Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dear Montreal: Breed bans don't work

Sinead the Boston terrier

When I see Sinead the Boston terrier looking up at me, all I can see is her cuteness. Her block head, her undershot jaw, her deep chest and her powerful little muzzle are a constant source of amazement to me. Every time I see her, I am reminded of the wonderful nature of her breed as a whole.

But if we were living in Montreal right now, I might look at her differently.


Because stupid misinformed legislators in Montreal just passed legislation that bans pit bulls--and here's another little wrinkle--as well as dogs that fit a pit bull type. So that means dogs like Sinead would fall under this legislation.

Boston terriers are, as I have pointed out in a similar piece awhile back, technically pit dogs. They were raised for fighting purposes, and they have a body type that conforms to a pit bull standard. They're big through the chest, powerful through the jaws and strong in the hind legs.

If I lived in Montreal right now, I would be required to:
  • Muzzle Sinead whenever she left the house
  • Pay a hefty fee, every single year, in order to keep her
  • Report any aggressive behavior on her part
  • Euthanize her if I am instructed to do so, based on her behavior
Look at this face.

Sinead the Boston terrier looking sad

And think about what quality of life I'd be able to give this dog if I lived in Montreal. And think about all of the dogs like Sinead who are waiting for homes in shelters in Montreal right now. All of those dogs will be euthanized on October 3, when this law goes into effect.

All of them.

The legislators claim that this law is vital for public safety, as pit bulls are inherently more dangerous than other dogs. I would guess (based on some of the asinine misinformed posts I've seen on social media) that at least some of these legislators were using a site run by a Seattle woman in order to make their decisions. (Forgive me for not linking to her site directly, but I simply cannot bear the thought of giving her any link juice.)

This woman has a personal vendetta against pit bulls, and her so-called "research" on bite prevalence and pit bull dangers has been widely debunked. Check out this post from the owner of a dog maimed by Michael Vick for proof. These numbers really do lie, and dogs are going to die because of it.

Sinead the Boston terrier giving the stink eye

There are plenty of reasons to give breed-specific legislation (BSL) the stink eye, as Sinead has done here. First and foremost, the bans simply do not work. Let me quote an ASPCA piece:

"For example, Prince George's County, MD, spends more than $250,000 annually to enforce its ban on pit bulls. In 2003, a study conducted by the county on the ban's effectiveness noted that 'public safety is not improved as a result of [the ban],' and that 'there is no transgression committed by owner or animal that is not covered by another, non-breed specific portion of the Animal Control Code (i.e., vicious animal, nuisance animal, leash laws).' "

In essence, these bills do little more than cost a great deal of money and dog life, without making anyone any safer. And yet, these bills keep cropping up, often with tragic consequences.  
So what can you do? If you're a Canadian resident, write to your legislators and tell them that you cannot and do not support BSL. Protest. Make some noise. Get your voice heard.

And the rest of us? We have work to do too. If we see posts on social about how BSL is somehow "sad but necessary," and your readers are pointing to the Seattle woman's website, use the links I've shared here to educate them. We have to stop the spread of these crap numbers. They do not tell the truth.

And then, spread the right information. This page from the AVMA is a wonderful and trusted resource for BSL. This organization does more than say these laws are wrong. This organization has done research, and there are plenty of links in here to share. If you don't feel comfortable sharing a whole link (or you don't think someone will read a whole page), pull out a tidbit. Here's one I like: "Based on behavioral assessments and owner surveys the breeds that were more aggressive towards people were small to medium-sized dogs such as the collies, toy breeds and spaniels." Nice, right?

The point I'm trying to make here is that we need to counteract misinformation with real information. We need to speak up for the pit bulls and the other dogs that fit the type. Because if we stay silent, these bans may come to our communities. These people may come for our dogs. And we cannot. We will not. Let them do that.

Let's get to work!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dogs and flowers: A perfect Wordless Wednesday combination

Liam the pug with his flowers

Now that the blistering heat of the summer is past, the dogs and my flowers can truly thrive. My snub-nosed pug and even snubbier Boston terrier just couldn't handle the 100 degree temperatures we had in August, and many of my flowers burned to an absolute crisp in the relentless sunshine we had every day. Now, everything has healed up a little and I thought it might be fun to walk through the yard and show you what's been growing and blooming on this BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday.

