Yes, I mean THE Howard Stern, shock jock, “America’s Got Talent” judge and the “King of All Media.” Are you surprised at this comparison – me, a NYC veterinarian and Howard, a media mogul? Don’t be, because the love of pets can be a great equalizer.
Take for example, dinnertime:
In addition, both Howard and I live and work in New York City and can be heard on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Of course, Howard has his own show, and I am a regular guest on “Doctor Radio” from NYU Langone Medical Center, with my friends Dr. Frank Adams and Samantha Heller. But the biggest similarity between us is our passion for foster kittens.
Families, like Howard’s and mine, who are willing to temporarily shelter young kittens provide a critical component of the adoption process. The Stern family works with the foster care team at North Shore Animal League and my fosters are part of the ASPCA program. If left in animal shelters, these young kittens are prone to contracting severe upper respiratory infections, which delay their adoption into forever homes. Moreover, kittens raised in homes develop better social skills and manners than those living in cages.
If you would like to learn more about my fun with foster kittens, read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Kittens” or “Kitten Questions.” For insight into Howard’s foster care experience, read one of his recent blog entries about Tarzan, the cat.
There are always lots of young kittens in need of a “temporary” home before they find their way to their forever home. Join Howard and me in this important work by contacting your local shelter to become foster parents to some needy kittens.
And don’t forget, if you are already a foster mom or dad to a pet who may be experiencing health problems which could hinder adoption of the pet, check out AMC TO THE RESCUE. The AMC has established a fund for 501(c)(3) registered animal rescue organizations to aid in the cost of specialty care. It is The AMC’s way of helping pets find a forever home.
This blog is written in honor of our furry feline friends. Remember, June is Adopt-a-Cat Month, so visit your local animal shelter to add a feline to your family.
I frequently get telephone calls from expectant mothers who are worried about the impact of how interacting with their cat might impact the health of their unborn baby. Foremost in most people’s mind is toxoplasmosis, but if you are “in the family way” there are other issues regarding your cat and the expected arrival that you might want to consider.
What is toxoplasmosis and how is it contracted?
Pregnant women and their obstetricians worry about toxoplasmosis, which is an infection caused by a parasite carried by many warm blooded animals, especially cats. If you become infected with Toxoplasma gondii while you are pregnant, the organism can cross the placenta and make your baby sick. Because this organism is widespread in nature, pregnant women can be exposed to Toxoplasma through mechanisms other than their pet cat. Consumption of undercooked meat or unwashed vegetables, exposure to cat feces while gardening and contaminated cutting boards are all potential sources of Toxoplasma organisms. Wash all vegetables before you eat them and scrub your cutting boards with hot soapy water or sanitize them in the dishwasher.
Litter box dangers
If you are a cat owner, you’ll need to avoid contact with your cat’s litter box. Cat feces become infectious with Toxoplasma organisms about 24 hours after defecation. Daily removal of solid waste from your cat’s litter box is critical to protect your baby, but should be done by someone else in the household. Litter boxes should be thoroughly cleaned with scalding hot water on a weekly basis to destroy Toxoplasma organisms. Protecting your family against toxoplasmosis is just one more reason to keep your cat indoors since cats contract toxoplasmosis when they consume rodents and other small mammals.
Avoiding a fall
Although you may be radiant due to your “delicate condition,” you may also be a bit clumsy and prone to falling. In one study, over a quarter of women reported falling during pregnancy. Take extra care at feeding time or other times when your cat is likely to be under foot and might cause you to fall and hurt yourself or your baby.
Scratches and bites
In your efforts to have everything perfect for the arrival of your baby, you may think about giving your cat a comb out and pedicure. My recommendation is to have the grooming done by a professional before baby arrives to help keep scratches to a minimum and to save you from a bite or scratch which might be more serious than normal.
A new baby and a new cat?
Although June is Adopt-a-Cat Month, I recommend you exercise caution when adding a new cat to your family when you are pregnant. Adopting a cat with an unknown health history or a cat who recently lived outdoors could be risky. Kittens from shelters would be more likely to pose a risk to your unborn baby than a kitten born and raised by a loving family in their home.
With reasonable precautions, you can have it all – your favorite furry feline and a healthy, happy baby.
After last week’s blog on my litter of foster kittens, I received a surprising number of questions about raising a litter of kittens. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since most families are not lucky enough to have the fun of raising a litter of kittens from day one. I thought readers of Fur the Love of Pets might find the answers interesting.
