Jun 29 2015

You’ve Got to be Kitten: Foster Families at Wayside Waifs

Ready to go home!

Summer at Wayside Waifs means hundreds of kittens, all looking for families to snuggle in with forever. Some overpopulated shelters transfer both nursing moms with kittens and kitten orphans to us. We also get strays, brought to the shelter by animal control or other people who happen to find them, and kittens surrendered by their owners.

Wayside Waifs couldn’t take care of all of these little fluffsters if it weren’t for their dedicated team of foster kitten owners. These very important volunteers take kittens into their own homes.

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A foster owner may have one kitten, or as many as eight siblings. In order to reduce disease, Wayside Waifs doesn’t mix litters. These kittens may be too young to be fixed and adopted. Some foster owners even take in newborns, who need to be bottle fed through the night! Others may be underweight or sick, and require regular medication.

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Many of the kittens haven’t had enough chances to socialize. Some of them may be shy at first, hiding in their boxes orcrates. Living with a foster owner means they get used to life with humans, and sometimes even other pets. Before long, even cautious little ones are romping around and showing affection.

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Foster care for kittens can be a lot of work. While it’s not hard to litter train them, as they get bigger and stronger, they also get more curious. However, foster owners will tell you that it’s very rewarding. With their playful natures, kittens provide a lot of entertainment, and as one volunteer says, “Nothing is better than snuggling a kitten.” They bring a whole lot of cuteness and catitude to everyone’s lives.

As kittens live with their foster owners, they become healthy, more confident, and ready to be placed into forever homes, where they’ll grow into adult cats and longtime friends. If you’re looking for one, right now is a great time to get one at Wayside Waifs!

Written by Stacey Donovan
Wayside Waifs Volunteer


Mar 31 2015

Introducing Your Cat to the Litter Box

The first step with any behavioral issue is to take your cat to the veterinarian for a full evaluation.  Cats are very stoic animals and will hide illness and injury.  Sometimes our only clue that something is physically wrong is a behavioral symptom.  Many behavioral modification programs can begin in conjunction with or shortly after your trip to the veterinarian.

Some cats can be quite particular when it comes to where they eliminate.   Some guardians expect cats to just “know” what to do and where to go, when in fact, they don’t always.  If a kitten has been separated from its Mother or littermates too soon, it might not learn on its own.   Someone has to help them, and that someone just might be you.

When you first bring your new cat or kitten home, they should be given their own room for at least a couple of days.  They need time to acclimate to their environment, to you, and this will help them to understand where they are to potty as well.  Give the cat time to investigate the room, and they will find the litter box on their own.  Do not place food and water bowls beside the litter box, put those in an area away from the litter box.  If you don’t see your cat investigating anywhere near the litter box, you can place the cat in the litter box, but only if they are comfortable with you doing so.  Don’t force them, and do not help move their paws in the litter box either.  This has to be a positive experience for them.  It is best to give them time to investigate on their own.

Which litter box do you need?  Start with a basic litter box, without a cover.  Buy a standard sized litter box or a large clear Sterilite container that is 1.5 times an adult cat’s length.  Cats need room to move around! They should have enough space to be able to turn around comfortably.  If you do buy a covered litter box, it must be tall enough so the cat can comfortably stand up.  Most cats don’t like having a cover.  Imagine walking into a small space, going potty, cleaning up (covering up), and then exiting.  The litter box needs to be a positive experience for a cat and spending several minutes inside a dirty litter box is an unpleasant experience.  Also, if there are other cats in the home, some might use this as a chance to pounce on the unassuming cat when it exits the litter box.  Some guardians will purchase a litter liner, and this is something you might have to try out to see what your cat thinks of it.  If the cat doesn’t like that sound or feel of it, stop using it.

Which type of litter do you need?  Kittens should not be given clumping litter.  Kittens are curious, and may actually play or try to eat it.  Unscented is best.  Scented litter may actually cause your cat to not use the litter box.  Two inches of litter in the litter box is recommended.  Adults prefer unscented, clumping litter at a depth of 3-4 inches.

