Feline Lifestyle

Holding the Space

Aliza and Matisse – photo courtesy of Laura Kuhlmann

Guest Post by Laura Kuhlmann

Last night, I finished reading Buckley’s Story, Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher by Ingrid King. Although I had purchased this book last fall, it was too difficult for me to read, having said goodbye in November to our beloved boy cat Matisse, aka Mr. Boober, after his brave battle with lymphoma.

Ingrid’s book is more than just a story about a special cat named Buckley, for Ingrid touches upon many aspects of the human-animal bond, as well as the animal-animal bond, including intuition and communication, that really make one stop and think. This is a book that sticks with you after you finish it, and no doubt I will be reading sections over again.

Ingrid talks about her cat Amber “holding the space” which really intrigued me. Here’s a short excerpt, from page 86:

“…..I made sure that I paid enough attention to Amber during this time … She quietly held the space for both Buckley and me. Some people, as well as some animals, are masters at holding the space. It means creating a quiet, safe, and peaceful environment. By being completely centered and secure in herself, Amber focused her gentle energy on allowing Buckley and me to relax into whatever was happening and to find our own way through it with as little worry and fear as possible.”

This concept – holding the space – is what our cat Mr. Boober did in our home, especially with our two girl kitties Lulu (his little sister) and Aliza (for better or for worse, his constant companion.) But we didn’t realize this until he had passed away. The attitudes of the girls, and the dynamics between them, were suddenly all messed up. The girls didn’t know quite how to cope, because the one who had held the space for them was Boober, and now he was gone. My husband and I described Boober as the glue that kept the three cats together and content. Holding the space.

I am fortunate to have met Ingrid via Twitter (gotta love social media!) and we’ve become friends. Ingrid thinks that perhaps Aliza or Lulu might eventually step up to fill the void (and hold the space) but of course it won’t be exactly the same.

It immediately made me think of a series of pictures that I took last fall. Both girls were extremely attentive to Boober toward the end of his life when he went blind. Aliza and Lulu would stick close by him…taking turns cleaning him…just being with him. Aliza especially, who was literally hopelessly in love with Boober, rarely left his side. I wanted to take some pictures of the two of them together, although our digital camera wasn’t cooperating. When I came around the bed, I saw Aliza’s paw and arm on top of Boober’s. My heart melted, and I’m so glad I captured this moment. I think Aliza’s only concern was to provide comfort and serenity in the midst of some scary changes. I think during those moments, she was holding the space.

Laura Kuhlmann is the owner and designer of Petscribbles, a unique line of hand-crafted greeting cards for, from, and about pets.   Laura designs and makes the  artistic and upscale, yet fun, personal, and whimsical cards herself.   The cards are made to order in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, USA, and only the best cardstocks, decorative papers and embellishments are used.  Laura and her Chief Feline Officer Lulu pride themselves on using recycled materials whenever possible. Laura and her husband are owned by two cats: a 9-year old Ragdoll girl named Lulu (the CFO mentioned above); and a 15-ish years young formerly feral kitty named Aliza-Loo Doolittle. Aliza enjoys a fulfilling retirement doing very little work (aka Doolittle).

The Healing Power of Cats

There are many stories of animals as healers. Research shows that simply petting a cat or dog can lower your blood pressure. Therapy animals who visit nursing homes and hospices bring peace and joy to patients who may not have smiled in months. There are stories of horses who help people heal emotional and psychological issues, stories about dogs who can somehow sense cancer in people, even before doctors can find it, and dogs who can tell when a person is about to have a seizure. At one time or another, all pet owners have experienced the comfort of having our pets close by when we are sick even with something minor like a cold or the flu. Research has even shown that the frequency of a cat’s purr can aid with healing of bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles as well as provide pain relief. 

I’ve met a number of these healer kitties during my years of working at veterinary clinics.  They would work their magic in various ways – by curling up next to a recovering cat or dog, by cuddling up to a worried client in the waiting room, or by comforting a staff member who had just assisted with a difficult case or a euthanasia. But none of these cats was more of a healer than Buckley, the subject of my book Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher. 

