Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Boston terriers and their grass obsession

Sinead sleeping on the dry grass

I have yet to meet a Boston terrier that didn't love grass. And Sinead is no exception. Whether it's grass that's green and lush from cool and wet spring weather or grass (like this) that's yellow and parched from summer's heat--it doesn't matter to her. If it's grass, it's a spot that's made for napping.

But Sinead has several steps that she must go through before she can hit this moment of sloth bliss. And she follows those steps faithfully, every time she heads outside for a little grass therapy.

Step one: Find the perfect spot

Sinead is a very tiny Boston terrier, so my residential neighborhood yard could, in theory, provide her with 100s of napping spaces. She won't be content with the first bit of grass that hits her paws. She has to set out and find the perfect spot.

Sinead walking through the back yard

Step two: Flop down and start rolling

Grass is spiky, and all of those little barbs have the potential to poke Sinead in the eyes or in the flanks. So before she'll rest, she has to smooth that grass down. A typical dog would do that by circling around on its feet. Sinead goes for a more efficient method.

Sinead rolling on her back in the grass

Step three: Keep on rolling

Have I mentioned how important this rolling thing is? It's very important. It can't be rushed.

Sinead rolling in the grass

Step four: Obtain camouflage

Periodically, during the rolling, Sinead has to get up to prove that she has grass on her back. She'll even peep over her shoulder to make sure it's there. Why this is important, I'm not sure. But she sure thinks it is.

Sinead with grass on her back

With all of these steps completed, Sinead can rest for about 2 minutes. Then, it's time to start over again. Not much of a nap, right? But it makes her happy.

Are your dogs grass lovers? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know. And remember: This is a blog hop as hosted by BlogPaws! Join in! You'll meet other bloggers and have a lot of fun, too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Making your cat happy with a catio

Popoki the cat watching birds in her catio

Last week was a big week for kitty cat Popoki. Construction on her catio was complete on Wednesday, and Thursday morning, she was able to head outside for the first time in a year without the use of a harness or leash.

Since Popoki was a rescue (and her first family gave little information about her when they turned her in to rescue), I don't know much about her past. But I suspect that she was allowed outside at some point, given her nearly desperate attempts to get back out there.

I thought she might like a catio. I had no idea she would love it.

Popoki the cat in her catio

Popoki tends to be a lazy sort of kitty that spends a lot of time loafing around in one bed or another. She uses her catio for those activities. I keep catching her rolling over on her back and then flipping back to the front, over and over again, as though she's just so relaxed now that she can be out in the cool and unprocessed air.

But the catio has also unleashed a bit of a silly side in her. She's been running at top speed from the catio to the studio and back again, doing these weird little high kicks in the middle of the journey (I think the bunny people call these "binkies").

She's also been playing with bits of dirt and lint in the catio, and she surprised me with a Halloween kitty sideways stalking maneuver I've never seen an adult cat perform.

Popoki the cat looks thoughtful in her catio

Since the weather here remains unseasonably hot, I can only have the catio open for a few hours each day. Popoki's flat face makes her vulnerable to overheating, and the glass doors that lead to the catio tend to trap and magnify heat. At noon, I need to call her in. And she always looks so disappointed.

But it makes me so happy to think that the next morning, I can open up those doors again and make this kitty happy enough to start dancing. Isn't that what all cat people want--to make their cats happy?

Popoki the cat in her catio

How does she look? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Songs for Dogs: A review of a CD of music made for dogs

Sinead the Boston terrier and her CD

When I came home from BlogPaws a few weeks ago, my suitcase was simply stuffed with all sorts of products for dogs, along with quite a few products for cats. I've been reviewing them a little at a time (a few prior reviews of BlogPaws products are here and here), and this week, a CD popped to the top of my review list.

This is a CD from Songs for Dogs that is designed, the manufacturers say, to appeal to dogs. Apparently, the team dove into the research to determine what sorts of sounds dogs could hear, along with what sorts of sounds they tend to find either appealing or stimulating.

They hoped to create a CD that was full of sounds dogs might like and respond to, so those dogs would have an engaged mind and a soothed soul when their people left them alone for work or play. The CD could, they claim, help to reduce separation anxiety.

