regular schedule. But did you know that you have choices about where to get them done? Low-cost — and safe — alternatives are widely available for less than you’d pay at a veterinarian’s office.

First, try your local animal shelter or humane society. They often hold walk-in clinics. It may cost you in time (there are often waiting lines), but it will save you in your pocketbook. Certain humane societies, for example, have advertised feline leukemia vaccines for $15 apiece and rabies shots for as little as $12. Fees can vary.

If your local animal welfare organization doesn’t offer vaccinations, ask other cat owners or inquire at your local pet shop about where an animal lover on a budget can get low-cost vaccines for kitty.

Tip No. 3: Ask for Generic Medications
Pet medications can cost a bundle. So when your cat needs a prescription, don’t hesitate to pop the question that you’ve learned to ask your own doctor: “Is there a cheaper, generic version of the medication available?”

“Veterinarians are like that, too. You can ask them if a generic is OK,” Johnson-Bennett says. “If it’s not, they will specifically write that on the prescription.” She also suggests that if you must spring for the name brand, see if your veterinarian might let you pay in increments on a payment plan if you’ve lost your job or are having other money troubles. There’s no harm in asking.

Tip No. 4: Brush Kitty’s Teeth and Hair
Get in the habit of brushing your cat’s teeth at least a couple of times a week, Moore recommends. Use special toothpaste and brushes made specifically for cats. You can find these at most pet stores. Cats are physiologically different than humans, so don’t try your own favorite brand on your cat. Regular dental care may prevent oral health problems that can be more costly in the end. “It can cost up to $400 to do a professional dental cleaning,” Moore says. “By just getting in the habit, you’ll be able to see early on if the gums aren’t pink or if there is a tooth problem.”

By the same token, another regular grooming routine to get into with your cat is brushing its hair. “I have a short-haired cat, and I brush it not only to keep the coat clean, but to let me feel for any lumps and bumps that weren’t there last week,” says Johnson-Bennett. Another positive effect of a regular brushing is that you can possibly cut down on your cat’s hairballs. The more dead hair you remove, the less the cat is ingesting. Hairballs can become costly if they cause an intestinal blockage, which may jeopardize both your cat and your pocketbook.

Tip No. 5: Practice Good Nutrition and Don’t Overfeed
Moore suggests that you spend a little more — even in tough times — to buy a good-quality commercial cat food made with real protein and all the other nutritional elements that cats need. In the end, you’re actually going to save more on veterinary bills than you would if you started buying bargain-priced kitty food. To help cut costs, buy in bulk sizes. Moore recommends putting extra food in resealable freezer bags, adding a date and storing the food until you need it; however, freezing will not extend the “best used by” date of the product.

Keeping your cat at a healthy weight can also prevent future health problems. “Fat cats may look cute, but those cats can cost you because they’re more prone to developing diabetes, arthritis and other conditions,” Moore says. “Treat them with calorie-free hugs, rather than a bunch of extra food treats.”

Tip No. 6: Try Pet Health Insurance
Ultimately, as Moore discovered, it may be worth your while to spring for cat health insurance from the start. For as low as $8 per month, you can find some basic coverage for your cat that will pay up to 80 percent of most veterinary bills related to major illnesses or accidents. There are a variety of companies and groups that now offer cat health insurance, including Pets Best and VPI Pet Insurance. Even the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals now offers pet insurance in conjunction with the Hartville Group.

Here are some quick questions to ask when considering cat health insurance:

  • Are there discounts for insuring multiple pets in a household?
  • What are the different tiers of coverage, and what is the maximum per ailment that each tier will pay out?
  • Does the plan cover wellness visits and routine care?
  • What is the lifetime maximum payout?
  • How much will your costs increase as your pet ages?

As Moore found out the hard way, cat health insurance “­­­is your safety net.”

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