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Halloween Cat Costumes? Hissss-terical!

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orange cat in tiara princess dress

“Ready for my close-up!” (Image Copr. Karla Spence/Flickr)

Halloween cat costumes–I can hear the cats snickering (or screaming in horror). Do your cats “do dress up?” With Halloween just around the corner, thoughts of goblins, ghosts and get-ups begin to tease at the back of pet lover’s minds. Princess Molly in the picture seems quite happy with the frills but I suspect my Seren-Kitty wouldn’t be quite so accommodating. If you want your cats to willingly wear costumes, TODAY is not too early to introduce the notion.

In fact, knowing how to get cats to accept wear-ables may be important to kitty health. (How’s that for a teaser? :)) Read on to learn more.

cat in costume

“Snoopy’s got nuthin’ on me!” (Image Copr. Karla Spence/Flickr)

The images in today’s blog were taken by the amazing photographer Karla Spence who obviously has the cat costume thing down pat! Probably the most kitty acceptable accoutrement (especially if your cat already wears a collar) is some neck adornment like the red sash on the Sky Pilot picture, above. Whole body costumes, as below, take a bit more getting used to. Also remember that the photos here–and in advertisements–are POSED shots! Sure the cat wore the costume and looked great at the moment the shutter clicked, but thereafter may have been throwing a hissy fit. The Number One consideration for cats and costumes must be IS IT SAFE, and a close second is–how does it affect your cat emotionally?

cat in motorcycle jacket costume

“Just call me Fonzie.” (Image Copr. Karla Spence/Flickr)

Safety issues include making sure the costume fits correctly. Too tight can cut off circulation or block vision. Too loose can tangle kitty feet, slide off partially and get caught on “schtuff” that again can cause injury or even strangulation.

Check for any chew-able parts of the costume. I caught Seren gnawing the cellophane wrapper on packaging yesterday, so if the costume has “danglies” that entice paws or nibbles, remove them. Remember to SUPERVISE your costumed cat. Even laid back cats that seem to take costumes in stride shouldn’t be left unattended.

Emotional issues also can be problematic. Cats hate change so anything new tends to hiss them off. Slow and gradual introductions to the costume are vital. I have a step by step 7 tips for Halloween costumes written for puppies–but it applies to adult dogs and cats just as well. Please share with anyone you know who plans to dress up their pets for the coming season.

You might want to share it with ANY pet parent. Because as I said earlier, there are times when therapeutic wear can be very beneficial. There’s an awesome product called the Pet Therapy Jacket that has some wonderful functions. It can hold a hot or cold pack in a particular spot (over achy arthritic hips), or help keep a bandage in place on a paw. It comes in several sizes, including jumbo for the largest cats and dogs. Here’s a review of the Pet Therapy Jacket.

cat wearing pet therapy jacket

Seren accepted the Therapy Jacket immediately.

I talked about the Thundershirt in the blog before, and how much it helped Seren deal more calmly with veterinary visits. Well, a Thundershirt is a cat costume! Here’s a review of the Thundershirt, and check out Seren wearing hers below.

Does your cat dress up for the howl-idays? How does that work for you? Do you do full costumes, fancy bows and collars, or does your cat say GET THE !@#$%^! AWAY FROM ME WITH THAT THING! Do tell…

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

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Happy Cat Month

black and white cat sleeping

“Happiness is dozing in sunshine…” Image copr. “Olive Eyes” via Flickr

As September draws to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on how YOU celebrated National Happy Cat Month. Oh, you didn’t know? Well here at the Shojai household, every month–nay, every HOUR is designed with cat happiness in mind.

Seren On Stairs

“They built the stairs for me…now if they’d train the sun to stay there!”

Just ask Seren. She’ll tell you. 🙂

I’ve spent the last month blogging on cat happiness over at Chewy.com on such things as How Cats Show Happiness (in some pretty interesting and unexpected ways!), as well as Weird Ways Cats Show Love. You’ll find some other fun topics at my Kitty’s Korner blog, too.

