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Cat Neatness Freaks: How & Why Cats Groom

Cat Neatness Freaks: How & Why Cats Groom

Does your cat groom nonstop? We cherish the cat’s fastidious nature but did you ever wonder why cats groom? Neatnik behavior goes beyond looking good. Did you know in this hot weather, cats also groom to stay cool and prevent heatstroke? 

How and why cats groom impacts physical, emotional, and social health. My Karma-Kat even tries to groom his best friend, Shadow-Pup. The instinct starts during kittenhood and lasts a lifetime. Of course, some cats get dingy when cats don’t groom, and there are reasons for that as well.

Mixed-breed cats, Felis catus, 6 months old, grooming sitting in front of white background

Kittens learn to lick themselves by two weeks of age by copycat behavior, and a slovenly Mom-cat will raise kitten slobs. Most times, though, kittens wash themselves by the time they get weaned, and adults spend up to 50 percent of their awake time in some form of grooming.

Beautiful gray mixed-breed pregnant cat cleaning-up.

How Cats Groom

The specialized structure of the tongue makes it a perfect kitty comb, while teeth nibble and gnaw at tangles, dirt, and burrs caught in the fur. Each cat’s clean regime varies, but a good wash often happens after meals, naps, and potty breaks.

CatScratching_sm

First, the mouth, chin, and whiskers get licked, followed by shoulders, forelegs, flanks, and hind legs. Finally, the genitals—how DO they pretzel themselves to reach?!—and then the tail gets attention. Forepaws re-dampened every few swipes serve as furry washrags to scrub face, head, and ears. Rear claws scratch to groom the neck and ears, and claws get nibbled clean, while front claws also scratch objects to groom them healthy.

Tri-color green-wash my kitten with cocked back foot on blue background

Grooming is a barometer of kitty health. Cats that feel bad often stop grooming, or lick and pull fur out due to stress or pain. Consider an unthrifty appearance or “barbering” themselves bald a kitty cry for vet care. Cats often need help in the grooming department—especially longhair beauties. Here are 5 common reasons why cats groom.

5 Reasons Why Cats Groom

Healthy Skin & Fur. Grooming keeps skin and fur healthy. As they clean themselves, cats also search their skin and fur for dirt, sores or parasites and vacuum away buggy pests. Eww! Of course, that also can take care of shedding issues but can lead to cat hairballs upon occasion.

Waterproof Fur. Sebaceous glands at the base of each hair release an oily secretion—sebum—which lubricates and waterproofs the hair coat when your cat licks herself. Grooming also removes shed hair and prevents mats, which impede temperature regulation.

Kitty Warmers & Cool Cats. Healthy fur falls in loose layers that protect the cat’s body from injury, and insulates her from temperature extremes. That keeps her warm in cold weather and cool in hot temps. It can actually help protect against over-heating. A well-groomed coat free of mats can be fluffed and allows air to pass between the hairs and cool the skin. Cats also pant to cool themselves when they are very hot—but panting is a kitty danger signal! Since cats don’t have effective sweat glands, they lick skin and hair, and the saliva evaporation keeps Kitty cool.

Beautiful grey cat smiling while being brushed

Furry Social Networking. Mutual grooming helps cats take care of hard-to-reach head and neck areas, but also connects cats socially by sharing communal scent. Grooming another cat expresses comfort, companionship, and even love. When kitty accepts your petting (or you help her out with grooming) and she grooms your hair or licks your arm, she’s engaging in mutual grooming that expresses utmost trust and affection.

Nervous Much?

Stress Buster. Cats use displacement grooming to feel better emotionally. Cats may groom themselves when fearful, to relieve tension, or when uncertain how to react to situations. For example, instead of attacking or running away from an aggressive animal, your cat may suddenly begin to furiously groom. You’ll see the same frantic grooming if kitty misjudges a leap and falls on his furry fanny. Cats also use displacement grooming when they can’t indulge other behaviors; perhaps you’ve put the cat on a diet, or are trying to convince an outdoor cat he should stay inside. They may also increase scratch behavior to reduce stress. Keep cat claws trimmed to reduce damage and refer to this claw training post for more help.

We don’t know if displacement grooming has a direct effect on the neurologic impulses in the brain, or simply is a way for the cat to distract himself. Strong emotions like kitty separation anxiety may cause a rise in body temperature which the cat cools by grooming, or perhaps the benefits of massage and touch calm feline anxiety. Some displacement grooming is normal, but if kitty becomes obsessed loses fur, or damages the skin, seek vet help.

So are your cats neatniks or furry slobs? Do you help your cat with grooming? Seren used to love being combed by the Furminator, but Karma could care less. Also be aware of these 8 ways we can HISS OFF our cat!

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

Feral Cats, Community Cats, TNR & New Research

Feral Cats, Community Cats, TNR & New Research

Some of my earliest bylines as a “pet journalist” appeared in Cat Fancy magazine. I got my first book contracts because a NYC editor read and liked a couple of my Cat Fancy articles. But the magazine sold in 2013, and published a final issue in 2015. Much of the content remains important and share-able. The last article I wrote for Cat Fancy (updated below) covered feral cats and TNR.

feral cats

Feral Cats, Community Cats, TNR & New Research

There are an estimated 60 to 100 million free-roaming feral and community cats in the United States. They 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.

Caring cat lovers tried many “solutions” 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 Riverfront Cats, and the Feral Cat Project (which lists several success stories!) believes that TNR is a viable and ethical answer. But it’s expensive, and labor intensive. What about other answers?

feral cat with kittensResearch Helping Ferals

Clearly, we need new strategies beyond trap/neuter/release (TNR) programs. “The importance of finding viable, safe, humane and cost-effective techniques for nonsurgical sterilization in community cats cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Kathy Tietje, Vice President of Scientific Operations at Morris Animal Foundation. Two studies recently approved by Morris Animal Foundation addresses this issue with nonsurgical methods to control reproductive capacity. “We’re excited about these innovative projects and their impact on population control of this specific group of cats.” The projects begin in 2023 and should last 12-24 months.

Reducing the number of cats entering the shelter system and improving overall feline health outcomes are the primary drivers behind these new studies. This also reduces the environmental impact of free-roaming community cats through humane population control. The University of Georgia project aims to developing an oral vaccine to decrease male cat fertility by reducing reproductive hormone levels. The Tufts University project focuses on decreasing hormone levels in female cats through an injectable medication. Until then, TNR continues to lead the charge for feral cat welfare.

community cats

What is 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. Sterilizing healthy kitties and vaccinating prevents reproduction or contagious 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 provide food and shelter.

feral cats street cats

TNR 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 40 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 moved 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. 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, ACA staff and directors continue the work.

The TNR concept gained national attention in 1995 when Joan Miller of the Cat Fanciers Association presented 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 concluded that national coordination was necessary. “Alley Cat Allies grew more rapidly after that,” says Miller.

For more about the history of this movement, check out the excellent book (out of print but available used) by Ellen Perry Berkley, TNR: Past, Present and Future: A History of the Trap-Neuter-Return Movement.

feral cat on garbage

Hisses And Purrs for Feral Cats

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 protecting the cats themselves. People argue that as a domestic species, it’s our responsibility to keep cats safely confined. People dislike stray cats pestering their own pets or messing in their garden.  But feral cats rarely tame or adapt to confinement.

feral cats on roofThe Vacuum Effect

Moving them becomes difficult when sanctuaries fill up. An area cleared of cats that offers hot or cold weather feral cat shelter and food quickly attracts more cats—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 treating cats as vermin.

As an introduced or “exotic” species, critics such as the American Bird Conservancy argue we should remove cats 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 mostly, 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 cat relocation or city cat colonies, since they risk no endangered species.

feral cats in snow eating

Making A Difference for Feral Cats & TNR

Holton, now with Alley Cat Rescue, says they conducted a national survey of feral cats groups (in 2013). “This survey proves that Trap Neuter Return (TNR) works and that many groups and individuals volunteer their own time and their own money to control and stabilize the nation’s feral cat population.”

  • Most feral cat groups provide spay/neuter services to “owned” cats, as well as offering TNR services for ferals. This, of course, PREVENTS future colonies from forming.
  • Most (96%) of the TNR groups practice neuter-before-adoption for the stray cats they place in homes.
  • One quarter of the groups report that their colony cats are 6 to 8 years old. Thirty-five percent report their cats are between 9 and 12 years old, and over 14% report feral cats 13 years old and some even older!
  • 96% of the groups provide rabies vaccinations to feral cats; 64% provide distemper; 11.76% provide feline leukemia shots; 62.18% deworm feral cats; 63.87% provide flea treatment.
  • One third reported that there were 26 to 30 kittens in each colony before TNR; 42.86% said there were 0-5 kittens in colonies after TNR.
  • 71.42% said they had relocated some cats in their colonies — this means an immediate drop in numbers of cats in colonies, something that Alley Cat Rescue has experienced many times with our own colonies.
  • Sadly, 61.34% said their local animal control agencies do NOT offer TNR and 36% said animal control agencies had trapped and killed whole colonies in their areas. And as expected with trying total eradication, 27.73% said cats moved back into these areas where they were all trapped and killed, most within 2 to 3 months after the cats were removed.
  • Nearly all the groups (82.35%) educate the public about feral cats and TNR—65% say this has been “somewhat” effective, with 17.65% reporting their outreach programs to be extremely successful.
  • In response to “working with animal control,” this answer was split between most saying this was “difficult,” a little less reporting “somewhat successful” and 21% reporting “positively.”
  • Working on TNR with local city/government: Although only 15% found this easy to do, I think that is a positive indicator that we are moving in the right direction.
  • Sadly 57% reported that it was “difficult” trying to work with their local wildlife groups.

“We have come a long way since I started on this mission to promote TNR in 1990. Back then, there was only a handful of forward-thinking groups and individuals working on implementing TNR in America. [This survey by ACR] found nearly 700 groups and we will work on identifying more in the future.”

Looking for Common Ground for Feral Cat Control

There is common ground. People on both sides of the TNR fence agree we should sterilize community cats and feral felines, and safely confine them. “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.”

If you know of an organization successfully using TNR, please drop the name and link in the comments section–let’s show ’em some purr-fect love!

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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!

Merry Cat-Mas & Doggy Ho-Ho-Ho! Here’s How to Create a Tree for the Pets

Merry Cat-Mas & Doggy Ho-Ho-Ho! Here’s How to Create a Tree for the Pets

Merry Cat-Mas & Doggy Ho-Ho-Ho! Here’s How to Create A Tree for Pets

pet safe tree

Have you decked the halls yet with your howl-iday decor or a pet safe tree? What do the pets think? Have they joined in the spirit of ho-ho-ho and wreaked havoc? Or do they ignore the festivities?

The Christmas tree might as well be an early holiday gift to your cats and dogs. You need indoor Christmas trees safe for pets and pet-proof the holidays. Cats and dogs can’t resist the urge to sniff, claw, water—and scale the branches to reach the highest possible perch. Don’t blame your cat or dog. It’s normal for cats to compete for the top spot (literally and figuratively) to secure their place in kitty society, and dogs may want to “mark” the convenient indoor doggy signpost.

pet safe holidayCLUELESS PUPS & ACROBAT CATS

Magical-Dawg was born in July, and he came to live with us in early October. So when it came time to put up that year’s tree, I weenied out. We didn’t put up a tree until he was three years old and had sorta-kinda-in-a-way learned to control himself. I already had practice from dealing with the Seren-kitty’s tree love affair.

For puppies, the Christmas season can be a challenge for owners. Your puppy may believe the Christmas tree is a special gift just for his entertainment. The attraction is natural, with puppies wanting to chew branches, pull off decorations, or worse. The result is a holiday that’s anything but merry.

Youngsters won’t care about social standing, but high energy kitten play turns the holiday tree into a jungle gym. Tree encounters of the furry kind not only risk breaking your heirloom ornaments, your pets get injured by chewing or swallowing dangerous items.

Puppies turn everything into a toy. The branches beneath the tree create a great puppy hideout. Tree ornaments that move or make noises lure puppies to grab and chase, garland offers a great game of tug-o’-war, and the twinkling lights draw them to investigate or even chew. That can lead to electrical shock (check out The First-Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats for tips that can save your pets’ lives). Trees end up toppled, presents and decorations damaged, and sometimes pets get hurt.

DAMAGED MEMORIES

Holidays mean memories and damage to “things” may matter more at this time of year than others. My grandmother always displayed a gorgeous white porcelain nativity each year. That nativity symbolized for me all-good-things about Grandma’s house and Christmas–good food, happy reunions, presents, and love shared by our close-nit family. So when Grandma died, I felt blessed to keep her Nativity and continue to display it in my own home.

When Seren-kitty arrived, I was nervous about her rambunctious behavior around the Holy Family. You can read about that in this Christmas Sparkles story. But it wasn’t until later that the worst happened while my husband played his nightly fetch game with Magical-Dawg. It could have been me, so there’s no blame here. The ball ricocheted off of the delicate nativity and beheaded Joseph and lopped off Mary’s hand. Sounds funny, right?

I had a meltdown. You probably could hear my scream for miles and the sobs lasted days. It wasn’t just china, a THING damaged. It was my personal Christmas, my Grandma, childhood happy times–shattered.

nativity

Fully restored…and now placed out of reach on the mantel.

Eventually, I stopped crying. There was no question of replacing the pieces–they’re hard to find and besides, it was THAT nativity that meant everything to me. We eventually found a restoration expert able to give Mary back her hand and re-attach Joseph’s head. I’m just grateful Grandma’s Nativity continues to be a part of our personal traditions and holiday happiness.

Since that time, we’ve curtailed pet games of fetch, especially around the holidays delicate decorations. Hey, it wasn’t the dog’s fault. But it’s up to us humans to protect what’s important to us–not just our pets but our memories.

christmas cat and dogHOW TO PET PROOF THE TREE

Place “tacky mats” under the tree to shoo away pets. We can find these at pet products stores used to keep throw rugs from slipping, and pets don’t like to walk on the sticky surface. Alternatively, get some Sticky Paws (double-sided tap) and apply to place mats or other moveable surfaces and place in strategic locations.

Put small trees inside a baby playpen to keep small pets out. Or use baby gates to keep the pets out of the tree room. Keep breakable or dangerous ornaments out of paw-reach (or better, don’t use at all!). Put only pet safe décor within sniffing range on lower branches.

Ditch the lights, and any “fake-snow” flocking that pets might chew or swallow. Instead, decorate with cotton balls or pillow-stuffing fleece for that snowy look on branches or around the base. If you’ve chosen a real tree, water with plain water and no additives in case the pet drinks from the container.

