Author’s Life

The 2011 Petties – trophy, acceptance speech and interview

Ingrid King The Conscious Cat Best Pet Blog 2011 Petties

While nothing will equal the moment when Leslie Smith, the Editor for DogTime/CatTime Media, announced that The Conscious Cat won the 2011 Pettie for Best Pet Blog during the virtual award ceremony on August 26, there’s been a little more excitement even after the win. Since noone had more to do with us winning this award than all of you who read The Conscious Cat each and every day, I want to share all of it with you.Continue Reading

A tribute to Bob Dole

Bob Dole longhaired orange cat

On Saturday night, Bob Dole, my dear friend Robin Olson’s beloved cat, died peacefully after a long battle with cancer. He was surrounded by those he loved.

Bob was Robin’s mother’s cat. When she died unexpectedly five years ago, Robin took Bob in, initially intending to find a good home for him, because she already had multiple cats of her own. Bob had not received regular veterinary care while he lived with her mother (a regular topic of dissension between Robin and her mother). When Robin took Bob to her vet, he was diagnosed as FIV positive and diabetic. Continue Reading

I’ll be on Martha Stewart Living Radio!

Martha Stewart Living Radio

CATCHAT radio Martha Stewart Living Sirius XM

I am honored and excited that Tracie Hotchner invited me to join her on her show CATCHAT on Martha Stewart Living Radio!

CATCHAT is a weekly call-in show with an audience of over 18 million subscribers across America and Canada (did I mention that I’m excited?), which airs on Sirius/XM radio on Wednesdays 8-9PM Eastern (5-6PM Pacific). I’ll be on the show on Wednesday, September 14 at 8pm Eastern. The Martha Stewart Channel is #110 on Sirius/XM.Continue Reading

The Year of the Cat: The 2011 Petties and BlogPaws 2011

2011 Petties Best Pet Blog

As most of you already know, The Conscious Cat won the 2011 Pettie for Best Pet Blog this past weekend. The winners were announced on Friday during a virtual ceremony hosted by DogTime Media. If you missed it, you can watch it at the end of this post.

I watched the ceremony at BlogPaws, surrounded by my fellow nominees and cat blogging friends. As category after category was announced, the excitement and the cheering increased with each win. With the exception of two categories (Best Dog Blog and Best Cause Related Blog), where all the nominees were dog blogs, the cats swept the Petties! Congratulations to all the feline winners!

2011 Petties the Year of the Cat

Moderncat – Best Blog Design

Catsparella – Best Social Integration Blog

Catladyland– Funniest Blog or Blogger

Sparkle Cat – Best Blog Post

Covered in Cat Hair – Best Cat Blog

I was particularly delighted that Covered in Cat Hair won Best Cat Blog. Robin is a dear friend, and we both hated being pitted against each other in this category. We couldn’t have asked for a more purrfect outcome, with both of us winning!

Ultimately, the real winners are the rescue groups who will receive donations from the Pettie winners. Each category will be awarded $1000, some bloggers, like me, split their prize money between several rescue groups. My $1000 will be split between Casey’s House and Kitten Associates. And I even got to meet some Kitten Associates kittens at BlogPaws! Maria and Bobbie, two of Robin’s rescue contacts in Georgia, drove a litter of kittens and their mom to the conference hotel so Robin could take them back to Connecticut, where they’ll be in foster homes until they’re ready for adoption.  You can find absolutely adorable photos of the kittens on Robin’s blog.

And even though we’re a cat blog, we love all animals, and would like to congratulate Fido-Friendly for winning for Best Dog Blog, and Be the Change for Animals for winning for Best Cause Related Blog!

I encourage you to visit all of the winners’ blogs if you’re not already following them.

I had a wonderful time at BlogPaws. For three days, bloggers, sponsors and animal lovers from around the country gathered at the Sheraton Premiere at Tyson’s Corner, VA for outstanding educational seminars, inspirational keynote speeches, fabulous networking, and plain old fun.

One of the unexpected higlights for me was listening to Joe Panz and Big Ant from Resuce Ink talk about their work. I have to admit, I never watched the show and was only vaguely aware of what they do. I had no idea how far reaching their work is, and how dangerous. I was moved to tears several times during their speech.

The best part about BlogPaws was meeting so many of my blogging friends in person for the first time, including the amazing Kate Benjamin of Moderncat, the lovely Deb Barnes of Zee & Zoey’s Chronicle Connection, the joyful and warm Caren Gittleman of Cat Chat with Caren & Cody, Sachie Tani of My Himalayan Cat Goma, Angie Holland Bailey of CatLadyLand, Joanne McGonagle of The Tiniest Tiger,  Janea Kelly of Paws & Effect, and so many more! It was also wonderful to reconnect with Tamar Arslanian of I Have Cat, Stephanie Harwin of Catsparella, Karen Nichols of Mouse Breath, Rachel Shubin of We Have a Situation, and Ann Dziemianowicz of Paper Bag and String.

