Stray Animals

Cats can wear collars, too!
Cats can wear id tags, too!

Now that the weather is warmer, we are seeing an influx of stray animals coming to the shelter. We would like to remind everyone to call us ASAP after you discover that your pet has gone missing at 406/222-2111. Photos on our Facebook page or emailed to us at info@staffordanimalshelter.org are very helpful as people describe animals differently.

Don’t assume that your pet has not lost their collar and wait for us to call you. Even if we have seen your pet before, please call us. After five days in our custody, the animal becomes ours and is evaluated for adoption. All adoptions are final and we will not ask the adopters to return your pet.

Be aware that injured animals may be offsite at a veterinary clinic or the finder may have offered to foster them until an owner is located- when you call us, we can put you in touch with those parties.

When reclaiming an animal, be aware that there are fees and that these are set by the city or county and are not under our control.

Please put identification on your pets (dogs AND cats) and make sure that your microchip contact information is current. We have no way of reaching out to people without this information. Id tags on pets often lead to reunions without the animal having to come to the shelter, as the finder can just call you directly.

Have a fun and safe summer!

 

Hen Husbandry

This stylish rooster was a stray fowl that spent some time with us. He was reclaimed.

In the wake of an era dominated by corporate chains feeding us with boxed meals, we are moving back toward the simple goodness of locally grown and raised foods. What can get more local than your own back yard? More and more people are starting to keep chickens, even inside of towns and cities, so that they may have the freshest of eggs for their kitchens.

There are other reasons to keep chickens, like weed control and for fertilizer. The trick to using chicken products for fertilizer is that it needs to be diluted in some way or composted- a fresh pile on top of a garden or around a tree will result in injured plants due to a high nitrogen content. Another great reason for keeping chickens is that they have unique and fun personalities that make them great pets. As long as they are introduced to friendly humans early and often during their “chick-hood,” they can be quite social and pleasant to be around.

If you plan on bringing home chicks from the feed store, know that they have special needs. For the first weeks of their lives, babies need to be kept in a warm place; 90-95 degrees for the first week, then 5 degrees less each week after that. They prefer a bedding of pine and corn cob shavings rather than slippery newspaper. (Newspaper doesn’t do much for absorbing odor, either.)
Adult chickens do well kept in a clean coop. The rule of thumb is to have three to four square feet of space per chicken inside the coop and at least ten square feet of space per bird in the outside run area. Too cramped of quarters makes for fights and poor egg laying performance. Of course, any chicken enclosures need to be fortified against predators. Free ranging chickens is an option, as long as they have a safe coop to return to and are kept away from predators and toxic substances. You may have to chicken-proof certain areas of your yard, too, as they do enjoy digging up flower bulbs and munching on different plants. Even if you free range your chickens, you will still have to provide food and water for them.

Just as any other animal, chickens need to have some fun built into their daily routines. What constitutes as chicken fun? Being allowed to roam the yard for a while to pick bugs, scratch, and bathe in the dust is much appreciated. To get them back into the coop easily, teach them to come to a command (just like a dog, give them treats every time they come to it), or let them out just before dark. The fading light will keep the chickens close to the coop and as the sun sets, they will put themselves to bed. Treats are another great way to give chickens variety- these are simple things that can be found in your kitchen, like veggies or bread crumbs.
So, what about those eggs? Most chickens lay an egg about every 25 hours, rooster not required. The exact frequency will depend on the breed of the hen and laying cycles can be interrupted by a lack of fresh water, shorter daylight hours, the temperature, or stress. The size of the egg will depend on the hen’s breed, age, and weight while the shell color is dependent only on breed. Though the size of a hen’s eggs may change throughout her lifetime, the basic shell color will not. The color of the yolk (on a scale from bright yellow to orange) depends on the hen’s diet. Speaking of the hen’s diet, laying eggs depletes her calcium stores greatly, so be sure that her meals have a good source of calcium in them. Ground up oyster shells or even chicken egg shells (finely enough that there are no sharp edges) work great.

Here are a couple of tips about the eggs themselves: If you’re not sure how old that egg in the fridge is, put it in a bowl of water. Fresh eggs will sink to the bottom while old eggs float. Don’t eat the floaters. Each egg has a natural antibacterial coating on it; it’s a good idea not to wash it until right before using the egg.

It is, by the way, a misdemeanor to keep fowl inside the limits of the City of Livingston, though a permit can be obtained from the Sanitarian to do so. Stafford Animal Shelter does not routinely keep or adopt out chickens, but is the place where at large chickens end up. So, if one of your birds is missing, give them a call.

