Shojai’s Cat Facts Wins Muse & Cornell Awards

Cat Facts: The Pet Parent's A-to-Z Home Care Encyclopedia

CAT FACTS WINS AWARDS:
MUSE MEDALLION & CORNELL AWARDS

This past weekend at the Cat Writers Association Awards Banquet, my book CAT FACTS won two prestigious awards. WOW!

Muse-PinThe CWA Muse Medallion was presented to CAT FACTS for the best health care book of the year.

This was a wonderful honor and surprise for me, especially since my book was nominated alongside two amazing colleagues and their books, and I urge y’all to take a look at Sandy Robbin’s book Buffy the Cat, and also check out Louise Holton’s book Alley Cat Rescues Guide to Managing Community Cats.

The book also won a special award. The Dr. Jim Richards Cornell Feline Health Center  Veterinary Issues Award Winner, Sponsored by Cornell University’s Feline Health Center. It’s presented to the highestquality entry on the topic of technological advances, research, new medical developments, or innovations in feline veterinary medicine. Qualifying entries include single newspaper, magazine, or newsletter articles; columns or series of articles (print or online); blogs, a website, single books, or radio/television broadcasts. The award consists of $500 and a commemorative award.

This Cornell award is named for someone very special to the CWA and to me personally. Dr. Jim Richards was always available to me (and many other writers) whenever we had need of an expert quote or explanation of feline issues. He gave so much of himself, and was one of the inspirations for creating CWA, and Jim even gave the keynote banquet address some years ago at an awards banquet. At the time, he presented what was then called simply the Cornell Feline Health Center Award.

And then, Jim tragically died in a motorcycle accident. We presented him posthumously with the Shojai Mentor Award, because he did mentor so many of us. So this past weekend, to have my book honored with an award presented in his name…well, I’m rarely speechless but this nearly did it. 🙂

I have LOTS more to write about the happenings at the 22nd Annual CWA Conference events…but that will have to come later. With about 30 pounds (no joke!) in swag from CWA, BlogPaws and wonderful vendors, my Magical-Dawg, Seren-Kitty and Karma-Kat are in for a wonderful treat! Stay tuned.


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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Cat Writers Association Interviews AAFP

Many of y’all know that I’m a member and one of the founders of the Cat Writers Association. This year, I’m also helping with organizing our annual conference, which this year will take place in conjunction with the BlogPaws.com conference in June. And yes, YOU ARE INVITED, ya don’t have to be a member of either or both organizations to attend. Lots of great writerly and blog-istic learning ops, as well as many dogs, cats ferrets and other companion animals in attendance.

Cat Writers AssociationA highlight of the CWA conference is the awards banquet for the best published cat work of the contest season, and the AAFP — American Association of Feline Practitioners — is one of our sponsors.

I’m delighted that our CWA president Marci Kladnik took the time to interview CWA member Dr. Elizabeth Colleran about the AAFP, cat friendly practices, working with CWA members, and getting some cat-astic info out to writers to share with their cat loving peeps. Dr. Colleran will also be a panelist at the CWA Conference in June but here’s a preview taste. Enjoy this 30 minute video interview (and yes, I couldn’t resist…I added a few questions myself).

I learned some fun stuff about cats that surprised me–take a minute and post your surprises in the comments, too. Oh, and feel free to share the video! Don’t the cats deserve to get their story told? 🙂

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have anew kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

COUGHS, CRUD, CHALLENGES & CREATIVITY

Dog with flu

Images Copr. DepositPhotos.com

For the past week, I’ve battled the “crud” with congestion, fever, coughing, aches and more. Apparently everything from the flu, pneumonia, colds and any combination thereof have afflicted many of my friends here in North Texas. I sure hope you dodged the bug!

Magical-Dawg thinks he’s “helping” by stealing the soiled tissues. Eww…sorry, TMI.

When you work for someone or a company, there’s always a bit of “wiggle room” built in, and you can call the Boss to say you’re just not able to attend to business and need a sick day. But that doesn’t happen when you work for yourself. It reminds me of that commercial playing these days, where the parent tries to tell the toddler, “I need a sick day…”

When you work for yourself, that just ain’t happening.

