A Tribute to Amber from Catnip Connection

Guest Post by Linda Mohr

Today’s Catnip Connection is a tribute to Amber who passed away on May 13. She was Ingrid King’s inspiration for The Conscious Cat and as Ingrid described her “a gentle, loving cat with a wise old soul.”

The following There is a New Star Shining in the Sky Tonight was written by Sarah Hartwell. She released this essay into the public domain so that it may be freely distributed.

“There is an old belief that the stars shining in the night sky are the spirits of those who have died. They have shed their earthly bodies and exchanged them for bodies made of light; thousands upon thousands of our dear departed friends all promoted to glory in the night sky. There is another saying that the brightest flame burns the shortest.

My friend, you were the brightest star in my own universe. While I burn on, my flame dimmed by grief and despair at your passing, the stars are watching me. They are too far away for me to touch, just as you have gone somewhere I cannot follow until my own star-time comes. They cannot be held close for comfort, just as I can no longer hold you close, though I held you close to comfort you in your final hours. We were together for such a short time, but the stars will burn forever.

One day I will grow tired of this earthbound body, my own star-time will come and my spirit will soar into the sky to burn with all those friends who have gone before me. On the inky cloth of space we will be reunited in constellations of joy. Until then, my flame burns low and dim and cold without you. Through my tears I look upwards to see if you are watching me and what do I see?

There is a new star shining in the sky tonight.”

Peace and hope to my dear friend Ingrid.

Linda Mohr is the author of Tatianna – Tales and Teachings of My Feline Friend.   For more information about Linda, and her book, please visit her website and her blog.

A Tribute to Amber from The Creative Cat

Guest Post by Bernadette Kazmarski

It’s never welcome news when a friend’s cat is ill, especially when the friend is a skilled caregiver providing all the requirements for a healthy life. Logic or intuition, or both, may warn you that only the most virulent diseases could get through the defenses your friend has provided her cat, and the outcome may not be good. 

On May 13, our friend Ingrid King said goodbye to her precious Amber. Ingrid always described Amber as “a wise old soul in a feline body”, quiet, loving, gentle, purring constantly, providing comfort and support for her human mom though times of great change and other loss.

You could see Amber’s inner peace in any photo of her, always composed and calm. A tortoiseshell cat, Amber had the typically unique markings, and Ingrid found her name from the heart-shaped amber spot on the top of Amber’s head.

I’ve gotten to “know” Amber through reading her posts on Ingrid’s blog, The Conscious Cat, in Amber’s Mewsings, but I feel as if I just “met” Amber through reading Ingrid’s book, Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher. I really appreciated getting to know the loving and free-spirited Buckley who inspired Ingrid to change her career and then to write the book, but always in the background was Amber, quietly providing support and love, never questioning, always devoted to Ingrid. I’ve known cats like her, and aside from all the other lessons in the book I came away loving Amber very much.

A chronic illness can prepare you for a loss, but an acute disease, especially with non-specific symptoms, can send you and your veterinarian scrambling for answers, and the loss can be a shock. After noticing some non-specific symptoms about ten days ago she began treating Amber for laryngitis and coaxing her to eat, but Amber ended up in feline intensive care and was diagnosed with a virulent calcivirus, complicated by an underlying heart condition.

Ingrid has also been a supportive mentor for me as I’ve learned social networking, blogging and using Facebook. 

It’s hard to believe Amber gone so quickly, and Ingrid and her new kitten Allegra must be feeling very lost, so my household will send them love. 

Bernadette Kazmarski is a a multi-faceted creative spirit:  artist, writer, graphic designer, painter, animal advocate, environmentalist.   From commissioned pet portraits to animal inspired merchandise ranging from prints to textiles to greeting cards, looking around Bernadette’s websites is a feast for the senses:
http://www.bernadette-k.com/
http://portraitsofanimals.wordpress.com/)

A Tribute to Amber from Conversations with Eva

Guest Post by Eva Cat

EVA:  Sad week.

R:  Yes.  A very sad week.

EVA:  Sad bunny.  Sad cow.  Sad Amber.

R:  Yes, many sad things this week.  And Amber’s Mom is very sad, too.

EVA:  I love Amber.

