Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Consider Shelter Adoption for Kittens

by Elyse Grau

Thinking about getting a kitten? Well, first stop (and hopefully only stop)should be the local animal shelter. From early spring through the start of fall most shelters are brimming with adorable, cuddly kittens of all colors

If you really want a specific breed of cat and can't find one at the shelters, try a breed rescue group.

By adopting a "shelter" or "rescue" animal, you are giving an animal a second chance, and maybe it's last chance. Overcrowding and lack of resources results in many of these cats and kittens being euthanized.

You can also help to keep the pet population in check by adopting a "pre-owned" animal.

Before you go to the shelter or call a rescue group, you should have some ideas of what you are looking for in a cat or kitten. Are you willing to groom a longhaired cat as often as required? Are you sure no one in your household is allergic to cats?

Is this your first dog or cat? If so, you may want to talk to other pet owners to be sure you have a realistic idea of what you are getting yourself into. Remember that this is a long-term commitment, as much as 20 years for a cat! Look hard at your budget before deciding on a new pet. Don't forget food, vet expense, possible boarding or pet sitting, groomers, kitty litter, etc.

If you are adding to a household of pets, consider the ones you already have. Will they accept another animal? Most dogs and cats can learn to live with each other eventually, but some will have a harder time adjusting than others. Some cats do not tolerate other cats well. Planning ahead for the introductions and potential problems will ease the way considerably.

If you are renting, are pets allowed? Are you planning to move in the near future? Consider your lifestyle, your habits and your home. Once you have reviewed your situation and are certain that this is the right time for a new pet, then the question becomes "What breed of cat is right for us?"

My favorite breed of cat is the "domestic shorthair", a catch-all term for mixed breed cats. Really, unless you are looking to show or breed the animal, there is really no reason to choose a purebred cat.

Mixed breed cats tend to be healthier. Since most genetic anomalies and predispositions to disease are carried on recessive genes, mixed breeds will be less likely to inherit these traits. Often times you get the best of both worlds - or at least the best of both breeds. The animals will usually exhibit the most predominant traits of their breeds so knowing something about the different breeds will tell you something about the animal you are considering. There are only a few breeds of cat that really have specific characteristics beyond looks. Siamese, for example, are known for their vocalizations.

If you have your heart set on a specific breed, and you have done your research and know that the breed is right for you and your lifestyle, then you might want to consider looking for a rescue group for that breed. The internet is a good resource for finding a rescue group in your area.

When visiting a shelter, remember that cats are usually much more timid than dogs, and are often frightened by large, noisy spaces. Their behavior at the shelter is a response to their environment. They may seem frightened, shy or depressed. Talk to the shelter personnel, find out as much as you can about the cat's normal behavior.

Once the kitten has adapted to its new home it should shed its fear and anxiety. Hopefully they will turn out to be the perfect cat or kitten for you. And don't forget to have them spayed or neutered!

Elyse Grau is an herbalist and a long-time pet owner, well-versed in pet nutrition and feeding. She is the author of Pet Health Resource, your web guide to a healthy, happy dog or cat. The website strives to answer your holistic pet health questions through a large collection of articles.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

ASPCA's Animal CSI Called Into Action—Rapper DMX Pleads Guilty to Animal Cruelty

On December 30, rapper DMX—known legally as Earl Simmons—pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty, among other charges for theft and drug possession. The charges stem from a raid in August 2007, when Maricopa County sheriff's deputies descended on Simmons’s Arizona home, finding 12 malnourished pit bulls and the remains of three dogs.

To assist law enforcement officials in their efforts to prosecute Simmons, the
ASPCA’s Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit was called into action. Leading the forensic investigation, the ASPCA’s Dr. Melinda Merck examined the remains of the dead dogs recovered from his property."I was very impressed with the level of commitment from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department on this case," says Dr. Merck. "I have worked with many different law enforcement agencies all over the country, and the team working on this investigation was extremely dedicated."

