Sunday, April 23, 2017

Is your cat judging you?

Popoki the cat looking sleepy

Popoki has one of those perennially grumpy cat faces. No matter if she's happy or sad, she always looks just a little bit upset about what's going on around her. I think the downturned mouth has something to do with it. And when she's a little tired, her expressions move from grumpy to downright judgemental.

Need proof? Here are a few of the expressions I got when I woke Popoki up for her Sunday Selfie photo shoot to share with The Cat On My Head this morning.

Popoki the cat sneering

This is what I call the cat sneer. She tilts her head up and looks down her nose at me, while closing her eyes just a little bit. At this point in the shoot, I was waving a toy around in the air, trying to get her to open her eyes a little bit, and she clearly though that move was beneath me.

So I swapped toys, and moved to one that makes sounds when it's swinging through the air. She seemed really shocked that I thought this would work.

Popokl the cat looks weary

Eeesh. This looks very much like a judgement, doesn't it? It's as though I've just pitched the silliest idea in the world to this cat and she can't believe that I'm still talking. The combination of the cocked head and the squinted eyes is pretty devastating.

So I tried to move to treats, thinking that would help.

Popoki the cat seems disgusted

Now she can't even bear to look at me, so it seems the treats were a no go.

We'll leave it at that, shall we? It seems like miss grumpy might need a little beauty sleep.

Do your cats flash you signs of exasperation? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know.

And be sure to join in on the blog hop!

You'll have fun and make new friends, too. Join in!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Kitty keeping you up at night? Try this tip

Fergus the cat is fast asleep

Nothing is sweeter than a sleeping kitty. And, some might say, nothing is more distressing than a wakeful kitty--especially if that cat is awake at 3am or 4am and wants the humans to be awake as well.

Sadly, this is pretty common. Cats are designed to be at their most active during dawn and dusk, when their preferred types of food are most active. Normally, a cat would do the most effective hunting during this time, so the cat's internal clock is set to start ringing the alarm at dawn and dusk.

Cats who are hungry at 3am become cats who meow or rattle the doors or pace or just jump up and down on the humans until they get up. And when mealtime is through, these cats settle right back down into a nap.

Fergus the cat waking up

Feeding the kitty a little snack at bedtime can help to stave off some hunger pangs, and that could allow the cat to delay the wakeup calls by an hour or two. But there's one more trick you can try with very persistent cats who continuously wake up super early.

Wake those cats up periodically throughout the day for sessions of active play.

Cats that sleep all day long without ceasing have a ton of energy to burn off, which often means they have plenty to spare when the wee hours of the morning come around. Meanwhile, cats who expend a bit more energy during the day tend to sleep in a little more at night.

Most cats sleep rather lightly when they do sleep, so it's easy to wake them up. And often, these cats are 100 percent ready to play when you do wake them up. Rattle the wand toy, pull out the laser pointer or toss the ball down the hall and the cat is 100 percent in the game.

Fergus is treated to a play session like this every time I walk by him, and since I work from home, I walk by him a lot. We have a little play time for 5 minutes or so, and then I go back to work and he goes back to sleep.

Popoki the cat

I should say that this technique doesn't work on all cats. Popoki here isn't half as interested in play as Fergus is, for example, and she simply won't get up and move because I think she should do so. She moves when she feels like moving, and that isn't really under my control.

But honestly, I've tried this wakey-wakey technique on quite a few cats over the years, and I can attest to its effectiveness. If you have an early-morning kitty, it might work for you, too!

Are your cats good alarm clocks? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Protect dogs and bees: Skip the weed killer

Sinead posing with flowers and weeds

Now that spring is here, many of us are heading outside with our dogs to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and bird calls. We're shaking off the confinement of winter, and we're remembering what it's like to be connected to all the wonders that nature has to offer. It's a great time to be alive.

But as we stretch and enjoy that spring, many of us are seeing a few things in our surroundings that are a little less than ideal. At least, I know I am.

