Month: March 2011

Clea Simon talks about writing cat-themed mysteries

Clea Simon

Those of you who’ve been reading The Conscious Cat for a while already know Clea Simon. For those of you who don’t, you’re in for a treat.

Clea is the author of three nonfiction books and three mystery series. I first came to know Clea through The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats (St. Martin’s Press, 2002). Her Theda Krakow mystery series was launched in 2005 with Mew is for Murder and continues with Cattery Row, Cries and Whiskers, and Probable Claws, all now available in paperback. She launched her Dulcie Schwartz series in 2009 with Shades of Grey and last year’s Grey Matters, and this year marks not only the third Dulcie book, Grey Zone, but also the launch of her Pet Noir series featuring Pru Marlowe with Dogs Don’t Lie.

Clea’s essays are included in numerous anthologies, including Cat Women: Female Writers on Their Feline Friends. She is also a respected journalist whose credits include The New York Times and The Boston Phoenix, and such magazines as American Prospect, Ms., and Salon.com.

Clea grew up in East Meadow, on suburban Long Island, N.Y., and came to Massachusetts to attend Harvard, from which she graduated in 1983. She’s never left, and now happily cohabits with her husband, Jon S. Garelick, who is also a writer, and their cat Musetta.

Welcome back to The Conscious Cat, Clea!

You have two new releases coming out within three days of each other: Grey Zone on April 1, and Dogs Don’t Lie on April 4. Did you work on these two books at the same time?

Well, I worked on them at the same time, but I didn’t write them at the same time. I had already written Dogs Don’t Lie and my agent was sending it around when my editor at Severn House told me that they would like a third Dulcie book. I was thrilled, as you can imagine, and set right to work on Grey Zone. But then somewhere in there, Dogs Don’t Lie sold and the editor wanted some changes and general polishing. So I was working on them at the same time for a month or two last spring.

What was that like? Was it hard to keep the two separate in your mind?

It was incredibly difficult, honestly. I’m not good at that kind of thing. Also, the voices are so very different. I guess that helped me keep them separate, but I found it hard to switch between the two. I tried various things – working on the raw writing of Grey Zone in the mornings, working on the fixes for Dogs Don’t Lie in the afternoons. Finally, I had to put Grey Zone aside for about two weeks of intensive Dogs Don’t Lie editing. Then it took me a few days to get back into the Dulcie mindset. But I did it, I think!

Authors are expected to do much of their own promotion these days. With your long list of titles, you’re a veteran at promoting. How is promoting two new books at the same time different from promoting one book at a time?

Ask me again in May! Seriously, I think I’m probably shorting Grey Zone a bit. The pet noir series is new; Dogs Don’t Lie is the first with this character and this voice, so I both want to work a little harder to introduce that, and also I think that, because it is new, it has the most news interest. More people are likely to write about the first book in a series than the third. That said, I’m trying to talk about both books when I do readings and other events. It’s really fun to talk about different characters and different voices: they’re both quite real to me, and I hope I can make them both real to readers.

In Grey Zone, Dulcie’s new kitten is presenting her with some behavioral challenges. Dulcie, who still misses her beloved Mr. Grey, finds it difficult to deal with them. What inspired you to add this element to the story? I recognized Allegra in some of her antics!

The fireplace story was taken from an incident with my own late, great Cyrus. He was totally not supposed to go up on the table or the counters – and I thought he never did. Until I moved into an apartment with a fireplace and … well, you read the rest! Since then, I’ve lived through many of the same kitten antics with Musetta, so I had a store to choose from. I think that all of us who are cat lovers deal with these little faux pas (faux paws?). I am hoping that other cat folks will recognize them and laugh and enjoy.

How did the idea for Dogs Don’t Lie develop?

I’m not sure, to be honest. I was reading a lot of the new female-oriented noir, books like Megan Abbott’s Queenpin, and I loved that cool tone – so tough, so in control. But when I try to write like that, it comes out a little cozier… and with a cat. Actually, I guess Wallis is the real tough broad heroine of this book. Didn’t realize that until just now!

Was there a real dog that you based the Lily character on?

No, not really. I knew that I wanted a “dumb blonde” who was being set up to take the fall in a crime she didn’t commit. And she had to be a dog who would automatically be viewed as guilty. Plus, in my research, I ran into an animal control officer who was a really strong advocate for pitbulls. He taught me a lot.

