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

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!

Cat in Distress

All of yesterday turned out to be extraordinarily and unexpectedly stressful. All plans were derailed because Boudicca became suddenly quite sick. In one hour, she had one accident after another, and it immediately became apparent that she could not help herself. She cried as she had a big accident in my office and then threw up. Something was wrong, and it was my job, as the human mom, to do something about it. Queen B was clearly getting quite stressed, and the boys were also mildly alarmed, lying on the ottoman with big eyes and concerned faces. (“Mom, we didn’t make that mess but something is up with Her Royal Highness. Assistance please?”) I, of course, began to panic as I had to deal with a sick elderly cat while trying to clean up all the messes and sanitize everything.

In between sanitizing the floor, throwing various towels and blankets in the wash, and confining Boudicca, I called the vet’s office. Tuesdays are set aside for surgeries but pets can be brought in if they need medical attention. The vet was tied up and I could not wait for her to call me back so I insisted that I speak with a tech. When a tech came on the line, I explained what was going on with Boudicca. The tech, sympathetic to my growing alarm, offered me two options: bring her in as soon as possible so she could be seen before the office became very busy, or to make an appointment for the next morning. I opted for the former.

Then came the issue of getting a sick cat into a carrier. Sick cats can either be totally compliant, perhaps because they realize that you are trying to help them get medical attention, or, conversely, they become ANGRY because they feel so crummy (understandable). Because I was panicking, I wasn’t sure if I could wrangle Boudicca by myself so I called Tracey, my good friend and fellow ailurophile. She was barely awake but understood that I really needed help so she said she would come over.

Minutes passed; I did additional cleaning, cleaned myself up, and got dressed. In doing so I calmed down a little and began to think more rationally. I reasoned, albeit belatedly, that I could at least attempt to get Boudicca into the carrier by myself. I hauled the carrier out from under the living room end table (all the cats saw this and were mildly concerned but no one fled) and put it in the hall bathroom, standing it on its end with the door open. I gingerly scooped up Boudicca, who protested when I did so (another indication that she did not feel well), and, to my relief, managed to slide her into the carrier with minimal fuss. She meowed a bit once she was inside but did so with not nearly as much force as she usually does. I called a very sleepy Tracey back to thank her for her willingness to help early in the morning but I had Boudicca safely in the carrier.

I drove Boudicca to the vet’s office, which quickly became busy shortly after I dropped her off. I called Aaron to inform him what was going on, and later he texted me if I had any updates on Boudicca’s condition. That afternoon the vet called me. Apparently both of us had had busy, stressful days; I was relieved that my sweet girl had been in capable hands during the day and I told the vet so. In between surgeries the vet examined Boudicca, whom she noted was quiet all day with the exemption of making air biscuits for the techs when petted. Queen B had a very inflamed gut, which caused the diarrhea and multiple accidents, and the strain and stress of everything had prompted the vomiting. Oi. However, the vet was confident that this condition was treatable and she was not dehydrated because we caught the diarrhea early before it became severe.

The vet sent her home later that afternoon with an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory with instructions to give her both for several days. We should see marked improvement within 24 hours. If we do not see improvement, we are to bring her back on Thursday for more intensive diagnostics, such as an abdominal ultrasound, to determine if she has small bowel disease, cancer, or another condition causing her symptoms. I sincerely hope it does not come to that.

The antibiotic is a liquid (with a syringe) and the anti-inflammatory is a quarter of a pill. How do you give a cat these medications? There are several methods:

  1. Liquid medication. This requires finesse and adaptability on your part. In the past, I have also employed fellow cat whisperers, Sam and Tracey, to help me medicate Boudicca.
  2. Pills. Depending on whether your cat is food-motivated or particularly clever, getting said cat to take a pill can be either pretty easy or a challenge. We have had success using Pill Pockets but smarty pants cats may catch on what you’re doing and may spit out the pill.
  3. Shameless bribery or trickery. Since we had to give Boudicca two medications, both had a bitter taste (you’d think that someone would have invented tuna-flavored cat meds by now), and we did not want her to fight us or not take her medication, we disguised them in a tablespoon or so of wet food. We crushed up the pill and mixed it in, along with the liquid medication, with the wet food. Boudicca was SO EXCITED to be given permission to eat such a delicacy and licked the plate clean. She has done this for two doses. Fingers crossed, this will be our routine for a while until she finishes the medication and fully recovers.

