NECCOG: Finding the right shelter pet for you

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Region - posted Tue., Jan. 3, 2012
Paloma Flath holds Tinkerbell at the NECCOG Animal Shelter. Photos by D. Coffey.
Paloma Flath holds Tinkerbell at the NECCOG Animal Shelter. Photos by D. Coffey.

When 9-year-old Paloma Flath asked if she could have a cat, her mother made the girl spend time at the NECCOG Animal Shelter in Dayville. She fed and watered the cats there. She got to know the personalities of the animals. She cleaned out litter boxes. In due time, she fell in love with Tinkerbell, a 2-year-old black, long-haired beauty.

Shelter volunteer Kate Busby said that's the way it should be. “Her mom gave her a chance to come in and see what needs to be done, and play with the cats,” Busby said. “It's a great way to find the cat that fits in your home.”

It was the first time that Paloma's mom Dayna had used an animal shelter to pick out a pet. Flath's veterinarian, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Norris, with the Pomfret Small Animal Clinic, had recommended NECCOG. “When a shelter is doing their job the best, they learn about the personality of the cat,” Norris said.

If a cat has been exposed to children in the early part of its life, the transition from shelter to home with children will be easier. The same can be said for exposure to dogs or other cats. “Cats arrive on earth very flexible, but in the first six to eight weeks of life, they tend to learn who they're going to be, based upon what their mother tells them is safe and not safe,” Norris said.

Mew, another shelter cat, watched Paloma and Tinkerbell from the counter. Buddha lay in a patch of sun coming through a window. Another cat was curled in a ball on the floor. A volunteer came in and took Memphis, a Husky dog, out for a walk.

The more interaction with people, the better it is for the animals. Staff members learn the personalities of the animals in their care. Not every cat or dog is fit for every home. According to Norris, if stray cats or kittens haven't been vaccinated, or aren't socialized, or haven't been handled by humans much, they won't make good pets. “And there are nice pets that don't get to have homes,” she said.

The NECCOG Animal Shelter provides animal control for the towns of Brooklyn, Canterbury, Killingly, Sterling, Pomfret and Woodstock. Seven dogs and 15 cats were on the premises the day that Flath picked up her new pet. Busby went over some last-minute details with the new owner. She gave Flath a booklet in which to keep track of Tinkerbell's shots, and a coloring book.

Mother and daughter left the shelter with Tinkerbell and a blanket the cat was used to lying on. They would use it to introduce Tinkerbell to the cat they had at home. They planned to keep the cats separated for a few days, but allow them to get acquainted with each other's smell by using blankets that each had slept on. After a few days, the two cats would be introduced in a small room.

There are other considerations to keep in mind when adopting shelter animals, health being primary among them. Because cats that haven't been vaccinated can spread illnesses to other cats, it's important to make sure an animal isn't sick before bringing it into a home with other cats. “The chances of bringing home a kitten with something is pretty high,” Norris said. And because vaccinations are given over a course of nine weeks, it's important for the cat to have that much time for the vaccine to kick in.

NECCOG makes every effort to ensure that owners will take good care of the animals. Any current pets must be up to date with veterinarian care. “We try to make sure the animal is going to a good owner,” Busby said. And people have to spay or neuter their animals as well. The $50 adoption fee NECCOG requires entitles the owner to a voucher for a reduced spay/neuter fee. Most vets accept the vouchers.

The one piece of advice Busby gives is to be ready to take care of the animal. “We like seeing animals go to ‘forever homes,’” she said. And while it isn't as easy to find a kitten – or puppy – at a shelter, the older animals make fine pets. “A lot of our animals are on the older side,” Busby said. “They need homes, too.”

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