JustOneMorePet

Every Pet Deserves A Good Home…

Cats Are Trainable – and That’s Not a Punchline

Program teaches layabout felines to work for their food

Image: Cat

Having your cat touch your hand with its nose on command is one of the easiest behaviors to train, Chan says. If you hold out your hand, most cats will naturally sniff it. Reward with a treat until the cat is doing it every time you present your hand. Then, start repeating a word like “touch” every time.

This trick can then be used to get the cat to move where you want it by placing your hand in the desired spot. “You can use it to ask them to get off the couch, or teach them to jump through a hoop by putting the hand on the other side of the hoop,” Chan says.

Another useful behavior is entering the cat carrier on their own. Sandy Lagreca, a volunteer at the Michigan Humane Society, says that this is great for both cats and people: “They go in without having to be picked up and shoved into the crate, which can be traumatic for the owner.”

Patience, repetition and a treat
All this requires is patience, repetition and a highly desired treat. Throw the treat into the crate (and if your cat is already suspicious of the carrier, step away). Let the cat go in, eat the treat, and leave, repeating until it’s completely comfortable going into the carrier. Then, start to close the door and leave the cat inside for increasingly longer intervals. Again, repeat till the cat is comfortable before you try to pick up the carrier.

Chan says that people often don’t think cats are trainable because they lack a dog’s desire to please, “but we have things that cats want. That’s all that matters.” Figure out what your cat will work for — it may be a little tuna, a bit of canned food on the end of a chopstick, or maybe a toss of a toy mouse.

Connelly says to keep training sessions short — she recommends no more than five minutes — and varied. “Teach something else when they get one thing right,” she says. “Cats get bored easily.”

In addition to the specific useful behaviors, Bentley says, training can help prevent problems by changing the terms of your relationship with your pet. “The animal learns, when I do this, you’re happy and I get a piece of food, I guess I should focus on making you happy,” she says. “Teaching our cats to successfully do what we like and get rewarded makes them more inclined to do what we like.”

And it’s also rewarding to see that your cat is capable of so much more than lying on the couch. Says Lagreca, “It’s fun to watch the progression and see the lights go on — when they make that connection it’s a magical moment.”

To the evaluator’s surprise, Storm passed the test, successfully performing commands like sit, stay, come, down, and walking on a leash.

Storm is a cat who does some of these things for a living. He helps Connelly train lost pet search dogs in Maryland by hiding and waiting to be found.

But training cats isn’t just for professionals — human or feline. The Michigan Humane Society has a Pawsitive Start program that uses volunteers to train cats in their shelter in useful and fun behaviors like the high-five and walking into a carrier.

“A lot of people look kind of funny at us when we say we train the shelter cats,” says CJ Bentley of the humane society. Cats need more than just playtime outside the cage to be well-adjusted in the shelter environment, she says.

Problem-solving power
“It’s not just all about the physical, it’s the mental as well,” says Bentley. “To teach them to be able to solve problems on their own can reduce the stress. It gives them control over a situation.”

It’s not just shelter cats that need more, though. People expect pet cats to “just hang out, which isn’t realistic,” says Melissa Chan, behavior specialist at the Houston SPCA. Cats are naturally active animals, she says, and “one thing I wish I could tell every cat owner: Cats want to work for their food.”

Capable cats: Share photos of your smart kitty

Having your cat touch your hand with its nose on command is one of the easiest behaviors to train, Chan says. If you hold out your hand, most cats will naturally sniff it. Reward with a treat until the cat is doing it every time you present your hand. Then, start repeating a word like “touch” every time.

This trick can then be used to get the cat to move where you want it by placing your hand in the desired spot. “You can use it to ask them to get off the couch, or teach them to jump through a hoop by putting the hand on the other side of the hoop,” Chan says.

Another useful behavior is entering the cat carrier on their own. Sandy Lagreca, a volunteer at the Michigan Humane Society, says that this is great for both cats and people: “They go in without having to be picked up and shoved into the crate, which can be traumatic for the owner.”

Patience, repetition and a treat

All this requires is patience, repetition and a highly desired treat. Throw the treat into the crate (and if your cat is already suspicious of the carrier, step away). Let the cat go in, eat the treat, and leave, repeating until it’s completely comfortable going into the carrier. Then, start to close the door and leave the cat inside for increasingly longer intervals. Again, repeat till the cat is comfortable before you try to pick up the carrier.

Chan says that people often don’t think cats are trainable because they lack a dog’s desire to please, “but we have things that cats want. That’s all that matters.” Figure out what your cat will work for — it may be a little tuna, a bit of canned food on the end of a chopstick, or maybe a toss of a toy mouse.