Oh, and the vet instructed us to give Boudicca extra TLC. Obviously, as a cat mom who loves her girl to bits, I have to follow the vet’s orders and oblige. TLC coming right up Queen B.

Boudicca presented her head for a smooch this morning because she did not get enough yesterday.

Dog Spotlight: Training

I’m sure a few reading this might wonder, “Your blog is about cats so why are you talking about dogs?” Fair question. One, I love both cats and dogs. (I also think rats, chinchillas, and many other pets are cool too.) Two, it’s important. Three, it ties in with shelters, which is another topic I frequently discuss on Purry Home Companion. So there you go.

January, among other things, is National Train Your Dog Month, which was created and sponsored by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). One crucial aspect of responsible pet ownership is ensuring that you teach your pet (whether it is a cat or a dog) house manners. For a cat, it is using a litter box, not to scratch (destructive clawing), and not to bite (bite inhibition), for example. For a dog, manners can include basic commands like “sit” and “stay,” emergency recall, and how to walk properly on a leash. On a walk, your dog should walk right next to you, not in front and not pulling. (Incidentally, January is also Walk Your Pet Month.) Naturally, APDT developed a program called CLASS, or Canine Life and Social Skills, which you can read about on their website (linked above). Another training test is the Canine Good Citizen program through the American Kennel Club. Therapy dogs, for example, have to go through this training, or something similar, in order to be adequately prepared to perform therapy work.

While I volunteer in the cat room at my animal shelter, I am very pleased to know the volunteers that work with the dogs do teach them basic manners and how to walk on a leash nicely. Many dogs are surrendered to shelters because they are not trained and owners find them too energetic or that they do not want to put the effort and time into training their pet. This is most unfair to the dog, who may be adopted more than once before finding the right owner. By teaching the dogs manners, the shelter has increased the chances of their animals being adopted, dramatically shortened the dogs’ stay in the facility, and reduced the likelihood of those animals being returned–a win-win for everyone. The shelter has also had great success in placing dogs with Starmark Academy, and at least two dogs have since graduated to working animals in K-9 units. How exciting is that?

The point I am trying to make here is that it is vitally important to teach your dog manners so that your pet behaves well in private and in public. This is part of being a responsible dog owner. Do not expect to receive a dog (from a shelter or a breeder) already trained. You must put effort into working with and training your dog. Do you have questions, lack questions, or are you running into issues making progress with your pet? You may want to consider enlisting the help of a professional. Yes, training takes time, patience, work, and even a bit of money, but it does pay off in the long run.

Does anyone really want to have an ill-mannered, untrained dog? An out of control animal can pose a danger to you, your loved ones, and to others, and that is a matter of public safety. A dog that has never received any training poses great risks, even if that dog is not aggressive. For example, a large, unrestrained, hyperactive dog bounding across a yard and into the street can run in front of a car, posing a real driving hazard. This same animal can crash into pedestrians on the sidewalk or children playing next door. An uncontrolled dog poses a very real hazard to working service animals and their handlers, who may be injured or traumatized by this experience. A negative experience with another dog can seriously impair a service animal’s ability to work or even compel early retirement. It’s very serious.

As always, demonstrate your love for your pet by being responsible and doing the right thing. By doing so, you’ll have a happy, well-mannered canine companion that can comfortably interact with others in and out of your home. I, for one, enjoy having upstanding canine citizens! How about you?

Traveling Safely with Pets

Egads! It appears that I missed National Pet Travel Safety Day (January 2) so I hope you will be gracious enough to permit a belated post on the subject. There are many aspects on traveling with pets that I could cover, and as cats and dogs travel VERY differently, it would entail a rather lengthy post. Here are some links for general car travel, practical pointers, traveling cross-country, assorted tips, and considerations when taking a road trip or traveling by plane.