Where should the litter box be kept?  It should continue to stay in the room your cat started out in.  The general rule for litter boxes is to have 1 litter box per cat plus 1 more.  So, the 2nd litter box should be kept on another level in the home or another area for easy access whenever the cat has to “go”.  The litter boxes must be in a quiet, stress-free area, and where the cat can have easy access to it at any time.  If there are young children or other pets in the home, it is very important that they do not try to prevent the cat from getting to the litter box.

How often does the litter box need to be cleaned?  Litter boxes should be scooped at least on a daily basis.  Depending on the number of cats in the home, this may need to be done more than once each day.  Change the litter at least on a weekly basis.  This is also a great time to clean the litter box.  Soap & water is usually good enough for removing any stains or odor.   You can use an enzyme-based cleaner if the urine odor is very strong, but it’s usually a good rule to allow a little odor, because your cat is familiar with it. Also, sometimes a chemical smell will turn off the cat from using the litter box.  If the litter box is cleaned entirely of the cat’s scent, they may not use it.  Remember, you probably won’t smell anything once it’s been cleaned with soap & water, but your cat probably can.

What if the cat refuses to use the litter box?  Please contact your Veterinarian if your cat stops using the litter box and using other areas.  If your cat is not eliminating at all, contact your Veterinarian immediately to rule out any serious health issue.

If after trying these suggestions you are still experiencing undesirable behaviors in your cat, SUBMIT QUESTIONS by clicking the link under Ask A Trainer on the Behavior and Training page of our website.


Mar 31 2015

Dealing with Destructive Cat Scratching

The first step with any behavioral issue is to take your cat to the veterinarian for a full evaluation.  Cats are very stoic animals and will hide illness and injury.  Sometimes our only clue that something is physically wrong is a behavioral symptom.  Many behavioral modification programs can begin in conjunction with or shortly after your trip to the veterinarian.

Scratching is a normal behavior for cats!  It serves many purposes, such as marking territory, relieving stress and excess energy, stretching, and removing the dead outer layer of their claws.  Cats need to scratch and this should not be taken away from them.  Cats that scratch on undesirable objects just need a little guidance as to what is acceptable and beneficial.

Choosing a scratching post

Every cat must have at least one good scratching post; preferably more than one, especially in multi-cat homes.  Figuring out which type of scratching post your feline will prefer might take a little bit of trial and error.  Most cats like to stretch upwards, so providing a tall cat tower that is at least 3 feet tall with a stable base is always a good idea.  Even if the cat doesn’t use it to scratch on, it provides a nice perch to survey their surroundings, look out windows, or to provide some solitude when needed.

A proper vertical scratching post needs to suit the needs of an adult-sized cat.  A kitten is going to grow quickly, so it’s best to get the proper height right from the beginning.  The taller the better, but ideally it should be tall enough for an adult cat to stand on the hind legs, and stretch all the way up as far as they can reach.  This gives the cat plenty of surface area to work on and a proper stretch.  The scratching post needs to be sturdy as well.  If it tips or falls over, it may scare the cat, and the cat may never approach it or use it again.

Some cats prefer to scratch horizontally.  There are scratch posts that provide this option as well.  Again, finding one that won’t slide around or tip is very important.  Place the scratch board on a carpeted surface or purchase a gripper mat to prevent movement. Texture is important as well.  Some cats prefer carpeted posts, some prefer sisal, and some prefer corrugated cardboard.  Sisal is the most preferred as it is durable and helps the claws to lose the dead outer layer.  Corrugated cardboard will need to be replaced periodically as the scratcher deteriorates from use.

Training your cat to use the scratching post

If you have a multi-cat home, you should have 1 scratch post per cat (or more).  Each cat might have a preference of where it is located as well.  If there is any conflict between your cats, if you recognize these conflicts re-occurring in the same areas of the home, place a scratch post in those areas.  Any of the cats feeling stressed can have easy access to an instant stress reliever.  Scratching posts should be placed in common cat traffic areas and near items that the cat has previously used for scratching. If your cat is scratching on your couch, for example, place the scratch post in front of that particular area.

Sprinkling or spraying catnip onto the tower will attract the cat to the tower.  Lure your cat to the scratching post by dangling a favorite toy on the scratcher to encourage exploration and use of the scratcher.  Always praise your cat when the scratcher is used even after the training phase is over! Once your cat is consistently using the tower, you can begin to move it a few inches at a time until it is in the location you would like it to be. Be patient and allow the cat time to consistently use it after each move.

