Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cat litter review: Cats Incredible from Lucy Pet Products

Lucy the cat with a bag of cat litter

The average cat person can expect to spend about $165 per year on cat litter, says Kiplinger. And that price goes up with every cat you add to the home. Sadly, a lot of us simply aren't getting what we pay for, when we shell out for cat litter. It's messy, it smells bad and it just plain doesn't work all that well. I know that's been my experience with a lot of the cat litters I tried.

Recently, staffers from Lucy Pet Products told me about a new kind of cat litter they've been developing. They thought this might be a litter I could get behind, and they sent me a sample bag of the stuff so I could try it for myself.

I promised them a very honest review (and I am a tough customer!), so all of these opinions are my own and have not been written by company promoters. So let's get started. And please note: This post does contain an affiliate link.

Pan of cat litter

One major complaint I have about commercial cat litters involves dust. When cats work to cover up their messes with traditional litter, they kick up clouds and clouds of silica dust that can damage their lungs, eyes and throats. The manufacturers of this litter claim that it is not dusty. So I put some in a pan and shook that pan like crazy. Here's the result: No dust.

Then, the manufacturers claim that this litter is excellent at killing odors. They cite a "technology" that can kill odors before they form. I'd love to know what that technology is, but I decided to test it. Since cat urine is transformed into ammonia in a litter pan, I poured a little ammonia into the litter, just to see what would happen.

Ammonia in cat litter

First off, notice how the litter pulls that liquid into a clump. This is a very scoopable and tight clump, which I really like. And then, I put my nose in there to check for scent. I got the unscented version of litter, and I could get a very faint whiff of ammonia on a super-close sniff. But otherwise, I couldn't smell anything at all. I believe that this stuff really works.

I've used it in the litter boxes for a few days, and my only complaint involves foot hair. This litter is made with sodium bentonite, which is very absorbent. It works fast, too. When my cats have wet feet and step in the litter, they walk out with the litter on their foot hairs.

I should say that my cats have epic foot hair, so maybe this wouldn't be an issue for everyone. But it is for me.

Maggie the cat asleep

But otherwise, this litter performed as marketed. I couldn't smell litter box messes, and I had a lot less dust in my house overall. And this is a product I can believe in. This company uses proceeds from sales to support the Lucy Pet Foundation, which offers spay/neuter clinics to help reduce pet overpopulation. That's a cause I'm passionate about, and I like the idea that my purchases could go toward assisting with that cause. And, it's not more expensive than regular cat litters, so it shouldn't break the bank.

I'm thankful to the Lucy Pet Foundation for sending me this cat litter to try. So far, I'm a fan.

If you'd like to try some for yourself, you can purchase Cats Incredible Unscented SuperKittyKattakalizmik Klumping Litter, 25 lb from Amazon (this is an affiliate link). And if you have tried it, leave me a note in the comments and tell me what you think! Love to hear how it worked for you.

Disclaimer: The Lucy Foundation sent me a bag of litter to try in return for my honest review. I was not paid or compensated for this review in any other way. All opinions are my own. This post contains an affiliate link which generates a small amount of income for me, at no added cost to you.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday cat selfie question: When are foster kittens ready to leave your home?

Kathleen the foster kitten
My three foster kittens have been here for about 3 weeks, and their age is up for debate. Some say that they're about 6 weeks old. Others say that they're 8 weeks old. All I know is that they're getting bigger--and busier--by the moment. And soon, they won't be satisfied with life in a bathroom or a writing studio. Soon, they will need a lot more space.

I'm a firm believer in keeping fosters away from resident cats. These little ones have not been tested for communicable disease, and I have no idea if their little bodies are carrying things that can make the residents sick. So they cannot have all the room they want to roam. And that means I want them to head to a home as soon as possible. That's the best way to preserve their mental health.

So this week, for the Sunday Selfie series hosted by The Cat On My Head, I thought I'd give you an update on how they're doing, in terms of preparing for a new home. We'll go one by one.

