Training Cats

Guest Post by Elaine Viets

There are people who can train cats to do tricks, to walk with a leash, to use Elaine Vietsthe toilet and flush afterward. Dominique, the Key West cat man, has a whole show using his specially trained “flying house cats.” He gets them to walk on tightropes and jump through hoops.

After hearing about these feline successes, Don and I tried to train our cats. Three cats back, we adopted a young semi-Siamese named Sylvie. We’d heard that Siamese cats liked to walk with a leash and were easy to train. We bought a Chihuahua leash for her. Sylvie flopped down on the sidewalk like a passive resistor and went limp. We wound up dragging the protesting cat half a block, which caused talk in the neighborhood.

“Be patient,” the text books advised us potential cat trainers. We kept trying to use the  leash. Finally clever Sylvie learned to escape its leather confines like a hairy Houdini.

The cats quickly succeeded in training us. They started yowling every morning, and we learned to leap out of bed at seven a.m. and feed them.

It took six cats before Don succeeded in training one. Now my husband regrets his success.

We adopted Harry, a brown-and-black striped tiger, from our local vet. Some idiot had shot Harry’s family. Harry escaped with his life, but he was left with a fear of large, white males, which proved he was a sensible animal. Whenever a big, white guy loomed at our condo door, Harry hid under the couch. If it was a bill collector, I joined Harry.

It took Harry nearly six months and lots of coaxing before he would let Don pet him. After a year, Harry permitted Don to scratch his ears.

Another six months later, we had a breakthrough. At least, we thought so at the time. Harry let Don scratch the base of his tail. Don was thrilled. So was Harry.

The cat would follow Don around and jump up on chairs so Don could scratch his tail. Don thought this was hilarious.

He’d slap a chair seat and say, “Present butt!” Harry would jump up for his tail scratch. He would fold back his ears and look blissfully happy.

Harry started following Don everywhere. If Don took a nap or stretched out on the couch, Harry was there, demanding a scratch. He was polite about it, in a catlike way. He’d give Don a formal forehead bump, which is cat for “hello” or maybe, “wake up, stupid.” We weren’t sure on our cat translations.  Then Harry would turn around and present his rear end for a scratch. The cat looked like a brown-and-black watermelon. A very happy watermelon. Don obliged and scratched him.

Harry has become a scratchaholic. If Don lights anywhere for a moment or two, there’s Harry, demanding a butt scratch.

It’s ceased to be funny. Don can’t read a book or fall asleep until Harry gets his butt scratch. Now the cat has started waking up Don in the middle of the night.

“This is kind of kinky,” Don said, as he scratched the cat’s rear end at three in the morning.

“Couldn’t you train the cat to turn on the coffee maker, or dial 911 in case of an emergency?” I asked. “You did pretty good with all those dogs.”

Don has trained the neighborhood pooches to line up at their fences when he passes by on a walk. He says, “Present ear,” and the dogs get their ears scratched. It’s a much more wholesome pastime.

“Why couldn’t you have trained Harry to get his ears scratched?” I asked.

“That’s for dogs,” Don said.

I guess I should be grateful he doesn’t scratch Clydesdales.

The Fashion Hound MurdersElaine Viets writes two mystery series, The Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series, set in her hometown of St. Louis, and the Florida-based Dead-End Job series. She has won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards for her writing.  In Elaine’s lastest release, The Fashion Hound Murders,  Mystery shopper Josie Marcus investigates a chain of doggie boutiques and discovers those fashionable pets come at a killer price.

Book Review: Catsong by T.J. Banks

catsong-cvr-2Catsong is a charming and delightful collection of stories about special cats and the impact they had on the author’s life.  T.J. Banks shares the stories of the cats that have graced her life, and the immense love, joy and comfort they have brought, each in his or her own individual and special way.  There is Alexander Czar-Cat, the magical cat of the author’s childhood.  There is Jason, a black-and-white stray whose love and affection accompany Banks through her college years and into her marriage.  There are Cricket and Tikvah, and Solstice and Kilah, cats that connect with the author on a soul level.  T.J. Banks clearly knows and understands cats, and her appreciation of and love for each individual cat shines through in her sensitive and beautiful prose.  By sharing her stories about these cats, the author makes us feel that we actually knew them, and she also shows us how truly special all the feline spirits that come and go from our lives are.  For those of us willing to listen with our hearts, cats have so much to teach us.  They enrich our lives through their simple, loving presence, bring us joy and entertainment with their endless antics, and provide quiet love and support during our dark days.  This collection of stories covers all of these aspects, and more.

