Feline Lifestyle

No Scaredy Cats this Halloween – Safety Tips for Your Pets


It’s that time of year again – as ghost and goblins delight us with their spooky mischief and thoughts turn to trick or treating, the ASPCA offers the following tips to keep your furry family members safe this Halloween.

1.  No tricks, no treats: That bowlful of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy.  Chocolate in all forms – especially dark or baking chocolate – can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Symptoms of significant chocolate ingestion may include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, increased thirst, urination and heart rate-and even seizures.  Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol sweetener can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, which leads to depression, lack of coordination and seizures. In cases of significantly low blood sugar, liver failure has been known to occur.  Ingesting tin foil and cellophane candy wrappers can pose a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockage.

2. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, yet they can produce gastrointestinal upset should pets ingest them. Intestinal blockage could even occur if large pieces are swallowed.

3. Keep wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet could experience damage to his mouth from shards of glass or plastic, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

4. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise extreme caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.

5. Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!). For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume can cause undue stress.

6. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au naturale or donning a festive bandana.

7. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.

8. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treat visiting hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.

9. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.

10. IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can increase the chances that he or she will be returned to you.

The ASPCA works to rescue animals from abuse, pass humane laws and share resources with shelters nationwide. Learn more about them by visiting http://www.aspca.org.

Photo by Alisha Vargas, Flickr Creative Commons

Living and Working With Cats

For the last fifteen years, I’ve been fortunate that cats have not only played a fundamental role in my home life, they’ve also been a significant part of my work life.  And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

It all started with two office cats at the veterinary hospital I managed.  First, there was Virginia, who I fell in love with at my initial interview despite the fact that her introduction to me involved claws and runs in my stockings.  She ruled the office with an iron paw, assisting me with paperwork, often by sitting right on top of it, and kept me in line with frequent swats at my mouse hand.

Several years after Virginia went to the big office in the sky, Buckley took over as office cat.  In addition to supervising my work and making even the less glamorous aspects of my job more fun through her joyful presence, she had another job at the clinic—to provide comfort to the animal patients and to distract their worried owners. There were times when she disappeared from the office, and when I went looking for her, I found her on the bench in the waiting room, next to a client waiting for news about a sick pet, cuddled up to the person, asking to be petted, and making them smile through their worry. Other times, she curled up next to a recovering cat or dog in the treatment room.

When I left my job at the animal hospital to start my Reiki practice, Buckley came home to live with me and Amber.  She quickly took on the job of Assistant Reiki Practitioner and helped me with the (human) Reiki clients I saw in my home office.  She became an active participant in the healing session. She would get up on the Reiki table and often curl up next to or on top of the client. I realized after a few sessions like this that she intuitively knew where extra energy was needed. I often skipped treating the areas Buckley laid on during a session and concentrated on others instead. I knew my little healer kitty had it covered.

Amber provided a contribution of a different kind to my home and work life.  She was a wise old soul in a feline body; she was my touchstone.  Her peaceful presence provided love, comfort and grounding for me in ways that no one or nothing else could.  When I began to think about starting a blog, she provided the creative spark, and The Conscious Cat was born.

And now it looks like Allegra is continuing the tradition.  She recently took on the position of Assistant Reiki Practitioner Trainee.  As you can see in the photo above, she takes her job very seriously.  At just over a year old, she’s still a little too rambunctious to be allowed in the room during treatments, but she helps me get the room ready.  She enthusiastically greets my clients and provides kitty therapy by letting them pet her and giving kitten nose taps, so that by the time they get on my table, they’re already a little more relaxed than they were when they first walked in the door.  She loves being in the Reiki room after a session and really seems to gravitate toward the energy.  I think as she matures, she will carry on Buckley’s legacy.

Sharing your life with cats, doing work you love, and doing it with the cats you love – it doesn’t get any better than this.

How To Live With Pet Allergies Without Giving Up Your Pet

It always breaks my heart when I hear about someone who had to give up a pet because a family member became allergic.  And I often wonder whether there wouldn’t have been options  before  making such a drastic, and painful decision, which is why I was delighted to come across this article on Adopt-a-Pet’s blog.  Yes, the tips presented below require some effort, but isn’t the effort worth it if it means keeping a beloved family pet?

Tips to Reduce Pet Allergies

Guest Post by Jennifer, Adopt-a-Pet

You can reduce or even eliminate allergies to your family pets, just by following some very simple steps.  Cats and dogs are the most common pets that cause human allergic reactions. While it is rare for a human’s allergies to a pet to be so severe (and unresponsive when all these tips are used) that they can no longer live with that pet, that doesn’t mean they are fun. So try our easy tips below, and you won’t have to give away your family dog or cat to solve an allergy problem in yourself or your kids!

