Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Flower Dangers for Felines

A visit to the emergency vet is not your cat's idea of romance. If you're planning to give flower bouquets or plants to friends and family with cats this Valentine's Day, consider whether that colorful arrangement could be harmful to the cats before making a purchase.

Most Dangerous

Keeping plants and flowers that cause organ damage (and possibly death) to cats out of your bouquets should be your top priority. Lilies are a very common bouquet flower that is toxic to cats. All parts of the plant are dangerous when ingested and can quickly lead to kidney and liver failure. Even the pollen is toxic and could make your cat ill if inhaled or groomed from her fur. Avoid lilies and the following plants at all costs, unless your emergency vet has a frequent visitor punch card:

Cats + Lillies = VERY DANGEROUS!
Azalea
Cyclamen
Cardboard Palm
Crocus
Delphinium
Foxglove
Lantana
Larkspur
Lily
Juniper
Mistletoe
Oleander
Rhododendron
Sago Palms


Dangerous in Large Quantities

Quite a few plants and flowers cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy in cats. Mild-to-moderate stomach upset usually takes care of itself over a day or two, but keep an eye on your cat for persistent or worsening symptoms. These plants are known to cause GI tract problems in cats, with symptoms worsening as the amount ingested goes up.


What to Do

Contact a veterinarian right away if your cat ingests any of the plants on the Most Dangerous list above, and keep a close eye out for signs of distress if your cat eats any plant you didn't purposely give her. If you can, save a sample of the plant your cat ate and bring it with you if you need to visit a vet, as this can help the doctor more quickly identify and treat the problem. Always have your vet's phone number accessible, as well as that of a nearby emergency vet clinic. (Valentine's Day is on a Sunday this year, and not all vet offices are open on weekends.)

It's important to know that ingesting plant material can cause a small amount of vomiting or distress in any particular cat. Some are more sensitive than others. Be especially mindful of plants around kittens, as their small bodies can quickly be affected by even small amounts of plant material.

"Pet-safe" Options

"Cat grass" is a safe and tasty snack for cats.
The lists above are long, without even being comprehensive, so what are some safe flowers and plants for cats? If you like tradition, de-thorned roses are a safe choice for homes with cats and dogs, as well as bamboo arrangements and bonsai trees. African violets and daisies, begonias, Peruvian lily (not a true lily), and many ferns are safe for pets. When visiting a florist, it's good to mention that an arrangement is going to a home with animals and to have a list of plants you need to avoid ready. This will help your florist pick appropriate substitutions and avoid accidentally swapping one toxic plant for another.

Instead of spending Valentine's Day shooing your curious cat away from the beautiful (but dangerous) flowers, why not give her a Cat Grass bouquet of her own? Typically a mixture of wheat grass, rye, oat and barley, cat grass is a tasty treat that's safe for cats and something they'd eat in the wild anyway.

The Best Valentine's Day Option for Pets?

While we don't recommend giving animals as unexpected presents, why not skip the material gifts all together and spend a romantic day with your partner picking out a cat to adopt from your local shelter? Or spend a day playing with cats or walking dogs at a nearby rescue. Shelter animals deserve just as much love as those already in homes, and probably need love and encouragement even more. We prefer this option and would gladly take more time playing with cats and kittens over a fancy bouquet any day of the year!

Photos:
Top: Bahador via Flickr, "N'Roses", CC BY 2.0
Middle: Samantha Durfee via Flickr, "lily and the lillies," CC-BY-NA-SA 2.0
Bottom: Judy M. Zukoski, used by permission, all rights reserved.



Thursday, January 21, 2016

Answer Your FERAL Cat’s Question Day


People tend to have lots of questions about feral cats: Why do they live outside? Who takes care of them? Why do they run when I approach? Answers to these questions and much more can be found in our handbook, Alley Cat Rescue’s Guide to Managing Community Cats. (Available from Amazon and our website.)

But, since it’s Answer Your Cat’s Question Day, we thought we’d answer the questions we here from FERAL cats going through our Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. 

