The Best Way to Prevent Cat and Dog Deaths

In a recent column, I mentioned that kitten season is almost here. Kitten season is the time of year all animal rescue organizations and shelter dread, as the facilities will be flooded with mama cats and their kittens – needing food, medical care, safety, warmth and if they’re lucky, homes. Many shelters commit to finding homes and not euthanizing the surplus of cats, but many shelters simply kill the thousands upon thousands of cats and kittens that make their way to shelters each year.

The sad truth is that there are simply not enough homes available for the animals who need homes. And that results in the DEATHS OF NEARLY 4 MILLION ANIMALS EACH YEAR IN AMERICAN SHELTERS.

More cats than dogs are killed, because there just ARE more cats. It’s hard to say where all these cats come from. Many are no doubt pets who had litters that people just didn’t want to deal with. Many are feral cats that people have trapped and brought in, and some are community cats – those that belong to no one, but are fed by kind-hearted people. When the flood of cats and kittens hit, shelters scramble to find places for them all, and that’s where the foster network is, literally, a life saver. Kittens are usually adopted – they’re adorable, and who can resist a kitten? But the mama cats may linger for ages in the shelter. And as I said, many thousands of them are euthanized all around this country, each day.

There is an easy way to prevent the deaths, the expense, the overcrowding brought on by too many animals, and not enough homes to go around: spay and neuter your pets! Just do it, people. It is not true that females should have a litter before being spayed. Spaying actually prevents a host of health problems down the line. Spay early. Your male animals will not be any less male, any less protective if you neuter them. They may stay closer to home, and that’s a good thing because you shouldn’t be letting your pets run free anyway – it’s dangerous! Your male pets are not attached to their “manhood” the way humans are. Trust me, they’ll be fine if they’re neutered. Neuter your pets. Just do it.

And what about all those feral cats and community cats? They can be spayed and neutered, too. The Jackson County shelter has humane traps you can borrow, and several local agencies provide free or low-cost spay/neuter surgeries. Many places around the country have trap/neuter/release (TNR) programs where feral/community cats are spayed and neutered and then returned to the neighborhood where they live. Studies have shown that over time this approach significantly reduces or eliminates populations of feral cats, safely and humanely. Cats stay in and protect their home territories, keeping other feral cats out. Conversely, trapping and killing feral cats had shown to simply make room for different cats to move in, and the problems continue year after year. Not only does neutering stop the growth of the colony, it eliminates many undesirable behaviors such as spraying, yowling, wandering and littering. TNR makes feral cats better neighbors. If you have feral or community cats in your neighborhood, please considering trapping them humanely, and taking advantage of spaying and neutering. The following organizations offer humane traps to borrow, and offer low-cost spay neuter services.

Jackson County Animal Services –541-774-6654.
SNYP- Spay/Neuter Your Pet: 541-858-3325.
CATS – Committed Alliance to Strays: 541-779-2916. Does not offer surgeries, but is a shelter for stray and abandoned cats.

Please, help save lives. Spay or neuter your pets and the homeless cats in your community neighborhood.

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Life on the Streets

Earlier this week, a local man, Cody Edward Daigneault, was convicted after pleading guilty to animal cruelty for shooting his neighbor’s cat with an arrow. Daigneault received a sentence of three years’ probation but will be sent to prison for 18 months if he violates any terms of his probation. Probation terms include that he have no pets for 15 years and possess no weapons. He also must pay $260 in restitution.

Although we could debate whether the sentence was tough enough for the suffering he inflicted on the cat, the case does serve to illustrate one incontrovertible fact: life is dangerous and often painful for free roaming cats. Free roaming cats might be feral, community-cats, strays, or pets that spend their time outside and roaming where they please.

These cats, like the one in this case, are often considered a nuisance by people and dealt with in a variety of often terrible ways. I know of many cats who’ve been poisoned, burned, mutilated, shot, or tortured in ways to horrible to mention. Some people seem to think that if an animal is not owned by someone, it deserves whatever it gets. Whether the people who would inflict suffering on a cat—or any animal—are depraved, mentally ill, or are tired of dealing with “nuisance” cats really doesn’t matter. The result for the cat is unimaginable pain and suffering.

Even people who would not hurt an animal themselves get tired of dealing with a plethora of cats. So several local business people offer the service of trapping and removing “nuisance” wild animals. This often includes cats that no one wants to deal with. The removal business sets traps for animals, including cats, and then returns some time later to collect them and take them away. For homeowners, this is an “out of sight, out of mind” solution. But think about this: the animals caught by such trappers are not being relocated and set free to go about their business. They are being killed.

