Author Archives: Camille Hulen

Here We Go Again

posted January 15th, 2016 by
Coconut Oil

Here We Go Again! – A Cat Tale

by Camille Hulen
As I sit here and watch this kitten gaze into my eyes, I cannot help but think: “Here we go again!” This little girl came to me on Thanksgiving Day from a litter of three orphans. One kitten was already dead, with mama cat nowhere to be found. As spring approaches, this scenario will play out all too often. Fortunately, this girl and her brother were in good shape and readily took a bottle. Others will not be so lucky.
What can you do? Spay and neuter now before the major mating season begins!
You, the TulsaPets reader, probably think I sound like a broken record because you care about your pets. However, the Tulsa area still has a problem with pet overpopulation. Statistics for 2014 are incomplete as of this writing, but here is the depressing news for 2013 from Tulsa Animal Welfare: 3,785 cats were taken in, and 2,562 were euthanized! This doesn’t even include dogs or animals from suburbs such as Broken Arrow, Sapulpa or Owasso.
Nationally, some progress is being made on pet sterilization. I was excited to read recently in a Wall Street Journal article, “Too Many Dogs: A Simple Solution,” about a new chemical method for males which could be significantly cheaper—as low as $1 per animal. It consists of an injection of calcium chloride into the testicles and requires only a light sedative with no need for anesthesia or incisions. This method has been studied primarily on dogs but could be applicable to cats as well. An extensive study was done in India, and calcium chloride has been used on dogs on the Sioux Indian reservation in South Dakota. Closer to home, an animal shelter in Lawton, Okla., has been using it since last spring.
Although the calcium chloride research goes back to the 1970s, it has not been approved by the FDA. It is such a common chemical that it cannot be patented, so drug companies have no motivation to invest the money ($10 million, according to the Wall Street Journal) for FDA approved trials. A few local veterinarians with whom I spoke seemed somewhat ambivalent.
Ruth Steinberger of SpayFirst! says her organization uses calcium chloride, but did not run blindly into the method without first conducting research. They had testosterone tests run at the endocrine lab at Colorado State University. After reading all of the already conclusive research, they still worked on this for months before feeling that they had enough data to support using it in the field. On another front, an approved sterilant called Zeuterin should be available for about $20 per animal to nonprofits.
Regarding feral cats specifically, most experts feel that sterilizing females is more effective than working on males. If a female goes into season, it doesn’t matter how many males in the colony are fixed; one from somewhere will likely find her. Neutering colony males only stops that particular male from being the father; it may not prevent a litter. But another chemical, megestrol acetate, is being tested on female cats. This is added to canned food on a weekly basis. It could be beneficial when a feral colony is being fed but cannot be captured. Apparently this method has been known about for decades, but is being ignored because there is no profit in it.
While a few dedicated researchers continue their studies in new methods, education of the public is the biggest challenge. Not everyone knows about the low-cost spay and neuter clinics available. What’s worse, not enough people care! My hope in writing this article is to bring this problem to your attention once again. When I tell people the sad story of how many cats are euthanized (I prefer the word “killed”) everyday, they are shocked. They cite rescue societies without realizing that they are always overloaded.
Locally, SpayOK is a great resource, with two locations in Tulsa, and StreetCats issues vouchers for low-cost spay/neuters. Both Oklahoma Alliance for Animals and StreetCats have traps available for loan. Please spread the word. We do not need more homeless orphans like the kitten pictured here. Let’s continue to speak out for her and others who cannot speak for themselves.

It’s Never Too Late

posted January 7th, 2016 by
What's in Your Dog Shampoo

It’s Never Too Late – A Cat Tale

by Camille Hulen

Asshe lay dying, and could no longer speak, my friend penciled a note to me: “Please take care of my cats.” We had discussed this before, and I knew them   well: a young, mischievous Maine Coon, a middle-aged black male, and a 15-year-old black female. She had loved all animals, and these cats had been an important part of her life. They were her family since she had no human heirs. I was honored that she trusted me with her most valued possessions.       The Maine Coon was adopted very quickly, but I knew all too well that black animals  are difficult to place. Fortunately, the black male was placed eventually, but I was afraid that April, the “old girl,” would be with me forever.

