Making Medical Decisions for Your Cat

During these past couple of weeks, two friends had to make difficult decisions about medical care for their cats, and it got me thinking about what a challenging task this is for so many of us.

Advances in veterinary medicine make it possible to treat medical conditions in cats that would have been a death sentence a decade ago.  From chemotherapy to kidney transplants, cats can now receive almost the same level of medical care as humans.  But just because these treatments are available doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right for each cat.

To treat or not to treat: two stories

Pandora is an 18-year-old calico in chronic renal failure.  It’s unclear which stage her disease is currently in, because my friend has chosen not to pursue medical treatment beyond the basics:  Pandora is on medication to control her high blood pressure, and she gets a thorough check up every six months to monitor her lab values.  Pandora goes through phases were she doesn’t want to eat and becomes withdrawn, but so far, she has always bounced back after a few days.  My friend has chosen to keep Pandora comfortable at home, and when that’s no longer possible, she’ll be ready (or as ready as any of us will ever be) to let her go.

The decision for Bob, a 14-year-old orange tabby belonging to my friend Robin over at Covered in Cat Hair, was more difficult.  He’s FIV positive,  and a recent ultrasound showed a large mass that was wrapped around his liver.  Without a biopsy, there was no telling what was going on.  Surgery is always a risk, but especially for a senior FIV positive cat.  The surgeon told my friend that, in a worst case scenario, if it was cancer and it had spread, she needed to be prepared to authorize euthanasia while Bob was still on the table.  On the other hand, there was also a chance that the mass could be removed, and Bob could have many more months, if not years, of good quality of life.  My friend agonized over this decision, and eventually decided to have the surgery done.  The mass was removed, and as of this writing, Bob has recovered from his surgery and is undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma.

Not every cat owner would have made these decisions for their cats.  In Pandora’s case, some would choose more aggressive treatment and more frequent visits to the vet, and possibly hospitalization for IV fluids.  In Bob’s case, some would have elected to forgo surgery and just let him live out however much time he may have left without intervention.  These situations are never black and white, and there is no one right decision.  The only wrong decision in these cases would be indecision when it translates into pain and suffering for the cat.

So what factors should a cat owner take into account when faced with making medical decisions?

Get the facts first

The most important thing is to get all the facts first.  Be sure you understand the medical condition your cat is dealing with.  It can be difficult to know what questions to ask your veterinarian when faced with a frightening diagnosis, so don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions once you’ve had a chance to process the initial information.  Make sure you understand all the treatment options, along with cost, side effects, and prognosis for each option.  Get a second opinion and/or go see a specialist if you’re not comfortable with what your veterinarian tells you.

By all means, research your cat’s condition on the internet, but use common sense and look for sites that present facts and not just anecdotes and opinions.  Dr. Nancy Kay, the author of Speaking for Spot:  Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Healthy, Happy, Longer Life has written a series of fantastic articles about how to find accurate pet health information on the internet.

A personal decision

Once you understand the medical facts, the decision becomes more personal.  Factors that come into play are your cat’s temperament, your comfort level with providing any follow up care that may be required at home, and your finances.

In my years of managing a veterinary practice, a question many clients often asked was “what would you do if it was your cat?”  I wish I could have answered it, but I couldn’t.  I couldn’t because, first of all, I’m not a veterinarian.  I also couldn’t have answered it because what I would do for my cat could be completely wrong for the client’s cat.

But after having faced having to make difficult decisions for two of my cats in recent years, I now have an answer I would give these clients.  For me, it comes down to this:  Listen to your heart.  After weighing all the factors, try to set aside your fear and worry for your cat long enough to connect with your center.  Some call it gut instinct, or intuition.  And then make the best possible decision for your cat.  Because when it comes down to it, the one thing you know better than all the veterinarians in the world combined is your cat.

Photo of Bob by Robin A.F. Olson, used with permission.  Bob passed away peacefully, surrounded by those he loved, in September of 2011.

Allegra’s World: Helping Mom Wake up on Time

Things have been kind of quiet around here since I last wrote, but Mom said I could write something if I wanted to, so here I am.  To tell you the truth, I think she just couldn’t come up with something new and interesting herself, so I’m here to save the day!  That’s what a good little kitten daughter does, she helps her Mom.