Kathleen the foster kitten asleep

Kathleen, shown here and up top, is the smallest of the foster kitten bunch. And in a lot of ways, she's the slowest to develop. She's still a lot messier than her brothers, and she stumbles and trips much more than they do. I know she's the same age as they are, but she will need a little extra time in order to really get ready for the independent life.

In addition, Kathleen came down with a UTI last week, which was absolutely terrifying. Suddenly, there were dots of blood in the cat box, and this wee thing was peeing everywhere. She's on antibiotics now, and she'll need to stay on antibiotics for at least 10 days, when her urine will be rechecked.

Put all that together, and Kathleen is likely to be here for at least 2 more weeks. She's not ready to go quite yet.

Patrick the foster kitten

Sweet Patrick here is closing in on 2 pounds. When he hits 2.25 pounds, he can be neutered. And that means he might be ready for surgery in just a few days. In addition, Patrick is learning how to eat kibble as well as canned food (which is an important switch, if he is to stay in the shelter for any moment of time, as they primarily feed kibble). And, Patrick is 100 percent box trained. He just never has an accident.

Patrick is the first to do everything, when compared to his brother and sister. He's remarkably athletic and brave, and he loves to get into wrestling matches. Out of all of them, Patrick is ready to go right now. And tomorrow is a big day for him.

The executive director of my shelter has a long-time adopter who recently lost a beloved Siamese mix. And I'm told this family adores spunky, feisty little kittens. I'm taking Patrick to meet that family tomorrow. If all goes well, he'll move from surgery into their home, with no stops along the way at the shelter. Fingers crossed!

Fergus the Siamese kitten in a selfie

Fergus is also creeping up on 2 pounds, and his appetite is enormous. He prefers to eat wet food, not kibble, so there's a little work to do there. But he's getting really good about staying clean and tidy after his meals. That's new, and it suggests Fergus is reaching a level of sophistication he didn't have before.

I'm not sure when Fergus will be ready to go back to the shelter. It might be that the shelter staff lets him stay with Kathleen until she's ready for adoption. Or it might be that he reaches weight and heads to the adoption floor soon. There are so few kittens in the shelter now that he faces zero competition. That could mean he'll get snapped up quick.

Popoki the cat gets a chin scratch

I'll  miss these little kittens when they go. But I know Popoki will be thrilled when they are out of the house. She has not met them, but she can hear them and smell them. She doesn't like them at all. I keep telling her she won't have to put up with them much longer. I hope she believes me.

That's the update! Thanks, as always to the hop hosts.

And, if you know of anyone who might be interested in either Kathleen or Fergus, drop me a line, won't you? I'm in Oregon, so there are transportation issues involved, I know. But I'd love to see these sweeties go somewhere wonderful. If you can help, let me know.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Pug crate rest update: How Liam is coping with confinement

Liam the pug in his crate
About 2 weeks ago, Liam the pug hurt his back. He hopped up next to me in my recliner, just as he has done a thousand times before, and something about that jump changed the course of his summer for good. He was given a prescription--from the emergency vet and from a neurologist--for strict crate rest. I've been following that prescription to the letter, and recently, I discovered a few secret tricks and tips that make crate life a little easier.

Let's start with the basics. Liam is a very social little dog that really enjoys spending time with both pets and people. He is accustomed to touching some other living thing almost every single second of every day. A crate doesn't give him that opportunity for closeness. He can see other creatures, but he can't touch them. I think that's been the hardest thing about crate rest for this loving pug. He misses his family.

My (admittedly imperfect) solution involves very brief visits with the pets he loves.

Liam the pug and foster kitten Patrick

Once per day, I need to clean out Liam's crate and swap out his bedding. He cannot be in his bed when I am doing all of that. So I ask him to down/stay in a bed I can supervise while I clean. And lately, I've been asking other pets to chill out with him while he waits.

Sometimes, he sits nicely with Sinead and they chew on toys together. And other times, he cuddles with my foster kittens. These are short little visits, but they remind Liam that he is not alone in the world. I think that helps.

