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.

An Interview with Gwen Cooper, Author of the New York Times Bestseller Homer’s Odyssey

Gwen

Gwen Cooper is the author of Homer’s Odyssey – A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wondercat, and the novel Diary of a South Beach Party Girl.  A Miami native, Gwen spent five years working in non-profit administration, marketing, and fundraising.  She coordinated and led direct-service volunteer activities on behalf of organizations including Pet Rescue, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, the Miami Rescue Mission, His House, Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, the Daily Bread Food Bank, and Family Resource Center (an organization providing emergency shelter for abused and neglected children).  She also initiated Reading Pen Pals, an elementary school-based literacy program in Miami’s Little Haiti.

Gwen currently lives in Manhattan with her husband, Laurence.  She also lives with her three perfect cats—Scarlett, Vashti, and Homer—who aren’t impressed with any of it.

I’m delighted to welcome Gwen Cooper to The Conscious Cat today.

Gwen, Homer’s Odyssey made the New York Times Bestseller list less than two weeks after its publication.   It’s a wonderful book and I’m not surprised at its immediate success.  What does it feel like to see your book become so successful in such a short amount of time?

It’s hard for me to say, because it still hasn’t really sunk in yet!   So mostly what I’ve felt is shock, interspersed with moments of pure elation.
 
When did you first know you would write a book about Homer?

November of 2007.  I’d had the idea a couple of months earlier, but that November was when I finally felt like I knew, in general terms at least, what the story would be and how it would be written.

I was captivated by your story and by Homer almost from the very first page, but I was particularly moved by your account of the events of 9/11 and the days following.  You lived through every pet owner’s nightmare.  As a result of this experience, do you have any advice for pet owners to prepare for emergency situations?

That’s a tough question to answer, insofar as there are some things in life you can’t fully prepare for.  But what I learned from the experience was that I should always have at least a week’s worth of supplies—food, litter, a few gallons of water—in my apartment at all times.  My cats ended up trapped in my apartment near Ground Zero for days before I could get back to them, and because I didn’t have any extra supplies handy, I had to walk for miles—and then climb thirty-one flights of stairs—with two gallons of water, seven pounds of litter, and five pounds of cat food.  The process of getting back to them might not have been faster if I hadn’t had to carry all of that, but it certainly would have been easier.

What was the writing process like for you? 

The process of outlining this book was long and agonizing and had me tearing my hair out at times.  How to summarize twelve years of a life in 80,000 words or less?  But once I had my outline done, the writing itself was pure joy.

What does a typical day of writing look like for you?

I’m usually up between 5:30 and 6:00am, and writing by no later than 7:00am.  Then I write for as long as I can until I run out of steam.  Usually I try to put in at least an eight-hour writing day, but of course some days go much longer and others are much shorter.

What do you love most about being a writer?

Writing!

What do you like least about being a writer?

Writing!  I’m sure a lot of writers out there will know exactly what I mean when I say it’s frequently a love/hate relationship.

Who or what inspires you?

There’s no one specific thing, except that I’ve always been in love with language itself.  As soon as I get an idea for a really great phrase or sentence, I’m off and running.

I’m also always inspired by the idea of telling a great story.  With Homer, the initial “a-ha” moment came when I realized that a book about this blind cat, and the impact he’s had on the lives around him, would be filled with action, adventure, romance, heroes, villains, journeys, quests, triumph in the face of adversity, and all the great narrative “bones” that underlie a story truly worth telling.  Once I realized that, I couldn’t wait to get the story on paper and out into the world.

What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?

Actually, the first reading I ever did for a book I’d written was the reading I did in Miami Beach to launch Diary of a South Beach Party Girl.  I’d moved from South Beach to New York about six or seven years earlier, and very few of the friends I’d had before the move still lived in Miami—so I knew my parents and some of their friends would come, but I didn’t expect much of a crowd.  But around 150 people showed up!  I was absolutely floored, and it was just a really great way to kick off that book.

What are you reading at the moment?

The City & The City by China Mieville.  It’s phenomenal.

Are you working on another book?

I’m working on a proposal for another book, although my agent has basically threatened me with death if I talk about it before it’s written.  (I kid!  But, seriously, she’s anxious to keep it under wraps for now.)

And lastly, what does Homer think about his newfound fame?