Step 1: Reduce allergens in your life.

The more your body is having to put up a “fight” to allergens, the harder it is for it to win. Do you know everything you might be even slightly allergic to? An allergist can test you for a few dozen allergens, but in the battle against allergies, it may be easier to start out with reducing as much as possible the most common allergens in your life. Pet dander, dust, mold, pollen… they all float in our home’s air and stick to every surface! When you reduce ALL the allergens in your home, you reduce your allergic reaction to your pet. Here are just some ideas how:

  • clean your house daily with natural, perfume free cleaning products
  • vacuum what you cannot mop, such as couches, your mattress
  • get a sealed “allergy” vacuum – that filters & traps dust/allergens inside
  • use pet hair rollers daily (or more often!) on fabric surfaces – we like the sticky washable ones
  • replace carpet with hard surface flooring, or keep pets out of carpeted rooms
  • if you cannot remove carpet, steam clean monthly (or weekly/biweekly)
  • if you must have rugs, replace wool with cotton, & wash using 140 degree+ water weekly
  • replace curtains with hard surface window coverings that can be wiped down weekly
  • invest in high-quality HEPA air purifier – starting with one in the bedroom
  • cover mattresses and pillows with specially designed allergy covers
  • wash blankets weekly on hot using hypo allergenic laundry soap
  • wash your clothes and  yourself in non-perfumed soap and shampoo
  • leave your shoes at the door to avoid tracking allergens inside
  • try eliminating or drastically reducing dairy (milk, eggs) from your diet
  • try eliminating other common food allergens from your diet (wheat, soy, peanuts)
  • avoid scented body care products

Step 2: Reduce allergens from your pet

If you are having a reaction to a newly adopted pet, often simply letting another family member or friend (or paid pet cleaner) handle that pet and cleaning as much as possible for you, while you slowly over a few weeks get used to that new pet, can be a huge help. Here are some other tips to try to help as well:

  • wash your hands immediately after handling your new pet
  • brush your pet daily – dogs outside your home, cats in a bathroom with a closed door, surfaces wiped off  afterward (ideally done by a nonallergic family member)
  • after brushing, using a towel dampened with water, wipe off their fur, then wash towel (do not reuse)
  • bathe dogs weekly – use a gentle moisturizing unscented pet shampoo, or alternate one week with just an unscented conditioner
  • once a week, wipe down pet using a pet allergen reducing liquid like Allerpet for Cats or Dogs (about $7) available in pet supply stores or online.
  • use a damp towel to wipe down pets that go outside, before they come inside, to wipe off outside allergens
  • clean litterboxes daily, outside, and wash out completely weekly
  • use unscented dust-free cat litter
  • wash pet beds weekly in unscented laundry soap & hot water
  • wash your pet’s toys weekly
  • feed your pets premium food (helps keep skin healthy)
  • if your pet has dry or flaking skin, with your vet’s approval, feed a skin & coat supplement
  • keep pets out of your bedroom… or at least off the bed!

Then, slowly, one by one… You may need to start out using ALL the tips above to reduce your allergies enough to be comfortable. But then, try not using one, for a few weeks, and see how you do! For example, let’s say you’d prefer to have your pets sleep in your bedroom. However, at first, you may do best with no pets in you bedroom, keeping the door closed. Then in a few weeks (or months), try the door open with a baby gate or screen keeping pets out. Then allowed them in the room but not while you are in there sleeping. Then try your pets sleeping on the floor… and then, if you want, a pet on the bed! If at any point your allergies become uncomfortable, take one step back.

How I got to be an “expert” on pet allergies… I suffered from allergies my entire childhood. I had asthma and hay fever and was allergic to pretty much anything that bloomed or walked on four legs! I spent the latter half of my childhood living in the lush countryside with all sorts of animals, so I have decades of experience dealing with allergies to pets. I still have to follow many of the steps below to keep it that way, and new pets and certain times of the year or environments (a field of goldenrod) will make my nose and eyes tingle, but that mild reaction is just a faint reminder of the full-blown inability to breath, itchy eyes, and runny nose symptoms I used to suffer from on a daily basis.

I now live in a home with many dogs and cats and am almost totally allergy (and medication) free!

Disclaimer: these are just my personal tips. They are not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.