It’s impossible to pick one story over another – they’re all wonderful and special in their own way.  But for me, the title story, Catsong, touched me  most deeply.  This is the story of Kilah, the seventeen-year-old tortoiseshell cat who helps her human through personal tragedy and countless animal crises – and whose loving spirit continues to bring comfort even after passing into the non-physical dimension.

This book is a treasure for any cat lover and makes a wonderful holiday gift.   The author has a limited number of autographed copies available for sale.   E-mail T.J. Banks at dawntreader27@earthlink.net for more information and to order. 

T.J. Banks is the author of Souleiado and Houdini, a novel for young adults that Cleveland Amory has enthusiastically branded a “winner.”  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.

Benefits of Probiotics for Cats and Dogs

Probiotics for Cats and Dogs

Source:  Holistic Pet Info

Many of us think of bacteria as harmful, or even deadly, but did you know that certain bacteria are not only desirable, but necessary for your pet’s good health?

“Friendly” bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifido-bacterium bifidum, and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are just a few of the helpful microorganisms that can reside in your dog or cat’s intestinal tract where they play an important role in defending his body against disease and illness. These kinds of bacteria are referred to as “friendly” because, rather than causing illness and disease, they serve to defend your pet from harmful organisms which can invade his body from time to time.  

Keeping this complex ecosystem of microorganisms in balance, however, is not always easy.  In this ongoing “tug of war” between friendly and harmful bacteria, sometimes the friendly bacteria get outnumbered due to a number of causes:  

  • The use of prescription drugs
  • The aging process
  • An inadequate diet
  • A compromised immune system
  • Fertilizers, pesticides and chemical pollutants
  • Stress 

Probiotics and Antibiotics

One of the most common ways that the ratio of friendly-to-harmful bacteria gets nudged out of balance is through the use of antibiotics. Of course, the use of these drugs is not always avoidable, especially if your dog or cat is fighting a serious infection.

Unfortunately, antibiotics are not able to distinguish between friendly and harmful bacteria, so when eradicating the harmful bacteria (the source of many serious infections), they also kill off a large number of friendly bacteria. This leaves your pet with even less of a defense the next time he is exposed to harmful microorganisms.  

Chemicals in the water supply and soil can have much the same effect. They do eliminate many of the harmful bacteria your pet is exposed to; but they also upset the balance between good and harmful bacteria. In this way, chemicals can also have a negative impact on your pet’s health.  

Even a natural event such as aging can affect the balance of good and harmful bacteria in your pet’s intestinal tract. Regardless of the cause, if your pet shows any of the signs of an unhealthy intestinal tract, this should serve as a red flag: It’s time to intervene and help your pet get his intestinal ecosystem back on the right track. Some of the most common symptoms of an unhealthy digestive tract are the following:  

  • flatulence
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • sluggishness
  • skin problems
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
    Irritable Bowel Syndrom (IBS)    

Probiotic Supplements for Dogs and Cats

One of the simplest and most effective remedies for poor digestion is to administer probiotics to your pet. Probiotics are  supplements comprised of different kinds of friendly bacteria. The ingredients in them may vary from brand to brand, as do the methods of delivery. For instance, probiotics may come in capsule, paste, liquid, or tablet form. They may even be included in some brands of commercial pet food, although this is not considered the best source since, according to some studies, certain brands do not contain the amount or even the kind of probiotics that are stated on the labels. For this reason, supplements are considered the more effective way to go.  

The Right Formula

So what should you look for when shopping around for probiotics? Above all, you want a formula that is comprised of quality ingredients that will help restore the balance of microflora in your pet’s intestinal tract. A formula that contains a 1:1:1 ratio of Lactobacillus Casei, Bifidobacterium Thermophilum, Enterococcus Faecium should address this need.

If you are looking for information on how to manage your pet’s health with holistic or natural pet care products like nutritional supplements, vitamins, nutraceuticals and other natural medicines, Holistic Pet Info is the place for you.  They carry more than 100 natural pet products including vitamins and nutritional supplements, nutraceuticals and other natural medicines.  The site also offers a wide range of well-written and researched articles and other information on animal health issues.

A Mystery Author and Her Cats – Guest Post by Lorna Barrett

CoriWhen my editor told me he wanted the protagonist in my Booktown Mysteries to have a store cat, it seemed like a no brainer.  I’d just model the cat after one of my own.  After all, I’d been proudly owned by cats since the age of six.  Surely one of my current- or ex-feline friends would fit the bill.

