Talking Animals

This month here at Cool To Be Kind To Animals we are delighted to have a guest blogger, Ondine Sherman. Ondine is the Co-Founder and Director of Voiceless, the animal protection institute.

Rosie and bottleLast year my daughter Jasmine and I found a tiny kitten abandoned in a box.

She was so little that she couldn’t yet meow, eat, or even wee alone. We fed her with a small bottle every few hours (imitating her mother’s teats), wiped her tiny furry bottom to help her urinate (a mother cat would use her tongue) and gave her a warm, soft place to sleep and grow. We named her Rosie and she followed us everywhere, watching our every move and learning about life. Rosie learnt that the sound of the fridge opening indicated dinner time; the creak of the front gate, a potential new play-mate and; quickly understood to avoid our dog when she had a bone.

Rosie was our first cat and we were amazed by how she could talk to us in her own language; with chirrups, purrs, growls, hisses, and meows. Her body language also told us what she was feeling: a flick of a tail or flattening ears spelled trouble and a likely bite (we called her ninja kitten); dilated pupils signaled an intention to play and; when her lids half closed over her gorgeous green eyes, we knew we would be honoured with a sweet cuddle.

Many of us know the pleasures of caring for our pets; especially dogs and cats. In fact, Australian’s own more companion animals, 8 million in total, than most other countries in the world. We experience just how smart, sensitive and communicative they are and how much they need the guidance of a loving guardian.

But what about other animals, like the ones that grow up, not snuggled in our cosy beds, but living in fields, barns or cages? They are also sentient.

Sentience is an important word to know. It is defined as “A being who has interests…who prefers, desires, or wants.”  These animals avoid suffering and seek positive experiences just as humans do. Not only that, but they too communicate with, care for and teach their young the ways of the world.

Did you know that mother pigs sing to her piglets whilst feeding them?  It helps them relax. And she builds them a nest made of grass and straw? That keeps them warm and safe. Pigs say ‘hi’ to each other by touching noses and grunting. And they are even smarter than dogs.

In factory farms, where piglets are denied the love and care of their mothers or even a human surrogate, like what Jasmine and I became for Rosie, it causes them to suffer. Just as it would a human baby, puppy or kitten.

Although animals can talk with a myriad of different sounds and gestures, many of us humans don’t learn their language or just don’t want to hear.

Together, we humans have to learn to listen, and become their voice, loud and clear.

Will you help be a voice for animals?

Ondine Sherman is happy to hear from you with ideas for blogs, or your thoughts and concerns at ondine@voiceless.org.au

Get involved with CTBK!

The Cool To Be Kind To Animals project is in its early stages and needs your help to grow into a successful animal care educational movement. Please share this article to raise awareness of the concept of viewing all animals as sentient beings and of the project.

If you are interested in being a guest blogger we would love to hear from you.

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Take care – of all animals! The Cool To Be Kind to Animals team

A guide to finding a new cat or dog

So, you have made the decision to get a dog or a cat. Yay! But where is the best place to get your new pet? Read on to find out.

First things first

At CTBK we love animals and we know that getting one as a pet is a big responsibility. Pets need lots of your time and attention, and need looking after if you go away. They can also cost a fair bit of cash, especially if they get sick – consider pet insurance, it is affordable and can save you thousands of dollars.

If you haven’t done so already, please have a really good think about whether you are ready for the responsibility that comes with having a pet.

Definitely ready? Great!

Adopt, adopt and adopt

We cannot stress this enough! Before you go anywhere else visit your local shelter, for a dog or a cat or both – or even a guinea pig! Many shelters help lots of different types of animals. Animal shelters in Australia are bursting at the seams with gorgeous furry friends of all sizes, colours, breeds and ages, looking for a loving new home.

We can pretty much guarantee you will find a lovely pet at a shelter. It’s best to keep an open mind but if you are looking for a particular breed or age, contact your local shelters and they will let you know when a pet that matches your requirements comes in.

Also consider the age of pet you would like. Shelters often have puppies and kittens, usually from unwanted or stray litters, not just older animals. When these youngsters are raised by shelter staff or foster carers they are usually incredibly well behaved, because the people raising them are so experienced in animal welfare and simply love them to bits!

But think carefully. Sometimes an adult animal might suit you better. Although there will still be training and ‘getting to know you’ time, an older pet might suit your lifestyle better and these animals really need an enduring and loving home – it could be yours.

If you want to start looking straight away, Pet Rescue, a not-for-profit organisation, has a great online directory and a free iPhone App that can help you find pets looking for forever homes in your area. Brilliant!

You can also contact your local Animal Welfare League (AWLA):

Or contact your local RSPCA – they are in every State.

Avoid funding cruel, irresponsible breeders

You may have heard of Oscar’s Law, a campaign that has helped to highlight the plight of dogs that are mistreated by irresponsible breeders operating puppy farms. Not cool.

We always recommend going to a shelter, but if you have decided to get your new pet from a breeder, make sure they are registered with the local council or the breeding association (ask to see evidence) and make sure you are happy about the conditions the animals are being kept in.

There are different regulations and guidelines for breeders in each state of Australia, so check with your state government, RSPCA or your local Animal Welfare League. Of course, there are responsible and dedicated breeders. However, if you have any animal welfare concerns with the one you visit, please report the breeder straight away to your local council or the RSPCA.

How much is that puppy in the window?

Imagine being kept in a small cage in a pet shop window when all you want to do is run around and play and be with your mum, brothers and sisters! Not kind.

Shops put puppies and kittens in their windows because they attract customers and increase sales. Although most pet shops adhere to the standards of care for their animals for sale, unfortunately they also encourage impulsive pet purchases, which often result in an unwanted pet a few months down the line. Even if you are not being impulsive, this is not a practice we would like to encourage.

There are some really cool pet stores though – like Petbarn, which has teamed with the RSPCA and Lort Smith Animal Hospital and Best Friends – that have changed what they do now by offering or promoting shelter dogs and cats for adoption: they have arrangements with local shelters. What a great solution! Contact your local pet stores to see if they are participating in an animal adoption program.

Be cool and kind to animals – get your pet from a shelter. In our view, there is nothing more rewarding than giving a rescued animal a second chance.

Get involved!

The Cool To Be Kind To Animals project is in its early stages and needs your help to grow into a successful animal care educational movement. To get involved, to help us stamp out animal cruelty and neglect and for regular updates, please share this article and follow us on this blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Together, we can help to reduce the instances of animal cruelty and neglect in Australia and help to create a generation of more responsible pet owners.

Take care – with all your animals! The Cool To Be Kind To Animals team.

All pets featured in this blog entry are either available for adoption or have been re-homed by Lort Smith Animal Hospital, Melbourne. 

Photographs © Lort Smith Animal Hospital