The Joys of Adopting an Older Cat

Buckley at the Middleburg Animal Hospital

Older cats are often overlooked in shelters filled to the brim with cute kittens and young adults. However, an older cat can make a purr-fect companion for many reasons.

In my years of working with cats, I’ve always been drawn to older cats, especially the really old ones with their graying muzzles and eyes filled with the wisdom of the world.  My own experience of adopting an older cat came with Buckley, who was most likely somewhere between eight and ten years old when I fell in love with her.   Even though she was only with me for three short years, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a single moment.

I adore my two girls who are barely  more than kittens. I adopted Allegra a little over a year ago, when she was seven months old, and I adopted Ruby less than two months ago at nine months of age. I wouldn’t trade the experience of watching Allegra grow into a beautiful young lady these past twelve months, or Ruby’s joyful kitten exuberance for the last two for anything,  but there were times, especially after Amber died, when I thought back fondly to the many joys of living with an older cat.

Avoid the kitten craziness

When adopting a senior cat, you avoid the kitten craziness phase.  While it’s fun to watch a kitten play and race through the house, remember that the playing and racing can happen at all hours, including at 3am, when you want to sleep.  Additionally, kittens can be hard on your home furnishings.  To a kitten, the whole world is a toy, which can lead to the destruction of anything from carpets to furniture to favorite family heirlooms.

Senior cats are already spayed or neutered and litter box trained

A senior cat is already spayed or neutered, and in most cases, litter box trained.  He will most likely be current on all vaccinations, and may even come with a complete health history.

What you see is what you get

With a senior cat, what you see is, for the most part, what you get when it comes to temperament and personality.  One caveat:  if you meet your potential older family member in a shelter setting, make some allowance for the fact that the cat may be stressed or frightened.  Ask to spend some time with the cat in a quiet area, if possible, to get a better sense of her true personality.

Older cats make great pets for seniors

A senior cat can be a wonderful choice for senior citizens who might hesitate to adopt a cat because they’re afraid the cat might outlive them.  Older cats often wind up in shelters because their owners died, and there were no relatives or friends who would give them a new home.  Bringing a senior cat whose owners died and a senior citizen looking for a feline companion together could be a match made in heaven.

A senior, or at least slightly older, cat could be a better choice for a family with young children than a kitten.  Kittens are fragile, their tiny bodies can be easily crushed or injured, and their sharp teeth and claws may inadvertently hurt small children.

Older cats make better companions for another senior cat

A senior cat may make a better companion for an older cat who lost her companion.  Senior cats are used to the more gentle energy of a mature cat, and a kitten’s high energy and constant motion can be aggravating and stressful for them.

Consider adopting a senior cat with special needs.  Diabetic cats, cats with missing limbs or eyes, and cats with special medical needs all come with the same wonderful personalities as healthy cats, and they tend to be incredibly grateful for being adopted.  Make sure you understand the costs involved in caring for a special needs cat before making an adoption decision.

Have you ever adopted an older cat? Share your story in a comment!

Photo of Buckley when she was still my office cat at the animal hospital

 

When two cats are better than one

Allegra and Ruby on the stairs

As regular readers of The Conscious Cat, you’ve been hearing directly from Allegra (and Ruby, too) how much fun it’s been for her since Ruby joined our family. It’s been an absolute joy to watch the two of them together, but what has been particularly wonderful for me is the transformation Allegra has gone through in the last six weeks. She has gained confidence, the behavioral challenges we’ve been working with for the past year have improved considerably to the point of being almost non-existent, and she continues to blossom and come into her own in ways I never expected.

I wrote about this topic for Pet Connection, and I thought you’d enjoy this slightly different vantage point. Click here to read the article.

Book review: Sentenced to Death by Lorna Barrett

Sentenced to Death Lorna Barrett

Sentenced to Death is the fifth in Lorna Barrett’s bestselling Booktown mystery series featuring Tricia Miles, the owner of the Haven’t Got a Clue mystery book store and her cat, Miss Marple. I’ve come to love this series, but even if I didn’t know anything about it, I would have picked this one up just for its pretty cover. A cat, books, and a summery background – those are definitely a few of my favorite things! And the book lives up to its cover: this is a perfect summer read.

