Hustle and Bustle

There are many times in our lives when we are stressed out – running around like crazy people trying to get everything done. The “holiday season” is surely a great example.

But, we aren’t the only ones feeling the effects of our packed schedules and long to-do lists – our pets can get stressed out due to our stress!

For your own health, and the well-being of your animals, here are a few tips to help everyone “take it down a notch” this season:

  • Take 5 minutes to breathe. Sip a cup of tea and give your kitty an extra cuddle. Take your dog for that extra lap around the block. Your heart, mind and beloved pet will thank you!
  • Find your sanctuary, and invite your pet(s). Create a quiet space in your home away from guests. Add a special bed for your animal(s) so they can hide from the holiday parties and events. For cats, consider putting an extra litter box in this room to provide a true hide-away.
  • Stick to your schedule (as insane as it might be). Feed, walk and water your pets at their usual times. They really are creatures of habit and will appreciate this so much.
Take a walk!

Take a walk!

And now for a few things to remember as you rush through those tedious to-do tasks:

  • Don’t leave bags, ribbons or scissors out after a marathon wrapping session. Cats (and dogs) can get stuck in bags, sick from eating ribbons or cut from sharp scissors.
  • Avoid giving your pets sugary or fatty treats from the people table. Sure, they will beg but like all the other times of the year, the majority of these items are bad for their bellies.
  • Move all those pretty, live plants out of reach – even if the plants are thought to be non-toxic, no one wants to clean up green vomit from an over-zealous chewer.

Take some time to relax!

Images courtesy of Michelle Arlotta Photography

Special Adoption: Harlow!

This sweet girl was surrendered to a local shelter when she was approximately 5 years old. As a delicate Siamese-mix, she was devastated and petrified in the shelter environment. We were able to transfer her out and place her in a foster home. It took a few months before Harlow relaxed enough to show us her true nature: sweet, polite and friendly!

She was recently adopted into a very full and loving home!

Her adopter sent us an update email:

Hi! I wanted to give you a little one month update on Harlow. She has acclimated very well! I am definitely her human. She sometimes runs when Jay comes in the room, which is hilarious! She loves to get up on the bathroom counter and in the sink to keep me company while I get ready for work every morning. She has her little napping spots all over the house, like the chairs under the dining room table and under the big fish tank. She lets me pick her up and snuggle her but still isn’t a lap cat. She’s fond of Piper but hisses at Gus and today she snuggled up with Piper on the couch! So, all in all, she’s doing great and if her excessive purring is any indication I think she’s quite happy!

Images from her new home:

Harlow during the morning routine!

Harlow during the morning routine!

Harlow getting in some cuddling time on the couch

Harlow getting in some cuddling time on the couch

Do you have an adoption update to share? Email us:


Onychectomy, popularly known as declawing, is an operation to surgically remove an animal’s claws by means of amputating all or part of the distal phalanx, or end bones, of the animal’s toes. (definition per wikipedia).

“Lilly” shows off her claws before her monthly pedicure.

But, let’s be honest about declawing … it is the mutilation of the animal’s paw so that the claws can no longer grow. The claw is removed along with the bone it is attached to (imagine your fingernail and finger up to the first joint). The traditional way of doing this is with an instrument that looks like a really big pair of nail trimmers – guillotine-style. Chop! Off with the claw and bone … and wait, half of the paw pad. Yup, that part of the animal that is used for walking, running, and balance – sliced in half.

Go on, imagine it … don’t make me post the pictures.

Guess that’s why several countries have banned declawing – it is illegal in Australia, Brazil, Israel, Finland, Estonia, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and United Kingdom.

And despite the clear ethical guidelines given by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) (meaning: declawing should only be done in very extreme cases), surveys suggest that 95 percent of declaw surgeries are done to protect furniture.

Argh, so it is legal to mutilate a animal’s paws so that the furniture is not potentially damaged.

I’ve thought about this procedure a lot lately and it’s no surprise that I spend a lot of time watching and caring for cats. I’ve seen how they use their claws – primarily for stability and play.

A cat without claws is almost equivalent to a human without thumbs or big toes.

Think about how much you use your thumbs … and if they were amputated, how much you would have to alter the things you do on a daily basis? Good luck trying to pick up that coffee travel mug … or quickly maneuver the car steering wheel … or turn a round door knob. And those big toes … the majority of your balance when walking comes from the big toes.

