Friday, May 20, 2016

June is National Pet Preparedness Month

Sometimes I think there's a "month" for everything. Women's History, Black History, Heart Awareness, Breast Cancer Awareness...and now, Pet Preparedness.

What the heck is pet preparedness? It's making sure your beloved furry friend is taken care of in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.

Know where to find your cats quickly. Genghis hides in his "room", the bedroom we put him into at night to keep him away from the other cats because he fights with them. So I know where to look for him if he is frightened.

Back in February, we had a close call with a tornado. Tornadoes aren't usual in my part of Virginia. That day we had bad thunderstorms predicted, and my dog was hiding more than usual under my desk. She's more accurate than any meteorologist, so I knew we were in for a bad storm.

But I hadn't counted on THAT bad a storm. I'll never forget the sound of the tornado hitting the power lines on the highway nearby.

Just a few minutes before the tornado roared close by, as the storm clouds gathered and lightning sizzled the air, I called the outdoor cats inside. I quickly did a head count; all six boys were accounted for. I put Genghis into his room so we could find him easily, and made sure I knew where the rest of my boys were.

Later on, I wondered if I would have had enough time to get them all into cat carriers if I had to. We have two average sized carriers, one extra large carrier for Pierre, and a soft-sided dog crate that I use for the outdoor kitties. It might not have been enough time to make sure that everyone was safe.

With this in mind, I started thinking about an emergency preparedness plan for my animals. In the event of a bad storm, a forest fire, or something worse, will you know what to do to keep your pets safe?

When the tornado struck a local town, I had already secured my outdoor cats inside the house. I could have evacuated quickly because I knew where to find them!

The American Humane Society recommends putting together a pet emergency kit. I have my own ideas on a cat owner's emergency kit and emergency preparations.

As part of my emergency preparations, I recommend that all cat owners:

  • Know where you cat's carrier is at all times. If you don't have a cat carrier, GET ONE. In an emergency, you don't want to worry about carrying your cat with you. You want her safe. A carrier can help you lift her into cars, take her onto public transportation, and keep her safe during transit.
  • Make a file for your cat's veterinary records. Keep it someplace where you can grab it quickly if you need it. Include your cat's vaccination records and rabies certification.
  • Into that folder, put hard copies and a thumb drive with electronic copies of your cat's picture. If she gets lost, you can make flyers up no matter where you are!
  • Know where there are pet-friendly hotels or chains in your area. Print out a list. If the power goes out or cell phone service is cut and you can't access the net, you can still find the info quickly.
  • A small litter box. A smaller box that's kept empty can be quickly snatched up and put into the car with your car. Keep a small bag of her regular litter with the box.
  • Food bowl and water bowl. I keep a small plastic container filled with my cat's food in the kitchen because I store food in the closet (the feline pigs figured a way to gnaw through the bags...I have to keep the food enclosed in a closet for their own safety or they'd be 100 pounds each if they had their way.) I could easily grab the food bowl if I needed it.
I don't put collars on my cats. I know, bad cat mama. I've tried it but they grab the ends of the collars and drag each other around and I almost had a strangled cat thanks to his overly exuberant brother who got a claw snagged in the collar. If I did, however, I'd make sure that the collars had disks or tags with my name and address on them. 

In an emergency, you want to grab and go as quickly as possible to get to a place of safety. That includes your pets, too. Having your cat's necessary items on hand can save her life. Take a few minutes now to pull together your cat's emergency kit for National Pet Preparedness month.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Help Cat Behavior Researchers Understand Feline Behavior Better

Researchers at PennVet, the veterinary school at Penn State University, want your help to compile research on feline behavior. They're looking for people to participate in FeBARQ - the Feline Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire.

What Is FeBARQ?

Most cats live inside people's homes. Most people own one cay, maybe two. It's hard for researchers to conduct studies on pet cats because they are spread out in individual homes. And I suspect that when the researchers arrive for their studies, armed with clipboards and smelling of Science with a capital S, the cats dive under the bed and refuse to cooperate. It's a cat-thing.

Enter FeBARQ! It's a study conducted by the Penn Vet hospital intended to help researchers and veterinary scientists uncover what makes cats tick...or the mysteries of normal cat behavior. Yeah, good luck with that one.

Seriously, the scientists have developed a 100-question assessment that asks a lot of questions about kitty behavior. It includes questions about playtime, fear of dogs, purring, trainability and much more. Their goal is to compile a large-scale research study that will help them better understand the average behaviors of cats so that veterinary professionals, trainers, animal shelters and others can better evaluate and work with cats.

Genghis participated in the study.

What the FeBARQ Is Like

I enrolled Genghis Khan kitty into the FeBARQ study because among our cats, I find him to be the most quirky. He loves people; he shows no fear among strangers. He plays with children in our home. He likes to play with the other cats, but he can be aggressive. He's got so much energy he doesn't know what to do with himself. He sounded like the perfect specimen for the study.

After answering a brief series of questions about Genghis such as his age, gender, neutering history and history in our family, the survey questions appeared. There were 100 questions which took about 15 minutes to answer. I found the questions were easy to understand and there was an option to check if the question did not apply to my cat. For instance, Genghis is an indoor-only cat, so questions about chasing dogs on the street or bringing home prey weren't applicable.

At the end of the survey, you can click a button and see how your cat stacks up to the average for his breed. I wasn't surprised at how much higher on the socialization scale he scored, but I was surprised at how he scored on aggression. I wouldn't peg him as an 'aggressive' cat but when compared to the average, he does show a higher than normal aggression level.

I enjoyed participating in the study and liked knowing a little more about my cat's personality. If you'd like to enroll in the FeBARQ study, visit PennVet. They welcome pet owners' participation for a limited time only, then the study will be open only to trainers, veterinarians, and cat rescuers.

Visit the FeBARQ study page here: FeBARQ from PennVet.