Strings and garland look great on the tree, but prove deadly inside a cat or dog when swallowed. Dried flowers like baby’s breath look lovely and are nontoxic even if clueless pets nibble.

CREATE A PET-SAFE TREE!

Rather than fight a losing battle to keep them at bay, create a second pet-safe tree with these tips. That way the fur-kids can enjoy the holidays as much as you do.

Put yourself in your pet’s “paws.” Satisfy her desire to claw, lounge on (or under) the branches, and trust that it won’t tip over under her assault. Match the tree size, sturdiness, base (perhaps add guy-wires for steadiness) to the activity level and number of pets.

To increase the fun factor, insert a few sprigs of dried catnip—but be prepared for the cats to dismantle the tree! Offer some doggy treats under the pet tree for legal dog chewing enjoyment.

Catnip toys make great kitty tree decorations pets won’t destroy during feline assaults. Use “orphan” socks (singletons without a mate), fill with the ‘nip, and knot the open end.

Don’t forget the “cheap thrills.” Empty boxes, wads of holiday paper, and even paper shopping bags thrill cats and dogs. Remove bag handles so it won’t get hung around her neck.

Toss a few special treats in the boxes or bags. The smellier the treat, the better pets like them.

Be prepared to re-decorate the tree after the cats and dogs have fun. But a “Pet-mas” tree not only answers your pets’ Santa Paws prayers, it means she’ll be more likely to leave your formal tree and decorations alone. That promotes a merry Christmas for the whole family, furry and otherwise.

Your Turn…

So how do you handle doggy interest in your yule plans? Are your puppies ho-hum or holiday happy over the change in scenery? What do you do to keep your Christmas memories safe from kitty and doggy damage? Does the baby-gate-of-despair keep the tree and poochie free from harm? Have you ever “lost your head” over holiday damage? Do tell!

And check out more dog and cat care advice in time for Christmas gifts (for your friends or yourself!).

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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!

Remembering Seren with Holiday Sparkles, A Cat-Mas Story

Remembering Seren with Holiday Sparkles, A Cat-Mas Story

Remembering Seren

Seren arrived at a time we’d been pet-less for many years. A friend called to tell me she’d found a kitten–and could I help? The wannabe Siamese baby climbed up my leg, wrapped her chocolate paws around my neck, and purred her way into my heart. It was, indeed, Serendipity that we found each other.

That was more than two decades ago. She inspired my cat writing, hated and finally tolerated “that !@#$%!!!-dawg” when Magic arrived (and outweighed her even as a pup!). And Seren tolerated and ultimately loved her pesky cat brother, Karma. Seren’s tiny frame packed a powerful presence for over 21 years, and now the house echoes with her absence. We mourn, oh how we mourn . . .

Pet Loss–Again

We’ve been through pet grief already this year when we lost Magic. The tears just won’t stop. And now I’ve added more verses to Magic’s song:

A thousand tears I shed each night
Since Seren left that bitter day,
She took away a special light
And turned my world to gray.

If we could, you know we’d fight
To keep her near just one more day.
But clinging love can’t make it right
We let her go, she couldn’t stay.

Swift sweet joy, condensed delight,
Great love is magnified that way.
The years sped by, we couldn’t fight
The deal we made, we had no say.

In time the tears I shed each night
Will shimmer bright, I pray.
For all who mourn love out of sight
Sweet memory holds sway.

For those also hurting, here’s a post on dealing with pet loss that may help.   

And in honor of my tiny girl’s beginning with us, it seemed appropriate to once again share this story about her early days with us.

HOLIDAY SPARKLES: A CAT-MAS STORY

SerenCrash-galumph-galumph-skiiiiiiid-thump!

“Amy! Will you please get your cat before she tears up the house?”

I sighed, and pushed away from the computer. My husband grew up cat-less. Mahmoud neither understood nor appreciated kitten antics, especially while he watched television sports.

Crash-galumph-galumph-skiiiiiiid-thump!

“Ameeeeeeee!”

By the sound of it, the eight-month-old delinquent had donned virtual racing stripes. She ran laps that traversed the carpeted living room and family room, slid across the oak floor entry, bumped down steps to the dining room, then finished with a claw-scrabbling turn around the slate-tiled kitchen.

Thumpa-thumpata-thumpa-THUMP!

Aha, a new path discovered . . . The sound grew louder as she raced toward me up the stairs and flew down the hallway to land tippy-toed on the guest bed across the hall from my office. I peeked inside.

Seren(dipity) stared back with blue-jean-colored eyes. Then she self-inflated in mock terror and began trampoline calisthenics (boing-boing-boing) on the mattress.

I quickly shut the door, confining the demon seed–my husband’s name for her–to my upstairs domain.

Back in June, a friend discovered the dumped kitten napping in an empty flowerpot on the back porch and called me, her pet-writer buddy, for help. I had been pet-less for longer than I cared to admit. E-mail, phone and fax lines kept me connected to my clients and colleagues, but I figured the kitten would brighten the long, sometimes lonely workdays. Besides, as a pet writer I needed a pet. So it was Amy-to-the-rescue, and love at first sight.

My husband wasn’t so easily smitten. He still missed our elderly and sedate German shepherd but cherished the freedom of being pet-less. I convinced him a lap-snuggling kitten would be no trouble. Besides, the cream-color carpet he’d chosen matched the color of Seren’s fur. It had to be an omen.

The cat gods have a wicked sense of humor. They made me pay for that fib.

The Siamese wannabe had no off-switch. She talked nonstop and demanded the last word. She opened drawers and explored kitchen cabinets. She answered my office phone but never took messages. And she left legions of sparkle ball toys everywhere.

The colorful toys polka-dotted the stairs. You’d think a peacock threw up. The toys floated in the kitten’s water bowl, swirled in the toilet, and bobbed in my coffee cup. And Seren hid sparkle balls everywhere to later stalk and paw-capture them from beneath household appliances.

Mahmoud quickly learned to check his shoes each morning before putting them on. He was not amused. I knew better than to suggest he should be grateful Seren only stuffed his shoes with sparkle balls and not–ahem–other items.

I’d managed to buffer the cat-shock-effect over the past months by keeping her in my office during the day and wearing Seren out with lots of games before Mahmoud came home from work. Weekends proved a challenge. By Monday morning, my husband reached his kitty threshold and welcomed a return to the cat-free-zone at work.

But now the holidays loomed. Mahmoud looked forward to two weeks at home, two weeks of relaxation, two weeks of napping on the couch in front of the TV.

Two weeks sharing the house with “the devil.”

It would indeed be a Christmas miracle if we survived with sense of humor intact.

In the past we’d often visited my folks over the holidays where we enjoyed a traditional snowy Indiana Christmas morning, stocking stuffers, decorated tree, lots of relatives, and a sumptuous turkey dinner. This year we planned a quiet celebration at home in Texas, so snow wasn’t an option. But I wanted to decorate with lots of holiday sparkles to make the season as festive as possible.

“A Christmas tree? Don’t cats climb trees?” Mahmoud’s you-must-be-insane expression spoke volumes. He’d already blamed Seren for dumping his coffee on the cream-colored carpet. Maybe matching fur color wasn’t such a great omen after all.

But ‘tis the season of peace on earth, and I wanted to keep the peace–and the cat. So I agreed. No tree.

Mahmoud didn’t particularly care if we decorated at all since Christmas isn’t a part of his cultural or religious tradition. But he knew I treasured everything about the holidays. So we compromised.

Gold garland with red velvet poinsettias festooned the curving staircase, wrapping around and around the banisters and handrail. Gold beads draped the fireplace mantel, with greeting cards propped above. A red cloth adorned the dining room table, while in the living room, the candelabra with twelve scented candles flickered brightly from inside the fireplace. Other candles in festive holders decorated the several end tables, countertops and the piano.

The centerpiece of Christmas décor was the large glass-top coffee table placed midway between the fireplace, TV and the leather sofa. The wooden table base carried puppy teeth marks, silent reminders of the dog Mahmoud and I still mourned. Since we had no tree, the table served to display brightly wrapped packages that fit underneath out of the way. And on top of the table I placed Grandma’s lovely three-piece china nativity of Mary, Joseph and the Baby in the manger.

Grandma died several years before, right after the holidays. Each family member was encouraged to request something of hers to keep as a special remembrance, and I treasured Grandma’s nativity. The simple figurines represented not only the Holy Family but evoked the very essence of Grandma and every happy family holiday memory.

Of course, Seren created her own memories and put her paw into everything. It became her purpose in life to un-festoon the house. She “disappeared” three of the faux poinsettias, risked singed whiskers by sniffing candles, and stole bows off packages.

She decided the red tablecloth set off her feline beauty. She lounged in the middle of the table beneath the Tiffany-style shade that doubled as a heat lamp, shedding tiny hairs onto the fabric. As every cat lover eventually learns, fur is a condiment. But Mahmoud had not yet joined the cat-lover ranks and was not amused.

“Off! Get off the table. Amy, she’ll break your glass lampshade.”

Crash-galumph-galumph-skiiiiiiid-thump!

Mahmoud had no sooner resettled onto the sofa to watch the TV when the whirling dervish hit again. The twinkling gold beads dangling from the mantel caught her predatory attention. Seren stalked them from below, quickly realized she couldn’t leap that high, and settled for pouncing onto the top of the TV. From there, only a short hop separated her from the ferocious mantel quarry she’d targetted.

“Off! Get off the TV. Amy, will you come get your cat?”

Crash-galumph-galumph-skiiiiiiid-thump!

I arrived in time to see her complete a second Mario Andretti lap. I swear she grinned at us as she skidded past. With the next drive-by Seren stopped long enough to grab my ankle, execute a ten-second feline headstand while bunny-kicking my calves, then resumed her mad dash around the house.

Mahmoud glared. “I thought you said cats sleep sixteen hours a day.”

I shrugged and hid a smile. Seren had already learned what buttons to push. Rattling the wooden window blinds worked extremely well, but now she need only eye the decorations to garner all the attention she craved.

Cute kitty. Smart kitty. Mahmoud wasn’t amused, but I was.

She raced into the living room, leaped onto the glass top table, and belly-flopped alongside my treasured Holy Family . . .

“Off! Get off.” Mahmoud shooed the kitten out of the danger zone before I could react in shock. This time, I was not amused.

Mahmoud knew what Grandma’s nativity meant to me. “Decorating was your idea. Don’t blame me if the devil breaks something,” he warned.

Before he could suggest it, I caught the miscreant and gave her a time out in the laundry room to cool her jets. We’d relegated Seren’s potty, food bowls and bed to this room and routinely confined her at night or when away. Otherwise, she set off motion detectors and the house alarm–or dismantled the house while we slept. Besides, Mahmoud complained Seren’s purring kept him awake at night.

I used a wooden yardstick to fish toys from beneath the washer/dryer to provide necessary feline entertainment during the incarceration. Several dozen sparkle balls–red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, purple–and the three missing faux poinsettias emerged, along with an assortment of dust bunnies and dryer lint.

I sighed. The kitten’s age meant several more months of madcap activity and I wasn’t sure how much more Mahmoud could take. He only saw Seren at full throttle. He also suffered from “Saint Spot Syndrome” which meant he recalled only the happy memories of our beloved dog, and overlooked potty accidents, chewed shoes and other normal canine misbehaviors of the past.

Seren suffered mightily in the comparison.

I felt exhausted after the first week of running vacation interference between my husband and the kitten. Whenever possible I kept Seren confined with me in my upstairs office but that backfired. She slept in my office, but once downstairs she turned into a dynamo intent on pick-pick-picking at Mahmoud especially when he ignored her.

The second week began, and as Christmas drew near I found more and more errands that required my attention outside of the house. Mahmoud came with me for some, but other times he preferred TV.

“Just lock up the devil before you leave so she doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I don’t want to watch her.”

It made me nervous to leave them alone together in the house. I worried that Seren might commit some last straw infraction and I’d be unable to salvage any potential relationship. I loved her, heaven help me; she’d hooked her claws deep into my heart. And I loved Mahmoud. I wanted my two loves to at least put up with each other.

But as I prepared to leave I couldn’t find her. At less than five pounds, Seren could hide in the tiniest spaces. One time I found her inside the box springs of the guest bed, but that day–December 23rd–she disappeared and refused to come out of hiding.

I think she planned it. Maybe the spirit of the holidays inspired her. Or perhaps some other loving canine (or grandmotherly) influence worked its Christmas magic. Whatever the motivation, when I returned home that rainy December evening, my unspoken holiday wish had been granted.

nativityI found my husband napping on the sofa. On the glass-top table beside him, the Holy Family nested in a radiance of sparkle balls—an inspired feline gift of toys for a very special Child.

And atop Mahmoud’s chest, quiet at last, rested a very happy kitten.

Mahmoud roused enough to open one eye. “Fafnir–I mean Seren still purrs too loud,” he grumbled.

Fafnir had been the name of our dog.

With a nod toward the overcast day, Mahmoud added, “At least our cat won’t need to be walked in the rain.”

Seren blinked blue-jean-colored eyes and purred louder.

cat christmas anthologyNote: The story first appeared in a short story collection titled Christmas Cats: A Literary Companion (Chamberlain Bros. Publishing). You can also find it in the new anthology, The Cat in the Christmas Tree (Revell Publishing). May your Christmas be joyous, bright, and filled with loving woofs and purrs of those still with you, and those who live on in your heart.

You may also enjoy my annual Christmas Eve story of Why Tabby Cats Wear an “M”

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

How to Create A Cat Safe Christmas Tree

How to Create A Cat Safe Christmas Tree

Cat safe Christmas tree? Is there any other kind? I post this blog every year and — with Shadow-Pup now in the house, I’ve decided to try the Christmas tree this year for the first time in a couple of years.

If you plan to have a new pet under the tree, read this post on how to give pets as gifts. And if you have a shy kitty–well any cat for that matter–refer to this post about keeping cats calm during the holidays.

In the past, our old girl, Seren-Kitty, ignored the decorations and so did Magic. We were lucky that way—until Karma-Kat came along. Bravo-Dawg eggs him on, and the last time we put up a tree was quite an experience.

Karma turned the tree into a kitty jungle gym! And Bravo-Boy loved playing “tug” with branches. We’ll see how Shadow-Pup reacts. Meanwhile, here are my annual tips to help with YOUR tree, and you can read more about pet-safe holiday tips here.

cat safe chrismas tree

Karma-Kat didn’t read the safety manual!

