A couple of years ago when Karma-Kat started sneezing I worried. 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. And the new baby Trinity doesn’t sneeze but does cough now and then.
This time, we attributed 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.
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 & 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 the discounted paperback of 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!
It’s NATIONAL ADOPT A DOG MONTH! How will you spend your celebration? Wait, your dog didn’t tell you? Well, for Shadow, 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. But October celebrates dog adoptions all month long.
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.
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.
Oh my, this is a real concern at my house! Bravo-Pup always had to have something in his mouth, it seems, pretty much all the time. We’d go outside for a potty break, and he had to find a stick or rock to carry around. In the house, I have to supervise Shadow’s chew toys and keep the cat toys out of reach so he doesn’t eat them. 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.
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.
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.
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 Shadow to Karma-Kat and more recently to teen-tiny Trinity-Kitten to teach him that kitty is the boss and can whip your furry tail into shape (he still does that, even though Shadow now outweighs Karma more than 3-to-one).
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!
Some of my earliest bylines as a “pet journalist” appeared in Cat Fancy magazine. I got my first book contracts because a NYC editor read and liked a couple of my Cat Fancy articles. But the magazine sold in 2013, and published a final issue in 2015. Much of the content remains important and share-able. The last article I wrote for Cat Fancy (updated below) covered feral cats and TNR.
Feral Cats, Community Cats, TNR & New Research
There are an estimated 60 to 100 million free-roaming feral and community cats in the United States. They caterwaul from alleyways, give birth in woodpiles, and slink beneath dumpsters, eking out a meager existence on the scraps of civilization. Nobody knows how many live homeless and unloved, but wherever cats gather, controversy soon follows.
Caring cat lovers tried many “solutions” and opinions abound regarding the best way to deal with un-owned and feral felines. In the last decade, a small army of dedicated and caring cat advocates, including Riverfront Cats, and the Feral Cat Project (which lists several success stories!) believes that TNR is a viable and ethical answer. But it’s expensive, and labor intensive. What about other answers?
Research Helping Ferals
Clearly, we need new strategies beyond trap/neuter/release (TNR) programs. “The importance of finding viable, safe, humane and cost-effective techniques for nonsurgical sterilization in community cats cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Kathy Tietje, Vice President of Scientific Operations at Morris Animal Foundation. Two studies recently approved by Morris Animal Foundation addresses this issue with nonsurgical methods to control reproductive capacity. “We’re excited about these innovative projects and their impact on population control of this specific group of cats.” The projects begin in 2023 and should last 12-24 months.
Reducing the number of cats entering the shelter system and improving overall feline health outcomes are the primary drivers behind these new studies. This also reduces the environmental impact of free-roaming community cats through humane population control. The University of Georgia project aims to developing an oral vaccine to decrease male cat fertility by reducing reproductive hormone levels. The Tufts University project focuses on decreasing hormone levels in female cats through an injectable medication. Until then, TNR continues to lead the charge for feral cat welfare.
What is TNR?
TNR stands for “trap-neuter-return,” a program designed to control and decrease the numbers of roaming felines. Trapped cats receive a health exam to identify very sick cats, which are euthanized. Sterilizing healthy kitties and vaccinating prevents reproduction or contagious illnesses such as rabies.
Friendly adult cats and tame-able kittens are adopted while the feral (wild) adults live out their lives—sometimes a decade or longer—in the managed colony. The removal of one ear tip identifies these cats as managed. The caregiver(s) monitor the colony and provide food and shelter.
TNR In The Beginning…
TNR first appeared in Europe and became better known once animal welfare societies in Great Britain began advocating the approach more than 40 years ago. Louise Holton, an early proponent, first learned of TNR in the mid-1970s while living in South Africa. “I fed colonies of cats in Johannesburg,” she says. “As soon as they started talking about TNR, it just made sense to me, and I trapped my colonies and fixed them through the Johannesburg SPCA.”
It took longer for the idea to reach America. While working in animal protection, Becky Robinson noticed feral cats in downtown Washington, DC, at around the same time that Holton moved to the area. Animal welfare organizations offered no help. “I was pretty shocked when they said I should bring cats in for euthanasia,” says Holton. Believing education was the key, Holton founded Alley Cat Allies (ACA) in 1990 as an educational resource for humane methods of feral cat control. Today, ACA staff and directors continue the work.
The TNR concept gained national attention in 1995 when Joan Miller of the Cat Fanciers Association presented a talk on cat lifestyle diversity at the AVMA Animal Welfare Forum. The next year she and Dr. Patricia Olson (then affiliated with the American Humane Association) co-coordinated the first National Conference On Feral Cats in Denver. Presenters offered a variety of views, and concluded that national coordination was necessary. “Alley Cat Allies grew more rapidly after that,” says Miller.
The most common objections focus on protecting the cats themselves. People argue that as a domestic species, it’s our responsibility to keep cats safely confined. People dislike stray cats pestering their own pets or messing in their garden. But feral cats rarely tame or adapt to confinement.
