Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cat hairballs: They're gross and gooey, and you can prevent them

Jasper the cat on top of the hot tub
Jasper the cat should be famous for his friendliness (check out the drool; he does that when he sees people he likes). Around here, however, Jasper is famous for something quite different. And it also involves drool. Yup, this old guy is a hairball-making machine. At least once or twice each month, I find a hairball in my yard.

Or (and this is an even more fun thing), someone else finds a hairball in the yard. And the finder brings it to me to either throw or break apart into bite-size pieces.

I'm talking about Liam the pug here.

We humans think of hairballs as really gross pieces of slimed-up hair that our cats leave behind in the most inconvenient of places, like walkways. But to a pug, a hairball is a really great toy that flies through the air really fast. Or, if he's caught the ball before it's been sitting out too long, it's a really yummy snack.

Liam the pug smiling

Liam's smile shouldn't be caused by a hairball. But sometimes, that's just what happens.

In a lot of ways a hairball is totally natural. A cat's tongue is rough and sandy, designed to move through a coat quickly and strip out dead and loose hair. In the wild, a tongue is the best brush a cat can get hold of. But, those barbs can cause a ton of problems, because they point back at the throat. So the hairs a cat pulls while grooming become stuck in kitty's tummy. And they simply must come back out, because they're not really digestible.

Most people are aware that cats will toss up hairballs from time to time. But, on the annual Hairball Awareness Day (which is tomorrow), the cat community rallies to get the word out about hairball prevention. Specifically, we try to get people to understand that there's a lot you can do to keep those pesky things from taking over your cat's life.

The nice people at Wellness sent me an infographic that covers this point quite well. Check it out.

Steps to take to prevent hairballs

You'll notice that none of these steps involve throwing medications at the problem. Instead, these are steps that are designed to help your pet eat the right things, drink more water and move around a little more. Brushing plays a key role too, as the more you brush, the less hair there is to remove while grooming.

Just in time for that hairball day, Wellness told me about a food that could help to reduce hairballs. I'll be trying that with Jasper, so watch for a review in just a bit. But in the interim, enjoy your awareness day! And brush those kitties for me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Meet the goats at Bauman's Farm and Garden for Wordless Wednesday!

Goat next to feeding station
No, these aren't my goats. But they might as well be. The goats you'll see here live at one of my favorite places in Salem, Oregon. And I visit them a lot. I visit them so much, in fact, that they sort of seem like my own. So I thought it might be nice to include them in the Wordless Wednesday series, as hosted by BlogPaws. Don't you think?

These goats live in a huge barn at Bauman's Farm and Garden. They provide fertilizer for the plants that grow on the farm, and they provide a great recreational opportunity for little kids who might grow bored with hours of plant shopping. As this little goat demonstrates so nicely, humans are encouraged to feed these goats. All along the barn, there are these red feeding stations. Drop a quarter in, the food comes out, and the goats stick their heads out for a bite. Kids dig it.

Goat is ready for a bite of food

These goats are surprisingly gentle with humans. They'll lap the kibble up out of your hands with their tongues, instead of noshing on your fingers with their teeth. And when you have no more bites, they tend to stay behind for a few head scratches.

But, they can be a little competitive with one another. In fact, they tend to butt one another out of the way to get to the food. And some of them have really huge horns! Just look!

Goat with big horns in his pen


When I visit, I always try to have tons of quarters in my pockets, so everyone can get a bite without being left out. Even the little babies get bites when I am there.

Baby goat is sticking his head out of his kennel

Bauman's is, technically, a dog-friendly space. I saw quite a few people with tiny dogs in their carts on Saturday. But, dogs can rile up the goats. So I never bring Liam and Sinead along on our trips. I think of this as private goat time.

