Lost Cats Found

Even the most doting, attentive cat owner can lose a kitty. Just ask Jenne Mundy, the world's first "cat profiler," who now helps to reunite lost felines with their humans. The San Antonio, Texas-based Mundy got into this line of work after her own cat strayed. Since then, she has learned ways of preventing the worst from happening.

"The best place to start is to always make sure your kitty is wearing a collar and a license," Mundy says, "even if the cat never goes outside. But if your cat does escape from your home, you have to go out and search for it -- you can't wait for a kitty to return on its own."

Even without an expert at your side, it is quite possible to locate a lost cat. Here are tips from concerned pet owners with success stories to share:

When in doubt, lure a lost cat with food "Minnie, one of my two cats, once crawled out a window through a broken screen and, according to my neighbors, slid down the awning onto the ground below," says Jennifer Ediger, a marketing manager in Los Angeles. "She took off at that point, having never been outside before. By the time I got down the stairs, she was gone. I was absolutely panicked! At the time, I lived on an extremely busy street in Burbank, California, and was imagining all the worst possible scenarios. I searched for her for 10 hours straight, the whole time absolutely terrified. When it started to get dark, I called the local animal shelter to see if anyone had turned her in and was fortunate enough to speak with someone who had been through a similar situation. He told me to walk around the perimeter of my house shaking something that she would identify with -- in this case, a bag of favorite cat food -- and she would likely come out to be fed. I did this for an hour and gave up only because my neighbors were getting tired of hearing me calling her name and banging a bag of cat food. I went back into my apartment thinking she was gone when I heard her meowing. It worked! There she was on the doorstep, waiting to be fed. I was so happy to get her back! She was cuddled, only mildly scolded and tucked under the covers with me at the end of the night."

Exercise extreme caution if your cat goes outside "I got Charley, my female tortoise shell cat, from a private owner when she was about three years old," says Cincinnati real estate broker Tom Nurre, Jr. "The previous owner said she had never been outside so I was very hesitant to let her out. But I did and Charley got used to going outside, being especially fond of sunning herself. About two weeks after moving into a new place, Charley went out the front door and was gone for almost a week over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. We searched for her, but since we live next to a couple of busy streets, I had just about given up hope of her returning. Then, after being gone for six days, Charley showed back up on the front walk noticeably skinnier than when she left and smelling like gas/oil. We've concluded that she went exploring in someone's garage and got locked inside while they left for the holiday weekend. She still likes to go outside, but since that time has never strayed from the front yard and will not stay out longer than about 30 minutes before yowling to come back inside. She seems to have certainly learned her lesson. Since she was still relatively inexperienced at being outside, I felt very guilty for letting her out and truly thought that I had killed my cat. It was with great relief that I saw her come up the front walk on the day she returned."

Rely on the fact that your cat knows your voice "I took Windrew, my neutered marmalade tom cat, with me to visit my mother," recalls Nan Andrews Amish, a San Francisco-based business strategist. "Somehow he snuck out with my mother's cat and her cat scared him off. He was missing for 10 days. We called everywhere. We ran ads in the newspaper.  Seems there were a lot of stray marmalade cats running around that week because we followed up about 14 calls. Finally, I got a call from someone less than a mile away. We drove up and she said Windrew had been in her garage but had snuck out after catching breakfast. We kept calling for him and he must have followed our voices because he was at my mother's house almost as soon as we arrived. Even if a cat is disoriented, he will try to get back to you, and your voice can lead the way. Just don't give up on calling him!"

Five Things to do to Find Your Cat
If your cat ever becomes lost, Mundy suggests taking the following actions:

  • Enlist help Tell your neighbors your cat is lost. Distribute flyers with clear, color photos of the kitty and include your phone number(s).
  • Ask permission to search If you think your cat hasn't strayed far, speak with your neighbors and get permission to search their property. It's possible your cat is injured and hiding, or is stuck in a place like a garage or shed.
  • Reach out Call the Animal Control or Sanitation Department regularly. They'll tell you if they've picked up your cat since they have records of any cats they have picked up or have been hit in the road.
  • Remain calm Lost cats are likely to be frightened and nervous so, when searching, call for your cat soothingly and without panic. If the cat does come out of hiding, it's likely it'll come out very slowly and carefully. Be sure to be careful and try not to alarm it. With a little patience, the kitty should come to you.
  • Lure it to you Place a bowl of your cat's favorite food outside. Sometimes this simple act does the trick.