CREATE A CAT SAFE CHRISTMAS TREE

Karma considers the Christmas tree to be an early holiday gift. Many pets can’t resist the urge to sniff, claw, water—and Karma thinks it’s great fun to scale the branches to reach the highest possible perch. I don’t blame him. It’s normal for cats to compete for the top spot (literally and figuratively) to secure their place in kitty society, and dogs may want to “mark” the convenient indoor doggy signpost. He’s so heavy, though, that high treetop shenanigans aren’t in the cards.

Our tree has bunches of red and white silk rosebuds, a string of “pearls” and some cat-safe sparkly but prickly décor that doesn’t appeal to Karma. We also offer him treat-filled puzzle toys placed well away from the tree so other spots in the house are more appealing.

Cat safe Christmas tree

Create a cat safe tree your kittens and cats will leave alone–or can safely play with.

WHY CATS LOVE THE CHRISTMAS TREE

Kitty can’t resist the urge to sniff, cheek rub, claw—and scale the branches to reach the highest possible perch. Don’t blame your cat. It’s normal for cats to compete for the top spot (literally and figuratively) to secure their place in kitty society.

Youngsters won’t care about social standing, but high energy kitten play turns the holiday tree into a jungle gym. Tree encounters of the kitty kind not only risk breaking your heirloom ornaments, your furred family members can be injured by chewing or swallow dangerous items. Read about pet proofing your holidays here. Rather than fight a losing battle to keep cats at bay, create a second cat-safe tree with these 12 tips, so the fur-kids can enjoy the holidays as much as you do.

Keep breakable holiday ornaments out of reach.

Cats turn anything into toys, even Christmas ornaments.

12 TIPS FOR A CAT SAFE CHRISTMAS TREE

  • Put yourself in your cat’s “paws.” Satisfy her desire to claw, lounge on branches, and trust that it won’t tip over under her assault. Match the tree size, sturdiness, base (perhaps add guy-wires for steadiness) to the activity level and number of cats.
  • Ditch the lights, and any “fake-snow” flocking that can be chewed or swallowed. Instead, decorate with cotton balls or pillow-stuffing fleece for that snowy look on branches or around the base. If you’ve chosen a real tree, water with plain water and no additives in case kitty decides to drink.
  • Strings and garland look great on the tree, but prove deadly inside a cat when swallowed. Dried flowers like baby’s breath look lovely and are nontoxic even if clueless kittens nibble.
    If you don’t mind your cats turning the tree into a jungle gym, insert a few sprigs of dried catnip—but be prepared for the cats to dismantle the tree!
  • Catnip toys make great kitty tree decorations and won’t be destroyed during the feline assaults. Use “orphan” socks (singletons without a mate), fill with the ‘nip, and knot the open end.
  • Jingle bells (quarter size or larger) can’t be swallowed and offer movement and sound when hung from ribbon on a branch. Put one inside the sealed catnip sock for more jingly fun.
  • Furry toy mice come in bright colors—or go with a standard white theme—and can be placed in the branches for your mouse-aholic feline.
  • Craft stores offer inexpensive bags filled with soft pompoms in a variety of colors and sizes—even sparkly ones. Cats love to play with these. Pompoms are so cheap you can fill the branches with one color theme, or a rainbow approach.
Holiday lights risk electrical shock

It’s not just the ornaments, but the electrical lights that can cause dangerous burns or death if chomped. Even the pine needles can cause injury if swallowed.

  • Many cats adore feathers but remember they can chew and swallow these. As long as supervised, a few feathers placed in the tree can be a fun accent as well. How about a bright feather boa instead of garland?
  • Small stuffed toys—kitty theme or otherwise—appeal to many cats. Place around the base of the tree. Feline puzzle toys filled with special treats also are fun.
  • Don’t forget the “cheap thrills.” Empty boxes, wads of holiday paper, and even paper shopping bags thrill cats. Remove bag handles so the cat won’t get hung around her neck.
    Toss a few special kitty treats in the boxes or bags. The smellier the treat, the better cats like them.

Be prepared to re-decorate the tree after the cats have fun. But a “Cat-mas” tree not only answers your kitty’s Santa Paws prayers, it means she’ll be more likely to leave your formal tree and decorations alone. That promotes a merry Christmas for the whole family, furry and otherwise.

Here’s Karma-Kat’s first tree experience…hoo boy!

What have I missed? How do you keep the holidays safe for your cats? Teaching kittens the ropes may be easier than dealing with an adult cat. Have you ever had a cat-astrophe with your tree? Do tell!

You may also enjoy my annual Christmas story (also in the COMPLETE KITTEN CARE book), Why Tabby Wears an “M.”

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Do Pets See In Color?

Do Pets See In Color?

I love this question. What do you think? Today’s Ask Amy topic is Do dogs see in color? What about cats and dogs, do they see things differently?

Do pets see color

Is it the color? Or something else that determines “favorites.”

How do you know? What colors can dogs see? What about your pets, do they have favorites or can you tell?

 

do dogs see colorMagical-Dawg never had a color preference, nor did Seren-kitty. They both had have preferences for texture of toys, though…or in Seren’s case, texture of a sleeping spot, LOL! I tend to choose deep blue colors for the kitty because it looks so good with her eyes.

Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat also don’t seem to care about color, but they do have their favorite toys. I tend to choose halters and leash color based on what looks good on them, but I choose toys based on what I believe THEY can see best.

Do you have color preferences for your pets’ toys? Does it matter to them? What have I missed in the video, 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Cat Names for Happy Cat Month

Cat Names for Happy Cat Month

Happy cat, happy life, right? Happy Cat Month should be every month! We celebrate Happy Cat Month in September, and nothing makes a cat happier than hearing his or her special cat name.

What do you call your feline friend? How did you come up with your cat’s name? I’ve got a theme going with my kitty friends. Seren (short for Serendipity) came to me at just the right time. And so did Karma-Kat, when our Magical-Dawg found him. Cats seem to name themselves and there are many popular ones these days. But you don’t have to go with the crowd.

The American Curl cat has ears that curl backwards.

PEDIGREE NAMES

Pedigree kitties are christened with a string of unique and entertaining names to designate the cattery, sometimes the breed or even the appearance. I still remember one of my all-time-fave cat names, “Celticurl’s Sinead O’Curler” for an American Curl feline.

THE HISTORICAL “CAT”

Did you know the words for “cat” seem surprisingly similar throughout the world? Historically, there appear to be three basic origins for the naming. The word for “cat” seems derived from sounds he makes, based on the actions of the animal, or associated with ancient cat-gods of the past.

Egyptians named the cat mau, which means “the seer” (from the word mau, “to see”). Perhaps these ancient people associated the cat’s unique eyes with an ability to view more than meets the eye.

Other historians speculate that the cat’s mewing vocalization inspired her to be called mau. In fact, China’s word for cat is miu–quite similar to the ancient Egyptian’s mau.

The powerful cat-headed gods of the times were alternately referred to as Bast, Bastet, Posht, or Pasht. Some people speculate puss is a natural derivation of Posht or Pasht. Others believe “puss” evolved from the Latin words pusus and pusa, which mean “little boy” and “little girl.” Admit it–you sometimes call your cats by these endearments, don’t you?

Another version connects the French le puss to the Latin lepus, which means “hare.” In fact, well into the eighteenth century, England used the word “puss” to refer to both cats and hares well into the eighteenth century.

Romans called the cat felis from the root word felix, meaning “a good and auspicious omen” linked to magical divination. Later, they used catta, the same name as the weasel, because both cats and weasels were used to catch rodents. Other words may come from the root word ghad, which means “to grasp or catch.” Seems a perfect fit for our felines. Learn more about the history of the cat in CAT LIFE.

“CAT” AROUND THE WORLD

For fun, here are a few more words for “cat” from around the world:

  • Arabic, kittah
  • Armenian, gatz
  • Basque, catua
  • Cornish, kath
  • French, chat
  • German, katze
  • katti or ket
  • Greek, kata or catta
  • Italian, gatto
  • Polish, kot or gatto
  • Portuguese, gato
  • Russian, kots or koshka
  • Spanish, gato
  • Turkish, kedi
  • Welsh, kath

Karma loves to “read” the funnies.

SHARE YOUR MONIKER!

So what do you call your cat? Coat color inspires names like Rusty, Pumpkin or Ginger, Snowball, Cotton, Tabby and Midnight. If a cat is called Suede, Fluffy or Big Foot, what image does that conjure?

Attitude often prompts telling names as well. But don’t name him “Demon-Seed” or “Stupid” unless you want him to fulfill that prediction! Cats given positive names tend to have more positive relationships with their people.

Picking a great cat name can be fun. My little Siamese wannabe is Seren—short for Serendipity because it was such a happy accident we found each other. But I suspect cats also have a “secret name” we humans can’t pronounce.

Maybe that’s why they never come when called.

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Do Cats Suffer Separation Anxiety? Your Guide to Signs & Tips to Relieve the Angst

Do Cats Suffer Separation Anxiety? Your Guide to Signs & Tips to Relieve the Angst

FTC noticeDo Cats Suffer Separation Anxiety? Your Guide to Signs & Tips to Relieve the Angst

Yes, cat separation anxiety affects many felines. When school restarts, and the kids go back to class, your cats (and your dogs) may suffer from separation anxiety. The signs of distress are very different, though. I encourage you to read on to learn about tips for helping your furry family members adjust.

More recently, with more folks working from home, the cats have finally settled into a new routine. But just about the time Kitty gets used to your new schedule, the world changes again if you go back to the office. That may make them more prone to developing separation behaviors when you go back to work or kids return to school and leave them alone.

We very often hear about doggy angst during a beloved human’s absence, but what about cats? Yep, it’s exactly the same—only different. Here’s how.

Young girl reading a book with her cat at home, sitting next to two piles of books.

Back to school can change schedules and put kitty’s tail in a twist.

How to Deal With Cat Separation Anxiety

Cat separation anxiety requires behavior modification and desensitization to soothe upset kitty feelings and reverse problem behaviors. Cats may go for years without issues, and then suddenly act out when your work schedule changes and keeps you away for long hours. Vacations also tend to trigger feline separation anxiety.

Think of separation anxiety as a form of grief. Cats don’t mean to “act bad,” they just miss you so much they can’t help themselves. And the way cats make themselves feel better can cause even more stress and upset feelings to their humans.

cat separation anxiety

Cats KNOW when you’re supposed to come home…don’t disappoint the kitty!

Cat Separation Anxiety & Scented Comfort

Like dogs with the same condition, cats may cry and become upset as you prepare to leave. More often, they don’t react to your departure. They wait to “act out” once left alone, and urinate, spray urine, and defecate on owner-scented objects—most typically the bed. Learn more about litter box problems here.

The familiar scent of kitty’s bathroom deposits actually comforts her and reduces feelings of stress. Of course, these unwelcome “gifts” increase owner stress levels. And while angry reaction is understandable, your upset feelings increase the cat’s anxiety even more.

Cats don’t potty on the bed to get back at you because you left. Think of the cat’s behavior as a backhanded compliment. Kitty wouldn’t do this if she didn’t love you so much!

Portrait of yellow sad sick cat lying at home with rabbit toy

Missing you adds stress that can even lead to illness.

4 Ways How to Desensitize and Counter-Condition for Cat Separation Anxiety

Cats pay exquisite attention to the details of their lives. They’ll often recognize subtle clues that you’re preparing to leave long before you realize. A cat may figure out that you always freshen your lipstick just before you leave. Repeating these cues takes away their power.

  • Desensitize your cats to the presence of the overnight bag by leaving it out all the time. Put clothes in and out of the bag every day, but without leaving the house, so your cat no longer gets upset when she sees you pack.
  • Toss a catnip mouse inside the suitcase, and turn it into a kitty playground. That conditions her to identify the suitcase as a happy place, rather than associating it with your absence.
  • Use behavior modification techniques so the triggers lose their power. Pick up the car keys 50 times a day, and then set them down. Carry your purse over your arm for an hour or more. When you repeat cues often enough, your cat stops caring about them and will remain calm when you do leave.
  • Fake your departure by opening the door and going in and out twenty or more times in a row until the cat ignores you altogether. Then extend your “outside” time to one minute, three minutes, five minutes, and so on before returning inside. This gradual increase in absence helps build the cat’s tolerance and desensitizes her to departures. It also teaches her that no matter how long you’re gone, you always return.

Maine Coon Kitten

5 More Tips for Reducing Angst from Cat Separation Anxiety

Most problem behaviors take place within twenty minutes after you leave. The length of time you’re absent doesn’t seem to matter. Find ways to distract the cat during this critical twenty minutes so she won’t dirty your bed.

  • Ask another family member to interact with the cat during this time. A fishing-pole lure toy or chasing the beam of a flashlight can take the cat’s mind off her troubles. If she enjoys petting or grooming, indulge her in a touchy-feely marathon.
  • About 1/3rd of cats react strongly, another 1/3rd react mildly, and the last 1/3rd don’t react at all to catnip. If your feline goes bonkers for this harmless herb, leave a catnip treat to keep her happy when you leave. Using catnip every day can reduce its effects, though, so use this judiciously.
  • Food oriented cats can be distracted with a food-puzzle toy stuffed with a favorite treat. Make it extra smelly, irresistible, and something totally different than her usual fare to be sure the treat makes the proper impression.
  • Cats that have been outside and seen the real thing often don’t react, but homebody indoor-only cats enjoy watching videos of fluttering birds, squirrels and other critters. There are a number of these videos available, including the original called “Video Catnip.” Alternately, find a nature television show such as on Animal Planet, and tune in for your cat’s viewing pleasure.
  • Playing familiar music that they associate with your presence can help ease the pain of you being gone. In addition, research has shown harp music works as a natural sedative and actually puts cats to sleep. Learn about music therapy for pets in this post. Harp music CDs designed for this purpose can be found at petpause2000.com.

NEW-CatCompet-lorezNot all tips work with every cat since every feline is an individual. But using these techniques alone or in combination can heal upset kitty feelings, and turn homecomings into joyful reunions. You’ll find lots more tips in my cat behavior book COMPETABILITY: Solving Behavior Problems in Your  Multi-Cat Household.

What kinds of things have helped with YOUR cat? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

How to Love Your Cat for World Cat Day

How to Love Your Cat for World Cat Day

Today is WORLD CAT DAY (aka International Cat Day) and it’s the purr-fect time to celebrate our cat love. Maybe you wonder “why does my cat … ” do all sorts of things, or “how do I make my cat love me?” Here are my top 6 ideas how to love your cat every day of the year, so your cat loves you back–not just on World Cat Day.

