An Interview with Helen Brown, Author of Cleo: The Cat Who Mended A Family

Helen Brown is the author of Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family.  She was born and brought up in New Zealand, where she first worked as a journalist, TV presenter and scriptwriter.  Now living in Melbourne, Australia with her family, Helen continues to write columns for the New Zealand media, and she’s been voted Columnist of the Year several times.  Cleo rose to the top of the bestseller lists in its first week in the UK, New Zealand, and Australia and has been translated into more than nine languages.

I’m delighted to welcome Helen Brown to The Conscious Cat today. 

Cleo’s story, and by extension, your family’s story, begins more than twenty years ago.  When did you first know you would write a book about Cleo?

Cleo always behaved as she expected a book to be written about her but I was slow to pick up on the signs. Whenever I wrote about her in my columns she was a big hit with readers. Then about five years ago a friend suggested Cleo would make a great book. I thought he was joking, but when I took the idea to a weekend workshop people seemed really interested in our story.

I’ve always believed that animals are amazing teachers and healers, and Cleo has certainly been all of that and more.  Have you had other animals in your life since Cleo, and how have they affected your life?

A crazy Siamese (though some people swear he’s Tonkinese) called Jonah bounced into our lives two years ago. I was half way through writing Cleo when I found out I needed a mastectomy. About two weeks after I returned home from hospital my sister said she’d just seen an amazing kitten in the pet shop down the road. The rest is history. He’s vain and funny, and a healer in his own right.

I was captivated by your story and by Cleo almost from the very first page, but I was particularly moved by the sensitivity and openness with which you share your journey through grief after you lost your young son so tragically.  What was it like to have to revisit that time in your life? 

Some days I had to take a deep breath before sitting down at the computer. But remembered pain is different from the real thing (ask any woman who’s been through childbirth!). I hoped it was worth scratching a few scars if it was going to help other people.

What was the writing process like for you? 

The days I manage to approach the computer screen with a sense of lightness and joy definitely work better.

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

I stay in bed as long as possible so the rest of the family get themselves off to work and school without asking me to cook or wash anything (they’re pretty good these days). Once the house is quiet I sneak across the road for a sacred cup of café latte. Sometimes the coffee makers ask how my writing’s going, but I think they suspect I’m a middle aged housewife who merely fantasizes about writing books and travelling the world promoting them. Occasionally someone’s kind enough to remind me if I’ve put my coat on inside out.

Once the caffeine starts flowing, I head back to the house and sit at the computer, often with Jonah on my knee. There are heaps of diversions – solitaire, emails, laundry, mysterious cat smells. But I try to write a minimum of 500 words a day. I’m usually burnt out by two or three o’clock. Besides, it’s usually time to think about what to cook for dinner by then.

What do you love most about being a writer?

Readers! What amazing people. Readers have helped me through tough times and celebrated with me through the highs. When I became a grandmother recently, they sent gifts, cards and hand knitted garments. Immeasurable kindness from people I’ve never met.

What do you like least about being a writer?

Loneliness.

Who or what inspires you?

It sounds a cliché, but family (including pets) and friends are my greatest inspiration. I find stories in everyday events like standing in a supermarket line, or cleaning out kitchen cupboards. My antennae are always out for human behavior at its best and worst. I love it when  prejudices (specially my own) are shattered. On a bus soon after the Twin Towers tragedy, I was charmed when a young man stood up so I could take his seat. He then went to the back of the bus to stand beside his partner – who was wearing a burka. I’m inspired by writers who are better than I am: David Sedaris, Alan Bennett, Alice Munro to name a few.

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

About 30 years ago when I was hardly known (even in New Zealand) I was invited to a book store in a provincial town on a wintry Friday night. The book seller didn’t know what to do with me so she parked me at a table with a pile of books at the back of the shop. I waited…and waited. Nobody showed, of course. Eventually, a man in a raincoat made a stealthy approach from the front of the store. I tried not to make eye contact and scare him off. He eventually appeared at my side and asked me to sign a copy. I was so grateful. When I asked who I should sign it to, he said “Nobody. I just collect signed copies of books so that when the author dies they’re worth something.”