One of the things I’ve been particularly helpful with lately is making sure that Mom gets up on time.  Sometimes I think Mom doesn’t really appreciate how nice it is to have a kitten like me who can tell time as well as I can.  If it wasn’t for me, she’d have to set what humans call an alarm clock.  I know Mom has one, but she rarely uses it (because she has me!).  The few times she’s used it, it scared me!  It makes awful noises, and Mom doesn’t seem very happy when it wakes her up.  So I’ve found much more effective ways to wake her up, and I’m pretty creative and always come up with new, fun ones.

For example, I like to attack the headboard of Mom’s bed.  It makes a very satisfying noise when it bangs against the wall.  Unfortunately, after a while, Mom got used to the sound, and it didn’t really bother her enough to fully wake up, so I had to come up with something else.

It didn’t take me long.  Mom has  picture frames made of clear plastic sitting on her nightstand.  One morning,  I decided it might be fun to chew on the edges of the frames.  Hmm, tasty.  And fun!  It made a very satisfying, crunchy noise – and sure enough, it woke Mom right up!  She told me “no,” and even gently shoved me away from the picture frames, but of course, that required her to wake up all the way.  Ha!  Mission accomplished!  However, instead of being grateful that I found another way to wake her up, she simply put the picture frames away in a drawer from then on.  Humans are such spoilsports!

Not to be deterred, I quickly thought of another way to wake her up, and promptly tested it on her the next morning.  I jumped up on top of the dresser, and launched myself off of it and onto the bed.  Wee!!!  Very satisfying bounce, especially when I landed right on top of Mom!  Excellent!  I’m thinking short of moving the dresser out of the bedroom, she’s not going to be able to stop me from doing that!  Mom keeps explaining to me that she really doesn’t need help waking up, and that she wishes I’d quietly wait for her to be ready, or go play somewhere else in the house, but I think secretely she’s happy that I’m so good at this important task.

Other than purrfecting my skills as a feline alarm clock, I’ve been settling into a nice daily routine.  After I finally get Mom out of bed, I eat breakfast, then Mom plays with me, and then I watch the birds at the feeder on our deck.  It gets really busy out there!  Then I help Mom work by settling in for a morning nap next to her desk.  At lunch time, I remind Mom that it’s time for me to be brushed and then I get treats for being such a good girl.  I love being brushed now, but when I first came here, I wouldn’t even let her touch me with the brush, so she started giving me treats after brushing me.  Hey, I’m a smart kitten – it didn’t take me long to catch on that brushing was a good thing.  And now, in addition to getting treats, I actually like how being brushed feels.

After lunch, it’s time for a little more birdwatching, and then another nap.  By that time, on sunny days, the sun is right on Mom’s bed, and I usually spend the rest of the afternoon taking my nap there.  It feels so good to lie in the sun.  I really don’t like days when the sun doesn’t come out.  I’ve complained to Mom, but she says there’s nothing she can do about it.  I don’t know if I really believe that, because Mom is so powerful and can do so many things to make my life so nice, but so far, she’s not budging on this one.

So that’s it from me.  Life is good.  And now, it’s time for another nap!

Mom says my wake up tactics remind her of a Simon’s Cat video, and she thought you all might enjoy it.  After watching this, all I can say is Mom should consider herself very very lucky…..

httpv://youtu.be/w0ffwDYo00Q

An Interview with Blaize Clement, Author of Cat Sitter Among the Pidgeons

Blaize Clement is the author of Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, Duplicity Dogged the DachshundCat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof, Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues, and Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs.  The latest book in the series, Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons, was released on January 4, 2011.  Blaize has been a stay at home mom, dressmaker, caterer, family therapist, and writer, some of them all at the same time. She has never been a pet sitter, but has shared her home with dogs, cats, birds, fish, and neurotic gerbils. No snakes. She has a thing about snakes. She has written several parenting books, numerous essays and short stories and a play.  Blaize lives in Sarasota, Florida.

I’m delighted to welcome Blaize to The Conscious Cat today.

How did you first come up with the idea for the Dixie Hemingway series?

