The Official Houston SPCA Humane Education Blog

Teaching us about our animal friends


Animal Behavior: How to Introduce Yourself to a New Cat or Dog

When meeting new people, you probably don’t walk right up and hold their hand or give them the biggest hug you can, right? That could be awkward or uncomfortable depending on the person you are meeting. The same rules apply when meeting new animals.

Learning the cues that animals give us before walking up and petting them is incredibly important and can determine the beginning of your relationship with that animal. Let’s check out some common animal behaviors that you can look for to help with your first interaction with a new dog or cat.

For both cats and dogs we will discuss vocalization and body language.

Why Do Cats Purr? (And Other Cat Sounds)

Cats vocalize in quite a few ways, all of which can give you a clue as to how they are feeling. Here are a few sounds that can help you determine if you can safely pet a new cat friend:

  • Purring is normally a sign that your cat is pretty happy. If your cat is purring, they probably wouldn’t mind some love and attention. For a new cat, you could introduce yourself calmly and start to pet them gently.
  • Chirrups are sounds that a mother cat would typically use towards her kittens. You may hear your cat use a ‘chirp’ to ask you for something or ask you to follow them somewhere. Sometimes it helps when meeting a new cat to practice making a small chirping sound so the cat can be more comfortable around you.
  • Hissing or growling (YES, cats can growl!)indicate a cat who is upset, angry or frightened. Stay away from this cat! They are definitely not safe to pet.

What is Your Cat’s Body Telling You?

A cat’s body language is incredibly indicative of how they are feeling at that moment in time. You have to keep a cat’s eyes, tail, ears and overall body posture in mind when determining if you can pet them or not.

The chart below (from artist Lili Chin -DoggieDrawings.net) is a great resource for visualizing what we are talking about:

NEW: Cat Language!A big thank you to the Training and Behavior Dept of Oregon Humane Society for their help with cat body language information. I have been a cat-less dog person for many many years, so some of this stuff was new to me! For example, I didn’t know that cats also emoted with their WHISKERS (relaxed = fanned out and horizontal; anxious = pulled backwards) Pupils, ear positions, body weight, and tails are the other indicators of how a cat is feeling. *As with dog body language, we look at the whole body and context *. And yes, cats feel and express DISGUST. I didn’t make this up. :)I will be selling 11″ x 17″ and 11″ x 14″ Cat Language prints at CatConLA this weekend, along with other cat-related stuff! I hope to see you there! Booth #333.If you cannot attend CatConLA, a print-resolution version of Cat Language will soon be available as a FREE DOWNLOAD from my website at www.doggiedrawings.net/freeposters   [Please feel free to share, download, print, distribute! As per the Creative Commons License terms on my website: please don’t crop, modify, or use these images commercially.]Donations are always welcome and appreciated. :)- Lili x

The best way to say “hi” to a cat you do not know is to turn your face or body sideways,  then hold out one finger, at right about the height of her head, so she can come up and give you a good sniff. You only want to do this if the cat looks relaxed and calm. You definitely don’t want to offer your finger towards a cat who is hissing at you.

Once the cat has sniffed you and possibly rubbed her head on your hand, you can go ahead and pet her gently behind the ears or on their back. You do not want to put your face near hers— she may like being pet, but you do not know if she will want to be that close to you.

To meet a cat who may be shy, remember to be calm and patient. Never try to force interaction with a cat. Oftentimes a cat will approach someone who is not paying attention to them at all because they feel less threatened. You can try to use toys or small cat treats as ice breakers for a shy cat. It may just take a bit of time for the cat to warm up to you.

Why Do Dogs Bark? What Are They Saying?

Dog vocalization is also diverse, just like cats, and can include barks, whines and growls.

A dog’s bark can actually mean quite a few things and learning to tell between the different types of barks can help make your first introduction to a new dog a bit smoother.

If the dog you want to pet has a high-pitched bark, that may indicate excitement and happiness. They may want to play with you or want you to give them a treat. Dogs also have a low-pitched bark that may be indicating or alerting you to something going on that you do not know about yet. They may or may not want to be pet if they are vocalizing with a low-pitched bark.

If the dog you want to pet is whining, they might be frustrated or want something they cannot get to. Whining may also sound very close to whimpering, which can indicate that the dog does not feel well. Definitely pay attention to the dog’s body language. He may be frustrated he is not being pet enough or might not be feeling up to being pet by a stranger.

And as you already know, dogs can growl. Growling is the way a dog tells people and other animals to back off and give him space.  Never pet a dog that is growling at you or any animals near you. And be sure not to punish a dog for growling- it’s actually a very important form of communication that dogs use, and punishing them for growling means they might not warn you before they bite in the future.

