Recent posts in the Q & A category. Click a title to view the full post.

Cat Wing Open – Lessons in Ringworm 101


What is ringworm and why are you closing? Ringworm is actually a fungus, not a worm, and is technically referred to as dermatophytosis. It is known as ringworm because it commonly appears as a circular area of hair loss and scaly skin, though it can take many shapes. The reasons that we are closing the cat wing- and not adopting out cats right now- are twofold: We want you to take home healthy animals and ringworm is “zoonotic,” meaning that it can be caught by other species, including humans, so we want to keep the community healthy.

How long will the cats be unavailable? The incubation time, or the time between an animal being exposed and developing symptoms, can be up to four weeks, so making sure that everyone is fungus-free will take some time. Every cat will have a culture taken (it’s a simple procedure in which we brush them with a tooth brush and then put the hairs and skin flakes on a little dish filled with a substance that reacts to ringworm spores). The cultures take several days to show themselves as positive or negative, so this will be a bit of a lengthy process.

What happens to the infected cats? Every cat who has a positive culture or has a lesion (an area that is infected with ringworm) is taken to our isolation area and treated. The treatment involves twice weekly dips in an anti-fungal solution. They may be a little itchy, but otherwise won’t be bothered by their infection. Treatment takes some time, but once they have three negative cultures, and have been thoroughly examined by our veterinarian, they will once again be available for adoption and be able to safely be welcomed into homes with other animals and children.

How did they get ringworm? Ringworm is very durable in the environment and can be contracted from exposure to rodent nests, contaminated soil, and infected animals. Carpet, dust, furniture, and other contaminated items can be a source of infection and people can also spread it from one place to another (or one animal to another).

What about the dogs and zoo animals? We are taking every precaution to keep this contained. Anyone who is working with the cats wears protective gear (which is immediately washed or thrown out) and does not enter other animal areas or interact with other animals. No signs of ringworm have been found on the dogs or zoo animals, so we are keeping those areas open.

How can I help? We appreciate your patience during this time and will have things back to normal as quickly as possible. If you’d like to help, we need foster homes for new arrivals, both kittens and adults, so that they have a zero chance of exposure. We would also appreciate donations of XL shoe covers, surgical bonnets, surgical gowns (disposable or non), towels, disposable litter boxes, and help to pay for the cultures and medication.

What if I find a stray or need to surrender my cat? If you’ve found a cat, please call us and let us know. We may have already received a call from the owner and can help you reunite them. If you are able to foster the cat for a little while, that would be great. If not, we do have a clean intake area where we can house them. If you need to surrender your cat and are able to wait a few weeks, please do so. If you cannot wait, we do have that clean intake area, but space is limited. Please call us and let us know that you are looking for a home for your cat and we’ll do whatever we can to help!

Thank you for your support!

Barn Cat 101

Flash, recently adopted barn cat

Flash was happy to accept a mousing position- she had little patience for human interaction.

So, you’ve got yourself a nice little piece of land and maybe a few horses or cattle. You enjoy the rural lifestyle, except for one thing: Mice! The little varmints are destroying insulation, contaminating your feed, and chewing up your supplies. Laying traps everywhere is a pain and as for poisons, well, they don’t just destroy the rodents- kids, livestock, and pets can be harmed by them as well. What do you do? The answer is simple: Cats!

If you already have cats on your crew, you can skip this step. If you are moving in a new cat, however, keep in mind that he will need an adjustment period in which he needs to be confined, lest he wander away. If you’ve got a barn that can be closed or a tack room, that will do just fine. If not, a large kennel (big enough for a litterbox, dishes, and living space) will suffice. Keep the cat contained for a minimum of two weeks; many barn cat advocates suggest three to five weeks. Your new cat will appreciate a little something to hide in, as well. This will help him to get used to his new surroundings- the sounds, sights, and smells- and solidify the idea that this is now home. Before he get the run of the place, make sure to remove all traces of poison if you had been using it to control the pests. Ingesting a mouse who has eaten the poison can be lethal.

Cici gratefully accepted a Mouser Manager position

Your new pest control manager will also need a safe place to spend his time off. If you’ve got a barn or
other structure that’s warm and that he always has access to (perhaps the place he lived in when he first joined your menagerie), a simple bed or hiding spot in a corner will do just fine. If you don’t have a structure, you’ll need something that’s waterproof and insulated. A little dog house with some bedding (straw is great because of its insulative properties) or something similar would do nicely. You could even build something with scraps if you’ve got them. A simple internet search will yield some great- and easy to build- designs.

Though you brought your newest employee home because of his place on the food chain, he still needs cat food. A well fed cat will not only still hunt (instinct compels them as much as hunger), he will be better at it because he won’t be suffering from any nutritional deficiencies. Even if your cat does consume his prey, there may be times where they aren’t as plentiful or the mice may be malnourished themselves. An established feeding time will usually result in the predictable daily appearance of the cat, allowing you see him (and keep an eye on his health) if he doesn’t come to visit you for pets and accolades for a job well done. You can also use dinner time to lure him into the barn if you’d rather he be contained at night. Keep the food bowl up high (other critters, like curious goats, may want to share) and out of the reach of wild animals in search of handouts. Fresh water each day is imperative, too. If you have trouble with ice in the winter, try an electric bowl.

