Book Review: Houdini by T. J. Banks

Houdini coverFrom the publisher: 

A Siamese only gives his heart to a human once.  For Houdini, an abandoned, down-on-his luck Siamese kitten, that human is Jill Leonard.  After smuggling him home on an airplane, Jill gives Houdini a good home with her other cats.  It’s not long before Houdini settles into life as a loved pet.  Hidden dangers abound when he inadvertently strays from home.  Will Houdini ever find his way back home?

This description hardly does the book justice.  Houdini is a wonderful story for adults and children, and is sure to melt the heart of any cat lover.   Most of the story is told from Houdini’s perspective, and the author’s deep connection with the feline soul shows in every word.  You’ll fall in love with Houdini from the very first chapter.  Banks masterfully shares Houdini’s story from a cat’s point of view, from his despair at being abandoned to his joy when he meets his special person.  You’ll delight in sharing Houdini’s world.  His interaction with other cats, and with the humans in his life, as told from his perspective, are recounted with the sensitivity and grace you’d expect from a feline.  You’ll appreciate the special relationship he shares with Jill, his person.  You’ll worry for him and with him when he gets lost.   You’ll find your heart in your throat as you live through the dangers he encounters as he’s trying to find his way back home.

This is not the kind of book that you’d expect to be unable to put down, but for me, it was exactly that.  It’s impossible to not fall in love with this sweet cat, and you’ll find yourself nodding your head in recognition as you compare some of Houdini’s observations and personality traits to those of the felines in your life.  The book is a celebration of the unconditional love between cats and their humans, as told by one very special Siamese.  Four  paws up for Houdini!

T.J. Banks is the author of  A Time for Shadows and Catsong.  Her work has appeared in numberous anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Single Parent’s Soul and A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love.  She lives with her daughter Marissa and their cats and rabbits in a sometimes peaceable, but always interesting kingdom in Connecticut.

I previously reviewed T.J. Bank’s book Catsong right here on The Conscious Cat.  Click here to read the review.

Health Risks of Anti-Bacterial Soaps

cat at sink

With fears of H1N1 running rampant, it seems like everywhere you turn, there’s antibacterial gel, antibacterial soap and other antibacterial cleansers.  But are these cleansers really necessary, not to mention safe, or do they actually post health risks?  Today’s guest post addresses these questions.

Guest post by Woody McMahon, Sequoia Health and Fitness, Inc.

In an effort to fulfill the age old saying “cleanliness is next to Godliness,” the use of antibacterial soaps is on the rise. The liberal use of soap is a good thing, but antibacterial soaps present several major risks.

As early as 2005, researchers at Virginia Tech found that the active chemical ingredient in antibacterial soaps, triclosan, can cause two major health problems. First, consumers who use the soaps may be exposed to significant quantities of the cancer causing substance chloroform. Also, long term use of these soaps creates an unhealthy balance of antibiotic resistant bacteria on the skin. They found bacteria resistant to some of the more popular antibiotic drugs like chloramphenicol, ampicillin, tetracycline and ciprofloxacin.

Dr. Peter Vikesland, an environmental chemist at Virginia Tech had this to say about antibacterial soaps: “This is the first work that we know of that suggests that consumer products, such as antimicrobial soap, can produce significant quantities of chloroform. There are numerous potential exposure pathways that can be envisioned, such as inhalation and skin exposure, when using antimicrobial soaps to wash dishes or when taking a shower. There is also risk of exposure when using triclosan laden moisturizers as they may also react with chlorine in the water.”

What is Triclosan?

Triclosan is a synthetic antimicrobial agent found in a wide variety of products. Its broad spectrum, bacteria fighting ability has made it popular in an ever increasing number of personal care products, cosmetics, antimicrobial creams, acne treatments, lotions, hand soaps, and dish soaps. Triclosan goes under the trade name Microban®, when used in plastics and clothing and Biofresh® when used in acrylic fibers. Even though Triclosan is effective at killing bacteria, it is registered as a pesticide with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill some type of life form. The EPA considers triclosan a high risk for human health and the environment.

