Meet Oliver – a National High Five Day Contest Runner Up!
by Bethany Meissner
This past spring Halo, GreaterGood.org, the Petco Foundation, and The Jackson Galaxy Project teamed up to present the inaugural Cat Pawsitive National High-Five Day Contest. We asked for your most creative high-five photos and videos via Facebook and Instagram so that Jackson Galaxy could choose a grand prize winner and four runners-up. The grand prize winner received a $5,000 cash grant and 10,000 bowls of Halo pet food for the rescue or shelter of their choice, along with their post being shared on Jackson Galaxy’s own Facebook page. The runners-up also got a great prize – 10,000 bowls each of Halo pet food to be donated to the shelter or rescue of their choice. In addition, all the entrants helped demonstrate that cats can be trained. In shelters, training can decrease stress, improve adoption rates, and encourage cats to engage with the people who come to see them. We provided instructions, and you provided amazing proof of how smart cats can be!
Well, out of all of your amazing entries, Jackson Galaxy chose five to receive prizes. Oliver Honey Badger was one of the runners-up. His mom, Julie Wu, shared about Oliver’s background, life with her, and why she chose Pet Connect Rescue to receive the 10,000 bowls of nutritious Halo food won by Oliver.
Oliver joined Julie’s family on August 11, 2017. She adopted him from Pet Connect Rescue as a foster-to-adopt after he was first fostered by another woman. They believed that Oliver had been abandoned and knew nothing of his former life. For Julie this meant “there was no history of how he would adjust to a dog household” which was important since she has a large Mastiff named Spanky. In addition to Spanky, Julie has another cat, Walker, who she described as “a former feral and very sensitive and skittish.” The team thought that Oliver was a Bengal mix. Julie told us, “I figured I was in for a very smart and potentially mischievous cat. In retrospect, I can you that I had no idea what I was getting myself into!” Thankfully, Julie was an experienced pet parent so on Oliver’s third day with her, she began serving Oliver his meals “by the teaspoon with a click” as the first step in clicker training him.
Oliver’s first week was hectic. He chewed through a cat toy, went to the ER because he made Julie think he swallowed a string, and “escaped from every single containment system” that Julie could create. As Julie put it, “Finally, I had to give in to his nature and let him meet” the other animals. Oliver handled it with aplomb and “had zero fear” according to Julie. Along with his confidence came a lot of energy. Julie shared “that all the animals would get completely stirred up when Oliver was loose” which led to “Oliver’s nickname: the Honey Badger.”
To help Oliver manage his energy, Julie trained him with Spanky every day. Key to the training, Julie kept the training sessions “calm and positive.” In addition to engaging their minds, Julie believes that the side-by-side training sessions “shaped the wonderful relationship” that Spanky and Oliver enjoy. See how great they were with the “touch” command!
When Julie heard about the Cat Pawsitive National High-Five Day Contest, she had already had great success clicker training Oliver. He already knew several tricks and learned how to high five “in no time flat.” She uploaded her video on April 12 and hoped that Oliver would be one of the winners. In the meantime, Oliver showed how much he loved Halo Liv-A-Littles treats! He found a jar that Julie had hidden where she thought he wouldn’t be able to find it. Upon finding the jar holding the delicious treats, Oliver did his best to tear into the jar. Julie described it as having “gashes ripped into it like it was attacked by a mini velociraptor!”
In addition to being able to high five, Oliver has also shown off his agility skills! A friend of Julie’s is a local photographer and was exhibiting at a nearby Pet Expo. She told Julie that the expo was letting people bring in their cats to try cat agility in their ring. Julie had some old dog equipment so she put together some jumps in her living room. She quickly discovered that “Oliver was a natural!”
Julie drove Oliver to the expo to give it a try in the ring. The expo was loud and chaotic. Julie told us that “dog were barking and people were everywhere.” However, she told us, “once I started targeting and clicking him through the course he actually did it!” Oliver placed third of all the cats who tried, winning him $75. Like the truly charitable cat he is, Oliver donated that money to a local trap-neuter-return group that his first foster family supports.
Oliver still does agility and high-fives as part of his daily playtime with Julie. She shared that “Oliver’s personality is sometimes too big for his little body and he simply cannot contain himself!” When that happens, she said, “clicker training is the perfect way to help him focus all that excess energy.” In addition, clicker training and target practice, helped Julie teach Oliver “to sit in a milk crate by the door…so he wouldn’t rush out” when she let Spanky out. She has also used Oliver’s tricks to help Oliver greet new animals who come over so that no one gets stressed or hurt.
Julie chose Pet Connect Rescue in Potomac, Maryland to receive Oliver’s winnings from the Cat Pawsitive National High-Five Day Contest. Julie told us that when she was looking for a new cat, they “took the time to understand what I needed and was looking for,” and that “the volunteers were so patient and supportive, making sure it would be a forever match.” Plus, in that first week when Oliver scared Julie with the possibly swallowed string, the Pet Connect Rescue team was “so helpful and jumped into action within minutes.” Julie said, “I’m so grateful for Oliver and Pet Connect Rescue. It was a tremendous thrill to be able to give back with all that awesome cat food!” Halo, GreaterGood.org, and Freekibble donate more than 1.5 million bowls of Halo food to shelter pets every year. Shelter professionals tell us that more pets get adopted due to the great nutrition found in Halo food. We’re thrilled to have helped Pet Connect Rescue and are sure there are some very happy cats grateful for Oliver’s skills.
Thank you so much, Julia, for training Oliver and sharing your photos and videos of him. We’re sure that you’re inspiring other cat parents and shelter teams. We believe that every animal in our lives carries a halo above it. That halo shines brightest when nurtured in a genuine, heartfelt, two-way, human-animal bond. We strive to earn our halo every single day. It’s obvious that Oliver’s and Julie’s halos are as bright as the sun.