Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Little shy dogs at big picnics: Great training opportunities

Sinead the Boston terrier at a picnic

Dogs and picnics are made for one another. People almost always spill food when they're eating outdoors, and dogs make wonderful cleanup crew members. And, dogs make for wonderful conversation starters, which can be a real boon when the party is big and the guests don't know one another well.

On Memorial Day, we were invited to a lovely celebration at a friend's farm. This friend is a certified animal lover--she even has horses and goats on her farm--so we knew there would be plenty of other dogs in attendance. I thought it would be a good opportunity to observe Sinead and see if her newfound confidence would be persistent.

In order to help ensure that Sinead enjoyed this picnic and didn't backslide on her training, I had a few ground rules. They included:
  1. Slow introduction to the space. When we first arrived, I kept Sinead up off the ground and didn't let her interact with other dogs or small children. She was nervous and needed to get the lay of the land. Only when she seemed comfortable did I up the challenge line by encouraging her to walk, explore and interact. 
  2. Full disclosure. Anyone who wanted to meet Sinead was warned that she was shy and that she might not enjoy a greeting. People who wanted to help me train and who were willing to go slowly were rewarded with some good interactions. But there were some people who just wanted to pet a happy dog quickly. I directed them to some of the other dogs who might be more amenable to that.
  3. No off leash work. Many dogs enjoy running in packs at big parties. But shy dogs can get overwhelmed and bolt. For Sinead's safety, she needed to stick close at all times. So she stayed on the leash. 
  4. Offer frequent breaks. Sinead was encouraged to walk with me to an open field and to the car a few times. That let her move out of the crucible of the party to catch her breath from time to time, so she didn't get overwhelmed.
  5. Leave on a high note. I want Sinead to continue to think of public spaces as safe spaces. That meant we had to leave before she had a bad experience caused by exhaustion, heat or just plain hunger. So we dashed home a little earlier than we might otherwise. 
She wasn't entirely comfortable with four feet on the floor, as is typical when she's in unusual situations, so she observed much of the celebration from the comfort of hubby's lap.

Sinead the Boston terrier in her dress

But she did allow quite a few strangers to pet her. She wouldn't accept any treats from these strangers, but she did accept gentle scratches and pats from many people she'd never met before. And she managed to muster up the confidence to walk through a crowd of people on her way out to the fields to do a little running.

A few months ago, she wouldn't have felt confident enough to walk among strangers. She worries about being stepped on, petted or picked up when she's in a crowd. But now that I've taken her through many crowds and she's had several experiences in which nothing at all happened when she was with other people, she feels more confident about her ability to walk unmolested.

And she also managed to completely ignore this guy.

Black lab with frisbee

This sweet lab mix absolutely lives to play fetch, and he's relentless about asking for repeat throws. Notice that he has his toy pinned beneath his paw, and he is applying pressure to hubby's toes, to remind hubby to throw that toy.

Remember: Sinead was sitting on hubby's lap. And yet, she didn't bark or growl at this dog when he came back with the toy for another throw. She calmly accepted his presence. Again: This is another first.

Sinead is still a very shy dog, and we still have training challenges ahead of us. But she's made amazing progress this summer, and she's actually beginning to enjoy all of the public outings she's encouraged to attend with my supervision. I can't wait to see what she does next.

Anyone have shy dog tips to share? I'd love to hear them. Shoot me a note in the comments!

And be sure to join in the hop, as hosted by BlogPaws. Good stuff this week!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Cat trees: What do you look for?

Fergus the kitten on top of his cat tree

Imagine for a moment that you live with a cat that is constantly climbing on your furniture, your mantle piece, your plants and your body. This is a cat that likes to think vertically. And this is a cat that is looking for ways to satisfy a need for height in a house that just isn't built with kitties in mind.

What could help? A cat tree.

Cat trees are made to help curious felines climb up and down with ease. And, they're made to help cats satisfy a need to sharpen their claws, so they don't use your furniture like scratching posts. If designed in the right way, a cat tree can become your cat's very favorite thing.

But that's the issue: The design must be perfect.

