Month: January 2010

Book Review: Guardians of Being

Guardians of Being combines the words of Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now and A New Earth, with the whimsical illustrations of Patrick McDonnell, the creator of the MUTTS cartoons,  in a heartwarming, inspirational and joyful package.  The Oprah Magazine has called the book “an inspired collaboration between spiritual teacher Echkart Tolle and comic strip artist Patrick McDonnell.  A book to make you wiggle with joy.”

From the publisher:  “More than a collection of witty and charming drawings, the marriage of Patrick McDonnell’s art and Eckhart Tolle’s words conveys a profound love of nature, of animals, of humans, of all life-forms.  Guardians of Being celebrates and reminds us of not only the oneness of all life but also the wonder and joy to be found in the present moment, amid the beauty we sometimes forget to notice all around us.”

This is a book to be treasured.  The wisdom of the words, combined with the charming illustrations, make this a book to be savored, not just to be read.  Browsing through this book is an almost meditative experience, and it will most definitely remind the reader about what really matters in life.

Two of my favorite quotes from the book are:

Everything natural – every flower, tree, and animal – has important lessons to teach us if we would only stop, look, and listen.

Just watching an animal closely can take you out of your mind and bring you into the present moment, which is where the animal lives all the time – surrendered to life.

I have always believed that animals are amazing teachers.  It’s nice to see that I’m in good company.  Treat yourself to this book – and while you’re at it, pick one up for your closest friend.

About the author

Safe Toys for Your Cat

What should I play with today?
There are hundreds of cat toys on the market, and as anyone owned by a cat knows, there is no way of telling for sure which toy will delight your cat, or which will generate a quick sniff, followed by a look of disdain and a turned tail.  So if you’re like most cat parents, you will continue to bring home toys in your quest to amuse and spoil your feline charges.

When shopping for cat toys, the most important thing  is the safety factor.  Cat toy safety really comes down to one thing:  if it can be swallowed, it’s dangerous.  

This means stay away from toys that have small parts that can come loose during an energetic play session.  Anything with glued on parts, metal pieces, tassles or strings should be a no-no.  Sometimes you can remove these parts (which is how Amber ended up with a lot of what we call “blind and deaf mice” – once the glued on eyes and ears are removed, these mice turn into perfectly safe toys).  But it’s always best to find a toy that doesn’t require removal of loose parts.

Toys with strings and rubber bands can be fun for your cat as long as you supervise play.  Never leave these toys with your cat unattended – rubber bands can loop themselves around your cat’s neck and choke her, strings can be chewed and ingested, and can present a life-threatening emergency if the piece of strings wraps itself around the cat’s intestines.  

So which toys are safe for your cat?

Amber loves anything that’s stuffed with catnip.  The fewer adornments, the better.  A great source for simple, and safe catnip toys is The Mouse Factory – they have a wide selection of fun toys, and their catnip is seriously potent.

The Kong line of cat toys offers a lot of fun and safe choices as well, you can find a sampling in the Conscious Cat Store and you’ll also find them in many pet stores.

Interactive cat toys are great fun for you and your cat – after all, what’s more fun than a rigorous play session with your kitties?  Some of these interactive toys, such as the feather teaser (a feather toy on the end of a string) require supervision because of the string part, but they can provide hours of fun for cat and human.

Of course, there are plenty of choices for toys that don’t require a trip to the pet store – paper bags, boxes, empty toilet paper rolls, or even just a wadded up piece of paper can be as much fun for your cat as expensive, store-bought toys.

Whatever safe toy you choose for your cat, have fun!

Amber’s current favorite is a fuzzy crab-like toy on the end of a long fuzzy string.  She allowed me to film her for a few seconds while she was playing with it:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuIeNptmc-w

What are some of your cats’ favorite toys?

About the author

Life Lessons from Our Pets

I have always believed that animals come into our lives to teach us. First and foremost, they teach us about unconditional love. But they also teach us to stretch and grow, to reach beyond our self-imposed limits, and to expand our consciousness. They take us to places we did not think were possible for us to go. I’ve been fortunate to have a number of these animals in my life. 

There was my soul mate kitty, Feebee, who was instrumental in guiding me from an unsatisfactory corporate job to a fulfilling career in the veterinary profession.  For the first time in my life, I discovered what loving what you do for a living feels like.  There was my office cat Virginia, who made my dream of a fulfilling career complete. Whenever I had visualized my perfect job, that dream had always included a cat sleeping in a sunny spot on my desk. One of Virginia’s favorite sleeping places was the spot right next to my computer on my desk at the animal hospital, in front of a sunny window.  There was Buckley, who changed my life in ways I never could have imagined by helping me discover my true passion.  Her lessons were profound enough to inspire an entire book.  And there is Amber, who I share my life with now.  Her gentle, wise presence brings love and affection into my life every day, and she inspired this site, which is dedicated to sharing information about health, happiness and conscious living for pets and their people. 

I’ve found that there are three main lessons that all animals teach us, if only we are willing to listen.  

  1. The teach us to live in the moment.  Our pets don’t spend time analyzing the past, and they don’t worry about the future.  They are fully focused on whatever it is they are doing in the present moment, whether it’s enjoying a meal, playing with a favorite toy, or napping in the sunny spot on the rug.
  2. They help us to slow down.  We get so caught up in the business of our daily lives, and we rarely take enough time to relax.  Spending time with our pets is the best stress relief I know of.  Research has shown that simply petting a dog or cat can lower your blood pressure.
  3. They help us connect with our spiritual core.  As humans, we have an innate need to get in touch with something greater than ourselves.  For some people, this connection comes through religion, for others, it comes from being in nature.  For me, it has always come from being around animals.    

