Pet Talk – Week of March 2, 2020

HOULTON, Maine — It has been a while since the Houlton Humane Society has submitted an article to Pet Talk. 

The staff and board members have been busy attending to the day-to-day operations of the facility and caring for the animals. It also has been hard finding someone willing to take on the task of writing articles for Pet Talk.

Our previous contributor, Cathy Davis, did such a tremendous job that nobody was too eager to take it on. But Pet Talk is a wonderful venue for animal shelters and rescues to reach out to pet owners and animal lovers to pass on information on various topics regarding our pets.

 So I agreed to give it a shot and write an article. My problem is, what do I write about? I’ve been involved with the shelter for four years and have seen so many animals come through our doors which were exposed to neglect, abuse or were lost and scared. But we also had many animals that we reunited with their owners and seeing the sheer joy exhibited by both pet and owner helps remind us why we do this work.

Since one of our shelter’s main tasks is to reunite pet owners with their pet, my first article will give some advice on keeping your pet safe. I was lucky enough to have parents who loved animals so we always had dogs and cats running around the house. 

While I had a special bond with my dogs (bird hunting, playing fetch, or just hanging out with me), I realized they were high maintenance. You had to feed them at a certain time, provide fresh water, take them for a walk for exercise and to use the bathroom, and entertain them by throwing a ball or stick.

They relied on you for everything. Now cats are different. With cats, it’s almost like they tolerate you being in the house with them instead of realizing that they are your pet. You can fill a dish with dry cat food, set up a self-dispensing water dish and a kitty litter box and leave them alone for a couple of days and the cat is fine. Try doing that with your dog and see what happens.

The point is, man domesticated dogs and they are dependent on us for everything. If they get lost or abandoned, their chance of survival in the wild is low. Cats, though they act tame, have never really lost their basic instinct. If they get lost or abandoned, they will revert to their true self and hunt for food, find shelter and fight to survive. Some cats will go outside and explore and roam their neighborhood but always come home to eat and sleep. This behavior can lead to a problem for cat owners because it’s hard for someone to know if a cat is a stray or just out for a jaunt?

Dogs aren’t allowed to roam around loose, so they are quickly noticed, and animal control is contacted. Cats aren’t under the same restriction. You see a cat walking around the neighborhood and it’s no big deal.

So how do you let people know that your cat is not a stray in need of “rescuing” and has a home to go to?

Collars are unsafe because they can get snagged and choke the cat or leave him vulnerable to predators. The best way to keep your cats safe is to keep them inside. If that isn’t possible, have a recent photo of your cat showing any identifiable marks. Make sure they are current on all shots and let your neighbors know that they may see your cat roaming the neighborhood. 

If your cat becomes missing, check with the shelter that contracts with your town. Call your animal control officer to see if they have seen or picked up your pet. Look into microchipping your cat. Our shelter scans all animals entering our facility for microchips. This lets shelter staff know quickly if a cat is owned or a stray. And don’t be afraid to knock on your neighbors’ doors to see if “Fluffy” is conning a free meal.

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