Sinead here is posing next to a group of volunteer grape hyacinth, growing in a crack in the driveway. I love those little purple flowers, but look closely at what's growing around them.

Yup, those are dandelions.

Dandelions put down very deep roots, and they're very hard to completely eradicate in a sidewalk. And in most cases, people want to pull out those weeds, because they can grow and grow and make a tiny crack even wider as the years pass.

If you look for solutions in your local hardware store or neighborhood big box store, you'll see bottle after bottle of herbicides that are designed to kill things growing in cracks.

Please, please, please don't use these.

Here's why.

Sinead the Boston terrier with flowers

Bees are responsible for the vast majority of the food we eat. Their pollination work helps plants to produce. Without the work of bees, that pollination becomes difficult or impossible. And yet, the number of bees swarming the planet is declining.

Researchers are still investigating why this is happening, but some research suggests that herbicides like Roundup are playing a part in declining bee health. And that research suggests that Roundup can be remarkably persistent in the ground, so an application could harm bees for weeks.

Similarly, research suggests that dogs can be harmed by exposure to herbicides. And that research also suggests that dogs can pick up traces of herbicide for weeks after it's been applied.

Put that together, and it seems like these herbicides have the potential to do a great deal of damage to both dogs and bees. And that one little squirt could continue to cause damage for an extended period of time.

Does that mean you have to live with weeds in cracks? No.

Hubby and I use boiling water applications on persistent weeds in cracks. We take a bit of the water left over from the kettle we boil for tea, and we dump it on the plants we see in the cracks. Sometimes, one shot is enough to eradicate the weeds. Sometimes, it takes more than one.

Water harms neither bee nor dog. It's inexpensive. And it works.

There are all sorts of other things you can do to keep your dogs away from pesticides, including keeping your dogs on the sidewalk during walks. But those bees? They need more help. I talk to my neighbors about bees when I see them spraying Roundup. I talk to my friends about the water trick. I try to spread the word.

Would you consider doing the same? The bees need us.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Reengaging with shelter life: How to avoid another burnout episode

A few months ago, I had to step away from shelter cat work. I wrote about it on this blog, and I tried to be very open and honest about the symptoms of compassion fatigue I was facing and what I thought might help me to feel better.

This week, a reader reminded me that I never did a followup post, even though I have returned to cat volunteer work. That reader wondered what had changed, and she asked for a followup. I think that's an excellent idea.

Here's what I know.

The work doesn't change

As much as we advocate for cats and plead on their behalf and try to help everyone understand that cats aren't nuisances that can be ignored or exterminated, some people just don't get it. And when they don't get it, the cats often end up in shelter situations in sad shape.

It broke my heart when I was volunteering last year. It was nearly too much to bear when I stopped volunteering. And it still happens now. The sweet face of the cat in this blog post is testament to that. Cats still need help, and shelters are the organizations that offer that help.

The key involves making sure that you--as a volunteer--find a way to change.

Setting boundaries and seeking success

Rather than heading into the shelter multiple times per week for shifts and donations and meetings and more, I come in just once every other week. That's a schedule I can handle. It allows me to do meaningful work, while also allowing me to do other things that feed my soul.

Also, reengaging in a meaningful way means allowing myself to spend time with some of the cats that don't necessarily need me. Cats like this one.

Black cat in the shelter

This is an amazingly open-hearted cat who absolutely loves and trusts all people. Spending time with her means being showered with head butts and nuzzles and purrs. She makes anyone who visits her feel so very special. And, not surprisingly, she was adopted about an hour after I met her.

In the past, I avoided spending time with cats I thought might get adopted really quickly. I figured these cats didn't need my help or my attention. I thought I should spend time with the truly tough cases.

As it turns out, I may not have needed to help these cats. But I certainly needed them to help me.

Spending time with the cats that will leave the shelter fast helps you feel like a part of the success story. You get to be on a winning team. Plus, cats like this are simply a joy to be around. They put the fun back in volunteering.

I should say that I always spend time with the tough cases. They call out to me. But as I reengage with volunteering, I'm making a point to spend time with the easy wins too. To me, that has so much benefit.