Actually, I never thought, “I believe I’ll write a mystery series,” it just sort of happened. I lead a workshop every week in which we grab a word and write like crazy for five minutes without any plan. I don’t remember what the word was, but in one of those writing bursts I ended up with scene in which a man drowned in a cat’s water bowl. That became the start of Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, which was the first book in the series.

How much of yourself is in Dixie’s character?

Friends tell me that Dixie’s smart-alecky mouth is exactly like mine, but I’m sure they exaggerate. I do agree that she and I share a deep feeling about the importance of family and loyalty. We also share an appreciation for the differences between people’s races, religions, and sexual orientations. We both pretty much think the world would be a better place if people just minded their own business and respected one another.

I was first drawn to your books by the adorable covers.  Anything with a cat on it will always get my attention!  How important are covers to the success of cozy mysteries like yours?

I think cover art is important to the sales of any book. I’ve liked all the Dixie covers, but my favorite was the very first one on the hardback edition. That book shot up to the best-seller list as soon as it came out, and I think the cover had a lot to do with it.

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

I usually start writing around ten in the morning, break for a quick lunch, and write until around four or five. During that time, of course, I may leave the computer to stir the soup or throw a load of laundry in the dryer, but mostly I’m writing. After I’m in bed, I think of ideas to insert into what I wrote during the day. I used to scribble those ideas on a post-it and stick it to my bedside table, but now I send it to myself on my laptop which is never away from my side. But I don’t do much actual writing at night because my brain is too tired. In the morning, I write in a journal before I get up. If I’m having plot problems, I may work then out in the journal and then take those ideas with me when I start on the manuscript again.

What do you love most about being a writer?

The writing. If I go a day without writing, I get antsy and weird. I’m sort of hard-wired to write. Part of my love of writing is a love of words. I can get gob-smacked over a new word that I’d never heard before, just awe-struck like other people get at seeing a rock star. I love sentences, too. Sometimes I read a book over and over just because I’m in love with the way the sentences march along in a wonderful rhythm.

What do you like least about being a writer?

The necessity of self-promotion. I don’t do that well, and half the time I forget that I’m supposed to be doing it at all. Some people are great at it, and I envy their talent. They blog and twitter and facebook and do virtual tours and send out cards and trailers, and I’m just amazed that they have the energy and know-how to do all that.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m inspired by writers like the poet David Whyte who are able to send word-arrows straight to the heart. I’m also inspired by philosophers and thinkers who rise above the petty, silly things we waste time with and remind us of what’s really important in life, like love and friendship and home. Some of those are contemporary and some have been around for centuries. When I’m writing, I always read some Greek classic, one of the tragedies or comedies, before I go to sleep at night. I want the largeness of those ideas to seep into my mind. I usually manage to slip a line from one of those classics into each Dixie story. It’s a little way of acknowledging those great minds and thanking them.

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

A young couple drove several hundred miles to bring me a framed plaque titled “The Official Dixie Hemingway Fan Club.” The plaque had photos of all their pets with their names and titles of President, VP, Secretary, etc, of the club. I was so touched that they’d gone to so much time and trouble to do that! The plaque hangs in my office and gives me a lift every time I look at it.

Tell us a little bit about your own pets.

My last pet was a beautiful Abyssinian who warmed my feet at night. At the moment, I have a grand-dog named Zoey. Zoey is two years old, and quite a character.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading a lovely new book by Bonnie Pemberton, a fellow member of Cat Writers of America. It’s titled The Cat Master, and is about the gulf between the Ferals and the Indoors. I’m not very far into it, but it promises to be a cat-hair raising adventure.

Are you working on another book?

I just finished the seventh book in the Dixie Hemingway series. I don’t know what the title will be, but it’s about the killing competition in the world of high fashion.

Thank you so much for your time, Blaize and much success with Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons!

You’re welcome, Ingrid! Thanks for inviting me.

You can learn more about Blaize and her book on her website and her blog Kitty Litter.