I once again marveled at the power of the internet when it comes to making connections and forging friendships. I spend so much time online each day that at times, I feel closer to some of my online friends than I do to my real life friends. I treasure these online friendships, but you still can’t help but wonder whether the relationship will “translate” to real life. There is nothing better than meeting an online friend for the first time and instantly realizing that the connection does, indeeed, translate. The real life meeting simply adds another layer of depth.

BlogPaws 2011 sponsors

Allegra and Ruby were less than thrilled with BlogPaws (no, they didn’t attend!). They did not care for me leaving the house at first light and not getting back home until close to midnight, only to repeat it again for the next two days. They were, however, mollified when I opened the huge swag bag on Sunday morning. They were particularly delighted with a personal swag bag I received from Teri of Curlz and Swirlz and Carol of Coffee, Cats and Yarn – a lovely, and completely unexpected surprise.

I’ll be spending the next few days going through the huge stack of business cards I collected at BlogPaws, and writing follow up notes. I’ll be spending a lot longer than that remembering the wonderful three days spent in the company of friends, old and new. There is nothing better than spending time in the company of others who are united in being passionate about the same thing: making a difference for animals.

2011 DogTime Media Pet Blog Awards

httpv://youtu.be/erBh5niLKME

My 7 Links: resurrecting old favorites

Most Beautiful Post

Alelgra and Ruby, The Conscious Cat

I picked Allegra and Ruby’s Great Adventure for this category because it features my two beautiful babies! Allegra and Ruby both have their own columns here on the site, Allegra’s World and Ruby’s Reflections, and frequently, their posts prove to be more popular than the ones I write!

Most Popular Post

tortitude tortoiseshell cat personality

Without a doubt, it’s Tortitude: The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats. I wrote this post about torties’ distinct personalities in August of 2009. As of this writing, the post has received more than 6000 comments and has turned into a community of tortie lovers who visit frequently to share stories of their special girls (and even a couple of boys!).

Most Controversial Post

Controversial may not be quite the right word, but The Truth About Dry Cat Food has generated a lot of great ongoing discussion since I first wrote it in April of 2010, and it won a Petlitzer Award for best pursuasive essay in March of this year. Feline nutrition is one of my passions, and far too many cat guardians are still not aware that cats should not eat dry food. It makes me happy that this post has contributed to many cats being fed a better and species appropriate diet of grain-free canned or raw food.

Most Helpful Post

photo of Bob copyright Robin Olson

This one was hard to pick. The whole purpose of this blog is to educate cat guardians about how to make the lives of their cats happier and healthier. I choose Making Medical Decisions for Your Cat because it’s an important topic that isn’t talked about all that frequently. I wrote it in January of this year at a time when several friends were going through this process. With advances in veterinary medicine, there are so many options today when a cat gets sick, and making decisions can be overwhelming. The bottom line: the only right decision is the one that’s right for each individual cat and each individual person.

Post Whose Success Surprised Me

quote from The Little Prince

I wrote What Not to Say to Someone Who is Grieving the Loss of a Pet in June of 2010, a month after Amber died. As a society, we are not equipped to handle grief and loss, and many people don’t know what to say to someone who is grieving.  This can be compounded when the loss is that of a pet.  Even people who are genuinely sorry and want to express their sympathy often don’t know what to say to comfort the grieving person . It is difficult to know what to say, and as a result, people often, without meaning to, say the wrong things that, rather than providing comfort, only serve to upset the grieving person even more.

The feedback to this post, both in comments and via private e-mail, was almost overwhelming, and made me glad that I had written it.

Post That Didn’t Get The Attention It Deserved

meditating cat

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. For me, being around animals is also one of the most direct ways to connect with my spiritual core. I wrote Animals as a Pathway to Source in December of 2009, when I was preparing for a book talk on the same topic. Maybe the title wasn’t catchy enough, but I’d really like to see this one get more attention.

Post Most Proud Of

Japan Earthquake

When I posted a list of resources on how to help the animals affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March of this year, I never expected it to go viral. Help the Animals in Japan got more than 10,000 views in just a few days. I’m proud that I was able to help spread the word and raise money to help the animal victims affected by this disaster.

We’re the Tortoiseshell Sponsor at the National Capital Cat Show

National Capital Cat Show

I’m excited to announce that Buckley’s Story is the Tortoiseshell Sponsor at the National Capital Cat Show!  The show takes place September 10 and 11, 2011, at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, VA.  