Reading Your Dog’s Body Language

When looking at a dog you want to pet, always be aware of their ears, tail, hairs on their back (hackles) and overall body posture. The chart below gives great examples of what a dog may be feeling based on their body language.

So how do we introduce ourselves to a new dog? First,  you do not want to stand directly over the dog. He probably doesn’t want to feel overwhelmed by having someone stand over him. Stand or sit next to the new dog and offer him your hand, palm down. Let the dog sniff your hand and if they look like they are comfortable, give them a gentle pet behind the ears or under their chin. Don’t go straight for the top of the head- this makes dogs very uncomfortable!

You always want to avoid the dog’s mouth on your first pet. That’s where the teeth are. If the dog you are meeting looks a little nervous, give him time. Some dogs do warm up to people really quickly, others may take some time and patience for them to give you a good sniff and feel comfortable with you.

This quick introduction guide is a great start for meeting new cats and dogs. If you are looking to adopt a new cat or dog into your family, this guide will help you when interacting with new animals at the Houston SPCA! Before taking an animal to your home to join your family, spend a good 10 to 15 minutes with them in our Meet and Greet rooms so you can see if the dog or cat’s personality matches that of your family.

To see all of our amazing adoptable animals, visit www.HoustonSPCA.org today!

Sources:
http://www.cathealth.com/how-and-why/greeting-a-cat
http://www.dogster.com/dog-training/dog-body-language
Humane Society of the United States
Advertisements


Extra! Extra! Read all about these fantastic fifth-graders!

Group

The fifth grade class at River Oaks Baptist School has made headlines in our hearts. At the beginning of the year, for the past several school years, the fifth grade class has been challenged to collect as much newspaper as they can to donate to the Houston SPCA. Their yearly service project yields stacks of paper to help keep the animals’ kennels comfortable and clean. This year these spectacular students collected SIXTY-SIX BOXES full of newspaper! These eight amazing representatives of the class had the opportunity to visit the shelter and even get a tour as a token of our gratitude.

Bus

And that’s not all! After learning about child labor laws of the early 1900s, all of the students in the class work with their parents to come up with house chores for which they’ll get paid, and then they donate their earned wages to the Houston SPCA. We applaud River Oaks Baptist School for teaching their students to be responsible and humane young citizens and we’re honored to be on the receiving end of their continued generosity.

Way to go, kids!

Boxes

donate button  adopt button  volunteer button  report abuse button


Looking for some Summer FUN? How about the Houston SPCA Critter Camp!

camp button

 

Never heard of Critter Camp? 

Critter Camp is the Houston SPCA’s day camp available during summer, winter and spring break. Each day from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, campers ages 8-15 can come to the Houston SPCA to learn all about animals, hear from the Houston SPCA’s amazing staff, play fun animal games, create arts and crafts, and, last but not least, spend time playing with our adoptable shelter pets!

Let’s jump in and see what a typical Critter Camp day looks like!

9:00 am – Campers arrive at the Houston SPCA and begin meeting new friends, playing fun games and learning about animals.

Foster ProgramFoster care coordinator shows campers a foster kitten

9:30 am – Our first guest speaker session! Our guest speakers are staff that work in a variety of departments at the Houston SPCA. Some of our amazing guest speakers include our animal behavior specialists, animal cruelty investigators, rescue ambulance team members, foster care coordinators, and veterinarians. Each guest talks about what they do for the Houston SPCA, the educational background needed to obtain their position, stories about their favorite animal experiences, and why they love to help animals every day.

10:00 am – Lesson about animals. We have a variety of themes for our camps that include lessons about many topics relating to animals. These topics include animal behavior, basic animal care, anatomy and physiology of pets, Texas wildlife, and much more. These lessons include fun games or activities to keep our campers interacting and engaged.

Easter Seals Petting HorseTommy the Llama 110:30 am – Barn Visit! Did you know that the Houston SPCA has its very own barn where we house many equines and farm animals? Our campers get to visit the barn and meet some of our horses, pigs, goats and any other animals that might be residing there at the time. Many of these animals have been rescued from cruel situations and campers learn about the rehabilitation process the animals will go through before they can be adopted into a new family.

SPCA TShirt Toy

11:00 am – DIY craft time. At Critter Camp we love to teach our campers how to create items that can help animals. Every day we create items that can be donated to our animals (or taken home for their family pet) or that teaches them more about animals. Some of my favorites include T-Shirt Tug Toys for dogs, birdseed feeders for our native wildlife and decorated savings banks for campers to save money to donate to their favorite charity.

