Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why Cats Need Breakaway Collars

Breakaway cat collars are designed so when the collar has pressure the buckle will open and the cat will be released from the collar.  Breakaway collars are essential for all outdoor cats.  It protects the cat from getting hung up on a branch or fence post.

There are many types of breakaway cat collars, some are plain with bell and identification tag and others are reflective which allows motorist to see the cat on the street and the pet owner to view the cat in their yard or in a dark room. 
Cat with breakaway collar with bell
Cat Breakaway collar with bell

Both indoor-outdoor cats need breakaway collars with an identification tag.  These collars are helpful especially if the cat wanders off and gets lost.

Example:  A few years back there was a tornado and all of our cats got outside from a broken window.  Luckily they all had their collars on and identification tags and all were returned to us.

When it comes to cat safety I usually buy breakaway collars in bulk.  I look for them when they are on sale and buy as many as I can.  All cats that go outdoors wear a breakaway collar that has their identification tag.

Cat Collar - Size and Fit
Make sure the breakaway cat collar is the right size.  Measure your cats neck and then buy a collar that is one inch larger. If your cats neck is 8 inches get a 9 inch collar.

You can adjust the collar to fit your cat's neck.  Proper fit is important.   I do not put the collar on tight; a collar that allows two fingers to fit in-between your cat’s neck and the collar is a good fit.  Also make sure that the collar will move freely from side to side on your cat’s neck.

Cat Collar Safety Tips:
  1. Allow the cat to get use to the collar by putting the collar on the cat while they are in the house.  Once the cat is use to the collar they will not try to get it off.
  2. Get a Reflective Safe Cat collar that is visible up to 600 feet.
  3. Thin safety collars are good for cats that are not use to collars.  Allow the cat to get use to safety collar before going outdoors.  Make sure it is a good fit and that the cat will not be able to get paw up under the collar. 
  4. Collars with bells are good especially for birds, they will know when your outdoor cat is close.  Bells will also give you an idea as to where your cat is.
  5. Okay to buy small dog breakaway collar (toy breed) for your cat.
Breakaway Collar Warnings:
  1. Never glue the buckle on a cat collar shut. 
  1. Check collars with bells to make sure the bell is attached securely.  If it is loose it is better to remove the bell as your cat may swallow it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Garage Keeps Outdoor Cats Warm in Winter

 Feral cats and outdoor cats need protection from the winter weather.  One way to keep the cats warm in winter is provide them with a section in your garage for shelter. 

As a colony caregiver to 10 feral cats I provide the cats with igloo cat houses and insulated kitty tubes that are overstuffed with straw.  I set the cat houses in my garage shelter and I tuck a few behind shrubs in my yard for the cats that refuse to go into the garage. 
Straw Cat bed in Garage Shelter

Tonight's weather forecast is calling for two feet of show and I need to set up the garage shelter so feral cats will be warm.  I will provide extra straw bedding for the cats and heat the garage during the night hours when the temperature was drops to the single digits with a wind chill of -5.  

To heat the garage overnight we are setting up the kerosene heater in the center of the room.  The cat igloos are off to the side a good 7 feet away from the heater. 

The feral and stray cats have been coming into the garage through the kitty door that I installed and are accustomed to the heater as I use it often during the winter when I am doing hobbies.   The cats will sneak in and hide while I work in the back of the garage.

What I like about this kerosene heater is that it heats up a 1000sqr foot room  and it is easy to ignite the 1.9 gallon fuel which provides heat for 10 hours.  

Tonight the cats in the garage will be warm and cozy. I will  ignite the heater at 11 pm and it will heat the garage until 5 am. My husband is working in the garage during that time frame to make sure that the cats are safe.  Then the sun will come out and the rays will heat the southern side of the garage. 

Feral Cat sleeping in straw bed inside garage shelter

During the day we will use an  electric garage heaters. The heater is mounted to the wall and it provides heat to back section of the garage.The heaters has a built in thermostat and will turn off when it reaches that temperature.  

This garage heater will take the chill out of a space of 500 feet. I can work comfortably in the garage as long as I have polar fleece jacket on and the cats are comfortable in their beds of straw.
Wall mounted electric garage heater
Garage Ceiling-Mount 5000 Watt Electric Heater

Note from Author:
My husband and I are feral cat colony caregivers, we feed, trap and get the cats medical care.  Some cats are socialized and adopted into forever homes and the other wild feral cats live in a colony.  We watch over the cats and we protect them from harm.  We work together to save the feral, stray and abandoned cats in our community.

View this YouTube video to learn how to make outdoor cat shelters.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Setting up Winter Shelters for Feral Cat

Today while hiking in the woods I observed one cat busy digging a hole close to fallen branches.  I suspect that is where the cat intends to ride out the storm. 

Normally the feral cats can be viewed lying in the sun or scratching on a stump but today the forest cats were scarce.  I suspect they are hunkering down in their thicket dens because of the severe weather alert for blizzard conditions.

