Friday 31 January 2014

Kitten Diaries – In this corner, Leonard McCoy!

Uh-oh ... looks like there's trouble brewing for H&H's Kim and her cats, Leonard and James Cat! Read on for this week's installment of the kitten diaries ...

Leonard's and James Cat's life together had got off to a shaky start (mostly our fault), but we were hopeful that it wouldn't take long for them to be the best of friends.

Isn't it funny when things don't turn out how you imagined they would?

For the first week or so after we let James out of his room to wander the house, Leonard sulked,
grumbling whenever the kitten happened to be in his vicinity. Still, he wasn't showing any aggression, and more than once his curiosity got the better of his bad mood, and he'd sit and watch James Cat explore. He still seemed to blame us for this intruder, and wasn't best pleased at being picked up or stroked, something which we struggled with more than he did, I think.

For James Cat's part, there was too much newness for him to be particularly bothered with Leonard,
which was for the best considering Leonard grumbled and growled at the mere sight of him. It wasn't until a couple of weeks in that things began to get a little more tense ...

Eventually, James Cat became more at home, and was more interested in Leonard and his comings and goings (especially his tail, something he's still fascinated with to this day), and worse still, Leonard's toys! As you can imagine, Leonard was very upset, especially if James Cat turned up somewhere that Leonard wasn't expecting him, like his tunnel, or on one of our laps.

Things might have been better if Leonard had administered a cautionary tap to show James Cat who
was boss (especially since, judging from the size of James' paws, it won't be long until he is bigger than Leonard). Unfortunately, cat's don't like confrontation, and will do everything in their power to avoid it. This led to about three weeks of each cat approaching the other, Leonard growling and hissing constantly, and ending with the pair of them fleeing in opposite directions. In fact, the only time they would be calm around each other was at breakfast and dinner times ... not that Leonard couldn't growl through a mouthful of kitty kibble! Regardless, all the advice we'd seen had said to feed the cats together, so they associated each other with something positive – food! The only trouble we had was that James Cat preferred Leonard's adult cat food to his kitten food, and viceversa!

Since James Cat was too young to venture outside (he'd had both of his kitten inoculations, but wasn't yet neutered), Leonard couldn't enter the house without bumping in to him, and our evenings and weekends were becoming more and more stressful, as James Cat now wouldn't leave Leonard alone. It seemed at least James Cat wanted to be friends, but Leonard just wasn't ready to play, and the constant harassment was taking its toll. Leonard was spending less time in the house, and when he did come home, he was hostile and mopey, and not at all himself. We felt terrible for both of them.

The advice we'd seen had said to give your existing cat extra attention to reassure him or her. The
problem was, Leonard was so cross with the pair of us that he wasn't interested in being stroked or cuddled, and when he did seem to want affection, James Cat would inevitably appear and send Leonard running for the cat door!

For the first few weeks, we had taken to shutting James Cat, with his litter tray, food and fresh water, in the living room while we were at work. At least for a few hours, we reasoned, Leonard had the rest of the house to himself unhindered. James soon outgrew the room, however, and we would come home at night to an unstoppable furry ball of energy, which was even harder for Leonard to cope with!

We had to do something, since the current arrangements weren't doing either of our boys any good. We scoured the internet yet again to see if anyone had advice on ways to help cats to get along, but this was essentially the same – and we were already following much of it!

We were nearly at the end of our tether ... would our boys ever get along? Could we regain some
harmony in our home with two cats, or would the addition of James Cat prove too much for Leonard to cope with? Things weren't looking good.

We were two months in, and, although we didn't know it, thankfully, there was light at the end of the cat tunnel ...

Next time: Peace at last?

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Creature feature: Podencos and Galgos

We love Spanish hounds, and we know you will too! Stray and abandoned Podencos and Galgos are beautiful dogs that are all too common a sight on the streets of Spain. Tania Coates, founder of SOS Animals UK, and author of H&H's Camper vans, ex-pats and Spanish hounds, is here to tell you why.

Spain has a long tradition of hunting with dogs, and two breeds – the Galgo and the Podenco – are generally used in the south.

The Galgo is similar to the Greyhound, but tougher and with more stamina, while the Podenco (which means hound in Spanish) varies more, although is similar in stature to the Pharaoh Hound, with his large chest and shallow belly. However, some – such as the Podenco Maneto – can be squat, or even medium-size, or large like the Podenco Ibicenco (Ibizan Hound). Both Galgos and Podencos are considered ancient breeds, and it is often claimed that the Podenco is a descendant of the hounds of the Pharaohs, and is believed to have arrived in Europe in around the eigth century.

Although some of these Spanish dogs are cared for adequately, many are treated very poorly, and at the end of the hunting season it is not uncommon for dogs to be shot or hung because they are considered no longer useful. The streets and countryside of Spain are full of strays, and abandoned dogs are left to breed unchecked. In addition, neutering and vaccination are very rare.

Spanish pounds and rescue shelters are over-populated with dogs looking for homes, and SOS Animals is one such shelter. Run by Spanish, British and Swedish volunteers, around sixty or seventy dogs are cared for at any one time, whilst also trying to find foster homes and forever homes for these abandoned animals.

