Friday, August 29, 2014

Fun stuff from the August BarkBox (although one little dog doesn't agree)

Sinead the Boston terrier and her toys
I'm a self-professed fan of dog costumes. I love to dress my critters up in tuxedos, in frilly necklaces and in dinosaur costumes. It's a thing. So I was thrilled that this month's Bark Box had a little scarf in it from Safemade. It has wee little stripes on one side, and tiny anchors on the other. It looks pretty damn good on Sinead, I must say, and I've dressed her up for photos quite a bit this week.

But she's totally over it, as you can see.
Sinead the Boston terrier in a scarf
"If I close my eyes, will you stop taking my picture?"

Thankfully, there are a lot of other things in this box that she really does like (and a few that the other pets really love).

One big hit is a lobster from PetRageous. This is the little red toy in Sinead's photos, and it's been by her side for about a week or so (since our box came in the mail). This toy is designed to float, so I can see how it would be great for dogs who love to get wet, but Sinead seems to enjoy just carrying this around on dry land, too.

We also got a dog mop from Muddy Buddy, and while the dogs might not be thrilled about this, I really am. It's designed to help dry a dog off quickly after a bath, and it has little handles that make the whole drying-off process really quick and easy. I used this over the weekend for Liam's bath, and I am already a huge fan.

Beorn the cat on his scratching post
"Um, did you forget my treats?"
I'm nursing ill Beorn back to health (more on that in a post next week), so I was thrilled to see chicken breast treats from Bixbi in our BarkBox. These are made of pressed meat, with nothing icky like corn or soy, so I feel comfortable handing them out. And both the dogs and the cats just gobble these down.

The last item in our box was a big bag of lobster-based treats from Bocce's Bakery. Any kind of cookie is a big hit over here, and these are no exception. Liam, in particular, is thrilled with these cookies, and I'm happy to have them on hand!

Want to get your own BarkBox? Use my code. You'll get a discount, and so will I! 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Eamon cat loves his Adequan!

Eamon the cat stretched out on the floor

Two weeks ago, this is what Eamon looked like, almost all of the time. He picked a spot on the floor, usually right in the center of the action, and he stayed right there. He could see everything that was going on, and that's always been important to him, but he just didn't seem willing to move around very much. (I wrote about that in detail here.)

I've been giving him Adequan injections since that time, and I'm happy to report that they seem to be making a huge difference. He sometimes lies on the floor like this, especially if it's been a long day and he's a little tired, but he's been spending more time up in chairs and in his cat beds. If something interesting happens, he can hop over and check it out, so he no longer feels the need to stay parked in the middle.

He's also doing a lot of things that were just too difficult for him to do a few weeks ago. I've caught him up on the kitchen counters, looking for food (bad kitty!). I've also caught him chasing his tail, and romping with his kitty friends. He's also been running to me for attention, especially in the middle of the night, and I haven't seen him do that in several years.

So in short, this stuff actually works. It's amazing. I recommend it. Eamon recommends it.

I have my healthy cat back.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way for this review. I just like this medication, so I wrote about it. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Random thoughts about cat bites, attacks and injustice

senior cat carboard scratching posts
It's been a weird and wild few weeks at the Dion household, and it's left me feeling deeply unsettled, about the health and future of my own cats, and about the protections we provide for cats in my community. Some of the things I'll mention here I had hoped to get covered in the mainstream media, but despite some pretty intense efforts, I didn't get any responses. So I'll do my best to cover it myself. Here goes.

Last week, Beorn came home with a nasty-looking abscess on his chin, and that ugly sore came about due to some sort of animal bite. Off to the vet we went, and it was a rough visit, as Beorn is really old and he's in the end stages of kidney failure. Major abscess surgeries are risky, as a result, so I had a lot to worry about.

But as I was waiting for a call from the operating room, I also felt really lucky. Why? Because one of my neighbors lost her cat to an animal bite last week, and the response she got from the authorities in the aftermath of the attack was less than reassuring.

Here's what I can piece together. Her cat (which was named Seamus, but I called him Sumo, due to his girth) was a free roamer. He came into my yard on occasion, and he played around with our cats and dogs with no problems. Last week, he wandered into another yard that held a very aggressive dog owned by people who allegedly knew that he was a danger to dogs, cats and children. Even so, they tied this dog out in the yard with no muzzle, and that dog attacked and killed our Sumo.

The neighbor, not surprisingly, was an absolute mess about this, and I encouraged her to call the police. I had done the same the week prior, and the results were pretty spectacular.

On that day, two pit bulls got loose in our neighborhood and they attacked a small dog, Lilly, while she was cowering in her owner's arms as he stood in his yard. I called the police, out they came and a formal report was filed. It's unclear what will happen to the attacking dogs, but it's clear to me that the officers who responded were concerned and that some sort of response was in play. They'd handle it.

When my neighbor called about Sumo, she was told that a dog killing a cat was akin to a cat killing a mouse. It wasn't something worth responding to.

I was shocked about that, but when I looked at the Marion County dog statues, I'm astonished to see that this is true. If Sumo had been a chicken, a rabbit or a ferret, there would be protections. If Sumo had been a dog, there would have been recourse. But since he's a cat, his death is invisible.