Hope you like the goat faces! Drop me a line in the comments and let me know what you think. And be sure to visit the other blogs in the hop! Good stuff this week.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cat food review: Against the Grain Captain's Catch

Popoki the cat posing with food
Popoki the cat rarely gets any mail. But back in January, I got a package filled with things just for her. And it came at just the right time. Popoki was making a slow adjustment to this household, and she developed a pretty persistent picky-eating habit. She'd eat canned cat food for a day or two, and then walk away from the same brand/same flavor the next day. It was infuriating, so I was thrilled when I got some samples of a cat food from Against the Grain to try.

Why did I wait so long to review it? It's a fair question. The delay came due to my own persistent pessimism. I didn't want to review a product and give it high marks, only to have Popoki reject it the next day. If I reviewed it and praised it, I wanted to be sure Popoki was actually eating the stuff.

It's been 3 months now, and I'm ready to review. Yup, Popoki is a fan.

Popoki the cat sniffs her food

This canned cat food is both grain- and gluten free. And it contains no preservatives, salt or fillers. The very first ingredient on the label is "ocean fish," and that fish is harvested in Thailand. Those are the high points I look for when I am researching any pet food. I want to make sure I am feeding something that I understand, and I want to make sure that food comes in a format I can trust.

But all of that means nothing if the cat won't actually EAT the food. And that's where this particular cat food really shines.

Closeup photo of canned cat food

Fish-based foods are stinky by nature, and this canned food really kicks up the smell factor. Popoki can smell that food as soon as the can is cracked, and she comes running up for a bite. Also, unlike a lot of other canned foods I've seen, this stuff comes in a chunky, pure format. See those big hunks of fish? They are easy for Popoki to pick up, even with her flat face. Pate formats of food are really hard for her to eat. I just don't have that problem with this food.

Popoki eats about a can of this stuff every day. She gets one little nibble in the morning, and then another little nibble in the evening. Both meals are supplemented with a few crunchy bites of kibble (which she loves). So far, she hasn't turned down even one of these meals. I think we've found a winner!

Have you tried this food before? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

Disclaimer: I was sent a few cans of this food to try. No other compensation was provided. All of the opinions are my own.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Pug dentals: Can dog toothbrushes keep the dentist away?

Liam the pug in his chair
For most of his 8 years of life, Liam the pug has lived with a toothbrush. Every night before he heads to bed, I plop some dog-friendly toothpaste on a brush, and I swirl that brush around his teeth for a minute or two. The toothpaste tastes great, so he doesn't mind. Plus he's a pug, so he loves attention. Even medical attention makes him happy.

Originally, I had thought that all of this brushing would help Liam to fend off the need for a dental cleaning. Last week, I discovered I was wrong.

When I was brushing Liam's teeth, I noticed him flinching from a front-tooth scrub. When I looked closer, I found that his bottom two front teeth were a little loose. And they were covered with a very hard, very yellowish substance. See this stuff? It's plaque.

Liam the pug has teeth with plaque

Dogs get plaque much like humans so. The bacteria in their mouths melds with the sugar in their food, and that becomes a nasty and very hard substance that creeps up above the gumline. And often, it sinks down below the gums, too.

If teeth have enough of a plaque attack, they can grow loose and unstable. And, that plaque can lead to painful cavities, too.

Liam the pug sticks out his tongue

There isn't much a person can do at home about plaque. This stuff is hard and brittle, and there's a ton of it that you simply can't see without digging around below the gum line. Those explorations hurt, and few dogs want to have that work done when they're awake. They need sedation for a deep cleaning. And that's something only a veterinarian can do.

So next week, Liam heads in for his cleaning. And I'm sad to report that he will probably lose those front two teeth. They are so loose and so worn that they are not likely to be fixed. Pulling them probably provides Liam with the best shot at a pain-free mouth.

Liam the pug looks suspicious

Once his mouth heals up from that dental, we'll start brushing again. While it's true that the brushes didn't keep his dental problems away completely, he still has a full head of teeth even though he's nearing 9. And he's never had a dental before. That means brushing his teeth is working. But all of that work can't replace the work of a dental.

