Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday cat selfies: Blind cat Lucy gets a room of her own

Back in 2010, when I first started writing about blind cat Lucy on this blog, I often maintained that blind cats are no different than other cats. I think I wrote about that pretty eloquently, when I look at old posts like this one.

But, as Lucy ages, some of her little quirks are starting to show. And while she still loves to pose for photos for The Cat On My Head and the Sunday selfies series, her photos might start to look a tiny bit similar from here on out.

Why? Because Lucy has a room of her own right now.

Lucy the cat in her own room

Lucy grew up with another cat of mine named Eamon. She and Eamon were very, very close. They slept together, groomed one another and doted on one another. She was a member of his community, and she loved him dearly. When he died last summer, her world changed. And she changed with it.

I think her blindness played a role. She seemed very confused about where Eamon was. And when she realized he was gone and she had no cat to guide her through the house, she became disoriented on a regular basis. She seemed lost, much of the time. And she ran into things incredibly frequently.

Lucy also stopped soliciting attention from other creatures, including the humans. When I tried to pet her, she would flinch and cower. And when my husband tried to pet her, she'd hiss. We chalked it up to grief, and we tried to help when we could. We gave her new beds and new toys, we tried to play with her and we tried to supply her with treats. We thought it would pass.

Lucy the cat in her scratcher

But the months stretched on, and while she got better, she just didn't return to the happy and joyful kitty I once knew. When I met foster Fergus, I thought I might have found a solution, as he and Eamon shared personality traits. I thought Lucy would have a chance to really bond with something she could whip into shape and play with.

But Fergus made things worse. Since she couldn't see him, she became an easy target for sneak kitten attacks. It made her nervous. Now, Lucy hissed all the time. And she stopped using the litter box altogether.

So I did some kitty jenga, moving Popoki into my writing studio on a full-time basis, and placing Lucy in Popoki's old basement room. I thought it would be a temporary measure to help reinforce good litter box habits. But as it turns out, Lucy may really need her own room all the time. 

Lucy simply loves her little room. She happily snoozes the day away in a variety of different beds, and in the evening, she comes out for time with me, the husband and our dogs in our rec room, while the other cats stay behind a closed door. She purrs and kneads and drools and head butts. And when it's time to go back to bed, she heads right into her room, happy as anything.

Can you see it in her selfie?

Lucy cat selfie

I'm not sure if this will be Lucy's forever habitat. She may decide that she likes cat friends and open spaces once Fergus is older and a little less crazy. But for now, I am thrilled to have my sweet kitty back.

I know some of you also have separate cat communities. How do you feel about it? Leave me a note in the comments, will you?

And thanks, as always, to the hosts of the hop.

If you haven't joined in, please do! It's a great way to meet new people and new cats.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

5 things your senior dog wants you to do

Liam the pug with his gray chin

Liam the pug celebrated his 9th birthday just a few weeks ago. And he seems to be feeling his age. He's not the over-the-top-busy boy he once was. And his little face is flecked with grey. Look closely, and you can also see the beginnings of cataracts forming in his eyes.

Yup, he's crossing over into senior-dog territory. And lately, I've been thinking a little about what he might want me to know as he moves from puppy to senior. Here's my best shot at his requests, after performing a quick pug mind meld.

1. "Make time for me."

During the puppy years, time seems infinite. But when dogs become seniors, there's simply more time behind us than there is in front of us. And often, senior dogs just don't have the ability to do everything with us that they once did.

Where Liam once followed me from room to room as I went about my day, so we were always together, he sometimes needs to rest in his bed. And those long hikes we used to take might still be fun for me, but his back might keep him out of the hiking group altogether.

Making time for a senior dog means meeting that dog where the dog feels comfortable. For Liam, that means we need to spend at least an hour every evening listening to the radio. He sits on my lap and gets focused cuddle time. He needs it. And when he's gone, I'll be thankful I spent time with him.

2. "Slow down."

