Many cats love staying home, and cat social skills depend on cat personality and kitten socialization. Confident cats not only feel less feline stress, they get sick less, recover more quickly, and handle trips to the vet (or to Grandma’s) better than shy Shrinking Violet cats. They enjoy life more, and engage with other people and pets.
I’ve been blessed to have two supremely confident kitties in my life. Seren-Kitty(rb) ruled the roost and bossed the dogs around. She enjoyed life on her terms. Although never a touchy-feely cat until her last few years (she nearly made it to 22!), Seren loved playing, indulging in long “conversations” with us, and watching the bird-and-bunny TV outside. She also enjoyed leash walks in the garden.
Even if cats don’t go outside, you can bring the outdoors inside for environmental enrichment. That helps enormously to expand kitty’s world, and builds confidence while reducing stress.
Karma-Kat: Merrily He Rolls Along!
Karma-Kat loves people, and his confidence means he wants to supervise strangers who come into the house for repairs or to visit. He’s never been a fan of leash walking. One time, he escaped his halter, and only came back when Magical-Dawg went after him and led Karma back to safety. But he’s fascinated by the great outdoors, and wants an up-close sniff (and look) at all the butterflies. So . . .I got Karma a pet stroller, his very own Karma Kart.
At first, he wasn’t eager to get inside, despite stocking it with his favorite Greenies treats. But once we rolled out the door, and he caught a whiff of the Texas wildflowers–oh my KAT he was in kitty heaven! We rolled up and down the back fenced yard. Once back inside, I opened the canopy to let him out and… he didn’t want to get out (well, he discovered the treats and munched them for desert). Anyway, I reviewed his Karma Kart stroller in my Reader’s Digest piece here.
Can Your Cat Be More Social?
But what if your cat tends toward the shy side? How can you increase the chances for improving cat sociability? I cover kitten development in this blog, and socialization in my books. But here’s a fun infographic that offers some highlights.
So is your cat a social butterfly? Or a shrinking violet? How do you help kitty deal with … life? Do tell!
I rarely host guest bloggers, but had to make an exception for my CWA member colleague, Tracy Ahrens. Like me, she shares a love of all-things-critter. And like me, she believes sometimes the RIGHT animal companion finds us.
They never stay long enough. But they prepare us for love to come.
I’m in the process of finalizing my “Memory Garden” to honor my pets who have gone on to that great unknown. They continue to share my heart–and so this piece spoke to me. I think you’ll enjoy this, too, because even when we lose a beloved companion, they never really leave us.
Angel, when Tracy met her in 2017, sad and broken…
My Garden of Life…
In the spring I watch green sprouts of perennials burst through soil in my gardens. I look forward to the beautiful displays they will show me throughout the growing season.
Sometimes one of my perennials doesn’t return. It falls victim to nature, a force nobody can fight forever.
This year an exquisite perennial in the garden of my life will not return. That spectacular hybrid is my dog, Angel.
On March 15, my husky-shepherd mix was overpowered by nature, and lost her fight against severe arthritis that had handicapped her since I adopted her at age 11. She passed just three days before her adoption anniversary and 16th birthday.
Angel, dressed for Christmas 2021
A Perennial Garden Hosts Many Plants
She was like perennials I have planted in my gardens for years. I have always selected clearance sale plants in garden centers. They include plants that have drooping foliage, dead stalks and just a few green sprigs. I am drawn to them, knowing that if someone doesn’t give them a chance, they will meet their demise in a compost heap.
I smile if I can plant them in the right place in my yard, coddle them into getting stronger, and watch them flourish, bloom and spread over the years.
Angel was one of those clearance table perennials. She was a senior who ended up on death row and nobody claimed. She had no name and no behavioral or health history on record. When I adopted her, she was given to me for free. The shelter knew I would give her love she needed in the remaining few years of her life.
There is an adage about the growth stages of perennials if planted in the right location. The first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap. Angel did the same.