I think about it like this: Even with the best diet, daily brushing, daily flossing and mouthwashes, most humans need a dental every year or so. And every time we go, the hygienists find little bits of plaque to chip off. It's how the mouth works. Just as it isn't reasonable for me to expect to skip the dentist forever because I brush my teeth, it isn't reasonable to expect Liam to skip a dental forever because I brush his. The two are not mutually exclusive.

So, wish us luck at the dentist! I'll keep you posted on how he does.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday cat selfies in honor of Earth Day

Lucy the cat with a map
Lucy is one of those curious cats that always likes to check out what you're doing. And if what you're doing involves paper, she often takes the opportunity to turn your paper into a bed. That's what happened this morning. I was looking at a book of maps for an art project (long story), and Lucy decided to check out/sleep on those maps, too.

And it got me thinking.

Last Friday was Earth Day. And as we all know, having an animal like a cat puts a bit of a strain on the Earth we hold dear. So, for my selfies series for The Cat on My Head, I thought I might talk about at least one thing we cat people could to do reduce that strain.

The thing? Dealing with food packaging in an appropriate manner.

The average cat can go through a can of food and/or a few scoops of kibble every single day. And since that food comes in packages that must be vermin proof and germ free, pet food packaging is made of things like plastic or metal.

Many communities have recycling programs for metals, including cat food cans. Recycling those cans is as easy as rinsing them and chucking them into a specialized bin for collection. But, there are some communities that do not support recycling at all. And sometimes, there are facilities we might support that don't recycle.

For example, hubby and I have visited places in Idaho with our dogs that do not have either glass or metal recycling facilities. And I've been in pet food stores that offer samples of products, and that chuck the cans in the trash underneath the table.

Popoki the cat chewing on metal trash
Even Popoki likes to recycle.
I'm the crazy cat person that will pack her cans home from an event. And I'll fish cans out of trashes of events I attend and bring that home, too. I like to walk the talk, and for me, that sometimes means getting a little messy.

Recently, I also found out about a new program from Wellness where you can send in your food packaging (at no charge), and they will recycle that packaging into new products. And each package you send earns points you can donate to cool charities. (Find out more about it here.) I love this program, and I hope more companies do something like this.

But in the interim, I'll be the lady with the car filled with recyclables. It's just how I roll.

One last photo to share with you: This is a snap of an adoptable cat named Mikey. I took it for my blog for Willamette Humane Society this week. This guy is a lover and a cuddler like you wouldn't believe. But he also has FIV, and I think that's putting some adopters off. I love him, and I hope his wait ends soon. (Update: He was adopted just a few hours after I wrote this.)

Mikey the cat snuggling with a person
And I'm sad to report that King George, mentioned in last week's hop, is still waiting for that perfect home. I know the right home is out there, but he hasn't found it yet. If you feel compelled to help, this is a blog post I wrote up about him. Feel free to share it. (Update: He was adopted yesterday! Here's hoping that home is the right one for him.)

That's it for me this week! Thanks, as always, to The Cat On My Head for hosting another epic selfies hop.

Do be sure to leave me a comment, so I'll know you were here. And visit the others in this hop!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

BarkBox April 2016 review: Dogs are ready to play ball!

Sinead the Boston terrier with her dog toy
Sinead the Boston terrier has a lot to say about the April 2016 BarkBox shipment. See those two white teefers? I caught her in mid-bark. And while I don't have my Boston terrier translator ring on at the moment, I think I have a pretty good idea of what she's trying to say. I think she's trying to say that she's pretty happy with the haul.

Here's what we got this month.

Dog toys and dog treats on the table

There are three different treat selections this month, and three of them make me pretty darn happy. Why? Because they come from outside pet food manufacturers.

I like BarkBox for the introductions, as the shipments we've had in the past have shown me scores of pet supply providers that I may have walked right by in my local pet food store. Without the shipment, I wouldn't have known to stop and buy. Prior shipments have been heavy on the BarkMade brand (which is made in the BarkBox house). This month, we have three outsiders.

One is from Sojos, and it's a little fascinating. This product is made of free-range wild boar, which the company claims to source in the United States and process in a plant in Minnesota. Now, I've been to Minnesota, and I didn't see any boar. But apparently, they're there. And the dogs are darn happy about that. These dehydrated treats are both stinky and tasty. The dogs are fans.