Buckley would do all of the things mentioned above while she lived at the animal hospital.  After she came home with me, she became my assistant Reiki practitioner.  Reiki is an energy therapy that originated in Japan.  As a Reiki Master Practitioner, I transfer energy to my client by placing my hands either directly on or slightly off the body.  I work with pets and with people, and I’ve found that animals, especially cats, are incredibly receptive to the Reiki energy.  Some even say cats invented Reiki.  While that may be a little far fetched, cats seem to intuitively how to utilize the energy for their greatest good. 

Buckley loved being in the Reiki room while I was giving treatments, and as long as the person receiving a treatment liked cats and did not mind Buckley’s presence, she was allowed to stay. But just being in the room was usually not enough for her—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, and the client would often report an added feeling of heat or pulsing in the areas where Buckley had been situated during the session. I often skipped the areas Buckley laid on during a session and concentrated on others instead. I knew my little healer kitty had it covered. 

I think she also transmuted the energy in the house in general. All cats do this to some degree. Cats are sensitive to energies and have the ability to change negative energies into something peaceful and calming. Buckley seemed to be a master at this. More people commented on the peaceful energy in my house after she came to live with us than ever before. 

Animals bring a spiritual component to healing as well. Buckley’s intuitive knowing during a Reiki session about where the energy was needed came from a spiritual dimension. It takes many human Reiki practitioners years of practice to achieve that level of intuitiveness.

How have the animals in your life helped you heal?  I’d love to hear your stories.

Safe Toys for Your Cat

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

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

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

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

So which toys are safe for your cat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are some of your cats’ favorite toys?

Keeping Your Indoor Cat Happy

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Guest post by Daniela Caride

Cats should live inside and not be allowed outdoors at any time. No pet should go outside unattended. Cats may be exposed to a variety of risks that may harm them, and even you.

That’s why indoor cats live far longer than cats who go outdoors. The average life expectancy for an indoor cat is 12 to 15 years vs. 4 to 5 years for an outdoor cat, according to PetPlace.

If you are still not convinced, here are six reasons why you should keep your cats indoors:

1. Accidents – Your cat may be struck by a vehicle or get caught sleeping under a car hood when the engine gets turned on, killing or harming him seriously.

2. Life-threatening situations – Your cat is a potential target for dogs, wild animals and even animal abusers.

3. Disease – Your cat may catch serious diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) if involved in a cat fight. He can also bring home parasites, such as fleas and ticks, and even become infected with ringworm, a fungus also transmissible to humans.

4. Poisoning – Your cat may be exposed to potential hazards from poisons, such as antifreeze, lawn fertilizers, weed killers and poisonous toxic plants. Cocoa mulch, widely used in gardens, for instance, can be fatal to cats.

5. Stealing and animal control – Your cat can be stolen or picked up by animal control authorities. He might end up in a shelter, where he may be adopted out to another family or euthanized.

6. Environmental impact – Your cat may harm the environment by hunting native birds. In many communities, birds are endangered because of the outdoors feline population.

The pros of keeping your cats indoors far outnumber the cons. But many people still ask if cats can be happy if only living inside. The answer is yes.

You can avoid boredom and discomfort by providing your cat a healthy environment combined with activities that stimulate him physically and mentally.

Here are four tips:

  • Provide a litter box per cat plus one (if you have three cats, have four litter boxes), so your cat has plenty of opportunities to evacuate in the places you want, not in the ones he chooses.

If you provide your cat with the right stimuli, you will make him happy, prolong his life and keep his and your health costs down. Who wouldn’t like to do this for such a great companion?

daniela and crosby-1

Daniela Caride is the publisher of The Daily Tail (http://www.TheDailyTail.com), a participatory blog about pets with stories, tips, and reviews. She lives with three cats, Crosby, Gaijin and Phoenix, three dogs, Frieda, Geppetto and Lola, and her husband, Martin, in Cambridge, MA.

Eva’s Journey – Second Chances and Lessons Learned

This is a story of a Christmas miracle.
This is a story of how some encounters are simply meant to be.
This is a story of the perseverance of the feline spirit.