We Shared a Brokenness
I was attracted to Angel’s brokenness when we met, a brokenness we shared. She was abandoned, frightened, depressed and struggling with senior health issues. I was single, still fighting breast cancer, worried and rarely able to smile. I had also just lost my previous dog to cancer.
Angel’s health issues included common senior ailments to more severe ones. Among them were: fatty tumors, hearing loss, cataracts, skin tags and moles, broken and worn down teeth from years of chewing her way out of somewhere, a large scar on her left front shoulder joint associated with an injury that made her swing her leg slightly in front of her when she walked, a paralyzed larynx that made her cough and I had to elevate her food and water bowls to assist her with digestion, severe arthritis in most every joint including fused vertebrae in her neck and middle back, a slow acting thyroid for which she took a pill daily, early stage renal failure (in the last year or so of her life), and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (diagnosed two years after I adopted her).
Despite all of this, she was perfect and priceless to me. Frequently telling her so seemed to boost her zest to live.
Angel Conquers the World
When I met Angel, I stood her up, groomed her, fed her quality food and supplements, treated her ailments, protected her from harm, showered her with love and she exploded with growth and beauty that touched people around the world through images and stories of her journey. Children and adults who met her always smiled. Other creatures were drawn to her. When we walked together, her beauty stopped people in their tracks.
Angel lifted me up, fed me joy and showered me with her love. I did the same for her. Together we flourished.
As her health faltered, I adapted to supporting her and she accepted my care with grace and absolute trust. I carried her up and down stairs, made her bedroom in the downstairs living room in the last few months of her life and slept with her there from time to time, and I found a groomer who could still make her feel beautiful by allowing her to lie down for a bath and support her with a sling. We continued to take walks around the block at a pace she set for us. I proudly walked with baby steps beside her. She stayed with a neighbor when I worked. She was always surrounded by love.
I discussed her health needs at length with her veterinarian and provided different pain and joint medications to keep her comfortable and mobile.
In the end, she went lame. She kept fighting to stand and stay beside me. Her eyes told me she couldn’t fight anymore and that I had to take the lead. I carried her and held her through the ultimate final act of love. I told her “I love you” directly into her upright ear so I was sure she heard me. I pray that she understood why I had to leave her side for the first time in our lives together.
Angel shared five years with me. Likewise, that is the lifetime of an average short-lived perennial. The reality is, even perennials die.
Angel’s Best Years
There is a bare spot now in my garden of life. I look for her every day. Nothing can replace her.
A friend told me that the best years of Angel’s life were spent with me. I was told that she was happier because I was beside her. In my life, the atmosphere was just the right growth medium to help her thrive.
Because of me, seeds of her love, in the form of a stuffed duck toy she grew to adore, continue to fly and land in the homes of other pet owners around the world. This magical toy, given to us by a stranger, brought her such comfort and joy that I wanted to carry on her legacy, spreading joy to other pets and their owners.
Images of her beauty, displaying her notorious smile and wearing costumes for major holidays (some images appeared in calendars worldwide) will continue to be shared with a purpose of bringing joy and raising funds for animal rescues.
She has social media pages that I will continue so people can see just how amazing she was.
Despite heartache that still randomly brings me to tears, I will keep saving more perennials like Angel because the clearance table of discarded dogs is never empty. My faith in possibilities and desire to surround myself with similar beauty like Angel never dies.
It’s up to us to sow the broken ones and help them thrive. They are wise fighters with lessons to teach us if we watch and listen.
I love you, Angel. I always will. Thank you for loving me.
Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author, artist and mom to two adopted cats and one adopted dog. See her web site at www.tracyahrens.weebly.com
For the first time ever to kick off National Pet Month, our friends who offer anything-you-ever-wanted-for-pets have launched Amazon Pet Day 24-Hour Sale!