I am most familiar with traveling by car. In these cases, I was transporting cats to the vet (the most common reason for travel), moving residences (twice), and from the shelter (once for each cat). Here are a few things that I have learned from traveling with my cats:

  1. Freaked out. Traveling is immensely stressful to most cats. It is very rare for a cat to not think the apocalypse is upon them when they are in the car. Boudicca will frantically meow nonstop whether she is in the car for three minutes or three hours. Some pets will have accidents due to stress. Other pets get motion sickness.
  2. No loose cats. DO NOT travel with a cat loose in a car, even if you are not going far or your cat is not obviously having a nervous breakdown. I’ve placed cats in cardboard boxes and plastic bins in lieu of carriers but never let a cat just hang out on the backseat. In these rare circumstances, I always sit in the backseat with the alternate container ensuring that the cat remains confined while a friend drives us to the vet.
  3. Beware the quiet ones. You may have the most docile cat under the sun at home but when the carrier comes out, your chill fur ball turns into a bristling Hulk of angry, panicked cattitude. Cats are amazingly strong, fierce, fast, and have LOTS OF POINTY ENDS. Oh, they can be loud too. There’s a reason why it’s called a caterwaul.
  4. Request backup. Do not be ashamed if you need to enlist help getting your slim 6 lb cat into a carrier. It is a collaborative effort getting any one of my trio into a carrier. For this reason (and many others) it is advantageous to befriend cat whisperers. Wearing a motorcycle jacket or other tough protective gear wards off claw marks and reduces the chance of at least one of you bleeding.
  5. Hidden in plain sight. Rather than taking the carrier out of storage only when you take your cat to the vet for their annual exam, leave the carrier out if possible. Our vet suggested that the carrier be treated like a piece of furniture if at all possible. We have ours stored under the end tables in the living room. The carrier door is unlatched so the cats can explore at will. We periodically use the laser pointer and treats to entice the cats inside so they can associate the carrier with a positive, no-stress experience. Some cats will sleep on top of them or use them as ledges. Others will use them as retreats to safety, as it feels like a cave (this is why cats also like boxes). Charlie hid in a carrier occasionally during the first few weeks after we brought him into our home. Now the boys regularly hide behind the carrier and ambush one another as they would with any other piece of furniture.
  6. Don’t forget your towel. Charlie has a total meltdown when he realizes he is going to the vet. (He has been sedated at the vet’s office before. Poor guy.) In order to calm him, we put a towel over him. This might seem silly but, for him, it works. He stops struggling so much when we put a towel over his eyes and he relaxes a bit. (His grumbling commentary keeps going, mind you.) Using the towel, we make a purrito and put him into the carrier. It’s a win if in the process he hasn’t cussed us out, drawn blood, or peed on anyone, and we aren’t late to the vet appointment.
  7. You’re gonna need a bigger carrier. I use a carrier that was originally designed to hold a small to medium-sized dog. (It was actually a carrier that my parents had used to transport our Miniature Schnauzers.) Many carriers designed for cats are smaller than this. I found trying to get Boudicca, a fairly tall cat, through a typical small cat carrier was just not going to happen. Her haunches were too big and it was too stressful for her being squished through the door. So we obtained one that more comfortably contained our house panther. We are able to stand the carrier on its end and slide her backwards (tail-first) inside. A larger carrier also gives her sufficient room to move around and stand. (NB: In a pinch, such as an emergency, a larger carrier would be handy as you could hold, in theory, two cats.)

Of course, there are many types of carriers available. There are duffels, slings, collapsibles, scrunched bags, and many others. I have friends who use different types of carriers to accommodate the needs of their individual cats and their own preferences. I’ve only used hard plastic carriers so I can only speak to my own experience there.

The most important thing to remember when traveling with your pet is that you, as the owner, must be the responsible one. You are acting on behalf of your pet. You have to think about safety. You have to be cautious. You have to check things out and do your research. Ask questions. Be prepared.

The links I included at the top of the post are useful and many of the suggestions apply to dogs as well. For additional information about pet travel safety, check out at this guide, this article for Pet Travel Safety Day, and this report, which gives a handy rundown about safety in cars with your pet.

Safe travels!

New Year Celebrations with Pets

Greetings, friends! I apologize for not updating Purry Home Companion in time for Christmas. I have been busy with a few things in my personal life. However, I do want to share some tips concerning New Year celebrations before 2018 kicks off.