The other is Nootie, which I had flat-out never heard of before. But based on this product, I'm destined to find out more. These little peanut-butter bites that came in our shipment are soft, stinky and very chewable. They passed the Sinead test, as she felt like they were treats that were only safe to eat under the couch. And they passed my test, as I can break them apart easily.

The third is from a company called Butcher's Block Pet Treats. This company specializes in dehydrated, all-meat treats. These treats don't smell like chemicals or yeast, like many dehydrated products do. And they don't tend to stain furniture and carpets during extended chewing sessions. So I'm always glad to see these in my shipments.

Liam the pug and Sinead the Boston terrier want the ball

And now we're on to the toys. There were two in this shipment, both from the in-house company. Both of these toys follow a baseball theme. There's a ball and a mitt. And one of these toys is slightly more popular than the other, and I think I know why.

The mitt, which Sinead is playing with up top, is a big thing with a squeaker embedded in one corner. It's fun to pull and chew and throw around, but it's also just kind of a hulking thing. They dogs like it, but they can't really figure it out.

But this ball is a proven winner. It's small, and there's some nubbly little substance inside that is great for chewing. An hour later, these two were still hard at play. And look at the smiles!

Liam the pug and Sinead the Boston terrier playing with a ball

Notice also that they've pulled their beds into the action. When a toy is really great, these dogs like to put the toy in the bed and fling the bed, so the toy goes flying. Liam has been playing like this nonstop since the shipment came. I'd say this toy was a hit!

If you'd like to see reviews of prior boxes, click here or here or here or here or here 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. I was not compensated for this review. 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, April 20, 2016

Pug smiles: Is your pug really happy when he makes this face?

Liam the pug looking at the camera with an open mouth
If you asked my pet photographer friend to put a name to this expression on Liam the pug's face, she'd say that he was performing a perfect dog "smile." His eyes are wide, his mouth is stretched up to the corners, and his pink tongue is readily visible. In short, he looks pretty damn happy.

This is the expression my friend looks for when she is photographing shelter dogs. This is an expression humans associate with friendliness and sweetness.

But it got me thinking. When Liam looks like this, he isn't necessarily expressing happiness. In fact, he's reacting to something that I should probably get fixed, as soon as possible.

Liam the pug caught in a smile

I snapped these photos yesterday when the temperature outside had climbed above 85 degrees. Liam had been sitting outside on the deck, and it was a little too warm for his little pug body. So he opened his mouth wide and started panting. He may look like he's smiling, but in reality, he's pretty hot.

A hot pug has a few secret weapons, when it comes to cooling down. These dogs can flop down in frog formation and push their bellies into a cool floor, or they can sip cool water until their mouths feel refreshed. Or, they can pant while facing their people, hoping those people will either turn on the air conditioner or otherwise cool the hot room down.

Liam the pug with his tongue hanging out

That's what Liam is doing here. He's sitting in my lap, looking right at me, and hoping I'll do something about the hot air.

This isn't to say that pug smiles aren't cute, because they really are. But, when pugs look like this, they also need a little help from their people. A pug can overheat quicker than you ever thought possible. So when you see your pug smiling, go ahead and snap that photo. Then, turn on the AC. Pronto.

Do you agree? Liam wants to hear your answers in the comments.

Liam the pug tipping his head

And I'm sharing these photos as part of the Wordless Wednesday series, hosted by BlogPaws. It's a really fun way to share and see photos from pet bloggers all around the world. Have you joined? You should. And if you're not a blogger, check out some of the linked blogs below. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Portland cat people: A great cat litter deal! #TidyCatsAtCostco #ad

Lucy with her cat litter and Costco bag
Lucy the blind cat is very particular about her cat litter. She likes scents that are familiar, and she likes a clay-based product she can sink her paws into. When I find a brand she likes, I tend to stick with it, even if that means passing on other products that come with a smaller price tag. Right now, Lucy's favorite litter is Tidy Cats®. And get this: I just found out I can get it at Costco. That means I can get her what she wants, and I can get the savings I want.