Will you be coming to the United States to promote Cleo?

I’m very much looking forward to visiting the States in the near future.

What are you reading at the moment?

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, John Adams by David McCoullough, re-reading Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. 

Are you working on another book?

I’ve been inundated with emails from people saying they didn’t want Cleo to end. My next book will probably be a sequel around the power struggle between mothers and daughters, spirituality and – of course – a cat.

Thank you so much for your time, Helen, and much continued success with Cleo!

Thank you, Ingrid, for this opportunity to share some time with you.

You can learn more about Helen and her book on her website.

Book Review: Cleo – The Cat Who Mended a Family by Helen Brown

The cats’ day has finally come when it comes to pet memoirs.  A genre that used to be almost exclusively ruled by dogs has finally seen a number of wonderful cat memoirs.  It began with Dewey, the library cat.  Then came Homer’s Odyssey.  And there are many more, you can find several of them reviewed here.  And of course, there’s my own Buckley’s Story.  And now, there’s Cleo.  Helen Brown’s international bestseller, first published in New Zealand, Australia and the UK, was released in the US on August 31 by Citadel Press. 

From the publisher:

“We’re just going to look.”  Helen Brown had no intention of adopting a pet when she brought her sons, Sam and Rob, to visit a friend’s new kittens.  But the runt of the litter was irreristible, with her overlarge ears and dainty chin.  When Cleo was delivered three weeks later, Brown’s family had just been hit by a tragedy:  the loss of her young son, Sam.  Helen was sure she couldn’t keep Cleo at a time like this – until she saw something that she thought had vanished from the earth forever:  her son Rob’s smile.  The reckless, rambunctious kitten stayed.

What follows is a sweeping memoir of heartbreak, changes, new beginnings, and ultimately, happiness.   Cleo is the connecting thread through it all, holding Brown’s family together through devastating grief, illness, moves across continents, and other challenges life throws at them.  It will come as no surprise to cat lovers that one small cat is capable of what Cleo managed to do for the Brown family – she not only healed their hearts, but helped them find a way to integrate Sam’s loss into their lives in ways that honored his memory, but also allowed them to move on with their lives.  Brown’s writing is vividly descriptive and sometimes almost lyrical and poetic.  She transports us to the beauty of New Zealand as easily as she makes us fall in love with the small kitten with the big ears.  She makes us feel the unbearable pain of loss, and lets us breathe easier right along with her as her family begins to mend.

In addition to being a wonderful cat book, a beautiful memoir, and a spell-binding read that was hard to put down, it’s also a book about loss and grief, and how to cope with the almost unimaginable – the death of a child.  By sharing her own experience with great openness and sensitivity, Brown gives hope to others who are trying to cope  with life after loss.

This book goes on my list of best cat books ever – for me, it’s right up there with such classics as A Snowflake in My Hands and The Cat Who Came for Christmas.  Don’t miss this one.

Helen Brown was born and brought up in New Zealand, where she first worked as a journalist, TV presenter, and scriptwriter.  Now living in Melbourne, Australia, with her family, Helen continues to write columns for the New Zealand media.  You can find more information about Helen on her website.

Look for an interview with Helen Brown on The Conscious Cat on Wednesday.

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

Allegra’s World: First Birthday

Hey everyone – I’m a big girl now!  I turned one this past Friday!  I’m not a kitten anymore!  Mom says I still act like one, but that’s okay, just because I’m a big girl now doesn’t mean I have to stop having fun!

