Preventing cat fights

Preventing Cat Fights

Things may be going great for your cats, but changing routines and underlying health conditions can disrupt a peaceful household. If your sweet cat is suddenly acting aggressively, you should take them in to see their veterinarian and make sure they are not experiencing any health ailments. If your cat receives a clean bill of health, then there may be something at home that is causing their behavior changes.

Typically when cats fight, they are not on the same page when it comes to playtime. Tending to each cat’s enrichment needs will help prevent unnecessary scuffles. There may be other triggers that cause unwarranted fighting as well, including when they both want attention from you, when they become territorial over the best resting places in the home, or if they see a cat strutting nearby for example. Be sure to observe your cats closely to see what may be triggering them to fight.

If the fighting becomes incessant, causing a cat to become incredibly stressed or stuck in hiding, separate both animals into separate rooms providing them with the necessary items. These items include food, water, a litterbox, a comfortable place to rest, and comforting interaction from members of your household for at least one hour per day. Separating your cats helps calm them down and may take a few days or weeks for them to reset, pending the severity of their fighting. While your cats are on a timeout, you can take that time to make adjustments in your home to prevent this behavior in the future. Some ideas include:

  • Making sure your cats have enough resources such as boxes, beds, food and water dishes, litterboxes, toys, access to natural sunlight, safe hiding spaces, and scratching posts to share. The right amount varies with each household.
  • Figuring out the right amount of time your cat needs your sole attention each day.
  • Covering a portion of your windows with a window covering if that pesky outdoor cat wanders by often.
  • Teaching your cat to come when called. It is possible, especially when treats are involved! Calling your cat when they become anxious will help redirect their attention.

Reading cat body language can be tough! The more you understand what your cat is saying through their behavior, the more you’ll be able to help them. Signs to look for when cats become anxious include dilated pupils, growling, staring, tense body posture, and a flicking tail.

It is up to you to determine when to reintegrate your cats, pending on the severity of their fighting. It could be a few days or a few weeks later. When you reintroduce them, make sure you can keep an eye on them. There will likely be hissing and walking away when they see each other again, which is regular communication for cats. What we want for your cats is for them to listen to each other’s behavioral cues and have healthy outlets for playtime.

You may also utilize synthetic feline pheromones like Feliway. Some cats respond well to the pheromone, which helps relax them while some cats may act the same. You can scoop up this product, and others like it at your local pet store or Amazon.

Integrating cats may take some time and trial and error, but it is worth it for a peaceful household. If you have any additional questions, please reach out to us at

Cats cuddling

Introducing a New Cat to a Multi-cat Household

Cats are like potato chips; you can’t have just one! Sometimes those potato chips don’t get along, especially if you don’t properly integrate them. When introducing a new cat into your home with other cats, it is essential to remember that this is likely an unsettling transition for all pets involved.

Ruff Start Rescue recommends placing your new cat into a safe room where they have access to food, water, a litterbox, a comfortable place to rest, and comforting interaction from members of your household for at least one hour per day. Your new cat should hang out in this new, secluded space for a few days or weeks. Doing this allows your cats to take in each other’s scents and feel less threatened when you finally introduce them. You can assist in the scent exchange by gently rubbing each cat’s cheeks on a towel and giving the towel to the opposite cat a few days in. How each cat reacts to the scented towel will be a good gauge for their first in-cat interaction.

When you are ready to let your new cat explore the home, you can swap your cats by placing your new cat outside of their room and the resident cat inside the new cat’s room. Both cats will have A LOT of exploring and sniffing to do that could take several hours. When both cats look relaxed in their new spaces, you can take this opportunity to let them see each other for the first time through a baby gate or propped door. It is important never to push your cats to interact with each other. They will let you know if they are interested in communicating. You can expect hissing, intense sniffing, and growling. They may even like each other right away! You should repeat this process until your cats see each other as pals or the very least, acquaintances. You may reward your cats with treats when they are near each other and behaving well.

Make sure to pay attention to your cats’ behavior. Signs of stress or anxiety include hiding, aggressive behavior, decreased appetite, or excessive vocalization. If these signs persist for more than a week, it may be time to consult your veterinarian. It is common for cats to experience some stress when transitioning into their new home.

