Free Teleseminar July 22 – Benefits of a Raw Diet for Cats

Free Teleseminar
Thursday, July 22 at 8:00pm Eastern
Benefits of a Raw Diet for Cats

Join us on Thursday, July 22, at 8pm Eastern Daylight Time for a free teleseminar on feline nutrition.  Our guest will be Margaret Gates, the Executive Director of the Feline Nutrition Education Society.  Margaret will talk to us about the Benefits of a Raw Diet for Cats and answer your questions about feline nutrition in general and raw feeding in particular.

The seminar is free, but long distance phone charges may apply.  To participate in the conference, dial 1-712-432-3100.  When prompted, enter conference code 674470.

Book Review: The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie by Allan Goldstein

As much as I love cat themed books, books about cats, and books by cats, it’s rare to come across one that I absolutely cannot put down.  I started Allan Goldstein’s The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie expecting to be entertained.  What I didn’t expect was that for the two days it took me to read it, I didn’t get much of anything else accomplished, so be forewarned – don’t start this book unless you  know you’ll have a good chunk of uniterrupted time ahead of you!

Written from the perspective of an orange long-haired cat named DooDoo, The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie is the account of DooDoo’s six thousand mile journey across America.  A self-confessed catnip addict, DooDoo lived with two much adored humans after having been abandoned by his mother in the backyard jungle of San Francisco.  However, DooDoo has an adventurous streak.   One day, a sudden impulse sends him into the wilds of San Francisco and beyond.  After the initial thrill dissipates, he realizes that he is lost, and he wants to find his way home again.  Never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined that it would take him a year, and that along the way he would encounter a subway cat named Rass who becomes his new best friend, help a homeless drunk find his way home, a minor league baseball player and a smalltown TV reporter find the big time, and a widowed pilot find peace.

DooDoo’s adventures will touch your heart while keeping you on the edge of your seat.  Goldstein has an amazing ability to present DooDoo’s breathtaking adventures from a cat’s point of view, and at times as you may recognize your own tamed tiger’s antics in the pages.  You will be routing for DooDoo and his sidekick, Rass, as they encounter one challenge after another.  At times, I got so caught up in the action, I had to actually skip some sections to make sure that DooDoo and Rass were going to be okay and then go back to catch up on the missed details – I just couldn’t bear the suspense!

This is a wonderful, entertaining, touching and well-written book.   If you’re looking for a fun, engaging summer read, you won’t regret picking this one up.

Allan Goldstein lives in San Francisco with his wife, Jordan, and a minimum of two cats. You can  learn more about Allan on his website, allangoldstein.com. Doo Doo cat lived in San Francisco with the above family. He wants you to know he was as beautiful, loving and wild as described in these pages, and continues to be so in the eternity beyond. He considers Mr. Goldstein to be his faithful literary executor and will expect his cut of the royalties when they meet again.

Cat Time

Guest post by Lucille Dumbrava

People who don’t have cats don’t understand when I talk about cat-time. They shake their heads and frown slightly and change the subject. But cat-time is a very real subject in our house.

First thing in the morning, I have a doctor’s appointment. It’s a half-hour drive; 15 minutes to wash the cat bowls and fill them with new food. It takes me 15 minutes to drink my tea and eat a breakfast bar, figure 30 minutes to dress, so for a nine o’clock appointment, I should set the alarm for 7:30, right? This is where cat-time comes in.

The alarm goes off, and I reach over to shut it off, Pansy takes advantage of my stretch to climb on my stomach and settle down for several minutes of ear scritchies. Her head turns from side to side, making sure I reach all her favorite areas. The other two wait patiently, but as soon as Pansy’s satisfied, either Smudge or Sassy claim my hand so they can get their morning loving.

Finally, I can get out of bed, and I put the pillows on a chair and begin to make the bed. I tug the sheets up and start to pull the blanket. It won’t budge. Smudge is at the bottom, tugging it with his teeth. We do this routine with the quilt too. Then as I fold the blanket that goes across the foot of the bed, he disappears inside the folds. Suddenly, this light decorative blanket weighs 15 pounds and is wiggling. I lift it by one corner and he comes tumbling out and runs away. By now, I am running 20 minutes into cat-time late.

As I head to the kitchen to make breakfast, the three cats do the shark dance, weaving in and out between and around my legs. They stand in front of the cabinet where the canned food is kept. After I choose the can, they scamper around the kitchen following my every move. I empty what’s left of the night bowls, wash the bowls and dry them, then share the contents of the can among them. Then I empty, wash, and fill the water bowl and check the shared kibble bowl to see if I need to add more. As I work, each cat comes and bumps my hand, hoping for one of their special treats. Fat chance!