It’s Founder’s Day in Stoneham and the whole village has turned out to celebrate in the square, including Tricia’s friend and festivities organizer Deborah Black. As everyone watches Deborah give the opening speech, a small aircraft crashes into the village gazebo, killing both Deborah and the pilot. While the Sheriff’s Department is convinced that it was an accident, Tricia has a feeling that there’s more to the story.

Tricia gets suspicious when Deborah’s husband doesn’t seem to spend any time grieving the loss of his wife and doesn’t even hold a funeral for her. Instead, he quickly sells The Happy Domestic, the store Deborah owned, to Nigela Racita Associates, a company that appears to be on a mission to take over the small town.  A second death proves to Tricia that she is on to something, and she continues her investigation.

One of the most appealing aspects of reading a mystery series for me is the return of the same characters. To me, it’s like visiting with old friends in each new book. If you’ve read the previous four books, you already know and love Tricia, Miss Marple, Angelica, Tricia’s sister, cookbook author and owner of The Cookery, and captain Baker, Tricia’s love interest (or is he?). Miss Marple makes more frequent appearances in this book than she did in the previous ones, which added an additional element of reading pleasure for me. Even if you haven’t read the earlier books, you will like this one, but be forewarned: it’s going to almost certainly make you want to catch up and read the other four!

Sentenced to Death is a highly entertaining summer read with exciting plot twists, the most unique murder weapon of any cozy I’ve ever read, likeable characters, and a lovable feline. Pick up your copy (it will be released June 7), pour yourself a cold summer beverage of your choice, and enjoy this delightful cozy.

Lorna Barrett is a New York Times bestselling and Agatha Award nominated author. You can learn more about Lorna by visiting her website and her blog Dazed and Confused.

I received an ARC copy of this book from the author.

Coming Wednesday: A guest post by Fred, Lorna Barrett’s cat!

You may also enjoy reading my reviews of:

Chapter and Hearse

Bookplate Special

Ruby’s Reflections: Wake Up Tactics

Ruby The Conscious Cat

Check it out, everyone! Mom had the blog header changed to include me! How cool is that! I love my Mom!

Allegra and I have been having fun. She’s an awesome big sister. I know I annoy her sometimes, but she always forgives me very quickly, and then we play together and chase each other around the house.

I also have fun with Mom! I love to entertain her! I think one of her favorite things is when I first wake up in the morning, and I bounce all over the bed, back and forth. It’s my way to slowly warm up for the day ahead. Can I help it if it also serves to get Mom out of bed? I’m not sure why Mom always groans when I do it, because it feels so good! Some mornings, just to add a little variety, I play with her hair, or bop her on the head. It appears that on those mornings, breakfast is served earlier – hmmm. If you’re wondering where Allegra is when I do this: she usually watches and quietly cheers me on, but then looks all innocent when Mom opens her eyes to see who’s making all the racket.

Another thing I love to do with Mom is share her meals. She doesn’t seem to want to share, though, so it becomes a challenge, which, of course, makes me want to do it even more. I jump up on the table where she’s eating to check out what she’s having. She picks me up and sets me back on the floor. I climb right back up on the table. She puts me back down. I figure eventually she’ll get tired of this and just let me have some of her food, but so far, that’s never happened.

I almost pulled one over on her last week, though! She was having shrimp, and the smell just about did me in. I wanted some so badly! And I got my opportunity, too! Her attention was distracted for a moment, and that’s all I needed. I grabbed a big shrimp by its tail and started to take off with it. Drats – Mom saw me before I got away, and took the shrimp from me. I was mad, and I let her know it – I growled at her! I caught myself right away, though. What was I doing? I was growling at my Mom, who I love! And since she’s the best Mom ever, she broke off a small piece of the shrimp and let me have it. OMC, it was soooo good! I could eat that every day!

I love that Mom never gets mad at me. I know she gets exasperated sometimes, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a high maintenance kitty. I love to be around Mom, on top of Mom, or at least near Mom all the time, and I make sure she knows it. I talk, chirp, mew and purr all day long! I know that the purr always gets her – even if I’ve just done something she may not be entirely happy about, if I roll around on her lap and purr, all is forgiven. Good to know.

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I need to go find my sister and wake her up from her nap.