Fergus the Siamese on his cat tree

Over the weekend, I visited something like 5 different pet shops to find this cat tree for Fergus. In my mind, this is the very best tree money can buy. And here's what I was looking for when I shopped:
  1. Multiple levels for cat naps. Fergus is a restless sleeper, and he often likes to change position after sleeping for only a few moments. I wanted a tree that had several different sleeping options, including a private cubby, so he could sleep in a spot that seemed best for him at the time. 
  2. A high platform. Height is very important to Fergus, as evidenced by the large amount of time he spends on the fireplace mantle. The ideal tree for him would have a high lookout, so he could survey his lands. 
  3. Poles that could be covered in sisal. Carpet is a good material for scratching claws, but sisal is even better. I wanted a tree that had very long, sturdy posts that I could cover with sisal in time, so Fergus could use those surfaces when he chose to do so. 
  4. Weight and heft. Fergus is athletic, and he enjoys jumping from place to place. His tree had to be heavy, so he could leap onto and off of it without it tipping over. That cubby in the bottom gives this tree heft, so it's safe for leaping. 

Fergus the cat at play

This is by no means an exhaustive shopping list. What Fergus needs in a cat tree could be quite different from what your cat needs.

The point I'm making here is that it pays to watch your cat's play style very closely and think hard about what features your cat might enjoy in a cat tree. Does your cat climb? Jump? Sleep? Does your cat like to watch out the window? Hide? Spring out and attack?

Cat trees can be expensive, and there are hundreds of styles to choose from, so it makes sense to be a smart shopper. And, since these things are bulky, it also makes sense to choose something your cat will actually use. That way, the space you dedicate in your living room to these things won't be wasted.

Does your cat have a tree like this? What does it look like? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Tuxedo markings in dogs and cats: When your pets come in pairs

Maggie the cat with tuxedo markings

Maggie the cat decided to show off her pretty tuxedo markings and bright green eyes on this sunny Sunday morning. And I'm reminded of how she became part of the menagerie, more than 10 years ago.

At the time, I had my very first Boston terrier, and I thought it would be fun to have a matched set of animals with the same coloring. That meant I needed a bicolor cat with only black and white, preferably with white socks and a white chest.

I was sort of musing over the idea, without any real plans to add to my little family, when I was notified that my local animal shelter had one lone kitten that needed a home. Her mother needed spay surgery, but the team couldn't do the surgery until the kitten had a home away from momma's milk bar.

So Maggie came home to stay. She was a wonderful companion to my Boston terrier, and they spent a great deal of cuddly time together. When he left, I had no matched set for years. Until this one came along.

Sinead the Boston terrier

Sinead also has these perfect bicolor markings, so she and Maggie are matching. But, Maggie and Sinead have a fairly complex relationship. Maggie startles easily, and Sinead is often moving fast, so their pacing doesn't quite synch. And, Sinead can be particular about who she cuddles with. She will grudgingly accept a snuggle from Popoki, Fergus and Lucy, but Maggie isn't an accepted partner. I'm not sure why.

But it doesn't much matter. These two do spend quality time playing together, watching for birds through the screen door together and otherwise enjoying life together. And they sure look cute doing it.

I have one more face to share with you for this Sunday Selfie series, as hosted by The Cat On My Head. It's foster cat, Izzy. I shared her story last week, but I know many readers missed it as they were busy unpacking from BlogPaws.

At the time, I had thought that Izzy's lip would improve quickly with the medications I was giving. But I'm sad to say she isn't a ton better.

Izzy the cat in her selfie

Her whiskers and furs are still gorgeous and fluffy. But that lip is still red, sore and very swollen. Izzy remains very cheerful, and she is the most cuddly cat I've ever encountered. She simply can't stop snuggling with hubby and I. But we are worried about what's happening with this lip of hers.

Izzy has another checkup with the clinic team on Tuesday to discuss next steps. Please keep your fingers crossed that we can come to a solution for her.

That's it for my selfies this week. What did you think? Leave me a note in the comments, won't you?