That said, after the book was written, I had a rather scary pitbull experience. A neighbor was sitting her son’s pit and was letting him run around our shared yard. I was sitting on my first-floor porch with the screen door closed behind me, and Musetta was sitting inside the screen door. Well, the pit saw Musetta and went for her – so fast that he got by me on the porch. He went through the screendoor as if it were nothing. Luckily, both Musetta and I are fast, too. Musetta scrambled up inside an opened window in my apartment – climbing up the screen inside the glass. And I tackled the dog right inside my apartment, landing on it with all fours. My neighbor came running. She, of course, said the dog only wanted to play. Yeah, right. Like I’d even take that chance. In truth, the dog didn’t fight back and as soon as I landed on him, was totally still (ha! Poor dog!). But I wasn’t taking ANY chances. That was terrifying for all of us; it took Musetta quite a few hours to return to normal. Me, too. Needless to say… the neighbor’s son’s dog was banished from our shared yard that night. Never, never again.

I think this was the classic human screw up though: My neighbor was a middle-aged woman who should not have been taking care of this young, active dog. Pits need to be exercised VIGOROUSLY. In the course of writing this book, I spoke to one pit lover who told me that he wouldn’t have the dogs if he weren’t a runner – he runs with his at least two miles a day. They also have been bred to react – they don’t go through the dominance/submission role-playing of other dogs – they just GO, and so they need to be carefully supervised and on some kind of restraint. I feel very strongly that the dog should NOT have been let run around the yard without a leash or a lead (the dog had access to my porch/apartment, obviously, but also to the street). But… we all survived and now it is water under the bridge.

We have since moved. Musetta remains a house cat, and the yard that she looks out on is fully fenced.

I loved Wallis – the combination of cranky and wise is absolutely wonderful. Is she based on a real cat?

Of course! I don’t know why, but I often voice Musetta as being quite fed up with all my silliness. “People, humph… sometimes I think you don’t have the wit God gave you…” I’ll say as Musetta leaves the room. Or, “Do you mind? I’m trying to nap,” when I sit near her and she looks up sleepily. Sometimes this confuses my husband, but he’s grown used to it.

Was it hard for you to write a canine character?

I had to do a lot more research, that’s for sure! I want to make sure all my animal characters have species-appropriate behavior and talents. So for that I have to read and talk to experts and visit with animals. From there, I let my imagination run wild.

I was intrigued with the cover for Dogs Don’t Lie – it features a cat. What was the rationale behind that design choice?

In truth, I have very little input or control over the cover. I’m asked for my input, and I give it, but then it goes to a designer and to marketing and I’m only consulted again at the end of the process. That said, right from the start, the one thing that we all knew was that this was a very different type of book from my previous mysteries, so we had to have a very distinct, very different cover. Poisoned Pen’s designer came up with a bunch. Earlier versions had no cat – but the one we all loved did have that cool blue noir look! I had suggested a cat early on, because the cat Wallis is central to the book (and the title would lead readers to expect a dog, not a cat). But then I saw that cool blue and loved it. So I said, “Great!” But the publisher said… let’s try one thing more. And voila, the same cool blue cover, same great typography – and now there’s a cat. I think from their closed eyes and the concentric circles, you’re supposed to get the idea that they are communicating psychically, which they do. I’m thrilled.

What’s next for the two series? Are you working on the next installments?

I am!! I have Cats Can’t Shoot drafted and now I’ve put that aside. I hope to spend the next two months drafting the very first rough draft of the fourth Dulcie, which doesn’t yet have a title. Then I’ll go back and revise Cats Can’t Shoot and turn it in. Then go back to Dulcie. Am trying to be a little more sane about it all this time, but I know that sometime in late spring or early summer I’ll be working all out and going a little nuts.

Thanks for joining us again, Clea. I can’t wait for Cat Can’t Shoot – what a great title!

Thanks so much, Ingrid! I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to talk about these books and the process that went into them. I hope that they bring pleasure to readers.

You can learn more about Clea and her book on her website and on her blog, You can also friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

About the author

Winning the FIP Fight – 33rd Annual Winn Feline Health Symposium

Feline Infectious Peritonitis is probably the most dreaded diagnosis for cats. It is caused by a coronavirus and affects the cells of the intestinal tract. The corona virus in itself is a common virus in cats, and cats may not even show symptoms other than perhaps a mild gastrointestinal upset. But for reasons that have eluded researchers so far, in some cats, the benign virus mutates into a highly infectious version that then causes FIP. It usually affects kittens and young cats, and has been considered fatal. Until now.