New Year Celebration Safety Tips

This holiday, like many others, often includes fireworks, which can be stressful for many pets. Here are a few things to keep in mind so that your pets stay safe and calm during end-of-year festivities:

  1. Proper ID. Ensure your pets have collars with current tags and microchipped with up-to-date information.
    1. The biggest risk for New Year’s Eve (as with Independence Day) is that pets unexpectedly get separated from their owners and wander loose.
    2. The sounds of fireworks, noisemakers, and gunfire can absolutely terrify pets, some of which, in the grips of severe panic mode, can bloody their paws clawing at locked doors or break through glass windows. (This kind of reaction is called noise anxiety.)
    3. If your pet manages to bolt outside but is wearing proper identification, they can be swiftly identified and returned home.
  2. Keep pets indoors and escape proof the house. If possible, keep them in a safe and enclosed room, preferably without windows, where pets cannot hurt themselves or damage your belongings. If you are hosting a party in your home, consider putting your pets in a room off-limits to guests.
    1. This safe space should be outfitted with food, water, and toys (see #3, #9, and #10).
    2. Give your pet a comfortable sleeping spot, be it a crate, bed, cat tower, old couch, or spare bed. Some pets tend to hide when nervous and appreciate it when furniture is available to duck behind or underneath. A number of cats feel safer if inside a box or up high, such as on a cat tower, a shelf, or on top of a tall piece of furniture.
    3. Don’t forget to provide a litter box for your cat. Be sure to take your dog out on a last call walk or trip to the yard so they can do their business before the party starts. Taking such precautions also reduces the risk of your pet having an accident inside the house.
    4. Confining your pet will also reduce the opportunity for your pet to slip out the door as guests are coming or leaving.
    5. Some pets can become stressed when exposed to a lot of people, especially those they do not know or children. Keep in mind that while you may feel comfortable in social gatherings, your pet may not. Having a positive “time out” place can lessen this anxiety. For example, Charlie, who is still a bit timid, is reactive to a number of sounds and has a tendency to shy away from new people. He hides when he feels overwhelmed. Garrus is quite selective with his socializing and appreciates being able to go somewhere to chill out. Even Boudicca, my most social cat, will slip away to her bed to catch a short nap when we entertain.
  3. Create a calming environment.
    1. Surround your pet with their favorite toys and other familiar objects, like a soft blanket or towel. If the blanket, towel, or article of clothing smells like their favorite person, this might comfort them even more. For example, my late cat Nala loved squishing herself into Aaron’s backpack or duffel bag.
    2. Play soothing music to help cover up alarming sounds. You can find a number of pet-calming music playlists on YouTube, Spotify, and iTunes.
    3. Keep the room as quiet as possible by securely closing doors, windows, and blinds. Be sure to keep cords for blinds or drapes well away from pets so they cannot chew on them.
    4. A Thundershirt vest, available for both dogs and cats, may be an additional solution to have on hand when you want to de-stress your pet. These vests can also be employed when taking your pet to the vet, before the onset of thunderstorms, travel, or other stressful situations.
  4. Be mindful of decorations.
    1. Tinsel, ribbons, banners, candles, electric cords, and lights, for example, present various hazards for pets like choking, burns, electric shocks, intestinal blockages, and stomach infections.
    2. Balloons can scare pets if they pop. Pets can possibly choke or suffer digestive issues if they swallow the pieces.
    3. If you still have Christmas decorations out, remember that a number of them pose risks to your pet. Holly, mistletoe, poinsettias, and Christmas tree pine needles as well as tree water can be hazardous if ingested.
  5. Keep pets away from noisemakers and fire sources. Avoid potential burns, injuries, and possible ingestion by keeping all pets well away from poppers, noisemakers, and any explosives. The same goes for lit candles. If your fireplace is on, make sure that a safety screen is up and secured and watch out for curious pets getting too close.
  6. Keep an eye on the holiday fare. Whether you have a pet with a highly sensitive digestive system or a dog that will eat anything that isn’t nailed down, it is important that you, as a responsible owner, reduce the chance of your pet consuming something dangerous. Don’t be caught unawares and you can avoid an emergency trip to the vet.
    1. Many food and drink items are extremely hazardous or outright poisonous to pets. Do not give pets meat with bones in them (choking, lacerations) or fat trimmings (pancreatitis). Alcohol and chocolate can cause all kinds of problems for pets, such as depression, unsteady walking, digestive issues, and vomiting. In severe cases it can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure and body temperature, coma, seizures, and death! For your pets’ sake, DO NOT LET THEM CONSUME THESE.
    2. If you have guests over, ensure they know not to give your pets table scraps and they need express permission from you before they give any treats to your pet. This will prevent your pet from having an upset stomach and other digestive issues. Too many treats, even those for pets, can make pets sick. You won’t have much fun at your party if you are spending much of the evening cleaning up your pet’s treat-induced messes.
    3. If your guests are bringing dishes, bouquets, medications, or other items, take appropriate precautions.
      1. Many foods can make pets seriously sick, as already mentioned. Grapes can cause kidney failure in dogs, for example. Dairy often upsets cats’ tummies.
      2. A number of beautiful plants and flowers, like poinsettias and lilies, can be deathly poisonous to pets.
      3. Show your guests a safe place to store their medications and remind them to keep any medications well out of paws’ reach.
  7. Natural calming therapies. Lavender oil (Lavendula augustifolia or Lavendula officinalis) can help reduce anxiety in dogs. Feliway sprays or plug-in diffusers can help calm cats. For more information, see #8.
  8. Talk with your vet. If you know your pet has noise anxiety or tends to be nervous, consult with your vet to see if an anti-anxiety medication, such as Zylkene, or other remedy would be useful for your pet. Bear in mind that most veterinarians will not call in last-minute prescriptions for pets they have not diagnosed with noise anxiety.
  9. Tire out your pet prior to festivities. If you have a dog, take your pup out on a long walk and a thorough play session. If you have a cat, take out the laser pointer, cat dancers, or any other toy your cat loves and keep them moving until they tire out. If your cat fetches, this is an added bonus. By doing this, hopefully your pet will be too tired (in a good way) to get very stressed out when the noise starts.
  10. Distract your pets with toys and games. Puzzle toys may keep your pet’s mouth, paws, and mind occupied.
    1. A dog might relish a puzzle toy with a little peanut butter inside. Just make sure that the peanut butter does not have xylitol as an ingredient, as this is harmful to dogs.
    2. Keep in mind that cats can benefit from puzzle toys as much as dogs can.
    3. Use common sense when giving your kitty any catnip. Some cats chill out when given catnip while others are energized. Still others can become aggressive, and this response would be totally unproductive to creating a calm, positive experience for your pet. However, not all cats respond to catnip.
  11. Go to a quieter area. Do you have friends or family who live in a quiet neighborhood or rural area? Do you know of an out-of-the-way pet-friendly hotel? Go there! You and your pet can chill out in comfort with less noise and stress. Make sure you bring your pet’s travel crate and everything else you will need for an overnight jaunt away from home. Oh yeah, pack a few things for yourself while you’re at it!
  12. Comfort your pet. Speak soothingly, show plenty of calm affection, and give treats when your pet is being calm. Some pets will learn that as long as you are near that they are safe; hopefully they may stop being as clingy. Some particularly high-strung pets may always need to be comforted during noisy festivities and other stressful situations.

