A Reader’s Experience Working At A No-Kill Cat Shelter

Trisha has written for us before. She’s charming young lady who’s always got something to say. This time it’s about her experience as a volunteer at a no-kill cat shelter with some tips on how a volunteer can ease the load for employees so they can get more done.

As a former volunteer I’ll add a bit about how being a cat shelter volunteer has hidden perks for people. During my orientation at the San Francisco SPCA they said that many volunteers reported that their time there was better than therapy. I took that to mean: “Walk in depressed, walk out happy and at peace.” One high school aged girl who was trapped at her abusive parent’s house until she turned 18 said she could tell the cats all of her problems which became less of a burden because the cats listened. Others said that it gave them a mental health break from their own mind’s chatter. And dog walkers reported significant weight loss.


My Experience Working At A No-Kill Cat Shelter

By Trisha Miller

For the last 8 months I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering weekly at a no-kill cat shelter near me, called Simply Cats. Due to time constraints I’ve had to stop volunteering for the time being, but I enjoyed every second of it. If you have a few hours of your day to dedicate to a shelter in your area, I highly suggest that you do so. Even if on a small scale, I knew that I was making a difference in these cats’ lives. I was helping to provide them with a safe, clean home and did my best to provide them comfort. What’s more, I helped to relieve some of the full-time staff so they were able to attend to critical matters that demanded their attention. If you’re wondering if volunteering is right for you, I’d like to share my experience with you and hopefully help you form your own conclusion.

Why Volunteer?

I started volunteering at my local shelter simply because I’m a cat lover and I had a free day each week with nothing to do. Why not help out some cats and make the lives of the shelter employees a little bit easier. In addition, one of my two cats is a rescue cat, and sadly was not living at a no kill shelter. If I wouldn’t have chosen to take him home I’m afraid the worst possible imaginable scenario might have taken place. That being said, I have a soft spot in my heart for rescued animals.

If your local shelter is anything like mine, then you’ll agree that shelter employees have very little time to do so many tasks, and can really use the help. Running the shelter, greeting guests, accepting cats, and trying to organize events is more than enough to make an employee feel overwhelmed, I’m sure.

On top of all of that, my local shelter has about 20 individual rooms that house cats in each. These rooms need to be attended to twice per day. When you have, on average, two or more cats in each room, the room gets messy in a hurry. They need someone to clean up the mess and to just be with the cats and comfort them during their stay.

My Job Duties

My assignment at my particular no kill shelter was to clean the rooms of the cats. As I mentioned before, this needed to be done twice per day. So, I stepped in for an earlier shift on my off day, which only took up about 2 hours of my day. I would scoop litter, clean all surfaces, sweep and mop, and make sure the cats had fresh water. After I was done making sure their living area was sparkling clean, I was able to just enjoy my time with the kitties, play with them, and pet them (the best part!).

As volunteers we also had the opportunity to spread awareness about the shelter via social media and throughout the community. My shelter has regular events that we were encouraged to attend in order to help raise funds to keep the shelter open and get the cats all the necessities for maintaining a fulfilled and happy life while they are at the shelter.

What You Need to Know

A friend of mine recommended that I volunteer at the shelter because she is currently a volunteer as well. We discussed the possibility back and forth and among my many other delights, I was especially happy to volunteer for a no-kill shelter. However, even if you choose to volunteer at a no-kill shelter, you should prepare yourself for some things you might see or learn during your stay.

Some cats do come from hoarding or abuse situations. My local shelter has a veterinary staff on hand to help any kitties that need medical attention. You may come into contact with cats that have illnesses or impairments due to their neglect or abuse. So, you’ll want to mentally prepare for that before you walk in the door. As heartbreaking as it is to see, all of the cats that I encountered with illnesses or impairments were completely healed, thanks to the dutiful veterinary staff, and were as full of life as any other cat I came across in the shelter.

All in all it was an absolutely wonderful experience that I am sad has come to a temporary close. I plan on volunteering again as soon as my schedule opens up again and I suggest that you do the same if you are able. There is simply no experience like it. It is extremely gratifying, fulfilling, and rewarding!

Have you volunteered at a shelter? I’d love to hear about your experience 🙂
 
 
 
 

The Dangers of Sharing Meds With Your Cat!

Newton’s Purrspective – Don’t Share Your Medications

Numerous websites warn people about the dangers of certain plants or household cleaners. Too often these sites group things as “toxic to pets”. “Pet” is too ambiguous to be truly useful. Do they mean dogs and cats? What about rabbits, turtles, gerbils and any other small animal that may share your home? Even if we narrow it down to dogs and cats there are far too many differences to generalize. We need to consider: 1. the likelihood of exposure and 2. the species specific sensitivities to various compounds.