And be sure to check out the other posts in the hop. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cat food review: Nature's Logic canned diet

Jasper the cat with cans of food

Older cats like Jasper here need good nutrition more than they ever did before. The right diet can keep them at the right weight, so they don't deal with discomfort due to degenerative bone diseases. And the right diet can keep their organs healthy, so they can avoid some of the intestinal discomfort that comes with old age.

So I'm always looking for food that will help Jasper. And that's why I was happy when Nature's Logic reached out and asked me to write up a review of their canned cat food. I was given samples to try, in return for my honest opinion about the food. So here we go.

Jasper lying on canned food
The cans make nice pillows, Jasper says.

I was given two types of food to try: One was a sardine-based diet and the other was a duck-and-salmon diet. Both of these foods are remarkably stinky, due to that inclusion of fish. That's a plus when you're feeding an older cat, as some of them don't eat as well as they might. A heavy scent can tempt them to eat, and since this food is already scented, I didn't need to heat it or tinker with it to make it enticing.

The food itself is a pate consistency, which most cats quite enjoy. I added a little water to the food, just to make it easier to lap (and to ensure that Jasper's aging kidneys get all the water they need), but I would imagine that some younger cats wouldn't need that modification.

The duck and salmon food was a huge hit, and Jasper has consistently cleaned his plate when this is the food he's been offered.

Jasper wants more cat food

But the sardine flavor wasn't so popular. It could be that the food was just a little too rich, as he ate some of it but not all of it. Or it could be that Jasper just doesn't love sardines. Much as I keep asking him what drives his preferences, he has yet to answer. So the mystery remains.

Both diets are made with meats that are not sourced from China. And both list meat as the first ingredient. Neither diet includes corn, wheat, rice, soy or potato. And there are no man-made synthetic vitamins, minerals or amino acids included. The company states that it provides "Safe and complete nutrition," and based on what I see in the ingredient list (and what I do not), I agree.

If you'd like to try a little of this food on your own, Nature's Logic has a handy retailer button on the website. I found two stores near my little town that sell it, which makes me believe this should be an easy product to find in your local, independent pet retailer store. But if not, it is available online.

Would your cat eat something like this? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Boston terrier makes a big splash at Willamette Humane Society event

Sinead at the Food Truck Frenzy

Last week, Sinead the Boston terrier should have been strutting her stuff on the red carpet at Blog Paws in Myrtle Beach. But her mother's broken leg and need for a slower recovery kept her home. I was determined to ensure that my leg didn't keep Sinead from the training she needs, so I looked for alternate activities we could handle instead.

Enter Willamette Humane Society.

The shelter holds an annual food truck event, open to humans and canines. The big dog-walking field at the shelter is set up with 10 or so food trucks, along with several picnic tables and a few shady canopies. People from all over the Salem area come to check out the food, mingle with the dogs and have a great time.

This is just the sort of event I try to attend with Sinead. She spends time socializing with friendly people and dogs, and that can help her to combat her endless shyness.

And, of course, I'm there to whisper in her ear and boost her confidence.

Sinead the Boston terrier and her mother

This year was an amazing year for Sinead. Instead of cowering in my arms, she insisted on walking with all four feet on the ground. She sniffed a few dog butts, she accepted a few cookies from humans and she even did a little posing for photographers.

A year ago, I wouldn't have thought this was possible. Sinead has always been a shrinking violet in crowds. But some sort of switch has been thrown in her mind, and she's found her inner confidence. All of that training, all of those treats and all of the encouragement is paying off.

Sinead was still a little on the aloof side, particularly with people who wanted to pet her, so there's more work to be done. You might see us working at the Salem Saturday Market, at the Willamette Humane Society Willamutt Strut or at Minto Island Park this summer. If you do, come and say hello! We gratefully accept training help.

Even though we missed BlogPaws this year, we're still fans. And that's why we almost always join in the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop. You should, too! It's easy and fun!

But before you do, leave me a note and let me know you were here, okay?

And special favor: I have a foster cat from Willamette Humane Society right now that will need a home soon. Can you share her story? Thanks!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Shelter cat stories: Meet Izzy and her ulcers

Izzy the shelter cat

The shelter can be a stressful place for a cat, especially when that cat isn't feeling all that healthy. Cats with delicate immune systems can have a particularly difficult time in the shelter environment, because their out-of-whack bodies can go into attack mode due to the ongoing stress.