You may also enjoy:

My review of Cat Sitter Among the Pidgeons

Pet Bloggers Challenge

The Pet Bloggers Challenge was initiated by two members of the pet blogging community, Edie Jarolim of Will My Dog Hate Me? and Amy Burkert of GoPetFriendly.  I thought it would be a nice opportunity for some of you to learn a little bit more about why I blog and what my future plans are for The Conscious Cat.  So, I’m taking the challenge, along with other bloggers such as Romeo the Cat and Lorie Huston, DVM  at the Pet Health Care Gazette.  (Psst:  I was supposed to post this yesterday, but they’ve extended it until 11:59pm tonight, so I’m still good!).

So, without further ado:

1.  When did you begin your blog?

I started blogging on March 1, 2009 – we’ll soon be celebrating our 2nd anniversary!

2.  What was the original purpose for starting a blog?

The Conscious Cat was inspired by Amber, and my vision was for it to become a comprehensive resource for conscious living, health and happiness for cats and their humans.  I was already publishing my bi-monthly newsletter News for You and Your Pets, and I was in the process of writing Buckley’s Story.  Starting the blog gave me an opportunity to reach an ever growing audience of cat lovers who are as passionate about their cats and their health and happiness as I am.

3.  Is your current purpose the same?

Yes, absolutely.

4.  Do you blog on schedule or as the spirit moves you?

I usually blog three times a week:  Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays.  I keep an editorial calendar, but it’s very flexible.

5.  Are you generating income from your blog?

Yes.  The Conscious Cat Store features products hand-picked by me (and some are even approved by Allegra!).  I receive some income from carefully selected companies who advertise on my blog.  I only advertise products and services that I’ve either personally used, or that I believe will be of interest to my readers.

6.  What do you like most about blogging in general and about your blog in particular (bragging is good)?

I love to write!  I’m passionate about educating cat owners about feline health and nutrition, and blogging gives me an easy way to reach a wide audience.  I love the community blogging builds – from fellow pet bloggers to my readers, I’ve “met” so many wonderful people through this blog.  One absolutely amazing “by-product” of this site has been the community of tortie lovers created by my post Tortitude – The Unique Personality of Tortoiseshell Cats.  I wrote the post in August of 2009, and it’s generated more than 1400 comments as of this writing!  The thread has become a place for afficionados of cats with this particular coloring to gather and exchange stories about their cats, and the friendships that have formed as a result are something I never expected when I started this site.

7.  What do you like least?

The days when inspiration is slow to come.  Coming up with original content on an ongoing basis, and meeting my own high standards for that content, can sometimes be a challenge.

8.  How do you see your blog changing or growing in 2011?

I’m hoping that the rapid growth I’ve seen over the past year will continue (and I wouldn’t complain if it magically went viral overnight, either!).    I’ll continue to expand the topics I’m presenting.  I’m looking forward to hosting exciting guest bloggers.   I have some great giveaways planned.  And most of all, I’m looking forward to all the comments I get from my readers each and every day.

Cat scratching solutions, and a giveaway to help

You just got a new sofa, and your cat has decided that it makes a wonderful scratching post.  The new carpet in your family room is already showing claw marks.   You’re frustrated, you’ve shooed your cat away, you’ve yelled at her, and she just looks at you as if you’ve gone crazy.  “What’s your problem, human?  I’m just doing what nature intended for me to do!”

Cats scratch for a variety of reasons, and none of them have anything to do with intentionally ruining your furniture and carpeting. Scratching is natural behavior.  Cats scratch to groom their claws, the scratching motion helps remove dead sheaths from their front claws (they usually chew them off their back claws).    They scratch to mark their territory.  Their front paws contain scent glands, and scratching leaves behind their unique signature on the object being scratched.  They scratch for exercise; scratching stretches the muscles in the front legs and all along the back.  And they scratch simply because it feels good.

So what can you do to let your cat be a cat, and still protect your furniture?

Provide your cat with appropriate scratching posts.   Both the type of material the scratching surface is made out of as well as the horizontal or vertical orientation of it matter.  Some cats prefer corrugated cardboard, others prefer carpeted surfaces or sisal.   Generally, sisal seems to be the most popular with cats, and it allows them to really go to town on shredding the material to pieces.  Don’t throw out a scratching post when it’s all tattered and shredded, because to your cat, that probably means it’s finally perfectly broken in.  Until you know your cat’s preference, it’s best to have a mixture of horizontal and vertical scratchers with different surfaces.    Most cats seem to prefer vertical scratchers, and they should be tall enough to allow the cat to fully stretch her body.   Regardless of your cat’s preference, you should have multiple scratchers throughout the house.