I loved my birthday!  It was a really cool day.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing until last Friday!  Mom gave me extra cuddles in the morning (and yes, I do occasionally let her pick me up and hold me for short periods of time now), and a yummy breakfast of raw chicken.  I love my chicken.  The turkey – not so much.  I think I’ve pretty much convinced Mom to not buy that anymore.  I’m pretty smart about how I do it.  I always clean my plate when she gives me things I really love, but when it’s something I’m not so crazy about, I leave a little something for her to throw out.  I know some cats will refuse to eat something they don’t like, but I’m no dummy.  I’m not going to pass up a meal!  Anyway, back to my birthday.  After my birthday breakfast, Mom gave me a really cool present.  It’s a big, round, long tunnel thing.  It’s so much fun!  At first, I just checked it out carefully.  Then I slowly went inside.  It made crinkly noises – how fun!  Once I was comfortable that nothing was lurking inside, I ran through it at full speed.  Wee!!!  Then I thought if running through it at full speed is this much fun, what about if I took a flying leap, and then launched myself into it.  Let me tell you – it was quite a rush!  The whole thing rolled and tumbled, with me in it.  Wee!!!  I played with my new toy for most of the day.  Well, at least when I wasn’t napping, I played with it.  And Mom played with me and my tunnel, she tossed toys inside and I went in after them, that was even more fun than playing with it by myself.  And then Mom gave me a yummy rabbit birthday dinner.  It was a purrfect birthday!

I asked Mom whether I could have a birthday every day, but she said I only get to have one once a year.  Hmmm.  But then she said that there are other things we’ll celebrate, and the next thing will be something called Christmas, which she says is even more fun than birthdays.  Apparently some dude named Santa brings cats and kittens toys if they’re nice and not naughty.  Huh.  Who is this dude, and how does he know whether I’m naughty or nice?  Does Mom tell him?  I guess I better watch myself, because I love getting new toys.

That’s it for today.  I’m going to play in my new tunnel.  Wee!!!

Feline Nutrition: Who Bears the Responsibility?

Guest Post by Kymythy R. Schultze

At this point in my investigative journey to decide what to feed my cats, the commercial, processed pet-food products were definitely not coming up roses — or even catnip. But let me state for the record that I don’t think the manufacturers are purposely trying to harm our cats. I don’t think there’s a cigar-smoking executive sitting behind his desk (in a corner office with a big window) doing a Snidely Whiplash impression while chanting: “I’m going to hurt some kitties today,” followed by evil laughter, of course. No, it’s not that personal — it’s just business. It’s like any other industry that makes billions of dollars every year: The bottom line is the top dollar.
 
I’m not faulting these companies for trying to make lots of money, but I don’t have to approve of the way they do it. I’m certainly not a fan of animal testing, low-quality ingredients, components that aren’t even appropriate for felines, too-frequent recalls, and questionable marketing tactics. But hey, when it comes down to it, my cat’s health isn’t really their responsibility.
 
Is my cat’s health my veterinarian’s responsibility? Not really. Yes, I go to vets for their professional opinions, which are very important to me. I respect their experience and education in most areas of animal health. But unless they’ve taken it upon themselves to study animal nutrition in an unbiased forum, they may not be the best source of advice for species-appropriate food for my cats. At veterinary schools, they receive very little education on this subject, and what they do get is mostly taught by employees of the larger pet-food companies. The little time devoted to nutrition usually involves the incomplete research we discussed earlier and heavy product pushing — not information about real food.
 
I have very dear friends who are veterinarians. Through their wisdom and my own experience and research, I’ve come to understand better why vets aren’t always the best source of unbiased nutritional information. You see, when I was studying animal nutrition at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine a few years ago, only a couple of my professors weren’t paid employees of pet-food companies.
 
I’ll never forget one particular lecture where the teacher/veterinarian was discussing the different forms of pet-food products — dry, canned, and so on. While she was talking about the semi-moist products, she mentioned in an offhand way that she would never feed them to her pets. Then she quickly laughed and said, “Oh, my boss would kill me if he heard me say that!”
 