Homer is taking it pretty much in stride, although we’ve been getting a ton of gift baskets and toys and gourmet cat treats lately.  I’ve probably always spoiled my cats, but now they’re really spoiled, and I sometimes wonder if Homer wonders why he’s suddenly so indulged these days.

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Gwen, and much continued success with Homer’s Odyssey!

Thank you—and thanks for having me on your blog!

You can learn more about Gwen and her book on her website , and you can find her on Facebook.

Amber’s Mewsings: Mom Goes to a Cat Show

new toy

It’s about time Mom lets me write here again!  I have much to say, and all of it is important!  Maybe I should have my own blog – my friend Eva just got a blog of her own, you should check it out at Conversations with Eva.  Cool name for her site, huh?  Somebody sure gets that for us cats, it’s always about us.  Make sure you read The Beginning, the story of how Eva found her forever home.

Meanwhile, things are great here.  Mom was gone most of the weekend, she was at something called a cat show.  From what I understand, some people take their cats to these big places and they have to be really patient and well-behaved and they get shown and judged in something called a ring, and they win prizes.  Interesting concept.  Not something that appeals to me – I already know I’m Number One.  But Mom was really happy when she came home from that cat show place each evening, apparently lots of people are really excited about Buckley’s Story coming out soon, and when Mom is happy, I’m happy.  She also brought me a new catnip toy each day from a place called Mouse Factory.  Strange name, if you ask me, because none of the toys she brought home looked even remotely like a mouse, but wooeee, they are filled with heavy duty catnip!  I could smell that she had catnip with her the minute she walked in the door.  I immediately went to her bag and sat and stared at it until she took the toy out and gave it to me, then I proceeded to thoroughly lick it and cover it in drool.  Then I had to take a nap to sleep off my catnip high.  This was primo stuff, people.

Mom has been busy writing and getting everything ready for her book launch, and I like that she’s been home a lot.  Even though I may sleep in another room while she’s working, I still like knowing that she’s home with me.  This is so much better than when she was gone more than ten hours each day.

That’s it for today.  Remember – it IS all about you!

Book Review: “Homer’s Odyssey” by Gwen Cooper

HomersOdysseyCover

Some books about animals warm your heart.  Others touch your soul. Homer’s Odyssey, subtitled A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wondercat falls into the second category.  This moving, inspirational and often funny story about a blind cat with a huge spirit and an endless capacity for love, joy and a determination to persevere no matter what the obstacles is a wonderful celebration of the bond between a cat and his human and the transformational power of loving an animal.

Homer’s story begins when the stray kitten is brought to Miami veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly (who wrote the foreword to the book), host of the popular veterinary blog Dolittler, at only three weeks of age.  Homer loses both eyes to a severe eye infection, and while nobody would have faulted Dr. Khuly for euthanizing this kitten, she saw something in him that made her determined to save him.  When Gwen gets a call from Dr. Khuly asking whether she would come take a look at this kitten, the last thing the author wants is another cat.  She already has two, and she’s worried about crossing the line into crazy cat lady territory by adopting another one.  But she agrees to take a look – and falls in love.

Homer, the blind kitten who doesn’t know he’s blind, has a giant heart and an indomitable spirit.  He quickly adapts to new situations and environments, and turns into a feline daredevil who scales tall bookcases in a single bound and catches flies by jumping five feet into the air.  Eventually, Gwen and the three cats move from Miami to New York City (and the story of their move is an adventure that will have you on the edge of your seat with worry and concern for this family of four).   Adjusting to city living in a cold climate takes some time, but once again, Homer’s adaptable spirit triumphs.  He even survives being trapped with his two feline companion for days after 9/11 in an apartment near the World Trade Center.

But it wasn’t Homer’s physical feats and his ability to adapt to physical limitations that ultimately transformed the author’s life.  Homer’s unending capacity for love and joy, no matter what life’s challenges may be, were a daily inspiration for Gwen, and ultimately taught her the most important lesson of all:  Love isn’t something you see with your eyes.

