Friday, December 30, 2011
While cruising through the pet-related news reports today, I stumbled across this very interesting article about the public's perceptions about Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS). According to this article, people believe that MCAS is only involved in picking up unwanted, injured or dead animals and that MCAS tends to euthanize animals if they aren't picked up within three days.
By contrast, people believed the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) was involved in placing animals in loving homes.
Some people who adopted from MCAS were so confused that they insisted that they got their animals from OHS, even when they came from MCAS.
Frankly, I find this study deeply depressing. For starters, MCAS does a significant amount of good work in the community. The shelter workers take in all sorts of animals that no one wants, and they may spend months trying to find the right homes for these animals. They are careful to spay and neuter the animals before they're adopted out, and they often provide a significant amount of medical care to help sick animals recover so they can be adopted.
This work is paid for by our taxes, and by the licensing fees we pay for our animals. That is just one reason that I am adamant about keeping all of our pets licensed. The fees go to good causes (and, it's the law, people!).
MCAS needs a bit of a facelift, perhaps, but people should also remember that the shelter is stuffed to the gills with animals who need homes. Often, adoption fees at MCAS are lower than adoption fees at OHS, and the animals are just as deserving. I know many people consider OHS the first stop for pet adoptions, but I worry that MCAS is simply being ignored, hiding in the shadows of OHS.
Take a look at the animals available at MCAS by clicking here. Today, you can adopt a pet from the shelter for only $30. This is an amazing deal. Let's spread the word and help MCAS.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
People who do animal rescue often use phrases that both baffle and annoy people who do not do animal rescue. The phrase "heart dog" is just one example. If I understand this phrase correctly, it means that the dog in question is somehow very special to the person speaking, and the dog is therefore close to the person's heart. I think....
In any case, one phrase animal rescuers use all the time is "forever home." To outsiders, this phrase can be a bit baffling. After all, animals don't live forever, and very few animals live in the homes in which they were born. To cut down on confusion, I thought I might define what a forever home is.
When animal rescue agencies place an animal, they only want to do it one time. They want the animal to move from the rescue into the place the animal will live until it dies. This means the animal will have only one set of people to live with, and will never be given up, no matter what happens to the people.
So, adopters who want a puppy because it's cute may not be able to provide a forever home. They might be able to give the pup a perfectly suitable home until it grows up, but when it is no longer a puppy and no longer quite so cute, the owners might want to replace the dog with another puppy. The adult dog, then, goes homeless.
Adopters who want to adopt a dog but who have no money to pay for the dog may be in the same boat. Much as they might like the dog, if they can't afford to feed and house the dog now, it's likely the dog will get the boot when the people face an economic setback.
If an animal rescue is looking to place the dog just once, in its forever home, they might reject all sorts of people and continue looking for the right match. It might seem cruel at first, when the animal could simply leave the shelter quickly with the first person who comes along, but if the organization wants to just place the dog once, the patience could pay off.
Why is this all so important? Next time you have an hour or two to spare, go to the pets section on craigslist.com and look for adoption entries with the words "moving" or "lost my job" or "no time" in them. You'll find hundreds of adult pets who thought they were in their forever homes who are suddenly without any homes at all.
Forever homes seem to make emotional sense, but sadly, many people have no intention of providing their animals with forever homes. Let's hope this will change. If this little, clunky term helps turn the tide, I'll use it. Will you?
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
|Liam eyes the new enemy (note how snug he is to the wall).|
A few months back, I had surgery for my shoulder. Recovery is no picnic. My therapists ask me to do all sorts of wild exercises several times per day, and since my left side is so weak, I often have to use tools in my therapy. Since I can't hold my arm out to the left side, for example, I hold a stick in my right hand and shove my left arm out to the side. These therapies are awkward for me, but I think they're even more difficult for small and fearful Liam.
Liam is afraid of almost every tool I've used in my physical therapy. Bands and sticks have been particularly troubling in the past, and when I brought home this large exercise ball yesterday, I thought he might have an actual mental breakdown. He absolutely refused to be in the same room with the exercise ball, so he stood in the hallway, shivering.
Today, he will stay in the room when the ball is out, but as you can see in the photograph, he remains convinced that the ball is going to do him some sort of harm, and he gives it a wide margin. When I start rolling the ball for my exercises, he hides under the desk. If a stationary ball is scary, a ball on the move must be simply terrifying.