I didn’t find it amusing. It was painfully clear that she was repeating (except for her slip-up) what the pet-food company wanted the students to hear — not unbiased information or her actual opinion.
 
The biggest pet-food companies hire brilliant marketers to sell their products. After all, what could be better than having experts (veterinarians) endorse your product? How did this come about? Well, one of the parent companies that’s become very involved with vets also makes toothpaste. Do you remember the old advertisement that boasted eight out of ten dentists recommend a particular brand? It was a brilliant campaign and put this firm at the top of toothpaste sales.
 
At the time, the company also had a very small pet-food division they were about to sell, but an executive came forward with a great idea: If they could use the same tactic with this branch as they had with their toothpaste, they’d be equally successful. So they used the pharmaceutical industry’s practice of spending tons of money to woo doctors. In fact, a retired sales executive from the pet-food company commented on why this marketing strategy works so well: “It’s just like taking drugs: You go to the doctor, and he prescribes something for you, and you don’t much question what the doctor says. It’s the same with animals.”
 
They know that the trust cat guardians have in vets is so strong that they’ll feed what they’re told without question. So the manufacturer spends a great deal of money enforcing that connection. In fact, other than universities, this company is the country’s largest employer of vets.  They fund research and nutrition courses and professorships at veterinary colleges and offer a formal nutrition-certification program for technicians. They’ve also written a widely used textbook on animal nutrition that’s given free of charge to veterinary students, who also receive stipends and get products at zero or almost-zero charge.
 
This relationship doesn’t end after graduation. The corporation sends veterinarians to seminars on how to better sell their products, provides sales-goal-oriented promotions, gives them lots of promotional tools, and offers big discounts so that vets make more money on product sales.
 
There’s really no point in naming names in this situation because these practices aren’t confined to a single pet-food company. Although one or two used to have a corner on the veterinary market, others have now reaped the rewards of employing similar strategies. It’s genius, really, and I can understand that many veterinarians have busy practices and may feel that they don’t have time to investigate pet-foods more closely. It certainly must be easier and less time-consuming to simply suggest a familiar product and be done with it, but if they’ve got such an extremely close association with a pet-food company, we may reasonably assume that it might be difficult for them to offer an unbiased opinion on nutrition to their clients.
 
Please understand that there are more and more vets today who are taking the time to learn about real-food nutrition. And with their busy schedules, I truly respect the ones who do; and I like to support these independent, open-minded individuals who enjoy continuing their education.
 
The bottom line is that my cat’s health is my responsibility, and your cat’s health is your responsibility. We choose which veterinarian to take our cats to. We choose to follow our vets’ advice or not. We choose which type of food to feed our cats. All the choices are up to us, so choose wisely, grasshopper (my cats love to eat those guys)!
 
Kymythy R. Schultze has been a trailblazer in the field of animal nutrition for nearly two decades. She’s a Clinical Nutritionist, a Certified Nutritional Consultant and one of the world’s leading experts on nutrition and care for cats. Visit her at Kymythy.com.

 

Book Review: The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle

The title of this book reeled me in immediately, as did the cover – even though I’m not a horse person, the bond depicted between woman and horse touched my heart.  When I read the endorsement by Sara Gruen, the author of Water for Elephants, on the back of the book, I was intrigued:  “A must read not only for animal lovers, but for anyone who has found the courage to come back from heartbreak and find love again, without reservation, without fear.”  Another endorsement, by Lesley Kagan, author of Tomorrow River, “Wonderfully poignant… A deeply satisfying exploration of love in its many incarnations, some of them a bit furrier than others,” sealed the deal.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  Far from it – these two endorsements barely scratch the surface of how wonderful this book is.