I'm a fast talker and a fast walker. That suited Liam just fine when he was a puppy. He could keep up with me. But as he ages, he just can't walk as fast as he once did. And since his hearing isn't what it once was, it sometimes takes him a few moments to pick up on the commands I toss out.

Slowing down my natural pace, just a little bit, can help his life to be a little more comfortable. And that could be the best gift I could give him.

Liam the pug lying down

3. "Forgive me." 

Liam's hearing woes, and his general pug stubborness, have added up to some pretty bad situations in this household. He doesn't hear me when I call him away from things he shouldn't eat (like snacks from the litter box). And sometimes, he wakes me up a zillion times in the night because he is a little lonely and needs company.

I could get irritated. Deep down inside, I sometimes do. But again, it pays to remember that Liam isn't going to be with me for another 15 years. Will I want his remaining time to be about anger? No. When he makes mistakes (which he will), I should try to forgive.

4. "Pay attention."

An aging body isn't always beautiful. Old dogs can have aches and pains that limit their quality of life. And pugs like Liam might do their darndest to keep these things hidden. Liam doesn't want to stress me out. So he refuses to ask me for help unless things are desperate.

It's my job, as his senior caregiver, to pay attention to the subtle signals he throws my way. I need to be careful to watch for the little limp, the sudden stumble, the subtle wince the increased pant. I need to take care of him, even though he doesn't always want to ask for my help.

Liam the pug resting

5. "Enjoy me as I am."

It's worth remembering that dogs live in the moment. Liam has few, if any, I-wish-I-was-a-pup moments. I shouldn't inflict those memories on him, either. He is different now than he once was. And in many ways, he's still the wonderful dog that he has always been. I should enjoy him no matter how he is. This is is forever home. He deserves respect.

Do you think your aging pets would add anything to this list? And if so, what? Drop me a note in the comments. Love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: This cat is hot!

Popoki the cat is much too hot

The vast majority of the time, Popoki is a very dignified little office cat. She often looks a lot like this, with a straight back, perfectly aligned little front feet and wide-open exotic shorthair eyes. She keeps close watch over me as I work, and every time I peep up at her I am impressed by her quiet dignity.

Unless it's hot. Then she has no dignity at all.

Then she goes into pancake mode, like this.

Popoki the cat lying on her back on the floor

Note that the wheel of my chair is in the bottom corner of this photo. She's all sprawled out right beside my chair, with her belly exposed for all the world to see. She's probably catching a breeze off the open window near the chair, and I'd assume the floor is cool.

I, of course, tried to silently grab my camera for photos of this little cat hot mess. But she heard me.

Popoki the cat rolling over

She was trying to figure out where the sound came from and how worried about said sound she should be. Finally, she figured out it was me. And then the fun was all over.

Popoki the cat looking at me

This is the last shot I got before Popoki hopped up in disgust. She gave herself a long bath to soothe her crushed ego. Who says cats can't be embarrassed? She seems to have the whole thing mastered.

I'm hoping for cooler temperatures to come soon, but in the interim, I've set up the studio air conditioner. We may have no more belly expositions for awhile. But do tell me what you think of her skills in the comments. I'm sure she'd love to hear your thoughts!

This post is part of the Wordless Wednesday blog hop as hosted by BlogPaws. Have you participated before? You should. It's fun and easy, and it's a great way to make new friends. Give it a try!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How hot is too hot for your dog's feet?

Sinead the Boston terrier sleeping outside

Boston terriers like Sinead are sun worshipers. When the sun creeps out from underneath the clouds, she's the first to paw at the door. As soon as she gets outside, she runs to the sunniest spot, closes her eyes and drinks that heat in. She'll stay out there until she's absolutely breathlessly hot, and even then, she won't come in until I make her.

So from time to time, I'm tempted to take her for a walk in the afternoons on warm, summer days. While I know (and have talked about) how Liam the pug can't do anything strenuous when the temperature hits 80, Sinead just has a much better tolerance for heat. In theory, she should be able to go for a walk.

And here's where the theory breaks down.