What is Chloroform?

When triclosan, the active ingredient in antibacterial soaps, reacts with the chlorine in the tap water, chloroform is created. Chloroform is a central nervous system depressant and cancer causing compound. The U.S. Department of Labor has strict guidelines when it comes to contact with chloroform. Chronic inhalation of chloroform may cause psychiatric and neurological symptoms, including depression, hallucinations and moodiness. In one study, liver enlargement was demonstrated in 17 of 68 workers exposed to chloroform at low levels for 1 to 4 years. Alcoholics are more at risk from chloroform because ethanol increases chloroform’s toxic effects.

Healthy Bacteria

The bacteria on your skin serve as a part of your skin’s natural defense mechanism. Your skin uses healthy bacteria to keep colonies of unhealthy bacteria at bay. Without the healthy bacteria, the unhealthy ones can take over and create infections and other skin problems. Destroy all the healthy bacteria with antibacterial soap and you set yourself up for big problems. The constant use of antibacterial soaps is similar to using antibiotics for every little cold or sneeze. All antibacterial products should be used sparingly so that resistant strains of bacteria do not develop. Using antibiotics only when necessary ensures they will remain effective when the need arises. 

Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

When bacteria are exposed to long term, low doses of antibiotics, some of them can develop antibiotic resistance. Resistant bacteria must be treated with other, sometimes stronger antibiotics. In rare instances, there is no known medication that will kill the bacteria. It is wiser to use antibiotics sparingly and for shorter duration. The constant use of antimicrobials, as in the antibacterial soaps, creates a real long term health hazard; one that is easily avoidable with regular soap.

Living a healthier lifestyle is easy with one of Sequoia Health and Fitness, Inc.’s Fresh Start programs.  They provide the plan, implementation, motivation and accountability necessary for your success. To see all of their programs, visit  http://www.sequoiahealth.com.  They offer a no-cost consultation.  For more information, please e-mail Woody McMahon at Woody@SequoiaHealth.com

Everybody’s Gone Surfin’ (Part One)

computer cat

Finding Reliable Pet Health Information Online

Guest Post by Nancy Kay, DVM

When you or a loved one develops a medical issue, chances are you’ll be inclined to do some Internet research.  While I say, “More power to you!” other medical professionals might roll their eyes at the thought of “wasting” valuable time discussing potentially “whackadoodle” notions gleaned from cyberspace. 

Part one of “Everybody’s Gone Surfin” will teach you how to find instructive, accurate, worthwhile Internet information while avoiding “online junk food.”  Part two (coming soon to your home computer) will provide tools to assist you in comfortably discussing what you’ve learned online with your veterinarian, in a way that promotes collaborative discussion. By the way, although I’m a veterinarian teaching people how to better care for their furry and feathered family members, please know that this information also applies to your own health care. 

So, let’s begin.  How can you determine whether or not a Web site is dishing out information that is worthy of your time? Here are some general guidelines: 