The Blessings of the Animals is the story of Ohio veterinarian Cami Anderson.  From the publisher:  Cami has hit a rough patch. Stymied by her recent divorce, she wonders if there are secret ingredients to a happy, long-lasting marriage or if the entire institution is outdated and obsolete. Couples all around her are approaching important milestones. Her parents are preparing to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. Her brother and his partner find their marriage dreams legally blocked. Her former sister-in-law—still her best friend—is newly engaged. The youthfully exuberant romance of her teenage daughter is developing complications. And three separate men—including her ex-husband—are becoming entangled in Cami’s messy post-marital love life.   But as she struggles to come to terms with her own doubts amid this chaotic circus of relationships, Cami finds strange comfort in an unexpected confidant: an angry, unpredictable horse in her care. With the help of her equine soul mate, she begins to make sense of marriage’s great mysteries—and its disconnects.

The horse is not the only animal who helps Cami heal.  There’s a dog, two cats, one of them a cranky but ultimately loving three-legged one whose life was saved by Cami, a joyful goat, and a pregnant donkey.  Cami’s form of prayer is being in the presence of animals.  As someone who’s always turned to animals for healing and finding peace myself, I was deeply touched by the segments of the book when Cami goes to what she calls her “church”- her barn.  Being in the company of her animals never fails to work its magic for Cami, no matter how painful the twists and turns of her life have become.  Kittle’s sensitive descriptions of the animals and their unique personalities are delightful and are an integral part of the story. 

This is a beautifully written and plotted relationship drama with wonderful, multi-dimensional characters, both human and furry.  I had a hard time putting this book down, but forced myself to read slowly and savor every page.  I didn’t want it to end – and by the time it did, I felt like I knew all the characters as well as if they had been lifelong friends.

Katrina is the author of Traveling Light, Two Truths and a Lie, and The Kindness of Strangers.  When not writing, Katrina enjoys gardening, cooking, traveling, acting, and time spent in the presence of animals (especially horses). She is the proud aunt of Amy and Nathan, and lives in the Dayton area with her cat and a kickass garden.  You can learn more about Katrina and her books on her website.

Hyperthyroidism in Cats

Hyperthyroidism is a common disease that typically affects middle-aged and older cats.  It is caused by an excess production of thyroid hormones, which are produced by the thyroid gland, located inside the cat’s neck.  Thyroid hormones affect nearly all organs, which is why thyroid disease can sometimes cause secondary problems such as hypertension, heart and kidney disease. 

What causes hyperthyroidism?

The most common cause is an increase in the number of cells in the thyroid gland.  Groups of these abnormal cells form small nodules called adenomas on the gland.  Most of these adenomas are formed by non-cancerous cells, only a very small percentage of hyperthyroidism is caused by malignant tumors.

More recently, there has been speculation on a possible link of an increase in thyroid disease in cats and the coating used on cat food cans.  Another theory is that flame retardants used in furniture and carpeting may be linked to hyperthyroidism in cats.

What are the signs of hperthyroidism?

Afflicted cats often develop a variety of signs, and some of them can be subtle.  The most common signs are weight loss, increased appetite without weight gain, and increased thirst and urination.  Hyperthyroidism can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, and hyper-activity.  The haircoat may become matted and dull.  Some cats will begin to vocalize more frequently.  Rapid heart rates are common, and cats can also present with heart murmurs and high blood pressure.

How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?

You cat’s veterinarian will perform a physical exam and palpate externally alongside the trachea with thumb and forefinger to feel for any enlargement of the thyroid gland.  Heart rate and blood pressure will be checked, and a complete blood chemistry will be run.  Most hyperthyroid cats will have elevated levels of the thyroid hormone T4 in their blood stream.  However, sometimes a cat with concurrent kidney, heart or gastrointestinal disease may have normal T4 levels.  If other symptoms and exam findings point to hyperthyroidism, your veterinarian may order additional testing to arrive at a diagnosis.

How is hyperthyroidism treated?

There are currently three treatment options:  medication, surgery, and radioactive iodine therapy.  Each option comes with advantages and disadvantages, and you should carefully weigh all options and make the best decision for your cat and your lifestyle in conjunction with your veterinarian.