Take Izzy here. This girl seems to have some kind of history of immune system disorders, and while she's been in the shelter, she's been dealing with a very nasty rodent ulcer (much like those I've seen on Maggie) that just doesn't seem to be healing.

So she's here at the menagerie for a bit, taking a break from the stress of the shelter and using medications to heal that lip.

Izzy the cat in manspreading mode

Izzy has been here for just a few short days, so I don't know a lot about her yet. I do know that she seems awfully affectionate and bright. She chirps and cheeps whenever she sees me, and she runs to the door when she knows I'm going to leave, in order to entice me to stay.

Izzy spends a lot of time grooming, and I can't tell if that's due to some kind of underlying itchiness or just her fastidious nature. But she does manage to keep her Maine Coon fur absolutely free of any kind of debris. She could teach Lucy a thing or two about how to stay clean.

And, Izzy has a special feature. She's a polydactyl girl.

Izzy the cat has extra toes

She has five toes on each back foot, and something like eight or nine toes on each front foot. Her feet are absolutely massive due to the combination of extra toes and extra fur. I don't even know where to look!

Sweet Izzy will be here until her lip improves and the medical team can come up with a maintenance program to keep flares like this from happening again. I'm not sure how long that will take, given the severity of her lip. But I'm happy to give her all the space she needs in order to heal.

Foster cat fat lip

When she is better, she will need a home that is dedicated to any ongoing medical care she might require to keep her healthy. I'd love to start networking for her now on behalf of Willamette Humane Society. If you know of anyone who might want a young Maine Coon girl with a tough past, let me know!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Summertime family selfies: Dogs and cats getting along

Popoki the cat on the deck

Popoki the cat loves a good leash walk, especially when the weather is fine. Now that we're routinely experiencing days above 80 degrees, she's spending a lot more time out on the deck with her people and a few of her pet companions.

Leashes make those visits possible. And for those of you who have never used a leash with a cat before, there are good reasons to try them out.

Leashes allow cats that are accustomed to (and prefer) living indoors to experience the outdoors in a safe and supervised way. Popoki here can't be footloose and fancy free without a leash because she really has no idea how to navigate the territory. And since she's declawed, she could get into a great deal of danger if she encountered another animal as she walked around the neighborhood. She has no weaponry.

While she's on a leash, I can make sure she doesn't wander away. And I can make sure that nothing gets close enough to her to harm her. And that's good news indeed.

Popoki does have many other animals that are safe that she visits with while on her leash. Like this guy.

Liam the pug on the deck

Liam considers himself a sort of cat protector, and he pays close attention to Popoki when she's on her leash in the yard. He stays close at hand to make sure she is comfortable, and he does a lot of sniffing of her breath and her fur, just to make sure she doesn't get into anything.

In the background, Jasper is doing a little lounging in his favorite spot. At one point, I had to worry about whether Jasper would feel territorial and aggressive about Popoki being on his deck, and I had to use a lot of commands to keep these two cats apart. But now, they seem slightly more comfortable with one another.

Popoki and Jasper on the deck

This is an amazing development, and it's quite good for Popoki. She is very afraid of other cats, and it's sometimes hard to provide her with positive cat experiences. By using her leash, I can introduce her to friendly cats at a distance, and that might help her to accept other cats at some point down the line.

Popoki had such a great time that she thought she'd cap off the evening with a selfie, to share with our friends at The Cat On My Head. I think she did a fine job. Don't you?

Popoki the cat poses for her selfie

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think, won't you?

And do join in the hop!

It's great fun.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dog chew toy dangers: Watch out for cracked teeth!

Sinead the Boston terrier before her dental

Sinead has a very powerful Boston terrier jaw. She likes nothing better than to spend the evening chewing and chewing and chewing on some kind of hard toy. And in the past, I thought this chewing action was pretty darn good for her. I even wrote blog posts about it.

But this week's trip to the dentist changed my mind about hard chews. And I thought I might share what I learned.