Liam the pug listening to music

My dogs are rarely left alone, as I work from home and I take the dogs with me when I go on vacation. But there are times when I have to dash off somewhere and they can't come. They don't seem to mind my absences overmuch, but the idea that this specific music could help them appealed to me.

So today, I cracked open that CD and gave it a whirl.

The music is, on the surface, a sort of light and folksy form of pop. There's a singer covering dog-type topics, such as going to the veterinarian or going for a walk, and a lot of the lyrics have to do with a person leaving a dog but coming right on back again.

So far, so okay.

Sinead the Boston terrier listening to music

But unfortunately, the music also contains things like barking. There are noises that sound like collars being jingled or keys being rattled. Sometimes, there are sounds that remind me of babies crying. My dogs were definitely listening to these sounds, but I can't say that they liked them.

Check out Sinead here. Here ears are close to being pinned to her head, and she's got a bit of a whale-eye thing going on. She's looking right at the speakers, and a few seconds after I snapped this photo, she started barking.

When I jumped up to take the CD out of the case and pet Liam (who had also been barking), I turned around and saw this.

Dog chewed on the edge of the case

Sinead had been chewing on that CD case, and notice that she's back to staring at the speakers. She was also doing a little growling at this point.

Separation anxiety symptoms typically include vocalization and property destruction. My dogs never show these signs when I'm gone. But they showed them when I played a CD meant to reduce separation anxiety symptoms.

It makes no sense.

I'm perfectly willing to concede that my dogs are just a little on the weird side and that they might not like things other dogs would like a lot. But for me, this product falls a little short of the mark. If I need to leave my dogs home alone, I'll stick with the classics: Miles, Coltrane and Dizzy.

If you'd like to see how your own dogs would do with this product, check out the manufacturer's website. Head to this page, click on that sample button and watch your own dogs. Maybe they'll love it. If they do, let me know! I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Disclaimer: This is a review of a product I received as a free sample as an attendee of BlogPaws. No compensation changed hands. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Remembering cats that have come before

Troy the cat in his bed

Since January, I've been looking through old cat blog and dog blog entries, optimizing those entries for search. I've been labeling photos, tagging text, adding in subheads, checking for broken links and, in general, doing all of the SEO stuff that's supposed to boost your rank in search.

True confession: SEO is my day job, so I should have been doing this stuff since the beginning. But I didn't, and now I have to go back and make it all right. Grrr.

Anyway, this project has its rewards. I have seen my rank increase and my site is performing much better than it did a year ago.

But there's been an unexpected pang of sadness as I get closer and closer to the entries I wrote last summer. Now, I'm coming across three faces of cats that all died within a very short timespan last year.

I'm hoping that by writing about them now, I can lance the wound and feel better. And since it is Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day, sharing them as part of the blog hop for The Cat On My Head seems appropriate. So here goes.

Eamon: My heart cat

The first to leave us was Eamon. He was a very old kitty with a very long (and well documented) history of arthritis in his back and elbows. We reached a point at which medications could no longer touch his pain, and he started biting me, his cat siblings and the dogs. He was lashing out, and we couldn't let it go on. So I took him in to the clinic and had him released from his pain.

Gorgeous Eamon cat looks out the window

Eamon was my heart. I first met him when he was just 2 weeks old, when he came tottering over to me using his sense of smell, since his eyes weren't quite open. A coworker needed to find homes for kittens, and I promised to come and look to appease this coworker's lovely daughter. I fell in love with the spirit of this young and fierce girl, and I loved the kittens, too.

Eamon was with me through two states, six homes, four boyfriends, three dogs and countless cats. He purred me awake every morning and rubbed me with his face every night. Losing him was one of the worst things that ever happened to me. And it's made a little worse in that the lovely young girl that introduced me to him also lost her life recently. I hope she and Eamon are reunited somewhere.

Beorn: Hubby's rescue cat

As hubby and I were reeling from Eamon's death, we also became aware that hubby's old Russsian blue boy Beorn was losing his fight against kidney disease. Despite his special diet and the fluids we provided, he was wobbly on his feet and unwilling to be petted. Hubby took him to our clinic for his goodbyes. 