Mom wanted to show you this video of me enjoying the sunny window perch in her office. Am I cute or what!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGFavN13kGY

Feline-Friendly Handling Guidelines to Make Vet Visits Easier for Cats

cat with stethoscope The Conscious Cat

Vet visits for cats should become a little easier in the future, thanks to the new Feline Friendly Handling Guidelines just released by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the International Society of Feline Medicine.

While cats outnumber dogs as pets (according to the latest statistics from the American Pet Products Association, there are 78.2 million households that own dogs versus 86.4 million that own cats), pets receive significantly less veterinary care than dogs. Cat owners often express a belief that cats “do not need medical care.” According to Dr. Michele Gaspar, DVM, DABVP (Feline), “there is a misconception that cats are independent and they don’t need the level of care that dogs do.”

Additionally, many cat owners cite the difficulty of getting the cat into a carrier, driving the cat to the clinic, and dealing with a scared or stressed cat at the clinic as reasons for fewer visits. The goal of the feline-friendly handling guidelines is to reduce these barriers by helping cat owners understand feline behavior, preparing the cat and the client for the vet visit, creating a cat-friendly environment at the veterinary practice, and training veterinary staff on how to meet the unique needs of their feline patients.

The guidelines suggest that by understanding the unique social and behavioral characteristics of cats, and by recognizing early signs of fear, vet visits can be made less stressful for both cat and owner. Recommendations include the following:

• Rehearse trips to the veterinary practice by using positive reinforcement (treats)
• Rehearse clinical exams at home by getting cats used to having their paws, ears and mouth handled
• Get cats used to carriers
• Locate the cat well before the scheduled visit to the vet clinic
• Bring items that carry a familiar scent
• Notify the veterinary team in advance if the cat is easily stressed.

For veterinary practices, the guidelines offer suggestions on how to make the hospital more cat-friendly:

  • minimize wait times
  • schedule cat appointments during quieter times of the day, or
  • schedule dog and cat appointments at different times
  • dedicate an exam room to cats only
  • provide a cat only ward for cats who need to be hospitalized.

The guidelines go into great detail on how to interact with cats in the practice. The mantra “go slow to go fast” applies in almost every interaction with cats, from getting the cat out of the carrier to minimizing the stress of medical procedures. Veterinary staff should be trained to recognize and respond to cat signals, especially feline body language. Restraint should be minimal whenever possible. I was particularly delighted to see that the panel does not condone lifting the cat or suspending its body weight with a scruffing technique.

The guidelines offer recommendations for working with fearful or aggressive cats, ranging from pre-visit techniques that may include medication to using restraint methods, including chemical restraint, if required, stressing the need to be sensitive to each individual cat’s response.

A section on how to help cat owners cope with cats returning home from their vet visit and possibly upsetting other resident cats, and a comprehensive resource section, rounds out the guidelines. You can read the complete guidelines here.

Photo: dreamstime.com

You may also enjoy reading:

Is your vet cat-friendly?

How to make your cat’s trip to the vet less stressful

Conscious Cat Sunday: a different point of view

IMG_4012

Being willing to change allows you to move from a point of view
to a viewing point — a higher, more expansive place, from
which you can see both sides. – Thomas Crum

Sometimes, we get so mired in our day to day lives that we can’t see the forest for the trees. We find ourselves stuck in our routine, entrenched in our point of view of things, and unable to move forward.

While I’m not suggesting that you climb up on top of your dining room cabinet like Allegra in the picture above, what better way to change your view than to see life through the eyes of your cats? In their lives, every little thing is a cause for delight, whether it’s a speck of dust on a sunlit floor, a special treat in the food bowl, or a nap in the sun.

Spend some time this holiday weekend and look at life from your cat’s point of view. What are you seeing?

The Conscious Cat got a facelift

cat with computer, The Conscious Cat

Since Ruby already has her own column, Ruby’s Reflections, here on The Conscious Cat, it was time to incorporate her into the design of the site as well. Allegra and Ruby wanted to redesign the header themselves, but having both of them on the computer at the same time did not seem like a good idea to me. It was much safer to ask our fabulous web designer Nathan Landis to help us out.

Amber, the inspiration behind The Conscious Cat, remains, and always will remain, front and center. Allegra and Ruby obliged with perfect poses on Amber’s left and right. In the interest of symmetry and balance, we made the decision to take Buckley out of the header. Since she has a special place on the site, smiling at us from her book cover just below the header, I think she would approve.

Allegra and Ruby give the new header design four paws up. What do you think?