And it didn’t take long for me to figure out which of my brood would be the ideal cat for my protagonists co-worker at the Haven’t Got a Clue mystery bookstore:  Cori, my delicate, long-haired gray cat was placid, yet always interested in her surroundings.  She was playful, but loved nothing more than to nap on a windowsill or a patch of sunlight.  And because of her gray fur, the name of Tricia Miles’s cat came almost immediately:  Miss Marple.  (You can find not only Cori’s story, but that of all my cats on my Lorraine Bartlett website.  Miss Marple has been stealing scenes since the very beginning.  I’ve had readers write and tell me that they love the way her character has grown since the first book.  (Although I’m not really sure what they meant by that.)  Stationed on her perch behind the cash desk, she takes an interest in the running of Tricia’s bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue, will keep customers company as they browse the shelves, and likes to nap in the front display window or on one of the chairs in the reader’s nook.  She always has an opinion, but doesn’t always get her way.

ChesterCloseUpI wish I could say that about my real cats, who seem to have both my husband and me wrapped around their little paws.  Two of the cats like to help me work.  By that I mean, they like to sit on my lap and prevent me from working.  Chester likes to rest his head on my right hand, and while he’s nice and warm (and my office does get cold), it’s not so easy to type or use the mouse.  When he’s not sitting on me, he’ll plunk down on the other chair in my office–just to keep me company.  Betsy likes to jump up on my lap (gouging me with her back claws first) and then turn around six or seven times until she’s comfy, and stay there until some part of my anatomy is deprived of blood flow.  The other two cats usually have other things to do during the day, which is good because then I have at least an hour or two where I can actually get some work done.

That said, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  My cats are members of my family.  They’re always there, and they rarely complain.  (Okay, Bonnie does sometimes walk off in a huff if dinner is not to her liking.)  When I’m sad, they comfort me.  And when I’m happy, they want to sit on me and purr, just to show their support. 

Yup, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bookplate_Special.sm2New York Times bestselling author Lorna Barrett writes the Booktown Mysteries.  Bookplate Special, her third in the series, is now available.  For more information on Lorna and her books, please visit her web site:  http://www.lornabarrett.com/, or catch her on her blog, Dazed and Confused: http://www.lornabarrett.blogspot.com/

 

To read my review of Bookplate Special, click here.

H1N1 Confirmed in Cat in Iowa

swineflu

The news about a confirmed case of H1N1 in a 13-year-old cat in Iowa broke yesterday, and is causing concern among pet owners and veterinarians.  Previously, the H1N1 strain was thought to affect only humans, birds and pigs.

In the case of the Iowa cat, the cat’s owner had been experiencing fly like symptoms, and it’s believed that the cat contracted the virus from the humans.  The cat’s symptoms included lethargy, difficulty breathing, and loss of appetite.  The cat has fully recovered, as have the humans in the household.

The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) issued a public statement on its website yesterday:

A cat in Iowa has tested positive for the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, state officials confirmed this morning, marking the first time a cat has been diagnosed with this strain of influenza.

The cat, which has recovered, is believed to have caught the virus from someone in the household who was sick with H1N1. There are no indications that the cat passed the virus on to any other animals or people.

Prior to this diagnosis, the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus had been found in humans, pigs, birds and ferrets.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) are reminding pet owners that some viruses can pass between people and animals, so this was not an altogether unexpected event. Pet owners should monitor their pets’ health very closely, no matter what type of animal, and visit a veterinarian if there are any signs of illness.

The AVMA is actively tracking all instances of H1N1 in animals and posting updates on our Web site at http://www.avma.org/public_health/influenza/new_virus.

This is a developing story, and there is much about this virus that is not known at this point.  That being said, it’s important to not overreact until we have more information.  Keep the following things in mind:

  • Stay calm.  The good news is that both the cat and the human family members all fully recovered from their bout with H1N1.
  • In this instance, the virus passed from human to cat, not from cat to human.  There is, as yet, no evidence that the virus can pass from cats to humans.
  • This doesn’t change the basic good advice about how to protect yourself from getting sick that has been circulating for quite some time:  wash your hands frequently, keep your immune system healthy and strong.
  • If you do get sick with H1N1, the AVMA recommends that you avoid close contact with your cat.  If your cat shows respiratory symptoms, seek immediate veterinary care.

With a developing story like this one, it will probably be a challenge to separate the facts from the inevitable panic this kind of news can cause.  Know your sources when it come to health information, and don’t overreact to every snippet of news you see come across the internet or your tv screen.

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.

  

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