Here's a closeup of that flower behind Liam the pug. It's a dahlia, and fall is its time to shine. I've heard it said that dahlias simply cannot grow in pots, but clearly, that's not the case. They need deep pots, and they need plenty of water. But they can grow and thrive in a pot environment. That's good too, as dog pee will absolutely kill the blossoms on these plants. Pots keep them out of the pee range.

Pretty red and white rose

I'm a self-professed rose freak, and this Rock and Roll rose in the back yard is a real showstopper. It's a floribunda rose, so it grows incredibly tall with dense clusters of flowers. And this particular rose has been bred for health, so the leaves remain glossy and shiny without a speck of mildew.

Tall and yellow rose

Up front, I have this pretty Marilyn Monroe rose. I planted it in front, in part, because of the nasty thorns on this plant. I've never seen a rose with this many thorns in my entire life, and while my backyard roses are in a planter that's up off the ground (photos here), I worried about what would happen if the dogs hopped up to check out a plant and got poked by this girl. So she's in the front yard. Doing nicely, too!

Dusky pink hydrangea

This pretty plant struggled with the sun, and it's showing some colors right now that I don't usually see until late October. It's a Strawberry Sundae hydrangea that moves from white to pink to dusky rose as the season progresses. It's all dusky rose now, and while it's early, it's still pretty.

SInead the Boston terrier in the sunshine

Thanks for taking the tour with me! Be sure to leave me a note, so I'll know you were here. And be sure to visit the other blogs in the hop! You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What does compassion fatigue feel like?

Panda the cat

Anyone who accepts a big role in an animal shelter knows that the work is hard, and most of us know that the work can also be more than a little sad from time to time. But for some of us, especially those of us who aren't paying attention to key warning signs, the work can move from being *occasionally* upsetting into full-blown *always* upsetting.

It's called compassion fatigue, and I ended up with a nasty case this summer. In hindsight, there were some things I should have noticed, but I didn't. I thought working up what the experience feels like might help some of you to protect yourselves, as I know many of my readers also do rescue work.

What is compassion fatigue?

Let's start with a definition. Compassion fatigue is a form of depression, in which the vital mission of a caring organization seems difficult or impossible to achieve, despite a person's attempts to make that mission come to life. People who have compassion fatigue come to believe that their work is fruitless. 

Compassion fatigue is unique to people who work in caregiving roles, and it is most common among people who work with communities that seem somehow disparaged or downtrodden. That means those of us who work with animals--particularly cats--are very vulnerable. Every day that we put our hearts and minds on the line for these animals, despite overwhelming evidence that others in our community don't care as much as we do, it's another inciting event. 

(Thanks to this organization for helping me nail down that nugget of truth.)

An inability to see the wins 

A lot of the articles I've seen about compassion fatigue discuss behaviors people might exhibit when they're feeling worn out by the mission, such as:
  • Drinking too much
  • Sleeping too little
  • Fighting with loved ones 
  • Compulsive behaviors
I'm sure that's true for many people. It wasn't true for me. If I had gone looking for these symptoms, I never would have seen them. I still don't have them. Instead, I have a more fundamental problem. It involves blindness to happy stories.

For example. This sweet and very old cat came into the shelter with severe arthritis. She struggles to walk well, so she doesn't walk very much at all. And she is very old, so she probably won't mark her remaining time on Earth in decades.

Sweet shelter cat

And yet. Someone walked into the shelter, and out of all of the kittens this person could have picked and brought home, this person brought this little broken girl home to love and call his own. It's a huge and wonderful win.

And yet. When I heard about it, all I could think about was my foster cat Panda (who is tapping at my camera in the top picture on this post, taken when he was happier). He didn't get a happy ending. No one chose him. While I should have been celebrating the happy adoption, my mind was flooded with thoughts of him in his kennel, waiting for people to find him. I remained blind to the success right in front of me because I couldn't get over the loss that was looming.

Another example. This is Liebe, who was in the shelter for months and months waiting for a home (and who I wrote about a few weeks ago on this blog). She also got the forever home she deserved, after waiting for so very long.

Liebe the Russian blue cat

But when she went home, my thoughts went back to this sweet and very old all-black cat that has been at the shelter as long as Liebe, with no adopter in sight. I would like to think that she has someone out there waiting for her. I want that to happen for her, as she really is a wonderful and feisty little thing. But my brain just can't form the energy to be hopeful like that.

Luna the all black cat

Instead, I feel a little angry that no one has taken her home. I wonder how long she'll have to wait, and why she lost her home in the first place. I can't celebrate the happy parts, because my mind is fixated on the sad parts.