Finally, new research brings hope, and the findings will be announced at the at the 33rd Annual Winn Feline Symposium on June 23, 2011, in Reston, VA, just outside of Washington, DC. 

World renown researchers Dr. Niels Pederson, director for the Center of Companion Animal Health at the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine, Davis and Dr. Al Legendre, professor at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville will highlight the event.

Dr. Susan Little, a feline practitioner in Ottawa, Ontario Canada and past president of the Winn Feline Foundation, is quoted on Steve Dale’s Petworld as saying “finally, momentum and results when it comes to FIP research. Getting these two legends of veterinary medicine together at the same time is very rare, and to actually allow time for Q & A. I don’t know a veterinarian, a cat breeder or a cat lover who wouldn’t benefit.  FIP touches everyone.”

The symposium is open to veterinarians, breeders and cat lovers. Cost for the symposium, including dinner, is $45.

I will be attending and will be reporting back to you right here on The Conscious Cat.

The Winn Feline Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 1968 that supports studies to improve cat health. Projects funded by Winn provide information that is used every day to treat cat diseases.

Photo credit: morguefile

About the author

Book review: Dogs Don’t Lie by Clea Simon

Dogs Don't Lie cover

I first came to know Clea Simon as the author of The Feline Mystique – On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats , and later the Theda Krakow and Dulcie Schwartz series of cat mysteries. When I first heard about the title of this first book in Clea’s new Pet Noir series featuring Pru Marlowe, I thought “oh no, Clea has gone to the dogs!” But never fear, there are still plenty of cats in this one.

Pru Marlowe has almost finished her animal behavior training in New York City when she becomes ill, and all of a sudden discovers that she can hear animals talking to her. Disturbed rather than pleased with this new psychic ability, Pru leaves the city to retreat to her childhood home in the Berkshires. Even though she hasn’t completed her behavior certification, she begins to take on some jobs training and walking dogs. One of her clients is Lily the pitbull, a former fighting dog. When Pru finds Lily’s owner murdered, his throat ripped open, and Lily standing over the body with blood on her face, it sure looks for all intents and purposes like the dog did it.

But Pru knows Lily, and she knows the dog is not a killer. So Pru sets out to prove Lily’s innocence, and she gets tangled up in an investigation that involves a business venture, an aging mother with Alzheimer’s, a pregnant fiance, an animal control officer with a pet ferret named Frank, a gay Bichon named Bitsy who tells Pru his real name is Growler, and a handsome cop.

As Pru digs deeper into the case, she realizes that the pretty little town harbors secrets that make murder look like the least of its problems. Unwilling to tell anyone about her psychic abilities, and at times questioning her own sanity, Pru realizes that if she clears Lily of the murder, she herself may be come the most logical suspect, which only increases her desire to find the real killer. Pru, who is reserved and a bit solitary by nature, doesn’t come to trust people easily. Instead, she confides in Wallis, her old, cranky, opinionated and wise tabby, who always seems to know the right time to provide a little extra guidance to Pru.  My favorite quote from Wallis is the one that probably provided the title for the book: “Dogs.” Wallis hissed out the word, as close to a curse as she comes. “They lie.”

And since one can never have too many cats in a mystery, an orange kitten named Tulip and a black Persian named Floyd also contribute bits and pieces of information to help Pru solve the puzzle. While Lily the pitbull ultimately uncovers the proof needed to convict the killer, the cats provide plenty of help along the way.

Characteristic of all of Simon’s mysteries, this new series features a fast moving, intricate plot, an immensely likable main character and well developed and multi-dimensional secondary characters. But it’s in the portrayal of the animals where Simon really shines in this book. From her sensitive portrayal of Lily’s agony, grief and sadness to her wonderful description of Wallis and her many quirks, Simon masterfully captures each animal’s unique personality. Pru’s psychic abilities add an element of surprise and delight, making Dogs Don’t Lie a treat for cat lovers, dog lovers, and mystery lovers.

Clea SimonClea Simon is the author of the Dulcie Schwartz and Theda Krakow mysteries and the nonfiction The Feline Mystique – On the Mysterious Connection Between Cats and Their Women as well as several other nonfiction books.  For more information about Clea, please visit her website or her blog.

