Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Stranger danger meets real danger: A dog training challenge

Liam the pug in his bed

Dog training projects never really end. Dogs like Liam here don't always retain the lessons they learned as puppies, and they benefit from refresher courses that help them to build up core skills. And, sometimes dogs like Liam need to learn new things in order to deal with a new challenge. When I brought home my first batch of foster kittens last summer, for example, Liam needed some training on being gentle with very small and fragile creatures. We worked together, and the kittens stayed safe.

But sometimes, things that happen to you as a person expose gaps in your dog's training program. I've been thinking that over a lot lately.

When I fell and broke my leg at the beginning of January, Liam and I were out for a solo walk around the neighborhood. A slipped on the ice and hit the dirt, and after a few moments of shock, I was reduced to simply howling in pain in the middle of the street. I no longer had a tight grip on Liam's leash, and I certainly wasn't able to talk with him or work with him.

Strangers stopped their car to help me, and they came running over to touch me and help me as I screamed and cried. Then, very loud fire trucks and ambulances appeared on the scene, with sirens blazing.

Liam stayed put throughout this entire ordeal. He let the strangers hold his leash and pet him. And he let the fire crew pick him up, take him away from the scene and deliver him safely home. He did quite a bit of howling, and at one point, he tried to jump on the stretcher. But all in all, he was a model canine citizen.

This all could have happened very differently, if I'd been walking this dog.

Sinead the Boston terrier showing some snark

Sinead has always dealt with stranger danger syndrome. New people aren't potential friends. They are potential enemies until they prove themselves otherwise. Sinead is also deeply afraid of sirens, crowds and crying.

If I'd had her on a walk with me, I feel reasonably sure she wouldn't run off when I dropped the leash. But when the sirens came? She would have run.

And if I'd been on the ground screaming, there's no way she would have allowed anyone to come anywhere close to me. Touching me? Forget it. Taking off my shoe to examine the broken leg--which made me scream yet more? She would have gone on the defensive.

I've talked to plenty of dog people since my accident, and most of them say similar things. The dog would have run, barked, howled or bitten. It was a stressful situation. Dogs would have behaved accordingly.

Training your dog for the absolutely unexpected isn't easy. But a situation like this one does pose a few training suggestions. For example, I need to be sure that my dogs are rock solid on a "stay" command, no matter who gives it. That means I probably need to stop people I see on my walks and ask them to give one or both dogs the stay command, and then reward the heck out of the dogs if they comply.

Next, these guys need to meet more good people. I need to get strangers to hand out cheese and other irresistible treats to Sinead so she continues to gain confidence. Right now, I give her treats for tolerating new people. I need to switch that up so other people are the source of all things good.

And finally, we need to work on loud noise tolerance. I'm looking for videos and audio I can play for these dogs from time to time, so they don't spook when they hear it in real life.

How would your dogs handle an issue like this? And how would you offer up training? Love to hear your thoughts. Hit me up in the comments!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Don't bother the napping cat! (Why kitties really do need their beauty sleep)

Maggie the senior cat needs her sleep

Senior cats like Maggie spend the vast majority of their time asleep. In fact, a senior cat sleeps--on average--20 hours per day. That leaves just a few precious hours for all the other things a kitty needs to do in order to get through the day. Tasks like eating, hitting the litter box and grooming all must be crammed into the cat's precious 4 hours of unaccounted time.

So cats can get cranky when they are awakened for tasks they don't consider vital. They need that sleep to repair cell damage, digest their dinners, build up new tissues and recharge their minds. Those are tasks that happen deep in restorative sleep (when kitties tend to bend and twitch as they sleep), and it takes time to hit that level of sleep.

So, in general, it's best to let a sleeping senior cat keep on sleeping. Even if you really want that cat to interact with you. But sometimes, you simply must wake the little one up for something important.

You know, like cat photography.

Maggie, for example, needed to open up her peepers and participate in the Sunday Selfie blog hop, as hosted by The Cat On My Head. But when I told her she needed to wake up, she had other ideas.

