Friday, February 27, 2009

Luxy & Tuxy: A Tale of Two Kitties

By Daniel Quagliozzi

The SFSPCA Cat Behavior Program helps hundreds of cats a year, but the hardest cases we get are often the youngest. All year round, especially in the summer time, kittens find their way into shelters all over California. In a state blessed with longer periods of warm climates, kittens are born in high numbers. If these kittens make it into the shelter system at a young enough age, they can be socialized in foster homes and put up for adoption by the time they reach two pounds or two months of age.

Some kittens come in later in their childhood and have not benefited from the socialization of humans. Most commonly, these kittens are coming from feral colonies where they have to be trapped and surrendered. Once they are health checked, they need to be handled consistently and trust with humans has to be established in order for them to be adoptable. Luxy and Tuxy are perfect examples of how this socialization is done successfully.

In the late summer months of 2008, a feral cat volunteer named Maggie trapped these two 10 -week old kittens in the Hunters Point shipyards, an area that is notorious for kittens that are hard to tame. Maggie describes the cats in this area as having a "stubborn gene" and was ready to assume the same about Luxy and Tuxy when she surrendered them to Animal Care and Control. The shelter staff had a very hard time examining them as they sat still, ears flattened and frozen in fear. What would become of these fearful cats?

The option of surrender to Animal Control was going to be hard so Maggie worked with them consistently for over 4 weeks in her home, seeing them progress every day. Admittedly, she was beginning to fall in love with these two. It's the hardest cases that win you over the most! In no time at all, Luxy and Tuxy were getting comfortable enough to explore her home and interact with her resident cats. Maggie was beginning to think these cats were adoptable, so she brought them back to ACC for Spay & Neuter. Unfortunately, Luxy and Tuxy were not adjusting to the change very well and Maggie was forced to take them home again.

As the holiday season was vastly approaching, Maggie had to visit her family in Australia and was wondering what she was going to do with her two favorite project kitties. As ACC was no longer an option and craigslist was not providing any leads, she contacted the Cat Behavior Program for help. We gladly took Luxy and Tuxy into Maddies with intentions of monitoring their behavior for the 2 months Maggie would be away.

Our second floor is devoted to enrichment and rehabilitation for cats with behaviors that need modification or medical concerns that require a little more comfort than our shelter care kennels can provide. We moved Luxy and Tuxy into a deluxe suite with a cat tree and plenty of quiet and immediately began to visit them. Our cat socializers paid close attention to their body language and shyness. At first, Luxy would hiss as you approached and Tuxy would not come down from his tree. As time went by, we started to see a lot of change. Tuxy had no more fear and Luxy was still a bit aloof but no longer hissing. She would approach you once she knew it was safe.

We made the decision to put Luxy & Tuxy up for adoption. This was news that Maggie thought was impossible. The very day that they were moved into Adoptions, they were adopted by a very patient young man named Ryan. He loved Luxy's "sassyness" and Tuxy's bold personality. Ryan was beaming, just thinking about sharing his bachelor pad with his new buddies. To this day, Luxy and Tuxy, now named "Diva and Buddy" are cuddling it up next to Ryan's pin up pillow.

This folks, is how the magic happens! From fearful fuzzballs to forever friends, Diva & Buddy have defied the odds.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hey Kitty, Are you talk'n to me?

Not your average Cat Behavior Specialists, Jamey Walker & Daniel Quagliozzi aka " The Jersey Boys" are exploring new horizons at The SFSPCA! Like two kindred & cat obsessed spirits, these two animal shelter super heroes followed similar paths in life and joined forces to help give a perspective of cat behavior that would make a difference in the lives of shelter cats and the people that adore them enough to give them a home.
Hailing from Northern New Jersey, Jamey followed his heart to the rainy streets of San Francisco in search of adventure. The change of life he was seeking was about to become very clear when he first stepped foot in the newly constructed Maddie's Pet Adoption Center. The connection he felt, just standing in the lobby, was truly magical. What followed that day was a long journey into many fields of animal welfare, including feline care, dog training assistance and coordination of canine housing. It was his passion for dog behavior that pointed him towards his biggest challenge ever, the homeless cats of the San Francisco SPCA.

Jamey is always searching for new and creative solutions for the cats in our shelter. " A broader insight into behavior will truly make a difference for our cats. If I can use education and cutting edge advice to keep an animal in a home, then I know I have helped to create change for the better good. It's all about the big picture", says Walker.
In his off time, Jamey enjoys eating (cheese and chocolate mostly), collecting random found objects to hang on his wall, riding his bike on flat surfaces and shopping for pants.


Also hailing from the mean streets of Northern New Jersey, Daniel made his way to out to San Francisco in 1997 with one prime objective: To create a life that would make a difference, not only for himself but for his community. Leaving behind the best pizza and cannoli's in the United States, Daniel forged a career in animal welfare after the dot com crash. With a fresh perspective on what's most important in life, he found himself volunteering at The SFSPCA as a cat socializer, a move that would pave the way for his position as an adoption counselor and outreach supervisor for the next five years. Naturally, as adoption counselor, Daniel was learning more and more about cat behavior each day. His transition from counselor to Cat Behavior Specialist felt as natural as claws to a brand new couch.

Daniel has ambitions of bringing The SFSPCA Cat Behavior Program to a level of creativity, never before seen by shelters across the country. When asked what was most important to him, Daniel stated; " What we learn from just one cats behavior can help the rehabilitation of thousands more and ultimately save more lives. Cats are amazing teachers! The trick is being patient enough to learn from them".

Daniel Quagliozzi spends his time away from the shelter with his incessantly vocal senior cat Matilda and his patient wife Akemi. His interests include Heavy Metal, Japanese pop culture, tattooing, Buddhism and watching The Sopranos to feel like he's back home again. In addition, Daniel is also attending City College, majoring in Sociology.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Marking New Territory

By popular demand, the SFSPCA Cat Behavior Program is delighted to announce the addition of our new blog: "Litter Did you know". We hope that it will be a daily destination for fun loving feline fans with a sense of humor, a passion for shelter cats and a curiosity about the people that devote their lives to finding them forever homes. With this blog, the Cat Behavior Program will provide you with insight and advice about common behavior problems as well as an inside view of the cats and people that touch our hearts each day.

So, what can you expect in the near future?

  • The SFSPCA Cat Behavior Program will introduce you to Daniel & Jamey, our resident rock star cat behavior specialists. You'll be able to follow them on their daily adventures with the shelter cat's & kittens and get a birds eye view (no pun intended) of the behavior program.

  • We'll spotlight exciting new additions to our program and keep you up to date on upcoming events and services, such as our bi-monthly Cat Claw Clipping Clinic.

  • Special needs adoptable cats & kittens will be featured each week as well as heartwarming stories of the cats we have successfully placed in loving homes.

  • The behavior program will give guidance and provide useful tips on common behaviors that may be affecting the cat you share your life with.

So, please join us each day for a furfest of feline friends, fun and new fronteers!