Coming next week on The Conscious Cat:
An interview with Clea Simon!

 

 

About the author

Do Cats Have Healing Powers? What the Research Says

tabby cat sunset

Guest post by Liz Eastwood

Believe it or not, our sweet-bundles-of-fur are probably saving us a bundle in medical bills.

This is another reason I’m into natural cat care—not only is it more ecological and vet-bill preventative, but our cats contribute so much to our well-being that we want to give them more life-extending love. Wait til you hear all this!

While cats in particular have healing powers, research on pet companionship in general is also impressive.

According to research discussed in this news report, people with pets save the Australian health service about $880 million per year and save Germany about $6.6 billion per year. The research found that people with pets:

  • need fewer visits to their doctor each year
  • have fewer sleeping difficulties
  • are less likely to need heart condition medicine

I was really excited about some research I found on cats in particular.

Cats may reduce heart attack risk by 40%

While a study showed that both cats and dogs  reduced stress-related blood pressure more than ace inhibitor medication, a study at the University of Minnesota found that cats in particular may reduce your chances of a heart attack by 40%.

The study, which looked at 4,435 Americans aged 30 to 75, showed that those who did not have a cat had a 40% higher risk of having a heart attack and a 30% greater risk of dying from other heart diseases than those who have or have had a cat.

I was diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia many years ago. That’s a crazy erratic, racing heartbeat that happens periodically in varying degrees of intensity and threat.

I did not have a cat at the time. A bit later I lived with cats again and a bit later I stopped having arrhythmia. Didn’t think much of it.

Fast forward many years to when my only cat, Bastet, was dying. I started having bouts of terrible heart arrhythmia symptoms. After she died it got worse–and by worse I mean nearly constant.

It stopped the day we brought home two new purring youngsters named Phil and Joel. The arrhythmia disappeared that day and hasn’t returned since. Were there other factors that may have affected my heart arrhythmia in these cases? Probably. But the timing of the healing was uncanny.

What’s at the root of a cat’s healing power?

There’s certainly some mystery as to exactly how cats and dogs manage to be good for our health. So far my investigation has uncovered these research nuggets about the healing power of kitty cats:

  • Stress symptoms are lowest in people with cats

In a study by Dr. June McNicholas, stress symptoms were lowest in cat owners, second lowest in dog owners, and highest in people without pets.

  • Purring heals—a lot of things!

The Fauna Communications Research Institute found that every cat in their study created purr vibrations within the range that is medically therapeutic (20-140 Hz) for:

  • bone growth and healing
  • pain relief
  • swelling reduction
  • wound healing
  • muscle growth and repair
  • tendon repair
  • joint mobility
  • dyspnea (shortness of breath) relief

Wow!

Other good news about having an animal friend at home

Well, this has been humbling!

Excuse me while I go see what Phil and Joel are up to.

Liz Eastwood is a writer and holistic nutritionist and the author of the Natural Cat Care Blog where she shares tips, insights and the joy of soul companion cats.

Image: Morguefile

About the author

Japan’s Cat Island is safe

Cat Island Japan

As we’ve been watching the rescue and recovery efforts in Japan for the past ten days, trying to wrap our minds around the devastation, and desperately looking for some good news in the middle of all the bad news, cat lovers around the world have been anxiously waiting to find out what happened to the cats on Tashirojima, Japan’s Cat Island.

Conscious Cat reader Paula has been in touch online with a Japanese online site directly devoted to Tashirojima,  and she provided the following information earlier today:

“A girl whose friend returned from the island yesterday confirmed that while a few cats died (near the gatehouse), the others are okay. There are about 50 people left on the island, and they are said to have received food (both for the humans and the cats). It seems that when power and water will be restored, things will be fairly okay, all things considered.”

A few minutes ago, a volunteer from Japanese Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support, a coalition of Japan Cat Network, Heart Tokushima and Animal Friends Niigata, posted this update:

“I just got through to a representative at an NPO called Hiyokkori Hyoutan Tashirojima on the land phone, and ‘everybody, humans and animals, is safe.’ He said that it is the areas in Ishinomaki that need more help now! Food, water, everything is sufficiently supplied. It is the electricity that is still needed on the island. The kitties are all safe. With the kind of purity and reverence the residents have for our beautiful feline friends, the cats are being well taken care of by these beautiful people. I am so happy! This is direct from someone on the island. Safety confirmed!”