Isaac Newton

Anything that is easily accessible (e.g. houseplants), or introduced into a cat’s environment (e.g. disinfectants used on bedding), should be “cat safe”. The internet can be wonderful, but, as I wrote recently, the information may not be reliable. As a start, check a reputable website for plants http://www.petmd.com/cat/emergency/poisoning-toxicity/e_ct_poisonous_plants and other household toxins https://www.edf.org/health/where-are-toxic-chemicals-your-home . Household chemicals are unlikely to have species specific warnings so please consult your veterinarian before using them around your feline friends.

Another, less discussed, hazard is medications. Doctors warn humans not to share prescription drugs. Labels for over the counter medications are required to state the maximum safe dose (along with other precautions). But what about unintentional sharing?

What would happen if you dropped one of your prescription pills on the floor and couldn’t find it? A puppy uses taste to explore his environment so your pill could be gone in seconds. But I’m a cat. If I found a pill on the floor I might find it fun to bat around for a while, but eat it? – not likely! We cats are more cautious about these things, but some adventurous felines may ingest medication by licking or carrying a pill while playing with it. If you misplace a pill call your veterinarian (or poison control center) to find out what signs to look for if Kitty has indeed ingested it.

The real danger of human medications to cats is being dosed purposely. If Kitty has arthritis, diabetes or allergies you may be tempted to give her something you have on hand for yourself. The AVMA website lists medications that are “poisonous to pets” https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Poison-pills-for-pets.aspx . Some of the medications listed may actually be prescribed for cats in a veterinary practice. However, the appropriate dose will be very different from that for a human. At best, the wrong dose will be ineffective, at worst it could be fatal.

Veterinarians don’t calculate dosages based on weight alone. They also figure in factors such as:

  • Age
  • Other diseases or conditions
  • Other medications Kitty is already taking

Please seek professional advice before giving cats human medication.
 
 
 
 

Why Your Cats May “Act Up” When It’s Spring

Dear Auntie Cat Faerie,

For some reason my little “darlings” are picking on each other again. Looks like a job for Comfort Zone! Plus a couple of new toys should help.

Thank you !

Mary


Hi Mary,

Sorry to hear that the little dears are acting up. This isn’t an unusual occurrence in Spring as there are some outside cats who aren’t fixed and this is when they go into heat or start popping out kittens. Unaltered cats prowl around outside looking to mate and to mark territory they spray hormone filled urine on our plants, bushes, trees, patio furniture, cars – and the worst: our doors! The smell of hormone spiked urine smells really strong, and it can be threatening to an indoor cat. On top of that there is sound – our spayed/neutered indoor cats hear the unaltered cats caterwaul in a high pitched sound that can scare them, put them on edge, and sound like a territory threat.

The sounds and smells of such outdoor cats upset many indoor cats which causes them to fight among each other, or the worst: they might retaliate and pee outside of the box or spray urine in the house. Even when cats are spayed or neutered, like yours are, they seem to go into a phantom heat of sorts also which heightens their sensitivity and causes some fighting or territory battles among a family of cats. It really seems that mating and territory impulses can run deep in the DNA! Cats being cats, they are very sensitive to all sounds and smells as these two senses are part of how cats communicate.

Cats like people have unique personalities, likes and dislikes, tolerances and intolerances. Some house cats care greatly about these smelly noisy intruders, yet other indoor cats don’t care one bit!

Thank you, as always Mary it’s a delight to hear from you, and I hope the “darlings” have calmed down from the Convivial House Cat and Comfort Zone and that they are enjoying their new toys!

Auntie Cat Faerie
 
 
 
 

All About 3-Legged Cats

One of our favorite customers, Kelleen (Kelly) has a feline-family of 4 “tripod” cats a clever name for cats who have only 3 legs. She was delighted to share their story and photos with our customers and readers. Here’s her story about her tripod cats!

Read more:



 
From Kelly: Elixir

 
 

Tripod cats have a special place in my heart, and a big place in our family. Between myself and my daughter, we now have four three-legged cats – as well as one four-legger!

In our minds and theirs, our tripods are just cats – active, curious, playful, and loving. Missing body parts or no, these resilient little beings are amazing, gorgeous animals, each with their own distinct personality, deserving of love and pleased to give it in return. They don’t have any pain related to their missing limbs, and are not bothered at all by their differences, still approaching everything with a cat’s “can-do” attitude.