Prepare for a Holiday Emergency

No pet owner wants to deal with a medical emergency, and holidays can certainly make that a bigger headache and considerably more stressful for both you and your pet. Here’s how you, as a responsible pet owner, can be ultra-prepared for unexpected situations:

  1. Ask your veterinary practice about their hours over weekends and the holidays. If they will be closed, ensure that you know who to contact and where to get emergency care if your pet gets sick or injured.
  2. Add the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) to your phone: 1-888-426-4435. This is available 24/7, 365 days a year to provide assistance in case of a pet poison emergency. A $65 consultation fee may apply, but a portion of this is covered if you have an ASPCA pet health insurance plan.
  3. Keep a pet first-aid kit within easy reach and stocked with gauze pads, cotton balls, adhesive tape. Additional information about pet first-aid can be found here.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

While I have compiled these safety tips so you can be prepared for any potential dangers, you should remember to enjoy saying goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018 in the company of your fur people and loved ones. Here are a few ways you can do so:

  1. Dress your pet in dapper apparel. Some pets don’t mind or even enjoy wearing clothes, and it’s easy and enjoyable to take pictures of them dolled up as a way of making memories. However, don’t force your pet to dress up if you know he or she becomes very stressed when put into costumes.
  2. Movie marathon. Doesn’t that sound snuggly and relaxing? Our resident snuggle buddy, Boudicca, for example, is ecstatic whenever she gets lap time. We’re teaching the boys how to snuggle with us. Charlie occasionally seems like he watches the movie along with us.
  3. Baking party. Instead of a noisy New Years Eve bash, invite your pet-loving friends and experiment baking pet-friendly treats. The cool thing about this choice is that you can easily incorporate #1 and #2 as well!

