If you're thinking about
adopting a pet

Posted 06.11.07

If you're a regular reader of this column, you'll know that my cat Simon Teakettle II died last fall. I adopted Simon Teakettle III at the end of October, and he'll be a year old on July 23.

Terzo (the Italian word for "third") began to answer to his name as soon as I brought him home. He learned quickly, although, like most kittens, persisted in a few bad habits that challenged my training methods.

If you think cats can't be trained, please go to my website and read my article, "Training Your Cat Like a Dog," which won a special award at an international conference, judged by a veterinarian who specializes in behavior.

My article relates how I trained Tiki (Simon II) so that he not only came when I called him, walked on a leash, and sat on command, but also understood "Stay" and performed many tricks usually taught only to dogs.

I began to train Terzo the same way. But cats have different personalities. Tiki was extremely intelligent, with some Siamese in his background. Easily bored, he soon figured out how a toy worked, and promptly lost interest.

It's a good thing I saved all those toys, because Terzo thinks they're wonderful!

Another difference I noticed immediately was that Terzo sleeps much more than Tiki ever did. Cats tend to sleep about sixty percent of the time, but Tiki never spent that much time in repose. He remained active and alert well into his nineteenth year.

When you consider adopting a pet, look carefully at the front paws, as they often offer a clue as to how large the animal will be when he's fully grown.

Terzo had huge paws, so I knew he not only had the charming six-toed characteristic of many black and white cats, but he was going to be a large adult.

You should also look carefully to see that the pet's eyes are clear, their ears and bottom are clean, and there are no broken teeth or problems in the mouth. A puppy or kitten that won't let you look into their ears or mouth is going to be difficult to handle.

You need to begin ear-cleaning, claw-trimming, and tooth-brushing early to keep health problems in check and reduce veterinary bills later on.

At the shelter, ask to hold any kitten that interests you. If he squirms out of your hands, bites your fingers, or scratches your clothing, he might not adapt well. When I first held Terzo, he cuddled in my arms, purred loudly, and licked my hands. He let me examine him, and only dug in his claws when I put him into the carrier I'd brought along!

On my website, under the section called "If You Love Cats," you'll find a great deal of information about adopting a kitten, my article on training, other advice from professionals, and many resources.

June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month. Save the life of a cat or dog at the SPCA, and you'll be rewarded with many years of devotion and delight. *** Bobbi Graham's website, www.SimonTeakettle.com, contains descriptions of her books, information about writing and publishing, and a section on cats.

Barbara Floria Graham is the author of the 20th anniversary edition of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing and Mewsings/Musings. Her website: www.SimonTeakettle.com

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Floria Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/6.07