Just like the rest of your animals, your mouser will need regular veterinary care. If he (or she) is not already neutered (or spayed), there are several good reasons to get the procedure. Fixed cats tend to fight less, roam less, and attract less “passerby” cats. They will also not reproduce, which can quickly get out of hand. They will need vaccinations to protect them against cat specific illnesses (some of which wildlife, like raccoons, can carry) and against rabies. Rabies vaccinations are required by law and will not only protect your cat, but the rest of the mammals on the farm as well (including you and your family). Regular parasite prevention is a must- those little critters that you want him to dispatch are loaded with all kinds of icky things that can pass to your cat.

Saturn, another Shelter alumnus now working in pest control

Saturn, another Shelter alumnus now working in pest control

If you don’t have any barn kitties (or need a few more), take a moment to consider the best candidate for the job. Avoid those who are declawed as this is a real hindrance to self-protection, climbing, and though declawed cats can catch prey, it’s much more difficult. Also avoid those who are infirm- a cat that isn’t physically sound is more likely to be prey than predator. Think about hair length and your foliage- long hair animals are like magnets for burrs, cheat grass, and other pokey plant material. They can still be great assets, just keep in mind that you may have to help out with grooming. Also consider the personality that would be the best fit. Would you like a cat who follows you all day while you work (he’ll still hunt at night, don’t worry) or would you rather have a cat who is independent, even weary of humans? A cat with previous outdoor experience will most likely acclimate better and probably has hunting experience while a the fifth generation of an indoor-only family may be confused about what to do about mice and not savvy about staying out of trouble. If you’re looking for more than one, consider some that are already bonded with each other.

Cats can be a great addition to any ranch or farm. They provide rodent extermination services without dangerous chemicals or the hassle of traps. Their beauty can add to the ambiance and they can be quite entertaining. Now that you’ve got a reliable new hand to help keep things pest-free, you can get back to the chores that you actually enjoy.

Assistance with Veterinary Bills

If your pet has suffered an accident or illness and you’re having trouble paying for their treatment, check out the links below. Each one lists several organizations that may be able to help. Each organization is different, so be sure to read carefully about what they fund and how to apply- some are breed or species specific, some only help with emergencies while others do not, some are limited to a certain geographic regions, and some require that your veterinarian apply. You could also try searching the internet with terms specific to your situation, like “financial help for Vizsla with cancer”- you may find something that is not listed in these collections.

Organizations offering assistance

Speaking for Spot

Groups providing financial assistance

For ideas, check out this article from the Humane Society of the United States.


Pet Toys and Safety

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Playing with our pets is one of the joys of ownership. It’s a bonding experience that is fun for both parties, provides pets with exercise, and is a great way to take a break from the stresses of life and from the computer screen. There are some safety concerns to be aware of when it comes to pet play, however.

Take, for example, the laser pointer. The movement of the little dot stimulates the prey drive in dogs and cats, causing them to chase and pounce, much to our amusement. As long as the light does not get shined directly (or indirectly, say off a mirror) into their eyes, no physical harm comes from these toys. The damage they can do is psychological. Chasing and pouncing behaviors are borne of the hunting instinct; your pet is actively hunting the little dot and is expecting to ultimately catch his prey. Light, however, cannot be caught, which can eventually drive your pet crazy. The anxiety produced by never achieving their goal can manifest itself in restless behavior, excessive grooming, obsessive searching, and other ways.

There is a way to prevent this stress and to continue laser pointer play- give them a reward. Little treats scattered around the house can be exciting and satisfying to find when the laser lands on them. Likewise, a toy that can be bitten and shaken or kicked also provides a satisfying end to the “hunt.” Just be sure to end your laser pointer session with a rewarding and tangible experience and your pet should continue to be happy. If you observe signs of stress even after using this technique, do stop using the pointer.

There is another common toy that, while providing many hours of entertainment for man and his best friend alike, has the potential to cause disaster: The tennis ball. These fluorescent orbs are undoubtedly terrific for playing games of fetch- they can be hurled great distances, continue to bounce along after they’ve hit the ground, and there are even throwing aids designed to add distance and protect you from the slimy coating that your dog adds to the ball. The problem with tennis balls is not so much the fetching, but the chewing.