Medication

Drug therapy, using a drug called methimazole (Tapazole), controls, but does not cure the disease.   It is typically given twice a day in either pill form or as a transdermal gel that is rubbed on the inside of the cat’s ear.  Methimazole therapy will be required for the rest of the cat’s life.   While some cats tolerate the drug well, it can have serious side effects including elevation of liver enzymes, low white blood cell counts, low platelet counts, itchiness of the face, and gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting and loss of appetite. If these signs occur, the medication has to be discontinued and other treatment pursued.

Surgery

Surgical removal of the thyroid gland is an option, although many hyperthyroid cats won’t be good candidates for surgery due to the anesthetic risk caused by their elevated heart rates.  Even though removal of the thyroid gland is a fairly straightfoward procedure, it should only be done by an experienced surgeon, since there are potentially serious complications, including damage to the parathyroid glands, which lie close to or within the thyroid glands and are crucial in maintaining stable blood-calcium levels.

Radioactive Iodine

Radioactive Iodine, also called I-131, is the gold standard for treating hyperthyroid cats.  It involves a one-time injection of radioactive iodine under the skin.  The radioactive iodine will destroy the abnormal thyroid tissue but does not damage the surrounding tissue or the parathyroid gland.  The cat will have to remain hospitalized for a specified period of time (typically 3-10 days, depending on geographical location, the length of the stay is regulated on the state level).  It will be released with some special care instructions, such as limiting contact with the cat and special disposal of urine and feces for a few days following treatments.  The treatment is only available at special facilities that are typically found at large veterinary referral centers, and is somewhat costly, but it is curative, and needs to be weighed against the cost of lifelong medication.

Regardless of which treatment is chosen, unless there are other, underlying diseases complicating things, treatment is usually successful and most cats will lead normal, healthy lives.

The photo above is of Amber, taken the day she went for her radioactive iodine treatment at Radiocat in Springfield, VA.

Book Review: Dear Sparkle: Cat-to-Cat Advice from the World’s Foremost Feline Columnist

Sparkle cover

Sparkle the Cat has been called the “Dear Abby of the feline world,” and she has not met a feline problem that she could not solve.  In her first book, Dear Sparkle:  Advice from One Cat to Another, edited by Janiss Garza, the internet’s premiere cat-to-cat advice columnist gave readers an insider’s look into how cats view the world, and how the well-meaning, but often clueless humans living with them can make the world a better place for their feline charges.  In her new book, Dear Sparkle:  Cat-to-Cat Advice from the World’s Foremost Feline Columnist, also edited by Garza, Sparkle continues her quest to help cats figure out humans’ often strange behavior and offers solutions to problems covering everything from playing to eating to introducing a new cat.  She also addresses litter box issues in great detail – a topic that can be challenging for many humans living with cats.  While her book is aimed primarily at a feline audience, her fervent hope is that the humans who dare read the book keep an open mind.   Even though they may not like everything Sparkle has to say, they just might learn something.

There are plenty of “how to” books out there on how to care for cats, but this book is unique not only because it was written by a cat, but because it provides solid information from a cat’s point of view on the various problems Sparkle is asked to address by fellow cats.  Presented in a humorous fashion and always from the cat’s point of view, it gives the reader accurate insight into how cats think and provides a fresh new look at some of the same old problems.  Here are some samples of Sparkle’s wisdom:

You can’t expect your human to behave like a cat.

A cat’s most charming trait should be unpredictability.

The less you act like you care, the more your humans will care.

In addition to providing outstanding advice that even humans who have already been well-trained by their resident felines will find valuable, the book is beautifully designed and includes many stunning full-color photos of the beautiful Sparkle to illustrate her points.  This book is not just a great addition to any cat parent’s cat care library, it also makes the purrfect gift for cat lovers.

