Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday cat selfie: Maggie finds the perfect sun puddle

Maggie the cat in a sun puddle
In a way, I feel bad for my cats. They find a perfect napping position, in a comfy spot surrounded by the sun, and I come flying at them with my camera clicking away. I'm like the crazy cat paparazzi, always trying to get the perfect shot.

But who can blame me, right? I mean, Maggie looked so sweet in her little chair in the sun puddle. I really could not resist. And I wanted to share her selfies with all of my friends at The Cat On My Head. So we'll call this a nap interrupted--for a good cause!

Maggie the cat in a closeup selfie
I love her little pink nose!
Obligatory belly shot of my cat
Obligatory belly shot.
Maggie the cat is ready to head back to sleep
Ready to go back to sleep.
Thanks for looking! And as always, thanks to our awesome blog hop sponsors. We couldn't do this without you!
Do visit the other blogs in this hop. You'll be happy you did! And leave me a comment, too. I'd love to know which Maggie photo you liked the best.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cats on film: Cute kitties strut their stuff for the 2016 Cat Oscars

Popoki the cat with her Oscars voting form
Much like her human, Popoki the cat is overwhelmed with all of the actors, actresses, directors, producers and writers on this year's Oscars ballot. Who should she vote for? Which one is best? To her, napping seems like a better idea. Especially if that nap comes either before or after a few treats.

So she was happy when I told her the nice people at Meow Mix asked us to vote in the 2016 Cat's Meow Awards (like the kitty Oscars, you see), and there wouldn't be too many entries involved. And, as a bonus, she'd get a new kind of treat in reward for her hard work, sent by Meow Mix. Yay!

Popoki the cat looks at an oscars ballot
So, Popoki. Let's put down your human ballot and get to the important stuff, shall we?

Meow Mix got than 25,000 submissions from all over the country for awards, which are meant to celebrate the best cat moments of the year, along with the one-of-a-kind bond that only cats and humans share. These are the highlights.

To earn her treats, Popoki had to watch every video and vote on her favorite. Out of all of the videos, Popoki got the most excited about the "Floof Massage" in the Wild Cat Card Category. Who wouldn't love to see more cat love, right?

And now for the reward. It's a new line of treats from the Meow Mix brand, and it comes in a variety of flavors and textures. Popoki tried the soft tuna treat, and she's a fan. In fact, here she is trying to walk away with the whole bag. Looks like I'd better store them up high.
Popoki the cat with kitty treats
Go here to share your cat's irresistible moment and win some cool prizes. It's fun!

Disclaimer: I was sent some treat samples and food samples in return for this review. All opinions expressed here are my own and weren't purchased in any way.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: One pug, four dog beds

Liam the pug in his soft dog bed
What does Liam the pug do all day while I am working? He sleeps. And he paces.

Liam has four different dog beds inside my tiny writing studio, and he spends most of his day walking from one bed to another. It's a benefit, as I know to stand up and stretch when I hear his toes clacking on the floor as he walks from place to place.

Today, for the BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday post, I thought it might be fun to show you all of Liam's various beds. So here goes!

Liam the pug in a heated cat bed
This is technically a cat bed. But it's heated, so Liam uses it.
Liam the pug in a wicker cat bed
Also a cat bed, and also heated. Sensing a pattern?
Liam the pug on his raised bed
This raised bed is more popular in the summer, when heated beds are no-nos.
What do you think: Too many beds? Or just enough? Shoot me a note in the comments! I love to hear your thoughts.

And do visit a few of the other blogs in this hop. You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Put me down! Why your blind cat does not need to be carried

Lucy the blind cat in her bed
Here's a fun blind cat fact: Most of them do not like to be carried around from place to place. Consider Lucy. She is a very placid, well-meaning, affectionate girl that will do almost anything you tell her to without complaining. But she'll turn into a hissing, spitting, mess of claws if you pick her up.