The Vacuum Effect
Moving them becomes difficult when sanctuaries fill up. An area cleared of cats that offers hot or cold weather feral cat shelter and food quickly attracts more cats—a “vacuum effect” that argues for maintaining the colony in its original location. Even if trap and kill programs weren’t expensive and ineffective, most Americans dislike treating cats as vermin.
As an introduced or “exotic” species, critics such as the American Bird Conservancy argue we should remove cats from the environment to protect native wildlife, particularly endangered species. Cats cause the most problems where ecosystems are already in the most trouble, such as on island ecosystems where any predator is a problem. TNR is not a good choice in these fragile environments.
But proponents argue that mostly, cats hunt more rodents than birds, and usually only catch sick, old, or very young birds. “Cats get blamed for a lot of things, but it’s almost never just cats,” says Dr. Slater. For instance, rats also are an introduced species, and quite good predators of many birds. Robinson adds, “A bulldozer on a spring day probably does more damage to the ecosystem than a feral cat in his entire life.” Even critics of TNR often support the programs in situations such as barn cat relocation or city cat colonies, since they risk no endangered species.
Making A Difference for Feral Cats & TNR
Holton, now with Alley Cat Rescue, says they conducted a national survey of feral cats groups (in 2013). “This survey proves that Trap Neuter Return (TNR) works and that many groups and individuals volunteer their own time and their own money to control and stabilize the nation’s feral cat population.”
Most feral cat groups provide spay/neuter services to “owned” cats, as well as offering TNR services for ferals. This, of course, PREVENTS future colonies from forming.
Most (96%) of the TNR groups practice neuter-before-adoption for the stray cats they place in homes.
One quarter of the groups report that their colony cats are 6 to 8 years old. Thirty-five percent report their cats are between 9 and 12 years old, and over 14% report feral cats 13 years old and some even older!
96% of the groups provide rabies vaccinations to feral cats; 64% provide distemper; 11.76% provide feline leukemia shots; 62.18% deworm feral cats; 63.87% provide flea treatment.
One third reported that there were 26 to 30 kittens in each colony before TNR; 42.86% said there were 0-5 kittens in colonies after TNR.
71.42% said they had relocated some cats in their colonies — this means an immediate drop in numbers of cats in colonies, something that Alley Cat Rescue has experienced many times with our own colonies.
Sadly, 61.34% said their local animal control agencies do NOT offer TNR and 36% said animal control agencies had trapped and killed whole colonies in their areas. And as expected with trying total eradication, 27.73% said cats moved back into these areas where they were all trapped and killed, most within 2 to 3 months after the cats were removed.
Nearly all the groups (82.35%) educate the public about feral cats and TNR—65% say this has been “somewhat” effective, with 17.65% reporting their outreach programs to be extremely successful.
In response to “working with animal control,” this answer was split between most saying this was “difficult,” a little less reporting “somewhat successful” and 21% reporting “positively.”
Working on TNR with local city/government: Although only 15% found this easy to do, I think that is a positive indicator that we are moving in the right direction.
Sadly 57% reported that it was “difficult” trying to work with their local wildlife groups.
“We have come a long way since I started on this mission to promote TNR in 1990. Back then, there was only a handful of forward-thinking groups and individuals working on implementing TNR in America. [This survey by ACR] found nearly 700 groups and we will work on identifying more in the future.”
Looking for Common Ground for Feral Cat Control
There is common ground. People on both sides of the TNR fence agree we should sterilize community cats and feral felines, and safely confine them. “Rather than fighting over TNR, we need to think about how to turn off the source of cats,” says Dr. Slater. “There’s always going to be more cats if we can’t turn that faucet off.”
Feral cat programs have impacted our world in an intangible but perhaps even more important way. TNR demonstrates that all cats have a value, even those that can’t be touched. We as human beings now recognized our ethical responsibility toward these community cats and that they should be cared for and treated humanely.
“TNR changes public attitudes about the value of cats,” says Miller. “That message is enormous.”
If you know of an organization successfully using TNR, please drop the name and link in the comments section–let’s show ’em some purr-fect love!
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.
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.
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.
SIGNS 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:
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
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/
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.
What 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).
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 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:
katti or ket
Greek, kata or catta
Polish, kot or gatto
Russian, kots or koshka
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.
Do you know the signs of a cat urinary blockage? Do you know about FLUTD? Maybe you’re puzzled why your cat suddenly pees outside the box? Or maybe he strains and strains but can’t eliminate. Is it constipation? Or does he have a cat urinary blockage? How can I stop my cat from peeing on the carpet?
If you’re asking these questions, you’ve come to the right place. Feline lower urinary tract disorders (FLUTD) can cause deadly cat urinary blockage. It frustrates cat owners—and also the cats! A cat urinary blockage can be deadly, so it’s vital to recognize the signs of a feline urinary tract disorder. This post is dedicated to my friend Susan Richardson-Cripps and the memory of Heathcliff, a fun-loving orange boy.
Susan with Heathcliff, the early days…
Cat Urinary Blockage & Disorders
Your cat has always been faithful to the litter box. After all, you trained your kitten to use the litter box from the beginning. But suddenly your adult cat, Tom, leaves damp messages on the carpet, Sheba cries and squats right in front of you, and bloody urine puddles in the bathtub. This is different from urine spraying, and is a cry for help.
