Feline Lifestyle

Is Pet Insurance Right for You and Your Cat?

cat with vet

One of the most important aspects of being a responsible cat guardian is ensuring regular health care for your cat throughout his life. All cats should have annual wellness exams, and older cats should see the veterinarian twice a year. Costs for routine exams vary; depending on what part of the country you’re in, they will range anywhere from $45 to $150 (exam only). And that’s only well cat care. Illnesses and accidents can quickly increase those costs, the average cost for a visit to an emergency vet can easily run between $1000 and $2000, depending on the severity of the problem.

Additionally, advances in veterinary medicine make it possible to treat medical conditions in pets that would have been a death sentence a decade ago. From chemotherapy to kidney transplants, pets can now receive almost the same level of medical care as humans. Of course, all of these treatments come with a price tag.

As a result, pet insurance has become increasingly popular over the past decade. There are several companies offering a variety of plans, and deciding whether pet insurance is right for you, and choosing the right plan, can be overwhelming.

How do you determine whether pet insurance right for you?

Could you afford an unexpected $1000 or $2000, should your pet become ill? If your answer is no, pet insurance may be a viable option. You may not like paying a monthly premium, but, just like human health insurance, you may be glad you paid the premium if you ever need to use the coverage for your pet.

Pet insurance is all about risk management. Some clients may pay more in premiums than they receive in reimbursements (and they would be the lucky ones with healthy pets), but they’ll know that, should something catastrophic happen to their pet, they’ll be covered. Pet insurance companies are in business to make a profit, so they need to generate more money in premiums than what they pay out to pet owners.

Some pet guardians may prefer to put aside a certain amount of money each month into a savings account dedicated to pet care expenses instead of paying monthly insurance premiums. The advantage of doing so is, of course, that, if your cat needs little beyond annual well visits, the money belongs to you, not the insurance company. The risk is that you may end up with unexpected and expensive vet bills, should your cat need additional care. Saving for pet care expenses may also require more financial discipline than paying a monthly premium bill.

If pet insurance seems like a viable option for you, do your homework. Research the different plans carefully. Read the fine print. Premiums and coverage vary widely from plan to plan.

The following questions can help you choose a pet insurance provider:

  1. Is the company licensed in your state?
  2. Does the company have a good reputation? How long have they been around?
  3. Is the policy information easy to understand?
  4. Does the company offer customer service during business hours?
  5. Can you see any veterinarian you want?
  6. How much have premiums increased over the last few years?
  7. Will premiums increase as your pet gets older?
  8. What is covered and what is excluded from coverage?
  9. What is the company’s policy on pre-existing conditions?
  10. Does the company cover benefits for wellness visits and preventive care?
  11. Does the company cover holistic care?
  12. Is there a waiting period before coverage becomes active?
  13. Is there a maximum age for enrolling your cat?
  14. Are there reimbursement limits per case, per year, per lifetime?
  15. Is a physical exam required prior to enrollment?

There is no one size fits all answer to the question of whether pet insurance is right for you and your cat. It is a personal decision that needs to take your financial situation and your risk tolerance into account.

Go Green for Your Cat

go-green-cat

You recycle, buy organic, and use eco-friendly products for yourself, so wouldn’t it make sense to make similar choices for your cat? There are many ways you can help the planet by going green for your cat.

Recycle

Do you have a lot of old cat toys your cats never play with anymore? What about beds, or litter boxes, or even old towels? Your local shelter or private rescue group will appreciate the donation. Be sure to call first to see what they need.

Feed natural foods

Natural and organic pet foods use meats that are raised in sustainable, humane ways without added drugs or hormones, minimally processed, and preserved with natural substances, such as vitamins C and E. Certified-organic pet foods must meet strict USDA standards that spell out how ingredients are produced and processed, which means no pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, artificial preservatives, artificial ingredients or genetically engineered ingredients.