Now, I know these two cases aren't 100 percent similar. The little dog was mauled by loose dogs, and that attack took place on the little dog's turf. Sumo was a trespasser, and his killer was on his own land (from what I understand). But it gets me that the laws just aren't the same. Shouldn't they be? Shouldn't the death of a cat be some sort of harbinger that the dog is dangerous, and shouldn't the owners be somehow convinced to keep said dog in a bit of a safer place? After all, a dangerous dog on a tether isn't really all that protected from doing this sort of thing again. What if the next animal is a dog? Or a child?

Beorn is back home, and he is recovering. He made it through his surgery just fine, and we're adding delicious foods to his plate to help him gain weight. We're also giving him free access to cat products similar to the The Original Scratch Lounge - Worlds Best Cat Scratcher. But, I'm also incredibly vigilant about where he goes these days, and he's locked up tight at night. I'm also keeping the front door open, so I can watch for marauding dogs as they parade up and down this street. If the laws don't protect my cats, and it seems like they don't, I suppose I have no other choice.

And to me, that's a problem.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Managing cat arthritis

Eamon the cat has arthritis

Eamon is 13, and this poor guy has been dealing with back pain for about 3 years now. I've been keeping it under control with low-dose prednisone, but lately, he's been doing a significant amount of limping.

It's hard to catch cats limping, but Eamon developed a pretty distinctive head bob while he was on the run from one room to another. The smooth, sleek movements I was used to were replaced with a jerky, disjointed walk that just didn't seem natural.

In addition, he started claiming a spot in the middle of the room, where he could see the action, and then refusing to move for much of the day. I walked over him, the dogs jumped over him, the blind cat ran into him, and he really didn't move.

Eamon the cat asleep

As if that wasn't enough, he also developed a very strange posture when he was standing still. His back feet were nearly crossed, and it seemed painful for him to stand for long periods of time. If I took too long to put his food down, he'd lie down to wait. Same goes for petting. He would rather lie down for scratches, even if that meant the sessions didn't last very long.

The x-rays I saw at the veterinarian's office explained most of this to me. Eamon's elbows are absolutely riddled with changes attributed to arthritis, and his knees are also crunchy with debris. He also has a few spots of damage left over in his back from his previous injury.

In other words, he's in a lot of pain.

So we're trying an injectable medication called Adequan. Apparently, this stuff can help to boost cartilage repair, so it might be a good solution for this old guy. And we're adding in a one-time anti-inflammatory medication (Onsior) that has a good track record in providing pain relief.

If this doesn't work, on to the painkillers we go. But given the reaction some of my other cats have demonstrated when they were given big-time painkillers, I'm hoping it won't come to this.

But I am devoted to this guy, and I want him to stay as long as possible. So that means I do what I can to keep him comfortable. It's respite care, hospice-level treatment, and it's an important part of pet ownership. Even when it's hard, it's something we all have to do. They rely on us for that.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cats in high places: Should you help?

Jasper the cat in a tree

There are two magnificent incense cedar trees in my backyard, and they provide shelter to all sorts of critters, including scrub jays, squirrels, hummingbirds and purple finches. The tree's branches don't jet from the trunk for 10 feet or more, so normally, the trees provide a safe spot for creatures who might get eaten if they lived closer to the ground.

On Wednesday, however, Jasper decided to take a crack at capturing something in the top of the tree. This is where we found him, when our neighbors alerted us to his cries for help.

At this point, Jasper was about 16 or 18 feet from the ground. He had no branches to use in order to safely climb down, and the idea of jumping that far filled him with fear, so he was calling out for someone to help.

Normally, experts suggest that cats up in trees can and will climb down on their own, if they're given enough time to do so. The Oregon Humane Society, for example, won't send out rescuers to help unless the cat has been stuck up in the tree for two days or longer.

So, on the one hand, we could have left him there to scramble down when he got hungry enough to do so. But, there are some risks with that plan. For starters, Jasper is an old cat. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with the idea of leaving him without water for a few hours, much less a few days.

In addition, cats who cry tend to draw attention to themselves, either from irate human neighbors or from other predators who see them as an easy mark. Both of those factors weighed pretty heavily on our minds as we tried to figure out what to do.

Climbing a ladder to rescue a cat

Thankfully, we have a ladder that can reach that far. My husband scrambled up that ladder, while I stayed on the ground and tried to talk to Jasper in a reassuring voice.

We had planned for my husband to grab Jasper, but he decided to jump down. He skidded a bit on the trunk of the tree, but he landed softly and was more than happy to accept treats and head scratches when he hit the ground. He seems to have emerged with nothing more than a bruised ego. 

If this plan hadn't worked, we had some backup ideas:
  • We thought about trying to climb close to him with the ladder, and then leaving the ladder there, so he could use it as a ramp to climb down on his own. 
  • Jasper is a hungry boy, so we considered opening up tuna cans or melting butter and blowing the aromas his way with a fan, so he'd be hungry enough to come down. 
  • Beorn, his kitty friend, could have sparked Jasper's jealousy, so I toyed with the idea of giving Beorn food and a long grooming session within Jasper's view.
But I don't think I could have left him up there for days, trying to work up his courage. Maybe that's what the experts recommend, but it wouldn't have sat right with me. I'm glad it didn't come to that.