Weight Management for Senior Cats

Cat on Scale

Keeping kitty at her optimum weight is important at any age, but especially in older cats.  Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, osteoarthritis, respiratory distress, lower urinary tract disease and early mortality.   As our cats age and activity levels decrease, weight gain often becomes a problem.

Amber has been on a diet for the past several years – I’ve previously written about this here.  I’m happy to report that our efforts are working, and she has been losing some weight.

There are several factors that contribute to weight gain in our cats:

  • Free choice feeding.  This has been the single biggest factor in causing obesity in cats.  Free choice feeding means that food is left out for the cat at all times, which goes completely against the cat’s natural habit of being a hunter who may only eat one, maybe two meals a day.
  • Carbohydrates.  Unlike other mammals, cats have no carbohydrate-digesting enzyme called Amylase in their saliva.  Nature did not intend our cats to consume carbs.  They metabolize carbs into stored fat.  Unfortunately, most commercially available dry cat food is very high in carbohydrates, contributing to this problem.
  • Lack of exercise.  As we all know, our cats spend most of their day sleeping.
  • Treats.  For most of us, giving treats is one way we show our cats that we love them.  I’m definitely guilty of this – especially since Amber is the master manipulator when it comes to getting her treats!

How can we counteract these factors and help our cats maintain a healthy weight?

  • Stop leaving food out for your cat at all times.  Feeding two small meals a day, and feeding “normal” portions can go a long way toward helping your kitty loose and maintain her weight.   A normal size portion for a cat is about equal to the size of a mouse.  Don’t follow manufacturer directions when it comes to portion size – they’re all much higher than what your cat really needs.  When in doubt, consult with your cat’s vetnerinarian.
  • Feed a meat based diet.  This is consistent with the needs of a carnivore.  There are many quality commercial raw and canned diets available that are high in protein (meat) and free of grains (carbs).  Two brands I like (and they are also Amber-approved!) are the Wellness Core and the Innova EVO lines.
  • Play with your cat.  This is a great way for the two of you to spend quality time together and to get your cat some exercise.  For the times you when you can’t play with your cat, get him some interactive toys.  Check out the toy department of the Conscious Cat Store for some suggestions.
  • Limit or, ideally, eliminate treats.  If you absolutely must feed treats, look for grain-free treats that are high in protein and give only a few.  Amber has, reluctantly, learned that one Greenie treat (not grain-free, but only two calories a treat) is all she’ll get at any one time.  She still longs for the days when getting treats meant having a handful shaken into her bowl….

How do you help your kitty maintain or loose weight?

Is There a Connection Between Cat Color and Temperament?

multiple cats

My recent article on “Tortitude – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats” led me to wonder whether there’s a link between other cats’ coloring and their temperaments.  After all, both color and temperament can be inherited and genetically controlled, so it doesn’t seem to be too much of a leap to think that a cat’s coloring may be an indication of his or her personality.  It seems that there are, indeed, some commonalities between cat color and personality.  This is what I found:

Tabby Cats

Tabbies have a reputation for being laid back, calm and more sociable.  They’re also said to be very affectionate, and relaxed to the point of being lazy. 

Black Cats

Black cats can be stubborn and friendly at the same time.   They are said to be good hunters, but they can have a tendency to roam.  They’re good natured and sociable.

Ginger, Orange and Red Cats

Orange cats are usually males (only one out of five orange cats is female).  Cats with this coloring can be laid back and affectionate, but can also have a bit of a temper.  Females tend to be more laid back than males.

Black and White Cats

Black and white cats (some are known as tuxedo cats when their coat pattern resembles a tuxedo jacket) are said to be even tempered and placid, but they can also be wanderers.  They can be very loyal to their family, often to one person in particular, and can be real lap cats.

Blue, Cream, Gray and Lilac Cats

Cats that have lighter coat colors all carry the same gene, called the dilution gene.  I found conflicting information on this particular coloring – some say cats with this coloring can be mischievous and a bit frantic, while others say they are laid back and mellow.