This is Eva’s story.

Eva FB

Guest post by Renee L. Austin

Second chances are hard to come by, especially when the crazy pace of life can cause us to miss the fact that there was an initial opportunity to begin with.  And when there is a chance to change a life, one’s own or someone else’s, a second chance is even more precious – particularly when that life hangs in the balance…

I’d seen her at least a week, maybe two weeks earlier, climbing an embankment on the side of the road.  Even though there were no houses or barns nearby, the collar she was wearing stood out, and with some degree of relief I gave her just a fleeting thought.  I was in a bit of hurry and traveling the back dirt roads. Well, by December they’re usually treacherously slick and muddy narrow lanes flanked by the dull browns and grays of winter.  I have no business using them when they are so bad, but haste often overcomes common sense.

The next time I came upon her was in an even more remote area.  She was wandering ahead of me up the middle of the road through the freezing rain.  She was so un-cat-like; helpless looking and forlorn, head down, shoulders slumped, plodding through mud the consistency of pudding.  She seemed totally unconcerned with my car pulling up behind her and barely glanced over her shoulder before slightly quickening her pace.  Dejection and misery radiated from the little body.

When I stepped out and into the muck to call her, this suddenly animated creature whirled around and half ran to me chattering on and on in short rapid bursts.  She leapt into the car without hesitation and proceeded to hug me; purring loudly and rubbing her face against mine as I settled back behind the wheel.  Before I even got us turned around we were both covered in the mud she’d carried in with her.  The inside of the car was a mess, too.  And there I was, late-late-late, headed back to the house with a stray tortoiseshell cat loose in my car with cautionary thoughts churning of rabies, crazed tortie attacks, and wondering how I was going to explain this one to the folks at the emergency room.  She rode standing in my lap, shivering and smelling of cold, wet earth and winter, front legs wrapped tightly around my neck, face pressed hard against my cheek. It turned out that my biggest concern was being able to keep the car on the road while trying to see around her head.

It was much later that night after I’d returned and had time to really study her, that I understood just how close she must have been to the end – that she already must have decided there would be no more chances.  For however long she’d been on her own, and whatever had sustained her thus far, those resources and energy stores were gone. She was spent.  Clearly there was no longer any expectation of help.  Hope had faded and simply ceased to exist.

I remember looking down at her and thinking ‘no room at the inn’.  We do have a full house, and I’d been waffling back and forth between frustration and acceptance over the rate and circumstances at which the fur-footed population was increasing here.  Not only that, but I’ve been so slow to heal after losing my two special friends, each my heart and my soul.  Sometimes it’s just too hard to find space for others amidst the broken pieces.  In that moment I tried to close myself off even more, and then the little gray cat looked back up at me, stumbling and losing her balance in her weakened state.  The drawn face filled with anxiety, showed all of the uncertainty and desperation she’d been carrying-for who knows how long.

It’s been a year now, and this cat that I was so reluctant to bring into the fold is a constant companion; always on my lap or at my feet, or greeting me at the door – when she’s not off raiding the kitchen.  She could stand to lose a pound, maybe a bit more, but that’s something we’ll deal with much later.  Her enthusiasm for all food is rooted, I’m certain, in her having been so near starvation when I picked her up.

Eva walks with an awkward waddle as she follows me whenever I move throughout the house.  Her back, neck, and hip problems are always apparent-even more so-when she first awakens and tries to work the stiffness from her sore joints and muscles.  The chronic cough from a heartworm infection sometimes wakes us all in the night.  These things don’t seem to prevent her from playing by herself in my office while I work, or from efficiently devouring the contents of my plate if I look away for even a moment, or from applying teeth and nails if I decide too soon that she needs to get down.  She is a happy cat – as long as things go her way.

Sometimes I try to imagine what it must have been like out in the middle of nowhere with no food, no shelter, no hope.  Just hunger and cold and loneliness, and a hopeless fading day by day.  And then I marvel at how, with my crazy schedule and ever changing routes, there could have been the teensiest possibility in all of the minutes and hours and days and miles, of coming upon Eva a second time.

