Monday, November 30, 2015

3 ways to make a road trip easier for your dog (and for you!)

Sinead in her pajamas while on her dog vacation
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the humans and the dogs of this household took a little road trip to another state. We had family members to visit, turkey to eat and general merriment to get done. And all in all, we had a great time.

That didn't happen by accident.

In order to ensure that we all had a good trip, I needed to do a little planning. I wanted to make sure everyone was quiet in the car, calm in our temporary digs and well-behaved at every moment of the day.

And in my planning, I found that three key things did the most good for my two dogs.

1. Familiar smells

Most dogs can smell a lot better than they can see. And during a trip, there are a number of ways to surround a dog with smells of home, and reduce anxiety in the process.

Sinead spent a lot of her trip in her pajamas (which she's wearing in the top photo), which smelled a lot like the house. She also had several stuffed toys from home to play with, and when she was riding in her crate, she rested on bedding from home.

All of those scent markers reminded her that she was in a place that was at least somewhat familiar, and it's possible those reminders helped her to stay a little calmer.

2. Familiar beds

Most hotels and pet-friendly rentals provide some sort of bedding you could use for a bed. Some hotels even give out dog beds with the linen turn-down service (if you can believe it). While we humans appreciate fresh bedding, our dogs like their beds just a bit better.

Dog sleeping in her dog bed

Sinead's dog bed, and her beloved pink blanket, have been pushed and licked into just the right shape for her little body. She doesn't need to spend hours whirling and whirling around in order to get it into the right shape. She's done all that work already.

Putting her dog bed in her crate for the car trip, and then using that bed in the crate for her nighttime snoozes, helped her to get the rest she needed, so she wouldn't be tired and upset the next day.

3. Plenty of exercise

I am a long-time believer in the power of a good dog walk. And that power doesn't dissipate when I leave home. When Liam and Sinead walk, they're burning off excess energy, so they can sleep a little easier. And a walk in a new place provides a great deal of mental stimulation, too. So many smells! So many sights! After a walk, these two are ready to listen, and that makes them easier to maneuver during the trip.

Here's hoping these tips help you, too. And if I missed any you really love, shoot me a note in the comments! Love to hear what you do to help your dogs travel safely.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Selfie: Lucy the blind cat

Lucy the blind cat posing for a Sunday selfie
I have always wanted to include Lucy in the Sunday Selfie series, hosted by my friends at The Cat on My Head. Why? Because I think Lucy is absolutely gorgeous. Just look at all of her wild whiskers and amazing mane! I just knew all of the cat lovers that follow this series would like to look at her pretty face.

Lucy the blind cat looks off to the side

But, Lucy is notoriously hard to photograph. Like most blind cats, she is very sensitive to any sort of noise, so the clicks and clacks of the camera are hard for her to tolerate. Even if I turn all of those noises off, she can startle when she hears me pressing buttons. So many of the shots I try to take are blurred, showing her turning her head at the last minute.

Lucy the blind cat holds still for a photo

So I was excited to catch her in a quiet mood this morning. She posed so nicely! Yay!

Be sure to check out some of the other blogs in this series. You'll be glad you did. And, as always, I'd love it if you left a comment for me. I read everything my readers write (really, I do!).

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday shopping for shelter cats: 10 things to buy

Shelter cats would love a few gifts on Black Friday
Every year, some 3.4 million cats enter the United States shelter system. That number comes straight from the ASPCA, and it can give a many cat lovers pause. Should we head out and take them all home? Probably not. Cats are territorial creatures with definite opinions about how much space they both want and need. Some of your resident cats just won't appreciate a new furry friend.

But shelter cats like Thunder Cat here (awesome name, right?) do deserve our attention, care and pampering while they wait for their forever homes.

And you can help on Black Friday.