I am also making sure to open his kennel door and provide him with focused love several times per day. I give him extra cuddles when I am carrying him out to the yard, too. He needs to feel like he is not forgotten, and those mom-time moments really seem to help.

Liam the pug in his stroller

The other thing Liam seems to miss: A daily walk. Prior to his injury, Liam went on several walks with me throughout the day. He had the opportunity to sniff other dog pee, and he had a chance to leave a little pee of his own. Getting outside also allowed him to smell the fresh air and get a little sun therapy. Walks are a huge part of his life. And they had been absent from his crate plan.

With the approval of his doctor, I got this rolling stroller that can help. It has very good shocks, so this is a smooth ride on Liam's back. No bumps and jolts are allowed. I zip it closed, so he cannot get out. And we walk throughout the neighborhood with one break for pee mail. These excursions help Liam to stretch his mind and breathe the fresh air. And I think that helps a lot.

Starting next week, we're going to work on some muscle-building exercises for Liam. And he'll taper away from many of his medications. But he has a long summer ahead of restrictions and strengthening. It'll be hard work, but he's worth it, right?

Thanks for the visit! Leave me a comment so I'll know you were here, okay?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Sleepy cats at work

Popoki the cat has been out of my writing studio for a few weeks now. I've been trying to integrate her into my community of house cats, and that's meant she's been living in the house with the other cats. Slow introductions through gates progressed to slow introductions with the doors open to face-to-face meet and greets.

All went well until the face-to-face thing happened. Every time we progressed to that stage, Popoki started fighting.

So we're back to sequestered life. And that means I have a very sleepy office mate.

Popoki the cat sleeping on her back

She spends most of every day lounging around in this rocking chair, tucked away in the corner of my studio. Sometimes, she sleeps all out and open like this, but sometimes, she sits in the chair and looks out the window at the cat television.

And when she gets bored, she helps me with my work. She's good at it, don't you think?

Popoki the cat sleeping on my desk

I'm glad to have her back out here. I know it means she might never integrate with or accept other cats, but she does make the regular office day just a little more entertaining. And that's what it's all about, right?

Thanks, as always, to BlogPaws for hosting this hop. And if you're reading out there, leave me a comment so I'll know what you thought! And then, check out the other blogs in the hop.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Potty training foster kittens: How to set your cats up for success

Tiny kittens share a bed
Tiny kittens at the 6-week mark, like Patrick and Kathleen here, can do a lot for themselves. They can eat food without the help of a bottle, they can keep (mostly) clean and they can move from one place to another. But they still need to master some adult-cat skills. And some of those skills involve potty training.

Cats will root and scratch in particulate matter even when they're as small as 2 weeks. And at the end of that rooting, they will often settle right down for a pee or poop session. But, little kittens often make mistakes on the way to that box. Some kittens will only use the box when you put them in the box. And others need a few reminders in order to use the box consistently.

By the time cats reach the adult stage, most have the litter box thing down pat. Cats like Popoki, for example, are completely bored by the mere idea of even talking about the cat box.

Popoki in the middle of a cat yawn

But, kittens need help to build up those cat skills. And when cats are in foster programs, they need help from their human foster people. Why? Because litter box issues are the No. 1 reason adopters bring a kitten back to the shelter as a return. People who adopt just do not want to deal with a kitty that cannot use the box. And without a kitty mom to model behavior, it's up to the humans to help.

One solution involves confining the kittens to a very small space, like a bathroom or a dog kennel, so they will know right where the box is when they have to go.

But, most adopters do not take a kitten and ask it to live in a bathroom or a kennel. They let the kittens run free throughout the house. And if foster parents don't let kittens figure out how to succeed in big spaces like that, the kitten will come right back.

I've been allowing my little kittens to roam in my writing studio, which is about 300 square feet. I started this project by placing about 6 small litter pans in this room, scattered a few feet apart. When I saw kittens sniffing, I popped them in the pan.

When I went several days without an accident, I pulled back one pan. And then another. My goal is to allow the kitties to live in this room with only one pan. Then, they can move to a bigger room.

