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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As 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.
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!
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.
I 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.
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? NOTE:Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. 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!
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 play it by ear (furry ones, of course!) with the decorating this year. Meanwhile, here are my annual tips to help with YOUR tree, and you can read more about pet-safe holiday decorations here.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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? NOTE:Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. 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!
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.
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 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.
Seren 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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? NOTE:Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. 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!