If you see the cat about to scratch on an undesirable area, do not frighten the cat or punish the cat.  Distract the cat by dangling their favorite toy near them and guide them with the toy to the scratching post.  Continue to play with your cat by dangling the toy high up on the scratching post so your cat jumps or stretches to catch it.  This will show the cat that the scratching post is stable and feels good to scratch.  Interrupting a cat who is already scratching can be done with a distracting toy or an aversive sound.  When the cat uses the scratch post, be sure to praise and reward with an extra tasty treat.

Alternatives to Declawing

Declawing is a procedure where a veterinarian amputates the end digit and claw of a cat’s paw.  Declawing should never be an option unless it is for medical reasons (ie:  injury).  Declawed cats are more likely to suffer from painful arthritis and behavior issues. Declawing a cat also takes away one of its first defenses.  This can result in a cat biting more than it might have if it still had its claws.  Declawing can also lead to litter box problems, as it can be painful for a cat to rake its paws through the litter. There is a product called Soft Paws that is a wonderful alternative.  They are plastic caps that fit right over each claw.  A cat can scratch, and there won’t be any damage.  Groomers and veterinarians can help apply these if you need any help putting them on. The caps can stay on for several weeks before needing to be replaced.

Keeping your cats nails trimmed on a regular basis will also help to prevent you from getting scratched, or the cat getting its nails caught on something, possibly causing damage to the item or to the cat.  Clip off the sharp tips every two weeks or so.  Work on desensitizing your cat to make this a tolerable interaction.  Petting her paws or legs and providing treats at the same time will help the cat to associate the touch as a positive interaction.  You can then begin to increase the pressure with gentle squeezes.  Eventually you will need to do this to extend the claw in order to trim them.  When you extend the claw, you should be able to see the pink or “quick” inside the claw.  This is a small blood vessel, and you want to be sure you do NOT cut in that area, or it will bleed and be painful.  This will help to dull the claw and prevent some damage to furniture or to you.

If after trying these suggestions you are still experiencing undesirable behaviors in your cat, SUBMIT QUESTIONS by clicking the link under Ask A Trainer on the Behavior and Training page of our website.


Mar 30 2015

Introducing A New Cat

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The purrs and hisses of a successful introduction

Normal Feline Communication and Behavior :

Hissing, growling, staring, swishing tail, ears down.

Redirection is your friend. If you see tension building, redirect your cat with treats/toys. If you are able to break up the tension, the cats will have less animosity towards one another. Never physically break up a cat fight; use a chair, broom, etc. to gently block them from each other.

Quick Tips – Take it one sense at a time – Provide a stress free environment – Allow normal feline communication and behavior – Redirection is your friend

The Introduction: Cats are not similar to dogs in the way that they can make a friend in two seconds. It usually takes time and a lot of patience. 

Step 1—SANCTUARY: Make sure your new cat has a ‘sanctuary’. This is a safe place that the resident cat cannot get to. This room needs to have their litter box, food, bed and toys, as it will be housing them for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Have “hiding spots” in this room for your new cat. Boxes make great hidey holes for cats that are feeling a little shy and intimidated for the first few days. Both cats will be curious– sniffing under the door. See “Normal Feline Communication and Behavior” information above and what to do if it escalates. 

Step 2—ONE SENSE AT A TIME: After your new cat starts feeling comfortable in their environment, you can start feeding special treats/meals to each cat on either side of the door. See how close you can get the bowl to the door, but don’t push it. Over the next few days, you’ll gradually decrease the distance be-tween the two cats and the door. The intent is to get each cat eating on either side of the door without any problems. You can also Room Swap; switch one cat out with the other. Allow your resident cat to explore the new cat’s sanctuary, and the new cat to explore your house. This gives them an opportunity to smell the other cat’s food area and litter box. Only do this for an hour at a time maximum and at most twice a day. We also suggest rubbing each cat down with a cloth, and placing the cloth under the other cat’s food dish. This helps them associate the other cats scent with a good thing– food. 