Adopt-a-Pet.com (formerly 1-800-Save-A-Pet.com) is a non-profit pet adoption charity that helps shelters, humane societies, SPCAs, pet rescue groups, and pet adoption agencies advertise their homeless pets to adopters for free. We’re all about getting homeless pets into homes. We use the power of TV, the Internet and a toll-free phone number to connect adopters with shelter pets and help pets go from alone to adopted. We’re working to help the good people at shelters and rescue groups find homes for their pets.” target=”_blank”>Adopt-a-Pet.com is a non-profit pet adoption charity that helps shelters, humane societies, SPCAs, pet rescue groups, and pet adoption agencies advertise their homeless pets to adopters for free. They’re all about getting homeless pets into homes. We use the power of TV, the Internet and a toll-free phone number to connect adopters with shelter pets and help pets go from alone to adopted. We’re working to help the good people at shelters and rescue groups find homes for their pets.  Hundreds of thousands of pets are waiting for new homes – and you can find them on Adopt-a-Pet’s searchable database!

Photo by Photos8.com

World’s Best Cat Litter Gives Back

It’s always nice to see companies give back to their communities, and it’s especially nice when that giving is focused on cats.  World’s Best Cat Litter™ launched its Give Litter™ Charity last month, and has already donated 5,255 pounds of World’s Best Cat Litter™ to its first city, Washington, DC, in August.  This month, the company is donating to three Los Angeles, CA area organizations, Alley Cat Allies, Cat House on the Kings, and Kitten Rescue.

WBC is calling on “felinethropists” to join in their campaign, and it won’t cost you a cent, just a simple click of the mouse.  “We invite animal lovers everywhere to become part of the GiveLitter™ charity and help these Los Angeles animal shelters as they work tirelessly to address community needs,” said Paul Zobel, Senior Director of Marketing, World’s Best Cat Litter™.

You can participate by clicking on the badge in the right sidebar, or by visiting WBC’s website or Facebook page.  

World’s Best Cat Litter™ is a pet-, people- and planet-safe cat litter made with whole-kernel corn and other natural ingredients using a patented scientific process that delivers advanced odor control and clumping. Using no synthetic chemicals, clays or perfumes, World’s Best Cat Litter™ is biodegradable, flushable, septic-safe and all natural.

I really like the idea of this litter.  I just wish Allegra would, too!  Unfortunately, when I tried to switch from our current, clay-based litter, she refused to use the box with WBC in it.

A Senior Cat Gets a Chance at Love

Guest Post by Valerie Heimerich

Rita lived with the same owner for her whole life.  Then her owner decided she didn’t want Rita anymore and pulled the rug out from under the senior cat’s world.  The cat’s young owner had grown up alongside Rita; she was only 4 years old when the then-kitten came home.  But the young woman  decided to move in with her boyfriend and his parents, who already had one cat and didn’t want more.  She waited until three days before she was moving out and then contacted a Sacramento, CA cat rescue group.  She said she would be leaving the now 16-year-old cat behind in an empty trailer.
Rita was the equivalent of 80 years old in human terms.  Everyone loves a kitten, but who would want a cat that old?  

The rescue group worked hard and finally located a couple willing to take Rita in.  The couple contacted the original owner, who told them the cat had been to the vet regularly and had no health problems.   As it turned out, Rita was deaf, had partial heart and kidney failure, dermatitis, a severely abscessed tooth, and severe arthritis in her shoulders and hips.
But Rita was a little spitfire who refused to let those problems ruin her life.  Even with very painful arthritis, she liked to trot around, climb on things and play, and had a wonderful purr and loving personality.   After having 6 bad teeth pulled and being put on a twice-daily regime of the kitty version of morphine, Rita now gallops and romps, eats like a horse and completely rules the roost.

Rita is currently 19 years old and going strong.  Her eyesight is fading a bit and it takes her a minute or two to sit down fully, even with her arthritis medication.  But she feels so much better than she probably had in her last years with her previous owner.  Life, for Rita, is sweet.

The other cats in the household, though younger, stronger and much larger, show respect for Rita’s seniority, and she accepts their deference as her due. She has glossy, healthy fur and a real love for life.  Her new humans adore Rita and her nothing-can-stop-me-now attitude.  She has them wrapped around her little dewclaw and can get almost anything she wants from them. She snores like a freight train and it delights them. 
Now that is love.

Valerie Heimerich’s door has a big sign saying “SUCKER!” which is only visible to animals. She is an experienced humane educator and busy animal rescue volunteer. Visit her at sacramentocatrescue.com or by email at hartcats@live.com.  Valerie writes for examiner.com, for a list of her articles, click here.

Photos of Rita by Valerie Heimerich

If You Don’t Talk to Your Cat About Catnip, Who Will?


Catnip has been called kitty crack and cat cocaine because of the way some cats react to its intoxicating scent or after ingesting the leaves.  However, only about 50% of cats are affected by catnip, and not all cats react the same.

What causes the catnip “high?”

