Social Petworking

Saia, Newton, Maisey

by Kimberly Wade

There’s no question about it. We love our pets. In fact, we love them so much that many of us have jumped on the bandwagon to create social media pages just for them—something that is being called Social Petworking. And yes, I’m totally guilty as charged.

You’ve heard me mention before that our two-year-old cat Maisey has her own Instagram. She’s just surpassed 500 followers (true story—this was a goal of mine) and often she features her kitty siblings, Newton (a three-year-old tabby) and Saia (a one-year-old siamese). In talking to my husband the other day I was telling him how some cats just flourish on Instagram—there are literally famous cats who have millions of followers and are featured in movies (Nine Lives) and more. Dogs too, though cats seem to be more popular. So why isn’t my Maisey reaching people like that?

His answer was because I need better photos and less of the other pets. The focus needs to be her. So you know I’ve added creating accounts for the other animals to my to do list, but in the meantime, I’m working to up Maisey’s status.

Truth? While I partially started her account a year ago for fun and to follow the trend of Social Petworking, I really did it to raise awareness for homeless pets, promote fostering and pet adoption. Many others do this too. Even some of the famous cats, Nala Cat and Venus Two Face Cat, for example, were adopted. It helps to show the world that yes, there are purebred cats that come to shelters, and yes, we have every age, look, personality and then some. It also lets people know that there are millions of cats (and dogs) that enter animal shelters every year, there are still places that euthanize due to time or space, and that while there are reputable breeders, there are so many incredible animals in shelters… and you really can find your dream pet there! I’ve seen so many people that I know or meet who are now looking into helping shelters just because a cat or dog they follow on Instagram is a shelter alumni. That tells me that crazy cat lady or not, trendy or not, we are making a difference with Social Petworking.

There’s more too. Social Petworking helps small businesses grow. I can’t tell you how many cool cat things I’ve found thanks to Instagram, and then after my purchase arrives, I take photos and post them. The business then shares my photos, follows Maisey, and together we reach even more people, helping homeless pets find love and businesses grow. Big businesses too, like Chewy.com, encourage this as well, and have gone viral with photos of pets in their boxes. Local crafters, like ForMew (and if I may say a big supporter of Nevada Humane Society), have reached international status thanks to Social Petworking! And I could go on and one.

Finally, Social Petworking is bringing more people and pets together, allowing animal lovers to share in the joy as well as the loss. I’ve (through Maisey) befriended several animal lovers and found out they unexpectedly lost a pet and it is amazing to see the number of people come out and share in the grief, and offer consolation to the human. It may not lessen the pain, but it does help bring peace, especially when so many uplifting photos of the pet are shared and loved.

One more thing. Studies are showing that 1 in 5 pets has a social media account. 1 in 5. That’s PAWsome. Jump on the bandwagon today, or at least go follow my Maisey.

Update: Guess what? Maggie, the kitty whose story we shared last week? She went home!

Upcoming Events: October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month! If you’re in the market to adopt a new BFF, check out our many adorable dogs at both shelter locations, one in Reno and one in Carson! Plus, don’t forget about Nevada’s Super Pet Adoption Day next week, Saturday, October 14 at Rancho San Rafael Park with multiple shelters and rescues, free microchipping, food trucks, vendors and more! The event runs 10am to 4pm.

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Kids, Two and Four-Legged Alike

by Kimberly Wade

Kids and pets are a natural combination. Who doesn’t love the adorable photo of the tiny child napping on a fluffy cat, or curled up next to a dog? What child doesn’t want to grow up with a four-legged BFF? We decorate nurseries with stuffed animals and animal print murals. We surround kids with animals—so why wouldn’t we want them to coexist?

The reason we struggle is because we don’t properly introduce the two and we don’t actively supervise them. I know parents who feel judged by bringing a pet home to a newborn baby or feel they need to give up their pet because a baby is on the way. You can have both, and given so many people around me are having kids and already have a home full of cats and dogs, I thought we could offer some basic help:

  • Prepare. If you already have children, start teaching them how to interact with the pet—use a stuffed animal as an example. Kids can be playful, so let them know that tugging on the tail or ears is not ok, and teach them to never put their face directly in the pet’s face. On the other hand, if you have pets and a newborn on the way, let the pets be a part of setting up the nursery so they can see and smell everything. Bring home the first onesie your child wears so that the pets can smell it in advance of baby coming home. When baby does arrive, be sure to teach your pet that it’s not ok to climb on the kids, and have a secure place for them so that the pets can’t get to them.
  • Create kid-free and pet-free zones. Even the most energetic pet needs time to chill out and kids will need their own space too. Show kids basic dog or cat language—if you see the tail swishing low and tucked, or ears pinned back, it’s a sign that the pet needs to be left alone. If a pet growls, it’s not a bad thing—it’s a warning sign and means you should separate the two.
  • Include kids in the animal care. Have them assist with walking, feeding and training. It not only helps to build a bond between the pet and child, but teaches the child responsibility.
  • Use positive reinforcement. Give plenty of praise for the child when they demonstrate proper behavior, and let the kids reward the pet with treats when they exhibit good behavior. Teach by example—we know kids learn by watching us so expressing gentle affection for the pet will certainly rub off on your children.
  • Finally, actively supervise by being a part of their interactions. Kids, especially newborns, should never be left alone with any pet. Animals may react to a high pitched scream or kids may unintentionally provoke a pet. Supervision is key to ensuring a good relationship with them both.

Even if you don’t have a pet, basic skills for kids and pets interacting are important. For example, teach kids not to run up to a dog or a cat they don’t know. That pet may have never been around kids and even if nothing is done wrong, that pet may not know how to react. Have kids ask before petting or reaching out to pets—let the pet initiate contact.

Animals can have an amazing effect on children, offering comfort, companionship, learning opportunities and so much more. They are meant to be together, and we, as adults and parents, have the vital job of teaching all of our kids, two and four-legged alike, how to behave around one another. My husband and I don’t have kids, yet we have lots of kids in the family. Our pets are not often around them, so they are terrified of someone their same height. They are all well-behaved, but we’ve learned to move slowly or if needed, put the dogs in their crates and cats in a bedroom. It’s our job to set everyone up for success.

There are so many resources out there for kids and pets so please, don’t be deterred about adopting if you have a child, or feel you need to give up your pet because a child is on the way. You can have both.

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