A couple weeks ago I was driving the back way through the rain and gloom and saw a gray form moving up an embankment.  I kept going and then stopped, backing carefully until I was even with a little gray tortie cat.  She wanted nothing to do with me, but as I drove away and worried that she might just simply be frightened and still in need, I realized that I had at least stopped for that first opportunity.  I tucked my own concern away, and have not been back through there since.  Some things are meant to be, some things are not. You can’t be sure until it happens, or doesn’t happen.  The latter is the tricky part, isn’t it?

One thing I do know is that we have to be willing to stop and back up for a moment-and keep our hearts open, even if there’s only just a tiny bit of space among the pieces.

Editor’s note: Eva passed away in September 2014. 

Renee Austin is the owner of Whimsy Cats, Northern Virginia’s premiere cat sitting service.  Whimsy Cats specializes in cats who need special care such as administration of medication, fluids or insulin, senior cats, post-surgical care, and more.  For more information about Renee and Whimsy Cats, please wisit her website at http://www.whimsycats.com.

Bentley Wins Best In Show

Bentley

Guest post by Sharon Eisen, DVM

I’m not supposed to like showing cats.  I’m supposed to tend to the needy, the homeless, and the ailing and sick cats of the world.  That’s what my conscience tells me.  But my ego tells me otherwise.  I want to have the most beautiful cat of them all.  My pride wants everyone to ooh and ahh over my cat; the cat that I brought into the world by carefully selecting sire and dam, putting them together to make a most beautiful kitten and then, cat.  I apologize to all the unwanted cats in the world and I swear, I love them too.

So, when Bentley, my most beloved British Shorthair cat won a best in show at the Westchester cat show, I found myself crying and feeling an almost embarrassed joy.  The judge held Bentley way up in the air so everyone could see him.  She turned him sideways, stretched him out and described the attributes that made this lilac colored cat the best cat of the show.  I stood in the crowd with all the others, admiring his beauty, proud and swelling inside, knowing he was mine.  And then, he looked at me with his Cheshire grin and what I saw in his eyes was, “Look mom, we did it!”

Bentley kittenThat was in 1999.  Bentley went on to become a supreme grand champion cat, the highest level of achievement in the cat fancy.  He was an international winning cat, appeared in print ads, TV commercials and even had a gig on animal planet.  He loved every second of his life.  He was the only cat I ever knew that posed for the camera.  He delighted being in the limelight and loved attention he received. 

When I reflect back on the day that Bentley won Best In Show, I feel what I felt at that moment all over again. Sometimes it makes me cry from both sadness and joy.  That day is a gift, a treasure that I will always have.  Bentley taught me that’s it is okay to enjoy the guilty pleasures of life. 

Bentley died at the age of seven, succumbing to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease I didn’t know he had until he went in to congestive heart failure at the age of two.  He lived five and a half more good years.  And that was his other life lesson to me.  Live in the moment; make memories and love with abandon.

I miss you. 

Your greatest admirer,

Sharon Eisen D.V.M.

Dr. Sharon Eisen has been a practicing veterinarian since 1984. In 1991 she realized her dream of opening a feline-only practice in Brookfield, Connecticut. The Complete Cat Clinic was the very first cats-only hospital in the state. While owning and operating the clinic, Dr. Eisen has also been breeding cats for the past 15 years.  Some of her cats have appeared on television and have been top-ranking show cats with many ribbons to their credit; and others have simply been beautiful and treasured companions.  In addition to devoting her career to the care and wellbeing of cats, Dr. Eisen has an abiding interest in the human/animal connection. She has conducted programs in elementary schools to teach students about pet care.  She has led pet bereavement groups and she has brought cats and dogs into nursing homes to serve as pet therapists.

Cat Tales bookFor many years, Dr. Eisen has wanted to share the wonderful and compelling storiesof the cats she’s encountered. The time has finally come.  Her book Cat Tales – True Love Stories will take you on a journey of the heart and mind. 