April stayed in my kennel, and, at first, was very persnickety in the way she would allow anyone to touch her. She was declawed, so her first impulse was to bite. However, she mellowed with time and grew quite attached to me. She would dash into my office at every opportunity and became very fond of hanging out in my black office chair. Many people admired her, but no one wanted a “black” cat, especially an “old black” cat!

But recently, I was surprised to receive an email from a friend who had talked with someone wanting a black cat! It seems that this person’s 90-year-old mother was mourning the recent loss of her black cat. But the son was very specific; he did not want an old cat because he had recently spent thousands of dollars on veterinary care for the other cat. Well, April would not be the cat for them, but I knew of other black cats needing homes, so I invited him to visit.

Without hesitation, the son, D.J., came to meet whatever black cats I might show him. It so happened that April was in my lap when he arrived. As he sat in the chair opposite me, April got onto the desk to see him. He looked at her and said, “That looks just like my mother’s cat!” I guess April sensed that, for she promptly went over into his lap, started purring, and gave him a kitty kiss.

As I told him more about April’s story, I mentioned how she liked to sleep in my black chair, “black on black,” and was often nearly sat upon. He exclaimed, “My mother has a black chair just like that! Our cat always slept in it!”

Then we proceeded into the kennel. The first thing he spied was my father’s WWII army trunks. “We have one of those trunks!” he said, shaking his head. “My mother was a WWII army nurse.” He viewed other cats and talked to them gently, but his mind returned to April.

We then drove to another location where there was a younger black cat needing a home. As we left my driveway, another coincidence occurred. I have a black metal cat silhouette at the end of the drive, and guess what? There’s a similar one at their home!

We arrived at our destination and looked at several other cats who responded well, but the black cat I wanted him to see remained hidden under the bed. As he had time to think without pressure, there was no question in his mind. April was the black cat for his mother! I explained he could return April if it didn’t work out, but after searching for the right cat for several months, there was no doubt in D.J.’s mind.

When April arrived at her new home, she went immediately to sit in her new mom’s lap. She stayed with her all evening, except for a brief supper, which she ate heartily. No adjustment period necessary. And at bedtime, of course, she went to bed with Mom. April was home.

As of this writing, Mom and April are passing their days happily. April wakes her faithfully at 6 a.m., demands breakfast, and they then sit contentedly together by the window to watch the birds.  April frequently runs through the house like a kitten, enjoying one of her toy mice, and has her own special ottoman where she can nap peacefully if she gets bored with Mom’s game of solitaire. What could be a better match? A 19-year-old cat for a 90-year-old woman!

Coincidentally, on the very day that April found her new home, another friend forwarded me an email.  I had not yet shared April’s good news with her. The story was about a 102-year-old lady in Texas who had adopted a senior cat because she was lonely. The picture showed her hugging her new “furrever” friend. Yes, it’s never too late for love!

A Cat Tale

posted October 24th, 2015 by
20150115c

by Camille Hulen

 

Here We Go Again!

As I sit here and watch this kitten gaze into my eyes, I cannot help but think: “Here we go again!” This little girl came to me on Thanksgiving Day from a litter of three orphans. One kitten was already dead, with mama cat nowhere to be found. As spring approaches, this scenario will play out all too often.  Fortunately, this girl and her brother were in good shape and readily took a bottle. Others will not be so lucky.

What can you do? Spay and neuter now before the major mating season begins!

You, the TulsaPets reader, probably think I sound like a broken record because you care about your pets. However, the Tulsa area still has a problem with pet overpopulation. Statistics for 2014 are incomplete as of this writing, but here is the depressing news for 2013 from Tulsa Animal Welfare: 3,785 cats were taken in, and 2,562 were euthanized! This doesn’t even include dogs or animals from suburbs such as Broken Arrow, Sapulpa or Owasso.

Nationally, some progress is being made on pet sterilization. I was excited to read recently in a Wall Street Journal article, “Too  Many Dogs: A Simple Solution,” about a new chemical method for males which could be significantly cheaper—as low as $1 per animal. It consists of an injection of calcium chloride into the testicles and requires only a light sedative with  no need for anesthesia or incisions. This method has been studied primarily on dogs but could be applicable to cats as well. An extensive study was done in India, and calcium chloride has been used on dogs on the Sioux Indian reservation in South Dakota. Closer to home, an animal shelter in Lawton, Okla., has been using it since last spring.