There are SOOOOO MANY deals, oh-my-doG! Some of these I already know and love, and others are new to me. Browse and enjoy, but don’t give your fur kids the credit card. Fair warning! Amazon Pet Day kicks off at amazon.com/pets-dealson May 2 at midnight PDT. The event is open to all Amazon shoppers in the U.S.
Pet shoppers can create Amazon Pet Profiles and receive recommendations curated for their pet all year round. Whether you own a dog, bird, horse, reptile, or fish, Amazon Pet Profiles accommodates all sorts of breeds and species. Owners can set up a profile to receive personalized recommendations and coupons based on various factors such as breed, size, and preferences. From there, shopping is easy. Just visit amazon.com/yourpets to get started.
JUST FOR PRIME MEMBERS…
Prime members who shop on Amazon Pet Day will also have access to special offers to rent or buy iconic pet movies on Prime Video, and Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card holders will receive 10% cash back on pet products. Stay tuned on the blog for more details ahead of the event!
SUPPORT LOCAL CHARITIES
Customers can simultaneously shop and support a pet charity through AmazonSmile. Customers visitingsmile.amazon.com find the exact same Amazon experience—amazing deals, wide selection, fast, free delivery options to ensure toys and treats arrive quickly—with the added bonus that AmazonSmile will donate a portion of the eligible purchase price to the charity of the customer’s choice. Visit here to learn more about how to sign up and support a charity of your choice. Customers can donate too by shopping AmazonSmile Charity Lists for animal shelters. Visit our Adopt A Shelter page to learn more.
Will you adopt a new furry friend soon? With Adopt A Shelter Pet Day on April 30th, I wanted to share some sobering adoption facts. In the ASPCA alone, 6.3 million dogs and cats enter their shelters each year, and only about 52% get adopted. I wrote about my pets’ adoption days here, and they chose me more than I chose them. But you don’t need to wait for happy accidents to get your pet, and can adopt shelter pets anytime all year long.
We want every cat and dog adoption to go into a forever home. Sadly, sometimes life gets in the way. I can’t tell you the number of messages I get from people needed to re-home a beloved companion due to moving, or the death of their human, or all kinds of things. How shocking and heartbreaking for the humans–and for the pets–ending up back in the shelter.
Keeping Pets Out of Shelters
I just discovered a new service that addresses this sad situation. Since launching in 2015, Get Your Pet–an online adoption community–has saved 15k pets from seeing the inside of shelters by comfortably transitioning pets from one good home to another. Get Your Pet is the simpler, smarter, and more humane way to help animals find new homes.
What about those less-than-perfect pets? Yes, they have just as much love to share whether they have three legs (Bravo-Dawg my tripod was a glorious boy!); or only one eye; or any other “perceived” problem. Check out this post on adopting other-abled pets.
Cancer. We whisper the word, reluctant to give it power by speaking it aloud. Not a single disease, this all-encompassing condition affects virtually everyone on the planet. I’ve had friends stricken with cancer. And two kinds of cancer attacked and killed our beloved Bravo-Dawg.
But now there’s a new dog cancer tool available. I pray it helps other dogs so they won’t have to go through the same thing. That’d make Bravo wag.
Dog Cancer Kills Dogs
Cancer claims more dog deaths than anything else. Of the 90 million pet dogs in the United States, approximately 6 million receive this devastating diagnosis each year. With no established cancer screening guidelines for dogs, diagnosis most typically happens only after dogs show signs.
Bravo’s transient limp didn’t raise the alarm until almost too late. By the time a dog gets a diagnosis, the cancer has advanced so far that a chance for a cure or long-term control is low. A blood test able to detect early disease might have changed Bravo’s outcome.
New Hope for Dog Cancer Diagnosis
When I received the announcement about a new test for canine cancer developed by PetDx®, I eagerly awaited the information on the study that validated the test. The study collected blood samples from dogs at over 40 clinical sites across the United States, Canada, Brazil, the Netherlands, France and Hong Kong. While most veterinary studies sample fewer than 100 dogs, PetDx sampled over 1,000 dogs between 2019-2021. The OncoK9 test detects 30 different canine cancers.