  1. Ask your veterinarian for her Web site recommendations.  She might wish to refer you to a specific site that will supplement or reinforce the information she has provided.
  2. Veterinary college web sites invariably provide reliable information.  Search for them by entering “veterinary college” or “veterinary school” after the name of the disease or symptom you are researching.
  3. Web addresses ending in “.org,” “.edu,” and “.gov,” represent nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and governmental agencies, respectively.  They will likely be sources of objective and accurate information.
  4. If your dog has a breed-specific disease, pay a visit to the site hosted by that specific breed’s national organization.
  5. Avoid business-sponsored Web sites that stand to make money when you believe and act on what they profess (especially if it involves purchasing something).
  6. Be ever so wary of anecdotal information.  It’s perfectly okay to indulge yourself with remarkable tales (how Max’s skin disease was miraculously cured by a single session of aromatherapy; how global warming is the cause of hip dysplasia), but view what you are reading as fiction rather than fact.  As fascinating as these National Enquirer type stories may seem, please don’t let them significantly influence the choices you make for your dog.
  7. I really love disease-specific online forums.  Check out those sponsored by Yahoo (http://groups.yahoo.com/).  Not only do they provide a wealth of educational information, members can be a wonderful source of emotional support- always a good thing for those of us who share our homes and hearts with an animal.  If you are considering joining an online forum, I encourage you to look for a group that focuses on a specific disease (kidney failure, diabetes, etc), has lots of members, and has been around for several years.  For example, an excellent Yahoo group K9KidneyDiet (addresses issues pertaining to dogs with kidney failure) has 3,391 members and has been up and running for eight years.  A large group such as this typically has multiple moderators who provide more than one point of view (always a good thing) and greater round-the-clock availability for advice and support.  Look for presentation of cited references (clinical research that supports what is being recommended). Such groups should have a homepage that explains the focus of the group and provides the number of members and posts per month (the more the better).  They may have public archives of previous posts that can provide a wealth of information.

Listed below are three Web sites that discuss Addison’s disease (an illness that can affect dogs and people- John F. Kennedy was diagnosed with Addison’s disease).  Now that you are an expert on evaluating Web sites, here is a little test of your skills.  Which one of these three sites is worthy of your time and attention? Have a look and let me know what you think! 

  1. http://addisonsdiseasebreakthroughs.com/
  2. http://www.addisondogs.com/
  3. http://www.natural-dog-health-remedies.com/addisons-disease-in-dogs.html 

Keep an eye out for Part Two of Everybody’s Gone Surfin’ in which I will give you some tools for comfortably and effectively broaching the subject of your Internet research with your veterinarian! 

Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health,

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

speaking for spot coverPlease visit http://www.speakingforspot.com/ to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Order  a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html

Join Dr. Kay’s email list – http://speakingforspot.com/joinemaillist.html

Look for Dr. Kay on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

Giveaway: The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care

Holistic Cat Care

The Conscious Cat is starting 2010 with a giveaway!  And to start the new year off on a healthy note for your cat, I’m giving away one copy of The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care by Celeste Yarnall, Ph.D. and Jean Hofve, D.V.M.  This comprehensive guide to holistic cat care covers topics such as natural nutrition, preventive medicine, natural remedies, hands on healing, and more.  The book is beautifully illustrated.  Click here to read my review of this book

To enter, please leave a comment letting me know why you’d like to win this book.  One comment per person, please.  For an additional chance to win,  you can blog, tweet or share on Facebook about this giveaway and leave the link in a comment.  The deadline for entering the giveaway is Sunday, January 10.  Good luck!

Honest Scrap Award

Honest_Scrap

I’m delighted and honored that The Conscious Cat received the Honest Scrap Award from Mason Canyon, the author of the wonderful blog Thoughts in Progress.  The award is given to “bloggers who put their heart on display as they write from the depths of their soul.”   For more about the award, and the amazing company I’m in, please visit today’s post on Mason’s blog.

The award came with two “conditions: ” that the recipient post 10 interesting things about themselves, and that the the award can be passed on to other blogs.

So, here are 10 things about myself – you be the judge of whether they’re interesting or not:

1.   I can’t imagine a world without cats.
2.   I was born in Germany.
3.   Walking is my favorite exercise.
4.   I like hard rock and heavy metal.
5.   I’m an introvert.
6.   I don’t like negative people.
7.   I love to eat out.
8.   I’m very intuitive.
9.   I love New York City.
10. I love being a published author.

Now to pass this award on – I’m passing it on to the following blogs who never fail to delight and inspire me:

The Boomer Muse
Conversations with Eva
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Dawn Kairns and Maggie the Dog

The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood
The Daily Tail
Catnip Connection

The Creative Cat
Veterinary Wisdom Cafe
Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

I’m not attaching any conditions to the award – enjoy, and feel free to pass it on if you wish!