Catnip is a member of the mint family, and is also a distant relative of the marijuana plant.  Scientists haven’t been able to figure out how or why catnip affects cats the way it does, but they have identified the part of the plant that causes the euphoric reaction.  The plant contains a non-poisonous chemical called nepetalactone. Nepetalactone is an aromatic oil found in the stem and leaves of the plant. It’s the smell of the leaves rather than the taste that sets cats off.  It is believed that cats eat the leaves because chewing on them releases more of the oils.

Catnip can be given to cats fresh, or in its dried form.  Some cats will eat the leaves, and this is perfectly safe for most cats.  However, some cats with extremely sensitive stomachs may vomit or get diarrhea after eating catnip leaves.

Look for quality catnip

Reactions from cats will vary based on the strength and quality of the product.  Cats who like catnip usually respond by rolling around in it, jumping around, rubbing their face in it, salivating, and purring.  Typically, a catnip “high” last about ten or fifteen minutes, and aftewards, kitty will most likely be very relaxed and ready for a nap.  Whether or not cats respond to catnip appears to be genetically determined.  Kittens are not affected until they’re about two months old (if they fall into the category of cats that do respond).  Chances are that if your kitten hasn’t reacted to catnip by the time she’s six month’s old, she falls into the non-responsive category.

Use catnip to train cats

For cats who respond to catnip, it can be used for training purposes.  Sprinkle catnip on scratching posts to attract kitty’s attention.  Sprinkle it on cat beds or mats where you want your cat to sleep.   If your cat reacts by becoming relaxed and mellow after use, use it before car rides, trips to the vet, or other stressful situations.

Catnip cautions

Some cats react to catnip with aggression.  They become so stimulated by the herb that they may release their excess energy by picking fights with other cats in the household, or by attacking their humans.  Unfortunately, Allegra appears to fall into this category.  She recently was given a catnip banana, and while she had a ton of fun with it, after a few minutes of playing with it, she play-attacked my leg and sunk her teeth into my ankle.  I put the toy away for a couple of days and then tried again, with the same results.  I think we’ll be taking catnip toys off the list for her, at least for now.

Interesting catnip facts

Some interesting, not cat-related facts about catnip:  it is ten times more effective at repelling mosqitoes than DEET; it has a sedative effect on humans and can be used to settle an upset stomach (as a tea); it can heal cuts (damp leaves applied to a fresh cut).

How does your cat respond to catnip?

Photo is of Amber on a catnip high after I gave her fresh catnip for the first time.

Two Special Adoptable Cats

Petfinder and BlogPaws have joined paws to designate the week of September 19 through 25 as “Adopt-a-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week. ”  There are so many factors that can make a pet harder to adopt:  age, disability, special medical needs, even coat color (black dogs and cats are known to be more difficult to adopt out than other coat colors).  Be The Change for Pets, a movement created by the passionate BlogPaws community, issued a challenge to pet bloggers to champion some less adoptable pets this week.   I don’t particularly care for the term “less adoptable pet,” I think it does these wonderful animals a disservice to be labeled in this way.  I much prefer to call these pets “special adoptable pets.”

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Coco Chanel and Dakota (aka Cody).  Both are being fostered through Fancy Cats Rescue Team, a Herndon, Virginia based leader in the Washington DC area animal rescue community for twenty years.  Fancy Cat Rescue Team’s mission is to end needless euthanasia at shelters in the National Capital area by rescuing and finding suitable lifetime homes for our cats, promoting spaying and neutering, and educating the public on responsible pet ownership.   Coco Chanel and Dakota are fostered by one of the many dedicated FCRT volunteers.

Coco Chanel is a beautiful, sweet (maybe a little misunderstood) 10 year old, brown tabby, with dazzling emerald eyes.  She is white- mitted and bibbed and has a purr motor that she revs up for you when you sit on the couch with her.  When her foster family gets home from work, she is the first one meowing her greetings and asking for some love and attention. She loves to have her neck scratched, and likes to place her two front paws on your lap while you coo and talk to her, telling her about your day.  When she is really happy and wants attention, she will bury her head in your arm or leg.  She loves to play with her favorite toy (Da Bird).

She loves to lie around and will frequently strike the most adorable poses.  She is a true creature of habit and is extremely easy to care for.  All she longs for is some love and attention, maybe a little play time every now and then, and someone who is willing to be just a little patient.  She has been with Fancy Cat Rescue Team for over two years and in her current foster home for nearly a year.  She is a sweet girl who keeps getting passed over.  Since she gets easily stressed, she isn’t able to attend adoption fairs.  She needs someone willing to earn her trust and meet her on her terms.