It’s rare that a pet memoir is the kind of book you can’t put down – but this one is.  Thankfully, I knew at the outset that Home is alive and well, so unlike what happens with so many books in this genre, I didn’t expect to cry while reading this book.  Little did I know how the gut-wrenching account of the author’s experience in the days following 9/11 would affect me.  Gwen Cooper lived through every cat owners’ nightmare – fearing for the safety and survival of her cats, and being unable to get to them for several days.  The moving narrative and emotional impact of this chapter will leave few cat lovers unaffected.

Homer’s Odyssey is a must-read, to quote from the book’s cover, “for anybody who’s ever fallen completely and hopelessly in love with a pet.”

Coming soon on The Conscious Cat:  an interview with author Gwen Cooper.

A Day in the Life of a Cat Sitter

Today’s Guest post is by Renee Austin.  Renee 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.

Renee Austin

It’s 5:30 a.m. and I’m just now turning the car onto the road, heading north for a few miles through the pre-dawn mist, slowing from time to time for the deer that linger along the roadside, and then turning east to join scores of other cars for the trek into town and beyond. It occurs to me that there might be only a handful of other drivers who are as pleased as I am to be on their way to work. In fact, there are times when I wonder if maybe I ought to be paying for the privilege. My clients are generous and kind in their immeasurable appreciation for the services I provide-and they spoil me. You see, I step in for those who want to vacation, or need to travel for work, or have to leave town for a family emergency. I watch over what they value most while they are away, easing somewhat, the strain of leaving cherished ones behind. I am the cat sitter, and I care for the ‘fur-kids’ and ‘fur-babies’ of a very, very wonderful group of people.

My first stop is the final for this particular client. The custom; sit on the step just inside the doorway and greet everyone as they swarm around me, chirping and rubbing (it’s one big group fur-hug), then off to the kitchen to prepare and serve a noisy breakfast, adding in the medications I picked up at the veterinarian’s yesterday. I keep one eye on the diners while reviewing the ‘exit’ checklist and finishing the housekeeping, make a quick dash to feed, water and count the little noses of the feral cats waiting in the yard behind the house, and then head back through to ensure that everything is in order. The visits to this particular home have involved overturned lamps and pillows, a partially devoured loaf of bread dragged into the living room, bottles of kitty medications scattered on the floor, shredded paper towels-all due to the antics of a very active ’hive’ of happy cats. Hopefully everything will still be tidy by the time ‘mom’ gets home. Before leaving, I wave goodbye to the little girl hiding under the desk, and then give each of the others, eight in all, snuggles and squeezes and a final, thorough once-over. The ages here range from several months to 18 years and include tripods, a whole array of colors and personalities and needs, and a blanket of unbelievable feline energy. They’re gathered at the large picture window, watching as I walk away down the driveway.

I’m back in the car with cat fur still swirling around me and a grin running from ear to ear. It’s time for the very long drive out to my next client, and after such an excellent start to the day, I’m ready.

It’s the same greeting here-smiles and purrs. Samson leans against me and gazes into my eyes while I’m preparing his insulin and medication, and I just have to stop and embrace him. I take a deep breath, hold it and him, and then let everything out on a sigh. In that one deliberate action my body and mind are completely relaxed. This is the reason why I drive fifteen miles outside of my usual range to come here. His younger sister has recovered from last night, when I sat with her in the basement as she hid from the fierce thunderstorms. She’s waiting at our play spot, opting out of the morning meal for some one-on-one time. We play a bit more after she supervises the clean-up and then the three of us hug and cuddle. I won’t be seeing them again for a few months so I linger. As I head for the door I look back and see, with some regret, that Sabrina is back at her spot…hoping.

Every stop follows a similar routine; a balance between efficiency and details, and entertainment and affection. There are notes, medications, premise checks, housekeeping lists, disinfecting, that all require focus and constant evaluation. And as each household has its particular flow and idiosyncrasies, so do my little whiskered ‘clients’.  Between clients I’m weaving through traffic, diverting around back-ups, always reviewing details of the last visit to ensure I haven’t missed a step, and mentally rehearsing what will happen on the next.

I work mostly with cats that have special needs and chronic medical conditions, so in addition to having the ability to read their individual needs and preferences, I must also be able to tune in to their demeanor and posture, watch for subtle changes in behavior, detect that slight shift in the eyes that says things are not quite right. Cats can be a challenge in this respect. The natural tendency of a feline in the wild to mask any sign of illness carries over completely into the domestic realm.