Once the cats are busy eating, I prepare my tea, and pull out a granola bar. Whose priorities are skewed?

I planned ahead last night and laid out the clothes I’m going to wear, so I start to dress. Wait. Where did my other stocking go? I peek around the corner and see Pansy walking across the floor, the stocking clenched in her teeth and trailing behind. Sassy has noticed and is ready to pounce. I grab the stocking and Pansy gives me her tragically disappointed look. Too bad. A quick check, and the stocking goes in the trash – a run goes from toe to top. After getting a new one, I go back to dressing. I’ve chosen a particularly pretty black skirt with roses for today. It reaches almost to my ankles as all of my skirts do, and as I pull it up, I suddenly feel fur brushing my leg. Smudge is underneath it playing peek-a-boo, a game that’s fun when he hides under the bed or behind the curtains that cover the knee space in the bathroom. Not so much fun when I’m running late and trying to dress in a hurry.

After I distract him with a toy, I use the sticky roller to lift the cat fur off my skirt. And I’m nearly done. But, no. Smudge has run into the bedroom and lain partly on top of Pansy. Her indignant yowl tells me I better get in and check it out.

All that’s left is my makeup. This takes a while anyway. I mean, after all I’m trying to look good. Now the cats line up in the bathroom to watch and see what they can get into. The makeup’s in a drawer and, of course, that’s an irresistible attraction. The powder and blush are boring, but eye and lip pencils are like magnets for little paws, and lipstick tubes are just the right shape for rolling across the floor. Finally, I’m done, everything is back in the drawer and the drawer is tightly shut, much to the great disappointment of the cats.

A quick call to the doctor’s office and a white lie about a dead battery that needed to be jumped, and I am on my way – thirty minutes into cat-time.

© 2010 Lucille Dumbrava

Lucille Dumbrava is a retired teacher/counselor whose love of cats and love of writing started when she was a child. Many of her stories about the cats in her life have been collected in a book entitled Cat House, now available from Amazon, Alibris , http://www.bookstandpublishing.com, and Northern California bookstores. You can also order directly from Lucille by e-mailing her. 

Feline Heart Disease

feline-heart-disease

Buckley was diagnosed with heart disease in February of 2007 and succumbed to the disease in November of 2008, so this is a topic close to my heart.   A check up prior to dental surgery revealed a heart murmur, and a subsequent cardiac ultrasound showed that she had restrictive cardiomyopathy.  As a result, I’ve experienced the challenges of caring for a cat with heart disease firsthand.

Feline heart disease is far more common than most cat owners realize, and it can strike any breed of cat at any age.  What makes feline heart disease very challenging is the fact that cats rarely show the warning signs that are typical for heart disease, such as shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, coughing or weakness) until the disease is quite advanced.

Diagnosis

For many cat owners, the first time they even learn that their cat has heart disease is during a regular check up, when their veterinarian may discover a heart murmur.  Not every murmur is an indicator of heart disease, but it definitely requires further diagnostics, such as an ECG, or electrocardiogram, chest x-rays, and a cardiac ultrasound.  These tests will show changes to the size and shape of the heart, whether there is fluid present in the chest, and abnormalities of the heart valves.  A cardiac ultrasound can actually determine the degree of heart disease, not just the presence of it.

There are three types of feline heart disease.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

HCM is the most common form of feline heart disease.   The walls of the heart are thickened, reducing the amount of blood pumped out with each beat. As a result, the heart has to work harder.  These changes in the heart can lead to leakage at the valves and development of a murmur. As the disease progresses, the heart can become so thickened that it cannot pump blood adequately.  This usually results in fluid accumulation in the lungs.  Typically, the age of onset is young adulthood, although it has been diagnosed in cats as young as six months old.  It is most common in middle-aged male cats, but can be seen in either gender.  There appears to be a genetic component as some breeds, especially Maine Coons, Ragdolls, Persians and American Shorthairs, seem to be predisposed to this condition.  HCM is the most treatable form of heart disease.

Dilated cardiomyopathy

DCM presents with an enlarged heart chamber and thinned heart walls, which means that the weakened heart cannot pump efficiently.  This can cause fluid accumulation in the lungs and/or chest (similar to congestive heart failure in humans).  This form of heart disease has become less common, because research a few years ago showed that a deficiency of taurine in feline diets was one of the main causes.  Since then, most commercially manufactured diets for cats have been formulated with taurine.

