Albie Moves In

After learning about the wonderful work that is being celebrated on Three Chatty Cats, I wanted to share a heartwarming story about a cat named Albie. Albie was a feral cat living near my friend Beth’s home. She and her husband, John, would see Albie out in the yard and he was more than a little bit intimidating. They even wondered if he might be vicious. After watching him for quite a while, they decided to try to trap, neuter and return him. According to Alley Cat Allies, “Trap-Neuter-Return is successfully practiced in hundreds of communities and in every landscape and setting. It is exactly what it sounds like: Cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian to be neutered and vaccinated. After recovery, the cats are returned to their home—their colony—outdoors. Kittens and cats that are friendly and socialized to people may be adopted into homes. Scientific studies show that Trap-Neuter-Return improves the lives of feral cats, improves their relationships with the people who live near them, and decreases the size of colonies over time.” Long committed to the welfare of the feral cat population in their community, Beth and John had personally trapped-neutered- returned at least 8 cats before Albie. This was done at their own expense, out of love, compassion and concern for feline welfare in their area.

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Trapping

Albie, was a big cat who had been aggressive to the other ferals, so John carefully set a Havahart trap, which is a humane, easy to use live trap, to capture him. This would allow him to be safely transported to the veterinarian. He was caught much quicker and easier than expected and when Beth and John took a look at him close up, they realized just how bad a shape he was in. John recalls, “His fur was all matted, his eye was bulging out and teeth were broken. He had ear mites so bad they had started eating the skin right outside of his ear. It was like he knew he needed help”.

Neutering 

Once at the veterinary clinic, Albie was surprisingly friendly to the doctor and the other hospital workers. He let them examine him and run tests. He was neutered and it was discovered he had FIV, a respiratory infection and a number of other things wrong with him. While there, he also got a haircut, relieving the painful, pulling snarls in his fur. Albie was in the hospital for about two weeks but he was a fighter and got better and better each day. It was obvious he was a senior and his age was estimated at about 13 years old. At the end of those two weeks, I imagine he felt better than he had in years.

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Albie, looking handsome and feeling good after his haircut!

 Return

Once he was released from the hospital, he was returned to his outdoor colony. Beth explained, “We had no idea that he would calm down so much! After he was neutered, it was like night and day. He went from the cat all the others feared to the one that would hang out and make sure any kittens were safe and corralled.” He became affectionate and would allow both Beth and John to pet him. John said, “This is when we decided to bring him in. I tried trapping him again but he knew now what the trap was. I tried every day for two weeks and he would just look at the trap and walk away. Finally, one day I was sitting on the back porch and he came up and put his head on my lap. I reached down and just picked him up.” Beth had asked to try to bring him inside as a birthday present, but the real gift was for Albie. According to Beth and John, his adjustment was surprisingly rapid. He was relaxed and when the door was open, he never showed any interest in wanting to return to the outdoors. He now had a safe, warm, comfortable home with plenty of food and love. His medical needs had been addressed and now it was time to enjoy life!

The Good Life

Albie became sweet and gentle and was so happy to be a part of the family. He lounged in sunbeams, napped on soft blankets and like all family members could be a little mischievous at times. At a Super Bowl party one year, he even plotted to steal a chicken breast from the guest he was snuggled up beside. His plan succeeded and he disappeared under a tablecloth like he had never been there at all. One of the things Albie enjoyed most about having a family was Christmas. A tiny table top Christmas tree sat in Albie’s room during the holidays and he thought it was magical. He would get up on the table, sit next to it and stare at the lights. How different his life had become.

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Albie enjoying his very own Christmas tree!

Thanks to the kind hearts of people like Beth and John and the wonderful work of feline rescue groups, innumerable cats are living happier and healthier lives. Once they had witnessed the change in Albie’s temperament, Beth and John were willing to take a chance  on him – and from that day on; every day was Christmas for Albie!

Instagram Best Practices

As pet lovers, we have witnessed the rise of the Instagram “celebripet”. Normal cats and dogs who have rocketed to unexpected fame and fortune. A couple of years ago, it was reported that Grumpy Cat had earned over $100,000,000. Adorable pets such as Lil Bub, Marnie, Chloe the Mini Frenchie and Mervin the Chihuahua have made their way onto our computer screens and into our hearts. Whether you want a dog with its own personal brand and 100,000 followers or just want to show off the awe inspiring cuteness of your pet to your friends and family, I have collected some pro tips and best practices for Instagram. (Disclaimer: As I still have my day job and need to forgo cute shoes to pay school tuition, Pinky the Chi and I cannot personally guarantee that by following these tips, fame and fortune are on their way).