On top of this, it’s up to me to remember favorite toys, activities, and comfort levels, and to recognize when someone wants rubs and reassurance instead of playtime on a particular visit. It’s important for me to provide individualized attention to each and every cat. While I can’t replace the family who has ‘mysteriously disappeared’, I am at least able to offer a different kind of routine that brings some level of comfort and security until everything is back to normal.

By 10:30am, I’ve finished at the nearest library after sending out progress reports and answering e-mails (I probably know every free WiFi location along any given route that I have to take). Then, I’m off to the mid-day visits and answering calls from clients checking in for updates on their kitties. Today will include a pair of cats – one that decides after eating that he just wants cuddles, and the other who is very shy and has finally come out of hiding to join us, then one special little guy who, on my arrival, leads me straight to his play station for tissue paper ‘facials’ and body rubs, and finally, the sweet older girl with kidney disease for whom I have to administer fluids under the skin.

I swing back around and have a few extra moments to check in with one of my handful of doggie clients. This little fellow has been back and forth to the veterinarian and can use a pick-me-up. His human has been extremely worried, and we’ve worked on a list of questions for him to ask next time he’s at the animal hospital. I’m then off to feed a handsome orange tabby and spend time with him on the veranda, and finally, I stop to give an insulin injection to one of my most challenging and unpredictable kitties. She’s a princess cat, and I never know whether she’ll be pleased to see me, or if she’ll try to run me out of the house before I can pull the syringe out of the bag. Tonight I get off with a nip on the ankle – a clear sign that the food service is way too slow.

Back home I do my own chores, feed and medicate each of the special needs creatures that live with me, and then, even though I’m a night person, collapse into bed before midnight. I’m road weary, but not cat weary. Within moments, my own special group is snuggled up against me, purring and sighing with pleasure – all of us, together for the next several hours.

Not too bad, for a full day’s work.

For more information about Renee and Whimsy Cats, please wisit her website at http://www.whimsycats.com.

Amber’s Mewsings: Labor Day

Mom is taking a break from posting today, but she and I want to take a moment to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday.  This idea of a Labor Day holiday is a very strange concept to me.  What is this labor?  Cats don’t labor – cats just relax and enjoy life.  But I do know that resting and relaxing is very important for feline and human health, so this is how I’m going to be spending my labor day:
First, I'll lounge in the sun....

First, I’ll lounge in the sun….

 

....then, I"ll relax some more....

….then, I”ll relax some more….

 

Did you say dinner was ready?

Did you say dinner was ready?

 

Now I really need a nap!

Now I really need a nap!

An Interview with Clea Simon

Clea_w_cat1It is my pleasure today to introduce you to Clea Simon.  Clea is the author of three nonfiction books and two mystery series. The nonfiction books are Mad House: Growing Up in the Shadow of Mentally Ill Siblings (published as a Doubleday hardcover in 1997, released as a Penguin paperback in 1998), Fatherless Women: How We Change After We Lose Our Dads (Wiley, 2001) and The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats (St. Martin’s Press, 2002).  Her Theda Krakow mystery series was launched in 2005 with Mew is for Murder and continues with Cattery Row and Cries and Whiskers, all now available in paperback, and Probable Claws.  She just launched her new Dulcie Schwartz series launches this month with Shades of Grey, and it will continue in March 2010 with Grey Matters.

Clea’s essays are included in the following anthologies: Cat Women: Female Writers on Their Feline Friends (Seal Press) and For Keeps: Women Tell the Truth About Their Bodies, Growing Older, and Acceptance (Seal Press).  Her short mysteries are found in Deadfall: Crime Stories by New England Authors (Level Best) and the upcoming Cambridge Voices.  She has also written new introductions for two Agatha Christie classics, The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Secret Adversary, published by the Barnes and Noble Library of Essential Reading in March 2009

Clea is also a respected journalist whose credits include The New York Times and The Boston Phoenix, and such magazines as American Prospect, Ms., and Salon.com.  She used to do a fair amount of music criticism, but now primarily focuses on relationships, feminism, and psychological issues.

Clea grew up in East Meadow, on suburban Long Island, N.Y., and came to Cambridge, Mass., to attend Harvard, from which she graduated in 1983.  She’s never left, and now happily cohabits with her husband, Jon S. Garelick, who is also a writer, and their cat Musetta.