My concrete symptoms were simple sadness, especially when I was walking into or out of the shelter. When I worked up posts about these cats and I read them over later, I saw a lot of trigger words like "please" and "forgotten" and "worried" and "sad." I started to dread going online to look at the adoption pages, as I worried no one would have chosen cats yet. And I started to use words like "mine" and "my" when I described these cats. I felt responsible for all of the sad stories, without feeling even slightly responsible for the good stuff.

What to do about it? 

Here comes the hard part: What should you do when this sets in? For me, it means taking a step or two back from the shelter, at least for the time being. If I can't be positive and happy for cats, I am not doing either them or my community good. Guilt-ridden social posts are hard to read, and they're rarely motivating. And my presence in the shelter could be viral. If I'm frustrated, I could pass that on to my colleagues. And I need them to keep doing good work.

Stepping back for awhile allows me to make time for more yoga. More tea. More purrs with Fergus. More walks with the dogs. More bird-watching with Popoki. More reading with Lucy. Healing stuff.

I hope I'll be able to come back to shelter work rested and in a good place. And I hope I'll be able to set limits for myself when I do re-engage, so I keep this from happening a second time.

Has this ever happened to any of you readers out there? I'd love to know what YOU did to make it better. Leave me a note in the comments, okay?

Monday, September 26, 2016

September 2016 BarkBox review: Dogs go back to school

Liam the pug with his BarkBox

Given the adorable nature of the dog toys in the September 2016 BarkBox, and the high-quality nature of the dog treats we got in this shipment, this might be my favorite BarkBox yet. But I'll let you decide how much you love it and how much you want it.

Be aware: I don't get compensated for these posts in any way (unless you get one of your own through the affiliate link at the end of this post). I just like this product and I cover it because that's the case. So this is very much an unbiased review. I just like this product. Let me tell you what we got!

The dog treats 

We have three different types of treats in this month's shipment. I'm super excited to get two of them, but one has me a little nervous.

On the plus side: Chicken Soup for the Soul dog treats in stick form. I've never tried anything from this company, although I've heard rave reviews from other dog lovers out there. I can see why they're excited. These treats are sourced and made in the United States, and the first ingredient is chicken. The sticks are thin, and they're easy to break apart. This is a product that's hitting all of my check boxes. I'm happy to try it out.

Another plus: Ham and cheese sammies from Joyful Dog Treats (which doesn't seem to have any sort of online presence--so weird). I've never heard of this company, but I'm a fan of these very small treats. The first ingredient is pork, and there are some spices and flavorings that make these things smell wonderful. These treats are also quite small, so they make nice snacks for dog walks.

The one downer: We got some yak treats from Yeti Dog that I'm a little unsure about. This company was featured about a year ago, and the treat at that time could be popped in the microwave and served hot and puffed. Liam had some severe digestive problems with those treats, and he threw up a portion of treat 2 days after he ate it, completely undigested. I don't think I'll use this treat as a result.

The nice thing about BarkBox is that I can send them an email message about things that don't work for me, and the company will send me a replacement. I'm sending that message now.

The dog toys 

The best thing about BarkBox is that the company sends two toys with most shipments. That means my dogs don't have to share. But there's one toy in here that they're likely to fight over.

Liam the pug with his toys

This absolutely adorable toy is a lunch sack packed with a sandwich and cookie. My dogs love toys like this. They play with the elements separately, and Sinead really likes to grab toys out of their packages too. These guys absolutely adore this toy.

We also got a toy that looks a little like homework. It's flat, crinkly and full of typed writing. I wish I could show it to you, but Sinead ran off with it and hid it under the couch. I think that's a win!

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

Disclosure: Some product links in this post are “affiliate links.” If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a commission. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I believe provide real value. This disclosure comes in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday cat selfie: Kittens grow so fast!

Fergus the kitten on his chair

Fergus the Siamese kitten (or ragdoll kitten? or Birman kitten? still not sure) just hit the 6-month mark. And he is really growing into his smouldering good looks. Just this week, he developed black eyeliner around those pretty blue eyes of his, and his face and ears get darker each day, while his belly and back remain a pretty cream color.

He also seems just absolutely huge to me. He rarely sits still long enough to be weighed (we put him on the scale and he jumps right off), but he is as tall as Sinead the Boston terrier. Granted, she is an extraordinarily small dog. But there was a time in the not-so-distant past when he was the smaller of the two. I even have photographic proof.

Sinead the Boston terrier and Fergus the kitten

Sinead didn't like having kittens around, as you can see. But I digress.