In a few days, with some coaxing and plenty of cookies, he should be clear of these fears. Then, we'll both wait to see what new tools the therapists will give me in my next session. I hope his heart can hold out.
If your dog is fearful like this, conditioning can help. Placing treats near the scary thing gives the dog a very specific reminder that new can be good. But the key is to go slowly. Dogs must approach their fears alone, without you pushing them to do so.
For Liam, it takes about an hour to approach something new. Some dogs can make the leap quicker. Some dogs need even more time. Just remember: Don't push. Let them decide, and soon, that new thing will be scary no more.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
|Isn't my basement glamorous?|
I know many of you are wondering why in the world I would grow my own catnip when it's so cheap. Whole Foods, for example, sells a tub of catnip for about $5. All I can say is that I have my reasons.
The plants aren't particularly beautiful, but they do put off a spicy, sweet scent that's quite pleasant. I also like the idea of growing the plants my cats will eat, as I'm sure it's grown with no pesticides or chemicals. To me, this is reassurance that is well worth the effort. And, let's face it, I'm cheap. Why spend $5 every 6 months when I can spend $2 once per year? In fact, if these plants keep on producing, I may never have to buy another tub again! Ha!
The most annoying part of this process, however, is the harvesting. It takes a long time to accomplish, and as you can see, it's not a terribly beautiful process.
I cut the stems back to an inch above the soil, and bundle two or three stems with twist ties. Then, I hang the bundles from a hanger in the basement, next to the duct work for the furnace and the hot water heater. This is a hot, dry part of the basement, and this is just the right sort of air to help the catnip dry. Even so, it often takes 6 to 8 weeks for the stems to completely shrivel. When the stems and leaves are dry, I run them through a spice mill until the pieces are fine.
This is just the sort of sprinkle my cats expect to see on their cat trees after their weekly grooming sessions, and I'm happy to provide it!
Monday, December 26, 2011
|Jasper enjoying his hot pack treatment.|
Cats carry a large amount of bacteria in their mouths, and their skin tends to heal quickly. When a cat bites another cat, those teeth transmit infection deep beneath the fur, and the skin heals over that infection. Cats then develop a pocket of disgusting puss below the skin that grows and grows until it bursts to the surface.
When a cat develops an abscess like this, a veterinarian usually needs to anesthetize the cat, put in a drain and place the cat on antibiotics. It's an expensive proposition at any veterinarian's office, but it's very expensive at an emergency clinic.
Thankfully, however, not all bites become abscessed. If you can encourage your cat to show you injuries when they happen, you can actually prevent abscesses from forming through diligent home care. That seems to be what's happening here.
Jasper seems to have a tiny bite that's somewhat fresh. It's open, bleeding and smells clean. There's no real puss coming out, and he seems to be eating well and feeling well. If we didn't treat it, and that skin closed up, off to the vet he would go. But for now, home care is a viable choice.
Three times per day, Jasper sits on my husband's lap and receives a hot pack on his wound. This pack will draw up any infection that's present and we can scrub away any dead tissue. He likes these treatments, and he often purrs and kneads his paws. After the treatment is done, we clean his wound thoroughly with an antiseptic, and daub of antibiotic cream on the wound. We also check him for fever or pain. All seems to be well, at the moment.
Not a great Christmas gift for Jasper, to be sure, but I am happy that nothing too very serious is happening here. And, I am doubly glad that he is up-to-date on his vaccines. If he's going to fight, he'll need the extra dose of immunity. Otherwise, he could come home with something much more serious than a simple scratch. And I'm glad that he trusts us enough to show us his war wounds, long before they become abscesses.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Christmastime can be a time of danger for cats. Those brown paper packages tied up with string seem a heck of a lot like toys to curious cats, and they can quickly eat large pieces of that string during the course of one play session.
Cats who eat string can face some fairly serious health problems. Strings can get wrapped around teeth, and that bit of tissue can span the length of a cat's body from stem to stern, slicing up everything it touches. String can also wrap around organs, and cats that try to pull on those bits as they emerge could end up slicing their organs in half.