This post is sponsored by Tidy Cats® and the BlogPaws Pet Influencer Network™. I am being compensated to help create awareness of Tidy Cats available in Costco Stores located in the Pacific Northwest, but I only share information I feel is relevant to my readers. Nestle Purina and Tidy Cats are not responsible for the content of this article.

Since cats are not allowed in Costco stores (not YET, anyway!), Lucy couldn't come along on our shopping trip. But I wanted her to feel engaged with the experience, so I brought along her spirit, in the form of some photos on my tablet. She hopped into the cart, and we were ready to go!

A photo of Lucy the cat on a tablet in Costco

Costco carries just about everything you can imagine, and often, the front of the store is a little crowded. But the pet section in most stores features wide aisles and cool spaces. Here's our aisle on a bustling Saturday morning. We have some room to breathe!

Photo of Lucy the cat in the pet aisle at Costco

In a back corner of the store, we found what we were looking for. This is a big box of the litter Lucy likes, and the price is really reasonable.

Lucy the cat looks at the cat litter price

I should mention that this litter is only offered at Costco in the Pacific Northwest for a limited time, so if you're interested in it, you should hurry on down to check your local store shelves and stock up when you see it. You can also call ahead and ask if it's in the store you often use. Hot tip: There are a bunch of boxes in the Salem store right now. So if you really want to take advantage, come down to Salem and see!

Lucy the cat at Costco

Interested in finding out if this is the right litter for you? Tidy Cat has a very clever website in which you can answer a few questions and find your perfect litter. I learned all sorts of things on that site that I didn't know. For example: Did you know this company makes an eco-friendly litter? I didn't. And I think that's pretty neat. Head over to the site to check it out. And if you want to know even more, follow the company on Facebook.


I'm thankful for the opportunity to tell you guys a little more about local deals you can use to save a little money on pet care. And now it's your turn to tell me something. Tell me: What to you use to keep pet costs down? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Comment disclaimer: Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand. 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Nestle Purina and Tidy Cats. The opinions and text are all mine.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sunbathing cats and dogs: A Sunday selfie series

Boston terrier and tuxedo cat sunbathing
Sinead the Boston terrier and Jasper the outdoor cat don't always get along. Sinead sometimes loses her cool and decides to engage Jasper in a not-so-fun game of chase. And sometimes, Jasper likes to use his cat-slap skills to keep Sinead away from things she wants, like the water dish or the back door. So their relationship is a little, shall we say, complicated.

But there's one thing they agree on: When the sun is out, it's time to do some serious sunbathing. They stretch out together to catch some rays, and they don't care who watches them do it. See?

Boston terrier Sinead sleeping next to cat Jasper

Totally shameless. They don't even care that I have my camera out, clicking photos a mile a minute. They want to nap, and they're going to nap. Period.

Cats and dogs with complicated histories should never be left alone in the same place without supervision. Cats can strike out at dog eyes and mouths, and those claws can do a lot of damage. And dogs can get in a big bite and shake, and that could be catastrophic for kitties. Even when the two animals seem fine, it's best to be careful. So Sinead and Jasper can only sunbathe when I am within about 20 feet of their preferred nap spot. That allows me to step in if something goes wrong.

And today, I tried to get them to stop sunbathing long enough to work with me on a selfie to share with the folks at The Cat On My Head. Here's what I got.

Jasper the cat looks very sleepy

Um, no. That's what we call a cat selfie fail. So I'm doing something a little different for the selfie portion of our program.

Here's a snap I took on Friday at Willamette Humane Society for the cat blog I write up for them. This old guy is King George. He's 13+, and somehow, he got separated from his family. He was found roaming around the streets of Salem, looking for food. And he was having a hard time catching any food and defending himself, since he has been declawed in front.