For the record, Simmons is a repeat offender—in 2002, the rapper pleaded guilty to 13 counts of animal cruelty, charges resulting from the neglect of 13 pit bulls. As a result of this most recent prosecution, the rapper faces at least 90 days in jail, can never again own any animals and must attend an animal offender treatment program. A parole violation would send him to jail for more than 10 years. A sentence hearing has been scheduled for January 30.

"The ASPCA is proud to have had its expert staff be a part of this important case," says ASPCA President and CEO Ed Sayres. "Dr. Merck's knowledge and practice of veterinary forensics is truly at the forefront of animal cruelty investigations. With stronger evidence collected by Dr. Merck, law enforcement officials and prosecutors are able to get stronger convictions against those who commit these terrible acts."


I for one am happy that these "celebrities" are finding out that they can no longer get away with such horrible acts. One could only hope that this murdering idiot can receive a punishment as harsh or harsher than Michael Vicks!



Double Trouble for Animal Abusers

Breaking news! On Tuesday, December 11, the ASPCA dished out a one-two punch in the fight against animal cruelty with a pair of forensic firsts. We’re proud to share them with you here:

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cat Furniture Buyers Guide

Cat furniture is a commodity that is known by many names. The most common include Cat Trees, Cat Condos, Kitty Condos, Cat Towers, Cat Climbers, Cat Scratchers and Cat Gyms. There are dozens more, but whatever term you use to describe cat furniture, the purpose is the same - to enable your cats to follow their instinctual desire to scratch without damaging your furniture, carpet, or other belongings, and also to give them a place of their own where they can exercise, play, and lounge.

There are many different types of cat furniture, made from such a variety of materials, that shopping for cat furniture can be confusing. Which materials are better? What design is the most stable? What size should I buy? Which style would my cat like? In this article, I'll try to help you answer these questions so you can make a more informed buying decision.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

In order to be completely informed when buying cat furniture, it's helpful to understand why it is that cats scratch in the first place. The primary reason for cats scratching furniture, carpets, woodwork, or other objects is to mark their territory for other cats (this is instinctual, so they will do this even if they are the only cat in the house). Additionally, the scratching helps remove the dead cells from the claw sheaths, and stretches their muscles and ligaments.

Feline behavior is consistent, whether it's a tiger in the wild, or a Maine Coon in a condominium. Scratching is the way they say to other felines in the area "Hey, I'm here, and this is my place". Scratching communicates this in two ways. The first is obvious - the scratches provide a very visual cue to other cats. Additionally, cats have scent glands in their paws, which leave pheromones that other cats can smell. For those of you that have experience with declawed cats (PLEASE don't declaw your cats!), that's the reason that they continue to scratch even after the claws have been removed.

Cat Furniture Coverings

In the past, most cat furniture was covered with carpet. This was a good choice, because it looks good, and it offers a material that cats obviously like to scratch. Some of the cat furniture manufactured today, especially hand-made models, still use carpet.

Most carpeting today contains fabric loops. Unfortunately, after thousands of scratches, cat claws can cut through these loops, resulting in unsightly and messy shredding. You've probably seen this yourself.

However, with today's technology, engineers have developed an acrylic material specifically for use in the cat furniture industry. This material, commonly referred to as fake or faux fur, has become increasingly popular. The main reason for this popularity is the fact that it does not contain loops, so it doesn't shred like carpet does, and therefore tends to last longer than carpet. The drawback is that since it doesn't offer the resistance that carpet does when they scratch it, cats don't like it for scratching as much as they like carpeting.

As a result, most cat furniture that offers faux fur also utilizes sisal rope as a covering. Generally, the vertical posts are wrapped with sisal rope, and the platforms and enclosures are covered with the acrylic fur.

Sisal rope is made from the Agave Sisalana plant, which is native to the Yucatan area of Mexico. Cats seem naturally drawn to this material, and unlike the acrylic fur, sisal rope offers the resistance that cats need to tune their claws and stretch their muscles.