Photo: Corbis Images

Second-Hand Cat, First-Rate Pet

When Jack and Debi Roney of Vienna, Va., decided to get a kitten, they set their sights on a lively, energetic animal. But that was before they met Minnalouche, a calico that a local humane society fostered. "She seemed to need a lot of love and warmth," Debi recalls. "When I picked her up, she snuggled under my sweater. She seemed to really need me."

Feeling needed appealed to the Roneys then, just as it has in the 13 years since they adopted Minnalouche. Steve Aiken, an animal behaviorist from Wichita, Kan., understands why. Adopting from a shelter, humane society or rescue group "means helping a cat who's already there and needs the love of an owner," he says.

The Joy of Adopting
When you adopt a cat, there's the obvious benefit that you're providing a home for the animal. But there are more advantages, including:

  • Socialization Many shelter cats were previously owned and socialized, so they're more likely than strays to make a happy adjustment to your household.
  • Expert advice The staffs at animal shelters can help take the guesswork out of choosing the right pet. Since they interact daily with the kittens and cats, they have a feel for their moods.
  • Lower costs Adopting a cat is less expensive than buying one. You can save money in medical costs too. Many cats have already been spayed or neutered and if they haven't, shelters usually reimburse a portion of the cost when a spay or neuter is requested.

Despite the advantages, shelter animals can have higher stress levels. "Shelter cats have been in another home, snatched up and brought to a shelter with the strange sights and sounds of many other animals, and then snatched up again and brought to their new home," says Aiken.

But that's no reason to look down upon the animal. "The idea that a shelter cat has something wrong with it is outdated," says Nancy Peterson, Human-Animal Bond Specialist for The Humane Society of the United States in Washington, D.C. "It's more likely something was wrong with the previous owners -- maybe they weren't as committed to the animal as they should have been."

Making the Match
To make the adoption work, here's what experts suggest:

  • Do your research Find out as much information as possible about adoptions. Check out the Humane Society of the United States' Web site and local humane societies and animal shelters.
  • Ask questions Find out everything you can about the kitten or cat. Is it good around kids? Has it ever lived in a multi-cat or multi-pet household? How does it get along with the other animals at the shelter?
  • Take your time Peterson compares the adoption process to dating. "You just don't meet your soul mate the first time you go out with someone," she says. "You shouldn't have those expectations when picking a cat either. It's worth the wait to find exactly the right animal."
  • Be realistic Talk to cat owners and read books so you know what to expect. "If you've never had a cat before, some of their habits, such as shedding or scratching, may surprise you or may annoy you," Peterson says.
  • Seek help Both you and your pet need time to get to know each other. If you have problems adjusting, call the shelter for advice. "The nice thing about adoptions is that the staff is committed to a lifetime match," Peterson says.

Nail Trimming at a Good Clip

Cats often approach their first claw-trims squirming and "crying" like a child who is getting his or her first haircut. And you may feel like crying out yourself during the process. But armed with some good advice, the task doesn't have to be daunting or difficult. Here, James R. Richards, DVM, director of the Cornell Feline Health Center at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York, offers the following steps to safe, speedy and stress-free claw cutting.

Use the right tool Richards advises regular, monthly trims. Keep a soft towel or blanket handy in case you need to cushion or secure your cat. You can use human nail trimmers, but it's best to purchase clippers made just for cats at your vet's office or a pet shop. The blades on cat clippers are usually angled to better match the downward turn of your cat's claws. Also, they often include special features, such as soft, non-slip finger grips. Consider purchasing a styptic pencil or powder, just to have on hand in case you mistakenly cut through the pink quick, which is a blood vessel just above the pointy part of each claw.