As a longtime fan of Clea’s writing, I’m thrilled to welcome her to The Conscious Cat today.

Thank you, Conscious Cat.  It’s a pleasure to be here.

Clea, you’re about to launch Shades of Grey, the first in your new Dulcie Schwartz series.  Can you tell us a little about the book and the series?

shades_of_grey_145Have you ever lost a pet – and then felt like your cat isn’t really gone?  That’s how Shades of Grey opens.  Dulcie Schwartz is having a miserable summer.  Her graduate studies are going nowhere, her nice roommate has been replaced (temporarily) by a boorish subletter, and, worst of all, she’s had to put her beloved cat, Mr. Grey, to sleep.  So when she comes home from her crappy summer job to see a cat who looks just like Mr. Grey sitting on her front stoop, she’s sort of shocked.  But then when that cat says to her, “I wouldn’t go inside, if I were you,” she doesn’t know what to make of it.  Being Dulcie, she doesn’t really pay attention and goes inside – to find her roommate dead, with her knife in his back, and a whole mess of problems waiting.  Perhaps it would be a good time to point out here that Dulcie is studying the Gothic adventure stories of the late 18th Century.  She just never expected her own life to become a ghost story…

What made you decide to start a new series, rather than continuing the successful Theda Krakow series?

I actually wrote Shades of Grey while Cries and Whiskers, the third Theda book, was in production. I needed to take a break, I wanted to try something different and … voila!  Then my editor at Poisoned Pen Press asked about Theda and I was happy to return to her and write Probable Claws.  But soon after that, Shades of Grey sold on the condition that I write a sequel.  I’ve just finished Grey Matters, which will be out in December in the UK, by March in the US.

You are a prolific writer – did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? 

Always.  I’ve always liked telling stories and I wrote those stories down from the first days I could write.  It was just a question of figuring out if I could do this for a living.

You’ve written both fiction and nonfiction.  Do you prefer one over the other, and if so, why?

These days I much prefer fiction.  I find it more fun.  But it requires a different kind of effort.  Nonfiction, and for me that also includes journalism, is about presenting a truth, or truths.  Facts and research.  I believe in over-researching, that is, doing enough interviews and research so you start to hear the same stories again and again.  I always want multiple confirmations of anything I’m writing about.  I want to make sure I have the story right. I’m also very conscious of what a very smart editor once told me: we strive for objectivity, but it doesn’t exist.  We all have a bias, a viewpoint, a prejudice.  So when I write nonfiction I also want to make sure that I present the options and, when possible, that I’m aware of my own bias or viewpoint. When I can, I try to state who I am as the writer in a piece.  Let the reader know, so she or he can make up her or his own mind  about how to read what I’ve written.

For fiction, I’ll do some research but it’s different kind of work.  It is more important in fiction to make a believable world than an utterly true one.  I am reminded of something Barry Unsworth said about writing historical fiction.  (He’s a wonderful writer – check out his Sacred Hunger.)  Someone asked him about his medieval mystery, Morality Play, specifically about the hand gestures early actors used.  How did he find out that particular tidbit, he was asked.  He didn’t, he replied.  He made it up.  It seemed like something actors of that period ought to do, so he had them do it.  And it works, because it makes perfect sense in context.

Another thought on the fiction/nonfiction divide:  My husband (Jon Garelick, who now writes about jazz and works as an editor at the Boston Phoenix) used to write and teach fiction.  When I first started writing fiction, I said, full of glee, “Hey, this is great! I can make shit up!”  And he replied, “Yes, but you have to make shit up.”  Which about sums it up.  You don’t have to dig up facts and figures, but you do have to keep mining your imagination in order to get words on the page.

What does a typical day of writing look like for you?

I make myself write every weekday, Monday through Friday.  Basically, I give myself a word count for the day, most days.  I like to write at least 1,000 word or 1,500 words a day.  That can take from an hour to all day.  I wrote Grey Matters on deadline, making myself write 2,000 words a day and my readers think it’s the best thing I have ever written, but that was hard. I’m happier at 1,500 words a day.

What do you love most about being a writer?

The writing.  I love my characters and my books.  I just love spending time with them.

What do you like least about being a writer?

