4 posts

Kitty City Is the Meowtropolis of Any Cat’s Dreams

Cats, cats everywhere!

On May 2013, Long Island City, New York’s Flux Factory held several workshops consisting of urban planners, artists and children between five and 12 years old. During the workshops, the members determined what inhabitants would like in a city, designed the city and created the infrastructure.

The result was Kitty City, a 1,700 square foot city for cats, which opened on June 1st. Its inhabitants were 30 adoptable cats from For Animals, a local no-kill shelter.
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Surrendering a Pet: Do It Right

Sometimes, after swearing you will spend the rest of your life with a dog or cat, a situation may arise where you can no longer keep them. In that case, you often face some difficult choices about what to do with your pet. Sit down. Let’s talk about the process.

Think about why you’re giving up your pet.

Obvious, right? Not in my experience. There are truly some times when you cannot keep an animal. If you are going through a breakup and the only place that didn’t laugh after they ran your terrible credit doesn’t allow pets, well, you can live in a Cavalier down by the river or you can do what you have to do. However, there are situations in which you need to pause a second.

Does the guy you’ve been dating for three weeks “hate” cats? Well, the cat is probably going to be around a lot longer than that guy, with your track record being what it is. Is your dog/cat/rabbit/Gila monster/emu doing something you find really

annoying? Harness the power of the Internet and see if there’s a way to fix it before you give it away, including spending time and money training it. Your parents toughed it out with you, didn’t they?

Don't give this guy up. Someday he could be a champion show hedgehog.

One very important thing to consider: is someone else going to be willing to adopt your pet? If you are giving the dog up because it has severe medical or behavioral problems, it may not be adoptable. If you don’t want to spend five thousand dollars on surgery or get bitten every day, who exactly is going to want to? Yes, there are some of us out there that are willing to take on “special needs” dogs, but not enough. And we all have too many misfit toys anyway and will likely get divorced if we bring any more home.

If you’re confident that you’re making the right decision, then continue on.

Re-homing a dog yourself: Proceed with caution.

Many people feel that they can do the best job of finding their pet a new home. I will tell you this is only the case if you also work at a shelter. Seriously. I’m not under the impression that I could do a better job of designing a website than someone who gets paid to do it. But if you do…

The first thing many people do is post an ad on Craigslist. Fine, but the person that wants your German Shepherd is also a pervert who’s trolling adult services. Never, ever, give your dog away for free. If you want to know what happens to free dogs…listen, you don’t actually want to know. Even in the event that the “adopter” is good-intentioned, if they’re unable to pay a small re-homing fee they may not be prepared for the cost of owning a dog.

If an interested party seems sane, ask questions of them. Do they have pets now? What’s their vet’s name? Can you see their house? Do they wear a lot of Ed Hardy? What’s their favorite old movie? You get the picture. If they’re reticent to give you their information or let you come to their house, they are hiding something. Be honest with them, too. If your dog is destructive or your cat hates kids, it’s your responsibility to find a home that can accommodate these issues.

You can often post ads on purebred rescue or adoption websites, but keep in mind that it can take months to get a response, and interviewing prospective adopters is a job in and of itself. Let’s assume you decide to go another route.

Bringing your dog to a shelter: Do your research and plan ahead.

There are as many different types of shelters as there are breeds of dogs. So if you’re unable to keep your pet, try to find a facility that will give him or her the best chance at finding another great home. Many rescues and shelters have limited space and there may be a waiting list. If you wait to call shelters until the day you leave the country to avoid that “bogus” felony indictment, you may not be able to choose where your pet ends up.

If you have time, visit and ask questions about their policies. Do they euthanize? Under what conditions? Does the facility seem unclean and the staff uncaring or do you see the dogs and cats frolicking with volunteers? Dogs and cats need enrichment when in a shelter environment. Try to find a facility that gives the animals toys and attention, allows adequate space, and doesn’t put animals that aren’t related in the same cages.

Find a shelter that has enough space for animals they take in.