Dog Bite Prevention Week

Don't corner a worried dog
Don’t corner a worried dog

Every year, thousands of people are bitten by dogs. The vast majority of these bites can be prevented by simply being aware of the dog’s body language and disposition and responding appropriately. The ears, eyes, mouth, and tail can give you a good idea of how the dog is feeling. Ears back and down coupled with lip licking, like in the picture to the left, are the signs of a worried dog. Getting into this dog’s space could escalate the situation and make him feel threatened, therefore increasing the chances of a bite. Instead, a good choice would be to avert your eyes and be very still, maybe even kneel or sit down to make yourself less threatening.

Many of the people bitten are children, so it’s important to talk with your kids about how to interact with dogs.  This website has some great tips, photos, and activities to do with kids that can help facilitate those conversations.

The big things to remember are (especially when meeting a dog for the first time): Don’t look the dog in the eye, don’t corner the animal (fear is very often the reason for bites), move slowly, and respect the dog’s space.

Be safe out there!

 

Working with Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Hattie had horrible separation anxiety before her foster family (now her adoptive family) worked with her.
Hattie had horrible separation anxiety before her family worked with her. She is much better now.

Does your dog have a fit when you leave the house? He or she may have separation anxiety. This is defined as the dog performing certain behaviors (like excessive barking, attempts to escape, or being destructive) only when the dog is left alone. If your pup seems to be worried about you leaving, try the tips in this article http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/15_9/features/Desensitizing-Protocol-and-Separation-Anxiety_20604-1.html?s=FB042114. This is a terrific way to start working with separation anxiety. It takes some time and patience, but with consistent practice, your dog will soon be comfortable with your leaving the house.

Caring for Aging Pets

Snuggly senior Merryweather is available to adopt!
Snuggly senior Merryweather is available to go home with you today!

Getting older. As much as we might try to fight it, it’s something that happens to us all and pets are no exception. Just as your best friend’s needs changed when they grew from a puppy or kitten into an adult, they will change again as they transition into a senior. It is up to us, their guardians, to make sure that they are comfortable and cared for as they age.

Exactly when a pet is considered a senior depends on the animal’s species and breed. For dogs, it is generally between seven and ten years of age. Large and giant dogs become seniors earlier in life than small dogs. Cats are classified as senior around ten years of age.

What does seniority mean for animals? Much of the same things that it means for us- a slowing metabolism, decreased sharpness of the senses, and a growing fondness for naps. Health problems are more likely to start cropping up in older animals, so it’s important to see your veterinarian regularly. Every six months is recommended for healthy elders. Senior pets are at a higher risk for diabetes, kidney and liver problems, arthritis, intestinal diseases, and cancer. Catching these conditions when they start will be easier on you, your pet, and your wallet.

Though pets may not be considered seniors just yet, it’s generally suggested that owners start feeding senior diets around seven or eight years of age. This is the time when the metabolism begins to slow and the nutritional needs of animals change. Senior diets have less fat and more protein than foods labeled as being for adults. Many older pets who decline to eat have problems with their teeth; thankfully, these are usually easy for a veterinarian to fix. A loss of smell may lead to indifference toward food – if that is the case, you can try adding a bit of broth or canned food to their meal. Warming the food to roughly body temperature will help it smell more appetizing. If your pet is refusing to eat and/or losing weight, make an appointment with your veterinarian ASAP.

You may notice your pet’s body changing as they age. Like people, animals lose much of the fat that fills out their faces and may start to look more thin. There is a fat pad behind the eye that also starts to shrink, thus giving their eyes a sunken-in appearance. Their fur may change in texture and start to grey, especially around their muzzle. Cats may not be able to groom themselves as effectively as when they were younger, so regular brushing is a must. They may not scratch as much, either, necessitating that you keep their claws trimmed for them.

Like their human companions, animals can experience stiff joints and even arthritis as they age. You may have to make some changes to accommodate them, like a ramp off the porch instead of stairs or a litter box with lower sides. Extra blankets or cushy, supportive beds are appreciated by achy pets. Dogs may need to go for shorter runs or switch to walks. Never give them human pain relievers, especially aspirin or acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol). These are deadly to pets! If you feel that your pet needs medication, make an appointment with your vet.

Older pets may have a harder time adapting to change, especially if their ability to see or hear is diminishing. To help them out, try to keep clutter to a minimum and resist rearranging your furniture. Use caution (and teach children to do the same) when approaching those who are hard of hearing or cannot see very well. Move slowly and make sure that the animal is aware of your presence before you reach out to touch them. Animals who are startled may bite as a reflex. When walking dogs who have troubles seeing, hearing, or act like they sometimes get confused, be sure to always have them on a leash. That way they cannot wander off and get lost.