Restrictive cardiomyopathy

RCM is a less common type of heart disease in cats. It is more difficult to detect, as many cats will have near normal echocardiograms, but their heart walls seem hardened and sometimes even form scar tissue.  As a result, the heart becomes less efficient at pumping blood.  This form of heart disease has a very poor prognosis.

Treatment

Treatment of feline heart disease depends on the type of disease diagnosed and the severity of the condition.  Therapy is geared toward supporting the strength of heart contraction and reducing fluid build up.  Many of the medications used to treat feline heart disease, such as betablockers, diuretics, calcium channel blockers and vasodilators are the same medications used in the management of human heart disease.  Dietary management may be part of the treatment.

Blood Clots

Blood clots are a potentially deadly complication of heart disease. These clots can form when changes in the shape of the heart walls cause blood to move through the heart in an abnormal flow pattern, leaving stagnant spots were coagulation can occur. The vast majority of these clots lodge at the very end of the aorta, the biggest artery in the body, where it branches off to supply the rear legs and tail. When this happens, the affected cat will be literally fine one second and paralyzed the next. The pain is excruciating. This is a life-threatening crisis with a very poor prognosis for survival. It is a frightening scenario for any cat owner to contemplate.  Medications such as aspirin or Plavix can help thin the blood to prevent clotting, but are not without side effects.

The outlook for a cat suffering from heart disease depends on many factors:  age, form and severity of the disease, other health issues, and more.  As with most diseases, early detection and intervention can be key.

Photo by John Seidman, Flickr Creative Commons

Happy 4th of July 2010

Happy 4th of July from The Conscious Cat!

Independence Day is one of our favorite holidays.  As we mark the day with parades, picnics and fireworks, remember that noisy celebrations can be a scary time for our pets.

An animal’s sense of hearing is much more acute than ours, and so the noises are much more intent for them.  Add to that the lack of understanding of what is going on and you can have a very scared pet on your hands.  But celebrations like the 4th of July don’t have to cause such anxiety for your pets.  Here are some tips for helping your pet cope with fireworks, thunderstorms, and other loud noises:

  • Don’t take your pets to outdoor celebrations. The loud noises and colorful skies may be fun for you but they are not enjoyable for your pet. In fact, they can be quite dangerous. A scared dog, running through crowds and/or traffic in the dark is a recipe for disaster.
  • Ideally, leave them at home with a human companion. If you must leave them alone, place them in a secure room or crate. Cover the crate with a blanket to help reduce the noise. Shut the curtains and drapes and turn on lights to lessen the flash of the fireworks.
  • Leave on a TV or music to drown out the noise from the fireworks. (This works during thunderstorm season as well.)
  • Make sure that they are wearing their identification tags and that the information is current.
  • Exercise them before the festivities begin — tire them out with a rigorous game of fetch or a long walk. Be sure to do this an hour or two before you leave them to give them time to calm down and enter a restful state.
  • Consider a natural calming aid like Rescue Remedy.

Cat Adoption Story Winner

Congratulations, Cindy – you’re the winner
of an autographed copy of Buckley’s Story

Thanks to all who shared their wonderful adoption stories – please be sure to read all of them, they’re truly moving and a testament to the bond between cats and the people who care enough to give them a loving home.   It turned out to be impossible to pick a winner by judging the stories, they’re all touching and wonderful, so I used a random number generator to pick the winning entry.  Congratulations, Cindy!

Allegra’s World

Things have been really interesting around here!  My mom and I are still getting to know each other, and I love how she wants to make sure I’m happy.  I want her to be happy, too!   But sometimes, I think the things I do to try and make her happy actually aren’t such bright ideas.  I don’t really understand why she doesn’t think it’s totally cool when I stalk her when she walks down the hall and attack her ankles.  I also don’t understand why she doesn’t think it’s fun when I nip at her hands to let her know that I’ve had enough petting.  Doing those things is soooo fun!  But I’m starting to get a clue that maybe it’s not okay to do these things, because when I do, Mom stops talking to me, won’t even look at me, and just walks away from me.  I don’t like that at all!

