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DON’T Hug Your Dog on National Hug Your Hound Day! Here’s Why

DON’T Hug Your Dog on National Hug Your Hound Day! Here’s Why

Several years ago when I wrote for the puppies.about.com site (now TheSprucePets) I took issue with a promotion advertised by a big-name pet food company that encouraged people to post pictures of themselves hugging dogs. Hoo-boy…Oh dear heaven, by the comments I received you’d think that I said cute babies are evil, apple pie is poison and advocated BEATING YOUR DOG! Part of that has to do with folks reading only the title and ignoring the content of the message. Oh well. That drives home the importance of titles, I suppose.

The promo really struck a chord with pet lovers. After all, who doesn’t love a hug? Hugs mean love, hugs mean happy happy happy, hugs are tail-wagging expressions of the joy we share with dogs. Right? RIGHT?!

Uh, no. And glory be, the promotion lives on. Today, September 11, has been named “National Hug Your Hound Day.”

national hug your hound day

WHY HUGS CAN BE DANGEROUS

There’s a reason that veterinary behaviorists, dog trainers and savvy owners blanched when they learned about this promotion. Why is that? Because while hugs are a natural HUMAN expression of comfort and love, they can send the opposite signal to your dog.

Children get bitten in the face as a result of inappropriate dog interaction (often hugs). Learn ways to help prevent dog bites here. There are other safer, more appropriate ways to show affection to dogs that the dog actually prefers!

“Oh no, you stupid, clueless person–you’re wrong wrong wrong, because MY DOG loves hugs, and every dog I’ve ever had loves hugs and everyone that I know has dogs that hug them back and loves hugs and…” 

Good. In this case, I would LOVE to be wrong! If you have a dog that loves hugs and hugs you back, bravo. But that also begs the question, how do you know your dog “loves hugs?”

hug your houndDEFINING “HUGS” & WHY DOGS HUG

A hug is an embrace, right? Arms go around the body and squeeze–that’s a hug. When do dogs clasp forelegs around another creature and squeeze? I can think of three scenarios:

  • Mating/Dominance displays
  • Prey capture
  • Fights/play fighting

So when your dog “hugs” you, what is he saying? And what do your hugs tell him? As a vet tech years ago, I was taught the “hug-restraint” technique to immobilize dogs for treatment. I suspect the dogs were not fooled into thinking that expressed affection. Today, of course, we know better ways to reduce fear and anxiety in dogs so we don’t have to hold ’em down.

How do dogs actually show love? Here are common ways dogs show love.

Thank heavens our dogs for the most part are very flexible and forgive humans our sometimes clueless nature, LOL! I know that I’m grateful Magical-Dawg made allowances when I didn’t understand what he tried to tell me. At least with people, you can explain your intentions. That can be a challenge with dogs.

hug your dog

FORCING HUGSIS IT FAIR?

I don’t have two-legged children. But I’ve witnessed gatherings where babies and toddlers get passed around to strangers who hug, pinch cheeks, bounce up and down, and ooh-and-aw over the cuticity. I think we’ve all seen kids wail in protest or fall silent with fear while a clueless relative or acquaintance—or a pediatrician?–insists on continued “loving but unwanted attention.” When you were a kid, do you remember that certain relative who caused no end of angst because, as a kid, you had no choice but to put up with the hugs, smooches, and cheek pinches? At least with older children, parents can explain what’s going on and help guide the adult (hopefully) into less scary interactions.

As much as we want to believe they read our minds and understand our words, dogs misunderstand a lot—and we misunderstand an equal portion of what they say. Hugs are supposed to express affection and love. So if a hug causes stress, fear, discomfort to the dog you adore, is it fair to inflict those feelings because it “feels good” to the owner?

hug your dog day

BUT—MY DOG LOVES HUGS!

Yes, many dogs can learn to tolerate–or even love hugs from a trusted human. For those who have taken the time to do this, BRAVO! Many dogs also can learn to tolerate or love tooth brushing–so is it responsible for a company with dental products to promote sticking your hands in the dog’s mouth, or is it better to explain how to do so safely?

Magical-dog loved close contact. He often pushed his head and shoulders into my lap or squeezed his face under my arm. Was he asking for a hug? Shadow-Pup does the same. I suspect it’s this type of behavior that confuses many of us–but see, he controls that interaction. My arms haven’t come down around him to capture/hold/prevent movement. So some of the confusion, I suspect, has to do with semantics and how people define a hug.

How do you know your dog “loves” hugs? What does your dog do when s/he receives a hug? Do you know what each of these signals mean? Are you sure? Click on a link or two to see if you’re right!

Sorry—Not Sorry

Perhaps your dog loves hugs. That’s great. But my entire purpose with these blogs, my books, pet advocacy and more is to EMPOWER PET OWNERS TO MAKE INFORMED CHOICES.

To stand silent and do nothing hurts my soul. I was an expert witness more than a decade ago in a trial where a dog tragically attacked and severely injured a child—and they adored each other. We don’t know why (no witnesses to the attack), but I remember this case every time a clueless cute-and-fuzzy promo makes the rounds. Read about that in this blog post.

If hissing off some readers saves one child from the trauma of a bite, or one family from the heartbreak of losing a beloved dog by mis-reading intent—I’m fine with that.

Now then, I’ll don my flame-resistant sparkles and prepare for comments. Do your dogs like hugs? How do you know? For trainers and behavior folks out there, how do you help people understand safe dog handling? Do tell!

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

What A Pain! Understanding Pet Pain & What to Do When Pets Hurt

What A Pain! Understanding Pet Pain & What to Do When Pets Hurt

September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, so I wanted to share this vital information again. We know pain hurts, but pain in pets and treating pet pain when pets hurt confuses us. They can’t tell us they feel pain, or where it hurts. Not like humans.

Because I get to work at home, there are certain perks I enjoy–such as going barefoot to work. But one afternoon last fall I moved too fast and kicked the whey outta my big toe. This wasn’t just a stubbed toe, either—it lifted and peeled the nail back to the quick, bled everywhere and hurt like the devil! Yes, I said a few choice words as I hobbled down the stairs from my office (trying not to leave a bloody trail) to get bandage material. Ooooooh, that puppy throbbed and made me whimper and howl, let me tell you.

shepherds prone to hot spots

Magic was always ready for a treat!

Pet Pain Matters, Too

I understand how Magical-Dawg felt several years ago. After a run in the field playing fetch, he started shivering when he came inside. The ninety-degree weather argued that he was not chilled. I checked him head-to-tail, and found nothing wrong. But later in the week, he again started shivering, and even growled at me when I asked him to move—very uncharacteristic.

FCC noticeFinally, after several days and two vet visits, we figured out his problem. He’d torn a dewclaw back to the quick. it hadn’t come off, so the injury remained hidden. Seren-kitty had this happen once, too, when her claw caught on bedding as she leaped from the pillow. She hid. But Magic’s short temper, shivers, and hyper-alert behavior resulted from being in pain.

I attended an online conference co-sponsored by Fear Free Pets and the San Francisco SPCA (you can still register/view the on-demand sessions). A session led by Dr. Ralph Harvey titled The Behaviors of Pain: Assessment, Scoring, and the Impacts of Animal Pain, offered information important for practitioners and pet parents to know.

Dr. Harvey noted that the gold standard for assessing human pain is self reporting. We’re asked, how bad is your pain on a scale of one-to-ten? Animals can’t do that, so veterinarians need to determine discomfort in other ways.

dog painSIGNS OF PAIN IN DOGS & CATS

The onset of pain can be sudden (acute) or chronic (ongoing). Pet parents may not notice discomfort when it progresses. You might attribute your dogs’ behavior changes to old age. Today, veterinarians consider the presence (or absence) of pain as a vital sign, and keep track of it. Pet parents can (and should!) do the same. Watch for changes in:

  • Temperament
  • Vocalization
  • Posture
  • Locomotion (movement)
  • Severe and dramatic behavior changes

What does that mean? Dogs in pain might whimper, whine, cry, or yelp when touched. They may hold up an injured leg, limp, hunch their backs, and beg for attention. Friendly pets shun attention or hide, while shy animals become more demanding. Feline pain symptoms look like fearful behavior, with the cat staying still and quiet, or trembling. Cats often hide; when you touch them they nail you. In addition, pain increases arterial blood pressure and heart rate, increases stress, and affects neurological activity.

PET PAIN BEHAVIORS

Pets in pain display a suite of signs. Dog pain signs include any one or combination of the following.

  • Hunched or prayer position
  • Glazed facial expression
  • Attention-seeking and whining (the bond with you may influence that)
  • Licking the painful area
  • Usually won’t hide the painful body part
  • Appetite rarely affected

Cats are not small dogs, and display their own pain signs:

  • Poor or lack of grooming
  • Hissing or aggression upon manipulation of painful part
  • Hide the painful part to look “normal”
  • Dissociation from environment
  • Vocalization is RARE as a sign of pain
  • Isolation or hiding
  • Hit or miss litter box issues
  • Pain faces—Feline Grimace Scale

If you love cats but haven’t heard of The Feline Grimace Scale you MUST check it out and become familiar with this. Dogs have very expressive faces–cats not so much. So providing pictures for comparison helps enormously when trying to figure out if (and how much) discomfort cats feel. You can download the fact sheet (below) plus a four-page detailed training help at https://www.felinegrimacescale.com/

cat pain feline grimace scale

Pain Varies from Pet to Pet

Pain tolerances vary from pet to pet just as in people. A one-size-fits-all program won’t work. Experts say there is a five-fold variation in pain tolerance for the same surgical procedure in humans. So if a condition would be painful in a person, assume it’s also painful in your pet.

Dang, I had no idea! My toe-throb injury kept me awake the first night despite multiple doses of Advil, and only subsided to a dull roar three days later. I waited a week before I got up the courage to look under the BandAid…Ew. Not pretty. I retired my sparkly sandals early and hoped socks and bandages would keep the loose nail from tearing away. About six weeks later, the dead nail lifted off. I said “ouch” many-several-times. And increased the dose of Advil.

cat painWhat Is Pain? The Technical Version…

How does pain work? Damaged tissue releases chemicals that sensitize nerve endings. Aggravated nerves send pain signals up the spinal cord to the brain. The brain recognizes the sensation and shouts, “Dang, that smarts!” and triggers a protective reflex. This “learned avoidance” teaches Kitty to pull back her nose from the candle flame, for instance, and urges Poochie to hold up his hurt paw so it heals.

Not all pain is severe or sudden, or requires pain drugs. For instance, antibiotics relieve pain by curing a sore throat. Heat lamps relieve chronic arthritis pain. Water is a natural anesthetic for your pet’s burning skin allergy pain.