This approach takes time, and some kittens learn a little faster than others. And it's certainly not the most fun thing about having foster kittens. But, I'm hoping this work will mean that my kittens move from my home into a permanent home. And that's what we all want, right?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Portland Pug Crawl 2016: Star Wars pugs raise money for OHS

Pugs dressed like Jawa from Star Wars
Pugs run amok in Portland every year in May, dressed in all sorts of fanciful costumes while their people walk around sipping beer. It's the Pug Crawl (a benefit for Oregon Humane Society), and it's a major part of my springtime social calendar. It's a huge treat to spend time in the company of 100+ pugs, and I always love to see how people interpret the year's theme.

This year, we were all asked to think about how a pug could participate in Star Wars. Let me say, right off the bat, that I know little to nothing about Star Wars. But clearly, there were plenty of people who were well-versed in Lucas world, as some of the costumes were darn extraordinary.

This was my favorite set of pugs and people.

Two pugs dressed like ships and their person

Notice that the two pugs are dressed like ships. And see how happy their child is to be acting out some evil fantasy? This is a costume set that the child probably developed and put into action. Here's a side angle, so you can see all the work that went into this little display. I was impressed.

Pugs dressed like Star Wars ships

But, there were plenty of people who brought pugs in no costumes at all. These little guys, who are 14 and 11, respectively, were not willing to wear costumes, their person said. So they just came in their pretty furs. I think they look great just as they are.

Two senior pugs

The day was intermittently rainy, too. That meant that costumes simply had to be water-resistant, else they would melt away or transfer dye to sensitive pug fur. The people at the end of this girl's leash couldn't find anything that wouldn't dissolve, so they let her chill in the nude. And this might have been the most relaxed pug I saw all day yesterday. She sat sidesaddle like this most of the day.

Tiny and wet pug

Since Liam hurt his back a week or so ago, he couldn't come to the crawl this year. So Sinead made the trip solo, and she seemed to really enjoy herself. She wanted to be carried from time to time, when the crowds were thick and the rain was falling, but she also initiated play with a few pugs and she even took a few cookies from strangers.

Sinead the Boston terrier at the pug crawl

Despite the nasty weather and the slightly uninspiring theme, there were plenty of people at the event this year. And that makes me happy, as this is a fundraiser for homeless animals. The more we can raise, the better.

Large group of people at the pug crawl

Note that this is the line for the beer. After a few laps around the event space and a few photo opportunities, Sinead and hubby and I were ready to head out for beer in a place that was a little less crowded. So we engaged in our post Pug Crawl tradition and headed to the Lucky Lab in NE Portland. Much drier there.

Sinead the Boston terrier and me at the Pug Crawl

While I wish Liam had been well enough to come with us, this was a great day overall. Did you miss it? Maybe this will help. I've covered past crawls here and here and here and here. Maybe looking at those photos will inspire you to come next year!

Were you there? Would you love to come? Leave me a note in the comments. Love to hear from you.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sleepy kitten Sunday selfies: It's hard to take great cat photos when everyone is asleep

Three kittens sleeping

My three foster kittens (Patrick, Fergus and Kathleen) are still here and still growing. And today, I found out they'll be staying a little longer than I anticipated. You see, when I took these sweeties home almost 3 weeks ago, I was told that they were 5 weeks old. I thought I had super-tiny 8-week-old kittens. But apparently, the math was off. Yesterday, the medical team estimated that these guys are just now hitting the 5-week mark. 

That means I have successfully fostered 3-week-old kittens (yay, me!). And it also means these guys will need to be here for about 4-5 more weeks before they can be adopted.

Kittens at this age do a lot of one thing: Sleeping. And they tend to sleep right where they are standing. That means, on most days, I have sleeping kitten piles somewhere in my house.

Kittens sleeping on a scratching post

Sometimes, they sleep in their beds. Sometimes, they sleep on scratching posts. Sometimes, they sleep in the food dish. When the urge comes on them to catch some snoozes, they just drop what they're doing and fly away into dreamland.