So those of us who are self-employed limp along and do our best to fulfill commitments. I don’t remember the last time that I forgot to send in my newspaper column–how embarrassing! And I didn’t have much of a voice and knew that coughing on camera wouldn’t be appealing, so yesterday I stayed away from my regular TV Pet Talk segment. Meanwhile, I’d love to unscrew my head to get rid of the yuck and the painful breathing/choking/coughing trifecta.

I’m a bit better today. And I promise, you can’t catch my “bug” by reading the blog, it’s not that kind of virus, LOL! I did want to update y’all on my must-do-projects I worked on despite the brain-fuzz-icity.

Little KittensCat Writers’ Association Collaborates with BLOGPAWS!

I’m honored to be the 2015-16 CWA Conference/Program Chair, and this week we announced an official collaboration with BlogPaws Conference 2015. I’m delighted that the CWA-branded WRITER TRACK of two professional panels will be highlighted at this prestigious blogging and social networking event.

Publish Or Perish? This publishing panel features pet book authors and publishers Amy Shojai of CWA, Pam Johnson-Bennett a best selling cat behaviorist and author, Lisa Erspamer a best selling publisher of cat and dog books, and Bob Mayer, a best selling author and publisher. The panel will discuss the current state of publishing from the “traditional” to “indie” paths, how publishing has changed, why bloggers should write a book (or become a publisher), how to choose your publishing path, pitfalls to avoid, and how to leverage social media and blogging to build your author platform.

Bridging the Gap Between Bloggers and Publishing This publishing panel features Layla Morgan Wilde, Janiss Garza, Alana Grelyak, and Deb Barnes. The session will be a “how to use your blog as a springboard to professional publishing” by learning how to write, research, edit, and design your blog posts in such a manner that they become a portfolio of quality work to help open the door to publishing deals. Learn more about the speakers and events at the CWA Website here.

GOODNEWSFORPETS.com INTERVIEW!

I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with Lea-Ann Germinder for many years, and am thrilled to be featured in an interview on her fabulous GoodNewsForPets site. You can check out the interview here–but be sure to check out all the marvelous pet-centric news and information provided in this stellar site.

SHOW & TELL PROGRESS

The next thriller has progressed in fits and starts, it seems. But I’m determined to get this book finished and into the “paws” of all of you fantastic reader-fans who have been sooooo very patient. I’m very much hoping to launch the next NAME THAT DOG and NAME THAT CAT contest late this month, so stay tuned. The first two books HIDE AND SEEK and SHOW AND TELL would never have happened without you…and the contests and wonderful characters y’all suggested made them that much better.

Now, it’s your turn. Have you been afflicted with the “crud” or something similar, but still had to work? How’d you manage? Did your boss understand? (My boss is a b*tch about being lazy, LOL!) Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Litter Products Review: Pure Nature, Litter One, Litter Genie & Litter Locker

Those who regularly read this blog know that formal “reviews” don’t happen very often. But lately I’ve received some invitations and free products to try, and they somehow all seem of a common aromatic theme (ahem!) and so today the blog offers a litter-ary assortment for kitty potty products. I was sent free samples from the manufacturers, and all opinions expressed are my own…and Seren’s.

Last November at the Cat Writers Association conference, those in attendance received thumb drives from Tidy Cats (a longtime conference sponsor) that included some quite clever promotions of the new “natural” product Tidy Cats Pure Nature. They also provided each attendee a coupon for a free bag of the litter product for us to try.

Full disclosure, my cat Seren is a longtime fan of the Tidy Cats clay/clumping product so I wasn’t sure how she’d appreciate a change. At 16, she’s a bit of a fuss-budget old lady cat, too. I stuck the coupon in my purse, and each time litter box re-fill rolled around I shopped for the new litter.

I’m sure the nice folks at Tidy Cats expected a mention much earlier but it was nearly six months before Pure Nature appeared in our local stores. I only recently had the chance to give Seren the opportunity to weigh in.

As a result of attending the recent BlogPaws conference, I met with lots of paw-some products companies and got an invitation to review the Litter One kit, a self-contained fully disposable and biodegradable litter box system using pine pellets. The kit lasts 4 to 6 weeks and costs $24.95. I was sent a free kit to test with Seren, her Cranky-ness.