Extreme pain, though, causes a more complicated natural response that depresses immune function, interferes with blood clotting and wound healing, and negatively affects the cardiovascular system. Extreme pain can also permanently rewire neural pathways to create a “pain memory” that keeps pets feeling pain long after the injury has healed. It’s as if the normal highway nerve impulse travels must repeatedly “detour” from the safe path and instead leap off the same painful cliff.

How to Treat Dog Pain and Ways to Relieve Cat Pain

But pets require specific dosages and metabolize drugs differently than people—human pain medicines may be dangerous to pets. For example, dogs can develop ulcers from human-type aspirin products. Cats can DIE if given people- or dog-specific pain medicines. Pain control options from your veterinarian are always the best and safest choice for cats and dogs.

Narcotic pain relievers for severe pain, such as morphine, codeine and Demerol, are available only by prescription. Veterinarians can compound some medicines into peanut butter or fish paste so your pet willingly accepts it. After surgery, drains can deliver continued pain relief into the chest and abdominal cavity, the joint, or even into the bloodstream. Chemotherapy and radiation relieves certain kinds of cancer pain. A “pain patch” delivers an opioid drug transdermally (through the skin). After we had to amputate Bravo-Dawg’s leg due to bone cancer, pain medication kept him comfortable. In most cases, your veterinarian prescribes the drugs for your pet. Once approved by the doctor, you can order them at online sources such as Chewy.

There are quite a few products for chronic arthritis pain in dogs. Not so much for cats. However, recently the FDA approved injectable Solensia (frunevetmab) specifically for cat arthritis pain. It’s the first monoclonal antibody drug approved for animals. Hurray for cats! If you have a senior feline friend, chances are the cat could benefit from arthritis pain relief. Ask your vet if this treatment is right for your cat.

Ask For Pain Relief–Advocate for Your Pets!

Depending on the condition being treated, pain medication may—or may not—be included. Ask your veterinarian about pain policies and procedures, and if there might be an extra cost or if it’s part of the fee. Any time your pet has a sudden change in behavior, please have him checked by the doctor. Treating a health issue that prompts behavior change usually solves the problem.

Some animal hospitals cut costs by eliminating pain medicine. Be aware that while anesthetics and tranquilizers keep pets asleep during a treatment, they do not relieve pain once your pet wakes up. If your veterinarian doesn’t mention it, ask about pain relief options for your cat and dog.

Over the Counter Pain Pills for Pets?

Yes, there are OTC pain treatment options for pets. Since every dog and cat needs different things, always run things by your veterinarian first.

CBD products offer a popular and effective way to address chronic pain for such things as arthritis. I recently learned about products from ElleVet, available only from veterinarians or direct from their store (click the link, below). Cornell University has clinically tested these for dose effectiveness. Even better, one product ElleVet’s Feline Complete Paste has been developed specifically for cats, in a chicken liver flavored paste that cats love. It’s suggested for joint discomfort, stress, and neuro support.

What About Magical-Dawg (and my) Toes?

We took Magic to get his boo-boo fixed. The veterinarian sedated him, clipped off the torn nail, bandaged his paw, and prescribed dog-safe pain meds with antibiotics while he healed. And the pain in my big toe also went away, and after six months, a new nail grew to replace the damage (yay!). Whether human or furred, no creature should suffer pain. Providing proper pain medicine helps pets recover more quickly and completely.

Learn about other home remedies that safely help relieve pet pain!

It’s also the right thing to do.

Have your pets ever needed pain medication–after surgery or an injury? How do you know when your pet hurts? And have you ever had an injury similar to your pets, like me?

I’m keeping my fingers (and toes!) crossed that Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat never need pain meds! Or that a heating pad or cold compress does the trick for minor whoopsies (as discussed in the natural healing book).

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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?  up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Cat 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 give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Cat Colds & Curing Kitty Congestion

Cat Colds & Curing Kitty Congestion

Karma-Kat started sneezing a couple of weeks ago. When cats have the sniffles, you worry about curing kitty congestion. Cat colds are one of the most common health problems of kittens and adult cats. Feline upper respiratory diseases, sometimes called cat flu, often affect shelter and rescue cats. My cat Seren-Kitty also had a couple of severe bouts with kitty snorkles.

For more information about cat colds and dog coughs, see this post.

This time, we attribute Karma’s “achoo” to the work done in the house. We changed our carpet for hardwood, and they sanded the entire downstairs area. Once the dust settled, he no longer sneezed. Karma-Kat has only had sneeze-attacks one other time. I’m always alert to any change in behavior, so even a normal amount of A-CHOO makes me pay attention.

I also recorded this post on YouTube if you’d prefer:

While there are preventive vaccinations available to help protect your cats, many kittens and cats become infected very early before they receive vaccines. Once infected, a cat may develop sniffles any time they become stressed. These tips can help relieve the sniffles and cat cold problems.

cat colds

Cat Colds & Curing Kitty Congestion

Has the annual outbreak of flu, sinus infections, and general creeping-crud attacked you this season? Hopefully, you’re safe from the COVID-19 virus that causes similar symptoms in people. Thankfully, the COVID virus and variants don’t routinely cause cat flu symptoms.

I’m washing my hands constantly and staying home with the fur-kids as much as possible. That’s one more positive about working alone at home–less contact with contagious folks. I’ve been told that the flu vaccination (always a good thing!) works well when given in advance, but of course, that depends on the type of flu. The dang bug keeps changing. *sigh*

A stopped-up nose and crusty eyes are not only miserable for humans, these signs in cats also cause a wide range of health problems in cats. Discharge that’s runny and clear usually goes away in a couple of days by itself. But any time it continues longer than that, or the discharge is cloudy or thick and clogs up the eyes or nose, a virus could be the culprit. Upper respiratory infections in cats (URI) also cause mouth and eye sores.

Complications of Cat Colds

Cats have more problems with congestion than dogs. The bugs that cause kitty congestion usually aren’t lethal in adult cats. But cats won’t eat unless they can smell their food, so they starve if they get a stopped-up nose. Home care not only keeps pets more comfortable, it often decides whether they recover or not. Learn how to encourage sick pets to eat in this post.

While we often fall in love with that poor little sick shelter kitten, an upper respiratory infection (cat cold) as a baby could mean relapses for the rest of the cat’s life. Just be sure you’re aware of all the facts when you adopt your kitten. 

Curing Kitty Congestion from Cat Colds

Just like with people, there’s no real “cure” for colds, but supportive treatment can help speed up recovery. It’s important for the comfort of your cat, too.

  1. Use a vaporizer to help unclog the nose. Put your cat in a fairly small room with a cool-mist humidifier and use it just the same as you would for a child a couple of times a day. That not only helps break up the congestion, it moistens inflamed or tender eyes and nostrils and make them feel better.
  2. If you don’t have a vaporizer or humidifier, a hot shower can work. Take the pet into the bathroom with you and run the hot shower so that the air becomes filled with steam. A 10-minute session several times a day works great. Don’t go for longer than that, though, because heated air for too long can be hard for some pets to breathe, especially short-faced Persians.
  3. If the nose is crusting over, or the eyes are sealing shut, use warm wet cloths or cotton balls to soak and soften the secretions and clean them off. Don’t peel dried matter off, because that can hurt or even form scabs.
  4. To soothe sore tissue after you’ve cleaned off the mucus, dab on a bit of plain saline solution, or some baby oil. That can also make it easier to clean away any more crusts that might form. I’ve also used Udderbalm (for cows).
  5. When thick secretions fill up the lungs it can be hard for pets to breathe even when their nostrils are clear. A technique called coupage helps break up the clogged matter so the pet can clear his lungs. It’s a French word meaning “thumping on the chest” and is often used to help children with Cystic Fibrosis breathe more easily. Hold your hand in a cupped position, and gently thump on either side of the cat or dog’s rib cage to break loose the mucus. Use coupage two or three times a day along with humidified air to ease the pet’s congestion.

FOLLOW-UP CARE FOR CAT COLDS

For more on cat health and care from A-to-Z, check out CAT FACTS!

Refusing to eat can make cats sicker or even threaten their life. Wiping away the crusts and mucus to keep the nasal passages open helps, but offering pungent and more tempting foods can cut through congestion and spark the sick cat’s appetite.

Warm the food for five seconds in the microwave to just below cat body temperature—about 95 to 98 degrees. That not only makes the treat more alluring, it also unlocks the aroma so the food smells more pungent and penetrates even a stopped-up kitty nose. Moisture also helps enhance aroma, so try adding a bit of warm water, chicken broth, or tuna juice from the can to the cat’s regular food. Run it through the blender to make a mush, and there’s a good chance that will tempt his appetite.

In the past, many veterinarians recommended supplements with L-Lysine to help reduce the chance of URI flare-ups. More recent studies argue these supplements offer only marginal benefits and may even make symptoms from feline herpesvirus worse.  Ask your veterinarian for the latest recommendations. You can ask your vet about an off-label drug Famciclovir that’s shown promise in treating the condition. Meanwhile, supplementing your cat’s diet with a probiotic like Fortiflora can help by keeping digestion healthy.

Have your cats suffered from upper respiratory issues? How did you manage them? When vaccinated early as a baby, some of these bugs can be prevented but once they’re in the cat’s system, stress can cause an outbreak. Cats also are tough customers when it comes to “pilling” and medicating (although compounded medicine can help with that). What are your tips for nursing a sick cat? Please share!

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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 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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Furry Fountain of Youth & Dog Senility: Reversing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Furry Fountain of Youth & Dog Senility: Reversing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

I’ve been blessed to share my life with two senior dogs, but only Magical-Dawg showed signs of dog senility, also known as canine cognitive dysfunction. Yes, both dogs and cats can suffer from a form of dementia, that some might described as a type of canine Alzheimer’s disease. Dogs aged 11 to 16 are most likely to develop Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), sort of the doggy version of Alzheimer’s Disease. CCD is a medical condition in which a starch-like waxy protein called beta amyloid collects in the brain and causes behavior changes. Here’s what you need to know and ways to slow down potential dog senility.

senility

Magic’s canine senility signs reversed for a time with the right diet.

Signs of Dog Senility

Dogs cared for throughout their early years live longer than ever before. It’s not unusual for Toy-breed dogs to live into their mid-to-late teens and even big dogs today enjoy a decade or more of happy life with a loving owner. A longer life, though, can leave your dog befuddled when canine brains turn to mush.

Affected dogs become disoriented, wander, cry and pace, and can become lost in the house when out of your sight. Their behavior can change from confident to frightened, and the awake/sleep cycles may turn upside down. Dogs can forget house training, how to find the door or be unable to tell you when they need to “go.” And most heartbreaking of all, senile dogs lose interest in petting, ignore their beloved owners or furry friends, and might not recognize you.