Even though Sinead might be happy and content to lie down in the grass in the full sun, she might have a very different experience while in a walk in the neighborhood. That's because most of our walking surfaces are paved. And those surfaces can grow amazingly hot.

Sinead the Boston terrier lying on her side

I've been reading research from Martha Breithaupt about pavement temperatures on moderately sunny days. She used a very sensitive form of thermometer that could help her to get an accurate gauge of the temperature of various surfaces, and she took measurements during all sorts of different types of the day. Her results are striking.

On an average day in Florida at 5pm, the temperature of the air is 93 degrees. But the temperature of the pavement one might walk on is 112. And the temperature of blacktop (like a road) is 131. At 120 degrees, dog pads can blister and they can feel pain, she reports.

Clearly, walking on a blacktop at 5pm on a day like today would be a no-go for Sinead. But exposing her to 112 degree roads might not be pleasant, either. Long walks on hot roads like that might do a subtle form of damage that builds up over time.

I encourage you to check out the research before you take your heat-loving dogs out to walk. You might change your mind.

And remember: A dog's foot pad sensitivity is similar to your foot pad sensitivity. Before you make your dog walk on something that may be hot, take a few barefoot steps and see how you feel. Too hot for you? Might be too hot for the pet, too.

Any of you have special tips and tricks you use for hot-weather walks? I'd love to hear them. Hit me up in the comments!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Getting answers about cat giardia from WhiskerDocs

Fergus the kitten in bed

The very first time little cat Fergus used the litter box, I knew we had a problem. Where his kitten siblings had firm, dark little droppings to leave behind in the box, Fergus had voluminous, very pale bits left for me to scoop. It just didn't seem right.

Pumpkin and probiotics, along with a strict and unwavering diet, have helped the issue quite a bit. But he's never been quite normal in the box. So he's had three different sets of fecal testings, and since he's on what is essentially a recheck basis, I don't often see his veterinarian. I bring a sample, it gets tested and they call with results. Sometimes, the team calls and leaves me a voicemail message with the results.

This week, the voicemail message came with a diagnosis. Fergus has giardia.

Fergus the kitten

By the time I got the message, the veterinarian's office was closed (of course). And that left me with a ton of questions I couldn't figure out how to answer. How serious is this? Can my other cats get it? Why did it take so long to find it? What happens next?

Normally, this is the sort of thing I'd ask Dr. Google. But then I remembered something.

At BlogPaws, I met up with some representatives from WhiskerDocs. We chatted about my menagerie and the issues I have from time to time, and the team gave me a 6-month membership, in return for an honest review. I thought this might be the perfect time to try things out.

WhiskerDocs is an online service that connects you with veterinary expertise (typically veterinary technicians, from what I understand) via phone, email or chat. You ask your questions, and they provide you with answers. The company also has a robust medical library that's certainly more reliable than Dr. Google, so you can get answers without talking to anyone.

I used the chat service. I outlined what was happening, and the team told me quite a bit. Giardia is very hard to diagnose, they tell me, so a long time to results isn't all that unlikely. They also told me that this most assuredly is contagious to other animals, so I need to ensure that Fergus keeps using his private litter box (which he does). And, they told me that I can get giardia from Fergus, which I did not know. So bleaching his room is vital.

Fergus the kitten

In addition, the team told me that giardia is often mistaken for other intestinal diseases, including coccidia. So if he doesn't improve on his medication, that's another parasite I could ask my veterinarian to test for.

I was frantically taking notes during the chat, but I needn't have bothered. After the chat, I was sent a complete transcription of the conversation, so I could refer to it later. And I could use a case number to pick up the talk later, if I forgot something. That could save me time, if I was dealing with something complicated. I wouldn't want to start from scratch each time.

WhiskerDocs is a paid service, and it can be a little expensive. A one-year subscription is $100, and other, shorter plans are slightly less money. But clearly, this is a robust service that provides on-the-spot advice that could save you from panicking. My senior pets, and my health-issue-prone dogs, make me a good candidate for this product. And I don't have to pay that fee per pet. My one payment would cover my whole furry family.