Beorn the rescue cat

Beorn was rescued from a hoarding/breeding situation when he was just 5 weeks old. Hubby bottle fed him, and while he helped to place all the other kitties, he couldn't let Beorn go. He was hubby's companion for more than 16 years, through deaths, moves and more. He was even bumped by a car at one point, and he made a full recovery. He accepted me almost as soon as he met me, and he was tolerant of the dogs, which is surprising, given that he had no prior canine experience.

Troy: The first hospice rescue cat

Just as we thought we couldn't take any more, we realized that our sweet rescue cat Troy was not long for the world. We had no idea how old he was when we rescued him, and we knew he had the beginnings of kidney disease. The form he had was aggressive and also silent. I expected to have him for at least a year. As it turned out, we only had 9 months together.

Troy the cat on his bed

During those 9 months, Troy slept on his bed on my desk, right next to my left hand. His purrs helped me through the day, and at night, I carried him back into the house like a conquering hero. I'll never forget his gravely little mewl by the back door when it was time to go to work, and the look of sheer contentment on his face while he slept. My heart breaks for all the time we might have had together, and all of the abuse he must have suffered before he came here. And to this day, I miss him.

This summer is so much better, in so many ways. My pets are healthy and happy, and I even have a new little face to love. But the losses stay with me sometimes--preserved in amber from those old blog posts.

Thanks for reading. And thanks, as always, to our hosts.

Be sure to join in, if you can. And do leave me a comment, so I'll know you were here.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Catio details: Construction is complete!

Popoki watching her catio being built

Like most shy cats, Popoki is very sensitive to noise. Banging, clanging and scraping sounds send her running for cover in a poof of left-behind fur. But this week, she's been strangely comfortable with construction noise. And that's a good thing, as all of the noise has been for her!

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, Popoki really wants to spend time outdoors, but her front declaw and skittish nature make her a poor candidate for the at-free, at-large life. Leash work helps, but she wants more. So hubby put together plans to build her a super-sweet custom catio.

A catio, for those who aren't aware of the phenomenon, is a completely enclosed outdoor space made for cats who want to be in nature but who can't be free to explore it without help. There are all sorts of catio designs, including very elaborate structures cats can access via an open window or cat door.

My writing studio could have accommodated something like that, but the studio also had a tiny little porch that seemed just right for a catio, as long as it was a custom job. Hubby to the rescue! Here are his plans.

Popoki studio building plans

He used wood from our local scrap lumber yard held together with a series of hinges, hooks, staples and screws. There are two types of screen involved, to keep the bugs out and to keep cats from clawing either in or out.

The whole thing cost us less than $100 to build, and hubby did the labor himself, with a little supervision help from Popoki.

Popoki watching her catio get built

The front of the studio gives Popoki a great view of the foot and bird traffic on the street, and it's a spot that's near and dear to her heart, as she spends most days in her cat bed on the chair, staring longingly out the double doors. Tomorrow morning, she'll be able to do that gazing in person.

Here's what the new catio looks like from the front.

Catio from the front

Hubby says he wants to add a little flashing or wood to the tippy top of the structure, as there's a gap up there that could let in a few bugs. But otherwise, this worked out according to his plans. It comes right off for cleaning (or winter storage), and it provides a screened spot for Popoki to view her domain.

Here's a side view.

The catio viewed from the side

Popoki has about 2 feet in front and something like 8 feet from side to side to lounge in. I'll be adding a few beds, scratching posts and toys to tart the place up.

Why isn't she in there now, you wonder? It's well over 90 degrees as I write this, and Popoki's flat face makes her intolerant of the heat. When things cool down tomorrow morning, she'll give it a whirl. But for now, she's staying in the air conditioning. Watch for updates with pictures of her enjoying the splendor!

What do you think of the catio? Love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a note in the comments, won't you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Can a kitten eat too much? A Wordless Wednesday question

Fergus the kitten on his bed

Kittens like Fergus grow fast. One minute, they're small enough to sit inside the palm of your hand, and they rely on you for everything from feeding to cleaning to moving around. The next minute, they're walking, climbing and jumping. And the baby scale you used to measure their weight isn't big enough for their heads, much less their whole bodies.