Make the scratching post appealing to your cat.  Place it in an area where your cat likes to spend time.  Sprinkle some catnip on it to attract the cat to it.  Place treats on or near the post.  Praise your cat when she uses the post (and use treats to reinforce the praise).

Discourage your cat from scratching furniture.  Never punish your cat – punishment simply leads to increased anxiety and more unwanted behavior.  Apply tape to the parts of furniture that are attractive to your cat.  Double-sided Sticky Paws® tape works well (and it’s clear, so it won’t ruin your decor), as does tinfoil.  Apply Feliway® spray to the areas you don’t want your cat to scratch – studies have shown that it can reduce scratching behavior.  Gently, without yelling at your cat, redirect her to a nearby scratching post.

Keep your cat’s nails trimmed.  While this won’t eliminate scratching, trimmed nails can’t do as much damage.  For more on how to trim your cat’s nails, click here.

Soft Paws© Nail Caps.  These soft vinyl tips are glued onto the cat’s claws so they can’t do any damage when the cat scratches.  You can do this yourself, or have it done at your veterinary clinic.  However, I’m not a fan of these nail caps.  The cat’s paws will still have to be handled to apply the caps, and nails have to be trimmed prior to application, so if you’re able to do that, then why not just trim the cat’s nails, period.  Additionally, once the caps are on, cats won’t be able to retract their claws, and I can’t imagine that feels very good to them.

Declawing should never be an option.  When a cat is declawed, it is essentially maimed.  Declawing is a surgical procedure that involves amputating the top join of the cat’s toes.  The Paw Project provides extensive information on this topic.

*** This giveaway is closed ***

Thanks to the folks at StickyPaws, I’m able to offer you a fantastic giveway to help with your cat scratching challenges!  Win a BusyPaws™ Scratch-n-Relax Pad, StickyPaws® Furniture and Carpet Strips, and a Scratch This™ corrugated coardboard scratcher.  To enter, leave a comment sharing either a scratching challenge or a solution that has worked for you.  Share this post and giveaway on Facebook and Twitter and post the link in a separate comment for an additional chance to win.  This giveaway will end on January 21.

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Book Review: Cat Sitter Among the Pidgeons by Blaize Clement

I first discovered Blaize Clement’s Dixie Hemingway series three years ago when the cover of the first book in the series, Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, caught my eye.  Dixie Hemingway is a pet sitter who lives on one of the Florida keys – just based on those two pieces of information, I had a feeling I was going to thoroughly enjoy the series, and I wasn’t disappointed.  I’ve since read the entire series, and I was eagerly awaiting the next book.  Even if I wasn’t already a fan, the cover of this one would have drawn me in for sure!

From the publisher:

In the sixth installment of the wildly popular Dixie Hemingway mystery series, Dixie is caring for the cat of a prickly old man whose granddaughter shows up with baby in tow.  Dixie desperately tries to save this young woman and her infant from murderous con-artists ready to kill in order to hold on to the millions they stole from naive investors.  The villains, though, are not run-of-the-mill criminals; they are among the socially prominent movers and shakers in Dixie’s town.  As with other novels in the series, in the end, Dixie must confront her greatest fears and try to save the lives of the innocent, both two-legged and four.

This book has everything that makes a successful cozy mystery:  an immensely likable protagonist, a wonderful setting (especially when you’re reading it in the middle of winter), well-developed secondary characters, and, of course, there are plenty of cats. 

For me, the most enjoyable part about reading a series is always the development of the main character, and Clement does this masterfully, but the book can also be read on its own without taking anything away from it.  However, be forewarned:  once you read this one, you’re going to want to read the entire series.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read for mystery and cat lovers alike.  The only complaint I had about it was that it ended much too quickly, and I can’t wait for the next one.