Step 3—INTERACTION: Once both cats are comfortable, and are not exhibiting stress/fear signals you can open the door to the sanctuary and allow them visuals. It’s always a good idea to go slow; open the door a crack, then a little more, then a little more still. If you see tensions mounting be sure to redirect with toys or treats. If this doesn’t help, do not continue and try again tomorrow. If everyone remains calm, allow your new cat to explore the household while keeping a close eye on each feline to ensure safety.

Step 4—HAPPY HOME: Now that both cats get along they should be able to be out and about together happily! It is suggested that you do not leave them out alone together when you are not at home for the first week or two. If something happens, you want to be present! Don’t get rid of the sanctuary right away! Allow your new cat time to become comfortable and slowly start removing items from the room.

If after trying these suggestions you are still experiencing undesirable behaviors in your cat, SUBMIT QUESTIONS by clicking the link under Ask A Trainer on the Behavior and Training page of our website.

 


Mar 30 2015

Reducing Urine Marking in Cats

The first step with any behavioral issue is to take your cat to the veterinarian for a full evaluation.  Cats are very stoic animals and will hide illness and injury.  Sometimes our only clue that something is physically wrong is a behavioral symptom.  Many behavioral modification programs can begin in conjunction with or shortly after your trip to the veterinarian.

Cats will spray for three reasons: marking territory, to help them feel secure, or because they are in conflict with another cat. Is your cat neutered/spayed? 90% of cats reduce spraying within 30 days of being neutered. Was your cat previously an outdoor cat? Are there other cats in the home? See also the article on Cats in Conflict. Are there any cats in your neighborhood that walk around?

Determine if you cat is spraying or urinating outside the box.  A cat who is urine marking will typically back up to a vertical surface.  You will see the tail held upright and quiver and the front paws may knead.  You will find a small amount of urine on the vertical surface and usually running down to the floor.  The areas a cat chooses to mark are typically common paths the cats are walking in the house, the perimeter of the home, or around windows and doors. A cat who is not using the litter box will leave a large puddle on a horizontal surface.

Your first step will be cleaning: Try using an enzyme based cleaner on the area.  If the area is carpet can you pull it back and #1 replace the pad #2 get to the wood underlay.  Once you get to the wood you need to get hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar and soak a rag or towel and place it directly on the affected area and place something heavy on top.  The hydrogen peroxide will pull the urine out of the wood.  You may need to change the rag or towel and reapply.  If you attempt this with a finished hardwood floor the stain may also come up if you aren’t careful about the timing so try vinegar. The vinegar mixture should be 1.5 cups warm water and .5 cups of white vinegar. You can also sprinkle baking soda on top of the area once it has dried to absorb any remaining smell. (You should not use vinegar on marble or stone.) You can actually see and smell the urine on the towel so it is quite remarkable! Don’t forget to clean the walls!  You can purchase a hand held black light to see the urine more clearly so you make sure it is completely gone from that area.  In cases of spraying even removing and cleaning behind base boards might be necessary.

Buy puppy pee pads and place those in areas where he sprays to reduce the chance you will need to clean again.  Remember the spray is going up the wall most likely so you may have to get painters tape and put the pee pad on vertically.  The next step will be to place a tall cat scratcher in front of the areas being sprayed and place either a food dish or a water bowl next to it.  Scratching is another (more acceptable to us humans) way to mark territory.  There should be a scratcher for each cat in your case.  Cats also do not like to pee where they eat or drink so adding the food and water to those areas might also help. It will also help to have multiple feedings and watering stations so they don’t have to feel uncomfortable about those resources. It may look silly for a few weeks but they needs to associate those areas with scratching, food, water and finally with playing.  The last portion will be to start playing with them in those areas to build confidence.  Remember that we are trying to break a habit here so it may be a few weeks of this setup.  If another incident occurs simply replace the pee pads.  We are hoping for a reduction of the behavior as they begin to feel more confident.  Only remove them after several weeks of no spraying in that area.

If you see the cat sniffing around in the areas that have previously been sprayed, interrupt the sniffing by distracting the cat with a toy or a treat.  Consider re-cleaning the area in case the smell remains.

 

If after trying these suggestions you are still experiencing undesirable behaviors in your cat, SUBMIT QUESTIONS by clicking the link under Ask A Trainer on the Behavior and Training page of our website.