She has a history of urinary infections but has never displayed any inappropriate litter habits.  She is on a special diet to ensure there are no more flare ups.   She has only one canine tooth but it doesn’t affect her eating habits.   She needs to be an only cat – unfortunately she doesn’t tolerate sharing you with any other furry companions.  Her foster family suspects she may also have stress related asthma and may start coughing when she is put into a really stressful situation. She would do well in a nice, quiet, adults-only home.  You can find Coco Chanel on Petfinder here.

Dakota (aka Cody) is a stunningly handsome gray and white, declawed 8-year-old male Norwegian Forest Cat mix. Upon first meeting him, he might be just a little shy and reserved, but he warms up quickly. He was given up by his previous owners when their child developed allergies.  He and his brother Sunny (recently adopted) were sequestered to a part of the house away from the child.   Cody became very sad and missed his constant human companionship.

Cody was recently diagnosed with diabetes and has been started on a regular schedule of insulin injections. He has taken to them extremely well and has already fallen into a routine:  after eating, he promptly gets on his foster mom’s lap and begins to knead while he is given his treatment.

He is an extremely loving boy.  When he is really happy you can catch him doing the cutest “making bread dance” where he begins to knead with all four of his paws.  He likes to explore, but mostly just wants to be near you.  He likes to perch up in high places and to watch the action below. If you are looking for a snuggle buddy in bed, he is your guy.  He has been very tidy in the litter box.  He is just a little underweight, but has started to gain weight and should reach his ideal weight soon. As with all medium and long haired cats it is very important that he be brushed.  He actually loves being brushed so much he frequently even drools a little in delight from the attention.  He hasn’t been with any other cats except for his recently adopted brother, but if he is introduced slowly and properly he may get along with other cats just fine.  He is an extra sweet boy who is looking for his forever home.  You can find Cody on Petfinder here.

National Take Your Cat to the Vet Week

August 16 through 22 is National Take Your Cat to the Vet Week.  This event was created by the makers of Feline Pine, a natural cat litter, to raise awareness, together with veterinarians nationwide, that cats need annual veterinary examinations just as much as dogs do.  According to statistics, cats are substantially underserved when it comes to veterinary care.  Even though cat owners consider their cats just as much members of the family as dog owners do, a 2006 study showed that dogs were taken to veterinarians more than twice as often as cats, averaging 2.3 times/year, compared with 1.1 times/year for cats, and significantly more dogs (58%) than cats (28%) were seen by a veterinarian one or more times/year.  Cat owners often express a belief that cats “do not need medical care.”   According to Dr. Michele Gaspar, DVM, DABVP (Feline), Feline Pine’s in house veterinarian, “there is a misconception that cats are independent and they don’t need the level of care that dogs do.  Cats also don’t show disease well. We can have cats who look normal but they are covering up a serious illness.”

The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends a minimum of annual wellness examinations for all cats in its Feline Life Stage Guidelines.  According to the guidelines, “semi-annual wellness exams are often recommended for all feline life stages by veterinarians and veterinary organizations. Their reasoning includes the fact that changes in health status may occur in a short period of time; that ill cats often show no signs of disease; and that earlier detection of ill health, body weight changes, dental disease, and so on, allows for earlier intervention. In addition, semi-annual exams allow for more frequent communication with the owner regarding behavioral and attitudinal changes, and education about preventive health care.”

Veterinary care is not inexpensive, but is is a fact of life of being a responsible pet parent.  By taking your cat for regular check ups, you may avoid not only higher veterinary bills in the long run, but more importantly, you will ensure that your cat will live a long, healthy life.

An Interview with Deborah Julian, Photographer, Artist and Cat Lover

A Champion Sleeper by Deborah Julian
I came across Deborah Julian’s cat art through an interesting “coincidence” that is a testament to how the internet and social media can lead to some really wonderful connections.  A Google search sent me to an article by Deborah’s husband, writer David Stone.  The article resonated with me deeply, so I clicked on various links throughout the article and realized that David was also a cat lover.  His article on Happy Cats sent me to Deborah’s website, and I took one look at her beautiful art and knew I wanted to introduce her to my Conscious Cat readers.  What I didn’t realize when I contacted Deborah was that not only was she a longtime reader and fan of the Conscious Cat, but she and David has just been talking about getting in touch with me to ask me to review their upcoming book, Travels with George:  Paris, a story about two cats and their adventures.  It is my pleasure to introduce this wonderful artist to you today.

Deborah has lived and worked in New York City for over twenty years, working as a photographer, innovative artist and art gallery director. She began her career in Buffalo, her original hometown, and earned her first degree in Photography at Villa Maria College, where her work was first shown in public. She graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with honors and a degree in Art History. For the last ten years, she has been the director of a fine arts gallery in Manhattan and has continued to sell and exhibit her photgraphs.  

