Happy New Year
from Ingrid and Amber!
May 2010 be filled with abundance, love and joy.
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
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!
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
This is a story of a Christmas miracle.
This is a story of how some encounters are simply meant to be.
This is a story of the perseverance of the feline spirit.
This is Eva’s story.
Guest post by Renee L. Austin
Second chances are hard to come by, especially when the crazy pace of life can cause us to miss the fact that there was an initial opportunity to begin with. And when there is a chance to change a life, one’s own or someone else’s, a second chance is even more precious – particularly when that life hangs in the balance…
I’d seen her at least a week, maybe two weeks earlier, climbing an embankment on the side of the road. Even though there were no houses or barns nearby, the collar she was wearing stood out, and with some degree of relief I gave her just a fleeting thought. I was in a bit of hurry and traveling the back dirt roads. Well, by December they’re usually treacherously slick and muddy narrow lanes flanked by the dull browns and grays of winter. I have no business using them when they are so bad, but haste often overcomes common sense.
The next time I came upon her was in an even more remote area. She was wandering ahead of me up the middle of the road through the freezing rain. She was so un-cat-like; helpless looking and forlorn, head down, shoulders slumped, plodding through mud the consistency of pudding. She seemed totally unconcerned with my car pulling up behind her and barely glanced over her shoulder before slightly quickening her pace. Dejection and misery radiated from the little body.
When I stepped out and into the muck to call her, this suddenly animated creature whirled around and half ran to me chattering on and on in short rapid bursts. She leapt into the car without hesitation and proceeded to hug me; purring loudly and rubbing her face against mine as I settled back behind the wheel. Before I even got us turned around we were both covered in the mud she’d carried in with her. The inside of the car was a mess, too. And there I was, late-late-late, headed back to the house with a stray tortoiseshell cat loose in my car with cautionary thoughts churning of rabies, crazed tortie attacks, and wondering how I was going to explain this one to the folks at the emergency room. She rode standing in my lap, shivering and smelling of cold, wet earth and winter, front legs wrapped tightly around my neck, face pressed hard against my cheek. It turned out that my biggest concern was being able to keep the car on the road while trying to see around her head.
It was much later that night after I’d returned and had time to really study her, that I understood just how close she must have been to the end – that she already must have decided there would be no more chances. For however long she’d been on her own, and whatever had sustained her thus far, those resources and energy stores were gone. She was spent. Clearly there was no longer any expectation of help. Hope had faded and simply ceased to exist.
I remember looking down at her and thinking ‘no room at the inn’. We do have a full house, and I’d been waffling back and forth between frustration and acceptance over the rate and circumstances at which the fur-footed population was increasing here. Not only that, but I’ve been so slow to heal after losing my two special friends, each my heart and my soul. Sometimes it’s just too hard to find space for others amidst the broken pieces. In that moment I tried to close myself off even more, and then the little gray cat looked back up at me, stumbling and losing her balance in her weakened state. The drawn face filled with anxiety, showed all of the uncertainty and desperation she’d been carrying-for who knows how long.
It’s been a year now, and this cat that I was so reluctant to bring into the fold is a constant companion; always on my lap or at my feet, or greeting me at the door – when she’s not off raiding the kitchen. She could stand to lose a pound, maybe a bit more, but that’s something we’ll deal with much later. Her enthusiasm for all food is rooted, I’m certain, in her having been so near starvation when I picked her up.
Eva walks with an awkward waddle as she follows me whenever I move throughout the house. Her back, neck, and hip problems are always apparent-even more so-when she first awakens and tries to work the stiffness from her sore joints and muscles. The chronic cough from a heartworm infection sometimes wakes us all in the night. These things don’t seem to prevent her from playing by herself in my office while I work, or from efficiently devouring the contents of my plate if I look away for even a moment, or from applying teeth and nails if I decide too soon that she needs to get down. She is a happy cat – as long as things go her way.
Sometimes I try to imagine what it must have been like out in the middle of nowhere with no food, no shelter, no hope. Just hunger and cold and loneliness, and a hopeless fading day by day. And then I marvel at how, with my crazy schedule and ever changing routes, there could have been the teensiest possibility in all of the minutes and hours and days and miles, of coming upon Eva a second time.
A couple weeks ago I was driving the back way through the rain and gloom and saw a gray form moving up an embankment. I kept going and then stopped, backing carefully until I was even with a little gray tortie cat. She wanted nothing to do with me, but as I drove away and worried that she might just simply be frightened and still in need, I realized that I had at least stopped for that first opportunity. I tucked my own concern away, and have not been back through there since. Some things are meant to be, some things are not. You can’t be sure until it happens, or doesn’t happen. The latter is the tricky part, isn’t it?
One thing I do know is that we have to be willing to stop and back up for a moment-and keep our hearts open, even if there’s only just a tiny bit of space among the pieces.
Editor’s note: Eva passed away in September 2014.
Renee Austin is the owner of Whimsy Cats, Northern Virginia’s premiere cat sitting service. Whimsy Cats specializes in cats who need special care such as administration of medication, fluids or insulin, senior cats, post-surgical care, and more. For more information about Renee and Whimsy Cats, please wisit her website at http://www.whimsycats.com.