White shelter cat waiting for a home

Remaining mindful of the cost

Finally, I consider volunteer days to be high-risk days. I try not to pack days like this with a ton of other tasks, including meetings or lunch dates or deadlines. I try to give myself enough headspace to think about what happened at the shelter. And I try to give myself enough time on those days to process the happiness and the sadness I've seen.

It's clear I'm being pretty careful with my heart and my health as I return to this work. And that's smart. I don't want to take another break. These cats need me--now and in the future. By taking these steps, I hope I'm here for them.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Celebrating a kitty Easter (and advocating an adoption)

Jasper the cat with Easter props

Jasper the cat was, at one point, really hard to photograph with props. Whenever I got the shot all set up, he'd throw himself at the camera with the hopes of getting a few more pets and head bumps in. But now that he's well on his way to 17 years old, he's mellowed out quite a bit. Now, he's more than happy to just chill out with any props I might throw his way.

And as I photographed him for entry in the Sunday Cat Selfie series as hosted by The Cat On My Head, I started thinking.

Last week, I wrote up a post about a sweet kitty waiting for a home at Willamette Humane Society. This cat and Jasper have a lot in common. Both of them were swinging singles in big cat colonies. Both have a tendency to fight with other cats (see Jasper's ear?). And both of them have a history of poor litter box habits.

But they have two key differences.

The cat waiting for a home has FIV. Jasper does not.

And Jasper has a home. The other does not.

Jasper the cat sings about Easter

I know it's often hard to think about taking in a cat with a semi-rough past. Sometimes, when I talk about this, people seem to think cats with a tough past will never find a home or contribute to a home, so euthanasia is a kinder option.

I think Jasper would disagree. And my husband, who has lived with Jasper on Jasper's terms for more than a decade, would also disagree.

Cats with tough pasts can--and many of them do--acclimate to a different life with enough kindness, love and attention. Cats that can't 100 percent acclimate can--and many of them do--acclimate to a life partially in the house and partially in a catio, where they can be protected and still a little wild (this would be best for my FIV guy). And some healthy cats with a rough past can--and many of them do--acclimate to a sort of barn existence where they love people and have a protected space to sleep at night, but have the ability to roam during the day (this is what Jasper has).

They key is to remember that these lives have value. Jasper would be so happy if people remembered that on Easter.

Jasper the cat with his bunny

Doesn't he look handsome in his selfie? I think so. Do leave him a note in the comments. He loves compliments.

And remember to join in the fun with the blog hop!

You'll see so many awesome cats and make great friends.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Shelter cat stories: Meet Pacman

Meet shelter cat PacMan

Life for a stray cat isn't easy. Just ask Pacman here. Doesn't he look tired? He should. He's been through a lot in a few short months.

Pacman is about 5 years old, and he has lived most (if not all) of his life as a stray cat. He was living in a community with quite a few other strays, and his body bears a few scars from his street time. His ears have a few little nibbles in them, his fur is a little thinner than it should be and he has a few cuts and scrapes healing up on his nose and back.

Someone in his neighborhood decided to intervene, and that kind person started feeding Pacman and petting him. Eventually, she let him into her house.

As it turns out, Pacman wasn't quite ready to be a house kitty. He fought with the other resident cats, he peed in the house and otherwise made a great mess of things. He was still a slave to those darned hormones, and he made some bad choices.

So he came to Willamette Humane Society for a new start. (Here's his official bio, which I wrote.)

Pacman was neutered, and during the screening prior to the neuter, the team discovered that Pacman has FIV. I've talked about this on the blog before, but some cats with FIV can live with other cats. But they need to actually like other cats and not fight with them. That isn't the case for this particular kitty.

Pacman the cat sleeping

So Pacman will need to be the only cat in the household. And, he'll need to live indoors (so he doesn't fight with neighborhood cats). He will also need to find someone who appreciates cats with opinions. This guy is terribly sweet and kindhearted, but he likes to be in charge. He's not afraid to dole out the whaps (claws in) when things don't go his way. Cat people love communicators like this. But people who don't know or "get" cats may not.

