Animal Care and Control Appreciation

Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week occurs every year during the second full week in April. This effort was created by the National Animal Care and Control Association to recognize and promote professionalism in the field of animal care and control. Agencies and individuals that provide these valuable community services should be commended for all their hard work.

When I see shelter employees out and about, whether I see them at the vet’s office, shelter, adoption event, library, or somewhere in town, I usually try to say hi and express my gratitude for all that they do.

What can you do today on behalf of your animal care and control agencies? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Express your thanks.
  2. Recognize and celebrate their accomplishments and, if warranted, nominate individuals and shelters for awards.
  3. Become involved in a Friends of the Animal Shelter or rescue organization.
  4. Donate.
  5. Volunteer.
  6. Foster.
  7. Adopt.
  8. Spread the word about the wonderful services your shelter and animal control agencies provide to your community.
  9. Raise awareness about the importance of and educate others how to be responsible pet owners.

Photo credits courtesy of Pexels

Happy Easter!

I hope that you and your loved one–including your pets–have a happy Easter weekend! As with many holidays, there are a few things to keep in mind so that your pet stays healthy and safe:

  1. Chocolate is highly toxic to pets, as it contains high concentrations of methylxanthines, such as theobromine and caffeine. You can have a chocolate Easter bunny but to your dog or cat, it’s poison. Seek veterinary care immediately.
  2. Plastic grass used to fill Easter baskets and decorations can easily be eaten by curious pets but can cause lots of gastrointestinal problems.
  3. Plastic eggs and toys are tempting targets for a pet to mouth. This can be a bad combination since the pet can choke on an item or get sick from eating candy or chocolate inside.
  4. Foil wrappings, if eaten, can cause obstructions and upset your pet’s digestive system.
  5. Food coloring can cause an adverse medical reaction. Make sure that any dyes you wish to use are non-toxic before you purchase them.
  6. Xylitol, a sweetener which can found in certain candies and foods (including peanut butter), can be lethal to dogs.
  7. Fatty foods, such as ham or lamb, may make your pet have a very upset tummy or even pancreatitis. Don’t let your pet have helpings of your Easter dinner!
  8. Onions, garlic, chives, and leeks (members of the allium family) are toxic to both cats and dogs and may cause hemolytic anemia and gastroenteritis.
  9. Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs. Symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, wobbliness, tremors, and joint stiffness.
  10. Alcohol is a big no-no for pets of any persuasion. Keep booze well out of pets’ reach!
  11. Lilies, while beautiful, are extremely toxic to cats. This includes several varieties (Easter, Stargazer, and Asiatic) as well all parts of the plant: the leaves, petals, pollen, and water in which cut lilies are placed. A cat chewing on or ingesting a lily may experience kidney failure or even die! Seek veterinary care immediately.

Something Else to Consider: Rabbits

Bunnies are cute, yes. Bunnies can be great pets, yes. But rabbits are not for everyone! I strongly advise people against from getting a rabbit as an Easter present without doing research first and being REALLY sure that a rabbit is the pet you want. Taking care of a rabbit is not the same as taking care of a dog or cat or fish. Keep in mind that rabbits are one of the most abandoned pets in the US.

Boudicca’s Recheck

Over the last two weeks, Boudicca has had intermittent diarrhea and bouts of appetite loss, and recently she had been straining quite a bit in the litter box. Aaron noted that she appeared to have lost weight as well. When I picked her up to put her in the carrier, she felt incredibly light. Since Tuesday was the vet office’s surgery day, I scheduled to drop her off in the morning so Dr. R could see her when she had a free moment (Dr. R is very popular). As usual, Queen B behaved herself in the cat ward, talking up a storm and making dancy paws whenever a tech stopped by to give her any attention.

In the afternoon I consulted with Dr. R. It turns out that Boudicca actually had been rather constipated, hence the straining. This isn’t the first time that this has happened but I had been caught off guard by the diarrhea. She had indeed lost a pound since February. While she responded well to the anti-inflammatory and the vitamin B-12 injections, she did not respond to the steroid, which indicated that she did not have inflammatory small bowel disease. So that leaves cancerous small bowel disease, such as small cell lymphoma. While of course I was incredibly concerned about this turn of event, I knew that this was a possibility due to our previous conversations.