Looks like she is thinking about writing a letter to express her displeasure.

Maggie the cat with her pencil

If she only had thumbs. This whole thing would be a lot easier. Or paper. It's hard to write a letter without paper. But she was determined to make something happen.

Maggie the cat is trying to write a letter

She almost has it figured out here. Now, she's just trying to figure out what her strongly worded letter should say. And who she should send that letter to. Who might hear her plea?

Maggie the cat drops her pencil

Rats. That lack of thumbs is a bigger problem than she realized. Maybe giving up would be wiser.

Okay, okay. I'm kidding here.

But it's a kidding with a point.

Just because senior cats like to sleep a lot doesn't mean they're not up for a good play session from time to time. Maggie is wonderfully playful in short bursts that last for about 20 minutes. She'll play with anything I dangle in front of her, and she's remarkably quick and agile. Playing with her in the moments she's awake and ready to engage keep her active, limber and healthy. She may not be able to play all day long, but she wants to play. And after a good play session, back to sleep she goes.

But before she goes to nod off, I did manage to get some selfie work in.

Maggie the cat in her selfie

I think she did a good job, don't you? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know.

And be sure to visit the other blogs in the hop!

It's a fun way to see more kitties, engage with cat bloggers and make new friends. Join in!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Balancing fun and safety when shopping for dog toys

Sinead the Boston terrier with her toy

Toys are more than fun for active dogs. A well-chosen dog toy can help a dog burn off excess energy, bond with other animals in the household and hone coordination. For little dogs like Sinead, a day wouldn't be complete without an active play session with one, two or three dog toys.

So, as you can imagine, we have plenty of dog toys. And since I'm still not mobile due to my broken leg, we add new toys all the time. But I've found that not all toys are created equal. And sometimes, the toys my dogs like best aren't suited for their play style.

Consider this little toy of a researcher and his snake. It has several different surfaces for chewing, and it has several different embedded squeakers for added fun. It's a lively little toy for a lively little dog. Sinead can chew it, as she does here, or she can play tug with it or run after it when its thrown.

Sinead the Boston terrier with her toy

It's a sturdy little toy, so I would imagine it will hold up to a great deal of attention before it falls apart. And there are no bits that can be torn off and choked on.

To me, this is an ideal toy. But on the same day, I introduced a new toy that both Sinead and her pug brother like a little better. And this toy isn't safe for them.

Here's the toy. It's a lion's head that's shaped a little like a ball with plenty of bumps (the nose, the ears) that make it ideal for grabbing. It has a very loud squeaker embedded inside, which is wonderfully noisy. And the entire head is covered with messy hair which could be used for tug games.

Lion's head dog toy

Looks pretty great, right? But that hair is a big problem. Liam sat down with this toy for some independent chew work, and like most dogs would, he focused on that hair. He liked the feel of it between his paws and his teeth, and he spent quite a bit of time in rip-and-tear format. Just 15 minutes later, this is what Liam looked like.

Liam the pug ruins his toys

See that fluff in his mouth? Yup, that's lion hair. And it's dangerous for him to ingest this stuff. It's fibrous and tangled, and I can see it working through his intestines and causing a blockage. I could never leave him alone with this toy, and I can't let him play with it as he'd like to even when I was watching. So into the scrap heap it goes.

On this Thankful Thursday, I'm grateful to my younger self. When Liam and Sinead were small, I spent a long time training them to respond to the "drop it" command. That comes in handy when they're working with a toy like this. I give the command, they drop the toy and they get something else as a replacement. That spares me from the task of running after them and trying to grab things from them (which I can't do right now especially).

Have you ever been thankful for your dog's training? Leave me a note in the comments!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Big dog, little bed: How does he choose where to sleep?

Liam the pug in a small dog bed

My husband jokes that there's nowhere for a human to walk in my little writing studio, as every available square inch of floor space is devoted to dog beds and cat beds. He may be exaggerating things for comedic effect, but the truth is that I do have more pet beds than the average person. And while I work hard to find beds that are the right size for my kids, the beds they choose can surprise me.