Many shelters will keep an animal up for adoption until they find a home, as long as they remain adoptable. So don’t trick yourself into saying that your rabid Chihuahua, referred to as “Jack the Ripper” by everyone in your building, will stay up for adoption if he bites someone, or if he really does have rabies, for that matter. Even “no-kill” shelters will often not put a very sick or aggressive animal up for adoption.

Get everything together.

As the time approaches, make sure that, logistically, you are prepared to bring your animal to the shelter or to its new home. If you are not giving your animal up due to financial reasons, please get your pet up-to-date with all vaccinations and spay or neuter them if they’re intact. This can ensure that they remain healthy in the shelter and they may go up for adoption quicker. In addition, the shelter may ask for a fee at the time of surrender. Again, unless you are financially unable to do this, pay it. They are shouldering the cost of its care indefinitely, and your pet is not a donation.

Write down his or her daily habits, the name of the vet, personality quirks, fears, favorite toys- anything that comes to mind. Many shelters keep this information in the animal’s file and can tell the new owners what Captain Crunch loves to play with.

Also, anything Crunch has, be it litter, toys or scratching posts, can be brought to the shelter. Many will tag the items so they can go with him to the new home. Even if the shelter’s unable to do that, donations are appreciated.

The hard part: Saying goodbye and letting go.

There is no witty or light way to put this: the day you walk away from your pet will be brutal. Get it done early in the day. When you get to the shelter, there will again be some paperwork and they may want to get a brief history on your pet. Just get through it. Again, be honest. Many shelters do a temperament evaluation on animals, so they’ll find out if your dog goes insane when you try to take a bone from it.

A lot of shelter volunteers and staff may seem unsympathetic- unfortunately, this is the byproduct of seeing thousands of animals a year relinquished. If you are giving up your Cockapoo because your four-year-old “promised” she’d housebreak it and take it for walks but didn’t follow through, you deserve every bit of their contempt. Sorry.

Hopefully, though, you aren’t giving up your pet for a reason like that, and you work with someone who is kind and understanding. Know that in most shelters, including those that bill themselves as “no-kill,” an intake counselor cannot guarantee your pet will go up for adoption or tell you when.

Please remember, most shelters and rescues are unable to tell you anything about your pet, including whether he or she has been adopted, or give it back to you, once you relinquish ownership. This is often legally binding. If you have any reservations about leaving your pet at this point, don’t do it. In the end, trust that they will do everything they can to find it a forever home, and it may be more painful to know whether your pet is still at the shelter four months from now than not to know at all.

Go home and do something to take your mind off it.

Have a margarita, or a massage, or both. I can’t tell you it will ever stop hurting, but you’ll know that you did the best you could for them. It’s a difficult choice, but if you do it the right way, and you’re realistic about what will happen, someday, you’ll sleep easier knowing the pet you loved has someone else that loves them too.


To find a shelter or rescue in your area, click here.


Behave Yourself In an Animal Shelter

This is (hopefully) the first in a series of articles about animal welfare and animal care. More and more people, and it seems, a lot of Crasstalkers, are opting to rescue dogs or cats. This is fantastic. However, in every shelter I’ve worked in, I have seen some of the most ridiculous behavior ever…and not by the animals. Wanna adopt? Great. Here’s how to make sure you actually save a life instead of making a shelter worker’s miserable.

1) Come in with an open mind

Maybe you’re looking for a specific age/breed/color. A lot of shelters have online request forms you can fill out and be notified when an Afghan hound puppy is available for adoption (hint: you will be waiting a while in that case). Maybe you don’t know what you want, but then see a dog that is just adorable. Either way, keep in mind that the way an animal looks or behaves in its run or cage is in no way indicative of its behavior outside of it. Staff members often know these dogs and cats very well. They’ll try to help you find a good fit.

That said, be realistic about your lifestyle. If you want a dog that will sit on the couch while you comment on open threads all day and a volunteer tells you that young Meth Lab needs 2 hours of aerobic-level exercise a day, take them at their word. Otherwise you’re going to need a lot of Xanax. For you and the dog.