Treating Dog Senility

While there’s no cure for CCD, the drug Anipryl (selegiline hydrochloride) is FDA-approved to treat cognitive dysfunction in dogs. According to veterinary researchers, about 1/3rd of treated dogs return to normal, another 1/3rd improve, and the final 1/3rd aren’t helped at all. There also are special diets designed to help turn back the clock on canine senility. Bright Mind dog food helped Magic a lot! Sadly, even improved dogs eventually revert and again develop senility signs.

A longer life is not necessarily a better life, especially if your dog no longer recognizes you. But there are ways to help your dog stay connected with the world and ward off signs of CCD, simply by exercising his brain.

Brain function studies in dogs proved that problem-solving activities kept them sharp, connected to the world around them, and even extended their lifespan. Just as with people, canine mental and physical stimulation drastically improves your dog’s cognitive function.

dog senility7 Tips To Keep Canine Brains Youthful

“Use it or lose it” applies to dogs just as it does to humans. Don’t delay. Keep dogs both mentally and physically spry from puppyhood on. That helps prevent or at least slow brain aging changes. Here are tips to keep King mentally spry into his old age.

  1. Make Play A Daily Treat. Interactive games keep your dog engaged with you and reward him for responding. Toys don’t need to be expensive, either. Old socks become tug toys and used tennis balls work great for fetch. They’re even more attractive if old and they smell like the owner. Read more about how pets play.
  2. Slim Pudgy Pooches. Overweight dogs have trouble exercising and avoid moving which can allow joints—and brains—to rust. Ask your vet for a slimming program that’s safe for your overweight canine. Fortunately, our current dog, Shadow-Pup hasn’t had a weight problem and continues to have a waist. I just wish that I had the same metabolism! Learn more tips for slimming pudgy pets here.
  3. Adopt Another Pet. Proper introductions of a playful younger cat or dog can serve as a furry fountain of youth to an old-fogey dog. Even if he’s irked at the young whippersnapper, keeping Junior-Pet in line can keep your dog sharp. When we brought home Magical-Dawg, he helped keep Seren-kitty active. Yes—cats can also suffer from senility, and by the time Seren reached 21 years, she displayed signs of kitty dementia.
  4. Practice Commands. Just because he’s old doesn’t mean he can’t perform. Practice the pleasures that make King’s heart leap for joy—for obedience champions, put him through his paces. If he has trouble, adjust the Frisbee toss or vault heights. Make necessary accommodations so he can still succeed and feel like the champion he is.
  5. Treats for Tricks. Teach the old dog new tricks using healthy treat rewards. Make treats smelly so he won’t have to strain old eyes to see.
  6. Give A Challenge. Puzzle toys that dispense treats turn meals into fun games. For food fanatics, puzzle toys encourage activity and brain-teasing challenges that exercise problem-solving abilities.

Planning For What-If…

We can’t predict any dog’s lifespan. Our beloved Bravo-Dawg succumbed to bone cancer before the age of three and never had the chance to reach senior status.

But when a special dog reaches senior citizenship, we treasure our time together even more. My first GSD lived just over 13 years, and Magical-Dawg barely made it to eleven before we lost him. Keeping your dog mentally active helps keep dogs connected with life—and us. And that ensures their golden years sparkle.

How do you keep your older dog’s brain nimble? Are there special games or activities that you enjoy doing together? In one of my thrillers, a tracking dog still has the “nose” despite his age—and I based that on an interview with a tracking dog Bloodhound (profiled in the Aging Dog book) who continued to track even though he’d gone blind! Of course, you can find all the must-knows about old dog care in the book. But many tips are common sense–please share!

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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!

National Kitten Day! Must-Knows About Newborn Kitten Development

National Kitten Day! Must-Knows About Newborn Kitten Development

Every year when Spring rolls around we celebrate kitten season! On July 10, we celebrate National Kitten Day, so if a new baby is in your plans, here’s some updated kitten care info. If you love kittens, learning about newborn kitten development helps you know what to expect, and help the baby along the way.

Even if it’s not yet kitten season, it’s helpful to figure out the best age to adopt kittens. Read on to learn about the cat behavior of a three-week-old baby compared to one six weeks old. So whatever time of year, prepare now with all your kitten questions so you’re ready when the purr-fect cat or kitten becomes available.

kitten development stages

Mother cats take good care of kittens.

Kitten Season Brings Roaming Cats

Cats are considered kittens until about one year of age. Before that, though, the girl kitties can become pregnant. It’s not unusual for the unwanted youngsters to roam, looking for someplace safe. That’s how we found Karma-Kat. He showed up in late January, just before an ice storm hit. At age 8 months or so, his “cute” had worn off, and somebody lost him either accidentally or on purpose. Their loss, and our gain.

kitten development

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

Cat & Kitten Development

In the Northern hemisphere, intact girl kitties begin to go into heat in February, and can become pregnant as early as four or five months of age. Within about 63 days, new furry babies make their appearance so brace yourselves for a bumper crop of cute-icity.

Kittens gain two to four ounces a week from birth to five to six months of age. The kitten immune system is also fully developed by six to eight weeks of age, while the immune protection he gained from Mom begins to fade.

kitten development

Kitten play can be relentless.

Kitten Development & Nonstop Kitten Play

Play and interaction with others takes over during weeks five to seven. Social play with Mom and siblings begins now, and includes running, rolling, biting, wrestling, climbing, and jumping. Mom-cat and siblings let the baby know if he bites or claws too hard and they’ll hiss at him or put an end to the game. If you want to avoid kittens chasing your feet, adopt a pair together! Learn more about fostering kittens with socialization tips here.

Orphan Kitten & kitten development

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

Kitten Development & Ideal Adoption Age

When kittens are adopted too early, or are orphaned and hand raised, you’ll have extra challenges to bringing up baby. By watching mom, kittens learn to use the litter box, for example. What’s cute in a tiny kitten becomes aggravating or even dangerous when he gets older and can tip playtime into play aggression.

Adopting a pair of kittens can be a good option, so the babies wrestle and play with each other rather than targeting your ankles. If you also have dogs, read about introducing your cat to dogs here. Learn more about cat-to-cat introductions here. If you are the “mother figure” it’s up to you to teach Baby about the litter box, playing “nice” and eating grown-up food. Learn more about kitten adoption do’s and don’ts here.

kitten dayKitten Socialization For A Lifetime of Love

NEW-KITTEN-COVER-lorez

All your kitten must-knows — discounted Ebook here!

Puppies get more attention when it comes to socialization and puppy developmental stages are a bit different. But socialization is equally important in kittens. The problem is–prime kitten socialization takes place between two-to-seven weeks of age! Oh, the baby will learn after that, but his is the best time to pre-program a cat for success. When you adopt a kitten at this age, it’s up to you to expose him to a wide range of situations so he’ll be willing to accept them as he ages. That’s called “socialization” and can mean the difference between living with a well-adjusted and loving feline, or dealing with a scared or aggressive cat. 

Good experiences with people and other pets during this time ensure they’ll be well-adjusted adult cats. It’s ideal for kittens to stay with their littermates and mother until twelve weeks of age so they learn best how to get along with other cats, and learn all the important “cat rules” of the world. But very often, shelters need the space and adopt out babies earlier–or the kitten is alone in the world anyway, and benefits from being adopted earlier.

It’s important to have handy all the important kitten info. So if you’ve read this far, here’s an EBOOK deal for you–a discounted copy of COMPLETE KITTEN CARE by clicking here.

TEACH KITTENS NOW TO ACCEPT…

Handling and grooming by you and strangers teaches him to accept such things, so the veterinarian won’t have to fight him for an examination. This is the best age to train him to accept the cat carrier and leash. That allows him to travel with you when necessary, either to the vet or groomers or across town to visit Grandma. And if you think another pet (dog or cat), or a child might be in your future, introduce him to positive experiences at this age. That way, he’ll accept them as a normal part of his world and you’ll prevent behavior problems down the road.

How old was your cat when you adopted him? Have you ever needed to hand-raise a kitten? What do you think is the best age to adopt–and why? Please share!

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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!

Leaving Pets Behind: Choosing Pet Sitters

Leaving Pets Behind: Choosing Pet Sitters

When the holidays or business travel rolls around, pet sitters can be a big help when you plan vacations with or without your dog or cat. After delaying plans for over two years due to the virus, many of us now will travel to visit family and friends, have folks visit, or spend vacation time away from home. Time off from work and a change of routine offers humans much-needed stress relief. But the same is not always true for furry family members. That’s where pet sitters come in.

28th annual Professional Pet Sitters Week™ to be celebrated March 6-12

Pet Sitters International is highlighting the resiliency of pet sitters during this annual observance that recognizes the importance of professional pet-care services and the viability of pet sitting as a career.

Lying on red sofa young woman with cat and dalmatian dog

“Professional pet sitters and dog walkers’ businesses were significantly impacted by the pandemic, but they persevered, continuing to tailor their safety measures and their service offerings to meet the needs of their clients,” said PSI President Beth Stultz-Hairston. “We’re thrilled to see business rebounding for so many pet sitters across the globe and are happy to celebrate their dedication and highlight their value this Professional Pet Sitters Week.”

“It is also the perfect time to highlight the viability of professional pet sitting as a career,” said PSI Founder and CEO Patti Moran. “Professional pet sitting has long been a profitable and rewarding career option, and with 70 percent of U.S. households now owning a pet, the need for professional pet sitters will continue to grow.”

VACATIONING WITH & WITHOUT PETS

FCC noticeCats prefer staying in their home amid familiar surroundings. Some do well if left alone for a day or two when provided with adequate food and water, and extra litter boxes. That’s not appropriate for kittens, cats older than 10 years, or any cat with a health issue that needs attention, though.

No pet should be unsupervised for longer than a couple of days. Make arrangements to have a friend, a neighbor, or a professional pet sitter visit at least once a day to clean the toilet facilities, check food and water (and medicate, if needed), and perhaps play or cuddle with the cats.

Leaving dogs at home is also an option. But unless your dog is litter box trained (yes, it can be done!), people visits must be more frequent for potty breaks and meals. Some dogs eat four-days’-worth of food at one time if it’s all left out at once.

Beautiful cat exploring an old open suitcase on hardwood floor.

PICK A PET SITTER

Pet sitters are the ideal choice. You can search via professional organizations such as National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International or even Roverto find members in your area. You can also learn more and perhaps become a TrustedHousesitters Member! Whatever you chose, check out the pet sitter’s credentials, how long they’ve been in business, if they’re bonded/insured, what services they provide, and be specific about fees. Find out how much time the pet sitter spends on each visit—average is 30 minutes but for dog walking (especially multiple pets) or grooming/medicating it may take more time and require a higher cost.

