An Interview with the Founder and Editor of Moderncat

photo credit:  www.giuliosciorio.com

I previously introduced Moderncat in my post Unique Cat Products With a Modern Twist  because I loved the site so much.  It is my pleasure today to introduce you to Kate Benjamin.  Kate is the founder and editor of Moderncat, a resource for cat owners with a modern style. She seeks out the newest products for living with cats in a modern home. She tries to identify not only products that fit a modern aesthetic, but also items that are truly innovative and that make living with cats a more enjoyable experience. Moderncat combines product reviews with other useful information for cat owners in a clear and concise format.

Welcome to The Conscious Cat, Kate.

 

Tell us a little bit about Moderncat.  How did you come up with the idea?

Thanks so much for giving me the chance to share my story with your readers! I started Moderncat because I was a cat owner myself looking for a single online resource for well-designed cat products. I was finding individual companies and products, but I couldn’t find a place where I could view everything all in one place. I had learned a little bit about blogging in my job as the Director of Marketing at a children’s product development company, so I decided to start my own blog. Apparently, other people were looking for the same thing because the readership started to grow and today Moderncat has a wonderful international audience of design-conscious cat lovers.

Moderncat became hugely successful in the two years since you started the project.  How do you explain its popularity and success?

I think the success of Moderncat is due mostly to the fact that there is nothing else really like it, but also that I’ve been very active in all kinds of different online communities, helping to spread the word about the blog and attract more readers. It didn’t happen overnight, I’ve worked at it slowly and steadily for over two years now. It has been a pleasure getting to know my readers through the comments and emails.

Is Moderncat a full time job for you?

Yes, it is now my full-time job and I absolutely love it! I ran the blog for two years on the side, and then I was recently able to go out on my own so I could focus on writing Moderncat and working on other cat–related projects, including volunteering with local animal rescues whenever I can.

Where do you find the products and giveaways you feature on your site?

I read consumer and trade magazines in the cat/pet industry, plus I try to attend one or two of the big pet industry trade shows each year to stay up-to-date on the latest products. I do a lot of online research, plus most of the cat product manufacturers keep me updated on their new offerings. I also get lots of tips from readers. That is where some of the most interesting information comes from!

How do you decide whether a product is a good fit for Moderncat?

First, the company behind the product has to have a good reputation. It’s important to me to only promote products and businesses that are ethical and provide quality products and services. I like to work with smaller companies, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t cover products from larger companies if I think they are good. Also, it’s important that the manufacturer considered both the cat and the owner when designing a product. That will make a successful product. Most things on Moderncat have a more modern, or streamlined design. I consider both the function of the product as well as the aesthetic design.

A lot of the products you feature, in addition to being aesthetically beautiful, are also what I would consider high end products.  Do you find that there’s a good market for these products among cat lovers?

Yes, I do feature a lot of products that are quite expensive. This is usually because the products are handmade using high-quality or sustainable materials, and they are often made in small quantities. I think there are some people who can afford these high-end products, others who save up for that one special item, and still others who can’t afford these things, but hopefully they will be inspired by the ideas to create something similar themselves. It’s really all about inspiration and creativity. You don’t have to spend a lot to make a wonderful home environment for you and your cats. There is a whole DIY (do-it-yourself) section on Moderncat where you can see photos of projects readers have completed, often with instructions and tips.

In addition to being a blogger, you are also a designer.  Tell us a little bit about the things you design.

I have a craft studio in downtown Phoenix where I’m working with a team of designers to develop some cat products that will be available soon on Etsy. The collaborations are a lot of fun! I have a lot of friends who are architects and designers and also cat owners. Stay tuned for more details!

You have six Moderncats of your own.  Tell us about them.

Kate's Modern cats

Simba was the first cat that I’ve owned as an adult. I’ve had her for 6 years now and she is 10 years old. She is a cream tabby and apparently female cream tabbies are pretty rare.

Next came Mackenzie. He is a big beautiful brown tabby Maine Coon who is 7 years old and the sweetest thing ever!

Then Ando showed up as a 5 month old kitten. He’s my baby! A shiny black panther-like cat with a bit of Siamese in him. He is in charge.