What makes your cat happy? Is it food that starts that purr-rumble? Or a particular game or toy? Seren is partial to sparkle-balls (yes, go figure MY cat would love bling). She’s always been a play-kitty and a reluctant lap-sitter, but over the past 6 months or so she’s demanded lap time.

I think that’s a symptom of her increasing age (along with the more piercing me-wows late at night). I’ve been referring to my own tips in the aging cat book these days.

Today we had a rousing game of chase-the-sheets as together we made the bed. It was as if Seren reverted to kittenhood! I know she’s happy as long as she engages in these games. Play therapy also builds confidence in shy cats and so can help keep them healthier (and slim and trim!).

I am Only Borrowing it..

“I am only borrowing it,” says Bella, “It makes me happy because it smells soooo good–like YOU.” Image copr. “KrazyBoutCats” via Flickr

Does your feline friend have any unique fun foibles that tell you s/he’s happy? Please share! They may end up in a future ASK AMY video or on the Kitty Korner blog . . . or even in the next thriller. Macy (the Maine Coon in LOST AND FOUND) loves his stuffed Mickey Mouse toy and plays fetch, for example. It’s always more fun to include REAL cat and dog experience but of course it’s legal for fiction authors to make schtuff up, too.

Fair warning. You know a writer’s brain fully caffeinated can be a scary, dangerous thing!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Furry Friday: Spay & Neuter

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It has been quite a week–and I’ve gotten snowed under with a number of challenging issues both professional and personal. So today’s post is a bit late because (confession time!) I took the day off and went for a LONG walk with the Magical-Dawg and then took a nap with Seren-Kitty.

June is Adopt-A-Cat Month and all the kittens “littering” shelters need your love and care. But don’t neglect the adults and older felines–or the dogs, either. Today’s “Ask Amy” offer some basics you already know about spaying and neutering pets and here’s more details for fixing puppies.

Are you in the market for a new furry friend? Will you adopt this month? How did you find your special cat friend? How do you feel about adopting “older” pets?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Outdoor Cat Safety

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Seren loves exploring the roses–but only when on leash.

This Memorial Day it’s vitally important that you stay safe over the holiday–your fur kids are counting on you! Of course, it’s equally important that you keep the cats safe. In the best of all possible worlds, cats could roam back gardens and chase butterflies, enjoy sniffing the roses and have a wonderful time being cats–as they were meant to be. But the reality of the situation is that dangers lurk even in the back garden.

In my neck of the woods, coyotes venture right onto the back patio ready and willing to make a snack of Seren-kitty. Strays also may expose a pet cat to dangerous viruses, and cars can’t swerve every time to save the pet’s life at the risk of their own safety. You can train your cats–purrsuade them–to stop door dashing behavior to protect them from accidental escape. You’ll find a number of additional cat management solutions in the Competability: Cat-to-Cat book as well.

There are fence products available for cats to help you create less dangerous outdoor sanctuaries. Cat containment systems like Cat Fence-In attaches fine webbing to existing outdoor fences to keep cats safely inside while allowing them to enjoy the outdoors. Purr…fect Fence  also offers a complete backyard fence enclosure. Affordable Cat Fence receives positive marks as well. All three offer do-it-yourself kits. Here are some more tips on how to keep outdoor cats safe.

Do your cats have outside playgrounds? How do you keep cats safe when they’re outside? Have you trained your kitty to a leash for safe exploration? Please share!

And in the spirit of fun, here’s the latest Simon’s Cat video on the subject, enjoy!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Solving Behavior Problems in Your MultiCat Household

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It’s HERE! The latest Kindle-ized book ComPETability: Solving Behavior Problems in Your MultiCat Household has been released and it’s all about explaining why cats do what they do (aka DRIVE YOU CRAZY) and how you can solve those peevish problems.