Cats and dogs have a harder time regulating their body temperature as they get older. Be sure to provide them with warm, dry places to sleep and a way to cool themselves in the summer. Elder “outside” pets, like barn cats or ranch dogs, may need to transition into an indoor or semi indoor lifestyle.

Older pets can bring great joy to their human companions. They are often more mellow and don’t exhibit the behavioral problems that younger, more energetic pets might. We just need to be aware of what’s happening with them and be sure to give them the extra accommodations that they need.

Nature or Nurture?

Though his furrowed eyebrows may suggest it, this pup is not displaying aggression, merely unbearable cuteness.
Despite his “angry eyebrows,” this pup is not showing aggression, just cuteness.

There is a long standing debate in the animal lovers and welfare community as to where dog aggression stems from- an animal’s genetic background or the way they have been treated by humans. Findings of a study published in the Applied Animal Behavioral Science Journal has found that several factors combine to influence the likelihood that an animal will be aggressive. The age, gender, origin, training, and present situation all play a role in a dog’s behavior. To read more about the findings of this study, follow the link below.

Remember that there are several different immediate causes for aggression, such as fear, food or resource guarding, and physical pain. If your pet starts acting abnormally, start with a visit to your vet to rule out any medical problems.

Read the full article here.

Bringing Home a New Dog

Adopting an adult dog can be a very rewarding experience!
Adult dogs need time to adjust to new homes.

Congratulations! You just added a new dog to your family! In addition to showering them with love and playing with all those new toys together, there are a few other things that you can do to help ensure a smooth integration for everyone.

Consider the actual event of taking your new dog home. Though it may be tempting to go shopping together for a new toy or stop at the doggy park, the best plan (and most stress free for everyone) is to go straight home. Keep your new pal on a leash, even if your yard is fenced, while you stay in the yard until the dog has relieved himself. Just because your experience with the dog so far has been calm and collected doesn’t mean that he can’t get spooked by something in this new place and take off. Also, just because a dog was house trained in his previous home does not guarantee that he will not have an accident in his new home. Dogs don’t generalize well and may not immediately realize that the same rules apply in this new house. Staying outside until the dog uses the yard- and then praising him for it- will help him make that connection. This applies to adult dogs just as much as puppies.

Remember that, regardless of the background that your new dog comes from, your home is a new world for him. Expect him to spend time exploring and to be distracted by his new environment. Also expect him to be a little less outgoing than he was when you met- he may even choose to hide out for a while. Think about how you would feel if you suddenly found yourself in a completely new place, surrounded by people you didn’t know. You can help your new dog adjust by giving him plenty of patience. You can make the process less overwhelming for him by limiting his access to the house, which will also help keep him out of trouble. Leaving his leash on may another good idea- this way, you can quickly intervene if any mischief begins to brew.

Many folks who are bringing home a new dog already have canines in the house. By being proactive, humans can help to mitigate any arguments before they begin. The first step is introducing the dogs to each other in a neutral territory. This means a place that neither dog frequents and can consider his own territory. Walking the dogs in a brisk, jovial manner next to each other is often a good way to begin. Once everyone is comfortable, it’s time to consider going home. This is the place where trouble can arise from the resident dog. One good trick is to let the new dog go into the home first, while the other dog spends some time in the yard. When he does come inside, the new dog is already there, so he doesn’t have to get upset and defensive trying to prevent entry into his territory. If they don’t get along immediately, don’t panic! Be patient, go slowly, and consider talking with a behaviorist. Always supervise the dogs’ interactions, meaning watch their body language, not just be in the same room. Remember, though, that sometimes it doesn’t work out. In that case, when the safety and quality of life is at risk for any member of the situation, it’s not just okay to call it quits, but a preferable choice.

What about the resident cat? The first step is selecting a new dog with a good or neutral history with cats. Remember that cats are not just predators, they are a prey species as well. Many dogs will give in and chase a cat that runs. They may injure the cat- or worse- simply because their genes tell them that this is what they should do when a prey animal runs. Other dogs may simply want to play, but play too roughly for the fragile feline. When you bring the new dog home, be sure that your cat has plenty of places to escape to that the dog can’t reach and keep him on a leash the first several times that they meet, just in case. For your own safety, don’t hold the cat while the dog investigates her. A spooked cat’s claws can be painful!

Remember that animals are individuals and each will adjust in his own time and in his own way. You’ve done something great inviting this animal into your family. Take your time and enjoy the process of getting to know each other on your journey to a long, happy life together!