As you might imagine, this makes getting kitten selfies for the blog hop for The Cat On My Head really hard. I hate to wake them up when they look like this.

Three kittens sleeping in a pile

Look at that pile of snuggles! And if this photo came with audio, you'd hear some of them smacking their little lips as they sleep (dreaming about food?). I just can't wake them up when they look like this.

So I decided to do the next best thing and snap a sleeping kitten selfie. Here goes, courtesy of Patrick.

Patrick the sleeping kitten

Despite the encrusted food on his chin, this is pretty darn good! So I'll let him get back to his sleeping now. And thanks to my host with the most for this hop opportunity!

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

May 2016 Bark Box review: Dog toys and dog treats for pugs on crate rest

Liam the pug with his BarkBox treats
On Tuesday, the mailman brought Liam the pug a very special treat. His BarkBox arrived! And it came just in time. Liam is parked in a crate due to a back injury (more on that in a minute), and I've been looking for ways to keep him happy and occupied as he recovers. This BarkBox might provide the solutions I've been looking for. And that's good news, as we have several more long weeks of crate recuperation ahead.

You see, Liam went to a neurologist this morning for a comprehensive exam. He did quite well during his exam, but he had a few episodes of yelping on tests involving his left hind foot. That seems to suggest that he has some sort of nerve damage in his back leading down to that foot.

Since Liam seemed much better on this exam than he did on the weekend exam, we theorize that he is improving with crate rest and medications, and it didn't seem necessary to move forward with sedated tests like myelograms or MRIs (sedation is risky for these smash-faced babies). But, he will need to stay in his crate with only breaks to potty for 4 weeks total.

Liam is a busy little bee, and he is accustomed to an active life. New toys could help, and we got two in our BarkBox.

Liam the pug with his flower toy

What's better for a sick pug than a bouquet of flowers? This set is made by BarkBox, and it's absolutely adorable. The flowers are hooked together with a tiny piece of plastic, but that could be removed to let each flower run free. And the brown part of each flower is filled with something that crinkles. These are perfect crate toys because they are small and they are fun to chew. I'm happy that we have them.

Liam the pug with his pie toy

Next up is this pie dog toy from Loopies, and I'll say upfront that I am saving this for when Liam feels better. Each little red thing inside of this pie is a ball with a squeaker, and all of those balls can be nested inside of this pie. Liam absolutely adores toys like this, but he plays with them by shaking them as hard as he can while clenching them in his mouth. It is a very rough, very physical form of play. And it could hurt his neck and back something awful. So I'm holding this out. He'll be happy to have it in June or July, when all of this has blown over.

Liam the pug looks at a treat

Finally, we got a ton of treats. In this photo, I'm holding something called Shrimp N'Grits from Grandpaws. This is my favorite treat for Liam right now. These are stinky and super soft, so they're perfect for hiding pills. Liam is taking four different medications right now, so there are a lot of pills to give. These snacks make giving those pills really easy.

We also got a set of adorable pig-shaped cookies from Vetscience LLC. (I can't find the company online, so I have no link to share with you.) But these really do look yummy. And we got some jerky from the BarkBox company. I can also cut that and use it as a pill-delivery device. So I'm thrilled to have that as well.

I know this box was not made specifically for dogs on crate rest. (In fact, I think this box had a fair theme.) But clearly, it has a bunch of good stuff that Liam might need as he rests and lets his little back heal. So I'm happy it's here.

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.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Kittens: They're great helpers when your dog is on crate rest

Liam the pug in his crate
Liam the pug is on strict crate rest, as he hurt his back over the weekend. That means he is in the crate nearly every moment of the day. He takes quick breaks for his bathroom needs, but otherwise, he's resting and letting his back heal up.

Tomorrow, we head to a neurologist in Portland to see if this is the right plan for Liam. But until I'm told otherwise by that neurologist, Liam has been resting. And despite the ton of medications he's on, Liam is growing restless. He wants out of that crate. And he wants out now.