Did you know that the United States is home to 86.4 million owned cats, and 52 percent of owners own more than one cat? That means more furry love for owners, but also can put your cats’ tails in a twist over that (HISSS!) new feline friend. From conflicts over favorite sleep spots to sharing potty facilities, adding new pets rubs fur the wrong way and creates hairy situations for everyone—including you.

I’ve written this new guide to save owners from hair-pulling angst. It helps explain the kitty aggravation, and how to soothe the growls and turn your household into a peaceable kingdom. You’ll find detailed how-to advice focused on the most common problems found in the multi-cat household. Use these fun techniques to calm fears, explain cat body language, and strengthen the bond you share with your cats. Step by step tips explain how to:

  • Recognize and diffuse cat-to-cat aggression
  • Settle disputes over territory, potty problems and mealtime woes
  • Choose an appropriate furry friend that resident cats welcome with open “paws”
  • Introduce the new arrival (including babies and kids) to the current cats
  • Solve common pet peeves: meowing, clawing, countertop cruising, door dashing and more!
  • Understand weird behaviors: phone attraction, mirror fear, “elevator butt” and toilet pests

Below I’ve included an excerpt from Chapter 2: How Cats Think and hope you’ll enjoy. If you’re having kitty cat-astrophes or would just like to better understand what’s going on between your cats’ pointy ears, I hope you’ll consider checking out the new book. By the way, the “dog version” should be available sometime next month. 🙂

Together with Mom!! (Copr. KrazyBoutCats/Flickr)

The “Whoops” Effect

A “whoops” experience can be happy accident or create behavior problems down the road. Kittens and cats continue to learn an incredible amount through observation, even after the prime socialization period ends. A friendly, trusting cat needs only a few positive interactions with a strange person to show positive behavior toward them, and it takes significant negative experiences to override this initial response. On the contrary, a shy cat needs LOTS of positive experiences with a stranger to overcome lack of socialization during the sensitive phase, and will react adversely toward even minor negative encounters.

In other words, the socialized cat generalizes positive experiences quickly, but the unsocialized cat must learn gradually to trust the individual person or family and does NOT generalize later positive experiences. Instead she expects that one negative experience will apply to all new situations.

When your current cat(s) know good manners, they serve as wonderful role models to new pets. By observing your interaction with a resident cat that meows at a certain time each day to get fed, Sheba more quickly makes that connection. Think of this as a positive “copycat” behavior. New cats also learn bad habits from a resident feline and vice versa. If you allow Sheba to get away with wild antics, the older cat also may start pushing your buttons. Adult cats learn by watching you, too. After seeing you open a door, they learn to jump up and hang on the door ‘lever’ to open it.

Cats are experts at getting their way. They are so good at training owners, that we often don’t recognize we are being manipulated. Sheba easily trains you to fill the food bowl when she paw-pats you awake you at 5:30 a.m. It only takes one or two repetitions of this cause-and-effect for cats to remember what works in each situation. If rattling the wooden window blinds makes you let her out the door, she’ll remember and use that ploy again and again. Therefore, pay attention to not only what Sheba does, but your own resulting behavior, to get a clue how she’s training you.

There are times when our patience runs out, and owners may be tempted to react with anger. To be blunt, corporeal punishment doesn’t work. Hitting, yelling, or using force not only is inhumane, it almost always makes the bad behavior worse. Dr. Lansberg explains that any strong arousal interferes with Sheba’s ability to learn because that portion of the brain must deal with the emotional fallout instead. Instead of thinking, these cats react out of instinct (the fight-or-flight response) and typically either attack, or hide. You’ll teach a lesson you don’t want Sheba to learn—to fear or dislike you.

*****

So then–have your cats ever learned a lesson you didn’t expect or appreciate? What did you do? Have your cats taught each other positive behavior or have the juvenile delinquent cats been a bad influence? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Ask Amy~Why Cats Drool During Petting

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Cats (especially show cats) can learn to tolerate and even appreciate hugs. What does this kitty's body language say? Look at the ears, the whiskers, the eyes...