Art and photography were Deborah’s primary passions for many years—until her heart was captured by a smart, funny cat named George. It was love at first sight from the moment they saw each other at the Humane Society of New York. She has since adopted two other terrific cats, Billy and Sammy. Her cats have become part of her art work as she creates colorful, whimsical images and more sober appreciations.

Deborah’s other favorite subjects are New York City, especially the amazing skies she captures as clouds skim the buildings, and travel. Many of her museum quality pictures were captured during trips to Europe and, nearby, while enjoying the views from her own windows. 

Welcome to The Conscious Cat, Deborah. 

How do cats inspire your art?

As a photographer I am an instinctive observer. I enjoy watching our cats and truly admire their spirit and endless curiosity about their world. I love to document their creativity, genuine sense of fun, and enjoyment of life. I’ve come to realize that it’s a reciprocal relationship-they are as interested in our lives are we are in theirs. 

While cats are featured prominently in your artwork, you also photograph other subjects.  What is more challenging – capturing cats, or capturing other images?

Both are challenging. My shooting style begins with observation. Whether it’s a cat image or a street photograph, I try to capture the essence of what I am seeing. My street photographs are created spontaneously. Sometimes I’m attracted to the mood of the moment. When photographing people on the street, I am usually drawn to a pose or expression that seems to tell a story. While shooting on the street I prefer to photograph my subjects while they are unaware of my presence and perhaps lost in thought or activity.

Everything Tastes Better With Cat Hair by Deborah Julian

My cat images are usually inspired by something I have seen my cats do. I delight in watching them play and explore. I often joke that our apartment is basically Disneyland for cats as my husband and I frequently set up boxes, impromptu tunnels and tents and anything else we can think of to engage them.  I’m not sure who enjoys this more—the cats as they explore these things or my husband and I as we watch them.   I try to keep my camera nearby at all times so I can photograph them when they are cute or funny- but that doesn’t always work out. I often try to get them to do something again so I can photograph it.  It can be a challenge to photograph them in the poses I want but it’s also part of the fun. The photo sessions are part of our play time and they have become very used to my camera.

 What is the creative process like for you?

City Cats by Deborah Julian

The cat images are created on my computer.  Often one image is composed of many photographs. I think my images are very painterly as I love to work with color and texture.  It takes a while to get the cat images just right as I want them to be colorful and interesting designs but also to portray realistic cat behavior. The cats enjoy our photo sessions but they do not like the time I spend working on my images on the computer as they are very much aware that I am not paying attention to them. Sammy will often walk across the keyboard while I am working and has been known to ad or subtract a few things from my designs. 

With my street photographs I think I instantly know when I have shot something really interesting. I shoot digitally and will make changes in color saturation and exposure in Photoshop.

Tell us a little about your feline family members.

All three of our cats were adopted from rescue shelters. George was 2 ½ years old when I met him at the Humane Society of NY. His first family gave him up when a child developed allergies to cats. My good fortune, as Georgie has been the perfect cat for me and will undoubtedly be the cat of my life. We’ve developed a very special bond.  When I adopted George I was going through a transitional period. I had some health problems and was dealing with a career change. George definitely helped me with his zest for life and gregarious nature.

Can I Jump That High by Deborah Julian

George has always had an incredible desire for adventure. Dave recognized this from the start and began taking him for supervised walks in the long corridor of our New York City apartment building. I was fairly shy but could not turn George down when he begged for walks when the two of us were home alone together. The first time George and I walked in our hall, neighbors I did not know came out of their apartments and said “Hi George” and smiled at me. George, always one to push the boundaries, discovered he could enter a neighbor’s apartment if their door was left open for more than a second.  Fortunately our neighbors have always been cat lovers who welcomed these visits. One night George, Billy and I were in the hallway together. We were near a neighbor’s door but it appeared to be closed. However, George noticed that the door was not quite shut tight. Not one to let an opportunity pass by, he stood on his back legs, pushed the door open with his front paws and bolted into the apartment while the door slammed shut behind him.  I remember Billy and I looking at each other with the same sense of shock, both of us undoubtedly thinking “Oh no! What did he do?”   Happily, the man who answered the door was laughing at Georgie’s antics. With George’s help I came to know all of our nejghbors, some of whom have become very good friends.

We adopted Billy as a kitten. He had been abandoned and needed a lot of reassurance. He has blossomed into a wonderful, confident cat. Billy has a very sweet disposition and thrives on attention. He is our most vocal cat and has a wide range of sounds, depending on the situation. When we travel our cat sitter tells us he talks to her and she tries to figure out what he is saying. Most likely he is saying that he likes his breakfast a bit earlier and that Sammy’s pouncing is driving him crazy. 