Use pet-friendly cleaning products

Many household cleaners contain contain hazardous ingredients such as organic solvents and petroleum based chemicals which can release volatile organic compounds  into your indoor air. Some ingredients in household cleaners are known to cause cancer in animals and are suspected human carcinogens. Inappropriate use, storage and disposal of these hazardous household substances may impact your personal health and the health of our environment.  Lysol, Pine-sol and other products containing phenols are deadly to cats as they can cause serious liver damage.  Chlorox bleach, especially when concentrated, can cause chemical burns when it comes in contact with sensitive cat paws. Use cat friendly products instead.

Use chemical free pest and parasite control methods

Many of the flea and tick treatments available today contain toxic chemicals that can be hazardous to pets and to people.  Even when these products are used according to the manufacturer’s directions, these chemicals are not safe for pets or humans. There are natural and safe options to control parasites.

Don’t wear shoes inside your house

Have you ever gone for a walk in your neighborhood, and every yard you passed just had chemical fertilizer applied? That same fertilizer will stick to the bottom of your shoes, and can present a danger to your cats. They will absorb these chemicals when they lick their paws. It’s better to take shoes off right inside your front door, rather than spreading those chemicals all through your house.

Use eco-friendly cat litter

If your cat will accept one of the alternatives to clay litter such as corn, wheat or pine-based litters, make the switch.  Clay is strip-mined, which is bad for the planet, and clay litter contains silica, which is a known carcinogenic. However, don’t make the switch at the expense of your cat’s litter box habits. Some cats will simply refuse to use the new litters, and no amount of going green is worth risking having your cat avoid the litter box.

Buy or make your own eco-friendly toys

The possibilities are endless, from an empty toilet paper roll to bottle caps to wadded up balls of aluminum foil. If you need ideas, Holly Tse’s book Make Your Own Cat Toys: Saving the Planet One Cat Toy at a Time is a great resource. If you don’t want to make your own, there are many eco-friendly cat toys available at various retailers.

Happy Earth Day!

Women who love cats, and the cats who love them

woman with kitten

Those of us of the female persuasion who love cats probably didn’t need a scientific study to tell us that the bond between cats and humans can be very similar to the bond between humans and children.

Nor did we need researchers to tell us that cats hold some control over when and what they are fed. But if we wanted some rational ammunition to reassure our non-cat loving friends that we’re not crazy cat ladies, a new study from the Konrad Lorenz Research Station at the University of Vienna provides it.

DiscoveryNews reports that this study is the first to show in detail that the dynamics underlying cat-human relationships are nearly identical to human-only bonds, with cats sometimes even becoming a furry “child” in nurturing homes:

For the study, led by Kurt Kotrschal of the Konrad Lorenz Research Station and the University of Vienna, the researchers videotaped and later analyzed interactions between 41 cats and their owners over lengthy four-part periods. Each and every behavior of both the cat and owner was noted. Owner and cat personalities were also assessed in a separate test. For the cat assessment, the authors placed a stuffed owl toy with large glass eyes on a floor so the feline would encounter it by surprise.

The researchers determined that cats and their owners strongly influenced each other, such that they were each often controlling the other’s behaviors. Extroverted women with young, active cats enjoyed the greatest synchronicity, with cats in these relationships only having to use subtle cues, such as a single upright tail move, to signal desire for friendly contact.

While cats have plenty of male admirers, and vice versa, this study and others reveal that women tend to interact with their cats — be they male or female felines — more than men do. “In response, the cats approach female owners more frequently, and initiate contact more frequently (such as jumping on laps) than they do with male owners,” co-author Manuela Wedl of the University of Vienna told Discovery News, adding that “female owners have more intense relationships with their cats than do male owners.”

So in essence, the study shows that cats adore and manipulate women. For most of us, that’s really just another day in the lives of women who love cats, and the cats who love them.

Photo:  dreamstime.com

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We are not (always) amused: Musetta on the challenges of living with mystery writer Clea Simon

Clea Simon's cat Musetta

Guest post by Musetta Simon

Do we have to do everything around here?

