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Feline Focus: How to Choose the Right Companion Cat

Living in a multi-cat household can be extremely rewarding. Contrary to popular belief, cats are highly social creatures that benefit from feline companionship. Cats will often play together, groom each other, and give each other much-needed socialization. So if you’re considering adopting a new feline pal, here are some tips for finding the “purrfect” match:

A New Cat or a Companion Cat?

It is important to know the reason why you’re looking to adopt a new cat. Is the cat for you, or is it a friend for your resident cat? If the former, then the cats only have to tolerate each other and be able to share territory peacefully. If the latter, then you’re looking for a cat who will be interacting with and getting along with your resident cat. If that is the case, then whichever feline you choose must be a good match for your cat, with your own preferences coming in second.

Kitten or Adult?

Age isn’t so important. It’s often thought to be easier to integrate a kitten into a household simply because they are less threatening to a resident cat than an adult. However, there are plenty of adult cats who would make great companions, and because feline personality doesn’t begin to solidify until a cat is about 8 months old, it is easier to make a good match with an adult.

The most important thing is to match energy level/playfulness and personality. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How energetic is my cat? How often does he/she need to play?
  2. What type of play does my cat like? Is he/she very athletic, or more mellow during playtime?
  3. Is my cat outgoing or shy?
  4. Has my cat had previous experience living with or meeting other cats? How has he/she reacted?

For older, less playful cats, a kitten might not be the best choice. Kittens are in constant motion and might aggravate a mellower cat. A kitten might also not do well with an extremely active resident cat who could accidentally hurt a kitten during play.

Male or Female?

With spayed and neutered pets, certain pairings are easier, in general, to integrate. In order:

  • Male/Male companionship is the easiest
  • Male/Female is intermediate
  • Female/Female is more difficult

Female cats can sometimes be more territorial with each other than (neutered) male cats. However, there are always exceptions. There are female cats who come into the shelter who are wonderful with other cats, and there are males who refuse to like other cats, so always ask a staff member or volunteer about a particular cat you’re interested in!

At the Adoption Center

When you’re adopting a companion cat, it’s important to let a volunteer or staff person know about your resident feline. We’re happy to help you pick out the best match and we know our cats pretty well!

Making your home a multi-cat home can be a great experience, and can add enrichment and socialization for your resident cat. But for the best chance of success it’s important to make a good match.


Welcoming Your Adopted Dog Into Your Home

Congratulations! You’ve adopted a dog and they’re going home with you, so what’s next? After dog-proofing your house and gathering the necessary supplies (collar, ID tag, water bowl, crate, food, toys, and cleaning products), you’ll need to think about how to acclimate your dog the moment their paws walk through your front door.

Before You Bring Your Dog Home:

  • Gather Needed Supplies – Leash, Collar, ID Tag, Crate or Gates (if needed), Bed, Bowls, Food, Treats, Toys, Grooming Supplies, and Waste Bags.
  • Dog-Proof your house, look for and remove hazardous items and valuable items that your newly adopted dog could chew.
  • Setup your house for your dog’s arrival. Determine where your dog’s crate, bed, and food and water bowls will be placed. Decide where food, treats, and supplies will be stored. Determine the house rules for your dog and make sure all family members know what they are.
  • Decide what your dog’s schedule will be for walks, playtime, training, feeding, and potty time, and who will be responsible.

The First Day:

