Friday, June 28, 2013

How to Train Your Kitten: Scratching!

Training your kitten is as important as training your dog or your dragon: it makes life better for both of you when you set perimeters. You could let them run amuck and do what they will to both your furniture and your home space, but, like any relationship, boundaries are the key to a successful life together. The most important training to start with? Scratching.

Kittens and cats love to scratch. It not only feels good but helps maintain nail health for your furry companions. All day and everywhere, those little ones will scratch away with that happy grin on their faces. But how do you stop them from shredding the furniture and making a mess of your rugs or carpeting. Especially for those in rental/lease agreements, giving your cat set spaces and objects to scratch is important, but it need not be your stuff.

Firstly, set boundaries by placing double sided tape on the edges of your furniture. Cats HATE sticky surfaces, especially on the pads of their paws, and the strength of the pet-specific tape called Sticky Paws is low enough that it won't hurt them if they touch it. Regular double sided tape will! Test a small patch of this tape on your couch or other furniture item first to make sure the tape will come off entirely. When in doubt... Goo Be Gone! I've personally used this and it works wonders. My cats never scratch at my furniture and never have.

Secondly, set up special scratching areas for them. It's the same as setting up a play room for your children. Cats need their own space too. If you can find a nice cat tree or cat condo (if so inclined) or even just a corner where you can house a nice scratching post that won't be disturbed.

Thirdly, cardboard scratching pads from the pet store are your best friends. Cats go CRAZY for them, and they're both inexpensive and super simple. Buy several at a time and replace every three months to ensure maximum kitten grins.

Lastly, it's always nice to have several posts or scratching waves (when you go to the store, you'll see what I mean- it's a scratching post that lays down, in a wave shape) dappled around your house. That way if your cats are playing away from their designated area, and they're getting rambunctious (as you know they do) then they always have a surface to play with.

Introducing them to their scratching posts etc. is easy. Pick them up, places them next to it, take their paws gentle and start making a scratching movement (much as you would do when introducing the to their litter boxes for the first time). Then, after you release them from your parental hold, kneel down and start scratching at the post etc. Not a crazy amount like a crazy person. Just enough so they can see "Ah ha! This is what we do with this!"

If your cat is already scratching at your furniture, still keep on them if they seem to be eyeing up that couch of yours, even with sticky tape and scratching bits around. They'll start to blame the couch, and not you, if they do still go for it (because it will seem the couch is fighting back by being sticky), but by keeping them with a "no!" or a clap of the hands, they'll know you and the couch are in co-hoots, and you're in charge!

Hope these tips help! They've certainly worked for my little ones. They have healthy nails, and happy, lives, and my furniture thanks me every day.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Me and My Rescues

You've heard the stories and seen the commercials on your television: faces of kittens or abandoned puppies behind bars, pleading for a forever home. While we all would like to believe the human race is not capable of something as cold-hearted as abandoning or abusing an animal, it is a sad fact of our world. But this story need not end with dispair: there are so many loving souls who open their doors to foster or adopt said animals and give them a new lease on life!

I am such a soul.

My two rescues are of the feline variety, though, truth be told, they are far more Viking God then cat...

Behold, Baldr Petrarch Van Clawson Tait the Magnanimous, also know as Baldr the Brave, the Beloved and the Kind, also know as Baldr.

His story always makes me well-up a tad: he was found, covered in fleas and starving to death, whilst wandering the mean streets of LA. A woman happened upon him after hearing rumors of a kitten hiding in a construction site. Unsure of what to do, she put him in her storage unit (mind you, it was August) and waited until his soon-to-be foster mother, Linda (an angel) could come and collect him.

Baldr selected me to be his human guardian when he was 9 months of age: he was shy, scared, and melancholy. He would hide under the couch, and run away when I approached him for the first few months. The sadness in his soul was painfully obvious and it seemed there was nothing I could do to make him happy. Thankfully, I'm a hopeful optimist and showered him with love and affection and kept telling him how happy I was that he and I found each other. I played laser tag with him and fetch as often as he'd let me. Slowly, slowly the chains around his heart began to fall away. Slowly he came to realize he was home.

Now, my little Baldr, is affectionate, blissful and honors me with face rubs (which often involve his wet nose rubbing against my nose whilst purring like a machine) and unwavering love. I could have easily given up, easily given him back to his foster mother, swearing we weren't suited to one another, and then dash off to get another designer kitty from a breeder, but I didn't. I knew, in my heart, that he needed me, and that I, in my way, needed him too.

Which leads us to Thordvach Falcor Taitson the Red, otherwise known as Thor... yep... that Thor...

This little fella was far more fortunate than his big brother Baldr. I'll never forget the first moment I saw him, at 3 months old, all ears and feet, resting soundly apart from his meowing brothers and sisters. Along with his siblings, Thor was left at a doorstep after their mother had been killed. His foster mother, the same wonderful Linda that rescued Baldr the Brave, agreed that Baldr was in need of a younger brother to take care of. The night Thor came home, he was all snuggles, energy and gumption; poor Baldr had no idea what had invaded his home...

Sadly, a week after Thor had settled into our cozy little home, his foster mother called and warned he may have a rather extreme case of ringworm (all of her other fosters had come down with it). It was an uphill battle, of epic in proportions. Had a poet been present, she would have sung songs of our journey fighting the dastardly virus as best as we could. Bi-weekly visits to the vet, lime/sulfur dips, a full body shave, meds meds meds, tears, quarantine, and sleepless nights later, he's healthy and as spunky as ever. His spirit never broke: he was just happy to be alive. There would have been many who gave up, especially when the vet warned we may need to amputate his wee right leg, but by golly, we did it, Baldr, Thor and I. And I wouldn't trade Thor for the world.

There is never a smooth, straight road, when it comes to any pet, and rescues especially need particular patience and care, but if you just trust that you and your rescue have found each other for a reason, and you'll find each other's rhythms soon enough, I can guarantee the love you will receive from those little sweethearts will be deeper and greater than anything else you'll experience elsewhere. All of your patience, energy, and hard work WILL pay off.