All of this growth requires fuel. As a result, most experts say kittens should eat as much as they want to eat. I try to follow this plan, but sometimes, my little hedonistic kitten takes things a little too far. Case in point.

Very fat kitty lying on the bed

Fergus is whipped and fat here because he ate his first breakfast helping, followed by a second breakfast helping I provided. Then, he broke into his sister Maggie's room and polished off her only breakfast. That's a ton of food for a little kitty! And he spent a lot of the rest of the morning sleeping like this.

Fergus the kitten fast asleep

Cats aren't dogs, and unlike dogs, most cats will stop eating when they're full. But clearly, there are some kittens out there in the world that simply don't know when to push away from the table and stop with the chowing!

The solution: Offering smaller meals more frequently. At this point, I'd been feeding Fergus just 3 times per day. Clearly, when it was time for chow, he was so darn hungry that he binged. It didn't hurt him necessarily, but it can't have felt really wonderful.

Now, he gets meals 4-5 times per day, and sometimes, he gets a little snack in the middle of the night too. Those frequent meals help to give him the nourishment he needs, without leaving him looking like a beached whale.

That's better for everyone, right Fergus?

Fergus the kitten waking up from a nap

How often do you feed your critters? Leave me a note in the comments section, won't you?

And remember: This is a blog hop hosted by BlogPaws! Join in and meet other really cool pet bloggers and their furry friends. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Are you skeptical about yearly pug vaccines? You should be

Pug on his deck looking skeptical

Does opening up your mailbox make you feel a little disgusted, like Liam the pug here? It might, if your mail is packed with helpful "reminders" from your veterinarian about yearly vaccines. As much as I love my veterinarian and all of the work his office has done for me (particularly when Sinead had a mast cell tumor), that office does send me a postcard reminder for shots every year.

If I didn't know better, I might be tempted to make shot appointments. I do know better, but here's the problem: Coming up with an alternate shot schedule isn't easy.

In the past, the thinking was that animals should have a vaccine each and every year, regardless of age or breed or size or risk profile. I grew up in a household in which the dog went to the vet once a year on her birthday and had her core vaccines boosted. We didn't question it. When her birthday came around, we trundled her over to the vet for her shots. When I got pets of my own, I followed that same plan. It seemed natural to me.

In the mid-2000s, I became aware of the very real risks involved with yearly vaccines. My first Boston had a very rare form of cancer diagnosed when he was only 2. The next year, his beloved kitty friend was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer, and she was only 5 and living in a non-smoking house. Cancers like this could, in theory, come up from almost anything. But vaccines often came up as a risk factor in my research.

When I got Liam the pug, I wanted to try something different. Putting together the right plan at the right time is my duty to him. But fulfilling that duty isn't simple.

Liam the pug next to bright red flowers

Many people worried about vaccines, as I am, stick with a plan that involves:
  • Core vaccines only (nothing like giardia or flu)
  • Staggered vaccines, so dogs don't get two shots on one day
  • Vaccines only every 3 years, not yearly
As it turns out, one of the pillars of this plan can't be supported. Research cited here suggests that there is no clinical evidence that points to a 3-year vaccine plan. That number was sort of tossed out there in meetings between people who wanted to vaccinate every year and people who wanted to vaccinate only during puppyhood. That means vaccinating him every 3 years could be--and probably is--much too frequently.

This is usually the point in a blog post at which I dispense advice. Sadly, I don't have any to give. In articles about vaccines, owners are encouraged to "be informed" and to "advocate." But when there's no firm science about vaccination timing, it is hard to make a scientific choice. There is no research, and no data, to help owners craft a decent plan. The numbers simply do not exist.

 At this point, I will be putting Liam on a 5-year plan. But I'm thankful I have 3 years to put that plan into action. He doesn't need shots between now and then, on any plan that I can find. And I may do my research on titer testing. That test is designed to determine if an animal has antibodies to a specific type of infection circulating in the bloodstream. Sadly, those tests are often inaccurate, according to this very technical but reliable source. Again, the data eludes us.

In the interim, I'm hoping the titer testing field will expand, grow and become much more sensitive to quick and easy decisionmaking. The more of us who ask for it, the more reliable the tests might become.