Ask for references (and check them!) before you decide if the service or individual is a match for you and your pets. It’s also important to see if the candidate interacts well with your cats and dogs. Some pet sitters specialize in special needs animals. For instance, they may be able to medicate your diabetic cat or “pill” your reluctant dog.

PROVIDE INFORMATION

Be sure to leave caretakers with detailed information about each pet’s care needs, veterinary contact information, and emergency phone numbers to reach you. Leave your pets’ leash, medications and other “must haves” in an easy access area and show the pet sitter where to find them.

Alert the neighbors about the pet sitter or family friend coming and going from your home so they expect them in the neighborhood, and give the pet sitter your neighbor’s name and phone number. Talk with your veterinarian about signing a “just in case” authorization for medical care (you can designate the dollar amount). That way, emergency care is available and funded even if you are unavailable to give your okay in person.

PREP YOUR PETS!

Of course, you can’t ask your cats and dogs about what THEY want when you’re gone. So do your best to prepare them for the absence. A fractious or fearful pet may not accept even the most dedicated and friendly pet sitter. Gradual introductions are key, and it may be love at first sight (YAY!) or could take some time for especially shy felines to accept that stranger in the home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plan for your vacation or absence at least a couple of weeks in advance, especially for cats. Ask the pet sitter to meet with your pets to see how they get along. A savvy pet sitter knows what pets expect and won’t push the fur-kid past limits. For instance, they won’t force petting or close interaction when the dog or cat prefers distance. Over time, though, when the “stranger” visits several times and perhaps plays a favorite game or drops treats for the pet, a more positive association develops. You can find more detailed tips in my short quick tips guides, MY CAT HATES MY DATE as well as MY DOG HATES MY DATE.

Benefits of Planning Ahead

Preparing for your pets’ comfort during your vacations gives you peace of mind so you can enjoy your time free from worries. After all the joy they bring you throughout the year, don’t your cats and dogs deserve happy howl-adays, too?

So…do you contract with a pet sitter, or perhaps a neighbor or family member to care for pets when you’re gone? Or do you board the dog? How does that work for you? How many readers take the dog along for the trip–or even the kitty? What tips and tricks make the travel problem free? Please share!


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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!

Ghost Cats, Ghost Dogs, and Visitations From Beyond

Ghost Cats, Ghost Dogs, and Visitations From Beyond

Has a ghost dog or ghost cat visited you? They have blessed me that way more than once, but never when I wish for it and always unexpectedly. Far from scary, the visitation from beyond brought me great comfort. I know my furry wonders live on–somewhere, somehow, and that I’ll see them again.

It wouldn’t be heaven without them. In fact, one of my Pet Peeves radio programs discussed whether pets go to heaven. At my church, Pastor Craig Sturm also shared a message about whether or not pets go to heaven.

ghost dog

Bravo appeared to me after his death.

When Bravo-Dawg died March 2021, our hearts ached. Karma-Kat mourned for a week and slept with his buddy’s collar. And our veterinarian and the staff at the clinic also felt the pain–we hugged and wept together at his passing.

Later at home, we second-guessed every decision made during his cancer journey. This gentle giant who never had a bad day (even in the aftermath of amputation), always made us smile during awful times. Karma and Shadow-Pup searched for their hero, the leader of the three furry stooges. Our three-year-old baby-dog fought and defeated osteosarcoma, so how could another cancer take him from us? Not our Bravo!

The day after his death, when his slurpy-kiss across my face woke me, I reflexively reached out my hand to smooth his sweet face. He leaned against my palm. Warm. Real. Karma-Kat watched on the other side of the pillow as his tail thumped and shook the bed. He had all four legs, and a happy, satisfied grin–and then he disappeared. I like to think he knew I needed his reassurance.

I cherish his effort to once again comfort us. What do you think? Does pet death mean the end, or will they come back to comfort us?

ghost cat

Seren became increasingly frail and confused. I wonder if that’s why she never visited after her passing.

Cats and Ghosts

Cats have long been thought to have a link with the “other world” or even to have feline ESP. In fact, popular urban legends hold that cats see ghosts—and their behavior certainly seems to support that notion. Karma seemed to recognize Bravo’s spiritual visit, although he continued to mourn his lost friend.

We built our house 25 years ago, but maybe the site used to be an ancient burial ground that remains haunted by spirits of the departed. Before her own death just shy of her 22nd birthday, Seren-Kitty often played “track the spook” games, maybe just to mess with my head. You’ll understand more when you read the last paragraph.

It’s not just my own vivid imagination, either. A letter to the “Occult Review” magazine of April 1924 tells of a ghost that appeared in a chair, also apparent to the humans present. A cat in the room seemed to recognize the spirit and immediately leaped into the spirit’s lap—and acted dismayed when the insubstantial lap would not hold Kitty. The popular movie Ghost featured a cat able to see the spirit of the murdered victim, played by actor Patrick Swayze.

ghost

I now believe Karma knew his best friend would die long before we did.

Can Cats Sense Death?

There also are many stories of cats wailing at the exact instant of a beloved owner’s death, even when separated by miles. How do the cats know? Do they “see” the spirit, or feel the psychic change at the sudden absence of their special human?

Cats (and dogs) have the physical ability to see certain wavelengths and color spectrums that people cannot. Perhaps this “remnant” of the dearly departed remains behind—or in fact, the spirit portion remains visible for felines as well as ultrasonic sound communication.

Oscar the cat, a resident of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in Providence, Rhode Island, had an uncanny ability to predict which patient will soon die. Adopted as a kitten, he remained standoffish as an adult cat—until an individual neared the end of life. Then he’d scratch at the door and demand to be in the room, hop up on the bed beside the patient to sit vigil with them until they die.

Oscar’s prediction rate has been better than the nurses or physicians who care for the residents, who suffer from severe dementia. Experts speculate the dying simply smells different, and that alerts Oscar. Yet he is the only one of several resident cats that seems to care. Relatives have said they feel comforted Oscar spends time with their loved ones when they can’t be there.

ghost cats ghost dogs

Several years ago, Magical-Dawg died in September, and Seren-Kitty died in December. I don’t recall any visitation from either of them. Perhaps they were too busy continuing to pester each other.

Do Cats Haunt Us? Will Pets Visit Us After Death?

When cats die, owners recount experiences of the kitty returning to comfort remaining pet friends and people that they’re okay. Sometimes the delicate paw-print tracks of never seen mourning “ghost cats” appear where the owner can find them. Very often, one can feel the jarring “thump” of the furry ghost leaping onto the bed at night, snuggling across your ankles, or being seen out of the corner of your eyes.

When my first dog died, a day later I felt him jump up on the bed. He suffered from hip dysplasia and couldn’t jump while alive. I knew he’d become whole and returned briefly to let me know.

These invisible visitors may still cheek rub and head butt ankles, so that people can feel the brush of fur against their skin. Wishful thinking? Perhaps the mourning human so desperately wants one last contact that imagination takes over.

What About Ghost Pets Proof?

But what of the other pets who also detect the invisible cat’s or chase a transparent cat as she runs through a room only to disappear into a wall? Sometimes there’s also photographic proof that points to a kitty haunting a residence or person.

One early famous example is a 1925 family portrait taken by Major Allistone in Clarens, Switzerland that documented a woman restraining an infant from climbing out of a baby carriage, with an older boy standing in front holding a stuffed bunny in his left hand. But in the boy’s right hand appears the face of a white kitten—except that white kitten had died several weeks earlier.

More recent examples abound and include pictures and videos posted on the Internet. For example, one family admired and took pictures of a neighbor’s flowers and captured the image of a cat in the window—only the family doesn’t have a cat, so just who was the ghostly feline and (perhaps more importantly) why did the cat allow him/herself to be photographed?

Do Spirit Cats Return?

On October 29, 1993 at 8:30 p.m. my first beloved dog passed away at age 12 years 5 months. We lived in a tiny apartment and had to place his body outside in the entryway, to await burial the next morning. Shortly thereafter, we heard a strangely haunting sound at the door.

I found a cat crouching over my poor dog’s body, muttering and crying. The cat was a stranger, one I’d never seen before or since. I like to think that this eerie cat visitor arrived to pay feline respects at his passing. He’d always loved cats. It certainly couldn’t be my beloved dog’s spirit being hosted within this feline visitor. Or could it?

I never saw the cat again, although I heard the yowls each year on October 29th at about 8:30 p.m. Maybe I imagined it? All I know is the spectral cat cries stopped after my Seren-kitty adopted us.

Have you ever had a “visit” from a dearly departed pet? Have your cats (or dogs) “detected” an otherworldly presence? What did they do? If you had the chance to see a pet ghost, would you want to? Have you ever visited certain locations (or even people) that you’re sure had an animal ghost in residence? Please share!

Read these tips to prepare for your pet in case you pass away before they do.

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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? 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!

Celebrating Old Cats: What Is Old?

Celebrating Old Cats: What Is Old?

Every year, I write about our old cat needs. While Karma-Kat has just reached middle age, cats age at different rates. When do you consider your cat old? Is your old cat a senior kitty by age 8, or 13, or…when? For cats, what is old? Here are 8 reasons to consider adopting a senior citizen pet.

November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month. I have to admit, there’s something special about old cats. This post first appeared in 2012, and has been updated several times. Now that Seren-Kitty has gone to Rainbow Bridge, this post is in Seren’s honor and for all the golden oldie senior cats that rule our hearts (whether here or waiting for us at the Bridge.)

SerenChair

SEREN & OLD CATS

Seren went to the Bridge in December 2017, and would have celebrated her 22nd birthday on February 1st. I wanted to celebrate old cats and talk a bit about what is old age for cats. Some cats age more gracefully than others, and despite her longtime senior status, Seren continued to act like a youngster and keep Magical-Dawg and Karma-Kat in line, up nearly to the last week of her life.

Siamese as a breed tend to be longer lived, and it’s not unusual for healthy cats to live into their late teens or even early twenties. Of course, Seren was a found kitten, and we’re not sure what her heritage was, but she continued to maintain clean teeth, good appetite, normal litter-ary habits, sound heart and no lumps or bumps. After her bout with the schneezles, and losing one canine (fang) tooth, she continued rockin’ and rollin’ like nothing could stop her. I thought she’d live forever. *sigh* If you have a senior kitty, here are some tips for helping to keep old pets comfortable during their golden years.

Anyway, I thought this was a good time to share a bit from the book COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING CAT.

old cats

WHAT IS OLD FOR SENIOR CATS?

What is considered “old” for a cat? The question of what is old is complicated by the impact of genetics, environment, and individual characteristics. Consider human beings: one person may act, look and feel “old” at 65 while another 65-year-old remains an active athlete with a youthful attitude and appearance. The same is true for our cats.