The National Capital Cat Show is one of the largest cat shows in the country and features a huge selection of cat supplies, including cat toys, cat food, grooming supplies, and friendly people willing to help you with your cat questions.  It’s truly a cat lover’s paradise.

Come visit us at our booth, purchase autographed and personalized copies of Buckley’s Story, and enter a drawing to win an autographed copy of the book. We’ll also have lots of fun freebies for you and your cat!

Buckley's Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher

And that’s not all! I’m also excited to announce that we will have a very special guest at our booth for the entire show: Dr. Fern Crist, the veterinarian you know from Buckley’s Story and from several articles here on The Conscious Cat. Dr. Crist will be answering your cat health questions.

We will also be selling healing gemstone cat collars and jewelry (for the humans) designed and handcrafted by Dr. Crist. The stunning designs incorporate Dr. Crist’s love of rocks and vast knowledge of the healing properties of gemstones, her artistic creativity, and her veterinary experience. 

The bracelet below is my most treasured piece of jewelry, and only one example of the gorgeous pieces Fern creates. She made this bracelet for me after Amber died. Each stone was selected for its healing properties for helping with grief, sadness and depression.

healing properties of gemstones Rock Spirit Design

The photo below shows only some of Rock Spirit Designs’ cat collars. Cat collars can be custom made to help with specific health conditions.

cat collars gemstones healing stones crystals

So mark your calendars, and plan to join us at the National Capital Cat Show! For more information about the cat show, please visit the official website of the National Capital Cat Show.

Meet Feebee, My First Feline Soul Mate

Feebee

There are many different definitions of the term “soul mate.” Even though the term is often used in connection with a romantic relationship, a soul mate is simply someone we feel a deep and immediate connection with. We can’t always explain rationally why we’re so drawn to a soul mate.

For me, the term soul mate also has a strong spiritual component. We enter into these soul mate relationships not just because we’re drawn to them, but because they hold lessons for our personal and spiritual growth. And not surprisingly, I believe that this connection doesn’t just exist with humans. It also extends to cats.

Liz Eastwood, the publisher of the Natural Cat Care Blog, also believes that feline soul mates exist. She calls them ” soul cats,” and has devoted an entire series on her blog to featuring some of these special cats. I was honored that she chose to feature Feebee in her series. He was my first cat,  and also my first ” soul cat.” I say my first, because I think I’ve been blessed with more than one of these special cats. Amber was definitely another one, and so was Buckley. And I suspect that Allegra and Ruby are, too.

The interview was originally featured on Liz’s blog. Here’s your opportunity to learn more about my special guy.

feline-soul-mate

How did you find each other?

Feebee was born to a cat named Blue, who belonged to a childhood friend of my former husband in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Walt and I were living in Germany at the time, but we would be moving back to the Washington, DC area shortly, so Walt’s friend saved one of the kittens in Blue’s litter for us. Meeting Feebee was love at first sight for me. We took him home as soon as we had moved into our new house in Northern Virginia, and for the next fifteen and a half years, Feebee was the love of my life.

I should probably explain his name -most people think Feebee is a female name. The first time Walt picked him up, he said “hi there, little fishbreath” after getting a whiff of his breath, and we thought that would be a cute name. However, we also thought nobody should have to go through life with a name like Fishbreath, so we shortened it to F.B., which didn’t flow nicely, so somehow it became Feebee.

When we picked him up to take him home with us, he was six months old. When we put him in the car, he sat by the back window and cried and cried for the first half hour of our drive. Then he came to the front, curled up in my lap, and went to sleep – and that’s where he stayed for the rest of the two-hour drive. That was my first taste of the kind of happiness he would bring me for the next 15 ½ years.

feline-soul-mate

Is there a personality trait or experience that stands out?

He was a very affectionate cat. He loved to cuddle, and he slept in my arms most nights. He loved food – all of it, not just his cat food. He had some very strange tastes for a cat that included mustard covered bits of lettuce, cantaloupe, and potato chips. He was also very playful, and particularly loved catnip stuffed toys that he could hug to himself and kick at with his hindlegs.

What made you aware of your special bond?

I think I didn’t realize that he was my soul cat until after my divorce. He’d been with us almost ten years at that point. There was never a question that he would stay with me, and it’s a good thing he did. The divorce was only the beginning of a very dark period in my life: four months after my former husband left, my mother passed away after a short illness. Between trying to adjust to life as a newly single woman, and mourning the untimely passing of my mother, I felt completely overwhelmed. Just getting through each day seemed impossible at times. But Feebee was by my side for all of it, and somehow, I managed. He let my tears soak his soft grey fur. His quiet, loving presence eased my sadness. He was a great listener, and his rumbling purr provided comfort. He cheered me up with his utter cuteness.