About the same time, I received an invitation to review the Litter Genie (above). How convenient! It’s designed along the same lines as the diaper pail product for babies only works as an odor/crappiocca container for litter box creativity. I’ve been using the Litter Locker for many years, ever since I won one as part of a Cat Writers Association awards (do you see a trend here? 🙂 ) With the new cat box substrates to test, it was a no brainer to accept a free Litter Genie to see how well it compared to my previous containment system.

I recently blogged about how litter evolved, and what cats tend to prefer. I always tell my consulting clients, “don’t mess with success!” and if you have a cat loyal to the box and substrate, don’t change it. Seren has never had an out-of-body(box) experience, though, and is a very confident roll-with-the-punches sort of feline. Heck, she’s got the Magical-Dawg totally buffaloed. Even so, I very carefully introduced her to both of these new litters. I added about half an inch of her favorite clumping-clay litter over the top of the new varieties. And I set the boxes side by side.

SEREN’S REVIEW: LITTER ONE

litter-one-graphicsSeren totally ignored the Litter One. I suspect she didn’t recognize the pine pellets as appropriate substrate for digging. Cats tend to like very soft textures as their paw pads are quite sensitive, and since Seren is quite arthritic, this may also have been an issue. Granted, if that had been ALL that I offered (she had no other choice) she may have transitioned more willingly to give this a try.

Personally, I very much like the “environmentally friendly” design, and the pellets smell fresh and do offer odor containment. Litter One was awarded the Becker’s Best Award at the 2013 Global Pet Expo as the best new product–(that’s my buddy and one-time co-author Dr. Marty Becker!) and the innovation is clever and appeals to pet parents. For cats already accustomed to pelleted substrate, this would be a terrific option. I would caution that the size of the Litter One box may be an issue with large cats. Although it is a standard commercial box size, those tend to run small which is why I often recommend purchasing a much larger plastic storage bin-type box instead. For a multi-cat household, remember the 1+1 rule (one box per cat, plus one) may impact the cost factor as well.

Litter One offers a variety of Partner Programs for veterinarians, humane societies, rescue centers and other cat service agencies–kudos to the company. I’m all for owner convenience and preference. But cat vote trumps humans paws down.

SEREN’S REVIEW: PURE NATURE

purenature_L

A 12-pound bag costs about $16

Seren immediately accepted the Pure Nature without hesitation.

It’s lighter weight than clumping clay, has a fresh scent, and feels (to me) very similar in texture but smoother. It clumps in a similar fashion to clay products, too. The clumps are not quite as solid, though, and may break apart if you scoop too soon after the…uh…deposit…but I didn’t find issues with them breaking apart. With multiple cats that tromp over top of waste before you have a chance to scoop, that could be a problem. This product has much less dust than the clay clumping Tidy Cats I used before, too.

The scent is a bit too strong for my tastes but didn’t seem to bother Seren–that could be an issue with some cats. Kitty doesn’t mind her own smell but harsh perfumes can really make her avoid the facilities. But where I really noticed a difference was tracking–there was almost no tracking compared to the clay. What did spill from the box vaccumed up completely while the clay clumping is so heavy it always leaves some behind. Seren’s primary box is in my office on carpet, in my walk-in-closet-aka-audio-recording-studio, so keeping it clean and fresh is important.

Will I purchase another bag when it’s time to refurbish the kitty potty? Absolutely–if I can find it locally again. That could be a deal breaker, although online suppliers do offer the product (click the picture for a link).

AMY’S REVIEW: LITTER GENIE & LITTER LOCKER

Now we come to the Litter Genie. It costs about $14.99 ($7.99 for refill) at Target, and requires disposable plastic baggy liners that come in cartridge inserts, about $24 for a 3-pack, each said to last up to two months per cat. I’ve not used it yet for two months so can’t speak to this. Once loaded into the plastic container, the lid opens for you to dump scooped waste into the top opening, which is contained inside the plastic sleeve liner. A spring-loaded internal plastic divider ‘pinches’ closed the neck of the bag to block the reservoir of waste below and contain odor. The system comes with a litter box scoop.