Staff was supposed to blog today. Something about those books she’s always letting into the house, those boxes that make such an unpleasant noise when she drops them on the floor. But staff is, as is her wont, a little overwhelmed and so yours truly is filling in.

Let me set the record straight. Staff is busy doing that which she calls “work,” which as far as we can tell is really just an excuse to sit in one place ignoring me in all my magnificence, until we are forced to pierce her self-involved little mindspace with a well-placed claw. It is true that sometimes when we do this, she yelps, which can be harsh to the ear. And that sometimes she responds by pulling us onto her lap. On principle, we object to this – so undignified – but if she rubs our chin just right, well, we will permit such indignities.

Perhaps it’s just as well, really, that we have been forced into such menial service. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t deign to explain ourselves to you, more incipient or present Staff to felines present, past, or future. Why should we? We are a cat. However, since we have taken control – or are, at least, dictating this to staff while we have her under the most stringent form of feline mind control – we shall set the record straight.

To start with, we are not a hapless kitten. Although we may have had some unfortunate misadventures in our earliest youth, we have never been as foolish as that kitten Esmé in Grey Zone. Truth be told, that whole episode with the fireplace, when Esmé stamped soot pawprints all over the apartment, including the Forbidden Places of the counter? That was my predecessor, the original for Mr. Grey. So there. And all that other stuff and nonsense: snoring. Sliding off the pillow as we slept? Not us, and if Staff says otherwise, we shall bite her.

Nor are we Wallis, the tabby who aids her Staff person, Pru, in the despicably named Dogs Don’t Lie. Wallis has the right attitude: condescension with just a soupcon of disdain. But she is a tabby. And really, aren’t tabbies common? One would think that for the occasion of a mystery novel, one would assume a more formal attire. Black and white, for example, which is always impeccably in style.

But let us dispense with such minor complaints. We understand that Staff is incapable of capturing us in our perfection. Like the poor humans in that old Greek’s book, she is only able to portray us as shadows of our greatness. Reflections of ourself. Pale purring imitations. We are beyond Staff’s ken.

For Staff is, of course, not the real creator of these books. Yes, we allow her to put her name on them, much as one would allow a child to stamp out the last cookie – or a kitten to scratch over her mess in the litterbox. We allow her to go forth and do signings or readings, or whatever excuse she uses to come home late and a little flushed. She is an adequate amanuensis, after all, and deserves to be let play.

Besides, we need our privacy as well. And when Staff is off doing such things as signings or gathering the cans that we require at regular intervals, we are replenishing our creativity. For we are the muse, the little muse – the Musetta. And there would be no books without us.

Musetta’s Staff is Clea Simon, 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.

For more about Clea Simon’s books, please read:

Book review: Dogs Don’t Lie

Book review: Grey Zone

Book review: The Theda Krakow Series

Research Says Cats Have Healing Powers

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

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.

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.

Adopt the Internet: Help Petfinder spread the word about adoptable pets

March 15 is Adopt the Internet Day on Petfinder

In honor of Petfinder’s 15th birthday, they are asking pet lovers everywhere to pledge to spread the word online about adoptable pets on March 15, 2011.

What You Can Do

  • Add a badge to your Web site to show your support.
  • Take their pledge that you will tell one person about pet adoption on March 15. By pledging, you’ll enter for a chance to win one of 10 Pet Hair Eraser® Vacuums from BISSELL.
  • Caption a Petfinder adoptable-pet photo on ICanHasCheezburger! The photos with the best captions will be featured on the ICanHasCheezburger.com homepage on March 15.
  • On March 15, donate your Facebook status and photo to an adoptable Petfinder pet. Simply replace your photo with one from the Adopt-the-Internet All-Stars gallery and post one of these messages:
    • More than 320,000 pets are waiting for homes on Petfinder.com. Help Petfinder Adopt the Internet today and find forever homes for as many as possible!
    • I adopted my pet from Petfinder and now I want to help get this pet adopted! If you want to help pets in need of forever homes, please repost this!
  • On March 15, share an adoptable Petfinder pet on Twitter with the hashtag #adopttheinternet.
  • Add a link to your blog, Facebook or Twitter post to this page! (Come back on March 15 to find out how.)