This week’s Woof Wednesday post on hugging dogs garnered a LOT of attention and started some great discussions both here, at my puppies.about.com site, on Facebook and even in my IAABC email list among the behavior consultants. And it’s true that the “hugging rule” applies to cats, as well. Hugging is not generally considered a cat behavior that expresses affection, even though cats can learn to enjoy this. As others have said, it all depends upon the cat, the owner, and the circumstances (and also, how you define a “hug”).

But that begs the question, what do cats enjoy? And how do you know they like it? What do you do if a cat’s expression of affection or enjoyment doesn’t appeal to you–or even disgusts you?

WHY DOES MY CAT DROOL, EWWW!

How many folks have experienced a drooling, bubble-blowing saliva-spewing kitty? Since they’re much smaller than dogs, the drool factor may not be quite the same level as, say, a St. Bernard. Lovers of drooly dogs invest in drool-resistant attire and regularly hose down walls, furniture, or anything else within drool-flinging range.

I exaggerate, but not by much.

Cats also can turn on the water works. Sometimes that’s a sign of dental issues or sore mouths. While the sight of something tasty can get my Magical-Dog soaking wet with slobber-icity, the same thing rarely seems to happen with cats.  When a cat feels stressed, excessive grooming may be a way he helps calm himself. That could require increased salivation, but I’m not aware of a direct link between drooling and stress.

But some cats salivate when petted. The more they get petted, the greater the drippy flow. I really don’t know why some cats drool and blow bubbles while others don’t. They must simply be wired differently. The mechanism to turn on the water works has to do with the same pleasure triggers that prompt petted cats to knead/tread in satisfaction. Cats’ impulse to knead hearkens back to the sensation they felt when nursing, and eating would trigger salivation. So it’s not a huge jump to attribute salivating and drooling to these same pleasurable sensations. Drooling when petted is one more way cats show us love.

Do your cats drool? What are the circumstances? I’m curious if cats in the same household might “copy cat” behavior and more than one do this or is it primarily an individual issue? What are some other ways your cats show you they LIKE something? What else have I missed in the Ask Amy video below? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: All Stressed Up–We Can Fix That!

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My cat Seren(dipity) hates visiting the veterinarian. Nothing against the vet, he’s marvelous and is the first practitioner who has managed to give her any semblance of a thorough exam in years! No, my little 6-pound dynamo simply prefers to stay home and in fact many cats are home-bodies that love the status quo and turn into kitty-maniacs at the first sniff of change.

But of course, all cats need veterinary check ups on a routine basis. And since Seren is now 14+ years YOUNG, it’s even more important that she receive regular health checks.

THUNDERSHIRT

A few weeks ago, I learned that Thundershirt (originally designed for thunder/noise-phobic dogs) was available for cats. In fact, the kind folks at the company offered to send me a sample to review. They asked me about my pets, and imagine my surprise when they sent not one sample but FOUR! Yes, they provided me with a small, medium and large Cat Thundershirt, and a GINORMOUS-SIZE Dog Thundershirt for the Magical-Dog (stay tuned for a review of the doggy version).

Now, Seren could care less about thunder, fireworks or other loud noises. She simply runs to the window, hurls cat curses and demands cooperation from the weather. But she DID have her next veterinary visit due and I figured that would be the purr-fect test to see if the claims for stress reduction actually held merit. I knew that similar products like TTouch wraps used gentle pressure that offered a calming influence, and in fact I’ve been using a harness for several years to mimic this effect. The harness also gives the owner something to grab when the kitty wiggles or otherwise tries to escape.

10 YEARS AGO

A little background–about 10 years ago Seren had a dentistry at the vet’s (a different clinic than the current one). She didn’t really have bad teeth but I wanted a thorough check and some baseline blood work. The tests indicated a problem so the doctor also ran a urinalysis that showed she had diabetes.