2) Do not complain about the adoption fees or the adoption process

Almost every shelter is either city-run or non-profit. No matter which type it is, the animals aren’t eating filet mignon and playing with solid gold Kongs. In one shelter I worked at, the adoption fees literally did not cover the cost of caring for the animal during its stay. If there isn’t a vet clinic on site, you may be asked to pay for the spay or neuter, typically at a reduced price.

I say this in the nicest way possible: Shut your mouth. You’d pay thousands of dollars at a pet store for a mentally and physically unsound dog. You’re paying two hundred dollars for a dog that’s likely been vetted and temperament tested. Plus, you’re giving a homeless dog a new start. That’s worth it.

And the adoption process? There’s probably a form to fill out. Less complex than a 1040EZ, but more complex than grabbing a kitten and leaving. There are a lot of reasons for this. Firstly, just like at your job, records are kept. Secondly, we want to make sure you’re not starting a dog-fighting ring. There may be an interview, or a home visit, or a vet check. Again, this may be annoying if little Jazzlyn wanted a kitten for Christmas and it’s Christmas Eve, but Jazzy will have that cat until she drops out of Bennington after that debacle with her professor. She can wait two days.

If you don’t have thirty cats, keep your pets’ vaccinations up-to-date, and have good intentions, you’ll be able to adopt. The procedures probably aren’t in place because of you, but we don’t know you. So humor us and be patient.

3) Ask questions, and don’t tolerate rudeness

Lots of shelter workers and volunteers are overworked, and the phrase “I hate people” is only heard more often in the back of a restaurant. They see things…terrible, terrible things. So they can sometimes be abrupt or rude. That is not a reason, however, to allow yourself to be bullied, condescended to, or rushed through an adoption process. A medium-sized dog’s life span is, on average, 10-12 years. A cat, 14-16 years. That’s a hell of a commitment. So if you have questions about temperament, habits, health, or anything else, don’t hesitate to ask.

Tell the staff what your deal-breakers are (scratching? Biting? Barking? Jumping the fence?). They may not always know an animal’s background, but then you can take into account just how many unknowns you’re comfortable with. Any issue that concerns you is an issue you should address before you find out the dog they said was “kinda housebroken” is actually not. The staff says the dog you’re looking at is destructive? Ask NOW what that means. If it means the dog is going to claw a 3′ x 2′ hole in your bathroom wall, decide how much spackle you’re willing to purchase.

If the person you’re working with is nasty, ask to talk to someone else. And if everyone is unhelpful, go to another shelter. If they don’t take the time to help you find the right match, another shelter will.

4) But do understand the staff does know quite a bit

“I’ve had dogs all my life.” “My cat didn’t have a urinary tract infection so of course I didn’t take it to the vet; it wasn’t using the litterbox because it was angry with me.” “Rubbing the dog’s face in its poop is the only way they’ll get housebroken.” Okay…no. Along with keeping an open mind about which animal you adopt, keep an open mind regarding any advice the staff has.

Some shelters are volunteer-only; volunteers may still be a valuable resource for information regarding animal behavior and medical care. If you like a dog that isn’t housebroken, but you have no idea how to house-train, they can tell you how to do it, and reputable shelters will still help you with questions and concerns even after the adoption.

Paid employees are trained to do this for a living, and while they make less than McDonald’s employees, they do know a whole lot more. If they suggest that adopting a three-month-old puppy is not a good idea because you are working eighty-hour weeks, listen. If you come in espousing corporal punishment for your dog (or cat-I have heard that one too), and you are completely adamant that there is absolutely no other way to teach an animal, you are not going home with one. Guaranteed.

5) Be honest

This last one is more of a moral issue, but lying results in the worst kind of experience for both staffers and potential adopters. If your dog hasn’t gotten a rabies vaccination in five years, tell us. We’ll find out when we call your vet. If you’re honest, and get them up-to-date, you’ll probably be able to adopt. If you have four cats but say you have two because you think you won’t be able to adopt another one, and then we find out you lied, you’re not getting that cat. If you’d been honest and your town allows five cats, you would have been able to adopt.

