The cat’s finely tuned sense of balance is regulated by a specialized organ found deep inside the ear. Balance allows Kitty to travel great heights and effortlessly leap long distances. It is the cat’s uncanny flexibility and motion control, coupled with intricate balance sense that allows the falling cat to land on her feet. She uses a series of spine, shoulder and flank contractions to twist in midair during a fall, and right herself.
Cat Balance Explained
Legends and myths sometimes arise out of a misunderstood truth, and kitty-correct four-paw landings are one such behavior. Yes, cats have an uncanny ability to fall safely from sometimes death-defying heights and land on their feet, which perhaps gave birth to the “nine lives” legend. But do cats always land on their feet? And how do they do it?
Paw-perfect landings result from the cat’s intricate balance sense. The vestibular organ deep inside the cat’s ears keeps kitty informed about which way is up or down, even if you try to confuse and make him dizzy first. This specialized organ also allows the cat to instantly determine acceleration as she falls.
The vestibular organ contains tiny fluid filled tubes and structures called the semicircular canals, utricle and saccule, each lined with millions of microscopic hairs. Fluid in the utricle and saccule also contain tiny particles of chalk that float and move with every motion. Whenever the cat’s head moves, the fluid and chalk moves against the hairs. The hair movement, like teeny kitty antennae, relay information to the brain about body position, and speed of movement.
The balance mechanism can’t do it alone, though. Once partnered with the yoga-like muscle control of a Houdini master contortionist, the cat twists from side to side during a fall, to right herself.
Do Cats Ever Miss?
Ear infections can affect the cat’s balance so she misjudges height or positioning. Tiny kittens can be injured in falls that might not hurt an adult cat, so kitten-proofing balconies and keeping baby cats “grounded” can help keep them safe.
Falls from short distances—like from a child’s arms—may not allow enough time for the righting mechanism to work. Landing on her feet does not prevent Kitty from sustaining serious injuries during falls.
High Rise Syndrome
High rise syndrome refers to cats who fall great distances out of windows, balconies or open doors. Often the cat lounges on a favorite windowsill, and accidentally pushes window screens out and falls.
Falls from the first through fourth floors are least dangerous because the cat can “right” herself and doesn’t have time to reach top speed of 60 miles per hour—terminal velocity. She won’t fall any faster, no matter the distance. This speed is reached during any fall from higher than the fifth floor.
Falls from the fifth through ninth floor are the most dangerous and result in the worst injuries. The cat falls with legs braced in front of him, and lands rigid. His legs hit first, then his head, and both can suffer terrible bone-shattering injury.
Cats survive falls from higher than nine stories with fewer injuries. Falls from these heights apparently allow the cat time to relax, empty the bladder and “parachute” the legs outward so that the wind catches the loose skin in the thighs and armpits and slows the fall. Landing spread-eagle allows the chest and abdomen to absorb most of the shock, rather than the head and legs.
Keep open windows and balconies off limits to cats. Remember that screens are designed to keep bugs out, not keep cats inside. So protect your cats and windows with secured screens or pet-safe barriers.
Find out more details about canine bloat and other “B” topics in Cat Facts, The Series #2.
Have your cats ever “had a great fall?” What happened? How do you keep your cats safe from high rise exploration? Do tell!
Great Dane dogs are at highest risk for canine bloat.
Canine bloat affects up to 60,000 dogs each year, and goes beyond a tummy ache. I worry about this because German Shepherd Dogs are one of the high risk breeds. Bloat (more technically called gastric dilatation volvulus) can cause a painful death.
I’m sharing a partial excerpt of the CANINE BLOAT entry from Dog Facts, The Series #2 (Chapter B) covering Babesiosis, Bad Breath, Balanopothitis, Bitch, Bladder Stones, Bleeding, Blindness, Bloat (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus), Blood, Botulism, Breed, Bronchitis, Brucellosis, and Burns. I’ve broken the massive book into discounted treat-size alpha-chapter sections. Folks can choose which ones they most need. Each chapter will release every other week. Of course, you can still get the entire book either in Kindle or 630+ pages of print.
WHAT IS CANINE BLOAT?
Gastric dilitation is the painful swelling of the stomach with gas and/or frothy material. Volvulus is the rotation, or twisting, of the stomach. Bloat refers to one or both scenarios, and either can result in death.
When bloat occurs, the stomach contents cannot be expelled either by vomiting, burping, or by passing into the intestines. The stomach distention causes pressure on other internal organs, which results in shock. If the stomach twists, circulation is cut off and the stomach and spleen can die. The rotation also compresses a vein that returns blood to the heart, resulting in severe depression of normal blood circulation.