I recognize that Pacman has a bit of a challenge ahead, in terms of finding a home. He needs to be an only, he has FIV and he can be a little sassy. That might explain why he's been in the shelter since March 2, with no families interested in him.

But I think he deserves a chance at a good home with someone who will love him. He's young and he has so much to give. Can you help? Share his story, and let's bust him out of the shelter soon!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bunnies make bad gifts: An Easter reminder

Popoki the cat with her bunnies

Popoki the cat is helping me to a quick PSA this week about bunnies. Now that spring is right around the corner, I'm seeing tons of ads popping up in my local Craigslist about tiny bunnies that will be ready "just in time for Easter." Supposedly, these little creatures will be tucked into baskets for kids to enjoy.

And I just know, come May, I'll see many more ads in my local Craigslist about abandoned bunnies who have hopped into yards to eat growing vegetables.

This is a cycle that happens every year. And it really doesn't have to be this way.

Popoki the cat with her bunny

Bunnies do make wonderful pets. They're super smart, which means they can be trained to do all sorts of things, including using a designated place to pee and poop. They can come when called, they can do tricks and they can behave nicely for medical exams. In short, they're great options for people who want a furry creature that isn't a dog or a cat.

But bunnies are also a time commitment. They need socialization, and they need to spend time with the people they love. Many bunnies also prefer to spend time in the company of other bunnies. Families that take home one rabbit and think that animal will be happy as anything in a hutch in the yard all alone all day are bound to have an unhappy bunny that acts up. And that's a bunny that's likely to be abandoned.

Popoki the cat poses with her bunny

If you are ready to make a full commitment to the health, well-being and happiness of a rabbit, go ahead and bring one home for Easter. Love it and cuddle it and make it a member of your family. But if you're not quite ready for the responsibilities that come with a rabbit, take Popoki's advice. Get a stuffed bunny instead. They're just as cute and cuddly, and they require no maintenance.

Just sayin'.

Do you have a bunny? Have you ever lived with one? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know. I love a good bunny story.

And be sure to visit the other blogs in this BlogPaws hop. Good stuff this week!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Dog walks: The benefits of a pause

Pug and Boston terrier out on a walk

The first dog trainer I worked with thought that walks had a vital role to play in the health of a dog and the relationship between a dog and his/her person. Walks, in her mind, were an opportunity for people to practice basic obedience techniques, and that could help to exercise a dog's mind, as well as the dog's body.

People who follow this sort of thinking have very brisk, constructive walks with their dogs. These dogs march along with their people, occasionally stopping to work on something like a "sit" command or a "stay" command. But they don't veer off course or compel their people to stop. These are dogs doing the people's bidding.

I walked my dogs like this for years, and I do think there's some benefit to keeping a dog under strict control while strolling through neighborhoods populated by dogs that may not be under any kind of control.

But since I returned to walking after breaking my leg, I'm finding that a different approach also has merit. This is the dog-focused way of talking a walk.

Sinead the Boston terrier in her coat

When dogs get to choose how walks work, everything about the experience seems to change. Sinead here, for example, likes to start off her walks very slowly. She likes to sniff the perimeter of the front yard, to pick up messages other dogs may have left behind. And she likes to do quite a bit of stretching and bending to warm up her muscles before she gets into serious speed.

When we're in the middle of the walk, she likes to veer from one side of the sidewalk to the other, choosing the best surface on which to walk. She seems to prefer very spongy grass, and sometimes, that's in the parking strip and sometimes it's in the front yard. She likes to follow that.

When we're in the last third of the walk, Sinead likes to slow things down again. She prefers to take very long breaks so she can thoroughly investigate a new scent on the ground. Sometimes, she likes to plop down on the grass and take a good roll. Sometimes, she just likes to stand still and scan the horizon, sniffing the air.