If your last five pets got hit by cars, or you gave them away, say so. I’m not going to lie (see? I’m so MORAL!): you probably won’t be able to adopt, but you also need to step back a bit and think about whether making a lifelong commitment to the health and welfare of a pet is something you’re able to do right now.

If you get caught in a big lie, and it’s been made clear that you won’t be able to adopt a pet, graciously see yourself out. Fervent begging will not help. Yelling obscenities or threatening anyone will result in the police showing up. For God’s sake, please don’t just head to the shelter down the street. Lots of shelters share their “Do Not Adopt” list with each other, so we’re on to you. Instead, go get a fish, and work your way up from there. When you are ready to accept the responsibility of pet ownership, be honest and explain how things are different. We really do want these guys to get adopted- even the nicest shelter isn’t a home.

Oh, and don’t come in drunk or high. We’ll mess with you and make fun of you the whole time.

Get to adopting!


A Fallout Shelter of my Very Own

“I saw the new house,” my wife told me. She was looking for houses near her work in Downey, CA and this one, in South Gate, CA, was only five minutes away by car as opposed to the hour plus she was having to commute to and from North Hollywood every day. It had everything we were looking for- three bedrooms, central heating and A/C, a gated backyard with lots of room for the dog to run around. After describing it, she added, “and it has a fallout shelter.”

Yes, the house came with a fallout shelter in the back yard. It was built in the 1960s when people were building them all over the country. Most of them had been removed or filled in decades ago, but this one was still there. I hadn’t seen the house or the shelter due to how far away it was. I was taking care of my daughter an hours’ drive away and my wife checked it out on her lunch break.

Sure, I wasn’t looking for a house with a fallout shelter. Even if I wanted one, we live approximately here-

If there ever is a nuclear war, where my house is now will be replaced by a very, very large smoking crater in the ground, rapidly filling with water. I have no idea why someone thought it would be a good idea to build a fallout shelter in the middle of one of the largest cities in North America, but there it was. I was excited to see it… and why not? What a conversation piece!

I was expecting something like this:

It would be perfect! A little place to get away from stuff. I could set it up as a little lounge, put a new mattress on the bunks, hang out in the hot summer and read a book or have a few drinks and relax. As a friend of mine said to me, “you can turn it into a mancave.”

Well, he was right about the cave part anyway. It’s totally useless as any sort of room. Water seeps in from the ground, so the walls are moldy and musty. There’s no electricity. The only access is by a rickety ladder which isn’t even bolted down. So, it’s a bit of a dismal and useless shelter, but it’s still a conversation piece. Here are some photos:

Here is the hatch to get into the shelter. Note that it is made of wood, a substance guaranteed to keep out all that nasty radiation and ash. At some point, someone tried to paint the wood and failed. As you can see, it’s also rotting. Next to it is a lime from our backyard lime tree- unfortunate because I don’t like limes, but we didn’t get the house for the tree. When you open the hatch, you see…

Yep, scary ladder down the scary hole. Not exactly a place I would want to head down quickly with my wife and daughter when the bombs start falling, but hey, it’s an emergency, right? We don’t need a comfortable way in as long as it’s… oh.

My amazing fallout shelter was a moldy, filthy concrete box about the size of a delivery van. Even though that wooden hatch is there to protect me from the toxic air and the cannibal mutants, I think I might take my chances on the surface. Let’s turn around and climb out…

There’s that horrible ladder. It’s a little slick and also rotting, but I somehow managed to haul my fat ass out of there without being bitten by any of the nasty things that probably live in there now. Note that it is also nearly pitch black in there with the only light coming from the hatch. I used the camera’s flash to compensate.

So… that’s my very own fallout shelter. We have no use for it, we can’t put anything in it that we don’t want covered in mold, we certainly don’t want to hang out in it and it is way in the back of the yard behind the garage, so even if we could put stuff there, it wouldn’t be especially convenient to access it.

I love my house, but the fallout shelter is really only good for telling people I have a fallout shelter. Any suggestions you have for a mold-covered electricity-free concrete bunker under my backyard, feel free to make them in the comments.