 


Mar 18 2015

Cats in Conflict: Feline Social Behavior

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The first step with any behavioral issue is to take your cat to the veterinarian for a full evaluation.  Cats are very stoic animals and will hide illness and injury.  Sometimes our only clue that something is physically wrong is a behavioral symptom.  Many behavioral modification programs can begin in conjunction with or shortly after your trip to the veterinarian.

Cats are socially selective creatures, which means that they do not need each other to survive but they will choose to socialize with each other.  Cats are individuals with personalities and because of this they will get along with certain cats and not others.

Most people miss the subtle way cats communicate with each other and only start to notice problems when a fight occurs.  Often times there are other signs that things are getting tense between your cats.  One of the other signs is not using the litter box.  Cats have elaborate ways to share territory and disruptions to their agreements can disturb the delicate balance.  When these problems arise it is important to address them as soon as possible.  The more fighting that occurs the more difficult it will be to resolve.  Cat do not “just work things out” once they get into a pattern of fighting.  This process will take time and commitment to resolve and you may need the help of a behavior specialist.  Pay close attention to all your cats’ behaviors and document your findings.  Be patient as each cat will progress at their own pace.  Use the following information to help you evaluate the situation.

Territory and access to resources

Territory is one of the most important things in your cat’s life.  Territory aggression can occur when a new cat is brought into the home, when a cat reaches social maturity (usually around the age of 2 or 3), when one cat comes home from the vet or if the cats view their resources as insufficient to share.   The behaviors you might see include chasing, swatting, hitting or ambushing.  You might also notices one cat sits directly in the path of the litter box or food bowl or waits outside the litter box to attack as the other cat tries to leave the area.  Other signs your cats might be having territory disagreements would be having stare downs, posturing and moving slowly while starting, blocking access to food and water, finding alternate locations to urinate or defecate, marking the perimeter of the home or major walkways(face rubbing, scratching or spraying), or one cat always leaves a room when another walks into the room.  Many of these signals go unnoticed so as the owner you may have to play detective.

Redirected aggression

Redirected aggression happens when your cat is frustrated that it cannot attack something and he will turn and attack the closest cat (or human) he can.  A neighbor cat visiting your yard, for example, could make your cat upset about his territory being invaded.  Since he cannot get out and attack the stranger in the yard he will take that energy and anger out on his housemate.  Cats will also redirect onto humans or anything moving (like a housemate) if they haven’t had enough play time.  There is also the potential for a redirection if your cat is suddenly startled and attacks the closest thing to him out of fear.

Defensive aggression

When a cat feels that he cannot escape from an attack he will choose to either freeze or fight.  The defensive cat will hiss, growl or scream to keep the attacker away.  He will fall to the ground, show his teeth, pull his ears and whiskers back and get his paws in the air ready for protection.  What can happen in multi-cat homes is a cycle of behaviors.  We often will not know the original incident that starts the cycle so it may take some investigation.  When one cat is attacked over a territory dispute or is a victim of a redirected attack (and therefore confused why she was attacked) she will be wary of the other cat and will often run away from him.  As she runs, his desire to chase her becomes even stronger.  Pretty soon the cycle of running and chasing has been established even without a precipitating event.

Separate the cats and follow the same instructions in the article on Introducing a New Cat.    Modify the environment.  Do not punish cats any cat that is involved; this will may lead to further aggression between cats and fear or aggression towards you.  See a veterinarian for a full examination on both cats and treat any injuries to prevent infection. In severe cases, talk with your veterinarian about supplementing your behavior plan with medication.  NEVER medicate your cat with consulting a veterinarian.  Many over the counter and prescription medications are harmful or even fatal to cats.

If after trying these suggestions you are still experiencing undesirable behaviors in your cat, SUBMIT QUESTIONS by clicking the link under Ask A Trainer on the Behavior and Training page of our website.

 

 


Mar 6 2015

Managing Your Kitten’s Rough Play

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The first step with any behavioral issue is to take your cat to the veterinarian for a full evaluation.  Cats are very stoic animals and will hide illness and injury.  Sometimes our only clue that something is physically wrong is a behavioral symptom.  Many behavioral modification programs can begin in conjunction with or shortly after your trip to the veterinarian.