Integrating cats may take some time and trial and error, but it is worth it for a peaceful household. If you have any additional questions, please reach out to us at

Adopting Unaltered Animals

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We couldn’t save animals in need without you! Thank you so much for growing your family by adopting an animal.

Effective April 11, 2020, Ruff Start Rescue will allow the adoption of unaltered animals with a spay and neuter contract. Executive Order 20-09 prohibits elective surgeries, including spaying and neutering, for the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic. To continue saving animals in need, Ruff Start is adopting out unaltered animals with appropriate stipulations.

The following language may seem a little intimidating, but we have it to ensure that these animals get the proper medical care they deserve. We are here to help you every step of the way to ensure this adoption and transition are as successful as possible.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • There is an additional contract you will need to sign when completing adoption paperwork. This contract lays out what legal obligations you will have when adopting this animal including: paying an additional $150 deposit and spaying/neutering this animal within 60 days after the order is lifted.
  • Your new pet’s adoption fee has been lowered to offset the deposit cost.
  • Your new pet will still receive additional vetting such as age-appropriate vaccines, microchipping, deworming, heartworm testing (dogs only), and monthly flea/tick preventative (dogs only) as necessary prior to adoption.
  • You will be provided with additional resources for living with an intact animal and a list of our partner vet clinics that can perform your new pet’s spay or neuter procedure at a lower cost once the executive order is lifted.
  • A member from Ruff Start will reach out to you to receive official confirmation that your new pet has been altered within 60-day timeframe. Once that is confirmed, your $150 deposit will be refunded.
  • This animal can’t be adopted into a home with other intact animals.
  • If your new pet were to accidentally become pregnant you must notify Ruff Start as soon as possible. Ruff Start will provide resources you need to care for your pet and their litter, but the litter must be surrendered to Ruff Start once they are ready to be adopted.
  • Ruff Start has an obligation to retrieve this animal and cancel the adoption if you do not spay or neuter them.
  • Additional fees may be applied if the contract is breached.

Exceptions to this contract include:

  • High-risk animals will be FTA (foster-to-adopt) while the Executive Order is in effect. This status will be determined by the animal care team, but will typically include pregnant or likely pregnant dogs.

Whew! Now that we went over what you need to know, please check out the following resources for caring for your new pet. Ruff Start is here for you while you make this exciting transition! Please let us know at any time what additional questions you may have or resources you may need. Thank you for adopting a rescue animal!

Resources for fosters and adopters:



Four Years in Rescue: A Pup’s Patient Journey to Finding Her Forever Home

During the spring of 2016, Zeena roamed the city streets of Minnesota. The temperamental spring weather beat down on her as she maneuvered around moving cars looking for scraps of food. No collar claiming ownership draped her skinny neck as her rough paws hit the pavement. We’re not sure how long she was homeless, but it was noticeable that she hadn’t had a family for a long time by the exposure of her ribcage. Thankfully, a Ruff Start Rescuer spotted Zeena and took her in.

Zeena quickly forgave whoever left her on the streets as she showered her new foster with love. It didn’t take her long to recover lost energy either. This girl loves to play! Zeena is smart, curious, and loves life. It surprised us that we couldn’t find the right home for her. We later discovered she had food allergies and incontinence issues. We tried many medications and took her to a specialist, but nothing could prevent the occasional accident she had. Thankfully, Zeena had no problem sporting a diaper when needed.

Thousands of you shared her picture across social media as the years passed to no avail. A generous donor even paid her adoption fee. Then the perfect person *finally* found her amid a global crisis. It’s as if they’ve been looking for each other the entire time.

Zeena and her adopted mom

“I stalked her profile for 4 months and just knew that we would be good for each other.” -Zeena’s adopter

Zeena’s new adopter said, “Zeena is doing quite well. On her first night here, she spent some time exploring the apartment. There were a lot of new sounds and smells! She appeared relaxed for sure. Since she came home with me, we have been taking little walks to the ‘green areas’ near our apartment. We explore a little more each day! It is so wonderful to have Zeena here. She is so sweet. She follows me all over the house and wants to be by my side. We have some great adventures ahead of us! Thank you, to all for all that Ruff Start does!”