As for those arguments about why cats should be declawed:

1. “I don’t want my furniture ruined.” ~Well, you probably shouldn’t have cats … or kids … or any parties that involve food or beverages. The pet supply stores have a large selection of scratching posts – give your cats their own furniture! :) Stores like PetSmart offer all kinds of options. Don’t have a lot of space? Something as simple as this cardboard scratcher works for many cats:

Cardboard Scratcher2. “My kids will get hurt.” ~No, no, no … the majority of cats are not out to harm your kid. Unless, of course, your kid is completely rambunctious and attacking the cat. Teach your children how to properly play with a cat using a wand toy that will keep the hands safely away from the cats claws.

3. “All my other cats are declawed.” ~So? Again, the new cat with claws is not on a mission to seek out and hurt the cats with no claws. A well-socialized cat has no agenda for blood. Watch a pair of cats that have their claws play-fight: no blood, no injuries. For more information about how to successfully introduce and socialize a new cat, check out our blog post on Cat Introductions.

4. “I don’t know how to trim the cat’s nails.” ~You are a very smart person – you can learn. And if that fails, there are plenty of ‘cat people’ out there that can do this for you. Here’s a video of how to trim a cat’s nails:

Recently, The Paw Project movie was released. Screenings are listed on their website … if it shows up near you, please go see it! 

For more information: 

Failing to Save the Cats

The New Jersey 2012 municipal shelter statistics are finally available (in general, rescue groups are not included).

But, don’t get too excited – they aren’t really that pretty. Better than some states, sure … but are they acceptable in the age of knowledge, ever-increasing pet care (i.e. money spent on our pets) and increased taxes?

Of those shelters choosing to report, over 26,000 animals were put to death in NJ shelters in 2012. That is 30% of those impounded. THIRTY PERCENT. If you have 3 animals in your house right now, just look at all them and imagine one dead because the shelter system in this state (and country) is broken.

The report shows over 22,000 of those killed in 2012 were cats. That is 82.6% of all animals impounded. WHAT?

60 cats per day. New Jersey is failing when it comes to saving cats.

Keep in mind that reporting is voluntary so the actual numbers are likely higher. And practically ALL municipal shelters are funded with tax-payer dollars. YOUR MONEY.

So, what can be done?

Karma Cat + Zen Dog started in Middlesex County, New Jersey and we do the majority of our adoptions here. Likewise, at this time, the majority of our animals are rescued from Middlesex County. According to the above report, Middlesex County killed 1,667 animals in 2012. Of that number, 1,264 were cats … 89.3% of shelter intake.


Eight years of reported Middlesex County shelter intake & euthanasia of cats & dogs

The highlights:

  • Cat intake is generally increasing with the number of cats euthanized slightly decreasing each year.
  • Dog intake is slightly increasing with the number of dogs euthanized slightly decreasing each year. (Some event must have taken place in 2009 for the intake number to be so high)

But, really: NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED IN EIGHT YEARS. Especially for the cats …

“Nobody WANTS to kill healthy pets” right? Well, sorry, but why are over 1,000 cats killed in Middlesex shelters every year?

Oh, right … “Pet Overpopulation” … We’ve all heard the tag line: “too many pets, not enough homes”

It’s just NOT TRUE!

For pet overpopulation to be true, the number of homes/families looking for a new pet must be lower than the number of available, adoptable pets. So, let’s do some math …

Part 1: How many homes are available for pets? According to the U.S. Census of 2011, Middlesex County had 296,076 households (1) … for the sake of this post, let’s assume that number is the same for 2012 (the year of the latest shelter statistics).

Part 2: Of those Middlesex County homes, how many have pets? If we assume that our county is “average” for the U.S., then according to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Market Research Statistics (2) 36.5% of households will have 1.6 dogs and 30.4% of households will have 2.1 cats.

Crunching the numbers, that gives 172,908 dogs and 189,015 cats as pets in Middlesex County, NJ. (Hey, look at that – more cats than dogs!)