Ultimately, I DO NOT have to say goodbye to Boudicca just yet. First, we have to deal with her constipation and find a balance there. Second, the anti-inflammatory improves her quality of life. Third, she is still perky, talkative, interested in engaging (i.e. snuggling), and demonstrates doglike traits like she has all her life. If she was lethargic, withdrawn, shuffling around, and recoiling from me, that would indicate that she was in pain and not herself anymore.

Following Dr. R’s advice, we gave her ¼ tsp Miralax mixed in with her wet food (apparently Boudicca is fond of Friskies Seafood Pate) and, after a couple of doses, she is no longer constipated. Her appetite increased and she is very vocal any time she thinks we are in the vicinity or preparing to give her food. Her Meower Mouthiness cues the boys, so then it becomes a party. (“Excuse me, may we have some of whatever Her Majesty is having too please? We would be most grateful!”) We distract them with toys and/or treats so they don’t come to investigate and inadvertently make Boudicca food insecure. (We have noticed that Boudicca prefers to not only eat in private but with me as her escort/bodyguard. She will often stop eating if she notices either Charlie or Garrus nearby, even if they are just walking down the hallway.)

Nevertheless, we will continue to monitor Boudicca’ hyperthyroidism, small bowel disease, and weight. Now that she is eating kitten kibble and small portions of wet food (we were encouraged to give her whatever she would eat), perhaps she will gain a little. I want her to be comfortable, happy, and as healthy as possible. I am cherishing the time I have left with my sweet, googly girl.

Caring for a Geriatric Cat

Greetings everyone! I realize that I have not updated Purry Home Companion in a while. I have been alternatingly busy with graduate school and a bit under the weather lately. Additionally, Boudicca, being a nearly 18-year-old cat, has needed a lot of care to stabilize her health (namely symptoms stemming from small bowel disease) and closely monitor her quality of life. Last week I was alarmed when Boudicca’s appetite markedly dropped and she refused to eat her wet food (which has her medications mixed in), both of which are most unusual for her. She will be seeing the vet this week for a re-check.

I had just finished brushing Queen B when she sat like this on the window seat. I liked the way the sun shone through the window and illuminated her ears and whiskers.

Given Boudicca’s age and health, I have had the difficult conversations concerning her quality of life and knowing when it will be time to say goodbye. Having these conversations and making these incredibly difficult, poignant decisions are the most challenging parts of responsible pet ownership. In 2017 I made the hard decision to say goodbye to my 16-year-old cat Nala, whose quality of life had markedly declined due to increasing arthritis, which in turn complicated her diabetes. In some ways, I think saying goodbye to Boudicca will be harder since she is my first cat who has truly been my own and, after all, she chose me to be her human. She has always been my sweet girl and I will miss her VERY MUCH. (Cue tears welling up as I write this.) Because the idea of saying goodbye sometime in the future has been in the back of my mind, I have been making concerted efforts to spend as much time with Boudicca and cherish the time I have left with my googly girl.

Boudicca and I recently enjoyed a three-hour lap time session. She has always been a very enthusiastic reading buddy, lap warmer, and snuggler. Her eyes appear very green here too!

However, as I write this, we are not quite at that stage. We figured out why her appetite decreased: she apparently decided to be abruptly finicky about her wet food. We discovered that she prefers Friskies Salmon Pate. We were able to get her to eat something else when she did not want to eat wet food, and we were able to get medication into her in order to control inflammation, nausea, abdominal pain, and keeping her regular. Her appetite has since returned and now she gets very talkative whenever either of us is in the kitchen, because she automatically assumes that we will give her more food. (Either that, or she forgets quickly that we give her wet food twice a day. She still steals kitten kibble from Garrus even though she has her own bowl.) With that said, she has had accidents this past week–so messy and so much cleaning! She is not grooming herself very well, so I brush her regularly and will have to bathe her soon.