Adding just one little item to your shopping list and sending that item on to a shelter cat could make a huge difference. And I have 10 really great ideas, and many of them don't cost very much at all. So here they are, in no particular order:
  1. Canned cat food. Shelters use wet food for animals recovering from surgery, shy kitties that are too nervous to eat and older kitties with tooth difficulties. Any flavor, any size, is totally appreciated.
  2. Towels. Kitties emerging from surgery are often cold and a little frightened. A towel that's been gently warmed in the dryer can provide a world of relief. And most towels really don't cost very much at all. You might even have one or two older towels in your closet that could help a kitty in need.
  3. Cat treats. Small treats are great for nervous kitties. Shelter staff can use these snacks to lure shy ones up to the front of their cages, so adopters can see them. 
  4. Wand toys. Feisty kittens cooped up in kennels can quickly become destructive kittens. Wand toys help them to work off excess energy, and some can be attached to the front of the kennel, so little ones can bat away when the people are gone. 
  5. Small litter boxes. All cats need litter boxes. And the older those boxes are, the more claw marks and odors they retain. Small litter boxes fit nicely inside of kennels, and a shelter can never have too many. 
  6. Cat litter. Can you imagine how much cat litter a shelter uses? Trust me, it's a lot. A box or bag of your favorite litter could be a great addition to shelter stock. 
  7. Cat kennels. Kitties moving into foster homes need to ride in a carrier that's safe and comfy. And that carrier might be the kitty's home base in the foster home, too. Nice carriers do the trick. 
  8. Cat brushes. Even nervous cats like a good brushing from time to time, and a freshly brushed cat looks a lot nicer to adoptive families. Adding a few brushes (even human hair brushes work nicely) to your shopping cart is a smart idea. 
  9. Tiny cat toys. Balls, stuffed mice and jingle bells are wonderful for bored cats, and they'll fit right inside of a kennel. A handful of toys can make a really nice donation piece. 
  10. Cat artwork. Shelters love to make the space look clean, light and bright. And cat-themed artwork can help a great deal. Look for framed prints or other pretty pieces while you're out and about, and consider donating those to your shelter. 
So that's it! Much of this list comes straight from the shelter wish list of the animal shelter I volunteer with: Willamette Humane Society. But I'm sure your local shelter has its own needs. Do you know of any? Leave me a note in the comments!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Thanksgiving (from a sad pug)

Pug in his bed is ready for Thanksgiving
When I set up this Wordless Wednesday photo shoot, Liam got pretty excited. After all, photo shoots translate to one thing in his pug brain: Cookies!

And he thought he might be able to eat a few of the props, too.

Liam the pug thinks about eating the Thanksgiving props
"Think I can give this dinner a few licks?"
Pug realizes that he cannot eat the props
"Darn. I can't eat the props."
Thanks for looking, and thanks to everyone who has visited this year. I have so much to be thankful for this season.

Do try to visit a few of the other blogs in this awesome BlogPaws blog hop! And leave me a note, so I'll know you were here.

And finally: Don't forget to enter my pumpkin sweepstakes from Weruva! Only a few days left to enter.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cat-to-cat introductions: Why do site swaps help?

Popoki the shy cat looks out the window
Some rescue cats, including Popoki here, have absolutely no experience of life with other cats. They don't know how to read cat body language, they don't know how to make introductions and they don't know how to keep their cool when other cats are in the room.

To these cats, all other cats are absolutely terrifying, and that can make introductions challenging.

In a traditional cat-to-cat introduction setup, the resident cats and the newbie are encouraged to eat on either side of a baby gate. That way, they can see one another while they're doing something they both enjoy. Win win!

But scared cats like Popoki will not eat when another cat is nearby. And, scared cats like her sometimes hiss and spit, which can make the resident cats stop eating, too.

A site swap can help, as it allows the resident cat and the newbie cat to check out smells without fear. And it's somewhat easy to do, depending on the number of cats you have. Here's how I'm doing it.

Popoki has been spending the majority of her time in two places: My writing studio and the guest bedroom. Those rooms are absolutely packed with her stuff and her scent, while the rest of the house is full of smells and stuff from the other cats.

When my workday is through, I keep Popoki in the writing studio for a few minutes while I rustle Maggie and Lucy into the guest bedroom. Then, Popoki comes in and runs around the main portion of the house for a few hours.

At the end of that time, I place Popoki back in the studio, and I let the girls out of the guest room. When they're out, I take Popoki out of the studio, and I put her in the guest room.

Easy-peasy.

While the cats are in these different spaces, they're swapping smells and vital information. But they cannot see one another and they cannot hear one another. They are exploring one another, but they just don't know it yet.

So how long must this go on? I'm really not sure. When hissing under the door stops completely, I might move up to meals 2-3 feet away from the door. But I have no idea when that will happen. For now, we'll just keep swapping.

Anyone out there have a great cat introduction story? I'd love to hear it. Drop me a note in the comments! And if you love Popoki, follow her on Instagram! I post new photos almost every day.