George the senior cat in a selfie

George has been waiting for a home for more than a month, and he's grown a little depressed. He no longer hops down to meet new people. He just stays in his bed. But if you give him just a little attention, he becomes a leaning machine. I snapped this selfie when he was pushing all of his weight into my body. And right after I took the snap, he crawled up and gave me a full body hug.

Now, THAT is a selfie worth sharing, right?

Thanks for looking, and do leave me a comment, so I'll know you were here! Also, if you wouldn't mind, do share this information about King George. We need to get him a home, pronto!

Enjoy the hop!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Cat product review: The Egg-Cercizer from PetSafe

Maggie the cat with her exerciser cat toy
Maggie the cat hasn't had much of an appetite these days. She is still recovering from her latest lip ulcer, and when her doctor checked her mouth this week, he noticed that she had lost a lower middle tooth during some point in the recent past. Her kitty mouth just isn't feeling like eating. But since she is a skinny senior cat, I don't want her to skip meals.

I talked about solutions for this problem a little earlier this week. But today, I thought I might share a little more detail about one tool I've been leaning on. It's a puzzle tool known as an Egg-Cersizer made by PetSafe. And over here, we're huge fans.

Puzzle toys were originally designed for obese pets who should work while eating, so they can burn up a few calories while they nosh. But they're also great for very playful cats that simply don't like to eat very much. If you can turn a meal into a game, it becomes less of a slog.

This product comes apart at the center, so you can fill it with a combination of treats and kibble. Then, it has a few difficulty settings you can access through a little screw mechanism on the top. Turning that screw makes the openings on this toy wider or smaller. So it becomes easier or harder to get the kibble/treats out.

I have this toy set on an intermediate setting, so the food still comes out freely, but it does take a little work. Maggie typically bats at the toy with her paws, and one or two little bites fly out during every revolution. After a few bites, Lucy tends to come over to check out the action, and the two girls play together nicely with the same toy. That's pretty remarkable, as these two girls don't always love one another. But they feel comfortable sharing this toy.

Maggie and Lucy the cats playing with a toy
You'll also notice that they have abandoned another favorite toy in order to play with this one. That's pretty remarkable, too.

The Egg-Cersizer holds about a quarter-cup of cat kibble, so it is empty pretty quickly. My girls will play with it for about 15 minutes before it is completely empty. And you wouldn't want to leave it out all of the time with no kibble in it. The little grooves and spaces collect a bunch of cat kibble crumbs, and that could attract ants. I pick mine up when the cats are done, and I store it in a baggie on the counter until the next day.

And when the toy comes out, the interest level goes up. See those ears? Lucy knows the toy is there, and she's ready to get started.

Lucy the cat with her toy
I fully recommend this toy for kitties, especially cats with some picky eater habits. Making a meal a game could be just the thing your cat needs to keep eating!

Do you use puzzle type toys for your cats? If so, drop me a note in the comments! I'd love to hear more about what you like.

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, April 13, 2016

Boston terrier mast cell tumor update (Looking good!)

Sinead the Boston terrier looking up
It's been about 3 weeks since Boston terrier Sinead had her electrochemotherapy appointment for her mast cell tumor. She had the procedure done in just one appointment with the wonderful team at the Veterinary Cancer Specialty Care clinic in Lynnwood, and I promised the team I'd keep them apprised of how well Sinead did. I promised the same to her oncologist at Veterinary Cancer and Surgery Specialists in Milwaukee.

And I thought: What better way than to take some snaps and share them for BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday? So here we go.

Before surgery, Sinead's mast cell tumor was about 4mm tall, and it was right above her left eye. It was removed during surgery, and chemo was applied to the surgery scar.

We were told to expect some swelling and perhaps a touch of hair loss as she recovered. This is how the spot looks right now. It's super smooth, and while there's a touch of hair missing, it's not an obvious amount of hair loss.

Closeup of Sinead's eye

I'm pulling up on her skin in this photo just a little bit, in order to expose that site a little better. But clearly, the whole spot looks pretty darn good. (And now, that's not Photoshop. Her head really is that small.)