As we breathe a sigh of relief that the island cats are safe, please remember that there are still many animals that are lost and missing. Numerous rescue groups, including World Vets, are on the ground in Japan trying to save as many of them as they can, and they need your  help. For more information on how to help, please read Help the Animals in Japan.

Photo source: tofugu.com

About the author

Book review: Grey Zone by Clea Simon

I had eagerly anticipated the release of Grey Zone, the third in Clea Simon’s Dulcie Schwartz feline mystery series.  The book’s official release date is April 1, and even though I have a pile of unread books a mile high, I just couldn’t wait that long, and ordered it on Amazon as soon as it became available. 

Harvard graduate student Dulcie Schwartz is hard at work on her thesis, which focuses on a 200-year-old Gothic mystery.  Mr. Grey, the spirit of her beloved feline, who offered wise advice and comfort to Dulcie in the past, has been increasingly silent.  Dulcie could really use his help with Esme, her mischievous and sometimes destructive kitten.  And on top of everything, her boyfriend is working all the time, and never seems to be available when Dulcie needs him.  When a student goes missing and a professor ends up dead, Dulcie finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into an increasingly complicated tangle of possible suspects, motives, and maybe even murder.

This exceptionally plotted story sweeps the reader along with Dulcie as she tries to unravel the mystery.  Will Mr. Grey help her, as he did in the past?  What about Esme?  Will the kitten play a part in solving they mystery?  You’ll have to read the book to find out.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book not just for the story, but also for the main characters and the setting.  Simon excels in developing her characters, and Dulcie is no exception.  Simon’s skills in writing appealing characters extend to the cats as well.  Even though Mr. Grey is a ghost cat, he feels real, and many readers will be able to relate to the feeling of connection with lost pets that extends beyond the realm of the physical.  She perfectly captures the antics of a growing kitten, and the slow process of a new kitten making her way into the heart of someone who’s lost a beloved cat.   The relationship between Dulcie and her boyfriend keeps changing and growing as well.   The story is set in Cambridge in the middle of winter, and Simon sets the scene so well that I found myself shivering at times.

All of these components make this book a wonderful read for cat lovers, mystery lovers, and lovers of a great story.  Don’t miss this one.

Clea Simon is the author of the Dulcie Schwartz and Theda Krakow mysteries and the nonfiction The Feline Mystique – On the Mysterious Connection Between Cats and Their Women as well as several other nonfiction books.  For more information about Clea, please visit her website or her blog.

Coming next week on The Conscious Cat: a review of Dogs Don’t Lie, the first in Clea Simon’s new Pet Noir series. And coming in two weeks: Clea Simon talks to The Conscious Cat about writing murder mysteries featuring cats.

You may also enjoy reading:

Book Review:  Shades of Grey by Clea Simon

Book Review:  Grey Matters by Clea Simon

Book Review:  The Theda Krakow Series by Clea Simon

About the author

Radiation concerns and your pets

Two women walk in a tsunami devastated street in Hishonomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on March 15, 2011

Our prayers go out to the victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. As the world watches events at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, worries about a nuclear diaster abound, and with it, fears of what radiation exposure might mean to those exposed. Several of my readers, especially on the US West Coast,  have indicated concern about what this  might mean for pets.

I don’t know much about nuclear energy or radiation, so I look to the experts to get my information, and among them, the consensus seems to be that the only people currently at risk are the workers at the affected plant.  Nevertheless, there has been a run on radiation pills in the United States, as reported in this article on AOL News.

Jonathan Links, director of the Center for Public Health Preparedness at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, is quoted in an article on NPR.org as saying that not only do the pills offer limited protection, but the nuclear plant hasn’t released enough radiation to cause health problems in most of Japan, let alone in the U.S. In the AOL News article, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Greg Jazcko is quoted as saying “You just aren’t going to have any radiological material that, by the time it traveled those large distances, could present any risk to the American public.”

So any fears for humans or pets appear to be based more on media hype than fact, but that does not make them any less real for those who are concerned about their pets.

The most frequent question I received from concerned pet owners was about potassium iodide, a supplement that is said to have protective properties against certain radioactive isotopes, and whether it can be given to pets as a precautionary measure. I asked a number of veterinarians for their input.