Blaize Clement is the author of Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, Duplicity Dogged the DachshundCat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof, Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues, and Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs.  Blaize has been a stay at home mom, dressmaker, caterer, family therapist, and writer, some of them all at the same time. She has never been a pet sitter, but has shared her home with dogs, cats, birds, fish, and neurotic gerbils. No snakes. She has a thing about snakes. She has written several parenting books, numerous essays and short stories and a play.  Blaize lives in Sarasota, Florida.

Look for an interview with Blaize Clement here on
The Conscious Cat on Wednesday, January 7!

I received a review copy of this book from the author.

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Keeping your single cat happy

kitten-play-ball

Allegra was never supposed to be an only cat.  When I adopted the then 7-month-old kitten last April, the plan was for Amber, who was 12 at the time, to show her the ropes, and for the two of them to become playmates and best friends.

Less than five weeks after Allegra’s arrival, Amber passed away after a sudden, brief illness. I was devastated, and in addition to coping with my grief, which took up almost all the energy I had, I now had a sweet, but rambunctious, slightly juvenile delinquent kitten on my hands.

I knew if I wanted Allegra to be happy, and address some of her behavioral challenges at the same time (she chewed on everything from picture frames to books to the edges of my bedroom dresser, and she was slightly play aggressive), I needed to keep her entertained.  Ideally, I should have gotten her a companion of similar temperament, but I wasn’t emotionally ready for that yet (and I’m still not quite ready).  So it was up to me to keep her active, stimulated and challenged.

All my cats always have been, and always will be, indoor cats.  I thought my home was kitty paradise already.  There are lots of windows with views of trees, birds and squirrels.  There are window perches in two bedrooms for the cats’ viewing pleasure and for naps in the sun.  There are cat toys everywhere.

But it was kitty paradise for older cats, not for a young, energetic kitten.  So I worked on what behaviorists call environmental enrichment.  I created hiding spaces for Allegra.  Cardboard boxes work just fine, as do grocery bags with the handles cut off.  Cat igloos and crinkly tunnels are fun, too.  I bought extra scratching posts.  I added vertical space.  There are numerous ways to do this:  cat trees, cat condos, shelves or window perches.  I got puzzle toys for her; they’re a great way to keep a young cat entertained.  I set up treasure hunts to keep her busy, hiding treats throughout the house and letting her find them.

All of this environmental enrichment was designed to keep Allegra entertained when I couldn’t play with her, but it was never meant to be a substitute for regular playtime.  I use a lot of interactive, fishing pole type toys to play with her.  These toys are designed to imitate prey behavior and they help wake the hunting instinct in cats.  Tossing balls or other small toys for her sends her racing through the house.  I haven’t managed to teach her to retrieve, although cats can learn how to do this.  I have a laser pointer toy, but rarely use it.  Even though Allegra goes nuts chasing after the red dot, it’s a very unsatisfactory way to play for her.  Cats’ play mimics hunting behavior, and it’s no fun for them if they can never catch their prey.

With young cats like Allegra, burning off excess energy is important.  We established regular play sessions of 10-15 minute each, at least twice a day, sometimes more frequently.  Playing before meals, or just before bedtime, works best.  Once we had these regular play sessions in place, a lot of Allegra’s behavior issues disappeared because she was no longer bored.

Eventually we’ll add another cat to our family.  For now, Allegra is very happy to be the only cat in her environmentally enriched home.

7 Tips for a Healthy, Happy New Year for Cats and Their Humans

cat-clover-grass

Happy New Year to all of you!  Thanks to your support, The Conscious Cat is growing rapidly. We have some exciting new things in mind for the new year, and we’re looking forward to continue to bring you all the information you need to keep your cats (and yourself) happy and healthy.

The seven tips listed below will get your year off to a good start and help make this your best year yet, for you and your cats!

1.  Feed a species appropriate diet

Nutrition is the foundation for good health. Cats are obligate carnivores and they need meat to thrive.  If you’re not already feeding a raw or grain-free canned diet, consider making this the year you make the switch. Your cats will thank you for it. You’ll find a wealth of information on feline nutrition, and on how to switch your cat to a healthier diet, right here on The Conscious Cat.

2.  Regular veterinary check ups

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.”