Canine bloat can affect any dog but large dogs are at highest risk.
WHAT DOGS ARE AT RISK FOR CANINE BLOAT?
All dogs can be affected, but purebred dogs are three times more likely to suffer bloat compared to mixed breed dogs. Breeds that have a narrow but deep chest have the greatest incidence of the condition.
Great Danes have the highest incidence. They have a 40 percent chance they’ll have an episode before they reach age seven. A recent survey estimated the lifetime risk of bloat at 24 percent for large breed (50 to 99 pounds) and 22 percent for giant breed dogs (over 99 pounds). Some research indicates nervous dogs have a twelve times higher risk than calm, happy dogs.
When a high-risk dog suffers any of the above symptoms, don’t wait. Emergency treatment can save your dog’s life. The stomach contents must be removed to reduce the pressure, and passing a stomach tube manages the distension. When the stomach twists, though, the tube won’t pass and surgery is required to return the organs to normal position, and evaluate any damage to the spleen or other tissue.
Managing meals can reduce the risk of canine bloat in Great Danes and other dogs.
What Is Gastropexy for Canine Bloat?
In high risk dogs, and those that have survived a bloat episode, gastropexy surgery is recommended. That fixes the stomach to the body wall so it can’t twist. Gastropexy prevents a recurrence of the condition in more than 90 percent of cases. It can be done at the same time as spay or neuter surgery, and laparoscopic surgery techniques can make the procedure much less invasive and reduce recovery time. Dogs with gastric dilatation-volvulus that do not undergo a gastropexy have recurrence rates of more than 70 percent and mortality rates of 80 percent.
Can Canine Bloat Be Prevented?
Although bloat can’t be completely prevented, predisposing factors can be reduced. Limiting water and exercise before and after meals, commonly recommended in the past, in fact did not reduce the incidence of bloat in more recent studies. Another recommendation—raising the food bowl—actually increased the risk of bloat by about 200 percent.
Avoid sudden changes in food, which can prompt gorging behavior. When a diet change is necessary, introduce it gradually over a seven to ten day period. Meal-feed your dog small quantities of food several times a day, rather than feeding all at once. And if there’s food competition between your dogs, feed them in separate rooms to help slow gulpers and calm their anxiety over stolen food.
Do you live with a high risk dog? Has your dog ever suffered from bloat? What steps do you take to reduce the risk? I hope you NEVER have to face this serious condition, and that learning more about the condition will help keep your beloved dog safe.
We love our cats but still complain about their “behavior problems,” but did you ever think why your angry cat might behave badly? Our blood pressure goes off the charts when Sheba and Tom scratch the furniture, baptize the bed, and caterwaul at 5:00 a.m., even though we’re purr-fect owners!
Our cats love us back. But there’s no doubt that kitty’s tail gets in a knot over a human’s “behavior problems.” Put yourself in your cat’s paws.
8 Ways People Hiss Off Cats
Clawing Angst: Cats claw to mark territory, to exercise and relieve stress. Owners hiss off cats by not providing the kitty-correct claw object and location. Cats don’t care if it’s color-coordinated to human taste. A nasty-clawed-ugly-old-post with scratch-graffiti is like a child’s favorite binky and can’t be replaced with a spanking-new post. Hiding it away means claw-art won’t be seen. Cats re-train humans by clawing kitty-correct objects of the proper texture and location—like the sofa.
Declawing Growls: Surgical claw removal offends many cats on an emotional and physical level. It strips away normal kitty defenses, and changes kitty stride/balance. Yes, some cats manage to suck it up and soldier on, but others demonstrate hissed-off status by avoiding the litter box (it HURTS to dig with sore toes!), or biting more often in defense.
Litter-ary Woes: Hit-or-miss potty behavior is the top complaint of cat owners—but we bring it on ourselves. Most standard commercial boxes are too small for jumbo-size cats so they hang over the edge or look elsewhere. Kitties hate being surprised in the potty, and dislike strong odors from perfumed litter or stinky deposits—a covered box condenses smells and blocks the view. Do you have a favorite TP? Cats get attached to favorite litter, too, and switching prompts some cats to take their business elsewhere. Having to “share” facilities is like you discovering somebody forgot to flush—ew! Extra boxes will reduce the hiss-quotient for kitties.
Carried Away: Cats love the status quo. Changes to routine annoy or frightens them. Being stuffed into an unfamiliar cat carrier and then grabbed, poked and probed by scary-smelling strangers (vet alert!) makes cats hit the panic button. Couldn’t the vet at least warm up the thermometer? Savvy kitties teach owners a lesson by disappearing each time we reach for the carrier. Make cat carriers part of the furniture and add catnip toys or fuzzy bedding to take the “scary” out of the equation.