The waiting.  I was tempted to say “the writing,” because when it’s not working, it’s a bear.  I’ll grind out 1,000 words of description or dialogue and know I’m going to cut it later.  But really, the worst part is waiting to hear from your agent, from editors, from publishers, from critics.  If I could just write and then not care, I’d be much, much happier.

The cat in Shades of Grey is a “ghost cat” – how did you come up with the idea for Mr. Grey?

The idea came from two sources: my own experiences after I had to put my much loved cat Cyrus to sleep.  I felt like he was still around.  I mean, I know rationally that it was just that I was used to him, but it really felt quite strongly that he was still a presence in my life.  To the point where I actually believed I saw him, sitting on a stoop a few blocks from my house.  I told myself, well, there must be another cat who looks like Cyrus.  But I kept going back and I never saw that cat again.  And, yes, Cyrus is the model for Mr. Grey: a longhair grey with a face more Siamese than Persian, a quiet and dignified manner, and huge white whiskers.

The other spur came from my fellow authors.  We were at the Mystery Lovers’ Book Shop annual shindig in Oakmont, PA, the Festival of Mystery (an incredible daylong bookfest, if you ever get the chance), and we were all talking about what to do next.  And one — I think it was Karen E. Olson (author of The Missing Ink) — said, “You should write about a ghost cat.” And that stuck.

Who or what inspires you?

Everything. Random bits of overheard dialogue, things seen out of the corner of my eye.  Suggestions made lightly but remembered…

What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?

That’s a hard one, because so many are so cool.  What I particularly like is meeting aspiring writers – and then finding out later, at other events, that they have gotten published too. I’m a huge fan of libraries and independent bookstores. Places like Brookline Booksmith and Harvard Book Store here, M is for Mystery in San Mateo, New York’s Partners and Crime, Baltimore’s Mystery Loves Company… those events are always good.  I’m also a member of an international group called the Cat Writers’ Association (http://www.catwriters.org) and we have our annual conference alongside a big cat show every year, so we always end up signing right by hundreds of show cats.  That’s a blast, and between signings, we can go see the kitties.  That’s always fun.

What are you reading at the moment?

Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.  Mantel is a British novelist, possibly my favorite writer.  This book, a retelling of the life of Thomas Cromwell, comes out in the US in October but my husband got me a signed copy of the British release as a birthday present. I’m trying to make it last. I sort of read too fast for my own pleasure sometimes. (I’ve been cutting it with other books, most recently Sara Stockbridge’s Grace Hammer, a fun Victorian.)

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Clea, and much success with Shades of Grey!

You can learn more about Clea and her book on her website and on her blog.

Weight Management for Senior Cats

Cat on Scale

Keeping kitty at her optimum weight is important at any age, but especially in older cats.  Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, osteoarthritis, respiratory distress, lower urinary tract disease and early mortality.   As our cats age and activity levels decrease, weight gain often becomes a problem.

Amber has been on a diet for the past several years – I’ve previously written about this here.  I’m happy to report that our efforts are working, and she has been losing some weight.

There are several factors that contribute to weight gain in our cats:

  • Free choice feeding.  This has been the single biggest factor in causing obesity in cats.  Free choice feeding means that food is left out for the cat at all times, which goes completely against the cat’s natural habit of being a hunter who may only eat one, maybe two meals a day.
  • Carbohydrates.  Unlike other mammals, cats have no carbohydrate-digesting enzyme called Amylase in their saliva.  Nature did not intend our cats to consume carbs.  They metabolize carbs into stored fat.  Unfortunately, most commercially available dry cat food is very high in carbohydrates, contributing to this problem.
  • Lack of exercise.  As we all know, our cats spend most of their day sleeping.
  • Treats.  For most of us, giving treats is one way we show our cats that we love them.  I’m definitely guilty of this – especially since Amber is the master manipulator when it comes to getting her treats!

How can we counteract these factors and help our cats maintain a healthy weight?

