Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Streets are No Place for a Cat

I’m fed up. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the streets are no place for a cat. But the message just isn’t getting through. 

I am a witness to the toll life on the streets exacts from our feline friends. It’s tragic. On my drive to work, I see cats wandering the sidewalks alone, dodging cars and scurrying under bushes. All too often, someone rushes in carrying a cat hit by a car, arriving to the Ottawa Humane Society for help that will come too late. It’s outrageous and completely unnecessary. Disease, traffic, and attacks from other cats or other animals are too common. The intentional infliction of injury by humans also ranks high. 

There are voices out there that argue cats are happier and healthier when they’re allowed to roam free, just like their wild ancestors. It’s what grandma did with her cat, then mom. Now it’s what we’re teaching our kids. But now that we know better, we should be doing better for our cats. The cats around today are fully domesticated. They depend on their human caregivers. There’s simply no kind of evolution that will prevent the senseless suffering of a cat on the street; I see the consequences when they arrive at the OHS emaciated after weeks lost on the streets or frozen solid from a cold winter night. The streets are hell for a cat. 

I am told that a similar debate raged about dogs in the middle of the last century, with some arguing that since dogs descended from wolves, they needed to run free! I’m not sure that anyone now thinks that dogs would have longer, healthier lives if they were allowed to roam our streets. This is just as true for cats.  

So why is this happening? Like most animal welfare crises in our community, the root cause is human behaviour — specifically irresponsible behaviour. The sad reality is that ultimately, this is so widespread that it leads to the conclusion that it’s not simply a number of individuals causing a terrible situation but rather a community problem stemming from the fact that cats are simply not valued, certainly not to the same degree as our vaccinated, sterilized, collar-wearing, leashed canine friends. 

We can do better for cats. I know we can. I want to hear from you. Share your ideas for getting the message out there that cats don’t belong on the streets on Facebook at Facebook.com/OttawaHumane or email me at brucer@ottawahumane.ca. Only working together can we change the future for our cats

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Perfect Match

I have been really excited about the Ottawa Humane Society lately. There are a lot of things that we envisioned years ago finally coming to fruition. The West Hunt Club Shelter was one, of course, followed by many initiatives that were made possible by its realization: children's camps, dog obedience, cat behaviour seminars, open houses —there have been dozens of these, both big and small. A couple of years ago, I was hugely delighted to fulfill an old promise when we hired our first French humane coordinator, finally giving French and French immersion students access to our humane curriculum.
Another of my long-standing wishes has been to develop an adoption program targeting seniors. Over the years, many seniors have told me that they have been reluctant to adopt a pet, worried that the pet might outlive them or at least outlive their capacity to care for him. Some have recognized that the bundle of energy that is a kitten is overwhelming and simply not a good match. These seniors have love to give. They are responsible. And I know that a pet can improve their health and their quality of life.

The answer seemed like a no-brainer. We have older cats that need homes, and often wait much longer than the cute but rambunctious kittens. We have older people that could be a fantastic match. We need a program!

I am very happy to announce that, finally, this nearly ten-year-old dream is becoming a reality. We just launched our new Cats for Seniors program. We all hope to make some great matches between people with love to give and cats that are waiting for love.  To learn more about the program, please visit www.ottawahumane.ca/adopt/cats-for-seniors-program.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Seven Things Your Cat Wants You to Know

Most of us would agree that cats make magnificent pets. They are independent and are so easy to care for. Right? Well… not exactly. The outdated view of cats as self-sufficient and ‘low-maintenance’ has been replaced by the understanding that they are complex, social animals with essential needs which must be fulfilled for them to live healthy lives. Gone is the “Let’s just get a cat” mentality. So whether you have owned cats all your life or are new to the world of cat companionship, consider these seven things your cat would want you to know:
  1. Domestic cats are not far-removed from their wild ancestor, the African Wild Cat. Both species are hunters but may also be prey to larger animals. As a result, cats tend to hide signs of sickness rather than ‘advertise’ vulnerability. A subtle change in your cat’s behaviour should always be addressed because this may be an early indication of illness or injury.
  2. Cats require regular veterinary care. Sadly, cats are taken to the veterinarian only half as often as dogs and they are usually sicker by the time they do receive medical care. Routine health exams (even if your cat never goes outside or appears healthy) are the most effective way to ensure your cat’s good health.
  3. Another reason cats receive insufficient veterinary care because they (and, therefore, their owners) find the trip to the veterinary clinic stressful. You can lessen your cat’s fear by helping them become accustomed to their cat carrier. Leave the open carrier in a place accessible to your cat all the time (not just the day prior to their appointment) and furnish it with soft bedding. Place food, treats, or catnip in the carrier and let your cat come and go as they please. In time your cat will develop pleasant associations with the carrier and trips to the vet won’t be quite so scary.
  4. While house soiling is a common reason for cats to be surrendered to shelters, most litter box troubles are both preventable and treatable. Cats need toilet facilities that are to their liking: multiple, large, uncovered litter boxes with unscented, clumping litter are usually best. Locate boxes in areas which are easily accessed by your cat, and clean them daily. Pay particular attention to number, location, and cleanliness of boxes if you have multiple cats. And finally, if there are any changes in your cat’s litter box habits, seek veterinary advice.
  5. The need to scratch is an essential feline trait. Cats have a strong urge to scratch objects in their environment to mark their territory and condition their claws. Use positive reinforcement to train your cat to scratch appropriate structures (yes – it can be done!) such as cat trees and scratching posts. Your efforts will help prevent furniture damage, surrender to shelters, and declawing.
  6. Remember – cats are hunters. Feeding your cat should tap into their strong instinct to hunt for their food. Placing dry food in feeding puzzles, hiding a cache of food on the cat perch, or simply feeding multiple, small meals in different parts of the home all go towards making mealtime stimulating and a challenge for your cat.
  7. Cats need regular physical exercise. Playing with your cat for at least 10 minutes twice a day gives him a mental and physical workout that reduces stress and boredom, improves health, and lets him express natural hunting and play behaviours. Playtime should include games that let your cat stalk and pounce on small, prey-like toys – and be sure to let your cat catch the toy to give them the satisfaction of a successful hunt!
Giving consideration to these seven items will go a long way to keeping cats happy, healthy and at home forever. Attend the Don't Blame the Cat seminar at the OHS on Jan. 18 for even more tips on cat care and behaviour.

Glenys Hughes, DVM

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Real Prizes

At the Ottawa Humane Society, we do a lot to try to get animals out of the shelter and into forever homes. A lot of the work is in bringing dogs and cats and our little critters back to health, vaccinating, sterilizing them, and caring for them while it all happens. But when they are ready for adoption, more work begins. We want to make sure when you are bringing an animal into your life, that you are bringing the right animal and that you are choosing a rescue from the OHS.
Lily, one of the many animals currently
waiting for a home at the OHS.

We need to promote adoption over purchase and we want our furry charges in homes, not a shelter. Our staff are pretty creative in this regard. This month is a tie-in with the upcoming 50th Super Bowl and the prize is pretty spectacular. Adopt this month and you could win a brand new 50 inch TV, free pizza for you and your friends to watch the Super Bowl, and a dog and a cat gift basket.

The real winners are, of course, the animals and their new families. The love and well-being that a pet can bring into your life is worth far more than a TV, no matter how big. And nothing means more to a dog or a cat than a forever home — that's the real prize.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

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