Connelly says to keep training sessions short — she recommends no more than five minutes — and varied. “Teach something else when they get one thing right,” she says. “Cats get bored easily.”

In addition to the specific useful behaviors, Bentley says, training can help prevent problems by changing the terms of your relationship with your pet. “The animal learns, when I do this, you’re happy and I get a piece of food, I guess I should focus on making you happy,” she says. “Teaching our cats to successfully do what we like and get rewarded makes them more inclined to do what we like.”

And it’s also rewarding to see that your cat is capable of so much more than lying on the couch. Says Lagreca, “It’s fun to watch the progression and see the lights go on — when they make that connection it’s a magical moment.”

Source: MSNBC/Pets

Posted: Just One More Pet

November 18, 2009 Posted by | animal behavior, Just One More Pet, Pet and Animal Training, pet fun, Pets, Success Stories | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Patchwork of Food Assistance for Pets

Photographs by Don Ipock for The New York Times

DONATION Gloria Harris, a manager at the pet food pantry at Spay and Neuter Kansas City. More Photos >

Published: November 11, 2009

ANIMAL shelters have reported a steep rise in the number of cats and dogs being surrendered as owners face unemployment, home foreclosures, evictions and other financial hardships. But animal welfare groups and even churches are stepping up with bags of kibble and containers of cat litter to help owners keep their pets and to prevent more from being sent to shelters, and sometimes death.

Pet Food PantrySlide Show

Pet Food Pantry

No national network coordinates pet food assistance. Instead, efforts have sprung up at a grass-roots level as individuals and groups have recognized the problem. The means of offering aid to pet owners varies with each organization. The Humane Society of the United States keeps a long list of programs on its Web site headlined “Having Trouble Affording Your Pet?” And the society acknowledges that there are probably many more programs the organization is not aware of.

The Tree House Humane Society in Chicago, which focuses on cats, has provided food assistance for more than 30 years, said Ollie Davidson, the society’s programs manager.

The society, which also provides food for dogs, has seen demand almost double over the last year, giving out more than 44,000 pounds of pet food this year, Mr. Davidson said. About 20 percent of the food distributed was for dogs and about 80 percent for cats. If current trends continue, the organization expects the number of those receiving pet food assistance to grow to 200 next year, from 157.

“Most of our food is coming from donations of people,” Mr. Davidson said, but with the sharp increase in demand the organization is applying for grants to help cover the costs.

Mr. Davidson said the grant applications emphasize that the food aid program is about much more than feeding hungry animals. “We’re helping people,” he said. “In times of stress, it’s always good to keep people with their pets.”

Jennifer Fulton, president of the Northland Pet Food Pantry in Kansas City, Mo., said the demand was huge. “We started giving out food in May of this year, and the response has been incredible,” she said. “We had people feeding their pets before they were feeding themselves.” But now 155 families with pets are being helped.

PAWS Chicago, a no-kill animal shelter, started a crisis-care program and a food bank last year, “when we saw the whole real estate thing happening and people were losing their homes,” said Paula Fasseas, who founded the organization in 1997. The organization provides temporary foster care for pet owners who are struggling because of the economy. In addition, the shelter has worked with the Petco Foundation, providing dog or cat food and litter for up to three months, said Rochelle Michalek, executive director of the shelter.

Sandra Jauga, a maintenance worker in Chicago who said she had been out of work since falling off a ladder this year, turned to PAWS Chicago for help when her workers’ compensation claim was denied. Ms. Jauga, a single mother of four, said Roxy, her beagle-pit bull, would not be able to eat without the aid. “I’m really grateful for the help,” she said. “If you have to get rid of the dog, what’s going to happen with the dog? Where is it going to go?”

With a mission of making Chicago a no-kill city, the shelter visits Chicago’s animal pounds regularly to rescue animals that have not been reclaimed or adopted. By providing pet food to people facing financial hardship, the organization is trying to keep more animals from being surrendered to the pounds.

For its part, the Petco Foundation has been involved with pet-food banks since it began in 1999, said Paul Jolly, the executive director. “We have always been involved in the food bank concept simply because it keeps people with their animals.”

Mr. Jolly said that Hurricane Katrina was a drastic lesson for the country about how strong the bond between people and their pets can be. “Katrina pointed out that pets are part of the family, too,” he said.

The Petco Foundation, based in San Diego, has partnerships for pet-food assistance with about 75 organizations across the country. In January, the foundation is introducing a program with Feeding America, a hunger-relief charity whose members supply food to more than 25 million Americans each year.

