Conscious Living

Cruelty-Free Kitty Helps You Choose Beauty Products That Are Not Tested on Animals

cruelty-free-kitty

Conscious living means making conscious choices about all aspects of our lives, including the cosmetics we use on ourselves. Using chemical free beauty products is not just better for you, it’s also better for your cats, because not only does your skin come in contact with those products, but so do your cat’s fur, paws, and mouth – and some of the chemicals used in conventional cosmetics can be harmful to both humans and cats.

Another consideration that is important to me when choosing cosmetics and personal care products is that they are not tested on animals.Continue Reading

Go Green for a Healthier Cat and a Happier Planet

cat_with_globe

Today is Earth Day, and it’s a good day to remember what going green means: making conscious choices every day about protecting our environment. Recycling, buying organic, and using eco-friendly products are only some of the everyday choices that contribute to a healthier planet.

You can also help the planet by making choices for your cat that will not only benefit the planet, but will also keep your cat healthy.

Feed natural and organic food

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, Continue Reading

Help the animals in Alabama

Alabama tornadoes animal rescue

The devastating tornadoes that left a path of destruction through the South on Wednesday hit particularly hard in Alabama. The storms killed nearly 300 and wiped out entire neighborhood. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those who lost so much. It’s almost impossible to wrap your mind around the scope of this tragedy.

As we’ve seen with other recent natural diasters, such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, animals suffer greatly in these situations, too, and as animal lovers, we want to help. Gwen Cooper, the New York Times bestselling author of Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life With a Blind Wonder Cat, wrote a beautiful piece for Psychology Today about the toll these storms have taken on the lives of animals in the affected areas, titled When You Help Animals, You Help Humans.

I’m sure that in the days and weeks to come, animal rescue groups from around the country will mobilize to help the animals in the South, but in the meantime, Gwen has offered up a simple way how you can help. Gwen writes:

“Most of the local veterinary practices in Tuscaloosa have suffered enough damage to be forced to close.  One remains open, however–run by Dr. Jimmy Canant and Dr. Paul Bronold.

They have been working literally around the clock–without rest, without breaks, and, most painfully, with barely enough resources–to treat the cats and dogs injured by the tornadoes. Some of the injured animals are brought in by their owners, whose own vets’ offices are non-operational at the moment. But most of the animals being brought in have been separated from their human companions. Nobody knows to whom they “belong,” or who will care for them as they recover, or who will pay for their treatment. Dr. Canant and Dr. Bronold are treating all of them, regardless.

Canant Veterinary Hospital is in desperate need of any support we can provide. They need donations of food and other practical necessities. Most desperately, they need money for medicine and supplies-and money to share with local animal shelters who are also struggling with super-human efforts to make sure that no dog or cat who can be saved is left behind.”

Gwen has created a ChipIn to accept donations. Funds raised will be donated directly to Canant Veterinary Hospital and other local animal service organizations. Click here to donate.

You can also send food or other donations directly Canant Veterinary Hospital at this address:

Canant Veterinary Hospital
1100 Rice Valley Road North
Tuscaloosa, AL 35406

Other ways you can help:

A group of Alabama rescue groups has created a Facebook page, Animals Lost and Found From the Tornadoes in Alabama. The group hopes to help reunite pets displaced by the storms.

The Shelter Pet Project is sending out an appeal to adopt animals in or near the affected areas to create room for pets displaced by the tornadoes. Many  shelters have been left without water and power, or outright destroyed. The Shelter Pet Projct is featuring pets from these areas on their Facebook page, with contact information to adopt them. Some rescue groups are offering free  transportation to out of area adopters.

May 2 update:

The ASPCA’s Field Investigation and Response Team (FIR) is on the ground in various Southern states and is working around the clock to rescue and shelter animals affected by the disaster.

The Greater Birmingham Humane Society is listing lost pets in hopes of reuniting them with their ownes.

May 6 update:

VCA Animal Hospitals announced that select locations are offering free boarding assistance for cats and dogs whose families have lost homes, or have been evacuated, due to storms in the southeast and wildfires in Texas. Click here for more information

May 8 update:

Here’s an update on how your donations to Canant Veterinary Hospital are helping tornado victims: Alabama animals displaced by tornadoes are getting outside help from bestselling New York author.

I’ll update this post as more information comes in from other organizations.

Photo source: Homer’s Odyssey Blog on Psychologtoday.com

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!

World’s Best Cat Litter Gives Back

World's Best Cat Litter

It’s always nice to see companies give back to their communities, and it’s especially nice when that giving is focused on cats.  After donating more than 23,000 pounds of litter to animal rescue groups in Los Angeles and Washington, DC, World’s Best Cat Litter™ is now focusing on supporting cats at three Texas shlters, the Austin Humane Society, Citizens for Animal Protection in Houston, and the SPCA of Texas in Dallas.

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.  You can participate between now and May 13 by clicking on the badge in the right sidebar, or by visiting WBC’s website or Facebook page.  “We invite animal lovers everywhere to become part of the GiveLitter™ initiative and help these Texas animal shelters as they work tirelessly to address community needs,” said Paul Zobel, Senior Director of Marketing, World’s Best Cat Litter™. ”

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.

Photo source: World’s Best Cat Litter website

You may also enjoy reading:

What to do when your cat is not using the litter box

Update on animal rescue efforts in Japan

animal rescue Japan

Thre weeks have passed since the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, which was then followed by the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northern Japan. As recovery efforts in the affected areas continue, radiation has contaminated water and soil in Japan, and possibly beyond. This is a developing story, and there are still more questions than answers as to the environmental impact of the crisis.