SOS Animals UK was set up over four years ago to try and help with this dreadful situation. A
volunteer-run organisation, it is dedicated to helping the SOS shelter in Spain care for, foster, and find new homes for the dogs in the UK, and also helps several fosterers in Spain who are equally overwhelmed with Podencos and Podenco crossbreeds. The breed is very common in Spain, and often overlooked in many of the shelters.

Podencos and Galgos can make brilliant pets, and SOS Animals ensures it finds the right homes for
these wonderful dogs. They have a detailed rehoming process which begins with an assessment of an animal, who is then matched to a home where his or her needs will be fully met. Discussion about a would-be adopter's lifestyle, experience with dogs, and expectations of life with a Podenco  may ultimately lead to a home check and visit to meet the dog concerned at their foster home.

Once a home is found, the centre offers full back-up and support for the new owner to ensure the dog is properly settled.

Podencos are renowned escapologists, and it is not unusual for them to jump 6ft high fences in a single leap: a secure garden is therefore an absolute must. They are multi-sensory hounds who are far more robust than Greyhounds, Lurchers and other sighthounds (who hunt using sight and speed primarily). They can be mischievous and full of fun, yet also watchful and gentle.

Although these dogs are absolutely stunning in every way, they are not ideal companions for everyone. Specific breed needs can mean they must be rehomed in a family that already has a dog or dogs, and new owners must be aware that a Podenco may have to be on-lead when not in a securely fenced location: these agile hounds require a lot of exercise, and their recall can be selective at the best of times.

All of the dogs rescued by SOS Animals are micro-chipped, vaccinated, neutered, and blood-tested, and any medical needs taken care of. Since the establishment of SOS Animals, the organisation has found forever homes for thousands of dumped and stray dogs, the vast majority of which were Podencos.

Please visit our website and Facebook page to meet the many Podencos looking for  loving forever

You can read more about the fantastic work of SOS Animal UK, and more about some of the gorgeous hounds Tania has met in her book, Camper vans, ex-pats and Spanish hounds, which is available now from the Hubble & Hattie website.

Friday 24 January 2014

Kitten Diaries – Leonard, meet James Cat

It's time for the next installment of H&H's Kim's kitten diaries! Now James Cat has sucessfully moved in, how is he going to settle in to his new home, and how is Leonard, the resident top cat, going to take to this new addition?

James Cat’s first night in his new home passed without much drama … although neither of us got much sleep! I had decided to sleep in the spare room to keep an eye on him (my first mistake, since he would have been fine on his own), while my partner Dan remained in our room. It was quite common for Leonard McCoy, our two-year-old black and white cat, to come and sleep on our bed in the middle of the night, and we wanted things to seem as normal as possible without the kitten feeling anxious in his new surroundings.

But, cats are known for their curiosity, and at around six that morning, Leonard came to investigate why I wasn't sleeping in the right room. I could hear him making his ‘question’ miaow just outside of the door … why was I in there? Why was the door closed? And what was that strange smell?

Already awake, I got up to spend some time with Leonard, hoping that the kitten scent on my hands and pyjamas would help him get used to the new addition without him setting eyes on him. James Cat was not impressed at being left alone, and sat on the other side of the door, mewing and running up and down – Leonard was now very interested in the strange shadows under the door, and the odd noises they seemed to make. He was quite happy, purring away, and I was sure to praise him for being inquisitive and calm. I took it as a good sign that he was clearly enjoying himself, and in such close proximity to James Cat.

It was about now that I made my second mistake.

With Leonard reassured, I had planned to go back to bed for a few hours. I waited until James Cat’s
shadow had moved away from the door, and Leonard had lost a bit of interest, then turned the handle.
Three days is a good amount of time to have your new kitten in the house before he or she meets any existing pets. I think we made it about twelve hours.

To my horror, both Leonard and James Cat ran at the crack in the door at the same time, both more
eager than I had anticipated to see each other. My heart stopped for a second as they bumped in to each other. They sniffed. They looked each other up and down. Then Leonard hissed and ran to the other side of the corridor, clearly unimpressed at this strange smelling fuzzball that had the nerve to sit in his hallway!

I quickly scooped James Cat up and stowed him safely in the spare room, hoping this unexpected meeting hadn’t done too much damage. James, who had taken barely any notice of Leonard after their initial sniff, began mewing immediately, and Leonard started making his own noises from the safety of the washing basket.

If you’ve never heard a cat growl, it’s a very odd sound … more disgruntled than angry, and he was very disgruntled indeed. He had lost all interest in the door – and the whole of the second floor of the house for that matter – because he very swiftly made a break for the stairs when I went towards him to comfort him, and we heard the cat flap shortly afterwards – no doubt he was off out to tell his cat gang about the terribly scary thing that was now residing upstairs.