 Pledge to Help Pets

By taking Petfinder’s pledge that you will tell one person about pet adoption on March 15, you’ll also be entering for a chance to win one of 10 Pet Hair Eraser® Vacuums from Petfinder’s partner BISSELL.

(Read the sweepstakes rules to learn more.)

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Meeting a feline celebrity

Matilda, Algonquin hotel

We’ve all heard the saying “Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.” Matilda the Cat has an entire hotel staff at her beck and call.

On a recent trip to New York, I stayed at the famed Algonquin Hotel, which I’d chosen not because of its long history as a haven for writers, but because of Matilda.

The Algonquin, located in the heart of Manhattan’s theater district, has had a resident cat since 1930, when a hungry stray wandered into the hotel in search of food and shelter. Owner Frank Case, famous for first welcoming Dorothy Parker and her friends to start the legendary Algonquin Round Table in the hotel’s bar, welcomed the feline traveler, and a tradition was born.

The current Matilda is the tenth resident cat, and the third cat to be named Matilda. She is a ragdoll who was chosen from North Shore Animal League after Matilda II, a 13-year-old ragdoll, announced her retirement. Matilda III began her residency at the Algonquin about a month ago. She likes to spend time in the hotel’s lobby, behind the front desk, or lounging on a baggage cart. The doormen feed her and the general manager’s executive assistant answers Matilda’s e-mail. When asked whether I could “rent” her for the night to keep me company, the bell captain told me “that would be up to Matilda.”

After spending the afternoon walking around Manhattan, I settled in for some people watching in the hotel’s lounge. Since I don’t drink, I passed on ordering a Matilda (belvedere ponaranza, cointreau, freshly squeezed lemon & orange juice, splash of perrier jouet 18) and stuck with cranberry juice instead. I asked the waiter where Matilda was, and he pointed to a corner of the lobby. And there, underneath a planter, on a velvety cat bed, was the “Algonqueen” herself, snoozing away. Since I didn’t want to interrupt the two guests sitting at the table in front of the planter any more than I already had, I didn’t get a chance to pet her.

Matilda was not out and about when I returned from dinner with friends later that night, and I assumed that meant that she had turned down my request to spend the night in my room.

Early the following morning I went to the lobby in search of coffee, and there was Matilda, stretched out in the very center of the lobby. I bent down to pet her, and was rewarded with a smile, a yawn, and a stretch.

My visit to New York was now complete.

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

Melissa Steinberg lost her beloved cat and best friend Sophia to lymphoma in November of last year.  On May 7, 2011, Melissa will be running in the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half-Marathon to raise money for the Animal Cancer Foundation to help find a cure, or at least more effective treatments, for this devastating disease for both humans and their animal companions.

Melissa first met Sophia when she was living in Los Angeles and working crazy hours in the film industry. Even though she was worried that her lifestyle at that time was not conducive to having a pet, she began looking at photos of cats at LA shelters online.  Says Melissa “I looked at all of those cats, and I thought, how can I pick just one?  But then I saw Sophia, with those eyes.  I just couldn’t stop thinking about her and I couldn’t wait for the weekend when I would be able to go to the shelter and get her and bring her home.” 

Sophia was about 4 years old.  The shelter workers wouldn’t even let Melissa touch Sophia without protective gloves.  Sophia was terrified, and they were not sure whether she would be aggressive. Melissa had already made up her mind before she even met Sophia, and brought her home that day. Sophia hid for three days.  She wouldn’t eat, and ultimately, Melissa had to crawl under the bed and syringe feed her.

On the third night, Melissa was watching tv, and Sophia was watching her. “Finally, she came out, jumped on my chest, curled up and went to sleep.  From that moment forward, we were inseparable” says Melissa. Sophia never lost her fear of people, with the exception of Melissa and her husband David, whom she met after adopting Sophia.