My trial membership lasts for several more months, so I'm sure I'll have another review to share with you soon. But for now, know this. I think this is a wonderful product line, and I recommend it. For some families, it could be a product that's well worth its expense.

And Fergus? He's on the mend with new medication. It's too early to say that he's totally "cured," but I feel at least reasonably sure that we're on the right track. Yay! 

If you'd like to try this service for yourself, I have a deal for you. Use the code Menagerie20 at checkout, and you'll get 20 percent off any purchase. Enjoy!

Disclosure: I was provided with a free 6-month membership plan in return for my honest review. I was not paid for this review, and I was not told what to say. All opinions are both honest and my own.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tuxedo cat Sunday Selfies (and a little dog, too!)

Maggie the fluffy tuxedo cat

Last week, when I was working on my cat blog for Willamette Humane Society, I heard a potential adopter complaining about our kitty "selection." At the time, we had quite a few cats with tuxedo coat patterns. And according to this adopter, tuxedos just aren't all that interesting.

I was flabbergasted.

Apparently, I have quite a thing for tuxedos. After all, three of the animals in the menagerie have this coat pattern. I thought that I'd profile them all for this week's Sunday Selfie series, as hosted by The Cat On My Head.

Let's get started!

Maggie the fluffy cat

I set Maggie up for her photo shoot first. She's perched on the sill of an open window (her very favorite thing), but she is keeping an eye out for the pesky kitten who might join in to spoil her fun. Once I shut the door and she knew Fergus would stay out, she relaxed for her shoot.

Maggie the tuxedo cat

Maggie has pretty classic tuxedo markings, as she has the little white bib, white feet and white belly. She also has a little pom-pom of white on the very tip of her tail. And her nose is bright pink. Far from boring, wouldn't you say.

She shares many coloration attributes with Jasper, who was much more willing to participate in yesterday's photo shoot. It was hot, he's very old and he didn't feel like moving around all that much. Perfect for a photo shoot.

Jasper the cat

Jasper is about 5 years older than Maggie, and it shows. His fur is speckled with grey these days, which makes his tuxedo effect just a little bit blurred. But he has the black nose and lips shared by some tuxedos, and that makes him look a little more dapper. So I wouldn't say he's any less handsome than Maggie. He is quite distinguished.

Jasper the cat lyin gon his arms

He also poses quite nicely for selfies. Notice that he's got his arms tucked under his body. He looks a little like a melon.

Let's not forget that cats aren't the only ones that can wear tuxedos. There's another menagerie member who takes great selfies who is wearing a tuxedo. Yup, it's Sinead!

Sinead the Boston terrier

The Boston terrier breed has very strict standards concerning coat color and fur placement. Dogs with "classic" markings like Sinead have black bodies, white bellies, white feet and a white blaze up the top of the head and around the muzzle. Black lips and nose are required. Sinead fits the bill. And she poses so nicely for selfies.

Sinead the Boston terrier

I think I've proven that the tuxedo coat pattern is pretty far from boring. What do you think? Any other tuxedo fans out there? Leave me a note in the comments. Love to hear what you think.

And be sure to visit the other blogs in the hop!

It's a great way to find out about new blogs and meet wonderful pet parents. Join in!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 2016 BarkBox review: Ready for the dog Olympics?

Liam the pug posing with his BarkBox

Liam the pug has been waiting ever-so-patiently for his BarkBox to appear. Why, you ask? Because I just carted off a bunch of his toys to Willamette Humane Society in Salem. He's been looking for replacement toys ever since. And this month's BarkBox shipment has a ton of awesome toys he's sure to love. Let me tell you more about what we got.

There were two different types of toys in this shipment, and one is a hit already. It's made by the BarkBox inhouse company, and it's shaped like a tiny sumo wrestler, complete with canvas-like pants, a bare chest and wild hair. This is a chewer's delight.

Sinead the Boston terrier and her Sumo wrestler

Sinead has already tried to pull out this guy's hair with her little terrier teeth. And the canvas pants make for nice chewing. There's a fairly loud squeaker in this toy too, and she's already been tormenting me by squeaking that all day.