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 Chloe the Mini Frenchie

 

Basics for a Great Photo

People flock to Instagram for the visuals, and in the article, The Secrets to Making your Dog Famous, the folks at Dogs of Instagram offer three tips to producing an Instagram attention grabbing photo. 1). Make sure that you are photographing in good light. Instagram users with thousands of followers usually invest in a high quality digital camera, but if you are like me and using a smartphone, natural light always helps. (I know I have missed shots of Pinky that would have generated multiple movie offers because I couldn’t find my phone in the pit of my purse. Tip from me – try to keep it on hand for unexpected flashes of cuteness). 2). Capture the moments that show your dog’s personality and what makes them special or what marketers call their brand. Patience pays off when you finally get that one amazing shot! 3). Tell a story with your photos. Creativity is key; no one wants to see the same type photo day after day.

Post Regularly

Posting regularly means increased visibility for Fido and Fluffy and visibility is essential to those on the road to stardom. According to Buffer and most of the other research I found, posting twice a day is recommended for Instagram. As a spectator, I know that I appreciate it when someone posts often enough to keep me engaged, but I don’t want to be saturated. Like cologne, a little bit is fabulous, too much and people start backing away.

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Mervin the Chihuahua

Hashtags Rule

Hashtags are the quick and easy way to connect with and find your audience. According to Hootsuite’s The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Hashtags, The more specific you can get with your hashtag, the more targeted your audience will be—and a targeted audience generally means better engagement. They are a way to join in conversations on trending topics. Apps such as Instatags and TagsForLikes can help recommend some popular hashtags to try for a particular interest. And if all else fails, we can always read the instructions on Instagram’s own Help Center.

Build a Community

Sean Griffis, dad to Brie, a Boston Terrier who’s star is rising suggests, “Network, just like in your professional and personal life, it’s vital to your pet’s budding internet fame to get out there and hawk the hell out of them – digitally and in real life…The more you interact, the more invested others will be in your animal’s shenanigans as a brand and will hopefully become a brand ambassador, unbeknownst to you.” Even if you are not hoping to make the news, engagement is so important – and one the things I have enjoyed most about social media. You can quickly create a community by following those who regularly like your photos and leaving comments when you like theirs.

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Don’t Be a Mama Rose

I know this sounds counterintuitive to fame, but I am throwing it in anyway. Don’t be a stage mom or dad, hounding your hound night and day and doing crazy things to try to get that million dollar picture. We have all seen the poor dogs and cats shoved into costumes, posed uncomfortably and looking miserable. If dress up isn’t your pet’s thing, don’t force it. As viewers, we can always tell – and if it’s not fun for the animal, it’s usually not fun for us either. Be authentic and let the thing that makes him/her special shine through – no matter what it is.

Instagram’s Impact

Through our computers and tablets, we invite these four legged ambassadors of happiness into our living rooms and our lives. There is much more to this phenomenon than meets the eye. The Fast, Furry Rise of the Instagram-Famous Pet explains, “As superficial as the Instagram dog scene may appear at first glance, it has real causes at its heart. These dogs that we follow, with their scruffy hair and their pendulous tongues, would not be here for our enjoyment if they had not been rescued. If we want that cuteness in the world, the social media community suggests, then we too should rescue dogs. The message seems to be spreading. According to pet adoption organization Maddie’s Fund, shelter intake for dogs in the US dropped by eight percent from 2008 to 2013, down to 240,000 annually, and deaths dropped 40 percent, to 60,000.”

These are just some basic best practices to help your “child” take Instagram by storm. Since Pinky is currently earning her Master’s degree in napping and I am not out running around in a t-shirt with her photo and website URL emblazoned on the front, we may not be perched for stardom. We feel quite content with her being the most famous dog in our apartment building (where we make personal appearances in the lobby every morning on our way outside). Regardless of how many followers we have, the fun is in sharing the surprises, delight and sheer joy that Pinky brings into my life with the world. And just maybe – she will bring a little bit of that joy, along with a virtual hug into yours!

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Hello world – it’s me!