Take Liam here. He is the largest of the animals I have, and he has a few large pet beds set aside for his use. Even so, he prefers to sleep in this bed.

Liam the pug in a small bed

Technically, this is a dog bed. Originally, I got it for 8-pound Boston terrier Sinead. I thought she'd appreciate a small and cozy bed to sleep in.

But Popoki quickly claimed this bed as her own, and she spends most of her spare time in this bed. So I think of it as a cat bed. And it's covered in cat hair like a cat bed should be.

But Liam doesn't seem to care. He stuffs himself in this little bed and presses his nose up to the edge, to sniff in the cat goodness. I have no idea why he does it, but it's pretty cute.

Liam the pug resting in his cat bed

Do your dogs like to sleep in tight spaces? What about your cats? Leave me a note in the comments and tell me about it. Love to hear your stories.

And be sure to visit the other blogs in this hop, as hosted by BlogPaws. Meet some other bloggers and have fun!

Monday, February 20, 2017

How long can a cat live (and what can you to do help)?

Very old tuxedo cat

Anyone who gets a cat likely wants that cat to live forever. Unfortunately, unless the scientists get cracking on some kind of solution that they've been keeping under wraps for years, that isn't likely to happen. Cats have fixed life spans, just like we do, and no cat can really live forever.

An average cat's lifespan is somewhere between 12 and 18. Some breeds have a history of living much longer, and there are record-holding cats that lived to 30 or more. But I think we can all agree that those are exceptional animals. Most reach the middle teens, and then they leave us.

Jasper the cat in his selfie

Consider Jasper here. This month, he's celebrating his 16th birthday. And he's showing some signs of breakdown. His heart murmur, which he's lived with since he was a tiny kitten, is growing more pronounced. His kidneys are showing signs of decay. He struggles to hop up on laps for kisses. He sleeps a lot.

As his caretakers, hubby and I do what we can to help. We make sure he sees the veterinarian for checkups. We give him quality food. We give him medications when they're prescribed.

But we know his doctor can't make Jasper young again. We know that there are limits to what can be done. So we love him and cuddle him and tell him he is loved. And we prepare for the losses we know are coming in the next few years.

Jasper the cat on his hot tub

While there isn't a lot we can do to keep Jasper with us, there's a lot cat people can to in order to ensure that their cats live to the end of the age spectrum. That includes:
  1. Feeding a high-quality food. Too many cats lose their lives to kidney disease, diabetes, obesity and other food-related issues. Purchasing the highest-quality food you can afford is a key way to help a cat live a long life. 
  2. Advocating for good medical care. Overvaccination of pets is a serious problem, as is undervaccination and neglect. Find a veterinarian partner you can trust and keep your appointments. In those appointments, ask questions and fight recommendations you don't agree with. Your pet needs you to be the voice. 
  3. Keeping kitty indoors. Jasper bucks the trend here, as he's never acclimated to indoor life. But most cats that live long lives do so while living indoors. Cats that live outdoors exclusively can face speeding cars, predation and fights. Life is better indoors. 
  4. Loving kitty. Cats are companion animals and they need their people. Spend time with your cat and remind your cat of your bond. It makes them happy, and it could help them to live longer.
 What do you do to help your cats live long lives? Drop me a note in the comments! Love to hear your ideas. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Kitten photography: It isn't easy!

Fergus looking out the window

Fergus the Siamese kitten is growing into his good looks. The closer he gets to his first the birthday, the more the fur on his face seems to darken and the more those blue eyes of his seem to grow more depth and shine. He really is a beauty, and I love to take photos of him.

Actually, let me rephrase.

I love to look at his adorable kitten photos. Taking his photos? Not so much. Especially when I'm wearing a leg cast and my mobility is impaired.

Here's how today's Fergus photo shoot started. See that pink tongue? I should have known he wasn't in the mood for photos.

Fergus the cat giving me a raspberry

I tried using toys to help keep him interested in the shoot. But I forgot about that kitten play drive. Instead of the focused shots I was looking for, I got this.