For a single cat, the Litter Genie may work effectively. I found that the light weight of the Pure Nature litter meant I had to shake the container to ensure the waste dropped completely through. I also had to juggle to pull out the divider so that it would pass through to the bottom of the bin, a somewhat awkward design. Therefore, I had to fill up the top bin to capacity, stop, pull out the divider and agitate the pail to make it drop through, and then release the spring loaded pinch-divider. Also, the scoop (which fits in the side) is tiny and pretty much worthless as a scooper unless you have a kitten. Once the bin becomes full, there’s a “child safe cutter” to cut off the bag but I couldn’t get that to work and used scissors. With Seren (a tiny single cat) the bin filled up pretty quickly and I can’t imagine how often a multi-cat household would need to do this. The Litter Genie worked well and effectively and is an economic option for single cat households. 9.5 x 8.5 x 17 inches ; 3.3 pounds

litter locker

The Litter Locker is pricier–but also works better–at about $46 and inserts cost about $29 for a 5-pack.

Once I’ve run out of the insert cartridges for the Litter Genie I’ll go back to using the Litter Locker (above). It costs more than double but has a much larger capacity to hold waste, and is much simpler to use without having to juggle pulling out/holding the canister itself. It also came with a (pretty worthless tiny) litter scooper, and I suspect this design “feature” is more for looks than functionality. It also uses plastic sleeves in cartridges inserted in the top. Waste also is dropped through the top opening–so far, very similar to the Litter Genie, but there the comparisons change.

There’s no spring-loaded pull-out smell-container to manage. Instead, simply close the lid, and then turn the side carousel a half turn. That wraps the waste-filled sleeve around the internal spindle. To empty, open the hinged middle, scissor off one end and knot, and toss the bagged waste away. Because of the larger capacity, it’s better able to manage multiple cats’ waste, and with my one tiny kitty, it doesn’t need to be emptied very often at all. The Litter Locker is 14″ long, 8.8″ wide and 15.4″ high.

How do you handle getting rid of your cats’ creativity? Do you prefer “natural” litter? How do you choose what kind of litter products to use with your cats–ever try something new and how did your cats vote?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Feral Cats, TNR & Cat Fancy Magazine

Max outside
The past couple of weeks brought two pieces of upsetting news, and their convergence prompted this blog. You see, a new report on the impact of cats upon wildlife extrapolated old statistics mixed with new suppositions to paint felines as the devil incarnate–not a new situation by any means (witness the dark ages of black-cat-witchery). Many of my cat writers colleagues and blogpaws friends have addressed these concerns in well written posts, and frankly, I wouldn’t have felt the need.

Except that I also learned that Cat Fancy magazine, first published in 1965, has been sold. 

My earliest bylines as a “pet journalist” were with Cat Fancy. I got my first book contract because an editor read and liked a couple of my Cat Fancy articles. The magazine gave me my first “assignment” (rather than me submitting a query)–I really thought I’d arrived as a writer! But now Bow Tie is poised for change and Cat Fancy readers and contributors together hope this next “cat life” will be even better for all involved.

Sadly, at the moment things aren’t looking so good for the current Cat Fancy (and other Bow Tie) contributors. Many of them are owed a boat load of money for completed and published work, but since the new owner didn’t purchase the debt, chances are my colleagues won’t ever get paid. That’s suck-isity on a huge scale. Right up there with the sucky attacks on cats.

The last article I wrote for Cat Fancy (below) concerned feral cats. In the olden days (dang, that was 9 lives ago!) I was proud to be a contributor and wish only good things for the current editors and contributors now in furry limbo. I pray the TNR program also continues to thrive.

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The un-owned cats of America caterwaul from alleyways, give birth in woodpiles, and slink beneath dumpsters eking out a meager existence on the scraps of civilization. Nobody knows how many live homeless and unloved, but wherever cats gather, controversy soon follows.

Many “solutions” have been tried, and opinions abound regarding the best way to deal with un-owned and feral felines. In the last decade, a small army of dedicated and caring cat advocates including the Feral Cat Project (which lists several success stories!) has come to believe that TNR is a viable and ethical answer.

Defining TNR

TNR stands for “trap-neuter-return,” a program designed to control and decrease the numbers of roaming felines. Trapped cats receive a health exam to identify very sick cats, which are euthanized. Healthy kitties are sterilized and vaccinated, to prevent reproduction or illnesses such as rabies.

Friendly adult cats and tame-able kittens are adopted while the feral (wild) adults live out their lives–sometimes a decade or longer–in the managed colony. The removal of one ear tip identifies these cats as managed. The caregiver(s) monitor the colony and provides food and shelter.