All of that growing Fergus is doing takes a lot of energy. And as a result, Fergus does a whole lot of sleeping. He pauses in his nap habits for food and play and cuddles. But he spends most of his time crashed out just like this.

Fergus the cat asleep on his chair

Case in point: My community had an epic thunderstorm this week that shook the windows, bounced our dishes and knocked out power for 12 hours. Fergus slept through the entire thing. He can hear, mind you. But when he is asleep, he is asleep.

Fergus the kitten asleep

So on that note, we'll leave him to his naps.

And I'd like to pause and thank everyone who shared Panda's story last week. And I'd also like to thank everyone who reached out to me for updates. I've been a little silent about the whole thing, mainly because I have very bad news.

Panda the foster cat

After Panda's recheck and bloodwork, he went downhill. His eyes, his gums and the inside of his ears turned a bright shade of yellow. He started foaming at the mouth due to nausea. And then he started looking for places to hide. I found him deep in the closet one night when I went looking for him. He didn't want us to touch him or pet him. He wanted to go.

So my husband took him to the shelter, and we let him go. I'm happy he spent the last few days of his life in a real home with me, and I will always consider him a member of the menagerie. But I am taking this loss very, very hard. And it's prompting a few changes I'll discuss a little later this week. I've discovered compassion fatigue is real. And I have a bad case.


Thanks as always to the hosts at The Cat On My Head for hosting this hop. It's one of my favorites out there. I've met so many wonderful friends through this hop, and it's one I never miss.

Have you joined yet? You should.

Please leave me a comment too, so I'll know you were here!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Dog treat review: Rocco and Roxie Supply Company

Sinead the Boston terrier and her treats

True story: Sinead the Boston terrier loves the cocktail hour. Why, you ask? Because when the humans get sips, she gets sticks. It's a new tradition I unveiled this summer, and I've had a whole lot of help from a very cool company I met at BlogPaws (who sent me home with samples!). Today, I'd like to tell you more about them.

This company, Rocco and Roxie Supply Company, is a small family-owned business located right in the heart of Utah. Their philosophy is pretty simple: They think dog treats should have no tricks. That means no fillers, no weird preservatives and no strange meats. They want the treats to be good enough for humans to eat and safe enough for dogs to eat. Based on what I've seen so far, they've achieved these pretty lofty goals.

Liam and Sinead have been snacking on these jerky sticks for much of the summer, and they absolutely adore them. The sticks are soft and pliant, so they can chew them easily without a lot of work. And let me tell you: They smell amazing. Hubby and I are often commenting on how our mouths water when we open the bag. That's not something you can say about a lot of treats.

Sinead the Boston terrier barking

Sinead will even do tricks for these sticks, which is a little rare. Often, she prefers to simply wait for me to give up and give her something for nothing. But here, she's throwing out a "speak" because she can smell the treats. Pretty epic, if you ask me.

The sticks have fewer than 10 ingredients, and every flavor I've tried is mostly meat. The first ingredient is meat. There's a little salt and spice in there, but nothing alarming.

In addition to the sticks, we also tried a bag of liver treats. When I got this bag, I expected the treats to be dehydrated and soft, as are most liver products. I was pretty surprised to see this in the bag instead.

Closeup of a dog treat

(Yes, that's Fergus in the background trying to get treats out of the treat jar. Bad kitten!)

These liver pieces are smoked, rather than dehydrated, and it seems as though they were pressed before smoking. So they're really hard and crispy. Hubby and I decided that the dogs sound like they're eating Tic Tacs when they crunch these things.

I've been using these treats on walks, and my only real complaint concerns their size. I wish they were broken apart before they came. It's hard as anything to break these big pieces into appropriate sizes for very small dogs--unless I use a hammer.

But again, the ingredient list is just remarkable. The only ingredient listed is beef liver. And they smell really wonderful, like smokey goodness.

These treats are available online. And don't let the price scare you off. These bags are very generous and packed to the gills. One bag lasts me for well more than a month with my two dogs.

What do you think of these treats? Would you use them? Leave me a note and let me know.

Disclaimer: I was given sample treats to try as a participant at the BlogPaws conference. No money changed hands for this review, and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Shelter cats need love too: Wordless Wednesday thoughts

Popoki the cat on her bed

I've been thinking a lot about shelter cats lately. That's partly because Popoki the exotic shorthair cat here is just about to experience her very first gotcha day with me. It was just a year ago that I saw her hiding behind her litter box in her kennel, trying really hard not to sniffle or cough. She's changed my life so much and I can't imagine my life without her. And it's only been a year!