Photo credit: istockphoto

Book review: The Complete Cat’s Meow by Darlene Arden

The Complete Cat's Meow Darlene Arden

When I look at cat care guides, I typically review them to see if they are something I would recommend to other cat owners. After almost three decades of either caring for cats, working with cats, or writing about cats, I don’t expect to find much that I haven’t read or heard about before. And yet, I bought The Complete Cat’s Meow: Everything You Need to Know About Caring for Your Cat, because I knew that a cat care guide written by Darlene Arden would be special. I wasn’t disappointed.

Darlene’s wealth of knowledge, thorough research, and engaging writing style come through on every page. But even more than that, it’s Darlene’s love for cats that makes this book special, beginning with the introduction’s closing phrase “The Complete Cat’s Meow will…help your feline companions live longer, healthier, happier lives. In return, you will reap a boundless bounty of love and affection” to passages such as “open your heart and your home to a kitty and watch the love flourish.” One only has to look at the photo of Darlene with her cat Aimee on the back cover to know that Darlene isn’t just an expert on all things cat, she truly loves cats.

Reading this book is like a conversation with a good friend who loves cats as much as you do, but knows more about them than you do. The book covers newborn kittens, how to choose the right cat for you, how to prepare your home for your new kitty, understanding cat behavior, nutrition and health care. Darlene presents an extensive list of feline health concerns ranging from urinary tract disease to cancer to dealing with emergencies and surgeries. The book also includes a listing of popular breeds with detailed descriptions of their appearance and personality.

The two sections that really stood out for me are the ones on new kittens, and on how to choose the right cat for you. In the kitten section, Arden goes into great detail on how a responsible breeder raises kittens. At fist, I was a little skeptical about the emphasis on breeders in this section, because I’m not someone who would ever purchase a kitten, (nor does the author advocate this as the only way to bring a kitten into your life). I quickly realized that the author uses the example of how a responsible breeder raises a litter of kittens to illustrate how kittens are raised in ideal circumstances, such as being handled and socialized from a very early age, and not being separated from their mother until they’re at least 12 weeks old. In the section on how to determine which cat is right for you, the author carefully reviews all aspects that should be considered, from age to breed to coat length. I have not seen these two aspects of cat care covered this thoroughly in any other cat care guide I’ve read, and I read a lot of them!

This is not to say that the other sections aren’t covered with the same level of depth and attention to detail. Every section in this book provides excellent information. In addition, the book is beautifully illustrated throughout with black and white photos and some absolutely stunning full color photographs in the middle. It also features an exceptional resource guide.

If you’re only going to buy one cat guide, this is the one to get. The Complete Cat’s Meow is not only a great book for those who are new to sharing their lives with cats, it really belongs in every cat owners library.

Darlene Arden with cat AimeeDarlene Arden is an award-winning writer, lecturer and Certified Animal Behavior Consultant. She is the author of numerous books on pet care and  hundreds of articles and columns for all of the major cat and dog publications, as well as for newspapers and general interest publications. Darlene is passionate about helping animals live longer and better lives. For more information about Darlene, please visit her website.


I purchased this book.

Quality of Life: What Does It Mean for You and Your Cat?

Buckley's Story

Last updated June 2019

Making a decision about whether or when the time is right for euthanasia is one of the hardest things someone loving a pet will ever go through. Unlike human medicine, veterinary medicine is fortunate to be able to legally offer the option of gently ending suffering when there seems to be no hope for recovery. It is a difficult decision to make at best, and it can be nearly impossible for some pet owners. There are so many factors that play into it.

What is quality of life?

The term that is used the most in this context is “quality of life.” But what does that really mean? Are there hard and fast rules as to what constitutes good quality of life? Of course not. Quality of life means something different for every person, and for every animal.

There are some fairly obvious markers. Pain is one of them. No pet owner wants to see a beloved pet suffer. Animals, especially cats, are masters at masking pain, so this can be difficult to detect. Another marker is appetite. For most pet owners, the first indication that something is wrong is usually when a pet stops eating. A third important marker is dignity: Is the pet still able to relieve herself on her own, or does she need assistance with urination and defecation?

But even these three markers are not always helpful when trying to make a decision. Pain can be managed with medication. Some pets stop eating or eat very little but are still happy and are enjoying life. And who is to say that the dog that needs assistance with being carried outside to urinate or the cat who needs help to get into the litter box and needs to be cleaned off afterwards does not appreciate this level of care from his loving human and is otherwise happy and content?