The life expectancy of dogs varies by breed and size … the life expectancy of medium size dogs is 10 to 13 years (3). Cats live 15 to 17 years on average (4). Averaging, we get 11.5 year lifespan for dogs, and 16 year lifespan for cats. This means that, …

Of the 172,908 dogs in Middlesex County, 1/11.5 (15,036) will pass away each year and of the 189,015 cats in Middlesex County, 1/16 (11,813) will pass away each year.

Part 3: Compare Part 1 and Part 2

This also means that 26,849 pets (15,036 dogs + 11,813 cats) could be replaced every year in the county to maintain a constant rate of pet ownership. While it is true that not everyone replaces a beloved pet immediately, and some people decide not to replace a pet that has died, others decide to obtain a companion for the first time, so we can assume that the rate of pet ownership remains roughly constant over time.

This graphic should help illustrate the point that there ARE enough potential homes for ALL the euthanized animals in Middlesex County:


In 2012, 1,264 cats and 152 dogs were euthanized.

The above estimation only works if all the cats & dogs entering the shelter system are adoptable. One of the major issues is that there is no comprehensive program for feral cats. If there were a program to 1. keep feral cats out of the shelter system and 2. provide vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries for those that do end up at the shelter, we would likely see the number of cats euthanized drop drastically.

Enter: TNR! Trap-Neuter-Return!!

Healthy cats do not belong in shelters. TNR is the only way to save cats’ lives, reduce and stabilize community cat populations, and free up very badly needed shelter space for adoptable animals. This is how communities should be spending their money on cats instead of killing them.

You can help:


  1. New Jersey Census Facts:
  2. 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook as quoted by the American Veterinary Medical Association
  3. Wikipedia.  “Aging in Dogs”
  4. Average cat lifespan:
  5. New Jersey Animal Statistics: (view other years by changing the last two numbers in the link – all the way back to 04).

Inspiration for portions of this post:

Cat Introductions

There’s a reason we recommend certain things when adding a new cat to a home … we’ve been down this road quite a few times and we kinda know what we are talking about. No, seriously … of the 10+ adoption counselors, we have something like 75 cats amongst us. We’ve “been there, done that” and we have the range of adoptable cats from “hey, whatever man” (awwww, Bubba-C) to “I’M THE PRINCESS OF THIS INDOOR CASTLE AND YOU ALL SHALL BOW TO MEEEEE” (all capital letters on purpose, thank you Siren).

All kidding aside, there is a process that can make the addition of a new cat into a home go smoothly. Follow these 5 steps to a successful cat addition:

  1. Start the new cat in one room with food & water, bedding, litter box.
  2. Bond with the new cat, in the room, for a few days.
  3. Let other animals in the home adjust to the smell of the new cat – feed treats or wet food on opposite sides of the door.
  4. Swap bedding so the new cat can investigate the current animals’ smells and vice versa.
  5. With supervision, let the new cat explore the home – paying close attention to all the animals’ reactions. Separate if tensions escalate beyond the normal hissing.

Harmony in a Window

And here are the details to hopefully avoid this:


It took several supervised meetings for these two kitties to become friends

Even if the cat you are adopting is good with other cats, there is always the possibility of problems when introducing strangers to each other. There are several steps that you can take to reduce the likelihood of problems. Before bringing your new cat home, create a separate “territory” for him/her. This area should be equipped with food, water, a scratching post, a litter box, access to natural sunlight, and comfortable resting places (a hiding spot is normally a great idea too).

Your other cats should have their own separate territory. Make certain that both areas (the space for the new cat and the space for the other cats) contain multiple hiding places so the cats can easily retreat if necessary. Large cardboard boxes with holes cut in two sides make great hiding places. The second hole allows a cat to escape if cornered by another cat. The boxes will come into play once you start allowing the cats to interact directly, but it can be helpful to introduce the boxes first, so that the cats become accustomed to using them. Keep in mind that cats like to hide in high places, so remove fragile items from large shelves or block access to the small/knick-knacky shelves.

Place your new cat in the designated space as soon as you arrive home, and spend a minimum of one hour with him/her (and the other cats in the household) per day. Play with them regularly and watch them closely for signs of stress or anxiety, such as hiding, aggressive behavior, decreased appetite, and/or excessive vocalization. If you see any of these signs, your cat MIGHT be having a stress reaction to “the change”. Breathe, relax, take a step back. But, if the signs persist for more than several days and/or if your cat stops eating, consult with your veterinarian.