The other day, I did something so amazingly cool, I couldn’t wait for Mom to see!  I chewed off the edge of the big dresser in the bedroom!  It was so much fun to nibble on it, and it felt really good on my teeth!  Wee!  I worked at it really really hard, and managed to make it look like a work of art, if I do say so myself.  But when Mom saw it, she wasn’t impressed at all.  In fact, she got pretty mad.  I could tell when she said “Oh no, Allegra!” in a voice that didn’t sound loving to me at all – and believe me, I can tell the difference, because Mom sounds loving almost all the time, so when her voice changes like that, I kind of know I’m in trouble.   She told me I shouldn’t be doing that, and then she sprayed some stuff on it that she says is called Bitter Yuck.  She said I might not want to chew on that spot again, or I’d be sorry.  Okay fine, whatever!  Well, I waited a little while before going back to chew on the dresser some more – I’m not stupid, I’m not going to do it right in front of her!  It tasted a bit odd – but the chewing was so much fun, it was worth the weird taste in my mouth.  Mom got really exasperated with me and taped some stuff called Sticky Paws around the corner I’d worked so hard to chew off.  Again, she told me I might not want to chew on it again, as the stuff would stick to my mouth and feel really awful.  Hmmm.  Okay.  Whatever!  Of course I tried again.  Did you really think I wouldn’t?  It was really interesting, I managed to pull the sticky stuff off, spit it out, and then proceded to chew on the wood some more.  I was pretty pleased with the result – but Mom wasn’t ready to give up on making me stop.  You have to give her this – she is persistent.  I watched her rub a lemon on the area I’d chewed so nicely.  Some of the juice dribbled on the floor, so I investigated.  YUCK!!!  Major yuck!!!  I’m sad to say my work of art will not be completed – that stuff just tastes too nasty even for me to persevere.

Then, the other night, Mom was on the phone for a long time.  I heard my name mentioned a lot during that time.  After she got off the phone, she told me that we’d be making some changes to cure me of some of my “undesirable behavior.”  I have no idea what that means. It sounded very grown up and something humans would say when they’re trying to sound important.  I wasn’t too worried about it.  That night, Mom spent a longer than usual time playing with me, and then, she fed me an extra meal just before she went to bed.  How cool was that!  If that’s the kind of change she was talking about, I’m on board with that!  The next day, I got new toys!  Wee!!!  Now mind you, when I first got here, I thought for sure that I had landed in kitty paradise.  There were so many toys!  But now, there are even more!  How lucky can one kitten get!  I got a new play house, and a Kong Kickeroo.  I also saw her stash a bag of stuff in the closet, so I’m thinking there may be more new toys!  And I was right.  Last night, she brought out a really fun toy that has me somewhat puzzled – I just can’t get the little mouse out of it, but I’m going to keep trying!  I know there’s more in that closet, I just know it.  One of these days, I’ll figure out how to open those big closet doors….  but you’ll have to excuse me, I have to go play in my new playhouse now!  Wee!!!

A note from Allegra’s Mom:  I was becoming increasingly frustrated with watching Allegra be a sweet little kitten 80% of the time and then turn into devil kitten the remaining 20%.  She’s a little play aggressive, and she tends to bite when she gets overstimulated.  I knew the basics of how to respond to this type of behavior, but I wasn’t making much headway, so I decided to consult The Cat Coach.  Marilyn Krieger is a nationally recognized and Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and has been successfully solving cat behavior problems since 1990. Offering both on-site and phone consultation sessions, Marilyn’s expert advice solves diverse cat behavior problems.  Marilyn is the resident cat behaviorist for Cat Fancy Magazine and their web site, catchannel.com.  I’m sure Allegra will keep you posted on future developments as a result of Marilyn’s recommendations!

Life after Loss: Getting a New Cat

Getting a new pet after losing a beloved animal companion can be very difficult for many pet parents.  Some are able to get a new pet within days of losing the old pet, others may take months and sometimes even years, or never get another pet again. This is not a decision that anyone else can make for you – there are too many factors that play into it to allow for some easy guidelines, but perhaps, the following can provide a better understanding of the process.

Each pet is unique

First and foremost, every pet guardian knows that it’s not possible to ever replace a lost pet, but that doesn’t change the fact that to many, it still feels like that’s exactly what they’re doing when they bring another animal into their lives. It helps to remember that each and every animal is unique, and that your relationship with the new pet will probably be completely different than the one you had with your lost loved one. I’d like to think that our animals would want us to open our hearts to another; that, in fact, they are celebrating when we’ve recovered from our grief over losing them enough to even begin to contemplate  a new addition to the family.

How do you know when the time is right?

How do you know when the time is right? This varies from person to person. Just like grief is an individual journey, so is opening your heart to another animal. Don’t judge others, or yourself, if you’re not ready, or if you’re ready before others may feel that it’s appropriate.