With flu season upon us, we’re all looking for ways to stay healthy. This year, many of us are particularly worried because of the H1N1 swine flu. It’s hard to know which information is simply media hype, and which information is based on fact and can be trusted. I offer the following tips to help you navigate the flu season with your health, and your sanity, intact.
Vaccinate or Not?
First of all, don’t panic, no matter what the media tells you. Humanity has dealt with the flu for thousands of years. Flu viruses change from season to season, and while a flu vaccine may be necessary and even effective for some people, keep in mind that this season’s flu vaccine is based on last year’s virus and may not offer complete protection. Additionally, the new H1N1 vaccine was brought to market much faster than vaccines of the past, and there is, as of yet, no information on potential long term side effects. The decision on whether to get vaccinated should be an individual decision and take your health history as well as your risk of exposure into consideration. While your physician should always be your ultimate source for health information, keep in mind that not all physicians take a holistic view when it comes to preventive health care. Do your homework, and get educated.
Common sense precautions against the flu have not changed over the years. Frequent hand washing is still the best precautionary measure against the flu as well as colds. But don’t waste your money on antimicrobial and antibacterial soaps – they don’t work against viruses and provide no added value over soap and water. In fact, they may contribute to the spread of resistant bacteria. Don’t touch your face unless you’ve just washed your hands – that’s a direct route for viruses to get into your respiratory tract. So far, the common wisdom is that the H1N1 virus is airborne, so listen to what you mother taught you: cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing, and throw the used tissues away – don’t leave them for someone else to deal with.
Boost your Immune System
H1N1 and Your Pets
Most pet owners are worried about whether their pets can contract the H1N1 swine flu. Since this is an evolving story, it’s not possible at this stage to have a yes or no answer to this question. So far, there have been reports of ferrets and birds as well as several cats who contracted the virus. It’s important to know that in all the cases of the cats, the virus was transmitted from humans in the households who were sick with the virus to the cats, and not the other way around. There has been one report of a dog being infected with H1N1 in China. It appears as though in this case, too, the virus was passed from human to dog and not the other way around.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) maintains an information page on their website with the most recent information on H1N1 and how it affects pets.
Until we know more about how H1N1 affects pet, take the same common sense precautions you would with a human family member if you do get sick: follow proper hygiene and sanitation measures to prevent the spread of the disease. Try to isolate the sick family member from others as much as possible, wash your hands frequently and wipe down common surfaces with a good cleaner or sanitizer.
I hope these common sense precautions put your mind at ease and help protect you and your family members, both human and furry, from flu and cold viruses.
It’s that time of year again! As you get ready to celebrate the holidays, keep in mind that some of our most cherished holiday traditions can be hazardous for our pets. The ASPCA offers the following holiday safety tips:
Try to keep your pet’s eating and exercise habits as close to their normal routine as possible. And be sure to steer them clear of the following unhealthy treats, toxic plants and dangerous decorations:
O Christmas Tree
Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. This will also prevent the tree water-which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset-from spilling. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he imbibe.
Kitties love this sparkly, light-catching “toy” that’s easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery. It’s best to brighten your boughs with something other than tinsel.
No Feasting for the Furries
By now you know not to feed your pets chocolate and anything sweetened with xylitol, but do you know the lengths to which an enterprising fur kid will go to chomp on something yummy? Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.
Looking to stuff your pet’s stockings? Choose gifts that are safe. Dogs have been known to tear their toys apart and swallowing the pieces, which can then become lodged in the esophagus, stomach or intestines. Stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible, Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible.
Long, stringy things are a feline’s dream, but the most risky toys for cats involve ribbon, yarn and loose little parts that can get stuck in the intestines, often necessitating surgery. Surprise kitty with a new ball that’s too big to swallow, a stuffed catnip toy or the interactive cat dancer-and tons of play sessions together.
Forget the Mistletoe & Holly
Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. And many varieties of lilies, can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Opt for just-as-jolly artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.
Leave the LeftoversFatty, spicy and no-no human foods, as well as bones, should not be fed to your furry friends. Pets can join the festivities in other fun ways that won’t lead to costly medical bills.
That Holiday Glow
Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. And if you leave the room, put the candle out!
Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, while shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth.
House RulesIf your animal-loving guests would like to give your pets a little extra attention and exercise while you’re busy tending to the party, ask them to feel free to start a nice play or petting session.
Put the Meds AwayMake sure all of your medications are locked behind secure doors, and be sure to tell your guests to keep their meds zipped up and packed away, too.
Careful with Cocktails
If your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.
A Room of Their Own
Give your pet his own quiet space to retreat to-complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle. Shy pups and cats might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrying case or in a separate room away from the hubbub.
New Year’s Noise
As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a cat’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears.
I’m honored that The Conscious Cat just received its first blog award! Thank you to mystery writer Elizabeth Spann Craig for the honor – and thanks for being a regular reader of The Conscious Cat, Elizabeth! To read more about the award, and to see what amazing company I’m in, visit Elizabeth’s wonderful blog, Mystery Writing is Murder.
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