Sometimes the amount of patience and hope required to save an animal in need feels like too much. But moments like these are what keep us going. We are so grateful to Zeena’s foster mom for giving her so much love and care over the years. We are also thankful for all of you that shared her story and sent her much-needed supplies. Ruff Start Rescue will continue doing whatever it takes to get outcomes like these for the animals in our care.

Zeena keeping guard outside
Zeena window watching
Zeena playing fetch with a red ball
Two children on a dock with two golden retrievers

Kids and Pet Safety

Pets can add enrichment and love to a child’s life. While some pets may have similar behaviors to children, it is important to treat both pets and children with respect and understanding. Animals communicate through body language. It is imperative to understand and teach this language to children as they grow with the family pet(s) by their side to keep everyone safe.

Best Friends co-founder, Faith Maloney, shares the following recommendations for what is appropriate at what age:

Birth to six months: A quiet time for the animal/child interaction. No small child should be left unsupervised with an animal.

Six months to a year: Keep pet food and feeding areas away from crawling and toddling children. A child of this age will grab at whatever is in his or her path, so ears and tails are a target, and children have to be carefully supervised around animals to avert any unexpected reactions.

1-3 years: A time of exploration and for putting things in the mouth. A dog or cat who is possessive about his or her toys and food can be potentially dangerous to a child. The child is eye level with a medium to large dog, and dogs can see that as a threat. This age group is especially vulnerable to a biting dog.

4-6 years: By now, a child has mastered quite a lot of language and can understand more about how to interact with another living being, but a firm eye on the situation is still needed.

6-10 years: Your child can now help look after a pet – feeding, cleaning up, walking, and playing with a cat or dog or any other animal in the house.

Teens: At some point in the teen years, your child may develop other priorities in his or her life, such as sports, band, boys, girls, existential philosophy, or shopping. Pet-care chores can suddenly and dramatically go onto the back burner. Parental supervision is a must.

18-20 years: Many kids will be going away to college or joining the military. You need to be ready for the likelihood that taking care of the animals will revert back to the adults or other children in the family.

Doggie Language
Cat Language

Here are some helpful examples to show your kid(s) on how to interact with dogs.

How NOT to interact with a dog
How Kids SHOULD Interact with a Dog

We all see cute dogs that we want to run to and smother with love. Check out these helpful tips on how to greet dogs safely:

How to Greet a Dog & What to Avoid
Woman kissing puppy

What pet owners can do to keep themselves and their pets safe during COVID-19

COVID-19 is in the family of coronaviruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to severe respiratory diseases. COVID-19 is spread from person to person which is why social distancing and quarantining is vital to our safety. A LOT of information is circulating regarding the virus. It is imperative to only refer to reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionthe Minnesota Department of Health, and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health for up-to-date and accurate information.

At this time, it is believed that pets are not at risk of contracting COVID-19. It is recommended that people confirmed with the COVID-19 virus should avoid contact with other people and pets as it is a rapidly evolving situation. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has more information on this here.

If you or a loved one becomes ill, it is essential to have a plan in place for your pets. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Identify friends, family members, or a pet-service that may be able to care for your pet(s) should you or someone in your household become ill.
  2. Have extra food, medication, and essentials such as a crate and pet dishes on hand for quick movement of pets. 
  3. Ensure all medications are documented with dosages and administering directions. Include the prescription from your veterinarian.
  4. Pets should have identification: collar with ID tag and microchip.

This pandemic may cause a financially trying time for your household. Consider the following resources if needed: 

  1. People and Pets Together Veterinary Care Resources
  2. Pet Food Bank Finder

Remeber to reach out to your community if you need help. If you need ideas on where to get started, please email us at

Are you dealing with bored puppers and crazy kitties during COVID-19?