  • Stop leaving food out for your cat at all times.  Feeding two small meals a day, and feeding “normal” portions can go a long way toward helping your kitty loose and maintain her weight.   A normal size portion for a cat is about equal to the size of a mouse.  Don’t follow manufacturer directions when it comes to portion size – they’re all much higher than what your cat really needs.  When in doubt, consult with your cat’s vetnerinarian.
  • Feed a meat based diet.  This is consistent with the needs of a carnivore.  There are many quality commercial raw and canned diets available that are high in protein (meat) and free of grains (carbs).  Two brands I like (and they are also Amber-approved!) are the Wellness Core and the Innova EVO lines.
  • Play with your cat.  This is a great way for the two of you to spend quality time together and to get your cat some exercise.  For the times you when you can’t play with your cat, get him some interactive toys.  Check out the toy department of the Conscious Cat Store for some suggestions.
  • Limit or, ideally, eliminate treats.  If you absolutely must feed treats, look for grain-free treats that are high in protein and give only a few.  Amber has, reluctantly, learned that one Greenie treat (not grain-free, but only two calories a treat) is all she’ll get at any one time.  She still longs for the days when getting treats meant having a handful shaken into her bowl….

How do you help your kitty maintain or loose weight?

Is There a Connection Between Cat Color and Temperament?

multiple cats

My recent article on “Tortitude – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats” led me to wonder whether there’s a link between other cats’ coloring and their temperaments.  After all, both color and temperament can be inherited and genetically controlled, so it doesn’t seem to be too much of a leap to think that a cat’s coloring may be an indication of his or her personality.  It seems that there are, indeed, some commonalities between cat color and personality.  This is what I found:

Tabby Cats

Tabbies have a reputation for being laid back, calm and more sociable.  They’re also said to be very affectionate, and relaxed to the point of being lazy.

Black Cats

Black cats can be stubborn and friendly at the same time.   They are said to be good hunters, but they can have a tendency to roam.  They’re good natured and sociable.

Ginger, Orange and Red Cats

Orange cats are usually males (only one out of five orange cats is female).  Cats with this coloring can be laid back and affectionate, but can also have a bit of a temper.  Females tend to be more laid back than males.

Black and White Cats

Black and white cats (some are known as tuxedo cats when their coat pattern resembles a tuxedo jacket) are said to be even tempered and placid, but they can also be wanderers.  They can be very loyal to their family, often to one person in particular, and can be real lap cats.

Blue, Cream, Gray and Lilac Cats

Cats that have lighter coat colors all carry the same gene, called the dilution gene.  I found conflicting information on this particular coloring – some say cats with this coloring can be mischievous and a bit frantic, while others say they are laid back and mellow.

I believe that each cat has a unique and special personality, and color is only one aspect of what may play into making kitty who she is.  Other factors, such as breed and environment also come into play.  And of course, our cats are also spiritual beings, and perhaps spirit plays the biggest part in determining personality.

Does your cat’s personality fit into one of these classifications based on coat color?

Book Review: The Theda Krakow Series by Clea Simon

I previously reviewed Probable Claws by Clea Simon, which is the fourth in a series.  All books feature Boston freelance writer Theda Krakow and her cat Musetta.  Since it’s always more fun to read a series from the beginning, I thought I’d provide reviews for the first three books for you.

mewisformurder

Mew is for Murder is the first in the series.  In addition to a great mystery, which begins when Theda shows up at a local “cat lady’s” home to interview her and finds her dead, and which features suspects ranging from the coffee-bar waitress who helped the murder victim take care of the cats to the victim’s schizophrenic son, Simon also shares her love of Cambridge, the setting of the story, as well as her forays into the Boston music scene. Filled with well-developed and likeable characters, this book is a thoroughly enjoyable read that leaves the reader wanting more. Thankfully, there are three more books in this series.

catteryrow

Cattery Row is the second book in the series.  In this book, we get to enter the world of show cats and the Boston area rock and roll scene. When show cats are being stolen, and Theda’s friend Rose, a breeder of pedigreed cats receives threats and is eventually implicated in the thefts and then found murdered, Theda begins to investigate because she refuses to believe that her friend had anything to do with the cat thefts. While she delves into solving the cat thefts and her friend’s murder, a musician friend of Theda’s is being blackmailed and becomes increasingly withdrawn. Are the two situations connected?