Left Behind: Vacations hiss off many cats because it messes with feline routines. Your felines get used to being fed, petted, played with, and snuggled at certain times and the owner’s absence throws a furry wrench in kitty expectations. It can take kitty a week or longer to become used to a new schedule of you being gone. Your return disrupts the newly learned kitty schedule all over again, so the cat has a double-dose of kitty angst from owner vacations.
Sleeping Late: Why would owners want to sleep late, when a kitty bowl needs to be filled? Cats raise a ruckus to point out food bowl infractions or other owner irresponsibility. Felines become quite adept at training us simply with consistent purr-suasion, causing sleep deprivation until we give in.
Indoor Incarceration: Cats that have experienced the great outdoors can become distraught when “jailed” exclusively indoors. Never mind they’re safer indoors away from dangers—closed doors and barred windows drive these cats crazy. Bringing the outdoors inside with puzzle toys, cat towers and a kitty house-of-plenty can calm the feline freedom fighters.
Unfaithful Owners: Owners may think kitty is lonely and wants a friend, but they never ask the cat! Bringing a new pet (especially a cat) into the house turns up the hiss-teria. How would you feel if asked to share your potty, dinner plate, toys, bed—and love-of-your-life human—with a stranger off the street? To the cat, the interloper looks funny, smells scary, and disrupts that all-important familiar routine. It can take weeks or months for cats to accept newcomers as family members.
You can find many more details and tips for relieving the angst in my ComPETability: Cats book. There are always feline exceptions. Your cat may not have read the kitty rule-book, and perhaps throws hissy-fits over other issues. Understanding what concerns our cats helps us be better owners, and enhances the love we share.
What have I missed? Are there other things you do that really urk your kitty? Do tell!
I love coffee cups…and coffee! So this is perfect for me. The gift bag from WIPIN also included cat toys (yay!) and a fold-able lawn chair with a small pet shelter area beneath the seat. Very cool!
Cat Writers’ Association and BlogPaws joined furry forces for an historic combined conference benefiting writers and bloggers of all purr-suasions–and to enthusiastic applause by one and all! In the coming days and weeks, many of us will continue to shout out praises for the resulting brand and professional connections we’ve made and friendships found as a result of these two stellar organizations.
It’s taken me all week to write thank yous to all of the CWA sponsors, speakers and other movers-and-shakers and I still have a few left to contact. Yes, it takes that many individuals and entities to create something this paw-some. For those unable to attend, I wanted to offer my own experience, which may be a bit different than some attendees, since I was tasked with leading the CWA portion of the conference (with a LOT of help!).
WEDNESDAY PREP TIME
I arrived on Wednesday afternoon June 22, and connected with CWA Prez Marci Kladnik and banquet gift bag coordinator Susan Willett. We spent the afternoon tracking down the “swag” donated by our incredible CWA sponsors and putting everything together with the help of more members as they arrived. This was a great time to reconnect and get a ‘sneak peek’ at the goodies.
Later that afternoon, I met with a room full of expert bloggers at a “tea” sponsored by AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association). They shared some great information that I’ll pass on very soon. Later that evening, Petsmart hosted a welcome reception for all the early bird attendees.
THURSDAY KICK OFF
Amy introduces CWA speakers. Copr Silver Paw Studio
The CWA’s publishing and promotion tracked ran on Thursday afternoon. Since this year I was CWA Conference Chair, it was my honor to introduce all our speakers.
Mark Coker of SMASHWORDS.com kicked everything off. His talk about best practices of best selling indie authors proved to be very popular. NYT bestselling cat book author, Gwen Cooper, followed with her story and tips for publishing with mainstream publishers–even if they “think” that cat books won’t sell. (Don’t tell that to Karma!). Gwen’s book about her blind cat Homer (along with many others) provide them wrong. Lea-Ann Germinder presented her final session of the day on PR and marketing for bloggers, writers and others to a standing-room only crowd. Mee-wow!
After the seminars, the exhibition hall opened. Several of our CWA members manned the booth during exhibit hours, as well as autographing their books. Many folks stopped by to learn more about our 24-year-old professional organization, and I expect we’ll gain some prestigious new members as a result.