Dog walks on a dog's terms take a bit longer to complete. Dogs have their own schedules, and sometimes, they're not very efficient. But giving them control from time to time seems to please them. I know Sinead appreciates a more leisurely pace, and she likes walks in which she can just do as she pleases. She's not any less obedient after a walk like this than she is on a structured walk. But she does seem a little more tired.

What method do you use when you walk your dogs? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Cats celebrate spring in Oregon: The catio is open!

Popoki the cat sitting in her chair

Popoki is generally a very happy cat. Despite her sometimes grumpy appearance, she seems to welcome most days with an open heart and a willingness to find joy. But I have a hunch that she has more things to like in the spring than she does in the winter.

For example: In the winter, she is confined to the indoors. We can't go for leash walks when the ground is wet, as she finds that prospect unpleasant. And I have to close the door to the catio, so I don't get frozen out of my workspace. In addition, her bird watching duties are truncated, as our winter populations consist of simple finches. Not a lot of variety there.

So I imagine she was thrilled with what happened this week. Our temperatures climbed up into the high 60s, so the catio was open for business. She ran out when the door was open, and she immediately took up a prime position beneath her favorite bird feeder.

Popoki the cat watching birds

Lest you be alarmed, Popoki can't actually reach this feeder. It's on the outside of the catio, and the catio screens are firmly affixed to the building, so there's no possibility of a breakout. Even if she really wanted to touch those birds, she couldn't do so.

But she has a lot to look at, as the spring migration has begun. I have tons of bright-yellow goldfinches swarming the feeders these days, and we've attracted a few Steller's jays and blue jays to the yard too. Next door, a pair of starlings are setting up a nest. And high up in the cedars in the back yard, a pair of northern flickers has set up another nest. The yard is teeming with calls and splashes of color. Popoki can't wait to get into the catio to check it out.

Popoki the cat in her catio

She's also really enjoying the sunshine. A few times this week, I've seen her sprawled out on her back in her catio, letting that sunshine hit her in the belly. She looks so relaxed and comfortable. And that's wonderful to see.

Has spring arrived where you are? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know.

And be sure to visit my friends at The Cat On My Head.

They do such an awesome job of hosting this hop every week. Visit them and tell them you love it, okay?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dog walks: A simple thing that brings humans and their dogs closer together

Sinead the Boston terrier on a walk

At first glance, this might seem like a really standard photo of a Boston terrier pausing on her walk with her human. In reality, this photo means a whole lot more. This is a photo about healing, about spring and about the wonderful things dogs do for their humans every day.

Let me explain.

In January, I fell while walking Liam the pug, and I broke my left leg in several places. At the time, I was thankful I was walking my very happy-go-lucky pug, as he accepted help from all of the strangers who rushed to the scene to assist, and he did so without any training. Sinead the Boston terrier wouldn't have been nearly so accommodating.

But, in the aftermath of my injury and the surgery and the long recovery, it's been Sinead who has helped me. She insisted on sleeping right next to me, in the human bed, when I got home from the hospital. She walked with me, licking my ankle, when I tried to get up on my feet again. She brought me her very favorite toy when the pain was too much and I dissolved into tears. She was my nursemaid.

So it was only fair that she should be the witness to this week's show of independence. This week, she and I took a walk together.

Sinead and I on a walk

Note that I am wearing two shoes. Not a cast. Not a brace. But shoes. And there's no one else in this photo. It's just my little dog and I, sharing this victory together.

I am using a cane these days, and I don't walk very fast. Sometimes, I need to stop and take a break. But Sinead remains very patient. She goes at my pace. She sits when I need to sit. She watches for danger and growls when she sees it. And sometimes, she licks my shoelaces to encourage me.

All of this work means a great deal to me. And it wears this little dog out. When we got home, she needed a nap. And I don't blame her. I needed one myself.

Sinead the Boston terrier in her bed

I had clean x-rays this week, which means my broken leg is knitted up around the hardware holding it in place. So these walks Sinead and I take will continue, and it's likely I'll move faster with time. I am expected to make a wonderful recovery, and should be able to walk with ease throughout the rest of my life. Running might not be possible, due to all the hardware. But walking should be a snap.