WHY CAT LOVE MEANS WORLD CAT DAY

Valentine's Pet Safety

Cats are great actors and try to convince pet parents they’re already purr-fectly healthy and happy. With cats, it’s Valentine’s Day every day and a good time to think “outside the litter box” and find special ways to love your cat.

It’s fun to celebrate World Cat Day with special treats and bonus snuggles. It’s even more important to show cat love every day of the year, and your cat won’t care if it costs fifty million dollars or fifty cents. In fact, fifty minutes spent with Kitty probably makes him think he won the cat lottery!

TOP 6 WAYS HOW TO LOVE YOUR CAT

Give Comfort. Cat comfort is an important issue for you cat love. Every cat is an individual, so while one cat wants to swing from the drapes and meet new people, strangers could be a horror movie for other cats. A lot of that has to do with your cat’s socialization and parentage. Cat love means we accept each cat as an individual and adjust expectations to each special cat. Here are six ways you can share cat love and increase your cat’s purrs.

Schedule Play to Love Your Cat

Not every cat enjoys play and mostly the youngsters under a year go nuts for interactive play. Cat teasers like fishing pole lures offer a great aerobic workout for cats. It gets them off their tubby tails to help slim them down. Play increases the bond you share with your cat and can boost the confidence of shy felines and burn off the energy of bully cats that pick on others. Cats play in short bursts so schedule 10 minutes a couple times a day to play with your cats. Learn more about cat play here.

Your fur kids are more interested in playtime and fun activities, and these do help keep kitties both emotionally healthy and happy. Figure out what makes your cat purr delight. Depending on the cat, the emotional connection with their pet parents is top of the list. That’s not to say that all cats are cuddle-bugs or touchy-feely felines. For some cats, simply spending time in the same room and gazing with adoration is the ultimate in cat love.

cat safe chrismas tree

Create Cat Love Entertainment

You wouldn’t think cats get bored but they evolved as hunting machines. Sleeping all day stores up enormous energy and indoor cats look for entertainment outlets. Set up bird houses and bird baths near windows for your cat’s viewing pleasure, as a sort of “kitty TV.”

Love Cats with Hiding Ops

Cats love hiding spots. You can offer an empty box or shopping bag to satisfy many cats. Cat tunnels work great in multiple pet households to reduce feline stress, too. Cats don’t like other pets to stare at them, so a cat tunnel lets kitty travel “under the radar” to reach important locations such as the litter box. Cat tunnels can reduce the hissy behavior between cats since they don’t have to face each other.

Learn more about soothing cat angst in the ComPETability: Cat book available in print and all Ebook platforms. You can get the audio book FREE with a trial subscription to Audible by clicking this link.

Offer Scratch Places Cats Love

Cats scratch to exercise, mark territory and relieve stress. Offering your cat legal scratching outlets makes her happy and keeps her physically healthy as well. Some cats won’t want to share their favorite scratch post so be sure you have at least one for each kitty.

Cats Love Cat Naps–Offer A Snuggly Bed

Cozy fuzzy beds make cats purr with delight. Set a bed under a lamp and you’ll be your feline’s favorite buddy ever! Older cats especially appreciate soft spots to lounge, especially since cats spend up to 16 hours a day napping.

Love Kittens with Understanding

I’m sure you’re already a savvy kitty “parent” but purr-haps you know someone who’d like extra help. You can also get COMPLETE KITTEN CARE for free in an Audible trial by clicking this link.

How do you love your cat? Are there special toys or activities that your felines particularly enjoy? Do tell!

Watch out for these 8 ways we can HISS OFF our cats!

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

Cat Hairballs & Shedding: 7 Tips to Solve the Big Hairy Deal

Cat Hairballs & Shedding: 7 Tips to Solve the Big Hairy Deal

Karma-Kat recently has “urped” up more cat hairballs, and I know why. I bet you didn’t know that in hot weather, cats lick and groom themselves to cool off. Of course, that can lead to a cat furball, so in hot weather or shedding season, you may see an uptick in these problems.

Cat hairballs can be a big problem with longhair cats.

Longhair cats like this Persian require extra grooming help to prevent cat hairballs.

Cat Hairballs: What You Need to Know

It’s shedding season, and cat hairballs (sometimes even dog hairballs, URK!) can be a problem at this time of year. Many cat owners discover wads of wet fur—hairballs—late at night when they step on them with bare feet. Cats seem to instinctively choose to decorate the most stainable portions of the carpet. Refer to this post about cleaning accidents on the carpet.

It’s normal for cats—especially those with long fur—to experience hairballs once in a while. Cats spend up to 50 percent of their awake time grooming and swallow fur in the process. What doesn’t end up in the litter box comes out the other end as nasty cigar-shaped cat hairballs.

cat hairballs prevented by combing and brushing

Combing it out means it won’t be swallowed–and end up on your carpet! Refer to this post for managing fur in your house.

But swallowing lots of fur isn’t healthy, and hairballs are more than a nasty nuisance. Kitties that produce three or more hairballs a month should be checked by the vet to rule out other health issues.

Hairballs cause diarrhea, appetite loss, coughing, retching, constipation—or even deadly intestinal blockage. Cats have had hairballs as big as baseballs that require surgery to be removed! Most cases won’t need surgery, though, and most hairballs can be easily eliminated. Refer to these tips to untangle your cat hairballs problems.

cat hairballs are reduced by grooming cats

Grooming cats reduces the chance for hairballs.

7 CAT HAIRBALLS TIPS

Groom the cat. The cheapest, easiest hairball cure for cat hairballs is to regularly comb and brush your cat. Any hair you remove won’t be swallowed to end up staining your upholstery. The Furminator eliminates up to 90 percent of shed fur. Seren-kitty LOVES her Furminator (Magic loves his dog version, too).

Feed a hairball diet. A variety of commercial products are designed to prevent cat hairballs. They include extra nondigestible fiber. That helps push swallowed hair through the digestive tract, so it is eliminated naturally with each bowel movement. Most of these are dry diets, though, and cats do much better on wet foods.

Add some fiber. If you’d rather not switch foods, just add fiber to kitty’s regular diet. Cats love and need lots of protein but that sometimes promotes constipation and doesn’t help move the swallowed hairs. Mix in a teaspoon of plain bran or Metamucil to canned meals. Flaxseeds or psyllium husks, available in health food stores, also act as natural laxatives and work well. Add ¼ teaspoon of flaxseeds or psyllium for every meal.

Offer pumpkin. Canned pumpkin—the plain type, not for pies—is very rich in fiber and cats often love the taste. Get a jumbo-size can, and divide into teaspoon-size servings and freeze in an ice cube tray. Thaw one serving at a time, mixing into the regular food or offer as a treat once or twice a week. Some cats actually love fresh green beans or cat grass, so offer for extra treats and bowel health.

Give a bit of honey. If your cat doesn’t appreciate canned pumpkin, you can offer a natural laxative, two or three times a week. Combine raw oatmeal, honey, and olive oil into a paste. Offer one to two tablespoons as a treat when hairballs are a problem.

Lubricate the gut. Butter will make your cat purr, but it won’t help hairballs. Digestible fats like butter can cause diarrhea and usually get absorbed before they can move the problem out. Instead, offer non-medicated petroleum jelly. It looks nasty but many pets like the taste. It will coat the hairball to make it slide more easily out of the system. If kitty refuses to accept a finger-full scraped into his mouth, just spread the jelly on his paw so he has to lick it off as he grooms. We’ve been using Vetoquinol Laxatone for Karma (maple flavoring, who knew?!). Commercial hairball remedies often add salmon or malt flavoring to similar petrolatum products. Take care to follow label instructions or your veterinarian’s advice, though. Overuse of these products can interfere with the pet’s use of fat-soluble vitamins.

Do your cats suffer from hairballs? How do you manage the problem? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Pet Poison Alert! 199 Poison Pet Plants & What to Do

Pet Poison Alert! 199 Poison Pet Plants & What to Do

This month, we celebrate Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month. Here in Texas, many folks spend this time of year preparing for spring gardens. Two years ago, we dug out old roses (many infected with rose rosetta disease, arg!), and continue to plant new ones, along with other perennials. My jonquils, and other bulb plants now poke shy heads above the mulch, ready for a burst of color.

Shadow-Pup helped! And Karma-Kat will enjoy any cut flowers I bring in later. That’s why I’m so careful about exactly what we plant, and the kinds brought inside for our own and pet enjoyment. I had some lovely patio container plants last fall, and wanted to bring them inside for the winter. Unfortunately, I couldn’t risk plants toxic to pets.

Flowers are gorgeous, and dogs may enjoy them, too–as long as they’re non-toxic!

Poison pet plants can kill cats and dogs any time of year, but spring can be particularly dangerous when new plants pose dangers. While dogs munch, cats more often play and claw plants, and ingest poison when they clean themselves. Check out this post for more about top pet toxins.

That’s why at my house, we love roses, which are edible. Of course, the thorns can be a hazard. 🙂  And if you have neighborhood cats, use these tips to shoo cats away from gardens.

This is a great idea for all public gardens, and perhaps your own. Dogs often enjoy digging in gardens, a problem even if plants are safe.

Poison Pet Plants & What to Do

I received an email from ProFlowers.com a couple of years ago with this great infographic to share. Refer to this helpful poison chart (below) to avoid toxic plants all year long.

Of course, my advice is to keep toxic plants out of the house entirely when you have pets (or toddlers!) eager to taste-test everything. Accidents do happen, though, so this is a handy guide to bookmark (and share!) with other pet parents.

Meanwhile, why not keep an emergency kit on hand? My go-to is the First-Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats not only for poisons but for everything from torn nails to (gasp!) gunshots or snakebite. It’s a good time to “gift” the pet people in your life, too…although my wish for you and your pets is that you’ll NEVER need the emergency advice!

Have your pets ever “snacked” on something toxic? Do tell! What happened? what did you do…and what would you advise others based on your experience?

Poison Pet Plants

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Celebrating Pets Adoptions with Birthday and Gotcha Day Love!

A pet adoption day is a special event. Eight years ago, Karma-Kat arrived. on January 31, the day before Seren-Kitty, Bravo-Dawg, and my Mom’s birthday. Yes, all three shared the same birthday.

I posted this (with updates) two years ago. It’s time for another update because we’ve lost loved ones–and gained them–over the past years.

cat birthday

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SEREN-Angel!

When a friend discovered a kitten asleep in a flower pot on her back porch about the first week of June, I got the call for help. You see, her four-year-old daughter REALLY wanted this kitten, but my friend was allergic yet didn’t want to take the baby to the shelter. So it was Amy-To-The-Rescue.

cat lifeAs soon as I walked into her kitchen, this tiny baby with blue-jean-color eyes raced across the floor and climbed up my pant leg, put her paws around my neck, and it was all over. I was smitten. I wrote about this in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul. The veterinarian judged her to be about five months old, so we counted backward to give Seren a February 1st birthday, sharing the day with my Mom, a huge pet lover.

So in their honor, purr-haps you’d like to share kitty love by gifting your cat-loving Mom with my latest book CAT LIFE. It’s available on Kindle, and both softcover and hardback is here.

I think the book makes a great Valentine’s gift for cat-moms. Just saying. 🙂 Karma-Kat’s picture is in the book.

KARMA’S GOTCHA DAY

Seven years ago, we prepped for a horrible ice and snow storm set to shut down North Texas for several days. On Friday January 31st, Magical-Dawg(RB) saw “something” dash across the back patio. A hungry, not-so-tiny kitten with blue-jean-color eyes came to the window and paw-clawed to get inside, never mind that a big black doggy face stared and wagged back at him.

He wore a collar, too, so I thought he must belong to the new neighbor. When I opened the door, he ran–I followed, and called for him. He kept running until I meowed at him. He stopped, mewed back, and then can running back to me. And a week later I blogged about him when we knew that Karma was home for good.

The veterinarian guestimated Karma to be about 7-8 months old, so we counted backward and–holy cats!–assigned his birthday in July on the same day as Magical-Dawg’s birthday. Ya can’t make some of this stuff up!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BRAVO-DAWG!

What a blessing our 34-pound puppy turned out to be. I’ve shared how I consider Bravo a Magical-Dawg legacy in this post.  

At first, Karma wasn’t too sure about him. But within only a few short days, Karma had taken his assignment to train this newcomer pup correctly, and they became best friends, tag-buddies, and nap companions until Bravo(RB) lost his battle with osteosarcoma.

We didn’t realize until later that the day we said goodbye to Bravo (March 4, 2021), was also his comfort puppy Shadow’s first birthday. Again, you simply can’t make this up.

WHAT’S YOUR PET’S BEST GIFT EVER?

So what do YOU think? Was there some really kewl karma and serendipity and shadowy magic happening here? For Karma arrived just in time for Seren’s birthday when, frankly, my old lady cat had been so ill that I feared her days were numbered. I know Seren would’ve argued that SHE never asked for a kitten for her birthday, but Karma certainly turned back the clock and gave Seren much needed new energy when he arrived.

dog life coverI have no doubt that Seren-Kitty lived to be almost 22 years old (passing the end of November 2017) because Karma gave her an extra 4 years of energy to get that aggravating @#$%^YU! man-cat out of here! but at last, she fell in love with him, and he with her.

Having Karma around meant Magic suddenly discovered the joys of a kitty playmate that ADORED him. Sadly for Karma, that love affair ended in September 2017 when Magic also moved on to his next adventure beyond Rainbow Bridge.

In honor of all these special doggies’ legacy, purr-haps you’d like to share puppy love by gifting a dog-loving friend with my latest book DOG LIFE. It’s available on Kindle, and both softcover and hardback is here.

My mother passed away on October 30, 2021 at age 93. She gave me my love of pets, of reading and writing, and is the reason I write. So it seems appropriate that my pets and my mom have this connectedness.

Have you ever had new furry wonders arrive at JUST the right time in some weird-and-wonderful coincidence? What’s the best birthday or gotcha-day gifts your fur-kids ever got? Do tell!

In the play STRAYS, THE MUSICAL we included a very short, funny but poignant scene called INAPPROPRIATE PET GIFTS, in which a puppy asks an older dog about the best and worst gifts he ever received. Worst gifts include a hotdog costume for Halloween, and the puppy’s best gift was an old shoe that smelled like the owner–“Heaven!”

“What’s the best gift you ever got?” asks Puppy.

Old Dog answers with two words. “A home.”

