Pet-Friendly Independence Day

May you and all your furry loved ones enjoy a safe and happy Independence Day! Here are a few things to keep in mind so your pets stay safe:

  1. Safe place. Some pets become highly agitated and frightened by fireworks while others may not like lots of people coming and going in the house. Have a quiet and escape-proof area, whether it is a room or a kennel, in which your pet likes to rest.
  2. Routine. Having a set routine can help alleviate anxiety. Our cats, for example, are definitely creatures of habit and prefer to have meal times, play, and snuggles at set times of the day!
  3. Identification. Ensure your pets have current ID tags and microchip information. Hundreds of pets escape and get lost every year around the fourth of July. Having proper ID allows for lost pets to be reunited with their owners much faster.
  4. No roaming. Keep an eye on your pet when he or she goes into the yard. Pets that normally stay inside a fenced area may bolt if sufficiently spooked by loud noises etc. If you’re having a party, picnic, or barbecue, don’t allow your pet to roam around unchecked. Many table scraps can be toxic to pets.
  5. Indoors is best. While you may like fireworks displays, your pet may not, and in fact might be terrified of them. Keep your pets indoors while fireworks and other festivities are going on.

Photo courtesy of Alpine Dog Coats

For more comprehensive Fourth of July safety tips for pets and livestock, check out the handy rundown provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Garrus’ Progress

Earlier this week Garrus had his follow-up to check his response to his steroid therapy. Dr. R was very pleased to report that his stomatitis had significantly decreased and only a very small amount of inflammation remained in the back right side of his mouth. Dr R wants to keep him on a low dose of steroids every other day for the next few weeks to continue treating his stomatitis.

“Excuse me. Could you please let me out?” Garrus was exceptionally well-behaved in the carrier to and from the vet.

He gained 0.6 lbs in three weeks and needs to gain 0.5-1 lb to be at a healthy weight. We’ve been able to give him, on average, at least one can of wet food a day. If he’s a particularly hungry Garrus, he will eat up to two cans in a day. Like Boudicca, he’s a little persnickety about how his food is presented (because it’s easier to eat): he likes it well chopped, fluffed, and room temperature. We indulge him because we want him to eat, be healthy, and be a happy cat.

For the last month we also gave a dose of Zylkene in his food. We had suspected that he had developed food anxiety as a result of being bullied for food by his previous housemates, and dealing with dental pain from stomatitis exacerbated this. We noticed that the boys acted a bit uneasy after Boudicca passed away, and Dr R explained that this was due to the social hierarchical dynamic shifting. By nature, Garrus tends to be a submissive cat; Charlie, while not a dominant (“bossy”) cat per se, is the most intense cat in the household now. Dr R suggested that we try Zylkene for a month or so to help both cats settle and relax. In our experience, it helped. Garrus in particular became more affectionate and faffed about less at meal times.

Garrus enjoys claiming Aaron’s pants as a bed and gives me side-eye when I take a photo.

Wherever Garrus is, Charlie often follows, sometimes bringing a toy with him. Here he claimed a towel as his lounging spot and slow-blinked at me, purring.

National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

Did you know that animals, such as dogs and cats, can experience asthma and allergies just like humans do? For that reason, the National Asthma and Allergy Foundation designated May, a peak time for allergy symptoms, as National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. While this campaign is directed at humans, conscientious pet owners should be able to recognize the way their pets may present symptoms of asthma and allergies.

Common Asthma Triggers in Pets

  • Dust
  • Pollens (grass, trees)
  • Air pollution, such as vehicle exhaust
  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Smoke (fireplaces, tobacco products)
  • Household sprays and chemical solutions, such as hair spray, flea spray, air fresheners, household fragrances, and personal perfumes
  • Cat litter dust

Common Asthma Symptoms

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Breathing difficulties (i.e. wheezing, labored breath, shallow breath)
  • Panting
  • Dyspnea
  • Poor appetite
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Pale or blue gums* [If you spot this, go to your vet immediately.)

When we took in Garrus and Charlie, we noticed that Garrus occasionally wheezed. We had not seen this behavior in previous cats, so we brought it up with our vet. Dr R thought he might have a mild case of asthma and suggested we make a log of how often he wheezed and if we noticed other symptoms. If his wheezing episodes became more frequent or more severe, we would investigate the issue further.

