Adopting “Other-Abled” and Less Adoptable Pets

PetFinder.com provides resources for Less-Adoptable-Pets. The organization encourages shelters and rescues to create special week-long events devoted to giving overlooked pets like those with disabilities a better chance at finding homes.

I wrote this post many years ago but now have drastically updated it. While I’d shared my life with senior pets before, now I’ve the added experience of living with a tri-pawd dog when Bravo lost his leg. He didn’t act disabled, though. Have you ever adopted an other-abled pet or less adoptable pet?

disabled cat

She doesn’t know she’s blind or think she’s disabled, and would make someone a loving, wonderful companion!

What Is A Less Adoptable Pet

Why less adoptable? They’re the wrong breed or have special needs. Overlooked pets include deaf dogs or deaf cats, blind pets, or those missing a limb. Many folks prefer the ‘perfect’ cute puppy or kitten and don’t want a crippled pet, or just don’t like the color of the dog or cat. Of course, we know black dogs and cats, and those with only one eye, or three legs, still love us with all their furry hearts!

Old Pets Rock!

Y’all know how I feel about golden oldie pets, after writing two award-winning books that help folks care with the needs of aging cats as well as aging dogs. Senior citizen pets have just as much love to give and often fit very well into families unable or unwilling to manage the hijinks of in-your-face puppies and kittens. Learn more about the old cat conditions here.

My Seren-Kitty nearly made it to her 22nd birthday. Magical-Dawg lived until age twelve. That means adopting an old dog or cat could still mean years of furry love. Here are some things common to aging dogs, and what you can do to help.

less adoptable pets

Old dogs make great friends.

Adult cats and dogs grown out of the “cute” phase also can have a hard time being chosen. But remember that healthy cats and small dogs can live well into their mid to late teens or longer, and you can expect to enjoy at least another half-dozen years by adopting a four-year-old pet. And usually you save costs because they’ve already been “fixed” and have their shots, as well as basic training.

disabled dog

Dogs adapt quickly to wheelchairs, and continue to enjoy life.

What Is Other-Abled Pets?

“Other-abled” pets don’t know what they’re missing. Despite loss of limbs, mobility, sight or hearing, they live and enjoy life regardless of the challenges they face. Often, the pet has less difficulty coming to terms with such changes than do owners. Cats and dogs accept conditions that devastate people. Learn about how to help deaf pets here.

other abled pets

A favorite picture of Bravo after he lost his leg. It never slowed him down! He taught Shadow-Pup all the important dog stuff.

Mobility Issues

Pets can suffer paralysis through accidents, degenerative back diseases or other health conditions. Nobody knows what happened to Willy the rescue Chihuahua, who lived with rear-limb paralysis. He wouldn’t stop dragging himself from place to place, determined to stay in the thick of things. Once owner Deborah Turner got him strapped into his K9-cart (wheelchair for dogs), he was literally off and running. Willy became the mascot for his local branch of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, had his own website, and two children’s books written about his exploits.

Our Bravo-Dawg never complained when his cancer diagnosis stole his leg. The day after his amputation surgery, Bravo walked out of the veterinary hospital, tail wagging. Oh, we felt devastated and wept many tears during his treatment, but Bravo lived every day with joy and taught us even a brief, condensed life makes a difference.

Blind Dogs and Deaf Cats

I interviewed Dr. Paul Gerding, a veterinary ophthalmologist, for one of my books. He never considered that his Labrador couldn’t still enjoy life when Katie began losing her sight. He wasn’t able to correct the progressive disease medically, but took steps to ensure the blind dog could still navigate her home and yard by memory. She continued to hunt—in safe clover fields with no ditches or holes—and at home Katie relied on the younger dog Grace to be her personal guide dog pal.

less adoptable pets other abled pets

The clinic cat for many years at our local veterinarian’s office had only one eye.