“I think that actually varies a lot, and it’s getting older every year,” says Rhonda Schulman, DVM, an internist at the University of Illinois. “It used to be that eight was the major cutoff for the cat that was geriatric. Now we’re moving to the point that’s a prolonged middle age.” According to Guinness World Records, the oldest cat on record was Creme Puff owned by Jake Perry of Austin, Texas. Cream Puff was born August 3, 1967 and died August 6, 2005 at the age of 38 years and 3 days.

A good definition of old age for an animal is the last 25 percent of their lifespan, says Sarah K. Abood, DVM a clinical nutritionist at Michigan State University. However, since we can’t predict what an individual cat’s lifespan will be, the beginning of old age is a bit arbitrary. Certain families of cats may be longer lived than others, in the same way that some human families enjoy a much greater longevity than others. The lifespan of your cat’s parents and grandparents is a good predictor of how long you can expect your cat to live. People who share their lives with pedigreed cats may be able to access this information through the cat’s breeder.

SerenBed

PREDICTING LONGEVITY IN OLD CATS

Longevity of unknown heritage cats is much more difficult to predict. Even when felines are “part” Siamese or Persian, for example, these felines may inherit the very worst, or the very best, from the parents. The majority of pet cats are domestic shorthair or domestic longhair kitties of mixed ancestry, and the products of unplanned breeding. That by itself points to a poorer-than-average level of health for the parents, which in turn would be passed on to the kittens. Siblings within the same litter may have different fathers, and can vary greatly in looks, behavior, and health. When all is said and done, one should expect the random-bred cat-next-door kitty to be neither more nor less healthy than their pedigreed ancestors—as long as they all receive the same level of care and attention.

“If you get a kitten, it is very likely you will have this cat for the next 15 to 20 years,” says Dr. Abood. That means the last 25 percent would be 12 to 15 years. To simplify matters, most veterinarians consider cats to be “senior citizens” starting at about seven to eight years old, and geriatric at 14 to 15.

Here’s some perspective comparing cat age to human age. “The World Health Organization says that middle-aged folks are 45 to 59 years of age and elderly is 60 to 74. They considered aged as being over 75,” says Debbie Davenport, DVM, an internist with Hill’s Pet Foods. “If you look at cats of seven years of age as being senior, a parallel in human years would be about 51 years,” she says. A geriatric cat at 10 to 12 years of age would be equivalent to a 70-year-old human.

CHERISHING OLD SENIOR CATS

Veterinarians used to concentrate their efforts on caring for young animals. When pets began to develop age-related problems, the tendency among American owners was to just get another pet. That has changed, and today people cherish their aged furry companions and want to help them live as long as possible. Now there are many things you can do for common cat aging conditions.

Modern cats age seven and older can still live full, happy and healthy lives. Age is not a disease. Age is just age, says Sheila McCullough, DVM, an internist at University of Illinois. “There are a lot of things that come with age that can be managed successfully, or the progression delayed. Renal failure cats are classic examples.” It’s not unusual for cats suffering kidney failure to be diagnosed in their late teens or even early twenties.

“I had a woman with a 23-year-old cat who asked should she change the diet. I said, don’t mess with success!” says Dr. McCullough. These days veterinarians often see still-healthy and vital cats of a great age.

“I think if the cat lives to 25 years, I shouldn’t be doing anything but saying hello,” says Steven L. Marks, BVSc, an internist and surgeon at Louisiana State University (now at North Carolina State University). “If you’ve ever had a pet live that long, you want them all to live that long.”

 Excerpt from COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING CAT, revised and updated Kindle Edition by Amy D. Shojai, CABC. 

seren-karma

DO YOU HAVE OLD CATS?

What about your senior cats? Does he or she act like a senior? What age did you notice a change, if any?

Seren’s aging changes meant her dark Siamese mask turned gray, with white hairs surrounding her eyes. Arthritis made it hard for her to leap as before. Her claws thickened so she could no longer retract them, and she “clicked” while she walked on hard surfaces–I kept them trimmed for her. In her last four months, she needed extra potty spots as she couldn’t quite anticipate getting to the right place on time. But I’ll forever be grateful for the nearly 22 years we shared together.

What about your furry wonders? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. NOTE: Bling, Bitches & Blood sometimes shares affiliate links to products that may help you with your pets, but we only share what we feel is appropriate.

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!

Caring For Your Aging Dog – 8 Common Health Conditions You Should Know

Caring For Your Aging Dog – 8 Common Health Conditions You Should Know

When November rolls around each year we take time to celebrate the many blessings we’ve enjoyed including our old dogs. Pet people, of course, give thanks for their animal companions, and November traditionally is Adopt A Senior Pet Month.

Do you share your life with an old fogey dog? My current doggy companion, Shadow-Pup, has reached teenager status. Bravo-Dawg lost his life to cancer before becoming a senior doggy. But his predecessor, Magic, still lives on in my heart. During his final years, we battled several old dog health conditions.

aging dogs

Magic at age 10 doesn’t know he’s a senior, but the gray muzzle offers a clue.

Dealing with Old Dog Health

Thirteen years ago, I had the great joy to meet a moma dog and her litter of newborn puppies. One of those baby-dogs became my Magical-Dawg. And I have to say, the first couple of years were the most challenging, and the last few the most joyful of all. Senior dogs ROCK! Of course, eleven years were not enough,

German shepherd with puppies

Do you love a senior citizen canine? Join the crowd! Fifty percent of owners share their heart with pets aged seven or older. Modern veterinary care helps many dogs stay healthy a decade or more, and Toy dogs sometimes double that and age gracefully well into their twenties. Learn more about what is considered old in dogs here.

A longer life increases the odds dogs develop “old fogie” problems, though. That’s why I wrote the book Complete Care for Your Aging Dog because medical help is important–but the book also explains how you can keep your old-timer happy and healthy.

Heck, I am so much a believer in the fact that senior dogs can still have fun and remain engaged in life, that Bruno (a senior citizen tracking dog) plays a featured role in my thriller LOST AND FOUND (which, by the way, is free for joining my mailing list).

8 Old Dog Health Conditions

Here’s a quick sample of some of the simple and/or inexpensive tips for dealing with these 8 common aging dog issues.

  1. Arthritis can affect all dogs but large breeds are most prone. Extra weight puts greater stress on the joints. Achy joints cause limping, difficulty climbing stairs or getting up after naps. A heating pad placed under the dog’s bed soothes creaky joints. Gentle massage, as well as OTC supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine-type products, also helps. Low impact exercise—walks or swimming—and slimming down pudgy pooches delays problems. Provide steps—even a cardboard box—to help old dogs navigate stairs or hop onto the sofa. You can also offer supplements that help with arthritis.
  2. Dogs suffer from cataracts more than any other species, but blindness rarely slows them down. They compensate by relying more on the sense of smell and hearing. Owners may not notice vision loss unless the dog visits unfamiliar surroundings. Avoid rearranging furniture so blind dogs can rely on their memory of familiar landmarks. Baby gates placed near stairs protect blind dogs from falling. Avoid startling blind dogs by announcing your presence before walking near or petting. Blind dogs enjoy games with noisy toys they can hear or hide-and-seek with strongly scented objects.
  3. Constipation affects many old dogs. When they stop moving on the outside, the inside movement slows down, too. A treat of a half cup milk, or 1 to 3 teaspoons of nonflavored Metamucil twice a day (depending on the size of the dog), or high fiber foods like raw carrot or canned pumpkin help keep things moving. Most dogs like the taste of pumpkin or squash. That can also help control canine flatulence (gassy dogs).
  4. Is he ignoring your commands? Sleeping too much? He could be deaf. Hearing naturally fades with age, but you can compensate by using vibration and hand signals. Stomp your foot to get his attention. Then use a flashlight switched on/off to call him inside, or the porch light to signal dinner is served. Vibrating collars also work well to communicate with deaf dogs.
  5. Eighty percent of dogs have dental problems by age three, and the risk increases 20 percent for each year of the dog’s life. Enzymes in special “dental diets” and meat-flavored pet toothpaste helps break down plaque. Offer dental chews, rawhides, a chew-rope covered with dog toothpaste, or even apples and carrots for healthy tooth-cleaning chews.
  6. Does she leave a wet spot where she sleeps? Incontinence refers to a loss of bladder tone, and it mostly affects old lady spayed dogs. Prescription drugs may help, but management is equally important. Increase her potty breaks, and pick up water bowls two hours before bedtime. Toddler “pull up” pants work for some dogs or choose doggy diapers to help contain the urine.
  7. Forty to 50 percent of dogs aged five to twelve are overweight. Obesity often affects aging dogs because they exercise less but eat the same amount. Extra weight makes arthritis worse. Feed smaller meals inside puzzle toys so that the dog takes longer to eat and feels more satisfied as she works to earn her kibble.
  8. Thirty percent of dogs aged 11 to 12 show one or more signs of senility—canine Alzheimer’s. Affected dogs act confused, forget to ask to go outside, cry, and may not recognize you. This heartbreaking condition often causes owners to put dogs to sleep when symptoms develop. A prescription of Anipryl from your vet temporarily reverses signs in about 30-60 percent of dogs, but the supplement Cholodin also works pretty well. Two commercial foods (Hill’s Prescription b/d, and Purina Pro Plan Senior 7+ Original) also reverse signs for a while in some dogs. The saying “use it or lose it” also applies to dogs, so delay the onset of senility by exercising the doggy brain with obedience drills, interactive play, and puzzles.

What are some other “home care” tips that have worked well for YOUR “golden oldie” dog? Have you discovered some awesome care product that makes life easier for you, and more comfy for your pet? What are the “old dog” issues that you deal with? It’s never too late to spoil your dog. Please share!


I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. NOTE: Bling, Bitches & Blood sometimes shares affiliate links to products that may help you with your pets, but we only share what we feel is appropriate.

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!

 

Caring For Your Aging Cat: 9 Common Conditions & What To Do

Caring For Your Aging Cat: 9 Common Conditions & What To Do

November is Adopt A Senior Pet Month–celebrating old cats. Adopting a mature kitty can mean years of furry love–Seren nearly lived to celebrate her 22nd birthday, and still rules my heart from beyond the Rainbow Bridge. She inspired my work in countless ways, and also gave me first-hand (paw?) experience for caring for aging cats.

Dealing with Old Cat Health

Seren-kitty not only inspired my Complete Kitten Care book when she was a take-no-prisoners baby, but she also inspired the Complete Care for Your Aging Cat book several years later.

old Siamese cat

And Seren inspired me every day when my own creaky joints acted up. Getting older is NOT for weenies, but it’s not a sentence for chaining yourself (or your cat) to a rocking chair. These days, Karma-Kat has reached “middle age” but we’ve already begun some of these old cat health aids. Learn what’s considered “old” in cats in this blog post.