Potassium iodide should never be given to cats, it can have serious side effects. Dr. Jean Hofve, a holistic veterinarian, cautions that commercial pet foods already contain high levels of iodine. Adding the potassium iodide supplement on top of that could cause serious health problems.

Obviously, this is a developing story, but as you follow the news, please use common sense and consider the source before you panic. As with all issues affecting your pet’s health, consult with your veterinarian before giving supplements or medications.

March 17 update: UC Davis released this statement today: Pet owners cautioned against giving potassium iodide to animals

March 18 update: The VIN (Veterinary Information Network) News Service also cautions against giving potassium iodide to pets in this article: Fearing overseas radiation, Americans seek potassium iodide for pets

For information on how to help support animal rescue efforts in Japan, please read:

Help the animals in Japan

Photo credit CNN.com: Two women walk in a tsunami devastated street in Hishonomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on March 15, 2011

About the author

Cats and Cancer

Feebee

While cancer in cats is not as common as it in dogs, it is still one of the leading causes of death in older cats.  According to the Animal Cancer Foundation, 6 million cats will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States along. And because cats are masters at masking illness, it is often harder to detect.  Cancer used to be a death sentence for cats, but recent advances in feline cancer research have made treatment possible in many cases.  Just like with human cancers, early detection is key to successfully treating feline cancers.

Common cancers in cats

One of the most common forms of cancer in cats is lymphoma. Other frequently seen cancers are oral squamous carcinomas, similar to what people get.   Fibrosarcomas, or soft tissue sarcomas, are tumors developing in muscle or in the connective tissue of the body.  These are generally associated with injections and vaccinations.  Other forms of cancer are less common, but they do occur in cats:  lung tumors, brain tumors, nasal tumors, liver tumors.  There are fewer incidences of mammary tumors (yes, cats can get breast cancer, too) since more cats are spayed and spaying is one of the best ways to prevent this particular cancer.

Symptoms of feline cancer

People and cats both show similar symptoms when it comes to cancer:

  • Lumps, especially lumps that seem to be getting bigger
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Unexplained bleeding or a strange discharge from any body opening
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Breathing problems
  • Lameness or stiffness that persists over a period of time
  • Bad odor
  • Having trouble eating or swallowing food

If you notice your cat showing any of these symptoms, take him to your veterinarian for a thorough examination.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis will vary, depending on the presenting symptoms.  An exam will most likely include a complete blood chemistry, blood count, and urinalysis.  Your veterinarian may take x-rays, perform an ultrasound, and take tissue biopsies.  Depending on where the biopsies are taken from, this may require sedation, or full anesthesia.  Biopsies will be reviewed by a veterinary pathologist to determine the type of cancer.

Treatment

Treatment options for cats are almost as varied as treatment options for human cancers, and will depend on the type of cancer.  Surgery is the most common treatment for any lumps or growths that need to be removed.  In some cases, surgery can be curative.  Other cancers may require chemotherapy or radiation.  Cats tend to tolerate chemotherapy much better than people, and can have good quality of life for many months and sometimes even years following treatment.  Radiation therapy may be used for tumors that can’t be removed.  This is a more stressful therapy for cats, since it will require sedation or anesthesia for each treatment.

Causes

There isn’t as much research into the causes of feline cancer as there is on the human side, but I don’t think it’s much of a leap to assume that some of the same environmental toxins that cause cancer in humans also cause cancers in our cats.  There have been some studies looking at secondhand smoke and feline cancers.  Vaccinations and other injections have been proven to be responsible for fibrosarcomas, and these findings have led to changing vaccine protocols for cats.

Prevention

While some cancers are caused by genetic mutations, there are still things cat owners can do to lessen the likelihood that their cats get the disease.

A wholesome, species-appropriate, meat-based diet is one of the most important foundations for preventing cancer, or any other health problems in cats.  A balanced grain-free raw meat or canned diet provides the best nutrition for your cat.  As obligate carnivores, cats do not need carbohydrates in their diet.  In fact, commercial dry cat foods have been linked to many of the degenerative diseases we’re seeing in cats such as diabetes, kidney failure, and inflammatory bowel disease.  The latter is often a precursor for intestinal lymphoma.  The one best thing you can do for your cat’s health is to eliminate all dry food from his diet.