My colleague, Lynette George, shared about a special blind doggy she adopted. “Her name is CeeCee and she’s a miniature, long-hair, double-dapple dachshund.” She went from the breeder to three different owners, and then ultimately they surrendered CeeCee to the Oklahoma Spay Network because nobody really wanted to handle a blind dog. “Four months old and thinks she owns the world. She has absolutely no clue that she’s supposed to be “handicapped.” Anyway, she’s absolutely adorable. Everybody who sees her falls in love immediately. She took over Petco when she went in – kind of like she does everywhere she goes. She’s just a hoot every day. We LOVE her!”

One of my local vet offices adopted a one-eyed clinic cat (in the picture). And another local vet clinic has Captain Dan, the three-legged tuxedo kitty. What better ambassadors for adopting disabled–or other-abled–pets?

Furry Inspiration

Pets inspire us with their stoic attitudes. They don’t know how to feel sorry for themselves, and may not recognize they’re any “different” than other cats and dogs. Fluffy and Prince simply want to get on with the important business of eating, playing, and loving their family. As readers know, furry love comes in all shapes, sizes, and packages.

Do you share your home with a “less adoptable” pet? How did you find each other? Has living with an “other-abled” pet affected your life in positive ways? Please share! I’d love to hear your stories and see pictures of your special fur-kids.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Scared Cat? Teaching Shrinking Violet Shy Cats

scared cat

Is your kitty shy? How do you bring her out of her Shrinking Violet shell? (Image copr. Missi Hostrup via Flickr, a picture of Tiger Lily)

Working with fearful and scared cats can be a challenge. Does Sheba hiss at strangers? Does Tom dive under the bed when the doorbell rings? Do your kitties attack other pets (or humans)? What can you do to stop bad behavior if even a mild correction sends the cat into fearful meltdown? Alexa posted her Ask Amy question to my Facebook page, and the answer is in today’s video.

Helping Shy & Scared Cats

We often feel that our fur-kids must have been abused and feel bad to make THEM feel bad. But they still need to know limits. One of my favorite ways to train is using positive rewards. Instead of waiting for kitty to scratch the wrong object and then interrupting the behavior–why not REWARD her when she scratches the RIGHT object?

Using kitty clicker training can also build confidence in shy cats by teaching them what happens is in their paws. Here are more tips for dealing with scared cats.

Stranger Danger & Fearful Felines

While a normal dose of caution keeps cats from becoming coyote kibble, extreme fear makes cats miserable and disrupts your happy home. A hiding cat may not bother you, constant anxiety increases stress that can make cats sick. For instance, stress can aggravate bladder inflammation (cystitis), which prompts hit-or-miss bathroom behaviors. Even when the bladder doesn’t hurt, anxious cats use potty deposits or will increase scratching behavior to calm themselves—sort of the way nervous humans bite their fingernails. Noises can scare cats, and this post about dog noise fear may help kitties, too.

scared catMore Tips for Helping Shy Cats or Stressed Out Kitties

Do you have a shy cat? How does s/he react to strangers or new situations? What tips have you used to bolster confidence? You can use scent enrichment to help reduce your cats’ stress. Are you concerned (like Alexa, below) about damaging your pet relationship during training? How do you avoid that?

Of course you can find lots more fur-kid care tips in the pet books. Many of the tips in MY CAT HATES MY VET! will also help. But I hope anyone with a burning furry question (or heck, ANY question! *s*) will share in the comments and perhaps it’ll be a future Ask Amy feature!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Furry Prescription: Health Benefits of Pets

health benefits of pets

Pets help children learn empathy and serve as a social bridge between peers.

Anyone who has ever lived with a cat or dog knows they increase our happiness quotient. But did you know that they actually improve our health? Multiple studies have proven what pet lovers intuitively have known forever. Pets are good for what ails you! The health benefits of pets keep us active, engaged, and happy, stress-free, and so much more.

So do you know all the benefits of pets for human health? Read on!

There are Multiple Health Benefits of Pets: Stress Busters & Heart Attack Recovery

The health benefits of owning pets, especially the ability to calm us down, help enormously during these stressful times. We’re obsessing over the economy, cost of gas, health care, natural disasters, the pandemic, missing family and friends, and so much more. We need all the stress-busting help we can find.

In fact, health insurance companies should give pet owners a cost break on premiums. Studies show that people with pets get sick less often, and recover more quickly than those without animal friends. Infants and children who grow up with furry companions are less likely to develop allergies as they mature.