Position your cat properly Cradle your cat in your lap, wrapping the towel around it, if necessary. If you're right-handed, your cat's head should rest near your left leg. You can then lift each paw with your left hand and clip with your right. Do the opposite if you are left-handed. If your cat protests too much, try recruiting a friend to hold your squirmy feline in the towel or blanket while you clip.

Focus on the front paws Your cat has five claws on each of its front paws. It's these nails that cause most of the damage to your home or even to your skin, if your cat scratches you. To best manage the front paw claws, use your fingers to place a slight amount of pressure on the toe pad. This will extend the claws for easier clipping.

Proceed with caution Make absolutely sure you have only the top curve of the nail in the blade, and not the pink tissue or quick. But rest easy. "Nicking the quick or the pink inner part of the nail is easier to avoid in cats versus dogs because a cat's nails tend to not be pigmented," he says. But, if you do nick your cat and there's bleeding, don't panic. "Put pressure on the wound with a gauze pad until it stops bleeding," he suggests. "Or use the styptic pencil to help slow the flow and then call your vet, if necessary."

Consider applying plastic nail tips to your cat's claws If your goal is to blunt the tips of your cat's nails, you can avoid the entire clipping process and just place plastic nail tips on the nails. These products, called Soft Claws are vet-developed, non-toxic vinyl nail caps that come in several sizes and colors and are glued over the nail. "Ultimately, the cap keeps the nail duller than when you clip the nail, but this will only work if your cat is patient while you apply the glue," he says.

When in doubt, let your cat groom naturally For your cat's health (and happiness in your household), keep a vertical or horizontal scratch post in a place that your cat frequently visits. "Cats are naturally going to scratch on things in order to stretch their tendons and shed the outer sheaths of their claws," he says. "If we can provide them with something to scratch on, we can avoid doing too much trimming."

The Best Way to Pet Your Cat

Before Tiger Bomm found shelter in Maryjean Ballner’s home, he was a homeless stray. “He was a tough adoption,” admits Ballner, who lives in Sandy, Utah. “‘Mouthiness’ was part of his repertoire.” It wasn’t easy to teach the scared cat to drop his guard, but after five months, Tiger finally purred softly for the first time. Ballner’s secret to pacifying Tiger? Cat massage.

Your pet can benefit from frequent cat massage sessions, too. With results including stress relief, increased circulation and endorphin release, cat massage not only enhances your pet’s overall health and well-being, but it also deepens the bond between you and your special feline friend.

Petting vs. Cat Massage

Chances are, you already pet your cat. Similar to what you do, cat massage is achieved by using a combination of specific hand parts, hand positions, motions, pressures and speed. But cat massage takes petting a step further: “When we add detail and finesse to our touch, we upgrade petting to massage,” explains Ballner, a licensed massage therapist and author of Cat Massage: A Whiskers to Tail Guide to Your Cat's Ultimate Petting Experience (Griffin 1997). Ballner advocates cat massage techniques that primarily deepen the human-pet bond.

Feline reflexology, a different form of cat massage, encourages the body’s innate healing ability. Based on the theory that the paws, feet and head are a perfect map of the whole body, reflexology is a system of massage techniques that reduce tension and prevent stress-related illnesses. “Stress contributes to 80 percent of all major illnesses, and reflexology acts as a way to minimize the stress,” explains Jackie Segers, certified holistic health practitioner and author of Reflexology for Cats (Bateman 2007).

Our experts recommend the following techniques:

Brain strokes
Gently stroke the middle of the forehead, from between the eyes to the top of the head. According to Segers, this movement may affect the pituitary gland and brain function.

Chin ups
With your full palm, slowly caress from throat to chin. Cats will crane their head up in approval. “You may also want to try light rhythmic finger tapping under the chin,” adds Segers. “It’s both soothing and stimulating, and it has a direct influence on everything in the pelvis.”

Mouth strokes
Massage in small circles around the sides of the mouth and chin. Reflexology holds that this promotes good digestion.