Tennis balls are compressible, especially when in the jaws of a large, powerful dog. If a squeezed down ball slips into the back of the dog’s throat, it pops back to its original size, which can obstruct the trachea and cause suffocation. Many dogs are also able to cut into the ball with their teeth, chew off little bits, and swallow them. The material that these balls are made from, when broken off in such a manner, is sharp enough to lacerate the digestive tract of a dog, causing an emergency veterinary situation. Even with immediate care, some dogs don’t survive such a trauma. The other danger is tooth wear. The fuzz that covers the balls has an abrasive quality and over time can wear down a dog’s teeth. Couple that fuzz with the little pebbles that get stuck to it during a fetch session and you’ve basically got a toy covered in sand paper. The solution? Supervision. If your dog is chewing on the tennis ball, trade it for a solid ball, large enough that your dog can’t swallow, manufactured to be treated roughly.

Stuffed toys can be fun to carry, toss, and snuggle with for many pets. If your buddy is gentle with them, these are usually okay, so long as they don’t have any loose pieces that can come off and be swallowed. Toys labeled as “safe for children under 3” have been tested by a third party to be free of such adornments and have the added bonus of being held to rigorous standards regarding the materials they are constructed with. This does not mean that they can’t be torn open by an animal (cats and dogs can be quite strong, plus they have the teeth and claws to augment their strength). Once torn open, the stuffing is fair game for being snacked upon and can cause choking or intestinal blockage. Again, supervision is the key. If your pet is a toy shredder or stuffing eater, opt for unstuffed cloth toys or ditch the soft things all together.

You don’t have to be a “paranoid pet parent” to ensure the safety of your best friend- just be alert and prudent. If a particular toy or game is of concern, substitute it for something else or talk with your veterinarian. It doesn’t hurt to occasionally check the internet for recalled items, either. Be safe and enjoy some quality time with your pet!

Kiki’s Christmas List Tips

Sniff, don't chew!

Sniff, don’t chew!

Hi, I’m Kiki the Cat and I’m here to talk about the upcoming gift giving season. If your people are anything like my mom, I know that you’re on the top of their gifting list. Let me share with you some ideas of things you can ask for this year.

Let’s start with the obvious- toys. If you’re anything like me, you can never have enough. Be sure and remind them to check for safety before giving it to you. My mom likes the holiday themed toys, but usually pulls off the poorly glued on noses and plastic eyes so that I don’t swallow them and hurt myself. I don’t even notice- I have a ball with them with or without noses.

Honestly, I don’t even care if my mom buys my toys from a store. One of my most favorite toys ever is when she takes an old, worn out sock, cuts off the toe part, stuffs it with catnip, and sews it shut again. Those keep me busy for hours! Here’s one that you pups might like, too- a long braid or big knot made out of old t-shirt strips. They’re great for sinking your teeth into! And, of course, the cat classic: A cardboard box or empty paper bag. I can’t tell you how much fun those are.

We’ve covered toys, how about beds. I don’t know about you, but mine is old and getting rather lumpy in places. By the way my mom talks about this “money” stuff, I don’t think I will be getting one of those fancy, custom four-posters, but I do think I could talk her into a nice new pillow style bed. I might be a little weary of laying on it right away, but I know that she’ll put a favorite blanket or toy in it so that it smells familiar and safe. Why don’t you ask your people for the same? There’s nothing like a good day’s sleep so that you can be awake and full of energy for when they come home at night.

My collar follows me everywhere. I get into all kinds of mischief, some of which can be rather dirty. I know that this is especially true for you dogs out there, doing things like rolling in stinky stuff and, I can’t imagine why you do this, but swimming. They can get kind of gross after a while, right? So a new collar would be great. If you’re fashion conscious, ask for one studded with gems or sporting a designer label. Don’t forget to ask for a new id tag, too! They can get worn over time and hard for people to read if you happen to lose your person. Remember safety- make sure that your humans fit it properly and that, for cats, you have a breakaway collar. If that bell keeps you from sneaking up on them at night, ask them to take it off with a pair of pliers. And dogs, remember that training collars are not to be worn all the time. They can cause you big trouble if you get them hung up on something.

Do cute things to make your human smile this season

Do cute things to make your human smile this season

I like treats and I’m sure that you do, too. Try asking your people to bake some just for you. You know that “computer” thing they stare at so much? There are so many great recipes in there for dog and cat treats. I can’t believe that a human would waste their time doing anything but researching them! By the way, do you know what they are doing? Watching videos of other animals! There is something really wrong with this picture…

If you’re feeling philanthropic, you could ask your people to make a donation in your name to your favorite animal cause. It doesn’t have to be something huge, and it will go a long way to helping our less fortunate brethren. I think I’ll give a pack of fuzzy mice to some cats that don’t have any this year. I hope they like them as much as I do.

As for your human, they will be happy with the gift of your presence. Whether you’re snuggling on the couch or playing your favorite game, they will really appreciate spending time with you. For some reason, they get stressed this time of year, but being with you will help a lot, trust me.

A few safety tips: Remember to be choosy when trying to sneak leftovers; not everything they’re having is safe for us. Also, resist the temptation to escape when they welcome guests (I like to hide under the bed, instead). Have a safe and happy holiday season, everyone!