Monday, November 23, 2015

November 2015 BarkBox Review: Peas and squash just for dogs

Liam with his pea toy from BarkBox
Whenever the 15th of the month comes near, I get a little itchy. I just know our BarkBox is about to arrive, and I also know that the dogs are going to just love what they get. They almost always do. And November was no exception. There's just one little thing about this month that I think could have gone a little smoother...

Here's my review for the November 2015 BarkBox. 

We have two sets of toys in this BarkBox, and Liam is posing nicely with the first little toy. It's a pea pod and peas, made by BarkMade. The shell of this pea pod crinkles and crackles every time the dogs move it, so they've spent a great deal of time crunching on the shell. And every single pea inside of this pod comes out, and there's a squeaker in each pea.

Sinead chews on her pea pod toy from BarkBox
Toys like this are perfect for my dogs, as they tend to fight and squabble over their play options. When one toy can break apart into four different toys, everyone wins. That's great for us.

The other toy is rubberized and full of little cracks and crevices. It's a squash, and it's made by Zee.Dog. While my dogs really like it, I have a few concerns.

The top of this toy has a vent hole, but it would be really easy to block that vent with a glob of peanut butter or string cheese. If that happened, a dog could put his/her whole tongue in there and have trouble getting that tongue out.

This sort of injury can happen in a blink of an eye, and it is not at all uncommon. At least one dog has died from an injury like this that I know of (here's proof, but beware that the photos are graphic). Before giving my dogs this toy, I asked hubby to expand that hole in the top end with our drill. The toy may not be as pretty as it once was, but it is safer. And I've put this toy in the don't-leave-alone pile, so I will remember to pick it up and put it away before I leave the house for any reason.

SInead with her BarkBox squash toy


Now, on to better things.

We had three treat options this month: A bully stick, a pig ear and some tiny treats from Dog 4 Dog. All of these are great. I can use the stick and the ear for dinner parties and car trips, when I need the dogs to be quiet and engaged in something good. And those tiny treats are great for dog walks, as I am working hard to make those sessions more rewarding.

So that's it! Want to try your own BarkBox? Use my code for a discount.

And if you'd like to see reviews of previous BarkBox offerings, click here or here or here or here or here or here

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.”

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Make it a November to Remember: Adopt a Senior Pet

Troy the senior pet in happier days
November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month, and it's hitting a little close to home for me this year. A little less than 2 weeks ago, my sweet and senior rescue boy left to cross the rainbow bridge, and my heart still hurts.

That's the thing with senior pets: They leave us all too soon.

But, as a dear friend of mine said on my Facebook page: Focusing on the loss when a senior pet leaves tends to blot out all of the joy that comes with living with a senior.

So I thought I'd share a few photos of Troy taken by awesome cat photographer Marilyn Scahill, and explain why I would adopt Troy again, if given half the chance. Here are my top 5 reasons.

Sassy Troy the senior cat

1. Senior cats have sass. 

Like a lot of seniors, Troy didn't put up with a whole lot of guff. He knew what he wanted, and he knew what he would tolerate. No wishy-washy hiding for this boy. He was bold and brassy and bright from the moment I met him until the moment he left me.

Where a tiny kitten or a nervous adolescent cat looks to an owner for guidance and approval before making a move, a senior cat just plunges ahead with a decision. That makes them tremendously entertaining. Whether Troy was trying to steal ham, taking turns working on a puzzle or taking over my computer, he was always confident and in charge. That's a lovely senior cat trait.

Senior cat Troy did not need any training

2. Senior cats come pre-trained. 

I never needed to help Troy understand what a scratching post was for, and I never needed to help him either find or use the litter box. He knew what those things were, and he also knew not to get on the kitchen counters or amble across the television set. He was trained by someone else, and that's a great time-saver.

Troy the senior cat was very loving

3. Senior cats have time to love you.

Ever spent time with a busy kitten? Often, they're too busy playing with their toys, the air or their feet to spend time with a person. They have other things to do, and they don't want to waste time bothering with people.

Senior cats are different.

Troy was remarkably loving with each and every person he met. He greeted me every morning with a chirp of hello, and he spent hours whirling around with joy on my desk (which was kinda yucky, but whatever). He didn't really need to play or run or jump. He was done with that. All of his waking moments were devoted to loving his people. Senior cats are often like that.