Some cat furniture manufacturers that use carpet as a covering also offer sisal-wrapped posts, and in most (but not all) cases cats will scratch on the sisal instead of the carpet.

Structural Materials

Obviously the strength of the cat furniture is provided by the underlying structural materials. Vertical posts are usually wood 2 x 4's or heavy cardboard tubes, while horizontal surfaces are either plywood or pressboard. Manufacturers sometimes use cardboard for enclosure walls that do not bear any weight load.

It is a common misconception that wooden posts offer more structural integrity than cardboard tubes. In actuality, this is not necessarily true. Of course everybody knows that wood is stronger than cardboard when flat. However, when thick (at least 1/4") cardboard is made into a tube, and stood up vertically, it can hold an incredible amount of weight. The addition of a layer of sisal rope wrapped around it adds even more strength. One big advantage of cardboard posts over wooden ones is the weight. Shipping rates are based on weight, and shipping costs for a piece of cat furniture made with cardboard posts will be considerably less than a comparable model with wooden posts.

For platforms and weight-bearing walls in enclosures, manufacturers generally utilize either plywood or pressboard (also known as particle board). Pressboard is fiber pulp that is mixed with a chemical adhesive to create a smooth, uniform board. Plywood is manufactured by gluing thin layers of wood together, resulting in a board that is actually stronger than solid wood of the same thickness.

Generally, plywood is preferred to pressboard for cat furniture platforms for a number of reasons. During shipping, pressboard is much more likely to be damaged than plywood, especially if the carton is dropped on it's corner. Additionally, pressboard tends to crumble around the edges of screw or bolt holes if the hardware is tightened too much. Pressboard platforms are also more likely to break if enough weight or vertical force is put on it, as happens if a child sits on it.

Floor-to-Ceiling or Freestanding?

Cat furniture models will be either freestanding or floor-to-ceiling (commonly referred to as cat trees). Freestanding cat furniture is usually wide and bottom-heavy, to prevent it from tipping over when cats are at the top, or are very active. Floor-to-ceiling models use tension against the ceiling to provide their stability, and so do not require as wide a footprint as freestanding models. A properly assembled and installed floor-to-ceiling model cannot tip over. Usually, the tension against the ceiling is accomplished either through use of a spring-tension rod or a screw-based mechanism. This doesn't mean that the cat tree is screwed into the ceiling. Rather, the topmost post has a threaded bolt, usually topped with a soft protective cap that screws up against the ceiling. Generally, the screw-type cat trees are more stable, especially if you have active cats, and are also less likely to damage the ceiling surface.

So What Should You Buy?

The decision as to what type of furniture to buy for Tabby and Fritz should be determined by a combination of factors:

- Do you want a freestanding or floor-to-ceiling model? This is really more of a personal choice issue than anything else. If you have very active or very large cats, a floor to ceiling model will
probably offer more stability. If you have a multi-cat household, special attention should be paid to the weight rating of the furniture. It's also usually possible to secure a free-standing model
to a wall with common brackets and hardware available at any home center, in cases where rambunctious kitties cause it to rock or tip.

- Which covering? Carpet offers the advantage of more color choices, and if you're very particular about your cat condo fitting in with your d├ęcor, this might be your best choice. Faux fur models are generally made in neutral colors like beige or taupe, although there are some exceptions. In either case, having a sisal scratching surface should be a goal if at all possible.

- Structural materials. If you have a choice, choose plywood over pressboard. As for the posts, both cardboard and wood offer good stability. As stated earlier, models with wooden posts are heavier and may cost more to ship.

I hope that this article has been helpful in explaining the different types of cat furniture available, and the strengths and weaknesses of each type. In the end, don't forget that the safety and happiness of the feline members of your family should be the most important factors in choosing cat furniture for them.

Nick Bulka, is the owner of South Hill Trading Company, an online pet supply store specializing in cat furniture. You can visit his store at or

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