R:  Yes, all of us love Amber.

EVA:  Up.

R:  Up.

EVA:  Hugs, please.  Snuggles, please.                  Sad.

R:   Yes.  Very, very sad.           

In Memory of Our Friend, Amber

Eva is the newest addition to a home already full of very needy, special-needs cats that pretty much run the place.  Her human, “R”, does the best she can to try to keep up with Eva and maybe, if she’s lucky, stay one-half step ahead of her.  

A Tribute to Amber from The Daily Tail

Guest Post by Daniela Caride

It’s so easy to become friends with someone whom I admire and who shares with me at least two interests. Hiking, writing, dogs, cats, blogging, community work — I think of my friends and see a huge list of commonalities. 

I’ve never seen cat blogger Ingrid King, though. We live 500 miles apart. I’ve never heard her voice, either. Not even by phone. I “met” Ingrid on the Internet because we both blog about pets and love them unconditionally.

But thanks to our frequent e-mail exchange, I learned how generous she is with her knowledge and love of animals. And maybe because, as bloggers, we reveal so much about ourselves, I can picture Ingrid’s life quite vividly from a distance. 

I can see her working long hours at her desk at home, doing Reiki on her patients, standing by the window beside her kitten, Allegra, drinking tea while watching the snow fall during a cold morning. 

Somehow, I feel very close to Ingrid — like friends who have always lived far away from each other. 

Yesterday, Ingrid’s 12-year-old Tortie cat Amber succumbed to an aggressive virus that weakened her suddenly and inadvertently. I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I read Ingrid’s e-mail. It was sudden and unexpected. 

“I’m still in shock,” she said in the e-mail. “I keep hoping I’ll wake up and find that these last ten days were just a bad dream.”

Now I picture Ingrid watching with her peripheral vision a cat approaching from another room. A second later, her heart skips a beat. She realizes it’s Allegra, not Amber, as she previously thought. I see Ingrid following her routine, reaching for two dishes for the cats’ afternoon meal. Then she feels a lump in her throat. She only needs one dish this time. 

From afar, I feel hopeless sitting at my desk and writing about Amber, not able to ring Ingrid’s bell, give her a hug, offer my sympathies as any other friend. 

But maybe I’ll be lucky enough to make Ingrid understand, through this mournful letter, that the distance doesn’t mean that much. That, from afar, I am holding her hand.

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.

This Week on The Conscious Cat: A Tribute to Amber

After losing my beautiful girl so unexpectedly and suddenly last Thursday, I’ve been struggling.  I’ve experienced loss before.  I lost my first cat, Feebee, after a lengthy battle with lymphoma in April of 2000.  I lost my office cat Virginia two years later after a brief decline, caused by her FIV positive status.  And I lost Buckley Thanksgiving weekend of 2008 after receiving a dire prognosis of restrictive cardiomyopathy a few months earlier.  All of these losses were difficult.  I coped as best I could.  I survived.  And I thought that, as a result of getting through these past losses, I would be better prepared to deal with this most recent one.  After all, I’m the person others turn to when they need help coping with losing a pet.

But when I had to let Amber go after a brief, severe illness, I was completely blind-sided by the depth and intensity of my grief.  I had never lost a cat without having lots of time to prepare.  Anticipatory grief, like all grief, is painful, but by its very nature, it is, for lack of a better word, a bit more gentle.  This sudden, unexpected grief has been simply devastating.  I’m still unable to really put this experience into words, and I’m still struggling. 

Amber was my heart.  She was the inspiration behind The Conscious Cat, and it just doesn’t feel right to return to “business as usual” when I’m still in deep mourning.  

The one bright spot during these dark days have been my friends – both real life and online.  The outpouring of support from my online friends has been overwhelming, and incredibly comforting.   For the most part, these are people I’ve never met in person.  We’ve connected through blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail.  Most of us have never even spoken on the phone.  And yet, they’ve all been there for me in various ways – offering cyber hugs, expressing their sadness and support in comments on this site and on Facebook, sending private messages and e-mails.  Their love and support feels no less real than the love and support of my real life friends.  I’m blessed to have every single one of them in my life.