4. Senior cats need help. 

Did you know that a senior cat spends about 33 percent more time in a shelter than a younger cat? And some seniors don't make it out at all. They get overlooked and passed by and pushed over. People want the young and pretty, so seniors get the shaft.

Anyone who can take a senior should do so. They need us, as cat lovers, to help them live out the rest of their lives with dignity.

Troy the senior cat on his first day at home

5. Senior cats may have been alone, on their own, for months or years. 

I took this photo of Troy on the day I brought him home. Look how exhausted he is. And it's no wonder. He lived on the streets, all by himself, for months before he came to the shelter. And then he spent months in the shelter hoping for someone to pick him. Who knows what happened to him before that.

I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but if I hadn't taken Troy home with me, he probably would have lived a life of stress and pain until he died. Hadn't he experienced enough of that already? Haven't most senior cats?

My ardent wish would be for the story of Troy to inspire other people to take home their own senior pets. Troy would want to be an inspiration, I think. Can you help make it happen?


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Melting dogs (What happens when a dog photo shoot runs long)

Liam the pug and Sinead the Boston terrier look alert
For this Wordless Wednesday, I thought it would be fun to get a few snaps of the dogs in this colorful (and seasonal!) chair. But the light was a little wonky due to really nasty storm clouds outside, so things took a little longer than usual. Instead of a 30-second photo shoot, this one ran to about 3 minutes.

And that's 3 minutes too long for these dogs. Watch what happened.

Liam is still alert but the Boston terrier is fading
Liam is still on point, but Sinead is starting to fade.
Sinead the Boston terrier looks really tired
Sinead is really fading, and Liam isn't as perky as he once was.
Boston terrier takes a nap during a photo shoot
Sinead isn't even pretending to care about these photos.
Both dogs are falling asleep during the photo shoot
And now Liam seems a little weary.
Both dogs look totally exhausted
Aaaaand, we're done.
I don't even know how to caption that last photo. Sheesh. Looks like I'll have to make these sessions much shorter in the future!

Thanks for looking, and be sure to check out some of the other blogs in this BlogPaws blog hop!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

5 ways to help your pug live longer

Liam the pug in his dog bed in a sunny window
Liam the pug has the sweetest little face. He always has. His sweet and slightly worried expression is one of the best things about him. But lately, I've noticed something a little different about his face. He's gone silvery grey on the chin and cheeks.

Check out how he looked just a few years ago.

Liam the pug in his bed with his pig dog toy
His muzzle is almost black in this photo. He doesn't look anything like this now.

So he's growing older. And that's inevitable for most pugs. But that doesn't mean Liam has to grow old without a fight. In fact, there's a lot I can do to ensure that he has the longest life possible. Here are just 5 ways in which I can help.

1. Fix the breathing.

The pushed in face of a pug can lead to super-small nostrils, and that can make breathing really tough. The condition is called "stenotic nares," and Liam had it when he was a puppy. His nostril bubbled and frothed when he got excited, and I could hear him breathing even when he was calm. I had the issue corrected with surgery (which I wrote about in this super-old blog post), which really improved Liam's ability to breathe. Now, he can run and jump and play without putting great strain on his lungs and his heart. And that's sure to lengthen his life.

2. Mind the temperature.

That short face can lead to significant heat intolerance. Pugs can't run hot air through long nasal passages to cool it down, so they tend to heat up much faster than do their long-nosed counterparts. Air conditioning is absolutely vital for a pug, as a result, and I also keep a close eye on weather reports before summertime walks. (More on that in this blog post.)

3. Head out for expert help.

There's a lot I can do at home to keep Liam safe and healthy. But sometimes, I need the help of someone with a little more experience. If Liam develops skin lumps, pain or some other sign of illness, I need the help of a veterinarian. And I never hesitate to go.

4. Do vaccine research.

I've taken Liam to at least one veterinary clinic that pushed a plethora of vaccines that Liam doesn't really need (like leptospirosis). And this team wanted to give him all of the shots at the same time. That approach could be devastating to a dog's immune system, and it could end up costing me a great deal of money in health treatments down the line. Whenever anyone wants to give Liam a shot, I ask what the vaccine is for, how prevalent the disease is within the community, and how urgent the shot is. If Liam is at risk for multiple things, I make multiple trips for shots, so he doesn't get them all at once.

5. Pay attention to nutrition.

What a dog eats has a great deal of influence on the dog's overall health. That's why I spend up on Liam's diet, and I supplement his food with vitamins, probiotics and pumpkin (have you entered our sweepstakes yet?). The more good food he eats, the better off we all will be.