Popoki the cat in a closeup

I've also been thinking about shelter cats because it's the end of kitten season here, and adoptions in my cat shelter have slowed considerably. People who were looking for a cat seem to have adopted the adult cat they wanted, or they snapped up one of the hundreds of kittens that came through the shelter. That means I'm seeing many familiar faces when I walk through the shelter each week. And I know so many of those faces belong to cats that are wonderful.

Kitty looks thoughtful

I've also been thinking about how some cats that aren't showstoppers like Popoki get passed right by in shelters, and how that can impact their overall health and well-being. I'm thinking about that a lot, actually. It happened to my last foster cat. When the weeks went by and he couldn't flag down a family, he seemed to sort of lose the will to live. And despite all of the help and care he got in the shelter, he declined very quickly.

Panda the hospice foster kitty

I brought him home as a last-ditch effort, hoping I could convince him to start eating. But he struggled with nausea (despite medications and fluids), and he continued to lose weight (despite force feedings). He also developed a sort of wheeze or stridor when breathing, which might be a harbinger of a cold. I took him back to the clinic for a recheck today, and his blood work is just absolutely awful. All of his values are askew, and since they are, his nausea persists. And now it's possible that many of his organs are shutting down, not just his liver.

This was something I knew might happen when I brought him home. But I'm sad to see it come to pass. I'm taking him in tomorrow for another recheck, and if we see no improvement, we will let him go.

I want to thank all of you who shared and reached out and wanted to help him get placed. I hope you will do that work in his memory in your own shelters. Find a forgotten kitty and share and network. The shelter cats need our community. Let's do that for Panda. That's something I know he would appreciate. And so would I.

Please leave me a note so I'll know you were here. And be sure to visit the other blogs in the hop this week! Everyone loves a visit. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dog mast cell tumor update: Sinead hits the 6-month mark

Sinead the Boston terrier in her chair

When Sinead was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor (a form of dog cancer) at the beginning of 2016, I spent a lot of time talking with veterinary cancer experts about her prognosis. Specifically, I wanted to know when I could stop treating her like a very fragile animal that might not live for long and start treating her like the vibrant, active Boston terrier she was when this whole thing started.

The best answer I got (although veterinarians do like to hedge their bets, so getting a clear answer is tough) was 6 months. If we could go 6 months between some kind of medical intervention and the tumor not coming back, we could rest just a little easier.

This week, Sinead hits that 6-month mark.

Sinead the Boston terrier with a tumor

Just to show you how far she's come, here's an old photo that showcases the nasty tumor. You'll see a little white speck right above her left eye in this photo. By the time Sinead was diagnosed, that bump had been over her eye for about a year. It didn't grow larger or smaller, and it didn't bother her. But it was there.

As I detailed in this blog post, we used a novel form of chemotherapy as a followup to an unsuccessful surgical removal. The chemo took just a few minutes, and it came with no pain or side effects. Sinead also has no scarring. Her treated eyelid looks just as fabulous as the untreated eyelid.

Sinead the dog's face in closeup

Since Sinead had cancer so early in life, I will need to monitor her regularly and watch for new lumps and bumps. It's possible that this tumor is a harbinger of some kind of genetic defect that will make her prone to more tumors later in life.

But for now, we're celebrating her successes. Here's to many more months!

And for those of you who have been following and sharing my foster cat story, I have an update. Panda has been here for several days now, getting fluid therapy and medications and force feedings for his fatty liver disease. He is a little too weak to resist those treatments, but he doesn't seem to mind them. And today, he's looking quite a bit better.

Panda the foster cat in a towel

His expression is bright and alert, and his lips are looking pretty darn pink (instead of yellow). He can move quite quickly now, and he's spent a lot of time working on his scratching post after his force feedings. That old spunk is coming back. He's also found his voice and is doing soft purrs when held or hugged.

We have a ways to go yet, as Panda still seems very queasy. He smacks his lips often, and he sometimes drools to excess during his feedings. I know he isn't feeling all that positive about food right now. He also developed a strange whistle when breathing, and his nostrils were blocked with black goo this morning. He's heading back to the clinic today to have that assessed.

So we have some good news and some bad.

Thanks for all of your comments and your support, both for Panda and Sinead. Do leave me a comment, and I'll read them to these kids. Thanks!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bogus dog quiz alert: Your dog does love you

Liam the pug on his bed

Like most dog-obsessed people, I can't resist reading articles that are designed to give me more insight into my dog's likes, dislikes and overall preferences. Some people collect stamps. I collect dog-related articles.