It's a bit of a sad thing, when you think about it, as most people who meet Lucy want to pick her up. They worry that she will trip or fall or somehow hurt herself if she has the chance to move about from place to place with her own motor. That's what her first family thought, in fact, as they carried her around or crated her for the first 3 months of her life.

But blind cats have good reason for hating the airborne life.

Blind cats like Lucy get from place to place through a combination of smell, touch and sound. They know where they are by engaging in a few pinball maneuvers. Lucy sticks close to the walls most of the time, stopping off from moment to moment to check in on the spaces she is familiar with.

Lucy the blind cat walking

In order to get from the hallway to the corner of the living room, Lucy walks by the side of the couch, stopping briefly at the scratching post. Then she veers to her right to stop in her cat bed. Finally, she hugs the edge of the side table until she's at her destination.

Lucy can move pretty quickly, so this doesn't take long for her to complete. But she takes this same path every time. She knows it is a safe route to take.

If I pick her up and simply move her to another part of the room, she loses all of those markers. And if I set her down in the middle of a space next to nothing she has scent marked, she has no idea where in the world she is. And she has to take some exploratory spins in order to map the new area. It stresses her out.

If you're living with a blind cat, do your best to keep from picking kitty up. I spent months training Lucy to come when I call her (treats helped), so I can just ask her to move at her own speed when I need her to switch positions. Cats can be trained, and it's a lot easier than you might think. If you can train them to come when you ask them to, there's less picking up required.

But if you absolutely can't avoid picking up the cat, there are some things you can do to make the process easier. Look for spots the cat uses for mapping, and try to set the cat down in those spots after an airborne trip. For Lucy, that usually means cat beds. But the scratchers she's marked would work, too. Knowing what your cat uses as a signpost can help you make a good choice. 

Lucy the blind cat lying beside a wall

If you have no such signposts, using walls and other hard surfaces can help. Most blind cats tend to hug the walls when they walk. Putting them down so they can touch those surfaces could help to reduce disorientation.

Yes, following these steps does take a little time. But it's a simple thing that makes Lucy a lot happier. And it keeps her from fighting with me, and that makes me happy. To me, it's worth the extra effort.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Domestic violence: Pets often involved, and often forgotten

Sinead the Boston terrier and her suitcase
Sinead is very close to pocket-sized, so I can take her with me almost everywhere I go. She's been in cars, on airplanes, on busses and in taxis. She's been to Washington, Oregon, Chicago and Nashville. This summer, she'll go to Arizona. She goes most places with me. And often, whether or not I can take her is a key consideration when I'm planning to leave the house.

And that's a little scary, as there's one place I probably couldn't take her.

Most shelters for domestic violence victims do not allow pets to come along. The victims (Who are often women, so I'm going to use "she." That does not mean men cannot be victims.) are often encouraged to leave all of their possessions behind and to flee to safety when they have an opportunity to do so.

Many of these women choose not to leave simply because they cannot bring their pets with them.

I am not, in any way, in an abusive relationship. But I understand the thinking. If you were living with someone who had no qualms about abusing you, how could you leave your little pet behind with that person? What if the person turned on your pet, since you were gone?

And some abusers specifically target the victim's pet, knowing that the threat of abuse to the pet can keep the victim in line. After enough of those threats, you'd believe that your pet was in danger. You'd feel it in your bones.

At this point, there are little to no protections for women like this. But there is pending legislation that might make a difference.

Recently, I heard about a bill called the Pet Women and Safety Act of 2015. This bill would outline specific legal action women could take if their pets were harmed during the course of domestic violence, and it would provide grants that could allow more shelters to take in pets. This bill does not do enough to stop the issue, but it certainly is a step in the right direction. Right now, according to this website, it's in committee.

Committees can take ages to act on things, and sometimes, bills that are sent to committee die there. But that doesn't mean there's nothing we can do as active members of the animal community. Sinead is pointing to one of the most powerful tools we have.
Sinead the Boston terrier looking at her phone
The legislators that work for us need to know about the issues we'd like for them to work on. This is one of them. If we can move this issue to the top of the to-do list, we might be able to get that bill out of committee and to the voting floor. Or better yet, we could push our legislators to enact laws at the state or local level. That could help the animals in your community, and demonstrate how much we need a federal law that extends those protections nationwide.