Listen to the animals in your life – you might be surprised at the lessons they have to teach you.

What have you learned from your pets?

About the author

Chronic Renal Disease in Cats

stalking cat

Guest post by Renee L. Austin

As cats age, we watch for physiologic changes that may affect the long term outlook for health. Many health concerns arise because we notice shifts in behavior, appearance, and activity levels. One condition associated with aging and cats is so inconspicuous that once the physical signs do become apparent, the disease is already quite advanced.

Chronic Renal Disease or Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) is often seen in aging cats. It results in a gradual decrease in the function of the kidneys. The kidneys serve a number of purposes; they produce urine and filter waste products from the body, regulate electrolytes such as potassium and phosphorous, they produce erythropoietin which stimulates red blood cell production by the bone marrow, and they contribute toward regulating blood pressure. Once the loss of function begins it is not reversible, and other vital organs are affected along with how your cat may feel in general.

Signs of CRF can be very subtle at first, especially with a species that relies upon masking illness and appearing healthy for its survival. Watch for increased thirst and urination, vomiting or other signs of nausea, lethargy or depression, poor hair coat, loss of appetite, lingering over the water bowl, eating cat litter, constipation, a strong ammonia-like odor to the breath, and changes in vision and hearing.

CRF is diagnosed beginning with a thorough physical examination and simple diagnostics run through your veterinarian’s office. Changes in the kidneys’ ability to concentrate urine and flush out waste are one of the earliest means of detecting the disease and will be assessed in a urinalysis. Blood tests will check for increases in Blood Urea Nitrogen and Creatinine to determine whether there is waste ‘build-up’ in the blood. Any changes in electrolyte levels and general blood cell health will be measured as well. Your cat’s doctor will also want to monitor blood pressure and perform a careful eye exam which may include measuring ocular pressures. 

There is no cure for CRF, but once it is diagnosed there are a number of actions you can take to help slow its progression and keep your cat comfortable at home. Dietary management, supplements, medication, and fluid therapy are all options that your veterinarian may discuss with you.

It is best to catch CRF before you notice signs at home by making routine visits to your veterinarian for examinations and lab work.  By doing this, subtle changes can be detected and monitored over time and preventative measures can be taken in the earliest stages. A good dental maintenance program will also help support overall organ health. Once-a-year visits may be appropriate for the younger feline, but as the years advance, more frequent visits might be in order.

Changes that occur as cats age are complex, and signs of CRF can be similar to many different disease processes. Be certain to make those appointments with your veterinarian and work closely together to understand your cat’s aging issues, as well as steps you can take to manage Chronic Renal Failure. 

Renee AustinRenee L. Austin is the founder of Whimsy Cats, a specialized home care business for cats with chronic medical conditions and special needs. She also provides consulting services for veterinary practices. For more information visit www.whimsycats.com

About the author

Book Review: Unexpected Miracles by Dr. Shawn Messonier, D.V.M.

unexpected-miracles-book-coverUnexpected Miracles – Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets is a must read for anyone interested in integrative medicine, holistic health and natural remedies for pets.  Dr. Shawn Messonier, D.V.M.  is a nationally recognized authority on holistic pet care and integrative medicine.  He is the author of the award winning Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, the host of the weekly radio show Dr. Shawn, The Natural Vet on Martha Stewart Radio, and his column  The Holistic Pet is featured in newspapers throughout the United States.  He owns Paws and Claws Animal Hospital in Plano, Texas.

From the publisher:  Dr. Shawn Messonnier has been a veterinarian for more than fifteen years. Once a conventional practictioner, he’s embarked on a crusade to help pet owners keep their treasured furry friends healthy and happy, treating each patient not as a disease but as a unique living entity. Dr. Messonnier brings the reader into his waiting room and introduces them to some remarkable animals…and the courageous owners who never gave up on their pets. Using case studies and higlighting diseases that commonly afflict our pets, Dr. Messonnier shows us the integrative methods he has developed to help these creatures not only survive the maladies they were originally diagnosed with but in many cases go on to live long and healthy lives.  Unexpected Miracles will change the way you think about your  pet’s healthcare forever.

The book is a fascinating collection of often heartwarming stories of cats and dogs who were either given a poor prognosis, a death sentence or a completely wrong diagnosis, and whose owners were coming to Dr. Messonier in hopes of finding a cure or at the very least a way to help their pet live a longer life.  It also offers a thorough look at what truly integrative medical, or in this case, veterinary, care really means.  An integrative approach to veterinary care uses both conventional treatments, commonly thought of as Western medicine, and natural, alternative and holistic treatments ranging from supplements to herbs to acupuncture.  By taking a truly holistic approach, Dr. Messonier treats the patient, not the disease, and uses the best of all available treatment options to achieve optimal healing for each individual patient.  This includes looking at the pet’s environment and potential exposure to toxins, reducing vaccinations from the old paradigm of annual “shots” to only those required by law or no vaccinations at all, to eliminating by-products and low quality ingredients from the pet’s diet.

While each story shared in this book is about the individual pet and the condition the pet’s owner sought help with, there are definite commonalities in all the cases, and it’s these commonalities that will give the reader a thorough understanding of what an integrative approach to health is truly all about.

In addition, the book is a testament to how much we love our pets and that most of us will go to great lenghts to find ways to keep these wonderful creatures happy and healthy by giving them the best possible care.

I think this book should be on every pet owner’s book shelf as not only a reference book, but also as a reminder that sometimes, hope is the best medicine.

For more information about Dr. Messonier, visit his website at www.petcarenaturally.com.

About the author

Book Review: Houdini by T. J. Banks

Houdini coverFrom the publisher: 

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

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

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

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

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

About the author