It all started when Sinead and I sat down for a little selfie photography session. I thought it might be fun to show my human face in the Sunday Selfies series, so I grabbed the little dog and my phone and we sat down for a few snaps.

Boston terrier and her mother

There are a couple interesting things going on here. First, Sinead is leaning pretty far away from my face (rather than into it, as she often does). For some reason, she didn't want me near her face.

And, I really didn't want to be near her face, either. This dog had some breath that would absolutely kill you.

But after this little photo shoot, I had do to some investigating. And what I saw was a little upsetting.

Sinead's teeth were relatively free of tarter, which isn't surprising due to her nightly dance with the toothbrush. But two of her very back teeth were discolored, and one looked more than a little loose.

My mind immediately flashed to one of Sinead's very favorite dog toys. It's hard, and it's a favorite chew object of hers (as you can see). But again: It's really HARD. And on more than one occasion, Sinead's chew sessions ended with blood.

Sinead has been chewing on this toy

Sinead had a formal, sedated appointment with her veterinarian today. And at the end of this long day, she has three fewer molars (and a whole lot of pain). She's on a soft-food diet for the next several days, and she'll need to take both pain medications and antibiotics for a few days too.

Now, Sinead's mouth has poor tooth-to-tooth alignment, due to her pushed-in face. So it's possible that her rotting teeth and torn roots were due to a condition she had at birth. But it's much more likely that toys like this, which she puts back in her molars to chew, caused this particular problem. So all of these hard toys must go.

This isn't a problem that all dogs face. But dog who do chew hard like this, and who have ever left blood behind on a toy they chew, should be examined by a veterinarian. A doctor can help you understand if the toys are to blame or if there's something else happening. And a doctor can help you make a smart decisions about the toys your dog might (or might not) have access to in the future.

As for Sinead, she'll be healing up with her loving peeps by her side. And while she heals, I'll be tossing all these toys aside!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Knitting projects for cats: My staycation project

Fergus the kitten sitting on a blue blanket in the window

Most cats can't resist an open window. But few windowsills are made with cat needs in mind. My sills, for example, are narrow and hard. They're tough for beefy kitties like Fergus to perch on, and they're not all that comfortable to stay on for long periods of time.

Even so, Fergus spends at least an hour on this exact sill each day. And often, I see him shifting his weight back and forth in order to get comfortable.

Enter: Beginner knitting!

I was looking for seated hobbies to enjoy in the weeks after I broke my leg, and a friend suggested knitting. I was quite the knitter when I was younger, but I haven't done it for years. I got a beginning knitter's book with a few simple patterns, and I thought, why not make something easy and fun for Fergus?

This was my first attempt at a window seat cover.

Fergus in the window seat

I like the color, and I like the waffle weave of the knit. But the blanket is too wide for the sill, which means Fergus tends to fall off the window when he's sleeping. And the yarn I used isn't very thick, so the blanket doesn't provide much cushion.

I'm on vacation all this week, as I had planned to go to BlogPaws and scheduled the time off. But, my leg is keeping me from a long trip and long trek through an exhibit hall, so I decided to pick up my knitting again and try my hand at a new window cover.

This time, I'm using a much thicker yarn, so the cushion will be soft and plump. And I'm making the piece a lot narrower, so it will fit on the sill.

Knitting with dogs

I'm also using a basic knit pattern, so this project will move a little quicker.

The dogs are doing a nice job of supervising me as I work. They seem to find the click-clack of the needles pretty darn soothing. And sometimes, they grow so comfortable while I knit that they run the risk of becoming part of the finished project. See what I mean?

Sinead the Boston terrier with yarn on her head

I'm so sorry to miss out on all the fun at BlogPaws. Sinead and I had such a good time last year. But fear not: We'll be back in 2018.

In the interim, I'll be here knitting. What do you think of this project? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know.

And be sure to join in the BlogPaws hop this week! I'm sure there will be some exciting posts in the mix you won't want to miss.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cat product review: Contempocat stairs for cats

Popoki the cat on her stairs

First off: Don't let this grumpy cat face fool you. This isn't a product review in which either me or my cat are going to complain about something. Popoki has a naturally grumpy face, so most of the time, she just looks like this.