Even for cats that aren’t harmed by humans, life on their own can be dangerous, painful and short. Feral cats can starve, freeze, suffer with illness and injury, live with parasites, and never know a feeling of safety or comfort.

sad, dirty street cat

Next time, we’ll talk about alternatives to killing free roaming cats.

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Meet the Foster Puppies

These adorable little pups are Angus and Lolly. My husband and I fostered them for the Jackson County Shelter for three weeks, to help them socialize to people and start learning how to be part of a family of both people and other dogs. They’ll soon be spayed and neutered, and then they’ll be looking for their forever home.

Nothing is more adorable than puppies, and when they snuggled and fell asleep on my lap, I was in love. But there is also the barking and crying, the mess, the biting and scratching and roughhousing – kind of like having little kids at home! I joked that the only time I could get any work done was when the “babies” went down for a nap, but it was true. They demanded a lot of time and attention.

But for all the work involved, fostering is a wonderful experience. We’ve had a few foster pets now, and it feels good knowing that we helped a dog or cat learn to trust people and accept love. It’s gratifying to know that if we helped teach a dog good manners, the chances of them being successfully adopted and not returned to the shelter are much better.

Dogs need foster homes for a variety of reasons, but often it’s because the stress and isolation of life in the kennel is much harder for some dogs than other. Some dogs are terrified of the noise and strange smells, while some aren’t well socialized and are frightened of other animals or people. Some dogs need medical care and peaceful environments to help them heal from injury or illness.

For dogs who are anxious, scared or not feeling well, having strangers come look at them and try to pet them – even well-meaning people looking for a dog to adopt–is too scary. To help dogs show their true (good) personalities, it is often best for potential adopters to meet dogs in a home, away from the commotion of the shelter. This can help dog and person meet successfully, and will hopefully lead to successful adoption.

People tell me they would never be able to give a dog they’d spent time with and become attached to. That is a consideration. We foster parents lovingly refer to adopting a foster pet as a “foster failure.” And there is nothing wrong with that! But you can’t keep every dog. I do get attached, and sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye, but it makes me happy to know that our foster pet is going to a new home where they will be cared for. We hope that every dog finds a forever-family and they will know love the rest of their lives. If fostering can help make that connection, then it feels great having a part in that.

Unfortunately, there is never a shortage of dogs or cats in the shelter. Kitten season will be here soon, and the shelter will have more mamas and kittens than they can handle. If you’re interested in opening your heart and home for just a while to an animal in need, then please contact Friends of the Animals Shelter to start the process. You can reach them at 541-944‐2021.

Don’t buy pets. Adopt.
If you can’t adopt, foster.
If you can’t foster, volunteer.
If you can’t volunteer, donate.
If you can’t donate, educate, transport, and help spread the word to protect animals.
Everyone can help in some way.

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National Train Your Dog Month!

I just learned that January is National Train Your Dog Month! So to celebrate, let’s talk about dog training.

The fact is that most dogs living in homes have had no training. When I hear people complain about their dogs, or when I watch dogs jumping on people and practically knock them over, I know it’s not the dog’s fault – they’ve never been taught how to behave. Lack of training is one of the biggest reasons that dogs are surrendered to shelters and ultimately euthanized. It’s tragic that dogs lose their lives because no one bothered to help them learn how to behave well.

Most people don’t know how to properly and kindly train dogs to be good canine citizens and pleasant family members. But think about it: how are dogs supposed to know the house rules and standards of etiquette if no one ever teaches them? Dogs are like children in that way – they need kind, positive, and consistent guidance to help them learn how to be a cherished part of the family.

The thing is, dogs want to make us happy and all they’re looking for is some direction as to what they can do to make us happy. And all dogs can learn! If you train your dog with love and kindness, your dog will give his all to please you.

Victoria Stillwell, she of TV fame, offers her tips for positive training here. And there are lots of books available about dog training. But please, only seek out dog training information that uses positive training methods. There is no reason to ever use old-school fear or pain-based dog training. You want a relationship based on love and trust – not fear and pain.

As for local resources, Petco and PetSmart both offer regular dog training classes for adults and puppies. When we first adopted Izzy the Wonder Dog from the Jackson County Shelter, we took classes at PetSmart, followed up with home training from Bark Busters, and boy did that make a huge difference! Izzy was able to quickly learn basic commands and overcome her separation anxiety. Now she is a perfect dog, if I do say so myself. Check the phone book for several other local trainers, but again: Please look for trainers that use only POSITIVE training methods.