Kitten off the edge of the table, waiting to pounce

He's hoping he can do some kind of sneak attack from the ground and knock the toy out of my hands for a good pounce session. Naughty boy.

Finally, I got him somewhat settled for a selfie. But I only had a second or two to get the shot before he was running off into the other room to try getting something new. My camera wasn't quite ready.

Fergus the kitten in a selfie

Ever-so-slightly blurry, but taken with love. That's probably good enough, right? At least, we hope our friends at The Cat On My Head think so. This is our submission to the weekly Sunday Selfie hop.

Check out the other photos in the hop! You'll be glad you did. But before you go, leave Fergus a note in the comments, won't you? He likes to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Dogs love heating pads (and you can use them safely)

Sinead the Boston terrier on her heating pad

Don't tell Sinead the Boston terrier that spring is here. Her little dog body won't believe you. Even though temperatures in Oregon have been climbing into the 60s, she still needs a shirt to avoid shivering. And she'd really prefer to sit in my lap--under a blanket--most of the day in order to avoid the temperatures that she considers cold.

Unfortunately, I have tasks to complete that aren't compatible with small-dog napping. And that means I need to find her another heating solution. Enter the heating pad.

Heating pads are great for small and often-cold dogs because they provide a consistent source of heat from the ground up (like a lap). If I combine a heating pad with a blanket over top, Sinead feels a little like she's sleeping on my lap.

Most of the beds Sinead prefers to sleep in have heating pads. And I always recommend them to other people with small dogs. You can't really argue with the results.

Sinead asleep on her heating pad

That said, there are a few commonsense steps to take when using heating pads.

For starters, they should be turned off when you're not in the room. Like most electrical appliances, they come with fire risks. You need to be there to monitor the dangers.

Also, they should be used in beds that dogs can freely hop into and out of. As much as dogs love heat, they can grow overheated on a pad like this. They need to move away when they're too hot. If you use a heating pad in something like a dog kennel, you don't let them move away. And that can be incredibly dangerous.

And finally, don't use pads like this with dogs that chew. My duo doesn't have a passion for chewing on electrical cords, but many dogs do. If your dog likes to nibble, this isn't the right option for you.

On this Thankful Thursday, as hosted by Brian's Home, we're glad for heat from electrical devices and heat from the coming of spring. What are you thankful for? Join the hop and let us know.

Thankful Thursday blog hop

But be sure to stop and say hello before you go! Love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Pug reacts to spring's dangers

Liam the pug posing with flowers

Liam the pug just pointed out that spring has arrived in Oregon. How did he notice, you ask? The tiny daffodils that have self-planted near a walkway in the backyard have just popped up. And a few of them are getting ready to bloom already.

I know this comes as a surprise to many of you. Much of the United States is still encased in a block of ice, and nightly temperatures of 20 are lower are common for many of my friends in far-flung spaces. But my little corner of Oregon has been dealing with daytime temperatures in the 50s and nighttime temperatures in the 20s. That's more than warm enough for these little bulbs to start poking their heads up to get some work done.

Liam the pug examines some flowers

These daffodils are an unusual variety that stays short and delicate. When fully grown, they don't rise above the level of my ankle. And their flowers are a gorgeous mix of yellow and orange. I have no idea where they came from, and I certainly didn't buy them, but I do love them.

Unfortunately, I have to be careful with them.

All parts of the daffodil plant are toxic to dogs. The bulbs are especially dangerous, as dogs who chew on the tubers can come down with some nasty digestive symptoms. Families with dogs that dig, as well as families with dogs that gnaw on plants, are encouraged to remove these suckers from any space a dog can get to.

Thankfully, this is the most interaction Liam has with the flowers. I think we're safe.

Liam the pug peeing on some flowers

Spring hasn't only arrived in my back yard. It's also popping up in my writing studio. This weekend, I noticed that my Meyer lemon tree was hard at work in its pot in the corner. Look at all of those flowers! As soon as the weather warms up a touch, I'll have to move this guy outside in the daytime. Lemon plants need a lot of sun in order to set and retain fruit. Indoor light won't cut it.