So today, as I celebrate the happy accident and magic of pets past, and of Karma-Kat and Shadow-Pup present, I know that there will be a pet future. I’m just waiting for that next paw-step to enter my world.

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

Carbon Monoxide Danger for You and Your Pets

Carbon Monoxide Danger for You and Your Pets

Cat and Dog together holding blank cardboard sign to enter your message onto

There’s a major disconnect for me today. While much of the East is dealing with a major blizzard, the past week in N. Texas boasted 60s or even 70-degree sunny days. But that’s predicted to change later today. Deja vu, because this time last year, a similar cold front shut down the whole area for more than a week. But what does that have to do with carbon monoxide danger? It affects you, and your pets, especially during cold weather when we try to keep pets warm.

red Dog and white cat carbon monoxide

CARBON MONOXIDE, THE INVISIBLE POISON!

I hope y’all have taken safety steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning–yep, it affects pets, too. Last week, our alarm system gas detector went off–WOOOOP-WOOOOP-WOOOOOP! The pets hated that, and it scared the whey out of me, too. It turns out our detectors were outdated, there was no leak by the water heaters (whew!), and once they were replaced we felt safe again.

You can get carbon monoxide detectors at local home products stores, like this First Alert detector with over 25,000 reviews. But many years ago, my brother’s pet bird, Gumby, saved the family’s life when symptoms alerted them to the danger. When Gumby began falling off his perch, they knew birdy fainting spells were not normal and sought veterinary help. The diagnosis was carbon monoxide poisoning, traced to a malfunctioning heater that could have put the whole family to sleep—permanently.

WHAT IS CARBON MONOXIDE

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas. It’s a natural by-product of fuel combustion present in car exhaust and improperly vented furnaces, space heaters, water heaters, fireplaces, and tobacco smoke. It can quickly kill people as well as their pets. Children and pets have died in as little as 15 minutes inside running cars while parents shoveled snow outside the vehicle, unaware of the blocked tailpipe.

The gas causes the same symptoms in dogs and cats as in their owners. However, carbon monoxide is lighter than air, so pets that live at human knee level may not show symptoms as quickly as their owners. Birds are particularly susceptible and like Gumby, may be the first to show signs.

carbon monoxide magic karma fireplace

An improperly vented fireplace can cause carbon monoxide poisoning affecting you, and your best friends. Magic and Karma loved hanging out together!

HOW CARBON MONOXIDE POISONS

Here’s what happens. When inhaled, the lungs absorb carbon monoxide, and it spills into the bloodstream. There it binds with hemoglobin, the oxygen-transporting component of blood. This blocks the hemoglobin from using or carrying oxygen at all, which affects all areas of the body including the brain. The gas creates a kind of chemical suffocation.

The most common symptom of human carbon monoxide poisoning (low doses) in otherwise healthy people is fatigue that clears up when you leave the house. In heart patients, it can cause chest pains. Higher concentrations cause headache, confusion and disorientation, and flu-like symptoms with vomiting. Ultimately, the poison victim falls into a coma. When the victim is asleep during exposure to the poison, the dog, cat, bird or the person may never wake up.

We don’t know if poisoned pets suffer headaches because they can’t tell us about this early sign. But they do act confused, lethargic, and drunk in the same way as human victims. A distinctive sign common to both people and pets are bright cherry-red gums in the mouth.

HOW TO CURE CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING

The body can only get rid of the poison bound to the hemoglobin by breathing it out, or by replacing the poisoned hemoglobin with new. The liver and spleen replace hemoglobin about every ten to fifteen days. When only a small amount of the blood is affected, the victim recovers without treatment as long as no more poison is inhaled.

But high levels of blood saturation will kill the person or pet unless emergency treatment is given. Twenty-five percent saturation level is considered dangerous for people. Usually, though, both people and pets should be treated when the carbon monoxide saturation level is ten percent or higher. Smokers will be more susceptible because they already have an elevated level of carbon monoxide in their bloodstream. In other words, if one family member smokes, he or she may suffer symptoms sooner than other non-smoking family members.

Administering high concentrations of oxygen is the treatment of choice. That increases the amount of gas that is breathed out. Many hours of oxygen therapy may be required. In some cases, ventilation may be necessary.

PREVENTING CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING!

To protect yourself and your pets from carbon monoxide poisoning, get your heating units inspected every year before you start using them. Carbon monoxide detectors are also available to be installed as a warning system.

If you notice any change in your pet’s behavior or your own health that coincides with cold weather or the furnace coming on, don’t automatically assume it’s the flu. Consult with medical specialists for both your pets and for yourself.

Refer to this roundup article with details about five important pet poison issues!

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Celebrating Pets Adoptions with Birthday and Gotcha Day Love!

A pet adoption day is a special event. Eight years ago, Karma-Kat arrived. on January 31, the day before Seren-Kitty, Bravo-Dawg, and my Mom’s birthday. Yes, all three shared the same birthday.

I posted this (with updates) two years ago. It’s time for another update because we’ve lost loved ones–and gained them–over the past years.

cat birthday

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SEREN-Angel!

When a friend discovered a kitten asleep in a flower pot on her back porch about the first week of June, I got the call for help. You see, her four-year-old daughter REALLY wanted this kitten, but my friend was allergic yet didn’t want to take the baby to the shelter. So it was Amy-To-The-Rescue.

cat lifeAs soon as I walked into her kitchen, this tiny baby with blue-jean-color eyes raced across the floor and climbed up my pant leg, put her paws around my neck, and it was all over. I was smitten. I wrote about this in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul. The veterinarian judged her to be about five months old, so we counted backward to give Seren a February 1st birthday, sharing the day with my Mom, a huge pet lover.

So in their honor, purr-haps you’d like to share kitty love by gifting your cat-loving Mom with my latest book CAT LIFE. It’s available on Kindle, and both softcover and hardback is here.

I think the book makes a great Valentine’s gift for cat-moms. Just saying. 🙂 Karma-Kat’s picture is in the book.

KARMA’S GOTCHA DAY

Seven years ago, we prepped for a horrible ice and snow storm set to shut down North Texas for several days. On Friday January 31st, Magical-Dawg(RB) saw “something” dash across the back patio. A hungry, not-so-tiny kitten with blue-jean-color eyes came to the window and paw-clawed to get inside, never mind that a big black doggy face stared and wagged back at him.

He wore a collar, too, so I thought he must belong to the new neighbor. When I opened the door, he ran–I followed, and called for him. He kept running until I meowed at him. He stopped, mewed back, and then can running back to me. And a week later I blogged about him when we knew that Karma was home for good.

The veterinarian guestimated Karma to be about 7-8 months old, so we counted backward and–holy cats!–assigned his birthday in July on the same day as Magical-Dawg’s birthday. Ya can’t make some of this stuff up!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BRAVO-DAWG!

What a blessing our 34-pound puppy turned out to be. I’ve shared how I consider Bravo a Magical-Dawg legacy in this post.  

At first, Karma wasn’t too sure about him. But within only a few short days, Karma had taken his assignment to train this newcomer pup correctly, and they became best friends, tag-buddies, and nap companions until Bravo(RB) lost his battle with osteosarcoma.

We didn’t realize until later that the day we said goodbye to Bravo (March 4, 2021), was also his comfort puppy Shadow’s first birthday. Again, you simply can’t make this up.

WHAT’S YOUR PET’S BEST GIFT EVER?

So what do YOU think? Was there some really kewl karma and serendipity and shadowy magic happening here? For Karma arrived just in time for Seren’s birthday when, frankly, my old lady cat had been so ill that I feared her days were numbered. I know Seren would’ve argued that SHE never asked for a kitten for her birthday, but Karma certainly turned back the clock and gave Seren much needed new energy when he arrived.

dog life coverI have no doubt that Seren-Kitty lived to be almost 22 years old (passing the end of November 2017) because Karma gave her an extra 4 years of energy to get that aggravating @#$%^YU! man-cat out of here! but at last, she fell in love with him, and he with her.

Having Karma around meant Magic suddenly discovered the joys of a kitty playmate that ADORED him. Sadly for Karma, that love affair ended in September 2017 when Magic also moved on to his next adventure beyond Rainbow Bridge.

In honor of all these special doggies’ legacy, purr-haps you’d like to share puppy love by gifting a dog-loving friend with my latest book DOG LIFE. It’s available on Kindle, and both softcover and hardback is here.

My mother passed away on October 30, 2021 at age 93. She gave me my love of pets, of reading and writing, and is the reason I write. So it seems appropriate that my pets and my mom have this connectedness.

Have you ever had new furry wonders arrive at JUST the right time in some weird-and-wonderful coincidence? What’s the best birthday or gotcha-day gifts your fur-kids ever got? Do tell!

In the play STRAYS, THE MUSICAL we included a very short, funny but poignant scene called INAPPROPRIATE PET GIFTS, in which a puppy asks an older dog about the best and worst gifts he ever received. Worst gifts include a hotdog costume for Halloween, and the puppy’s best gift was an old shoe that smelled like the owner–“Heaven!”

“What’s the best gift you ever got?” asks Puppy.

Old Dog answers with two words. “A home.”

So today, as I celebrate the happy accident and magic of pets past, and of Karma-Kat and Shadow-Pup present, I know that there will be a pet future. I’m just waiting for that next paw-step to enter my world.

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

10 People Foods for Cats

10 People Foods for Cats

With the holidays now in the rearview mirror, continue to stay vigilant and offer only appropriate treats to your pets. I’ve written about safe people food for dogs, but it’s important to address the cats’ needs, too. We want to spoil our cats, but don’t want to cause harm. At our house, if Bravo-Dawg gets something yummy from the table, then Karma-Kat thinks he should, too.

For those who prefer audio/video, I’ve even posted this on my YouTube channel (you have subscribed, right?). So here’s the quick takeaway:

Of course, what’s safe for dogs may not be good for cats–and vice versa. How do you know what’s safe and what’s not? Learn about these 10 people foods for cats.
people food for cats

Healthy People Food For Cats

My Seren-Kitty never met a meal she didn’t like—including my own. Once she even tasted the hot mustard dip from my plate. Have you ever seen a cat LEVITATE?! Kitty foaming at the mouth is no laughing matter <snort> except the little squirt came back for seconds!

In her last year, I created a monster because at age 21, I figured Seren should get to eat ANYTHING she wanted. And then Karma-Kat thought HE should do the same. Yikes! (BAD Amy…)

The first week we had Karma, he conducted a snatch-and-grab, swiped a kabob from my husband’s plate, and took off with it. (10-second rule…hubby chased him down and “rescued” the kabob.) These days, Karma-Kat and Shadow-Pup still get the occasional healthy treat from the table.

The key, of course, is the word “healthy.”

people food and cats

People Food Dangers

We love to indulge our kitties but people food can carry risks. Fortunately, our cats appear less likely than dogs to taste-test toxic treats like chocolate, macadamia nuts, avocados, or raisins/grapes.

Artificial sweeteners keep owners lean, but any goodies sweetened with Xylitol could cause kitty liver failure. Thank goodness cats don’t easily detect or care about sweet flavors. Instead, their kitty taste buds are attuned to “meaty” flavors. Makes sense, knowing they’re carnivores. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to nosh non-meat treats.

Sphinx cat eating chickenSeren kept her svelte 6-pound figure even when the aroma of baking and roasting turned her purrs to begging. Karma-Kat puts on table muscle, though, and his pudgy physic requires monitoring. Responsible pet parents can offer healthy choices from the table. In fact, many holistic veterinarians recommend these foods as a natural way to treat your feline friend.

Cat licked over the fish. In the kitchen.

Healthy People Food For Cats

Treats typically shouldn’t make up more than about 10 percent of the pet’s total diet. So if you plan to offer table food, reduce the cat’s regular ration. Tiny amounts offered very gradually work best to avoid upset tummies. Here’s my go-to list of people foods for cats.

  1. Lean Meats. Lean chicken is a feline favorite. A hunk of firm beef means your cat must chew rather than gulp, which can scrub teeth for dental health. Turkey contains tryptophan, a natural sleep aid that works to calm excited pets during holiday visits.
  2. Fish. Many cats adore fish. Salmon, shrimp, and oysters may be a holiday favorite for both humans and pets. Seren never liked shrimp–that’s more for me! But both Karma can’t get enough fish, especially salmon. Be careful of tuna (offer only the water-packed variety) because the strong flavor can almost be addictive.
  3. Organ meats. Don’t toss out the giblets when you roast your holiday bird. Heart, liver, and gizzards are power-packed with vitamins and minerals that cats relish.
  4. Green garnish. Cats are carnivores but often enjoy grazing on such things as fresh wheatgrass and catnip. A few enjoy green beans—but hold the too-rich mushroom sauce. Serving olives? Your cat may not eat them, but many felines react to olives like catnip. Offer some parsley for greens munching felines—it will also freshen kitty breath. Seren loves wheatgrass.
  5. Stew. Leftover turkey soup cooked with spinach, green beans, mushrooms, and slivers of beets (for liver health) makes a great treat and top dressing for regular food. A bit of garlic for flavor is fine, too, as it contains vitamin B—just don’t overdo it as too much onion or garlic can cause anemia. At our house, we eat a lot of stew-type dishes as a side to Iranian rice, and all the fur-kids love a spoonful of the broth.
  6. Sweet potatoes. High-fiber sweet potato soothes upset tummies and can be a tasty treat for cats. Cats don’t have much of a sweet tooth, though, so hold the sugary marshmallow—that’s not healthy for them.
  7. Canned pumpkin. Cats seem to love pumpkin. The high fiber also works as a great natural remedy for hairballs, diarrhea, or constipation. Use the canned (plain nonflavored) version, divide servings into ice cube trays and freeze—and thaw only the amount needed.
  8. Yogurt. You’d think milk would be on the treat list, but many cats develop diarrhea from more than a tiny taste. A better milk-based treat is plain unflavored yogurt. Yogurt also helps maintain the beneficial bacteria in the stomach that keep digestion healthy. Karma ADORES plain yogurt. Whisker-licking good!
  9. Fruit. Not all cats like fruit but those that do can benefit from the vitamins. Kitties often enjoy cantaloupe and strawberries or bananas. Most cats HATE the smell of citrus and you’ll risk hissing the cat off by offering such things.
  10. Ginger. Ginger is a natural remedy that counters nausea, in case Kitty has car sick problems from the trip to Grandma’s house. But most cats won’t be interested in gingerbread or ginger cookies. Try offering a tiny taste of no-sugar whipped cream mixed with ginger as a special treat that soothes the tummy troubles. Every time I fix whipped cream, Karma and Shadow-Pup line up to lick any errant splatters.