Q: How long did the delivery take for seven kittens?
A: I had planned to carefully record the color and sex of each kitten as it was born, but they came so fast and Lucy seemed to tire after the third kitten, so I took over rubbing down each new kitten with a clean towel to get it to begin breathing. Once it was breathing well on its own and moving vigorously, I gave each one back to Lucy and collected the next newborn. The details of the delivery are a blur. I can remember the first kitten was dark-colored and stillborn, the second orange and the third dark, but with the litter consisting of two female dark ones and four male orange ones, I have no idea which one came first. I noticed the first kitten arrived at 7 am and the last kitten was born at about 8:45 am, making each delivery a brief 15 minutes.
A: I must confess that as the labor and delivery staff of one, I did not weigh the kittens until they were about 48 hours old. At that time, they ranged from 136-160 grams. But a picture is worth a thousand words and they were about the size of a sick of butter.
Q: Can the kittens meow?
A: These kittens are incredibly noisy. First, they have no manners and slurp when they eat. The slurping is audible across the room. If they wander too far from the rest of the litter, the wanderer mews and whines until Lucy thrill, the kittn gets is bearing and heads back to the group. They also have a distress call –piercing, sharp and the volume of a lion’s roar. They don’t make this noise often, but if they do, their mother comes immediately and moves the distressed kitten back to the nest box, picking it up by the nape of the neck. Separating a kitten from the litter to photograph it near a stick of butter will provoke this cry!
Q: How strong are the kittens?
A: Much stronger than you think and yet not so strong. One of them hooked a toenail in a towel I was using as a bumper to keep them from wandering too far outside their nest box. Poor little thing was not strong enough to unhook the toenail from the loops of thread in the towel, and mewed until I unhooked it. But, when I tried to restrain the kitten for a pedicure, it seemed like I was holding a 150 gram tiger and I was rewarded with the lion-sized distress cry once again.
My family is trying something new this spring: we are hosting a pregnant cat as part of a local foster cat program. Destiny, now known affectionately as Lucy, will be in residence until her kittens finish nursing, are eating well on their own, and weigh two pounds each. Before she came to our home, we attended a training class on how to care for cats and kittens.
Since Lucy was a foundling, no one knew when to expect the kittens. The situation was very different than in “What to Expect When You are Expecting Puppies,” where Tallulah’s litter was a planned pregnancy and we could calculate a delivery date quite accurately. Tallulah performed admirably, whelping (the dog word for the birth of puppies) on the middle day of the three days we anticipated delivery. Not so for Lucy. When I picked her up she seemed big as a house but wasn’t showing any nesting behavior. By the second weekend of her stay, I could tell the time was coming. She would go into one of the two cardboard boxes we strategically placed around her room, scratch and hang out in the box a few minutes. At the beginning of her third week with us, she started to produce milk.
Food motivated Lucy’s life, and no wonder, since she was eating for eight. She delivered six live kittens and one stillborn kitten, so she is now nursing a large litter. Before the kittens came, I noticed she would come into the kitchen while I was making dinner and yowl for food. I purchased a clicker at my neighborhood pet store and took advantage of her food motivation by clicker training her to come. I gave two clicks when she came into the kitchen and rewarded her with Greenies – her favorite treat. Pretty soon, she learned two clicks meant a Greenie and now she comes quite quickly when she hears the clicks. Now we are working on sitting on a mat for a Greenie.
Expecting No More
The kittens came three weeks to the day after Lucy arrived at our house. The morning started normally, with Lucy following me into the kitchen, but she refused even a Greenie, so I thought something was up. We had collected several cardboard boxes for use as potential queening (the cat word for birth of kittens) boxes. Being a New Yorker, Lucy chose to deliver the kittens in a Fresh Direct delivery box. [Fresh Direct is one of the most popular New York City online grocers]. The front of the box was covered with a fleece for privacy, but she removed every blanket, towel and pad I gave her for bedding and chose to deliver on the cardboard. I was glad I had collected other boxes before the kittens came. The Fresh Direct box was soiled and needed to be thrown out, so I was able to move the new family to another familiar, but clean box after all the kittens had come.
To see a video of the new family, click here.
The foster care program provides spaying and neutering for Lucy and her family when they are ready for adoption. I predict there will be seven very delighted cat-owning families sometime in the very near future.