Lemon plant in the window with blossoms

This is my not-so wordless entry into the BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday blog hop! If you haven't joined in before, give it a shot! You'll meet great new friends.

But before you go, leave me a comment, won't you? Love to hear what you think.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cat purrs heal broken bones (because science!)

There's something special about a purring cat. The rumble is soothing and sweet at the same time, and for those of us with some prissy kitties that don't purr easily, it can be intensely rewarding when the creature you love finally decides to give you a little purr therapy.

So purrs make us happy. But here's a weird little tidbit. They may also have the potential to heal broken bones.

According to research cited by Scientific American, cats purr at a frequency of 25 to 150 Hertz, which is a sound frequency that's been shown to improve bone density. It's also been shown to promote bone healing.

Researchers suspect that cats have this ability to heal with sound because they don't move very much. In theory, their muscles could atrophy and their bones could grow weak. They may purr to keep their tissues healthy while they're taking their 10th nap of the day.

But the researchers say that a cat's purr could, in theory, help people who have broken bones---if the purr is applied close enough to the injury.

Looks like Popoki knew this already.

Popoki the cat resting on my broken leg

Cats purr by moving the muscles around the larynx and the diaphragm. Lately, Popoki has been resting her little larynx right on top of that tibia break of mine. She's very gentle, and she follows my safety commands, so I am not worried she will hurt me. And that's a good thing, as she will not be deterred from this activity. She wants to do this, and I can't really stop her.

Is it working? Too soon to tell. In about 3 weeks, I go for followup tests with the doctor, including x-rays. In that appointment, I'll find out if my bones are both knitting together and adhering to all the metal that's been inserted in my leg.

Popoki the cat sitting near my leg

But does it cause harm? I don't think so. It's nice that she tries to help me. She cheers me up. I can tell she wants me to get better. And all that is bound to be good for me.

So purr on, Popoki! Purr on.

Thanks for reading. Do leave me a note in the comments, so I'll know you were here. Thanks!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Free cat adoptions: Not as dangerous as you might think

Popoki the cat sitting on my lap looking surprised

Here's the look I got when I mentioned I'd be talking about free cat adoptions on the blog today. It's a fairly controversial topic, and typically, I steer clear of controversy on this blog. But, there's a special event happening in my community and it's raising some questions that I think should have been put to bed long ago.

So in addition to sharing a few selfies with my wonderful friends from The Cat On My Head, I'm going to take a position.

Here's what's going on. But first, Popoki wants to be sure that I get her good side.

Popoki the cat in profile

The shelter in my community, Willamette Humane Society, does a good job of matching animals in need with the people who want them. But the shelter is never quite empty. There's always an adult cat, a special needs dog or a behaviorally challenged kitten sitting in a kennel somewhere, waiting for someone to come along and make things better.

A special group of donors got together recently and decided to change all that.

Yesterday and today, people can come to the shelter and take home a dog or a cat for free. All the adoption fees have been covered by donations by this wonderful group of donors. The shelter doesn't lose money that could be used to help more animals, and the pets get the homes they need at a fast clip.

At the start of the event yesterday morning, there were some 300 people lined up outside to take advantage of this deal. By the end of the day, some 500 people had been through the shelter.

And all of the dogs and all of the cats were adopted. As of last night, there were no adoptable animals in the shelter. No dogs. No puppies. No cats. No kittens.

For those of us who work or volunteer in shelter situations, this is amazing news. The idea that so many pets could go home in just 1 day cheers us.

But there's always someone out there who says free adoptions turn into more abandoned pets. Those who can't afford to pay for a pet shouldn't get one.

It may seem reasonable, but it's just not the case. Research by Maddie's Fund suggests, for example, that some 95 percent of animals that go home for free remained in that home for good. That's a stat that puts free adoptions on par with paid. And it's something I know firsthand.