This is a well-crafted mystery with an immensely likeable heroine and the combination of cats and rock and roll make this a thoroughly enjoyable read. I particularly enjoyed this second glimpse into Theda’s world because of Simon’s excellent character development. Theda continues to grow as we get to know her better. And let’s not forget Musetta, Theda’s feline sidekick, who always has a paw in solving the mystery.

crieswhiskers

Cries and Whiskers is the third in the series, and it’s the most intense one yet. While Theda is investigating a new designer drug that is threatening musicians, fans and her friends in the growing Boston area music scene, an animal activist is killed by a hit-and-run driver while rescuing feral cats. As Theda and her friend Violet try to rescue the semi-wild cats from being outside in a freezing New England winter, it becomes apparent that the activist’s death was more than just an accident. As Theda begins to investigate, her boyfriend, a homicide detective, is recuperating from a broken leg and not at all thrilled with Theda’s involvement in these investigations. On top of that, she begins to suspect one of her friends, and finds her loyalties tested on all fronts. When her beloved cat Musetta goes missing, Theda risks everything to get her back and to solve the case.

Once again, Simon manages to combine a great mystery with wonderful, multi-dimensional characters. By now, we feel like we know Theda, and yet, we’re always surprised by the twists and turns of both the plot and Theda’s life.

For more information about Clea Simon and her books, visit her website at http://www.cleasimon.com

And coming soon on The Conscious Cat – an interview with author Clea Simon, who is getting ready to launch her first book in a brand new series, Shades of Grey.

From Fear to Hope and Love

fear to hope and love

We live in challenging times.  The economy, while showing signs of recovery, is still causing many people to live in a state of fear, which is exacerbated by the media’s message of lack, scarcity, gloom and doom.  Apparently, good news and positive topics don’t sell and don’t generate ratings.  Stories of disasters, financial and otherwise, abound.  While there is much that’s happening in the world today that gives us reason to fear the future, we need to be mindful to not let fear take over our lives.

According to the Law of Attraction, what we focus our thoughts and energy on is what we attract into our lives.  If we constantly worry about the future, we are keeping ourselves in those low vibrations, and as a result, we attract the very things we fear into our experience.  Not only that, we’re also going to be pretty unhappy in the process.  So why not allow hope to transform all that negative energy into something lighter and more positive, and ultimately, into love, which is the highest vibration of all?

More and more people are realizing that what the media presents as reality is far from the truth.  What is truth?  Truth is the same energy as love.  Love is a vibration that is aligned with universal consciousness, the Divine, Spirit, Source, God – whatever you choose to call it.   An easy way to gauge for yourself whether something is true or not is to check in with yourself about how you feel.  If you feel fear and worry, it’s not truth.  Truth and love cannot coexist with fear.  They’re energetically too far apart.

Find your own, inner truth, and follow your own guidance.  Look for the good news, look for things that give you hope.  Once you have hope, it’s only a small leap to love.

How do you accomplish this in a world seemingly filled with so much bad news, and so much fear?  Here are some simple steps that can help you change your vibration from one of fear and worry to one of hope and love:

– Make a conscious decision each day to look for things that make you feel good. Look for things to appreciate.  Look for the positive aspects in the people you interact with.  By focusing on what’s good in your world, you activate a vibration that will bring more of that into your experience.

– Go on a news diet.  I wrote about this previously here.  At the very least, stop watching the news first thing in the morning, and last thing before you go to bed at night.  What you see first thing in the morning will stay in your consciousness throughout the day.  What you see just before you go to sleep will make its way into your dreams and spoil a good night’s rest for you.  Consider foregoing the news altogether.  If you feel you must be informed, be judicious about where you get your news.  There are ways to get the news without the hype.

Practice simple acts of kindness.  This is a fun and easy way to take the focus off yourself and any fear and worry you might experience.  Yield to the car in front of you trying to merge into your lane.  Smile at the harried clerk at the store.  Take an unexpected small gift to someone in your office.  Trying to make someone else feel better feels good.

Pet your cat or dog! Being with your animals is one of the best ways I know to instantly shift your vibration from negative to positive.  It’s impossible to be fearful and worried when you have a happy dog licking your face or a purring cat in your lap.

There are plenty of signs around us that the tide is starting to turn – all we have to do is look for them.  Just like winter eventually yields to spring, and dark days yield to light, fear, if not given permission to run free, will yield to hope and eventually love.  All it takes is a willingness to shift your thoughts towards something that feels better, and make choices that are based in love rather than fear.

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