If any cat is showing mild signs of stress, give him or her time to acclimate to the new situation. If all the cats appear comfortable in their spaces, place the new cat in a different room after two days (equipped with the same amenities), and allow your other cats to enter the new cat’s original territory. This will allow each cat to become accustomed to the others’ scent in a non-threatening way. Allow the cats to acclimate to their new areas for at least one day.

Caveat: If your new “cat” is really a tiny kitten (say, less than 4 months of age) … as soon as they are accustomed to YOU, their new litter box and their new food … LET THEM MEET THE OTHER CATS. In general, introductions with kittens can go much faster as older/established cats usually do not look at a less than 4 lb kitten as a threat. A nuisance, well maybe, but not a threat. Let the hissing happen … let the established cats have their say and raise their paw. The kitten will quickly learn who is boss and will, typically, adjust their behaviors.

Here’s an additional way to introduce cats to each others’ scent: Cats have glands in their cheeks that produce pheromones. When your cat rubs her cheek against a wall, chair, or your leg, she produces pheromones, which are chemical substances that can help to relieve anxiety and provide information about the cat who is producing those pheromones. Exposing each cat to towels that were gently rubbed on the new cat’s cheeks may be a good way to introduce them. Some cats respond very well to a synthetic pheromone (a spray or diffuser) – these can be purchased online or in pet supply stores.

Next, you can start allowing the cats closer access to each other by placing them on either side of a closed door so that they can smell each other directly. The next step is to allow them to see each other through a baby gate or a door that is propped open two inches. If the cats are interested in each other and seem comfortable, allow them to meet. Open the door to the rooms between the cats and observe them closely.

If any cat shows signs of significant stress or aggression, separate them again and introduce them more slowly. Once the cats have acclimated to being allowed to sniff each other through a door, bring each cat into a large room, on opposite sides. If you have a willing helper, each person should play, pet and/or give food treats to one of the cats. If you do not have a helper, place the more comfortable cat in a cat carrier with a bowl of canned cat food to keep him occupied and play with the other cat. Over multiple sessions, gradually bring the cats closer to each other. This exercise teaches the cats that they get special rewards in each others’ presence, and that nothing bad is happening. With time, the cats will learn that they are not a threat to each other.

Remember, an anxious cat is much more likely to behave aggressively than a cat who is comfortable and relaxed. If you use patience in the initial stages of the introduction process, you will increase your chances of a harmonious household. One of the keys to success: YOU have to be comfortable and relaxed too! Fake until you make it!! ;)

The above recommendations are guidelines to increase the likelihood that your new cat will get along with the existing cat(s) in your household. If you have tried these techniques and your cats are still not getting along, please seek the help of your veterinarian or a behaviorist … none of your cats want you to give up on them, they just want you to understand and adjust accordingly.


Getting Along at Dinner-Time!

Baby Spay/Neuter Surgeries

Recently, we met someone that was appalled that our kittens were spayed/neutered at such a young age. This person was convinced that we were abusing our animals by letting them undergo surgery before they were 6 months of age. Oh my!

So, we’d like to share some information about pediatric/juvenile spay/neuter surgeries.

It is safe to spay or neuter most kittens and puppies at 8 weeks of age. We generally wait until kittens are over 2 lbs (which is typically around the 9 to 10 week age mark) and we never bring sick kittens to the spay/neuter clinics.
The risk of surgical complications is much lower for kittens and puppies than for mature pets:

  • The reproductive organs of juvenile cats and dogs are much less vascular than those of adult animals, which allows for an easier, faster surgical procedure and reduces the risk of excessive bleeding during and after surgery.
  • Faster surgery equates to less time under anesthesia, thus reducing the anesthetic risks.
  • Anesthetic risks are further reduced because juvenile animals metabolize anesthesia more rapidly and recover from its effects more quickly than adult animals.
  • The tissues of juvenile animals are more resilient, resulting in faster healing and less post-operative pain and stress.

(Source: Small Animal Surgery Textbook, 3rd Edition, 2007. Theresa Welch Fossum, DVM, MS, PhD, Dipl ACVS)

Betty & BG - safely spayed at the age of 9 weeks and now available for adoption!