My dear friend Susan messaged me on a Friday evening, concerned her cat Heathcliff had constipation. Although he managed to defecate, he still seemed to have a lot of pain. He walked “funny” and meowed a lot. She’d called her vet but couldn’t get an appointment until Monday afternoon. I suggested the local emergency hospital, and the next morning, she took her orange boy there for an exam.
Some litter box problems can be easily solved with these tips. When your well-trained cat suddenly begins missing the mark, that can be a sign of a health problem. Any health issue requires veterinary help.
Cats with urinary tract disorders often spend lots of time just sitting in the box.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorders (FLUTD)
Cats are known to suffer from a group of disorders, including stones, as a part of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease or FLUTD. Male and female cats are affected equally. Urinary bladder stones occur in only about 20 percent of cats suffering from LUTD.
Actual “stones” of pebble-size and larger can develop. More commonly the tiny mineral deposits (called urolithiasis) are microscopic to sand-size. A mucous-crystal matrix can plug the urethra and prevent the bladder from emptying and cause cat urinary blockage. Just think back to your childhood, remember a never-ending car trip with no bathroom access. Multiply that discomfort tenfold to understand how the blocked cat feels.
Signs of Cat Urinary Blockage
Signs of urinary stones may include any one or combination of a break in housetraining, dribbling urine, straining in the litter box or spending lots of time “posing” with little result–this can look like constipation. When urine does pass it may contain blood, and/or have a strong ammonia smell. Affected cats may cry during urination, or excessively licking the genitals.
Diagnosis is based on these symptoms, urinalysis, and/or X-rays to reveal stones in the urinary tract. Without prompt medical attention, the blocked cat will die when toxins build up in the bloodstream, the kidneys stop working, or the bladder ruptures.
I love Heathcliff’s single freckle on his nose! He apparently loved to hunt and fetch snakes into the house, yikes!
Heathcliff’s Sad Experience
The veterinary emergency clinic examined Heathcliff and explained to Susan that his bladder had enlarged to softball size, filled with bloody urine and crystals. They anesthetized him to place a urinary catheter to help him pass the urine, and planned to prescribe pain medication and antibiotics to address possible infection. Tragically, five-year-old Heathcliff’s heart stopped after he came out of anesthesia, and didn’t survive despite attempts to save him.
“Our sweet boy was only five years old. How does this happen so fast to a beautiful and energetic cat? He went downhill so fast.” She hadn’t seen any bloody urine at all until at the clinic, and Heathcliff had acted like his normal, rambunctious self only a few hours earlier. “They did all they could to revive him, but our little guy just didn’t have the fight in him. I do want to say thank you to Christian and the staff at Grayson County Animal Emergency Clinic for the kindness they showed me and the gentleness they showed to Heathcliff.”
FLUTD & Creating Kitty Urinary Crystals
Not all stones are the same. Crystals and/or stones form when specific minerals and organic substances are present in the urine in the right concentrations. In addition, the urine must be the right pH (acid/base balance). It also must stay in the bladder long enough for crystals to form. Consider pancake syrup in a pan–if it sits still long enough, crystals form. Therefore, formation of stones depends on volume of urine, concentration and type of minerals, frequency of urination, and genetics.
Cats evolved as desert creatures, and consequently conserve water extremely well. They may urinate only once every 24 to 48 hours. That means urine sits in the bladder for long periods and becomes more and more concentrated. Cats also drink sparingly, and seem to prefer to get water from their diet rather than lapping from a bowl. These instinctive tendencies predispose felines to develop bladder stones. Some kinds of crystals like struvite can be managed easily with diet. Others like calcium oxalate stones are a challenge–and diets that prevent one actually promote the other kind. Yikes!
The cause of feline crystals often can’t be identified. Diet can play a role in the formation of certain types of feline stones. And because up to 70 percent of cats have repeated episodes of stones, a therapeutic diet has become the standard way to treat and in some cases prevent them.
Cat Urinary Crystals
Twenty-plus years ago, 80 percent of feline bladder stones identified as struvite and developed in part due to alkaline urine. Pet food manufacturers learned to counter this by creating acidic urine (and therefore prevent struvite formation) by adjusting the formulation of cat diets. Bless their furry lil’ hearts! Nearly every commercial cat food on the market today has been designed to reduce the chance of struvite formation, by increasing the acidity of the urine.
When the diet has undergone expensive tests to prove this effect, the label may say, “for urinary tract health.” Honestly, though, all of the major cat food brands do pretty much the same thing. They just haven’t spent extra money on these tests and so legally can’t place a claim on the label.
A percentage of cats still develop struvite stones despite eating good foods. Special therapeutic veterinary diets can dissolve existing stones and/or prevent formation of new ones, and most of the major pet food manufacturers offer therapeutic options. Therefore, if your cat hates the first food offered, ask about another therapeutic alternative. Diets only work if the cat eats them.
