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Thinking of Giving Up a Friend?

If you believe you must find a new home for your companion animal or the stray you found, then you must be prepared to spend time and effort to do right by your friend. You once made a commitment to care for this living, breathing, feeling, animal. It is worth every hour you spend to find him or her a decent home. You will sleep better at night. First, though, do everything possible to accommodate your pet or stray into your household.

Rental problems? Find a situation that allows pets. There are plenty of landlords who do allow pets. Take the time to find them. And if you're worried about a pet deposit, just think of this: what's worth more to you, a few fast-food meals or the life of a loyal friend?

Allergies? Visit your doctor to find out if your allergies can be controlled through medication and/or diet. If medications do not help you entirely, then try these solutions: Allerpet/D, available in many pet stores and by mail order. Apply to pet's fur using washcloth once a week. It neutralizes the dander. Nature's Miracle works in a similar manner. Cats can be bathed in distilled water to remove their allergens. Talk with your veterinarian about these and other solutions to the allergy problem.

Unruly behavior? In most cases, the problems are quite solvable if you make a little effort. An animal is like a child. Set no boundaries, ignore him, give her nothing to do, teach him nothing...the child will not be well-adjusted and will not learn to behave. It is up to you to teach your animal kindly and consistently what is expected of him or her. Take obedience classes (contact local adult education centers and recreation centers, ask neighbors). Read a book. Practice frequently, with kindness and consistency. Most animals know how to act, we humans need to be trained in how to interact with our animals. If you like your cashmere sweater, don't leave it where your animal can eat it - it isn't the cat's/dog's fault if he/she can't distinguish between the blanket you have let him chew on in his crate and your favorite clothing. Consistency is the key. Positive reinforcement works faster than negative reinforcement.

Destructive behavior/house soiling/barking? Does your dog destroy things when you leave? Does your dog pee/poop in the house? Use a crate when you leave the dog alone. Crates have been proven over and over to be effective. A crate is worth every penny. If your dog is barking excessively, you need obedience instruction. Bitter apple will work with barkers also.

Shows aggression? You need obedience training and assistance. Remember: cats and dogs, like children, learn what they are taught. Does someone in your home rough-house with the animal? Play tug-of-war? Yell at the animal? Yell at other people or act violent? Does a child poke, tease or torment the animal? Or do you basically ignore the animal unless you're scolding or punishing him? Try to think about how your animal learned aggressive behavior, and find out proper techniques for eradicating it. If your cat is playing with its claws, you must stop the play and walk away. Spend quality time playing with the cat with catnip mice or cat teaser toys. Cats soon learn to focus their play instincts on a toy and not your hands/feet.

Litterbox accidents? How often do you clean out the box? Is the box in a high traffic area? Have you added additional cats without adding additional boxes? Have you changed brands of litter? All of these might cause litterbox accidents. If there have been no household changes to trigger this behavior, a trip to the vet is in order. Your cat may have feline lower urinary tract disease (cystitis) and needs treatment immediately - do not delay - your cat could die if he or she has this disease and is not treated.

Claws furniture? Have you provided your cat with appropriate surfaces (cardboard, sisal or carpeted cat scratching boards, trees)? Do you trim your cat's claws on a regular basis? The key is to make the scratching post more interesting than furniture - invest in good quality posts and treat the post with catnip. Cover furniture with throws to protect them during the training period. Use double-faced tape on edges of things kitty climbs on or scratches. Use furniture corner covers which can be bought at pet stores. Is your furniture really worth more than the life of a living, breathing, sentient being?

Read - some of the following books/magazines may have the answer to your particular human/animal problem. Books by Carol Benjamin (Mother Knows Best, Second Hand Dog, The Chosen Puppy), Mordecai Siegal and Matthew Margolis (Good Dog, Bad Dog), Monks of Skete (How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend), Karen Pryor (Don't Shoot the Dog), Dr. Richard Pitcairn and Susan Pitcairn (Natural Health for Dogs & Cats), and others. Books by Desmond Morris (Catwatching and Catlore), Anitra Frazier's The Natural Cat and books by Michael Fox (Supercat and Understanding Your Cat), David Taylor's You and Your Cat, Pam Johnson's Twisted Whiskers: Solving Your Cat's Behavior Problems, Alice Rhea's Good Cats, Bad Habits: The Complete A-to-Z Guide for When Your Cat Misbehaves, and Dr. Nicholas Dodman's The Dog Who Loved Too Much, and books by Roger Caras and Cleveland Amory.

Read as much as you can absorb and then make intelligent decisions about the approach you will take in living with Rover or Fluffy. As with child-rearing philosophies, numerous ones abound in the feline/canine arena. Magazines - Cat Fancy, Cats Magazine, Dog Fancy, Dog World, Natural Pet, and others offer monthly reminders on caring for your canine/feline. You may want to pick up an issue or two from the local pet store, library, or newsstand before taking out a subscription.

If none of the above helps, don't expect someone else to take responsibility for finding a solution--you have to do it. If it's a stray you've found and there is no room in your home for him or her, you have still taken responsibility for this animal by feeding/housing it. Just because someone else let this animal loose, you have now made that animal your responsibility. Live up to the role of concerned caregiver. Do the right thing by the animal.

Neuter or spay your cat/dog, and update all shots. Prevent more unwanted animals and make your pet more adoptable. It's the decent thing to do.

Contact group/person from whom you obtained pet. If you signed an adoption contract, you may be bound to return the animal to that group/person. If your animal is a purebred, check telephone book or contact local animal control agency for phone numbers of breed rescue groups in your area.

Take photos of your cat/dog. Find someone with access to a computer. Ask that person to scan in the best photo and give him information to make an attractive 8.5x11 flyer/poster. Include on the flyer/poster: pet's name, breed, age, sex, whether neutered/spayed, best qualities, whether suited to a home with children and/or other pets.

Post flyers where you think responsible people will look--animal hospitals/vets, pet stores, community centers, bulletin boards, adult education facilities, your workplace.

Walk the dog with an "adopt me" sign on him.

Screen callers. Try to find someone who truly cares. Make them understand the time commitment any dog/cat needs, so the cat/dog doesn't end up homeless again. Try to get a referral, call their vet, visit their home with your dog (and possibly with your cat). If it doesn't seem right, keep trying to find a better home.

If your cat/dog is up-to-date on shots and neutered/spayed, some adoption groups may let you join them at their weekly adoption shows. You can stand there with your dog/cat and answer questions. They may be able to assist you with reviewing an applicant for your cat/dog. Because these groups are nonprofit and all-volunteer, they can help only a tiny fraction of the deserving animals out there.

If you resort to giving your dog/cat up to an SPCA, Humane Society, or other shelter, put your name down on the adoption waiting list, to give your cat/dog an extra chance and so at least you'll be called before he or she is euthanized. While some animals are lucky enough to be adopted from shelters, don't delude yourself: most cats/dogs in most shelters are killed within days because there are too few adopters for the thousands of worthy animals hoping for a good home. And too many people are willing to give up a loyal friend.

Before you make your decision--and it is your decision; your animal has no say--think one last time what you can do to maintain your friend, companion animal in your home.

Written by Ginnie Maurer

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Last Updated: August 16, 2014 (LET) PawSupport