Living with tripod cats is not much different from living with their 4-legged counterparts, except they are perhaps a bit noisier as they thump around the house and scrabble to climb things. There are a few factors to consider, though, when deciding to adopt one (or if your cat is injured and loses a limb). For example:

  • Litter boxes need to be larger because they can lose their balance and go outside the box – but at the same time, the sides can’t be too high because they need easier access.
  • It’s important not to overfeed tripods, as too much body weight will make it much more difficult for them to remain active and navigate their surroundings on 3 legs.
  • It is more difficult for three-leggers to run or climb to get away from predators, so it’s best for them to be indoor-only cats. I built a fully enclosed catio outside my back door so my four can spend time in the sun being cats – chasing snakes and voles, watching birds, climbing tree limbs, and relaxing in the grass – while they remain safe from our resident eagles, raccoons and neighborhood dogs.
  • Some toys are better – for example, all three of mine, who are each missing a rear leg, love the Kitty Kicker-style toys that they grab with their front legs and kick at with that extra-strong back leg of theirs. They love ground-level scurrying toys they can “catch and kill” also. Toys that dangle in the air are not so enjoyable because with only one rear leg tripods can’t stand up and swat or jump up to bat them out of the air.

Not all tripod cats are the same, of course, or have the same needs. Cats missing a front leg are sometimes more likely to hide or to use their teeth – just as cats who have been declawed may – because they feel they can’t protect themselves or communicate their displeasure with their claws. Cats missing rear legs have a harder time climbing, balancing on narrow walkways, and “landing” gracefully when they jump. There are also differences between those who lost limbs as adults and those who grew up already missing a limb. Our three who lost limbs as adults sometimes still try to jump/climb on things that they can’t handle because they seem to forget that the leg is missing!

The wonderful characters of our quartet of tripods and the enjoyment they have brought into our lives make it well worth the bit of extra thought and work involved in creating a fun, healthy, safe environment for them. They may be missing some parts, but they make our family whole!


Here is some background on our tripod family:

Our family’s very first cat was a tripod who lived in a home with too many animals that bullied and terrorized the little 3-legger who couldn’t get away or fend the others off from his food. My daughter, who has always had a soft spot for the underdog (or undercat, as it were), asked the family if she could have him, and brought him home so he would have a loving, quiet home where he would be protected and cherished. Although I had always been a “dog person” (who liked cats but had no particular interest in having one as a pet), I soon fell in love with little Prince Arcane and was on my way to becoming a “cat person” as well!


 
Arcane

 
 

Because Arcane was officially my daughter’s cat, I adopted a lovely little silver tuxedo girl of my own (who still has the use of all four of her legs), but Juju was not a very feline-social cat and wanted little to do with Arcane, who always wanted to play with her. I watched him trying to play, and her rebuffing him and simply removing herself to someplace he couldn’t get to, and I always felt badly for him. When I saw a feisty young male flame-point come in to the shelter who needed to have his back leg amputated (it had been broken in multiple places and the previous owners had tried to set the leg themselves instead of taking him to a veterinarian), I thought how perfect it would be for both of the tripod boys to have someone to play with, so Ozymandias joined our family. The two boys became fast friends and wrestling partners, thumping around the house after each other and taking each other down with WWE-like body slams.


 
Juju

 
 


 
Ozymandias

 
 

Since then, my daughter moved out with a roommate, taking Arcane with her. I knew Ozzie would drive Juju crazy chasing her around wanting to play, and wanted a playmate for him. Since I already had the house catified and the catio designed for the needs of 3-legged cats, it was a given that I might take in another tripod if the right one happened along. Coincidentally, a litter of 4-month-old kittens had been brought in from a local feral colony a couple of months before. The entire litter was ear-tipped and placed into the shelter’s barn cat program, but one was found to have an injured leg that would not heal and had to undergo amputation. Although she was still very skittish, she could not go to a barn home due to her missing leg, so one of our cattery volunteers, knowing my setup at home, suggested I meet her. Though my plan had been to get an adult male cat as a companion for Ozzie, I could not pass on little Alchemy once I met her. She came home with me, and after an extended introduction period she and Ozymandias are the playmates and bosom buddies I had hoped they would be!


 
Alchemy

 
 

My daughter noticed that Arcane seemed at a loss alone at their new home, and her roommate had always wanted a cat of his own, so when just a few months later another laid-back young black male cat had to undergo an amputation of a shattered rear leg, I immediately offered to help the kids adopt him. Elixir is now comfortably ensconced in his new home and gradually becoming friends and playmates with his “brother from another mother.”
 
 


 
Elixir

 
 

 

 

Are You Overloaded by Internet Cat Information?

Newton’s Purrspective – Information Overload!