So this toy is a keeper. And the thing I really like about BarkBox is that I can let Sinead play really rough with these toys. If she breaks them, they come with a guarantee, so I can get a replacement. I like that.

And we might need to use that guarantee with the next toy. It's another in-house product, and it's shaped like a little garland of leaves. It makes for a nice costume, don't you think?

Sinead the Boston terrier in her garland

But it's also just a little bit fragile. I can see Sinead ripping those leaves off within a few minutes. So I'll need to watch her play carefully, so I can pull the toy away from her as soon as she breaks it.

Were toys all we got, you might be asking? Of course not. We also got plenty of treats, including a pig ear chew, some freeze-dried dog treats from Terra and some beef-tip treats from a company called Mountain County Foods. I don't have a review of these snacks to share with you this month, as we're still working through all of the swag we brought home from BlogPaws. But I have confidence these will be snacks we'll use, perhaps during our new sips and sticks tradition.

Sinead posing in front of her BarkBox

So this looks like another winner of a box.

That's it for this month's shipment! If you'd like to see reviews of prior boxes, click or here or here or here or here. And if you want to try your own BarkBox, use my code for a discount. And leave me a comment, so I'll know you were 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.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Pug expressions: The many faces of Liam

Liam the pug on the couch with his toy

One of the best things about Liam the pug, especially since I'm a blogger, is the extreme elasticity of his face. Unlike Sinead the Boston terrier, who only has a few default expressions (angry/tired/happy), and Popoki the cat who really only has one expression (hungry), Liam's little pug face can pull and stretch into all sorts of different combinations.

Sometimes, he can pull down a series of different facial expressions in just minutes.

Take these photographs, which I'm sharing as part of the BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday series. These photos were taken about 10 seconds apart, with no expression coaching from me.

We started with a fairly straightforward look. I'm crouched in front of him, and he's looking at the phone in my hands. Then, he thought I might have a treat in my hands.

Liam the pug looking at my hands

Here's hopeful pug! I have the phone in the same spot, but he's trying to catch my eye and plead with me to give him a treat. You'll notice that he's also started to make his eyes just a little bigger and rounder, so he has more of a puppy look about him. That's something he does when he's trying to be extra adorable. And if it doesn't work right away, he can take that saggy eye thing to an extreme.

Liam the pug giving me the puppy eye

Aaaand, here we go!

I call this the guilty face. He seems to be saying, "How in the world can you avoid rewarding me for the awesome thing I am doing right now?" Baggy eyes, slightly dipped head and an upturned gaze are the key parts of this look.

Did he get a cookie? You bet he did. And once he realized I didn't have any more treats in my hands, I got the final expression.

Liam the pug is asleep

He's even kicked the little flower prop away so he could get a better sleep position. Little stinker.

How about you? Are your animals good posers? Leave me a note in the comments. I'd love to hear about it.

And be sure to visit the other blogs in the hop! It's a great way to meet new people and find out about new blogs!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Heartworms in cats in Oregon? It's possible

Jasper the cat sitting outside

At one point, we cat owners living in Oregon could feel pretty darn smug about our risk of heartworms. These little pesky critters just weren't very common in our cold and water-logged state, and at one point, we all thought cats just couldn't get heartworms.

I know I felt that way. But at a pet blogging conference this year, I had a conversation with some really nice people at the American Heartworm Society, and it's changed things for me.

For those of you who don't know, heartworms are parasites that are transmitted by mosquito bites. When infected mosquitoes bite an animal, they leave microscopic larvae behind. And those larvae move to the lungs and the heart. In dogs, these things can spread incredibly quickly. And without treatment, these worms can be fatal to a dog.

In cats, heartworms are a little different. Cats are an imperfect heartworm host, which means that the little bugs don't multiply quite as quickly in a cat's heart. But even one worm could be fatal to a cat. And worms can make cats feel just terrible. Infected cats can vomit, develop strange breathing habits and lose weight. If the worms die, it can trigger sudden cardiac death in a cat.