Despite his loving presence, the pain and sadness sometimes became unbearable, and there were times when I considered just ending it all. But whenever these dark thoughts entered my mind, I would also think of Feebee. Knowing that someone still loved and needed me made it impossible to give up on life. Who would take care of him if I wasn’t around? And each and every time, love pulled me back from the edge – this special love between a cat and his person. Feebee gave me many gifts throughout the almost sixteen years he spent with me, but none greater than the gift of life.

He was also instrumental in guiding me toward a new career. There’s nothing like major life changes to make you re-evaluate your life. I had become increasingly unhappy with my corporate job but had no clear sense of what I was meant to be doing with my life. Then Feebee took matters into his own paws, so to speak, and developed bladder stones. The time we then spent at veterinary hospitals for diagnosis, treatment, and surgery led me to change careers. I started volunteering and then working part time at veterinary hospitals, which eventually led to a full-time position managing an animal hospital.

I would love to hear about your special “soul cats” – share them with us in a comment!

 

Coping with Unexpected Loss: A Personal Journey

Amber The Conscious Cat

When I had to let Amber go after a brief, sudden illness last May, I wasn’t prepared for the depth of my grief. It hadn’t even been a year and a half after I lost Buckley. Here I was, faced with grieving yet again.

It’s not like I hadn’t experienced loss in my life before. Most of us who’ve reached the age I’m at have had to deal with loss. I lost my mother in 1994 after a brief illness. I lost my soul mate cat Feebee in 2000 after a valiant seven-month battle with lymphoma. I lost my office cat Virginia in 2002 after a brief decline following a fourteen-year-long life with FIV. I lost my father in 2004 to heart disease and cancer. And as those of you who’ve read Buckley’s Story know, I lost Buckley after she was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy and given a very poor prognosis that she outlived by a considerable amount of time.

I had lots of experience with grief, and I survived all of these losses more or less gracefully. I learned that there is only one way to deal with grief, and that’s to go through it. There is no way around it. You can’t run from it.  I learned about the stages of grief. I learned that you don’t go through them step by step, but rather, that you sometimes cycle through them over and over, until, at some point, mercifully, you may find that you’ve reached the final stage, acceptance. But even reaching acceptance doesn’t mean that you ever really get “over” a loss.

So you’d think that with all this personal experience in grieving, I would have been better prepared to handle losing Amber. The force of my grief over losing her caught me completely off guard. And I realized, in the middle of the shock, the tears, and the pain, that I had never lost a loved one as unexpectedly and suddenly as I lost her. Twelve short days, from the time that she was mildly ill to the time that I had to let her go. I never expected her to not get better when I agreed to hospitalize her. I always expected her to come home.  Come home she did, but not in the way I would have wanted her to. Because of her poor prognosis, after four days of intensive care, I made the agonizing decision to stop treatment, bring her home, and spend the afternoon with her before my vet came to the house that evening to help her with a peaceful transition.

As with all my losses, there were commonalities. Despite the incredible outpouring of love and support from not only my ”real life” friends, but also my online friends,  there were times when I felt alone in my grief, disconnected from the world around me and normal everyday activities. I was physically exhausted most of the time – grief takes a toll not just emotionally,  but physically. I tried to take care of myself as best as I could, by trying to eat regular meals, getting some exercise, and staying connected with friends.  But it was hard.  Going out into the world was challenging – how could life be going on when my world had changed irrevocably?

In The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood, author Nadine M. Rosin, after losing her nineteen-year-old dog Buttons, writes:  “…being out in public felt totally bizarre, as if the world had come to an end because of some horrible disaster, life as we’d known it on the planet was over, but I seemed to be the only person who knew about it.” I’ve rarely heard this particular emotion of feeling out of synch with the rest of the world expressed better. I limited social engagements to activities with friends who understood my grief, and I’m fortunate that most of the people in my life are animal people, and they do understand. I simply didn’t have it in me to make polite chit-chat with those who didn’t.

I knew I’d make it through, just like I made it through all my other losses. But one year later, I also realize that this loss left me forever changed in ways the others didn’t. And perhaps it had to do with the suddenness of the loss.

With all my other losses, I’ve always had time to prepare for loss. While anticipatory grieving is difficult, I believe that it does help in the end – you have time to get used to the idea of eventually having to go on without your loved one. But Amber was a healthy, happy cat who had rarely been sick in her life. There was nothing that could have prepared me for this.   It was much harder, much more painful, and much more complicated than my other losses. With the others, I rarely second-guessed myself. I didn’t rail at the universe for having my loved one taken from me so quickly. I didn’t blame myself for decisions I made during Amber’s last two weeks.  I just grieved.