Caring for older cats (i.e. mature, senior, and geriatric cats) involves many factors related to health and what to expect at each stage. Aging affects cats in different ways; some will be rather frail at age 11 while others are still robust at 18 or older. Behavior can change in elderly cats. In Boudicca’s case, she is fussier about food, sleeps more, grooms less, talks less, and can be insecure around Charlie, whereas in the past she was quite confident and untroubled by the presence of other cats (Nala, neighborhood cats outside) and dogs. She requires a lot more vet care and medication due to her health problems. Nala and Boudicca aged differently with certain symptoms appearing at some stages with one but not the other. Caring for a senior cat has been a learning experience for both me and Aaron through our experiences with Nala and Boudicca. We are balancing being solicitous with Boudicca’s needs while meeting the needs of Garrus and Charlie, who are respectively six and two years old and have very different energy, nutrition, and health needs.

Googly cat is quite googly!

Update on Boudicca

This past week has been stressful. Boudicca became ill again, obviously having issues in the litterbox and, more distressing, her appetite noticeably decreased. She hunched over a lot and backed up when I tried to pick her up, something she has never done before. I took my girl to the vet for an abdominal ultrasound on Tuesday. She has intestinal/small bowel disease, which may or may not lead to cancer. One of the symptoms of this illness was constipation, which in turn led to the loss of appetite and abdominal pain. This is one of the challenges of responsible pet ownership: senior cats can develop more health issues and require more veterinary care. Thankfully, however, she is doing much better due to a cocktail of medications to stabilize her so that she has a healthy appetite and doesn’t have any litterbox issues (either constipation or diarrhea).

We have been able to mix her medications into wet food, which she eagerly awaits twice a day. Every time she sees one of us taking a small plate out of the cupboard she assumes it’s for her and gets very verbal about it. This, of course, alerts the boys and prompts Charlie to give his two cents in a number of ridiculously cute squeaks.

I know Boudicca is feeling better because she has been seeking us out for attention, especially when we sleep. Several nights I have woken up with a very purry Boudicca sitting on my chest or claiming half my pillow. Occasionally she has successfully executed stealth snuggles! I am happy to see Queen B feeling more like her usual sweet, lovey, and quite googly self.


After her vet visit, Boudicca happily reclaimed her box and spent a lot of time keeping me company in my office. She is an excellent supurrviser!

Dog Spotlight: Seeing Eye Anniversary

On January 29, 1929, Morris Frank founded The Seeing Eye, the oldest guide dog school in the United States. This school is the founding member of the US Council of Guide Dog School as well as a fully accredited member of the International Guide Dog Federation. Today we celebrate the anniversary of the school’s founding and the importance of guide dogs everywhere (and by extension, service dogs in general).

What is a guide dog, or more generally a service animal? The Americans with Disabilities Act defines it as: any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Service animals are not the same as therapy animals or emotional support animals. Only service animals are protected by the ADA.

You may see service animals (dogs are the most common) working with their handlers. Remember that these dogs are working and must concentrate on what they need to do on behalf of their handlers. Don’t distract them. I know it’s tempting to want to pet such a well-behaved dog but be considerate. Some handlers are OK with people petting their dogs if their permission is asked for first; other handlers will decline and that’s fine too. Here are some additional etiquette guidelines as well as a few things that handlers want you to know.

If you’d like to learn more about service dogs, especially those assisting the blind, check out Growing Up Guide Pup and Zoe the Seeing Eye Dog.

One more thing to note: FAKE service dogs. Sometimes people try to pass off their pets, including emotional support animals, as service dogs so they can take their pet anywhere with them, enable their pet to fly for free, and avoid having to pay a pet deposit. This is a serious issue for service dogs and their handlers. Untrained pets in public areas, like planes and restaurants, can pose a big risk to those around them. Being able to spot a fake service dog and differentiate such from legitimate service animals is important. Most importantly, DO NOT misrepresent pets as service dogs. Don’t be that person. It’s not cool. Moreover, your actions can have significant consequences for those around you, especially working service dogs and their handlers.

Change a Pet’s Life Day

Egads! I missed Change a Pet’s Life Day! (Things have been a little hectic because Boudicca was sick on Tuesday. Thankfully, she is getting better now.)