Anyway, I stumbled across a clever little quiz in Good Housekeeping last week (which the editors conveniently neglected to put online, so I can't link to it), and I was prepared to be entertained. Instead, I got a little mad.

The quiz is designed to help you understand whether or not your dog has a strong bond with you. There are three key signs that tell you if your bond is strong. Here they are:
  1. Your dog looks where you are pointing when you point (not at your finger).
  2. Your dog yawns when you yawn.
  3. Your dog stares at you for no reason.
Liam the pug has the staring thing down. He looks at me like this most of the day, every day.

Liam the pug watches his human

But look at where I'm pointing? Hell, no. That might mean he'll miss out on food I might have in my pointing hand. And yawn when I yawn? Forget it. He yawns when he's tired.

So what does Good Housekeeping say about that? The writer says that my low score means that I have a low bond with my dog and that I should do more to make him love me, like schedule more time together.

People: This is shaming, and I don't like it.

Your dog loves you, no matter what a quiz might say and no matter how well you score on tests like this. If your dog loves you, your dog trusts you and wants to be with you and his happy to see you. Yawning and pointing have nothing to do with it.

What do you think about this quiz? Is the author on track or way off base? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know what you think!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Foster kitty selfie: Meet Panda!

Panda the hospice foster kitty

Typically, I reserve my cat Sunday Selfie post for the cats that actually live inside of my house with my community around the clock. But this week, I'm doing something a little different. You see, this week I'm playing host to a very special kitty that needs a much larger community. And I know the lovely people that run the blog at The Cat On My Head can help.

Update 20161002: I'm so sorry to report that Panda did not recover from his illness. An update about what happened is here. Thanks to all of you for all of your help and good wishes.

This is Panda, and he's 12yo. He was living in the Willamette Humane Society shelter, waiting for a new home, and he had the misfortune of being surrendered right before kitten season. People who came shopping for cats often came looking for very small kittens, or if they were looking for adults, they wanted the rescue story that comes with taking home a cat that's blind or deaf or very old.

Panda fell through the adopter cracks because he wasn't a kitten, he wasn't nearly as old as some of the other cats in the shelter, he didn't have health problems, he didn't have a sad backstory and he got along with everyone.

In other words, he was a perfect cat that came in at an imperfect time.

He became invisible.

Panda the cat in profile

He grew so sad at losing his family and then waiting in a shelter for so long that he started eating just a little less with each meal. Then, he started skipping meals from time to time. Soon, he decided he wouldn't eat anything at all.

The team at the shelter worked so hard to help turn things around for Panda. They came and sat with him before the shelter opened, trying to help him to eat. They brought in food and treats from home to entice him. They gave him medications and fluids. They started force feeding him. But still, he wouldn't eat on his own.

Panda sleeping in his bed

The team moved into overdrive mode and popped Panda in intensive care, so he could get yet more fluids and meds and force feeding, but that didn't seem to help. He just seemed to shrink into himself, perking up only to accept love from people. He developed fattty liver disease, so his lips and ears turned yellow.

I wondered if moving him out of the shelter system as a whole might help him to find his reason to fight. I also know all about how to give medications, fluids and offer force feedings (typical treatments for fatty liver disease). So Panda is resting in my guest bedroom for the foreseeable future. He is weak and sickly and he often seems a little queasy (despite his anti-nausea medications). But he is also decidedly perkier, and his mental state seems a little more appropriate. He comes to me to ask for attention, and he happily sits with me for cuddles. He's also been using the scratching post from time to time.

Despite Panda's improvements, I'm not at all sure that he'll make a full recovery. It is incredibly hard to pull a cat from the brink. Cats that like Panda can lose enough so much weight that all of their organs shut down.

A lot of this recovery depends on Panda and how much he wants to live.

This weekend, I'm hoping to help him make the right choice. And if I can help to turn him around, I'll need yet more help to get him into a home quickly. I simply don't think he can handle the shelter. So I need all of you to think very good thoughts for Panda. And when he is well, I'd love it if all of you help me to network him.

He needs our community.

On a happier note, we have another transient visitor to the menagerie that seemed to want to pose for selfies this week.

Katydid selfie

It's a katydid! These little critters are typically nocturnal, so I am not at all sure why it was out and about on a sunny summer day. But it was very content to sit still for photos. Look at those antennae!