Then I adopted Sophie. Not sure how old she is, but she is quite old and has diabetes, but she is a great cat and just wants to have her head scratched.

Two years ago, my boyfriend and I got involved with The Great Kitty Rescue through Best Friends Animal Society. This was a cat rescue where Best Friends was called in to help with an institutional hoarding situation in Nevada where they rescued 800 cats. My next two cats, Flora and Dazzler, both came from this rescue. They are both torties. Flora is tiny and has plenty of tortitude, and Dazzler (we call her Dee) has no tortitude at all, and she is completely and hopelessly in love with Ando.

Do they get to test products before you post them on your site?

Yes they do! Not everything, only the things that I’m really excited about. My condo isn’t big enough for everything!

Do they have any favorites?

The top faves have to be the Hepper Pod (Dee is in there EVERY day) and the Sweet Lounge from Marmalade Pet Care. They also love the wall-mounted scratcher from Moderncritter as well as the Curve perches from Urban Pet Haus. They really like the Caboodle and the tall cat condo from Modern Cat Designs. The latest faves are the Cat Eye Bed from Precision Pet and the pulp scratch lounger from Bergan. The Sleepypod is the best carrier ever, plus it converts to a bed. If I leave it out, someone can be found lounging in there. I really like the Smart Cat Box for a great natural litter alternative. Favorite toys include DaBird and the Cat Dancer.

Thanks for joining us on The Conscious Cat, Kate, and we wish you much continued success with Moderncat.

The Importance of Good Dental Health for Your Pets

cat dental health

Dental disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for pets.  Dogs and cats are particularly prone to tooth and gum diseases.  An astounding 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society.

Normal teeth in both cats and dogs should be white or just a little yellow.  Gums should be light pink and smooth (except in breeds with pigmented gums). 

Oral disease begins with a build up of plaque and tartar in your pet’s mouth.  Without proper preventive and therapeutic care, plaque and tartar buildup leads to periodontal disease, which manifests in red and/or swollen and tender gums, bad breath, and bleeding.  When the gums are swollen, they can be painful – a good rule of thumb is that if it looks like it might be painful, it probably is. Pets are masters at masking pain – when in doubt, assume that your pet is experiencing at least some discomfort.

The inflammation and infection associated with periodontal disease can lead to damage to other organs such as the heart, kidney and liver, and lead to other serious health problems.  Dental disease can also be an indicator of immune system disorders, particulary in cats.

Common indicators of oral disease in dogs include bad breath, a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face or mouth and depression.  If you notice any of these, don’t wait until your dog’s next annual check up, take him to the veterinarian for a thorough exam.

Cats rarely show any symptoms at all unless the situation is literally life-threatening.  They will eat even when their level of chronic mouth pain would send a person to the emergency room.  They almost never paw at their face, even with loose or abscessed teeth.  They get pretty smelly breath from eating cat food, so it’s tough to tell by smelling the breath whether your cat has dental disease or just had breakfast.  But even though they don’t show us much in the way of outward symptoms, chronic dental/periodontal disease can cause severe and often irreversible damage to internal organs.  So it’s important to get regular veterinary exams at least once a year, and twice a year for cats six and older or for cats with a known history of dental problems. 

Since our pets won’t just sit still and open their mouths to have their teeth cleaned like humans, dental procedures for pets require general anesthesia, something that makes many pet owners nervous.  While there are always risks with anesthesia, they can be minimized with a thorough pre-anesthetic check up, including bloodwork to assess kidney and liver function and rule out other underlying health issues.  This will allow your veterinarian to customize the anesthesia to your pet’s health status and potential special needs.  Keep in mind that leaving dental disease untreated may present a far greater risk than anesthesia.

For more information on anesthesia for pets, read this guest post by Dr. Louise Murray about Safe Anesthesia for Pets.

A special thank you goes to Dr. Fern Crist of the Cat Hospital of Fairfax for her contribution to this article.

Book Review: Bookplate Special by Lorna Barrett

Bookplate Special

Bookplate Special is the third in the Booktown mystery series from Berkeley Prime Crime and will be released November 3.  The first book, Murder Is Binding, was published in April 2008. The second book, Bookmarked for Death, was a Feb. 2009 release.  If you love books, cats and food, you will love this series! 

