Friday, March 26, 2010

Preparing the Furry Kids for Penny

I have determined that my pets have ESP. They are very intuitive after all. Okay, maybe they can't read minds, but they are aware that something is up by the way my stomach has grown over the last 8 months, and the shift in my energy level. Lately after work, I am in bed earlier or blobbing out on the couch watching "Dexter." Both cats and dogs seem to be extra needy these days and attack us the second we walk through the front door. They each race to tell us about their day.

As my husband and I are going to be new first time parents next month, the preparations have been never ending at home. Things like painting the nursery and organizing the house are obvious adjustments that need to be made, but how do you make other adjustments like preparing your pets for your new family member?? This is something I had thought would just work itself out, but am now realizing there is more to it than that. So I looked for some help. I am always disappointed by people who get rid of their pets because they are having a baby, so I am determined to make the ecosystem at home work no matter what. After all, our furry kids were there first and deserve the forever home I promised them when we took them in.

I know when we announced our new addition to other relatives, they were concerned about the cats we have in the house and toxoplasmosis because it can cause serious birth defects. I assured them I would not be handling the litter box at all, and that Rich would get to be the lucky candidate for that. Also after looking it up, it seems it can easily be avoided. It is rare in the U.S. and is mainly in the feces of cats that ingest raw meat, birds, mice, or contaminated soil. Since we never have raw meat in the house and our cats are only indoors, our family felt a little less worried.

I decided to look into other tips that would help us (and our relatives) feel more prepared for our new addition. The Humane Society's website gave me some good info on toxoplasmosis along with some other suggestions on how to adjust my furry kids to the new baby:

  • Spay or neuter your pet. Not only do sterilized pets typically have fewer health problems associated with their reproductive systems, but they are also calmer and less likely to bite.
  • Consult with a veterinarian and pediatrician if the thought of your newborn interacting with the family pet makes you uncomfortable. By working with these experts before your baby is born, you can resolve problems early and put your mind at ease.
  • Address any pet training and behavior problems. If your pet exhibits fear and anxiety, now is the time to get help from an animal behavior specialist. If your pet's behavior includes gentle nibbling, pouncing, or swatting at you and others, redirect that behavior to appropriate objects.
  • Train your pet to remain calmly on the floor beside you until you invite him or her on your lap, which will soon cradle a newborn.
  • Encourage friends with infants to visit your home to accustom your pet to babies. Supervise all pet and infant interactions.
  • Accustom your pet to baby-related noises months before the baby is expected. For example, play recordings of a baby crying, turn on the mechanical infant swing, and use the rocking chair. Make these positive experiences for your pet by offering a treat or playtime.
  • If the baby's room will be off-limits to your pet, install a sturdy barrier such as a removable gate (available at pet or baby supply stores) or, for jumpers, even a screen door. Because these barriers still allow your pet to see and hear what's happening in the room, he'll feel less isolated from the family and more comfortable with the new baby noises.
  • Talk to your pet about the baby, using the baby's name if you've selected one.
  • Finally, plan ahead to make sure your pet gets proper care while you're at the birthing center.

fter the baby is born:
  • Have your partner or friend take home something with the baby's scent (such as a blanket) for your pet to investigate before you bring your baby home from the hospital.
  • Greet your pet warmly and calmly when you return home after giving birth, and have someone else take the baby into another room. Keep some treats handy so you can distract your pet.
  • Bring your pet with you to sit next to the baby after the initial greeting. Reward your pet with treats for appropriate behavior. Remember, you want your pet to view associating with the baby as a positive experience. To prevent anxiety or injury, never force your pet to get near the baby, and always supervise any interaction.
  • Try to maintain regular routines as much as possible to help your pet adjust. And be sure to spend one-on-one quality time with your pet each day—it may help relax you, too. With proper training, supervision, and adjustments, you, your new baby, and your pet should be able to live together safely and happily as one (now larger) family.

So in a perfect world, these tips will instantly solve any pet versus baby issues with a few magical steps, right? Well, I am not so sure how they will work at our house as our menagerie of pets obviously run the joint. In fact, I fully anticipate there will be a mutiny and the kitties will be constantly attempting to take over the nursery. But even though they are little monsters, they will still get the rest of their nine lives to adjust to our little "Penny" starting in April! :-)

Maranda Hawkes
Volunteer Coordinator

Friday, March 19, 2010

Meet Lester and Kamille, Two Cats in Love!

Cats have such a reputation for being aloof and independent that some people might not believe that cats can fall in love. Our adoptable cats Lester and Kamille, though, so clearly love each other that even a cynic can’t disbelieve in their love!

Lester originally came to us after being trapped in a feral colony. A dog, it appeared, had recently attacked him. Though we usually return the feral cats we trap to their colonies, Lester was severely injured so we got him medical treatment. It was an intense recovery for Lester, but after much TLC he recovered fully. Ready to begin a new adventure in life, he showed his true nature as a very sweet, talkative boy who loves to sit on a person’s lap and be brushed.

Lester was adopted into a home with another cat but, sadly, was returned after one month because the two cats didn’t see eye to eye. He went back to his foster home until he was adopted again, this time being returned after two weeks when the adopter was told by his apartment complex that he was only allowed a total of two cats, which he had prior to adopting Lester. So once again, he went back to his foster home, who meanwhile had started fostering Kamille, a lovely 2 1/2 year old Manx.

Kamille came to us after spending about 2 ½ months at a local shelter, where she caught the attention of Jamie, our Cat Foster Coordinator. As Jamie walked by, Kamille loudly meowed and pawed at the cage door, and Jamie just couldn’t pass her up. Despite her attention-getting ways at the shelter, Kamille turns out to be a very gentle and affectionate gal who loves to give head butts and get lots of loving.

Once Lester and Kamille found each other at their foster home, they instantly bonded—as if they were soulmates. Given their love for each other, we were happy when they both found a home together. Sadly, though, the adoption did not work out, and three months later, they were dropped off at a local shelter—despite the fact that we will gladly take any adopted animal back when the adoption does not work out. Thanks to their microchips, the shelter knew that Lester and Kamille came from our program, so we took them to a foster home once more.

Today, Lester and Kamille spend their days sleeping curled up together and grooming each other, clearly as in love as ever. With the depth of their love for each other, we will only adopt them as a pair, and they’re looking for their TRUE forever home now, where they can be together, safe, for the rest of their lives.

Amber Randall
Adoption Coordinator