Huh? Really? This surprised (and scared me!) because the tests indicated full-blown disease and Seren had none of the signs of increased thirst or urination or weight loss. So I contacted a veterinary internist/specialist Dr. Dottie LaFlamme (awesome vet who answered me immediately!) and ended up running a home urine test that said she was normal. It was the STRESS of the vet visit that created a false positive for diabetes.

SEREN’S VET VISIT

Fast forward a decade, and my petite kitty still stresses during vet visits despite the halter. Also, for the past few months I noticed an increase in water intake and urine output. At first, I attributed it to her awesome new CatIt water fountain that she LOVES, and so she drinks more. But…she’s the right age for all sorts of metabolic or other issues to rear ugly-icity such as hyperthyroid disease, kidney failure and (gulp) diabetes. All can be treated and managed, but they just ain’t conducive to a happy situation.

I scheduled an exam, and a week out began introducing Seren to the Thundershirt (small size). All fasteners are with multiple strips of Velcro so are easy to fit the somewhat stretchy material. She already walks readily with either an H-harness or figure-8 harness so I didn’t expect too much of a learning curve. It’s not unusual for cats first fitted with a halter (or Thundershirt) to fall over and act PARALYZED-I CAIN’T MOVE! from the odd feeling.

Seren didn’t object to being fitted with the Thundershirt. She didn’t fall over, and actually stood still during the fitting, but loudly complained (normal for her!). The strap goes around the neck/chest, and the cape-like “shirt” drapes over the back and is wrapped snug around the tummy. But even the small size was a weeeee bit long in the body for my tiny cat, and she did a lot of plantigrade stance (back feet heel-to-floor) unless I scritched her tail area to create that elevator-butt effect. That seemed to convince her that she COULD move while wearing the thing.

Some cats would take longer to acclimate. Seren wore hers for five and then 10-minute stretches a couple of times a day for three or four days. She continued plantigrade stance up until the last day before her vet visit. And while at the vet this past Monday and wearing the Thundershirt, she was far less vocal and hissy than in the past. She even allowed the vet to look in her mouth and ears, and had the check up only required vaccinations and suchlike, it would have been a wonderful success right there.

SEREN’S TEST RESULTS

It’s amazing the noise level a 6.1-pound cat can produced when picked up and carried into the back room by the vet. Wow–wonder if they make a Thundershirt stress reliever in “owner size” category?! In any event, for the third time in her life (once for spay at 4 months of age, once 10 years ago for dental), Seren went to “kitty jail” at the vet for a full blood panel, urinalysis and thyroid function test.

The doctor told me Seren was actually quite good (huh…degrees of good-icity?) once away from “mom.” She was sedated for the blood draw. With her history of stress-induced sugar-spill I was amazed that the urinalysis came back absolutely normal! To me, that indicated some major stress reduction. Was it the Thundershirt? It’s difficult to point to a direct cause-and-effect but certainly, Seren was more willing to be handled during her time at the vet.

Her CBC and other blood panel values came back normal, too, although kidney function was “borderline” indicating she’s close to falling into very early kidney disease. I had to wait for the thyroid tests to come back from Texas A & M. I got the call this afternoon–NORMAL! Wow, my stress levels dropped accordingly.

The take away message, I think, is to pay attention to your pet’s normal behaviors and get a check on anything that seems outside the norm. As it turns out, maybe I could have waited on Seren. Kidneys are amazing organs, though, and compensate so well that by the time you see obvious signs (more drinking, more urination) up to 70% of kidney function is gone. Learn more about cat kidney disease, feline diabetes, and cat hyperthyroidism (and how to treat) in COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING CAT.

Seren will get a new diet, one that takes a bit of the strain off her kidneys to give this 14-years-YOUNG cat as many more happy, healthy years as possible. Because 14 years are not enough. And if stress reduction helps her keep kitty-calm during vet visits, the Thundershirt is an easy and practical, non-invasive option.

I am a fan. And–check out Seren-the-Model in the video, below. FYI, she always talks (from both ends…tail never stops!).

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!