And those unfortunate individuals who have suffered a heart attack—and own pets—will recover more quickly and survive longer than heart attack survivors without pets. There actually are a few enlightened physicians who prescribe a pet for their heart attack patients.

the benefits of pets for human health

Karma reduces my stress simply by being near me.

Pets Lower Blood Pressure Without Medication

People with a dog or cat experience only half as much blood pressure increase when stressed, as those without a pet. Half! Could you benefit from that kind of stress relief? The research shows that your pet doesn’t even have to be present for this “pet effect” to work. It’s simply enough to know he’s waiting at home.

Petting and stroking any friendly dog or cat also lowers blood pressure, so if you’re pet-less, you could volunteer at the shelter or get your fur-fix at a neighbor’s home. Petting is especially effective, though, when it’s your own animals.

Sometimes pets even lower blood presser more effectively than medication. That’s because the act of speaking dramatically increases blood pressure, and drugs don’t block this effect. The only thing that counters elevated blood pressure that results from talking is focusing on something outside yourself–like a pet. Simply sitting quietly with your dog or cat each day can soothe your soul.

the benefits of pets for human health

Dogs love us back–and the benefits work both ways!

Pets Increase Our Exercise

Part of the pet effect has to do with increased exercise. I know that my exercise increased when I have a dog to walk. Magical-Dawg demanded a game of fetch outside several times each day, and that got me up and moving. After he died, my outside activity decreased and weight went up. But even a kitty can get us exercising more–after all, trips to the store to tote cat litter and food home requires me to leave the house.

Our best intentions to sign up for a class at the gym may come to naught. But dogs like Shadow-Pup won’t take “no” for an answer. And cats like Karma-Kittywon’t let me sleep late, if the food bowl is empty.

Exercise relieves anxiety, boredom, and depression. While others may look askance at goofy-acting humans, it’s “legal” to play and have fun with your pets–which is as good for our own mental health as it is for the cats and dogs. Set aside time every day to play like a cat or dog–and you’ll feel better for it. That’s probably why, when the pandemic kept us apart, many folks adopted pets to snuggle and interact with.

health benefits of pets

A cat’s purring presence lowers blood pressure.

Pets Are A Social Lubricant

Pets keep us connected socially, too. Walking the dog or talking “cats” at the pet food aisle at the grocery encourages contact that keeps us interested in life and other people. That’s great for people of any age, but especially helpful for seniors who might otherwise become reclusive. They have to get out to care for the dog or cat (or bird or hamster) even if they might neglect their own needs. And if worried about outliving a pet, seniors can adopt senior pets to mutual benefit.

Just to show that I’m not making this stuff up, here’s a “hard science” example. Positron emission tomography (PET scan) is an imaging test that helps physicians to detect biochemical changes used to diagnose and monitor various health conditions. These tests show that touching a pet shuts down the pain-processing centers of the brain. Petting your dog or cat relieves your own pain and also buffers anxiety, all without the side effects of Valium. A cat or dog on your lap can ease the pain in your ass-ets.

The Bond of Love Makes A Positive Furry Difference

People talk about “the bond” all the time when referring to the pets we love. It’s nothing magical, although it may seem so. But science can actually measure this pet effect as well. There are many health and psychological benefits of bonding with a pet dog or cat.

In fact, changes in brain chemicals influence our thought and attitudes. These chemicals prompt feelings of elation, safety, tranquility, happiness, satisfaction, even love. Blood tests that measure these chemicals reveal the levels increase for people–AND for the pets!–when bonding takes place. There’s a reciprocal benefit to bonding with your fur-kid.

Don’t discount the pet effect in your life. I’ve lost weight since the Shadow-Pup arrived, chasing after him and walking the 13+ acres of our place. (Karma cat has also lost weight since playing with the pup. Learn more about fighting obesity in pets here.)

The Karma-Kat always seems to know when I have a headache and helps purr it away. A furry prescription costs only a handful of kibbles. There’s no insurance premium to pay, and everyone qualifies for the benefits. And that’s a wagging, purring blessing for everyone.