Lucy the indoor cat

As the climate changes and the winters in Oregon grow less and less severe, mosquitoes are becoming a bigger and bigger threat. Where we once had few cases of any mosquito-borne illness, since they just didn't live all that long up here and couldn't carry diseases from the tropics up here, that's been changing. Now, we're seeing more mosquito illness in Oregon.

And, animal rescue complicates matters. Infected animals that could die in shelters down south are trucked up here for a shot at new homes (which is wonderful!), but some of those animals have larvae that can infect mosquitoes, which can infect pets here (which is terrible).

So we can no longer feel smug that our Oregon cats are immune from heartworm due to location or species. They're at risk.

Sadly, our treatment choices for cats with heartworm is a little limited. The Society tells me that there are no safe medications that can be used to help a cat that's been infected. Sometimes, surgery is a good option. But those surgeries can be a little risky and a lot expensive.

A better option, they tell me, involves routine preventive medications. This is something I do for the dogs on a regular basis. But I haven't done so for the cats. I need to start doing it now!

Do you provide your cats with heartworm preventive meds? What about your dogs? Drop me a note and tell me your routines.

And if you'd like to know more about heartworm in cats, I encourage you to check out this page from the society. You'll learn a ton!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Dog product review: Reliq shampoo and mist

 Sinead the Boston terrier with dog shampoo

It's only July, and already Sinead has been to the beach, to the dog park (kinda), to the Saturday market, to the airport and to the river. She's been in sun, sand, dirt and water. In short, she's been in all sorts of places that could make her incredibly stinky. So when I met with the nice people from Reliq at a conference last month, I knew they'd have a product I would need. They sent me home with some to try, and today is review day!

Reliq makes a line of products that are just for dogs that get messy during summertime fun. The first is a line of shampoos. These shampoos contain no chlorine, alcohol or parabens, so they are safe to use on dogs with sensitive skin. And unlike other shampoos, which can give Sinead's coat a case of the flakes, this stuff is gentle and mild. Her skin isn't irritated by the shampoo in any way.

Sinead the Boston terrier in her chair

Despite the gentle nature of this shampoo, it's very effective. Even tough odors like cat poo and sea salt come away with one bath. And those scents don't come back a day or two after the bath, either. You know how some shampoos just mask the odor while leaving the original scent to linger? This stuff doesn't do that. It contains colonut surfectant and soy extract deodorants, so the scents are surrounded and removed.

We tried the pomegranate shampoo, and I'm happy to report that this stuff doesn't smell like perfumes or candles. It smells like fruit. I think it smells good, and Sinead must agree with me, as she doesn't feel compelled to roll around in the dirt to get the scent off when bathtime is over.

Sinead in her chair

But Sinead is a busy little dog with a lot of stuff to explore, and sometimes, she gets into smelly things between baths. And sometimes, her essential dog smell wears off on things like her beds and her clothes. I tried another Reliq product to help with that.

The mist product is made to help dogs remove odors between baths, and it can be used as a touchup on beds and toys. I tried a baby powder scent that really didn't smell like perfume at all. A few squirts on the bed and it smelled lovely.

Sinead, on the other hand, really hated to be sprayed with this stuff. I am not sure why, but she developed a real resistance to being around the bottle at all. So I'll probably stick to using this on her bed and not on her. If this product came as a liquid I could put on my hands and then rub on her, that might work better. But the spray idea is not a winner with her.

Dog shampoo and dog mist

These products are not, as far as I can tell, sold in stores. But the company has a really well-designed website that makes ordering easy. You can even buy sample packs before you commit to a full product purchase, so you can try the scents before you buy. And the prices are really reasonable.

Based on how well Sinead responded to these products, we'll be buying more. And if you're looking for a new shampoo, you might want to do the same!