I enjoy clicking a mouse as much as any other cat. However, when I am looking for answers the vast amount of information available on the internet is overwhelming. How can one possibly sort it all out? Internet content is rarely regulated or reviewed for accuracy and credibility. For example, a search for solutions to elimination outside the litter box could lead you to everything from scientific studies by well-known cat behaviorists to a blog by someone who may never have shared a home with a cat.




Isaac Newton

Of course, most of us are not qualified to read and interpret the results of studies published in specialized scientific journals. We must trust others to do that for us. Let’s look at the litterbox question. You may come across a blog that claims to know all the answers. Perhaps they say “if you notice that Kitty has peed outside the box rub her nose in it while repeating ‘bad! bad!’” Another blog may discuss cat litter or appropriate cat box size and location. The first answer seems cruel and demeaning to Kitty, while the second suggests some environmental factors under the person’s control. Please don’t stop with one blog. Read on and read critically. Just because it is on the internet does not mean it is true.

Behaviorists have long known that litterbox issues can be complex, particularly in multi cat households. Punishment will not solve the problem and will almost certainly result in other undesirable behaviors. If there is no medical problem, such as a bladder infection, then other causes must be investigated. Products such as Anti Icky Poo, Convivial House Cat, Cat Faeries Flower Essences, and Feliway could be part of the solution.

So, as you continue your search, how can you tell if a website should be trusted? Credentials are important. The Cornell University Feline Health Center is a recognized authority. However, it is not the only source of reliable information. Veterinarians may write blogs in the interest of public education. Organizations dedicated to cat welfare also offer advice based on sound veterinary practices.

In addition to credentials I always want to know:

  • Why certain advice is offered (motive)
  • The source of information (e.g. references to persons or studies)
  • Comments from customers (if it is a retail site)

 

Motive could be something as simple as the desire to educate the public about cat health. On the other hand, a site’s purpose may be difficult to determine. If it is not immediately obvious I quickly move on. I don’t want to waste my nine lives trying to figure out what they want and why.

A reputable site does not proclaim “THIS is the answer!” without telling you why they believe so. This backup may be their own research, studies done by others, or extensive client feedback.

The internet has been called the information super highway. Drive carefully.
 
 
 
 

Tax Time Deductions for Fostering Cats!

While we cannot claim our cats for a tax deduction the Tax Men will allow expenditures for fostering cats. This will be great news for many of you for this year, and something to consider for next year.


Newton’s Purrspective – Tax Time

Yes, my friends – once again it is that time of year. Spring is in the air, but now people are stressed out over tax time. If only they could relax with some Cat Faeries toys and chill out in a Cat Faeries bed. Perhaps there is a human equivalent for “Calm and Serene Flower Essence”?

I know many wonder (only half in jest) if they can use Fluffy as a deduction. After all, you provide food, housing, and medical care (though there is little need for clothing or a college fund). And cats are family! Sadly, the IRS only accepts humans as deductions.




Isaac Newton

However, there is good news for cat foster parents. http://catingtonpost.com/if-you-foster-a-cat-you-can-claim-it-on-your-taxes/ You may be able to deduct expenses incurred fostering cats. Of course, there are a few rules you must follow.

Here are the two most important ones.

  • First, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions.
  • Second, the organization you foster for must be recognized by the IRS 501(c)(3) designation as a Not-for-Profit organization.

You may already know that you can deduct contributions to a qualified not-for-profit if you receive no services or merchandise in return. For example, donating money or a bag of cat food can be deducted. But, if you donate the same things and receive a t shirt in return you can no longer use the deduction. You bought the t shirt so it has become a business transaction.

You will need to keep your receipts and have documentation from the not-for-profit if your contribution is greater than $250.00. To avoid misunderstandings and other problems I recommend checking the IRS rules https://www.irs.gov/uac/top-eight-tax-tips-about-deducting-charitable-contributions and consulting with a tax expert. Sure, you can tell them (the tax experts, not the IRS) that a cat sent you.

Here is the basic situation. Let’s say you are fostering kittens for a properly registered not-for-profit shelter. Let’s also assume they do not provide any money or supplies.

You may be able to deduct the cost of carriers, food, kitty litter, veterinary bills etc. If you have a special area of your house used only for foster kittens you might even be able to deduct a portion of utilities. I know there are many good hearted people spending their own money to take care of kittens and cats in a home environment. Kittens, especially, are vulnerable to life threatening diseases when in stressful environments like shelters. As a former shelter kitten I want to thank all the foster parents out there. Your foster felines appreciate your efforts and we all hope you can get a little credit from the IRS.