Popoki the cat on her perch

Popoki here can climb up her stairs to supervise me at work because she has cat stairs and a ledge made just for her. She has a catio. She takes leash walks. She eats high-quality food. She goes to the vet when she's ill. She's been here for 1.5 years. And she came home with me for free.

As a volunteer at the shelter, I was given the opportunity to take a cat home for free. I did that. And I have no intention of letting this cat go.

And she isn't the only family member that came her due to a waived adoption fee. Can you recognize this face?

Fergus the kitten

Kitten selfie! It's Fergus when he first came to this house at 3 weeks old. As a foster family, raising bottle babies and ensuring that they stayed healthy enough for adoption, I got to take this little guy home for free.

So you won't see words of despair from me about this event. It's all celebration over here. And I hope everyone who takes advantage thanks a donor. It's their generosity that makes this happen.

On that note, Fergus really wanted to pose for his selfie and get some love. So here he is, looking much different than he did as a kitten!

Thanks for reading! Do leave me a comment so I'll know you were here.

And thanks to our awesome friends for hosting the hop. We all love it so!

Join in!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pets and broken legs: 3 things to do to help your pets help you

Fergus resting on my lap and my broken leg

Pets want to help their humans. When we're injured, sick or scared, our dogs and cats seem to sense our distress. And most of the time, they'll do anything to help. That need to protect and nurture is something I'm so thankful for, as I am about a month into a recovery from a shattered tibia and fibula. I couldn't get through this very difficult time without the help and support of my beloved dogs and cats.

But, when you have a major orthopedic injury, instincts of dogs and cats can bump right up against your needs as you heal. And it's taken me this long to figure out how I could adjust my thinking, my habits and my best practices so my little pets can help me and not harm me.

So while I hope you never have to go through any kind of orthopedic problem, if you do, these are my top three lessons you should take to heart.

1. Set lounge boundaries, and communicate them to your dogs and cats. 

Pets express their love through proximity. That means most animals will "help" an ailing human by resting on that person. Both of my dogs and most of my cats have tried to sleep on some part of my body while I've been recuperating from this broken leg. And sometimes, that's not safe.

Case in point: A few times per day, I'm supposed to take off my orthopedic boot and stretch out the tight muscles in my ankle and foot. I've lost a bunch of muscle tone and almost all of my flexibility on my injured side, which means my leg is weak and frail when not protected by the boot.

My left leg outside of its orthopedic boot

If my rowdy dogs jumped up on that unprotected left leg, it could cause me a great deal of pain. It might also cause my bolts and screws to move out of place, and that could send me back to surgery.

Using commands like "wait" and "stand" can help my dogs to understand when it's not safe for them to interact. And using flat-palm hand signals can help my cats to understand the same thing. By now, my pets come up to me and ask before they jump. That's all I need in order to stay safe.

2. Make sure your pets are tired before they interact with you. 

If rowdy pets can cause harm, gentle pets can be a little safer. While I can't take my dogs out for walks each day (as much as I'd like to), they must get walks each day so they have a little less pent-up energy. I have also been using balls and wand toys and battery-operated toys to help the dogs and cats play and move and wear down. That allows them to sit with me and just sleep when it's time for cuddles.

Liam the pug cuddles my leg

3. Keep routines as consistent as possible. 

There's a lot of disruption that comes with an orthopedic injury. Sleep schedules are askew. Meal times might move, based on nausea and drug interactions. My movements and work schedules have been adjusted. Things can get chaotic.

Animals like routine, and all of this adjusting can be hard for them to deal with. Working to keep their lives as regular as possible can help to ameliorate their distress. And that can result in less pacing, less jumping and less upset. Even though my schedules are moving, I try to make sure that theirs do not.

Despite the extra work I must do to help my dogs and cats live with my broken leg, I wouldn't trade the help they offer for anything. I'm so thankful for them.

And that's why I'm including this blog in the Thankful Thursday blog hop, as hosted by Brian's home.