The protagonist of the series, Tricia Miles, owns Haven’t Got a Clue, a mystery book store located in the charming small town of Stoneham, New Hampshire.  It’s the kind of town where everybody knows your name.  In Bookplate Special, Tricia discovers the body of her former college roommate.  Never satisfied with letting the police handle a murder investigation, Tricia launches her own informal investigation to find the killer, and encounters all sorts of trouble.   This is a wonderful story with immensely likeable characters, a cat names Miss Marple, and mouth-watering recipes.  The author also includes a subplot about a topic that is clearly important to her, and she manages to do so in a way that’s thought-provoking rather than preachy.  A thoroughly enjoyable book – be sure to add it to your winter reading list!

You can learn more about Lorna Barrett by visiting her website.  You can also find her at her delightful blog Dazed and Confused.

And look for a guest blog by author Lorna Barrett right here on The Conscious Cat next week!

An Interview with CJ Lyons, Medical Suspense Author

It is my pleasure to welcome medical suspense author CJ Lyons to The Conscious Cat today.  (And yes, there is a cat connection – read on!)

CJ LyonsCJ Lyons has lived most of her life on the edge. Trained in Pediatric Emergency Medicine, she has assisted police and prosecutors with cases involving child abuse, rape, homicide and Munchausen by Proxy. She has worked in numerous trauma centers, on the
Navajo reservation, as a crisis counselor, victim advocate, as well as a flight physician for Life Flight and Stat Medevac.  A Golden Heart Finalist in Romantic Suspense and winner of the Golden Gateway, CJ is a member of Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers,  and Sisters in Crime. Her work has appeared in CrimeSpree, Romantic Times Book Review Magazine, and Spinetingler. She has presented keynote speeches and workshops at numerous national conventions including MWA’s Sleuthfest, Romantic Times, Colorado Gold and RWA.

As a fan of medical drama tv shows and an avid reader, I was thrilled when I discovered Lifelines  last year.  I thought this would be the best of both worlds – a book that read like one of my favorite tv shows.  Actually – it was better.  CJ combines the best of ER and Grey’s Anatomy into a wonderful mix of romance, suspense, friendship and mystery in the form of a compelling medical thriller.  Thankfully, Warning Signs, the second book in the series, was not too far behind.  Meredith and McDreamy, eat your heart out!  Meet the doctors and staff of Angels of Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA.  The third book in the series, Urgent Care , was published October 27, 2009.  I picked up my copy yesterday and I can’t wait to read it!

CJ, you are a trained emergency physician.  What made you decide to stop practicing emergency medicine and write about it instead?

Actually, the writing came first.  I’ve been a story teller all my life—which, given that I had a problem telling truth from fiction as a child, led to lots of hours in time-out, which led to more stories….a vicious cycle.  As soon as I could read, I began devouring books and writing my own stories down.
When published friends convinced me that my work was also good enough to be published, I realized I had a chance at a second career.  So after selling my first book, and realizing that working 60 hours a week was going to burn me out sooner or later, I took a leap of faith and quit medicine to write full-time.  So far (knock on wood!) it’s paying the bills and has been a wonderful adventure!

Do you miss practicing medicine?

I miss my patients a great deal.  There’s just nothing like holding a newborn to remind you what’s really important in this world.

Please tell us about Urgent Care.

urgent_care-185x300Urgent Care is a true book of my heart.  In it, ER charge nurse Nora Halloran must face her greatest fear—that she may have caused a colleague’s death by not reporting a sexual assault two years ago.  The man who attacked Nora back then has returned—only now he’s killing his victims.

As a woman and a medical professional, I was hard pressed to imagine a worse scenario.  And having worked with victims, I know that over 60% never disclose their abuse to anyone—they’re overwhelmed with shame, fear that they’ll be labeled as victims, and a need to move on with their lives.  How awful would it be for a strong woman like Nora to not only face her past but also the consequences of her actions?  What would she do to stop the killer and make things right?  Those questions drive the plot of URGENT CARE—it’s darker and edgier than the first two books, but it has to be.  These are dark, serious, universal questions that there is no right answer to.

How much of the story line in the books is drawn from your own experience as a physician?