Of course, cancer also affects our old pets, and we see a higher incidence of breast cancer in Siamese cats. But there are also some simple and/or inexpensive ways from the book that owners can help keep an aging cat happy and healthy.

9 Old Cat Health Conditions

  1. About 75 percent of senior cats have arthritis. When creaky joints hurt, she can’t perform cat-yoga stretches to groom herself and may become matted. Place kitty’s bed under a lamp for soothing heat to loosen up creaky joints. Gentle massage works well, and over-the-counter supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine-type products also help.
  2. Does the water bowl run dry? Does your cat urinate a lot? Diabetes could be an issue. High protein diets can reverse diabetes in some cats—your vet will determine this. Meanwhile, add litter boxes on each floor and both ends of the house so kitty has quick access to the facilities.
  3. Old cats often get fat, which aggravates arthritis and can lead to obesity. Slim tubby tabbies by setting the food bowl on top of a cat tree so she must move to eat. And place a portion of her meal inside a puzzle toy so she must “hunt” to shake out the food. I use cat puzzle toys for Karma-Kat to keep his furry tail moving.
  4. Deaf cats often become more vocal and “holler” from the next room when they can’t hear you. Use vibration or visual cues to alert your deaf pet to your presence. Stomp your foot when you enter the room, for example, or flick lights on and off to avoid startling the cat.
  5. With age, cats lose their sense of smell so that food is less appealing and they snub the bowl. Heat makes odors more pungent. Zapping the food in the microwave for 10 seconds may be all that’s necessary to stimulate a flagging appetite.
  6. Constipation develops when the cat’s digestion doesn’t “move” as well as in youth. Added fiber can promote regularity. Many cats love the flavor of canned pumpkin, a natural high fiber treat. Buy a large can, and divide into single servings in ice cube trays, and freeze—then thaw just what you need. Once or twice a week should be enough to keep kitty regular.
  7. Seventy-five percent of cats have dental problems by age two, and the risk increaaging cat bookses 20 percent for each year of your cat’s life. Commercial “dental diets” can be helpful, as can chicken or malt-flavored pet toothpaste. Offer a taste of toothpaste as a treat—the enzyme action breaks down plaque even if kitty won’t let you brush her teeth. Also, entice your cat to chew by offering thumb-size hunks of cooked steak. For toothless cats that have trouble eating dry foods, run small amounts of dry food in the blender with low-salt chicken broth for a softer alternative.
  8. Blind cats adjust so well and the loss is so gradual that you may not notice a problem—until you rearrange the furniture. So status quo your décor to help your cat can remember a mental map of the household. Place baby gates at stairs or other danger zones to protect blind cats from a misstep. Offer fair warning with sound cues about your location to prevent startling the blind cat. Scent can help identify important landmarks for the cat. Try dabbing a bit of mint on wall corners or tying catnip toys to furniture. “Bell” the other pets so the blind cat knows they’re near.
  9. Senility—yes, cats can get kitty Alzheimer’s, especially those over 14 years. These felines become confused, forget where to potty, cry, and may not recognize you. It’s heartbreaking for pets and owners alike. The drug Anipryl from your vet temporarily reverses signs in a percentage of cats, but the supplement Cholodin FEL also works pretty well. Delay the onset of senility in all cats by exercising the feline brain with play, games and puzzles.

What are some other “home care” tips that have worked well for YOUR “golden oldie” kitty? Have you discovered some awesome care product that makes life easier for you, and more comfy for your pet? What are the “old cat” issues that you deal with? Please share!


I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. NOTE: Bling, Bitches & Blood sometimes shares affiliate links to products that may help you with your pets, but we only share what we feel is appropriate.

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!

National Dog Week: Top 6 Popular Puppy Posts

National Dog Week: Top 6 Popular Puppy Posts

It’s NATIONAL DOG WEEK! How will you spend your celebration? Wait, your dog didn’t tell you? Well, for Bravo, it’s “dog week” every week of the year, but the “official” celebration takes place the 4th week of September every year — and has been celebrated since the first event in 1928.

Captain William Judy, a WWI veteran (Silver Star recipient) and dog lover, launched the first week-long celebration to honor the loyalty and service of our canine companions. He purchased and continued to publish Dog World magazine, and advocated for dogs his entire life. National Dog Week every year offers a focus for doggy fundraising activities, adoption ops, volunteer assistance programs, and canine education for everyone who shares their life (and maybe a pillow) with a dog.

I’ve offered puppy proofing tips for National Puppy Day and posted a popular roundup back in 2012 from my puppies.about.com features. But the popularity ranking has changed. So now I’m celebrating National Dog Week with this roundup of my latest top 6 puppy posts on the blog. Some of the popular (or is that pup-ular?) content may surprise you.

cleaning potty accidents

#1: Puppy Diarrhea

Yes, the top performing post on my blog these days is all about puppy diarrhea, home remedies, and when to call the vet. This post explains the various reasons behind the problem, with some home remedies. It also offers guidelines how long you can safely wait before you must call the veterinarian. Puppies are fragile little critters and diarrhea and/or puppy vomiting can turn deadly very quickly.

swallowed objects

#2: Swallowed Objects

Oh my, this is a real concern at my house these days! Bravo-Pup must have something in his mouth, it seems, pretty much all the time. We go outside for a potty break, and he first must find a stick or rock to carry around. In the house, his chew toys must be supervised to be sure small pieces aren’t ingested. This post details the dangers of swallowed inedibles, the signs of problems, and what you can do if you see your pooch gulp the wrong thing.

dog tail injury

#3: Dog Tail Injuries

This topic ranking so high in popularity surprises me. There must be a LOT of happy tail-waggers out there! If your Labrador or other tail-injury-prone pooch needs trauma attention, this post offers some tips for treating your pup’s injured ass-ets.

#4: Puppy Temperament Tests

When you’re looking for that next pup-of-your-dreams, how can you predict personality? The answer — you can’t, not with any guarantees. That said, there are well-known breed tendencies, and temperament tests performed correctly also offers insights. Read this post to learn what puppy temperament tests can (and cannot) predict, before your next furry wonder adoption day.

introduce dogs to cats

#5: Introducing A New Puppy to Cats

Yep, lots of folks acquire youngsters while they have resident pets. Proper intros can make the transition go smoother. At our house, we had to introduce Bravo to Karma-Kat and teach him that kitty is the boss and can whip your furry tail into shape (he still does that, even though Bravo now outweighs Karma more than 10-to-one).

puppy development

#6: Puppy Development: Birth to 2 Years

Well, there are a lot of new owners out there who want to know what to expect. Did you know that different breeds mature at slightly different rates? Or that newborns can’t regulate body temperature–in most cases that means they can die from hypothermia (the cold) but in this heat wave I suspect newborn pups might also be at risk for heatstroke.

It follows, I suppose, that folks want to know what to expect AFTER the adoption. How old was your pup when he came to live with you? Magic was 8 weeks old, but our first shepherd came to live with us at five months, and Bravo arrived at 12 weeks. And when does junior-dog become an adult? When can you expect juvenile delinquent behavior to kick in?

Okay, it’s your turn. What do YOU have planned for National Dog Week? Why do you think these subjects top the popularity list? Have you had issues or interest with any of them? What are other subjects that deserve more attention? I’m scheduling my puppy-licious writing calendar for the future months, so please send me suggestions!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. NOTE: Bling, Bitches & Blood sometimes shares affiliate links to products that may help you with your pets, but we only share what we feel is appropriate.

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.

sparkle 001

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.

sparkles2 002

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.

I 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.

Note: The story first appeared in a short story collection titled Christmas Cats: A Literary Companion (Chamberlain Bros. 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? 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!

 

Fat Cat? Fight Kitty Obesity with 8 Ways to Slim A Cat

Fat Cat? Fight Kitty Obesity with 8 Ways to Slim A Cat

Is your cat fluffy or a fat cat? Kitty obesity is defined as exceeding ideal body weight by 20 percent. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s annual study, 55.8% of dogs and 59.5% of cats are overweight or obese. Fat cats tend to carry a “pouch” of fat low in the tummy, but seem of average size otherwise. If you can’t feel the pet’s ribs, and/or she has a pendulous or bulging tummy, your pet is too plump.

I’ve been head-down busy working on the next book projects (shhh, news to come!) and haven’t posted in a while. But today, I released the next installment in my CAT FACTS, The Series, which covers feline obesity. So I hope today’s post is a help to you and your feline friends.

CAT FACTS, THE SERIES only from Amy’s Newsletter

You’ll find more detailed information about feline obesity inCat Facts, The Series 15 (O): The Pet Parent’s A-to-Z Home Care Encyclopedia which includes these topics:

Obesity, Otitis, and Outdoor Shelter.

I’ve broken the massive CAT FACTS book into catnip-size alpha-chapter sections. Folks can choose which ones they most need. Each chapter will release every week or so, but ONLY for subscribers on my Amy’s Newsletter Of course, you can still get the entire CAT FACTS book either in Kindle or 540+ pages of print.

fat cat liver disease

Overweight cats that stop eating are at higher risk for fatty liver disease.

I’m fortunate that Seren-kitty has always been petite, a good eater but not overly pudgy. She doesn’t even have that tummy pouch. In her case, she’s always been very active and I think that’s one reason she remains so healthy even at nearly 21 years old.

Karma-Kat tends to put on the pudge, even though he’s very picky, compared to Seren. She’ll eat just about anything and never gains an ounce. Personally, my own metabolism is closer to Karma’s than to Seren. Drat!

If your tabby is tubby, why should you care? Obesity increases risk for diabetes, and is an aggravating factor in heart problems, arthritis, and skin problems.

fat cat thin cat

Common Causes for Fat Felines

Spaying and neutering won’t make kitty fat, but does reduce metabolic rate—how fast and efficiently food is use—by 15 to 20 percent. So unless food intake and exercise are adjusted after surgery, cats can gain weight.

Middle aged and older cats also tend to gain weight. Part of that may be due to changes in aging senses. While feline appetite is stimulated by scent, veterinary experts say a partial reduction in smell sense prompts cat to eat more food.

Indoor-only cats exercise less since they don’t have to chase mice to survive. Couch-potato pets fed high-calorie tasty foods often overeat either out of boredom or from being over-treated by owners.

8 Ways to Slim A Cat

Your vet should rule out potential health complications beforehand. Kitty crash diets can prompt deadly liver problems, called hepatic lipidosis. It’s best to aim for losing only about 1 percent of kitty’s starting weight per week. Medical supervision or a special therapeutic weight-loss diet prescribed by the vet may be necessary for obese cats. But for moderately overweight kitties, these tips work well.