I've found a novel solution: Foster kittens!

Fergus the kitten on a scratching post

I'm fostering three little kittens this spring. (Did you miss their arrival photos? Go here.) They're growing bigger and stronger every day, and they're using the litter box like champs. That means they're able to spend a great deal of time in my writing studio. And that means they provide Liam with a little cat television.

Liam the pug and Patrick the foster kitten

Little Patrick here takes time out of his busy day to visit with Liam. He sits nicely next to the crate and purrs, and sometimes, he climbs up the side of the crate to get a better look at Liam. When I let Liam out to pee, Patrick crawls right into that crate for a closer look. He's a little like Liam's personal candy striper, and I know Liam appreciates the extra visits and affection.

When Liam isn't fielding visits, he has a lot to watch. These little guys sleep a lot, but sometimes, they climb up into high places to sleep. Liam watches them move, and if he thinks those kitties are getting into dangerous positions, he gives me a little woof of alert. He didn't like Fergus on top of these boxes this morning, for example.

Fergus the kitten sleeping

I think Liam would much rather spend time in person with these kittens. He'd love to be on the receiving end of an invitation to snuggle, like this, for example.

TIny kitten crawls into bed with her dog

But I think just watching them and listening to them is also good for his mental health. He appreciates their time and their good energy. And I'm happy they're here. If Liam has to stay in that crate for several weeks more, he will need their help in order to keep his spirits high.

Thanks for the visit! And do be sure to leave me a comment, so I'll know you were here.

And this is part of the BlogPaws hop! So check out some of the other entries this week, too.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cat food review: Wellness Natural Hairball Control

Jasper the cat with his bag of food
Living with a cat can be a messy business, especially in the spring. That's a key time for a cat coat transition, and that means kitties might double up the amount of time they spend licking and cleaning their little cat furs. Every lick can make those clumps of fur slide down a cat's throat, and what goes down must certainly come up again. When that something comes back up, it's a hairball. And trust me: They're gross.

I wrote about this issue a few weeks ago, and I mentioned that I'd be writing up a review of a dry cat food designed to help with this problem: Wellness Natural Hairball Control. The time for that review has arrived!

Wellness sent me this bag of food in return for my honest opinion. So rest assured that everything I say here is my own opinion, and I am not being paid to share it.

So let's get started.

The idea behind this food is that a boost in fiber can help to move things through the intestinal tract. That's what we humans are asked to do quite often. A boost in fiber helps to scrape things on out of the digestive system and into the wastewater treatment plants, so our systems don't clog up. For cats like Jasper, the theory goes, the fiber will bind to the hair and keep the balls moving out into the catbox, and not up and onto the carpet.

Pouring cat food into a bowl

I would argue that a boost in water content might do the same thing, and Wellness makes plenty of canned cat foods that are very high in water content (much higher than would be found in a dry cat food). That extra water can also help to protect the kidneys from assault. That's why, in part, I push my cats to eat canned food most, if not all, of the time.

But several of my cats, including Jasper, simply prefer kibble. They like the crunch of the food (even if they don't chew every bite), and they seem to prefer the experience of kibble over dry. No matter what flavor of canned I try, they sometimes will not eat it. They will eat almost any flavor of kibble I put down.

A middle path for cats like this involves using dry food as a topper for wet. Cats get the benefit of canned, along with the crunch of dry they like. And this Wellness food is perfectly suited for that. The bites are incredibly tiny, which means they are very easy to sprinkle on wet food. And they come with a really nice chicken scent my cats dig.

Jasper the cat and his food

Jasper also gets an extra "snack" meal in the middle of the day (he's old, and he loves to eat), and I've been using this food as a standalone for that snack. He plows right into that food without any complaints or concerns. And he licks that bowl clean.

Does it actively prevent hairballs? I'm not sure. Jasper has been relatively free of them since I started this, but that could be due to all sorts of other things, too. But overall, I quite like this food. It's economical, it's palatable, it's small enough to sprinkle, and my cats seem to like it.