Environmental toxins and stressors are also linked to cancer in humans, and probably cause cancers in cats.  Avoid exposure to commercial cleaning products and use natural products instead.  Make sure your cat always has pure (bottled or distilled) water available.  Most municipal water systems are contaminated with anything from heavy metals to chlorine.  Don’t use chemical flea and tick products on your pets, use natural alternatives instead.  Minimize vaccinations, and if your cat already has cancer, do not vaccinate the cat at all.

Cancer is a devastating disease, but early detection, combined with ever increasing treatment options, makes it possible for cats to continue to live with good quality of life.

You may also enjoy reading:

In memory of Sophia: cat owner runs half marathon to benefit cancer research

Feline nutrition: who bears the responsibility?

Photo is of Feebee, my first cat.  I lost him to lymphoma two days before his sixteenth birthday.

 

About the author

Product highlight: Clean+Green all natural cleaning products

Clean+Green natural cleaning products

Many commercial cleaning products can be extremely toxic, and even deadly, to pets.  Cats are especially susceptible since they groom themselves by licking and as a result ingest anything that comes in contact with their feet or fur. 

While it’s getting easier to find natural and eco-friendly cleaning products, even in regular grocery stores, not all of these products may be safe to use around cats. In particular, stay away from products containing essential oils. Even though many manufacturers of essential oils claim that they are safe to use around cats, this is not always the case. Tea tree oil especially can be deadly to cats.

As a result, I’m always looking for “all natural” cleaners that are truly safe to use around cats. When the folks at Sea-Yu Enterprises® offered to send me a couple of their Clean+Green® cleaners to test, I was more than happy to accept.

Sea-Yu’s eco-friendly cleaning products are made from organic and biodegradable ingredients. They’re even packaged in recyclable containers. Their ingredients are labeled “cosmetics safe”, and they disclose the ingredients on their website. The only thing I didn’t like was  the “proprietary blend of botanical extracts.” I understand that companies need to protect their unique formulas, but I would prefer to see a complete list of ingredients.

The Clean+Green product line includes concrete & grout, furniture refresher, wood & tile, carpet & upholstery, and litter box odor eliminators and spot removers.

I tested the carpet & upholstery product on my off-white carpet, and while I didn’t have any fresh stains to test it on (and I wasn’t about to ask Allegra to create some for me especially for this product test!), I used it on some very old stains of indeterminate origin (most likely source: cat vomit). Even though I try to avoid chemically based cleaners, I had used everything from Resolve® to OxyClean® to hydrogen peroxide without making much of a difference. A couple of treatments with Clean+Green’s carpet & upholstery cleaner, and much to my surprise, the stains actually disappeared. You can’t ask for an easier application: just spray and allow the area dry. No need for scrubbing or blotting.

And the best part? The product is completely unscented. I don’t like scented cleaning products of any kind, whether they’re chemically based or natural, and I’m guessing if cats had their say, they’d prefer unscented products, too.

They also sent me the furniture refresher product. I can’t say that I’ve ever had any need for a product to refresh my furniture – I’m thinking that’s more of an issue with dogs than it is with cats. So the most I can say about my experience with it is that it, too, meets my requirement for being completely scent-free.

You can learn more about the Clean+Green product line on their website, and you can find them on Facebook and on Twitter.

The company sent me products for review.

You may also enjoy reading:

Pet-Friendly cleaning tips

Two reasons not to use dryer sheets

About the author

Can you love your cat too much?

Ingrid_with_Amber

I consider myself a reasonably well-adjusted human being. I’m a self-employed professional with a large circle of friends. I’m an introvert, but I enjoy spending time with people and have a varied social life. I love cats, but I don’t think I’m a crazy cat lady. So I have a few cat-themed decorations around my house. Okay, a lot of cat-themed decorations. And yes, I do carry pictures of my cats in my wallet. But really, I’m not a crazy cat lady!

People who love too much are often called codependent. Webster’s defines codependency as “a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another.” Sounds like a typical human-feline relationship to me — aren’t most cat owners controlled by their cats? In other words, isn’t that perfectly normal?

I decided to dig a little deeper and actually came across some check lists that are meant to help you determine whether you love your cat too much. The first question:

How much do you allow your cat to interfere with your daily life?

I work from home, so my cats are part of my daily life. But I don’t consider that interfering. In fact, I consider myself lucky that I can be with them while I work. So maybe the person coming up with this question just wasn’t really a pet person. Next question:

Do you refer to your cat as if she were human?

