Our Cats Shop

Cat Chat By Chris Stalker V.N.

Tips and Tales

My thanks to the OUR CATS’ readers who have sent in their tips and stories to me, for publication in this column. Please keep your contributions coming. I love to hear from you – the members of OUR CATS’ message board are very good and exchanging information and news – here is an invitation to them – please share your thoughts and advice with OUR CATS’ readers. Not everyone has access to the Internet Chat Groups and the printed word is still alive and kicking!

A grooming tip

My thanks to Jan Bowen, for passing on the tip she spotted in a recent newspaper pet column, written by Celia Haddon. Celia suggests using a sewing aid to rid a long-haired cat of impossible to de-tangle matted fur. The sewing aid is known as a seam or stitch ripper, available at haberdashery departments. It is about the size of a ball point pen and it has a small sharp cutting tool. The matts can be carefully split and teased out with the seam ripper and then the offending knot can be trimmed away using round-ended curved scissors.

Listen to the beat!

Dogcatradio is the name of a Californian radio station devoted to playing tunes for pet lovers and their pets. The person behind the innovation is Adrian Martinez who noticed his cat, ‘Snickers’ was easily calmed when he turned up his radio. The Dogcatradio is an Internet based station and can be listened to across the world, via broadband. The Top five tunes are currently:
1. Popcorn Paws (Murray Weinstock)
2. Dog Day Afternoon (Murray Weinstock)
3. Hound Dog (Elvis)
4. Cookies (Skip Hanes)
5. That's What Friends Are For (Dionne Warwick)
If you and your pets want to listen, see www.dogcatradio.com and click on the paw!

Importance of saying thanks!

Heather Horton wrote to me, following the note I wrote in my Cat Chat column (2nd June)
regarding my husband being thanked for his help at the Manchester & District CC show. Heather said, “As Chairman of the SLHCA I have felt in very important to write a personal thank you to every one who has helped at our shows. This includes stewards, table workers, veterinary stewards, any other workers and setting up help as well as taking down help. Also, I remember anyone who works on a fundraising table or any other club table.

I have done this for the past four years - and feed-back has showed that it is much appreciated.
I also ask our show manager to give all stewards the same gift as the judges - they work so hard with little reward, and the show needs every one of them. It is little enough to give willing helpers a personnel thank you, but a show could not take place without these lovely people”.

SAVE teaches youngsters how to befriend companion animals

Lucky little “Brie”. The tiny grey kitten started off his social life on a positive note: Among his earliest experiences with humans, this one - with eight children and two adults - was so good it may have spoiled him into thinking all humans are that gentle, soft-voiced and kind.

“Maybe he'll come to you the way the black kittens did,” said Dale Maski, in the corner of a classroom at Slackwood Elementary School in Lawrence. This was an after-school session for the six and seven-year-olds in an English-as-a-Second-Language program there, and in earlier lessons, they had met other animals Ms Maski brought with her from SAVE-A Friend to Homeless Animals, Princeton's animal shelter.

After showing them how to hold a kitten, she put Brie into a little boy's arms. Then, one at a time, each child gently held the kitten in his lap, on a folded baby towel, while the others leaned in to watch. Their faces softened, their voices dropped; they were intent. Passed carefully around the semi-circle of children, Brie was accepting and calm.

“When does he make that sound?” Ms Maski asked, and “when he's happy” was one reason given for the purring they heard. “What do you think he does all day?” led to descriptions of how a kitten plays with other kittens and sleeps a lot.

Then Brie returned to his carrier, where he could see and be seen, or even take a cat nap, as the lesson continued.

From an oversized book with illustrations, Ms. Maski read the children a true story about a brave mother cat named Scarlett, who had saved her five kittens, one at a time, from a burning building. After rescuing them, she touched each one with her nose to count them.

Next the children watched a video starring the real Scarlett. With her family, she was rushed to the hospital by a fire-fighter and nursed back to health by caring doctors and nurses. By the end, she and her kittens had found loving homes, where they would be taken care of and happy.
“What did Scarlett do that was so special?” Ms Maski asked the children. They agreed that we all feel a special affection for someone very brave, like Scarlett.