 

New Year’s Intentions

 New Year's Resolutions

 
Another New Year, another round of New Year’s resolutions.  Lose weight, eat healthier, begin a fitness program, spend more time with family and friends, enjoy life more — these are probably some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions on most peoples’ lists.  They’re also the resolutions most likely to be broken by the end of January.  Maybe it’s time for a shift in consciousness when it comes to New Year’s resolutions.  Instead of making resolutions this year, why not set New Year’s Intentions?
 
The definition of intention, according to Merriam Webster, is “a determination to act in a certain way”, whereas the definition of resolution is “the act of determining.”  There’s a subtle difference, but one (intention) implies that we are actually determined to do something differently, whereas the other (resolution) simply states that we’ve decided to change something.   The difference from a vibrational perspective is far greater than these definitions suggest.  Our thoughts create our reality.  Law of Attraction teaches us that like attracts like, so when we focus our thoughts on what we would like to create in our lives, we attract it to us.  Setting an intention is nothing more than focusing our thoughts on a desired outcome.
 
Using the example of wanting to lose weight, rather than making a resolution to loose weight, which focuses on the extra weight we’re trying to get rid of, it makes more sense from a vibrational perspective to set the intention that we’re going to have a healthy, slender body that feels good.  The universe doesn’t distinguish between thoughts about what we want or don’t want, it will attract what we think about.  So if we continue to think about how we don’t want to be overweight or how we need to drop those extra pounds, we’re only going to attract more of what we don’t want into our lives — which, in this case, is extra weight!  If, however, we think about how great it will feel to have a healthy, slender body that feels good and moves well, we’re well on our way to achieving our goal.
 
Now that’s not to say we don’t still have to exercise more and eat right, but by setting the intention and focusing our thoughts on the desired outcome, we will naturally want to make the choices that are in alignment with our desire.  Our choices become “inspired action” — the action of eating better and exercising more will feel like the next logical step rather than a battle or a chore.
 
We all have the power to choose our thoughts.  This New Year’s, why not choose to set intentions that will put you on the road to success, rather than making resolutions that are doomed to fail?

Keeping Your Indoor Cat Happy

untitled

Guest post by Daniela Caride

Cats should live inside and not be allowed outdoors at any time. No pet should go outside unattended. Cats may be exposed to a variety of risks that may harm them, and even you.

That’s why indoor cats live far longer than cats who go outdoors. The average life expectancy for an indoor cat is 12 to 15 years vs. 4 to 5 years for an outdoor cat, according to PetPlace.

If you are still not convinced, here are six reasons why you should keep your cats indoors:

1. Accidents – Your cat may be struck by a vehicle or get caught sleeping under a car hood when the engine gets turned on, killing or harming him seriously.

2. Life-threatening situations – Your cat is a potential target for dogs, wild animals and even animal abusers.

3. Disease – Your cat may catch serious diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) if involved in a cat fight. He can also bring home parasites, such as fleas and ticks, and even become infected with ringworm, a fungus also transmissible to humans.

4. Poisoning – Your cat may be exposed to potential hazards from poisons, such as antifreeze, lawn fertilizers, weed killers and poisonous toxic plants. Cocoa mulch, widely used in gardens, for instance, can be fatal to cats.

5. Stealing and animal control – Your cat can be stolen or picked up by animal control authorities. He might end up in a shelter, where he may be adopted out to another family or euthanized.

6. Environmental impact – Your cat may harm the environment by hunting native birds. In many communities, birds are endangered because of the outdoors feline population.

The pros of keeping your cats indoors far outnumber the cons. But many people still ask if cats can be happy if only living inside. The answer is yes.