I believe that each cat has a unique and special personality, and color is only one aspect of what may play into making kitty who she is.  Other factors, such as breed and environment also come into play.  And of course, our cats are also spiritual beings, and perhaps spirit plays the biggest part in determining personality.

Does your cat’s personality fit into one of these classifications based on coat color?

Book Review: The Theda Krakow Series by Clea Simon

I previously reviewed Probable Claws by Clea Simon, which is the fourth in a series.  All books feature Boston freelance writer Theda Krakow and her cat Musetta.  Since it’s always more fun to read a series from the beginning, I thought I’d provide reviews for the first three books for you.

mewisformurder

Mew is for Murder is the first in the series.  In addition to a great mystery, which begins when Theda shows up at a local “cat lady’s” home to interview her and finds her dead, and which features suspects ranging from the coffee-bar waitress who helped the murder victim take care of the cats to the victim’s schizophrenic son, Simon also shares her love of Cambridge, the setting of the story, as well as her forays into the Boston music scene. Filled with well-developed and likeable characters, this book is a thoroughly enjoyable read that leaves the reader wanting more. Thankfully, there are three more books in this series.

catteryrow

Cattery Row is the second book in the series.  In this book, we get to enter the world of show cats and the Boston area rock and roll scene. When show cats are being stolen, and Theda’s friend Rose, a breeder of pedigreed cats receives threats and is eventually implicated in the thefts and then found murdered, Theda begins to investigate because she refuses to believe that her friend had anything to do with the cat thefts. While she delves into solving the cat thefts and her friend’s murder, a musician friend of Theda’s is being blackmailed and becomes increasingly withdrawn. Are the two situations connected?

This is a well-crafted mystery with an immensely likeable heroine and the combination of cats and rock and roll make this a thoroughly enjoyable read. I particularly enjoyed this second glimpse into Theda’s world because of Simon’s excellent character development. Theda continues to grow as we get to know her better. And let’s not forget Musetta, Theda’s feline sidekick, who always has a paw in solving the mystery.

crieswhiskers

Cries and Whiskers is the third in the series, and it’s the most intense one yet. While Theda is investigating a new designer drug that is threatening musicians, fans and her friends in the growing Boston area music scene, an animal activist is killed by a hit-and-run driver while rescuing feral cats. As Theda and her friend Violet try to rescue the semi-wild cats from being outside in a freezing New England winter, it becomes apparent that the activist’s death was more than just an accident. As Theda begins to investigate, her boyfriend, a homicide detective, is recuperating from a broken leg and not at all thrilled with Theda’s involvement in these investigations. On top of that, she begins to suspect one of her friends, and finds her loyalties tested on all fronts. When her beloved cat Musetta goes missing, Theda risks everything to get her back and to solve the case.

Once again, Simon manages to combine a great mystery with wonderful, multi-dimensional characters. By now, we feel like we know Theda, and yet, we’re always surprised by the twists and turns of both the plot and Theda’s life.

For more information about Clea Simon and her books, visit her website at http://www.cleasimon.com

And coming soon on The Conscious Cat – an interview with author Clea Simon, who is getting ready to launch her first book in a brand new series, Shades of Grey.

From Fear to Hope and Love

fear to hope and love

We live in challenging times.  The economy, while showing signs of recovery, is still causing many people to live in a state of fear, which is exacerbated by the media’s message of lack, scarcity, gloom and doom.  Apparently, good news and positive topics don’t sell and don’t generate ratings.  Stories of disasters, financial and otherwise, abound.  While there is much that’s happening in the world today that gives us reason to fear the future, we need to be mindful to not let fear take over our lives.