The CANcer Detection in Dogs (CANDiD) study, an international, multi-center clinical study, sought to validate the performance of OncoK9 that uses next-generation sequencing of blood-derived DNA. OncoK9 mirrors the multi-cancer early detection (MCED) tests for humans.
Today, the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS ONE, from the Public Library of Science, published the landmark study of this new tool. It has a sensitivity of 85.4% for three of the most aggressive canine cancers: Lymphoma, and the two cancers that stole Bravo—osteosarcoma, and hemangiosarcoma.
A missing leg never slowed Bravo down, and his Shadow-of-Hope puppy kept him happy during his last months.
Dog Lovers Eager for Early Cancer Detection
As a giant breed dog, we knew Bravo’s risk increased for osteosarcoma, but you don’t want to think about that. When Bravo’s limp didn’t go away, we had him Xrayed, and found his tumor. He needed a bone biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, but even that wasn’t definitive, and it weakened his already compromised shoulder. Ultimately, he lost his leg, and began five rounds of chemotherapy. And he beat the cancer for a while! His Xrays showed clear lungs after he finished chemo. But then hemangiosarcoma took him in a week.
If we’d had the OncoK9 test, we could have detected his tumors months earlier, and perhaps had more time with him. Losing any dog to cancer hurts–when they’re not yet three years old, you feel the ache for years.
The study’s lead author Andi Flory, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology) felt inspired at the great interest and pace of enrollment in the study. “Dog owners as well as veterinarians are eager to have a non-invasive cancer detection test and were happy that their dogs could be part of this groundbreaking research,” said Dr. Flory, the Chief Medical Officer at PetDX. Veterinarians have a new tool that helps with earlier detection. Dr. Flory believes that when included as part of preventive care screening (especially for high-risk breeds like Bravo), the OncoK9 test can improve cancer outcomes and improve diagnosis.
More About OncoK9 Dog Cancer Screening
I helped take biopsies when I worked as a vet tech. Samples of tissue taken from the suspected site might involve a fine needle aspirate (the least invasive). But other samples require anesthesia. Since cancer often afflicts our oldest canine companions (Bravo at age two wasn’t typical), anesthesia adds risk to the diagnoses equation.
Instead, OncoK9 tests your dog’s blood. Billed as the first and only “liquid biopsy test,” it looks for alterations in the gene. Currently, PetDX recommends the test as an annual screening for higher-risk older dogs or those of cancer-prone breeds. It also works as an additional help to clarify diagnosis of dogs with suspicious signs of disease.
Dana Tsui, PhD, the Chief Scientific Officer at Petx and the study’s senior author notes that the last ten years have seen multiple areas of human medicine incorporate novel genomic testing using liquid biopsy in such things as cancer, obstetrics, infectious disease, and organ transplantation. Now, we’re fortunate the technology has gone to the dogs.
How to Get Your Dog Cancer Tested
Launched in 2021, many leading veterinary practices may already incorporate the OncoK9 liquid biopsy test. Ask your dog’s doctor about the option. Blood samples taken by your veterinarian get shipped to the PetDx central laboratory in San Diego, with results delivered within 10 business days. Veterinarians in the United States and Canada can get the test through PetDx and IDEXX Reference Laboratories.
PetDx® – The Liquid Biopsy Company for Pets™ is a San Diego-based molecular diagnostics company dedicated to unleashing the power of genomics to improve pet health. The company’s flagship product, OncoK9®, enables veterinarians to detect cancer in dogs with a simple blood draw. As a first-in-class multi-cancer early detection (MCED) test, OncoK9 employs cutting-edge genomic analysis that leverages next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology and proprietary bioinformatics algorithms, empowering veterinarians to provide superior care to canine patients. To learn more, visit www.petdx.com and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.