But you'll notice that she's sitting on something. And on the wall behind her are more things she could be sitting on.

Those things are cat stairs from Contempocat. And that's what we're reviewing today. Popoki has been using these stairs for several months now, so I feel like I have a great deal of data about what they are, how they work and how durable they are. So I thought I'd share.

And: I am not being compensated in any way for this review. I just like these stairs (and I think more cats should have stairs), so that's what is driving this review.

Let's get started.

Popoki the cat on her stairs

When I first started shopping for stairs for Popoki, I was looking for something that had some kind of ridge or grip to it. Popoki's previous people put her through a front declaw mutilation when she was about 6 months old, and as a result, she struggles to jump on slick surfaces. She can't grip with her toes, so she slides right off of most slick things.

Finding stairs with a grip was surprisingly difficult. But these Contempocat stairs were a good fit. You can see those ridges cut into the wood in the stair above Popoki's head. Each stair has ridges like this, which give Popoki's broken toes something to hold onto when she jumps. And since she can feel those ridges when she stands on the stairs, she feels comfortable that the space isn't slick. That makes her more likely to use the stairs.

Popoki the cat standing on her stairs

Each stair comes as a separate element, so they can be placed at whatever height and whatever distance the person sees fit. That was a bonus for me, as I wanted Popoki to be able to stand on her stairs like this, which she often does when she's playing with her toys. Some of the other stairs I looked at came at predetermined widths and distances, which wouldn't allow her this kind of freedom.

Popoki is also a pretty darn big cat, and she needed stairs that had enough width to allow her to sit on them and stand on them without falling off. I wanted the stairs to be more than just a method in which to get up and down. If the stairs were big enough, I thought she might use them like a series of little beds or play extenders.

Each stair in this system is 9.5 inches by 8.5 inches. That's more than enough space for this big cat.

Popoki the cat

Finally, this is a product made in the United States by a very small, family-owned company. I like supporting a company like this. And I appreciate the company's dedication to the craft. This is a wonderfully designed little set of stairs. I only wish Popoki needed more of them so I could order again!

If you're interested in getting steps just like Popoki's, the link is here. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Springtime cat selfie roundup: All 5 cats participate

Fergus the Siamese cat in front of the window

All of the cats are restless today. It could be due to the strange Oregon weather we're having, in which spring seems to arrive and then recede minute by minute. It could be the return of our last foster cat (sweet Pumpkin Spice) to the shelter, which makes the cats feel a little unsettled. Or it could be that all the cats know I'm on PTO this week, and they can't wait to spend a ton of focused time with me.

Regardless of the reason, all the cats seemed eager to hang out with me and my camera. So everyone gets to be in today's Sunday Selfie series, as hosted by The Cat On My Head.

Fergus kicked things off, showing his pretty blue eyes contrasted by the brightness of the window behind him.

And a few feet away, Maggie was resting quietly in her heated bed.

Maggie the cat in her heated bed

Maggie really hates the camera, especially when I have to use the flash, so she often looks a little more wide-eyed than I might like. But, she is having a lovely spring so far. She and Fergus are getting along much better than they have before, and Maggie's been getting at least two focused play sessions with hubby each day. She seems so happy and contented these days.

Speaking of contented, Lucy is looking comfy on the top of her favorite chair.

Lucy the blind cat on her chair

Foster cat Pumpkin Spice was in a guest bedroom on Lucy's floor of the house, and when Pumpkin headed back to the shelter on Thursday, Lucy seemed a little upset. She spent some time walking through that guest room, crying ever so softly. I think she wondered what happened to that little cat she never quite got to meet.

Lucy headed downstairs because she wasn't quite able to make friends with Fergus, and she seemed to want time alone. But this reaction to Pumpkin is interesting. It could be that she's ready to come back upstairs with Maggie and Fergus. It's something we're considering.

Popoki has been spending time in her catio, now that the weather is warmer, and she's in a silly mood. Getting out in the sunshine makes her oh-so happy, and she unleashes her kitten crazies when the door is open and the warmth is streaming in. She stops her play sessions for some chin scratches, but she's otherwise a whirlwind of energy in the spring. It's so fun to see.