3.  Keep your cat’s teeth healthy

Dental disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for cats, and, if left untreated, can lead to serious health problems including heart, kidney and liver disease. For more on why good dental health is so important for your cat, click here.

4.  Regular playtime

Make time to play with your cats. Regular playtime will not only keep your cat happy, it’s also a wonderful time for you to bond with your cat, and it helps you relieve your stress. Additionally, it provides exercise for kitty. Interactive toys make playtime fun for both of you. Consider puzzle toys for the times when you can’t play with your cats.

5.  Meditate with your cat

The benefits of meditation for humans have been scientifically proven. It just so happens that cats make the ideal meditation companion. For more on how to meditate with your cat, click here.

6.  Educate yourself about cat health

You are your cat’s guardian when it comes to health issues, and the more you know, the better off your cat will be.  You can count on us to bring you the latest information on everything you need to know to keep your cats happy and healthy.

7.  Do something for less fortunate cats

Helping others is an integral part of a life well lived, and it’s good for your health.  Even though we’d like to be able to, we can’t save every cat in need of a home, but there are things you can do to help, from donating money to your favorite shelter, to fostering cats for a local rescue, to volunteering time at a shelter to give the cats some love and attention.

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My 10 favorite cat books of 2010

 

Reading is as essential as breathing to me.  I usually have at least two or three different books going, and at least one of them will have something to do with cats.  I’ll read anything from books about cat health to stories about cats who changed their owner’s life to murder mysteries featuring cats.

Here are ten of my favorites from this year, in no particular order:

  • Grey Matters by Clea Simon is a cat-themed murder mystery and the second in a series featuring Harvard grad student Dulcie Schwartz and the ghost of Mr. Grey, her beloved deceased cat, who offers his wise and comforting, but often veiled and cryptic advice.  While the premise of a ghost cat may sound like a bit of a stretch for many readers, Simon makes this work by combining it with immensely likeable and multi-dimensional characters, exceptional plotting, and a fascinating academic setting.  I’m a huge fan of all of Simon’s books, and she just keeps getting better.
  • Your Cat – Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life by Elizabeth M. Hodgkins, D.V.M., Esq.  is a comprehensive guide to feline health and nutrition.  From kitten through adult life to the senior years, Dr. Hodgkins explores the full spectrum of cat care, and offers a closer look at the common chronic diseases that afflict so many cats.  Hodgkins believes that the underlying cause for many of these diseases, as well as the key to managing or even curing them, is nutrition.  I loved this book because it approaches feline nutrition from a perspective that makes sense to me.
  • The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie by Alan Goldstein is one of the most unique cat books I’ve ever come across.  As much as I love cat books, I never expected to find one I actually couldn’t put down until this one.   Written from the perspective of an orange long-haired cat named DooDoo, this is the account of how a sudden impulse sends the self-confessed catnip addict into the wilds of San Francisco and beyond, and his subsequent six thousand mile, year-long journey across America, trying to find his way home again.  Along the way he encounters a subway cat named Rass who becomes his new best friend, helps a homeless drunk find his way home, a minor league baseball player and a small town TV reporter find the big time, and a widowed pilot find peace.
  • Complete Care for Your Aging Cat by Amy Shojai.  I have a soft spot for senior cats, and I was thrilled when I came across the newly released and updated edition of this book.  This comprehensive guide on caring for senior cats is a must have for any cat owner’s cat care library, and the “golden moments” stories from real life cat owners caring for senior cats are heart touching.
  • The Cat, the Professor and the Poison by Leann Sweeney is the second mystery in the author’s Cats in Trouble series featuring amateur sleuth and quilt maker Jillian Hart and her three cats, Merlot, Chablis and Syrah.  I loved that this book was not just a highly entertaining and fun mystery, but is also interspersed with plenty of fascinating facts about cats.
  • Houdini by T.J. Banks is the story of Siamese kitten who goes from the despair of being abandoned to the joy of finding happiness when he meets a young girl who smuggles him home on a plane.  I was touched by the author’s deep connection with the feline soul that comes through in every word.  It melted my heart over and over again.
  • Dear Sparkle – Cat to Cat Advice from the World’s Foremost Feline Columnist edited by Janiss Garza is a beautifully designed and unique cat care book that 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, it gives the reader insight into how cats think and provides a fresh new look at some of the same old problems.
  • Cleo:  The Cat Who Mended a Family by Helen Brown is a sweeping memoir of heartbreak, changes, new beginnings, and ultimately, happiness.   When Brown is faced with the unthinkable – the loss of a child – this small black cat becomes the thread that holds Brown’s family together through devastating grief, illness, moves across continents, and other challenges.   This one goes on my list of best cat books ever, right along with such classics as A Snowflake in My Hands and The Cat Who Came for Christmas.
  • The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care:  An Illustrated Handbook by Celeste Yarnall and Jean Hofve, DVM is a beautifully designed guide for cat owners interested in natural remedies such as herbs, homeopathy and flower essences, hand-on healing modalities including chiropractic, acupuncture and Reiki, as well as some more esoteric therapies such as Applied Kinesiology, crystal, color and sound healing, and magnetic therapy.  The photographs in this book are stunning.
  • The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle is not strictly a cat book, but since it features a very cool, cranky, but ultimately loving three-legged one whose life was saved by the protagonist, and since I loved this book so much, I’m including it in this list.  Blessings is a beautifully written and plotted relationship drama featuring a veterinarian who finds solace and healing from her animals as she deals with some of life’s challenges.