Every cat has different tastes—and nutritional needs. Be sure to ask your veterinarian before “treating” your fur-kids. Some cats doing extraordinarily well with home-prepared foods or even “raw” rations, but any change requires knowledge and a slow transition. Remember, you wouldn’t allow your human kid to munch only on rich desserts or gravy, so balance your table-love with healthy moderation.

What table foods do your cats love? Do they counter-surf and serve themselves from the human smorgasbord? How do you foil the refrigerator raiders? Do tell!

If you have questions about grain free cat foods, check out this updated post.

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Pets Home Alone? Relieve Back to School Angst

Are your pets home alone, now that the kids have gone back to school? How can you ease the transition?

pets home alone

Dogs need their family–and miss us when the routine changes after school starts. Image Copr. MelissaMethamphetamine/Flickr

What do you do when the kiddos return to school? Breathe a sigh of relief? Miss them desperately? All of the above? My in-box is FILLED with all kinds of back-to-school offers for kid clothing, electronics, cameras, and more.

Back to School & Home Alone Pets

What about the pets? For many cats and dogs, the summer vacation (or recent “virtual learning”) means more time spent with their beloved “human-pups” playing and training, and having a wonderful time together. If you got a NEW baby dog or kitty this past summer, the 24/7 time together may be all they’ve ever known.

So what happens when school starts? And if you have a child leaving for college, that can REALLY put the pet’s tail in a twist. Several years ago, when I quit writing (for a while) and taught school for a little over a semester, Magical-Dawg and I both suffered separation anxiety!

Separation Anxiety in Dogs & Cats

Separation behaviors are not unusual when routine changes. These affect dogs more readily than cats. Cats with separation anxiety may end up pooping on your bed…but dogs may try to go through doors, walls or even windows and really hurt themselves. You can find a detailed article on dealing with doggy separation behaviors here.

Providing good alternative behaviors helps enormously. If you know the routine will change, start transitioning pets now. Use products like Adaptil for dogs or Feliway to soothe dog and cat angst, and provide some puzzle toys or cat trees to keep claws and teeth occupied. You can also teach your cats and dogs tricks to help keep them occupied, using clicker training. Check out the newest ASK AMY (below) for more ideas.

What have I missed? Do your dogs and cats get all stressed when school starts? How do you manage? Please share!

For more recommended pet products, visit my Amazon list recommendations here!

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Dream Big, Be You: What Do You Want To Be?

Dream Big, Be You: What Do You Want To Be?

I didn’t start out to be a writer, so how the @#$%^&*! did I end up here? I just heard from the Cat Writers’ Association that my fiction book HIT AND RUN just won a Certificate of Excellence Award, with consideration for a Muse Medallion. I always wanted to write fiction, but it only happened when forced to reinvent myself and dream big. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to be remembered for? What will your legacy be?

what do you want to beThe Accidental Writer

I’ve written about my journey several times and have blogged off and on for 20+ years. But the blog only gained traction about ten years ago when I took an Email course on branding and social media from Kristen Lamb (read her blog!). She asked lots of “thoughty” questions:

What do you (want to) write? What are your interests, besides the writing topics—because we are so much more than (fill-in-the-blank). Who do people “see” when they look at you? Is that the BRAND you desire to create? It must be the real you—pretend won’t cut it. People see through the phony-isity of such things. As an actor, someone able to put on a persona for different people or events, that struck a chord with me.

Taking Off the Mask, Being YOU

Okay, she didn’t use those words, but you get my drift. I had an acting coach tell me the same thing, and I wrote about it in another blog, that you are enough. Bring YOU to the table—that’s enough.

And that’s scary! Dang. And it leads me to another question–what did YOU want to be when you grew up? Kids seem to know and show even in the games they play what path they’ll take through life. Me? I wanted to be an actor because they were glamorous, people liked them, and they never laughed too loud or were at a loss for words. I could be whoever I wanted, and if folks rolled their eyes, it wasn’t about me, but the persona. Being real, though–EEEK! Then if they don’t like you (or your work), what then?

writing advice what do you want to be

“I own this content!”

What Do You Want to Be…?

As a kid, my brothers and I put on plays in the basement, and directed marathon “let’s pretend” soap operas. The recurring kid, horses, dogs, and cat characters and stories were so real, they had us in tears—and made my folks roll their eyes.

I never played with dolls, much to the dismay of my grandmother. Nope, it was stuffed animals and best-bud pretend pets who could “really talk!” Mom always said, “When Amy grows up she won’t have babies, she’ll have puppy-dogs and kitty-cats.”

Mom knew.

Write Your Passion—Be YOU, Not Someone Else’s Idea

Early in my writing career, people constantly questioned why I didn’t write about more important topics, like starving children or world peace? And was cautioned, “You’ll never make a living writing about just pets!” Thpbpbpbpbpbpbpb! (insert raspberry sound effects!)

I write about pets because that’s me. It’s what and who I am, and I am enough. No, it’s not ALL that I am, but it’s a big part. I’m not on Broadway–yet! But all my stage and tv experience serves the pet writing causes. I listened to my furry muses. And I have the bling ready for when the big moment comes.

publishing tips

Writing about dogs (and cats) is serious business.

Becoming My Best Self

Something unexpected happened along the path to becoming Amy. I’m no longer at a loss for words—and instead I have to work at NOT jumping into every conversation. The animals taught me that. I don’t need to bark, howl, wag my tail (no wise cracks!) or hiss all the time to get ahead. I’ve never found being a “whisperer” to be particularly effective.

I’ve learned to be a pet “listener.” If you listen with your eyes and your heart, animals tell you what they’re thinking and why they’re acting in certain ways. Works with humans, too.

When I was a kid, I wanted to wear sparkles, tell stories with happy endings, and have bestest-bud animal friends who really talk. As an adult, when a career on the stage seemed out of reach, I turned to writing as a creative outlet, and it turned into an extraordinarily rewarding career. What did you want to be when you were a kid? Are you there yet?

what do you want to be remembered forWhen I Grow Up…

I always wanted to write fiction but at first, only made headway with nonfiction. My childhood dream came true only happened when I lost my grownup nonfiction writing career ten years ago and gave up writing to teach high school choir.

For the first time in years, I had nothing to prove and nothing to lose. So I wrote the novel I’d always wanted to READ in twenty-minute increments: before work, on lunch breaks, and after classes.

I don’t have two-legged kids. My legacy will be my written works, and I hope I will be remembered for helping cats and dogs and those who love them. And now and then, helping fellow writers with tips that helped me, like this webinar on beating writer’s block.

And today, my peers have honored my fifth book, HIT AND RUN, (complete with puppy-dog and kitty-cat characters), something I never could have predicted.

What do you want to be? There’s still time!

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

 

You. Are. Enough! How to Handle Rejection

You. Are. Enough! How to Handle Rejection

I’m feeling philosophical today, after a disappointing experience a few weeks ago. Doesn’t matter what that might be (plenty disappointments come along, that’s life). But I also feel guilty for feeling bad–cuz I’m way more fortunate than many. So I’m revisiting how to handle rejection and deal with criticism.

The creative mind of authors, actors, musicians, and artists takes criticism and rejection so personally, a perceived sneer can quash the muse. I’m an author, actor, playwright, songwriter, musician, and artist, so maybe I got hit with a multiple-dose of sensitivity. Dang gene pool . . .

Those who read this blog know I first started submitting my writing to magazines. I could have papered the walls with all the rejection letters. My husband complained about the cost of snail-mail until finally I won the attention of an agent. Boy, did I build up calluses from all the rejections and criticisms to find the agent, and later, to weather publishing slings and arrows. Since switching to independent publishing, I pay editors for criticism (how twisted is that?!). Everyone needs critical feedback to improve, and keep pushing ahead.

Rejection never ends. I get to publish what I want now from nonfiction to thrillers, to plays. Maybe because of that, I’m a bit out of practice with how to handle rejection. But each time I bravely step out of my self-protective cocoon to take a chance on FILL-IN-THE-BLANK, criticism rolls in.

Bad reviews from readers? Check. Rejected for a role? Checkity-check. Emails ignored? Check-erooonie. Not invited to XYZ event with colleagues? Checkisity. Offhand comment from stranger–or a friend? Checkmate.

*whimper* THEY HATE ME!

how to handle rejection how to deal with criticismRejection Hurts, But Comes With the Territory

I suspect you’re like me, whether you’ve published, performed, created for years or just recently dipped toes into the creative abyss. Dozens of great reviews or performing a fun role leave me with a temporary glow. But it only takes one blistering comment to negate all the positives.

And we LOOK for those negatives, don’t we? The reader who posts a modest review must not have liked the book all that well. The director who cast someone else, the audience that didn’t whistle and guffaw, the show that failed to sell out–they all must hate us! If the artwork failed to sell, art critics and customers hated the artist. How dare we aspire to create something others might appreciate…what were we thinking?

Many artists can’t separate our creativity from personal worth and identity. Outsiders appreciate (or reject) our “gift” as a product, a separate “thing” apart from the creator. Rejection fosters feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness.

I think. Hope. Hell, maybe they really do HATE ME! I’m gonna go eat worms and die.

Nothing’s Personal—Just Feels That Way

It must be in the definition of “artist” to question our own talent and worthiness, even without help from outsiders. Self sabotage destroys more careers than anyone can measure. Because it’s safest to do nothing—pull all the books from the shelves, never write again, put the cello in the case and close the door to theatre. To try and fail feels so painful, we’d rather close ourselves off and stop trying than risk the hurt. Again.

So how many of y’all have shut down the laptop, put away the viola, thrown out paints, or given up thespian aspirations? I’ve made that “decision” dozens of times. Tempting to do so again with the latest hurt.

But it never stuck. Because this is who I am. It’s what I do.

Learning To Be Vulnerable

Years ago I attended an audition workshop with the brilliant Del Shores, who noted that many people have !!@#$%^! -loads of baggage. Nobody gets out of life without some bumps, bruises, and the scars can be visible, deep inside, or both.

Successful performers (and writers also ARE performers!) learn to tap-dance into this wealth of virtual crappiocca, use it to create memorable damaged characters on stage, screen, canvas, music scores—and in our books, essays and other writing. Unblemished, perfect paintings, book characters, photos and music are freakin’ BORING!

how to deal with criticismPerfect People, Perfect Pets = BORING!

In dog and cat behavior (another of my worlds), the perfect pet is a stuffed toy that has no potty accidents, no cost to feed, no need to walk in the rain, and no chewed up shoes or clawed sofas. But real pets also have baggage, seen and unseen—baggage is normal, folks. It’s what makes them special, rather than cookie-cutter same-old-thing. The old days of “punish the bad” have shifted to “reward the good.”

I counsel clients to ignore the bad, and instead catch their pet in the act…of doing something good, and then rewarding with praise, treat, a ball or whatever floats the pet’s boat. We’ve learned that constant brow-beating or (heaven forbid!) actual beating causes pets to shut down.

It shuts down people, too, and it flat-out murders the creative process. Here are some tips to deal with writer’s block.

What floats your boat? How do you reward yourself? You are worthy, ya know! Lift yourself up, stop beating yourself up, and do the same for others. Helping others feeds your own muse!

You Are Enough

Del Shores is fond of saying, “You are enough,” to his actors. No extra bells and whistles required. It applies to all creative people. Lessons learned—and I hope these tips help you, too:

  1. Let yourself grieve the rejection. It hurts. Acknowledge that.
  2. We’re all damaged goods. No blame, we just are what we are. Creatives use that part of ourselves. Mine the gold and let it resonate in your work.
  3. Ignore the bad. Reward the good. Wear the scars as badges of learning and courage.
  4. Wait. Reflect. Breathe. Breathe again. I promise, time heals. Look outside the “door closed” moment for the “open window” that appears. It’s there, if you really look.
  5. Keep challenging yourself. If you get push back, that’s good. Nobody ever succeeded by fading into the woodwork.
  6. You. Are. Enough.

It’ll take practice for me to believe that. But I’m getting better. How about you?

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Furry Prescription: Health Benefits of Pets

Furry Prescription: Health Benefits of Pets

health benefits of pets

Pets help children learn empathy and serve as a social bridge between peers.

Anyone who has ever lived with a cat or dog knows they increase our happiness quotient. But did you know that they actually improve our health? Multiple studies have proven what pet lovers intuitively have known forever. Pets are good for what ails you! The health benefits of pets keep us active, engaged, and happy, stress-free, and so much more.

So do you know all the benefits of pets for human health? Read on!

There are Multiple Health Benefits of Pets: Stress Busters & Heart Attack Recovery

The health benefits of owning pets, especially the ability to calm us down, help enormously during these stressful times. We’re obsessing over the economy, cost of gas, health care, natural disasters, the pandemic, missing family and friends, and so much more. We need all the stress-busting help we can find.

In fact, health insurance companies should give pet owners a cost break on premiums. Studies show that people with pets get sick less often, and recover more quickly than those without animal friends. Infants and children who grow up with furry companions are less likely to develop allergies as they mature.

And those unfortunate individuals who have suffered a heart attack—and own pets—will recover more quickly and survive longer than heart attack survivors without pets. There actually are a few enlightened physicians who prescribe a pet for their heart attack patients.

the benefits of pets for human health

Karma reduces my stress simply by being near me.

Pets Lower Blood Pressure Without Medication

People with a dog or cat experience only half as much blood pressure increase when stressed, as those without a pet. Half! Could you benefit from that kind of stress relief? The research shows that your pet doesn’t even have to be present for this “pet effect” to work. It’s simply enough to know he’s waiting at home.

Petting and stroking any friendly dog or cat also lowers blood pressure, so if you’re pet-less, you could volunteer at the shelter or get your fur-fix at a neighbor’s home. Petting is especially effective, though, when it’s your own animals.

Sometimes pets even lower blood presser more effectively than medication. That’s because the act of speaking dramatically increases blood pressure, and drugs don’t block this effect. The only thing that counters elevated blood pressure that results from talking is focusing on something outside yourself–like a pet. Simply sitting quietly with your dog or cat each day can soothe your soul.

the benefits of pets for human health

Dogs love us back–and the benefits work both ways!

Pets Increase Our Exercise

Part of the pet effect has to do with increased exercise. I know that my exercise increased when I have a dog to walk. Magical-Dawg demanded a game of fetch outside several times each day, and that got me up and moving. After he died, my outside activity decreased and weight went up. But even a kitty can get us exercising more–after all, trips to the store to tote cat litter and food home requires me to leave the house.