When I worked in the veterinary emergency clinic, I saw several cats that died due to string. And I saw plenty of owners forced to shell out thousands on life-saving surgeries for cats that ate presents.
It's bad, right? Thankfully, it's a problem you can solve.
I keep all wrapping paper and string in a plastic bin, deep down in the basement. I wrap up my presents behind a closed door, and when I'm done, I put all the packaging bits back in that bin for storage.
All of those presents I wrapped? They go in their own bin in the storage space. I'd love to display them, but it isn't safe.
During frantic unwrapping moments, I keep a brown paper bag on hand. All of the ribbons and paper goes into that bag as it comes off of presents. And that bag goes outside for disposal as soon as the fun is done.
If you follow these steps, your pets will be safe from Christmas wrapping woes. But, if something goes wrong and you know your cat ate string, call your local emergency veterinarian. You have no idea what that string is attached to and while you wait or pull. An emergency professional can provide advice that could save your kitty a significant amount of pain.
Have a safe holiday, everyone!
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
|Eamon enjoys the heat from the oil-filled furnace.|
Ever since he hurt his back, however, Eamon has been an absolute freak about heat. He will drape himself over the other cats, snuggling into their warmth, and he'll sit so close to this little oil-filled heater that I'm afraid he'll melt parts of his fur. It started to make me wonder if his arthritis symptoms were reduced when he was hot.
There have been plenty of studies that suggest that some forms of human arthritis do better with heat therapies. Perhaps when the muscles are warm and relaxed, they tug a bit less on painful joints and bones and the people feel a bit better. Other forms of arthritis don't do well with heat therapies, however, since people with those diseases tend to feel as though their joints are hot and inflamed already.
For now, I try to keep things a bit warmer for Eamon, in case it helps. He has ready access to this heater during the day, and in the evenings, I make sure the furnace is up and running. I've put a few comfy beds near the furnace vents as well. I hope, however, that he won't choose to climb into the fireplace on Christmas Eve in the hopes of getting warm. I may have to keep the squirt gun handy to keep him out.
Monday, December 19, 2011
|Maggie and Eamon sharing space quite happily.|
The outdoor cats are a territorial bunch, and they're prone to participate in slapping fests around mealtimes. These are rarely epic battles, and it's extremely rare for any cat to emerge with injuries after the fights are over, but they can seem and sound pretty scary. One cat will start spitting and slapping, the other will spit and slap back and soon, they're chasing one another around the driveway.
The indoor cats seem extremely sensitive to change, and they'll fight when something small is amiss. When one cat is sick, for example, the others will beat on the sick cat mercilessly. Rarely does this cause any serious problem, however, as the picked-on cat will usually run to me for assistance or Liam will throw himself in the middle of the fight to keep the peace.
When the rare cat fight breaks out that seems serious, it's best to break up the action with one loud noise. Clapping your hands, pounding on the door, beating on the window or stamping your feet all work well. Some experts claim a blast of water is also effective, but it's not a method I've used.
Once the fight is over, it's best to do some research to determine why the fight broke out. In some cases, you can solve the problem. Taking a sick cat to the doctor might help, for example, or feeding the cats in separate areas can reduce territorial squabbles.
There are some fights you may never truly prevent, however, as some cats just seem to love their spats and they'll hold them no matter what you do.
For more information about why cats fight, see this article. I remain convinced that no one can truly know why cats do anything they do, but this gal does seem to have a few theories that make some sense.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
|Flipping the ears back is Stage 1 of zoomie time!|
During a pug zoomie, the pug tends to:
- Unfurl the tail. Liam can hold his straight down.
- Flatten the ears.
- Bend the back knees.
- Run at high speeds in no particular direction.
- Make shrieking noises.
I've seen multiple pugs do this at meetups, and I've heard that other breeds do much the same thing. In fact, my Boston terrier got the zoomies, but he didn't have a tail to flatten and he took a more upright stance in the run. My Boston also stopped the zoomies when he hit age 5, but Liam seems to be going strong year after year.