Several of my online friends also ran tributes to Amber on their blogs.  So, instead of our regular fare of cat health information, feline lifestyle and book reviews, this week, I’ll be honoring Amber’s memory and celebrating her life by running some of these tributes here on The Conscious Cat

Thank you, all of you, for your outpouring of support – each and every one of your comments, e-mails and private messages means so much.

Amber

Amber
July 29, 1998 – May 13, 2010
Be at Peace, Beautiful Girl

My beautiful girl died peacefully at home in my arms late yesterday afternoon, with the loving and gentle assistance of my dear friend and Amber’s vet, Fern.

As some of you already know, she had been sick for ten days and at the Hope Center for Advance Veterinary Medicine in intensive care for the last three and a half days. We just received confirmation today that what we had suspected was true – a calici virus had ravaged her system, causing multiple problems ranging from laryngitis to pancreatitis, complicated by an underlying heart problem we didn’t even know she had, which made it impossible to find the right balance between providing supportive care and not pushing her heart too far. Yesterday it looked like she was getting better, but yesterday morning, she took a turn for the worse, and her prognosis was so poor that I decided against further treatment. I took her home and spent the afternoon with her. The final good-bye was very peaceful.

Amber was a wise old soul in a feline body. Her gentle, loving presence brought so much happiness and joy to my life these past ten years. She was the inspiration behind The Conscious Cat, and even had her own column here, titled Amber’s Mewsings. You can read her entire story here.

I’m still in shock – I keep hoping I’ll wake up and find that these last ten days were just a bad dream. I’m going to miss my beautiful girl terribly. Her little sister Allegra only got to know her for a little over a month, and it breaks my heart that the two of them never got a chance to become close.

Amber taught me to slow down, to appreciate the gentleness in each moment, and to listen with and to my heart. Every cat we loose takes another little piece of our hearts. Amber took a big piece of mine tonight.

Natural Allergy Relief

Allergy season has arrived, and this year, it seems to be particularly bad in the Washington DC area – unfortunately, for many, this is the downside of the wonderful spring weather we’ve been enjoying.  For many allergy sufferers, relief comes in the form of prescription or over-the-counter drugs, but there are a number of natural remedies that provide equal, if not better, and safer relief.  Here are some natural remedies that may help:

Saline Nasal Rinse

This is the single most effective thing you can do to help prevent seasonal allergies.  Using a Neti Pot regularly to rinse out nasal passages helps get rid of irritants and prevents them from settling long enough to cause a reaction.  For more information on how using a saline rinse can help you during allergy season, click here.

Strengthen Your Immune System

Allergies are a disorder of the immune system – they occur when the immune system responds inappropriately, excessively, or not at all.  People with healthy immune systems tend to not suffer from allergies. 

Herbs

“Using nature-based products can be a very useful way to handle mild allergies and a useful adjunct for more significant allergies, and there are many types of treatments you can safely try,” says Mary Hardy, MD, director of integrative medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.  Among those generating the loudest buzz right now is the European herb butterbur (Petasites hybridus), which, says Hardy, “has had some very impressive clinical trial results.” *

Supplements

Many naturopathic doctors also believe that certain nutrients can help soothe seasonal allergies.  In particular, grape seed extract and a flavanoid compound called quercetin, can be helpful in reducing allergy symptoms, especially when combined with vitamin C.  All of these occur naturally in certain foods, but supplementation may be more effective.

Hot, spicy foods

Hot, spicy foods help thin mucous secretions, which can help clear nasal passages.  The most frequently recommended spices for this purpose include cayenne pepper, hot ginger, and fenugreek, as well as the traditional onion and garlic.

Diet

Food allergies and food intolerances may be more closely linked to seasonal allergies than we realize.  Food sensitivities that lead to upset stomach or allergic reactions present a load on the immune system, reducing its ability to cope with the challenges seasonal allergies present.  If you suffer from food allergies, be especially conscious this time of year of what you eat and avoid your trigger foods.

Environment

If you’re sensitive to pollen, keep the windows closed on days when the pollen count is high.  Wash clothes you’ve worn outside before hanging back in your closet.  Take a shower to wash pollen out of your hair before going to bed.  If you are highly susceptible, you may want to consider wearing a facial mask while you’re outdoors.