11:30 am – Lunch time. During lunch we put on fun animal-related movies for our campers to watch. This gives everyone a chance to relax as the day goes by so fast!

Camper getting kissesCritter Camp Chronicle Pic

12:00 pm – SHELTER VISIT!!  This is our campers favorite part of the day. Everyone in camp goes over to the Houston SPCA animal shelter and gets to play with our large dogs, small dogs and cats. Our animal interactions are in a group setting so that each animal we play with gets lots of campers to love on.

Metro K-9 visit 1

METRO Houston Police Canine Program visits Critter Camp

1:30 pm – Second guest speaker session. We have another guest speaker join us in the afternoon. They will either be another Houston SPCA staff member or a very special visitor! We work with local service animal organizations who love visiting our camps to show our campers how amazing animals can be.

Oil Spill Art

Campers create ‘oil paint art’ while learning about oil spill clean-up 

2:15 pm – More DIY crafts or game time. Our campers can decide if they would like to learn how to create new DIY crafts or if they would like to play games, play with puzzles, visit our arts stations they can do so.

2:45 pm – Snack time and parent pick-up. Campers are given a bottle of water and a healthy snack in the afternoon. Campers can choose if they would like to watch an animal video or play games / do craft activities while waiting for their parents to come.

3:00 pm – End of our busy Critter Camp day!

Sign up today for our Summer Critter Camp!

Register here: http://www.houstonspca.org/site/PageNavigator/humane_education_critter_camp

Looking for our Summer Critter Camp schedule? Look no further: http://www.houstonspca.org/site/DocServer/2015_Camp_Flyer__schedule_and_registration_info_.pdf?docID=3961 

Have questions about Critter Camp? Check out our FAQ’s: http://www.houstonspca.org/site/DocServer/Critter_Camp_Frequently_Asked_Questions_Updated.pdf?docID=3701 

Summer Critter Camp registration begins March 25, 2015!

 


Brushing up on Your Pet’s Dental Health

donate button  adopt button  volunteer button  report abuse button

February is pet dental health awareness month. To celebrate we have some of our very own smiling pups here to tell you all about keeping your pet’s teeth healthy!

dogsmile3

You know your dentist’s orders: Brush and floss twice a day to keep your human teeth nice and healthy. But what about your pet’s teeth?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age three! Dental care is not always a priority at a vet’s office, but as a pet owner you can make it one. Having your pet’s teeth cleaned properly by a veterinarian can help prevent infections and prolong your pet’s life.

dogsmile2

Let’s discuss ways to keep your pet’s teeth nice and healthy:

1. Take your pet to get a dental exam at your veterinarian’s office at least once a year.

2. Start a dental-care regimen at home – ask your vet for appropriate methods to help keep your pet’s teeth clean on a daily basis.

3. Schedule a yearly dental cleaning with your veterinarian. You have to go to the dentist once a year for a full dental cleaning – your pet should too!

dogsmile

Common signs of dental disease (if your pet exhibits any of these, please take them to your veterinarian):

  • Consistently stinky breath
  • Loose or discolored teeth or teeth covered in tartar
  • Your pet is not comfortable with you touching their mouth
  • Abnormal drooling or dropping food from the mouth
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Loss of appetite or loss of weight

dogsmile4

To find out more about pet dental health, visit these sites:

https://www.avma.org/Events/pethealth/Pages/February-is-National-Pet-Dental-Health-Month.aspx

https://community.petco.com/t5/animal-care/How-to-Brush-Your-Dog-s-Teeth/ba-p/54644

http://www.vetstreet.com/care/dental-health

For more information about the Houston SPCA, visit our website: www.HoustonSPCA.org


Animal Welfare Today: Why do some people hoard animals?

The Houston SPCA was recently called in to assist with the rescue of more than 70 animals from an apparent hoarding situation in an elderly couple’s South Houston home. When the pictures of animals in poor health flash across television screens and social media the natural human response is to ask why? One answer is “Hoarding Disorder.”

10984053_10153029061736328_3007446287574084832_n

According to the Mayo Clinic, “hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items.” It is easy to look at the filthy conditions that these people find themselves in and accuse them of horrible things. But it is important to remember that hoarding is caused by a very real and very tragic mental illness and that those who suffer from it believe that what they are doing is right and good.

The Houston SPCA takes its job very seriously. Our mission is to promote commitment to and respect for all animals and free them from suffering, abuse and exploitation. But we would be remiss if we ignored the people who are suffering alongside the animals. Those with hoarding disorder need as much help as their pets. They are living in the same squalid conditions, usually suffering from severe physical ailments. That is why we frequently work closely with Adult Protective Services to ensure that when we remove animals, the owners of these pets receive the care that they so desperately need.