Relieved after the press conference! Image copr. Arden Moore
YAPPY HOUR & PRESS CONFERENCE
Late that afternoon, I spoke on behalf of CWA at the BlogPaws press conference that officially kicked off the event. Can you tell I’m nervous?! It helps to have lots of dogs, cats, ferrets and even a rattie or two in the crowd…*s*
A “yappy hour” reception sponsored by Purina made all virtual tails wag, and was followed by opening events. Steve Dale presented the Winn Feline Foundation Award for journalistic excellence reporting on feline medical issues to Dr. Arnold Plotnick, a feline specialist, and three of the BlogPaws founders (Tom Collins, Chloe and Yvonne Divita) welcomed attendees numbering probably 400-500 (not counting their furry charges).
FELINE FRIDAY EVENTS
CWA sessions continued with a stellar lineup of panels. Dr. Marty Becker (moderator), Dr. Elizabeth Colleran and Denise Fleck provided lots of content for bloggers and writers in their wide ranging discussion Fear Free Hot Topics for Pet-Centric Writers. Dr. Becker covered the “fear free” program he promotes to help pets visit vets without being scared; Dr. Colleran discussed the Cat Friendly Practice initiative and cat behavior issues; and Denise Fleck, a first and and pet disaster prep expert, offered great recommendations for keeping pets safe.
Then I was invited to a brunch sponsored by Virbac, to learn more about fleas and intestinal worms and how Sentinel Spectrum works. Hey, we’re pet people, that’s what we do!
EXHIBIT HALL & CAT STYLE LOUNGE
More than 50 exhibitors offered information and samples (TREATS! TOYS! FOOD!). I finally had to politely decline any more samples, as I feared the plane wouldn’t be able to take off. Part of the exhibit area features cat-specific products in the “Cat Style Lounge” hosted by Kate Benjamin of Hausepanther. Many folks took advantage of entering drawings for some of these wonderful products and…look what I won!
Hausepanther also hosted the “Happy Meow-ur” that evening. Later, many folks had fun glamming their pets up for the Pawject Runway hosted by Red Roof Inn, but I and many of the cat folks instead prepped for the BIGGEST NIGHT OF THE CWA YEAR–
Kim Thornton presents Muse to to Amy for CAT FACTS. Copr. Jerry Thornton
CWA AWARDS BANQUET
The awards banquet honors published work in dozens of categories. This year I was honored to be nominated in 7 categories, and even more delighted to actually win a coveted Muse Medallion for my book CAT FACTS. The book also won a special award sponsored by the Cornell Feline Health Center. I’ve already blogged about this here, but wanted to share the pictures, too. It was a special night.
Contest chair Arden Moore presents Cornell Award to Amy for CAT FACTS. Copr. Jerry Thornton
Amy presents Shojai Mentor Award to Carole Nelson Douglas–Dusty Rainbolt accepts, with President Marci Kladnik. Copr. Jerry Thornton
As one of the founders of CWA, I also sponsor a special award that honors the member who has helped another through mentoring to achieve his or her professional goals. This year, I was excited to learn that my good friend Dusty Rainbolt (a former recipient of the award) had nominated a mutual friend, Carole Nelson Douglas (author of the Midnight Louie books and many others).
President Marci Kladnik presents Amy with retirement bracelet. Copr. Jerry Thornton
AMY’S SURPRISE RETIREMENT GIFT
After serving the CWA as president for 24 years in several capacities, I announced my retirement from the Council. So after all the awards were given, President Marci Kladnik presented me with the most spectacular custom made charm bracelet, designed by CWA artist/writer member Wendy Christensen.Yes, I was floored!
It has charms representing milestones in my CWA and writing life, from my cats and dogs, to book covers, a tiny type writer and open book, roses, cello, comedy/tragedy mask, the Muse Medallion and CWA logo and more. I will treasure and wear this with deep joy for the rest of my life.
Throughout the weekend, BlogPaws also held fantastic sessions and Saturday I had time to finally spend time with all the wonderful offerings. These included keynote addresses, one-on-one discussions, and a book signing event.
I also spent a lovely lunch time with the Hill’s Pet Food folks, learning more about the benefits of specific nutrition for our cats and dogs. And yes, I shared my table with a very friendly rattie!
Deb Barnes & Amy Shojai on the red carpet. Copr. Silver Paw Studio
The finale that evening highlighted the BlogPaws “Nose-to-Nose” nominees and announced the winners in a variety of blogging categories. The red carpet and photo op is great fun, because the PETS get to strut their stuff. You ain’t lived until you’ve seen a glam cat tricked out in formal wear, or a ferret rocking a gemstone leash. The banquet was yummy and the entire evening was sponsored by Natural Balance and Nature’s Recipe. Pet people and pet companies really know how to throw a paw-ty!