And I'm also using the vaccine reminder cards as coasters.

Monday, August 22, 2016

August 2016 BarkBox Review: Summertime treats and toys for dogs

Liam the pug with his shark toy

Liam the pug has a big smile on his face today because his BarkBox came! Yes, he has to share his spoils with his sister, but there's more than enough fun in this box to go around. (Note: this post does contain an affiliate link. That means clicking on the link and making a purchase generates revenue for me.)

Let's start with this dog toy Liam is clutching in his paws in the top photo. It's a shark clutching a surfboard between its jaws (adorable, right?), made by the BarkBox inhouse company. The surfboard seems frivolous, but it actually serves a pretty neat purpose. Little dogs like Sinead can struggle to get their teeth around the big toys that come in the shipments. This board gives her something to grab, and I know she appreciates that.

But meanwhile, she's been a little too busy playing with the other toy that came in the box.

This toy is made by one of my favorite pet companies: Pet Play. We have plenty of toys from this particular company, and I've always found them to be sturdy, well crafted and very interactive. This toy is no different.

On the surface, this just looks like a taco.

Liam the pug with his taco toy

It has a variety of different textures, from crinkly to soft to nubbly. So I knew the dogs would enjoy chewing on it. But then I looked a little closer and found another surprise. That outer layer of the taco comes off, and that lining can become a soft little disc that flies through the air. I anticipate many throwing sessions with the little dog when this toy is up and running.

There's only one downside that I can see. Taking off the outer layer exposes two small disks of Velcro. I'm a little worried about that scratching the dogs on their eyes and mouths.

Dog toy with Sinead in the background

But check out Sinead in the background. She really doesn't care about the Velcro part. She wants that toy! And I don't blame her.

In addition to toys, we got plenty of treats in this month's box.

Closeup of the BarkBox August 2016 shipment

The orange bag contains lamb and honey flavored snacks from a company I've never heard of. And it's funny, but I still can't quite puzzle out the name of that company. California style? Honest Love? Mountain Country Foods? The labeling isn't clear. But the ingredient list is simple, and the treats seem soft and easy to eat. I imagine these will be popular.

The blue bag contains a different type of treat from another new-to-me company: House of Pups. These treats are also soft, and they're made of whitefish. I anticipate that they'll be super stinky and super delicious for the dogs.

Finally, we also got a stick-type treat from a company called Smart n' Tasty. This is a very hard, pressed meat product that dogs might like to sit down and chew on. I will have to break it apart, so they won't gobble all of it at the same time, but that should be easy enough to do.

That's it for this month's shipment! If you'd like to see reviews of prior boxes, click 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.”

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday cat selfie: Popoki decorates her bed with fur

Faithful readers of the cat blog might recognize this bed. Although it might look a little different now than it once did. Earlier this week, I wrote a review of this bed that is designed for dogs. And in that review, I mentioned that Popoki decided that the little bed was hers. Since then, she really hasn't gotten up from her bed.

Some of her obsession is my fault. I put her bed in a spot where she spends a lot of time--my rocking chair in my writing office. I put the bed down on that spot to photograph it, and up she hopped.

Popoki the cat in her bed

I should mention that it's been well over 100 degrees in Oregon lately. Even though this room is air conditioned, the air can get warm. And that means Popoki is a shedding machine. The bed is no longer pristine and red. It is absolutely packed with hair. Look closely.

Grey cat in red bed

The takeaway? Get dog beds that coordinate with your cat's coloring. Because, chances are, the cat is going to sleep in that dog bed, no matter what you do!

And meanwhile, I'm pretty happy. In the past, I couldn't sit in that chair, because it was all covered in hair. Now, when I want to sit down, I can just move the bed and sit on the clean surface below. Win-win!

And soon, Popoki may have a new place to sleep.

Framing for Popoki's catio

Those are the frames for Popoki's catio! It's getting closer and closer every day. I hope to introduce it to you this week. Check back!

Be sure to leave me a comment, so I'll know you were here. And thanks, as always, to our hosts. We just love the kitties Blue at The Cat On My Head, don't you?