Zoomies can be a bit intimidating, and they can also be a little annoying. Having a dog running about and screaming while you're trying to sign for a package, for example, can be a little much. But I like to think that zoomies are an expression of joy, and if so, I hope Liam continues to zoom for the rest of his days.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Dogs have plenty of habits that can seem disgusting to the average owner. Eating out of the cat box, sniffing the rear end of other dogs and rolling in dead animals tend to top the list. While I am happy to report that Liam rarely engages in these sorts of gross behaviors, there is one nasty dog action he likes to perform on a fairly regular basis.
Yep, Liam truly seems to love his toys.
In the evenings, when I am about to eat dinner, off he goes on a love extravaganza with one of his toys. There are a few special toys he seems particularly fond of, and any sort of large toy quickly becomes a target.
Now, the ASPCA says that this behavior shouldn't be considered abnormal, and dogs who do this once or twice per day shouldn't necessarily be stopped from acting this way. I think I speak for most dog owners, however, when I say that dogs pounding away in the living room aren't necessarily behaving appropriately. It might be normal, but it's certainly not desirable.
In most cases, I can stop the behavior by removing the toy and keeping that toy locked up for a few days. I can also stop the behavior if I ask Liam to perform a trick such as "sit" or "back up" and I give him a cookie for doing so.
But the ASPCA also suggests that dogs engage in this behavior when they feel left out or frustrated. It makes sense that Liam would feel this way when I am eating. He knows he won't be given table scraps, and he knows he's not allowed to beg.
Looks like I need to find puzzle toys or some sort of engaging treat to provide during dinner to help his mental state. One Christmas present, coming right up!
Monday, December 12, 2011
|Eamon gets in touch with his reflection.|
When Eamon hurt his back, he was placed on prednisone and the veterinarian asked me to monitor his progress and taper his dose if I thought he was improving. For the first several weeks, I found myself following him around obsessively. He played with a toy. Does this mean he felt better? He didn't feel like grooming this afternoon. Was he hurting? This sort of thing can make you crazy, and eventually, Eamon took to hiding beneath the couch so I would leave him alone.
Now that several months have passed, I think we have both mellowed a bit.
I've discovered that I can best measure Eamon's pain level by watching his interaction with the other animals. If he's feeling well, he will run past the dog in the hopes of starting a game of chase. If he's feeling extraordinarily well, he'll wrestle with Lucy in the evenings. On the flip side, if he's feeling painful, he'll hiss and growl when his mates try to play and he'll choose to sleep by himself instead of snuggling with others.
This might not be the best way to measure pain in other cats, and it's certainly not an approach I've seen described anywhere else, but it's the measurement I'm using here. When he seems painful, I increase his meds just a bit. When he's been fine for several days, I lower the dose.
So far, things seem to be working. Here's hoping the trend will continue.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
|Liam spots his lunch on the counter.|
Until just recently, I had thought I was doing something wonderful that Liam would thank me for.
Fish oil supplements are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and these substances can increase oil production in the skin. This can make a dog a bit less itchy, and it can also help the coat stay thick and shiny. Also, some studies suggest that fish oils can reduce yeasts, so pugs like Liam might get fewer infections in their facial folds when they're taking in these substances.
Apparently, however, some sensitive dogs can get nauseated from fish oils. Last week, Liam became one of these dogs.
While he never vomited and his appetite was good, he left puddles and puddles of drool everywhere he went and he just seemed to feel terrible. When I stopped giving the fish oil, the problem went away.
According to some articles I've read, humans who get nauseated due to fish oil have had success when they've frozen the capsules. Apparently, this allows the oil to hit the intestines rather than the stomach, and this makes nausea a bit less likely.
It all sounds good, but I'm not quite ready to jump on the bandwagon yet. While I like the idea of reducing nausea, I am a little worried about Liam swallowing something large and hard. Choking is a real danger with this plan.
So for now, I am giving his fish oil supplements in the middle of the day, instead of in the morning. In the morning, he also has a vitamin powder, and perhaps the two substances together are too much. Also, in the middle of the day, he probably still has a little food in his stomach from breakfast, and perhaps this little food buffer will reduce his nausea. At this point, he doesn't seem nauseated, so my plan seems to be working.
Keep your fingers crossed!
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
|Liam often tries to lick excess toothpaste off Eamon's lips.|
As a result of this diet and his age, Eamon's teeth have been simply terrible. His breath is awful, and since he drools when he purrs, he developed the ability to leave puddles of rank-smelling fluid everywhere he went. When I looked in his mouth, I could see that his teeth were covered with brown plaque.