One dog training service is so new to the Rogue Valley that you won’t yet find them in the phone book: Go Rogue Dog Training Center, LLC. This group of four nationally certified trainers is offering group training classes for puppies and adults, as well as in-home private lessons. You can reach them at 541-327-9599.

Here’s to happy tails and PAWsome results for you and your dog!

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Get the New Year off to a Great Start

I read recently that about 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Did you? How are they going so far? I went to my gym this morning and it was full of new people – all those resolution-makers trying to get in shape or lose weight, I bet.

If fitness and weight loss is one of your goals for this year, I would urge you to take it one step further by including your pet in those goals. Veterinarians hesitate to tell you this, but it’s true: if you’re overweight, chances are your pet is, too. If you’re not getting enough exercise or are eating too much, or eating the wrong type of foods, the chances are that your habits are spilling over to your pet.

Carrying around extra weight is just as unhealthy for animals as it is for people. Extra weight can cause heart disease, diabetes, joint pain, and a whole host of metabolic disorders for animals, just as it does in people. Since our pets can’t make their own food choices or take themselves for walks, they need us to help them.

January 1 feels like a clean slate, a fresh start. So let’s start the New Year by helping our pets get healthy.
• Take dogs for walks every day. Not only is it good for dogs, its’ good for us, too. We all need fresh air, sunshine and physical activity. Strive to walk for 30 minutes, morning and evening. Or play fetch, chase or other physical games with your dogs.  There’s no reason why exercise can’t be fun!
• Play with your cats. Running, jumping, chasing and pouncing are the best ways to get your cats moving. All you need is some string to jiggle or a ball.
• Cut out the treats. I know this one is hard as our pets are expert beggars, but they don’t need those extra calories any more than we do. Treats should be given sparingly, if at all. Make sure that treats are wholesome, such as dried sweet potatoes or chicken strips. Look for treats with the Made in America label, as far too many pets have sickened and died from imported foods, especially those coming from China. Better, yet make your own treats!
• Talk to your vet about the healthiest food for your fur-baby. Some pets need special diets. Some flourish on whole, raw foods. Your vet can advise you on the best diet for your pets breed and lifestyle.

If you’re interested in even more resolutions that can help animals, check out this link for inspiration.

Happy, Healthy 2015 to you and your pets!

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Last Minute Gifts for your Critters

I read recently that some 70% to 80% of pet parents get their fur-babies gifts for Christmas. I just love that! My furry girls get treats and toys in their stockings every year, too. I learned recently, though, from certified assistance dog trainer John Drach that some toys can pose a danger to dogs, and should be avoided. Specifically he warned against soft toys – those covered in cloth or faux fur – and stuffed with polyester filling. Often these have squeakers or bells in them, too. That cloth is easily ripped by a dog or cat who likes to chew and shred the soft toys. Then the poly fill and the squeakers can be chewed and swallowed, which can then cause blockages in pets digestive tracts. Blockages may require surgery and if left untreated can cause painful, terrible deaths. Much better to avoid those toys stuffed with filling.

Instead, my friend John advises to look for more solid toys: those made out of rope, rubber (like Kongs), or nyla-bone chews. These aren’t as likely to be damaged by vigorous chewing or play and are much safer for pets. For virtually free options, a quick internet search will help you find a gazillion instructions for safe, homemade dog toys made from rope or recycled t-shirts, like this.

As for treats and goodies: follow your veterinarian’s advice about your pet’s nutritional needs. Some pets with sensitive systems, allergies, or those prone to pancreatitis have special dietary considerations that shouldn’t change for the holidays. You can always make homemade wholesome pet treats, too!

Follow this link for some easy, healthful recipes.

To all of you and your furry, feathered or finned loved ones: Happy Holidays!

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Silent Night

I’m enjoying this whole Christmas Carol theme I have going on here. I hope you are, too. I think I’ll milk it as long as I can . . .

Over Thanksgiving, I had a house full of both people and related dogs. In addition to my fur babies, my mom brought her little Shih-tzu, Gibbs, who were joined by my niece, her hubby and my two little great nephews, ages 2 and 4. The nephews adored Gibbs. He’s tiny and friendly and looks like a living stuffed animal. They wanted to hold him and pet him nonstop. Gibbs, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as enthralled with the nephews. He’s used to living a very quiet life, and the two energetic little guys, although very gentle, were a little more than Gibbs is used to.

On one evening, Gibbs growled at a nephew. I wasn’t sure how my mom would react, but she handled it just perfectly: she told the little boys that Gibbs was just trying to say that he didn’t want to play anymore and that we should let him have some quiet time. Then she took Gibbs to the guest room and let him snuggle down in the covers, away from the commotion. Later, when Gibbs had decompressed, he was ready to come out and play again, and everything was fine.