Cats that become blocked from urethral plugs–crystals mixed with mucus that get stuck in the urinary track–typically are unblocked with catheters to reestablish flow from the bladder. But repeated catheter use may cause scar tissue in the urethra that makes the problem even worse. Perianal urethrostomy surgery may be an option for these cats. The procedure shortens the male cat’s urethra—removes the penis—which creates a wider conduit for release of urine so the urethra doesn’t block as easily even if crystals continue to form.
More Urinary Crystals & Calcium Oxalate Conundrum
Today calcium oxalate stones are becoming most common. Struvite seems to affect younger cats while calcium oxalate more often impacts aging felines. In fact, some calcium oxalate uroliths, especially those in the kidneys, may not cause obvious health problems for months to years. As the cat ages, the bladder becomes less elastic and may not empty totally each time the cat urinates. Over time, this may lead to increased susceptibility to infections and large bladder or kidney stones.
The change in commercial diets to reduce struvite actually promoted a rise in calcium oxalate stones. These struvite-prevention diets increase blood-acid levels, which also tend to leech calcium from the bones. Calcium spilled into the urine can form calcium oxalate stones. Calcium oxalate stones most typically block the ureters–the conduits leading from the kidneys to the bladder–and if too big to pass, require surgery to remove.
FLUTD & Stopping the Stones
So, what can a cat lover do? Be alert for signs of distress.Consider a blocked cat a life-threatening emergency and see your veterinarian immediately. Do your best to reduce cat stress, since that can predispose kitties to repeated episodes.
If your cat has been diagnosed with FLUTD, your doctor likely will analyze the crystals (if present); determine if an infection is involved and prescribe medication and recommend an appropriate diet. Remember that an old cat with calcium oxalate crystals should NOT eat a food designed to prevent struvite, or vice versa. In addition to diet change, avoid giving any kind of mineral or vitamin C and D supplementation to cats, which can predispose to calcium oxalate formation. The veterinarian has the information to prescribe and recommend the most appropriate treatment for your individual cat.
Heathcliff (in the chair) with best kitty buddy Monty.
Dilute With Water
Increase your cat’s water intake by feeding canned diets, which typically feature 70 percent water. There’s some argument whether or not cats drink more when the water remains fresh or running. It won’t hurt to provide a feline drinking fountain, available from pet products stores. More water helps dilute the urine and encourages the cat to use the litter box more often. That way the bladder doesn’t remain full for long periods of time.
While filtered or bottled water isn’t routinely recommended, it probably won’t hurt and might help especially if it encourages your cats to drink more. Try flavoring the water with liquid drained from water-packed tuna or a bit of no-salt chicken broth. All’s fair in keeping cats healthy–sometimes despite themselves.
Susan gave me permission to share Heathcliff’s story, in the hopes it might warn other cat lovers and save them the pain her family feels. “Monty misses his baby brother, Heathcliff. He has wandered all over the house today looking for him and can’t understand where his wrestling buddy has gone. I’m afraid Monty is going to find this difficult to deal with because they were inseparable.” I’ve written about helping yourself, and pets, through the grieving process.
Karma-Kat has always remarkably healthy and (knock wood!). He never misses the litter box and this tragic story reminds us all how quickly a vibrant, health pet can suffer a life-threatening health crises. We’re fortunate to have a veterinary ER available in our community. What about your cats? Have they had problems missing the box? Crystal issues? What has been your kitty experience with regard to lower urinary tract issues?
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.
29th annual Professional Pet Sitters Week™ to be celebrated March 5-11
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.
“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
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.
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 Rover to 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.
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!
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 . . .
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.
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
“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.
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.
Aha, a new path discovered . . . The sound grew louder as she raced toward me up the stairs and flew down the hallway to land tippy-toed on the guest bed across the hall from my office. I peeked inside.
Seren(dipity) stared back with blue-jean-colored eyes. Then she self-inflated in mock terror and began trampoline calisthenics (boing-boing-boing) on the mattress.
I quickly shut the door, confining the demon seed–my husband’s name for her–to my upstairs domain.
Back in June, a friend discovered the dumped kitten napping in an empty flowerpot on the back porch and called me, her pet-writer buddy, for help. I had been pet-less for longer than I cared to admit. E-mail, phone and fax lines kept me connected to my clients and colleagues, but I figured the kitten would brighten the long, sometimes lonely workdays. Besides, as a pet writer I needed a pet. So it was Amy-to-the-rescue, and love at first sight.
My husband wasn’t so easily smitten. He still missed our elderly and sedate German shepherd but cherished the freedom of being pet-less. I convinced him a lap-snuggling kitten would be no trouble. Besides, the cream-color carpet he’d chosen matched the color of Seren’s fur. It had to be an omen.
The cat gods have a wicked sense of humor. They made me pay for that fib.
The Siamese wannabe had no off-switch. She talked nonstop and demanded the last word. She opened drawers and explored kitchen cabinets. She answered my office phone but never took messages. And she left legions of sparkle ball toys everywhere.
The colorful toys polka-dotted the stairs. You’d think a peacock threw up. The toys floated in the kitten’s water bowl, swirled in the toilet, and bobbed in my coffee cup. And Seren hid sparkle balls everywhere to later stalk and paw-capture them from beneath household appliances.