Change a Pet’s Life Day (belated) is a pet holiday celebrated on January 24 and intended to encourage adopting pets from shelters and consequently, raising awareness for animal shelters. As a shelter volunteer, I can testify that there are so many wonderful animals that need loving homes. There are pets that would do well with new pet owners and others that would thrive with experienced pet owners. There are young, old, middle-aged, everywhere in between. If you are not a cat or dog person, shelters often have other pets that might strike your fancy such as guinea pigs, hamsters, birds, rabbits, and even pigs and chickens. Here is how you can change a pet’s life:

  1. Adopt. Head to your local shelter and adopt a pet! Many shelters offer special discounts on January 24th while others will hold adoption events throughout the week or on the weekend. Rescue groups will probably have similar events so be sure to look for these. (NB: Adoption is a commitment. One should not adopt a pet without really being sure that this is what you want and that you will be able to care for this pet.)
  2. Foster. Unsure if you want to commit to having a pet? Does your shelter need temporary homes due to space or other needs, such as a pregnant cat or dog? Giving a shelter animal a foster home is a demonstration of compassion and generosity. Whether you foster one time or do it regularly, it does make a difference in pets’ lives!
  3. Donate. Find out what your shelter needs. Does the shelter have a wish list or a Friends of the Animal Shelter organization that could provide this information? Food, toys, collars, leashes, scratch pads or poles, and carriers are commonly asked for items. Money, of course, is always immensely appreciated because it can be used for whatever the shelter needs at the time or for future use.
  4. Volunteer. Do you like to be involved in your community? Do you love animals? Volunteering is a fantastic way to change pets lives on a continuing basis. I enjoy having the opportunity to love on and socialize cats and help out at adoption events so that these lovely kitties get matched to the right homes.
  5. Transform your pet’s life. Would your pet benefit from more exercise or attention? Would a play date with another cat or dog or a new toy make your pet’s day? I’m fairly certain that one of the highlights of Boudicca’s day is when she gets her lap time session in the evening. The boys are equally thrilled by visits and play time.

Rescued Pets in My Life

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This is Chiya! She is one of my parents’ two rescue dogs. She is a sassy and independent Tibetan Spaniel. Originally her name was Holly but my mom changed it to Chiya, which is Spanish slang for “crier,” in honor of her distinctive shrill alarm bark. (Tibetan Spaniels were bred to be watchdogs as well as canine companions.) She excels at being a foot warmer too.

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Here is dog #2, Chiquita! (We call her Chica for short.) She is a Kooikerhondje, which I promise is a dog breed that I did not make up. My parents took her in after her previous owner became very ill with cancer and shortly thereafter passed away. Look at those marvelous ears and that tail! She is such a well-behaved dog and an excellent snuggler as well.

Last year, I volunteered at the Clear the Shelters event on August 19 at my local animal shelter. I intended to show cats and match them to new owners. I did not intend to take home a new cat, let alone two, but I am SO GLAD that we decided to foster and later adopt Charlie and Garrus. They have made a lot of progress since then and both are happier, healthier cats.

In this photo you can see hints of how skinny and scraggly Garrus (then known as Aristotle) was. When he stood up, swaths of fur along his sides were missing (licked it off due to stress in the shelter) and in general his coat looked haggard. He was so skinny that his ribs and knobbly spine were clearly visible. Both he and Charlie looked SO pitiful at the shelter. We quickly learned that Garrus was not eating much and in a lot of pain due to dental issues, which we promptly fixed.

This was the first time Charlie (then known as Tink) emerged from behind or underneath furniture for a significant length of time. A huge scaredy cat when we brought him home, he was highly reactive to people (us), sudden movements, many noises, new objects, and any change. Both boys bolted whenever we stood up; they would only timidly approach if we sat down on the floor and remained very quiet.

Fast forward four months: here are the boys sprawled in the sun. (I took this photo in late December 2017.) Rather than fleeing when I approached, they stretched, slow blinked, trilled and squeaked (Charlie), welcomed scritches, and purred.

Lastly, look at Queen B! In November 2000, a lovey five-month old tuxedo kitten chose ME as her person at the ASPCA. Seventeen years later she is still my girl!

How can YOU change a pet’s life today?