Sammy was adopted three years ago from a terrific group called Zani’s Furry Friends. They rescue animals from New York City’s animal shelters where sadly, they are at risk from euthanasia due to overcrowding. He was skin and bones when he was picked up by the city but extremely friendly. The woman who rescued him called him Stretch because he loves to flop down and stretch out on the floor when he greets people. He is our sweetest cat, in spite of all the trouble he had in his early years. He is affectionate and playful and seems to really appreciate having a family who loves him.   

Thanks for  joining us on The Conscious Cat, Deborah – it sounds like you won’t run out of inspiration anytime soon!

To see more of Deborah’s art, and to purchase prints, notecards and more, please visit her website and her Etsy Shop.

Providing Hospice Care for Cats


As veterinary care for cats is becoming more and more sophisticated and as more cat guardians understand the importance of  a lifetime of preventive care, cats live longer lives.  But despite all of that, cats still get sick, and when they do, there are often numerous treatment options.   However, some illnesses are considered terminal, and in the past, euthanasia was often the only option pet guardians would consider at that stage.  An alternative to premature euthanasia that is garnering more attention in the world of pet care is hospice care.

Hospice care is about providing good quality of life

The definition of a terminal illness is an illness for which there is no cure.  It is an active, progressive, irreversible illness with a fatal prognosis.  Hospice care provides a loving alternative to prolonged suffering and is designed to give supportive care to cats in the final phase of a terminal illness.  The goal is to keep the cat comfortable and free of pain, with a focus on quality of life and living each day as fully as possible.

The decision to stop treatment and begin hospice care can be made at any point in the progression of a terminal illness.   Decisions may range from choosing to forego aggressive surgery after receiving a cancer diagnosis because of a poor prognosis, discontinuing chemotherapy or radiation because the cat is either not responding or is dealing with side-effects that are rapidly diminishing his quality of life, or discontinuing medications because medicating the cat is difficult or impossible for the cat owner.  Rather than opting for euthanasia, cat owners may choose to provide hospice care for their cat.

Hospice care is not about giving up

Hospice care is not a last resort, and is not about giving up, or about dying.  It’s about finding ways to live with a terminal illness, and it may actually involve providing more care and not less.  The decision to provide hospice care should be made in conjunction with your veterinarian, who will become an integral partner in the process.

What does hospice care involve?

Hospice care involves the following:

  • Comfort:  Provide clean, soft bedding with easy access to food, litter boxes, favorite sleeping spots and interaction with family members.  Handle cats gently because many terminal medical conditions create discomfort and pain.
  • Nutrition and Hydration:  Provide easy access to food and water.  You may need to experiment with special foods to tempt ill cats.  In addition to feeding a high quality, grain-free canned or raw (if you cat is immunocompromised, raw food is not recommended) diet, you may need to offer foods such as meat-based baby food (make sure that there is no onion powder in the brand you buy), tuna juice or flakes of tuna spread on top of the cat’s regular food, and slightly warming the food to increase palatability. Make sure the cat always has fresh water available.
  • Cleanliness:  Sick cats may not be able to groom themselves.  Assist your cat with this by gently brushing, and keeping eyes, ears, the area around the mouth and around the rectum and genetalia clean if she can’t do it by herself anymore.
  • Pain Management:  Cats are good at hiding pain.  Watch your cat for signs of pain – subtle signs may involve hiding, avoiding contact with family members, or changes in sleeping positions.  Rarely will cats vocalize when they’re in pain.  Work with your veterinarian to develop an appropriate pain control program for your cat.
  • Holistic Therapies:  There are many non-invasive, gentle holistic therapies that can provide relief to terminally ill cats.  Energy therapies such as Reiki, Healing Touch, Tellington Touch and others are particularly effective.

A time of peace for cat and human

Despite the logistic and emotional challenges hospice care presents for cats and their humans, it can also be a time of great peace and increased bonding with your beloved feline companion.  It also allows for a gentle preparation  for the impending loss for both cat and human.   Diagnosis of a terminal illness does not have to be the end – it can be the beginning of a deepening, peaceful, final phase of life for both cat and human.

Emergency Preparedness for Your Pet: 8 Things I Learned from 8 State Hurricane Kate

Guest Post by Jenny Pavlovic

8 State Hurricane Kate, an old Australian Cattle Dog, was rescued in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. I met her at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, LA, where rescued animals were taken for care and shelter, almost three weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Her paperwork said that she was rescued from a rooftop nine days after Katrina, with no known ID or address. She was lost, down for the count, and quickly running out of options, so I decided to foster her. When we had to evacuate for Hurricane Rita, I drove 1,200 miles home to Minnesota with Kate in the back seat. We traveled through eight states, which is how she got her name. I listed her on Petfinder and went to great lengths to find out where she came from. I even posted this “Do You Know This Dog?” video on YouTube.  Yet now, almost 5 years after Hurricane Katrina, I still don’t know what her life was like before August 29th, 2005. Somebody must still wonder what became of her.