Dr. Eisen lives in Danbury, Connecticut with her husband and four cats: Paco, Hershey, and Rosie and Pawlie Newman.

For more information about the book, please visit: http://www.cattalesbook.com

An Interview with the Founder and Editor of Moderncat

photo credit:  www.giuliosciorio.com

I previously introduced Moderncat in my post Unique Cat Products With a Modern Twist  because I loved the site so much.  It is my pleasure today to introduce you to Kate Benjamin.  Kate is the founder and editor of Moderncat, a resource for cat owners with a modern style. She seeks out the newest products for living with cats in a modern home. She tries to identify not only products that fit a modern aesthetic, but also items that are truly innovative and that make living with cats a more enjoyable experience. Moderncat combines product reviews with other useful information for cat owners in a clear and concise format.

Welcome to The Conscious Cat, Kate.

 

Tell us a little bit about Moderncat.  How did you come up with the idea?

Thanks so much for giving me the chance to share my story with your readers! I started Moderncat because I was a cat owner myself looking for a single online resource for well-designed cat products. I was finding individual companies and products, but I couldn’t find a place where I could view everything all in one place. I had learned a little bit about blogging in my job as the Director of Marketing at a children’s product development company, so I decided to start my own blog. Apparently, other people were looking for the same thing because the readership started to grow and today Moderncat has a wonderful international audience of design-conscious cat lovers.

Moderncat became hugely successful in the two years since you started the project.  How do you explain its popularity and success?

I think the success of Moderncat is due mostly to the fact that there is nothing else really like it, but also that I’ve been very active in all kinds of different online communities, helping to spread the word about the blog and attract more readers. It didn’t happen overnight, I’ve worked at it slowly and steadily for over two years now. It has been a pleasure getting to know my readers through the comments and emails.

Is Moderncat a full time job for you?

Yes, it is now my full-time job and I absolutely love it! I ran the blog for two years on the side, and then I was recently able to go out on my own so I could focus on writing Moderncat and working on other cat–related projects, including volunteering with local animal rescues whenever I can.

Where do you find the products and giveaways you feature on your site?

I read consumer and trade magazines in the cat/pet industry, plus I try to attend one or two of the big pet industry trade shows each year to stay up-to-date on the latest products. I do a lot of online research, plus most of the cat product manufacturers keep me updated on their new offerings. I also get lots of tips from readers. That is where some of the most interesting information comes from!

How do you decide whether a product is a good fit for Moderncat?

First, the company behind the product has to have a good reputation. It’s important to me to only promote products and businesses that are ethical and provide quality products and services. I like to work with smaller companies, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t cover products from larger companies if I think they are good. Also, it’s important that the manufacturer considered both the cat and the owner when designing a product. That will make a successful product. Most things on Moderncat have a more modern, or streamlined design. I consider both the function of the product as well as the aesthetic design.

A lot of the products you feature, in addition to being aesthetically beautiful, are also what I would consider high end products.  Do you find that there’s a good market for these products among cat lovers?

Yes, I do feature a lot of products that are quite expensive. This is usually because the products are handmade using high-quality or sustainable materials, and they are often made in small quantities. I think there are some people who can afford these high-end products, others who save up for that one special item, and still others who can’t afford these things, but hopefully they will be inspired by the ideas to create something similar themselves. It’s really all about inspiration and creativity. You don’t have to spend a lot to make a wonderful home environment for you and your cats. There is a whole DIY (do-it-yourself) section on Moderncat where you can see photos of projects readers have completed, often with instructions and tips.

In addition to being a blogger, you are also a designer.  Tell us a little bit about the things you design.

I have a craft studio in downtown Phoenix where I’m working with a team of designers to develop some cat products that will be available soon on Etsy. The collaborations are a lot of fun! I have a lot of friends who are architects and designers and also cat owners. Stay tuned for more details!

You have six Moderncats of your own.  Tell us about them.

Kate's Modern cats

Simba was the first cat that I’ve owned as an adult. I’ve had her for 6 years now and she is 10 years old. She is a cream tabby and apparently female cream tabbies are pretty rare.