Thanks for reading, and do leave me a comment so I'll know you were here. And as always, thanks to our hosts for the hop opportunity. I always enjoy this one.

Do be sure to check out the other blogs in the hop! You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Probiotics for cats: Does your cat's gut need a shakeup?

Fergus the kitten with his probiotics

Most of the time, when we're talking about nutrition for cats and kittens, we're discussing bugs in a bad way. We work hard, as dedicated pet parents, to ensure that our cats don't take in nasty little creatures that could make them sick. And often, those sick-making critters come in the form of bacteria.

But, there are some instances where a little bit of bacteria could do a cat body a lot of good.

Consider Fergus the kitten here. When he contracted giardia and developed terrible diarrhea that went on and on with no end in sight, his treatment options were limited. He was too young and too small for the typical medications veterinarians throw at giardia. I needed to find a way to boost his immune system to help him fight back.

So I was happy to meet a representative from 21st Century Pet at BlogPaws this summer. She sent me home with a pre and probiotic product to try.

Jar of probiotics for cats

Unlike most probiotic products for pets, this supplement doesn't come in a powder format. Instead, it comes in a yummy treat formulation. Fergus will willingly eat this out of my hand, as he thinks the taste is pretty good. And it's soft and supple enough for him to chew without choking.

Each little supplement contains a number of different strains of pre and probiotics, including lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium bifidum and enterococcus thermophilus. Fergus needs just a half of a tablet, once per day, to get the recommended dose. And this canister has 100 tablets in it, so this jar will last me for quite some time.

Fergus sleeping

My veterinarian often recommends using products like this when dealing with digestive issues, such as diarrhea or vomiting. Boosting the flora in the gut can help the immune system to restore balance to that gut, and that could help sick kitties feel a whole lot better.

And, if research on humans can apply to pets, probiotics could do a whole lot more. Research exposed last year suggests that bad bugs in the gut can trigger the release of chemicals that can lead to symptoms of psychosis or depression. (I know it sounds weird, but it's true! Read the research and see for yourself.) By boosting gut flora for Fergus, I could be helping him to retain his happy nature.

Most products from 21st Century Pet are sold at PetSmart chains. I feel reasonably confident you could try it for yourself, if you head to PetSmart and ask about it. I think one jar runs for about $10.

Before you buy, you probably want to know if Fergus feels better. The answer is "yes," but I'm not sure if the probiotics are 100 percent behind that recovery. He did get a few doses of wormer to rid his body of giardia, and that may have helped quite a bit. He also just got older and bigger, so he may have worked through the infection on his own.

But I do give him these treats to help him maintain his happy litter box episodes. I think they help.

Do you give your cats supplements? What do you use? Leave me a note in the comments, won't you?

Disclaimer: I was given a sample of this product to try as an attendee of a conference. No money changed hands in return for this review, and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tiny Boston terrier is ball obsessed

Sinead the Boston terrier and her ball

Somewhere deep inside Sinead's Boston terrier brain is a fixed idea. No matter how much I try to shift it, this idea won't go away. It's simple and it's sticky.

Playing ball with a human is much more fun when that human is doing something else.

Case in point: I'm eating a little snack and reading a novel when I feel a slight bit of weight hit the footrest. This is was my view. Since Sinead is never content with just one ball throw, I thought I'd just keep reading and see if she'd find a less-busy human to play with.

No dice.

Sinead the Boston terrier and her ball

Sinead has remarkable concentration skills. If you do not throw the ball, she'll just watch it very carefully. It's as though she is willing it to move (or you to move) with the power of her mind alone. Or maybe she's engaging in a little bit of hypnotism, trying to convince me to throw the ball with the power of her mind.

When that doesn't work, she has one more trick up her sleeve.

SInead the Boston terrier pawing at her ball

This is the old paw-at-the-ball trick. She is not pushing it hard enough to make it roll off or go away. She's just trying to nudge it in my direction, and she's probably hoping all that movement will make me give in and just throw the darn thing.

Did it work? Yup. I threw the ball. Who needs to snack or read, right? We have dogs to serve!

What do you think of Sinead's ball-handling techniques? Drop me a note and let me know. And remember: This is a blog hop! Be sure to visit the other blogs in the hop and make new friends.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Shy cat adoptions: What to expect

Popoki the cat in her bed

Popoki the cat is so much fun to photograph. Every time I look up from my desk, it seems that she's doing something new and adorable. Last week, for example, she started sleeping belly up in her bed like this. It's almost too cute for words.