According to the Law of Attraction, what we focus our thoughts and energy on is what we attract into our lives.  If we constantly worry about the future, we are keeping ourselves in those low vibrations, and as a result, we attract the very things we fear into our experience.  Not only that, we’re also going to be pretty unhappy in the process.  So why not allow hope to transform all that negative energy into something lighter and more positive, and ultimately, into love, which is the highest vibration of all?

More and more people are realizing that what the media presents as reality is far from the truth.  What is truth?  Truth is the same energy as love.  Love is a vibration that is aligned with universal consciousness, the Divine, Spirit, Source, God – whatever you choose to call it.   An easy way to gauge for yourself whether something is true or not is to check in with yourself about how you feel.  If you feel fear and worry, it’s not truth.  Truth and love cannot coexist with fear.  They’re energetically too far apart. 

Find your own, inner truth, and follow your own guidance.  Look for the good news, look for things that give you hope.  Once you have hope, it’s only a small leap to love.

How do you accomplish this in a world seemingly filled with so much bad news, and so much fear?  Here are some simple steps that can help you change your vibration from one of fear and worry to one of hope and love:

–  Make a conscious decision each day to look for things that make you feel good.  Look for things to appreciate.  Look for the positive aspects in the people you interact with.  By focusing on what’s good in your world, you activate a vibration that will bring more of that into your experience.

–  Go on a news diet.  I wrote about this previously here.  At the very least, stop watching the news first thing in the morning, and last thing before you go to bed at night.  What you see first thing in the morning will stay in your consciousness throughout the day.  What you see just before you go to sleep will make its way into your dreams and spoil a good night’s rest for you.  Consider foregoing the news altogether.  If you feel you must be informed, be judicious about where you get your news.  There are ways to get the news without the hype.

Practice simple acts of kindness.  This is a fun and easy way to take the focus off yourself and any fear and worry you might experience.  Yield to the car in front of you trying to merge into your lane.  Smile at the harried clerk at the store.  Take an unexpected small gift to someone in your office.  Trying to make someone else feel better feels good.

Pet your cat or dog!  Being with your animals is one of the best ways I know to instantly shift your vibration from negative to positive.  It’s impossible to be fearful and worried when you have a happy dog licking your face or a purring cat in your lap.

There are plenty of signs around us that the tide is starting to turn – all we have to do is look for them.  Just like winter eventually yields to spring, and dark days yield to light, fear, if not given permission to run free, will yield to hope and eventually love.  All it takes is a willingness to shift your thoughts towards something that feels better, and make choices that are based in love rather than fear.

A Man, His Kitten, and Paying It Forward

If you’ve been online at all in the last few days, you’ve probably come across the  Mean Kitty Song video on YouTube – it has gotten close to 25 million views since creator Cory Williams put it up on his channel. 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qit3ALTelOo&feature=channel

Clearly, he uses the word “mean” in the most loving possible way, as this guy is obviously in love with his little kitten.  I became intrigued, and poked around YouTube a bit more, and found the video that tells The Mean Kitty’s Story:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDJNuypavq8

As Cory talks about Sparta’s story and the impact the video may have had on people, it got me thinking about how wonderful it is that something so small can have such an impact on so many people, which in turn made me think back to the 2000 movie Pay it Forward about a 12-year-old boy who believes in the goodness of human nature and is determined to change the world for the better.  We all have the ability to affect others in everything we do and say, no matter how small, and frequently we’re not even aware of it.  By becoming conscious of the impact our actions and our words have on others each and every day and acting in ways that are in alignment with our true nature, we not only feel good ourselves, we make the world around us a better place.  Think about this as you go through your day today – how have you impacted someone else’s life?  How has someone else’s kindness impacted you?  And how can you pay it forward? 

And on a side note, I was happy to hear that, despite the fact that this rambunctious and playful little kitten has clearly done some damage with his claws, Cory speaks out against declawing.  He is using SoftPaws Nail Caps, a humane alternative to declawing.