Thankful Thursday blog hop

Head on over to Brian's blog to see more uplifting stories of the human/animal blog. But before you go, do leave me a comment, won't you? Love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Dog toy review: Planet Dog Orbee Ball

Sinead sits on the couch with her ball

Boston terriers like Sinead have a great deal of energy, especially when they're young. These are dogs that like a good run around the yard or a quick dash around the neighborhood, followed by a few good hours of running around the neighborhood. It's only when they've burned off all of their intellectual and physical energy that they can be soft and quiet and cuddly (which is kinda what most people want in a dog).

It's been difficult for me to harness Sinead's energy since I broke my leg. I can't walk her and I certainly can't chase her around the room as I once did. And she worries about me and my health, so she doesn't like to leave me alone for very long periods of time. When my husband takes her for walks, he says she seems to rush through each step so she can get back home and make sure I'm okay.

So I've been looking for good fetch toys. I found a winner.

This Earth-shaped ball from the Orbee company has been a dog-lover favorite for years. I've heard about Orbee over and over from friends with active chewer dogs, and it's been recommended to me often as a good option for Sinead (who tends to shred things). The price of the ball always made me balk (it's about twice as expensive as other dog balls I see in pet shops). But now that I have one, I'm a fan.

Sinead resting with her Orbee ball

This ball is very small, so Sinead can pick it up and carry it quite easily. It doesn't compress when she picks it up, so I see no cracks in the surface after her 2 weeks of pretty relentless play. And oh boy, does this think make for good play.

The continents on the surface of this ball are raised, so the ball tends to bounce in erratic positions when its thrown. That makes games of fetch a little more mentally engaging. Sinead will chase this thing for hours. And when she's done chasing, she can settle down for a good chew without me worrying she'll get stuck or hurt on it.

A ball that is this durable is likely to last quite some time. But I am really thinking about getting more. Seems like a good investment.

If you'd like to try one for yourself, they are on sale from Amazon: Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Orbee Ball, Medium, Blue/Green. (Note that this is an affiliate link. I'll get a small bit of profit for each purchase, at no cost to you.)

Ready to see some more cute photos of dogs and cats? Join in the hop, as hosted by Blog Paws. But before you go, be sure to leave me a comment!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Do you really want a kitten?

Fergus the Siamese kitten

"I'm looking for a new cat, but I don't want an animal that's older than 1 year. I want to be able to watch it grow and inform its personality. I don't want an adult cat that's been broken by someone else."

People who walk into animal shelters often say things just like this. On the one hand, I applaud them for coming to a shelter to get a new baby. Anyone who rescues a shelter cat is a bit of a hero in my mind. But, in my animal shelter, I've seen cats adopted from the shelter as tiny babies, and then returned to the shelter at the 10-month mark for things like:
  • Disobedience
  • Rambunctious play
  • Night antics 
  • Bullying behaviors
I wonder if some people who adopt a kitten are just not prepared for the misery that is cat adolescence. When cats grow a little older and a little more coordinated, they start to investigate hunting behaviors that can make their parents crazy.

Take Fergus, here. Our morning consists of feeding him, removing him from the counters 3 times while we're trying to eat, removing him from the recycling 2 times while we're trying to clean up breakfast and then stopping him from pouncing on his siblings 3 times before we go to work.

He has structured play sessions lasting 15 minutes about 6 times per day. He walks on a leash in the afternoons. He has access to a zillion toys. But he gets into things. He gets into trouble. He is busy.

And you know what? All that is normal. Every little bit of it. Seeing him through this stage takes a combination of grit, compassion, planning and time. People who don't have those components shouldn't get a kitten.

But that doesn't mean they can't get a cat.

Consider Popoki. She's just a year older than Fergus, so she's a young cat with a lot of life left in her. But all that kitten crap? She has no time for it.

Popoki the cat looking out the window

Popoki enjoys a good play session. She likes to "hunt" for birds she will never reach in her catio. She takes leash walks around the yard. She runs up and down her cat stairs. If I am doing a project, her big head is in my way much of the time.

But she listens to commands and is willing to obey if I make a good case. She settles down for cuddles a lot faster than a kitten would. She prefers to observe, rather than attack, her roommates. In short, she is very close to the perfection people look for in a cat.