Be aware that even natural remedies can be toxic if not used properly, and especially when used in conjunction with conventional allergy medications.  If you have moderate to severe allergies, you may want to seek the advice of a physician before self-treating.

* Source:  WebMD.com

How to Select Healthy Cat Treats

cat-treats

You will find a lot of information on feline nutrition on this site, but one aspect I haven’t covered in detail is treats. While treats should always be used judiciously, especially for cats that have a tendency to gain weight or are already overweight, realistically, most cat guardians want to occasionally spoil their feline charges with a special treat.  Treats also have their place when it comes to training (and yes, cats can be trained).  Since most of us will give our cats treats, it’s important to choose healthy options. Continue reading…

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day from Ingrid, Amber and Allegra

If you’re fortunate enough to still have your mom in your life, be sure to tell her that you love her today, and every day.  My mother passed away 16 years ago, and I still miss her.  Even after all these years, I still feel a pang when I see Mother’s Day cards appear in stores. 

But I also celebrate Mother’s Day as Amber’s and Allegra’s Mom.  Some of you have gotten to know Amber here on The Conscious Cat through her Mewsings.  She was a mother herself when I first met her, so I thought I’d share her story here with you again today.

In the spring of 2000, Amber and her five kittens were brought to the animal hospital I managed by a client who had found the little family in her barn.  Despite being emaciated and scrawny-looking, Amber’s eventual beauty was evident even then.  Her kittens found new homes in fairly rapid succession.  

However, nobody was interested in the beautiful mommy cat.  She spent her days in the big adoption cage in the hospital’s waiting area, but with the constant inflow of homeless kittens that is typical for spring and summer, nobody wanted to adopt an adult cat.  I had recently lost my almost sixteen-year-old soul mate cat Feebee, and the grief over his loss was still very fresh.  I did not think I was ready for another cat, but coming home to an empty house was becoming increasingly difficult.

One weekend in July, I decided to take Amber home, “just for the weekend”.  I wanted to give her a break from the abandoned feral kitten we had placed with her after her own kittens had all found homes.  The kitten was a rambunctious six-week old grey tabby, and Amber was becoming increasingly exasperated with his constant need for attention.  As far as she was concerned, she had done her mommy duty with her own kittens.

After living in a cage for all these months, Amber was initially a little overwhelmed by having access to an entire house, and she spent most of that first weekend near or under my bed.  By Sunday evening, she began to  relax a little and started exploring her new environment.  I liked having her gentle and peaceful energy around the house, and I decided that she could stay a little longer.  Not quite ready to acknowledge that she was home with me to stay, I told everyone that I was “just fostering her”. Somehow, the flyers advertising that she was available for adoption never got distributed, and she only returned to the animal hospital for regular check ups.

Amber is a gentle, loving cat with a wise old soul.  For the past nine years, her peaceful and solid presence, not to mention her almost constant purr, have been bringing love and affection into my life every day.  She enjoys sleeping in our sunny living room, curling up with me when I sit down to read or to watch television, and watching the birds at the feeder on our deck. 

She is a teacher to the core of her being, and she is my writing muse.  There are days when I sit down in front of the computer and stare at the blank screen with no idea of what I’m going to be writing about, but as soon as she comes into the room and curls up on the window perch next to my desk for a long nap, I feel inspired, and the words start flowing.

Animals come into our lives for many reasons.  Some very special animals touch our souls and change us forever.  Amber is one of these special animals.

Amber

 

Allegra’s World

I know you’re all waiting for an update from my big sister Amber on how things are going with the two of us, but Amber is feeling a little under the weather, so my new mom said I could write on this computer.  Weeee – I’m a blogging kitten!  Fun!

My new mom said she introduced me to you in her blog New Family Member.  I’ve been here exactly one month now!  Kittens can’t really tell time, but my new mom said it’s been a month, and since she’s my  mom, I believe her.  I’m just a kitten, I don’t know things like time. 