When I returned from my hike in the woods one of the colony volunteers greeted me.  She had bought a bale of straw for the cat houses. We went to the garage and took steps to block the arctic winds with heavy thermal blankets.  
Cat sleeping in straw bed inside garage shelter

We covered the walls and the windows with this insulation. My old garage provides a dry shelter where there are straw insulated beds, cat houses and kitty tubes for any outdoor cat; stray, abandoned or feral.  There is a kitty door and any cat is welcome to the shelter.

A few of the cats that are terrified of humans and other cats will not go into the garage shelter so for them we have set up outdoor cat houses and tubes, however there are a few  cats that prefer a more rustic shelter and for them I made a shelter more to their liking.  

I turned the wheelbarrow up against the side of my garage, covered the top with plywood to block wind and water and then covered it with logs and tree branches to make it look like a forest thicket.  There are logs on both sides and in the center three feet of straw.  This man made shelter is a very popular winter resting spot for the feral cats. 
 The other cat shelters are set in safe areas in my yard.  I set the outdoor cat houses in areas that are away from human and dog traffic.  A few were tucked behind the ornamental grass garden, and one was set behind the evergreen shrubs.  The wooden cat houses that were donated in the fall are hidden from view also however and one serves as a feeding station as it has a metal over hang. 

View this YouTube video to learn how to make an insulated cat shelter from a beverage cooler:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Adopting a Shelter Cat

Before you go to the animal shelter to adopt your new cat it is best to get your home and the cats safe room ready.  The safe room is where you will keep the cat while they get acclimated to your new home.  It is not wise to release a new cat into your home and expect every animal to welcome them.  It takes time and it is less stressful on everyone if you socialize the new cat with home and other pets. 

 What Cat is Right for You
Decide on the type of cat that would be best for your family.  Do this by reading cat magazines and cat breed books.  Familiarizing yourself with the many breeds of cats, by learning more about the cat's characteristics and mannerisms you will be able to adopt the cat that is suited to your lifestyle.  I adopted a blue point Siamese cat.  This cat is sweet, loving and I was able to teach to retrieve a toy mouse.  The cat has a lot of energy and his characteristics and mannerisms may not be a good fit for all families.   The animal shelters have all breeds of cats as well as alley cats so it is best to read up on cats before you adopt a cat from a shelter.  Another thing to consider is the hair length of the cat.  A long haired cat will need to be brushed on a regular basis whereas a short haired cat does not need as much care.

Choosing a Shelter Cat
When you arrive at the shelter tell the worker what type of cat you are looking for; particular breed, age of cat, color, hair type.  If you want a kitten then you will be taken to the kitten room.  If you want a mature cat that tends to sleep more than play then the worker will show you where you can find this type of cat.

Approach the cats in the crates slowly and refrain from talking loudly.  The cats know that you are there, there is no need to announce your presence.  Stand directly outside of the crate and speak softly to the cat.  Watch to see if the cat comes to greet you.  Does the cat rub on the bars?  If so pet the cat through the bars and continue to talk softly to the cat. Does the cat purr?  If so then this cat likes you and would like to bond with you.  Ask the shelter worker if you could get a closer look at the cat.  They will take the cat and put them in an area where you can interact with the cat.

Shelter Cat Checklist
Before you adopt the cat or kitten from the shelter, check the cats medical records.
Has the cat been tested for Feline Leukemia and other contagious cat viruses.
Is the cat current with vaccines?
Does the cat need to be wormed for intestinal parasites?
Does the cat have fleas, ticks or ear mites?
Does the cat need to be spayed or neutered?

Make an appointment for a wellness check up for the new cat.  All new cats must be checked by veterinarian before you socialize them with your pets. Bring the cats paperwork from the shelter with you and give to your veterinarian.  This paperwork will help your veterinarian to determine what medical care is needed for the adopted cat.

Notes from SGolis:
The cats in the back of the crates that will not look at you may be afraid of humans or they may be lonesome for their previous owner, take in consideration that these cats may have been surrendered by a lifelong master that may have had to go to a nursing home.  Read the chart on the cat to learn more about the cat.  The cat may be shy because they are lonesome for their master.

I have adopted a mature cat that had been surrendered by the family when the cat's master had died.   The cat was mourning the loss of their master.  I took the cat and socialized it for 30 days.  The cat was sweet and loving and was the perfect match for my friend who had recently lost her cat.  Cats may suffer from heartache however they do have the ability to forget the loss and they will love again.  They just need time to acclimate to their new home.

Whenever I bring a new cat into the home I will set up a safe room and treat the room with a Feliway diffuser.  I plug the diffuser into electrical outlet and it emits a scent that is soothing to the cat.  It is a good way to keep the cat happy and comfortable in new home.  

Adopt the cat that chooses you, they will do this by rubbing on you, purring and talking to you.  Cats are good judge of character and they can sense the type of person that you.