Amber’s Mewsings: Buckley’s Story Cover

Amber

Yesterday was a really big day for Mom – she got the cover art for Buckley’s Story from the designer.  What do you think – do you like it?  Mom cries everytime she looks at it, and I get a little emotional, too.  It really brings my sister back to life, and it’s so cool that she’s on the cover of a book that’s all about her.  Well, mostly – I’m in the book, too, and I play a very important role in the story.   And since I’m also on the back of the book cover (in the photo with Mom), I guess it’s okay that Buckley gets the front.  Mom reads a little bit from the book to me every day, and I really like that.  It makes me remember all the wonderful times the three of us shared together.  I miss Buckley.

The other cool thing that happened this week was that the banner Mom ordered for the cat show she’s going to be at in three weeks came in.  It’s got my picture on it (the same one that’s the header for this site), and it’s really really big.  Kind of weird to look at a giant version of myself, but also very appropriate.  My greatness can’t be contained in just a small screen-sized version of the picture.  Maybe I can convince Mom to hang the banner somewhere in our house after the cat show.

In case you’re wondering what cat show, Mom will represent The Conscious Cat at the National Capital Cat Show on Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13 at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia.  If you’re in the greater Washington DC area, be sure to stop by the Whimsy Cats booth, that’s where Mom will be.  There’ll be lots of great cat health information (Mom really knows her stuff) and free cat goodies.  You’ll also have a chance to enter a drawing for a signed copy of Buckley’s Story!  I know this will come as a disappointment to all of you, but I’m not going to be there.  Mom said I wouldn’t like it, and she’s probably right.  Although it would be fun to meet all our fans in purrson.

Making Decisions and Thinking Big

poor decision

Have you ever had to make a really big decision and found yourself paralyzed by fear?  Maybe you were trying to decide whether to leave your job.  Maybe a relationship had gone sour and you were thinking about leaving.  Maybe you were trying to decide about moving to a new city.  But you found yourself unable to make a decision.  Why do we get stuck when it comes to making big decisions, and how can we overcome this?

One of the main reasons why we often find it hard to make decisions is that we think of the outcome being right or wrong.  Contrary to the funny picture at the top of this post, there really are no wrong decisions (although the kitten in the photo might disagree!), there are only different choices.  Once you truly believe that, it becomes easier to make decisions.   Additionally, very few decisions are irreversible.  We always have the power to make a different choice.

Another reason why making a decision can be difficult is fear.  Fear of the outcome, fear of how a “wrong” decision may impact our lives and the lives of those around us, fear of taking some risks.  A fear-based decision is never a good decision.  Fear limits.  If we live in fear, we will never be able to realize our full potential.  Fear is never truth.  If you feel fear, remember to connect with your spiritual core and remind yourself that there is no room for fear when you are connected to your true self.

So how do we go about making decisions without getting caught up in worry, fear and limitations?  One of the best pieces of advice I got from one of my mentors was to make decisions from the place I want to be, not from the place I’m in.  This means that if I’m thinking and dreaming big, I need to be ready to make decisions that support that kind of thinking.  I can’t decide from a place of fear and scarcity if I want to live a big life that fully reflects who I really am. 

Amber doesn’t understand why  humans have such a difficult time making decisions.  She says all decisions are ultimately only about two things:  does it feel good?  Or does it feel bad?  Make the decision that feels good, and it will always serve you.

“Tortitude” – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats

tortitude tortoiseshell cat personality

Tortoiseshell cats are named for their distinctive coloring – a combination of patches of black, brown, amber, red, cinnamon and chocolate.  The size of the patches varies from a fine speckled pattern to large areas of color.  The term “tortoiseshell” is used for cats with brindled coats that have few or no white markings.  Cats of this coloring with larger areas of white fur are called calicos. Sometimes, these colors present in lighter versions such as lilac or cream.  Torties with this lighter coloring are called dilute torties.  Occasionally, the typical tortoiseshell colors are also seen in a tabby (striped) pattern, and these cats are sometimes referred to as “torbies.”