I really like it here.  At first, I wasn’t sure about anything.  My new mom seemed nice enough, but I really didn’t know her, although her energy felt very special – I did notice that from the first moment I met her.  My new big sister Amber didn’t seem too thrilled to have me come live there.  If I so much as I got within a few feet of her, she’d hiss and growl at me.  All I want to do is play – I don’t mean to harass her!  Okay, well, maybe a little….  I heard my new mom say to someone that she’d forgotten about kitten energy.  I guess that means she didn’t remember how playful, energetic, and, okay, crazy, us kittens can get.  Sometimes I just feel so much joy, I have to race through the entire house, tear around corners, jump up and down furniture, and just generally go nuts – it’s the only way I can think of to express this much joy!  I think Amber at least tolerates me now.  We do hang out in the same room together and take our naps together, but on different pieces of furniture.

There are so many things I like about my new home.  One of the best things is that there are lots of windows!  Before I came here, I lived in a cage at an animal hospital.  They were all really nice to me there, but the only way I could look out a window is if I leaned very far toward the front corner of my cage, and even then, I could only catch a glimpse of daylight, but not really see what was going on outside.  Here, I can look out of any given window and see trees.  Trees are fun, especially when the leaves are moving in the wind!  I want to chase them!  I know I could catch them!  I’m fast!  And there’s also birds, and squirrels.  Boy, I’d love to catch me a squirrel – how much fun would that be!

But there are lots of fun things for a kitten like me inside, too.  I have never seen so many toys!  They’re everywhere!  And my new mom is really fun to play with.   She tosses mousies for me to chase, and laughs when I fly across the room after them.  Weeee!  I love making my new mom laugh!  And there are so many other things to play with, but my new mom says they aren’t toys, and sometimes she takes them away from me.  Like the time I pried off the wooden screw on the stairwell.  I worked really hard at it to get it loose, and it made such a cool noise when I batted it around!  But my new mom said I couldn’t keep it to play with and took it away.  Not to worry.  I found another one and pried that loose, too.  Same thing – she took it away.  Oh well.  It’s not like I don’t have plenty of other things to play with.

My new mom is really great.  Even though there are times when she tells me I can’t do something (like when I pounce on my big sister, or go after what my new mom calls people food, or when I bite her hands when she plays with me), mostly, I can tell that she really loves me.  I love being part of a family.  I just wish my big sister would like me more.  I try so hard to make her like me.  I do all kinds of cute kitten things:  I pounce on her if she’s walking by me.  I creep up behind her so she can’t see me coming and then I jump out and startle her.  I particularly like to run after her when she’s going to the litter box and I don’t understand why my new mom gets so upset with me when I do that.  I just want to play and I want Amber to like me.

Earlier this week, though, we had a really special moment, and it felt really nice.  Amber was sitting by the screen door enjoying the spring breeze wafting in and feeling the sun on her fur.  I could sense that she wasn’t feeling well, so I exercised great restraint and just approached her very very slowly.  (I also didn’t want to get hissed at yet again!).  She gave me that look she usually gives me when I annoy her, and I froze.  But there was no hissing this time, so I got brave.  I slowly continued to inch closer, until I was right next to her, and for a while, we both looked out the window together.  It was really nice.  I just wish she’d understand that it’s really hard for me to be that quiet, and that I’d much rather she loosen up a bit and play with me!

Anyway – that’s my world.  My new mom, my big sister Amber, and my new home.  I am one happy kitten.

Adventures in Veterinary Medicine – Virginia

As those of you who read Buckley’s Story know, Buckley was my office cat at the animal hospital I managed for eight years before she came to live with Amber and I.   She wasn’t the first one, though.  Not the first tortie, and not the first office cat.  Before Buckley, and even before Amber, there was Virginia.

I first met Virginia when I went for my first interview for the hospital manager position at the Middleburg Animal Hospital.   The hospital was then owned by Drs. Jack Love and Janet McKim, a husband and wife team.  I had spoken to Janet on the phone briefly before my interview, but really didn’t know what to expect.  This was in the days before every animal hospital had a website.  I knew what I was looking for in a potential employer as far as practice philosophy, and in addition, I was looking for a clinic that had that intangible right “feel.”

As soon as I walked into the waiting room of the hospital, I knew I had found the right place.   There was an old-fashioned wooden bench, a rocking chair, and the walls were covered with photos of dogs and cats.  A large free-standing cage held several kittens.  When Janet came up to greet me, I was even more sure.  I instantly liked her.  She took me back to her office and began the interview.