Betty & BG – safely spayed at the age of 9 weeks and now available for adoption!

Spaying/Neutering prior to adoption ENSURES that we are not taking a risk of adding to the cat population with any accidental pregnancies. With over 20,000 cats euthanized at New Jersey municipal animal shelters each year, it seems very irresponsible for us not to spay/neuter every cat that we take in.

There are exceptions, kittens that are slow-growing or have other medical issues that prevent them from being able to handle the anesthesia. ANY surgery has a risk factor and we value the life of every single animal that comes through our doors.

Additionally, we have a very high level of confidence with the veterinarians that we use that perform the pediatric spay/neuter surgeries.

Believe in what we do and our mission? Help us help more cats by sponsoring a spay/neuter surgery!

Donate here: SnipSnip!

Who supports juvenile spay/neuter?
A partial list:

And a few links with more information:
1. American Humane Association
2. Petfinder
3. Best Friends Animal Society

Liam wants a hug! Neutered at 9 weeks of age and ready for his forever home!

Liam wants a hug! Neutered at 9 weeks of age and ready for his forever home!

Cat Chow and Pooper Scoopers

Opinions from the Karma Cat + Zen Dog Rescue Society

Cat Food

Look for foods that have a type of real chicken, turkey, duck, or fish as the first ingredient … and avoid foods that have corn, wheat or “by products” listed as any of the ingredients. The better the food ingredients, the healthier the cat – and the less you’ll actually have to feed them. A lot of food is filled with fillers – with better food, it will also usually lead to a cleaner litter box (less poop!).

Just take some time to read the labels and you’ll notice the difference between the brands that use real food and those that use fillers. Why do the cats like the food that is mostly fillers? Because of the taste additives … think of it like candy: tasty, but not very nutritious.

The good stuff will be a little more expensive but you won’t have to feed as much as with the lesser kinds. Keeping your cat lean will extend his/her kitty life.

To use wet or not? We think that giving wet food each day is good for your cat. It is more natural for cats to lap or lick their food – rather than crunching. In the wild, it would be rare to find a bowl of crunchy foods. ;) Additionally, cats are not known for their love of water and this can sometimes translate into not drinking enough. Giving wet food (even adding a tiny bit of water to it) will keep your cat hydrated as well.

Kittens: feed kitten food until they are about 6 months old. Have dry food out all the time and feed wet food once or twice a day after they are 8 weeks old (four or more smaller feedings a day for baby kittens and/or underweight kittens).


Lysine: is a supplement you can add to cat food – it can help keep their immune systems in good order. Give about 250 mg L-Lysine to adult cats up to twice a day, and about 100 mg L-Lysine to kittens up to twice a day. Buy the powder specifically made for cats online or the generic version at a human health food or vitamin store.

Cat Litter

There has been a lot of dialogue lately about what litter is best. This is a personal choice that has to work for your home as well as your cat(s).

One of the more natural litters is best for all cats (even baby kittens): World’s Best Cat (WBC) Litter or Swheat Scoop. We have found that the World’s Best Cat Litter really lives up to its name: traps odors, clumps well, minimal dust, and it lasts MUCH longer than the clumping clay litters. Kittens under 8 weeks should never use clumping litter.

It is best for the cats to use unscented litters however we have found the lavender-scented WBC litter to work just fine. Cats have a very, very strong sense of smell and the scented litters can overwhelm them. Lavender, however, is a calming scent. Adding some baking soda to the litter will help combat odors. Scooping at least once a day is also critical.

Guidelines for the number of litter boxes needed:

  • 1 litter box per cat plus 1 extra or 1 per floor plus 1 extra
  • The more litter boxes, the cleaner they all will be … for the cat(s) and for you.
  • Completely empty and wash the litter boxes about once per month. Use soap and water to scrub the boxes – avoiding harsh chemicals that can etch the plastic or leave residual odors behind.
  • Placing a plastic mat under the litter boxes can help contain any messes – liquid or solid. Occasionally, cats have been known to just plain “miss”. If this becomes a habit, make sure that there are no health issues going on. Urinating outside of the box can sometimes be an indicator of a urinary tract infection and/or kidney stones.

We do not work for any company listed and we are not veterinarians … we are just cat lovers.

Too. Many. Cats.