On the opposite side of the energy spectrum: Jasper.

Jasper the cat on his deck

This sweet old man is running low on energy these days. He's been spending quite a bit of time in his snuggly beds, and I haven't seen him leave the back yard in weeks. He still enjoys his life, and it's not unusual for me to look up from my work and see him sprawled on his back on the deck, but my heart tells me his time on this earth is running a little short. He's very old, and he several health challenges we can't get 100 percent under control. For now, our top job is to love him. But I sense he won't be with us at this time next year.

This is the crew at the Menagerie as it stands now. What do you think of these photos? Leave me a note and let me know.

And do me a favor: Pumpkin is *still* at the shelter with no one to love her. Could you share her story? She really needs a home.

And don't forget to join in the hop! You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Thankful cat Thursday: Happy for the harmony

Two cats in a windowsill

At first glance, this looks like a pretty simple photo of two cats in a windowsill. In reality, this is a photo that was 1 year in the making. And this Thankful Thursday, I'm happy to explain what happened.

Fergus, the little (not so little now, I suppose) Siamese on the left here came into this household as a bottle baby about a year ago. Since he was a bottle baby, he doesn't have excellent cat-to-cat manners. In fact, he's sometimes pushy and rude. He doesn't know better, but he can be overwhelming to the cats he lives with.

Maggie, the tuxedo on the right, has lived with Fergus since he came home. Unlike the other cats in this household, including shy cat Popoki and blind cat Lucy, Maggie is extraordinarily patient. She let Fergus crawl on her and pounce on her and attack her with very few complaints. She didn't overcorrect him, and she didn't run in fear from him. She seemed to forgive him because he was a kitten.

All of her hard work is paying off.

Fergus still relapses from time to time and attacks my Maggie in play. She continues to give him reminders about what means play and what means cuddle. And she rewards him with purrs and proximity when he's gentle and quiet.

The result is a much gentler Fergus who has better cat skills he might put to good use in the future. And, he is just starting to share space with his dear sister without either cat feeling the need to run away or fight.

This Thankful Thursday, I recognize the patience of my older cat. Her hard work is making my cat a better cat. Without her help, I know we wouldn't be here.

Do you have a trainer cat in your household? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know. And be sure to join in the blog hop, as sponsored by Brian's Home. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Relaxed or vulnerable? What do pet sleeping positions mean?

Popoki the cat sleeping on her back

Cats and dogs sleep in all sorts of crazy positions. But the one that seems to perplex the most people (as determined by the number of people who search for answers about this sleeping preference) involves sleeping back down and belly up. Many, many people wonder why in the world pets would sleep like this and what it means if a pet sleeps this way.

The short answer, in my humble opinion, has to do with comfort. Our pets aren't crazy enough to do things that don't feel good on their little bodies. If they choose to sleep in a specific way, it's because they feel good sleeping like that. Mystery solved.

But there are a few other theories out there.

Sinead the boston terrier sleeping belly up

In the wild, the theory goes, dogs wouldn't sleep with their bellies exposed like this. It would be all too easy for a predator to sneak in and cause a great deal of damage if a dog slept like this for an extended period of time. People who follow this line of thinking say a dog is very trusting of you and your home if that dog will sleep with feet in the air. It's a sign of trust.

Fergus the Siamese falling out of his bed

In the cat world, some believe it has to do with dominance. Cats who sleep with feet up or feet out are claiming a lot more space, so they only really sleep like this if they feel confident that they are in charge of the space in which they're sleeping. Insecure cats who fight might stay in a ball, while confident cats who know they're in charge can spread out.

I'm not sure what the truth is. All of these theories seem at least somewhat plausible to me. But I do know that both my dogs and my cats look adorable when they stretch out while sleeping. And if they do so because of something great I'm doing, I'd better keep up the good work to keep the cuteness flowing!

Do you have any opinions about these crazy pet sleeping positions? Drop me a line in the comments! Love to hear your thoughts.