It's good news, and I know Sinead contributed to that. I will always be thankful for her support, kindness and cuteness. I just couldn't have done it without her, and on this Thankful Thursday, as hosted by Brian's Home, I honor her.

Head on over to visit Brian and share some other stories of thanks. But before you go, do leave me a comment, won't you? Love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Don't mess with a pug and his toys

Liam the pug with his toy

Like most pugs, Liam is pretty relaxed about most things. He doesn't care about loud noises, new people or unusual scents entering his space. He embraces most of the things he encounters with a happiness and grace that's really unusual and wonderful.

But there's one thing he takes very seriously: His toys.

Liam tends to fixate on one specific toy at a time, and when he's made his selection, he plays with that toy every day. Right now, his toy looks like this.

Liam the pug and his favorite toy

It's a scientist person wrapped up in a snake, with his head and feet sticking out. Liam thinks this is the best toy ever made. He throws it in the air, he buries it in blankets and shakes it out, he chews on it until it squeaks for hours and he runs after it endlessly in games of fetch. He loves this toy.

And he is very protective of this toy. He chases all other animals away from this thing, which is a problem, as he sometimes leaves it in the middle of the room. If the other animals walk by it, he runs over to scoot them away from what he considers precious.

Which means I've been getting a lot of looks from the Fun Police these days.

Sinead the Boston terrier as fun police

Sinead doesn't like this kind of chaos in the household, but she knows she's too small to fix it herself. So lately, she's been asking me to pick up the toy and move it. When I look down, I see this little stern face staring up at me.


Do your dogs take play very seriously? Leave me a note in the comments and tell me all about it. Love to hear your stories!

And don't forget to join the hop this week, as hosted by BlogPaws. Good stuff this week!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Cat toy review: Magneticat

Popoki the cat with the Magneticat toy

Some cats love to run and jump when they play. Other cats like to take things slow and easy. These cats like to play, for sure. But they don't like things to get too crazy. Popoki is one of those mellow-at-play cats, and this week, I'd love to tell you a little more about a particular toy she really seems to like.

**This point has an affiliate link, which means I'll get a little credit for each purchase made from this blog.**

This JW Pet Company Magneticat Cat Toy comes in three pieces. There's a flat, sturdy base, a yellow swing arm and a dangling bug. There's a tiny magnet in the bug, and there's a magnet inside the base. The magnets work to repel one another, which means the bug tries to stay away from the base. But the sturdy base means the bug can't move too far away.

Popoki playing with her toy

It doesn't take much pressure to get that bug to move. One little tap does the trick. And the action of the magnets will keep the bug moving for quite awhile. The closer together the magnets get, the more erratic the bug's movements become.

Lazy cats like Popoki like to set the little bug to moving, and then they like to watch it settle down closer to the magnet. She likes to sit close to the bug and give it a tap every few moments. She doesn't try to pull the bug off the toy and she doesn't pounce on it. She just watches it.

Some reviewers of these toys claim that the manufacturer didn't make things sturdy enough. Their cats pulled the toys off the strings and ran off with them. I can see how that might be a problem for some active cats. But for our lazy kids, this is a wonderful option.

Popoki the cat with her toy

Popoki plays with this toy for about an hour each day, and she has done so for about 2 weeks. She doesn't seem to tire of this little game. To her, this is a perfect little toy. If you have a similar cat with a mellow play style, it might be ideal for you too.


Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link, so each purchase made due to a click from this entry makes me a tiny bit of money. I wasn't sent a copy of this toy. I bought it myself, and I am reviewing it because I like it so much.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Cats at 1 year old: The kitten stuff isn't done

Fergus the kitten is 1 year old

This little Siamese cat turned a whopping 1 year old this weekend. Okay, okay. To be honest, there's a little bit of guesswork involved in discovering his age. When I do the math about when he came to me and how old he was estimated to be when he arrived, I discover that he was born near the beginning of the month of April. For convenience sake, I'll say he was born April 1st. But that's very much an estimation.