You can use this website to find your local senator, and use this website to find your local House representative. A call or a letter could be incredible help for women in need. Thanks, in advance, for lending your voice to the conversation.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Selfie: Pug spends the morning with the New York Times

Liam the pug reading his New York Times
Most of the time, when Sunday rolls around, I put a camera in front of one of the resident cats and start clicking away for the Sunday Selfies post. Most of our friends that link up with The Cat on My Head are cat people, so we oblige with cat faces.

But Liam really wanted to get into the action today. I caught him reading The New York Times this morning, and maybe all of the news about the snow in the Northeast inspired him to make people smile.

So today, our selifes all involve Liam the pug and his paper. I think he did a great job. Don't you?

Liam the pug with the New York Times
Liam the pug with the New York Times
Liam the pug resting on the New York Times
Looks like Liam is done and ready for his nap. How do you think he did with his selfies? Leave me a note and let us know!

As always, thanks to The Cat On My Head for hosting this hop.

And do visit the other blogs in this hop! You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Shelter stories: Henri the cat's mysterious injuries

Henri the cat in closeup
Once a week, I head into the Willamette Humane Society and work with the cats up for adoption. I write up their stories for a cat blog, and I share their sweet faces on the shelter's social media sites. Sometimes, I share their stories here, too. Usually, I do that when something has struck a nerve.

That's what happened with this cat, Henri.

He is at least 10 years old, but the staff isn't too sure of his exact age, as he didn't come into the shelter with his life-long owners. Instead, he came in with neighbors who took him in when Henri's owners moved away and left him behind. Those neighbors had a kitty Henri didn't really get along with, so that family he found, all on his own, couldn't keep him.

That's sad enough, getting left behind when you're an old guy and then getting bumped out of a home you choose for a do-over, but Henri's story gets a little worse.

Henri the cat in his kennel

Every cat that comes into the shelter gets a thorough medical once-over. In Henri's medical exam, the team discovered two pretty disturbing things:
  1. Henri can't use his tail at all. He can't lift it, twitch it or feel anything about it. 
  2. Henri has a BB or tiny bullet lodged in his back, near his hip. 
These two things may be related, in that Henri was shot and it caused nerve damage. Or they may be two separate incidents. Tail injuries like that can also be caused by car bumps or by forceful tail pulling.

Henri the cat standing up

So this means, in a best-case scenario, he was abused just once. In a worst-case scenario, he was abused a few times. And he was abandoned.

Typically, cats like this are a little shut down in the shelter. They cower and shrink and tremble. They know that humans can be mean, and they try to avoid them.

Henri is different.

This guy is the first to mewl for attention when people walk into his room. He grabs hands, hair and faces of people walking by. He will not take "no" for an answer. And when people do pet him, he is enthusiastic about it. He gave me the nicest shoulder massage yesterday when I was walking down the hall with him. And he nuzzled my cheeks goodbye, too.

His body may be damaged, but his spirit certainly is not.

As an older, all-black cat, Henri faces some pretty significant adoption hurdles. That's compounded by the fact that he may not like other cats (he didn't like the one in that temp home, for example). Henri is also just really, really restless in the shelter. He wants out, out, OUT of any place where he's staying. You'll see that in the video I shot. Notice how he's trying to open the door.

That might mean he'll need a home with a catio, or he might need a person willing to leash-train him. Not everyone is willing to do that.

Henri needs the help of a community, so I'm reaching out here.

If you know of anyone who might be willing to hop up to Oregon to visit this guy, share this post. And if you're moved and want to help, click this page to make a donation for his care. You don't have to, of course, but every little bit helps cats like this to succeed.

I'll keep working with Henri and promoting him on the WHS sites. But I'd love the extra promo help. I think Henri deserves it, after all he's been through. Don't you?