Eventually, Melissa moved to New York with Sophia. Melissa attended law school, and she was worried that Sophia might get lonely, so she adopted another cat, Dr. Katz, from Animal Care and Control in Manhattan. The two cats hated each other from the moment they met, and couldn’t even be in the same room together. Sophia only ever wanted to be with Melissa and David. She slept on Melissa’s pillow every night. She was happy.  Eventually, Melissa and David adopted Earl Grey to keep Dr. Katz company.

When Sophia was 10 or 11 years old, Melissa noticed that she wasn’t eating, and took her to the vet for tests.  She knew cancer was a possiblity, but she hadn’t even gotten the test results back when Sophia crashed.  Melissa rushed her to the VCA Veterinary Referral and Emergency Center in Norwalk, CT in the middle of the night. Sophia was in extremely critical condition, and spent five nights at the clinic. She still didn’t have a definitive diagnosis, so Melissa took her to the famed Animal Medical Center in Manhattan.

The diagnosis was lymphoma, and Sophia received chemotherapy at the Veterinary Oncology and Hematology Center in Norwalk, CT.  She never responded well. Eventually the disease started to affect her central nervous system, and she wasn’t eating, no matter what they tried.  In order to get nutrition into her, the vets inserted a naso-gastric feeding tube.  Sophia pulled it out. The vets placed an endogastric tube, but while recovering from the surgery, Sophia kept getting seizures, which they were not able to control, and she died that night.  

“From the day she got sick to the day she died, it was barely more than a month,” remembers Melissa.  “It was a terrifyingly fast-moving, aggressive cancer.  For most of her illness we didn’t have much time to think, we just acted.  We made sure she had the best possible care, but that meant we were at the vet nearly every day.  We knew she had a terminal illness, but we truly believed we’d have her for several months, if not years.  We never believed we could lose her so quickly.”

During Sophia’s treatment, a friend who was about to run the New York marathon suggested to put together a fundraiser to help defray Sophia’s massive veterinary costs.  Melissa thought about it, and had just started training when Sophia died.

Melissa decided that it was more important to do something to honor Sophia’s memory, and she choose the Animal Cancer Foundation as the beneficiary.  She choose ACF because Dr. Gerald S. Post, DVM, ACVIM, one of the founders of ACF, was Sophia’s vet at the time of her illness.  “He was very caring and thoughtful and loving with her when she was so sick.” She choose a California location to honor Sophia’s heritage.

Melissa has never run a half-marathon before, but she ran competitively in high school, so that distance is not foreign for her.  Until the weather improves, she is training on the treadmill, but she is signed up for some shorter road races over the next few months.

If you’d like to contribute to Melissa’s fundraising efforts and help honor Sophia’s memory,  you can do so by visiting her fundraising page at Crowdrise

The Animal Cancer Foundation develops and supports research that advances the prevention and treatment of cancer for people and pets. Specifically, their endeavors focus on furthering research in comparative oncology, which is the study of cancers that occur similarly in both pets and humans. In this way, ACF is committed to advancing the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of such cancers, and becoming a preeminent resource in educating the public and scientific community.

Melissa Steinberg is an attorney who lives in Connecticut in the New York City suburbs with her husband David, a writer/editor, and their 13-month-old son Jack.  They still have Dr. Katz and Earl Grey.  One of Jack’s first words was  “kitty,” and Melissa and David are very proud of that.

Kitten Associates – the new breed of cat rescue

 
In the year’s first post on this site, 7 tips for a healthy, happy new year for cats and their humans, item 7 is “do something for less fortunate cats.”  One of the ways I’m going to do that here on The Conscious Cat is by periodically featuring cat rescue groups.  I hope that by introducing you to these organizations and the dedicated individuals behind them, I’ll give you ideas on how you, too, can help – whether it’s fostering a cat, volunteering to help at adoption events, going to a shelter to give the cats some love and attention, or making a monetary contribution.  And who knows, by giving these organizations some publicity, some lucky cats and kittens might also find their forever homes.
The first group I’d like to introduce you to is Kitten Associates.  I first met founder Robin Olson at the 2009 Cat Writers Association conference.  Even in a room full of cat lovers, Robin’s exceptional dedication to the welfare of all cats, not to mention her huge heart, came through in just the few conversations we had at the meeting.  After the conference I began to follow Robin’s blog, Covered in Cat Hair, where she’s been writing “mostly true stories of a life spent with cats” for the past five years.  Then Robin became aware of the plight of cats in the Southern United States, where euthanasia rates are alarmingly high compared to other parts of the country.   Shelters are overloaded, and shelter staff who spend their days euthanizing healthy cats instead of saving them are pushed to their emotional limits.