In The Beginning…

TNR first appeared in Europe, and became better known once animal welfare societies in Great Britain began advocating the approach more than 30 years ago. Louise Holton, an early proponent, first learned of TNR in the mid-1970s while living in South Africa. “I fed colonies of cats in Johannesburg,” she says. “As soon as they started talking about TNR it just made sense to me, and I trapped my colonies and fixed them through the Johannesburg SPCA.”

It took longer for the idea to reach America. While working in animal protection, Becky Robinson noticed feral cats in downtown Washington, DC at around the same time that Holton relocated to the area. Animal welfare organizations offered no help. “I was pretty shocked when they said I should bring cats in for euthanasia,” says Holton, now with Alley Cat Rescue.

“We intended to spay and neuter,” says Robinson, “but we ran into all kinds of roadblocks. It was crystal clear that this had to be addressed.”

Believing education was the key, Holton founded Alley Cat Allies (ACA) in 1990 as an educational resource for humane methods of feral cat control. Today, Robinson is the National Director of ACA.

The TNR concept gained national attention in 1995 when Joan Miller of the Cat Fanciers Associationpresented a talk on cat lifestyle diversity at the AVMA Animal Welfare Forum. The next year she and Dr. Patricia Olson (then affiliated with the American Humane Association) co-coordinated the first National Conference On Feral Cats in Denver. Presenters offered a variety of views, and came to the conclusion that national coordination was necessary. “Alley Cat Allies began to grow more rapidly after that,” says Miller.

Hisses And Purrs

Not everyone supports TNR. “Pro and con is an easy way to categorize,” says Dr. Margaret Slater, a veterinary epidemiologist from Texas A&M University and author of Community Approaches to Feral Cats. “But almost everybody has a gradation of views. Nothing is black and white.”

The most common objections focus on protection of the cats themselves. People argue that as a domestic species, it’s our responsibility to keep cats safely confined. But feral cats can rarely be tamed or easily contained.

Relocating them becomes difficult when sanctuaries fill up. When cats are removed from an area that offers shelter and food, others quickly move into that niche–a “vacuum effect” that argues for maintaining the colony in its original location. Even if trap and kill programs weren’t expensive and ineffective, most Americans dislike the notion of treating cats as vermin.

As an introduced or “exotic” species, critics such as the American Bird Conservancy argue cats should be removed from the environment to protect native wildlife, particularly endangered species. Cats cause the most problems where ecosystems are already in the most trouble such as on island ecosystems where any predator is a problem. TNR is not a good choice in these fragile environments.

But proponents argue that for the most part, cats hunt more rodents than birds, and usually only catch sick, old, or very young birds. “Cats get blamed for a lot of things, but it’s almost never just cats,” says Dr. Slater. For instance, rats also are an introduced species, and quite good predators of many birds. Robinson adds, “A bulldozer on a spring day probably does more damage [to the ecosystem than a feral cat in his entire life.” Even critics of TNR often support the programs in situations such as barn or city cat colonies since no endangered species are at risk.

Looking for Common Ground

Alley Cat Allies and other educational resources have made great strides in educating the public about feral cat solutions. How much TNR has grown isn’t easy to determine, though, because most programs involve volunteers and little tracking information is available. “The really big comprehensive and oldest programs are primarily in the Northeast and West Coast,” says Dr. Slater, “but it’s pretty spotty. You can make any statement you like because there’s no data to support or refute it.”

There is common ground. People on both sides of the TNR fence agree that owned cats should be sterilized and identified, and safely confined in some way. “Rather than fighting over TNR, we need to think about how to turn off the source of cats,” says Dr. Slater. “There’s always going to be more cats if we can’t turn that faucet off.”

Feral cat programs have impacted our world in an intangible but perhaps even more important way. TNR demonstrates that all cats have a value, even those that can’t be touched. We as human beings now recognized our ethical responsibility toward these community cats and that they should be cared for and treated humanely.

“TNR changes public attitudes about the value of cats,” says Miller. “That message is enormous.”

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Learn more about TNR in Ellen Perry Berkely’s marvelous books Maverick Cats and TNR: Past, Present & Future (sadly, out of print but available used).

 I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!