I try to keep all the medicine as real as possible, using real life cases from my own career or that are reported in the medical literature.  But all the patients are totally fictional—I change everything except the medical details.

How much of yourself is reflected in your characters? 

A lot!  Lydia is who I aspire to be.  She’s strong, determined, smart, fiercely passionate about her patients, and always knows the right thing to do.  Amanda sometimes feels like a stranger in a strange land, just like I did as a Yankee in the South during medical school.  Gina reflects my insecurities and self-doubts.  And Nora has all the protective, mother-hen skills that I’ve been accused of having.

AnnieI was delighted to discover that you are a cat person.  Meet Annie, CJ’s cat.  Can you tell us a little bit about her?

Like all my pets, Annie (short for Orphan Annie) is a rescue animal.  She’d been tied up into a plastic bag and thrown out of a car when she was young.  I’ve had her for fourteen years now and other than an aversion to riding in cars, she’s the most friendly and sociable cat you’ll ever meet!  I wish people were as resilient!

Lydia, one of the characters in the series, has a very unique cat.  NoName, as she calls the cat, is almost panther like in his appearance and has a very unique personality.  Is he based on Annie, and if not, how does Annie feel about having to share you with a fictional cat?

Good thing Annie’s napping right now (can you hear her snoring?), don’t tell her but No Name is not based on her.  As you can see, Annie is a fat, happy calico.  I needed a cunning, self-sufficient graveyard cat to be the perfect match for my character Lydia who is herself independent and not very trusting.

Both Lydia and No Name have intimacy issues, lol!  But No Name gets overSokoke-Forest-Cat-Poster-I12158544 his first when he adopts Lydia as his human.  And he does get a name. 

He’s actually based on a cat adopted by friends of mine, David and Donna Morrell.  David was telling me about their cat and its different shape, which is found throughout the breed.  I did some research and found a relative of his cat, a species originally from Africa who enjoyed water and were fiercely loyal, known for protecting and herding their people like Border collies.  The breed is called Sokoke Forest Cats.

Will NoName ever get a real name?

LOL!  Of course!  In the second book, Warning Signs, he is christened “Ginger Cat” because of his coloring, shades of brown and tan.

Many writers find that cats are the perfect writing companions.  Does Annie assist you with your writing?

If you call sleeping on my laptop assisting, lol!  No seriously, she’s great company and fairly low maintenance which makes her perfect.  She’ll remind me when it’s mealtime, makes sure I’m out of bed early every morning, and makes sure I get some exercise when I play with her.  And of course, I never have to worry about my legs getting cold as her two favorite perches when I’m writing (I write in a comfy rocking chair with my legs stretched out on an ottoman) are either in my lap or asleep on my legs.

What does a typical day of writing look like for you?

I have no typical day—which is exactly how I like it!  After seventeen years of medicine (and before that all those years of school) when I needed to lead a very structured life, at the beck and call of patients and colleagues 24/7, I now do what I want when I want.  It’s very freeing!

What do you love most about being a writer?

I love the idea that through my books I can reach out to tens of thousands of people and not only entertain them but also inspire and empower them.  One of the main reasons why I’ve written all my life is a desire to try to change the world—one story at a time.  Yes, even after all those years spent in the ER, I’m still a hopeless optimist.  I truly believe that heroes are born everyday and that we all have the potential of becoming a hero.

What do you like least about being a writer?

That so much is out of my control—talk about the ultimate torture for a control-freak ER doc!  I’m slowly learning patience (the publishing world embodies “hurry-up and wait”) as well as the fact that the only things I can control are my attitude and my work.  Good life lessons, but oh-so-hard to learn!

Who or what inspires you?

Most of my inspiration has come from my patients, their families, and the wonderful medical professionals I’ve been privileged to work with.  They’ve taught me the true meaning of courage.

What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?

Meeting readers, people who have been touched by my books or who love my characters like they’re real people is always exciting.  But the most memorable experience was at a signing where a woman carrying a baby, maybe nine months old or so, waited in line to see me, then plopped the baby down, undid his diaper and asked me check his circumcision!  Said she’d heard there was a doctor in the store signing books and wanted a second opinion on her grandson.  The baby was fine, I assured her, and she left—without even buying a book, lol!