  • Determine ahead of time where your dog will ride on the way home. It’s best to have two people if possible; one to drive and the other to pay attention to the dog. For safer travels, consider setting up a travel crate in your vehicle. Bring towels just in case your dog gets car sick.
  • Bring your dog straight home – try not to run errands on the way.
  • No welcome-home parties. Limit/discourage visitors for the first few days so that your new dog isn’t overwhelmed.
  • When you arrive at home let your dog sniff around the yard or outdoor area near your home on a leash. Bring your dog to their designated potty spot and reward them with a treat and praise for going there.
  • Introduce your dog to your family members outside, one at a time. Keep it calm and low-key. Let your dog be the one to approach, sniff and drive the interaction. Offering a treat can help your dog to associate family members with good things (food!). No hugging, kissing, picking up, staring at, or patting on the top of the head during the initial introduction – these things can be scary for some dogs.
  • Stay close to home initially. No major excursions. You need to learn your new dog’s behavior before you can predict how they will respond to different stimulus. Establish a walk routine in an area you are familiar with. Structured playtime in the yard is also a good form of exercise, bonding, and training.
  • Bring your dog into the house on a leash and give them a tour of the house. Try keeping the mood calm and relaxed and redirect any chewing or grabbing of objects with a “leave-it” command and offering an appropriate toy.
  • Bring your new dog outside often. Dogs don’t generalize as well as humans do, so even though your dog may have been house trained in their previous home, your dog needs to learn your house rules, which includes a house training refresher.
  • Make sure your new dog gets ample “quiet time” so that your dog can acclimate to their new surroundings. Be observant of your dog’s responses and go at your dog’s pace.
  • If you have a resident dog(s), have the initial meeting outside (one dog at a time if you have several). Don’t rush it. Keep the leashes loose with no tension.  Make sure they meet in a food-free, toy-free zone. Don’t leave them alone together until you are absolutely sure it is safe to do so. Watch and manage all interactions between the dogs initially. When walking the dogs, there should be a person for each dog. 
  • If you have a resident cat(s), keep the cat secure until you know how your dog will react to them. Use doors, pet gates, and leashes to prevent contact initially. Don’t give your dog the opportunity to chase the cat. Make sure the cat has escape options. Keep initial encounters brief. Manage all interactions.

Establish Daily Routines:

  • Sleeping: Initially the crate or bed should be in the room you would like your dog to sleep in eventually. The area should be safe, dog-proofed, easily cleaned, cozy and quiet, with familiar scents. Don’t put your new dog in an uninhabited area like the garage or basement.
  • Feeding: Check with your vet about what the recommended food and amounts that should be fed to your dog based on breed, size, age, activity level, and health. If possible, feed two smaller meals per day rather than one large meal. You may need to reduce the meal size to allow for treats during training. Make sure your dogs food dish is in a safe, out of the way area.
  • Walks: Keep your walks short at first (5-10 minutes) until you get to know your new dog’s behavior and how they responds to different stimuli. Keep to relatively quiet places at first. Avoid interaction with other dogs and unfamiliar people until you and your dog are comfortable.
  • Chew Toys/Interactive Toys: Use of the crate and appropriate toys are great ways to keep your new dog out of trouble. Management of your dog and the environment prevents problem behaviors. Chew toys are a great way to direct your dog’s attention to appropriate toys, and away from objects that you don’t want your dog to destroy. Interactive toys help your dog to use their mind and tire them out, mentally. With a new dog, avoid rough and tumble and chase games when playing.
  • Prevent separation anxiety: Starting the first day, use a crate and a toy in combination with leaving for short periods and coming back several times a day. Don’t make a big fuss of coming or going.

Relationship Building:

Patience: Have patience with your new dog’s behavior, level of training, and the time it takes them to establish a bond with you. Give your new dog time and space to adjust. During the first few days, commit time to get to know your dog’s habits and personality. Establish a routine for your dog and balance interaction and down-time. This is a period of trust-building, so don’t scare or yell at your dog or try to force close contact. Watch your dog’s postures and expressions. Learn to read them. It may take even up to several months for you to get to know your dog’s true nature. And don’t forget, your new dog is trying to do the same with you!

Training: Physical and mental stimulation are necessary parts of your dog’s well-being. Training helps your dog settle into a new home, teaches your dog how to fit into a new family, and strengthens the relationship between you and your dog. Once your dog has settled in and you are familiar with your dog’s responses, take a positive reinforcement style training class (avoid dominance-based methods). You can sign up for humane dog training classes at the Animal Rescue League’s Boston or Dedham’s Branches.

Last: Remember to manage your dog’s environment so that you set them up to succeed. Be proactive, not reactive. In other words, prevent inappropriate behavior from happening, and then you won’t have to correct it.