How do YOUR pets help you? Does the dog get you up-and-at-’em in the morning? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Sick Kitty: What to Do When Pets Won’t Eat

Ever wonder why cats won’t eat, or why your dog snubs the bowl? All pets lose their appetite once in a while. It’s normal if pets won’t eat for a meal or two.

Some pets are just picky by nature, but healthy dogs and cats make up for a missed meal with the next serving. As long as the pet acts like he otherwise feels good, loss of appetite for one or two days isn’t cause for concern. Longer bouts of anorexia become serious.
pets won't eat

My Cat Refuses To Eat!

Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty were never finicky eaters, and ate pretty much anything we offered. Bravo had more discriminating tastes, and Shadow-Pup also prefers people food to what’s in his bowl.

But Karma-Kat is a bit of a glutton, and will scrounge for more when the bowl is empty. Since his recent multiple trips to the vet for routine vaccinations and dealing with his aural hematoma, he’s lost his appetite.

It’s important to know your individual pet’s routine and preferences. Read about how dogs eat and how cats eat for a baseline behavior. That way, you know a change in behavior points to a problem.

pet won't eatWHY PETS WON’T EAT

Nearly any illness can cause a pet to refuse to eat, though. Life-threatening diseases such as distemper or kidney failure, parasites such as hookworms, a sore mouth from dental problems, or just the stress of a mother-in-law visiting the family, could prompt anorexia. High outdoor temperatures also can kill pet appetite. Shadow-Pup once ate a dryer sheet and vomited all day, and refused to eat. Annual vaccinations also can affect the appetite for a day or so.

Any sudden loss of appetite that lasts over two days needs medical attention—sooner, if the pet acts sick. Puppies and kittens have fewer fat and fluid reserves and can’t go without food longer than about 12 hours before needing medical help. Toy breed puppies are prone to potentially deadly drops in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) if they skip a meal. Signs of hypoglycemia are weakness, drunken-type gait, and sometimes seizures. Lift the pup’s lip and put Karo Syrup, honey or something similar on the gums, and once he’s conscious, feed him.

Cats, especially pudgy kitties, can also become gravely ill with liver disease by skipping just one or two meals, so I’m extra careful about Karma since he’s packed on a bit of weight. For overweight cats, refusing to eat can start a chain reaction that moves fat cells into the cat’s liver. Hepatic lipidosis or “fatty liver disease” can kill the cat.

Snubbing the Bowl Requires a Vet Diagnosis

If your pet stops eating, you’ll need a diagnosis from the veterinarian to figure out why. But often it’s perfectly legal to tempt his appetite with healthy people food. Offer wholesome tidbits like a sliver of lean beef or chicken, or spike his kibble with no-salt meat broth. That will also help you decide if he’s just being finicky, or really has a problem that needs medical attention.

Cats suffering from upper respiratory infections often have stuffy noses. If they can’t smell their food, cats won’t eat. Use a humidifier in a small room to help open up the breathing passages or run a hot shower so the pet breathes steamy air in the bathroom for ten minutes a couple times a day. Warm water on a cotton ball gently cleans off the plugged nose to keep it unblocked.

anorexia

Eating the WRONG food or gobbling too fast can upset pet tummies and cause anorexia.

HOW TO TEMPT PET APPETITES

Tempt your pet’s appetite with pungent-smelling foods. Many cats relish tuna juice from a can of water-packed tuna, while dogs often live for liverwurst. You can also offer meat-based baby food. That’s not only very palatable for most cats and dogs, but is easier to eat if the mouth is sore from respiratory infections or dental problems.

Studies have shown that 95 to 98 degrees is the most attractive food temperature especially to cats. Warm the food and test it against your wrist–close to your own body temperature is the right range. Anorexic cats often will lick food off a spoon or your finger more readily than out of a bowl so hand feeding helps get nutrition in him until you can see the veterinarian.

Leaving food out in front of a reluctant eater for long periods at a time overwhelms and “wears out” the appetite centers. That will kill any appetite the pet may have left. Instead, offer your reluctant eater a small amount of food, and when he’s had his fill or refuses to eat, take it away and try again an hour later.