Sparkle the Cat’s advice column began in 2003 as an addition to her online diary, http://www.sparklecat.com, but soon became the most popular section of her website and has earned her thousands of fans on Twitter and MySpace. In 2006, Sparkle’s advice first became available in book form, and went on to win the Wild Card category at the Hollywood Book Festival and honorable mention in the same category at the 2007 New York Book Festival. Sparkle lives with her human, Janiss Garza, and two roommates: Binga and Boodie.   You can find Sparkle on her website at http://www.sparklecat.com

Janiss Garza is not a weirdo cat fanatic. She has other interests; among other things, she is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in such publications as the Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly.

Allegra’s World: Busy Kitten

I’ve been a busy little kitten!  There’s always so much to do, a kitten’s work is never done.  I’ve got to keep an eye on the birds and squirrels in our yard – that’s almost a full time job right there!  And lately, we’ve had these very strange looking creatures attach themselves to the screen on the sliding glass door.  Mom says they’re called cicadas.  They’re really ugly, and when I try to bat at them, they make a scary noise and fly off!  Oh, and speaking of critters – this is the coolest thing yet since I came to live here.  These big black things are coming into the house sometimes, mostly in the basement.  Mom says they’re called crickets.  I say they’re really fun toys!  I chase them and they jump all over the place.  Wee!!!   The only thing is that they don’t seem to last very long, because I’m too fast for them!  But, unlike my other toys, I can eat them!  Yummy!  I do leave the legs behind, though – a little too crunchy for my taste.  Mom says it’s gross when I eat the crickets, and that she’d rather not know that I do that.  Ha!  I’m a fierce huntress!  This is what I do!  I bet she wouldn’t like it, either, if I left their dead bodies all over the basement.  Humans – sometimes they just don’t get it.

Speaking of toys – I got another cool new one.  Mom bought me a new cat tree.  You can see me posing on it in the photo above.  I really like it, especially the sisal scratching post, I use that a lot.  And I love it when Mom gets one of those fishing pole type toys and teases me with it around the cat tree.  I jump up and down and roll around at the base of it, it’s great fun.  Wee!!!  My birthday is only a couple of weeks away, and I’ve seen Mom take a box inside the one room downstairs that I’m not allowed in.  I wonder whether my birthday present is in that box?  It was a pretty big box!  Wee!!!  It sure is fun living here, so many toys, and so many presents.  Every day is so special!

I like that Mom works from home, and that she’s around a lot, so it was a little weird the other day when she was gone for a really long time.  She left right after our morning playtime, and she told me she would be gone all day, and that she would be back in time for me to feed me my dinner, but it still felt like a very long day without her there.  I slept for most of it, but then, I got a little bored.  Mom says I always look for trouble when I’m bored, and apparently, going by how she reacted, I found it.  I didn’t think it was that bad – all I did was chew on the edges of a book that stuck out from a lower shelf.  Oh, and I did knock her glasses off the nightstand.  But I do that all the time, and she just picks them up and puts them back.  Okay, so I did chew on the ends this time, and I guess they feel a little funny now when she puts them on.  Big deal!  That’ll teach her to leave me alone for that long!  Even though she said “oh, Allegra” in that tone of voice that I’ve come to know means she’s a little upset with me, I could tell that she tried really hard not to laugh, too.  I know I’m too cute for her to stay upset with me for long!

Oh, and I almost forgot – Mom has been feeding me some different food lately.  She says it’s called “raw” – I say it tastes really yummy!  I’m not a big eater, food kind of bores me,  most of the time I’m just too busy to eat, but this stuff, I usually inhale in one sitting.  It comes in different flavors, so far, I’ve had rabbit, chicken and turkey.   I like them all, but I think I like rabbit best of all.  Yummylicious!!!

That’s all for today – time to make the rounds and check on the birds and squirrels!