Adopting a Cat? Think Older!

Right now we’re in kitten season, which means there are lots of adorable kittens waiting for their forever homes. But while all of our Animal Care & Adoption Centers’ animals need to be adopted, it’s important not to forget the amazing older cats who are often overlooked among their tiny-pawed companions.

There are many reasons why older cats make fantastic pets, but here are just a few:

  •  Cat personalities don’t begin to solidify until at least eight months of age, so it’s difficult to tell what type of cat your kitten will turn into in terms of playfulness, energy level, sociability, desire to sit in your lap, etc. With an adult cat you can pick and choose all of your favorite traits!
  • The older the cat, the less work they tend to be. A cat that has matured doesn’t mind so much if you’re at work all day, and is much more likely to sleep through the night. If you don’t like being woken up early, you definitely want to think adult!
  • Older cats know that you’ve rescued them and give tons of love and thanks in return.
  • Indoors cats can live on average between 16 and 18 years. Some can even live into their twenties! So a 7-year-old shelter cat is only just middle-aged. Even a 13-year-old cat could remain happy and healthy for the next five years! Particularly for first-time adopters, consider your own ability to commit to the rest of an animal’s life.
  • If you’re worried that an older cat means more medical bills, consider that even with a kitten you should be prepared to pay for unforeseen medical issues. All of our shelter animals get a full health check by our veterinarian, so we’re able to inform you about any long-term health care your pet might need.
  • Lastly, opening your home to an adult cat is extremely rewarding. There are great cats that spend weeks or even months at the shelter, simply because they get overlooked.

When it’s time to add a new member to your feline family, be sure to ask our staff and volunteers what type of cat (age, personality, etc.) would be a good match for your lifestyle. We’ve spent lots of time getting to know each animal, and are happy to help you start a relationship that will last.

Meet our adoptable cats online. 


Kitten Season is in Full Swing

The warmer weather brings one of the more hectic times of year for the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) … kitten season.

Every year, we experience an influx of kittens starting in the months of March and April. Most kittens that come into ARL’s Animal Care & Adoption Centers are in need of foster care before they are able to be adopted. ARL foster parents volunteer their time and resources — Over a period of 8 weeks, a foster parent cares for a litter of kittens providing their basic needs as well as a human-animal bond.

Kitten season will continue until the fall when the colder weather comes back. Until then, ARL will continue to care for each furry bundle that comes into our care.

The help provided by foster parents is invaluable to us, not only for kittens but all animals in need of foster care. Click here to learn more about becoming a foster parent or volunteering at ARL.


In Memoriam

We were extremely saddened to learn of the untimely passing of League volunteer Carolyn Brown. We will always remember her kindness and compassion toward animals and the people who care for them. The entire League community wishes to extend our deepest condolences to Carolyn’s family and friends. Our thoughts are with them all during this difficult time.


Toto the Tornado Kitten

When a tornado hit Brimfield, MA back in June, the area was devastated. Volunteers banded together to help clean the area up. A tree worker was clearing debris when he came across the tiniest survivor of the storm, a 2-week old kitten.

Thought to be swept up by the wind into the tree, the kitten was taken to the emergency operations center and was in need of immediate care. Luckily, the League’s Rescue Team was already there aiding in efforts to help other animals. We assumed care of the kitten until he was healthy enough for adoption. Two months later, Jonathan Hall, a volunteer paramedic during the tornado, came to adopt the kitten now named Toto.

Toto’s whirlwind adventure has now been turned into a children’s book. All proceeds will benefit the League, so purchase your copy here today.


Lt. Alan Borgal Named One of America’s Top Animal Defenders

In honor of National Justice for Animals Week, the Animal Legal Defense Fund named America’s Top 10 Animal Defenders, including our very own Lt. Alan Borgal.

Alan has worked at the League for 37 years and continues to be a true advocate for animals. As Director of the League’s Center for Animal Protection, he has saved countless animals’ lives. In 2007, Alan recieved the “Heroes Among Us Award” presented by the Boston Celtics. He also received the  Vartkes K. “VIC” Karaian Award in May of this past year for his work in supporting environmental health in the community.