Small Critters

 

Birds are frequently available for adoption
Birds are frequently available for adoption

We live in a world of options. Take coffee, for example- with or without cream and sugar or flavored syrup? How about espresso, or cappuccino? We also have several options when it comes to pets. Nearly everyone is familiar with the notion of keeping a cat or dog as a companion animal. A plethora of other friends- furry, feathered, and scaled- are available to bring joy to your life. Where can these creatures be found? Your local animal shelter or rescue group, of course!

Birds make beautiful and entertaining pets. If you are looking for one to sit on your shoulder, maybe say a few words or mimic whistles, consider a cockatiel. If you are more interested in the delightful sights and sounds of birds but aren’t looking for as much interaction, consider a pair of zebra finches. Companion birds are not simply different breeds, like dogs, but different species. Be sure to study up on whichever variety you choose. Like all other pets, birds need medical care, daily maintenance, and enrichment. They also have specific environmental needs regarding temperatures and cage design preferences. Many of the smaller companion bird varieties have lifespans of 10 to 20 years. Larger birds, like African Greys and Macaws, can live much longer lives and require a much larger investment of time, money, and planning.

Guinea pigs, contrary to their names, are actually rodents. These little creatures are generally quiet pets, though they do tend to make happy squeals and “purrs” when greeting a beloved human or in anticipation of a favorite treat. Guineas typically live five to seven years and can be housed singly or, with caution and proper introduction, in pairs. Beware of placing two unfixed pigs of opposite gender together- they multiply in the blink of an eye! Guinea pigs are entertaining, social pets who enjoy play time, being brushed, and can even be taught to use a litter box with enough time and patience. Like birds, guineas don’t tolerate extreme temperatures well and have specific housing needs, like not having wire bottomed cages as these are harmful to their feet.

Rats have a lengthy history alongside humans, most of which is unpleasant. From their part in the bubonic plague of the middle ages (the fleas that feasted on the rats were the true culprits) to the objectified life in the laboratory conditions of modern science, rats have only recently been seriously looked upon as possible companions. As it turns out, these little creatures make terrific pets. They are social, intelligent, and fairly easy to care for. They are omnivores who appreciate a variety of foods and treats, live about two years, and can be trained to perform various tricks. Like many other small animals, rats spend a good portion of their days grooming themselves. The undeniable odors come from soiled bedding and can be tamed with daily cleaning and appropriate bedding materials.

Hedgehogs hail from Africa and Southern Europe. These creatures may remind one of tiny porcupines as they are also covered in quills. When a hedgie feels threatened, he can roll into a ball and extend his sharp coat of spines. Living four to six (and sometimes up to 10) years, these nocturnal pets can eat quality cat food, a variety of produce, and enjoy treats of mealworms or crickets. Though these cuties can be social with humans, they are not very huggable (this can be painful to the human) and prefer solitary housing.

A nearly endless variety of reptiles and arachnids have made their way into the world of being kept as pets. These creatures can be very amusing and provide a great deal of companionship for the right person. Different species have very different needs, from the type of enclosure they are kept in to the temperature and humidity of their environment to their diets, some of which are comprised of other animals. If you are interested in having a reptile, spend some time researching them to find an animal that is a good match for your lifestyle.

Keeping a small animal as a pet can be a very rewarding experience. Most have not been companions to humans for long, so there are still many behaviors that we don’t understand yet. Discovering the world of another species can be part of the magic of keeping a pet. Each individual critter has its own personality and quirks, just like you. Consider the source of your pet, shop around for a veterinarian familiar with the species, and do a little research before choosing your new companion. These steps will help to ensure a long and fulfilling friendship for you both.

Helpful Links

The internet is a vast wonderland of information… and misinformation. Where does one look for quality advice for their pet care and behavioral questions? Try the following:

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care Basic care, behavioral information, and medical information for various species can be found on the ASPCA site. They also have information about nutrition, food recalls, disaster planning, and dealing with the loss of a pet.

http://bestfriends.org/Resources/Pet-Care/ Best Friends’ site also provides a variety of behavioral and medical information for dogs, cats, and some small animals.

http://www.ddfl.org/pdf/behavior-handout The Denver Dumb Friends League offers behavioral advice for dogs, cats, and some small animals.

http://www.mypetsmart.com/care-guides.shtml> Petsmart has several informational articles for specific exotics, from African Parrots to White-line Geckos.

http://www.sheltermedicine.com/node/33 Is your dog expecting or have you found an orphaned puppy? Start with this site.

http://www.sheltermedicine.com/node/39 Is your cat expecting or have you found an orphaned kitten? Start with this site.

http://www.catvets.com/public/PDFs/ClientBrochures/FriendsforLifeBrochure-Purina.pdf Is a great little booklet about caring for senior cats.

Don’t forget- your veterinarian, trainers, and shelters are also terrific sources of information!