Kate was a dog, but her story holds valuable lessons for cats and other animals as well.  All that I learned from my journey with Kate inspired me to write the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book, to keep all of my dogs’ information in one place, for daily use, travel, and emergencies. This book includes important information from Noah’s Wish, a group dedicated to taking care of animals in disasters.  The following tips can help keep you and your pets safer and happier.

8 Things I Learned from 8 State Kate

1. Microchip your pet. We learned after Katrina how easily lost pets can lose their collars and ID tags. A microchip implanted under the pet’s skin is the only sure way to have permanent ID and to verify ownership. A microchip is a small electronic chip with a unique ID number, in a capsule about the size of a grain of rice. Once implanted, the chip is read by a hand-held scanner and the microchip company is notified of the ID number. You need to register your contact information with the microchip company so they can use the ID number to reach you. A microchip will only reunite you with your pet if the company knows how to reach you. You may also register the microchip and your information at http://www.petlink.net/, a 24-7 registry and recovery service. Even if your pet never leaves the house, I recommend a microchip. A flood, tornado, hurricane, or even a surprise bolt out the door can separate you. A cat that carries no other ID is especially vulnerable without a microchip. Some communities now offer single-fee lifetime licensing for pets that are microchipped. 

2. Keep good pet records, including a current photo of you with your pet (to verify ownership) and photos of your pet’s unique identifying characteristics (markings, scars, etc.). Store your pet’s vet, food and medication records in one place (like the Not Without My Dog book). Include information like the pet’s daily routine, words the pet knows, and other tips that would be useful to someone taking care of your pet in an emergency situation. Make sure a designated family member, friend or neighbor knows where your pet’s information is stored, in case something happens to you. 

3. Make a disaster plan for your family and pets. Be aware of the most likely disasters in your area: floods, fires, tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, chemical spills, etc. Be prepared to survive without outside assistance if you must stay in your home during a natural disaster. Prepare a disaster kit to meet the basic needs of your family and pets for three days or more. Store it in waterproof containers that are easily accessible. Know the local evacuation routes and where you will take your pets if you must leave your home. Do not leave your pets behind. Know how you will transport them and where you will go. Have plan A, B, and C destinations (emergency shelters for people most often do not allow pets). http://www.petswelcome.com/, and http://www.pet-friendly-hotels.net/ may provide helpful information, but remember that hotels may fill quickly in a disaster situation. Does your family, including pets, fit in one vehicle? If not, how will you transport everyone to safety? Do you have carriers, leashes, and harnesses for all of your pets? 

4. Have a family communication plan in case a disaster occurs while you’re separated at work and school. Know where your family will meet if you can’t reach each other by phone. If all family members are away from home during the day, identify a neighbor or petsitter who will get to your pets quickly if they need help. It’s better to ask for help now than to be without a plan. 

5. Make sure your pets are properly vaccinated and treated for fleas and ticks, and on heartworm preventative. Healthy pets are better prepared to survive anything, including possible displacement, and housing with other animals. Accepted vaccination protocols are changing and some over-the-counter flea and tick treatments are not approved by veterinarians. Do your own research and decide what is best for your pet. 

6. Train and socialize your pets. A positively trained pet will be more comfortable and less likely to get lost. Socialize dogs and cats so they’ll be confident (not fearful) in different situations. Make sure your pets are comfortable riding in their carriers in the car and know how to walk on a leash/harness. Teach your pets to wait before jumping out of the car (after a pause, give them a treat). You may think that you can’t train a cat. But I used to have a cat that came when I called “Come get a fishy treat!” because I always produced a “fishy treat” when she arrived (ok, maybe she was training me!). This trick can help you find a pet that’s hiding under a foundation or lost in the neighborhood. 

7. Tune in to your pets. They’re tuned in to you. Give them opportunities to do what they were bred to do. Help them relax and be confident. Appreciate them for who they are. The more connected you are to your pets, the better you will weather anything together. 

8. Be resilient. An old girl who has lost everything can recover with dignity and grace, and be happy. Kate taught me this too.  

Jenny Pavlovic is the author of the award-winning 8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog and the new Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book. There just may be a Not Without My Cat Resource & Record Book in her future.  You can learn more about Jenny on her website or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.   (Photo credit:  LS Originals of Fridley, Minnesota)

Read my review of 8 State Hurricane Kate here.