Q:           Ahh! Why am I stuck in this wire box? I only came in for a tuna snack!
A:            Don’t worry buddy, it’s only a humane trap. We’re going to have you checked out by a friendly doctor, and this is the safest way to gather you up for the car ride. We know you’re probably pretty scared right now, so here’s a blanket over the top to make it feel more like the safe hiding spots you like.

Q:           I feel woozy. Why can’t I stay awake?
A:            You’re about to have some routine surgery, and that’s the anesthesia that will make you sleep right through it. You’re female, so it’s called spaying. The doctor will make a small incision on your stomach, and afterward you won’t have to worry about nursing any more babies or getting cancer in your reproductive organs. If you were a boy, it’d be called a neuter. The spay and neuter procedures are safe and they bring about your calmer selves, leaving you and your male friends with much less of an urge to roam, yowl, spray, or get in fights, which your human neighbors really appreciate. 

Q:           Ok, I’m awake again, but the reflection in the mirror looks funny. Are the drugs still making me bonkers?
A:            Yes, but that’s you in the mirror all right. The doctor gave you a little cosmetic surgery too, in the form of an ear-tip. She snipped off the top ¼” of your left ear so that from now on when people see you, they’ll know you’re vaccinated, sterilized, and part of a colony that gets food, water, and shelter from a compassionate caregiver. It’s the universal symbol that show’s you’re being cared for.

Q:           My flanks are sore too, like I got poked. What gives?
A:            Our friendly doctor gave you vaccinations for rabies and distemper, which will help you and your friends stay healthy. You also got flea and worm treatment to take care of those pesky parasites. All of this will help keep your whole colony healthy, and keep any disease or parasite from passing from you to people or domestic pets.

Q:           I’ve been in the trap for a few days and was beginning to think it was my new tiny home. But now I'm back outside, and I think these trees look familiar…
 A:            We’re returning you to your home! We can see you’re not at all interested in snuggling with giants that walk on two legs, so we brought you back to the home you’re comfortable at; your outdoor colony. Your caretaker will be by every day to bring fresh food and water, and has set up some cozy, insulated shelters for you to sleep in.  

Q:           This has been fun ACR, am I free to go?
A:            Yes, and here's a short-cut through the fence!
video


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Trim a Nail, Save a Couch



Nail trimming is one of the basics of cat care that every caregiver and foster parent should try to master. Each and every cat does have claws after all (you know not to declaw, right?). Nail trimming is done by holding your cat’s paw, gently squeezing the toe to reveal the nail, and then clipping off only the sharp point while taking care not to cut too much off by cutting to the quick.

Nail trimming benefits cats by keeping their nails from growing too long and curling under, which can irritate the toe pad and cause pain. For cat guardians, it can reduce the incidence of accidental scratching, such as when playing with your cat, and also can reduce damage to furniture and household items. Trimming also provides guardians an opportunity to inspect the cat’s feet and toes for debris or injury.

Whether loop or straight handles, pick whichever works best in your hands and on your cat's nails.
There are a range of styles of pet nail clippers that can be used. Those labeled for cats are generally smaller and designed for cutting small nails, but small dog and puppy nail trimmers can work well too. Some look like traditional scissors with finger loops for handles, while others have straight handles. (In our experience, trimmers with the familiar finger loops often feel too small for our human hands and are awkward to use. We prefer the straight handles like the model shown below.) Try a few different styles to see what works best for you and your cat.

Perhaps the biggest challenge when trimming nails is finding a way to hold your cat still. The cats in our care span the range of tolerance for and experience with nail clipping, so here at ACR we use a few techniques to get every nail trimmed.

For cats new to nail clipping, it can be beneficial to go through the motions a few times, but skip the actual trimming. Allowing your cat to smell the clippers, or gently massaging her paws and then providing a tasty treat can build trust and help her become comfortable with having her paws handled. As your cat becomes more comfortable, you can start by trimming just one nail or paw and then letting her go for a stress relieving break. Eventually you can work your way up to clipping all nails in one sitting.