What are you reading at the moment?

I just finished re-reading Toni McGee Causey’s wonderful Bobbie Faye trilogy (Charmed and Dangerous, Girls Just Wanna Have Guns, and When a Man Loves a Weapon)—great reading if you want to laugh out loud and have a fun time with some memorable characters.

Will there be a fourth book in the Angels of Mercy series?

Yes!  Isolation  will pick up where Urgent Care leaves off—it takes place three days later, on Christmas Eve, and will be released next year.  In it Gina faces her darkest fears and decides her own fate—I’ve just started it, so I’m not exactly sure where it will go, but I’m thinking of it as Die Hard in a hospital, so I’m sure there will be tons of mayhem and chaos!  Sounds like a perfect Christmas for the women of Angels of Mercy, doesn’t it?

Thank you so much for visiting The Conscious Cat, CJ, and much success with Urgent Care!

For more information about CJ and her books, please visit her website at http://www.cjlyons.net.

Amber’s Mewsings: Amber’s Check Up Gets Postponed

 Amber's Sunday afternoon

I hope everyone had a great weekend.  Mine was excellent!  Mom had told me a couple of days ago that her friend Fern was going to come over on Sunday.  Now, don’t get me wrong – I love it when Mom’s friends come to visit, because they usually fuss over me and comment on how beautiful I am.  But Fern – well, she may be a really nice person, but she has one major flaw that I just can’t get past.  She is a cat doctor.  And she is my cat doctor.  Mom says she’s a great vet, and I believe Mom.  She was really really wonderful with my sister Buckey, because she really got Buckley.  She understood that, given a choice, Buckley would just as soon not have anyone poke and prod her.  Mom always knew that about Buckley, and it really helped Mom deal with Buckley’s illness to have a vet who respected not only Buckley’s wishes, but also my Mom’s.  You can read more about Fern and how she helped us during Buckley’s illness in Mom’s book.

But, I digress.  So, Mom, being the good cat parent that she is, knows how important it is that I have regular check ups.  And Mom, being the terrific Mom that she is, also knows how much I hate being in my carrier, and even worse, in the car, so she asks Fern to come to the house to do my check up.  It still means that Fern is going to examine me (what an innocent little word for being poked, prodded, and otherwise touched in ways that are so not acceptable!), and she’s going to stick needles in me to get blood and other bodily fluids that shall remain nameless, but at least it saves me the stress of having to leave my house.  But – as luck would have it, Fern couldn’t make it yesterday.  Gee – what a disappointment.  Not!  The cool thing is that this is the second time that something came up and Fern couldn’t make it.  What Mom doesn’t know is that I made this happen.  Twice.  I’m surprised she hasn’t caught on to me.  Mom totally gets that our thoughts create our reality.  Of course, cats have always known this. And clearly, we’re masters at living this.  I’ve been picturing a quiet, relaxing Sunday all week – and that’s exactly what I got!  It really can be that  simple, humans.  Now mind you, I could have focused my attention on thinking about not wanting Fern to come – and then, I can guarantee you, she would have shown up here yesterday morning.  Why?  Because the universe doesn’t know the meaning of the word no.  What you think about is what you get.  It doesn’t matter whether you think about wanting it or not wanting it.  So rather than letting any thoughts of Fern into my energy field, I focused on having the kind of Sunday I love:  me snoozing in the sunny spot on the rocking chair in our living room while Mom sits on the loveseat reading.   Life doesn’t get any better than this.

As for my check up – I know it’ll have to happen sooner or later.  But rather than wasting my time worrying about it, I’d rather focus on finding a sunny spot to take my next nap in.

  

Book Review: The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care by Celester Yarnall, Ph.D. and Jean Hofve, DVM

Holistic Cat Care

The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care is a comprehensive resource for the cat parent interested in natural alternatives for feline health.  Co-authored by Celeste Yarnall, Ph.D, the author of Natural Cat Care and Natural Dog Care, and Jean Hofve, DVM, a holistic veterinarian with extensive training in homeopathy and homotoxicology, the book covers topics such as nutrition, natural remedies, and hands-on healing in an easy to understand way without being light on the factual information.  The book places particular emphasis on nutrition as preventive medicine.  Yarnall, a breeder of Tonkinese championship show cats, bred and raised eleven generations of cats on the basic holistic principles outlined in her books.  The foundation of her breeding program is a raw food diet.  The chapter on Nutrtition as Preventative Medicine provides a complete and thorough overview of everything a cat owner might want to know about feeding raw the right way.