Tortoiseshell cats are almost exclusively female.  Tortoiseshell and calico coats are the result of the interaction between genetic and developmental factors.  The occasional and very rare male tortoiseshell cat is the result of a genetic mutation.

In addition to their distinctive coloring, torties also have a reputation for unique personalities, sometimes referred to as “tortitude.”  They tend to be strong-willed, a bit hot-tempered, and they can be very possessive of their human.  Other words used to describe torties are fiercely independent, feisty and unpredictable.  They’re usually very talkative and make their presence and needs known with anything from a hiss to a meow to a strong purr.  These traits are stronger in tortoiseshell cats than in calicos – it seems as though these traits are somewhat diluted with the addition of more white to the color scheme.

As of the writing of this post, I share my life with Amber*, and those of you who’ve followed this blog for a while have gotten to know her in her Amber’s Mewsings posts.  You will soon be able to read all about Buckley in Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master TeacherThe photo above shows Buckley in the front, Amber behind her.

Prior to Amber and Buckley, there was another tortie in my life.  Virginia was the first office cat at the animal hospital I managed.  She was my introduction to torties, and my love affair with this particular type of cat began with her.  She, too, had the “tortitude” I so love about these particular cats.

Do you have a tortie or calico in your life?  Does she have “tortitude?”

*Sadly, Amber passed away on May 13, 2010, after a sudden, brief illness.  I now share my life with Allegra and Ruby, two tortoiseshell cats who have their own columns here on The Conscious Cat, titled Allegra’s World and Ruby’s Reflections.

Photo ©Ingrid King, all rights reserved

Tortitude banner for posts with border

Amber’s Mewsings: Mom Went Away for the Weekend

can I come photoshopped

Mom isn’t much of a traveler.  I think it’s because she really likes to stay home with me and misses me too much when she goes away – which I can totally understand, of course, since being with me is just the best.  She used to go away a couple of times a year, but all that changed last April, when my sister Buckley got sick.  Mom was really upset about it.  Buckley had to take a lot of medications, and the vet said that her heart was bad.  Buckley was a bit of a pistol when it came to taking pills, and I think Mom was worried that our cat sitter wouldn’t be able to give Buckley her pills.  I also think she didn’t want to leave Buckley, not knowing how much time the three of us would have left together.  We were such a team, it was hard to imagine we wouldn’t always be a threesome.  You’ll soon be able to read more about all of that in Buckley’s Story.  Anyway, after Buckley died, Mom was sad for a long time.  I did my best to comfort her, and I know she didn’t feel like being away from me.

But last weekend, she went away, just for the weekend.  My cat sitter came twice a day to take care of me.  She’s one of my favorite people.  She doesn’t just come to feed me (which is the most important part of her visit, don’t get me wrong!) and clean out my litter box (also very important, I’m a very clean cat).  She brushes me, and plays with me, and we watch tv together.    She’s really sweet, and I love her.  In between her visits, I mostly sleep.  I miss Mom while she’s gone, but I guess I understand that she needs to get away from everything every once in a while (well, not really, but I love her and if it’s what she wants to do, I’m okay with it).  She doesn’t do it much, so it’s fine.

It did make me think about how many cats are left alone when their moms and dads have to travel, especially over the summer, when humans do something they call going on vacation.   I don’t understand why you’d need a vacation when every day is just so wonderful that it makes no sense to me that you would want to get away from everything, but then, humans are hard to understand sometimes.   For cats, every day is a vacation day.  We get to sleep in, we have a servant at our beck and call all day long, our meals are served to us, we get to play when we feel like it.  Makes you wonder who the smart ones really are, doesn’t it?

I hope all the cats and their humans are having a great summer!