After a few minutes, a beautiful tortoiseshell cat walked into the office.  “That’s Virginia,” explained Janet.  “She’s one of our two hospital cats.”  Virginia proceded to walk over to me, looked up at me, and then dug her claws into my legs and used them as a scratching post.  I wondered whether that was part of the interview – a test, perhaps, to see how I would react?  In hindsight, I realized that, of course, this was the moment she marked me as her own.  I had dressed up for the interview and was wearing a skirt and pantihose – I can honestly say it was the first and only time in my life I left an interview with runs in my pantihouse caused by kitty claws!  The interview went well, and I left feeling hopeful that I would be offered the job.

A couple of weeks later, Janet called to invite me to go out to dinner with her and Jack.  We sealed the deal over dinner, and I spent the next eight wonderful years working at the Middleburg Animal Hospital.  And the fact that Virginia was part of the deal only increased my happiness.

She was estimated to be about ten years old.  She was FIV positive.  FIV is the feline version of the aids virus.  It is contagious, but is primarily spread through bite wounds.  Casual, non-aggressive contact does not spread the virus, and it is not zoonotic, which means it cannot be spread from cat to humans.  However, Virginia’s owners were not comfortable keeping an FIV positive cat and had left her at the animal hospital for euthanasia.  Somehow, the hospital staff never got around to it, and by the time someone remembered, she had wormed her way into too many hearts for them to go through with it.

Virginia was the poster child for “tortitude” – that unique personality of tortoiseshell cats.  She had definitely read the manual.  She was feisty, independent, and set in her ways.  The only other animal she liked was Marmy, our other hospital cat, a sweet, wise old medium-haired orange cat.  You could often find Marmy in his cat bed, with Virginia curled around him, squeezed into the small bed with him.

She liked most of the staff members, but this was not always mutual.  She thought nothing of using her claws if she felt like someone wasn’t doing her bidding (ie, petting her properly, feeding her on her schedule, or committing any number of transgressions only she knew about).  None of these were exactly the kinds of  qualities you’d look for in a hospital cat!  At one point, early on during my time as manager, there was talk of sending her to a nearby sanctuary for FIV positive cats.  I was nervous about doing so, but I set an ultimatum:  if Virginia went, so would I.  Thankfully, by then Janet and Jack had come to rely on me, and took my “threat” seriously.  Virginia got to stay.

She loved me fiercely.  She would be at the door to greet me each morning.  When I took a few days off, the staff would tell me that she’d been looking for me, and when I returned to work, the look on her face made it clear that she did not appreicate being abandoned like that.  She had her routine, and it didn’t vary much from day to day.  In the morning, she’d sleep in a cat bed I had placed in front of a sunny window on my desk, next to my computer.  She’d spend most mornings napping, but she also made sure that I paid attention to her, often clawing at my “mouse hand” to get my attention.  As lunch time got closer, she would park herself on the bench in the exam room adjacent to my office, where most of the staff gathered for lunch each day.  She loved to mooch off of peoples’ lunches, with morsels of meat or cold cuts and yogurt, especially peach flavored, being favorites.

For four years, she made my office my home away from home.  She showed no symptoms of her disease.   Then, in the spring of 2002, she started to decline rapidly.  She seemed to lose energy, and her always healthy appetite started to wane.  She couldn’t make it to the litterbox in time and had frequent accidents outside the box.  She wouldn’t come to greet me at the door in the mornings.  An ultrasound showed that her heart and liver were in bad shape.

On a sunny April morning, we decided that it was time.  I spent her last morning in the office with her in her bed by my side.  When I wasn’t crying, I was calling staff members who were not on duty that day to let them know, in case they wanted to be present for her final moments.   I held her on my lap in the office, surrounded by all the people who had been a part of her world, as she took her last breath.  I don’t think there are many cats who got the kind of send off she did.

I still miss her.  The photo above was on my desk at the animal hospital until I left; now, it’s on a shelf in my office here at home.  She was my introduction to and beginning of my love affair with torties.  She still has a piece of my heart.

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