Happiest of updates: Henri went to his forever home a little earlier today! Hooray! 1/21/2016 @ 9pm.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Popoki the office cat

Popoki the cat in the middle of a stretch
Despite my best efforts, Popoki remains a little leery of my other cats. She seems curious about them, which is an improvement from the days when she was afraid of them, but she isn't quite ready for full integration. That suits her fine, as it means she can come to my writing studio with me every morning.

In her mind, she performs many work-related functions. For this Wordlesss Wednesday, hosted by BlogPaws, I thought I might outline a few of the "services" she provides.

Popoki sitting on my paper and my pen
She makes an excellent paperweight.
Popoki the cat puts her paw on my hand
She keeps me from writing nasty notes to my editors.
Popoki the cat supervises Sinead the Boston terrier
She keeps the dog in line.
Popoki lying on my office chair
She warms my chair when I take breaks.
Popoki the cat sitting on my lap
And she warms my chair when I am in it.
What do you think? Are these valuable services? Does she need a salary? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know.

And be sure to visit the other blogs in this hop, too!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Raw feeding for dogs has never been so easy: Instinct Raw Boost Mixers #mixitup

Liam the pug sitting next to his bag of Instinct food
A few weeks ago, I shared some shopping snaps with you, as Liam and I headed out to pick up some Instinct® Raw Boost® Mixers. At that time, I promised you a longer, more robust description of what the product is and how it works. (Did you miss it? Click here). It's time for the followup post!

This post is sponsored by Instinct® and the BlogPaws Professional Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Instinct® Raw Boost® Mixers, but I only share information I feel is relevant to my readers. Instinct is not responsible for the content of this article. 

Liam the pug is a long-time raw food eater. I originally transferred him to raw after dealing with ages and ages of nausea, gas and loose stool. I tried making my own food, switching to different prepared food and feeding him in elevated bowls. Nothing worked, until I went to raw. Now, he eats raw for breakfast and dinner. And he gets a little kibble at lunch.

Liam the pug looking at a sample of the dog food

Pugs are gluttons, so I never have problems with picky eating. Liam will eat pretty much anything I put in his bowl. But sometimes, feeding raw for those two meals can be tricky. When we travel, I can't always pack a ton of raw.

The Raw Boost Mixers from Instinct are made just for this issue.

I can pop a few of these little nuggets right on top of Liam's kibble portion and serve that up to him. I don't need to add water, mash things up or otherwise manipulate the little bites. I can put them right down on top of his kibble when it's time to eat. So he gets the benefit of a raw diet as a topper, without the hassle of raw.

Liam's dog food bowl with topper

I chose the lamb flavor (yummy!), and Liam's been getting a few bites on top of his kibble at lunchtime. He loves the stuff, and I haven't seen any nausea or digestive upset with this product. That makes it a winner, for me.

This product also has other benefits. It's all natural, grain-free and freeze dried. That means the ingredients are great, and it doesn't need refrigeration or other fancy manipulations. Yay!

Would you like to try it? I thought so. You can get your own bag at PetSmart, and there's a special campaign during the month of January. Right now, you can buy a 4oz bag for 20 percent off, and you can pick up cool trial sizes for a lowered price, too. Not sure where a PetSmart is in your area, or would you rather shop online? Try this tool. And if you want to find out more about the Nature's Variety Instinct brand, click here.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Nature's Variety. The opinions and text are all mine. Reader comment disclaimer: Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bell training: A great idea for Train Your Dog Month 2016

Liam standing by the bell for train your dog month
The Association of Professional Dog Trainers has devoted the entire month of January to the promotion of dog training. People who live with dogs are encouraged to set aside a little time this month to teach a dog a new trick or reinforce an old lesson the pup may have forgotten.

I think this is a great idea, and when I sat down to write this post, I started thinking about all of the cute and clever things my dogs can do. Sitting, giving high 5s, backing up, holding a stay.... All of these little tricks are crowd pleasers. And they come in really handy. When my dogs are nervous or somehow excitable, I can ask them to throw out a quick trick as a confidence boost.