Next came Mackenzie. He is a big beautiful brown tabby Maine Coon who is 7 years old and the sweetest thing ever!

Then Ando showed up as a 5 month old kitten. He’s my baby! A shiny black panther-like cat with a bit of Siamese in him. He is in charge.

Then I adopted Sophie. Not sure how old she is, but she is quite old and has diabetes, but she is a great cat and just wants to have her head scratched.

Two years ago, my boyfriend and I got involved with The Great Kitty Rescue through Best Friends Animal Society. This was a cat rescue where Best Friends was called in to help with an institutional hoarding situation in Nevada where they rescued 800 cats. My next two cats, Flora and Dazzler, both came from this rescue. They are both torties. Flora is tiny and has plenty of tortitude, and Dazzler (we call her Dee) has no tortitude at all, and she is completely and hopelessly in love with Ando.

Do they get to test products before you post them on your site?

Yes they do! Not everything, only the things that I’m really excited about. My condo isn’t big enough for everything!

Do they have any favorites?

The top faves have to be the Hepper Pod (Dee is in there EVERY day) and the Sweet Lounge from Marmalade Pet Care. They also love the wall-mounted scratcher from Moderncritter as well as the Curve perches from Urban Pet Haus. They really like the Caboodle and the tall cat condo from Modern Cat Designs. The latest faves are the Cat Eye Bed from Precision Pet and the pulp scratch lounger from Bergan. The Sleepypod is the best carrier ever, plus it converts to a bed. If I leave it out, someone can be found lounging in there. I really like the Smart Cat Box for a great natural litter alternative. Favorite toys include DaBird and the Cat Dancer.

Thanks for joining us on The Conscious Cat, Kate, and we wish you much continued success with Moderncat.

Pet Photography – an Interview with Megan Lee of Paws and Claws Photography

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Megan Lee of Paws and Claws Photography.  When I wanted to get a professional author photo for Buckley’s Story that also included Amber, I turned to Megan.   I had seen her work on her website, and had also seen her in action at the annual Santa Portraits event at Seneca Hill Animal Hospital Resort and Spa in Great Falls, VA.  I figured if Megan can take amazing photos of dogs and their owners in the chaotic setting of an event that attracts hundreds of dogs, she would be able to take a great photo in which both Amber and I looked at the camera at the same time!

Megan brought a complete photo studio to our living room.  While Amber was not too terribly thrilled at having her space invaded in this way, she was a good sport about it.  For her perspective on the photo shoot, click here.  Megan took a lot of photos of Amber and me in various poses and in front of different backdrops for about an hour, and I was thrilled with the end result.

Megan was kind enough to answer the following questions for us: 

Megan, how did you get started photographing pets?

Megan Lee Before I started my company, I tried to take my pets to a studio to have their photos taken.  Not only did the photos not meet my expectations, the entire experience was stressful for my pets and me.  So I decided to eliminate the inconvenience of transporting pets and the anxiety of introducing them to strange environments by coming to your home.  I find that most pets and their family are more relaxed and photogenic in familiar surroundings.  Plus, I have found a way to bring studio quality lighting and backdrops to virtually any location, resulting in professional portraits without the hassle.
 
What kind of pet photography do you do?

I specialize in unique portraits of pets and their people by coming the location of your choice. 

Is it more challenging to photograph cats than dogs?

Yes because cats won’t sit and stay.

How do you get dogs and cats to look at the camera?

I use a combination of treats, squeaky toys, and verbal requests. 

You have a way to capture the essence of the pet, as well as the relationship between pet and person in your photographs.  How do you do that? 

Photographing in your home or at a location that you and your pet feel comfortable in cuts down on a lot of the anxiety that the animal or human might feel. 

What was your most challenging or funny experience at a photoMegan Lee3 shoot with a cat?

Once while shooting several cats in a client’s home, one of the cats got loose and ran into the master bedroom.  After searching for 30 minutes we finally found him in the box spring of the master bed.  This particular cat was adopted the day before and didn’t come out until after I had left.  So far it’s the only animal that I couldn’t successfully photograph!  