What are some of your favorite cat books of the year?

Allegra’s World: Allegra’s First Christmas

There’s been so much cool stuff happening around here, I don’t even know where to start!  For the past week, Mom has been bringing out lots of fun toys:  big rolls of paper, crinkly tissue paper, and, best of all, bows and ribbons!  I actually don’t think she brought them out for me, because she put them on the dining room table, and I don’t usually play up there.  And Mom doesn’t usually play unless it’s with me, but she started playing with those toys, so I, being the good kitten daughter that I am, had to go help her.  Mom said what she was doing is called wrapping gifts.  Whatever – it was great fun!  I grabbed some of the bows and took off with them, making Mom chase after me.   Things got even more interesting when Mom got ready to put some ribbon on one of the gifts she was wrapping.  I tried to help by batting at the ribbon and chewing on the ends, and I couldn’t understand why she kept telling me no (I also don’t think she was all that serious about the “no,” because she kept laughing).   I think eventually  Mom decided that her presents wouldn’t have any ribbons on them.   She said it’s called “the path of least resistence.”  I think those are just big words for spoiling my fun.

But the best thing happened this past weekend.  All of a sudden, there were all these packages under our Christmas tree.  Where did they come from?  Mom said Santa brought them.  I don’t know who this Santa is, but Mom explained that he brings presents to good little kittens, and that on Christmas, we’d be opening the packages together.  Wee!!!  That sounded like fun.  I like this Santa!  I helped Mom open the first package.   It was for me!  It was a really fun toy that looked like a giant piece of cheese.  I love cheese!  And there were little things inside the big cheese, so I had to immediately try to get them out.  I still haven’t quite figured out how yet, but I’ll  keep working at it.

But that wasn’t all.  There were so many other packages!  Since I was happily playing with my big cheese, Mom opened some of her packages without my help.  The stuff in them wasn’t very interesting, but the growing pile of wrapping paper was, so I stopped playing with my big cheese and went to check it out.  I crawled under the paper, rustled around in it, and pounced on it.  Way cool!  After letting me have some fun with the pile, Mom said there were more packages for me, so I helped her open them.  So many fun toys!  I didn’t even know what to play with first.  In fact, to be totally honest, I got a little overwhelmed with everything.  I didn’t know it was possible for a kitten to be so loved and to get so many gifts.  How lucky am I!

After we had opened all the packages, Mom started gathering the pile of paper and the bows and ribbons.  I asked her whether we could just keep them out since they were so much fun to play in, but she nixed that idea.  Humans – they can be such spoil sports.  But I didn’t mind too much since I have all these fun new toys to play with.

After all this excitement, I needed a long nap – and I took it in Mom’s lap, while she was sitting by the Christmas tree.  Mom listened to some music, and I slept.

I love Christmas!