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Cat Collars Save Lives

In the near future, the City of New Port Richey will discuss a new animal control ordinance designed to prevent animal homelessness and improve welfare for stray dogs and cats within the City. The ordinance will encourage sterilizing pets as well as identifying pets by using collars, license tags, and registered microchips. I hope the citizens of New Port Richey will embrace this important step in improving the lives of dogs and cats in our community. The mention of licensing, tagging, and microchipping pet cats will likely cause anxiety for cat owners, especially since there has never been an official concern for the welfare of cats in Pasco County

Such ordinances are nothing new for dog owners. Control efforts for canines have effectively reduced the number of dogs surrendered to local shelters and significantly reduced euthanasia rates for local dogs. The same good news does not apply to cats, however.

Historically, our animal control efforts have ignored cats in an effort to save taxpayer’s money. But the principle of “unintended consequences” applies. By doing nothing about cats, the most common animal surrendered now surrendered to our local animal shelters is feline. More than 7000 cats are handed over by citizens to the local animal shelter each year. Less than 10% of those cats leave the shelter alive. That is unacceptable.

The new ordinance will not result in animal control officers searching your neighborhood for loose cats. Nobody has the time or inclination to do that. But the new ordinance will ask cat owners to buy a license for your rabies-vaccinated cat to wear attached to its collar. If you also have your cat microchipped and sterilized, then the cost of the license will be reduced. Funds from the sale of cat licenses will support a fund for subsidizing spay/neuter costs for pet-owning residents of New Port Richey. The funds will also subsidize Trap/neuter/Return efforts to reduce the numbers of free-roaming and unowned cats in the City.

Some will worry that collars aren’t safe for cats, or that cats will refuse to wear such collars. Others will refuse to buy licenses because they keep their pet cats indoors. These are common misconceptions that lead to more suffering by cats. Cats do find ways to get outdoors and become lost. My own cat snuck out one evening and went missing for three months before her microchip helped her find her way back to me. And research shows that cats can safely wear collars. Of course, the collars must fit well, be the type that will break away if caught on an object, and the cat must be allowed to become familiar with the new life-saving tool around its neck. The good news for bird lovers is that research also shows that adding a tiny bell to a cat’s collar significantly reduces the number of birds and other wildlife taken as prey by outdoor pet cats.

Indeed, responsible cat owners will want their cats to wear life-saving collars. Hopefully, it will become the new fashion craze for cat lovers in New Port Richey. And hopefully, all the cats will enjoy the tinkling of tiny bells at holiday time.

Happy Holidays!

If you want more information about how cat collars and identification can save lives, here are some resources for you:

Arm and Hammer Free Cat ID Tag ( just buy two boxes of cat litter with baking soda)

Dr.Lord’s StudyAbout the Safety of Cat Collars

Good Background on Types of Collars for Cats from FAB Cats

Research from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on How Cat Collars Reduced Predation

Thunder and Noise Phobias

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Thunder and Noise Phobias

It’s finally the return of the rainy season here in Florida.  I love that time of year when you can set your clock by the afternoon thunderstorms.  This is the “lightning capital” of the U.S., though.  So, every storm brings another anxiety-ridden few hours for some pets.  They cower, tremble, hide, and generally feel miserable while their pet owners fret over what to do.  And if the cracking of regular thunder boomers isn’t enough to terrify pets, think about what happens around New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July–because the sales of fireworks are not restricted here in Florida.  For weeks around those holidays some neighborhoods sound and smell  like war zones.  Pity the poor noise phobic pets and their owners!  These are times when some pets try to escape, and later find themselves checked in to the closest animal shelter, lost and frightened.

What can a pet owner do to help a pet through such noisy events?

  • If your pet is still young, try to prevent noise phobias from beginning.  During the critical first 4 to 6  months, make sure to calmly expose your young pet to loud noises so they won’t be frightened later as an adult.
  •  Be calm yourself, offer immediate food treats and praise for relaxing while loud noises occur.
  • Train your pet that a crate or a kennel is a safe and comforting place to be anytime–and reward them for going to their assigned dens during loud noises.  Reward them in their dens with special treats and toys.
  • “Jolly” pets through loud events, as you might a young child by playing or distracting them during a stressful time.  If your pet experiences a loud event calmly and associates it with comfort, then future noisy events should  be less of a problem.
  • Microchip your pet.  Update the microchip registration every year.  Also be sure your pet is wearing an ID tag and proper license tag.  Proper identification will help get your pet back to you should they make an escape attempt during a stressful event.
  • If your pet already shows symptoms of noise phobia, employ a good dog trainer to set up a desensitization/counterconditioning program  for  you and your pet.  Such programs might take several weeks or months of practice before achieving good results.
  • Try a “storm jacket” or “thunder coat” to swaddle your pet during noisy times.  “Dog muffs” are also available to help dampen noise for pets.
  • Ask your veterinarian to prescribe a sedative or tranquilizer to give your pet during very stressful times, such as Independence Day.  Certain sedatives help pets relax and focus enough to receive training.  Others sedate so heavily the pet becomes sleepy and cannot focus on training.  Work with your veterinarian to pick the correct medication for your situation.  Your veterinarian will need to do a complete physical exam of your pet before prescribing any medications.

Welcome to summer in Florida!

For more information, visit these websites:

Dr. Spencer practices at Bayonet Point Animal Clinic