You can avoid boredom and discomfort by providing your cat a healthy environment combined with activities that stimulate him physically and mentally.

Here are four tips:

  • Provide a litter box per cat plus one (if you have three cats, have four litter boxes), so your cat has plenty of opportunities to evacuate in the places you want, not in the ones he chooses.

If you provide your cat with the right stimuli, you will make him happy, prolong his life and keep his and your health costs down. Who wouldn’t like to do this for such a great companion?

daniela and crosby-1

Daniela Caride is the publisher of The Daily Tail (http://www.TheDailyTail.com), a participatory blog about pets with stories, tips, and reviews. She lives with three cats, Crosby, Gaijin and Phoenix, three dogs, Frieda, Geppetto and Lola, and her husband, Martin, in Cambridge, MA.

Buckley’s First Christmas

Christmas card large

In memory of Buckley’s first Christmas with Amber and me:
An excerpt from Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher

Soon, it was time to get ready for Buckley’s first holiday season with Amber and me. I traditionally put up my Christmas tree during Thanksgiving weekend. It is a small, four-foot high artificial tree that I have had for close to twenty years. While I like the idea and especially the wonderful pine scent of a real tree, I also find it too much of a hassle to deal with having someone bring the tree into the house for me and then to remove it again at the end of the season, so I have been quite content with my artificial tree over the years. And since having a fake tree has even become the environmentally conscious thing to do in recent years, rather than feeling like I should be making apologies for it, I am now politically correct. The tree sits on a small table next to the dining room cabinet. The table is draped with a red tablecloth that reaches all the way to the floor, creating a perfect little cat tent underneath. Amber always enjoyed hiding underneath the tree during Christmases past, and now Buckley got to share in the fun. It provided endless entertainment for both cats, and it was a new experience for Amber to be stalked by Buckley from underneath the tree.

In addition to playtime, the tree also provided lovely moments of quiet contemplation for all three of us. Most evenings before going to bed, I turned off all the lights in the living room except for those on the tree and put on some soft Christmas music. With both cats curled up on my lap, we simply sat by the tree and enjoyed the lights, ornaments, and the profound sense of peace these moments brought. This experience has always had a meditative quality for me that was greatly enhanced by the shared energy of the two cats.

Amber had never been all that interested in the ornaments on the tree. I decorate the tree with ornaments I have collected over the years, many of them cat-themed, which should come as no surprise. Some of the ornaments have great sentimental value, such as the silver bell that I brought home after cleaning out my father’s condominium after he passed away. As far back as I can remember, that silver bell was on the Christmas trees of my childhood. Other ornaments were gifts from friends or items I had picked up while traveling. I always hung the breakable ornaments on the side of the tree furthest from the dining room table. In the past, Amber had occasionally jumped up on the table and batted at the ornaments she could reach from there. Thankfully, she had never tried to jump up on the table the tree was sitting on. I was not sure what to expect from Buckley, but she turned out to be far more interested in the tent underneath the tree than the actual tree or ornaments. I never once even saw her on the dining room table trying to bat at ornaments she could have reached from there.

Buckley’s first Christmas was a special time for all of us. This little cat had never gotten presents before in her life. Needless to say, I completely overdid it that year, and I was not the only one. Many of my friends also showered Buckley, as well as Amber, with toys and treats that Christmas. Buckley had a difficult time deciding what was more fun—the actual toys and treats or helping me tear them out of their colorful wrappings and ribbons.  She had a wonderful time that first Christmas, playing with abandon and giving herself up to total joy.

Amber’s Mewsings: Amber Gets Her Teeth Cleaned

sunny evening 006

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago, I had to undergo the dreaded bi-annual exam (you can read all about that ordeal here), and Fern, my vet, decided that I needed to have my teeth cleaned.  That finally happened last week.  Let me tell you, it was not a fun day.