Although the calcium chloride research goes back to the 1970s, it has not been approved by the FDA. It is such a common chemical that it cannot be patented, so drug companies have no motivation to invest the money ($10 million, according to the Wall Street Journal) for FDA approved trials. A few local veterinarians with whom I spoke seemed somewhat ambivalent.

Ruth Steinberger of SpayFirst! says her organization uses calcium chloride, but did not run blindly into the method without first conducting research. They had testosterone tests run at the endocrine lab at Colorado State University.  After reading all of the already conclusive research, they    still worked on this for months before feeling that they had enough data to support using      it in the field. On another front, an approved sterilant called Zeuterin should be available for about $20 per animal to nonprofits.

Regarding feral cats specifically, most experts feel that sterilizing females is more effective than working on males. If a female goes into season, it doesn’t matter how many males in the colony are fixed; one from somewhere will likely find her. Neutering colony males only stops that particular male from being the father; it may not prevent a litter. But another chemical, megestrol acetate, is being tested on female cats. This is added to canned food on a weekly basis. It could be beneficial when a feral colony is being  fed but cannot be captured. Apparently this method has been known about for decades, but is being ignored because there is no profit in it.

While a few dedicated researchers continue their studies in new methods, education of the public is the biggest challenge. Not everyone knows about the low-cost spay and neuter clinics available. What’s worse, not enough people care! My hope in writing this article is to bring   this problem  to your attention once again.  When I tell people the sad story of how many cats are euthanized (I prefer the word “killed”) everyday, they are shocked. They cite rescue societies without realizing that they are always overloaded.

Locally, SpayOK is a great resource, with two locations in Tulsa, and StreetCats issues vouchers for low-cost spay/neuters. Both Oklahoma Alliance for Animals and StreetCats have traps available for loan. Please spread the word. We do not need more homeless orphans like the kitten pictured here. Let’s continue to speak out  for her and others who cannot speak for themselves.

A Cat Tale

posted September 12th, 2015 by
20141115c

A Cat Tale

by Camille Hulen

 

A Tale of Two Kitties

 

~ Introductions ~

So you think you want a cat. There’s so much to consider. How do you find the right cat? How do you introduce yourself? How do you introduce a new cat into your home? Every cat and every situation is different as the following stories illustrate.

Duke and Thunder were litter mates. Although both would romp and play with other kittens, they behaved distinctly differently toward humans. Duke loved everyone, and his curiosity brought him to every stranger. Thunder, on the other hand, was fixated on his foster mom. He followed her everywhere, demanding attention but would run whenever a stranger came into the room.

Duke had no problem adjusting to his new home when he was adopted. Yes, he hid under the bed and was shy at first, but by the second day he was out and playing, claiming a blanket and empty boxes as his own.

Thunder was another story. Most potential adopters would simply look at Thunder and admire his beauty but then move on, saying, “He doesn’t like me.” One visitor, however, would not give up on Thunder. Although Thunder sought the highest shelf, almost out of reach, Rita followed him around, speaking to him softly. She showed him toys and offered him treats. Eventually, Thunder relented and let her touch him, so she filled out adoption papers and gave him a chance at a new home.

At first, Thunder hid under the bed in the guest room designated as his and refused to come out when his new human came near. However, when left alone, he would come out to eat and use the litter box, and they could hear him rummaging around at night. Throughout this time, Rita went into the room regularly to talk to him so that he would learn her voice. Then, after about three days, she found him on top of the bed! Progress!

From the guest room, Thunder moved into the office but would still seek the highest shelf, just out of reach. He would venture out when no one was looking and “steal” things to take to his hiding place. He was moving in and claiming territory. Next he would do “run-bys” trying to check out the humans, and sometimes sit within 3 feet of them, just observing. At other times he would follow Rita around to get a closer look. Fortunately, the new owners were amused by his behavior and did not get frustrated. Finally, one night he came to Rita as she was having a midnight snack and begged for food.  More progress!

As of this writing, after three weeks, Thunder is not yet a lap cat, but he is loved. I have no doubt that, in time, he will reciprocate with his love and purrs.