And remember to join the blog hop as hosted by BlogPaws. You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Catios for cats and plants!

Popoki the cat in her catio

When I first heard about the catio concept, I was skeptical. I couldn't understand why a cat would need a screened-in spot to experience the great outdoors. And I had no idea how people could incorporate a dedicated cat space onto their houses without the whole thing looking tacky.

Since then, my opinions about catios have evolved. In fact, it's safe to say that I am a gigantic catio fan.

Popoki has thrived with the addition of her catio. She uses it for sunbathing, for bird watching and for sleeping. She spends at least 2 hours of every sunny day enjoying the outdoor space my hubby made for her. I firmly believe her life is better because of this space.

And now, we're using the catio to do even more.

Lemon plant

My leg still isn't healed up enough to allow for full-scale gardening. Crouching and digging for hours just isn't possible when your ankle doesn't bend as far as it should. But, I can and do grow a few choice crops in containers, including Meyer lemons and strawberries.

These two plants have beautiful flowers and absolutely wonderful fruit. I think so, and so do the squirrels that live in my yard. If I had this plant in the yard, the fruit would be picked clean long before I had a chance to eat it.

Enter the catio.

My catio has a screened-in top section, so it gets full, unshaded light for much of the day. That makes it an ideal spot for plants that need full sun. And the screen keeps the squirrels and birds away from the crops.

Popoki the cat and her strawberries

Popoki doesn't mind sharing her space with these plants. In fact, she seems to enjoy having them out there. They provide her with a little shade during some hot times of day, and they provide her with hiding spaces she likes to use while birdwatching.

I'll be curious to see if she eats my strawberries, but for now, she seems uninterested in eating anything out there. She just likes to be near the greenery.

I'll keep you posted on the crop situation, so check back for more photos! But before you go, are you growing any crops in your summer garden? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Shelter cat respite: Giving an adult cat a break from shelter life

Pumpkin Spice the cat

Does this face look familiar to you? It might, if you're an avid reader of this blog. Pretty tabby kitty here is Pumpkin Spice, and she played a key role in a Shelter Cat Stories blog I did a few weeks back. She's been parked in my guest bedroom for a day or two now. And if you've ever wanted to help a shelter cat before, but you weren't quite sure how to get started, we may have some ideas for you.

Pumpkin is a relatively young cat, and like a lot of shelter cats, she came into the system with some health problems. She spent quite a bit of time trying to get healthy, and that means she has spent quite a bit of time in kennels and cages being poked and prodded by humans.

Pumpkin Spice cat with toys

Like many young cats, Pumpkin has a ton of energy. She loves to run and romp and play, and that's really hard to do in a kennel environment. So she got frustrated, and she started making a few bad choices.

Pumpkin really can't take the blame here, and nor can the shelter. This is just an unfortunate situation in which cat health, shelter systems and cat behaviors collide. But volunteers like me can help.

Pumpkin is here on a respite from the shelter. She's playing with toys, stretching her little legs, eating her food, sleeping in comfy beds and just taking things easy. She's remembering what it's like to be a cat.

And I am assessing what this former stray cat would be like in an average home. I've learned that Pumpkin is afraid of dogs, for example. And I've learned that she's very curious about other cats, including Lucy. Look at her peeping through the door!

Pumpkin Spice the cat peering through the door

Pumpkin is a Manx (as you can see), and she's a tiny girl at about 6 pounds. In theory, she should be able to tolerate life in a kennel just fine. She's so little. But clearly, cats like this appreciate time away. And many shelters have respite programs, in which long-timers get to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle and catch their breath. I'm thrilled to be able to do this for Pumpkin. And I hope she gets a home soon.

Pumpkin is still very much an adoptable cat, and I'm hoping that sharing her story here in the blog hop by The Cat On My Head helps to give her some exposure. If you know of anyone who can take in a young, playful, gorgeous little Manx cat and who would be willing to come to Oregon to Willamette Humane Society to pick her up, PLEASE get in touch. And if you can't adopt, do share her story.

And don't forget to join the blog hop! You'll be glad you did.

20170519 update: Adopted! I wish little Pumpkin nothing but happiness in her new home.