Mahmoud quickly learned to check his shoes each morning before putting them on. He was not amused. I knew better than to suggest he should be grateful Seren only stuffed his shoes with sparkle balls and not–ahem–other items.
I’d managed to buffer the cat-shock-effect over the past months by keeping her in my office during the day and wearing Seren out with lots of games before Mahmoud came home from work. Weekends proved a challenge. By Monday morning, my husband reached his kitty threshold and welcomed a return to the cat-free-zone at work.
But now the holidays loomed. Mahmoud looked forward to two weeks at home, two weeks of relaxation, two weeks of napping on the couch in front of the TV.
Two weeks sharing the house with “the devil.”
It would indeed be a Christmas miracle if we survived with sense of humor intact.
In the past we’d often visited my folks over the holidays where we enjoyed a traditional snowy Indiana Christmas morning, stocking stuffers, decorated tree, lots of relatives, and a sumptuous turkey dinner. This year we planned a quiet celebration at home in Texas, so snow wasn’t an option. But I wanted to decorate with lots of holiday sparkles to make the season as festive as possible.
“A Christmas tree? Don’t cats climb trees?” Mahmoud’s you-must-be-insane expression spoke volumes. He’d already blamed Seren for dumping his coffee on the cream-colored carpet. Maybe matching fur color wasn’t such a great omen after all.
But ‘tis the season of peace on earth, and I wanted to keep the peace–and the cat. So I agreed. No tree.
Mahmoud didn’t particularly care if we decorated at all since Christmas isn’t a part of his cultural or religious tradition. But he knew I treasured everything about the holidays. So we compromised.
Gold garland with red velvet poinsettias festooned the curving staircase, wrapping around and around the banisters and handrail. Gold beads draped the fireplace mantel, with greeting cards propped above. A red cloth adorned the dining room table, while in the living room, the candelabra with twelve scented candles flickered brightly from inside the fireplace. Other candles in festive holders decorated the several end tables, countertops and the piano.
The centerpiece of Christmas décor was the large glass-top coffee table placed midway between the fireplace, TV and the leather sofa. The wooden table base carried puppy teeth marks, silent reminders of the dog Mahmoud and I still mourned. Since we had no tree, the table served to display brightly wrapped packages that fit underneath out of the way. And on top of the table I placed Grandma’s lovely three-piece china nativity of Mary, Joseph and the Baby in the manger.
Grandma died several years before, right after the holidays. Each family member was encouraged to request something of hers to keep as a special remembrance, and I treasured Grandma’s nativity. The simple figurines represented not only the Holy Family but evoked the very essence of Grandma and every happy family holiday memory.
Of course, Seren created her own memories and put her paw into everything. It became her purpose in life to un-festoon the house. She “disappeared” three of the faux poinsettias, risked singed whiskers by sniffing candles, and stole bows off packages.
She decided the red tablecloth set off her feline beauty. She lounged in the middle of the table beneath the Tiffany-style shade that doubled as a heat lamp, shedding tiny hairs onto the fabric. As every cat lover eventually learns, fur is a condiment. But Mahmoud had not yet joined the cat-lover ranks and was not amused.
“Off! Get off the table. Amy, she’ll break your glass lampshade.”
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?”
I arrived in time to see her complete a second Mario Andretti lap. I swear she grinned at us as she skidded past. With the next drive-by Seren stopped long enough to grab my ankle, execute a ten-second feline headstand while bunny-kicking my calves, then resumed her mad dash around the house.
Mahmoud glared. “I thought you said cats sleep sixteen hours a day.”
I shrugged and hid a smile. Seren had already learned what buttons to push. Rattling the wooden window blinds worked extremely well, but now she need only eye the decorations to garner all the attention she craved.
Cute kitty. Smart kitty. Mahmoud wasn’t amused, but I was.
She raced into the living room, leaped onto the glass top table, and belly-flopped alongside my treasured Holy Family . . .
“Off! Get off.” Mahmoud shooed the kitten out of the danger zone before I could react in shock. This time, I was not amused.
Mahmoud knew what Grandma’s nativity meant to me. “Decorating was your idea. Don’t blame me if the devil breaks something,” he warned.
Before he could suggest it, I caught the miscreant and gave her a time out in the laundry room to cool her jets. We’d relegated Seren’s potty, food bowls and bed to this room and routinely confined her at night or when away. Otherwise, she set off motion detectors and the house alarm–or dismantled the house while we slept. Besides, Mahmoud complained Seren’s purring kept him awake at night.
I used a wooden yardstick to fish toys from beneath the washer/dryer to provide necessary feline entertainment during the incarceration. Several dozen sparkle balls–red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, purple–and the three missing faux poinsettias emerged, along with an assortment of dust bunnies and dryer lint.
I sighed. The kitten’s age meant several more months of madcap activity and I wasn’t sure how much more Mahmoud could take. He only saw Seren at full throttle. He also suffered from “Saint Spot Syndrome” which meant he recalled only the happy memories of our beloved dog, and overlooked potty accidents, chewed shoes and other normal canine misbehaviors of the past.
Seren suffered mightily in the comparison.