These stories illustrate the introductions of two different cats to their new homes, but here are some general tips for introducing a feline into a new environment/home:

  1. When you meet any cat, do not force yourself upon it. Speak quietly and touch it gently on the back of the neck or scratch it behind the ears. Do not attempt to pet it “head-on,” and give it an opportunity to bite. You cannot “pat” a cat like a dog.
  2. Do not attempt to pick up a strange cat! Above all, do not try to cuddle it to your face; this can be dangerous. It does not know you, and you cannot expect it to react like your own cat does. When you do pick it up, confine its front paws and hold it at your hip. Yes, you can scruff a cat by holding the skin at the back of its neck, but this takes practice, and it is not the best way to endear yourself to it.
  3. When you take the new kitty home, keep it in a confined space. A small bathroom is probably best because there are fewer places to hide. Provide water, a soft place to sleep and a litter box.
  4. Spend time in the room with the cat. Rather than leave food in the room, offer food while you are there, then take the food away when you leave. This way, the cat quickly identifies you as its food source. And, by all means, talk to the kitty and call it by name.
  5. Don’t panic. The cat may not eat for the first day because it is scared but continue to offer food at regular intervals. Play with it. For example, tease it with a toy on a string.
  6. When the cat is comfortable with you, release it into the rest of the house. Note: it’s probably better to keep bedroom doors closed at first unless you enjoy crawling on hands and knees, searching under beds.
  7. Relax and let the cat explore at its own pace. Continue to offer food in a designated place but do not keep food available all the time.
  8. If there are multiple cats in the house-hold, the idea of keeping the newcomer separate in its own room is even more important. Keep it in the room until it is comfortable and curious enough to come out. The resident cats will probably become curious as well and maintain a vigil by the door. Curiosity in a cat is a good thing!
  9. Exchange spaces for the cats. Allow the new cat to explore the house while the resident cats check out the smells where the new cat has been confined.
  10. When introducing cats, let them introduce themselves to each other. Do not force one upon the other. Chances are, they will hiss and growl at each other, then retreat and observe each other from a safe distance.
  11. If a scuffle develops, clap your hands and speak sternly. Do not yell and panic to protect your favorite. If necessary, a squirt from a spray water bottle works wonders.
  12. Mutual play with a toy on a string is a good icebreaker, as is a laser light. When the cats focus on the toy or “prey,” they tend to forget about each other.
  13. If you are uncomfortable leaving the cats alone with each other, continue to confine the newcomer in a separate room when you are not home. Eventually, the cats will find their own spaces. They may not become buddies but will usually learn to coexist.

Yes, when you adopt a cat, it finds its own space, both in your home and within your heart. And, I might add, the virtue any cat most assuredly teaches us is patience.

A Cat Tale – ‘Purr’sonalities

posted December 28th, 2014 by
20140715c

Cat Tale

A Cat Tale

Purr’sonalities

 

by Camille Hulen

 

“Are all redheads short-tempered? Are all blondes dumb?” (Please don’t answer with a blond joke!)

I ask this question because people searching for a new cat to replace a recently departed one frequently see a picture and say, “That looks just like Fluffy; I want her!” Sorry, folks, you will probably be disappointed. Although two cats may look alike, they can be very different. Every cat is unique.

True purebred cats do have some distinguishing characteristics.  Siamese are usually more vocal; Ragdolls are probably more laid back; Sphinx are more active, and Tortoise… well, maybe bipolar. However, these are stereotypes and are not always accurate. Besides, I prefer to think that most of us deal with the rescue of mixed breeds.

Let us consider some examples. Don’t the cats in this picture look alike? They are my own cats: Duncan and Mister. I say that Duncan chose Mister from a litter of kittens because he looked like him!  Although they are both gray and white, they are very different. Duncan is a real lover and lap cat. He is ever-present, both with us and visitors. Mister is a loner who would prefer to be outside. Duncan favors my husband and cuddles with him every night, while Mister comes to me for love. Duncan is compliant; Mister is defiant.

Consider my black cats. KatMandu is an “in your face” kind of guy with a mind of his own.  He confronts most every cat who crosses his path. Needless to say, it was KatMandu who trained my puppies to respect all cats. On the other hand, Darth is a loner, much like Mister, but as he ages, demands more and more attention. Pooh is a sweet, gentle girl who asks for little and gets along with everyone. All are black and have been raised in the same home environment, yet they are very different.

Even kittens from the same litter are unique and exhibit special traits at an early age. Although I could scarcely tell two identical kittens apart while I bottle-fed them, Sherpa was so-named because he was an adventurer who climbed every mountain, beginning with the stairs. His sister Pearl was quiet and timid. They still look so much alike that their adoptive parents refer to them as “the twins,” and they are still most distinguishable by their behavior.