Most of these people never intend to hoard animals. They often start with just one or two that they’ve rescued or taken in. Sometimes neighbors and friends will find animals and bring them to the house. Sometimes they’ll open their home to strays. Due to the mental state of a person with hoarding disorder, they will rarely turn down or give up animals. They frequently go without food and medication for themselves in an attempt to care for their pets. But usually a lack of resources prevents them from providing proper veterinary care, including spaying and neutering. As numbers multiply they try their best to keep up, but a combination of being overwhelmed and physically unable to attend to all their animals leads to the miserable conditions we so often see.

One of the benefits of social media is that it spreads information quickly to a huge audience. But the audience can often react without fully understanding the situation, leading to quick and sometimes brutal judgment. When we share our stories of animal cruelty and neglect, it is not to invite public ridicule and scorn, but rather to educate and prevent it from happening again. We hope that by sharing pictures from  hoarding rescues, we can educate people to see the early signs of hoarding disorder and intervene on behalf of both humans and animals.

These people will rarely, if ever, ask for help because they are ashamed of what they’ve become and they’re afraid of what might happen to their pets if they stop caring for them. While they may not ask for help, you can. If you suspect a hoarding situation, report it. The Houston SPCA and its partners in law enforcement and social services stand ready to help.

Donate. Foster. Adopt. Report Abuse.  www.HoustonSPCA.org

10991691_10153031565561328_8002184859738110310_o

Further reading:

Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hoarding-disorder/basics/definition/con-20031337

Tufts University: http://www.tufts.edu/vet/hoarding/abthoard.htm#A3

 


Valentine’s Day Throwback: Houston SPCA tips for a pet safe Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day is almost here and the Houston SPCA has the best tips on how to keep your pets safe during this loving holiday!

Head over to our Valentine’s Day pet tips by clicking here: https://houstonspca.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/houston-spca-tips-for-a-pet-safe-valentines-day/

If you want to add a little bit of extra love to your Valentine’s Day, take a trip to the Houston SPCA to find a new furry friend for your family.

You can see all of our adoptable animals by clicking this link: http://www.houstonspca.org/site/PageNavigator/adopt_main


Helping Your Fat Cat Slim Down

Everyone loves a fat cat  – they are big, fluffy furballs that steal our hearts. They have even become famous with celebrities such as Garfield and Pusheen.

However, if your cat is overweight, he or she may be at risk for health problems. According to PetMD.com, overweight and obese cats actually outnumber cats that are normal weight. Overweight cats are also being seen more often by veterinarians and are more likely to have cat diabetes, arthritis and liver disease. Click the Hill’s Science Diet Tips & Tools chart below to see if your pet may be overweight.

Hill's Science Diet Tools

Why are we seeing more and more fat cats?

The answer is simple – any animal will gain weight if it consumes more calories than it burns. Many cats have become comfortable with their owners ‘free choice’ feeding (keeping a food bowl full all day) or giving them lots of delicious treats. While this may keep our cats happy and very full, it can be harmful to their health.

As pet owners, we are the solution to the fat cat problem.

Weight loss plans for your cat should be taken seriously and approached carefully. Any and all changes in diet for your pet should be prescribed by your pet’s veterinarian. You want to make sure that your vet finds your cat’s exact weight,  gives a full physical examination, and does blood and urine sample testing. You do not want to start any sort of new food or feeding regimen without your vet’s approval!

19

Once your vet has given his or her recommendation for a diet and exercise plan – stick to it!

If your vet has asked that you increase the amount of exercise your cat is getting, the best way to do that is to play with them! You can also add some interactive play toys to your cats environment or even adopt a new friend to play with from your local animal shelter. Getting your cat moving is a great step forward in helping them lose weight.

Your vet may ask you to switch your cat’s food to one with a lower fat content and higher lean protein content. All pet foods have nutrition labels, just like human foods, and you should be paying attention to what is written in the ingredients as well as content percentages.

When we have overweight cats arrive at the Houston SPCA, we feed them Hill’s Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight to help them shed a few pounds before going home to a new family. We always make sure to feed them the correct amount of food, according to our veterinarians, twice a day to spread out their meals and keep them happy and full all day long. Many of our cats at the shelter love playing with toys and with people which helps them get a bit of exercise as well.

We hope that if you have a fat cat at home that you will help them become slim and trim, with help from your vet, so they can live a long and healthy life!

We would also like to thank Hill’s Science Diet for their amazing contributions to the Houston SPCA which helps keep our animals healthy and happy!

To donate to the Houston SPCA, follow this link: http://hspca.convio.net/site/PageNavigator/donate_main