KARMA-KAT UPDATE

This morning, I warmed up some wet food and Karma lapped up two tongue-swipes of the food. He also drank some water and eliminated normally. His ear still tips over, but the swelling hasn’t increased. He also started inviting Shadow-Pup to play, so it’s clear he’s on the mend.

It’s also clear I need to teach the boys to play more gently, and avoid biting/tugging on ears. Oh, I’m already supervising meal times, since both of ’em seem to prefer each other’s food. There’s another opportunity for upset tummies!

Do you have pets that steal each others’ food? How do you manage the marauding maniacs? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Karma’s Ear Boo-Boo: Aural Hematoma Cat Care & What to Do

Today, Karma-Kat visited the veterinarian for his annual wellness check. He’d lost a little over a pound (yay!), and the doctor said Karma looked like a two- or three-year-old kitty rather than a mature eight-year-old man-kat. We celebrated a great exam until I got home–and discovered the aural hematoma on Karma’s right ear.

aural hematoma cat

Karma-Kat’s right ear has a slight swelling of the inside-upper edge.

Aural Hematoma Cat Care

Hematoma refers to a swelling beneath the skin that contains blood. A blow or bruise causes hematomas, and they usually resolve by themselves. But large hematomas may require surgical drainage.

Aural hematomas, those occurring in the skin of the ear flap (pinna), often appear because of ear mite parasites or ear infection. They more commonly affect dogs with floppy ears, but cats also can develop the condition.

dog allergies aural hematoma dog

Fleas are more than itchy aggravations and spread tapeworm as well as cause skin disease. Scratching can cause an aural hematoma especially in floppy eared dogs.

Bruising prompts seepage of fluid which separates the ear cartilage from the skin. The pocket between fills with blood and fluid. This soft swelling usually develops on the inside but can be on the outside surface of the ear flap. Treatment requires addressing the cause for the injury, such as an ear infection or ear mites that prompt scratching.

Aural Hematoma Treatment

To prevent scarring of the ear cartilage, the veterinarian removes the trapped blood and serum. Drawing out the liquid with a syringe works for small hematomas. Firm bandaging of the ear aids healing and helps the ear keep a normal shape. But often, the ear simply inflates again in a day or two with more blood and serum.

Our veterinarian said Karma’s ear hematoma was the smallest he’d ever seen. Neither of us saw or felt it during the exam, and yet less than an hour later, it appeared. Karma has no ear infections, and hasn’t scratched his ears. Our best guess points to rough-housing with Shadow-Pup. They take turns play-attacking each other.

Without treatment, the fluid eventually reabsorbs. However, it also often leaves behind scarred, damaged cartilage, sort of a doggy or kitty “cauliflower” ear.

An Elizabethan collar keeps cats from further damaging the ear as the aural hematoma heals.

Aural Hematoma Surgery

Aural hematoma surgery provides the best results. Once anesthetized, the veterinarian makes a small incision in the inside surface of the cat’s ear to remove collected blood and other debris. Then the separated flaps of tissue get stitched together, leaving a narrow opening at the incision line. This opening allows fluid to drain as the incision heals and prevents the wound from re-ballooning with fluid. For large hematomas on big dogs, a drain may also be needed.

Because of the small size of Karma’s ear hematoma, our veterinarian suggested removing the fluid with a syringe to see if it would resolve on its own. He said in this special case, surgery would cause as much (or more) ear cartilage scarring as if left to heal by itself. In fact, he drew off only 1/2 cc of fluid. We’re to watch Karma-Kat for the next day to monitor if fluid returns, which could mean further surgical treatment.

Followup Care for Aural Hematoma

In severe cases, a soft padding of bandage minimizes deformity and helps the ear keep a normal shape as it heals. Typically, cats that undergo this surgery must wear a collar restraint like an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from scratching at the wound.

UPDATE July 30, 2021: Ten days post diagnosis and draining of his hematoma, Karma-Kat’s ear swelling resolved. The cartilage remains thickened, and the ear slightly tips over, but the man-cat sez, “Makes me look tuff.” What do you think?

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!