Another example is from a different litter. One orange Tabby was so gentle he is called “Mel,” short for “Mellow Yellow,” while his white brother immediately showed no fear of my 90-pound dog and loved to be nuzzled by him. Yes, you might say that most orange Tabbies are mellow, but don’t tell Sugar Ray (a survivor who fought for his life) that!

Not only do cats have distinct “purrsonalities,” but they react to different people differently. I have seen the shyest of cats that usually run and hide from strangers nuzzle up to others and beg for attention. And, just as humans do, cats react to situations differently. I’m sure that you have seen your own loving, little pussycat turn into a real tiger when she visits the vet.

The purpose of this article is to ask you to be open-minded in seeking your new fuzzy companion. Don’t “judge a book by its cover;” that is, don’t look at just the cat’s picture. Perhaps the best advice is to let the cat choose you. Then love and cherish its idiosyncrasies.

A Cat Tale – The Ugly Duckling

posted September 20th, 2014 by
20140315c

Cat Tale

by Camille Hulen

They came to me in a box—four kittens, filthy, cold, and lifeless. There was one of every color: black, Tabby, tuxedo, and a dirty white one. It was the day after my birthday, and not exactly the present for which I had wished.

Step one: clean them. This case was worse than usual. Instead of dipping them in a solution of Dawn detergent and giving a complete bath as I would normally do, I wiped them gingerly, as they still had umbilical cords and birth sacs attached. The woman had found them on her porch, obviously born the night before.

Mama cat was nowhere in sight throughout the day, so it was clear they had been abandoned. We later determined by their size and slow development they were probably premature.

Step two: raise their body temperatures. My husband pressed them to his body while I prepared baby formula. I try to keep powdered KMR (Kitten Milk Replacement) on hand because it is easy to store and can be reconstituted in small quantities. Then we put the kittens on a heating pad.

Step three: feed. These babies were so small that syringe feeding was necessary. This is usually the best method with small kittens because they are too weak to suck on a bottle with a nipple. The kitten must be held upright, never on its back, and a syringe can force some milk into its mouth. If you are lucky, they will respond by licking. These did not.

The watch began. For 48 hours, I got little sleep (cat naps) as I tried repeatedly to feed them. We must realize that mama cat is normally always available so that kittens can nurse at will as they wake up and then quickly fall back asleep. Sadly, the first two kittens did not respond and died within a few hours.

Step four: feed and monitor care-fully. As the kittens respond to feeding, they must also be stimulated to defecate and urinate. Mama cat does this with her tongue; we use a soft tissue or wet cloth. At the age of one week, the dirty white one was responding well, while his tuxedo sister was struggling.

However, he was the ugliest kitten I had ever seen! He was the color of a dirty sweat sock with no distinctive markings—like a dapple gray horse, only he was a “dapple tan” kitten…  or maybe a dirty little mouse.

Two weeks later: eyes began to open. The ugly kitten’s eyes did open, but his sister’s eyes did not. In spite of additional expert care and supplemental nutrition from a veterinarian, the female kitten died. Unfortunately, this is the disappointing reality of neonatal care, but it hurts nonetheless, and we cry with each loss.

But how we relish success!

Although I was still losing sleep, and feeding him every three hours, the ugly duckling was thriving. He was a survivor! And he now had a name. My husband began to call him “Dirty Dingus,” after a movie character from many years ago named Dirty Dingus Magee played by Frank Sinatra. Dingus slept happily.

By the age of three weeks, Dingus was “out of the woods,” but at this time we had a previously plan-ned vacation, and he still needed special care. Fortunately, my fellow rescuer Gail graciously helped. She was fostering orphan squirrels, so a kitten would  just add to her menagerie.

And of course, Gail spoiled Dingus, giving him a new Teddy Pug to cuddle with. She sent me pictures through-out the week, as he began to develop color. At first, the ears and  tail were darker. Was he a Siamese?  By the age of one month, Dingus was a most unusual taupe color, and stripes began to appear. Was he a Tabby?

As the weeks passed, he became more beautiful. He developed not only stripes, but also swirls on his sides like a Bulls-Eye Tabby. He retained the blue eyes of a Siamese, and in some light appears gray, while in other light is definitely taupe. True to the children’s story, Dingus is an ugly duckling no more, but a beautiful swan.

And now at 4 months old, a cover boy for TulsaPets! 

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