But celebrate it I shall, because each passing month makes Fergus a much more lovely cat to live with.

When Fergus was a bit smaller, he had an endless amount of energy. Play sessions with wand toys would last for hours, and he still had energy left with which to torment my resident cats. He'd sleep for a bit at night, but I'd hear him running and running through the house at random times too.

Now, Fergus tires a little easier. And he just doesn't seem as interested in getting into mischief, as he has a bit of sleeping to do.

Does that mean we're out of the woods? Heck, no. In my experience, cats don't really settle until age 3 years. So we have some time to get through. But I'm happy to give this guy all the time he needs. He's part of the family, after all.

Fergus the cat eating grass

We celebrated the birthday with quite a few toys and more than enough treats, but this new batch of cat grass seemed to bring Fergus the greatest amount of joy. He nibbled and nibbled and nibbled at the stuff, and when he didn't feel like eating, he batted those grass fronds to and fro.

I'm happy that Fergus enjoys his salad. Cat grass like this is a natural remedy for hairballs, and despite my brushings, that's something Fergus is prone to. So the more grass he eats, the better.

He did take time away from his salad to share his mug for the kitties blue at The Cat On My Head. I think he did a nice job, don't you?

Fergus the kitten eating grass

Share some birthday wishes in the comments, won't you? And do be sure to visit some of the other blogs in the hop. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What does a cat rodent ulcer look like when it's new?

Maggie the cat looking out the window

I talk about cat rodent ulcers quite a bit on this blog, mainly because Maggie gets them frequently and has done so for all of her life. But it strikes me that I typically talk about these sores when they're in a late stage of development. When her ulcers are open and a little bloody, that's when they appear on the blog.

But in reality, many of Maggie's ulcers never erupt into painful, bloody sores. Much more frequently, she has a very mild form of ulcer that is--I've been told--not very painful. And with the right therapy, I can keep those sores from getting worse.

Maggie has another one of these issues now, so I thought I might show you what it looks like. Here she is in closeup. Look at her lower lip here.

Maggie the cat in closeup

See how half of her lower lip is white? Now, look closely at that white part. There's a tiny bit of black here. That's the ulcer.

Rodent ulcers are caused by an overactive immune system. And they respond as do most immune system problems with swelling. Maggie's little black lower lip is puffy in just one spot, so I can see it on the bottom of her face, peeping out through her fur.

Maggie's lip can stay in this phase for weeks. When they appear, an injection of Depo-Medrol, which is a steroid medication, can help to take the swelling down again.

Maggie has that vaccine quarterly as a preventive measure, but she often gets ulcers like this the week or so before her injection is due. Within a day or so of having that injection, the swelling goes back down.

In acute stages, ulcers like this are spectacularly bloody. Maggie has bled all over her fur, her food bowls and me when an ulcer has gone wrong. And those open lesions can cause scarring--and some have tied that scarred skin to cancer.

So spotting an ulcer when it's early and new is pretty vital, even if seeing it is a little hard.

Rodent ulcer closeup

I look for lips that are so puffy that they shine, like this. Lips shouldn't be shiny. And when I see it, off to the vet we go.

I hope this helps some of you out there who are also dealing with rodent ulcers. There are plenty of ways to treat them, in addition to Depo-Medrol, but you have to know what they are in order to get your cats the therapies that are needed.

If you're using another therapy with your cat, I'd love to know about it. Drop me a note in the comments, okay?

And if you want to see what the next phase of these ulcers look like, see this example of a top-lip ulcer, and this example of a middle-of-the-mouth lesion. Both look pretty scary, but both healed just fine. If you're dealing with this, there is hope!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Dog book review: Loyal by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

Liam the pug with his book

Spring is here in Oregon, and that means the dogs and I are spending a lot of time inside, in order to stay out of the rain. This week, we've been keeping ourselves entertained with an amazing book called Loyal: 38 Inspiring Tales of Bravery, Heroism and the Devotion of Dogs, written by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh. I was sent a copy of this book in return for my honest review, and I was so glad to have it on hand this week. I liked it much more than I ever expected to.