Do you have any tips for our readers on how to take great photos of their cats?

Lots of patience and either no flash or an off the camera flash. 

For more information about Megan and Paws and Claws Photography, and to see more of Megan’s wonderful photos, please visit her website.

Copyright for both photos used in this post:  Megan Lee, Paws and Claws Photography.

Random Mind Scan: Memories of Pets Emerge

Sometimes, random snippets of memories enter our mind for no apparent reason.  Today, Cathleen Hulbert remembers former pets in this guest post.   We’d love it if you leave a comment and share your stories of pets that have come and gone, and touched your lives.

Guest Post by Cathleen Hulbert

What set this off? The names and faces of former pets begin to work their way into my memory.

Cathleen Hulbert cat

What happened to Muffin? Muffin was a gray and white cat that I had around the age of 5. One day Muffin was gone. Mom and Dad said she “ran away.” Cats don’t run. Not well-loved, well-fed cats. I now suspect a car. It would have kinder to say she was hit by a car. Feelings linger of being rejected by a cat.

We try hamsters.

Charlie and Ben were brown and white. I told them they were good boys soCathleen Hulbert hamster that I wouldn’t be rejected again. Being in a cage,  they were less likely to run. One day there were these little fuzzy things in the cage with Charlie and Ben. Turns out that Charlie should have been named Charlene. Ben gets removed from the cage so he won’t eat the kids. One day he escapes and hides behind the fridge. I don’t remember much about the hamsters after that. We gave the kids away. I really wanted a dog.

My Mom is French, so we name the new dog from the pound, “Minette.” I thought she was a big dog, or at least medium-sized. Recently I was told that she was small, like a rat terrier. I find this hard to believe. She seemed substantial when I was 7. One day Minette is gone for a while. I’m glad when she comes back. I had a lump in my throat. I want no more of rejection. Weeks later, her sides get big and we realize she’s going to have puppies. She’s mostly white and the puppies all are jet black. I have questions. The puppies are eventually adopted.

When we move to Atlanta from our Florida  house, we’re going to be in an apartment for a year or so. Minette gets dropped off at a farm and I sit in the back seat in shock. It all seems so wrong. Was that always the plan? To leave my dog on a farm?

We get a white mouse because mice can cope with apartment life.

But the mouse, whose name I have blocked, gets out of the cage and scares my Mom in the night. I think he runs up the back of her nightgown. She almost has a heart attack and puts the mouse and his cage outside. It’s cold and he dies. Having pets starts to seem like a tragedy. When do we get one that we keep for a long time?

Cathleen Hulbert orange kitten

Benjamin is a red tabby. He’s pretty cool but he pees in my Dad’s good suitcase between business trips. He always finds just the right moment when the suitcase is open and my Dad is not around. Benjamin gets a free ride to the Humane Society. I sob in the back seat. Some college students adopt him before we even gets inside. None of them go on business trips or own expensive suitcases, so they think he will be fine. Will I ever love again?

I grow up and realize that I now have more control over the fate of my pets. Cathleen Hulbert cat2A little more control, but it’s not complete. A few more cats pass through my life: Daisy, a long-haired beauty, Marmalade and Harvey — the latter named after an invisible rabbit in a Jimmy Stewart film of that name. Marmalade contracts a rare disease and dies. Daisy and Harvey go to live with my ex-husband, Joe, after we get a friendly divorce. I know they are in good hands. We were in New York City at the time and he had a bigger apartment. I was starting a new career. I have to admit, the freedom from pet responsibilities wasn’t bad. 

Cathleen Hulbert German ShepherdYears later, after returning home to Georgia and suffering through the death of my second husband, I meet an amazing animal: a gorgeous fox-red, part chow, part shepherd rescue dog who rescues me and keeps me from staying in bed for a long time. Her owner has died and we’re in the same boat. I name her Phoenix. Together we rise from the ashes. We have some good years together. Then a brown recluse spider takes her life. She’s the kind of soulful, loving animal that people in my family still talk about. I think she is around, like one of those spirit guides that shamans and other healers rely on when there is something important to do. I love you Phoenix. I know you can hear me. 