I wish all pet parents would react this way. I’ve seen people get mad at dogs for growling or nipping, even at someone who is causing them pain! But folks, what other way do dogs have to say, “Hey, stop it! You’re bothering me?” I know some people get furious at cats if they scratch, but again, how else are they able to say they’ve had enough or something is hurting them? Pets don’t deserve to be punished for setting boundaries or letting someone know when a boundary has been crossed. That’s healthy behavior for anyone – pets included. It’s also a great teachable moment for people to learn how to respect and care for animals.

If you’re expecting guests over the holidays, keep in mind that all the extra noise and commotion can upset some pets. Make sure they have a quiet room to retreat to, with bedding to snuggle in, fresh water, and maybe a favorite toy. Shy pets may want to hide under furniture or in their crate. This allows your pet to get some quiet time when they feel overwhelmed. Also, make sure that guests know the rules for your pet: what or how much to feed them, whether they’re allowed to have treats and which ones are off limits. Encourage guests to start a nice play or petting sessions with your pet. Make sure the little ones know how to be gentle and respectful of pets’ boundaries. That way all members of the family—two-legged and four-legged—can enjoy the holidays.

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Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire . . .

If there is one thing that everyone loves about the holidays, it’s the delicious foods.  Fudge, cookies, egg nog, turkey!  The holidays just aren’t’ the same without a little indulgence.  And while your pets may beg for some Christmas goodies, you have to be careful.  Some people food is deadly to pets.  The following list, while not exhaustive, list the problems caused by certain foods.  These should be off limits to pets:


Alcohol– can cause vomiting, diarrhea, central nervous system depression, tremors, coma and death.

Chocolate– can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rhythm, excessive thirst and urination, panting, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures and death.

Coffee– same as for chocolate.

Caffeine–  same as for chocolate.

Avocados– can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs.  Can poison and kill birds and rodents.

Macadamia nuts– can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia (over heating).

Grapes and raisins – can cause kidney failure.

Raw or undercooked meats and eggs – can spread salmonella and E. coli

Salt – lots of salt can cause excessive thirst and urination, and for some pets can cause sodium ion poisoning.

Onions, garlic, chives – gastrointestinal damage leading to red blood cell damage.

Yeast dough-can expand in the stomach or intestines and cause them to rupture.

Anything containing the sweetener Xylitol can lead to liver failure, hypoglycemia, recumbancy, seizures.

Milk and dairy products – can cause diarrhea and other digestive upset.

Bones– most people think bones are good for dogs, but bones splinter easily, which can cause choking, or grave injury should a splinter become lodged in the digestive tract.


With a bit of caution, both you and your pets can all enjoy a safe and happy holiday season!

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year . . .

Ah, the holidays. The time of year we fill our homes with decorations, festive foods, gifts and guests. But the things we love most about the holidays can sometimes pose a danger to our furry friends. But with a little awareness and some simple precautions, we can make sure that our pets stay healthy through the coming celebrations.

O Christmas Tree
If you have a curious pet, or one who loves to chew, the Christmas tree can be irresistible. Those dangling ornaments, so fragile and breakable, can easily cut tender mouths and paws if broken. That shiny tinsel or flowing ribbons may entice your pet to nibble, which can lead to swallowing, which can lead to obstruction in the digestive tract. Keep such temptations out of reach of pets, or better yet, skip the tinsel all together.

Drinking the water at the base of your live tree can cause stomach upsets from bacteria or chemicals from the tree. Keep fresh drinking water close and handy for your pets.

And finally, even though the videos on YouTube are hilarious, it’s not so funny when a pet knocks over your tree. Secure your tree to prevent accidents, messes, and injury.

Deck the Halls
Holiday lights – and the miles of electrical cords that go with them – can give a nasty shock if your pet decides to chew on them. Punctured wires are also a fire hazard. Keeps cords covered, secured and hidden.

This is also a popular time of year for candles. Make sure to keep flames up high so they can’t be knocked over by exuberant tail-wagging. If you use a fireplace, keep a screen in front to prevent burns.

The Holly and the Ivy
While they really beautify our homes, holiday plants like poinsettias, holly, ivy, mistletoe, lilies and pine needles are poisonous, and even deadly. Just on leaf from any lily plant can kill a cat. Other problems stemming from ingesting holiday plants can range from mouth irritation, to vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, neurological damage, trembling and even death. Keep plant decorations well out of reach of pets.

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