Join the hop! It's fun.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cat product review: Zen Clippers for pesky claws

Jasper the cat on his hot tub

It's been said that the best way to prepare an adult cat for a successful and struggle-free nail clipping session is to build a time machine, head back to the days in which your cat was a kitten and ensure that every trim session is quick, easy and painless.

Jasper would like me to start building that machine now. As I've mentioned in a previous blog post, his early life was difficult, and he didn't grow up with tame kitty role models. As a result, he can be incredibly difficult to fuss with.

So when the team at Zen Clipper reached out with a new product made to reduce the risk of pain with nail trims, I was intrigued. I hoped that these things might help me to keep Jasper tidy. So I agreed to accepting a free sample of those clippers in return for an honest review.

Here's what the clippers look like.

Zen clippers for cats

There's a tiny hole at the tip of these clippers, made to encircle the nail you need to cut. The ergonomic handles make the snips easy, even when your hands are sore from a day full of typing (like mine!).

These clippers come in a bunch of different sizes, and it's important to get the size right. That hole is a pre-set size. Get clippers that are too small, and you cannot make meaningful trims to the nails. Get clippers that are too big, and you run the risk of cutting too much and causing bleeding and pain.

The company makes downloadable guides you can use when selecting clippers, but I suggest contacting the company directly and asking for a sizing chart to be mailed to your house. The cards make buying the right size super easy, as each clipper size is illustrated with a punched out hole. It's hard to make a mistake with instructions like that. But if you do, the company is happy to take returns and send you the right size.

Jasper the cat getting his nails clipped

I know what you're thinking. Why bother with sizing when I can get traditional clippers that accommodate all sizes of nails? There's an awesome reason.

Traditional clippers can, and most do, crush the nail before the clip. The animal experiences a bit of pain, and the clip is far from clean. When I am using traditional clippers with Jasper, he struggles like crazy because of the pinching, and he walks away with smashed claws that are a little bloody.

The Zen Clippers do not pinch. The two pieces of cutting material come together quickly and smoothly, so the nail is clipped clean without any kind of crushing action. And, if you get the right size of clipper, you're almost guaranteed not to take off too much nail. Your whole cat's (or dog's) nail won't fit in the tool. Only the bit you need to cut will fit. 

While Jasper did not love his clipper session with the Zen Clipper, he didn't struggle overmuch. Once he realized there was no pinching involved, he relaxed quite a bit. And since every clip did not take off too much, he knew we wouldn't hurt him. That also helped him to relax.

And you can't argue with these results.

Jasper's clipped cat nail

His nail is almost surgically cut, with no splinters or breaks or fractures. And there's no blood on that tip. I didn't hit the quick and make him bleed.

If you're like me and you have a number of pets of different sizes, you will need to purchase many different sizes of Zen Clipper. These aren't one size fits all. And for some people, that might be a bit of an issue.

But, I'm a firm believer in keeping grooming sessions as quick and painless as they can possibly be. If I need four or five clippers to do the job for my furry family, that seems like a small price to pay. You will probably agree, once you try these things.

The Zen Clipper is available on the company's website, and you can also buy the clippers on Amazon. I don't think they're in pet stores quite yet, but this is a relatively new product, so it might hit shelves soon.

What do you think of these clippers? Would you use them? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Pet supervisors: When your coworkers have fur

Liam the pug and Sinead the Boston terrier on their bed

These two sweet dog faces peep up at me throughout each and every work day. I work from home, and while I remain in close contact with my colleagues in the home office, the only breathing creatures I have near me all day long are covered in fur, and that has its good parts and its bad parts.

The dogs, for example, remind me to take life easy. They sleep a lot throughout the day, and since they're both snub-nosed, they breathe pretty loudly when they're asleep. If I find myself getting worried about a deadline, pegging my breathing to theirs will calm me down. And if I need to burn off energy after a meeting, throwing the ball for them a time or two usually does the trick.

But the dogs also come with telecommute risks. This guy, in particular, can be a little problematic.

Liam the pug on his bed

He's a fairly quiet pug, but his eyesight isn't quite up to snuff. And sometimes, he sees shadows or phantoms outside that he simply must vanquish. So he barks. And when he's barking, he can't hear me telling him to stop. So, as a proactive move, he has to head outside before conference calls and client interactions. I don't think he minds the breaks, thankfully.