We kept them separate for the rest of the day. Dan was at work, so I split my time between playing with the kitten in the spare room and sitting downstairs with Leonard, who popped in and out as normal throughout the day. For the most part, he was acting as he usually did, sitting on the windowsill, coming over for a stroke, and sleeping in snoozy spots in the living room, although he wouldn’t go upstairs, and still hadn’t forgiven me for being an accomplice to the little monster in the spare room, so our cuddles were shorter than usual. Leonard had more than his fair share of treats that day by way of an apology!

Still, both cats seemed happy and relaxed, despite our hiccup that morning, so we resolved to carry on at a slow but steady pace, introducing James Cat bit by bit.

That first day was a long day for everyone, and although things could have been worse. As I lay in my
own bed that night, painfully aware that Leonard had not come up as usual, I was starting to think that the transition from one cat to two wasn’t going to be as simple as I had first anticipated …

Next time: In this corner ... Leonard McCoy!

Friday 17 January 2014

Kitten Diaries – Meeting James Cat

A while ago, Hubble & Hattie's Kim and her partner Dan adopted a kitten to join their family, which already consisted of a relatively easy-going feline named Leonard McCoy.
 Over the next few months, Kim documented how the kitten settled in, and how he got on with his new big brother. Read on for the first installment of the Kitten Diaries!

It was a big decision for us to get a kitten. Cats are usually solitary animals, and we already have a lovely cat by the name of Leonard McCoy. But, since he was a kitten, Leonard's not been the most ordinary cat ...

Before we moved home last year, Leonard could often be found in our neighbour's house, playing with their cat, Sam. If he wasn't there, he was in the garden playing with Lily, another cat friend from a few doors down.

After the move, however, Leonard didn't have as many cats to play with. We'd see him with a little tabby from time to time, but not as often as before. Leonard's longest-standing cat relationship to date is with the big black manx cat who lives on our road ... they can often be seen squaring up to each other and making a lot of racket, despite Leonard being half the size of this bruiser! Needless to say, they're not really the best of friends.

It was this, predominatly, that made us think about getting a kitten to keep Leonard company. Obviously, having a new cat in the house was going to be a lot different that playing with one in the garden, and we knew we'd have to tread carefully and take things slowly if we wanted Leonard and the new guy to be friends, and for Leonard to feel comfortable with another cat on his turf. We started doing some research and weighed up the pros and cons, but we were still on the fence.

My sister was in the market for a kitten herself, and around this time a friend of hers informed her that she had a litter of four looking for homes. They were about six weeks old at the time, so they'd be ready for their forever homes a couple of weeks later. I went along to check them out and help my sister, who's never owned a cat before, to see that they were all healthy and happy before she decided to keep one.

They were fab little kittens, very bouncey, very cute, and very cuddly. One in particular curled up in my lap within minutes of me sitting down, and fell asleep for about half an hour! I knew then that this little kitten would be coming home with us ...

Time for more discussions! Originally we were looking to get a girl kitten, and the fellow who fell asleep in my lap was a boy. After some more research, however, the general opinion appeared to be that gender wasn't really a matter of conflict, and it was down to the cat's personality whether they would get on or not. Confident that Leonard would get used to another cat relatively quickly, and aware that we would have the kitten neutered when he was old enough, it appeared a descision was made.

We were about to become a two cat household!

We decided to name the new kitten James T Cat (James Cat for short), to continue the Star Trek theme that we seem to have adopted for our pets. Leonard "Bones" McCoy continued with his day-to-day life, unaware that we were hatching secret plans to sneak James Cat into the house without him knowing ...

The big day arrived. We'd kept the door to the room we were to keep James Cat in closed for a week
before we got him, so Leonard would be used to not going in there and not suspect anything was up if it were suddenly off-limits to him.

It's important to have a separate space for your new kitten, for the benefit of both cats. It means that the new guy has somewhere to retreat to and he feels is safe when he starts to explore, and also means that while the existing cat becomes accustomed to the new smell, the rest of his territory is still his, and the kitten is out of harm's way.

We were going to collect James Cat in the evening, so that morning we set up a litter tray and bowls
ready so we could get the kitten in and settled as quickly as possible.

We asked Dan's sister if she could bring James Cat into the house for us and get him settled in his room while we played with Leonard downstairs in the kitchen. This way, we hoped that Leonard would pick up James Cat's scent behind the door, but not associate it with us ... the last thing you want is your existing cat thinking that you are responsible for bringing an intruder in to his house!

Once Leonard had gone out for a bit and everything had calmed down, we went up to visit James Cat.
He was very playful, but very tired, and seemed quite happy to turn in for a good long sleep. Leonard came up a little while later and completely ignored the strange mews and smells from behind the door, which we took as a good sign!

We weren't sure how Leonard would take to this little bundle of scratchy feet and fur, but it wouldn't be long before we were to find out ...

Next time: Leonard McCoy, meet your brother!

Friday 10 January 2014

Happy New Year!

A very Happy New Year from all of us at Hubble & Hattie! We've got some exciting things lined up for 2014, so watch this space for the latest news and happenings from H&H HQ!

Coming in 2014 ...

Some fantastic new titles coming up this year, including two new books from Life skills for puppies author, Helen Zulch! Click on the links below to learn more about each book on the H&H website!