Here's to a hairball-free spring!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Dog crate rest: How to help when your dog hurts his back

Liam the pug in his crate
Life with a pug, or any dog, can be a little unpredictable. That's especially true when it comes to injuries. Even the simple little things your dog might do a thousand times could take a bad turn just once. And when that happens, you could spend months trying to fix the problem.

Consider sad Liam in his crate, for example. He's parked in here due to the simplest of things.

Late Saturday night, Liam jumped up into a chair next to me, and he started to turn a little circle in order to get comfortable. I, for my part, tried to lift up my arm to give him more room. And then the screaming began.

Pugs make a very shrill, strangled sound when they're happy. I've been told Liam sounds like a cross between a pig, a parrot and a human baby when he's really happy. And apparently, he also makes this noise when he's in pain.

On Saturday, I had never heard him make this particular pain noise before. By Sunday, he was making it consistently. And he was struggling to walk normally. One foot wasn't touching the ground at all, and he looked a little drunken as he tried to hobble on his other 3 legs.

Off to the clinic we went, where the diagnosis was probable IVDD. This means the discs in Liam's back are starting to deteriorate, and it's possible that the tissue in one of those disks is pressing on Liam's spinal cord.

If Liam was unable to walk at all or he was unable to feel pain in his toes, we'd be dealing with an emergency neurological situation. Those symptoms would mean his spinal cord was no longer communicating with some part of his body, and if we didn't get it repaired, he might not walk again.

As it was, Liam was functioning well on a neurological level. He was painful, but he could walk. And the more he walked, the better he seemed to get at it. But, continued walking puts continued pressure on his spine. And if he tripped or fell or somehow wrenched his back, he could sever that delicate cord.

So he's on very strict crate rest for at least 2 weeks. That means he is in this crate around the clock, with breaks only to pee. And to make it out to pee, I have to carry him. He has food, water and toys in his crate. And I move his crate around with me, so he can always see what I am doing. He has little foster kitten television to keep his mind active, but he is in that crate.

He's also taking a barrage of medications, including painkillers and muscle relaxants, and those help to keep him calm and serene. They also assist with his pain.

It's been about 36 hours since Liam hurt his back, and he is already improving. The screaming has stopped, he is eating again and he can walk during his pee breaks without looking drunk. He also places all 4 feet on the ground when he walks, stands up or turns around in his crate. But he has a long way to go. From time to time, he still shivers with discomfort. And I don't think his meds are good for his stomach.

Liam heads to a specialist on Thursday, where we'll see if this course of treatment is the right one. If it is, he will continue with this strict crate rest for several more weeks. But if he declines between now and then (more pain, a return of the limping, inability to walk), he might need surgery. We're keeping the car gassed up, just in case we have to rush him to the specialist.

Is a crate right for all dogs with back pain? I'm not sure. Some dogs simply will not tolerate being in a crate, and they might jump and leap and cause trouble to their backs due to the stress of confinement. Others have such severe back problems that a crate just isn't enough. And (let's face it), discipline on the part of the person is required. Crate rest means in the crate, all the time, and some people have a tendency to cheat a little. That could cause yet more back trouble.

But with a mild-to-moderate injury and a dedicated owner, it could work, they tell me. I hope they're right. And I just hope he doesn't need the long course of care some bloggers suggest (6-8 weeks!).

Watch for updates!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Foster cat selfies: Fergus the kitten works his magic

Fergus the kitten covered in food
Fergus the foster kitten is learning about all things cat (including cat food; notice that he is wearing quite a bit of it in this photo). Since he is learning so much, I thought it might be nice if he learned how to work with a camera. That way, if he gets adopted into a media-savvy home, he'll have all of his blog techniques figured out. And what better way to practice than to pose for selfies for The Cat on My Head?

Here's how it went.

Fergus the foster kitten gets too close to the camera

The first rule of posing is to step away from the camera when the shutter is about to click. But when you're a kitten, you sometimes have to check things out with your nose. After all, you can't see very far! So I have a ton of photos like this. Cute, but not quite what we were looking for.