And then there's this one.

Popoki the cat in the office

I'm convinced that every office should have a cat. There's nothing quite like a little pile of purring fur to help you remain calm and collected, even when you're dealing with a complex and tangled work problem. Popoki spends a great deal of time on my lap every day, and she really does help me to think. I know that having her around is a boon for my clients, as the work I do with her is likely much better than the work I might do without her.

But, she has been known to walk across, sleep on or otherwise fuss with my technology from time to time. She hasn't yet dialed the phone or sent and email, but I think she's trying.

Popoki the cat likes to help in the office

One of the main benefits of working from home is the added time one gets to spend with pets. And that's time I wouldn't trade. Sure, it takes a few adjustments and amendments. But the benefits I get are amazing. It's well worth the effort, I'd say.

Any of you telecommuters out there want to chime in? Love to hear your thoughts.

And, if you're in the pet blogging space, why not join in this hop from BlogPaws? You'll get some exposure for your blog, and you'll meet up with cool peers at the same time. Give it a try!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Is that kitten really an orphan? A key question to ask before you act

Kathleen the kitten looking fluffy and healthy

Let's assume for a moment that you found this kitten in a residential part of your city or town. She's resting with her two brothers, and the mom doesn't appear nearby. What should you do?

If your instinct is to pack up all of those kittens and whisk them into a shelter, you're not alone. It happens a lot. And often, that's a perfectly wonderful step that saves a kitten's life.

But often, it's a tragic mistake that results in a loss of life. And even if the kittens survive, they could struggle with things they wouldn't struggle with had their mothers stayed with them as they grew.

Consider Kathleen here. Is is the photo I took of her on the day she came to my house for the first time. She's plump, fluffy and sleepy. Clearly, her mother has been feeding her, grooming her and keeping her warm.

Here she is about 2 weeks later, after eating with me. I'm a poor cat momma substitute.

Kathleen the kitten is wet in her crate

She's got food all over her fur, and while she's bigger, she's not nearly as fluffy. To keep her tidy, I had to use a washcloth. It makes her a whole lot wetter than a momma cat tongue would. And wet kittens can quickly become sick kittens, if they catch a chill from the cool air around them. So after eating and bathing, Kathleen had to spend a lot of time like this.

Tiny kitten swaddled in a towel

She's packed tight inside of a towel, which I'm holding on my lap. She's warm enough, but I'm sure this isn't nearly as comforting as being licked and cuddled by a mother. It's a poor substitute. And when Kathleen was this size, she needed this food and towel help multiple times each day.

And let's talk about that food for a moment. The nutrition Kathleen ate during this time was man-made, and it included canned food and canned cat milk replacer. It was sufficient, but it didn't contain antibodies or other immune-boosting substances. That could mean Kathleen won't have added protection against common health problems.

And in the shelter system, those health problems could be incredibly present. Each time I took her back for a checkup, I was exposing her to things that could make her sick. With her mom, she might not face those risks at all.

Kittens climbing out of a basket

Kathleen and her brothers were rescued from a spot that (more than likely) the mom cat was planning to return to when her hunting was done. These kittens probably didn't need to be rescued. They needed their mothers. With my help, they all survived. But I can't help but wonder if they might have been just a touch better off with their mom. 

So, what's the best way to help kittens to stay where they belong, without putting their longterm health at risk? It involves observation.

The New York Feral Cat Coalition says that kittens are at high risk of hypothermia in the winter, but clearly that's not always a problem in the summer. That means you have time to wait. Use it. Look for a space in which you can safely observe those kittens, and wait for momma to come back. If she doesn't come back and those kittens are in grave danger, only then should you remove them.

Yes, it's hard to watch and wait. But just think of all the risks you'll be preventing. Your kittens are safer with their mothers. Let them stay.

If you really want to help, mark your calendar and set traps when those kittens should hit the 8-week mark. Pop them in to be spayed or neutered, so they don't contribute to the overpopulation problem. You might even be able to get them adopted.

But please. Don't rush to help all the kittens you see right now, right away. They might need their mothers more than they need you.