In under an hour, the children became acquainted with a heroic animal and the humans who had helped her. They met a real live kitten, learned how to hold him and pet him, and saw that he depended on people for his safety and comfort.

As they left, they could take with them two lively, colourful kids' publications about animals - one focusing on cats. The “Top 10 things you can do for your cat” feature in the ASPCA's four-page ”Cat's Meow” suggests that kids “learn tail talk,” reminding them that “Kitty can't speak your language, so she uses her body to explain how she's feeling.”

The Humane Society's “Kind News” for primary schoolers often connects the animal world to each child's home: "This mother raccoon is teaching her cubs. She shows them how to find food. Soon the cubs will find their own food. What does your family teach you?"

Brie's good experience - at least equally good for the children involved - came thanks to SAVE, the aptly-named animal shelter in Princeton. During the last few years, Ms. Maski, a veteran early childhood teacher-turned humane educator, has served as both designer and representative of its P.E.T. Program: Partners in Empathy Training.

Earlier this year, SAVE merged with Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA), a fostering organization in Mercer and Somerset counties. The consolidation created a bigger non-profit organization, SAVE, A Friend to Homeless Animals, whose mission is protecting the health and welfare of companion animals in the greater Princeton region.

Rescue, shelter, adoption, health and welfare, spay/neuter and humane education are the organisation's six core programs, with humane education as Ms. Maski's unique bailiwick.
Through the PET program, children learn to be more comfortable and kind with animals.

It begins, Ms. Maski says, with modelling behaviour: how to greet a strange dog, how to hold a kitten, and so on. Next comes information… Once a child gets the physical side, s/he is ready for brain food - concepts and facts about animals. Direct exposure, like the children's encounter with Brie, then has more chance of success. And the result of all this is, hopefully, a caring attitude.
“Children who learn to respect animals at an early age grow into adults with compassion, respect and empathy for all their fellow creatures, human or animal,” SAVE's Web site says. Its humane education program helps that happen.

The pilot program for her humane education program was funded by a woman who saw people setting kittens on fire, Ms. Maski says, emphasizing that “Compassion must be cultivated. A lot of times it's a thing we're afraid of (that we mistreat).”

The culture a child grows up in is a big influence, she knows. “What kids see, they have to assume that's what's right.” In effect, the humane education program aims to extinguish patterns of cruelty to animals before they can catch on.

“We share the world” and “All kinds of animals” are among the thematic units in two series of 15-week sessions, fall and spring. Ms. Maski aims to instill such key concepts as “people have feelings; animals have feelings,” “all pets need care” and “we can be kind kids.”

As she appealingly puts it: “When they become friends with animals, they choose compassion and caring. This, in turn, carries over into their everyday relationships with friends and family.”
Ms Maski often brings animals (always healthy, vaccinated and friendly) with her to PET sessions. It may be “Molly,” a mixed breed dog she adopted, who has become the canine mascot for the program, or “Mr. Paws,” SAVE's feline mascot. Volunteers with the program sometimes bring their cats or dogs.

SAVE's humane education program, PET, is available for pre-school and primary-grade children, as well as children's groups sponsored by community organizations. For instance, partners have included the Greater Trenton YMCA and the Princeton YWCA pre-schools; after-school programs in Lawrence as well as Slackwood Elementary School, and Rock Brook School, Montgomery.
Lucky Brie, for sure. But then, lucky kids too, for their experience with Brie may have caused them to internalize how animals, starting with babies, need to have kind people in their lives, and how animals are more likely to be gentle and nice when they're treated that way too.

By Pat Summers, Princeton Packet, New Jersey

Horror in Maidstone

Judge Joyce Green recently passed a newspaper cutting to me which carried the story of a cat called ‘Missy’ who was shot with a shotgun - no fewer than 85 pellets were discovered when she was radiographed. Sadly, Missy died following surgery to amputate her mutilated leg. Time for more lobbying of MPs to ban these weapons?

That’s all for now folks! See you soon at a show, or back here on this page!