Eventually, I know he'll need a dental cleaning. I wondered, however, if I could stave that off for a few weeks or months by brushing his teeth. Eamon is pretty mellow, and he is very food motivated, so I thought I might have a shot at success.
As it turns out, Eamon loves to have his teeth brushed.
I've been brushing his teeth at night, right after I brush my own teeth, and he's taken to running into the bathroom when he hears me brushing my teeth. I use a malt-flavored toothpaste he seems to like, and I use a tiny toothbrush made for cats. My brushing sessions take about a minute, and I focus my efforts on the outsides of his back teeth. I use soft, round motions and he seems to like the feel. Often, he purrs when I brush his teeth. When he's done, he whirls around my legs for a bit as a thank you.
I'm happy to report that his teeth look a slight bit less brown, after a week of brushing, and his breath isn't nearly so horrific. I think he will still need a dental cleaning soon, but in the meantime, I'll keep up with my brushing.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
|"Damn! She has the Cat Scram set up!"|
Obviously, I don't want a cat with a back injury jumping on and off the kitchen counters. Yelling didn't work, scolding didn't work and keeping the door shut 24/7 wasn't realistic. So, I invested in something called a "Catscram."
I think this invention is pure genius.
A Catscram has a motion sensor attached to it, and it can detect movement up to 6 feet away when sitting flat. When the motion sensor is activated, the device emits a high-pitched series of beeps that simply drives most cats wild.
I set up the device and all of the cats immediately left the kitchen. Maggie and Lucy have never come back.
Eamon will occasionally run past, but he is less and less likely to enter the kitchen these days. He only comes in now when he is desperate. In addition, I can hear the alarm go off (apparently, I have dog hearing) so I know when he has moved past the alarm. For me, this is an added bonus.
Dogs like Liam can hear the beeps as well, and Liam doesn't like the beeping, but he's not overly concerned about the alarm, either. Now, he'll set the alarm off and simply keep on walking as if nothing has happened.
Cats don't adjust to noises, but apparently, dogs can learn to ignore noises they dislike. Other motion sensors I considered shoot out bursts of air when an animal walks by. I didn't think Liam would ever adjust to that, but he has certainly adjusted to the beeping, and I'm glad for that. Since Liam doesn't ever get on the counters, he's allowed in the kitchen and I didn't want the device to keep him from moving about freely.
Now, a Catscram is far from cheap. In fact, it's a little bit expensive. But for me, it's worth the expense. It keeps my cats out of the kitchen, and it keeps me from yelling at them all day long. I'll gladly pay for that.
Disclosure: Some product links in this post are “affiliate links.” If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a commission. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I believe provide real value. This disclosure comes in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Monday, December 5, 2011
|Lucy comforts Liam after his visit to the vet.|
While I don't hate vaccines, I do try to use common sense. I do not give my dog yearly vaccines, and I never give any of the "optional" shots. Liam isn't at risk for anything like Lyme disease, so I'd rather not expose his system to the vaccine for no reason. In addition, I never give multiple vaccines at the same time. I figure one shot at a time is enough for my immune system, and it should be good enough for Liam's system as well. If he needs multiple shots, we have multiple visits.
Last weekend, Liam was due for his rabies shot. This is not the sort of shot you want to let lapse. Most states, including Oregon, have strict rules regarding dog rabies vaccinations, and those can include steep fines. In addition, if a dog is not in rabies shot compliance and that dog bites someone, the county can impound the dog for a specific period of time, just to make sure the dog doesn't have rabies. Liam isn't a biter, but I still don't like to take any chances, so in we went.
The main problem with a rabies shot is that it must be given by a licensed veterinarian. While some other shots can be more inexpensive as a technician can give them, this isn't the case with rabies. In most cases, you must pay for a rabies shot and a complete physical exam. Then, you must renew the dog's license with the county. In Multnomah County, if you provide the rabies vaccine but don't pay for a license, you receive a nasty letter in the mail that threatens fines. It's easier to just pay up at the end of the vet visit, I find.
After $200 and a half-hour appointment, we were done. Now, I just have to break it to Liam that this constitutes his Christmas present this year.