As many as 5,000. That is the astounding number of cats that could be produced by only two unaltered adult cats in merely five short years. Why am I citing this worrying statistic besides pointing out the need for you to spay/neuter your cats?

Because we are now involved in a desperate situation and we need your help.

We are assisting a “hoarder in the making” who took in 16 kittens in the summer of 2012. This person had no money for vaccinations, FeLV/FIV testing, flea treatments, medications or spay/neuter surgeries – and on top of this, considering the startling breeding statistic above – you can just imagine how this could turn into a dire situation very quickly. With (thankfully) only two litters produced, the number of cats in the household is now up to 23.

Deven - a kitten who had kittens.

Deven – a kitten who had kittens. Happily spayed and up to date on vaccinations now.

What makes this person a “hoarder-in-the-making” and not a bona fide hoarder? The plea for help. This is often the hardest thing for a hoarder to do. And though it is a difficult situation, we are thankful that this person chose to finally reach out for help – before it was way too late. It goes without saying: this never should have happened at all.

Wikipedia defines animal hoarding as “keeping a higher-than-usual number of animals as domestic pets without having the ability to properly house or care for them, while at the same time denying this inability.”

And for this case, having two out of the three “hoarder characteristics” has created a bad situation.

In a 1999 study Dr. Patronek, professor Tufts University defined animal hoarders:

People who accumulate a large number of animals; fail to provide minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation and veterinary care; and fail to act on the deteriorating condition of the animals, the environment, and their own health.

Hoarders justify their behavior with the view that the animals are surrogate children and that no one else can care for them. They harbor a fear that if they seek help the animals will be euthanized.

This large number of semi-unsocialized cats, from just one home, that have upper respiratory and eye infections equates to lots of money and time needed to save these cats. It is a doable, but an unfortunate and daunting, task to undertake.

*No sad “before” pictures needed – I’m sure you all have seen your share of sad animal photographs.

The “hoarder in the making” says the kittens came from a shelter in the summer of 2012 and claims that the shelter would not take them back when they were old enough for adoption. However, representatives from the shelter stated the person would always give excuses for not bringing the cats back to the shelter. With the continually-limited shelter resources we are all painfully aware of; man-power and money, the original 16 kittens slipped through the municipal cracks.

Although, can you really blame the shelter manager for not wanting those cats to come back when the ultimate control of the shelter is a non-related department within the town? This is a department that can enter the shelter at any time and say “there are too many animals here, some have got to go.”

Read: bureaucracy + lack of compassion = convenience killing.

Now before you go condemning the shelter manager, firsthand experience tells us that this IS a compassionate person that does care about the animals. Tears are shed whenever an animal is euthanized there. Volunteers are welcomed and given as much responsibility as they can handle – for the benefit of the animals. Medications are purchased, vaccinations are given and somehow the manager keeps a small fund for spay/neuter surgeries. These actions have garnered local support to further improve shelter conditions. But, the improvements will sadly be limited unless the shelter can gain some autonomy from their overseeing department.

Back to the current issue … our “hoarder-in-the-making” is under threat of prosecution and foreclosure and someone needs to step up for these cats and new kittens. That’s where Karma Cat & Zen Dog comes into the picture and why we are reaching out because we need your help.

We don’t have a facility to call our own, so taking on 23 cats and kittens all at once is nearly impossible. HOWEVER, I am happy to say we are working with the shelter to get all of the cats out of the house, vetted and most importantly treated and SPAYED/NEUTERED.

And, yay! Some are already available for adoption: Louisa, AnnaB, Rachelle, Deven, Anya, Oz and Xander!

Anya, Oz & Xander - adopt them!!

Anya, Oz & Xander (3 of the 7 kittens) – adopt them!!

Here’s what you can do! You can help by:

The cats involved in this case include: Rachelle, Deven, Louisa, AnnaB, Kaitlyn, Wally, Anya, Oz, Xander, Angel, Buffy, Cordelia and Faith. Sly has already been placed. Four have already made their way back to the shelter (for adoption), three are with another group, and the shelter is working on the two remaining cats. We will be helping them with the spay/neuter surgeries.

Please help us help them.

Rescued, vetted and now ready for her forever home!

Rescued, vetted and now ready for her forever home!

With hope,