Between the CWA Banquet gift bags, the BlogPaws swag bags, the speaker tote with gifts (from Women In the Pet Industry), and all the samples from the exhibitors, I could not carry everything home. So without opening the bags (really, I had no time at all while there!) I stuffed everything into a big box, and shipped the 30-pound package home.
You heard right…30 POUNDS!
Today (Sunday July 3) I finally opened the box. And here’s what happened.
I will try to personally thank as many sponsors and donors as possible but honestly, it will take several weeks. My pets and I are incredibly grateful. The pet industry truly cares about cats and dogs (and ferrets, hamsters, birds, all-critters). And I am very pleased to be a part of it.
So for all you folks who attended the CWA and BlogPaws events–what was your favorite part? Please share! For me (even though I love the swag) the best part was meeting new folks and reconnecting with friends and colleagues. Can you hear my purrrrrrr?
Trembling, crouching, and lip licking can be signs of fear.
I write about pet fireworks fears every year at this time. But each of these 10 tips for your scared dog or cat can make a positive difference in your best friend’s life. It HURTS to be frightened, and makes us feel bad when pets are upset.
Fireworks from July 4th celebration may be festive to you, but can turn your pets into nervous wrecks. More cats and dogs—and even livestock like horses—become lost on this day than any other when pets panic, go through windows, break tethers and leap fences.
Scared cats crouch and may hide under the bed.
Even safely contained pets shiver, moan, and feel worse with each noisy boom. You may not see quivering scaredy-cats but the stress from noise phobia increases risk of hit-or-miss litter box behavior.
It can take weeks or even months for desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques to teach fearful pets that noises won’t hurt them. With July 4th right around the corner, refer to these 10 tips for more immediate help.
Throw a “thunder-party” with treats for each “boom.”
10 Tips For Pet Fireworks Fears
Scared animals calm themselves down by squeezing into tight spots and hiding their eyes. For instance, your dog wriggles between the sofa and wall, while kitty hides her face in your armpit. Offer your pets safe hiding place and let them be.
Avoid sympathetic baby-talk that rewards the fear. When you get upset or coddle your cat and dog during fireworks, you tell them they have good reason to be scared. Instead, be matter of fact. When it “booms” you can acknowledge the noise, “That was loud. But it doesn’t bother me, see? It shouldn’t bother you.”
Anti-anxiety training tools can help. Anxiety Wrap and Thundershirt are types of dog “vests” the pet wears that apply pressure to his body, and seem to calm fear in pets. They have Thundershirt for cats, too.
Cover up the sound with white noise. Use a white noise machine or a radio tuned to static works well.
Play soothing music. Harp music has a unique sedative effect on pets, because the rhythms and sounds mimic brain waves and help calm the fear. Harp music may prompt you to nap, too. I’m a fan of PetPause.
Get kitty “drunk” on catnip…
Pheromone products also relieve fear and anxiety in pets. Comfort Zone with DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) works well for noise-phobic dogs—it’s produced by mom-dogs when they nurse pups and sooths dogs of any age. The product for cats, Feliway, relieves the cat’s anxiety about her territory because it’s similar to the cheek-pheromone that relieves kitty stress. Both DAP and Feliway come as sprays or plug-in diffusers and the dog product also comes as a collar. The spray can be used every one to two hours on bedding or a bandana the pet wears. You can also get the Sentry Calming Collars for both dogs and cats that also use the mother’s pheromone.
Just as human babies may be soothed by a car ride, a road trip may soothe pets that enjoy the car and take their mind off the noise. Just be sure your cat or dog LIKES car rides, and is safely secured in a carrier or restraint in the back seat during the ride.
The brain can’t think when in a state of panic. But the opposite holds true as well—when thinking, the brain won’t go nutso and turn your pet into a shrieking escape artist. So just before the fireworks start, drill your dog—or your cat—on favorite commands and tricks with lots of special yummy rewards or games. Continue the games throughout and throw a happy-dance party for him staying calm.
Whatever you do, be sure that your precious pet stays safe. Bring outdoor pets inside the garage or the house during the July 4th Provide a crate or confinement in a pet-proofed room.
Move horses into secure fenced areas—or better—barns that will safely contain a frantic animal without chance of injury. And just in case, be sure all your precious pets are microchipped or have other permanent and reliable identification for recovery if they do the desperado dash when the rocket’s red glare fill the sky.
Now it’s your turn. Do you have a dog or cat that hates fireworks? How do you manage the angst? Any stories you can share about a July 4th pet fiasco? Please share!