I politely waited for Mom to get up like I do every other morning, and I led the way to the kitchen.  At first I thought Mom was just really tired that morning, because instead of feeding me, she just gave me fresh water.  Then she made her coffee.  Hello!  My food always comes before her coffee!  She kept saying “I’m sorry, Amber, I can’t feed you this morning.”  Well, sorry didn’t quite cut it, we were talking about breakfast here, and I made my displeasure known in no uncertain terms.  When that didn’t get the desired result, I tried flattery and rubbed against Mom’s legs and purred.  Still no breakfast.  When she took her coffee into her office and started doing her computer stuff, I knew we had a serious problem.  I kept trying to remind her that she was forgetting something, but no breakfast appeared.  After about an hour of this, I gave up and curled up for a nap.  Maybe this was just a bad dream and I’d wake up and breakfast would be served.

Well, things only went downhill from there.  Mom woke me up from my nap – and I immediately knew it wasn’t for breakfast.  She grabbed me off the nice and soft window perch I’d been sleeping on and stuck me into my carrier.  I knew resistance would be futile, but I still complained at the top of my voice.  I know it upsets Mom when I cry, but I was spitting mad!  Before I knew it, I was in the car and we were on the way to what I knew by now would be to the dreaded cat hospital.  I could have cried all the way there, but I decided to go easy on Mom and just grumbled occasionally.

Once we got there, I refused to come out of my carrier, knowing full well that they have ways to get me out, but I wasn’t about to make it easy for them.  Fern was there, and two other women who, okay, I’ll admit it, had good kitty vibes, but I wasn’t feeling too friendly, so I ignored their pathetic attempts to make nice with me.  Mom dragged me out of the carrier while one of the women was holding on to it, and then Mom put me on the scale.  She was happy with what she saw there, so at least that was good.  Apparently, the measly rations that have passed for breakfast and dinner around here are working and I’ve lost a couple of pounds since my last visit to the cat hospital.  After being weighed, Mom put me on a table with a soft towel on top that was really nice and warm.  I have to admit, that felt pretty good, but I also knew it was supposed to give me a false sense of security.  Sure enough, seconds later, I felt a needle being stuck in my hip, and something cold and burning was injected into me.  A few seconds after that, I started feeling really weird – fuzzy and kind of tired.  I don’t remember much after that.

When I woke up, Mom was holding me in her arms.  My mouth felt strange – a little sore, and there was this odd flavor coating all my teeth, nothing a cat should ever have to taste.  It smelled like what Mom’s mouth smells like after she brushes her teeth.  I shudder to think they used that paste stuff I’ve seen her use on me while I was asleep.  Mom says it’s called a fluoride treatment, but I say it tastes and smells nasty.  My throat was sore, like something had been shoved down it and then pulled out again.  Mom told me it was a breathing tube, but I don’t really know what that means, nor do I care to!  I felt really weird – I wanted to wake up but I couldn’t really control how to move my head or the rest of me.  But at least Mom was holding me, and that really helped.  Eventually, I felt a little better. I was able to lift my head and look around a little bit.  I can’t say that I cared much for what I saw.  Fern and the two women who were responsible for everything that was done to me were still there.  They were now torturing another cat on the table I had been on earlier.

After what seemed like forever, Mom put me back in the carrier.  This time, I wasn’t putting up any fuss about going in there – I’ve been through this enough to know it meant we were going home!  Once we got home, I still felt pretty crummy – just out of sorts, restless, tired, but yet not able to relax.  My eyes felt strange, and I couldn’t see all that clearly.  The things I did see don’t normally exist in my house, so I’m not sure what that was all about.   Mom says it’s the drugs they gave me.  Finally, after a few hours of tripping like this, I was able to relax enough to take a nice long nap.

I know how important it is to keep my teeth nice and clean, but I sure am glad that this is over with for hopefully at least another six months.  And in all fairness, I know this is just as stressful for Mom as it is for me –she worries about me, and I love her for that.

1 268 269 270 271 272 284