A Change of Pace, a Shift in Energy

central-park-new-york-wallpaper

No matter how much you love your life, your environment, and your routine (and I do), sometimes, it’s good to have a  change of pace and a change of scenery.  Following the same routine day after day can lead to stale energy, and a quick and easy way to shake things up a bit is to get out of your normal environment.  So last weekend I went to visit a friend in New York City – my favorite city in the whole world.  What’s not to love?  In addition to being able to walk everywhere you want to go, there are so many great restaurants on every block, there’s Central Park, and there’s the incredible energy of a city of millions of people.  And I hadn’t seen my friend in two years, so it was long past time for a visit.

I had a fabulous weekend, and the trip reminded me how important a change of pace and scenery and an opportunity to get out of one’s normal routine can be.  Instead of my usual routine I spent the weekend walking around the city with my friend.  We caught up on each others’ lives, ate at wonderful restaurants, went to a comedy club (celebrity sighting:  Judah Friedlander from 30 Rock!), and hung out with my friend’s cats.  I came home feeling relaxed and recharged.

Even if you can’t get away for a weekend, there are simple ways to incorporate a change of pace into your day.  You’ll be surprised how even small changes can shift your energy, and as a result, free up creativity, open your mind to new and different possibilities, and make you feel great.

Some suggestions for a simple change of pace:

  • Take a different route to work.  Instead of going the quickest way, go the scenic route one day.  If you work from home, find a different place in the house to work from.
  • Make small changes in your daily routine.  Do you always follow the same sequence when you first get up in the morning?  Shake things up a bit.
  • Try a new food you’ve never had before.  Is there an ethnic cuisine you’ve  never head but always wanted to try? 
  • Rent a movie that’s different from your usual fare.  Do you usually watch dramas?  Try a comedy. 

You’ll be surprised how these seemingly small changes of pace can shift your energy.

The Lowdown on Nutritional Supplements

vitamins

This article was provided by Nancy Kay, DVM.  Dr. Kay is a Diplomate of the  American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.  She is the recipient of the American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award and author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life.   The article was written for pets, but it applies just as much to supplements for humans.

The nutritional supplement industry has become big business as people are looking for more natural ways to care for the health of their pets.  For example, a person might be inclined to try glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate for their dog’s arthritis pain rather than a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (the equivalent of doggie Advil).

The number of nutritional supplement manufacturers has grown exponentially.  Unfortunately, the quality of products hitting the market is somewhat hit or miss.  There is no FDA approval process for nutritional supplements, and incidents of contamination with heavy metals, pesticides, or other unsavory ingredients have been reported.  Additionally manufacturers are not required to comply with specific formulations for their products- the strength or concentration of the active ingredient may be inadequate, too much of a good thing, or just right.

Knowing this, how in the world can the average consumer purchase a product that is safe and effective?  Certainly query your vet for his or her recommendations.  We veterinarians are taught to use the ACCLAIM system (described below) to assess nutritional supplements.   You too can use this system to make educated choices about these products for yourself and your four-legged loved ones.

A = A name you recognize.  Choose an established company that provides educational materials for veterinarians and other consumers.  Is it a company that is well established?

C = Clinical experience.  Companies that support clinical research and have their products used in clinical trials that are published in peer-reviewed journals to which veterinarians have access are more likely to have a quality product.

C = Contents.  All ingredients should be clearly indicated on the product label.

L = Label claims.  Label claims that sound too good to be true likely are.  Choose products with realistic label claims.

A = Administration recommendations.  Dosing instructions should be accurate and easy to follow.  It should be easy to calculate the amount of active ingredient administered per dose per day.

I = Identification of lot.  A lot identification number indicates that a surveillance system exists to ensure product quality.

M = Manufacturer information.  Basic company information should be clearly stated on the label including a website (that is up and running) or some other means of contacting customer support.

For more information about Dr. Kay, please visit her website at http://www.speakingforspot.com or Spot’s Blog at http://speakingforspot.wordpress.com/

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