Other aspects of holistic cat care addressed in the book include natural remedies such as herbs, homeopathy and flower essences, hand-on healing modalities including chiropractic, acupuncture and Reiki, as well as some more esoteric therapies such as Applied Kinesiology, crystal, color and sound healing, and magnetic therapy.  All of these modalities are introduced and explained in an easily accessible, yet comprehensive manner.  In conclusion, Yarnall offers her outlook on the ever-expanding field of anti-aging health care and how it might impact our cats.

In addition to being chock full of well-researched and well-presented information on holistic cat care, the book is beautifully laid out and  illustrated with stunning cat photographs.  This guide is a valuable resource for every cat owner interested in holistic health and a beautiful addition to your cat care library.

For more information about Celeste Yarnall and natural nutrition and health care for cats and dogs, please visit Celeste’s website at http://www.celestialpets.com.

Pet Photography – an Interview with Megan Lee of Paws and Claws Photography

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Megan Lee of Paws and Claws Photography.  When I wanted to get a professional author photo for Buckley’s Story that also included Amber, I turned to Megan.   I had seen her work on her website, and had also seen her in action at the annual Santa Portraits event at Seneca Hill Animal Hospital Resort and Spa in Great Falls, VA.  I figured if Megan can take amazing photos of dogs and their owners in the chaotic setting of an event that attracts hundreds of dogs, she would be able to take a great photo in which both Amber and I looked at the camera at the same time!

Megan brought a complete photo studio to our living room.  While Amber was not too terribly thrilled at having her space invaded in this way, she was a good sport about it.  For her perspective on the photo shoot, click here.  Megan took a lot of photos of Amber and me in various poses and in front of different backdrops for about an hour, and I was thrilled with the end result.

Megan was kind enough to answer the following questions for us: 

Megan, how did you get started photographing pets?

Megan Lee Before I started my company, I tried to take my pets to a studio to have their photos taken.  Not only did the photos not meet my expectations, the entire experience was stressful for my pets and me.  So I decided to eliminate the inconvenience of transporting pets and the anxiety of introducing them to strange environments by coming to your home.  I find that most pets and their family are more relaxed and photogenic in familiar surroundings.  Plus, I have found a way to bring studio quality lighting and backdrops to virtually any location, resulting in professional portraits without the hassle.
 
What kind of pet photography do you do?

I specialize in unique portraits of pets and their people by coming the location of your choice. 

Is it more challenging to photograph cats than dogs?

Yes because cats won’t sit and stay.

How do you get dogs and cats to look at the camera?

I use a combination of treats, squeaky toys, and verbal requests. 

You have a way to capture the essence of the pet, as well as the relationship between pet and person in your photographs.  How do you do that? 

Photographing in your home or at a location that you and your pet feel comfortable in cuts down on a lot of the anxiety that the animal or human might feel. 

What was your most challenging or funny experience at a photoMegan Lee3 shoot with a cat?

Once while shooting several cats in a client’s home, one of the cats got loose and ran into the master bedroom.  After searching for 30 minutes we finally found him in the box spring of the master bed.  This particular cat was adopted the day before and didn’t come out until after I had left.  So far it’s the only animal that I couldn’t successfully photograph!  

Do you have any tips for our readers on how to take great photos of their cats?

Lots of patience and either no flash or an off the camera flash. 

For more information about Megan and Paws and Claws Photography, and to see more of Megan’s wonderful photos, please visit her website.

Copyright for both photos used in this post:  Megan Lee, Paws and Claws Photography.

Halloween Safety Tips for Your Pets

Halloween pets

As Halloween approaches and our thoughts turn to ghost and goblins, trick or treating, and parties, remember that some Halloween traditions are hazardous to your pets’ health. 