Getting Started

Though reflexology works best when your pet is a kitten, cat massage can benefit cats of any age. Here are four beginner’s steps:

Find the right time
Notice your cat’s natural routine. Then, “choose a time when your feline friend is resting and is not playful or aggressive,” says Segers. She suggests bedtime or nap time for any touch therapy. Because cats react to the moods of their human companions, be sure that you’re also relaxed. Feeling stressed? Postpone the session.

Ask permission
“Never restrain your cat or force touch,” warns Segers. Instead, approach your pet gently, “with love and an open heart so it can feel your intention to help.” As a first non-threatening step, drop your hand to its eye level and near its cheeks. “This is where scent glands are located, so cats are marking you at the same time you’re touching them,” says Ballner. Respect your pet when it’s had enough.

Learn the art of slow motion
According to Ballner, the slower you touch, the more your cat will respond. Even better, remember “no-mo” (no motion), says Ballner. “Simply rest your hand next to your cat, on top of him or even under him and stay still. Learn to just be with your cat.”

Repeat, Repeat
Turn off the TV, music and cell phone. Dedicate four whole minutes to massaging your cat at the same time every day, Ballner suggests. Be patient and when you find a technique your cat likes, stick with it. Your cat will come to expect it and will want to share each day’s favorite moments with you.

“Since we don't speak fluent 'Meow,' the best way we communicate with our felines is through touch, and the best possible touch is massage,” concludes Ballner. “Our cats deserve the best of everything.”

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/lcoccia

How to Train Your Athletic Cat

Cat agility competitions are helping to shatter the stereotype of cats as untrainable, nap-happy slackers. Wondering if your cat has what it takes to be training in this increasingly popular sport? For those who are interested, getting started is fairly simple.

Find a Motivating Object
Cats don’t run the obstacle course just because it’s there. They need the proverbial carrot to lead them around. Popular items are toys, feathers or laser pointers, but knowing your cat’s quirks can yield great results. As examples, one of the fastest champions, Ursa Corynne, is motivated by chasing after a drinking straw, while Sir Linus, a Supreme Grand Champion in cat agility competitions, traverses each obstacle for the reward of a kiss from his owner, Vivian Frawley. Frawley is also a big proponent of clicker training: “Cats are very responsive to this. It allows you to apply operant conditioning to shape the behavior that is desired.” Lastly, don’t use an actual carrot, since food is forbidden as a lure during competition.

Know the Rules
“Typical course obstacles include a ladder that the cats step through, tunnels, fence jumps, cones or poles to weave through, and hoop jumps,” says Susan Lee, a cat agility trainer from Michigan. “An agility official oversees the run, times it and scores the faults. A fault is a refusal to do an obstacle. A slower run with no faults may place above a faster run with one fault.”

Practice at Home
“To start, sit in your favorite chair and drag a toy for your cat to follow. Then, add a pillow for them to jump over,” says Jill Archibald, agility coordinator for The Cat Fanciers’ Association. Official obstacle courses are expensive, but makeshift ones are easy to create. “A box with two open ends becomes a tunnel; a pillow becomes a jump; three one-liter bottles become weave poles; a toy hoop propped up becomes a hoop jump,” says Archibald.

Start Young
Although there are exceptions, most trainers agree that kittens or young cats perform and respond to training the best, as do neuters or spays. “Adult males or females are usually handicapped by their hormones,” says Archibald. “They are much more interested in finding each other than in doing agility!”

Get Your Cat Used to Crowds
“Training your cat to navigate obstacles is not enough,” says Archibald. “You must also train them to be comfortable in a large, noisy venue with unusual sights and sounds because almost all competitions are held at a cat show.” While it’s true that cats with outgoing, friendly dispositions are best suited to this, recluses can also succeed. Archibald recommends a steady diet of social exercise. “Go to a cat show without agility first, and enter the cat in the Household Pet class,” she says, to get it used to the sights and sounds of shows. “Otherwise, encourage people who visit you to play with the cat. Leave the TV on or the radio. They need to become used to unusual noises.”

Lastly, Have Fun!
Experts agree that the best recipe for success is the special bond that is created through all the practice (play) with your cat. “People underestimate what cats are willing to do once you have the kind of relationship with them that makes them feel safe and excited to do new things,” says Archibald.