Some cats enjoy (or at least tolerate!) the occasional mani/pedi, and will sit in our lap and just let it happen. For a relaxed cat like this, we will hold her on her back in our lap and go from paw to paw, giving treats as necessary if she starts to squirm.

Linus gets wrapped up for his regular nail trim.
For those like Linus who don’t enjoy the process, first we try wrapping them in a blanket (like a kitty burrito) and pulling one paw out at a time for trimming. This serves to gently confine the cat and in some cases wrapping within a soft blanket calms them.

Of course, there are cats who never learn to calmly accept a nail clipping. If you have a helper and are comfortable working with a resistant cat, you can use what we call the scruff-and-stretch technique. This involves firmly grasping the skin on the back of the cat’s neck (i.e. scruffing, which doesn’t cause pain), while holding the cat’s body outstretched on a flat surface. This is a two-person technique, needing one to hold the cat by the scruff and lower body or legs, and another to clip the nails.

If you don’t have a helper or aren’t comfortable trimming on your own, you can always ask your vet or groomer for assistance. You can also use Soft Paws or Kitty Caps as an alternative to trimming. These products are small plastic sleeves that are glued on over a cat’s nail, and can be a fun, colorful alternative.






Thursday, January 07, 2016

Spread Compassion for Cats in 2016



To feel compassion is to feel that we are in some sort and to some extent responsible for the pain that is being inflicted, that we ought to do something about it.
                Aldous Huxley - “Abstraction,” Texts and Pretexts: An Anthology of Poetry with Commentarie.

When we find a stressed out mother cat nursing her tiny new babies in a cardboard box next to a trash dumpster, it is this ethic of compassion that drives us to take action. When a skinny and flea-infested stray cat approaches us in an alley way and nuzzles our leg for attention, it is compassion that allows us to recognize his suffering and compels us to offer help.

One of our goals for 2016 is to spread compassion through our work and to change the negative attitudes some have for stray, feral, and community cats. One of the primary tools for doing this will be our new book, Alley Cat Rescue’s Guide to ManagingCommunity Cats. Our book not only provides step-by-step instructions for how to manage a colony of cats with trap-neuter-return (TNR), but also provides a broader picture of who cats are. There are chapters on the origins of domestic felines; how they evolved; how they behave and survive outdoors; and indoor versus outdoor cats and the unique needs of each.

In particular, we’ll be targeting our message to policymakers, and our Guide will be especially useful here as well. With science-based information about cats and predation, zoonotic diseases, reproduction, and social behavior, the book offers vital information officials need to back up their support of TNR programs and humane, non-lethal care for feral cats. We want as many sets of eyes as possible to see our book and read our message of compassion for cats, and that’s where you can help.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0986185507/ref=rdr_ext_tmb
If you have a town council or mayor who’s reluctant to help cats, send them a copy of our Guide. If officials are proposing feeding bans or outdated catch-and-kill schemes in your area, buy them a copy and bookmark the chapter, “The Effectiveness of TNR Programs: Why Eradication Does Not Work.” Do you work or volunteer at a shelter with a high-kill rate? Bring a few copies in to share, or leave one in the breakroom open to page 32, which discusses how targeted TNR programs can greatly reduce shelter euthanasia and intake rates.

To reach a broad public audience, you can donate a copy to your local library, or drop a few copies into your neighborhood’s sharing library. And never forget close friends and family; even if they are not “cat people” we believe that reading our book will guide them to a new level of appreciation and respect for the fascinating felines that live among us.

Each day, the ethic of compassion is what drives us to “do something” for neglected, abused, abandoned, dumped, and suffering cats, especially feral cats who have been labeled as pests and vilified just for existing. We hope you’ll join us this year in educating your community about feral cats and spreading compassion for all the living creatures in our midst.

Alley Cat Rescue’s Guide to Managing Community Cats is now available from Amazon.com and our website, www.saveacat.org/shop.