And it reminds me of how far she's come, and how her story might help other potential cat people out there.

You see, I've had two conversations this week with people who adopted completely shy or partially shy cats from the shelter. In both cases, these people were contemplating returning their shy cats to the shelter because the cats weren't integrating with other family members as quickly as the people might like. In both cases, those animals had been in their new homes for about a month.

While I'm glad to help people who have questions about their cats, it makes me wonder if people are really prepared BEFORE they take these cats home. It makes me wonder if they've really thought through what it means to take a shy creature into their homes. I'd rather that people were prepared, because returns are hard on a shy cat. It shuts them down yet more.

Popoki the cat reaches for the camera

I consider myself a bit of a shy cat expert, as Popoki was (and in some cases, is) desperately shy. In the shelter, she hid in the back of her kennel, trying to make herself small behind her litter pan. When I brought her home, she hid underneath the bed for weeks. She would only interact with me in very small doses, and even then, she was always planning her escape route. She didn't trust me at all.

Adopting her meant resigning myself to life with an animal that would judge me, dislike me and make me feel a little bad about myself---knowing that this would pass if I would do the work it takes to turn things around. That work involves:
  • Classical conditioning. I had to feed her from a spoon or with my fingers (not out of a bowl), so she'd associate good things with me.
  • Reducing hiding spaces. I kept her in a spare room with a bed that was taken off its frame. That way, she couldn't completely hide from me. 
  • Acceptance. Some days, she'd do better than others. Some days, she'd do worse. I had to be sure not to judge her on her bad days or get too excited on the good days. 
  • Cushioning. As she adjusted, I needed to keep her surroundings calm and serene. No loud noises, yelling, new animals, furniture moving or any other disruption. And no visitors. 
I had to do this work with her for MONTHS. She came into this home in early October, and she didn't come to me willingly until something like February. And only now, about a year later, does she feel comfortable enough to show me her belly when she sleeps.

Adopting a shy cat is more than rewarding. It's life changing. You help an animal learn to trust, you support their emotional growth and your bond at the end of the journey is nearly unbreakable. Taking home a cat like this will enhance your life in so many ways.

But it's a lot of work. It's a huge time commitment. It's not right for everyone.  If you don't think you can put in the work, it's not your fault or the cat's fault. It's just not a good fit.

But do this for me: If you read through this blog post and you think: "I couldn't do that!" let the next shy cat pass you by. Take home another one instead. Both you and the shy cat will be happier for it.

Any other shy cat lovers out there with tips I missed? Shoot me a note in the comments. Love to hear from you.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Cat grass benefits: It's tasty and pretty!

Popoki the cat in front of her cat grass

Popoki the cat was gracious enough to pose for her Sunday Selfie this week without the need for much coaxing. I just knew that her fans from The Cat On My Head would love this shot of her in her catio, as the natural light makes the color of her eyes stand out. (And it makes other details stand out too, like her wet chin. Every time she gets a drink of water, that chin gets sopping wet!)

Anyway, when I was prepping this photo to share in the Sunday Selfie series, I noticed something else I've been meaning to discuss: Popoki's cat grass!

A catio isn't much of a cozy space without one or two plants, but anything I put out there has to be safe for Popoki to chew. Cat grass fits the bill quite nicely. The product I'm using, made by a subsidiary of OurPets, contains barley, oats and wheat seeds. All of these seeds are safe for kitty consumption. And the grass is a great source of niacin and B vitamins.

These seeds also grow really quickly. I planted a week or so ago, and the grass is already really tall!

Cat grass in a pot

Popoki likes to lick the water off the leaves, and she likes to watch the blades rustle in the sunshine. But she is very gentle with the leaves. So I'm using the catio as a sort of incubator for another little kitty that really needs cat grass.

Who is that cat? And why does he need grass, you ask?

Lemme show you.

Fergus the kitten eating a plant

Yes, that's Fergus the kitten making a light snack out of my Christmas cactus. Not good. I figured that he'd like to eat some kind of plant, since he likes this cactus so much. By providing him with grass, I might be able to keep him away from the plants I'd like to protect.

So the catio is his snack incubator. I don't think Popoki minds.

But for now, I need to stop taking her photo. I think I'm interrupting her bird watching!

Popoki the cat watching birds

Do you grow cat grass for your felines? Shoot me a note in the comments and let me know.

Thanks as always to our fabulous hosts!

Be sure to visit the other blogs in the hop! It's a great way to spend a Sunday.