I felt exhausted after the first week of running vacation interference between my husband and the kitten. Whenever possible I kept Seren confined with me in my upstairs office but that backfired. She slept in my office, but once downstairs she turned into a dynamo intent on pick-pick-picking at Mahmoud especially when he ignored her.
The second week began, and as Christmas drew near I found more and more errands that required my attention outside of the house. Mahmoud came with me for some, but other times he preferred TV.
“Just lock up the devil before you leave so she doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I don’t want to watch her.”
It made me nervous to leave them alone together in the house. I worried that Seren might commit some last straw infraction and I’d be unable to salvage any potential relationship. I loved her, heaven help me; she’d hooked her claws deep into my heart. And I loved Mahmoud. I wanted my two loves to at least put up with each other.
But as I prepared to leave I couldn’t find her. At less than five pounds, Seren could hide in the tiniest spaces. One time I found her inside the box springs of the guest bed, but that day–December 23rd–she disappeared and refused to come out of hiding.
I think she planned it. Maybe the spirit of the holidays inspired her. Or perhaps some other loving canine (or grandmotherly) influence worked its Christmas magic. Whatever the motivation, when I returned home that rainy December evening, my unspoken holiday wish had been granted.
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). You can also find it in the new anthology, The Cat in the Christmas Tree (Revell Publishing). May your Christmas be joyous, bright, and filled with loving woofs and purrs of those still with you, and those who live on in your heart.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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. Learn about living with deaf pets.
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.
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.
Seventy-five percent of cats have dental problems by age two, and the risk increases 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.
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. Learn more tips for helping other-abled pets.
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 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, 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.
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. Learn more about pain in this post, and you can also offer supplements that help with arthritis.
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
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).
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.
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.
Does she leave a wet spot where she sleeps?Incontinencerefers 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.
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.
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.
Every year, I write about our old cat needs. While Karma-Kat has just reached middle age (and still acts like a kitten!), 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.)
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. Now Karma-Kat has reached senior kitty status.
Siamese as a breed tend to live longer, 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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?”
DEFINING “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:
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.
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.
FORCING HUGS—IS 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?
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!
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!
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
7 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Dog Car Rides & Training Tips
He got his Dog Tested. Dog Approved.TMlicense. 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.
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.
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 gets a bit of people food now and then. He’s even allowed on the sofa, 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.
The cat also gets his share of lap snuggles, on demand. He also enjoys treats from my plate, especially lean meat and fish. And I found a deep blue leash that matches his 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.
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 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 any dog trying to grab the club and getting wacked in the teeth.
Pet Purses, Oh My
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.
Pets On the Go
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). I do have a pet stroller to keep my cat safe while enjoying the outdoors. 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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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).
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!
September stumbled from the car and plodded through snow drifts. Her feet clomped like dead blocks of ice. If she fell, she might not be able to get up.
Shadow’s hysterical yelps followed her. She worried his noise might give away her location, but wished she could bring him along. He gave her confidence the same way Dakota had kept nightmares at bay.
Screw post-traumatic stress. She’d been lost without Chris or Dakota, but had to do this without them; forget about fear, find Steven, and call the debt paid. She fortified her resolve and trudged on.
At the property edge, September scooted beneath loose strands of barbed wire supported by century-old bois d’arc fence posts. The open fields surrounded her house with a mix of short-cut winter rye and brambles, so she hugged the fence line for extra cover. Cedar elm, burr oak, hackberry and mountain ash carried mounds of white in skeletal arms. In the knee high grass, prickle vines hidden under the snow clutched her ankles and clawed her pants until her thighs and calves cramped before she’d slogged halfway home.
She slipped, grabbing a nearby tree branch for purchase, and spines of the honey locust speared through her glove. September barely noticed. Hurray for Reynaud’s numbness after all. Too many injuries, along with the combination of cold and adrenaline, anesthetized everything, but her brain revved into crystal clear focus. She gripped the enormous thorn with her teeth, yanked, and spat into the snow. September flexed her hand. It still worked well enough. Time to move. Find Steven. Stop the drug. Save the children.
September plowed another dozen steps before she peeked from the cover of the trees. Light spilled from her office windows. In her rush from the house yesterday she’d left on lights, although she had remembered to triple lock the front door. The place looked empty. Not even the police visit had disturbed more than tracks on the drive.
The drive circled the house in a dog-leg turn to reach the garage, and she couldn’t see inside. That created a blind spot where Lizzie’s cohorts could wait. Danger hid in unexpected places, even places you thought were safe, as she knew from experience. Her breathing quickened, and she almost gave in to the temptation to hide in the bushes outside and call the police when Lizzie arrived.
Suck it up, sweetheart. The old fears wouldn’t rule this day, not again. She’d lost herself for eight long years. She couldn’t let the killers get away. The lives of countless children, not just Steven’s, hinged on her decision.
She looked over her shoulder and satisfied herself that Pam’s dark vehicle wouldn’t be visible from the house. September sprinted in an awkward crabshuffle to the side of the house and the kitchen side door, spending several
nerve-wracking seconds unlocking deadbolts until she could hip-bump it open. The door was such a bitch to latch. For the first time in recent memory, she slammed the door closed but left it unlocked.