We would like to congratulate Alan on this well-deserved honor and thank him for everything he does for animals in need!


Crossing Paths (Again)

In the past 2 posts, we’ve told you about our founder, Anna Harris Smith, and the restoration of her Dorchester home. The North Bennet Street School has been working on the house for about 2 years now, however the connection between the school and the League goes back even further.

In 1914, the League used the North Bennet Street School as a temporary holding facility for animals that would be transported to the Boston shelter. A clip from The North End Lantern urges readers to bring stray dogs, cats, and birds there.  Rich Friberg was unaware of the Clapp House history when he first signed on to the project. However, now almost 100 years later, the North Bennet Street School and the Animal Rescue League of Boston have crossed paths again.

The North Bennet students took the old Clapp house foundation and restored it while staying true to its originality. Whoever buys the renovated Clapp house cannot alter the work the North Bennet Street students have done without petitioning to make changes. “It takes the right person to buy the house,” Friberg says.

It also takes the right person to create an organization that has lasted not only 113 years, but has saved thousands of animals’ lives. The Animal Rescue League of Boston has done the same. The League has built upon the foundation Anna Harris Smith created while still remaining true to her intended purpose.


League Founder Anna Harris Smith Home Restoration

On Tuesday, we celebrated our 113th anniversary and told you about the Anna (Clapp) Harris Smith home restoration project. Today, let’s take a closer look at the history of the property.

Historic Boston Incorporated and the North Bennet Street School, located in the North End and specializing in 17th to 19th century buildings, have partnered to restore the Anna Harris Smith house.  After receiving a grant from the 1772 Foundation, the organizations were able to acquire the historic Clapp residence. The restoration will reflect the home’s appearance circa 1804 when Anna’s family resided there. Over the years, the house was somewhat modernized by past owners, but this only pertained to the exterior. However, the interior fell into decay and was in great need of repair.

The North Bennet students were entrusted by Historic Boston to restore the house to be as ‘period’ as possible. Rich Friberg, the preservation carpentry faculty leader of the project, said that the group did not know that Anna lived there but was pleasantly surprised by that fact. Through the use of traditional tools and methods, the students have been able to turn back the clock to 1804. The up-to-date windows were replaced by handmade sashes of 12 panes over 12 panes, a design similar to the one the house had 100 years ago. Even older than the design of the windows, the foundation of the Clapp house is speculated to be the original from the 17th century.

When North Bennet began the project, the front wall of the foundation was crumbling under the house. Historic Boston dug up the yard so that the stones could be withdrawn and reset for a secure foundation. Friberg stated that the banister in the house is most likely the original but they have yet to do anything with it since their work has focused mainly on the home’s exterior. The front door is not the original, but it was well researched and replicated.  The east elevation has just been finished and the completion of the north elevation is not too far behind.

The Clapp house is in the process of being designated a City of Boston landmark.


Feb. 7, 2012 – Our 113th Anniversary

Feb.7, 1899 – On this day, one-hundred and thirteen years ago, the League was formed in downtown Boston’s Park Street Chapel. Founder Anna Harris Smith and a few close colleagues agreed on the need for an organization to care for homeless and abandoned animals, and decided to form an organization for that purpose.

It all began with just 110 supporters and $1,200. Today, there are over 400 volunteers and 92 employees. From the beginning, Anna Harris Smith commonly used the phrase“Kindness Uplifts the World” to describe the League’s overall philosophy, encapsulating her desire to care for both animals and their human companions.

Her philosophy still rings true as the ARL of Boston continues the work she began.

About Anna Harris Smith of Dorchester

League founder Anna Clapp Harris Smith – a descendant of the founders of Dorchester – was also a resident of the area, where her house still stands today. The house is believed to have been constructed circa 1635 based on the age of its stone foundation. The Clapp house is currently undergoing a restoration. The restored home will offer a glimpse into the city’s storied past but is also a reminder of the neighborhood’s – and the League’s – early history.