Under the program, “We Are Families Too,” 750 Petco stores will have bins where customers can donate pet food, Mr. Jolly said. In addition, the foundation will supplement the donations with food from Petco and other vendors. Distributors will often donate food approaching its expiration date.

Help is also available from tiny, grass-roots organizations in smaller towns.

The Young at Heart pet rescue of Palatine, Ill., which focuses on finding homes for cats and dogs over age 5, established Nina’s Pet Food Pantry with a donation from Steve and Laurie Weiner of Buffalo Grove, Ill., in memory of their Portuguese water dog, Nina. The pantry collects donated kibble from individuals and pet-food distributors, mixes the various brands and types of food and repackages it in plastic zip-top bags for distribution at two human food banks, said Karen Ortolano, a spokeswoman for the organization. (Combining the food assures a uniform quality and makes it easier for the animal to make the transition to what the group calls its “rescue mix.”)

After Nina died about a year ago, Mr. Weiner said he could understand the pain of separating from a family pet. “I’m thrilled that dozens of pets don’t know how close they came to having their lives changed,” he said, adding that a relationship with a pet is a 24/7 commitment for the life of the pet. “You don’t move away from them or they don’t go off to college,” he said. His family continues to help with the pantry program, staying involved in the rebagging of the food. “Just last week I was knee-deep in pet food with latex gloves on, sifting and sorting,” he said.

Some of the food-pantry programs encourage or even require pet owners to spay or neuter their pets. Spay and Neuter Kansas City is one group that makes pet altering a requirement. Gloria Harris, pet outreach program manager, said the organization provides low-cost spaying and neutering services for low-income pet owners. If there is not enough money to feed a pet, there probably is not enough for a litter of puppies or kittens, she said.

In October, the organization held its “doggy food raiser,” collecting 12,000 pounds of the 20,000 pounds of food it will distribute this year, Ms. Harris said.

Part of the campaign was tied to the Kansas City Chiefs-Philadelphia Eagles National Football League game this season. Fans were asked to pledge a bag of dog food every time the Chiefs sacked Philadelphia’s quarterback, Michael Vick. Although the quarterback was sacked only once, 500 pounds of food was collected.

But the pet-food banks are not simply the work of animal welfare groups. Northeast Community Lutheran Church in the urban core of Minneapolis serves about 300 people a month at its Little Kitchen Food Shelf, according to its Web site. But the church, which also provides vaccines for companion animals, found that people struggling financially also needed food for their pets. Now people are also offered food for their pets.

“We know that pets being dropped off at humane societies tend to be on the rise in this current economy, so its obvious that pets are suffering,” said the Rev. Craig Pederson, the pastor.

Jennifer Schultz, coordinator of the Little Kitchen, said she knew the demand was great because the church had received calls from people who live in the suburbs and needed help feeding pets.

Dwayne Pough, a Chicago cook who has been out of work for several months, said help from PAWS Chicago made a big difference for his American Staffordshire, Malachi. “Man, it was crucial because he’s a big dog and he eats a lot,” Mr. Pough said. “I get food stamps, and you can’t buy dog food with food stamps. Actually, I was down to my last bag with maybe two more feedings when they came through. It was a life-saver, really.”

Posted: Just One More Pet

Related:

Is Your Pet a Voiceless Victim of the Tanking Economy?

Adopt Just One More Pet… MV Shelter Reduces Cat and Kitten Adoption Fees …

Where there is a will…

Homeless With Pets… Choosing Pets Over Shelter

November 18, 2009 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Rescues, animals, Fostering and Rescue, Just One More Pet, Pet Nutrition, Pets | , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Titan the Great Dane named world’s tallest dog

‘Gentle soul’ is blind, deaf and epileptic — and he stands 42.25 inches high

updated 7:23 a.m. PT, Fri., Nov . 13, 2009

LOS ANGELES – The Guinness Book of World Records officially says an ailing 4-year-old Great Dane named Titan from San Diego is the world’s tallest dog.

Owner Diana Taylor says Titan is blind, deaf, epileptic and undergoes acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments every three weeks.

He is also a gentle soul who is often mistaken by young children as a horse.

The announcement came during a ceremony Thursday.

Taylor says Titan stands 42.25 inches from floor to shoulder, weighs 190 pounds and doesn’t stand on his hind legs because it isn’t good for him.

Titan took over the title from Gibson, a 7-year-old harlequin Great Dane from Grass Valley who died earlier this year after battling bone cancer.

November 18, 2009 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Just One More Pet, Pets, Unusual Stories | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 231 other followers