Kittens love to play but kittens also NEED to play!  Kittens use play to explore the world, learn social skills and practice hunting.  Chasing, pouncing, biting and kicking are all normal ways that cats and kittens play with objects and with each other.  For a young kitten up to a few years old, you ideally should have 3 to 4 scheduled play sessions a day.

Typically, kittens adopted in pairs or who have had adequate time with their siblings will learn appropriately to not bite and to retract their claws to keep from hurting their playmates.  They will learn stalking and hunting behaviors by playing with toys.  You should be using interactive toys to play with your kitten several times a day and you should be leaving smaller toys laying around for them to explore while you are away.  The most popular interactive toys are wand toys with a long string that ends in a feather, mouse or another toy.  You should also consider purchasing interactive feeders for your kitten to bat around and receive a portion of her daily kibble or treats throughout the day.

You should be the one setting rules and boundaries for your kitten.  Make sure everyone in the house is aware of the kitten’s rules and inform guests as well.  One of your rules should be that the kitten is NEVER allowed to play with hands, feet or any other human body part.  Allowing this behavior will lead to injuries and aggressive behavior towards humans.  It is a very important lesson for your kitten to learn when it is appropriate to play and what things are appropriate to use as toys.

It is not uncommon for a kitten or young cat to test the boundary of acceptable vs unacceptable playing.  As a parent, your job is to clearly enforce that line and redirect the kitten’s play to an acceptable target.  For example, if your kitten has previously been encouraged to bite and kick human hands you will need to redirect that need onto a soft toy that is about the same size as your kitten.

Scheduled play times are very important.  You should be initiating play with your kitten several times a day, ideally BEFORE your kitten decides to pounce on you to get you to play.  It might be helpful to keep track of your kitten’s favorite times to play and schedule your play session 20 to 30 minutes before that time.   A natural schedule for a cat would be to play, eat, groom and then sleep.  Use this pattern to your benefit especially if your kitten wakes you up at night wanting to play.

Encourage your kitten to play by dragging a toy along the floor for her to pounce on or throw a toy across the room for her to chase.  Keep things interesting by changing the toys you use each day and putting away the interactive wand toys when you are finished playing.  Provide small toys, ping pong balls and plush toys to wrestle with when you are away.  When you are using the interactive wand toys, mimic the movements for live prey to encourage hunting behaviors.

Discourage your kitten from inappropriately playing by withdrawing your attention.  If your kitten starts playing too roughly stop the play session.  Say “ouch” in a high pitched voice and leave the room if your kitten bites or scratches you.  The kitten will quickly learn what behaviors make you end the play session.  She may continue to test how rough she can play so be consistent in which behaviors cause the games to end and which behaviors cause you to leave the room completely.  Be sure to reengage your kitten in a play session after a short break.

Do not attempt to tap, flick or hit your kitten.  Any form of physical punishment will lead to fear and further aggression from your kitten.  Even picking her to move her to a time out room could be reinforcing her behavior.  That is why YOU should be the one to leave the area.  Be sure to clean all wounds thoroughly and consult a doctor for severe bites.

 

If after trying these suggestions you are still experiencing undesirable behaviors in your cat, SUBMIT QUESTIONS by clicking the link under Ask A Trainer on the Behavior and Training page of our website.

 


Nov 28 2011

Find Grrr-eat Gifts at Whiskers & Wags!

Looking for the purr-fect gift for your kitty?  Does your dog crrr-ave toys that keep him busy?  Whiskers & Wags, Wayside’s Pet Boutique has grrr-eat gifts for your furry family members!  We just received several new holiday toy items in the store, as well as new leashes and collars!   Proceeds from all purchases benefit the animals at Wayside Waifs!

Check ‘em out!

A fun assortment of dog rope toys that will keep your pooch busy for hours! Price: $10 ea.


Naughty or Nice?  You decide!  Each ball has nice on one side and naughty on the other. So fun!  Price: $1 ea.


Colorful plush dog toys are tail waggin’ fun! Price: $5 ea.


For our feline friends these zany cat bouncers feature a fun mouse attached to a “springy” tree. They are guaranteed to be the cats meow!  Price: $5 ea.