For a time I thought that I could never love a dog as much as I had loved Phoenix.

Then I saw Angel outside of a pet store on a mild winter day nearly two years ago. She was for sale: $225. I told the pet rescue lady that I didn’t have that kind of cash. I knew she had been watching me bond with Angel. She said she would give me the $75 “overflow special rate.” She turned to Angel and said, “See. I told you that we’d find you a new Mom today.”

At 10 months, Angel (that was the name she came with) was nearly grownCathleen Hulbert dogs but still had lots of uppy inside. She was wild at first, with Jack Russell traits dominating her gene pool. She ripped up part of my favorite couch, but I couldn’t hold a grudge. I was watching “The Dog Whisperer” by then and I knew I had made some mistakes. The couch is as good as new now, and Angel has become a woman’s best friend. My brother’s dog, Boo, an aging Yellow Lab, is the other dog with whom I share a home.

We all live together, along with my 9-year-old nephew. I watch him play with his childhood pets and I realize that he’ll always remember them: the way Angel cuddles with him in the morning before he goes to school; the way Boo likes to pick up a dog toy on the way to greet him at the door when he comes home. He knows that pets die. He still misses Phoenix and Yogi, another Lab that died of cancer. But he adores Angel and Boo.

These thoughts bring so many feelings. It’s all clear. Some of the most important people in our lives are animals.

Cathy_Hulbert_small1Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She is the author of The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination, a time-travel tale of redemption and forgiveness. For more information about the author and the book, go to http://cathleenhulbert.com/.

Seven Social Networking Sites for Cat Lovers

Facebook

Guest post by Mary Ward

Fellow cat lovers know we are a different breed, and we’re darned proud of it!  What you may not know is that beyond blogging there are some wonderful sites out there for people like us and our precious pets, where we can link up together, share, and help troubleshoot some of the more concerning aspects of companionship. You can find a social networking site for just about everything, and that is especially true when it comes to the cat lover in you.  Here are seven of the top social networking sites on the net for cat lovers like us.

1. My Cat Space – This is what social networking is all about! This site links you up to the very best in cat information and links you to cat lovers everywhere. You can share your stories and pictures, or simply drop in to see what new tips are out there. This is a great site to go to meet other cat lovers just like you!

2. Feline Fanatic – If you think that there’s nobody out there as passionate about their cat as you, visit this site for awhile. You will see that you are not alone in your love of felines and can visit with other like-minded individuals and share your views. A great meeting spot for feline fanatics everywhere!

3. Catster – Sure you can search under any given topic, find blogs or forums of other cat lovers, and search for valuable information—but there’s even more! It’s all about connection here and whether you connect with cat lovers in general or chat it up on a given subject, you will feel right at home here.

4. Meow Mail – As cat owners, there’s a special understanding of how cherished our pet is. Through this social networking site, you can share your opinions and thoughts on just what it is to love your cat. You can connect with others who recognize a cat not just as a pet, but as a part of their family.

5. Cat Club – This social networking site is so elite that you have to join as a true member to gain access. You can not only get access to a ton of information, but you can reach other cat lovers from all across the world. You can share stories and photos, and even gain some valuable discounts in the process!

6. Cat Hobbyist – The point of a social networking site is to meet others like you or with similar interests, and you will do just that here. You don’t need to hold back on how much you love your cat, because you are bound to meet many others just like you on this popular site.

7. Purrsonals.com – There is truly something for everyone, and this site is testament to that! If you want to date others that love cats as much as you do, then this social networking site can act as your matchmaker. This is the perfect dating site if you want to connect with and meet a fellow cat lover like yourself.   

Whether for fun, camaraderie, education or information, these sites have lots to offer the cat lover in any of us.  Join in and get your daily dose of feline fun and facts!

Mary Ward is a freelance writer and likes writing about animal-related career topics, such as how to obtain an online Vet Tech degree, job and education tips, and more.