The ASPCA offers these common-sense cautions that’ll help keep your pets safe and stress-free this time of year. If you do suspect your pet has ingested a potentially dangerous substance, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

1. No tricks, no treats: That bowlful of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy.

Chocolate in all forms-especially dark or baking chocolate-can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Symptoms of significant chocolate ingestion may include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, increased thirst, urination and heart rate-and even seizures.

Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol sweetener can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, which leads to depression, lack of coordination and seizures. In cases of significantly low blood sugar, liver failure has been known to occur.

Ingesting tin foil and cellophane candy wrappers can pose a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockage.

2. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, yet they can produce gastrointestinal upset should pets ingest them. Intestinal blockage could even occur if large pieces are swallowed.

3. Keep wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet could experience damage to his mouth from shards of glass or plastic, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

4. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise extreme caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.

5. Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!). For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume can cause undue stress.

6. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au naturel or donning a festive bandana.

7. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.

8. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treat visiting hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.

9. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.

10. IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and become lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can increase the chances that he or she will be returned to you.

Amber’s Mewsings: Cat of The Week

Photo Montage byLayla Morgan Wilde

I know it’s Saturday, and we don’t usually blog on weekends, but I told Mom that this called for a special update.  I was named “Cat of the Week”  on The Boomer Muse’s Cat Saturday Feature!  I think that’s so totally cool – I’ve been feeling just a little bit under-appreciated lately now that my mom’s book about my sister Buckley is getting all the attention.  I don’t begrudge Buckley the attention, and I love that my Mom has been so happy and excited since the book came out last week, but it does a feline good to know that she, too, gets her time in the spotlight.  Layla Morgan Wilde put together a beautiful photo montage of me – aren’t I gorgeous?  Mom says it’s not okay to brag, but I think that only goes for humans.  We cats aren’t shy when it comes to singing our own praises.

Anyway, go visit The Boomer Muse for the full story, and add it to the list of blogs you visit regularly, especially on Cat Saturday!

And I think that guy Domino is a really handsome boy…

Book Review: P.S. What I Didn’t Say – Edited By Megan McMorris

PSFemale friendships are some of the most wonderful, powerful, and sometimes complicated relationships in women’s lives.  Have you ever had something you wanted to say to a friend, but couldn’t?  Have you ever wished you could go back in time to say something you didn’t?   In P.S. What I Didn’t Say, Megan McMorris brings together a collection of unsent letters written by a wide range of female writers to friends both current, past and deceased, covering, in the editor’s words, “BFFs, frenemies, and everything in between.” 

From the touching The We of Me by Jacquelyn Mitchard about the kind of friendship that is so intense that it survives even a five year period of silence, to Kristina Wright’s The Last Letter about a friendship with an older woman that took place almost entirely through letters, to McMorris’ own contribution What Would Diane Do about the kind of true friendship that endures, P.S.  provides a glimpse into the private thoughts and emotions of the writers.  Each reader will, no doubt, find parallels to her own life – remembering the grade school friend who moved across the country, but still remains a vivid memory, or the college pal who has remained a trusted friend despite infrequent contact. 

This book will help women better understand some of their own complicated friendships, and perhaps, provide the inspiration to get in touch with long lost, but not forgotten friends.  It will definitely make the reader treasure her own friendships, and perhaps serve as a reminder that it’s always better to say what you need to say while you still can, rather than wait until it may be too late.  A beautiful compilation, this book should go on every woman’s reading, and gift, list.

Megan McMorris is a freelance writer based in Portland, OR.  She is the MeganMcMorriseditor of Women’s Best Friend:  Women Writers on Their Dogs and Cat Women:  Female Writers on Their Feline Friends, and has written guides to hiking in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.  Her outdoors column, Misadventures, appears in The Orgeonian.  Megan has also written for Real Simple, Glamour, Guiding Light, Prevention, Fitness, SELF, Woman’ s Day, and Shape, among other.  For more information about Megan, visit her website

And where, you may ask, is the cat connection here?  In addition to being the editor of the wonderful anthology Cat Women:  Female Writers on their Feline Friends, Megan also provided a wonderful endorsement for Buckley’s Story:

“For those of us who think–or, rather, know–that cats have a thing or two to teach us in this life, you’ll appreciate Ingrid King’s story about her cat Buckley.”

Thank you, Megan!

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