Do you use refreshing mists on your pets between baths? If you do, how well does your dog tolerate them? Drop me a comment and let me know, will you? I'm curious.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer of these products gave me samples to try. All opinions are my own. No money changed hands in return for this review.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday cat selfie: Blind cats and pesky kittens

Lucy the blind cat hiding

A little earlier this week, I shared a post about how well my existing cats and dogs were melding with pesky kitten Fergus. Many of my pets have banded together to help this little bottle baby to understand his place both in the family and the world at large.

But there's one member of the family that is struggling a bit. In fact, I think she'd like the kitten to go away. It's blind cat Lucy. And I thought I might make her feel better if I put her in the showcase for the Sunday Selfie series, as hosted by The Cat on My Head.

Lucy the blind cat and Fergus the kitten

Lucy has been spending quite a bit of time in this little hiding space beneath my Morris chair. And Fergus has been spending a lot of time just a few feet away from that chair. He isn't intentionally stalking Lucy. Oftentimes, he's just doing routine cat things, like grooming. But he is waiting to see if she comes out.

When she does come out, he takes it as an invitation to play. And Lucy finds his play style pretty intimidating. She doesn't like to be pounced on, chased or swatted. She might like to wrestle cats she knows well, but the fast movements of a kitten seem to scare her.

Fergus the kitten

There's a little coaching I can do to make things better. I supervise most interactions, and I try to provide Fergus with other outlets for his play drive. I use wand toys, motorized toys and the ever-elusive red dot to help him burn off energy appropriately, so he doesn't use Lucy as his personal plaything.

But I also need to let Lucy put the smackdown on this guy. And that's something she is just starting to do.

Lucy the cat in the middle of a yawn

Lucy finds this whole discussion boring, it seems.

Anyway, Lucy has become more and more willing to deliver some pretty harsh slaps to Fergus. She's stopped hissing, as that doesn't seem to deter him. But she is delivering harder and harder blows with her little hands when he gets out of line. And those hits seem to stun him and hurt his feelings. He walks away from her when she hits. Those might be the corrective slaps he needs.

Would I rather Lucy didn't have to slap him around at all? You bet. But I am thankful that she's feeling safe enough to fight back. And I hope that, with her coaching, Fergus will learn how to be the sort of kitty other cats don't have to slap around.

Lucy the cat in her selfie

So here's to Lucy, looking lovely in her profile selfie (it's hard to get a good shot when you're blind, you know). Crossing fingers her life will get better with this little one around, as soon as she whips him into shape!

Any advice to share? I'd love to hear it. Hit me up in the comments. And be sure to visit the other blogs in the hop!

There's always something new to see and great people to meet. Go check it out!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Shelter cat stories: Senior cat Sneakers needs help

Sneakers the shelter cat

Senior cats are always hard to move out of a shelter and into a loving home. People worry about falling in love with pets they won't have for long periods of time. And they worry that senior cats are in the shelter due to some sort of behavioral flaw that will manifest in the home. That means senior cats often park it in shelters for two or even three times as long as their younger counterparts.

And the problem gets a whole lot worse in the summer.

When shelters are packed to the gills with tiny and cuddly kittens, senior cats become simply invisible. And that's true even when the senior cats have all sorts of attributes families claim to want.

That's what's happening with Sneakers here. And I'm hoping we can work together to help change his story around.

Sneakers the cat in the shelter

Sneakers is a 12-year-old kitty that had lived with the same family until April of this year, when the family had to move and they couldn't bring Sneakers along. Rest assured that the family wanted to keep Sneakers. He was loved. But serious financial difficulties forced the family to make some tough housing choices. And those choices meant that Sneakers needed a new home.

When he arrived, Sneakers was in rough shape. He had some kitty lumps and bumps that needed removal, and he was really lanky and thin. His coat was also matted and greasy in spots. In short, he wasn't the sort of cat that inspired people with his beauty.

But since then, he's had a lot of work done. He's had his teeth worked on, his lumps removed, his body thickened up with good food and his coat brushed repeatedly. He's a pretty nice looking cat right now. And he has an equally nice personality.

Sneakers is a kitty that comes right up to the front of his kennel for attention. He doesn't shy away from loud noises or fast movements, and he really seems to have a thing for kids. I've seen him actively solicit attention from children of all ages, and he's been very gentle with them, even when those kids weren't all that gentle with him!