Many books about dogs are unintentionally sad. I have lost count of the number of dog books I've read that outline a person's amazing connection with a dog that dies before the book is over. I sometimes resist the urge to read books about dogs simply because I can't stand the heartbreak.

This book is different. The author focuses on stories about dogs that have done something really extraordinary for the people that they love. These are dogs that serve, and I'm happy to say that most of the dogs discussed in this book were alive and well when their little snippet stories were through. That means, you can read them and feel mainly joy and respect for our connection with dogs, not sadness about the short length of time these guys live.

Liam the pug with his book

Each story is relatively short. Liam here is posing with a story about Xander the Oregon pug, and that text on the right of the book contains the full story about Xander. So these are short little snapshots.

I found myself picking up the book at random times throughout the day, when I had 10 minutes and needed a pick-me-up. Taking in one quick story gave me a little feel-good boost when I needed it. In my opinion, that's the best way to consume this book. Sitting down and reading too many at once can make the stories blur together. Reading them individually, with time between, helps each story to stay distinct.

Liam the pug with his book

My only wish is that the author had chosen a few more small dogs to highlight in her book. The vast majority of dogs that get a mention here are large, with Labradors and German shepherds dominating the coverage. I know these are the breeds of dogs most often chosen for police work and therapy work, so in a way, it makes sense that they would be overrepresented. But as a person who loves small dogs, and who thinks small dogs get a ton of flak from people who think they are foo-foo creatures who can't be trained, I wanted to see more of their small faces. Maybe we'll have a sequel?

That minor issue aside, I seriously loved this book, and I encourage you to purchase it, either as a gift or just for yourself. The link I included here will take you right to National Geographic, the publisher of this book. If you'd like to find out more about what other readers thought of it, you can check the book out on Goodreads too.

Happy reading!

Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of this book in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Looking for more content about awesome pets? Check out this blog hop. You'll love it!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How can you make a deaf dog come when called?

Liam the pug listening

Liam the pug can no longer hear routine, everyday sounds. He can sometimes hear very high, very loud sounds. But that's rare. For all intents and purposes, this little pug is deaf.

Together, Liam and I are adjusting to his deafness. And as part of that adjustment, we're working on transferring his knowledge of commands from a verbal to a visual format. That means he needs to be able to perform on hand signals alone, not vocal controls.

Many of these transitions are easy to make. But there's one that's very important, and very hard to get right. That command: Come here.

This is a command I could once yell at Liam over great distances, and he'd come running and running back to me wherever I was. Now, he can't hear me when I call.

We've settled on a command that looks a little like waving. I hold my hands by my knees, with my knuckles facing Liam, and I draw my hands toward my body in one big gesture. And he comes.

But that only works when he can see me.

Enter the helper.

Sinead the Boston terrier listening to commands

Sinead the Boston terrier is 100 percent accurate on a recall. Whenever I call her, she comes right over. And typically, she comes over just as fast as she can when she hears the command.

Liam may not be able to hear me call the dogs in from the yard, but he can see Sinead running to the door. He always watches her carefully (as he is doing in this photo) for cues. If I ask her to come into the house and he sees her running, he comes along as well.

Liam and Sinead listening

The other helpful command to reinforce with both dogs is watch me. This command forces your dog to look you in the eyes, despite whatever else might be happening in the area. I've always used visual cues for this particular command (I move my hands from the ground to my eyes), so both the dogs know what it means if I say nothing at all.

Lately, hubby and I have been asking the dogs to watch us on a regular basis. If the dogs are in the habit of checking in with a glance every now and then, they're less likely to run away and need a call back.

We have a lot of work left to do with Liam, but thankfully, he loves to learn. And he's a very quick study. With a little patience and persistence, I'm sure we'll be able to communicate beautifully, even if he can't hear what I'm saying.

Any of you dealing with deaf pets? If you have tips you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them. Drop me a note in the comments, won't you?