But then I got to thinking.

When I had Sinead in my shy dog class, one of our classmates asked several questions about improper puppy peeing. She couldn't get her dog to tell her when he needed to go out. And as a result, this guy did a lot of peeing in the house.

Training helps with that. And I have a great idea anyone could start this month.

Liam and Sinead sitting by their dog bell
Dog bells, like the set pug Liam and Boston terrier Sinead are sitting next to here, are designed to help your pet tell you when it's time to go outside. Teaching your dog to use these bells involves a simple step-by-step process:
  1. Pick one door you'd like your dog to use when he/she needs to go outside.
  2. Hang dog bells (anything that is loud and rings easily will work, including Christmas decorations) at your dog's snout level by that door. 
  3. When your dog is standing by the door, shake the bells and say "ring, ring!" Then, push the pup outside. 
  4. Watch carefully. 
  5. If the dog has gone potty outside, hand out a cookie when the pup comes back to the door. 
  6. Repeat. 
Anytime your dog goes out the door, you should repeat this ring, ring and cookie business. You can speed things up by using your dog's foot to tap the bells, but some dogs can be really foot sensitive. If yours doesn't like toe touching, skip this step.

Most dogs, including mine, pick up on this routine within a matter of weeks. But there is a little finessing involved. Smart dogs will begin ringing the bell repeatedly in order to get a cookie. Handing out treats ONLY when the dog goes potty can help with that.

So what do you say? Think this is a good trick for January? If you give it a shot, leave me a note in the comments. I'd love to know how it worked out for you.

And for other great ideas about Train Your Dog Month, click here

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday cat selfie: Waking up a sleepy kitty

Maggie the cat hides under her blanket
This is how Maggie reacted when I told her it was her turn to be in the Sunday Selfies post. She's so pretty and photogenic, and I wanted her to come out and play with the cool people who host this blog hop every week on The Cat on My Head.

It took a little coaxing, but eventually she did comply.

Maggie peeps out from under her blanket
"Can I stay under the blanket for my selfie?"
Maggie comes out from underneath her cat blanket
"I think I might have an idea."
Maggie is wrapped in her blanket
"I'll wrap myself in the blanket!"
I think she did a pretty good job. Don't you? Leave us a comment and let me know what you think.

And do remember to visit the other blogs in this hop! You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Winter hummingbird feeding: Your birds still need you!

Popoki watching the hummingbird feeder
In the spring and summer, Oregon is awash with hummingbird feeders. I see them hanging off front porches, dangling from the edges of trees and parked in the midst of flower beds. But in the winter? It's a whole different story. By November, I seem to be the only person in my entire neighborhood with active feeders.

And they're packed every single day.

Let's talk about why.

There are literally dozens of different species of hummingbird. And many of these little guys migrate. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, for example, go miles and miles to Central America in the winter, where they can gorge up on insects. There isn't much critter activity up here, so they head where the climate is warmer.

But some species of hummingbirds do not migrate at all. The Ana's Hummingbirds we have in Oregon, for example, are almost completely non-migratory. They pick a spot and they live there all year round, come what may. And since there are no insects for them to feast upon in the winter, and there are no flowers that can supply nectar, these guys rely on feeders in order to stay alive.

If I pull down my feeders, I can't entice the birds to travel south. That isn't something the birds do. They don't know how. If I pull the feeders down, it will simply remove a food source these guys need.

In addition, some researchers suggest that some hummingbird species are delaying their migration trips due to global warming. Some species, including the Rufous Hummingbird, have been spotted in places like Texas in the depths of winter. These guys will also rely on human help in order to get through the winter.

And you'll enjoy helping.

There's a special thrill involved with keeping a winter feeder, as you can see the birds a whole lot easier. They're not blocked by leaves or trees or other foliage. They're right out in the open, where you can see them easily. And they tend to stay for really long drinking sessions, too. It's great fun to sit and watch them drink and drink and drink. Mine are used to that observation, and they don't even fly away. It's wonderful.