Sneakers has no cat experience, but he's handling life in a crowded shelter with ease. No hissing, no swatting and no shying away. I think he might do well with other cats in the right circumstances. But families with dogs will need to be prepared. Sneakers was chased quite a lot in his last home by a mean dog, and he doesn't have either front or back claws to fight back with. So he probably will be afraid of aggressive dogs. Shy, nonchasing dogs might be okay, though.

So in a nutshell, this is an older cat with a ton of benefits:
  • He's healthy
  • He's just had his teeth cleaned
  • He likes kids
  • He's brave
  • He's friendly 
  • He could accept friendly dogs
  • He might enjoy friendly cats
And yet, he waits for a home. He's been waiting for almost 3 months now.

Can you help me to network this boy? Here is his adoption page. He's at Willamette Humane Society in Salem, Oregon. His adoption fee is $20.  Do you have room for him? Do you know of someone who might? Do you have networking ideas?

Any and all help would be appreciated!

20160714: Happy update! Sneakers was adopted today! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Life with a kitten: It can be exhausting!

Fergus the kitten in his bed

Fergus the kitten may look relaxed in this photo. But don't let the droopy arm and glazed eyes fool you. This is a kitten with a plan. He's just napping now so he'll have the energy he needs to do what he thinks is "play," and what his animal roommates think is "annoying."

Bottle baby kittens like Fergus didn't get key socialization time with mom, and that means they can be very rough players. These are the kittens that chase on, jump on, gnaw on and otherwise terrorize the pets they live with. And these are the kittens that persist in the attacks, despite the kind attempts of their roommates to teach them otherwise.

Black and white cat in bed

Consider Maggie the 12yo kitty here. She likes a good game of play as much as the next cat. But, she likes to walk away with dignity when she is done playing. Fergus takes her turned-away body as an invitation to play yet harder, and he swats and bites at her as she moves away. She turns, hisses and swats with her claws in, but this doesn't deter him. He thinks this is part of the game.

Her plan: Avoidance. She'll play with him as long as he is nice. But if he's mean to her in some way, the game is over immediately. Since he lives to play, this is feedback he can use. If he'd like the game to keep going, he'll need to learn to be a little nicer. Maggie is a great instructor of that lesson. 

Popoki the cat looks grumpy

Popoki is decidedly grumpy about these kitten shenanigans, but she handles things in a slightly different way. She has no front claws, so she cannot hit. But she is a mighty big cat with a lot of weight to throw around. If Fergus upsets her, she chases him, tackles him and sits on him until he screams.

These episodes can seem a little scary, but honestly, Popoki and Fergus have a good relationship. She is providing him with the strict feedback that Maggie is too timid to provide. And Popoki's coaching will help Fergus to grow into a respectful cat that knows that some cats simply don't mess around.

Sinead the Boston terrier

Sinead is a similarly excellent coach. She likes to play rough, and she does play rough with Fergus. But she doles out fairly significant corrections if he wakes her up when she is sleeping or if he bites her little legs too hard. Those corrections involve snarling, mock-biting and body slams. They are hard to miss. And if he takes the hint, she will continue the play.

Liam the pug looks suspicious

Even with the help of Popoki and Sinead, Fergus has a ways to go. And that means the other animals in this house have to be ever-so-slightly on guard. They all like to know where Fergus is at all times, and they tend to position themselves like Liam here, so they can see the little guy if he chooses to sneak up on them.

Fergus the kitten has blue eyes

I'm thankful for all of my pets as we work to raise Fergus together. They all bring something a little different to the table, and the work they do will help this little motherless guy to become the fabulous cat I just know he can be. I just hope they all stay patient with him. I know it's hard!

Any kitten advice you'd like to share with my crew? Hit me up in the comments.

And if you'd like to see more awesome cat and dog photography, check out this hop from BlogPaws. You'll make new friends, see cute pets and have a great time. Check it out!