And when she was in the shelter, she was about 1.5 years old. For some, that's too old. For me, that's about perfect.

I know some of you would say this is a false equivalency, as I am comparing two very different breeds of cats. And the gender thing might play a role. I get that. But it's been my experience that 99.999999% of cats go through a mellowing process around age 2 that makes them loving and sweet. And that persists throughout life. I know kittens get there. I have no doubt Fergus will mellow with time.

But if I can convince even one adopter, someone who is pressed for time or new to cats or not that patient, to take an adult over a kitten? That's a great thing. If this post helps, I'll be happy.

What do you think? Did your cats mellow at 2, or was there another time in which they grew into great companions that took a little less work? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Cat personalities on display: Grumpy and independent

Maggie the cat on the back of the couch

Sunday = selfies for the cats in the menagerie. Every week, I do a little poll to see which of my furry sweeties feels like participating in a few fun snaps to share with the world at large, and every week I seem to get a different kitty who feels strongly about playing along.

This week, we're doing something a little different, as I had two cats who wanted to play. And their approach to selfies demonstrates what's so wonderful about cats: They are diverse!

First up: Maggie. She hasn't been seen much on the blog, since I fell and broke my leg about a month ago. Maggie can be a little timid and shy, and there is a lot about a serious orthopedic injury that can worry a cat like this. She didn't like to hear me cry. She didn't like any of my ambulatory equipment (walker, scooter and crutches). And she didn't like the way I smelled due to the medications, bandages, salves and other therapies I was dealing with. So she hid.

This week, though, we have turned a corner. Maggie has been sleeping on the back of the couch (where I have been spending the majority of my time) and she's been soothing me by purring into my ears, kneading my neck and gently grooming my forehead. When I asked her if she wanted to do a selfie, she decided to try and handle the camera herself.

Cat trying to work a camera phone

Once she had the settings she liked, she decided that we needed to get a photo of her good side. So she stopped with the fussing, struck a pose and turned in a wonderful little profile shot. Go, Maggie!

Maggie the cat posing for her photograph

It's wonderful to have this cat back in my life once more. And I hope my continued stages of recovery, as things change and progress, won't cause her to revert.

Now, Popoki is another shy little cat. But her approach to all of the changes due to my leg is a little different. She hasn't been hiding or running from me. But she has been skipping more than a few meals. And she has been avoiding lap time, unless there's a great deal of coaxing going on. Where Maggie seems comfortable actively displaying her distress, Popoki is internalizing. It's the same problem, but a different manifestation.

When I asked Popoki if she'd like to pose for photos, this is the response I got.

Popoki the cat looking grumpy

That's one heck of a grumpy face! So we spent a little time on grooming and sweet talking. She ate a few treats. We took things slow and steady. And after a little while, she took her cat stairs up to her new salon to think things over.

Later, I felt a little tap on my arm and turned to see her on the bottom step. So we did a selfie together. That seemed like the best idea for her.

Popoki and mom do selfie together

Lest anyone worry, we have been in touch with Popoki's veterinarian. And she may go in for a little checkup next week if things don't turn around. But we all seem to agree that she is behaving this way because of the stress and chaos in the house now. We don't want to exacerbate that by stressing her with a vet visit if one isn't needed. But we won't put her health at risk, either. It's a balance.

And speaking of health, thanks to everyone who has contacted me with notes and sweet well wishes. I have my good days and bad with this leg, but I am getting to the point where the good outweighs the bad. I have my challenges yet to overcome, but I am getting better. Everyone who has reached out has helped me with that. So thank you. And I'll have a bigger post about my recovery on Thursday, so be sure to check back.

So that's it for this post for the Sunday Selfie series as hosted by The Cat On My Head.

Sunday cat selfies logo

We always have such fun working on these photos. And we love seeing the photos others pop up each week. Have you joined in yet? You should. Click through and see what you're missing.

But before you go, be sure to leave me a note, won't you? I love hearing from readers.