A year later, I can finally say that I’ve found peace. And I learned this, yet again: grief is a process. It requires being gentle with yourself as you go through it. It requires allowing those who understand to support you, and staying away from those who don’t. It requires courage to face the pain, rather than run from it.

Grief can be a transformational experience.  It rips your heart wide open, and you’ll never be the same. It’s up to each individual whether they’ll choose to let grief destroy them, or whether they’ll do the challenging and difficult work that will ultimately allow it to be transformed into personal growth and expansion.

To honor Amber, her love, and all she has brought into my life, I didn’t have any other choice except to let something good come from this devastating loss.

Happy 4th of July 2011

Allegra and Ruby 4th of July

Happy 4th of July
from Allegra, Ruby and Ingrid

While Independence Day may be a favorite holiday for many of us, it is probably also the most traumatic day of the year for most cats.  Even though many municipalities don’t allow private fireworks, people still seem to find a way to have their own. Unless you live far away from civilization, chances are, your cat will most likely have to deal with the noise from fireworks.

A cat’s sense of hearing is much more acute than ours, and so the noises are much more intent for them.  Add to that the lack of understanding of what is going on and you can have a very scared cat on your hands.  But celebrations like the 4th of July don’t have to cause such anxiety for your cat.  Here are some tips for helping your cat cope with fireworks, thunderstorms, and other loud noises:

  • Create a safe space for your cat. If you’re having a party, unless your cat is very social and doesn’t mind a  lot of commotion, keep her confined to a quiet bedroom. Put her favorite blanket, bed or toys in with her, along with a litter box and fresh water. Shut the curtains and drapes and turn on lights to lessen the flash of the fireworks.
  • Leave on a TV or music to drown out the noise from the fireworks. (This works during thunderstorm season as well.)
  • Make sure that your cats are wearing their identification tags and that the information is current.
  • Consider a natural calming aid like Rescue Remedy, Stress Stopper, or Composure calming treats.

Happy Father’s Day 2011

Lion father and lion cub

Happy Father’s Day
Whether your kids are human or furry, enjoy your special day!

My dad passed away seven years ago. I still think about him every day. My relationship with him was complicated at times, but I always knew that he loved me, and I have lots of wonderful memories of him.

His life was shaped to a great extent by his experiences during World War II in Germany, and as a result of experiencing so much loss at such a young age, he held those he loved close to him – at times, too close for a daughter who wanted to spread her wings and fly from the nest!

He instilled in me my love of nature – some of my earliest and fondest memories are of long walks in the woods and parks near our home.  He taught me the names of all the flowers, trees, butterflies and animals we’d encounter on those walks.

He loved the Alps – his happiest times were spent hiking those beautiful mountains.  His love of the Alps dated back to his days as an American POW. When he was first captured, he was held in the basement of a home in Bavaria. Through a small window, he could see the snow covered peaks of the Alps, and he decided then and there that he would climb as many of these mountains as he could once he was free. The dream of one day hiking in those mountains kept him going through those dark days.

He worked hard at a job he didn’t enjoy all that much to provide for my mother and me.  We were by no means rich, but he always made me feel like we were.  He loved to travel, and after taking early retirement, for the next nine years, he and my mother traveled extensively.  He especially enjoyed his travels in the Western part of the United States – every Western movie he’d ever seen came to life for him there.  He would talk about those trips for years to come.

He had a difficult time dealing with my mother’s death, and his life contracted again.  He didn’t enjoy traveling by himself, and other than his annual visit to the United States, he stayed close to home.  When he became ill with prostate cancer six years after my mother died, I wasn’t sure he would want to fight – but he surprised me.  He wanted to live, and he survived.

After the life changing experience of going through cancer treatment, he decided that it was time to make a lifelong dream come true.  He sold his home of forty years almost overnight, and bought a condo in the Black Forest, where he spent the last two years of his life in an environment that he loved.   Having been a life-long worrier all his life, he learned to live in the moment and “appreciate each flower and each butterfly,” as he told me during my last visit with him.  He passed away after a short illness, and knowing how happy he was the last two years of his life was a great comfort to me.

My dad had a long, sometimes difficult, but ultimately good life, and I miss his physical presence in my life every day.  His spirit, however, is never far from me.

Ingrid King with her father

If you still have your father, tell him that you love him today.

Photo of lions: iStockphoto, photo with my Dad taken during my last visit with him in June of 2003