These are sure to be a hit!  Handpainted ornaments feature different breeds of cats and dogs! Quantities are limited and new ones are coming in each week!  Price: $10

Shop Whiskers & Wags, located in the Harold & Marilyn Melcher Pet Adoption Center at Wayside Waifs!

Store Hours:
Wednesday – Friday: 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday -Sunday: Noon to 6 p.m.


Aug 12 2011

Clicker Training Your Cat


Think of these words: Obedience Training. Tricks for Treats. You probably thought of dog training, right? What if I told you all of those words can be applied to cat training? Cats may be high and mighty most of the time, but it does not mean that they don’t know the value of looking cute (especially if food is involved). Claire Williams, a Cat Adoption Counselor at Wayside Waifs, sat down with me to discuss clicker training for cats. Like some of you might be thinking, my first thought was “yea, right”. But the way Williams describes it, it’s attainable and a possibility for any cat! But what is clicker training? 

Clicker training is marking wanted behavior and then proceeding to give a reward for the wanted behavior. A click signifies the wanted behavior, and the treat is the reward. You may be most familiar with clicker training in canines; who would have thought you could do the same with cats? In fact, the founder of clicker training, Karen Pryor, has used clicker training with a wide variety of animals! Cats, dogs, horses, dolphins and rabbits are just a few of her training subjects. 

The question is how do you start clicker training a cat? “The cat gets a treat for breathing” Williams says, “When you click, they get a treat. They don’t have to do anything at first. You just want to establish a connection that the clicker sound means a treat”. She recommends doing ‘mini sessions’ throughout the day, until your cat starts to understand what’s going on. Also, the treats you might already be buying for your cat at the store might not cut it. Let’s remember how picky a cat can be about their food. They don’t mind if you give them a treat that came out of a bottle but you don’t think they’re going to roll over for it, do you? 

Once your cat gets used to the clicker sound being a cue for a treat, start rewarding certain behaviors. If you see a behavior that you like, click and treat. Once they start to catch on, they’ll start doing the behavior on their own. Then, you just need to come up with a hand or verbal signal that signifies what the cat is supposed to do. They will realize that every time they do something in particular they get a treat and they’ll start doing it more often. 

But can cats perform the same kind of tricks that dogs do? Williams knows they can! “They can sit, come, stay…even jump through a hoop if you want them too!” The trick is to find something your feline does not want to live without. In most instances it’s a high value treat; something along the lines of pieces of chicken, hamburger or tuna. Remember though; don’t make the pieces too big. You don’t want to fill up their tummies and lose their interest! At the same time, don’t make your ‘mini sessions’ too long; keep your kitty wanting more. 

So, what advice does Williams give to people who are interested in training their cat?  “Patience, patience, patience”. She says the best times to try and clicker train your cat is when it’s around feeding time, or if they are hungry. You also do not need an actual “clicker” to clicker train, “You can use things such as pens or staplers; tools that mimic the clicker sound”. The main thing you need to do though is be consistent. Consistency is the key to any kind of training and the same goes for cat training. If you do not consistently treat them when they deserve, they will quickly loose interest or become frustrated.  

There are plenty of online resources that are at your disposal to find out more information about cat clicker training. Some cats can do some pretty awesome tricks (my favorite is probably the most simple: high-five). You can also go to Karen Pryor’s website www.clickertraining.com, where she has information and suggestions on how to work with your kitty. Good luck, and remember- be patient! 

Written by Alyssa Willet
Adoptions Supervisor at Wayside Waifs


Aug 5 2010

When It Comes To Love, Age Is Just A Number

Boo and Tabasco

Boo and Tabasco

Who doesn’t love a snuggly little puppy or kitten?  They’re sweet and cuddly and just SO dog-gone cute!  But, when it comes to adopting, is a puppy or kitten really the right choice for YOU?  Often-times, the answer to that question is “no”, it is not.  So, what are some of the questions you should be asking, in regard to an animal’s age, once you’ve decided to adopt?  Here are some very important questions you need to consider:

  • How long will my puppy be alone and in a crate during the day?  If the answer is more than 4 hours, then a puppy is not a good choice for you.  A general rule of thumb for a young puppy is that it will need to go outside to eliminate every 30 minutes to one hour initially.  You can then gradually work up to longer periods of time.
  • Do I have the time and temperament to train a puppy?  If the time you can spend training a puppy is very limited, then it’s best to consider adopting an adult dog that most likely will already have had some training.  Although watching a puppy grow to adulthood can be a very rewarding experience, the time requirements will be quite extensive.  Young puppies will need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day, taken out several times a day to eliminate and when loose, must be watched constantly.  Young puppies in a new home may also whine through the night as they are adjusting to their new surroundings and life without mom.
  • Do you have young children in the home?  Kittens and puppies can be overly rambunctious and unintentionally nip or scratch young children, especially those who have not yet learned how to interact with animals.
  • Are my “things” so important to me that I would be distraught if any of them became the “object of desire” for my teething puppy?  Although a puppy should always be supervised when out of its crate, accidents do happen.  So, if you know that you could not live with a few teeth marks on the legs of you dining table, you probably should steer clear of adopting a puppy.  Teething generally lasts for the first 6 to 8 months, although some dogs will continue to be “chewers” for much longer than that. 

So, you may be wondering; if adopting an older animal is so much better, then why are there so many of them in shelters?  Are they second rate, or in some way defective?  The majority of older pets are surrendered through no fault of their own.  Many are surrendered because their owners have developed allergies, or have other health issues and are no longer able to care for their pets, or possibly, the pet has just outlived the owner.  Often-times there is simply a change in the owner’s lifestyle, such a move to a new residence which does not allow pets, a change in work schedule, a new baby in the home…….  The reasons are varied, and far too many to list here, but simply said, shelters are full of healthy, energetic, lovable adult cats and dogs just longing for a new forever family.  Adopting an older pet can be tremendously rewarding too.  Not only will they bring joy into your life with their unconditional love and companionship, you will also be giving refuge to a lost and lonely soul who most likely came into the shelter extremely frightened and bewildered, without a clue as to what had just rocked their world.  All of them, regardless of their age, deserve a second chance.

In addition to receiving unconditional love, there are many other advantages to adopting an older pet.  With an older pet you will immediately know exactly what you are getting in terms of size, physical appearance, activity level, sociability, health and temperament.  An older dog may be easier to train than a puppy, and yes, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!  Older dogs tend to be calmer and quieter than a puppy, they will usually comprehend the word “no” and will probably have already come to understand what kinds of behaviors are acceptable and what are not.  And, an older pet will be less demanding of your time than a kitten or puppy.  Mature cats will usually know how to avoid danger, but that is not always true with kittens, and they will need to be constantly supervised.  Thus, the saying about cats having 9 lives!  Older cats may need some time to adjust to their new surroundings though.  If the new adoptee chooses to spend the first few days hiding under the couch, just make sure it knows where its food, water and litter box are and leave it be.  It may only come out in the dark of night for the first few days, but once it is comfortable with its new surroundings it will venture out on its own and want to begin getting to know you.

One concern expressed by potential adopters when choosing an older animal is that their pet won’t have many years of life left.  But, one need not be overly concerned because, due to advances in veterinary care and nutrition that will most likely not be the case.  Indoor cats will typically live well into their teens, and many into their early twenties.  Depending on the size of the dog (smaller dogs live longer), many dogs can be expected to live well into their teens too.  

As for me personally, I have adopted two older (sibling) cats, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  Boo and Tabasco were both 8 years old when I adopted them in 2000.  Unfortunately, 4 years later Boo developed cancer and had to be put down, but Tabasco has been with me for 10 years and is still going strong.  It saddens me deeply that I was only able to have Boo in my life for 4 years, but I wouldn’t trade those 4 years with him for anything in the world.  When you adopt a pet, no matter what their age, you are always taking a chance in regard to how long they will live.  There is no guarantee when adopting a puppy or kitten that it will live any longer than the adult cat or dog you see in the cage right next to it.  We just need to love them and care for them for whatever time we are blessed with them, and of course, mourn for them when they are gone.  As Queen Elizabeth II said – “Grief is the price we pay for love.”  And, what a wonderful love that is!!!

Written by Karen Brown


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