Occasionally guilty. But I always know that I’m doing it, so that makes it okay, right?

Does your life revolve around the daily requirements of your cat?

Guilty again. But doesn’t everyone’s life revolve around their pet? Why else have one? Moving on.

Do you relate to your cat to the exclusion of relationships with family and friends?

Whew! I can honestly answer no to this one. (I told you I’m not a crazy cat lady.) So all things considered, I don’t think I have a codependent relationship with my cats.

But then I got to this question:

Do you forego going out of town because you don’t want to leave your cat?

And there you have it. Guilty as charged. Anytime the prospect of even a short trip looms, I get stressed about it. Even though we have the best pet sitter in the world, who comes to visit at least twice a day when I’m away, I still fret and worry the whole time I’m gone. Most of all, I just plain miss my girls.

If that means I love my cats too much, then so be it.

Photo above is with Amber.

About the author

Who Will Care For Your Cat If You Can’t?

grey cat

Nobody wants to think about becoming ill, incapacitated, or dying, but as responsible cat parents, we owe it to our cats to think ahead and make arrangements for their care when we can’t be there to take care of them anymore. There are a number things you can do to ensure peace of mind not just for yourself, but for family and friends who may not know what to do in the event of your death or any other emergency.

Designate a caretaker

Find one or two responsible friends or relatives who will agree to take care of your cat if something unexpected happens to you. Ideally, these will be people who know your cat, and who your cat is familiar with. Provide them with keys to your home, and make sure they know your cat’s basic routine when it comes to feeding and care. Make sure they have your veterinarian’s contact information.  Another option for this may be your trusted cat sitter, but be sure to make arrangements for their fees to get paid out of your estate.

Discuss your expectations

When choosing a caregiver for your cat, thoroughly discuss your expectations with that person. Do you expect them to give your cat a permanent home, or do you want their help to care for your cat temporarily while they find a new home for her? Remember that this person will have complete control over your cat’s care, including making decisions about veterinary care, so make sure that you choose someone you trust to make the same or similar decisions to what you would choose. Always have an alternate caregiver, and stay in touch with both the primary and alternate caregiver periodically to ensure that the arrangements you made are still valid. Peoples’ lives change, and while someone may have been the ideal caregiver at one point, circumstances may prohibit them from being available if and when the time comes.

Consider a humane organization

If you can’t find an individual to help, you can consider a humane organization, but be aware that most organizations do not have the room or the funds to care for your cat, and they certainly can’t guarantee that your pet will find a new home. There are a few organizations that specialize in caring for pets of deceased owners, but it’s probably never an ideal situation. Your cat was used to living in a home, with all the love and attention that comes with that, and ending up even with the best of these types of organizations will most likely be extremely stressful for most cats.

Legalize the arrangement

Once you have found one or two potential caregivers, legalize the arrangement. There are a number of options, including wills and trusts, and which is right for you will depend on your situation. Requirements will vary by state. Trusts are  becoming more popular because they allow you more control over how your pet will be cared for. The goal is to end up with a legal document that provides for continued care for your cat either on a permanent basis or until a new home is found for him. The arrangements should include authorizing sufficient funds from your estate to care for your cat temporarily, as well as cover costs to look for a new home. Keep in mind that it can take weeks or even months to find an appropriate new home for cats, especially if they are older or have special needs, so be sure to allocate sufficient funds.

Your best bet is to consult with an attorney about the legal aspects of the arrangement. There are also numerous online services available that provide low-cost help to set up standard legal documents. I used LegalZoom for a number of documents such as my will, power-of-attorney, medical directive, and more, and I’ve been pleased with their services.

If you already have legal documents in place to care for your cat, remember to review them periodically to ensure that they will still meet your cat’s needs.

Additional considerations

There are a few other things you can do to ensure continued care for your cats in the event that something happens to you:

  • Carry a wallet alert card with contact information for your emergency care givers.
  • Make sure that emergency care givers know how to contact each other.
  • Post emergency contact notices inside your front door. Include favorite hiding places for your cats on this listing – depending on your cat’s temperament, he may be scared when a stranger enters your house.

This is the kind of thing that none of us want to deal with, but once you’ve put these arrangements in place, you won’t have to worry about your cats ending up at a shelter, or worse, euthanized, because there were no other options.

About the author