Sinead has retained the ability to blink, and her eye doesn't seem uncomfortable at all. She also hasn't ever felt the need to itch or scratch since the procedure was done.

I'll need to keep watch on that spot, just to make sure that things don't go south. But for now, I'd like to thank the team. I'd never even heard of electrochemotherapy before, and I'm so thankful that both of our doctors told us about this option and encouraged us to consider it.

I don't know that Sinead would look this great right now without their hard work.

Sinead looking at the camera

Did you miss earlier posts about this whole issue? Click here.

And do check out the other blogs in this hop! Great stuff this week!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How to help when your cat has a lip ulcer

Maggie has a lip ulcer
Maggie the cat has dealt with lip ulcers for most of her life. She had her first outbreak when she was just 5 months old, and she had terrible outbreaks through her young adult years. A switch in food and a stress-free lifestyle made them fade away for many years, but they're coming back with a vengeance as this cat hits her 13th year.

Every 4-6 weeks, Maggie's lips look as though she's had collagen implants. Her black lips puff up to three or even four times their normal size, and her mouth as a whole just looks puffy and strange. All of that swelling should be painful, but it doesn't seem to bother Maggie. The real problem takes hold when the swelling fades.

After the swelling comes open, bleeding, crusting sores. Those wounds certainly are painful, and they can have a big impact on Maggie's quality of life. Although these sores are much harder to see. We're in that stage right now, and you can hardly see the issue on Maggie's face. A tiny kiss of red on that lower lip is all you can see.

Maggie the cat and her rodent ulcer

Maggie is on a maintenance medication for her lip ulcers, and in theory, they should keep these outbreaks from happening. But, lip ulcers blossom as part of a cat autoimmune disorder, and those problems tend to get worse with time. The older Maggie gets, the more confused her immune system becomes about what is a threat and what is benign. And since Maggie is at the upper limit of her dosing for lip ulcers, I can't kick up her medications. Instead, I have to find ways to help her stay comfortable.

For cats with lip ulcers, eating is a big problem. Cats use their lips like shovels, pushing the food into their mouths. When those lips are swollen and/or painful, the mechanics of eating is just a lot harder. And sometimes, it's frustrating for cats like this to do any eating at all, so they walk away before they're done.

Food puzzle toys (strangely enough) help a lot. I fill Maggie's food puzzle toy with some kibble and put it on a difficult setting. She has to bat the toy around to get food to come out, and she has long delays between bites as she manipulates the toy. That allows her to stay interested in eating, and away from pain, for a longer period of time. When she's in an outbreak, this is a lifesaver.

Soft food diluted with a lot of warm water can help, too. Even with swollen lips, most cats with ulcers can lap up liquids. And the warmth can sometimes be soothing for those puffy lips.

Helping a sore kitty with her grooming can be a great next step. A sore mouth makes for sore licking, and cats really do like to keep things clean. I brush Maggie more frequently when her lip is sore, and if the problem stretches on for days, I give her a quick rubdown with a washcloth. That cuts down on her need to clean and gives her sore mouth a break.

Finally, cats in pain like this need space from the other pets in the house. They just don't feel good, and they may not want to play or be bothered. Maggie has some secret sleeping spots in the house that are warm and light (and too high for Lucy and Popoki to reach). I keep those spots extra clean and inviting for her. And if she seems grumpy, I put her in those spots and draw the other cats away for play.

The good news is that rodent ulcers like this tend to resolve pretty quickly. That's especially true if you use medication. If your cat gets one of these things, visit the veterinarian and ask for help. It really is a wonderful thing to do for your cat. But if the meds don't help, I hope I've given you some other ideas you can use. Leave me a note in the comments if you agree!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Boston terrier tempermant lesson: Use your inside voice (even on corrections)

Sinead the Boston terrier looking sad
Even the sweetest Boston terrier will make a mistake now and then. That's especially true when these dogs are in the puppy stages. They're busy little things that like to stick their noses into almost everything, even if those things just aren't safe for them to be around. And unfortunately, the Boston terrier puppy stage can last until age 5 (!!). That means the average BT gets quite a few corrections.