May your and your pet have a wonderful year! 

Boudicca’s Trip to the Vet

One of the things a responsible pet owner must do is ensure their pet receives regular veterinary care. Senior pets may develop more health ailments and thus require more frequent visits.

Last week Aaron and I took Boudicca to the vet to address concerns about the fact that she has been having more accidents lately. We were not sure if this was due to the fact that she has hyperthyroidism or possibly feline inflammatory bowel disease. We had transferred her records to Garrus and Charlie’s vet for the sake of simplicity, so this visit was Boudicca’s first visit with Dr. R.

Boudicca acts very differently than either Garrus or Charlie does at the vet’s office. Dr. R and her techs were quite amused.

  1. Boudicca becomes Miss Meower Mouth. She talks loudly all the time, both in and out of the carrier. Apparently she felt it appropriate to give a running commentary about her experience and is a rather opinionated old lady. 
  2. Unlike the boys, Boudicca doesn’t act all that afraid. If a tech opens the carrier, she usually comes right out with her tail high in the air and doesn’t need to be scruffed. She will, however, smack someone with her high question-mark tail.
  3. If taken to the back where other furry patients are being treated, Boudicca does well. The presence of dogs does not disturb her.
  4. The chance of Boudicca making dancing paws and air biscuits and purring up a storm is highly likely, especially if someone pets her, talks to her, or holds her. 
  5. It is also probable that Boudicca will halfheartedly wiggle and struggle during her exam while simultaneously making air biscuits, as though she can’t decide whether she wants to be difficult or adorable.

    Googly cat is googly. 

Minor Cat Disasters

No beating around the bush here: at some point in cat ownership, there will be some level of cat-induced disaster. It will very likely be gross and involve bodily fluids or substances. In that sense, the gritty part of pet care can be compared to babysitting drunk friends or caring for a sick toddler.

When you successfully clean up a cat-induced disaster by yourself without retching a little, you level up in Cat Parent Achievement. When two of you have to corral a freaked out cat (Charlie) in a Cat Genie and put a towel on him to calm him down so that one of you can clean up his rear, you both receive Experience Points.

It’s all fun and games until someone throws up a hairball on the bed…

World Kindness Day

Today is World Kindness Day! The world certainly could use more kindness, compassion, and altruism, especially toward ourselves and to others. On that note, here are a few different ways you can demonstrate genuine acts of kindness toward animals, and by extension, your community:

  1. Care for pets. Learning how to gently and correctly handle pets is a crucial part of being a responsible pet ownership. It’s important that children know how to properly approach and handle pets for a number of reasons. Caring for a pet can also help children (as well as adults) develop a sense of empathy, compassion, and responsibility.
  2. Take your pet shopping to pick out toys, food, or other supplies for the animals at your local animal shelter.
  3. Put together a gift basket for somebody from your pet. Bonus points: make a paw-printed card to go with it. (Make sure it’s made with non-toxic ink or water-based paint.)
  4. Foster a shelter animal.
  5. If you have a sick or elderly friend or neighbor, offer to walk their dog or otherwise take care of their pet. If the owner has transportation issues, offer to help them transport their pet to the vet if they need it.
  6. Volunteer at and visit an animal shelter, rescue organization, or sanctuary.
  7. Walk or run a 5K that benefits a pet or wildlife charity organization.
  8. Foster a military pet on behalf of a service man or woman while they are serving abroad.
  9. Learn how to report animal cruelty. Depending on the state, police departments may handle these investigations while elsewhere it falls under the jurisdiction of animal control or municipal agencies.
  10. Visit the zoo or aquarium. These organizations care deeply for the animals in their care and work hard to conserve endangered species.
  11. Plant a butterfly garden.
  12. Choose cruelty-free products.
  13. Donate to a spay/neuter program in your area to help reduce the feral cat population in your area.
  14. Leave wild animals in their natural homes. If you see or find an injured or obviously sick animal, or suspect a baby animal has been abandoned, contact your local wildlife rehabilitation organization to learn what to do next (if anything).
  15. When out on a walk in the woods, by a stream, or on a beach, pick up plastic rings, bottles, and other litter that can harm animals.