At the same time, we transitioned the boys from using regular litter boxes, which they used while in foster care, to Cat Genies after they fully integrated into the household. One of the things we like most about Cat Genies is there is no dust from cat litter! Aaron discovered that safflower seeds are excellent, environmentally-friendly substitutes for the plastic granules that a Cat Genie uses. We have since noticed that Garrus wheezes infrequently now, and Dr R was most pleased by this report. Dr R remarked that she had another feline patient that displayed asthma symptoms but these decreased after her owner switched to a litter that produced much less dust. She thought the same thing had happened with Garrus.

Common Allergies in Pets

  • Contact: Medication or detergent found in flea collar (example)
  • Flea Allergy Dermatitis: Allergic to flea saliva
  • Food Allergies: Some pets don’t tolerate certain ingredients well such as beef, chicken, soy, and wheat.
  • Inhalant: Indoor or outdoor environmental factors (smoke, pollen, etc.)

Common Allergy Signs in Pets

  • Sneezing
  • Excessive grooming
  • Excessive itching
  • Paw chewing
  • Skin inflammation
  • Ear infection
  • Rashes

If you want to learn more about pet allergies and asthma, check out Buffalo Companion Animal Clinic, Pet MD for Canine Asthma, Pet MD Dog Allergy Center, Pet MD for Feline Asthma, 7 Common Cat Allergies (Pet MD), Pet Partners,and Canna Pet. If you think your pet may have asthma, allergies, bronchitis, respiratory issues, or other health concerns, please contact your veterinarian!

Chip Your Pet Month

Like many months throughout the year, May is a bonanza of pet-related awareness campaigns. Among others, May is Chip Your Pet Month!

Having current information on your pet’s ID tag is vitally important should ever your pet get loose or lost. However, collars can easily slip off, especially if your pet is clever enough to take it off by themselves. With a microchip implanted beneath your pet’s skin, you don’t have to worry about that occurring. If your lost pet is found and taken to a veterinary clinic or animal shelter, the microchip can be scanned, revealing a registration and contact number. Through this registry the pet owner will be contacted and be able to recover their pet.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Check out Positively Woof for a video, Merck Animal Health, and One Fur All to learn more information about the benefits of microchipping, where to get them, and frequently asked questions.
When we adopted Garrus and Charlie, the shelter provided and implanted microchips along with their shots. The cost of these procedures is covered by the adoption fee. In our case, the adoption fee was waived because we fostered them during the Clear the Shelter event, wherein adoptable pets were free! The shelter had the microchips already registered; we simply provided our contact information and updated the cats’ names when we changed them from Aristotle and Tink to Garrus and Charlie. It was a super easy and worthwhile process. While my cats are strictly indoors, if they ever were to get out, I’d have peace of mind knowing that they had more than one method of identification and would be returned to us via that information.

Responsible Animal Guardian Month

The animal welfare organization In Defense of Animals (IDA) established May as Responsible Animal Guardian Month. The campaign’s goal is to encourage people to treat animals with respect and fulfill their obligation to care for those they have taken in as pets. For this reason, IDA uses the term “guardian” instead of “owner”.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Broadly speaking, responsible pet guardians are concerned with the physical, emotional, and cognitive health of their pet(s). By being solicitous about their pet’s overall well-being, said guardians are more likely to develop strong bonds with their pets. Here are ways you can be a responsible pet guardian and give the best possible pet care:

  1. Daily care. This involves providing shelter, healthy and nutritious food, appropriate regular exercise, grooming, behavior training, and at least annual vet visits for vaccines and wellness exams.
  2. Ethics. Adopting only through responsible shelters, rescues, or breeders. Always treat pets with love, compassion, and respect. Report suspected abuse or neglect.
  3. Safety. Microchip and ensure that your pet has current ID tags. Pet-proof your home. Take measures to prevent your pet from getting loose and lost. Teach others how to interact with pets safely, appropriately, and respectfully.
  4. Well-Being. Teach your pet house manners. Apply rules consistently and invest in proper behavior training. Opportunities to socialize your pet with other people and pets. Provide regular play and bonding time. Establish and provide mutual trust, respect, and abundant love between you and your pet.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Want to learn more about being a responsible pet guardianship? The American Veterinary Medical Association provides a useful list and set of guidelines detailing the multi-faceted responsibilities of a pet guardian. In my personal opinion, being a responsible pet guardian is an important aspect of good citizenship and community involvement. Humans and animals alike benefit from the acts of responsible animal guardians. It’s a way you can use your powers for good.