And here's where the lesson comes in.

Some dogs can be stubborn and single minded, so when they get into some sort of hassle, they can be hard to redirect. Liam the pug is a lot like this. If he sees a piece of food hit the floor, no amount of calling and whistling and clapping is going to keep him from it. Getting his attention often means getting in front of him and blocking him physically. And correcting him verbally often means using a very loud voice. Calling out, "LIAM, STAY!" has saved him from running into the path of an aggressive dog on more than one occasion. Without the loud voice, he never would have turned his head.

Boston terriers are different.

A key part of the Boston terrier temperament involves sensitivity. These are dogs that live and breathe to be with the people that they love. And they seem to get extremely uncomfortable with the mere idea of displeasing someone that they love.

Consider Sinead.

Today, I found this little dog playing a spirited game of chase with Popoki. Maybe the cat was enjoying the game (I think she may have started it), but I didn't want the activity to continue or grow worse. So I said, "SINEAD, COME" in a very loud voice.

Here's how she looked when she arrived.

Sinead the Boston terrier looking sad

Note the pinned ears, the slitted eyes and the rounded back. This could be a stink-eye pose, but she was also doing a little shivering and shaking. She was worried that she had done something unforgivable, and she spent the next 15 minutes trying to lick my cheeks and hands.

These dogs are sensitive, and they have extreme reactions to commands that seem, to them, to be a little extreme. Using those commands isn't smart, as it tends to break the bonds between you and your dog. The dog begins to fear you, not respect you, and that can break all of your hard work apart.

It's hard to remember this lesson on the fly. When your dog is doing something dumb, your first response is to make the dog stop that right now, by any means necessary. But really. How often would you like to see this face? Probably never. And if that means thinking a little more before bellowing, it's probably worth it.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday cat selfie: A cat-to-cat introduction 6 months in the making

Popoki the cat in front of the couch
Devoted readers will notice something really interesting about this cat photo. Need a hint? It's Popoki sitting in front of the red couch in my living room. That's the couch that shows up countless times on this blog, mainly because it's a great backdrop for Boston terrier photos.

But Popoki almost never shows up on or near the couch. Why? Because she hasn't been able to successfully integrate with Maggie and Lucy. Those two girl cats live on the upper floor of the house where the couch is. And for the last 6 months, Popoki has been too afraid and too aggressive to make it upstairs successfully.

All of that has changed this weekend. Popoki has made a pretty historic choice. And I'm so thrilled to share it with you guys for this Sunday Selfie post, going on the awesome hop hosted by The Cat On My Head.

Over the last six months, I've done site swaps and gated introductions with Popoki, helping her to both smell and see the other cats. She has never lived with cats before, and she just didn't understand what they were all about. Last week, hissing and spitting totally stopped and Popoki was able to sleep on one side of the gate while the other two slept on the other side of the gate.

Today, this happened.

Lucy and Popoki sititng side by side

Lucy is in her favorite bed, and Popoki is on the bottom shelf of the side table. Everyone is relaxed, with ears forward. They both know that the other cat is there, and they don't really seem to mind it much. And after about 30 minutes of this, Popoki did something even more remarkable. She dropped down a level, and tried to initiate play.

Lucy and Popoki trying to play

Lucy is still in her bed, and Popoki is trying to get her attention with slow taps on the bed. They played like this for a few minutes, and no one got upset or worried. The whole session came with forward ears, wiggly bodies and relaxed expressions.

A month or so ago, I had given up on the entire idea of integrating Popoki into the household. She was too afraid and too frightened, and she was putting senior Maggie and blind Lucy at risk. But it goes to show that patience works wonders. With love and time and gentleness, even the most damaged of rescue cats can come around. I'm so proud to have seen it happen in my own household.

Do you have a similar turnaround story to share? I'd love to hear it. Tap me in the comments. And have you entered my grooming giveaway yet? There's only a few days left to enter.

And do try to visit the other blogs in this hop. I always enjoy what everyone shares.