So that's it! Did I miss anything? Leave me a note in the comments, and let me know!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Claws or no claws, cats need scratching posts. Here's why.

Popoki may be a declawed cat but she still loves to scratch
Despite the very awesome work of The Paw Project, it's still legal to declaw cats in most parts of the United States. And many people still choose to whack off kitty claws, rather than investing in training.

And despite what pro-declaw groups will tell you, a cat that is declawed is no less likely to be homeless than an intact cat. The two cats I've rescued from my local animal shelter have both been through declaw surgery. And Popoki here is younger than 2. Her youth and her lack of claws didn't protect her from life in a shelter.

Now, there's a lot we can do to help cats reduce stress in a shelter environment. And utilizing those tips at home can keep our kitties from feelings of boredom and stress when they become members of our family.

But there's one thing I see shelters and cat owners do at home that isn't quite right: They skip the scratchers.

Popoki the cat resting on her cat scratcher

Cat scratchers, like the one Popoki is resting on here, are designed to help a cat sharpen new claws and remove extra nail sheaths around old claws. For cats with their feet intact, a scratcher like this can help with trimming and sharpening, so those weapons are always honed and there's little risk of nails curling back into the foot pad.

By this logic, a declawed cat wouldn't need a scratcher. After all, these guys just don't have any claws at all. So they don't have anything to sharpen. But scratchers do more than provide nail maintenance.

A cat deeply engaged in scratching can stretch all of the little muscles in her legs, neck and back. Cats that spend the day lying around or hunkering over a food bowl might have very tight muscles, and they may have no real incentive to stretch things out, unless a scratcher is provided.

Popoki is sniffing the scent marks on her cat scratcher

Cats also have a number of scent glands packed into the spaces between their toes. When they deploy their mitts on a post, they're marking the space as their own. It's an important social function that can help a kitty feel at home, no matter where that kitty might happen to be.

And finally, cats seem to use posts like this to unleash fury. After I clean Popoki's eyes, brush her coat or otherwise do things to her that are necessary but not necessarily fun, she heads right over to the post for a few token whirls. Without the post, I'm not sure where she'd beat out her anger.

So it's clear that declawed cats need posts. But they should have those posts broken in just a little bit.

The average scratching post is made up of rough or sharp surfaces that could really harm a kitty's soft foot pads. Cats with claws can wear those surfaces down easily, but our altered friends cannot.

I use new and shiny posts with my intact cats, and when they're soft and pliant, they become fodder for my declawed friends. But if I didn't have cats with claws, I'd probably use my shoes to break down the edges before serving.

Do your cats love posts? Hit me up with some stories in the comments!

And don't forget that my pumpkin sweepstakes is still up and running. Have you entered yet?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday selfie: Boston terriers in Star Trek shirts

Sinead the Boston terrier models her Star Trek shirt
A few years ago, I got this shirt for Sinead as part of a Halloween costume. Boston terriers are pretty logical (and a little judgmental), so dressing this little dog up like Spock seemed like a good fit. Anyway, the shirt was a holiday hit, and it fits well enough that I pop it out for cool evenings, too. Perfect for a Sunday Selfie series, right?


Here are a few shots of Sinead rocking the Spock look.

Sinead the Boston terrier is ready for action
"Permission to speak freely, captain?"
Sinead the Boston terrier in costume
"I think this costume is illogical."
Thanks for looking! And be sure to visit some of the other blogs participating in this hop, hosted by The Cat on My Head. Good stuff this week!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Exotic shorthair cat eye care: Daily upkeep for those golden eyes

Popoki the exotic shorthair cat in the sunshine
Exotic shorthair cats like Popoki have the most amazing, big, round, colorful eyes. Those eyes were the very first thing I noticed about this sweet cat when I met her in the shelter. And at that time, her eyes needed a lot of help.

Popoki caught a very strong and persistent cold during the few days she spent in the animal shelter, and while she was sick, her eyes were incredibly runny and weepy. And all of the skin around those glorious eyes turned black with moisture and bacteria. When I pulled her little facial folds apart, all of the skin was red and infected.

Popoki's eyes were so bad because of that cold. Now that she has recovered from the cold, her eyes are not nearly as weepy, so her face isn't prone to such severe wetness and bacterial exposure.

But, she still needs daily maintenance. Most exotic shorthairs do.

