It’s a new year!
Let’s save some more lives
In Spain, people eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight and a new year begins, one “good luck grape” for each of the next twelve months. In Denmark, they banish bad spirits by throwing old plates and glasses against the doors of family and friends. And in Italy, they wear red underwear because red is associated with prosperity and fertility…or maybe like Ruby Rose, they look really good in red!
For me, the beginning of a new year means working even harder to help homeless animals find warmth, safety, and love for the rest of their lives. No matter what I’m doing, even when I’m having a fireside chat with The Moosh, I’m always looking for ways to save more lives. And with the help of my Animal League America colleagues and my IG community, I know that 2024 will be a year to remember.
January gets off to a great start with Change a Pet’s Life Day on the 24th. In my world, every day is the best day to change a pet’s life, and there are so many ways to make it happen.
First of all, adopt! If you can’t adopt, then foster, volunteer, sponsor, or donate. Or…write a letter to the editor about the importance of rescue. Or talk to friends and family about spay/neuter. Be sure to mention that Animal League America’s SpayUSA® provides information on low-cost spay programs across the country.
Or find out what you can do to help strengthen laws that protect animals. There are many national and statewide lobbying groups that work hard to promote humane legislation and save lives. Get involved!
Animal League America offers a unique way to help through Anipals®, a virtual volunteer program. Members make a connection with the animals at our shelter and then post photos and videos on their social media to help find forever homes. It’s a great way to promote adoption, educate others about various issues, and support the no-kill shelter movement. To learn more, visit animalleague.org/anipals.
It’s up to you to discover how best to use your abilities and time to make a difference. Animals need your voice!
Although animals cannot speak for themselves, they certainly can communicate…which leads me to January 22, which is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. In my opinion, cats always have a lot to say. Experts claim that cats can make more than 100 distinct vocalizations, including purrs, meows, trills, chirps, snarls, hisses, murmurs, and chatters. Their body language can also tell us a lot about how they’re feeling.
When cats are happy, they purr. No one knows exactly how they do it, but gosh, I love it. The purr is so special. I’ve read that cats purr at about the same frequency as an idling engine, around 25 purrs per second. But they also purr when they are sick or stressed. Purring releases soothing endorphins in the brains of cats and also in the people who hear it.
Walter and The Moosh: Those eloquent eyes!!
Feline behavior speaks volumes. Grooming themselves or kneading usually means they’re calm and happy. When a cat rubs against you, she is marking you as her territory, which is a sign of affection. Eyes at half-mast or slowly blinking means kitty is content. (I often slow-blink with new fosters to help them feel calm.) Dilated or widened pupils indicate excitement, playfulness, or fear. Constricted or narrowed pupils mean the cat is feeling threatened.
Then there’s the tail. An upright tail with a crook at the end means “I’m a happy cat.” A softly swishing tail or one that’s gently tucked around the body suggests relaxation. But a bushy tail that’s wagging fast and furious suggests stress. A cat in the Halloween posture — turned sideways, fangs bared, back arched, fur standing on end, ears and whiskers back, and the whole body puffed up — means she is making herself appear larger to ward off a threat. In my opinion, few things are more adorable than kittens doing the goofy Halloween side-trot to “intimidate” their playmates.
Miss Petunia’s upright tail says it all.
I love everything about cats, but I have a special weakness for their whiskers. Besides helping them navigate in the dark and determine whether they can fit in small spaces, whiskers also express moods and feelings. When a cat’s whiskers are loose by the side of his face, it means the cat is content. When the whiskers suddenly bunch up backward and lie flat on the face, it means something happened to annoy or scare the cat. I’ve read that cats whose whiskers are damaged have trouble with balance and are often disoriented. They are such complex creatures with so much to tell us. (Although I understand “feline,” I’m still working to improve my “bunny.”)
Howard and I pay close attention to our cats’ body language. This is so important, as it’s the only way they can let us know something is causing discomfort or making them upset. The other day, for example, Walter was rubbing his little ear a lot and then I noticed he was doing it more and more throughout the day. He sprayed the curtains soon after and I then absolutely knew something was going on. I cleaned his ear with the solution my vet gave me a while ago. The next day he was like a new little man. No discomfort, no spraying, no rubbing.
Sometimes what cats are trying to tell us is so important. Whenever our kitties have been sick, they’ve let us know, and this includes our precious Poopy Pebble. The first sign was a change in her appetite. She lost so much weight, even though she was ravenous and ate like there was no tomorrow. Tests and bloodwork…ultrasounds and more bloodwork. My specialists suspected lymphoma. Then we learned she has Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) as well as Pancreatic Enzyme Deficiency. She is currently getting B12 injections weekly, daily pred, pancreatic enzyme pills before each of her six small meals a day, anti-nausea pills, and a strict pure protein diet, which is hard to manage when there are six other resident cats. She is so high maintenance but it’s wonderful that she’s feeling better. She’s back to her sassy self!
I’m grateful that Pebble is with us and we’re able to take care of her now…when she needs us so much. So many are not as lucky.
And that’s why we all have to make 2024 the best year ever for homeless pets. I read about a shelter in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, (my home state!) that was celebrating Christmas by being nearly empty for the first time in 47 years! (One cat remained, who then found a home too.) That was such a wonderful thing to see. However… it didn’t take long for the shelter to start filling up again.
Sadly, 2023 was a tough year for shelters. A nonprofit organization called Shelter Animals Count, which collects and analyzes data from shelters across the country, says that shelters are facing a crisis, with many more animals coming in than getting adopted. These numbers have gotten worse during the past couple of years, some of it due to the pandemic and the economy. I know from experience that this is true. At the moment, I’m getting two three-year-old British Shorthairs who were adopted during the pandemic by a man who now is back to his busy life and no longer needs the companionship. Really? Oh, boy!
Pets like these compete for homes with so many others, including all my adult and kitten fosters like Ruben whose little face speaks for itself. Ruben is one of seven kittens born to Mama Ruby in November. Since then, he’s taken my IG by storm. There’s always that “one” in a litter, and he seems to have captured the hearts of all my IG friends! He truly is one-of-a-kind adorable.
Ruben, left, went home on January 6 with his Mama Ruby. Just look at how happy those lucky adopters are. My heart is full!
I’m also smitten with Mama B and her little Bobby. It turns out that they were trapped in a sewer the morning before a torrential rainstorm. The caretaker said Mama was in there for at least five days. All of her newborns were dead with just one hanging on…Bobby. We think someone covered the drain and didn’t realize it. (Or maybe they did, but I don’t want to go there.)
So, yes, our work is cut out for us, but I believe we are up to the challenge. This year, Animal League America celebrates 80 years as a leader in the no-kill animal shelter movement. That’s what it means to be in this for the long haul. It’s going to take hard work, commitment, vision, and creativity, but together we’ll make a difference, one precious life at a time.
Mama B and her Bobby. His ears! Her eyes!
(Oops. I just saw The Moosh scoot her bum across the rug… She’s letting me know I need to cut out the “dingleberry” that’s stuck to her long bum fur! This happens often and her body language alerts me to what I have to do. Oh, how I wish all problems were as easy to fix as Moosh’s little dingleberry!)
P.S. Please join me for the second annual Great American Family Rescue Bowl on Sunday, February 11, at 10:30 a.m. EST (4 p.m. encore) on the Great American Family Network. This fabulous fun event features dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens exclusively from North Shore Animal League America. They will compete for your heart and have the best time doing it. I’ll be joining my friends Brian Balthazar and Dan Mannarino as we kick off North Shore Animal League America’s 80th Anniversary celebrations with this wonderful event. I can’t wait!