Exceptional Fathers of the Animal Kingdom and Practical Pet Adoption Tips
By Kristen Koirtyohann
It’s June, so in honor of both Father’s Day and National Adopt-a-Cat month, let’s take a minute to celebrate some of the top fathers of the animal kingdom and discuss the steps you can take when you decide to become a cat parent.
Champion of the original “dad bod,” the Emperor penguin has a lot of responsibility before his offspring have even entered the world. Serial monogamists, Emperor penguins mate for life at their inland ancestral breeding grounds. Once the mother lays her egg and leaves for her march back to the sea to hunt for food, the father takes over and is responsible for keeping the egg safe, warm, and unharmed. During this time, which could be two months or longer, the dad protects the egg in his pouch and balances the egg on his feet. He also fasts during this time as there is no food at his inland location and he will not get a bite to eat until the mother returns, thus signaling his turn to march to the sea.
Next, the flamingo is an exceptional dad who splits parenting duties 50/50 with the mother. Not only do fathers alternate egg incubation with the mothers, but they also help feed their newborns with crop milk (which comes from their digestive tract), the only source of nourishment for their growing chicks.
Finally, as one of the very few male species able to give birth, the seahorse is perhaps one of the most astounding fathers of the animal kingdom. To start, female seahorses transfer their eggs into a unique pouch on the male’s tail. The male is responsible for fertilizing the eggs, providing nutrients, and creating a safe environment for his offspring. The babies hatch while still inside the pouch and are expelled with quick contractions during the birthing process. Too bad epidurals are not offered in the ocean!
Has reading about these fathers inspired you to become a pet parent? In honor of Adopt a Cat Month, let’s explore what can prepare you for a successful feline adoption. Below are some tips to best set yourself and your new cat up for success.
First, ask yourself a few important questions. What kind of cat do you desire? Do you have the time to care for a cat? Do you have the space? Is anyone in your household allergic? Ensure you’re ready to make a long-term commitment before bringing a cat into your home.
Second, research some potential places from which you could adopt. Consider adopting from a local shelter or rescue group, when feasible. As the saying goes, prevent animal exploitation and “Adopt Don’t Shop.” According to the Humane Society of the United States, “pets from shelters and rescue groups typically cost less than pets purchased or even acquired for free, when you add in the cost of vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, microchipping, flea and tick treatment and dewormer included in your adoption fee.”
An internet search will provide you with a list of local shelters and organizations, such as the Animal Welfare Leagues of Alexandria and Arlington, the Lost Dog & Cat Foundation, King Street Cats, and the SPCA of Northern Virginia, to name a few. After you peruse their websites and view a list of available animals, visit the shelter in person and meet your potential new buddy. Subject to each organization’s individual rules and procedures, take the time to meet the animals and interact with them. Don’t be afraid to ask their caregivers detailed questions to ensure they’ll be a good fit in your home.
Once you’ve decided on a new cat, ensure your home is ready to welcome them in and ease the transition. Consider setting up a small “safe room,” such as a laundry room, small bedroom, or bathroom that includes fresh food and water, as well as a clean litter box. This will allow you to slowly introduce them to their new surroundings and reduce the chances of them feeling overwhelmed. Speaking of litter boxes, experts suggest one box per cat, plus one. Try to space the boxes apart, if possible, and don’t set them up near a food or water source. Also, it’s recommended to scoop each box once per day and perform a full cleanout every 1-2 weeks.
Give your new friend enough space and let them come to you when ready. Treats are always welcome for good behavior and for letting them know they can trust you. Ensure you put away any dangerous materials in the house, including cleaning chemicals and other household items. Close off any holes or crawl spaces the cat could get into and assess your household plants as many are toxic to cats. Buy a small assortment of new toys to keep them interested and engaged, as well as a scratching post or pad to redirect their claws from your couch to the appropriate spot. Please remember that declawing cats is an inhumane and unnecessary practice and is even illegal in some states (including our neighboring state of Maryland), counties and local municipalities, and countries.
For all the dads on this upcoming Father’s Day, enjoy some quality time with your children whether they be of the human or pet variety. And for all the aspiring cat dads out there, remember the Emperor penguin, flamingo, and seahorse dads and strive to be just like them.
About the Author: Kristen Koirtyohann — After getting married a few months ago, Kristen and her 2 cats, Atticus & Harrison, moved in with her new husband (and their new dad), Matt. He has since become a model “cat dad” to both her boys, building them homemade cat condos out of boxes, feeding them daily treats the minute he walks in the door, and snuggling them on the couch each evening. They have him wrapped around their little…paws.