Our best intentions to sign up for a class at the gym may come to naught. But dogs like Shadow-Pup won’t take “no” for an answer. And cats like Karma-Kittywon’t let me sleep late, if the food bowl is empty.

Exercise relieves anxiety, boredom, and depression. While others may look askance at goofy-acting humans, it’s “legal” to play and have fun with your pets–which is as good for our own mental health as it is for the cats and dogs. Set aside time every day to play like a cat or dog–and you’ll feel better for it. That’s probably why, when the pandemic kept us apart, many folks adopted pets to snuggle and interact with.

healing power of pets

Pets Are A Social Lubricant

Pets keep us connected socially, too. Walking the dog or talking “cats” at the pet food aisle at the grocery encourages contact that keeps us interested in life and other people. That’s great for people of any age, but especially helpful for seniors who might otherwise become reclusive. They have to get out to care for the dog or cat (or bird or hamster) even if they might neglect their own needs. And if worried about outliving a pet, seniors can adopt senior pets to mutual benefit.

Just to show that I’m not making this stuff up, here’s a “hard science” example. Positron emission tomography (PET scan) is an imaging test that helps physicians to detect biochemical changes used to diagnose and monitor various health conditions. These tests show that touching a pet shuts down the pain-processing centers of the brain. Petting your dog or cat relieves your own pain and also buffers anxiety, all without the side effects of Valium. A cat or dog on your lap can ease the pain in your ass-ets.

The Bond of Love Makes A Positive Furry Difference

People talk about “the bond” all the time when referring to the pets we love. It’s nothing magical, although it may seem so. But science can actually measure this pet effect as well. There are many health and psychological benefits of bonding with a pet dog or cat.

In fact, changes in brain chemicals influence our thought and attitudes. These chemicals prompt feelings of elation, safety, tranquility, happiness, satisfaction, even love. Blood tests that measure these chemicals reveal the levels increase for people–AND for the pets!–when bonding takes place. There’s a reciprocal benefit to bonding with your fur-kid.

Don’t discount the pet effect in your life. I’ve lost weight since the Shadow-Pup arrived, chasing after him and walking the 13+ acres of our place. (Karma cat has also lost weight since playing with the pup. Learn more about fighting obesity in pets here.)

The Karma-Kat always seems to know when I have a headache and helps purr it away. A furry prescription costs only a handful of kibbles. There’s no insurance premium to pay, and everyone qualifies for the benefits. And that’s a wagging, purring blessing for everyone.

How do YOUR pets help you? Does the dog get you up-and-at-’em in the morning? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

How to Adopt Kittens: 10 Kitten Adoption Do’s & Don’ts

How to Adopt Kittens: 10 Kitten Adoption Do’s & Don’ts

How to Adopt Kittens: 10 Kitten Adoption Do’s & Don’ts

Kittens are rarely in short supply. With the current rash of kittens, summer break on the horizon, and the pandemic easing, kitten adoption may be in your future. But there’s more to kitten adoption than bringing home your baby cat. Maybe you’ll want to foster a needy kitten (tips here). Learn how to adopt kittens, what to do–and what NOT to do–in this kitten adoption guide.

kitten adoption

KITTEN ADOPTION 101

It’s kitten season! Is a new fur-kid in your future? You’d think kitten care would be easy–just love ’em and feed ’em and listen to ’em purr, right? But more goes into proper care than plopping food in a bowl and setting up a litter box.

Adopting kittens too early often means kittens bite and claw more than those who have been kitty-corrected by Mom and siblings. They also may be fearful or less tolerant of other cats. They don’t understand all the proper feline etiquette of the social structure.

kitten adoptionKITTEN ADOPTION & KITTEN SOCIALIZATION?

Dog people know about the socialization of puppies, but kittens also benefit from socialization–except it comes WAY EARLIER in cat babies. The prime kitten socialization period falls between 2-7 weeks (yikes!) which means rescuers, shelter personnel and breeders are vital to the future well-being of cats and how they look at their world. Socialization teaches kittens what’s safe (other cats, dogs, VETERINARIANS, carriers, cars) and a positive normal part of their lives. It also teaches what kittens should fear.

Proper socialization not only includes interaction with other cats (and also dogs, if you have both–get intro tips here!) but positive handling by different people during this critical period. That ensures the baby becomes well adjusted, confident, and emotionally healthy. I’ve got all the kitten must-knows in my COMPLETE KITTEN CARE, but you don’t need the book to get started. Before you adopt, review these 10 do’s and don’ts to ensure your kitten love lasts a lifetime.

adopting kittens

Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

10 DO’s & DON’Ts OF KITTEN ADOPTION

1. Don’t adopt kittens too early.

Adopting kittens too young bite and claw more than those corrected by Mom and siblings. They also may be fearful or less tolerant of other cats because they don’t understand proper feline etiquette. Cat babies should stay with siblings and Mom for at least 12 to 16 weeks. Learn more about kitten development here. That’s not always possible, though, and if you find yourself in that situation, it means you must be “cat-mom” and teach Junior claw, potty and other manners. It can help enormously to adopt two kittens at once, so they teach each other bite limits and target each other in play instead of biting your ankles.

2. Do see a vet ASAP.

Kittens seem indestructible but get sick easily. A vet’s early diagnosis improves the chances of a speedy recovery especially after you first adopt kittens. Screening tests and preventive care — vaccinations, flea prevention, worm medications — save lives and ensure your kitten grows to healthy adulthood. Learn more about FIP and cats here.

kitten adoption

Newborn Kittens are blind and deaf, and use cries to call for mom and help.

3. Don’t bathe a kitten until it is at least 4 weeks old (12 to 16 weeks is better).

Very young kittens can’t regulate body temperature and can become chilled from a bath. When you do bathe the kitten, use only kitten-safe products — adult cat or dog products can be toxic. Introduce combs and brushes immediately to longhair kittens to prevent grooming problems later on.

adopting kittens4. Do “fix” kittens.

Spaying and neutering prevent pregnancy, urine spraying and health issues such as breast cancer. Female kittens can get pregnant as early as 4 months old, so don’t delay. Many shelters and professional breeders spay or neuter kittens at 8 to 12 weeks old (or once they weigh 2 lbs.) because babies recover more quickly than older cats.

adopting kittens5. Don’t rush kitten introductions.

Tiny kittens get lost or find trouble if not confined to a kitten-safe room. When you adopt kittens, let the new baby get used to one room so he knows the location of his litter box, bed, scratch objects, food bowl, and toys. When you can’t watch him, confine him in his safe room. Even healthy-looking kittens could be contagious and the vet may recommend quarantine for up to 30 days. Resident pets accept new ones more quickly when only part of the house has been “invaded.” They can meet with sniffs and paw pats under the door until it’s safe for a nose-to-nose greeting. Learn how to introduce kittens to other cats here, and how to read kitten tail talk to stay ahead of your furry wonder.

naming kittens adoption6. Do kitten proof the house.

Kittens explore with paw pats, licking and biting. Chomping or clawing electrical cords or poisonous plants, swallowing string toys or hiding inside the clothes dryer can be deadly. Invest in knee pads and crawl around on your hands and knees for a kitten’s-eye view of potential dangers.

Orphan Kitten adopting kittens

Hand-raised newborn kittes need to be fed every 4 hours or so with an appropriate kitten milk replacement.

7. Don’t feed kittens milk, as it can cause diarrhea.

Queen-replacement milk is available, but most babies eat solid food by 4 weeks old. Tiny tummies can’t eat enough to sustain in one meal, so feed three or four small meals daily until the kitten is 6 months old and twice daily thereafter. Monitor your kitten for a healthy appetite.

8. Do train your kitten.

Routinely handle her ears, paws, and mouth so she learns it’s not scary from you or the veterinarian. Make carriers fun playpens by tossing toys inside or turn them into napping spots so she’ll accept being in the carrier for visits to the vet or grandma’s. Listen to your kitten to choose a name–looks and/or behavior offer hints.  Learn how to stop loud mouth kittens from meowing too much.

9. Don’t declaw kittens.

Instead, train from the beginning with lots of legal scratch objects. Catch her in the act of scratching the right objects and reward with praise, treats or toys. Start trimming claws when you first get your kitten — one nail a day with your own clippers is fine — so she knows this is normal. That way if she forgets claw-training, she won’t damage property or skin with blunt claws.

10. Don’t let kittens outside…

until they’ve received all preventive vaccinations, microchip identification and parasite treatments — and you have a safe outdoor sanctuary. It’s nearly impossible to kitten proof the great outdoors. Instead, leash-train your kitten to keep her safe and/or make the indoors so interesting with toys, cat trees, and your love that the kitten never misses going out.

(Bonus) 11. Do let the kitten pick YOU!

My Facebook friend Eliyahu offered this great comment and gave me permission to add to the list:

Don’t pick out the kitten. Let it pick you. It’s easy to be attracted to the one you think is the cutest or the prettiest, but that may not be the right one for you. I’ve always gone to the shelter with a couple of hours free time when getting a kitten or cat. Our shelter back in Washington had a big cat room with all the cats together. I’d sit in a chair and let the kittens come to me, then see how each interacted with me and which one wanted the most to be with me.

Here, there isn’t a cat room, so I had the worker bring kittens one at a time and played with them. The prettiest one turned out to be skittish around people, another just sat in the corner and stared. Finally, about eight kittens later, she brought one in that walked up, sniffed at me, climbed up on my lap and made it clear to us that she’d chosen me to be her human. A year later, Cenerentola still spends much of her time climbing on my lap and shoulders or sleeping by my feet when she’s not playing with the other cat.

What else have I missed? Are there other DO’s and DON’Ts that are important to include when planning your new kitten’s gotcha day? Please share!

NEW-KITTEN-COVER-lorez

All the Kitten Must-Knows!

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Kitten Litter Box Training: How to Potty Train Cats

Kitten Litter Box Training: How to Potty Train Cats

Kitten litter box training tops the list for frequently asked questions from new kitten owners. Planning ahead can save cat lovers lots of heartache by preventing litter box problems before they happen with kitten potty training..

Cats are very smart. They usually teach US rather than the other way around. Here’s how to trick train your tabby.

Whenever new kittens come to your home, it’s important to figure out what they know, plus help them learn the new rules of the house. When you have other cats (after proper cat introductions, of course!) the older felines can help teach the youngsters the rules. How to train cats to the litter box usually comes naturally, but these tips can help with potty training your cat.

potty train cats

How to Potty Train Cats with Kitten Litter Box Training

Congratulations on your new kitten adoption! Most cats come pre-programmed to use the potty but you’ll need help if the baby is very young. Felines are great imitators and simply “copy cat” their mother’s behavior when they watch and follow her to the litter box. Most kittens and cats will already know what a litter box is for and how to use it by the time you adopt them.

But if you hand-raise an orphan or adopt a kitten younger than 8 to 10 weeks, you’ll need to do the job of the mother cat. Transitioning outdoor cats to an indoor lifestyle also may mean re-training bathroom etiquette from “going” among the flowers to aiming for the litter box. Check out the Ask Amy video below, and you’ll find more of the basics here.

Kitten Litter Box Training Preparation

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! Felines are naturally clean creatures and dislike eliminating where they sleep or eat. They also appreciate privacy when (ahem) doing their duty. Build allegiance to the litter box by positioning it correctly, in a low-traffic area away from the cat’s bed and food bowls. Also remember that kittens may not have the physical capacity to “hold it” long enough to run clear across the house or down the stairs. Provide a box on each end of the house, or one per floor.

SIZE MATTERS. A regular size box may be too large for new kittens to climb in and out. A disposable cookie sheet works until he’s bigger. Average size adult cats do well with standard commercial litter pans, but jumbo-size cats (Maine Coon kitties come to mind!) may need larger toilets or risk hanging over the sides when they pose. Translucent plastic storage bins with a cat-size hole cut in one side may be ideal.

FILLER ‘ER UP WITH…WHAT? A variety of cat box fillers are available, from plain clay to pine pellets and recycled wheat or corn crumbles. The ideal material absorbs moisture, contains waste and odor, and most important of all, suits the cat. Fine textures such as the “clumping” clay litters seem to be the feline favorite. Fill the box an inch or so deep with the filler. Learn about the history of litter here.

If you’re transitioning an outdoor cat to an indoor box, do a bit of research and follow him to find out his preferred substrate. Changing litter too fast can prompt hit or miss potty behavior. Dusting a bit of plain garden dirt, or a layer of grass or leaves over top of the commercial litter may help give him the idea of what you have in mind. Give your cat what he wants and kitten litter box training will be a breeze! And if you already have other pets, you may want to invest in a pet gate or pet door to control the space in your house.

itter box training

Kitten Litter Box Training: How to Potty Train Cats

Get all the MUST KNOWS for your new kitten in the book!

Kittens and cats new to your home won’t know where the box is, even if they know what it’s for. Place the kitty on top of the clean litter and scratch around with your fingers to prompt imitation. Even if the cat doesn’t need to “go,” a pristine box often tempts them to dig a bit, which may lead to the first deposit.

When he’s creative in the box, reward your cat with verbal praise, a toy, or even a tasty treat reserved only for training. Don’t pick your new kitty up out of the box. Let him make his own way out of the box and the room, so he’ll better remember how to get back there the next time nature calls.

For tiny kittens, leave one recent deposit in the box after he’s been productive. The scent is a reminder of where the box is, and what he’s supposed to do once he’s there. But remember to keep the box clean or the cat will avoid the dirty toilet and find a better spot—such as under your bed.

Remember, very young kittens won’t have the capacity to “hold it” for very long. Refer to this post on kitten development stages for more information. Remember that spaying or neutering your baby cat greatly reduces the chance they’ll spray urine in the future.

Create a Cat Potty Training Schedule

Until you’re sure the kitty consistently uses the box, make a point of scheduling potty times. Kittens need to eliminate more frequently than adults do. Take the baby for a pit stop after each nap, meal, and play period. Playtime is fun for kittens–and you! Learn more about how pets play here.

Teaching basic bathroom allegiance from the beginning ensures your kitten gets off on the right paw—and saves your carpet. You’ll find even more of kitten “must knows” in the book Complete Kitten Care.  Have you ever had problems training kittens to “go” in the right spot? How did you manage?

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Dog Allergies & Soothing Itchy Dogs

Dog Allergies & Soothing Itchy Dogs

Spring is the SNEEZE season for humans, complete with runny eyes and sinus issues.(Learn about dealing with pet allergies here).  For dog allergies, itchy skin is the more common sign of discomfort. And it can hit in the fall, too. Just ask my Bravo-Dawg, now trying to balance with only three legs to scratch his itchies.