  1. Curb Snacks. Eliminating or reducing treats easily cuts calories. Instead, reserve part of the kitty’s regular diet—a handful of kibble, for instance. Keep it handy to dispense as “treats” when Kitty pesters, or reward with attention, not treats. (Ooooooh I can hear the cats now yowling, “No fair!”
  2. Meal Feed. Rather than keeping the bowl full for all day nibbling, switch to meal feeding measured amounts. Divide the daily food allotment into four or even five small meals keep her from feeling deprived. Multiple small meals increase the body’s metabolic rate, so she burns more calories faster. (Hey, this works for me, too, when I can manage to do it.)
  3. Offer Diet Foods. Reducing diets typically replace fat in the food with indigestible fiber, dilute calories with water, or “puff up” the product with air. “Senior” diets typically have fewer calories, so switching older pets to an age-appropriate formula helps. “Lite” diets aren’t magical and only mean the food has less calories than the same brand’s “regular” food—it might have more calories than another company’s food. Some cats eat more of the diet food to make up for lost calories, so you still have to measure the meals. Be sure to check with your vet before deciding to make major nutrition changes, though.
  4. Go For A Walk.  Make twice-daily 20 minute exercise part of your routine. Cats won’t power walk, but a slow to moderate stroll at the end of the leash once or twice a day around the house or garden will help burn energy.
  5. Schedule Play. Interactive play is the best way to encourage feline exercise. Feather toys or fishing-pole lures that the cat will chase are ideal. Some cats learn to play fetch if you toss tiny wads of paper across the room or down the stairs. Entice your cat to chase the beam of a flashlight. Or toss kitty kibble for the cat to pounce and munch.
  6. Create A Hunt. Put food at the top or bottom of the staircase, or on a cat tree so kitty has to get off her pudgy nether regions to eat. If she can’t manage stairs or leaps, put the bowl on a chair and provide a ramp up so he’s burning a few calories. Setting the bowl across the house from Fluffy’s bed also forces her to move.
  7. Puzzle The Cat. Commercial treat balls and interactive feeders are great options. Place one or two meal portions inside kitty puzzles so he must work to get the food. This can solve portion control, exercise, and the pester factor all in one.
  8. Automatic Feeders. When you must be gone during the day, consider using an automatic feeder. Some have refrigerated units to offer fresh canned food servings from locked compartments at timed intervals

How do you handle your pudgy kitty? Does he or she eat a special diet, or do you try to increase exercise in some way? What tricks work for your clowder, please share! Obesity impacts more than looks. It’s also a longevity issue. Overweight cats have an increased risk for dying in middle age. A slim cat enjoys all nine of her lives.

 

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Note: Upon occasion, links to books or other products may be included in posts, from which I may be paid an advertising fee or earn a small affiliate fee, but BLING, BITCHES & BLOOD only shares information I feel is relevant to my readers. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? 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!

Dog Car Training Tips: Dogs Travel in Style with a Licensed to Drive!

GSD Pup Temp Test
My first dog HATED car rides and would shiver, shake and cry the entire time inside the vehicle. That’s probably because he got car sick during his first-ever ride, and then later he began to associate the ride with vet visits and being left behind at a boarding kennel. No wonder he turned into a basket case! That was more than 20 years ago and I’ve learned a LOT since then.

We did things different with Magical-Dawg. And as a result, he loved car rides. He would drive the car if I let him.

Even if your dog is a reluctant rider, you can transform his hangdog attitude into a fun-loving car ride fanatic. Basically, you use desensitization to help the dog associate cars with fun, happy experiences instead of scary memories of vet visits. Once your furry friend realizes a car ride means wonderful things he’ll look forward to trips–and he might even want to buy his own car!

He got his Dog Tested. Dog Approved.TM license. Just sayin…*s* I’m afraid that gave Magical-Dawg ideas…I already had to hide the car keys.

Bravo-Dawg, though, is another reluctant car rider. Scroll down for tips we used to change his canine mind.

MagicDriversLicense

Note: This “fake” dog license is no longer available.

Make mealtime car time. For very frightened dogs just set the bowl next to the car. If he’ll hop into the back seat, feed him there and make the car his go-to-dinner spot for a week. In between times, throw treats in the open car door for the dog to find, and play fun games near the car. He should learn that only these good things in life happen when you’re near the car.

Take the Wheel. For the next step, when your dog is having fun pigging out int he back seat or gnawing that puzzle toy, get in the front seat behind the steering wheel. Just sit there for a while, no big deal, then get out, so the pet understands nothing scary happens when you’re in the car with him. Do this for one day.

Start Your Engines. The next day, when you’re behind the wheel and your puppy’s munching treats in the back seat, start the car. Then turn off the motor and get out without going anywhere. Do this three or four times during the day until the pet takes it as a matter of course.

Drive the Driveway. Finally, after you start the car, back the car to the end of the driveway and stop—do this two or three times in a row, always letting the pooch out after you return. If he whines or paces or shows stress, you may be moving too fast for him. The process takes forever! but it works.

Reward Bravery. Don’t commiserate with whiny dogs–if you say “poor baby” and whine back, he’ll think he’s right to be concerned! Cheer him along, with jolly phrases, “Isn’t this FUN?! Car ride to the park to play ball!” and use words he likes (play, ball, treat) to change his car attitude.

Increase Duration. Increasing car-time by increments—a trip around the block and home, a trip to the park and home, a trip to a drive-through restaurant, and home. Go somewhere you know your dog will enjoy—get him French fries at the nearest fast food restaurant, or a doggy treat from the tellers at the bank. Make every car trip upbeat and positive so the experience makes the dog look forward to the next trip.

Ride Safe. Be sure your pet stays in the back seat rather than riding on your lap. These fun Subaru videos are just that–lots of tongue-in-furry-cheek fun but safety always comes first. Just as kids can be injured by airbags, your pets can be crushed even inside a carrier. Even though dogs WANT to drive, they can become furry projectiles in accidents, or get in the way of safe drivers when in your lap or under the pedals.

Do your dogs love cars? How have you persuaded reluctant passengers to go the extra mile? Please share–and let me know how you like your doggy license! Betcha we could get a whole FLEET of dog-driven car maniacs, LOL!

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

How Do You Say Love? Dog Tested. Dog Approved.™

Each year Subaru of America celebrates the love between our owners and their dogs with a dog-specific campaign. Subaru challenged bloggers to share how we incorporate our dogs to be a part of our family and why they are important family members.

I’m incredibly fortunate to not only get to take my Magical-Dawg with me to work each day, when I commute up the stairs, but to also have him (and Seren-Kitty) as an intrinsic part of my work. So I wanted to share some picture examples.

Subaru has their own ideas. Be sure to scroll down and watch a hilarious video from Subaru. And stay tuned to learn more about a fun (and addictive!) Subaru Facebook ap where you can create a doggy driver’s license, ask advice (from dogs!) and more. Here’s a sneak peak.

tan boy 17 days

Magic at 17 days old.

I scented some socks with “puppy smell” to bring home and share with Seren-kitty. At this point I’d already rearranged my work schedule, and added puppy gates and a crate to the kitchen, in preparation for his home-coming. I wanted to be sure he transitioned into our family, and didn’t put the cat’s tail into too much of a twist!

Magic w-chewie b

First day home.

Magic inherited the big ceramic water and food bowls that belonged to our first shepherd. Here at 8 weeks old and 11 pounds (his first day home with us!) it’s hard to imagine he’ll ever grow into them. During these first weeks, he stayed in the kitchen during the day (and I moved the laptop there to work). In the evenings he got to spend time in the living room with us–Seren-kitty was NOT amused! Magic even accompanied me to theater rehearsals in the evening–and discovered he LOVES car rides. The other actors vied over who got to puppy-sit while I was on stage.

7-31 Magic & Seren

Together at last!

It took two months and lots of bribes to bring these two together (Seren loves Philly cream cheese!). The introduction process between these two was documented in a case study presented online and published in the IAABC journal. Yes, Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty are not only part of my family, they are what makes my career a success. I call them my “furry muses.”

11 month magic and seren

Seren’s still “top dawg” but that’s fine with Magic.

Now at 6-1/2 years old and 85 pounds, Magic and sixteen-year-old Seren actually get along very well. He’d still like her to play tug with his toy, but she’s given up plotting to get rid of him. Most evenings, after I’ve FINALLY shut down the computer for the night, Seren curls up on my lap while Magic squeezes himself onto the footrest to keep my toes warm.

We are family. As it should be.

How do your dogs fit into your family? What do you do to make them feel special and incorporate them into your day to day living?

Subaru suggests putting your dog in touch with Grant Weber, Subaru Canine Sales Associate. If you’re a dog, and you’re looking for a Subaru, head on down to see Grant Weber. You’ll leave with your tail held high. Here’s a teaser (below) but Seren-kitty has been LOL about this one–check it out!

Please also share the fun on Facebook.

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

Feral Cats, TNR & Cat Fancy Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defining TNR

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

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

In The Beginning…

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

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

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

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

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

Hisses And Purrs

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

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

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

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

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

Looking for Common Ground

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cars for Dogs & Happy Yappy Appy for Puppy Bowl!

app

You can download it now–just click the picture–it goes live on Sunday.

That’s right, thanks to Subaru, there’s now a FREE APP for your tablet or mobile devices that works in unison with the broadcast as well as re-broadcasts. I’m not a techie, but am told somehow the sounds during the Puppy Bowl broadcast trigger activity on the app similar to Shazam technology.

So would you call that a Yappy Appy that makes me happy? 🙂 As you watch the Puppy Bowl live on TV, the Puppy Bowl Plus application dishes up treat-worthy content from Subaru to interact and engage with. But I couldn’t wait until Sunday so put together a bit of a teaser in this video.

Hey, with me being such a fan of Puppy Bowl and the Magical-Dawg a car-ride addict, I had to blog about this year’s Subaru of America gone-to-the-dogs campaign that celebrates the love between owners and their dogs. This year their Dog Tested. Dog Approved.™ campaign introduces Grant Weber, Subaru Canine Sales Associate, who sells the cars only to dogs.

Seren wants to know where the Cat Car Salesmen are? At least the Puppy Bowl includes a Kitten Halftime Show.

Gee, and this post comes right on the furry heels of my Wednesday post asking can we spoil pets too much! But these videos tickled me so much, I had to share several. Just click the links, enjoy!

Grant Weber shows a dog around the car lot–but a cat beats ’em to the paw-punch!

Too much of a good thing? Lots of room for a canine tailgate party.

Canine financing, dogged decisions–paw-tograph on the dotted line.

Okay, folks, would you buy a car for your dog? Do you plan to watch Puppy Bowl? I have to admit, we did choose our latest vehicle with Magical-Dawg in mind–but had to find a doggy grate to keep him out of the driver’s seat. What are your canine car tails, to tell!