This issue can be complicated in families where one family member may be ready for another pet, but the other is still deeply immersed in grieving the lost companion. This will require honest and caring discussions. Don’t surprise the family member who is not ready with a new puppy or kitten – rather than bringing happiness, this may complicate their grief, and it’s not fair to a new animal to come into this type of situation. Be mindful of other animals in the household who may also be grieving the loss, and think about whether a new pet would help them or whether it would add to their stress.

Think carefully about what kind of an animal you want to get. You may love a certain breed or coloring, but be aware that just because you adopt another animal that may look like your lost one, the new one will not be a carbon copy of your lost pet. He will be his own, unique personality and the two of you will form your own, unique relationship.

Do you “just know” when the time is right?

Ultimately, I believe that you “just know” when the time is right. Or, alternatively, a new animal will find you. Opening your heart to another and beginning the joyful journey of getting to know and love a new animal companion in no way diminishes the love you had for your lost pet.   Lost love and memories can beautifully coexist with new love and happiness.

Adventures in Veterinary Medicine – Oliver

When I first began working in veterinary hospitals, I did a little bit of everything.  I worked as a receptionist, veterinary assistant, and kennel attendant.  Being a kennel attendant involved taking care of animals that were boarding at the hospital, which included everything from cleaning their cages, making sure they had fresh food and water, walking them, and giving them medications if needed.  I loved kennel duty despite the less glamorous aspects of cleaning cages and litter boxes and cleaning up after the dogs after taking them out in the hospital’s small backyard.  Kennel duty, especially on weekends and holidays, gave me a chance to spend time with individual animals, time that wasn’t always available during the busy work week when we had surgical patients and pets coming for vet appointments.  I became particularly fond of several frequent boarders, and one that still sticks out in my mind after all these years was a cat named Oliver.

Oliver was a 19-year-old white cat with some brown and black tabby markings.   He was hyperthyroid, and he had kidney disease.  He was skin and bones.  His owners traveled frequently for a few days at a time, and they would board him with us, feeling more comfortable having a veterinarian available in case one was needed rather than leaving Oliver at home in the care of a pet sitter.  He was the first of many geriatric cats that I fell in love with.  There’s something about these wise old souls with their sweet old faces that has always touched my heart.  Oliver needed a lot of special attention while he was boarding, and I gladly gave it to him.  He often needed to be handfed because his appetite was hit or miss.  He wasn’t always cooperative when it came to taking his medication.  But he always, always wanted lots of affection, and he was very vocal both about requesting it and in his appreciation of it – he would start out demanding to be petted with a loud, plaintive cry, and then he’d show his appreciation with a faint, but steady purr.

Even when I had a kennel full of pets to take care of during my shift, I always made extra time for Oliver.  I wasn’t required to be there all day on weekends or holidays, the animals needed to be taken care of three times a day, and depending on their needs, there was often time in between the morning, mid-day and evening shifts to go home for a couple of hours, but when Oliver was boarding, I usually stayed between at least two of my shifts and just sat with him purring away in my lap. 

Each time Oliver went home after boarding at the hospital, I always wondered whether I’d see him again.  At his age, and with his multiple health problems, I knew he didn’t have that much time left.  So each time he was boarding, on my last shift during his stay, I made sure to say a proper good-bye, just in case it was going to be the last one.  And I hoped that if, in the end, he reached a point where euthanasia was indicated, it would happen on a day when I was working so I’d get another chance at one last good bye.

Sadly, I got my wish.  A few days before his 20th birthday, his family brought Oliver to the clinic.  I was asked to assist with his euthanasia, and I got to say good bye to my grizzled old friend one last time.  I had assisted with euthanasias before, and usually managed not to cry until after the client had left, but this one was different.  I couldn’t hold back my tears as I assisted the vet.  Oliver passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, and one veterinary assistant who’d fallen in love with him.

Photo: morguefile

Inspired and Inspiring – The Rewards and Challenges of Living with Disabled Pets

Did you miss Thursday’s Inspired and Inspiring – The Rewards and Challenges of Living with Disabled Pets teleseminar with Mary Shafer and Barbara Techel? If so, you missed an inspirational hour filled with wonderful discussions about special needs pets and the amazing lessons they teach us.  But not to worry! You can still listen to the interview by clicking on the link below. You can also save the recording to disk so you can listen to it on the media player of your choice by right clicking on the link, and then selecting “save target as” (for PC’s) or “save link as” (for Mac’s).

Thanks to everyone who joined us on the call!

Inspired and Inspiring – The Rewards and Challenges of Living with Disabled Pets

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