Dog playing tug-of-war

Check out the following articles for ideas on keeping your pets entertained:

Sidewalk Dog: COVID-19 With Your Dog

Entertainment for Cats: 5 Ways to Keep Kitty Happy

Dog smiling at the camera

How you can help animals during COVID-19 outbreak

During this unprecedented time, nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. And while we can’t control what’s happening right now, we’re focusing on what we can control and the good that we can still do for animals in need. Ruff Start Rescue is operating, processing adoptions, accepting new foster applications, and looking for volunteers, all while following the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health to keep our fosters, volunteers, and staff safe and healthy. To continue working safely while saving as many animals as we can, we have new protocols in place, including:
  • Implementing Virtual Home Visits for new fosters and adopters to remove volunteer and adopter/foster contact.
  • Providing supplies for foster homes with pre-arranged outdoor pick-up at supply houses and the Ruff Start office along with starting a drive-through system for fosters to drop off and pick up their animals for vetting appointments.
  • Going virtual with our Volunteer Orientations to minimize in-person meetings.
  • Having Ruff Start staff work remotely to ensure daily operations continue, including overseeing more than 350 animals in rescue.
Across the country right now, animals entering shelters or rescues are steadily increasing while adoptions are slowing down. In addition, many municipal shelters are closing their doors to the public, being deemed as ‘non-essential.’ This is leading to overcrowding and unnecessary lives being lost.
While our physical office is closed to the public, Ruff Start Rescue staff are still working diligently to provide animals in need of a safe place to lay their paws. Now, more than ever, we need our community of supporters to help us save lives.
Here’s how you can help:
  • DONATE! Please consider donating to support the hundreds of animals in Ruff Start’s care right now. While donating funds is the best way to help because they allow us to respond to needs as they change, we are also accepting in-kind animal supply donations.* Check out our Amazon wish list for our most needed items. If you do not have any extra funds to spare right now we understand. Sending good thoughts and well-wishes to animals in need now is also greatly appreciated.
  • ADOPT! Are you or someone you know ready to add a furry friend to their family? There are hundreds of animals waiting for their forever family – could one of them be yours?
  • VOLUNTEER! We have so many opportunities that are 100% remote, including creative writing, graphic designers, and administrative volunteer roles.
  • FOSTER! As a foster-based rescue, we can only save as many animals as we have foster homes. Learn more here.
Kitten dressed in superman dress costume

For up-to-date information about Ruff Start Rescue’s adoption process and other activities, please visit our blog.

*With some exceptions, Ruff Start Rescue is not arranging volunteer pick-up of in-kind animal supply donations at this time to keep our in-kind donors and volunteers safe. If you have supplies and want to know if we’re able to take them, please email



A seven-week-old Pomeranian puppy who’s seen too much pain in his short life.

Caillou wasn’t dealt the easiest hand. This adorable fluffy puppy was found on the Pine Ridge Reservation in February (2020), clearly favoring his back right leg and tucking it up under his tiny body. Our rescue partner, LightShine Canine: A Rez Dog Rescue, knew right away that Caillou was going to need help and immediately pulled him from his painfully sad situation. He entered Ruff Start’s care where we learned that his femur and pelvis were broken from an injury sustained when he must have been just a week or so old.

Can you imagine? A tiny week-old puppy with such a large injury? We don’t know if it was from another dog, a human, or if it was simply an accident – and it doesn’t really matter – what matters is that Caillou gets the care and attention he needs to live a happy and healthy life.

Caillou X-Ray

This is what Caillou’s foster mom had to say about him, “He has lots of energy and just likes to follow everyone around the house – whatever our dogs do, he tries to do. Wherever they go, he tries to go – there is nowhere they can hide from him! If they are getting too much attention, he makes sure to let us know that he is the littlest and should get all the attention – so he will bark/squeak/yell at us until we pick him up. He plays hard, cuddles just as hard, and loves everything about life right now – even though we know he is was in pain, he makes us laugh multiple times a day!”

After his first vet appointment, it was decided the best (and only) option was to remove Caillou’s injured leg and part of his pelvis. Caillou’s surgery took place not long after he was rescued. His leg was successfully removed allowing his pelvis to fully heal. Just a few days post-op Caillou was already running around and going up and down the stairs. It had been a long journey for the tri-Pom, but well worth it in the end!

Caillou cuddling with owner
Caillou in crate
Caillou wearing a cone
Ruff Start Rescue