In the meantime, animal rescue groups are on the ground in Japan, trying to rescue as many animals as they can. One of the biggest challenges rescuers are facing is re-uniting pets with their owners. As The Cat’s Meow blog reports, most shelters don’t allow pets, and pet owners were often faced with making a horrible choice between evacuating and leaving their pets behind, or staying in unsafe homes.

“This is a big calamity for pets, along with people,” said Sugano Hoso of the Japan branch of the U.S.-based United Kennel Club. “Many are on their own, and many more are trapped in evacuated areas where people have left.”

Tamae Morino brought her Persian-mix cat, Lady, to Fukushima city’s main shelter , but Lady is forced to stay outside. Like many of the animal victims of the earthquake and tsunami, Lady is frightened and agitated, and it’s been difficult for her to cope with the sudden change in environment.

“She got sick, and is still very nervous,” Morino said. “She is an important part of our family. But they don’t allow pets into the shelter, so she has to sleep alone in the car. She seems very lonely. We are happy to have her with us, though. So many cats just vanished.”

Thanks to the dedicated work of volunteers from rescue groups in Japan and from around the world, there are a few happy stories in the midst of all this devastation. Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support posts daily updates of their rescue efforts, chronicling both challenges and successes, on their Facebook page.  You can also follow them on Twitter.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) posted a comprehensive FAQ for pet owners about the earthquake in Japan on their website.

And what about the cats and people on Cat Island? Conscious Cat reader Paula has been in touch with several people in Japan, and based on what she’s hearing, the cats and people on the island are okay. According to an e-mail Paula received from a Japanese journalist, the damage in Tashiro was not as big as it was in other parts of Honshu. They had a 16 to 20 foot high wave, and the buildings closest to the port were destroyed. Sadly, some cats near the port were killed, but the rest are fine and are being taken care of by people, just like before the quake. According to the journalist, the Japanese defense forces and the US military have been flying food and supplies, including cat food, to the island.

The following video shows a Japanese woman who was reunited with her cat a few days after the quake:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrKy_rFi550

Conscious Cat reader Paula provided the following translation: “She says that it’s the first time she came where her house was, then she says that she kept a cat. Then she says that she went there when the tsunami hit and she looked for it but couldn’t find it, so she just ran as she stood. Then when they go inside, she explains where the dining room was and then she hears meowing!!! And she says “the cat, it survived.” Kitty’s name is Non and she calls it Nonchan (term of endearment).”

Photo source: JEARS Facebook page. This photo was taken in a small shelter in Sendai. The building was water damaged, and there were overturned cars and debris everywhere. Miraculously, the 60+ cats inside were all okay.

For more on the earthquake in Japan, please read:

Help the animals in Japan

Radiation concerns and your pet

Japan’s Cat Island is safe

Cat Island Japan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo source: tofugu.com

Radiation concerns and your pets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help the animals in Japan

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

Help the animals in Japan

Japan Earthquake

The scale of the devastation in Japan is horrifying, and as rescue organizations from around the world rally to assist the recovery efforts, our thoughts and prayers go out to the people and animals affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

The organizations below specifically help with animal rescue efforts in the affected areas.

Japan earthquake man with dogWorld Vets is a non-government organization (NGO) providing veterinary aid around the globe in collaboration with animal advocacy groups, foreign governments, US and foreign military groups and veterinary professionals abroad. They are getting supplies and a first responder team ready to deploy to Japan.

March 15 update: World Vets is also accepting donations of veterinary supplies and medications at their Fargo, ND headquarters.

The American Humane Association’s Red Star Animal Emergency Services Team is monitoring the situation closely and is reaching out to its international partners in order to provide a joint response to this global emergency.

The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation has deployed search and rescue teams to Japan.

The Animal Refuge Kansai is an organization in Kansai, Japan, that is preparing for a huge influx of animals from the disaster areas.

Japan Cat Network, together with Heart Tokushima and Animal Friends Niigata has formed Japan Animal Rescue and Support. They are providing frequent updates of rescue efforts on their Facebook page.

March 15 update: they’ve posted a wish list of items for in country donations, but ask that you contact them before shipping anything from overseas.

Please note that the donation links for the organizations in Japan take you to the Japanese language version of PayPal. Once you enter the amount of your donation in Japanese yen (4000 yen is roughly $50 US), and enter your PayPal login information, it takes you to an English PayPal page and you can complete the donation.

The Animal Miracle Network Foundation is collecting cell phones to send to volunteers helping animals in Japan.

March 17 update: The Huffington Post posted some photos and more information about some of the organizations listed above in this article.

Cat Island Japan

As we’re mourning the loss of life with Japan’s citizens, and praying for those who’ve lost so much, cat lovers around the world are also wondering about the fate of the cats of Japan’s Cat Island. Sadly, it is believed that the island became fully submerged during the tsunami.

March 13 update: see Paula’s comments below for the latest on Cat Island.

March 14 update: the NASA photo Paula referenced in her comment, and additional updates on the Pet Captain’s blog.

March 15 update: Yet another hopeful update about Cat Island on The Cat’s Meow from Betty: “My brother’s wife is Japanese and she knows a girl whose parents live in the Cat Island and they were able to get in touch with them. They said that the island sank around 30 centimeters in the water and there was some damage to property, but cats and people are ok! They need help, of course, but the Island is still there.”

March 20 Updates: Japan’s Cat Island is safe

Photo of kitten from Petcaptain.com, photo of man holding dog from World Vets Facebook page, photo of Cat Island from tofugu.com

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.