Popoki the cat has golden eyes

Flat faces and big eyes add up to huge problems. Many cats built like this don't get adequate eye protection when they blink, so their eyes are always a touch on the dry and tacky side. And their eyelid placement can allow tears to run right out of their eye sockets before they have a chance to moisturize vital tissues.

That leads to a cat with dry eyes and a wet face. Not good.

Every night, I dampen a cotton ball with warm water, and I use that to swab out Popoki's little facial folds. Then, I use another cotton ball to dry off her face. And we end the session with a little daub of eye ointment (I use GenTeal Eye Gel). Those steps allow me to clean off her face AND protect her eyes. And it only takes a few minutes to get all of the work done.

I'll say upfront that Popoki doesn't love all of this manipulation. She tends to squirm around just a little bit, and she sometimes tries to hide when she sees that I have all of my cleaning tools in my hands, all ready to go.

But, since I've been doing these steps for her, I've noticed a dramatic reduction in the amount of time she spends itching/pawing at her face. And she doesn't have any tear discoloration on her cheeks. So it does seem to work.

Any of you do something special with your cats? I'd love to hear your grooming tips in the comments. Maybe you could teach me a new way to handle this issue. Share with me!

And if you want to see more photos of Popoki, follow her on Instagram! I upload a new shot almost every day. 

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.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Happy pug on a sunny day (trying to cheer me up)

Liam the pug and his pig dog toys
If there's one thing about the pug temperament everyone should know, it's this: These little dogs love to make people happy. And when the people that they love are upset about something, pugs will go into absolute overdrive to entertain, please and comfort. Liam is doing that for me today.

I'm a little blue with Troy's sudden passing yesterday, so Liam has pulled out all of the stops with his toys. Every time I turn around, he has some new trinket in his paws.

Pug surrounded by his dog toys

I think he wants me to throw some of these toys so he can impress me with his fetch skills. Or maybe he'd like for me to play a rousing game of tug. Clearly, he thinks he can help.

Liam the pug looking up, asking for instructions

I think it helps. But there's one person here who doesn't agree with me. Popoki seems a little baffled by all of the Liam antics, and she's retreated to the back of her little cat bed until things settle down.

Popoki glares at the pug and his toys

Note the disapproving frown and the folded paws. She looks like a little schoolmarm, ready to whip out the ruler for a whipping.

Popoki the cat looks angry

Yeah, she's not happy.

But as for me, I'm thankful for Liam. I think his work helps a lot.

Thanks for looking, and do leave me a comment so I'll know you were here. And don't forget to visit some of the other blogs in the hop! The BlogPaws group always does a wonderful job with wordless Wednesday. You won't want to miss out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Cat kidney disease: When it's time to let go

Troy the cat had kidney disease
I've been spending a lot of time perusing blogs about cats and kidney disease over the last several days. Why? Because Troy was diagnosed with advanced renal failure last week. And today, despite all of the encouragement I got from online forums, I made the choice to let him go.

In a way, this wasn't a surprise. I had been planning for Troy to leave me from the moment I brought him home. He was old and frail with terrible breath and a terrible coat condition. All of those signs and symptoms pointed to kidney disease, but his blood work and urine tests were clear.

I knew it was possible that we were dealing with a subclinical case of kidney disease. He may have had kidney problems that just weren't bad enough to pop up on a blood test. So I knew to monitor him, to push fluids, to use special food, and to bring him back for frequent testing. 

And while I did that, I tried to make his time with me as comfortable as possible. I think I did a good job of it. He spent most of his 8 months of life with me in a position a lot like this.

Troy the black cat in his blue cat bed
He's off to the left of my computer monitor in this photo, in his favorite blue bed. Being here, so close to me, made him the happiest cat in the world.

But despite his joy in life, and he had a lot of that, Troy did have advanced kidney failure. His signs appeared with breathtaking speed. One moment, he was a healthy boy. The next, things all went south.

His weight dipped below the 8-pound mark, despite all of the extra feedings I provided. He spent hours and hours stuck to the water bowl, drinking and drinking, even when I supplied added fluids with a needle pushed beneath his skin.

And the eating thing. Oh, how we struggled with the eating thing.

Troy was never a very good eater, but in the later stages of this disease, he refused to eat anything at all. Even chicken, cheese sticks and corn chips left him cold. I couldn't even get him to eat his beloved ham.