I should mention, if you'd like to get on board, that there are special steps involved with winter feeding. I bring my feeders in at night, so I can ensure that the fluid doesn't freeze. And that means no sleeping in when morning comes. Hummingbirds need to load up first thing in the morning when they awake, so the feeders need to be up and running.

Also, on really cold days, I need to do a swap of feeders in the middle of the day. That allows me to swap a frozen set for a new set that's been warming in the house. It's a little extra work, but it's totally worth it.

So what about you? Have I convinced you to keep your feeders up this winter? I hope so. The birds need all of us. Not sure where to put your feeder? This very old blog post of mine might help. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Meet the dogs and cats in the meagerie!

Two dogs and two cats sharing a sun puddle
I don't call this blog "Welcome to the Menagerie" for nothing. I really do have quite a collection of animals sharing space with me. But it occurs to me that some readers, particularly new readers, might have no idea who lives here.

Let's fix this on this Wordless Wednesday, sponsored by BlogPaws!

Here are all of the current residents of the menagerie, in no particular order (okay, they're actually in alphabetical order).

Rescue cat Jasper
Jasper, the semi-feral outdoor cat.
Liam the pug
Liam the pug.
Lucy the blind Maine Coon mix
Lucy the blind Maine Coon mix cat.
Maggie the tuxedo cat
Shy Maggie the tuxedo cat.
Popoki the exotic shorthair
Popoki the exotic shorthair cat.
Sinead the Boston terrier
Sinead the Boston terrier.


Now that you know who everyone is, I hope you'll come back to visit often!

And visit the other blogs in this hop, too. I know I will!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Homemade dog treats: A great snack for a wet pooch

Liam the pug is wet from his rainy walk
This morning, the first thing I heard when I woke up (after the snoring of dogs, of course) was the tap-tap of rain on the window. It's a sound I've been hearing quite a lot, as Oregon has entered the rainy part of the year.

Being a born-and-bred Oregonian, I don't mind the rain. I know each drop helps to fuel the green plants coming in the spring. And given the drought conditions in neighboring states, I know we need the rain in order to have a healthy ecosystem.

But the dogs hate, hate, HATE rain.

Two times a day, we head out for dog walks. It's something I believe in, and it's a goal I meet almost every day. But it's hard to get the dogs to feel enthusiastic about a rainy walk. They'll do it, for sure, but they don't enjoy it.

So I like to give them a special surprise when the walk is done. And I have two new tools to help me do just that.

Dog cookbook and dog treat cutter
First up is this cookbook packed with dog treats: Good Treats Cookbook for Dogs. I got it as a gift for Christmas this year, and while I can't guarantee I'll use every single snack in the book, there are some that are real winners. I've been looking for new cookie recipes for awhile now, and this has plenty.

Next is this very cute and clever cookie cutter from Name that Cookie. These heavy-duty cutters come in all sorts of dog shapes and sizes, and the company will put your pup's name on the tool when you order it. Since hubby makes most of the dog cookies in this house, I gave this tool to him for Christmas.

Sinead and her dog cookie
 Clearly the dogs like this gift, too. It looks a lot like Sinead, don't you think?

These cookies are a little too big for the dogs to eat all at once (especially Liam, who shouldn't gain weight this year), but I like the idea of personalized cookies. And, I like serving up treats that aren't loaded with preservatives, colors and other foreign additives. If this cutter prompts more cookie baking episodes, I'm all for it!
Finished dog cookie and cookie cutter
I should mention that I wasn't compensated for this review in any way. But I love the idea of making treats at home and I thought these tools were pretty cool, so I'm just sharing them for reader benefit. However, the link to Amazon in this post is an affiliate link. If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a commission.

Do you make treats for your pets on a regular basis? If you do, shoot me a note in the comments! Love to hear about what you do for your fur-kids.