National Pet Month

Did you know that May is National Pet Month? In addition to celebrating pets around the world, the holiday has several specific aims:

  1. Promote responsible pet ownership;
  2. Raise awareness of the benefits of living with pets;
  3. Increase public awareness of the role of pet care specialists;
  4. Promoting the value of service and companion animals.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

You can celebrate National Pet Month in a variety of ways and involve your community too! Think of it as pawing it forward!

  1. Volunteer. Help out at adoption events at your local animal shelter or rescue group. Love on, play with, walk, and socialize shelter animals, as these experiences will help them get adopted faster.
  2. Adopt. If you’re thinking about adding a pet to your life, please consider checking out an animal shelter or rescue organization. There are many lovable animals waiting for the right home and a person to love them!
  3. Foster. Whether you have a pet at home or are unsure whether having a permanent pet would be right for you, consider fostering. Giving a homeless pet respite from being in a shelter is a fantastic demonstration of compassion and altruism.
  4. Donate. You can donate time, skills, supplies, and/or money to a shelter or rescue group. Non-profit organizations like Friends of the Animal Shelter would be a great place to start.
  5. Fundraise. Organize events like community dog walks or puppy play dates, pet photography, pet wash, or animal-themed walk or marathon. Be creative and have fun!
  6. Teach. Do you like educating others? Are you an experienced pet owner? Have you had success in training commands to your dog? Share your expertise with others. Teach children (and adults!) how to properly introduce oneself to new pets and interact with them safely and respectfully.
  7. Share. This goes hand-in-hand with #6. Share articles on social media about pet homelessness, shelter events and programs, and pet welfare. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper and/or city council. Spread the word by mouth and by social media about adoptable pets, and, if you play your cards right, you might end up being a matchmaker for pets and humans! Use the hashtag #PawItForward.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Farewell to Boudicca

Shortly before 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon, my beloved Queen Boudicca Mata Hari Sophia passed from this life and found peace. It was dreadfully sad. Boudicca was terminally ill with multiple chronic, incurable, and progressing medical conditions, and she was suffering as a result. I had to to be her advocate and, out of love and duty, I had to act on her behalf and end that pain. The tears flowed and ebbed. Boudicca passed painlessly away, hopefully with the knowledge that her human family loved her fiercely.

I knew this day was coming and began to prepare myself mentally and emotionally weeks beforehand. I had to make a hard choice but in the end it was the right one, and I don’t regret that choice. Her human mother–me, the human she chose all those years ago at the ASPCA–loved her enough to let her go.

Afterward, everything seemed surreal and out of focus. Happysad feelings are difficult to articulate in coherent sentences. I felt a sinking feeling in my chest–sadness and loss. At some point, relief trickled over me. Comfort knowing that Boudicca was in good company with the rest of my family’s pets that have gone over the Rainbow Bridge. Gratitude for the 18 years of loving companionship and joy that she brought to my life.

It still feels mildly surreal to accept that my sweet baby girl no longer lives among us. Her pink beds lie empty, vacant thrones upon which Queen Boudicca lay in languid repose. In the evening, the boys aren’t interested in or know how to enjoy lap time yet. Charlie, for example, would probably enjoy it quite a bit but he’s rather wiggly. The boys certainly like to snuggle with one another but they’re not snugglebugs with humans yet. We’re working on that. I love Charlie and Garrus deeply (every pet in my house always winds up slightly over-loved) but they do not and will not replace Boudicca.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of little things I will miss about her. Without fail, Boudicca greeted me when I came home, yammering and dancing around my feet until I picked her up. She turned into a limp slinky accordion cat when held. Her purr rumbled, punctuated with trills, when she was filled with lazy contentment (or feline entitlement), especially when I kissed her in between the ears. I would sometimes wake up with her camped out on my chest in a smug cat loaf. I miss her quirks, like when she went through a kleptomaniac phase and repeatedly stole my grandmother’s light blue mohair scarf, complete with matching hat and gloves, and absconded with them to her tower. She became an early riser and pawed me awake. Her eyes turned lantern bright Maleficent-esque green, as though she was plotting nefarious deeds and how to take over the world…just as soon as she finished her nap. She sprawled across books and newspapers and refused to budge. She explored new boxes with relish or took her responsibilities seriously when testing a crocheted blanket for softness and nappability. When I spoke on the phone, Boudicca contributed her two cents to the conversation. Queen B was an excellent reading buddy, especially on quiet rainy days.

Rest in peace, Queen B. I love you.

P.S. I am very grateful for all my friends and family that reached out to me and offered me hugs, comfort, and condolences. Your kindness and thoughtfulness is truly touching. Thank you.