In a series of blog posts titled Not on My Watch, Robin began to share stories about these cats.  By sharing these stories, and with help from a solid social media presence, she was able to raise funds for cats that needed life-saving surgery, rescue cats from high kill shelters by working with private rescue groups in those areas, and find homes for these cats.

But it wasn’t enough.  In 2010, in the middle of one of the worst economic crisis our country has ever experienced, and with animal rescue groups suffering lack of funding and shelters closing everywhere, Robin decided to start her own non-profit rescue, Kitten Associates.

Based in Connecticut, Kitten Associates is a new breed of rescue.  According to their mission statement, Kitten Associates is dedicated to saving the lives of cats (and dogs, too!), supporting animal rescue organizations with powerful online marketing tools, and championing legislation for spay/neuter programs to end pet overpopulation.   

In addition to rescuing cats in need, Kitten Associates builds and delivers management and communications tools to struggling, small rescue groups and shelters, to help them be more effective in promoting their available animals, raising donations and attracting more volunteers. Both Robin and her fiancé, Sam Moore, draw on many years of experience with corporate management and marketing communications, and they plan to deliver web sites, databases, communications strategies and other technical and marketing support tools that can help rescue organizations make the most of their limited personnel and resources.  They are able to do this for no or very low cost because they get their funding from grants and corporate and private donors. 

One of their first websites just went live, illustrating why there is such a need for this aspect of their mission.  Heard County Critters is a small group of folks who partner with Heard County Animal Control Center in Georgia. Oddly enough, none the volunteers for the group even live in Georgia. They just saw a need and decided to help out. The animals get 72 hours before they get euthanized.  Sometimes they get a few more days, but not often. Since the municipal shelter doesn’t have a web site or the ability to accept donation using PayPal (they still use Western Union!), Kitten Associates created a web site that links to their Petfinder pages, shows which cat or dog is “urgent” (meaning, his or her time is close to running out), and makes it simple for folks to adopt or sponsor the animals.

Kitten Associates reflects their founder’s passion and values in every aspect of the organization.  They don’t just want to rescue cats, they want to ensure that the cats they rescued will continue to lead happy, healthy lives in their new, hopefully forever, homes.  Adopters are required to feed a grain-free and/or raw meat diet and may not feed dry kibble.  Declawing is not allowed under any circumstance. Kitten Associates guarantees their adoptions for the life of the pet.  One very unique aspect of their post adoption support includes on-call availability, should adopters have a question regarding health or behavior issues.  

In its first year (which was really only four months long), Kitten Associates rescued 60 cats and kittens – a remarkable feat for any rescue group, but especially for a brand new, essentially three-person operation.

Kitten Associates’ focus for this year is on basic fundraising to obtain a solid financial base so they can stop the constant worry about all the bills Robin currently pays out-of-pocket.  They need foster homes.  They need volunteers.  They need creative folks who can help with event planning and fundraising.  They need experienced cat rescuers, a vet tech or a vet who are willing to be on call for questions after business hours, should the need arise

Kitten Associates have a lot on their plate, and they have a big vision.  Knowing Robin, there is no doubt in my mind that they will achieve their vision, and more.  And more importantly, I know that thanks to Robin and Kitten Associates, cats and kittens that otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance at life will find their forever homes.

You can learn more about Kitten Associates on their website, and more about Robin on her blog, Covered in Cat Hair. 

All photos © Robin Olson, used with permission.

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