Let me know how you like the Puppy Bowl Co-Viewing App.  You can download it now and be ready when it goes live on Sunday. Oh…and please Share the fun on Facebook.

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

Seren’s 16th Birthday Catnip Bash!

Today’s Seren-kitty’s birthday! Well, it’s the day we’ve chosen to celebrate, anyway. It’s been a week long celebration, though, and she’s never at a loss for toys when terrific companies like Nekochan Enterprises sends kitty fun for a review.

I’ve been bad, they sent the Neko Critter toys back before Christmas and I’ve been so covered up the review was late. Actually I’ve reviewed some of the Neko Flies before here, where they got a 5-star rating. This time around I’ll give a 5-star rating to the Foxifur Kittenator (Seren’s fav!) and a 4-star to the Kiticatterfly, but the third one (Kattipede) is segmented and easily chomped in two. I can see how it might be the cat’s fav but it could prove deadly if swallowed. In fact, a couple of my colleagues tested the toys with their cats and the kitties DID chomp this one in half. Check out what Seren thought of the toys in her video (forgive the bad light, it was a stormy cloudy day).

Oh, and just for fun, I also caught Seren on camera drunk out of her fuzzy head on high-quality ‘nip. That’s the second video…and the music is from our KURVES, THE MUSICAL show. I figured Seren needed some fun audio to go along with her antics.

What are some other fun ways to celebrate pet birthdays? We talked a bit about it on the Monday Mentions blog but let your virtual cat out of the bag to tell everyone what YOUR cat craves?

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

Pet Pampering: Going Too Far?

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there’s ample opportunity to pamper our furry wonders. We all love our pets–or we wouldn’t have ‘em. I’m all for spoiling dogs and cats, within reason–and when it doesn’t cause other problems.

My dog Magic gets a bit of people food now and then. He’s even allowed on the sofa upon occasion, and receives far too many doggy toys to count, despite disemboweling the squeakers in record time. . .

Oh, who am I kidding! He gets a LOT of people food (he loves broccoli), the end of the couch is his spot, and he usually beats me to bed in the evening.

Serendipity-kitty gets her share of lap snuggles, on demand. She could care less about commercial toys, but also enjoys treats from my plate, especially ice cream. And I found a deep blue leash that matches her stunning eyes for the ultimate in fashionable pampering.

There’s reason behind some pet products. I have no problem with folks dressing up collars and leashes with colorful patterns. Some pets actually benefit from wearing sweaters to keep them warm in frigid temperatures–check out these cold weather tips–or protected from sunburn pain. Special treats that don’t upset the digestion or proper nutrition can help with bonding and training. Heated pet beds ease doggy arthritis, and water fountains encourage kitties to drink and reduce problems with urinary concerns. Heck, even painting the dog (or cat’s) toenails is a harmless indulgence, and those colorful nail covers like SoftPaws actually prevent clawing and digging.

But can pampering go too far?

One obvious example of going too far is treats. We’re loving our pets to death and creating fat cats and dumpy dogs. That predisposes them to all the same health problems that overweight owners risk–arthritis, diabetes and more.

But what about fun products? Can a dog or cat have too many toys? DON’T ask the pets, you know what they’ll answer. 🙂

I receive an enormous number of press releases either in the regular mail or via the Internet. They promote everything from kitty bling to doggy tuxedos–what else should the pampered pet wear to a wedding, right? They also offer all kinds of cat and dog toys that frankly appeal more to the human than the furry consumer. Heck, I’d wear some of that pet jewelry, if it came in my size! *ahem*

A couple of years ago I got a pitch for a Father’s Day gift from Hyper Products for dog toys that appeal to both the fur-kids and Dad. These include the “doggy driver” golf clubs that loft dog balls into the air to chase (“practice your swing and delight your dog”); baseball bats that do the same thing, and slingshot-like mechanisms able to launch balls and toys 220+ feet. I have to say the idea of swinging a club for the dog to chase a ball scares me when I think of Magic trying to grab the club and getting wacked in the teeth. I notice that the golf clubs and baseball bat options now are absent from the website so perhaps the company heard me (and others) express concern. I’ve gotta say, the dog doesn’t care  how you throw “whatever” toy or ball–just that it gets thrown. The idea of dog toys made from “balistic material” must be mucho-macho appealing to some dog owners, though.

On the other side of macho appeal, you get the “cutesy-diva-fashion” appeal. Harmless, right? Well I had an “oh-my-heavens!” moment when I got a promotion for a “puppy purse of the month” club.

I’m not making this up.

It’s designed for the smaller “portable” size dogs (or even cats). You strap the pet into the little designer sack so his feet dangle through the holes. He has a “purse handle” attached on his back, or a longer strap for over-the-shoulder portability. That’s right, this product turns your pet into a fashion accessory. The owner can then carry the pet over a shoulder like a living, breathing briefcase and the pet’s fuzzy feet never touch the ground. The puppy purse product line comes in all sorts of fabric and patterns.

Just shoot me.

There is so much wrong with this, I don’t know where to begin. I’m appalled.

Certainly pets may enjoy going places with you. Maybe an ill or injured pet (as described in the product benefits) might be conveniently toted with one of these. And I’ll agree there are benefits to keeping the small dogs safe and out from under our feet (or within bite-range of larger dogs). However, more small dogs get bitten and attacked by larger dogs when dangled from the arms of a fearful owner.

More than that, dogs and cats are living, breathing, thinking creatures. You don’t turn them into luggage! If you take a look at some of these doggy models, their body language reads anything but delighted–and pampering and spoiling should be something the pet likes. I can only imagine the nasty comments my cat Seren might make if presented with one of these outfits.

Give ‘em toys, for sure. Lavish attention, absolutely. Dress yourself up and accessorize with jewelry et al. But when pampering transforms our pets into mere fashion statements, I gotta draw a line in the kitty litter. Give me a break!

What “oh-my-doG” kinds of pet products raise your hackles? Am I all wet about the puppy purses? What do you think?

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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, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Animal Attacks! Raccoon Video Caution

A couple of weeks ago my Magical-Dawg got a wonderful surprise—for him—and a heart-stopping scare, for me. As he dashed to retrieve one of his Frisbees, he caught the movement/scent/who-knows-what of a critter. Yes, Magic dashed off (with Frisbee firmly in mouth) to make friends with an injured and/or sick raccoon. Thank goodness he came away when I called, and had no toothy contact, or I’d really be shaking in my rain boots. I returned after an hour, and the critter was still there so I took pictures and shot the video, below.

It’s not just raccoons and coyotes in our neck of the woods. All sorts of animals can pose a risk to your pets–even hawks and owls may swoop down and grab up an unwary kitty or small dog. What kinds of wildlife do you deal with, and how do you keep your pets safe? I wrote an article about the dangers of animal attacks.

But what did I miss? Oooh, just realized I didn’t mention alligators, a problem in many southern states. What else is important for pet owners to understand? Heck, anyone with small children especially toddlers also can be at risk.

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

Guest Post at Sheila Bonham’s Blog

drop dead indd_final (519x800)Yesterday I was bad. *hanging head* I almost forgot to send my guest post to the amazing talented dog mystery author Sheila Bonham’s WRITING ON WEDNESDAY blog.  It’s been crazy, and I’ve had soooo many guest posts and special blogs scheduled that if she hadn’t sent me a gentle reminder, I’d have missed out altogether. So even though it’s a day late, I like to return the favor by a shout-out of warm wags and suchlike and send you to visit her terrific site.

Sheila writes the new Animals In Focus mystery series, with the first book Drop Dead On Recall just recently released. I’ve known Sheila and admired her dog writing work for many years–we both started out with nonfiction and are members of the Dog Writers Association of America–and now International Thriller Writer debut authors. Anyway, my guest post is all about 7 TIPS FOR ACCIDENTAL WRITER SUCCESS.

Oh, and to top off this thrilling Thursday theme and in time for the holidays, sign up for a book give away (below). Happy to paw-tograph to the winners. And looky, there’s only a few signed up so far so your chances are pretty good.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Lost And Found by Amy Shojai

Lost And Found

by Amy Shojai

Giveaway ends December 25, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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

Lost and Found: THE NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP

Welcome to the NEXT  BIG THING blog hop.

What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way that readers can discover new authors, because with bookstores closing and publishers not promoting new authors as much, we need to find a way to introduce readers to authors they may not see in their local bookstore. So I get to give a shout-out to the wonderful author who invited me to this “dance” and then invite (and highlight) five more terrific authors at the end of the blog.

Debut thriller author Donna Galanti invited me to join the “hop” and I’d met her first by email and later in person at Thrillerfest last summer. Her paranormal suspense novel, A Human Element, is a spooky, thrilling read–don’t take my word for it. NY Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry calls her story, “an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart.” See the links at the end for to five other authors you really MUST check out. Check out Donna Galanti’s website here, and you can buy A HUMAN ELEMENT at amazon or B&N or even iTunes.

Magic homecoming 3

What’s going on inside that furry head? …my answer is in LOST AND FOUND.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My dog Magic inspired me to write this book. For years I’ve looked for a book that I wanted to read, one that included thrills and made the hear trace, a story that incorporated medical issues, and above all, one that respected animal characters as ANIMALS and wrote them from that perspective–not as little humans wearing fur. Finally I wrote the book that I wanted to read.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The story is science based. Yes, there really are drugs given to children without having been tested on the children. And yes, dogs CAN learn vocabulary just as quickly as Shadow does in the “name game” scene. And finally yes, cats can be trained–and Macy’s “hero cat” scene where she “nails” the bad guys at the end is also based on something that really happened.

Below you will find authors (in no particular order) who will be joining me by blog, next Wednesday. Do be sure to bookmark and add them to your calendars for updates on WIPs and New Releases! Happy Writing and Reading!

  1. Clea Simon writes awesome cat-centric mysteries and I know her through membership in the Cat Writers Association. Check out her great blog at Cats, Crime & Rock & Roll
  2. Arden Moore, America’s Pet Edu-Tainer, writes terrific cat and dog care books, one of which was ranked #3 of ALL BOOKS on amazon!  In a former life Arden was my editor, and we share a birthday (one month apart). She has some new books in the pipeline and blogs at Four Legged Life
  3. Carol Shenold has been in my writers group for more than 20 years and is one of my dearest friends and a talented tech writer and novelist. She writes paranormal mysteries. Learn about her work and check out her Monster Under The Bed blog.
  4. Check out Michael W. Sherer blog here. He writes terrific mysteries AND thrillers. I met him through Thriller Writers, and he invited me to participate in an AWESOME Kindle Fire give-away (plus some autographed books from famous thriller authors).
  5. Victor DiGenti (writing as Parker Francis) publishes mysteries and has also written award-winning YA cat fantasy. Like Clea, we also met through Cat Writers Association.

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

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