The floor was wet. Snow had drifted through the laundry room’s transom before someone—the police?—shut the window. The acrid stink from the dryer still clung to the walls. The 78-degree thermostat setting turned the room into a steam chamber.
“Mrrring.” Macy loped from across the room and wound around her ankles.
“Hey kitty, good to see you, too.” September smiled despite herself when he dropped Mickey on her shoe. But she couldn’t have him underfoot. She needed to stash him someplace safe.
September scooped up and tossed the toy onto the counter and gave the “jump-up” hand signal. The cat obliged. She pulled off her gloves, and spent ten precious seconds nuzzling the cat, thinking it might be their last time together. “We get through the next hour, I’ll buy you a plate of shrimp,” she whispered. “But right now you need to stay out of the way.”
His carrier was somewhere in the garage—where possible bad guys lurked—and would take too long to retrieve. The bathroom wouldn’t work. He could open the door. The rest of the unfinished house wouldn’t contain him, not when he could leap eight feet or more from a standing start.
“Macy, come.” He did, but dragged Mickey with him. She collected the toy. “Macy, jump.” She tapped the top of the refrigerator.
Macy merrowed and vaulted to his favorite perch. He watched September fill his bowl, top it off with several smelly salmon treats out of the canister, and set it beside him. His purr rumbled. He patted her head and settled down to crunch kibble. She prayed he’d stay with the food.
September unzipped her jacket, and moved to the stained glass table. The Number One Bitch mug was still half-filled with cold coffee next to the saucer from yesterday’s breakfast muffin. She emptied her pockets, and stuffed Macy’s mouse toy inside out of sight. Otherwise, once Macy ate he’d demand a game of Mickey-fetch.
Her phone needed juice. September pushed aside the treat canister and coffee maker and plugged it into the outlet to charge. The flash drive was bait, but the phone would spring the trap and, if she was lucky, it would save her life. And Steven’s. She switched the phone to speaker mode, dialed, and hid it from view before anyone answered.
“WZPP, you’ve reached ZAP105 FM Radio, giving you the best easy listening
24/7, how may I direct your call?”
Macy mewed. His ears twitched.
“Anita, it’s September. Put me through—”
“He’s expecting you, hon.” Fish’s broadcast came on the line.
“. . . So for the latest on the Blizzard Murders, keep it tuned to ZAP105 FM Radio. I’m Humphrey Fish servin’ it up fresh.” He paused before saying, “Caller, you’re on the air.”
“Fish, it’s time. Can you hear me okay?” She moved away from the counter, testing the range.
The stairwell door squeaked open behind her. Footsteps clumped on the landing. “I hear you just fine.”
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. CLICK the above BOOK TOUR icon to learn about the next blog tour stop and how to enter for your chance to win paw-tographed pet books including LOST AND FOUND. 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!
Shadow howled frantic harmony to September’s cries. He didn’t know how he could hear her in the car. She wasn’t here. And she couldn’t hear him, though he barked loud and long.
His fur stood at furious attention. He showed his teeth, snapped and snarled, eager to defend. She was his person. A good-dog protected his people. He had to find her. Shadow keened and paw-punched the cage.
“Stop it.” In the front seat Teddy clapped his hands over his ears. “Shut up. Be a good-dog.”
A good-dog obeyed people. Shadow paused and flattened his ears. He licked the wire of the crate and whimpered. September screamed, and Shadow threw himself against the wire again. The latch jiggled. So he did it again. And again.
“Quiet, no, no, no, no. Bad dog.”
Shadow ignored Teddy’s growls. He didn’t care. He’d be a bad-dog on purpose. How could he ignore September’s screams?
“Shadow, please stop. You’ll hurt yourself.” Teddy turned around in the car seat and his brow wrinkled. His eyes rained wet.
Shadow paused. He whined. Maybe Teddy did understand. His tail wagged the hopeful question, and he tap-danced in place. He willed Teddy to understand.
“I called the police. They’re on the way.” The old man made no move to open the door. He just sat there, and ducked his head each time September screamed. “We just got to wait.”
Yelping in frustration, Shadow bit the wire mesh of the door, growled, and snarled. Tugged—like with Bear-toy. His gums split on the sharp wire. Salt-copper tang raised his arousal. His tail churned the air and battered the cage, a drumbeat counterpoint to the tug-contest.
The old man’s scent chemicals choked the stale air, and cried “uncle” louder than puppy pee. Teddy had given up.
Shadow grabbed the wire and shook it. Bloody drool spattered the floor of the crate.
Teddy covered his ears. He surged forward, fiddled with something, and September was silenced.
Shadow cocked his head. He licked his lips, shuddered at the copper taste, and stared at Teddy. Shadow woofed, yawned and whined, the most persuasive tone he could. He pawed the door. Two claws had torn loose, and added to the blood on the floor. He couldn’t make it any clearer. He needed out.
The old man waggled his head. That meant no. Shadow furrowed his brow, cocked his head. But he was right. He knew it. To protect Steven, he’d learned to think for himself, to make right choices, no matter what. It was a good-dog’s job to know when to disobey. That time was now.