National Take Your Cat to the Vet Week

August 16 through 22 is National Take Your Cat to the Vet Week.  This event was created by the makers of Feline Pine, a natural cat litter, to raise awareness, together with veterinarians nationwide, that cats need annual veterinary examinations just as much as dogs do.  According to statistics, cats are substantially underserved when it comes to veterinary care.  Even though cat owners consider their cats just as much members of the family as dog owners do, a 2006 study showed that dogs were taken to veterinarians more than twice as often as cats, averaging 2.3 times/year, compared with 1.1 times/year for cats, and significantly more dogs (58%) than cats (28%) were seen by a veterinarian one or more times/year.  Cat owners often express a belief that cats “do not need medical care.”   According to Dr. Michele Gaspar, DVM, DABVP (Feline), Feline Pine’s in house veterinarian, “there is a misconception that cats are independent and they don’t need the level of care that dogs do.  Cats also don’t show disease well. We can have cats who look normal but they are covering up a serious illness.”

The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends a minimum of annual wellness examinations for all cats in its Feline Life Stage Guidelines.  According to the guidelines, “semi-annual wellness exams are often recommended for all feline life stages by veterinarians and veterinary organizations. Their reasoning includes the fact that changes in health status may occur in a short period of time; that ill cats often show no signs of disease; and that earlier detection of ill health, body weight changes, dental disease, and so on, allows for earlier intervention. In addition, semi-annual exams allow for more frequent communication with the owner regarding behavioral and attitudinal changes, and education about preventive health care.”

Veterinary care is not inexpensive, but is is a fact of life of being a responsible pet parent.  By taking your cat for regular check ups, you may avoid not only higher veterinary bills in the long run, but more importantly, you will ensure that your cat will live a long, healthy life.

Book Review: Travels with George: Paris by David Stone and Deborah Julian

Most cat parents can relate to this dilemma:  you’re about to go on the vacation of your dreams, and you’re excited – but, you also hate leaving your cats behind.  No matter how well you know they’ll be taken care of in your absence by pet sitters, neighbors or friends, you know you’ll miss them every single day.  But what if you cats could come on vacation with you?  And what if you didn’t even know that they tagged along?

In Travels with George:  Paris:  A Cat’s Eye Adventure, George, a much-loved indoor cat living in a New York City high-rise, and a bit restless in his restricted, secure environment, craves adventure.  When his humans prepare to go on a trip to Paris, he seizes the opportunity and hides himself  in their luggage.  When he next sees the light of day, he finds himself in a Paris hotel room.  Much to his surprise (not to mention his humans’ surprise!), his younger cat friend Billy has stowed away, too.

After the initial surprise wears off for the cats’ humans, and basic needs such as litter box, food and water have been satisfied, the two humans decide that, rather than leaving the two cats in their hotel room all day while they’re off sightseeing, they’ll include them in touring Paris.  The reader follows along as George and Billy discover the beautiful city on the Seine while either being comfortably carried (well, comfortable for the cats, at any rate!) in two secure bags, or walking on harness and leash.  They encounter such sights as the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysee, and the Jardin du Luxembourg (a particular favorite with both cats).  They even get to take a boat ride down the river Seine.

Through the eyes of George, the reader follows along as the two cats and their humans explore the city and gets to experience Paris from a cat’s point of view.  George gets to know aspects of the outside world that he’s only been able to see from his window in the past.  Charmingly told by Stone, and beautifully illustrated with Deborah Julian’s whimsical full-color prints, this book is a delightful fantasy, travelogue and cat story all rolled into one thoroughly enjoyable package.

David Stone is the author of two other works of fiction, The Garden of What Was and Was Not, a counterculture classic, its sequel, Traveling Without A Passport, and of the nonfiction title: A Million Different Things: Meditations of The Worlds Happiest Man.

Deborah Julian is a photographer, innovative artist and art gallery director whose favorite subjects are cats, New York City, and travel.  

1 350 351 352 353 354 379