Bravo (and the other furries) get monthly parasite preventive meds, so it surprised us when he began incessantly scratching and chewing last week. We live on 13 acres, and we speculated the long grass in the field led to irritations and bug bites. But even after mowing, his itchiness continued with head and back scabs, and foot licking. Benadryl helped, but after Bravo’s cancer journey and chemo treatments, we wanted to be careful with giving him anything.

Yesterday, the vet diagnosed allergies–as if Bravo didn’t have enough challenges! Dr. Clay noted he’s at the age when allergies can develop (about 1 in 3 dogs suffer). He also noted that Benadryl is one of the safest and effective meds, and recommended we up the dose (dogs get a much higher dose than people). He weighs 101 lbs, so Bravo gets up to 100 mgs three times a day–and the itch has abated. But what about other kinds of allergies?

dog allergies

dog allergies

I’ve been told by some veterinarians that West Highland White Terriers “put their kids through college…” because of the allergy issues the breed is prone to. Image Copr. Amy Shojai

It’s less common, but runny eyes also may develop–and of course, my Magical-Dawg had to be one of these unusual cases. His eyes began watering back in January, and combined with his acral lick foot itchies, he was miserable. Thankfully, he didn’t suffer from the all-over itchy skin, hair loss, and worse that our first shepherd suffered. But here in North Texas (and other parts of the country), it’s helpful to understand dog allergies and how to soothe our itchy dogs.

This is simply an overview of the kinds of allergies. For more details, you’ll want your veterinarian to diagnose your dog, and explain what’s needed to help your pet. You can also find more details about pet allergies in my DOG FACTS book.

DOG ALLERGIES CAUSES & CURES

Pets suffer from the same kinds of allergies that people do. Food allergies (probably the least common in dogs) happen when dogs react to certain proteins in the food. Major culprits are meats like beef or chicken–and even lamb, if the dog has eaten it before and become “sensitized.” It can be complicated.

Food Allergies

How do you cure dog food allergies? Well, you don’t…but you can manage them. The first step is diagnosing exactly WHAT causes the reaction and only a veterinarian can do that. See, commercial foods contain a smorgasbord of ingredients, some in tiny amounts, and while you MAY find one your dog tolerates more than others, switching around can be hit-or-miss. It also may confuse things when you’ve then exposed the dog to bunches more potential culprits and reduced the “safe” alternatives that he’s never before tasted.

Flea Allergies

Flea allergy is the most common of all. Dogs (and cats) sensitive to the flea saliva can itch all over after a single bite from one of these tiny vampires. Flea allergy also is one of the most easily managed, usually through one of the modern safe flea prevention products. I use Revolution (from the vet) on Magical-Dawg because it takes care of heartworms, fleas and a number of internal parasites, too.

dog allergies

Fleas are more than itchy aggravations and spread tapeworms as well as cause skin disease.

Inhaled Allergies

Atopy–or inhaled allergies–can be due to pollens, molds, and even dander. Hay fever in people that makes us sneeze instead causes itching in pets. That’s what our first shepherd developed. After we moved from the Ohio Valley region (and its airborne fungus and other “schtuff”) and were in Texas, his health drastically improved. Dogs with inhalent allergies often have itchy ears, too, and may develop ear infections.

Could a dog be allergic to himself, or to the cat? Theoretically, that’s possible! But more typically it’s the springtime/summer allergens that drive pets nuts. Wintertime when the furnace comes on for the first time can stir up household dust and set them off again.

Atopy can be the toughest control. It’s seasonal so the signs can lessen during the winter. Dogs absorb grass and dust allergens through the toe webbing in their foot pads, so simply rinsing off poochie feet after the dog’s been outside can help enormously. Also, dogs (and cats) are furry dust mops that collect and carry allergens in their coat–so rinsing ’em off weekly also helps.

Get all the dog allergy facts!

Natural Cures for Dog Allergies

There’s a difference between HOLISTIC veterinary medicine and HOMEOPATHY (click this link for some details). For example, omega-3 fatty acids are a holistic/natural treatment that aid skin health and also have some anti-itch properties–so does bathing the pet in an oatmeal-based anti-itch shampoo. A flea comb to get rid of fleas is about as natural as you can get! Homeopathic medications attempt to “wake up” the pet’s own body to deal with and manage the health challenge.

Some dogs benefit from allergy medications like antihistamines. Magic’s runny eyes resolved once we began giving him Benadryl, recommended by our veterinarian. Please check with your pet’s practitioner for proper dosage and what’s safe for your fur kids. And for atopic dogs, simply rinsing them off with water (even just their paws) can help.

Here are some videos that offer some more comments and discussion (yes, they’re a couple year’s old!). There’s also info on OTC treatments for pets. For folks reading the blog, what has worked for your itchy dog? Any further tips you can share? 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

Cat Litter Box Problems? 8 Reasons Cats Snub the Box & What To Do

Cat Litter Box Problems? 8 Reasons Cats Snub the Box & What To Do

Cat litter box problems pose the number one reason cats lose their homes and end up in animal shelters. Do you need to learn how to stop cats from peeing in house? That’s also the top reason an adopted kitten or cat gets returned. How sad! It’s important to keep in mind ways to prevent litter box problems from the moment you bring home the new kitten.

People want cats to stop peeing on the carpet, pooping outside the litter box, and spraying urine — especially peeing on your bed! But there is no single reason for hit-or-miss potty problems, and therefore, no single “cure” for bad behavior, but you can find out what to do with these common reasons cats snub the box. Note: I added one, in honor of Shadow-Pup!

litter box problems

Too many sharing one potty is a recipe for failure!

Folks generally assume that any litter box issue is due to a behavior problem, but you CANNOT separate health from behavior. The two go together like … like… laps and cats, or kittens and toys. Here are a few of the many reasons cats snub the litter box and develop litter box problems.

Why Cats Have Litter Box Problems

Clueless Kittens. Your new baby does not come pre-programmed knowing what to do. Even if she copy-cat’d her mother’s behavior, a kitten may not know where the facilities are located, or be able to reach them in time. Make it easy for new kittens. For the first week or so, confine her in one room with a nearby litter box (and other kitty equipment) so she learns allegiance to the box. Put her in the box and praise when she’s productive. Learn more about training your kitten to use the litter box at this link.

Clueless Adults. Adult cats certainly know how to “go” but your home is new territory for them. Be sure the adopted cat knows where to find the litter boxes. Find out what type of litter pan and box filler the shelter used, and start out with the same kind (you can transition latter, if need be). If he’s previously been an outdoor cat, he may not recognize the litter pan as the toilet. Give him a clue: add a top-dusting of potting soil or leaves from outside.

Marking Territory.  If you want to stop your cats from spraying, it’s important to understand why they do it. To cats, urine holds more fascinating, important information than my Kindle. Intact felines (both boys and girls) use urine like Match.com to advertise their availability and to cow interlopers from trespassing. Getting your cat spayed or neutered prior to sexual maturity reduces urine marking up to 90+ percent. So don’t wait!

SerenKarma

Seren learned to tolerate Karma, but his pestering led to litter box challenges. Image copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

Other Cats. Having to share potties puts many cats’ tails in a twist. Do YOU want to “go” after someone else? Didn’t think so. ;P Even when properly introduced, some cats want one box for solids and another for liquids. By age 19, Seren was not been happy about the interloper, Karma, and for the first time Seren started going outside the box. She found a spot behind a big chair, hidden from Karma but with two-way access, and left her “deposits” there. So…I got another litter box, cleaned the carpet thoroughly, and installed the new potty where she wanted it.

Rude Dogs. With the new puppy in our lives, Karma-Kat’s comfort means managing Shadow’s access to cat territory, including the litter box. We properly introduced them, and they respect and show interest in each other. The pup, confined to the kitchen, can’t reach Karma’s facilities in the laundry room because of the pet gate barrier. It’s not unusual, though, for dogs to invade or even snack from litter boxes and that prompts kitty to find other places to “go.” And a few dogs want to copy-cat the behavior and the dog uses the cat litter box and hisses off the kitty owner.

Old Cats. As Seren-Kitty grew older, it became more difficult for her to get to the facilities on time. She also suffered from arthritis that made it hard to climb in and out of the litter box. These are not unusual problems for old cats. We offered her a litter box with lower sides, and eventually, provided “puppy pads” for her so she had more opportunity to relieve herself in a hygienic way. She nearly lived to be 22 years old, so Seren deserved every bit of help possible.

Making sure there are enough litter boxes reduces the competition so one top cat doesn’t guard the bathroom and prevent others from accessing it. I recommend the 1+1 rule: one box, per cat, plus one. The stress of other cats also can prompt urine marking, not just to claim territory, but to use self-scent to calm their frazzled kitty nerves.

Smelly Box. Keeping the toilet clean seems to be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how quickly the yucky stuff builds up. Get the cleanup on a schedule. Daily, no exceptions, will reduce the chance of lapses. And “smelly” may also mean “too perfume-y” according to your cat, so beware of strongly scented box fillers, too.

Adding an automatic litter box can help enormously, because the litter ALWAYS stays clean. However, it may take some training to teach cats to use this facility. We had a LitterMaid for many years, and Seren loved it!

cat litter box problems

A tiny box can throw off your cat’s litter box aim.

Bad Facilities. Every cat is unique so what works for one may be awful for the next. Bad facilities may include a poor location, type of box, or kind of box filler.

  • Cats want privacy, but don’t want to feel trapped. Avoid placement in corners of rooms, or underneath cabinets, for instance. Locations that have a good lookout (so they can see the other cats coming and escape!) are ideal.
  • Most cats prefer soft, sandy textures easy on the paws for digging. They also like routine. So once you’ve found something they use faithfully, don’t mess with success.
  • Many commercial boxes are too small, and covered boxes contain odors and may make cats feel trapped. Experiment by offering a variety to see what your cat prefers. I like the translucent storage boxes from container stores, because they’re bigger for jumbo-size squatters, and the cat can see other cats approach.

Separation Anxiety. Yes, cats can be lonely and stressed when their routine changes and you work longer hours, for instance. One of the major signs is the cat peeing on your bed. Learn about kitty separation anxiety here.

Dirty Litter Box Accidents

  • Clean soiled areas thoroughly or the scent will draw Sheba (even innocent bystanders!) back to the scene of the crime. Avoid using ammonia-based products, which cats think smells like the ammonia in their own urine.
  • To find hidden urine accidents, invest in a quality “black light” and shine it around after you’ve turned off lights in the suspect areas. Cat urine glows under the black light. Here’s a black light kit designed for finding litter-ary mistakes!
  • If your cats target plastic or rubber-backed bath mats, toss out the mats. The backing hosts various microorganisms designed to keep the carpet stain-resistant, but it smells like urine to cats, and many felines eliminate on these mats because they already smell like a litter box.

Litter Box Problems & Health Issues

When your cat has been faithful to the potty and suddenly develops problems, your veterinarian should be the first call. There are a number of health issues that may underlie the cat’s litter box lapses, including Feline Lower Urinary Tract disorders.

Painful urination or defecation may result in the cat “blaming” the box for the for the discomfort. When kitty hates the box, she’ll look elsewhere for a comfy spot to go–like under your potted palm.

Buy a new box. Plastic holds odor and smelly old boxes offend cats even when you’ve scrubbed them. Cats that “blame” the old box for a scare or discomfort often eagerly embrace a new facility.

The proper diagnosis from your vet is vital in order to treat and often reverse the condition and poor behavior. Some signs of possible health conditions include any one or combination of the following:

  • break in house training
  • dribbling urine
  • straining in the litter box
  • Spending lots of time “posing” with little result
  • bloody urine or urine with a strong ammonia smell
  • crying during elimination
  • excessively licking the genitals
  • Some cats “go” in the sink or bathtub, or squat right in front of you (asking for help?)

So what about your cats? Have you had litter box challenges? Do tell! Watch the Ask Amy video below for another issue and tips.

Learn where you can find professional pet behavior help in this post.

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

Easter Candy Caution for Pets

Easter Candy Caution for Pets

Easter candy fills the aisles at grocery stores these days. There are plenty of toys, too, including stuffed bunnies–a far better gift than real live rabbits that need special care. Here’s my yearly caution about Easter candy and other goodies around pets. Refer to this post about other Easter dangers for pets.

easter candy chocolateI’m a sucker for Easter candy, especially those chocolate bunnies. Many folks love to fill the kid’s Easter baskets with sweets. But chocolate indulgence can turn your Easter candy celebration into a pet-astic calamity. It happens with Halloween chocolate, and chocolate on Valentine’s day, too.

Cats aren’t poisoned as often with Easter candy because they are a bit more discriminating about what they munch. But dogs often smell the candy right through the packaging, and eat it wrapper and all. Swallowed objects like foil or paper wrappers or the sticks off of suckers can cause intestinal blockage or damage, too.

easter candyEASTER CANDY CHOCOLATE TOXICITY

Any Easter candy indulgence can pose digestive upset with messy diarrhea results and a need for you to invest in a carpet cleaning service for the stains. But chocolate toxicity can actually kill your pet. Chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulant related to caffeine. Eating too much chocolate shifts your pet’s heart into overdrive.

Milk chocolate usually doesn’t cause life-threatening problems because it takes nearly two pounds of milk chocolate to poison a seven-pound pet. Baker’s chocolate can be deadly, though. It contains ten times as much theobromine as milk chocolate, which means a seven-pound pet only needs to eat two ounces to be poisoned. Licking chocolate frosting, lapping up cocoa mix, or gulping truffles—a very rich dark chocolate treat—causes vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures, coma, and even death.

Puppy Pen

Puppy pens keep baby out of trouble! Image Copr. D.Garding/Flicker

MAKE HIM VOMIT!

If you catch your pet snacking on such things, induce vomiting as soon as you can to get rid of the poison. You can make her vomit up to an hour after she’s eaten the chocolate, but sooner is better. After an hour, the toxin has probably moved out of her stomach into the intestines, and vomiting won’t get rid of it.

It can be dangerous to induce vomiting if the dog or cat acts woozy. They can inhale the material on its way up and suffocate. As long as she’s alert, there are several methods you can use to get rid of the chocolate. Call the veterinarian for further instructions after the pet has emptied her stomach. If you can’t induce vomiting after a couple of tries, prompt veterinary care is even more important.

Better yet, don’t bring dangerous treats into your house. Here’s a thought—you could give the extra chocolate to me. I’m willing to make the sacrifice and dispose of the deadly sweet treats to protect your pets.

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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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!