Shadow laced back his ears, lowered his head. He hurled himself against the front of the crate. Backed up and did it again. He’d force the door open. Get out. Go to September. Because he belonged with her. Because they belonged together. Because he must.
His body battered the cage like a furry mallet, and jiggled the clasp open increments at a time. The fastener worked like his kennel at home. He’d get out. He didn’t need Teddy. Shadow wasted no further breath on howls.
“Please stop. I can’t let you out. Be a good-dog, shush, just calm down.”
Shadow knew the man was staring at him, but didn’t pause. Each grunted impact moved the hasp closer to opening.
Teddy swiveled, flung open the door, and lurched out of the car. Shadow redoubled his efforts. He pawed the hasp. It moved in his favor. Another claw caught, and he yanked it free with a yelp. But the latch almost opened. He uttered frustrated whines, and he switched paws to continue the onslaught.
Teddy rushed to the back of the car and opened the tailgate. “Damn dog.” He reached to secure the fastener. “Hell, it’s nearly open.”
The old man flinched and yelled, “Back off!”
Teddy’s sudden command stopped Shadow dead. He watched, suspicious but hopeful. The man stared at him.
“You convinced me, dog. It’s your choice. And your grave.” His voice caught. “So okay, you crazy sonofabitch, you want out?” He reached for the crate door.
Out, yes! Shadow didn’t wait for Teddy. A final body-slam rocketed open the latch. The metal grate whipped into the man’s glasses and sliced open his cheek. Teddy toppled backwards into the snow.
Shadow vaulted from the car, and cleared the sprawled figure with one joyous leap. He found September’s scent, and hop-scotched and bulldozed through snow so deep it scraped his belly. But the bloody paw prints left in his wake spelled a message of fear, hope, and determination only good-dogs could read.
Read a new review of this book here!
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. CLICK the above BOOK TOUR icon to learn about the next blog tour stop and how to enter for your chance to win paw-tographed pet books including LOST AND FOUND.
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!
Giveaway period: Starts at 12:01 am on November 5, 2012 and continues until 11:59 pm on November 25, 2012. All times are Eastern.
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CLICK THIS LINK TO REACH THE ENTRY RAFFLECOPTER!
Magical-Dawg is a discerning reader.
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!
Is your kitty the Masked Avenger, ready to protect life, limb and property? Image Copr. Karla Spence
Is your pet an attack cat? Does he or she serve as a guard kitty, able and willing to keep bad guys at bay?
Debbie Russell, one of my IAABC behavior consultant colleagues, recently read my debut thriller LOST AND FOUND and posted a lovely and very positive review that said in part, “I also loved Macy’s role at the end of the book.” (Thank you, Debbie! read the rest of the review here.) For those who haven’t (yet 🙂 read the book, Macy is the trained hero cat who literally “nails” one of the bad guys.
Debbie also emailed me. She said, “You’re probably aware of this, but cats, when they bite, can absolutely savage the target before nerves even have a chance to respond to, “hey, I’m being bitten!” I once had a cat land three deep bites before my CNS could even begin to yank my arm back. I cringed on Macy’s attack.”
She also gave me permission to share these two true fascinating tales of cats defending their owners/territory:
We had dinner with a couple, and the husband told us of the following event. He was a teenager, sleeping and awoke due to some noise coming from the living room. He picked up a bat and went forward towards it. His Dad, whose bedroom was on the other side of the living room, heard it also and came from that side. What did they see? Their giant Maine Coon had a man on the ground, behind the couch, totally torn up.
He was screaming “Get it off of me! Get it off of me!”
They tried. It wasn’t easy. Apparently said MC hadn’t learned “aus”. (“Aus” is the German release command used with dogs.) When they approached, he’d just growl. I imagined him thinking, “MY PREY! I can eat off of this for a month. Go find your own.”
Eventually they got him off the guy, police arrived, etc. However, this cat had even managed to tear through the intruder’s leather jacket. Impressive, huh?
And a second story . . .
I can’t remember where I heard this, but remember it as true. A woman awoke to see blood splattered in her stairwell leading to the upstairs bedroom. She called the police. Based on the blood splatter, they determined that the Siamese must have launched him/herself at the intruder’s head from the stop of the stairwell. Yikes. Can you imagine?
Yes, I can imagine! My cousin once told the story of their cat that liked to lounge on the top of the refrigerator, next to the back door. A burglar entered the house, and…you guessed it…kitty launched an attack from on high, and drove the intruder from the house. As I recall, they knew because of the blood stains and door left open. Does this sound familiar? Where did you think I got the idea for that Macy scene? 🙂
I’ve also had consults with cat owners to help them diffuse territorial aggression and “guarding” areas of the home, especially when visitors enter. One client’s cat wouldn’t let the pet sitter to enter by the back door (the cat “owned” that area) but was fine if the pet sitter arrived from the front door. Cat-to-cat aggression is much more common (and discussed with tips to solve it in my ComPETability-Cats book). But cat-to-people aggression can be horribly dangerous and terrifying.
Then there are cats who sleep through strangers coming and going, while others probably would show burglars where you hide the silver. Where do your cats fall in the scheme of things? Do you have stories of cats running to your rescue–if not physically, perhaps sounding a warning? Please share!