And this morning, the vomiting and quivering started. The two bites of food he did eat came right back up, and he stood shivering in the windowsill while I called his doctor for an appointment.

Troy the cat in his house scratching post

I think his kidneys had been bothering him for quite some time, but he hid his symptoms from me. Cats can be crafty, and loving cats like Troy often don't like to upset their people. They want to make things easy on us, so they just do not make a fuss. They do not really demand our attention until they are very, very sick.

And even when Troy was very ill and vomiting, he still purred when he saw me. And he gave his doctor a few kitty kisses before he passed away. Even though he was dying, Troy put people first. That's just the kind of cat he was.

Now, I know it's unlikely that we could have done anything at all to make Troy's kidneys better. In cats, kidney problems are pretty much impossible to fix. You can attempt to solve the problem with a prescription food (which I did attempt), but it doesn't always work. The damage done stays done. And in frail and very old cats like Troy, it isn't at all uncommon for cats to take a swan dive. One day, they're doing fine. The next day, they are not.

So I'm a little heartbroken today. I miss my big guy. I wish things had gone a little differently.

Hug all of your pets a little tighter tonight, won't you?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Stranger danger! Why my shy dog won't eat your cookies

Sinead the shy dog will not take treats from strangers
I took Sinead on a little outing this weekend, and once again, we managed to offend quite a few people. Don't get me wrong: Sinead didn't bite anyone or pee on anything or otherwise engage in nasty dog habits. But she did something a lot of people find unforgivable.

She refused to eat their dog treats.

Like many shy dogs, Sinead resists tasty snacks when they arrive in the hands of people she doesn't know. Often, she will simply avoid the treat altogether. But sometimes, she will take the snack politely, turn her head and then spit the treat out on the floor.

In a way, I can understand why she'd be worried.

To a tiny dog like Sinead, taking a treat is risky business. She has to put her little head in close proximity to the hand of a stranger, and she has to take her focus away from the eyes of the person she doesn't know. She would rather keep her focus on the person, so she can react quickly if the person decides to harm her.

And, once people provide a treat, they often expect a moment or two of petting. Sinead REALLY hates to be touched by people she doesn't know. If she doesn't take the snack, she knows people won't be quick to touch her. She would rather have privacy over a snack.

Sinead the shy dog in her dog bed

Sinead would probably prefer to stay in her bed around the clock, so she wouldn't have to deal with strangers at all. But, I keep working with her and taking her out of her comfort zone with the hopes that she'll learn to trust.

Sometimes, we have breakthroughs.

On Saturday, she did accept one of my treats in the hands of a trainer she'd never met. I handed over a treat, the trainer handed that treat to Sinead and she ate it. Nice work!

But she totally snubbed at least four other people, all of whom bent over backwards to make her eat something.

So what can you do if a shy dog snubs you?

My advice is to pop the treat down on the ground and walk away. The one thing a shy dog really wants is privacy. By leaving the area when a shy dog is too overwhelmed to snack, you're giving the dog a very precious gift. And the treat you leave behind could help that dog to be just a little less shy the next time a human comes around.

And if you do get a shy dog to take your treat, consider that the day's victory and don't build on it. Don't pet the pup or grab it or scream with delight. Hold your position, if the dog seems comfortable, and let the dog initiate a touch, if the dog wants to do so. That way, you can help the shy dog to understand that taking a treat doesn't mean submitting to something awful. That could also make future interactions better. 

As for me, I'll keep working. I'm hoping we'll have more breakthroughs very soon!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday Selfie: Troy the cat and his pumpkin prop

I tried to tell Troy the cat, when I brought him home from the shelter just 8 months ago, that he'd need to work for his supper. When you're a pet and you live with a pet blogger, you need to pose for photographs from time to time.

I didn't tell him about the props until recently.

Thankfully, Troy is a good sport about posing with many little trinkets I put next to him when I get the camera out.

And he's posing with a pumpkin here as we're holding a sweepstakes with a very cool Weruva product made of pumpkin just for dogs and cats. Have you entered yet? You should.

But look at these other Troy selfies first.

Troy the cat sniffs the pumpkin prop in his cat bed
"Can I eat this?"
Troy the cat looking away from his pumpkin
"Are we done yet?"
I'm sharing these photos as part of the awesome Sunday Selfies series, hosted by the Cat on My Head. It's so much fun! Check out a few other posts in this series, and you'll see what I'm talking about.



And don't forget to enter the sweepstakes!