But this is better. Clearly, Fergus has been watching his pro foster brother Liam pose for photographs. He even has the dog smile thing down!

Fergus the kitten in a smile

Nicely done, Fergus! And just in time, too. At 6 weeks old (or so), kittens need a ton of sleep. So while they can run and play and pose for photos, they also need to get their beauty sleep. So after a few minutes of posing, Fergus was ready to head back to bed.

Or should I say: Near to bed. I put out this dog bed for the kids yesterday, but they all seemed super interested in sleeping next to it rather than inside of it. Look up at the top of the photo. See Kathleen? She's even wedged between the bed and some storage boxes. Crazy thing.

Foster kittens near a kitten bed

I've said it before and I'll say it again: If you can foster kittens this season, please try to do so. By letting the little ones into your home for just a few weeks, you'll provide the shelter they need so they can grow up and be adopted. By fostering, you really are saving a life.

Thanks for another awesome blog hop! And be sure to check out the other entries. Good stuff this week!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Is your dog ready to be a foster kitten parent?

Pug with tiny kitten
It's easier to raise a pack of foster kittens when you have the help of a community. For some people, that means teenagers. When the school day is over and the homework is through, teens can handle the demands of rambunctious kittens. And the endless patience some teens possess makes them ideal in a foster parent capacity.

But those of us with no teens of our own (or no teen neighbors who can help out in a pinch) improvisation is required, when we have foster kittens. And that improvisation can mean asking our dogs to step in and help with the kitten duties.

Some dogs are better at this than others.

My very first Boston terrier, Seamus, was an excellent foster parent. He never once did anything to them that would cause me alarm. In fact, he could be relied upon to work with my kittens when I was in the middle of doing other things. The kittens would crawl into his bed with him and they'd snooze the hours away. 

 Seamus the Boston terrier and his kitten

This is pretty much the ideal situation. But I'll say upfront that it is somewhat rare. And assuming that your dog can handle a kitten before really checking on the interaction could spell disaster for the tiny charges in your care. When it comes to kittens, it is best to be careful.

When I have foster kittens, they spend their first days in a crate at all times, and that crate is nowhere the dogs can reach it. I might put the crate up on a table or in the middle of the bed. But I never put it on the floor.

That approach allows the kittens to be in open rooms where they can be heard, but I don't have to worry about them getting hurt if they push their little arms or legs out between the bars.

When the dogs have become accustomed to the noise and the smell of the tiny things, I can start to put the crate on the floor. The dogs can smell the kitties, but they can't touch them. And at this point, I can learn a ton about how well the dogs are going to tolerate these kittens.

Sinead the Boston terrier and a small kitten

What I'm looking for is, in essence, benign neglect. I'd like the dogs to know that the kittens are there, but I want the dogs to ignore the kittens. If I can get that, I can feel comfortable with nose-to-nose interactions on a very supervised basis.

My two never cared a single bit for these kittens, one way or the other. They aren't interested in them when the kittens are in their crate, and they don't care about them when the kittens are loose. If the kittens come close, the dogs either keep on doing what they were doing, or they walk away without comment.

Essentially, my dogs treat these kittens the same way they treat the resident cats they live with every day. They ignore these guys.

Very small kitten

If my dogs showed a little *too* much interest in what the kittens were doing or if they seemed somehow afraid of the kittens and their movements, the cats and the dogs would be separated at all times. Teeny kittens aren't training tools. They are living creatures that deserve to grow up in a safe and protected space. I would never use something like this to train my dogs. And I'd encourage you to steer clear of that impulse, too.

Similarly, if my dogs showed discomfort with the kittens, I might also need to think about whether or not being a foster was right for my family. My dogs live here all year, and they should come first. Serious nervousness is hard on the system of a dog. If my canines couldn't hack it, the kittens would just have to go.

That's my theory, anyway. But I'd love to hear your thoughts. How have your dogs reacted to fosters? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know. Love to hear good stories!