A final gift of love

It is often said that making the decision to euthanize a pet is the final gift of love we can give our animals. I wholeheartedly believe that, but it still does not make the decision process any easier. Love and denial can be intricately linked, and it can sometimes be difficult to separate one from the other.

I’ve had to make this decision with three of my cats: with Feebee in April of 2000, when he was losing his seven-month battle with lymphoma, with Buckley in November of 2008, when her heart disease was complicated by multiple other issues, and much too soon again with Amber in May of 2010 , after she came down to a sudden, unexpected illness, which was, most likely, virulent systemic calici virus.

All three of the decisions were agonizing for me, but I also know that each time, I made the right decision – for my cat, and for me. That’s not to say that it would have been the right decision for someone else, or for someone else’s cat.

Ultimately, the only way any of us can make this decision is by listening to our animal friends with our hearts, not with our heads.

Ultimately, the only way any of us can make this decision is by listening to our animal friends with our hearts, not with our heads. It becomes a decision of love, not something to be reasoned out on an analytical and intellectual level.

No easy answer

I think it’s impossible to ever be completely comfortable with the decision to end the life of someone we love so much. We do not want our pets to suffer, and when we are really in tune with our animals, we know when they are ready to make their transition. Any remaining doubt is usually caused by our sadness and grief at the thought of having to go on without their physical presence in our lives. I also believe that sometimes, our animals also love us so much that they often stick around longer than they might want to because they know how much we will miss them when they’re gone.

There is no easy answer for the question of what quality of life means. It’s going to mean something different for each person, and for each cat. And as your cat’s guardian, you’re the only one who can answer it.

Have you had to make this decision for your cat? What does quality of life mean for you and your cat?

New Dr. Goodpet banner

Portions of this post are adapted from Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher.

Related reading:

How to cope with losing a pet

The final farewell: options after your pet dies

Product review: NOse Offense for Pets

NOse Offense...for Pets review

It seems like every time you turn around, there’s a new odor remover on the market. Many of these products have a strong scent and do little but mask the offending odor, whether it’s litter box odors, or any other “pet generated” smells. For someone like me, who doesn’t like scented products at all, the overpowering fragrance of most of the odor removers I’ve tried is worse than the initial offending odor.

NOse Offense...for Pets review

When the folks at NOse Offense contacted me and asked whether I would like to review their product, I was intrigued, because the product claims to neutralize odors without the use of any fragrances. No artificial vanilla or citrus scented cover ups? Just complete elimination of the offending odor? I was hopeful.

And I wasn’t disappointed. Let me just say that pet odors are not a big problem at my house. I feed raw, so Allegra’s and Ruby’s stools literally don’t smell (for most people new to raw feeding, this is one of the most startling, and quite pleasant, positive “side effects!”). Urine odors aren’t much of a problem, either, because I work from home and I’m very conscientious about scooping as soon as the girls deposit something in the box. Allegra has been known to complain that she can’t even finish covering up before I come with the scoop and baggie…

So I didn’t get much of a chance to try the product on cat odors, but I tried it on several other odors that I don’t particularly enjoy. I don’t like lingering cooking odors, no matter how yummy the meal I just enjoyed may have been. When I’m done eating, I don’t want to smell my dinner for the next few hours. A few light squirts of NOse Offense, and the lingering cooking odors dissipated almost immediately.

I sprayed NOse Offense around the litter boxes, but as I said, odor isn’t much of a problem for us, so I can’t speak to its effect. I wanted to test the product with something else, and I found the final frontier of odors: the trash can in the garage. I empty my kitchen trash into it several times a week, and it then gets picked up once a week. I also empty the deposits out of the litter boxes directly into that trash can. Over the course of a week, it gets pretty rank in there, especially during the warmer months, when temperatures in my garage easily reach the 90s. I sprayed NOse Offense into the trash can, and it actually got rid of the nasty smell.

I also like that the product is made with natural and organic indgredients,  doesn’t contain alcohol, phenols, aerosols, or phosphates, and is completely biodegradable. It is also eco-friendly and made from recycled materials.

For more information about NOse Offense for Pets, please visit their website.

1 333 334 335 336 337 376